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.
It’s been a long week. And today was a long day. And the last hour I’ve been here in the café has felt like an eternity. But at least it’s almost over. You’d think as busy as were are tonight that the minutes would tick away rapidly, gone before I even have a chance to notice. Not the case, though. Perhaps this is what happens when we get older; time warps, and we start living in a different dimension – slower, so we’re able to appreciate the richness and detail of each moment; and by the time we reach our seventies and eighties, days stretch out slowly like pulled taffy and we’re forced to savor too many intricacies, and that’s why old people get so miffed about loud music and flashy clothes and action movies.
Or maybe it’s just me. I’m in a rut and time seemingly slowing down is a cue motivating me to action. It’s time to seize the day, make the most of my late 20s and start enjoying life beyond this little café.
Okay, okay. It’s not any of those things. It’s Eddie. He’s the only new variable thrown in this last monotonous year of my life, upsetting my balance and sending me into these ridiculous musings every day when I get a little down time. And even now, with a line of Friday night caffeine fiends in a line that nearly extends out the door. All this brooding has significantly slowed down my latte-macchiato-cappuccino-making skills.
Once my newest staff, Julio, and I handle the line and come up for air, the door swings open yet again. As the owner of this place, I’m not complaining about the revolving door of folks – I’d just like a chance to grab some ice water and make a pit stop in the ladies room.
But my demeanor changes instantly when I realize who our newest customer is. “What can I get for you?” asks Julio.
“Oh…Julio. I’ll take care of him. This is my colleague…or, actually, friend from school…Eddie.”
Julio gives Eddie a nice-to-meet-you nod. “What’s up, man?” Eddie says before giving me a big smile. How does that saying go…be still my beating heart?
“You can go ahead and take your break.”
Julio skims the packed restaurant. “You sure?”
“Yah, no problem. I’ll call you if I need help.”
“Cool,” Julio says. “Nice to meet you again, Eddie.”
“You too. Take care, man.”
I give Julio a minute to grab a scone and some iced tea before turning back to Eddie, who’s looking casually fine and sexy in jeans and a t-shirt. I just want to bite him on the ass. “What brings you over here? All this time, dude, you’ve like never made it over here before, huh?”
“Man,” he shakes his head. “It’s these gas prices – I’m struggling.”
Away from school, our dialogue in just these first couple of minutes is ten times more comfortable than usual. It actually feels like we’re flirting with each other, not just having friendly little banter like we do with all the other faculty during the school day. His eyes even lock with mine a split-second longer than what’s platonically acceptable. And I get the willies, the heebie-jeebies, the tingles. Like I used to say back in middle school about my crushes, Eddie makes me want to melt.
“But, uh…hey. I wanted to ask you something,” he says after letting him watch me prepare his caramel ice-blended latte and forcing him to try one of Jen’s cupcakes.
“Do you guys have any job openings?”
“Why, you need some extra money? Dang, you already have two or three jobs as it is. What’re you, Jamaican mon?”
He laughs at my terrible accent. “No, no. I’d suck at this. Food service isn’t the place for a klutz like me. No, I was asking for Lauren.”
Bye-bye heebie-jeebies. Is he kidding me? Lauren, his skinny trouble-maker mentee that thinks she’s the greatest thing next to the I-Phone? Oh, heck no.
“I know she has a bit of a past, but that’s why I’m trying to help her out. I think she just needs someone to give her a chance, you know? Plus, she’d have another role model in you if you were her boss. She’d probably be able to relate to another female better than with me.”
“Sounds like you’re trying to get rid of her.”
“Oh, nah, nah. Of course not.”
Aww, too bad.
“She could just use a lot of support right now – that’s all,” he says.
Couldn’t we all? I could probably name 50 kids from school in situations just like Lauren’s. Or worse. He tried to tell me a little bit about her circumstances the other day, but I started tuning out, thinking instead about how cute it would be if the two of us started carpooling to work together. But I seem to recall something about her being bounced around between foster homes; being arrested for shoplifting; abuse when she was in elementary school by her mother and her stepfather.
I guess the girl does have it pretty tough. But why do I get so annoyed whenever he mentions her. I’m not…jealous? No. Why would I be jealous of an attractive, thin, younger woman who has designated time scheduled with Eddie every week for the next six to twelve months? So what if they have “dates” at museum exhibits and amusement parks and at the bowling alley – he’s just mentoring her, right?
So really, I have nothing to lose by hiring this girl on. We could really use another part-timer in the afternoons and on Sundays. I just don’t know…
“Yah. I told Lauren that if she got a job with you guys, I could come by here and meet her for dinner a few times a week for our check-ins rather than going out to a bunch of random spots.”
Sold! “Well, we did just bring on Julio, but I suppose we can give her a try. Perhaps just a few hours a week to start.”
It’s as if I just told him he’d won the PowerBall lottery. Immediately, he takes my hand from its place of rest on the counter and squeezes it. The heebie-jeebies return. “Oh, Alice, that’s great. You don’t know how much this means to me, really.”
I shrug, holding back my a little joy of my own.
“No, really Alice. I owe you big time. In fact, you should come downtown to the club I’m working tonight. I can bring you in free – you got a hot date you wanna bring?”
Sigh. Does this mean the flirting was all in my head? Or perhaps there was flirting, indeed, but I was doing it all by myself. It’s all good, I don’t mind taking things slow. And things are still slow, I notice, seeing that the minute hand on the clock has only moved an inch or so since Eddie entered.
No worries. I’ll be slow. I’ll be steady. And I’m definitely gonna win this race…Lauren!
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