HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU, KID • by Kate Franklin

“I’ve met the love of my life,” I announced to the office as the clack of nails on keys rose from the cubicles.

“Again?” Marci’s fingers didn’t stop flashing across the keyboard, but her eyes met mine just long enough for me to see the raised eyebrows.

“It was Starbucks, of all places.” I removed my dripping raincoat, stored my purse away in the desk drawer and switched on my computer “It was raining so hard, there were no tables left, but we found a place to share in the corner.”

“You mean you stood next to him at the Starbucks counter.”

“Well, yes, but we made a connection. I’m sure of that. He felt it too.”

I don’t usually share my morning coffee with strangers, but the heavy rain ruled out my usual stop at the coffee cart. He had the most adorable smile. It was kind of jaunty, like the way Rick smiled at Ilsa in Casablanca.

I found out his name was Ben as he sipped his Venti with half-and-half. I was impressed he hadn’t used skim milk. Half-and-half is a manlier creamer. I’m very aware of the choices guys make. So many of my dates turn out to be boring and not romantic, even wishy-washy. I could tell Ben wasn’t like that. We talked about our jobs a little; he worked at the accounting firm across the street. I was surprised I hadn’t noticed him before.

“Is this like the connection you made with Daniel last month?” Marci handed me a printout of entries to be made and turned back to her computer.

I didn’t appreciate Marci’s mention of Daniel. It was a bitter memory, and I hated reliving it. But the scenario played in my mind as my fingers found the familiar keys.

***

It was to be our first weekend getaway. So far, I had only seen Daniel during lunch breaks at the office, where he was a marketing assistant. Sometimes we stopped for drinks after work. This was a chance to get to know each other better. Daniel had planned everything, and I was looking forward to a lovely weekend.

I was wearing a floral print dress and the little pearl earrings my grandmother had given me for Christmas. So I was understandably disappointed when Daniel arrived in a Black Sabbath tee shirt and cut-off jeans.

“Hey, Babe,” he greeted me. “Are you ready?”

“What’s in there?” I asked, pointing to a battered cooler.

“Beer. You don’t think I’m gonna pay the prices they want, do you?”

“They” turned out to be the vendors at a rock concert. Daniel had reserved a room at the Motel 6 close to the venue. I had been expecting champagne in little flute glasses and maybe flowers. I was so disappointed, I sulked and refused to have anything more to do with him.

“I thought you’d really like the concert.” Daniel shrugged. “It’s Snarky Tomorrows, the best indie band in the state. I thought you liked that stuff as much as I do.” He had obviously not been listening during our conversations.

***

“You’re just too picky,” Marci said as we ate lunch with the other girls in the cafeteria.

“You have totally unrealistic expectations,” Steph added.

Well, I have standards, and I’m not going to apologize for that. I’m looking for someone who is romantic and devoted, someone like Nickie in An Affair to Remember. He was so faithful to Terry, even when she didn’t show up at the Empire State Building.

I don’t believe I’m being unrealistic. I could tell Ben was just the kind of man I was looking for. At Starbucks, when Ben gathered up his napkin, coffee cup and empty bowl, he added my cup to the tray — what a gentleman. “See ya around,” he said, and he was gone out into the rain.

“See ya around.” Of course, he wanted to take it slow. He wasn’t the type to rush into things. He knew my name and where I worked. It might be this afternoon, or maybe tomorrow. He’d call and suggest we have lunch. Maybe he’d send a small bouquet of flowers. Ben’s style would be easygoing, not wanting to come on too strong at first.

I waited all week, and nothing happened. I wasn’t disappointed. There were so many possible reasons for the delay. I made plans. I knew this relationship was really going somewhere. I just hoped we wouldn’t have to wait years like Allie and Noah in The Notebook.

“Angie, you’re really stuck in these old movie scenarios.” Marci shook her head as she sifted through the day’s mail, parceling out envelopes. “Get your head into the real world.”

“Old movies? We just saw Twilight last month.” I reminded her. “Even you said Edward and Bella are the most romantic couple ever.”

“But they’re not real, Angie.”

Steph’s head popped up from the other side of the cubicle. “Nobody’s really like that.”

I just couldn’t get them to understand that true romance is real, so I kept my plans to myself. I knew Ben and I were meant to be.

Sunday morning at the Sunrise Café as I scanned the Times and munched a cranberry scone, there he was. Ben, smiling at his new wife under a bower of beautiful flowers. I shook my head and sighed. I flung the paper away. It fluttered in the breeze and floated to the next table, where it dipped into a strange man’s coffee. He smiled as he folded the soggy newspaper and handed it back to me. I couldn’t help but notice his smooth hands — a concert pianist for sure. I smiled back.

I had been all wrong about Ben. He wasn’t the one for me. He wasn’t Rick or Noah or Edward. He was Rhett Butler and he clearly didn’t give a damn.


