( Previously, Kristie was getting some unwanted attention at church. She called on Sam Reynolds, her boyfriend to help. He then decided they could both use a short vacation. They are on their way to a B & B in Pasadena.)

They stopped at a McDonalds on the way down to get some lunch and regroup. Sam pulled out his street map of LA.

“Okay, I think it’s right here.” He pointed.

“Alright,” Kristie replied putting some French fries in her mouth.

“I think we can, yes, get over the Grapevine down on the 405 and then branch over at the 210 to Pasadena. That should save us a bunch of LA traffic.”

“Sounds good,” Kristie said, “want me to drive?”

 Sam stole some of her fries.

“Uh, sure. You want?”

She shrugged her shoulders. “Shouldn’t be too hard. I’ll put the address into my phone for the GPS thing.”

Back on the road, they had traded places and it was Sam’s turn to snooze.

Kristie looked over at him. I love watching him sleep, she thought to herself. Actually, I love watching him anytime. A buff dude, Sam spent a fair amount of time in the gym keeping in shape. He would wear a turquoise cut off gym shirt that played up his bright blue eyes and she would just sigh. I am a lucky gal. Not everyone my age, divorced with two grown kids can say the same.

Driving along, her mind wandered back in time to her divorce. She had filed when she discovered her husband was cheating on her on his out-of-town trips. When she had confronted him with the evidence, he had just crumpled like an over-blown balloon. He had wanted reconciliation, but she had suspected this for a very long time. Who knew how many women it had been. She was done playing games.

Oddly enough, her two daughters continued to take his side for a long time and insisted she was being unreasonable. She learned to stop arguing with them about it. Phil was still in the LA area and her two girls still gravitated more to him. Although he had been the absent parent, always gone with work and trips and she had been the caretaker, they still seemed to care for him the most. She couldn’t understand it.

She sighed at the memories. However, since Sam had showed up on the scene, they seemed to be coming around more. They both enjoyed his easygoing manner and gentlemanly ways. He would kid them about this and that and they would both laugh hysterically. Like kids again, she thought. Just like kids again.

She consulted her cell phone again, the little arrows were starting to point toward the 210. Traffic began to slow and Sam woke up.

“We there yet, Mom?”

“Getting close. Look at this map again would you, I think the offramp might be the tricky part.”

Forty minutes later they were traveling south through Pasadena towards South Pasadena. The weather for late fall was sunny, crisp and clear.

“Hey, look at that bridge,” Sam called out.

Kristie pulled the car to the curb.

“Yeah, that’s the Colorado Street Bridge, been here a long time. Called the Jumper’s Bridge.”

“The what?”

“Jumper’s Bridge. Apparently, more people have jumped off that bridge than anything else around here.”

“Whew, good to know, I guess.”

They traveled through dense foliage next to the road as it curved around the soft hills of Pasadena. They could smell the faint scent of something burning. A few houses had chimneys and wispy trails of smoke escaped from the tops.

Sam looked at the map. “Think we’re almost there. It’ll be on the right.”

Abruptly a sign came into view and Kristie barely had time to signal and make a sharp right into a drive. The drive led up the hill and was edged with large trees and bushes. They pulled right into the parking lot and the three-story house came into full view.

“Wow!” Kristie let out as she pulled in.

It was a beautiful, turn of the century home that had been carefully restored. It had a peaked gable roof over a large front porch cluttered with easy chairs and occasional tables.

Sam reached over and popped the trunk while Kristie walked toward the house.  There were large plate glass windows on the front and the tops of each had clear decorative glass panels with lead scrolling. She went up the steps to admire the scalloped shingles on the outside.

She was touching one with a finger when the front door flew open, and a very large Bill Bass appeared.

“Kristie! Sam! You’re here!”

Bill squeezed Kristie in a bear hug and she momentarily stopped breathing.  

“Thanks, Bill,” she gave a little gasp.

“Go in, go in! Mialee!” he boomed, “they’re here.”

A little woman of about 5’3” came hustling around a corner and lead Kristie into the living room.

“You must be Kristie. I am Mialee.” She smiled and gave a tiny bow.

Kristie put out her hand for a shake. “Yes, I am. So nice to meet you.”

“Let me show you your room and then we do lunch.”

Kristie let herself be lead upstairs. Sam and Bill were still booming at each other down in the parking lot. Might as well take the opportunity to wash up, she told herself.

Mialee led the way to an enormous bedroom with a huge double bed covered in a white, fluffy comforter. “The bathroom is here,” Mialee pointed. “Lunch in about twenty minutes.”

“Good, thanks.” Kristie put down her purse and as soon as the owner was out of the room, she sat on the bed and began to bounce up and down. Then, she sank backwards into the comforter and let the softness enfold her.

Sam came into the room backwards holding suitcases in both hands.

“What are you doing darlin’? It’s not time for bed yet.”

“Sam, I might never move again,” she told him.

He laughed. “Okay, but more grub fer me.”

