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Fiction Drama

Albert reached out his arm. "Milady?" "Oh, stop it, Albert!" Margaret sniggered as they walked into the movie theater. She was blushing slightly, staring at the floor. "I shall most definitely not stop it," Albert declared. He grinned. Oh, how he loved teasing her. "Nothing but the best for my birthday girl!" He kissed her on the cheek and the most beautiful smile appeared on her face. It made her look youthful, Albert thought. Childishly happy even. Her curled lips were framed by her favorite pink lip pencil. She had drawn the line a bit too wide in some places, but Albert didn't care. She might have lost some of her finesse over the years, but nothing of her beauty. "I'll just go and get our tickets," Albert said. "I'll be right back and then we can look for our seats, okay?" "Okay," Margaret said shortly. Her eyes were already trailing off around the large entrance hall, exploring.


Albert turned away. Striding off to the ticket booth, he glanced back one more time to check on her. All fine, he thought. The clerk was a middle-aged man with dark brown hair. He was rummaging through the register, humming along with a song Albert had never heard before. The smooth, salty jazz that Albert loved so much, had been replaced by more energizing, 'hip' music. Everything nowadays had to be loud, flashy, and fast. A pity, Albert thought. He was more the 'nostalgic type of person'. You know, the type that loves jukeboxes, handwritten letters, and meeting face to face. Yet Albert would never complain about loud, 'hip' music. His granddaughter had taught him to 'keep up with his time'. And even though he loved jazz, he loved being the cool granddad more.


"Hi Lenny," Albert said after about a minute of polite standing and waiting. The brown-haired ticket clerk snapped up. "Oh, hi Albert. Didn't see you there. Everything alright?" The man had a nasty scar on his forehead. He had been in a very unfortunate car crash a couple of years ago, Albert recalled. "Well, my back hurts and my cholesterol is way too high, but still alive and kicking. So, nothing to complain about. You?" Albert replied smiling. "Well, my back isn't hurting enough for early retirement I'm afraid. So, still some room for improvement." Lenny chuckled. "And how's Margaret?" Lenny's eyes didn't meet Albert's this time. "As good as can be expected," Albert sighed. "She's excited to see the movie, that's for sure." Lenny smiled. It was a polite smile. A pitiful smile. Albert smiled back. No time for pity tonight, he thought. "Is everything ready?" he asked. "Yes, of course. Everything is all set up in auditorium 3. The movie should start in about 10 minutes." Lenny gave Albert two handwritten tickets. "Wonderful, thank you, Lenny."


Albert turned back to Margaret. His eyes circled the place where he had left her. Where did she go? Albert felt a sudden rush of panic coming over him. "Margaret?", he shouted. His breathing fastened. Where is she? He scanned the room. Nothing. Again. Still nothing. "Marge... Margaret?" His voice was now trembling. His heart sank.


"I'm here, silly." It was Margaret. Albert jerked around, trying to locate where her voice was coming from. Margaret waved from near the movie display in the back, a smile curling her lips. Unaware of the near heart attack she had caused, she glanced back at the rapidly flashing movie trailers behind her. Albert saw a sense of wonder on her face. Should have known, Albert thought. His heart rate dropped slightly, not yet reaching its former steady pace. That woman. She's going to be the end of me someday, he decided. He stared back at her, beckoning her to follow him. The neon lights reflected in her eyes making them sparkle. Albert couldn't stay mad at her. He never had. She hadn't changed a thing since he first took her here the see a movie. Yes, her hair was whiter, but it was twisted in the same playful bun she had always worn. "It's in the 3rd auditorium," Albert said holding out his arm again. "Oh okay. And what movie are we seeing again?" She asked. "Don't you remember? The wizard of Oz. We talked about it on the way here." "Oh, yes, yes, but you know me and names… we just don't go together, see." The tone in her voice rose slightly.


