The Coconut Hut.
It was a tacky little bar, decorated with fake palm trees, tiny white lights, and hula girl posters hung on the walls. Tiny Bubbles was always playing in the background and the waitresses dressed in grass skirts with flower leis around their necks. Yes, it was definitely tacky, but to Sam, Lizzy, Tasha and I, it was our temporary paradise.
We called ourselves the Coconut Hut Club. Obviously, you can guess how we got our name from the bar, but why make it a club? Well, we all seem to have one thing in common-we seem to get in the middle of trouble. It’s not like we look for it. It seems to just find us.
We all met through Becca. She’s my kid sister and the owner of Little Angels Daycare. Sam, Lizzy, and Tasha all bring their kids there. I have a daughter named Elizabeth. She’s sixteen and not in need of daycare. I just like to help out Becca once a week when I’m not busy with my work.
I’m Alex, by the way. I’m a photographer. I mainly shoot weddings, but I’ll pretty much will shoot anything within reason.
Let me fill you in about my friends. I’ll start with Lizzy. She’s thirty, a mom, and a freelance graphic designer. She’s single and never been married, but adopted a beautiful three year old girl, Emily. She always complains that there aren’t any good guys out there. I think she’s just too picky, because she definitely doesn’t have anything wrong in the looks department. She’s tall and skinny, with gorgeous blonde hair down to her bottom.
Sam, or Samantha, as we’ve been informed to start calling her now, is thirty-two and married to a nice guy named Mark. She has two very cute, but very active, twin two-year-old boys, Jordon and Jacob. She complains a lot about those extra twenty pounds she has to still lose, but we all think that she looks just fine. Especially after she got her beautiful brunette hair cut short. It really compliments her pretty face.
And last, there was Tasha. She’s a beautiful girl who, while in college, won third place in the Miss African-American Beauty Pageant held in her home town. But, if you asked her about it these days, she’d deny that she ever entered. Tasha is divorced now, and has two girls-Marie, who is four, and Sara, who is five. Tasha is kind of my business partner. She is a wedding planner-the best one in Chicago. She practically gets me all my clients.
So, tonight was our weekly get together. I was especially excited to meet with the girls, because I had a very special announcement to make.
“Okay, Alex.” Tasha motioned with her umbrella swivel stick. “We’ve been gossiping for an hour now, so let’s have it. What’s the big news?”
I cleared my throat. “Well, I finally decided that I’m going on that cruise that I always talk about going on,” I proudly announced.
“Oh, you go, girl!” squealed Tasha. She brushed her long black hair out of her face. “Is Jared going with you?” She smiled and nudged my side.
Jared, was what I called my convenient boyfriend. When it was convenient to have him around, he existed.
I gave her a dirty look. “No, he is not going,” I answered and clicked my tongue.
“When is the trip?” asked Lizzy. She took a sip from her glass and continued, “I heard this is the best time of the year to go, since it’s off season.”
“I’m going next month-on the fifteenth,” I answered, and then pretended to look for someone behind me, avoiding eye contact with Sam.
“Alex Marie Anderson!” shouted Sam. “You know that Jordon and Jacob’s birthday is on the sixteenth.” She sucked on her lower lip and glared at me. “You promised to take pictures.”
You see, when you are a photographer, everyone invites you to every party and event possible. Not to enjoy yourself, mind you, but to take pictures.
“I know, Sammy,” I said. “But, this was such a good deal. Like Lizzy said, it’s off season, so I had to take advantage of it.” I squeezed her hand. “You know I just live off of a photographer’s salary.”
“But, you promised.” She pulled her hand away from mine and added, “And, don’t call me Sammy.”
“Oh come on, Samantha,” Tasha butted in. “Let the girl go on her vacation. She deserves it after what she has gone through the last couple of years.”
I believe she was referring to my divorce being finalized this year from my cheating husband.
“Yeah, come on. Give her a break,” Lizzy broke in. “Mark can take the pictures. He does a pretty good job helping Alex out when she needs a second shooter.”
Sam threw herself back against her chair and crossed her arms in front of her. She reminded me of when my Beth used to throw fits-but, she was three at the time.
