Casandra Hernández Ríos

La Bonaventure


Casandra Hernández Ríos received her MFA in Creative Writing, Fiction, from CSU Long Beach. She holds a BA in Creative Writing and Journalism from the same school. She is the Creative Director at Angels Flights Books, and is former Senior Managing Editor at The Offing magazine, and former Editor-in-Chief of Riprap, CSULB's literary journal. Her fiction has been recognized by Glimmer Train Press, and has appeared or is forthcoming in Aurora & BlossomsGolden StreetcarSpectrum Literary JournalVerdad magazine, Two Sisters, and the Santa Ana River Review.


Instagram: @purplechickpeas


Karina stood in front of a large oval mirror with black trim that hung above two petite onyx white sink bowls in the Powder Room of the Bona Vista Lounge in downtown Los Angeles. In her black pumps, she towered over them. Her attention went to the mirror’s reflection of the black sleeveless dress she was wearing. It wasn’t hers, but it fit as if it had been imagined for Karina’s best physical qualities. It had a cutout front detail, a heart shaped quilted top with mesh cutouts. It flaunted her bust and toned arms and concealed her soft parts.

She began to dig through the contents of her purse—keys, tinted lip balms, earpods, notepad, and a couple of pocket-sized poetry books—to find her chiming cell phone. It was her sister Lulu calling. Karina tapped on the green button that appeared on the screen to answer it. Her manicured fingertips had caused her to fumble through the simplest of things that day, including the handling of her cellphone. Her sister had put her through “the works” for this date and she simply wanted to get through with it so that she could move on without a full set of acrylic nails complicating her life.

“What,” she said.

“Where are you?”

“On my date. Why?”

“Because Miguel just texted. He thinks you ditched him.”

“Ugh, he’s so dramatic.”

“He said you've been gone for twenty minutes. What are you doing?”

“I'm just powdering my nose. This blind-date business doesn't sit well with me. I'm sweating like a pig.”

“I hope you're not planning to sneak out the window.”

“I wish. But we're on the thirty-fourth floor. And I should ditch this; it would serve you right for coaching him.”

“What are you talking about?”

“He had this whole spiel about the Bonaventure Hotel’s design while we were waiting for our drinks. He even quoted Fredric Jameson.”


“Fredric Jameson. The post-modernist critic. He was the one who wrote about the hotel's design. Don't play dumb. I know you.”

“Sis, you know I tune-you-out when you start talking about your school stuff.”

“You're not helping your case.”

“Okay, so maybe I told him that you were going to be an architect.”

“I’m studying architectural design.”

“What’s the difference?”

Karina sighed. “I'll talk to you later. Bye.”

At 27, Karina felt like a failure in comparison to her sister. Her sister was only two years younger than Karina, but Lulu was already a head-designer for an L.A. clothing company. Lulu had no extensive education—she went to trade-school—but had raw talent. Everything in life just seemed to come easier to her sister.


Lulu had agreed to meet Karina in Pasadena for lunch. Whenever she could, Karina would eat at a café there that served macrobiotic meals because, according to Lulu, Karina had not been able to “kick the habit.” Karina's ex-boyfriend Bryan had been on the macrobiotic diet when she first met him, and he had confessed to her while they were dating that he wouldn’t marry someone who didn’t share in his lifestyle. He told her he loved her and before she knew it, she had given up processed sugar and tropical fruits. She was surprised at how difficult it was to avoid sugar, but when her body began to shrink in all the right places, she knew the sacrifice had been well-worth it.

They sat on a wrought iron table in the café's courtyard to people-watch.

“So, besides work and school what's new?” Lulu said.

“What do you mean?” Karina said, knowing where she was headed.

“Well, you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I do, and that's why I'm asking.”

“Sweetie, you have to start dating again.” Lulu paused to sip her iced tea. “You can't spend all of your time with school and work and not having fun. It's not healthy.”

“I don't like it when you call me sweetie. You sound like mamá,” Karina said, taking a large bite from her veggie burger. “Besides, why not? It’s my life,” she said through a full-mouth.

“Because it's not healthy. And it’s been a year since Bryan broke up with you, isn't it time for someone new?”

“You and Marcos have known each other for two whole years and you're already married. How is two years enough time to know that this is the right person to spend the rest of your life with?”

