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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

Stuck together the entire day at a lackluster training in Marina Del Rey, it only made sense that Mario and Christian would gravitate towards each other, speaking more inside the Marriott conference room than they do during a typical week. And both of them had thought to themselves as the day wore on that the other wasn’t so bad. But it was Mario who reached out, who took the initiative and asked Chris what he was doing after the training.

“Heading over to the café, most likely. But there’ll probably be a lot of traffic, huh?”

“Yah. You wanna head over to the bar for a couple of drinks?”

“Sure,” Chris says, enthused by the invitation. Mario was sort of out of his league in Chris’s opinion. He had charisma, style, charm, intelligence, and the confidence that went along with those things, all of which Chris envied in some way. He wouldn’t call what he had going for Mario a man crush or anything, but Chris definitely looked up to the guy. So it was with great, albeit restrained, excitement that he walked side by side to the outdoor lounge, just off the hotel lobby when they were dismissed for the day. The two take a seat on a cushioned sofa near one of the fireplaces, and Chris follows Mario’s lead, ordering a Hefeweizen with two slices of orange.

“So,” starts Chris once half his beer is gone, his body warmed over and the alcohol giving him the courage to broach forbidden topics. “What was all that stuff that happened with you and the mayor and Danny?”

Mario doesn’t flinch. “That? That was politics, my friend. And I got caught slippin’. I learned my lesson the hard way but, I tell you, it won’t happen again.”

Chris wants to push for more but eventually decides to settle with Mario’s vague response. “How is Cynthia?”

“Fine,” Mario says, again not flinching. Chris takes Mario’s curt reply to mean that the topics of Cynthia and his marriage are over and done. Okay. Third time perhaps will be the charm.

“So I hear we’re going with a new vendor for supplies.”

Mario downs his beer and then smiles. “Yah, Office Works,” he says. After signaling the waiter for another beer, he stares Chris down.

“What?” Chris asks.

“You’re banging the boss’s daughter, huh?”

If Chris was already warm from his first beer, his insides were on fire now. “What?”

“Come on. I saw you two that day. It’s perfectly clear – you’re sleeping with Jen.”

Chris figures that his only strategy at this point is to deny the accusation vehemently. Mario, however, doesn’t give up easily, bringing up his examples of circumstantial evidence. “I heard that you open up the restaurant for her every morning so she can make her little cupcakes.”

“Who told you that?”

“Jen,” he says with enough arrogance to fill up the gas tank of an SUV.

“What?…Wait, when have you talked to Jen?” Chris asks, perplexed within his mild stupor. Eventually his mind goes to work, recalling the rumors circulating around the office that Danny found Mario and Jen together behind the building doing…stuff. Jen blamed the situation on her father’s recent bouts of panic attacks and overreactions. But perhaps there was more to the story.

“I talk to Jen all the time,” Mario says, thanking the waiter for the drink he drops off. “You want another one, man?”

Chris nods to the waiter, hopefully conveying with his eyes that his need for a second beer is urgent. “Why would you talk to Jen all the time?”

Mario chuckles. “Why would you be so bent out of shape about me talking to her if you weren’t hittin’ that?”

“I’m not bent out of shape,” Chris grunts, hoping he doesn’t sound defensive.

“Look at you, dude. You’re all nervous and your voice is trembling. You’re definitely banging her.” Mario laughs again and Chris has to use every ounce of composure he has to stop himself from dousing the guy with his German wheat beer and shoving the oranges up his nose. All the respect Chris had collected over the years for him was quickly turning to disdain as Mario kept at him. And finally, when Mario tells him that Jen all but spilled the beans about their affair when he’d met up with her the night before, Chris snaps.

With nostrils flared and temples throbbing, he slams down his newly delivered glass, splashing its contents to and fro and says, “I swear, Mario, if I find out you touched her, I’ll – ”

“Hey, easy tiger,” Mario tells him, remaining jocular. The story’s clear to Mario. And to Chris now, too, realizing he’s shown his colors. He’s played his big card. His feelings for Jen are evident.

“Nah, man. Tell me what’s going on.”

“Chris, Chris, don’t trip, man. Don’t worry – I’m not screwing Jen,” he says, secretly regretting that fact. “She’s just my pusher.”

“Look, man. Stop playing around with me. What the hell’s going on with you and Jen?”

Mario’s not laughing any more, hoping that Chris will take him seriously. “Chris…Jen sells me my weed. Your girl deals chronic.”

“What the…?” he asks, his mind instantly going to the odor that often accompanies her. “Weed…what, marijuana?”

“Yah. You’re little innocent girlfriend is pot hustler. Oh, but you already knew she wasn’t all that innocent, didn’t you?”

So while Chris is relieved that Jen and Mario haven’t hooked up, he still wants to strangle Mario for this revelation. But with a little time, Mario is able to get Chris to calm down, threats and offers to settle things like men aside. Chris then decides to order another drink, this time something with a little more teeth to it. “Scotch and soda, please.” The more he thinks about it, the more he realizes deep down that what Mario told him is true. There was always something in the distance about Jen that discomfited him, and the scenario before him made sense.

“So, honestly man. You didn’t know anything about Jen? You two never smoked out together?”

“I don’t do that stuff. Get all lazy and fat. I have better things to do with my time and money.”

With that, Mario’s at it again, unable to restrain his laughter.

“Dude, what’s wrong with you? Are you high right now or something?”

“Nah, dude.”

“So what is it,” Chris asks, completely over the conversation.

Mario turns his body to face his colleague. “Alright, man. If I tell you this, don’t flip out.”

“I won’t.”

“I’m serious, man. Believe me, I’d love to see Danny go down and news of Jen’s work could certainly do the job. But she’s got the best deals around – she’s my go-to girl.”

Chris rolls his eyes. “I get it already. What is it?”

“Okay, okay. So, your famous Buena Beach red velvet cream cheese cupcakes?” Chris nods. “Well,” Mario continues, “you don’t think you’re selling out of those things every day just because they’re tasty?”

“What are you saying?”

Mario shakes his head. “Dude…the cupcakes are stoner food, man. She bakes marijuana into the cakes.”

“You’re lying, Mario.”

“Not the good stuff, of course. I guess she uses leftovers or something like that. I’m not really up on my weed chemistry. But she started doing it so Alice would sign off on her home-study application; so she could work at the café more hours during the week.”

Chris literally scratches his head. “So you’re saying that Alice knows about this?”

“No, I don’t think so. Alice just knows that people are addicted to those cupcakes. I doubt she knows that they’re really addicted to the cupcakes,” Mario says, can’t helping but to crack up at his attempt at a joke. But a moment later, he dignifies himself, seeing that, from Chris’s perspective, there’s nothing funny at all.

And getting a closer look at his co-worker, he notices that not only is Chris not laughing…Dude’s crying.

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