I think this is the first short story I've ever written. (Anything I did in English classes has been forgotten.) Felt like I should try it. Super-short, may qualify as flash for all I know. Enjoy!
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by R.C. Lewis
Gunfights and car chases, that’s what I needed. Maybe some gratuitous, reality-defying explosions, too, if I was lucky. The more action, the better.
I’d like to say it had been a good day until I arrived at the movie theater. Until the sneering minimum-wage teenager asked if I meant diet when I clearly asked for a regular soda. I’d like to say the day to that point had been a shining example of why it’s wonderful to be alive. But that would be a lie.
The implications of the greasy-haired adolescent didn’t help, though.
My usual seat, third row up from center, ensured maximal viewing pleasure, taking in the whole screen at once. This showing was popular, but not quite sold out. As the theater filled, the seats to either side of me remained vacant. Surely someone would be joining me, right? Or maybe they worried Crazy-Lady-Who-Goes-to-Movies-Alone Syndrome was contagious.
Speaking of which, was that …? It was. A blind date from three months ago walked in with two friends, laughing about some recent sporting event. Big upset in the college rankings.
I instantly thought of those crime dramas, when the cops make the arrest and the guy shouts, “It’s a set-up!” I knew how that guy felt, because blind dates were the same thing – set-ups. Friends said they were doing it because they cared, because they were certain the guy was just right for me.
Invariably, the dates ended with me alone in my apartment, resisting the urge to scream, “I’ve been framed!”
I prayed the latest accomplice wouldn’t look my way. He’d tried to enlist himself among the few repeat offenders by calling a week later. Since I couldn’t recall his name now, the results of that phone call were obvious.
Not that he wasn’t good-looking. Far from it. If I had a type, he was it, but only as far as appearance. I think he lost me when he spent most of our date detailing how he was God’s gift to the philosophy department at the local university. I would have enjoyed a nice discussion about any of the topics he mentioned, but he was too busy convincing me everyone else was wrong to hear anything I had to say.
It was still an improvement over the set-up prior, who clearly hadn’t expected me to be educated and reasonably intelligent. Maybe I could blame my accent for that one, but it had almost disappeared in the past few years. No great loss, though; the friend who’d done the framing later told me he’d gotten back with his ex.
Mr. Neo-Nietzsche remained too occupied with the failings of basketball referees to notice me, so I relaxed. The previews started, and I got my promised violence and mayhem. Plenty of explosions, too. I particularly enjoyed one involving a propane tank and a mime. You had to be there.
The credits rolled as everyone filed out around me, but I stayed put. An odd habit, maybe, but I always stayed until the end of the credits. I had this image of the poor gaffers and score wranglers and every soul in the second unit who went utterly unknown. They worked hard and didn’t rake in the obscene paychecks for it, so the least I could do was remain in my seat as their names scrolled across the screen – their singular moment of glory.
A bonus was seeing the song credits near the end. Yes, that was Incubus. Thought the voice sounded familiar.
When the lights came up and the cleaning crew rolled in, I was the only one left. More teenagers, but the aggravating soft drink vendor wasn’t among them. They were polite as I passed, and I offered a smile, not envying their task of sweeping popcorn and scraping smashed Milk Duds from the floor.
Out in the lobby, I looked at my watch – too late to think about cooking dinner. My favorite bistro was on the way home, so I stopped there. Not especially swank, but nice and cozy.
I glanced briefly at the menu before ordering one of my favorites. The waitress was new – not one of the girls who knew me as a regular – but she was friendly and pleasant. She brought my raspberry lemonade with a smile and left me in peace.
If any disease was more dreaded than the single woman at the movies, it was the woman sitting at a table for one in a restaurant. I felt the glances of a few other diners, but it wasn’t my first time. The way to avoid scrutiny was to look busy, so I pulled my notepad from my purse.
When the waitress brought my food a few minutes later, I noticed something more than a glance. A few tables away, a male diner – also solo – caught my eye. Tall, dark hair … my usual suspects for distraction, he had them all. Before I could feel self-conscious about staring, he winked and went back to reading a novel. Crime thriller, but one of the better authors in the genre.
Throughout my meal, I compulsively glanced his way. He caught me looking a few times, but I also caught him. The little thrill when he smiled at me … how long since I’d last felt that?
Dinner couldn’t last forever, though, and soon the waitress brought me my check. When she looked at my credit card, though, her eyes widened.
“You’re her, aren’t you? The romance writer! I have all your books. Oh, and wow, today must be your favorite day of the year, huh?”
Under ordinary circumstances, I would have rolled my eyes at such an idea. Today, though … today I looked toward the mystery man across the way and smiled.
“Sure,” I answered. “Who doesn’t love Valentines Day?”