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Created by Diane Brown, Buena Beach is an online soap opera, giving up all the juicy details of some of the hottest guys and gals of Buena Beach, a small town in Southern California. Check back everyday for a new episode here on HelloBeautiful.com.

Diane

I didn’t feel too bad about not asking Sandy to lunch today. Just the slightest bit guilty, though, about how I pulled it off. The idea came to me easily enough, I’m embarrassed to admit, but worked better than I could have imagined. I won’t give all the details, but it did involve one Venti cup of coffee expressly delivered to her desk at 10:45, followed by an ice cold bottle of the beloved $3 water she’s addicted to for some unknown reason, which I dropped off at 11:38 (pretending I just happened to find it in the back of Danny’s mini-fridge). When Sandy practically sprinted to the restroom at 11:59, I popped over to Veronica’s desk and told her I was ready to go. Sure, it wasn’t the smoothest get-away ever, but it worked.

So here I am, sitting across from the person I’ve both envied and hated since meeting her a little over a month ago. Problem is, she’s made it a lot more difficult to hate her lately. I still envy the bitch, but I don’t hate her. I may even think she’s pretty o-kay, which is why I accepted her invitation to lunch even though I’m not too fond of Japanese food. Don’t get me wrong, it’s tasty and is always presented so well, aesthetically speaking. But it just doesn’t fill me up. I know the old saying goes that you’re hungry a few hours after eating Chinese food, but I’m hungry mere minutes after the waiter has taken my plate at the Japanese restaurants I’ve been to. Sure, I could order more, but most of the places, like the one we’re at today, aren’t cheap.

“Order anything you want – it’s my treat,” Veronica says.

Well, in that case…

Or, no. I should show some restraint. Being the one used to treating in my relationship, I know what it feels like to open yourself up like that and risk being taken advantage of. Now if I were doing the treating, I wouldn’t have said anything until after the bill arrived.

Once we order – me, the yakitori, her the sashimi platter – there’s nothing else to do but talk. “Did you and Brandon do anything fun this weekend for the fourth?”

She shrugs, mindlessly stirring her iced tea. “Not really. Went bike riding, of course. Hung out at a few bars on Friday, two barbecues on Saturday and a jazz club. Sunday, we went to brunch and then just chilled out at the movies.”

Alrighty then. Well, she certainly put my “exciting” weekend to shame. Two minutes ago, I was so proud of my trip with Jonathan to meet his family for the first time and how I spanked them all in spades. But compared to her adventures, I’m sort of embarrassed about my little venture to Corona, wishing I hadn’t initiated this particular conversation. When she turns the question on me, I change the location to Malibu, just to add a little bit of excitement to the story.

And, enough about me. “So I bet you two are looking to settle down soon, aren’t you?” I ask to change the subject and am surprised when her face quickly sours as if her sip of tea was all lemon, no sugar.

“I am settled, as settled as I’m going to be any time soon. Even living together is a trip – I wish I would have insisted on us keeping separate residences.”

“Really?”

“Don’t get me wrong – Brandon is a great guy and all. Smart, sexy, attractive…”

Yes, yes, and yes.

“He’s…perfect, really. But I’m not. I need to get my stuff together first, you know what I mean? And that’s going to take a long time.”

Well, if I only felt a tad bit guilty about abandoning Sandy at the office (although now that I think about it, she’s left me stranded on my own plenty of times lately in order to have “lunch” with her stupid married boyfriend), I truly feel the epitome of guilt right now since I initiated a background investigation on her. So yes, I know all too well that Veronica needs to get her stuff together; this girl’s got a rap sheet a few miles long. I still don’t understand how she was able to get a job, what with the City’s intensive background check. Perhaps she disclosed everything up front and brought in a letter from her P.O.? Or this position is part of some sort of work release program? I don’t know, but I feel bad for knowing such details without her knowing I know such details.

“And what about you and Jonathan? You two getting serious?”

Okay, back to me. Well, I guess it’s only fair that since I paid for the background check on Veronica and likely know more of her business than her live-in boyfriend that, perhaps, I should be honest and share openly about my feelings for Jonathan – no sugar coating.

So I explain to her how I like him, I suppose, but that things are sort of on a downward slope. I tell her the biggest issue for me is that he refuses to get a job, and that I’m tired of paying for everything.

“Oh, no. Uh-uh. You need to drop that like it’s hot.”

I laugh at her attempt at sounding so urbanly poetic, but she’s not playing around.

“Really, Diane. No job? Please. I’m sorry, but you have no business taking care of a man. That’s their job – they are supposed to take care of us. Not only should your man have a job, but he better make at least a good ten percent more than you do.”

“Yah? Ten percent?”

“I mean, eventually. I don’t care how much money I make – I want my husband to be the breadwinner… that is if I ever decide to have a husband, and that’s a very big ‘if’.” She goes on to ask me questions like how many times in the past month he’s taken me out; what sorts of jobs do his friends have; what did he buy me for Christmas, Valentine’s Day. The more I divulge, the more I feel the need for a round of therapy.

“What did he do for your birthday?”

“Well, nothing. We just started dating last fall, and my birthday’s in August, so this will be my first birthday with us together.”

“Okay. That gives him about a month or so. Let’s see what he comes up with. If he doesn’t blow you away with dinner and a nice present…”

Perhaps a real Louis Vuitton bag?

“…then I say you drop him.”

Wow. Just like that?

Just like that! My expression must read very clearly because her tone does a quick shift. “But, that’s just me. You have to do what’s best for you, Diane. I’m just telling you my opinion, but hey – we’re two different people. You have to do what’s right for you; whatever makes you feel good.”

She’s interrupted by our waiter dropping off our food. Nice proportions, but I can see I’m going to have to make a stop at the vending machine as soon as we get back to the office. We eat with only the background of the soft music playing from the overhead speakers for a bit, me thoroughly enjoying my selection. It’s a nice place. Maybe I can take Jonathan here one…I mean, perhaps Jonathan can bring me here one of these days.

For the rest of our time, we talk about office stuff; mainly, all the crap that’s going on with Mario. That’s quite the juicy morsel, so the topic keeps us busy until the waiter brings us the bill, which Veronica, true to her word, picks up without hesitation. After all her talk about the guy paying for everything, I might figure her as being sort of cheap. But maybe that’s how she’s able to save money; Brandon taking care of her enables her to take care of others.

While we wait for her change, she says, “I hope I didn’t sound to harsh with my advice on Jonathan.”

“No, not at all,” I say and mean it. In fact, I probably needed those words of wisdom. Whenever I’ve solicited relationship advice over lunch with Sandy, she’s just given me the ol’ “just hang in there, he’ll come around, at least you have a man” speech. Today, I feel empowered. Motivated, even.

So much so that I may need to start ditching Sandy on a regular basis.

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