She had worked a double shift that night -- first at the Blue Velvet, and had later traveled to Oasis Springs to take over from Nina Caliente at the Solar Flare Lounge (but after Derek and Kelly had finished their "bad date" there).
And Alice had heard some very unsettling gossip from Nina, so -- despite her exhaustion -- she was sleeping fitfully.
Around the corner at the end of the cul-de-sac, Regina (Bill's wife and Scout's mother) had hours earlier put her infant son, Skip, to bed,
and gone to bed herself.
At 7:00 a.m., Kelly (whose astronaut husband was away AGAIN, and would be for the whole rest of Valentine's Day) took advantage of having the bathroom to herself to take a long soak in a Milk, Honey, and Oatmeal treatment that Lou had gifted her from the new day spa in Newcrest (where Lou now lived),
before getting dressed for church.
There was a knock at the front door.
"Cristobal!" Kelly exclaimed, surprised. "You're early!"
"I apologize, Kelly," he said. "But we suddenly have an extra lady to pick up for church today. I tried to call you, but perhaps your phone was off."
(Kelly had in fact turned off her phone while she had been in the bathtub.)
"Oh, so sorry!" she said. "Just a minute -- I still have to bring the baby across the street."
"Now, you be a good baby for your auntie," Kelley cooed to Kelsey, once they were at Regina's house.
"Can I get you some coffee, Cristobal?" Regina asked the chauffeur.
"Oh, no, Miss Regina," he replied. "Thank you very much for your kind offer, but we still need to pick up another parishioner."
"Just let me powder my nose," Kelly called over her shoulder to Cristobal, "and I'll be right with you."
"How generous that Rafael lets you have the limo to pick up your fellow churchgoers," Regina observed.
"Oh, Senor Rafael and Miss Zoe do not arise until late on Sundays -- it is the only day that their clothing store is closed," Cristobal explained. "So they never need the car until the afternoon."
"And Senor Rafael thinks very highly of Miss Kelly," he hastened to add, "and is happy to help her get to church.
"She is so ladylike and polite and gentle," he enthused. "She is a WONDERFUL influence on the young girls in our congregation!"
Regina was a bit surprised by the fervor of Cristobal's praise for her friend.
"Okay, I'm ready!" Kelly chirped, emerging from the bathroom.
"Oh, HOW can Kelly possibly stand to be away from this darling, sweet-smelling little baby girl for even a SECOND!" Alice gushed.
Alice had come over to Regina's house late morning, after she had finally woken up.
"Well, you know that church is very important to her," Regina responded, not looking up from writing her latest gardening book,
"and it seems she's got some 'girls outreach' program going there. You know -- probably trying to save them from messing around with boys."
"Yeah, because that whole 'saving herself for marriage' thing has worked out SO well for her," Alice said ruefully, placing Kelsey back in her bassinet.
She went to brew a fresh pot of coffee.
"Hey, how well do you know Cristobal?" Regina asked, shutting off her computer and getting up.
"You mean Rafael's chauffeur?" Alice asked. "Not real well, though I've talked to him briefly a few times.
"As you know, Rafael tends just to 'drop by' my house on a moment's notice with gifts for D3, in an attempt to rehabilitate his image from being the total asshole that we all know he is. And Cristobal always drives him, so that's why I know him a bit. Why do you ask?"
"Because he came by with Kelly this morning," Regina told her, "when she dropped off Kelsey. They were on their way to church -- it seems he drives her every Sunday. Along with several other ladies."
Alice snorted. "Sounds like it might be another of Rafael's 'image rehab' things. You know -- donate his limo and driver on Sunday mornings, and so contribute to church without actually ever going there? Hey, maybe he's planning on running for mayor of Willow Creek!"
"So," Regina asked coyly, as the two sat down at the kitchen table, "any idea if Cristobal is married, or has a girlfriend?"
"Geez!" Alice exclaimed. "How could ANY guy who's THAT gorgeous not have SOMEONE!!!"
"It's just that he seemed so, well, 'appreciative' of Kelly," Regina said.
"You and your suspicions!" Alice teased. "Remember YOU'RE the one who got all tinfoil-hat and stuff about some 'mystery woman' you saw with Lou a couple times."
She suddenly became serious. "I heard the WORST rumor at the Solar Flare last night." (Alice had decided to discuss the unpleasant issue with Regina -- whom she knew she could trust -- just to get another opinion.)
"That Derek's running around on Kelly," she said flatly.
"WHAT??? NO!!!" Regina sputtered.
"Sorry, but I heard it from Nina Caliente, who heard it from Javier Sykes," Alice assured her. "And Javier occasionally works over in Windenburg, and he told Nina he's seen Derek there with at least 3 different women."