My idea of gardening is picking up the newspaper off the lawn; my idea of housework is sweeping the room with a glance; and my idea of cooking is microwave magic - none of which is working for me anymore. Nina Waite
Monday, 10:37 a.m.
There are times in a person’s life when change can’t happen fast enough. Nina Waite was in the midst of one of those times. Sitting on the floor surrounded by unpacked boxes and crumpled papers, Nina was thumbing through her late husband Karl’s favorite flip-over memo pad – a veritable chronicle of his cases as a detective with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. She had found it tucked in his sock drawer when she was packing for the move to her new two-bedroom apartment. What in the world was going through his mind, she thought when she read his last entry. I wonder what he was trying to do.
F -> /^CT _>? ->D
I guess we’ll never know. She folded the pad closed and gently placed it in a drawer of the credenza which was the nearest piece of furniture in the mess of her disorganized room. The chime of an in-coming text pulled Nina back into the present. “Ugh, what a mess,” she mumbled as she tried to guess where her new up-to-date phone might be. It chimed again. “I’m coming,” she said out loud impatiently. “That is if I can find you…where is that stupid thing? Oh, there you are.” Swatting away a clump of crumpled papers, she picked up the phone and read the text from her best friend Elizabeth Shepherd.
Text to Nina
Downstairs, front entrance, 5 min. I have a surprise!!! XOXO E
A Surprise? It took Nina two seconds to survey the chaos and think, any excuse to stop… I’m outta’ here!
Determined to lose a few pounds, Nina by-passed the elevator and pulled open the industrial looking fire door to the stairwell. As she reached the last step, Sally, the fitness coach that came with the “Drop it Fast” app and wristwatch health package Nina had purchased for her phone, barked, “Good job, Nina! You burned fifteen calories. You have 1,185 calories to go to reach today’s goal.” Fifteen Calories? That’s it? I may have to rethink turning you on, she thought as beads of sweat glistened on her brow. She pushed the “volume down” button on the side of her phone to silence any more of Sally’s annoying reminders.
She exited the stairwell and walked out the front entrance of her building located on the campus of “The Creek,” the name the residents used.
“Oh, Elizabeth,” Nina gasped as she saw Elizabeth’s surprise parked under the covered portico. “It’s fabulous.”
“I thought you’d like it,” Elizabeth giggled. “Climb in. We’re going for a ride!”
Nina slipped into the passenger seat, and Elizabeth peeled off down a path in her custom made Comfort Ride pink golf cart. “I ordered it from the Karen S. McClave fundraiser site. Barbie Pink is perfect for me, don’t you think? And, of course, the money goes to Alzheimer’s research, which is totally right for us. I’m calling her the Pink Pussy Cat,” beamed Elizabeth as she continued to speed down the path.
“Whoa, slow down, or one of your pussy’s lives may fly out the back!” Nina gasped as she held on for dear life.
“You’re going to kill someone!”
“Whoops, I think I just ran over a dog,” Elizabeth laughed as she bounced the cart over a speed bump meant to slow down drivers just like her.
“Have you lost your mind? You’re driving like a teenager,” Nina said.
“Youth knows no fear,” Elizabeth yelled out, pumping her fist in the air. “My teen spirit rules.”
The two women had been neighbors for over twenty-five years. During that time, they had formed a deep friendship. Recently widowed, both felt a growing need for change. While stopping for coffee after a morning walk, they shared their frustrations.
“I need to vent,” Nina said.
“Be my guest,” Elizabeth said.
“I’m getting really tired of doing everything. Used to be, Karl took care of everything outside, and I took care of the inside. Now I have to do it all, even the taxes.”
“And there’s no one to bounce ideas off of. What color should I paint the house? Should I replace the deck with that new stuff or real wood? What do I know about fake wood?” Elizabeth added.
“These days I doubt I’d know real wood if I saw it staring me in the face. You know what else?” Nina asked, rather enjoying letting go of pent up emotions. “I hate taking out the garbage cans each week for pick-up.”
“Or cleaning out the garage.”
“Who Bar-B-Qs? I don’t Bar-B-Q anymore. Strictly frozen dinners for me,” Elizabeth said. “And you know I used to love to entertain.”
“What are we doing to ourselves, Elizabeth? Why are we holding on to these ridiculously large houses? Our homes are meant for families, not widows,” Nina asserted with a conviction that surprised even her. It was as if she had an epiphany. “I wonder if we should think about moving into a retirement community where everything is taken care of. I hate thinking about starting all over again, but I think I hate being stuck with all the responsibilities even more.”
“I don’t know,” Elizabeth hesitated. “My kids call retirement communities waiting rooms for heaven. I feel too young to be standing in that line.”
“Ask them if they’d rather take care of you when the time comes. A hospital bed in the living room is not exactly a decorator’s dream.”
“Downsizing doesn’t have to mean living down. There are some really nice retirement communities going up around here. Think about not having to worry about the daily maintenance of life.”
“But, all those people are old,” Elizabeth whined.
“You’re old,” Nina said.
“I’m not old, I’m liberated of the frustrations of youth,” Elizabeth said, laughing.
