Friday, February 13, 2009

Love Moments For A Winter's Day


Even if you were born with half a brain you would know that picking up a hitchhiker spells danger. If you happen to be a young woman, it goes without saying, you wouldn’t even consider doing such a thing unless you were reckless. In the first place, he wasn’t hitchhiking, so I have no idea why I just went down that path. He was walking down Wildwood Canyon Road. Mother nature had just seen fit to unleash a cloudburst, an unseasonably torrential downpour so extreme my windshield wipers had a difficult time keeping up. All I could see was a struggling figure with no jacket, no protection whatsoever, hunched forward in an effort to buck the deluge, rivulets of water poured down the beyond-drenched shirt plastered against his strong back. I pulled over. It seemed to be the only humane thing to do.

“Wow,” he said, as soon as he slid into the passenger seat. “Thanks.”

I handed him a roll of paper towels. On Saturday’s I cleaned my grandmother’s house, so my cleaning supplies were easily accessible from the backseat. “You’re soaking wet,” I said, stating the obvious. I fiddled with the knobs to crank up the heat, and warm air began to blow vigorously out of my vents. The rain pounded harder. I couldn’t see out the windshield, and the wipers were wiping as fast as the engineers at Ford knew how to produce back in the nineties. Yes, my car was old, old, old.

“I went for a hike earlier this morning,” my passenger said. “Didn’t bank on this unexpected storm.”

“You know how it is here in the foothills when the weather comes down off that mountain, “ I reminded him.

“Actually—I don’t. I’m from New York. We have weather—you better believe we have weather. But, it was so sunny this morning, clear skies and so warm. The rain seemed to come out of nowhere. I was clear up the trail behind the state park when it hit. Torrents of water turned the steep path I’d taken up into a virtual waterfall. You wouldn’t know it to look at me now, because the pouring rain rinsed most of the mud off, but I was filthy. I slipped and fell at least five times trying to make my way back down.”

He finished drying his entire head, leaving his locks wild and untamed. God, I thought, he’s a doll. A living doll. And what did I look like? I was make-up free. I’d haphazardly pulled my bed-head mop into a ponytail with a hair tie that morning before leaving the house, and I reeked of bleach. Wonderful. “You’re lucky you didn’t get hurt,” I said. “I’m just going to sit here until I can see to drive. Hopefully, my little car won’t wash down the canyon.” You couldn’t make out anything outside the windows but water, that’s how stinking hard it was raining. “So, are you visiting then?”

“Just moved to California three months ago,” he said. “I’m in pediatric residency at Loma Linda.”

“Ah, a pediatrician?” I had three neighbors that worked at Loma Linda Medical Center. Two nurses and a dentist.

He offered his hand. “My name’s Kevin Lovejoy.”

Love. Joy. I smiled and shook his hand heartily. “Glad to meet you, I’m Rosie Murillo.” I thought he might get a gander at all those cleaning supplies and form the opinion that he’d just met a Merry Maid. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a Merry Maid, but dusting and scrubbing wasn’t my calling, that’s for sure. I had spent four long years working my butt off at The University of Redlands, graduating with a degree in accounting. I wanted to make it clear that I was fine dating material for an up and coming doctor. Yes, I was aiming to please, and I’d just met the guy. Pathetic. Maybe. “I live here in Yucaipa, but I work in Redlands. I’m CFO for Turner Environmental.”

We sat there talking until the rain let up. He was the oldest of nine. Imagine, nine kids in one family. His favorite food was pizza. Once a month he went for a hike despite his insane schedule. Sometimes he felt overwhelmed. Life at Loma Linda bore no resemblance to Scrubs.

I realized that I could now make out a car snaking down the hill on the other side of the road. “I can see now,” I said. “Where do I drop you off?”

“Just up the road. Above Mesa Grande.”

Reluctantly, I made my way down the hill. I didn’t want to part with him. What a romantic—I had expectations—I wanted more. He called out directions: left here, right here, another left, there it is, that odd Frenchy-looking house, go ahead and pull in the driveway. I stopped the car and smiled at him, saying some lame something. Good to meet you, blah, blah, blah. I was saying good-bye to one of the sweetest, quite possibly the best-looking guy I’d ever spent time with. He reached for the door handle. “I don’t have much free time,” he said, “but I’m free tonight. Would you like to go to dinner? I’m living with my aunt and she’s a terrible cook, but she doesn’t know it. I’d love an excuse to miss out on tonight’s Hawaiian delight. It’s a sin to put mandarin oranges and tomatoes in the same dish, a mortal sin.”

