It rained that Valentineâ€™s.
But I didnâ€™t care. We were finally going to have a weekend to ourselves â€“ just the two of us.
Mom had taken the kids and Steve and I headed up the 405 from San Diego on that wet Friday.
Steve had a friend who had a friend who had a place there and said we were welcome to it for the weekend. It was described as one of those fab places that sits on the hill and overlooks the oceanic vista. Of course we grabbed it. And even though the forecast looked bleak for a frolic on the beach, I could picture us cozied up by a nice fire and making love while torrents of rain beat down on the roof.
The trip started off alright. We stopped along the way for breakfast and flirted with each other under the table â€“ starting our foreplay early. We were like kids again. For a couple days anyway, totally carefree â€“ no work, no fussing teenagers, no dog to feed. (He was at Momâ€™s too.)
But the food was cold, putting my husband in an early foul mood. One of his pet peeves is cold food served at a restaurant. â€œNobody cooks an omelet like you, Sweetheart. This really sucks.â€
â€œWell, send it back, Love.â€
â€œNo. We gotta hit the road. Better fish to fry.â€ He winked at me and I knew his temporary upset was past. He forced the cold egg down and paid the bill.
On the road again his playful demeanor returned. Ah, my husband is such a great guy. Thatâ€™s why I married him.
Blat! Squish! Screech!
Steve veered the jolting car to the right as it vehemently pulled left. His right arm slammed across my chest even though the seatbelt was already doing its job.
â€œDamned blowout!â€ The car wobbled to a stop. â€œYou okay, Honey?â€
â€œIâ€™m fine. That was close.â€ We both watched as cars continued to speed past us, going much too fast for the wet conditions.
â€œIâ€™ll change it.â€
â€œNo, Steve. Itâ€™s too dangerous and too cold. Iâ€™ll call Triple A.â€ I pulled out my cell and dialed them. It took ten minutes to get them on the phone. Apparently there were a lot of break downs due to the weather and it would be some time before they could get to us.
â€œFâ€¦it!â€ My husband cursed and got out of the car. â€œYou stay put.â€
â€œI can help.â€
I knew it was no use arguing with him when he was like this. The rain had suddenly slackened so my gallant husband used the break in the weather to change the tire in record time. I disobeyed him, getting out of the car to offer a kiss and a thank you.
â€œWeâ€™ll get there sooner or later,â€ he said.
â€œYouâ€™re my hero.â€ I went back to my side of the car and slipped in but just as my husband came to his door a Mac truck appeared out of no where, sloshing mud all over him.
â€œSteve! Are you alright?â€ I jumped back out. He was leaning against the car now, covered with the sludge.
â€œI canâ€™t win for losing.â€
â€œOh, Sweetheart. Iâ€™m so sorry.â€ I grabbed an old blanket out of the trunk and put it on the front seat so he could drive without getting the nasty stuff all over the upholstery. â€œWeâ€™ll pull over up the way so you can get into some dry clothes.â€
â€œAt least the tire got changed.â€
A couple miles up we pulled into a McDonalds. The rain was starting up again so I held the umbrella over Steve while he dug through the suitcase in the trunk for a set of dry clothes. â€œBe right back,â€ he said.
â€œIâ€™m gonna use the rest room while you change.â€
My bladder was rather full so it was good that we had stopped. Finishing my business, I washed my hands in the not-too-clean sink. As I turned to push the hand dryer I saw the kid. She was a teen â€“ about the same age as my daughter. She wore a dark blue over coat and the way her hand was poised in her pocket looked suspect. She pointed it toward me. â€œGive me your purse!â€
â€œThis is a mugging.â€
“Youâ€™ve got to be kidding.â€
â€œNo, Bitch. Give it to me.â€
â€œAnd if I refuse?â€
â€œI got a gun.â€
The wild look in her eye wasnâ€™t too calming. She had at least five hooks in her ear and a ring through her nose. A nasty tattoo peaked out from her collar. I doubted she had a gun but then again you never know.
I guess the shock of it all hadnâ€™t soaked into me yet because for some strange reason I wasnâ€™t scared. â€œLook, you seem like a nice kid. I have a girl about your age.â€
â€œGive me the purse or Iâ€™ll shoot!â€
â€œWhat about a loan? I give you a twenty andâ€¦â€ Thankfully another woman came through the door just then. The girl grabbed the purse from me and dashed out the door.
â€œHey!â€ I ran after her but she was fast. My husband was already sitting in our car as I came out the door after the girl-demon. â€œStop her. She has my purse!â€ He was out of the car in an instant but not fast enough. The girl leapt into a waiting car and they were gone. â€œShe stole my purse!â€
â€œI got the tag – California plates.â€
â€How did you manage to do that?â€ I looked at him in disbelief.
