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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.

The Voice

It was never in Jen’s plan to fall in love with anyone. Ever. She’d envisioned herself as one of those self-satisfied women to whom men would always run a distant third to the perfect job and an unconquerable wardrobe. She never daydreamed about her wedding day or waned nostalgic about her first kiss, nor was she ever moved by love songs by the likes of Luther Vandross or Barry White. So it just killed her that she hated getting off the phone with Micah in the wee hours of the morning while tucked under the covers in her bedroom; or that she’d unconsciously scribbled his name on the back of her homework assignment; and that she’d started wearing a splash of her mom’s perfume everyday after Micah told her how nice she smelled the night her youngest sister had jokingly sprayed her with some on her way out the door, saying Jen smelled like cheese.

She knew it wasn’t quite love, but was bothered by the fact that she was headed in that direction. Fast. And as much as she wanted to pull the emergency break, it was kind of nice letting cruise control take over for a bit so she could enjoy the ride.

Problem was, she had the fuzz on her back…in the form of her boyfriend, Chris, who was practically undressing her piece by piece with his eyes early this morning from his post in the Buena Beach Café kitchen. It was the highpoint of his day, watching her bake dozens of her now legendary cupcakes each morning while he devoured three sausage McMuffins and a couple of hash browns. And if today was a typically morning, he’d be ready to devour her next, as soon as the last batch was in the oven.

“You need any help with those eggs over there, babe?” He’s wearing his biggest smile, anticipating what will be taking place over on the office couch in just a short time, an even shorter time if she’d just allow him to jump in and help.

“Chris, you know how I do this. Alone,” she snaps back playfully while measuring out her flour. She’s had to handle him with kid gloves the last two days with his rising suspicions about some sort of spark between her and Micah. He was way off, of course. No sparks. No…there were absolute fireworks between them, confirmed all too well this past weekend at the concert the two of them attended where they’d spent the whole time cuddling, cooing, and giggling. It was her first full-fledged, bona fide high school date, an evening she’d regrettably found herself thinking about ever since. What made it even better was that her dad had co-signed on the whole thing, even allowing Micah to borrow his car to drive them up to L.A. Before then, she always thought she got a bit of a high for sneaking behind her father’s back, enjoying the thrill of the risk; but there was something even more exhilarating about basking in her father’s approval with Micah.

The shift occurred the weekend before last, when Micah joined Jen and the rest of their family for dinner and Scrabble at the behest of her father, Danny. And that’s when Micah worked his magic, winning them all over with his skills. He killed the game, taking over triple letter and triple word spaces with scorers like “unctuous” and “quixotic”. For the icing on top, he insisted on washing the dishes and helped Jen’s sister with her French homework. Since then, she’d not only been sneaking behind her father’s to see Chris, she’d been sneaking behind Chris’s back to see Micah.

And Chris, on the other hand, had descended in Jen’s perspective from outgoing, sexy older guy to desperate, slightly pervy old dude thanks to his recent behavior. First, he cut Scrabble night short by showing up on her doorstep with some lame excuse that he’d run out of gas down the street, and figured he’d walk over to get help, what with Danny being his boss. “Sorry – I didn’t mean to interrupt,” he’d told them, a good-natured sweetness to his voice. Jen didn’t say a word as he entered the house, making himself comfortable at the dining room table when her mother offered to make him a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, then making other excuses to prolong his stay. Eventually, Micah gave up, telling everyone that he should be heading home. Jen apologized for Chris’s behavior as she walked him out to his car, stealing a quick kiss on the lips before he tucked himself behind the driver’s seat and left.

With a fair amount of begging, Jen eventually forgave Chris for showing up at her home out of envy and distrust (notwithstanding his entitlement to those feelings). She even sort of found it cute after awhile, realizing that he may really care about her. But last Friday when she and Micah exited the Staples Center hand-in-hand, wearing matching Rihanna concert t-shirts, and saw Chris standing outside with his arms folded, staring down the crowd, that was it. Luckily, despite Micah’s stature, they were able to escape his sights and take a detour to the parking lot before being spotted. The next day, Jen played it off, telling Chris she’d gone to bed early and hadn’t heard her phone ringing when he called. She realized that either her father or Alice must’ve mentioned something to him in passing about the concert. Of course, he hadn’t mentioned anything about it, not wanting to admit that he was close to tipping over into freakishly obsessive mode. But Jen knew, which had manifested itself in Jen’s polite standoffishness with Chris over the weekend.

“Hey, it’s that time. Can you give me five minutes?”

Chris already knew the drill. It was time for the “secret” part of Jen’s recipe, the point when she added her special ingredients and used her masterful techniques to create the infamous Buena Beach Café red velvet cupcake. Some mornings, Chris wanted to invoke his rights as co-owner of the restaurant and tell her that he wasn’t going anywhere. He didn’t want to risk, however, the chance that Jen might just say “fine”, walking out of the restaurant and his life, whisk in hand, never to return again.

Usually when he leaves the room (in most cases, he takes the Buena Beach Sundial and heads to the men’s room), she hurries through her steps and then joyfully sings his name when the coast is clear for him to return. Today, however, she takes her time, even having to tell him he’s too early when he pokes his head in to see if he can return.

Another eight minutes and she hears him whine “Je-en. I’m getting lonely out here.”

She goes over to the hand sink to wash up before telling him he can come back in the kitchen, which he does gladly. He can barely sit still as he watches her fill each baking cup exactly half-full, and then load them into the oven. Before she has a chance to wipe her hands on her apron, he’s behind her, hands firmly gripping her waist as he goes in for her neck.

“Babe,” she says, gently. “Hey…I just started my period.” It’s a straight-up lie on Jen’s part, not due for another couple of days.

“What?” Chris practically cries, although not stopping on the neck.

“I know. I’m a little early. Bummer,” she says, turning around to face him. Seeing his freckles and his brace-covered teeth shakes her a bit, those details being two of her favorite things about him. Then, out pops another one of her “Chris-isms”, that grown man pout of his which will surely lead to yet another thing that makes her laugh about the guy – the deafening silly grunt of a noise that he’ll make when she tickles him on his side. Gets him every time.

“You’re so funny,” she tells him, finally relaxing and tucking away her thoughts of him as an obsessive loser who can’t get a woman his own age. And if she really thought about it, she knew that he probably could easily get a nice girl in her mid-twenties – he just preferred them in their late teens.

“Can we just make out?” he asks with exactly no shame in his voice.

No wonder he preferred girls in his late teens, Jen decides before smiling and leaning in for a big, sloppy smooch. He was a big old teen himself.

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