Albert felt her eyes on him, waiting. He smiled. She smiled back. They entered the dimly lit auditorium. It was almost empty, just like Albert expected. A man, woman, and their daughter were the only other people in the room. Albert looked at them. They smiled. He nodded shortly. "Margaret, where do you wanna sit?" Albert asked. "Just a bit higher-" Margaret replied distracted. She was focused on keeping her balance on the small stairs. "-That way we get a better view of the movie." Albert chuckled. A better view of the movie…huh… A better view of the other people in the room would be the more honest answer. Margaret had always loved to watch other people, speculate about their lives. "Here will be perfect," she said, pointing at one of the rows above. "We could sit near the aisle so I can-" "-stretch your legs," Albert added.


Albert helped Margaret sit down. She popped her legs sideways, stretching them in the aisle, and nested her head comfortably in the plushy chair. Albert could see the outline of her boots in the dim light. Their color was lost in the darkness, but Albert could recall what they looked like almost effortlessly. Red, shiny boots, worn to the threat. Her favorites. "I hope it's gonna be a good movie," Margaret said. "Can't stand a sad ending you know. They make me feel so… so sad, really." She was fiddling with her ring in anticipation. "Don't worry about it," Albert said putting his fingers on her hand. "You're gonna love it, trust me. I…I heard great things about it." Margaret turned her hand around squeezing his fingers ever so slightly. Perfect. The dimmed lights faded out even more. On the screen, a commercial for some type of soft drink started playing. Loud, 'hip' music blasting from the speakers.


Just before the movie started, Albert saw the outlines of a woman with two young boys entering the auditorium. She was running behind them, ushering them to sit down a couple of rows before him and Margaret. "shhh." The woman hissed, but the boys ignored her, climbing over the seats, poking each other. The mom was holding a baby strapped to her chest and a big box of popcorn that was spilling every time she stepped. She mumbled something to the boys. Albert couldn't hear it over the loud music of some movie trailer with too many explosions. The boys turned around and waved at Albert and Margaret. "Oooh, aren't they just adorable?" Margaret whispered to him. She waved back at them. "So excited for the movie."


The screen had changed to the trailer of some run-of-the-mill rom-com, starring that really famous actor Albert kept forgetting the name of. The boys in front meanwhile, kept pushing each other's seats and shouting. Adorable? Yes, but also a little bit ill-mannered, Albert thought. But then again, who was he? It was not his place to judge. Out of the corner of his eye, Albert saw Margaret looking at the boys as well, frowning. That didn't happen often, he thought. "That poor woman though," she said. "She looks so tired. Where is her husband?" Margaret left no time for Albert to respond. "Maybe she's one of those single mums. It just seems like such an impossible job. Taking three kids to the movies, alone. Well, that takes courage if you ask me," she added. "I always heard it's worth it. You know, kids." Albert said. "Must be," said Margaret. "Can you imagine all the love you get in return?" she asked. "A life full of unconditional love. Must be wonderful." Albert smiled. A couple of rows down, the mom shoved the cup of popcorn in between the boys in what seemed like the last attempt at calming them down before the movie started. It worked. "Oh, they're just like you Albert," Margaret sniggered "Nothing can silence you as effectively as food." Albert smiled. "Well now, thank you;" He tried to sound sarcastic, but she was right, they were just like him. 


"Albert put on your glasses. It's starting," Margaret said, nudging him softly. Albert could feel her perk up a little in anticipation, her gaze fixed on the screen. Where were his glasses again? He always forgot where he left them. His jacket pocket maybe? Or this pocket? After a good 10 min. and at least three more rounds of inspecting his jacket pockets, Albert found his glasses dangling from a small breast pocket in his shirt. He put them on and the images on the screen came into focus. Not that he needed it. Judging by the squeaks and oohs that came from Margaret, the dog had made his first appearance on screen and Dorothy had already left Kansas.


