Well, it's still hotter than Satan's house cat, but the Yamhillians are settling in. Against their will, mind you, but still adapting. Life must go on you know. Occasions must be acknowledged, even celebrated.
My friend Lucy runs Manzanita's cafe, the prettiest building on the block. It's a white two story with large colonial windows. Each window front is covered by an oversized fabric awning. The idea was stolen from Georgio's of Beverly Hills. It's not really stealing, it's more like borrowing inspiration. We just take the best ideas and make them our own.
Manzanita's awning is lavender with white stripes. Shutters of the same color flank the top windows. Globe lights illuminate the sidewalks and front entry. More flower boxes line the windows of the top floor. It appears you can never have enough flower boxes.
The sandwich board is near the front entrance. The daily specials are written on it with pastel chalks. Reyna is the local artist who created the special board.
The Cafe's master piece is the secluded garden in the back. Just the sight of it arouses my romantic side. I sometimes sneak back there when Lucy isn't paying attention. That's where my best ideas are born.
Three tables. That's it. Three, tres, trois. Lucy loves the threes, particularly the maiden, maid and crone.
These tables are enveloped with trees, ivy and of course more flowers. The gardens have been designed to act as a privacy wall so each table feels like it is the only one, and diners feel as if they're the only people in the world.
If you are one of the fortunate ones, you will sit in white cane chairs. The cushions are so plush you will never want to leave. Linen table cloths adorn round tables and goblets fit for royalty are used for toasting life's pleasures.
The finest china and the shiniest silver in Yamhill are set out for your delight. If you dare to be messy in this formal setting the linen napkins Lucy folds into birds will clean you up.
The aroma of flowers hypnotize you. The best food in town (possibly the state, or country) will satisfy you, Enchanting music will soothe you. The harp. Oh my. The harp is angelic.
The ones born under a lucky star will share an experience with someone worthy. On rare occasions Lucy will show her non-business side and treat an unsuspecting couple to the garden. The private get away is for special occasions only. Lucy decides.
Lots of memories are created there. Miriam Swanson, winner of the tourism slogan contest toasted her husband with a Diet Coke over veal piccata with good news. The results of her medical tests came back clean. Yes sir, from that moment on she wanted to be referred to as a breast cancer survivor.
Wyatt Koch brought his wife of ten years to tell her he just won the lottery. He also informed her the marriage was over and he was done with her lying, cheating ass. While his wife was frozen in horror he handed her a check for twenty five thousand dollars to help ease the pain. On the way out he tipped his hat, then tipped Lucy a crisp hundred dollar bill.
I didn't say they were all good memories. Just memories.
Earl, Celia Dotson's husband already knew his wife was pregnant. No news there. What he didn't know was she was carrying triplets. This was the garden's first surprise where an ambulance was called. He fainted and cracked his head wide open when he fell off the chair. The chairs are plush. The cobblestone patio is not.
Earl is now the proud papa of three spoiled girls.
Of course there are marriage proposals, anniversary dinners, and the announcement of the stork visiting. It doesn't matter how memorable the occasion is, The Garden elevates it to Wowza. If you are invited to dine there, you KNOW something special or significant is on the horizon.
Here's a little ditty about Jack and Diane...
He's dated Freda Persnickity for a little over a year. They've attended multiple weddings this summer. When Covid shut the world down it forced people to postpone nuptials. So, wedding season tripled AC, "after Covid".
At every wedding Freda was emotional. She didn't hint at marriage, but he felt like it was something she wanted. She seemed more sad than happy at the weddings. Maybe that's just how women are.
They were set up on a blind date. I'm not sure they would have clicked in any other circumstance. But it was the beginning of their boring affair. I know.
That sounds rude. I don't mean to be, but together they are dull. On their own they are full of life, but something about their chemistry is dreary, stodgy, really quite wearisome. I think they just want someone to love.
Look, they have their moments, but it's forced. It seems like they've both given up and are doing the worst thing you can do with a future partner. Settling. But, who am I to judge. Maybe I'm wrong. I hope I am. But who am I kidding? I'm never wrong.
She sat in front of her vanity putting on her make up and thought about the evening. Actually, she thought about her and Jack's future for the first time.
