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Apr 30, 2021

Contemporary Romance

They say a book can change your life, this book said it repeatedly in fact. Only a few pages in and it had promised to bring Rosy her dream man and change her life in ‘just 3 easy steps’. Though of course it was going to take 237 pages to explain those three easy steps. But you can’t charge a fortune for a self-help leaflet can you. Luckily Rosy found this copy in the library, in amongst countless other books along a similar theme that had graced her bedside table. ‘Health, Wealth and Happiness’, ’10 rules for success’, and the aggressively titled ‘GET WHAT YOU WANT’, to name a few. This one was called ‘Manifest your man’.

Life was not exactly what Rosy had been anticipating. As a child she was full of hopes, dreams and grand expectations. She could be anything she wanted to be, do anything she wanted to do, have anything she wanted to have, including her dream man. This was in part fueled by her passion for reading romance novels. If the characters in the books always had a happy ending, where was hers?

Rosy sighed defeatedly, setting the open book face down on her nightstand before placing herself face down on her pillow. Another night alone. She turned to reach for the lamp switch, but as the light disappeared Rosy noticed something peeking out from between the pages of the book. Rosy momentarily believed she had the willpower to fight her curiosity and go to sleep. But who was she kidding? She switched on the light and picked up the book, the sheet of white card sliding out onto the floor. Rosy reached down to grab it, the back felt glossy on her fingers, she flipped it over and saw it was a photograph. In the picture was the most gorgeous face she had ever seen, even when she conjured up images of her dream man her imagination could not create something so beautiful. Clearly someone was trying to manifest this perfect specimen, Rosy wondered if they’d been successful. The photo was placed about half-way through the book, was it that good they hadn’t even needed all three of the steps? Or maybe they’d given up trying, Rosy hoped it was the latter and this man was still up for grabs. She slept well that night.

As Rosy walked into work the next morning, she felt nothing could get her down. But as she walked along the high street for her usual morning coffee, she was confronted with a shut door and a sign in the window. ‘Closed due to bereavement in the family’. Rosy huffed as she turned away uncaffeinated, why did bad things always happen to her? A few doors down was another café, Rosy wasn’t keen on change but she was even less keen on making it through the morning without her coffee. At the counter she almost ordered to go, but then something magical happened. She briefly glanced over as the door swung open and could barely believe her eyes when she saw the face of the man she’d been dreaming about all night long. It was definitely him, those smoking eyes were unmistakable. His dark hair pushed back with a pair of sunglasses. And even better she could see the rest of him now too. It did not disappoint.

Rosy ordered her coffee from a girl whose lopsided name tag read ‘Sally’ and sat at a table, hoping the man was going to stick around. She pulled out her book and tried to look inconspicuous as she ignored the words on the pages and watched him in her peripheries. He sat down across the room at a table on his own. She could not believe her luck. Or maybe it wasn’t luck. Had she manifested her man?

This was an opportunity too good to miss. There was no way this was coincidence, her café was closed so she would come here and bump into Mr. Perfect. Though of course that would have to mean someone died to make all this happen, but she wasn’t going to dwell on it. The waitress bought Rosy’s drink to her table, prompting her to quickly shut the book to hide the photograph laying on the page. Lest Sally the waitress judge her. Rosy smiled and thanked her politely, then mustered up all her courage ready for the event about to take place. What even happens when a woman approaches her manifested man? Will there be fireworks? Fanfare?  

Rosy had never approached a man in her life, she wasn’t even sure how. She shoved the book into her bag and carried her coffee across the café. The man was on his laptop, probably typing some incredibly important business email, she watched his fingers dancing on the keypad, like the butterflies dancing in her stomach. She was so close, then ‘BAM!’ The waitress appeared out of nowhere, a tray of hot teas and coffees cascaded down onto the floor and Rosy’s once white shirt was now a muddy brown. “Oh god! I’m so sorry, let me help you!” the waitress grabbed Rosy by the arm and pulled her out to the kitchen where she doused her with cold water and thrust kitchen towel at her. Rosy was in a daze as the girl apologised profusely for the mess, but Rosy was more concerned she had missed her chance. Maybe it was the universes way of telling her she wasn’t ready yet, important steps needed to be taken before she could have her prize. For now he was being dangled like a carrot to entice her to keep reading the book.

By the time Rosy had somewhat pulled herself together the man had gone from the café. Rosy was thankful for this small blessing, and desperately hoped he hadn’t noticed her during the earlier chaos.