Broad smiles ensued and excessive nodding. I was a bobble-headed, reckless girl, brave enough to stop and pick up strange men from the side of the road during fierce rainstorms. I had a date with a promising young doctor named Kevin Lovejoy. Wait until he saw how cute I really was. Wait until he saw me with my hair combed and straightened, wearing coal eyeliner and plenty of mascara, in my red dress and heels. He would fall madly in love.

I hurried home to get ready. I would call my mother and drop three words on her. Love. Joy. Doctor!

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Those Eyes

Dillon planned to walk four miles down Imperial Highway, from his apartment building all the way to Pizza Paradise. He was meeting the new girl. His mom was being a total bitch and wouldn’t let him borrow her car, just because he’d backed into a pole and made a dent in the bumper. What was the big deal anyway? He didn't understand why she was so mad. It was a piece of crap car anyway. The new girl’s name was Heather Tracy. She used to live in Beverly Hills. Her dad was some kind of entertainment lawyer. The bastard dumped her mother for some chick that played in soft porn, so they had to move to Orange County, into Heather’s grandma’s house. That’s the term Heather used, soft porn. Her eyes were so blue that the heavy jet-black eyeliner she wore made them pop. He just couldn’t help it—he had to stare as they welled up when she told him about her rotten dad. And when Dillon looked into her deep blue eyes he suddenly knew what love felt like. He didn’t even care how stupid he appeared as he briskly walked along the sidewalk making his way to Pizza Paradise, like some stupid-ass kid from junior high. It was all he could do not to run.

Tell Me

Tell me you haven’t looked at your husband from time to time and thought—get away from me! Well, I looked at mine the other day and I thought, I’m sick to death of you and your lackadaisical attitude towards fashion! I swear to God if I see you wear that old U2 t-shirt one more time, the one that doesn’t fit the way it used to, I’ll up and barf. I really will. That threadbare thing’s shrunk and you’ve expanded.

Tell me you haven’t gotten mad at your husband recently for one reason or another. You know he gets mad at you. He might keep it in but he gets furiously mad at times. You can tell. He wants to scream at the top of his lungs, “Hey bitch—get off my frickin back!” But instead he sulks, he sulks and he sulks and he sulks.

So then Valentine’s Day rears it’s ugly little Cupid head. That nasty little arrow penetrated your heart years ago, and now all you have is a festering wound of familiarity and contempt. All you have is responsibility and obligation, drudgery and monotony. Or do you?

On February 14th, what did my husband do? He arranged for his mother to pick our son up from school. He showed up at my office, in a Porsche that he’d rented no less, and then whisked me off to Santa Barbara. We had a lovely Italian dinner, and stayed in a fabulous B&B, like we used to in the old days. There was a giant whirlpool tub in our room, champagne, chocolate covered cherries, red roses! Need I say more? God, I love that man!

Good Luck

Fiona hates bars. Really hates bars. On TV they always depict glamorous people in glamorous surroundings clutching martini glasses and flirting with one another from across the room, as the beat of the music sounds in the background, but in real life bars just blow. The places Fiona’s been to of late: good luck trying to even keep a grip on your cosmopolitan without getting slammed into so many times that you spill more than you drink, good luck on getting off that crowded dance floor without scuffing up those expensive Christian Louboutin’s you saved all your hard earned greenbacks for, good luck trying to carry on a conversation because the music is absolutely deafening, good luck trying to meet any half-way decent guy. Good luck.

“Let’s go to The Pond,” her best friend Dee says.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Fiona says. “It’s Valentine’s Day.”

“So.” Dee’s too-heavily-plucked eyebrows knit together. She pokes you with her long blue fingernail. “It’ll be fun.”

“No way,” Fiona insists. “I’d rather eat a cockroach.”

“What are you going to do tonight? Stay home? Eat Ben & Jerry’s?”

“I’m taking myself to the movies. I’m going to see, He’s Just Not That Into You.” Fiona already bought her ticket for the seven o’clock show. It was tucked inside her wallet.

After leaving Dee standing on the busy corner in a state of disbelief over why a good-looking girl would go to the movies alone on Valentine’s Day of all days, Fiona decides to treat herself to a mocha frappuccino with whipped cream. Starbucks is crowded. She gets in the back of the line. Then her phone rings. Drat, private number. She answers anyway.

