North or South?

“Roger that Captain.”  Ann saluted, turned on her heel and ducked into the office for her keys and bag.  She felt equal parts of elation, relief and lost as she fumbled around for her keys trying to figure out what to do with herself for the next three days. She could keep her appointment with the orthopedic surgeon to look at her knee (NOT) she could drive up north and hang out with old friends (tempting) she could crash at Mark and Johnny’s place and be spoiled with great food, ocean views and culture (Jeezus, what’s going on with Johnny?) or a drive over the border into Mexico for peace and quiet to sleep and read for three days (heaven) or East to Las Vegas for who-knows-what kind of an adventure.

In an instant, her mind flashed to a sleeping Peter.  Fuck!  She KNEW enough about diabetes to suddenly realize that his sudden sleepiness was less a matter of napping and more a matter of an insulin related coma.  Leaving the office at a dead run, she braked just long enough to peek in the stall of Viya Con Dios and to blow his still sulking shape a hasty kiss.  “See you soon big guy, I promise.”

Once in her car, she dialed Peter’s number.  He answered, groggy and grumpy; “What?”

Ann sighed  relief.  “Hey Pete, I was just checking on you.  How ya doin?”

“Sleeping like a baby until you called.  Weren’t you just here?”  He mumbled.

“Well I was, I was just worried about you, that’s all.  Glad you’re awake.”

“That makes one of us. Do you make a habit of waking up old men from quiet naps?  Cuz if you do, the next time you had better be wearing nothing but a smile.” Pete coughed and laughed.  “Well, it’s probably best, looks like this old hound needs to go out for a potty break anyhow.  Mangy mutt.”  Ann heard Luke’s ear flapping head shake over Peter’s wheezing.  Relieved that a simple phone ring was enough to wake Peter – her worries about him being in a diabetic coma melted away.

 “Peter?  I’ve got a few days off from the track and I’m not sure what my plan is.  If I left town for a couple of days, could you take care of Luke for me?”

“He likes me better than he likes you anyhow girlie.  I guess you could dump him on old Pete for a bit.”  Ann could feel Peter’s smile through the phone.

“Okay then, I’ll call you later today when I know what my plans are.”

“You want my advice?  Go get laid, you need it.”

“Thanks Peter, you always know what to tell a girl.  Gotta go.  Big Love.”

She hung up while Peter was still laughing at his own humor.  Now, what next?

With two days to kill and the dog and all the horses cared for, Ann threw a random bag of clothes together, locked the house and hopped into her car with only one major choice in her mind;  South toward the Mexican Baja Peninsula for sun and surf, tequila and nightlife or North to the foggy cold coast and the Ranch.

Ann had always loved driving.  Driving alone was meditation and driving with friends, as long as she had the wheel, harbored many of her favorite memories.  She remembered her Dad teaching her to drive when she was 14.  She remembered acting clumsy to hide the fact that she’d been driving her boyfriend’s car for almost six months.  Her dad had been so proud that she was a such a quick learner.

All choices held delicious possibilities.  Some hedonistic and wild, the others restful and grounding. She decided, like any resident of the Los Angeles basin, to let traffic decide.  She’d drive out to where the 210 Hwy met  Hwy 5.  If traffic was moving to the south, it was Mexico, if traffic was moving smoothy to the north she would head to the Ranch, west to Johnny and Mark’s and if traffic was moving to the east, it was Vegas.

She was hardly two miles down Colorado Blvd. when her phone rang;

“Hey Snookims – we missed you last night at dinner.  Wanna join me for a little drinky drinky?”

“Howdy Julie, I’m on my way out of town.”

“Got a hot date?” Julie crooned.

“Not hardly, I’m going to visit my friend up in the Bay Area.”

“Need to let some of the heat blow off?”  Julie, she figured, was fishing for information.

“Jude has the whole story, you should call him.”

“I mean about your friend Johnny.”

“Johnny?  How do YOU know Johnny?”  Ann was stunned.

“Sweetie, we all work out at the same gym.  You didn’t think you were the only fag-hag at the Club – did you? Plus, Mark and I have lots of mutual friends in the art scene.”  Julie was giggling and it was clear she’d already had a couple of drinks.

“Is he okay?”  Ann stammered

“He’s drying out for a bit and he’ll be back up to his old tricks in no time.  You run along and play in San Francisco, I know the perfect day spa if you want to get a dreamy facial.  You won’t hate me if I say you could use it? Anyway, I’ll see you when you get back.  Bye now.  M-wah.”  Julie pressed a sloppy kiss on her phone before hanging up.

Great, Johnny and Mark and Julie are all hanging out now. Surely they’d rather hang out with Julie and her Pepperdine education and her fashion sense rather than a grubby gallop girl.  She was jealous and hurt and didn’t have any idea what to do about it.  The only good news is that Johnny had survived his breakdown and he must be okay.  She placated herself with the notion that all was well with her friends as she approached the turn off to Hwy 5 and automatically turned north without even looking at the traffic.  She’d be at the ranch around midnight if she didn’t stop.

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