That night after a long day at work smelling like a pot of old coffee, Rosy was glad to be showered and back in bed with her book. Suddenly the book felt incredibly powerful, the words within it were spells she could cast to make her wildest dreams come true. Ok so maybe it hadn’t quite gone to plan today, but she had much to learn and tomorrow was a new day.

The next morning her usual coffee shop was still shut, and she almost fainted on the spot when she walked through the new café door. The man was sitting in the far corner stirring his tea whilst perusing the paper. Probably forming intelligent opinions on all things political. Rosy on the other hand would be reading the horoscopes.

She ordered her coffee and bravely approached the man’s table, there were more than enough spare tables in the café so she knew this was going to be an obvious pick up attempt. She squeezed past a woman with her push chair and when she looked up the man was staring straight at her, their eyes met, Rosy continued on towards him, but her next step faltered and suddenly she felt herself stumbling forward. She managed to catch herself short of face planting the ground in front of her dream man’s feet, but the shame was overwhelming. Rosy did an about turn and disappeared out the door. There was no mistaking the fact he had seen her calamity, he was staring straight at her as she fell. It was like there was an invisible barrier between Rosy and her man, and she couldn’t break through. And now she had to go to work, once again sans coffee and sans man.

Rosy was only marginally short of screaming at some poor unsuspecting homeless man when she heard footsteps rapidly approaching from behind. As she turned around she audibly gasped, both because it was a truly astonishing sight to see this man up close, but also because he was even there in the first place. “Hey, are you Ok?”, Rosy was speechless, and still a little embarrassed,

“I’m fine” she lied as her heart almost pounded out of her chest, the man smiled which only exacerbated her condition, “I don’t suppose I could get you a coffee” he asked, oozing with charm. Rosy felt herself blush, “I would love a coffee”, she couldn’t believe her luck. The stars were aligning, the book was working, everything truly does happen for a reason.

The man, whose name turned out to be Dane, popped back to the café and grabbed them both drinks to go. Rosy waited nervously on a bench outside. When Dane returned, he passed Rosy a cup and a folded napkin she was delighted to discover contained a cookie. “I hope you like chocolate, there are three kinds in there!” Dane beamed, Rosy beamed back. There was a short silence while the pair sipped their hot drinks. “I’m not usually so clumsy”, Rosy said at last. Dane shook his head, “it wasn’t you. It’s that bloody waitress! Yesterday she knocked into some poor woman with a tray of drinks, and today she tripped you up”, Rosy blushed again,

“I was that poor woman yesterday” she covered her face with her hands, “I was hoping you hadn’t noticed. I didn’t see the waitress today though”,

“I think there’s something wrong with her to be honest, she used to be lovely to me, but then things got weird. I think she was flirting, and in the end I had to tell her I had a girlfriend, she’s hated me ever since”

“Oh!” Rosy felt a little silly, was this nothing but a pity coffee?

“Oh no, I mean, I don’t. I just, I had to tell her that”, Dane said guiltily,

“Oh!” Rosy laughed, and the conversation flowed a little easier, they talked about her love of astrology and his unusual hobby of clay pigeon shooting.  

Rosy went to work in a daze, and later went to bed with a smile as she opened the book to continue reading her new bible. Though the words contained nothing of real substance as far as she could tell, it was working and that was enough to keep her turning the pages. She placed the photograph of Dane on the bedside table and glanced over at him occasionally. Not that she needed to, his face was fresh in her mind and wasn’t going to leave anytime soon. As she read the page, and the unremarkable words upon it, she noticed a pink blotch seemed to have bled through from the other side. She flipped over the page to see a word highlighted in amongst some text and her heart stopped.

“Happiness is not just about what you can add to your life, sometimes it’s necessary to remove things that are barriers to your bliss. Those too tight clothes making you miserable? Throw them out. Depressing job getting you down? Quit. Toxic relationships? Cut them out of your life! We can’t always have things our own way, sometimes people are in our lives and short of a restraining order or murder we have to learn to live with it. If the situation warrants it, by all means get a restraining order, but committing homicide is far more likely to add to your problems than solve them!”

This was presumably meant to be humour, but the word murder had been ominously highlighted and Rosy had the horrible feeling the previous reader hadn’t made it any further than that. Looking over at the photo of Dane once again, the cogs in Rosy’s brain began whirring.  

The next morning Rosy couldn’t get out of the door fast enough, she shot straight to the library and burst in through the doors, book in hand. She marched up to the front desk and slammed the book onto the table, “Who checked out this book last?” she demanded.

The woman behind the counter gave Rosy a stern look, the look of a woman who was about to deny her request, “I’m afraid we cannot disclose that information”, she said matter of a factly.