Ignoring her, Nina added, “By the way, you know that Olga and Jean moved into The Cross Creek Retirement Community?”
“Yes, I did know that. But, they’re not old either,” Elizabeth said.
“Stop with the old, will you please.”
“Okay. I have driven by it, and, I must admit, it is impressive. I am tempted,” Elizabeth confessed.
“Let’s check it out. Why wait?” Nina suggested.
“Okay, but we’re just going to look,” Elizabeth said firmly.
That afternoon they made an appointment for the next day. They took the tour. Completely surprised and charmed by the lifestyle of the Creek, they decided to move. Nina bought a charming two-bedroom apartment in one of the four-story resident buildings that overlooked the aquatics center. Elizabeth bought a beautiful but more expensive villa that backed up to the 3rd hole on the golf course. When she found out golf carts were the main mode of transportation used by the residents, she parked her gas guzzling Buick SUV and ordered a custom made pink golf cart complete with bag racks and a custom mounted club and ball washer.
On this maiden voyage, Elizabeth raced the Pussy Cat down the path that connected the Cross Creek community to its beautifully manicured golf course. Totally unaware that she was on a golf path, Elizabeth’s focus was on the distant discount designer mall that could be accessed by a thoroughfare on the west side of the course.
“Watch out,” Nina screamed as they zipped around a curve and headed straight for an oncoming golf cart carrying two men and their fully loaded golf bags.
“Close your eyes, dear,” she said to Nina, patting her gently on the knee while gunning the pedal. “I hate electric carts. They have no acceleration! I wish this were turbo,” she exclaimed, ignoring the impending danger. Her reckless driving forced the guys to swerve off the path to avoid a collision. She smiled and waved at them as she passed, oblivious to the fact she had caused the men’s cart to bounce down a hill and narrowly miss landing on the seventh green. Nina looked over her shoulder, waved at the men, and mouthed “sorry,” just in time to see one of them wildly flailing obscene hand gestures in their general direction. Embarrassed, Nina turned to Elizabeth to read her the riot act, but the sight of the mall erased all thoughts of near mishaps with the men.
“Wow. This is paradise,” Nina uttered. Elizabeth stopped the cart so they could admire the mecca before them. “I hope you brought your purse because I need a new outfit for the newcomers’ party tonight. I’ll pay you back later,” Nina said.
“No problem. I know where you live,” Elizabeth said.
“Watch out!” Nina screamed again. Elizabeth had mistakenly stopped in an intersection, causing an oncoming black Mercedes SUV to swerve, missing them by inches, thus avoiding reducing the new golf cart into a golf bag.
Elizabeth finally parked the Pussy Cat near an empty bike rack that neatly lined the east entrance to the mall. Nina’s legs wobbled a bit as she climbed out and gazed at the forty-two acres of shopping splendor that lay ahead of her. “I figure your little pink pussy cat has just survived two of its nine lives,” she muttered as she made her way to the entrance of a store that catered to the older set.
Thirty minutes later, Nina, who loved a bargain, had picked out two pairs of slacks and three silk blouses she thought might hide her growing midriff. Elizabeth, who loved shopping, had two dresses, four blouses and two pairs of slacks.
“Hurry up. You’ve got enough. Let’s try to get a room together,” Nina said.
“I’m sorry, you can only take five items into the room,” the attendant said patiently. “Just leave three here, and I’ll bring them to you if you want.”
“Is that five each or five total?” Nina asked.
“Whew! I was afraid my friend would have to leave her clothes here with you,” Elizabeth said, looking at Nina’s five items.
After an hour of trying on half the clothes in the store, the two women were finally satisfied with their selections. Elizabeth paid for the stash of clothes, and they walked back to the Pink Pussy Cat, loaded with the purchases. Nina noticed something on the windshield.
“Look. I think you have a kitty litter ticket.”
“Really?” Elizabeth said, exasperated. She yanked the ticket out from under the wipers and started to crumble it up. “Wait a minute. This isn’t a ticket.”
Nina took the paper. “Uh-oh.”
WATCH OUT OR YOU’LL
NEVER GO SHOPPING AGAIN
“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Nina Waite, quoting Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.
Monday, 6:00 p.m.
Text to Elizabeth
Almost ready. Meet u downstairs in 10. Love my new outfit. Burned 500 calories looking for it! Still feel creepy about the note. N
Elizabeth met Nina in the lobby of The Creek. They checked out each other’s outfits, nodded in approval, and headed to the card room where the newcomers’ party was scheduled to take place. The room was attractively set up. Card tables had been pushed together and covered with white linen tablecloths to form an elegant setting. Plentiful bottles of red and white wines, supplied by some of the local fifty plus wineries in the area, crystal pitchers filled with iced tea and punch for the non-drinkers, and lots of hors d'oeuvres added to the festive feeling. Nina and Elizabeth surveyed the room.
“This is a class act,” Nina said.
Kim Carver, the charming, energetic Cross Creek Manager who had sold Nina and Elizabeth their new homes, came bounding up to the girls. “I’m so glad you’re here! I thought I might see you tonight. I heard you were driving a little recklessly today. You need to be more careful.” Not waiting for a response, she added, “Don’t forget your name tags.” She beamed a bright smile at them and waltzed off.