She sighed, pulled herself up reluctantly and went to wash her face and hands. The tantalizing smells from the kitchen started to waft their way upstairs as she descended the stairs.

She entered a very large dining room off of the living room. It had two big walnut tables set for lunch and turrets of steaming food were being put down. Mialee was helped by a guy that looked to be the cook and the table was rapidly full with various dishes. Suddenly, Kristie realized how hungry she was and that McDonalds was a distant memory.  

She began to serve herself.

“Wild mushroom soup,” Mialee pointed. “Long grain rice. Chops, stuffed chicken breasts,” she pointed at another bowls. “Rolls, butter. Would you like wine?”

Kristie waved it away. “Too early for me. Tonic water?”

“Coming up,” Mialee scurried away.

“. . . bought it when it was just a shack and have been rebuilding it for about ten years. Old guy finally ran out of money and Mialee was on the scene and just happened to have the ready to bail the guy out. I mean, he didn’t want to sell of course, but what could he do? Couldn’t afford the utility bill anymore.”

Sam nodded as Bill blathered on about the history of the house. Not so much to stop him filling his plate and shoveling in the goods.

Kristie cut into a very delicious pork chop and had a bite. That combined with the fluffy mashed potatoes and gravy and thin, green asparagus and she was almost in heaven. She chatted with some of the other guests around the table and admired the heavy crown molding that edged the top of the white plaster walls. Views of the Pasadena foothills could be seen through the enormous plate glass windows. She noticed a second building out back, a smaller, two-story affair.

“So, what’s that,” she pointed a fork at the building.

“Oh, that’s our overflow building. It gets too crowded here, we stuff them in over there.”

Kristie nodded.

“Yeah, and, um, Mialee’s sister lives there too,” Bill added through a mouth of mashed potatoes.

“What’s her name?”

He looked momentarily embarrassed. “Jen, yeah, uh, Jen.” He took a swig of his beer and his eyes slid over to Mialee.

Kristie grabbed a hot roll for buttering and glanced at him. Wonder what that’s about, she thought.

After the filling lunch, Kristie wanted to walk. She and Sam motored over to Colorado Blvd. to walk around the shops. The boulevard was festive and the city had already started to put up fairy lights on the overhead light standards. Pumpkins and signs of Thanksgiving could be seen in abundance. They ended up at Vroman’s book shop and wandered the shelves.

The store had a coffee shop so Kristie ordered her favorite…pumpkin latte. Sam couldn’t be persuaded to try anything stranger than a latte so Kristie gave up trying. They took their drinks to a table and sat.

She had found a cute book on cooking for the holidays and Sam was leafing through a new issue of Field and Stream. 

“So, the place is beautiful,” she commented to Sam. “Where did Mialee get the money to buy a place like that?”

“Ever the nosey one, aren’t you?” he gave her nose a little tap. “Well, apparently, Mialee had a restaurant in Thailand that was fairly successful, which she sold. Plus, she is divorced from an American GI and I believe, don’t quote me, she did pretty well in the divorce.”

Kristie nodded and sipped her latte.

“The place is probably mortgaged to the yin-yang so, let’s hope they stay successful.”

She raised her cup to that. “And the food is divine.”

“It is that, it is indeed.”

After window shopping, they drove back.  Kristie wanted to take a nap and Sam had plans to go out with Bill to a cigar shop. When they got back, Mialee’s daughter, Crystal was busy running back and forth with fresh towels. Her son, Daniel could be seen emptying trash cans.

“Looks like everybody gets to help,” Kristie whispered to Sam.

They wound their way around the two. Even Bill was busy, running a vacuum of all things. Kristie escaped to their room and closed the door. Throwing off her shoes and dumping her bag she fell face first into the giant coverlet and was soon fast asleep.

A couple of hours later, a groggy Kristie awoke from the sleep of the dead. She was disoriented a moment and didn’t know where she was. Looking around the room, she finally got her bearings.

What woke me up? She wondered and then heard it again. Voices drifting up from the kitchen.

“I told you no. How many times do I got to say it? No is no and why don’t you quit asking?”

There was a low murmured reply Kristie couldn’t hear.

“Jesus! I got to get dinner ready. If you’re not going to help, why don’t you go do something with yourself. I’m busy.”

There was the sound of a slamming door and then sounds in the kitchen. Mostly pots and pan getting banged around loudly. Kristie got up and went to wash her face in the lavatory. She combed her hair and changed her shirt.

Walking down the stairs, it looked like Sam was still not back. She remembered some hot tea fixings in the dining room. Quietly, she went in to make herself a cup. She could hear Mialee in the kitchen. Cup in hand, she gingerly pushed open the swinging kitchen door.

Mialee was standing at the sink, both arms stretched out straight, leaning against the porcelain. It looked like she had been crying.

“Oh, I’m sorry. . . “

Mialee jerked her head around and wiped her face with a shirt sleeve. “No, it’s okay. Just me being emotional. Did you have a good nap?”

