Halfway to the parking lot, Jude Keenan’s current girlfriend, Julie Ullswater drove in. With the top down in the Pasadena spring air and loud pop tunes blaring from her BMW, Julie waved her shiny bleached tresses and called out;
“You aren’t leaving are you?”
“Well, I was.”
Julie swung the car dangerously in front of Ann in the way all blond young and beautiful women think they ought to in LA “I so wanted to take you to Pepe’s for lunch.”
“Um, I really…”
“Come on, just the two of us.”
The last place Ann wanted to spend what might be the only remaining quiet time of her 14 hour workday was in a bar with a woman bound and determined to ply her with alcohol in order to find out what and who Jude Keenan was up to lately.
“Actually, I have a lunch date.” Ann lied.
“REALLY? When do I get to meet him? What’s his story? Or hers?” Julie was always trying to figure out which side of the field Ann played on.
“I don’t really want to say, it’s someone I met on-line.” Ann had always been a terrible liar and this lie was getting thicker by the minute.
“The ONLINE?” Everything was loud with these girls.
“Well, it’s more like a friend of a friend.”Ann stammered.
“You little liar, you are just trying to get out of this. Now get in the car, let’s get you something to eat, you are looking too thin these days.”
Busted and apologetic, Ann couldn’t think of anything else to do but reluctantly ease into the passenger seat of the gaudy car. Luckily, Pepe’s was just around the corner.
After two of Pepe’s margaritas, Ann’s phone rang.
“I gotta take this Julie” Ann pushed back from the table.
“Hey dad.” she answered, trying not to slur words.
“What’s up mighty mouse?”
“Um, I’m just heading over to the races, can I call you tonight?”
“I was just calling to say that I’d be in Los Angeles next week, can I take you to dinner?” He asked, ever upbeat Dad.
“You can do more than that Dad, you can stay at my place if that works.”
“No honey, I don’t want to be any trouble to you and Mateo.”
“Dad, Mateo hasn’t lived there for months. It’s just me and the dog and we’d love you to stay.”
“Well, if it’s not too much trouble, I’ll be there on the 18th and I head home on the 21st. Maybe I could stay the night of the 19th and we go to dinner?”
“That would be great dad. Kiss mom for me – okay?”
“You got it super star.” He clicked off.
Ann smiled as she mused how terrible her whole family was at saying goodbye but how fond her dad always was of inventing pet names for his two children.
She leaned up against the side of the building and looked at the gardens that surrounded the restaurant and bar. One thing you could say for the Pasadena area, they sure knew how to grow gardens. Avocado trees with shiny green leaves surrounded camellia bushes with fat white and pink flowers that bloomed year-round.
And roses – the famous Pasadena roses. Fragrant roses, tiny tea roses, roses with variegated colors and roses with impossibly big blooms. Every local knew something about roses. But for Ann, it was the purple wisteria vines that gave her the most delight. They appeared over what seemed like every gate and doorway in late spring only to shed their blooms and fade into the background quietly until the next blooming season. For all of the freeway ugliness of the LA basin, this area exploded with colorful flowers and she didn’t realize until right now how much joy the flowers brought to her.
“There you are.” Julie came tottering out of the bar on impossibly high heels. Her makeup didn’t look so tidy after a couple of lunchtime drinks. “I thought you were sneaking away.”
“Look, I gotta be back to the races soon, can you drive me back to the track?”
“Pumpkin, I can’t drive now.” She pointed to her margarita tumbler. “You just take my car and I’ll get Reiner or Kelly to give me a ride to the track. Park it in the owner/trainer lot – okay? Big love.” Julie reached over and gave her a sloppy air kiss on the cheek, then went back inside the bar.