Mila nods her head approvingly. “Your sister-in-law’s got style.”
For some reason, I am personally flattered by her compliment. Natalie does have style. And she’s going to be my sister-in-law. I get to have another sister. Maybe one day, we’ll be so close that I forget that she was once new and unfamiliar. Maybe one day, I’ll love her so much that I momentarily forget she’s Charlie’s wife or my nephew’s mom. She’ll just be my sister.
Rachel, Thumper, and I are supposed to go hiking this morning, but for the first time, we truly cannot find a parking space. We circle around the area for about thirty minutes before we all lose our patience.
“Brunch instead?” Rachel asks.
“Sure,” I say. Eating brunch is exactly the opposite of hiking, and yet it feels like the natural move. “Where to?”
Rachel pulls up a list in her phone. “Are you up for checking out a bakery?” In her off time, Rachel has been going to every bakery she can find in Los Angeles, trying to figure out what she likes and what she doesn’t. Slowly but surely, this bakery idea has become a real thing in her mind. It’s something that is going to happen, sooner or later. The sooner or later depending on a small-business loan.
“Absolutely,” I say. “Am I headed right or left?”
“Left,” she says. “I want to check out this place in Hollywood I heard about. I read about it on a blog, like, a year ago and never made my way over to check it out. Apparently, they serve high-end waffles.”
“High-end waffles? Like luxury waffles?”
Rachel laughs, pointing to her right to indicate that I need to turn here. “Like cream cheese waffles, peanut butter banana waffles, bacon waffles. You know, trendy waffles.”
“That sounds like a dumb idea for a restaurant,” I say. “Because what if I want eggs with my waffles?”
“Look, I just heard that the space was really cool, and I want to see it. We don’t even have to eat there. We can eat farther down the block. Just take this until you hit Melrose, and take a left, and then we’re gonna take a right.”
“Don’t say that,” Rachel says. She turns to Thumper, who is waiting patiently in the backseat. “Why does she talk like that, Thumper?” He has no answer.
When we get to Larchmont Boulevard, I park the car along the street, and Rachel, Thumper, and I head toward the storefront, but we can’t find it.
“What number did you say it was?” I ask her.
“I don’t remember,” she says, trying to find it in her phone. She looks down at the screen and frowns, and then she looks straight ahead. We’re standing in front of a glass storefront with a sign, “FOR LEASE,” written across it in big red capital letters.
“This is it,” she says, disappointed.
“I guess so,” she says. She stares into the storefront for a moment and then says, “If Waffle Time can’t stay in business, how am I going to stay in business?”
“Well, you’re not going to name your place Waffle Time, that’s number one.”
Rachel drops her arms and looks at me. “Seriously, Lauren. Look at all this place had going for it. Look at the foot traffic here. Everyone stops and walks around Larchmont. Parking is fairly easy. There’s a parking lot right there for seventy-five cents. Where else is there a lot for seventy-five cents?”
“Well, it’s seventy-five cents for a half hour,” I say. “But I see your point.”
Rachel puts her head to the glass and peers in, cupping her hands around her eyes to better her vision. She sighs. “Look at this place!”
I do the same, right beside her. There is an exposed brick wall on one side. A long L-shaped counter, a cash register on the small end of the L, built-in stools on the long side. There is a white, faded display case on the back wall. It looks adorable. With a couple of tables and chairs, I imagine it was a really nice place to get a luxury waffle.
“I could do it here,” she says. “Right? I could try to lease this place.”
“Absolutely,” I say. “Does it seem like something in your price range?”
“I barely even know my price range,” she says. “But no, not really.”
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen her this drawn to something.
I pull out my phone and take down the number on the sign. “You can call,” I say, a hopeful tone in my voice. “It never hurts to call.”
“No,” she says. “You’re right. It doesn’t hurt to call.”
There are two types of people in this world. There is the type of person who, when faced with this predicament, takes down the number but never calls, already assuming the answer is no. And there is the type of person who takes down the number and calls anyway, hoping for a miracle. Sometimes those people end up in the same place. Sometimes the person who calls ends up ahead.
Rachel will call. That is the type of person Rachel is. And that’s how I know that her bakery has a real shot. That, and I think she will corner the baby shower market with those fondant duckies.
Friday afternoon, David calls me at work and asks if I’m free that night. “I have a surprise that has landed in my lap, and I’d love to take you,” he says.
“Oh?” I’m intrigued.
“The Lakers are playing the Clippers in the playoffs,” he says, excited.
“Oh, interesting,” I say. Dammit. He wants to go to a basketball game? “I didn’t know you were into basketball.”
“I’m not, really. But Lakers versus Clippers? Two L.A. teams against each other on their way to the finals? That seems epic. And not the way people use that word now. I mean, an actual epic struggle for the heart of Los Angeles sports fans. Plus, these are great seats.”
“OK,” I say. “Cool. Go, Lakers!”
“Or Clippers,” David says. “We’ll have to decide.”
I laugh. “I suppose we should be on the same team for this.”
“Might make things easier,” he says. “So I’ll pick you up at your place around six?”
When he shows up at my door at ten of six, the sun is out and is only now considering the idea of setting. The heat, which in only a month or two will become as oppressive as a straitjacket, is merely mild and soothing, like a sweatshirt.
We get into the car, and David starts careening through the streets. He navigates with confidence. I am tempted, when he turns onto Pico, to suggest he take Olympic. I stop myself. It’s not polite.
And yet Pico gets us there much, much more slowly than Olympic would have. The traffic is aggressive and bumper-to-bumper. People are cutting people off, sneaking into lanes they aren’t supposed to, and in general acting like jerks. By the time we are downtown, circling around the Staples Center, I am remembering why I don’t go to the Staples Center. I hate crowds of people. I hate congested parking lots. I don’t really care about sports.
David pulls into a private lot charging twenty-five dollars to park.
“Are you serious?” I ask. I can’t believe it. “Twenty-five dollars?”
“Well, I’m certainly not dealing with the bullshit of trying to get into one of those lots.” He points down the street to men with bright flashing batons and flags, offering parking for fifteen. Cars are backed up for blocks to get in.
I nod my head.
We get out of the car. It takes us ten minutes just to cross the street to get to the Staples Center. A sea of people, some in yellow and purple jerseys, some in red and blue, swarms past us.
David takes my hand, which is good, because I have no idea where I am. We make our way into the stadium, entering through what look like the main doors. We hand over our tickets.
The ticket taker, a humorless forty-something man, frowns at us and tells us we are at the wrong door. He says we need to go to the left, around the building.
David is losing his patience now, too. “We can’t get in this way?”
“Left and around the building,” the man says.
So we go.
We finally find the right door.