I don’t normally break into people’s homes, but today I was making an exception.
Not wanting to make the burglary too obvious, I’d parked my car down the street and fought through the bougainvillea hedge to the back of the house. In southern California the bougainvillea blooms everywhere, luxurious but tough, like old starlets wearing too much pink lipstick. Determination thumped in my chest but I was still as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockin’ chairs. Glancing left and then right to make sure none of the neighbors were around, I flipped up the sand-crusted mat and grabbed the key that lay under it.
My cousin, Melinda, always kept her spare key in the same spot. This particular mat said, “Wipe Your Paws.”
Mel’s place was nice. Not posh, but very nice even by Laguna Beach standards. Not at all like the open spaces we’d grown up with in Texas but nothing to sneeze at. Palm trees and Jacaranda trees surrounded her patio and morning was already warming the ocean breeze. I unlocked the door and slipped inside. If I were lucky I’d find my target right away and get out quick. If I were really lucky, it would be a few days before Mel realized the brooch was gone.
I stepped into her sunshine-bright kitchen and noted the stack of dirty dishes. I truly wished the girl wouldn’t leave dishes in the sink. Here in the semi-desert you run the risk of bugs. Bugs the size of cocker spaniels.
Eww. I shivered, shaking off the thought like a wet dog shaking off summer rain.
First, I checked the freezer. Not a very original hiding place and not a very effective one either, as I myself had discovered. I’d tried freezer paper and a label that said “Pig Hearts” but Mel had figured it out.
Okay, nothing in there.
Missy, Mel’s bulldog, lumbered into the kitchen, her only greeting an eye roll that said, “Oh, it’s just you.”
I reached down and scratched behind her ears. She leaned into the ear rub. “If only you could talk, sugar. You’d tell me where Mel put it, wouldn’t you?”
Missy gave a low, snuffly bark and butted my hand, effectively sliming it. Bulldogs are pretty darn loyal. Could be she wouldn’t give up the hiding spot even if she knew. She waddled back to the living room and her spot by the picture window, as if to say, “You’re on your own, girl.”
“Fine, Missy. You’re as stubborn as your mama.” I wiped dog drool on my jeans and got back to the task at hand.
Hmmm . . . where would my beautiful (but devious) cousin put the thing? Like a bad Texas summer heat rash, irritation prickled.
Geez Louise, Mel, how long would it have taken to clean up after yourself?
I ran water in the sink and started stacking plates in the dishwasher.
See, that was the problem. Mel’s not a bad kid, and only a couple of years younger than me, but she’s so dang impulsive it seems I’m always cleaning up her messes. Take Mel’s fight with the zoning board over not getting a permit for her new patio or her on-and-off again relationship with Grey Donovan.
Grey is a prince (in the metaphorical sense) and is caught in the unfortunate position of having befriended two headstrong southern women with a competitive streak. We’d inherited it—the competitive streak, I mean. Our mamas had both been Texas beauty queens and we’d both lived the pageant life—for a while.
That’s to say, until we rebelled. We’d each defied our mothers in our own unique way. Mine a little pushier, but straight-forward. Mel’s a little wilder and out there. But then that kinda sums up everything y’all need to know about the two of us.
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