Kate Franklin’s novel, The Tattooed Mermaid, was awarded a Silver Medal in the Adult Fiction — Mystery category for the 2013 Florida Authors and Publishers Association (FAPA) President’s Awards. She has published short stories in the anthologies Doorways, It’s A Crime, and The Florida Writer. She is online at Flash Fiction World,  Mysterical-e and Farther Stars Than These. Kate teaches college English in Sarasota Florida.


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 average 3.7 stars • 31 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Paul A. Freeman

    I enjoyed this story. Angie the dreamer living in her own delusional world was well-portrayed … or is she in the ‘Misery’ mold in the next episode? My only qualm would be those old films and characters from the classics. They limit the audience to those with a knowledge of classic cinema (if indeed they are that essential to the plot). But then is dumbing down a reasonable option? I’m not sure either way. Suffice to say, I only know ‘Casablanca’, and know of ‘Twilight’ amongst the films mentioned. And before you berate me, ask your kids / grand-kids who the Beatles and Elvis Presley are. Anyhow, when all’s said and done, it was a fun read, and just what’s needed on a Monday.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    I had Paul’s quibble but it strengthened in me to skepticism. By the time we got to the Black Sabbath tee-shirt and the pearl earrings, I was imagining the Social Security set. Young ‘uns I know don’t recognize actors’ names from the ’70s, and I’m not sure they can even find TCM on their cable lineup. Wait–they don’t have cable; they stream everything on their tablets…

    You’ve got to match the cultural references to the presumed age of your MC. When you don’t, she seems not hilariously out-of-tune with reality, but rather like someone whose “Now, Voyager” type ma never lets her out of the house…

  • Walter Giersbach

    I may be beyond redemption, but I recognized the films and loved seeing them juxtaposed against her dreams. And without dreams what hope is there for us eternal optimists?

  • A nice start to Monday and the week. Re the movie references, I had no trouble envisioning a woman, boyfriend-less and dateless, curling on the couch getting lost in romance TV. I didn’t think the last paragraph was necessary. It seemed too forced in order to have a cutsy ending.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      Sure–but this kid would’ve been watching Lifetime…

    • S Conroy

      Yes, I think “I smiled back” would have been a good ending.

  • Von

    I liked this character, not cookie-cutter, not quite in step with her peers, but comfortable enough in her own skin to keep stepping to her own beat. She’s an optimist and a romantic not willing to give up on her own happily ever after. Great story and message for the new year.

  • JAZZ

    But is she an optimist and a romantic or is she simply male-defined……?

  • I found the MC to be quite immature, unrealistic and delusional. When I don’t like an MC, it’s tough to really get into the story, but I managed alright with this one.

    The movie references were fine, and I think they further defined this character as a mindless romantic chasing that perfect guy who doesn’t exist. All her ideas of romance and what it’s supposed to be were gleaned from classic romance films. I’ll also add here that I don’t think the age of some of the films is out of place. I’m a big fan of movies that were released 20-30 years before I was born, and many others are as well.

    The main reason I didn’t like the story was the cookie-cutter plot. This read to me like a Hugh Grant rom-com. Not something I usually enjoy. Thanks for sharing.

  • Michael Stang

    This is a bit sad for me, and I am not sure you, Kate, wanted me to feel this about your MC. I picture Angie ending as an old maid, still looking out the window; Mr. Right come and long gone.
    I’d prefer the flutes to the Coors Light myself, but her delusions ended when she sulked. The clueless dreamer not.

  • Carl Steiger

    I kind of wanted to smack Angie. Well, for me this evoked happy memories of Casablanca, but also PTSD flashbacks of Twilight. I’m still using rabbit ears for TV reception, so I’m way behind in my movie viewing.

  • Charlene Bing

    I thought it was fun and just lovely. I thought the references made within, added substance to her never losing hope type character. Hats off to you, Kate Franklin!

  • I too liked this. The old movie references might just get people looking again at those great old movies (they are on TV most days!) I liked the tone and the construction.

  • Sheila Good

    Aw, Angie is ever the optimist, unrequited romantic, or yes, perhaps delusional character. I found her engaging and delightful. I especially liked the movie references. I did stumble, however, over some of the narrative and dialog. “See ya around.” Was she thinking this or saying it aloud? Overall, I liked the story, pacing and character. Well done.

  • Deborah Zlatarev

    Hello! I really enjoyed this story. Love the allusions to classic films, and the MC’s plucky, strong voice. I can relate to MC in regards to her high standards of romantic partners, because I’m the exact same way, however the similarities stop there since I’m far from the hopeless romantic, nor am I easily moved by the male charm.

    I do agree with the previous criticism to MC’s delusional character, but that’s also what I like, simply because it’s cute that she’s the lone wolf type, too different from her peers. If anything, this story reminded me of the film Austenland (such a wonderful, touching addition to film adaptions of literary fiction).