“She is a darling girl,” Elizabeth said.
“Don’t blink or you’ll miss her next time,” Nina said. “Let’s go meet some people.”
The gals quickly found their name tags and put them on. No sooner had they turned around than a nattily dressed man, who sported a comb over comprised of gray strands of ratted hair perched precariously on top of his balding head, approached them and said, “I’ve never believed in love at first sight until I saw the two of you.”
“Spare me,” Nina whispered to Elizabeth.
“Go away, Oscar,” interrupted a familiar voice.
“Olga! Jean!” Nina said in obvious relief, recognizing her longtime friends who had moved to The Creek when it opened.
“You don’t know how glad we are to see you,” Elizabeth gushed.
Watching Oscar turn to search for another newcomer, Jean said, “Oscar’s a harmless old goat. He uses that line on all the new women, hoping he’ll score. So far, he’s batting zero for zero.”
“We weren’t sure you’d be here tonight since you just moved in, but we thought we’d check. Ready for golf yet?” Olga asked, changing the subject.
“I’m always ready for a good game,” Elizabeth answered.
“I’m always ready for a good game too,” Nina said. “Bridge anyone? Oh, I’m sorry. You meant golf, didn’t you? As far as I’m concerned, golf is just another four letter word I don’t use.”
All four women had worked together at Live Oak High School. Jean Chou and Olga Weinstein were secretaries in the front office and had become inseparable friends. Although they were from very different parts of the world, their strong ethnic backgrounds tied them together when they discovered they both had disappointed their “tiger moms” by not becoming doctors or lawyers.
“Will you look at all these people,” Nina marveled as she scanned the packed room.
“Believe me, The Creek delivers on its promise of delicious food and great wine,” Olga said.
“Not to mention free food and drinks bring out the white-haired set,” Jean added with a smile.
“White-haired set? Speak for yourself,” Elizabeth objected. “I don’t have a grey hair on my head. I’m way too young.”
The women looked around the room. It was true. All the men were either bald or grey while the women were various shades of blonde and brunette. When their gazes settled on one another, they broke out laughing.
“It’s a miracle,” Nina said, patting her “naturally” blonde hair, which cost one hundred twenty-five dollars every month.
“That reminds me, I need to make an appointment. The skunk look is not a good fashion statement,” Jean said taking out her cell phone and tapping The Creek’s online salon app.
“Really? You’re making an appointment now?” Olga said disapprovingly. “You’re worse than my teenage granddaughter. Texting anywhere, anytime.”
“Sorry, but if I don’t do it when I think about it, I forget it.”
“Excuse me, but aren’t you Nina Waite?” a tall, well-dressed man asked as he and another man interrupted the group. Nina quickly glanced at the name tag on his lapel.
“David? David Tait! Oh, my goodness. Of course! Do you live here? Where’s Betty?” Nina asked with excitement at finding an old friend.
“Yes, I live here, and Betty died about three years ago,” David said.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know,” Nina answered apologetically. “How long have you been here?”
“Not long, but I really like it.” Turning his attention to Elizabeth, he said, “And you! You’re the crazy woman who was driving the pink death machine that almost killed us this morning. Do you know it would have cost us five hundred dollars in fines plus the cost of repairs if our cart had ended up on the green? Incidentally, this is my golf buddy who was in the cart with me, Ruben Suarez. Ruben, meet Pinkfinger, alias Leadfoot.”
“My death machine has a name, you know. The Pink Pussy Cat,” Elizabeth countered, smiling coyly at the handsome stranger.
“Buenos noches, Elizabeth, is it?” Ruben said, oozing with charm while checking out her name tag. Tall, dark and fit for a man his age, Ruben was as alluring as he was attractive. “I’m sure you have no idea how dangerous a situation you caused driving your Pink Pussy Cat the way you did. Our cart might have tipped over, and we could have been hurt. Now, I know you wouldn’t have wanted that, would you?”
Elizabeth immediately responded to Ruben’s accent. She turned on all her charm to match the thinly veiled reprimand he was giving her and said, “Why, I’m so sorry, Ruben. Maybe you can give me some driving lessons. Perhaps we could arrange a lesson for, say, tomorrow?”
Nina glanced at Olga and Jean and shook her head slowly as if to say, I don’t know how she does it. They shrugged and smiled knowingly.
“I think my ovaries just woke up,” Elizabeth whispered to them.
“I have a bone to pick with you,” another tall but imposing man interrupted, walking up to Elizabeth. “You need to be careful in that little pink machine you drive. I almost killed you this morning when you scooted out of nowhere on the path to the mall.”
“Excuse me. Do I know you?” Elizabeth said, looking for a name tag.
“You almost knew my fender this morning.”
“Oh, the black Mercedes driver is a man. Did you, by any chance, leave a note on my windshield?”
Just then, Kim tapped a glass of wine to gather the attention of the guests. The tall stranger put his finger to his lips and pointed to Kim.
“I think I just got shushed,” Elizabeth whispered to Nina. She looked over to her friends, rolled her eyes and said facetiously, “This is going well.”