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California Highway

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how i met my love

Two years earlier.

Tyler had finished playing his set at The Old Tavern. He was putting his guitar away in its case when he heard his name.

“Tyler?” A soft voice said from behind him.

He looked up and saw this girl standing in front of one of the stage lights giving her a yellowish hue around her, causing a halo effect over her head. He could feel his heart skip a beat. He felt as if he was looking at an angel. There in front of him stood the girl of his dreams. He had noticed her about a month ago. He remembered asking the bartender, Josh if he knew who she was. He said no.

Josh was the owner and manager of The Old Tavern. For a 37-year-old man born and raised in Benicia, he felt his success was due to The Old Tavern’s cozy atmosphere. Josh was almost always working behind the bar where he could keep an eye on things. The conversations with his clientele would always keep him updated on the local gossip. Being as insecure as he was, he felt being on top of the town news was an excellent way to know what was being said about him and his establishment.

The Old Tavern was an original building and bar from the early 1900s. It had the character of an old western saloon with the original bar still intact. The walls were brick, with some still lined with black soot from the fire it had back in 1922. In the corner was a small stage where the entertainment for the evening would perform. This was Josh’s “baby.” He loved The Old Tavern, and he took care of it.

Tyler had no idea Josh was lying to him about Karen. Josh did not tell him that she was his ex-girlfriend. The reason was simple—Josh still loved Karen and did not want any other men touching her. Josh knew that he could not compete with Tyler if he wanted to be Karen’s boyfriend. Josh tried to keep Karen away from Tyler. But, since she was now his ex, there was not much he could do.

Josh still loved Karen and cared about her deeply. Karen left Josh because of his insecurity. He would not let her talk to anyone else and was always jealous. For that reason, she broke off the relationship. Josh had been hurt ever since.

When Tyler stood up, he knew it was Karen who was standing in front of him. He found out that she was Josh’s girlfriend from the grapevine continually growing throughout The Old Tavern. “Hi,” he said, hoping Josh was not looking. Tyler was aware of Josh’s insecurity and jealousy issues.

Tyler played sets regularly at The Old Tavern, and Josh was his connection to make sure he always had a place to play. He did not want to make things weird between the two of them.

“That was an awesome set,” Karen said. “I love your songs. You are so good.”

While Tyler was getting all these compliments from Karen, it helped him forget about Josh. “Thanks. I love them, too.” He realized he did not know what to say, so he blurted out the first thing that came to his mind. Then he recognized how stupid he sounded.

Karen laughed. “My name is Karen,” she said, extending her arm to shake his hand.

He reached for hers, “Yeah, I know.”

“You know?” Karen was surprised that Tyler knew who she was. But she was also flattered. That meant he had inquired about her.

He realized he had been caught and started to appear like a stalker. Tyler tried to recover. “Yeah. Aren’t you Josh’s girlfriend?”

Karen’s eyes got wide, and she was shocked. “Where did you hear that from?”

“Just around,” Tyler replied. He knew that he had heard it from almost everyone in the bar.

“Well,” Karen continued, “I’m not anymore. That is over.”

Tyler now felt a sense of relief. He was trying to not make Josh mad, but now that he knew their relationship was over, he thought he could make a move on Karen without causing a ruckus. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know that.” Tyler was trying to act like he was generally sorry. In reality, he was all giddy inside.

Tyler picked up his guitar, getting ready to leave. “Would you like to go get a drink or something?” he asked.

Karen smiled, “Yeah, I would love to.” She looked over at Josh as they were leaving. She could tell this was ripping him apart.

* * *

Tyler and Karen walked further downtown to a small quaint place called Chiller and ordered a glass of wine. They continued to talk and got to know each other. They discussed past relationships and how difficult it was to work at a relationship when the other person can be tough to deal with. They talked about their dreams – Tyler wanting to write and play music and Karen’s desire to be a nurse. The more they talked about each other, the more they liked one another. They both felt a connection, and they both thought they had found their soul mate.

While they were talking, the waitress approached. “I don’t want to be rude, but we closed about an hour ago.”

“Oh my gosh,” Karen said, standing up quickly. “We are so sorry.”

Tyler included a bit more in the tip for their carelessness on their time management. “Sorry about that.” He picked up his guitar, and they headed out the front door.

Tyler wanted to invite Karen to his place to continue talking. But he did not want to give her the impression that he was a player. He hoped the relationship would progress at a good pace. “So, Karen,” Tyler felt awkward and unsure as to what the next question should be.