“What do we have to do with anything?”

“I'm just thinking that your concept of time is completely different from mine.”

“Why do you always get so mean?”

“I'm not mean. I'm just being honest,” Karina said. The reminder that she had been dumped had stung. “I'm just tired of talking about the same thing over and over again with you.”

“I'm sorry. I just want you to be happy.”

“I know… But setting me up with one of your coworkers, or whomever, isn't going to suddenly complete me.” Katrina exaggerated air-quotes around the last two words. “That’s something I have to do for myself,” she added and took a large bite of her burger, holding it with both hands. “But if it'll get you off my back, arrange it,” she said.

“Well, don't say it like that. You’re making me feel bad. And stop talking with your mouth full, it's gross.”

“Hey, why are you complaining? You're getting what you want, aren't you?  Like you always do.”

“Just finish your burger. I have to get going soon.”


Karina dropped the cell phone in her purse and flipped her hair over to one shoulder before making for the door.

When she stepped onto the red carpeted platform, she remembered that it was slowly rotating the restaurant’s seating and for a moment worried she’d lost their table when she spotted a waving arm calling her attention. She walked slowly, holding on to the tops of booths in case she tripped in her heels.

Miguel rose to his feet and waited for her to sit before sitting back down. Karina pretended not to notice that on top of being handsome, he was also polite.

“I thought you had run away,” he said, smiling. He took a drink of his whiskey.

Okay, maybe not that polite she corrected herself. “Sorry for the delay,” she said, looking toward the yellow and orange sunsetting skyline right on the other side of the window of the thirty-fourth floor of the Bonaventure Hotel. The usual blinding white and blue refractions from Downtown windows that she had observed on the daily had transformed into pleasant colors that opened the possibility for a romance with a city that she had never truly been able to like.

“It's an amazing view, isn't it? Miguel said.

“It's okay,” she said.

Miguel gave her a look.

“Well, it's not Yosemite, but it is nice,” she said.

“Why do you do that?” Miguel said, setting his drink down and leaning forward to study her.

“Do what?”

“Act unimpressed?”

“I don't know what you mean.”

“Yeah, you do.”

“Anyway, weren't we ordering?” Karina said, opening the menu to hide behind it.

“Yeah, we were,” he said. Karina looked at the menu. Under the starters she read: Baked Mini Brie Cheese, Baked Crab and Four Cheese Dip, Buffalo Wings, Chip and Dip, Grande Nachos, Peel and Eat Cajun Boiled Shrimp.  Nothing that she could eat. Maybe she'll just have the fries or a salad without dressing.

The server appeared. He wore a two-piece uniform with a white long sleeve shirt.

“Are we ready to order?” he asked. Miguel looked at her and with his hand, he motioned her to go first.

“Okay, I'll have a Caesar salad. But no dressing and no cheese, please.  Oh, and with extra capers. Thanks,” Karina said, handing the waiter her menu.

“Very well,” the waiter said. She was expecting a reaction, especially from Miguel, but nothing. Lulu, she suspected.

“And you, sir?”

“I'll have the grilled hanger steak on a ciabatta roll, please.”

“Perfect. I will return with your order,” the server said and smiled before leaving.

“You probably don't remember this, but I was at your sister's wedding,” Miguel said, taking his drink from the table and sinking into his chair.

“You're right, I don't remember,” Karina said, crossing her left leg over the right.

“I remember you, though. I was dancing with the bride before you pulled her away.”

“Well, you know, I was the maid of honor. I'm sure it was important.”

“Yes, official wedding-business I’m sure… Except, I remember following after the two of you. And if I recall correctly, you were badgering Lulu about the menu.”

Karina was silent. She picked up a glass and drank some water.

“Don't worry,” Miguel said, grinning. “I would be pissed, too, if my sister forgot that I was vegan.”

“She didn't forget,” she said. “It's a long story, but it wasn't like that at all. And I'm not vegan.”

“So how was it then? You can tell me.”

“Wait a minute, you were listening to our conversation? People, these days,” Karina feigned indignation. She had an inkling, though, that Miguel was setting up a trap, but she would outsmart him.

“Well, it's not my fault you decided to walk to the bar,” he said, taking a sip of his drink. He gave her a playful smile.