Jack was taking her to The Garden at Manzanita's. In her gut, she knew he was going to propose. There's no other special occasion to warrant The Garden. What else could it be? Her stomach was doing cartwheels and back hand springs. At one point she thought her intestines were walking a high wire above Niagra Falls. Those curvy organs held a pretty parasol just to taunt her. Their relationship was bland, blah, and limp, if you know what I mean. And I think you know what I mean.
Marriage proposals are common. A night in The Garden, well, that's a once in a lifetime experience. If you're lucky. It's more like a once in a blue moon event. Guess what tonight is? A Blue full moon.
Right then she knew as her gut plunged off the high wire slamming into the jagged rocks meeting its gruesome death in a torturous end. Well, she most definitely did NOT want to marry Jack. Then she looked down at the carnage that was her gut and saw the pretty parasol floating in the current, and realized she coveted a night in the garden more.
This particular full moon they started before nightfall. Mr. and Mrs. Green were to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, but Mrs. Green called and said Mr. Green had a heart attack. He's going to live, but please pass on the table and pre ordered menu to someone else.
Lucy, was happy to hear he was going make it. As for the third table, she didn't know what to do. Normally, this would bring out her giddiness. The thought of surprising someone to the garden experience makes her tingle. But, it was a blue moon. Would it be a gift or a curse?
Now there were two tables left for the evening. The first one was Jack and Freda. He was proposing marriage. Lucy didn't like the idea of those two spending a lifetime together, but she did love the idea of a plumber on call for six months.
The second table was Diane and Sophie. This pairing touched Lucy because it was the love of two friends. Diane is going to be maid of honor in Sophie's wedding and wanted to do something special for her life long friend. Something for just the two of them.
Dinner service was starting at the restaurant. It was a busy evening in the main dining room as well. She heard a collective gasp from the front of the dining room and knew one of the garden couples arrived.
Freda floated in. She commanded attention worthy of an Irish Goddess. She glowed. Jack being the gentlemen, took her elbow while Lucy escorted them to the garden. The hair on the back of Lucy's neck stood up. Chills shot down her spine.
Their entrance was reminiscent of the red carpet leading to the Oscars. The moment they left the main dining room and crossed the threshold into The Garden, Freda's eyes went hollow. Everything else about her was the same. The megawatt smile, her posture, was exactly the same, but Lucy knew her soul flew out the second she crossed over.
She sat them and poured two glasses of champagne. She wished them a lovely evening and left them alone.
Not long after Diane and Sophie showed up. They were already a little bit buzzed. They started the day at the spa, and while getting pampered and spoiled by a glam team they were getting plied with wine. The lovely charcuterie tray kept them from getting wasted.
They looked beautiful and really happy. Not just libation happy, but joyful. This was indeed a celebration of friends and upcoming nuptials. The Garden was the cherry on top for this kind of euphoric celebration.
Sophie laughed. "By the way, The Garden is just the beginning of our escapade. After dinner we fly to Vegas! And of course he knows you are his second wifey. But I'm telling you that you are friend wifey and nothing more. He also knows we have done everything together since kindergarten. Well, he doesn't know we talked Tommy Crown into letting us both lose our virginity to him." Sophie said while pointing an olive at her life long friend. Her original soul mate.
" Vegas! Are you kidding? This is going to be the best night ever." She hugged her friend for the millionth time that day. "Did you see the couple as we sat down? He's hot. What do you think is happening with them tonight? Marriage? Baby news? Or is he telling her he'd like to give polygamy a try and invites us over?" Diane laughed so hard she was crying.
Sophie straightened up and leaned in. "His name is Jack. You are not going to believe this but I wanted to fix you up with him. He's friends with Robbie." She grabbed a cracker and scooped up some cheese, closed her eyes savored the bite before continuing.
" He said that Jack, that's his name don't wear it out." she laughed at her own silly joke. " He said I couldn't meddle because Jack had a girl and she was really nice."
"Did you meet her?"
" I did, but only once. We had them over for a BBQ, but they left early because of an emergency. It was a Godsend. It was going to be the longest afternoon of my life. They were dreary, hum drum, and very, very bland." She grabbed a piece of salami. "Unlike this food. They needed some spicing up."
She took a sip of champagne. "But, a few weeks after that I ran into her at the grocery store. She walked over and said hello. We started talking and stood in the produce section for a half an hour talking. She was engaging, interesting and um, alive. Yes, alive. It was bizarre."