Karen sensed Tyler was confused about what to do. So, she decided to help him out and answered the question he had struggled to ask. “Yes, I would love to go out with you.”

Tyler felt relieved that Karen knew what he wanted to ask. Now he knew NOT to invite her back to his place, but instead to ask her on a date. “Great, how about Friday night?”

“That works for me,” Karen responded. “Here’s my number.”

For the next two months, Karen and Tyler were inseparable. If you saw Karen, Tyler was close by. If you saw Tyler, there was Karen. Usually, almost always, they were hand-in-hand. One night, Karen was headed out the door of Tyler’s house to head to her home. “Tyler,” she started to ask, “I have an idea?”

Tyler knew when she began a conversation with that phrase, it was going to be something he would love. “Oh, yeah. I bet you do,” he said.

Karen wrapped her arms around him, pulling him closer. She moved her head closer to his. Her mouth towards his ear. She puckered her lips and gently kissed his lobe, and whispered, “Let’s move in together.”

At first, Tyler was excited. He felt he had found “the one,” and now here she is, asking to move in with him. But Tyler remembered that the last time he had a girlfriend move in with him, it did not go well, and they broke up two weeks later. He did not want that to happen with Karen. “Move in together? Are you serious?” Tyler knew the answer but asked the question to make sure she was sure what she was asking.

“Why not?” Karen replied. “I’m over here all the time, anyway. Why don’t I just call this my home, too?”

Tyler decided to go against his better judgment. “Yeah, let’s do it!” He was excited, and he knew this one would not be the same as the last relationship. He was putting effort into making sure she was happy.

Over the next few weeks, Josh was trying to adjust to Tyler and Karen being an item. Although, deep down, he missed her very much, and in the back of his mind, he was always hoping she would return to him. But now that she and Tyler were moving in together, he saw that desire start to fade away.

* * *

As time went on, Josh’s jealousy towards Tyler grew. Every day he saw Tyler and Karen together, it would eat him up inside. He would always act as if he were okay, but deep down, he was not.

Josh was hoping that the two of them would eventually break up. But they were together, and he saw the two of them grow closer and closer. Josh decided to take things into his own hands and devise a plan to tear them apart.

Josh was aware of how Tyler’s previous relationship ended. He thought it would be easy to catch Tyler flirting with another woman, which in turn, would make Karen leave him. Tyler’s ex was possessive, and she hated it when he would flirt with others. Although Tyler was mostly talk and no action. But his ex still could not stand him doing it. Josh did not think it would be enough for Karen to catch Tyler flirting. It had to be more. Josh began to draft out some ideas.

Josh started to watch Tyler when he came in to play his set. He wanted to learn what Tyler liked in women – What hairstyle he was attracted to? What body type? What clothes did Tyler like on a woman? What personality was he drawn to? Everything that he could possibly learn about Tyler he did.

With the data that Josh had collected, he now felt he had the information to find the “other woman” for Tyler. Someone that he could not resist. This other woman would eventually be the one that would end the relationship between Tyler and Karen.

Josh spent some time looking for the perfect woman to play the role. It took longer than he had expected, but he was okay with that knowing the plan had to be executed correctly. He would end up finding her in a place he would have never thought – the local high school.

Josh met Michelle working at the high school office. She had taken that job to earn some money before heading to college in Berkeley. When he saw her, he knew right away that she would be perfect for his conniving plan. Now, all he had to do was convince her to go along with it.

Josh had no problem talking Michelle into participating. All it took was one question and an offer of a thousand dollars for the night. She was all over it.

Now that Josh had the “other woman” locked up, he needed to plan out the other detail of his “operation break-up.” He decided to involve Michelle in this piece of the plan since she was directly part of it. Her input would end up being the perfect portion. She was the one to come up with the idea of having the police getting involved without them actually knowing they were part of the plan.

Michelle told Josh that the police typically hired her to be a fake prostitute to catch “Johns” and arrest them for solicitation. She informed Josh that the next time the police asked her to do this, she would do it with Tyler being the target. Josh loved the idea.

Josh was excited to have his plan in place, even though he had to delay it until the police were ready to perform their sting. He waited until Michelle informed him of the next police entrapment plan.

After a couple of months had gone by, Josh finally received word from Michelle that the police would be executing their sting operation in a couple of weeks. Josh told Michelle that Tyler had recently got a bartending job at Bella, a nearby restaurant. That location would be the perfect place to do it.

Michelle agreed, and the plan was in place.

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