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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

Things could be worse for Calvin. After getting fired from the City of Buena Beach and having charges brought against him for money laundering, some people would’ve sank deep into a great depression, waiting for consequences of their actions to hit. Calvin, on the other hand, had landed comfortably onto his cousin’s booming barbecue restaurant as resident hype man, walking from table to table during dinner, making sure that customers were satisfied and stuffed. He was also the unofficial taster, busboy, executive chef, and maintenance worker. Not quite the kind of work he did as a coordinator with the Recreation Division, but at least he was eating well, managing to pay the bills, and even saving a little money in the shoe box under his bed. Hopefully, a slight smudge on his record wouldn’t get in the way of his plans for the future. If things went his way, the money under his bed would soon be paying for headshots and a voice-over demo cd. Eventually, he’d get a deal with Fox Sports or ESPN doing commentary – NFL, NCAA…he’d be cool with any gig if it got his mug on the screen.

The more he thought about it, he figured that any charges found against him wouldn’t hurt much. The incident might even help his chances of a show picking him up. It’s cool these days to have a brotha on the air with a little edge to him.

Just because he was optimistic about the future, however, didn’t mean he’d forgotten about the past. Danny, Cheryl, and anyone else he learned was involved in bringing him down would soon have the favor returned. Keeping with his plan, it meant Danny would go first. He still hadn’t finished putting the puzzle together on how it would all work out, but enlisting the assistance of public enemy number two (a.k.a. Cheryl) was an important piece. So over the last month, he’d been trying to get back on her good side – ordering flowers and sending over fresh bags of barbecued wings to her office. Not only did he have to convince her that the Calvin of the past – the one who dumped her three days after asking for her hand in marriage – had been eradicated from the universe (replaced by a guy who looked similar but who’d quit smoking, now ran 3 miles a day, and had acquired an addiction to the Oprah Winfrey show); he also had to pretend that he was over her betrayal of him, tipping off the City about Calvin’s scheme and exposing the details in an article she’d written for the Buena Beach Sundial – the actions that got him fired.

Things were certainly moving in the right direction with Cheryl finally agreeing to come over to his place for dinner this evening. As he walked towards his front door to let her in, he almost laughed aloud, thinking of a line from his favorite film, Return of the Jedi, when the Emperor gloats to Darth Vader “Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.”

When he opens the door to find her in a barely there tank top and mini-skirt with flawless hair and makeup, he’s momentarily taken aback. Flustered. She looks just like she did the day they met, when she’d come in to request a permit for a Filipino folkdance event at one of the parks – damn fine. He’d normally dated only sisters but reasoned she was brown enough for him. So he’d taken the initiative to drop by the event, “just to check in on things,” he’d said. His planning skills at work back then as well, she’d said yes to his invitation for drinks after the final folkdance and after that, the two were nearly inseparable for a good year and a half. That is until he started getting calls from his agent for appearances, fans still remembering the local boy who’d made it big; playing varsity for four years on the Poly High School football team, then playing three years on scholarship at Notre Dame before being scooped up as a first round draft pick by the Raiders. Once he blew out his knee, his once adoring public forgot all about him, leading him to drink and gamble away his wealth and assets. Acknowledging his mistakes, he eventually settled into suburban living in Buena Beach.

Since the appearances, however, his normal life had started looking a lot less bright. His new Accord and townhouse apartment and road trips to Laughlin were cool. But hanging out with other vets who’d invested rather than wasted their dough made him miss his Benzes (a convertible and an SUV), the house in Malibu, the condo in Miami Beach, the trips to Barcelona and Maldives and Chile. And the women. But they were back en masse at all the events he’d been attending, and even younger and bustier than they were when he was in the game. And although he’d loved Cheryl, and had imagined their life together, that plan was altered the evening he was invited to a Lakers game by a buddy of his who worked the commentary circuit these days, making money hand over fist. Calvin wanted a piece of that action, along with everything that came with it. That meant his bachelorhood had to be restored, at least a few years more. So he dumped her, having the nerve to ask for the ring back and everything. Calvin new he did her wrong. But he never figured Cheryl – sweet, sometimes timid, selfless Cheryl – would come back at him the way she did.