“I don't think this is an appropriate conversation to have on a first-date.”

“Oh, c'mon. I'm just teasing you. You're so serious.”

“I just don't think it's funny.”

“Well, I have taken it upon myself to make you laugh tonight.”

“Wait a minute, if you knew I was vegan, why did you bring me here?”

“I was wondering how long it would take you to realize that.”

“So, you're saying you brought me here, where you knew I wouldn't find anything to eat except maybe a salad, on purpose? Are you trying to provoke me?”

“Maybe just a little,” he said.

“A little? I don't know who you think you are, mister, but let me just tell you, if you think. . . .”

“We both know that you weren't thrilled for this date,” Miguel said, leaning forward, drink in hand. “And when you finally agreed, I had to do something that would make you remember me. You seem to be the type of girl that is used to getting her way. So, let's just make the best of it.”

Miguel leaned back into his chair.  He looked comfortable and sure of himself. Karina was not sure how she felt about Miguel now. She was starting to like him, but she wasn’t sure why.

The server arrived with their meals. Karina tried to relax. Miguel ordered another drink.

“Should you be having another?” Karina said, placing a forkful of salad into her mouth.

“I can take a cab if I need to,” he said. “Besides, I'm going to need more than one drink if I’m to make you laugh. It's proving to be a real challenge.”

“Well, you have a strange sense of humor. You think you're so charming and irresistible that you've decided to throw all common courtesy out the window,” she said.

“El burro hablando de orejas,” Miguel said.


“What a surprise! She doesn’t know Spanish.”

“Actually, I understand it at a basic level. Si. No. Un poquito. Gracias. Por favor. De nada. Cuál es tu nombre? Mi nombre is Karina. Mucho gusto en conocerte. Por qué estamos aquí? … You get the gist,” she said.

“Yeah, impressive.”

“So, Miguel, why did you bring me to this place if you knew about my diet? I'm dying to understand your logic.”

“Simple. The view is fantastic for a first date.”

“So, to annoy me, basically.”

“You're a terrible listener,” he said. “You haven't commented on what I said earlier.”

“What did you say?”

“I knew this date thing wasn't your idea, but I wanted to do something that you would remember me by. Since your sister's wedding, I couldn't forget you.”

“You're already drunk, aren't you?”

“Maybe I am. But I have replayed that day in my head over and over again. You were so upset at your sister over fish? On her wedding day. I couldn't stop laughing or thinking about you after that.”

“She promised to serve trout,” she said after a moment, not knowing what else to say.

That was your take-away?” Miguel said. He looked at her, a smile grew on his face and then he began to laugh. It began as a suppressed chuckle and grew into roaring laughter. It was a laugh that expanded as it added reasons and images to its composition and becoming more textured.

Karina thought about it, too. Bryan Uribe had broken up with her a month before the wedding and her sister had told her that she was relieved that Bryan wouldn't be attending the wedding after all. It wasn’t about the family pictures, but because Lulu could finally serve salmon instead of trout at the reception since Bryan was the only who couldn’t eat red-meat fish. Since the breakup, Karina had been trying to prove to everyone that her lifestyle-change had been for her and not a boy.

She joined Miguel in his laughter.  She laughed hard. She laughed at how ridiculous it had been to fight over fish at her sister's wedding and then try to convince everyone else that she was devoted to her new lifestyle when she really wasn't. She hated macrobiotics.

“Misión cumplida,” Miguel said.



Near her car door after the valet handed her the car keys, Karina removed Miguel's coat from her back and returned it to him. She didn't want the date to end.

“Thank you for dinner,” she said. “I actually had a good time.”

“You're welcome,” Miguel said.

She looked at Miguel, wondering if he wanted to kiss her. She knew he liked her.

Miguel smiled. “Now, get in there and drive safely,” he said, pointing to her car with his chin.

“Good night,” Karina said and started for the door.

“Wait,” Miguel said. Karina turned around. He held her shoulders and leaned-in to whisper: “I'm not going to kiss you because I know you want me to.”

Karina laughed and for some reason she wasn't mad. She waved good-bye and then drove off. She rolled down the front windows and thought she could hear Miguel’s laughter mingled with the sound of Downtown’s murmuring streetlamps.

© The Acentos Review 2021