â€œJust lucky I guess. Give me your cell or did she get that too?â€
â€œIâ€¦itâ€™s in the car.â€
We got back in the car and called the authorities. They were there within minutes. My husband had already told them the make of the old car and the license plate.
â€œWe stopped them up the road about five miles,â€ the officer said. â€œThey recovered your belongings. Iâ€™ll need you to come down to the precinct to make a positive I.D.â€
Well, that took most of the afternoon. But since Malibu wasnâ€™t that far we figured weâ€™d at least have the evening and then the next day. We pulled up to the beach house about five oâ€™clock.
â€œWell, Phil wasnâ€™t kidding. How about this, Babe?â€
â€œFabulous. And the owner lives here and is out of the country or what?â€
â€œNo, itâ€™s just one of his many properties. We have it all to ourselves.â€
â€œFinally, our holiday is back on track.â€
Steve kissed me and we went inside the beautiful beach home. After depositing our suitcases in the master bedroom my husband began to build a fire. We had stopped at a local grocery store for food. I had decided to cook for my husband since heâ€™d been such a terrific super hero today. I unpacked the sacks and set about my culinary tasks; preparing baked salmon and pouring some very nice wine.
The fire was roaring. The rain was pouring. How romantic I thought as I went to the bedroom to slip into my new silk gown. I came back to the living area to find that my sweetheart had spread a cozy blanket in front of the fire. He was already in his pajamas. He patted the space next to him and smiled. â€œCome and join me?â€
â€œI thought youâ€™d never ask.â€ I went to him, melting in his arms. â€œSweetheart, I know the day didnâ€™t start out too good butâ€¦â€
â€œAre you kidding? Other than a bad breakfast, a blown-out tire and a mugging, it was fine. It was all worth it to have this time with you.â€
He kissed me again when we heard voices from outside.
â€œWhat the hellâ€¦â€
Steve got up, grabbing his robe off the sofa. I followed him. My cell phone rested on the counter top. I donâ€™t know why I grabbed it.
Once at the back door he switched on the outside light. Through the window the rain looked like a million diamonds pounding from above. There were two people there, drenched as drowned alley cats. The man was reaching under a flower pot. Muddy water spilled over its top as he tipped it. Then we saw him pick up a key and point it right at the lock. At this move my husband opened the door. â€œWhat do you want?â€
I was peaking around my husbandâ€™s shoulder. The man was about five feet eight inches tall, heavy set and unkempt; maybe forty years old. He looked up at my husband. â€œDamn, thought weâ€™d never make it. Been on the road two whole days and nights.â€
â€œThat didnâ€™t answer my question. Who are you?â€ My husband refused to stand aside, even though the stranger seemed more than willing to come through the door. We all huddled under the cover over the back steps.
â€œNameâ€™s Axel Childers. This hereâ€™s Laverne.â€ He was flanked by the widest women I had ever seen. â€œSheâ€™s my missus. Now just who are you?â€
Both of them looked like theyâ€™d been on some pig farm for the duration of their liaison. A beat-up pick up sat in the background â€“ theirs no doubt.
â€œWhat are you doing here?â€ Steve persisted.
â€œCousin Jim said we were welcome to the place whenever we came out this way. So thatâ€™s just what we done. Left Sulfur Springs two days ago.â€
â€œCousin Jim? As in Jim Palmer?â€
â€œHeâ€™s the one.â€
â€œWell, Iâ€™m afraid thereâ€™s been some mistake. My wife and I have the place for the weekend.â€
â€œAnd just who the hell are you again?â€
â€œIâ€™m Steve Brodie if itâ€™s any of your concern. Just call your cousin if you donâ€™t believe me.â€ On instinct I stretched my arm around my husband, offering my cell phone. I wasnâ€™t about to let these two bumpkins into the house.
The man took the phone. â€œNever used one of these new- fangled things before. Vernie, whatâ€™s that number again?â€ He turned to his wife as she dug in a rag-tag purse.
She pulled out a small spiral notebook and began flipping the pages. Apparently finding what she wanted she handed it to him. He looked at it. â€œHereâ€™s the number. You dial it, Mister.â€ He handed the phone and the notebook back to Steve.
My husband is one of the most patient men I have ever known, dialing the number without so much as a sigh. â€œIs this Jim Palmer? Great. This is Steve Brodie. I work with Phil Ortiz. Right, weâ€™re here at your place. Thereâ€™s a man here. Says heâ€™s a cousin of yours.â€
I could hear the voice on the other end of the phone but not well enough to decipher the dialogue.
â€œAxelâ€¦Childers. Yes, thatâ€™s right. He says you offered the place to him.â€ More talk on the other end. â€œHere he is.â€ Steve handed the phone back to the vagabond who eyed it suspiciously before cautiously holding it to his ear.