“Oh yes, like a bear in hibernation. Your beds are great.”

Mialee walked out of the kitchen into the dining room. Kristie followed and watched while the woman made herself a cup of ginseng tea. Mialee gestured for Kristie to sit at the big table. The other guests were either still out sightseeing or napping upstairs.

“This is such a beautiful house…” Kristie started.

Mialee nodded. “Yes, and a great deal of work. You probably heard me with my sister, Jen.”

Kristie shrugged and sipped her tea.

“She, I, uh, both of us have put so much into this place.” She waved her hand around expansively.

“I am sure,” Kristie replied, “but your business seems to be doing so well.”

Mialee nodded. “It is doing well, but it has to do really well for us to make the mortgage and pay the bills. I’m not trying to make you feel guilty or anything, but it is hard to make it in the restaurant trade.”

Kristie nodded. “I’m not expert, but I work at a credit union, and we see a lot of struggling owners. I guess it’s easy to lose your shirt in this kind of operation.”

Mialee sighed and wrapped both hands around her mug. “Jen used to help all the time with meals and maintenance. But then Bill showed up, they kind of . . .clashed and she got a job tending bar. Now, I hardly see her anymore. Then with her weird hours and these friends she brings home…I just don’t know.” Head down, the woman stared into her cup.

“Ah,” Kristie replied. A picture was staring to form. “And you don’t like her friends.”

Mialee shook her head. “No, not at all.” She sipped her tea some more. “Listen to me. I don’t know why I am telling you all this. You’re a guest! Time to get the dinner on. But, thanks for listening, Kristie. Bill talks about you and Sam all the time.”

“No problem,” Kristie replied. “Anytime. But now I think I’ll take a little walk before it’s time to start eating again!”

Mialee disappeared into the kitchen. Kristie grabbed her key, a cold bottle of water from the guest fridge and a sweater. She walked outside and saw the Ducati motorcycle parked next to the annexed building. There was no sign of Jen. Kristie walked down the driveway then a few blocks toward town. The leaves were turning bright red and yellow, and she was enjoying the sights and smells of fall. As she was returning, she noticed a little footpath close to the B and B that seemed to run from the street, up through the trees. Wonder where that goes, she thought.  

A little later Sam and Bill got back, and Sam smelled of cigar smoke. Kristie didn’t mind because she loved the smell. Even though she knew he shouldn’t be smoking, she decided to not nag. Sam had got them a video to watch for the evening, so she was content.

As dinner was served, they heard the loud roar of the Ducati as it sped off from the back of the house and left the property. Bill and Mialee exchanged glances. Kristie noticed but said nothing. Not really my business, she chided herself.

Later, dinner was done and Mialee and Bill were busy with clean up. Kristie and Sam got half-way through the movie in the big living room.  Both were tired and decided to go upstairs.

 Later, Kristie woke up and pawed at the side table for her water glass…empty.  Getting up, she decided to get a fresh bottle of Fiji water from the little frig downstairs. Quietly, she made her way down to the dining room and got a bottle. Something made her turn. Someone was standing next to the window smoking a cigarette.

She realized after a moment that it must be Mialee’s sister Jen. At first all Kristie could see was the glowing end of the cigarette.

“Oh,” she said, “you startled me.”

There was a little laugh, the young woman came forward.

“Yeah, I have that effect on some people.”

Mialee and her sister were about the same 5’3” in height and had the same coffee colored skin. That is where the similarity ended. Where Mialee had long hair tied in a pony, her sister had black hair cut in a jagged bob sticking out in angles all over her head. It was half purple and stood up in spots. She must use some killer gel, Kristie thought to herself.

She was dressed in tight, distressed jeans, over that a black leather jacket with chains and buttons everywhere. On her neck and everywhere skin showed, there were tattoos of all variety of pictures and colors. She wore heavy black eyeshadow and spikey silver jewelry in her ears, nose and neck. Reminds me of an anime character. Kristie thought absently.

“So,” Kristie commented, making conversation, “you must get off work very late.”

“Yeah,” the young woman replied, “the bar closes at 2 am and then there’s clean up.” She puffed on her cigarette. “You a guest here?”

“Ah, yeah.” Kristie started to inch toward the stairs. The girl had dark, intense eyes that were staring at her hard. She felt uncomfortable, almost like a question was hanging in the air. Somehow, she didn’t feel like waiting around until that question found a voice. “Well, back to bed.”

The eyes kept following her, the cigarette continued to glow in the dark. Kristie hustled back upstairs. She made sure the bedroom door was locked.

“What in the hell is that all about?” she mumbled to herself as she got back in bed.

“Wha. . .” Sam mumbled at her and then threw an arm over her. She smiled and snuggling up close to him, closed her eyes and was soon asleep again.

(Part III – Sam and Kristie have gotten to the B & B in Pasadena and are enjoying their visit with old friend Bill Blass and his girlfriend, Mialee. However, a sister seems to be a little less than friendly.)