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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

Now that I’ve befriended Veronica, it feels strange chitchatting with her man during my breaks. I’d mentioned to her that I had run into him a couple of times, but never was forthcoming with all the details of our benign little rendezvous. With her out a meeting with Danny this morning, I dared to venture out by the planter where I used to run into him, simply hoping to catch up. I have absolutely no intention of flirting. Although I did touch up my lipgloss and plump my hair before coming out here. I had to bum a cigarette for my fake smoke from the receptionist, whom I barely ever talk to. It was either her or Sandy, who’s been sort of weird with me lately. Yesterday, when I asked her if she wanted to go for coffee with me and Veronica, it sounded like she said “when Jesse Jackson becomes president,” under her breath. When I kindly asked her to repeat herself, she turned to me, bright eyed, and smiled bigger than I knew her mouth even could and said, “No, thank you.”

Either Mario is playing more mind games with her or she’s about to start her period. PMS makes her a little wacky. I chose not to bother her for a cigarette because I figured she’d ask to come outside with me, and I had a solo gig in mind. This way, if Brandon does show up, I don’t have to apologize for my nitwit of a friend when she freezes up in his presence, barely able to utter even a “hello” like she did last time.

After eight minutes, I tell myself that I’m only gonna stay out here, fake smoking, only another eight minutes. That’s the beauty of fake smoking – you can do it for hours and hours, and only burn through one cigarette. It is nice out here, though – Brandon or not. Getting some sunlight, the cool breeze taming the hot rays of the sun. The sloshing of the waves casually hitting the sand is so calming, I wish I could roll my desk out here every morning so I can have the Pacific Ocean as my backdrop. Until that day happens, I have my nature patterns screensaver.

I’m just about to pocket my cigarette (for another time) when I hear the familiar crank of Brandon’s cycle coming up the nearby bicycle path. Quickly, I pull out my lighter (I still keep it around for birthday parties and impromptu camping trips) and fire up my ciggy. He makes his way over as I wave. “What’s going on?”

“What’s up?” he says back.

I tell him about my morning so far. My stale bagel and my strong coffee and my sneezing episode (due to the layers of dust caused by poor air circulation in the office and a lazy maintenance crew) and the funny joke I received and then e-mailed to all my friends and later realized that I accidentally had added Danny’s name to the list. And, of course, my brief encounter with the love of his life before she took off to City Hall. “Yah, I’m not sure what their meeting was about, but she was dressed up. I mean really dressed up.” A big improvement, in my opinion, over the tacky threads she usually wears, probably from some place called “Fashion Cutie”.

“Oh, she must have been wearing that new suit I helped her pick out.”

He helped her pick it out? Handsome and astute in the style department. I may have to get jealous again. “So you guys don’t see each other in the mornings?”

“No. She’s an early kind of gal. I don’t go to sleep until one, maybe two. It kind of works out though because, she has her time; I have my time. No one feels suffocated. It’s great, really.”

“Yah, it sounds like it.” I wish I could say the same for Jonathan and me.

“Hey, I know you and Vero have been getting close and all but…can you keep a secret?”

No. But, “Yes.”

He steps away from his bike, putting the kickstand in place. As soon as he reaches inside of his backpack, I have hunch what he’s gonna pull out.

And there it is. A small, velvet-covered box, the likes of which I’m sure I’ll never see in the next couple of decades. Actually, I might get my hands on one if I stick with Jonathan, but it would be my Visa card that paid for it. “Ohmygosh!”

“Crazy, huh?” He’s nearly radiant, working hard to keep his emotions in check. Wow. Veronica’s a lucky girl, to have someone so in love with her.

Once he opens the box, I’m definitely in awe. And full of envy. It’s a dazzling princess cut solitaire with a huge diamond. It’s incredible. “I do!” I joke, although if he slipped that thing on my finger right now, I’d drag his ass to Vegas in a heartbeat. “She’ll love it.”

“Yah?” he asks, proud of himself. “I hope so. I’m gonna ask her next Friday. Over dinner.”

“Friday?”

“Yah. I got reservations at this restaurant in downtown L.A.”

“Wow. That sounds nice.”

He sighs. “Only problem is, the thing is like burning a hole in my pocket, you know what I mean?”

Not really.

“I just got it on Monday, and I’ve been wanting to just whip it out and propose ever since. I almost woke her up last night to do it.”

O-kay. “Well, if that’s what you want to do, then just do it.”

“I know, I know. I should. But I know you ladies love romance and all that. Even Veronica, although she swears she’s not your typical girly-girl. I want to do something memorable.”

I’m past envy. Tonight, I’m going to hogtie and kidnap Veronica, ship her off to Brussels, Belgium, and move in on her man. Damn – why can’t Jonathan think of things like this? “Makes sense.”

“So, I need a favor…”

“What?” I ask, somewhat tentative.

“Can you hold on to the ring for me until next week?”

I give him one of my looks. It’s clear this fool has no idea with whom he’s dealing. I’m crazy. Don’t give me a ring! I’ll do something dumb like get it stuck on my finger, only able to be removed by the jaws of life; or I’ll flush it down the toilet on accident; or I’ll run it up to the nearest pawn shop, cash out, and take myself on a trip to the Bahamas. There’s no way I’m responsible enough to care for someone else’s engagement ring. But instead of telling him this, I eventually say, “Sure. I’ll ring-sit for you.”

“Aww, thanks Diane. Really, I appreciate it.” He goes on to tell me more of the details of his plan, asking me to bring it over to him at the shop on Friday right after I get off work. He gives me all of his contact information and insists that I should feel free to call him if need be. “I’ll take your number too, just in case. But if I call you late at night, demanding that you bring me the ring, just ignore me. It probably means I’m drunk or delirious.”

“Alright,” I say, jotting down my number on the scrap of paper he’d handed me. “Just don’t plan on calling me too late now.”

“Okay,” he laughs. “I’ll try. I wouldn’t want to upset Jonathan anyway.”

Fat chance of doing that. He may be my man, but he hasn’t earned an overnight stay pass from me in a long time. We’ll see after Monday – my birthday. Perhaps in exchange for ring-sitting, I could have Brandon take Jonathan out for a drink to drop some knowledge about how to wow your woman. Or at least have Brandon give him a job.

Well, until Friday, I guess I can one-up my faux-smoking by pretending to be betrothed for the next week. At least when I’m away from the office and from Jonathan. Now all I need is a fake bridal registry, a fake church, and a fake reception, and I’ll live happily ever after.

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