“I just was getting all excited about it,” said Sam. “It’s their first real birthday party with all their little friends. I just wanted to have it all documented just right.”
Sam was such a perfectionist. She always wants to be the best mom, wife, or whatever she decides to do at the moment. She reminded me of that lady from Desperate Housewives. The perfect one with the red hair.
“You’ll be okay,” Tasha said and rubbed Sam’s forearm. She turned and smiled at me. “Besides, Alex is really going to need some major rest and relaxation next month, because she’s going to be busy this month shooting a high profile wedding.
“Um, excuse me?” I said, almost choking on the cherry I just put in my mouth.
“Well, I meant to call you today. I’m sure you heard about the O’Donnell and Carey wedding announcement?”
“No, I can’t say I did,” I lied. I hate shooting weddings for rich and snobby people. The bride is always impossible, and the bride’s mother was worse. These type of people are the cheapest type you’ll meet. They’ll try to get everything for nothing, and they complain about everything.
“Of course you have, Alex.” Tasha rolled her eyes and laughed. “They asked about you, you know? How cool is that? You know you have a reputation, if those kind of people ask for you.”
Yeah, they probably heard that I was a sucker.
“What did you tell them?” I asked-like I didn’t already know the answer.
“I told them that I did know you, and that you were the best photographer in the city.” She looked at me, ignoring the dirty look I was giving her. “Just think, you can charge an arm and leg and they’ll pay it, no problem. You could pay for your trip in one swoop with this wedding.”
I doubt that. I sighed, and then shrugged my shoulders. “Okay, fine. Set up something with them to look at my portfolio.”
Tasha giggled, as she bounced up and down on her bar stool, clapping her hands. “Already done. You have an appointment tomorrow at two.”
“And what if I had not agreed?” I asked, putting my hands on my hips.
Tasha waved her hand at me. “Shoot, I know you wouldn’t say no to me.”
“Okay, well, I need to get home early tonight, I have an early appointment tomorrow,” I said as I collected my purse and jacket.
“Oh, that police line up shoot?” teased Lizzy, while everyone laughed.
“Funny, guys,” I laughed. “It’s some kind of cop awards thing.”
Everyone decided to leave as well, and we all walked out to the parking lot together.
We hugged each other and got into our cars. As I was getting into my car, I noticed a woman standing across the street. She was well-dressed, and I think she had a big blue hat on. It was dark out, so my eyes could have been playing tricks on me. Anyway, she definitely was staring at me. I politely smiled and looked away. When I started my car, curiosity got the best of me. I looked back over to where she was standing, but she was no longer there.
Creepy, I thought. I shrugged it off and put my car in drive. The other girls had already left, and the parking lot was almost deserted except for some bum staggering along the sidewalk.
I started to pull out of the parking space. Suddenly, the same lady that I had seen a minute ago came out of nowhere and jumped in front of my car, slamming her hands on the hood of my car.
“Shit!” I yelled and slammed on the brakes, just barely missing her.
The woman walked up to the driver’s side and acted like she did not just almost get hit by my car. I guess I’m not the brightest person, because I instantly rolled down my window instead of driving away. At least now I could see her features more clearly. She looked in her late thirties, with blonde hair that looked like she just walked out of a salon. Her makeup was perfect, and when she placed her well-manicured hands on my door, I knew this lady had money.
“Do not shoot the O’Donnell and Carey wedding-I’m warning you!” she hissed, as she leaned in the window.
“And you would be?” I asked, trying to keep calm.
“Just do as I say!” she screamed, and then she turned around and marched away into the night.
“What the hell?” I shook my head. I was dumbfounded. Who was this woman and how did she even know I was considering shooting that wedding? I just sat there for a second, soaking in what just happened.
I finally headed home. All the while, thinking about this woman. Maybe she was a jealous ex-girlfriend? Or, maybe she was just a relative who thought my photography stunk. Okay, I needed to get a grip. I decided to wait until tomorrow and talk to Tasha. She knew these people better then I did, and maybe I really didn’t want to know them after all.
Check back for chapter two soon!