“Hey,” a deep voice sounds through her head. She recognizes the person behind the “hey” immediately. It’s Pat Booker, her boss’s accountant. “Pat Booker,” he says. “How are you Fiona?”

“Good,” she says. “I’m in line at Starbuck’s, how are you Pat?”

“Starbucks sounds good. But then, I’m a caffeine junkie. I know it’s really short notice, but I’ve been invited to a Valentine’s Party. A friend of mine had this great idea--she’s throwing a First Date Valentine’s party. To take the pressure off. Get it?”

“I think so,” Fiona does her best to wrap her mind around the concept. “You’re to bring someone you haven’t been out with before—right?”

“Yes. I know that it’s a slim chance that you don’t already have a date for tonight. But I thought I’d be brave and give it a try. If you don’t have plans—would you like to come with me?”

Slim chance that she has plans—more like it. Pat’s cute. But he’s an accountant. Maybe that’s a good thing. Right brain. Left brain. Why not? She accepts his invitation, ditches Starbucks, flags a cab, and heads home. Tonight she’ll wear those new Betsy Johnson pumps that just scream Be My Valentine. Tonight she might find true love.

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009



Cody did her best to give the realtor the brush off. Tara was a nice enough lady, but a little overbearing, and Cody wanted to be alone when she turned her key in her very own lock. The first thing she noticed was that the lockbox had left a terrible mark on the door below, where it had been attached to the doorknob, she’d have to match the paint so she could touch that up. Once inside, she walked from room to room, her heels clicking against the wood floors. They weren’t big rooms, but they weren’t small either. Cody stood in the two-story entryway; the stairs and the living room were to her right, the dining room, which she intended to make her office, on her left. Down the hallway a double set of French doors led to a lovely courtyard. Just past the powder room, the hallway opened up into the kitchen and family room. Cody smiled to think that she had granite countertops and a wood-burning fireplace.

She hopped up and took a seat on the kitchen island since there was no place else to sit, set her purse down, fished through the contents for her phone, and then punched the “Suzy” button for her mother. The phone rang and rang.

“It’s me, Mom,” Cody said, when Suzy finally answered. “I’m in my house.”

“You are? Already? My, that was fast!”

“Because it was a repo, because I bought it from the bank.”

“Well Girl, I’m forty years old and I’ve never owned my own home. You’re only twenty-three, you’ve got me beat!”

Her mother was currently living out in Florida with her newest boyfriend. One time Cody sat down with her Aunt Lori, and they did their best to figure out just how many different places Cody had lived before she moved to California to live in her Aunt Lori’s house so she might attend college. Between the two of them, they decided that Suzy had moved Cody at least thirty-one times. Apartments, hotels, trailers, condo’s, motels, shelters, into any place and every place but an actual house and home.

Cody said, “I didn’t know we were having a contest Mom.”

“Saul wants to talk to you, hold on a minute.”

Cody did not want to talk to the man. Why did her mother always insist on making her talk to her damn boyfriends?

“Hey,” a scratchy voice rang in her ear, “good for you kid. Take it from an old Jewish guy—homeownership’s where it’s at. And I hear you got a good deal too. Way to go.”

Cody slid off the counter. “Well, Gee Saul. Thanks.” He was probably an okay guy. She just didn’t have a lot of patience for her mother’s boyfriends. She had memories.

Loud knocking ensued, the ringing of the doorbell. “The movers are here,” she said. “I better go.”

Cody made her way down the hallway and into her new life.

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Monday, February 9, 2009


It’s snowing on my house today. I live in Southern California. It does snow here, if you live in the higher elevations and the circumstances are just so. Once upon a time we used to own a mountain cabin, so my two older dogs know what snow is. They even like to see it coming down, barking at the door to go outside. But the puppy, Oliver, he doesn’t agree. Ollie has to be pushed out the door, kicking his paws like wild and yelping. I only left them out there for a few minutes, and when I returned I found Ollie crouched near the dryer vent. Now he smells like fabric softener sheets mixed with wet dog. I would have gotten a picture but as soon as the door opened he shot between my legs into safety and almost knocked me off the steps. Duncan and Bonnie were laughing at him, their little pink Cairn terrier tongues showing. We’re holed up in the house. No reason to go out—better not to.

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.