Diane listened half-ass and reached for a grape. "Do you think we could get some French Fries?"
Sophie rolled her eyes at her non-foodie friend.
Freda didn't take her eyes of her nails. It was a gorgeous manicure, but she envisioned them clawing her eyes out just so she could be rushed to the hospital. The Garden, was exquisite. Her entrance was flawless, but it dawned on her it wasn't worth marrying someone she didn't love.
Cupid sat on top of the trellis where deep purple Clematis of the vagabond variety climbed. It was the perfect spot not only because it matched his pink toga, but it also gave him a perfect shot.
Blossom the cute trickster fairy, who he was trying to hook up with dared him to shoot Diane in stead of Freda. If he did she would go out with him. He took that dare because the rules are he can't shoot a possible love match for himself. Plus, he knew they were not a match. Not even a friend match really.
He would lose his God of desire status if he did, because that's how wrong they were for each other. He is mighty, but his power isn't strong enough to make a love match out of the two of them.
He let an arrow fly and it hit Diane. It was an easy shot because she was lying on the floor laughing. He drew another and hit Jack.
Freda and Jack looked at Diane on the floor. The distraction is just what they needed. Right away Jack got up to help Diane. She was still laughing. When he lifted her up and stood eye to eye sparks flew. The electricity was off the charts.
Diane caught the scent of his cologne and buried her nose into the crook of his neck. She wished she could stay there forever. It was then Sophie got up and released Diane from Jack.
"Forgive us you two. We have been having a two person bachelorette party and I'm afraid my friend has lost her mind."
"Well congratulations to you and Robbie." said Jack as he reluctantly let go of Diane.
"Thank you. Freda, you look stunning this evening" Sophie said. "We'll let you two get back to your evening."
Back at the table Sophie started laughing too. "Well, I see you took a shine to Jack. I knew my instincts were right. I'm sorry I listened to Robby." She took Diane's hand.
"I know to trust my instincts from now on. Let's eat so we can catch a plane."
He got up and went to her side of the table and took a knee. He had a proposal all set. The quote was, "I would love for you to grow old with me. The best is yet to be and it begins from the moment you say yes." but those words wouldn't come out. He grabbed his throat like he lost his voice.
Freda was nauseous. She felt dizzy and couldn't believe she came tonight and allowed things to get this far. Jack deserved better and so did she. But it's already in motion. Should she say yes to save face until they left, the could let him dow when there when they were alone? She looked down the bank of the Niagara Falls where her gut was splayed out and that pretty parasol taunted her. She knew she made a mess of things.
Jack was still holding his throat, his eyes were bugging out, then he coughed. He noticed Sophie and Diane peeking at them to watch. He lit up.
Still on his knee he swiveled and faced the two peeping Toms and his voice returned.
" Diane, I found the reason for my smile, the day I found you. Which was five minutes ago. Will you let me be the reason for your smile? Marry me?"
Sophie who is the more reserved of the two friends shoved her friend Diane out to meet them and yelled yes on her behalf.
Diane, trying to catch her balance after being pushed knelt down beside him while Freda watched the drama play out.
"Yes! I will marry you." She took his face in her hands and kissed him tenderly.
The kiss went on and on and even the good sport Freda was get a little annoyed with them even though her problem was solved.
She cleared her throat.
They stopped kissing and looked at her. Jack stood up and picked up Diane.
He did have the decency to look over his shoulder and say, "I'm sorry Freda."
It was all very Officer and A Gentlemen- esque.
"Freda, come sit with me. Are you alright?"
Freda felt like a huge burden the size of an elephant was lifted. She beamed. Her soul flew back.
"I'm more than alright. Did that just happen?" she asked.
"It sure did, but the good news is you can have dinner with me. You are in for quite a treat because I ordered the ultimate menu from soup to nuts, chefs choice. " Sophie told her.
"Did we just become best friends?" she asked Sophie.
"Nope, my best friend just ran off with your fiancé. They are headed to the airport now to catch a flight to Las Vegas. I'm sure they will find a chapel where Jim Beam, Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker will be their wedding party. However, I'm such a loyal friend that my regular friend status trumps most peoples best friend standing. You are my new foodie friend. It's going to be beautiful." Sophie smiled then waved over the waiter for the second course.