Rosy searched her brain for a way to ask for the information without sounding like a crazy person, “They left something important in the book” she told her, but the woman wasn’t willing to break library policy that easily,

“You can leave that with us, we can return it to them”. Damn. Rosy tried again,

“I can’t leave it with you, it’s evidence”. There it was, now she sounded like a crazy person,

“Evidence?” the woman’s face showed a hint of concern, most likely for Rosy’s sanity, or maybe her own safety, “Let me get my manager”.

The woman pushed away from the desk and walked off towards a door marked ‘private’. In a move that shocked even herself, Rosy quickly ran around the desk and scanned the book into the computer hoping beyond hope it would tell her what she needed to know. She glanced over her shoulder, the door had swung closed. The screen loaded and offered several options, including a button labelled ‘previous loans’. Rosy heard voices behind the door, she clicked the button and a list of names flashed up, it only took a second for her to see the information she needed before she closed the page. By the time Mrs. Stern and her manager emerged, Rosy was innocently browsing the shelves on her way towards the door.    

Suddenly everything was clicking into place.

Rosy went straight to the café hoping to bump into Dane there and warn him of the potential threat, but he was no where to be seen, and neither was Sally the ‘clumsy’ waitress. Rosy approached a man serving behind the counter, “Excuse me, is Sally working today?”

“Nah it’s her day off, what are you her friend or something?” the man looked incredibly confused, “I didn’t think she had any to be honest”,

“Er yeah” Rosy lied, “Any chance you know where I could find her, she’s not answering her phone”, the man had turned away by now and was cleaning the coffee machine, “She said something about shooting seagulls?” Rosy’s eyes grew wide,

“You mean clay pigeon shooting?” She asked, her fears suddenly confirmed.

Rosy needed to find Dane, and fast, but she had no idea where people shot clay pigeons, or what it even entailed. But she had a good idea there were guns involved. Her mind was whirring when the man behind the counter piped up again, “Wait, are you Rosy?”

“huh? Yeah”, the waiter handed her a slip of paper with her name on,

“Dane popped in early this morning, asked me to give this to you”, Rosy took the note and opened it to find a short message,

‘Really enjoyed meeting you yesterday, hopefully we can do it again sometime? Dane.’

Rosy blushed, momentarily forgetting her urgency. But upon seeing his number scrawled across the bottom of the note she quickly typed in the number on her phone and waited anxiously as the phone rang, and rang. She prayed for him to answer. If she could manifest a whole man she was sure she could will him to answer the phone. But he didn’t. She tried again, and again until, “hello?”

The voice that answered was soft and feminine, and it was definitely not Dane. “Hi, sorry I think I’ve got the wrong number”, Rosy said dismayed, ready to hang up,

“are you looking for Dane?” the voice asked. Panic shot through Rosy, it was already too late,

“Sally?” she stuttered, but the person on the other end of the phone sounded confused,

“Erm, no this is Dane’s phone, but he was talking to a Sally earlier, he’s just heading over now, hang on”.

Rosy waited nervously as Dane’s voice slowly came into earshot, “I answered your phone, it wouldn’t stop going off”, she heard the woman say, “your ringtone is awful by the way”, Dane was right next to the phone by now, “who is it?” he asked,  

“what’s your name?” the woman asked,

“Rosy, my name is Rosy and Dane is in danger!” she rushed to get the words out, becoming desperate, if Sally was there who knew how long he had. From her tone, Rosy could tell the woman wasn’t taking her seriously, “she said you’re in danger?”

“danger? The only thing I’m in danger of is losing my reputation if I miss another easy shot!” Dane and the woman laughed, “she said her name is Rosy, she was asking after Sally?”  

“Rosy!” Danes voice sounded pleased to hear her name, there was some scuffling as the phone changed hands, “Rosy hi! I’m so glad you got my number, what’s going on?” Dane‘s voice was casual, she only hoped she could convince him he needed to pay attention, “Dane, you need to get out of there, Sally…” but she didn’t manage to say any more, suddenly there was a loud bang and the phone clattered to the floor.

---

Two weeks later Rosy received a phone call from a number she didn’t recognise, “hello?”

“Rosy Chapman?” a stern voice asked,  

“Yes?”

“I’m sorry to inform you your library membership has been cancelled due to an unreturned book and unpaid fine, if you wish to return to the library please remedy this as soon as possible, thank you”, Rosy hung up the phone and laughed, looking over at the book on her coffee table, then up at Dane with his bandaged torso. Maybe it was time to let someone else manifest their man and change their life too.

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