â€œJim-bo, is that you? How in tarnation are you? Itâ€™s been a long timeâ€¦whatâ€™s that?â€ The manâ€™s eyes bugged as he listened. â€œWell, I know itâ€™s been a while but you always said if we ever got out this way there was a key under the geranium andâ€¦â€ The manâ€™s face fell as he handed the phone back to my husband.
Steve put the phone to his ear. â€œUh huh. Yeah. I got you. No problem. Goodbye.â€ He flipped the phone shut. â€œHoney, bring me my wallet.â€
I of course obeyed immediately, hoping whatever was about to happen would get these people off the back steps and out of our life. My husband opened his wallet and took out three one hundred dollar bills. He handed them to Axel Childers.
â€œJim says for you to find a motel â€“ on him. Heâ€™ll reimburse me.â€
The man took the money. â€œWell, if this donâ€™t blast all. I drove all this way to stay on Malibu Beach and Jim-boâ€™s got house guests. Iâ€™m sorry, Mister.â€
â€œYeah, well Jim-boâ€™s sorry too. There are several motels back up the way.â€
The man stuffed the money in his pocket and turned to his wife. â€œCome on, Vernie. Letâ€™s git goinâ€™.â€ They turned to leave without even a goodbye.
Backing into the house my husband slammed the door and slipped the deadbolt into place. We heard the pick-up engine start and fade into the distance. â€œCan you believe this?â€ Steve ran his hand through his hair.
â€œCome on, Honey. Itâ€™s all over now.â€
â€œWhat a couple of hay seeds! Unbelievable. Right here in Million-Dollar-Malibu.â€
â€œI do believe theyâ€™d have been content to share the house with us,â€ I laughed, shuddering at the very thought. I poured us another two glasses of wine and we settled back down on the blanket. My husband wrapped his arms around me again. â€œNow, Honey, where were we?â€ Our clothes were tossed to the sofa.
Ah, the fire dwindled down as the rain pelted away and finally after a hefty round of love- making we settled down for a peaceful sleep. My husband whispered into my ear. â€œThis has all been worth it, just to have this time together.â€
â€œI love you,â€ I whispered back. â€œGoodnight.â€
Two hours later I found myself back in my husbandâ€™s arms. I had no objections to round two. Just after the critical, spectacular moment, we heard a bizarre noise and felt a jolt. Steve held me tightly. â€œWhat was that?â€ I whispered. â€œEarthquake?â€
â€œI donâ€™t knowâ€¦Iâ€¦â€ Before he could finish the sentence we felt the entire house move. It groaned as it began to shift its pitch. Items began to fall and furniture began to slide. â€œOh, my God. Mudslide!â€
We held tight to each other as the house began its journey. Everything went into slow motion for me as I saw my life flash before me. Iâ€™d heard about these Malibu mudslides but never dreamed we were in any danger. After what seemed an eternity the house came to a rest. My husband lifted me out of the pocket of furniture that now surrounded us. â€œHere, youâ€™ll need these.â€ He grabbed my gown off the sofa then grabbed his pajamas. We slipped them on as we made our way for the door. It wouldnâ€™t open but Steve was able to kick out a window. He crawled through then pulled me out. Rain was spitting frantically, stinging our faces and we were up to our ankles in sand. But we had escaped without injury. Steve grabbed my hand and we ran back towards the clearing where we could see cars on the highway. Lightening flashed and we made out the outline of the voyage the house had taken â€“ about twenty feet of slippage right off its foundation. Finally reaching the top of the cliff, we made our way to a small coffee shop that was open twenty-four-seven. We must have been a sight in our wet bed clothes.
The waitress saw our dilemma and phoned the police. Then the dear girl brought us her coat and the coat of another employee to go over our cold wet bodies. â€œThere were a couple other houses up the way that slid down the hill too. You guys are lucky youâ€™re alive. Let me get you some hot coffee.â€
We snuggled down into a booth; my husband protectively keeping his arm around my shoulder. I began to whimper.
â€œDonâ€™t cry, Sweetheart. Sheâ€™s right. Weâ€™re lucky to be here.â€
â€œI know. I know.â€ I snuggled into his side. And then little by little my tears turned into laughter; slow at first then sliding into a cacophony of giggles.
â€œWhatâ€™s so funny?â€ he asked.
â€œI always knew you were a mover and a shaker in bed, but wow! You outdid yourself this time.â€
Steve threw back his head and laughed out loud. â€œI guess I got carried away!â€
The waitress brought the coffee and we couldnâ€™t get enough of it. Finally the police came and took us back up the hill to a little motel. They brought us some dry clothes too.
The next morning we went for the continental breakfast, where we ran into â€“ you got it â€“ Axel and Laverne.
The next Valentineâ€™s Day we just stayed home.
By Andrea Baker
OCC/RWA Vice President
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