“You look nice tonight,” he tells her, taking her purse and putting it on the table. His roommate Eddie was gone until late, out spinning at a hip-hop club in downtown L.A., so they had the whole place to themselves. All he wanted to do tonight was to get her to forgive him; but if he was lucky enough to convince her to join him in bed after dinner, that’d be a bonus, and that his plan was picking up momentum.

“Thank you,” she tells him, accepting his invitation for her to take a seat at the dinner table, which was dressed to impressed with napkins, bright white plates, flowers, and candles. “Eddie here?”

“No, he’s out working. Some new gig he got in L.A.”

“Oh. Well, tell him I said ‘hi’.” Eddie and Cheryl had always been close, Cheryl confiding in him early on her deep and almost too quick feelings for Calvin when they first began dating. Eddie always had a wise way with words, giving her just the right advice needed for a particular situation. But the last time they’d spoken, the night Calvin ended things, Eddie for once was speechless. All he could do was apologize, Cheryl repeating that he had nothing to apologize for. So she was somewhat disappointed that she’d missed Eddie, but hoped that there’d be more opportunities for her to visit their apartment in the future, just like old times.

During dinner, she can’t ignore that gnawing in her heart, however; the pain that revived itself weeks ago when Calvin showed up unannounced at her condo. To her, it seemed like he was attempting to reengage and rekindle – at least that’s what she hoped. But before she could even consider making amends, she had to ask those difficult questions.

“So, Calvin…” she starts, right after savoring her last bite of barbecue beef brisket. “I’m sure you realize that I’m looking for some answers.”

“Of course you are, Cher.” He reaches for the half-empty bottle of pinot grigio and tops off their glasses. “What do you want to know?”

She smiles, remembering Calvin’s tendency to beat around the bush. “Calvin, you know exactly what’s on my mind. The last time we had dinner, it ended with you asking me to return the engagement ring you’d bought me, just hours after I’d told my parents the good news.”

He knows the only way to do this is to suck it up – take the blame and show some shame. “I know, babe. I’m so, so sorry. I…I got scared.” She tries to jump in, but he lifts a respectful hand. “Not scared because I proposed to you. Just scared that someone was ready and willing to marry me. It showed me a lot about myself, you know what I’m saying? I was sort of unsure of myself.” It wasn’t a complete lie; in fact, everything he’d told her was true. It just wasn’t the whole truth; that the thought of being flanked by a trio of leggy, big-haired blondes and brunettes as he walked the red carpet at the ESPYs was what really pushed him over the edge.

“Calvin, I don’t know why you’d doubt yourself. Honestly, until that crappy thing you did to me, I thought you were the best man I’d ever met.”

Damn, Calvin thought to himself. Why’d she have to take it there? She’d seemed sincere about it, too. “Come on.”

“Well, I don’t think that now,” she says, and they’re both able to laugh about it. “But, I’m sure you’re still a good guy. Despite your actions…with me and elsewhere.”

Calvin downs his wine, hoping she’ll soon do the same. “Do you think you’ll ever be able to forgive me?”

Instantly, Cheryl’s demeanor changes. Tears drop from her eyes as she looks down at her lap to avoid his steady gaze. Hating to admit it to herself, she nods and then faintly utters the word ‘yes’, just audible enough for him to hear over the hum of the Barry White CD he has playing.

Inside, Calvin is doing cartwheels, flip-flops, and touchdown end-zone dances – it worked, and much more easily than he’d ever anticipated. Sliding out from his chair and walking over to her side of the table, there isn’t anything else that needs to be said between them. Cheryl takes his hand and follows him into his bedroom, hopeful that her plan to restore their relationship and put Calvin at-ease about matrimony is in full swing.

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