Margaret was humming along with one of the songs when the door of the auditorium was opened again. A woman juggling a briefcase in one hand, jacket in the other, entered the room. She was still arguing with someone on the phone and dropped her briefcase twice before settling down two rows in front of the mother and her kids. Everyone looked at her. Nobody said anything. There's always someone late, Albert thought. The woman tucked away her phone and turned her head scanning the room. The light fell on her face and Albert could make out her lips mouthing something that looked like I'm sorry. "She's very late," Margaret whispered in Albert's ears. "Almost missed half of the film." Albert could hear a slight hint of disapproval in her voice. "And all that talking on the phone, how inappropriate!" She continued. "Ooh don't fuss about it, Margaret. For all you know, it's an emergency. She seems rather busy," Albert said in a calm and reassuring tone. "Hmm, I guess you're right," Margaret agreed. "Anyways, she looks quite young to be wearing such nice, stately clothes." The woman was indeed wearing a nice formal pantsuit with a matching jacket on top, Albert noticed. "What do you think she does?" Margaret asked. Albert shrugged. "I think maybe a lawyer or a businesswoman," she added. Albert didn't react. Margaret didn't really need him to, he knew. She just loved to fantasize about other people's lives, with or without him. A well-placed 'yes' or 'really' every now and then was enough to keep her going for hours. "Whatever it is-" Margaret concluded. "-she has probably got quite a brain that one. I can tell." Albert smiled. After all these years, he was still surprised by how much Margaret could discover about someone, just by looking at them. It had always been her strength, even now. Albert cogged his head back. The music, the familiar voices from the speakers, Margaret, … this whole atmosphere made him feel so relaxed. So… at home.


The lights flashed back on. Albert jerked awake. The words '10 minutes break' were projected on the screen in front of them. "Lovely film, isn't it?" Margaret said joyfully. "Euuh, yes, very nice," Albert said, sitting a little straighter. Luckily, she hadn't noticed him dozing off. "Do you think she will find her wizard?" Margaret asked. "I hope so. You know how I love my happy endings." She sighed. "Don't you think it's horrible being away from your family like that? Thinking that they would forget about you?" Albert didn't answer. Yes, it was horrible. The most horrible thing he could think of. A flash of pain crossed his face. "Albert?" Margaret was looking at him. "Are you okay?" "Oh! Yes, yes, you know me. Head in the clouds," Albert said hastily. Waving his hands around, trying to fabricate the best smile he could muster. "I'm just gonna go to the-" He was suddenly interrupted by a loud squeak from Margaret. "Oh, look at this little dog". She wasn't looking at him anymore. Her eyes were fixed on a little black dog a couple of rows down. The dog was wagging his tail in excitement, pulling on his leash. Albert smiled. The dog was pulling so vigorously that the man holding the leash almost lost his balance and let go. The dog, sensing his renewed freedom, bolted towards Margaret and Albert. He jumped up and down next to Margaret licking her legs. "Oooh, oooh," Margaret giggled while she sat upright stretching her hands out to pet the dog. "Hello beautiful, what's your name?" The dog kept jumping and licking her. Meanwhile, the owner had scrambled to his feet and followed in pursuit. "So sorry about that," he said. "Toto gets a little excited from time to time." He crouched down to pick up the fallen leash. "Oh, don't worry about that young man, I love dogs." Margaret smiled. "I always wanted one myself, you know." Judging by the look on the man's face and his slightly graying hair, the term 'young man' had come somewhat as a surprise to him. He smiled. Little wrinkles formed around his eyes. "And he's named Toto, you said?" Margaret continued. "Like the dog from the film?" "Yes," the man said. "He was my mother's. She loved anything Oz: the books, the movies... and of course, the dog." "How wonderful!" Margaret exclaimed. "If you want, he can stay with you for the next part of the movie," the man said smiling. "We kind of smuggled him in here, you see. But being quiet isn't his strong suit. He seems okay with you, though." Toto had laid down his head at Margaret's feet." "Oh, how lovely!" She was almost bursting with excitement. "I mean-" She glanced over at Albert. He smiled reassuring her. "-As long as your daughter and wife don't mind." The man smiled, looking at his family. "They won't mind," he said. Albert looked at the woman and the teenage girl. The girl was grinning. "Did you hear that? You can stay with me for now, little doggy," said Margaret. She smiled from ear to ear, scratching Toto on his belly. The dog licked her hand approvingly. Margaret looked back up at the man. "Thank you so much," she said. "You have a very kind heart." Albert reached out his hand to the man. "Thank you, son. It means a lot to her." The man shook his hand. "My pleasure." "If you would excuse me now, I have to use the restroom." Albert glanced at Margaret. "And you stay here." He smiled at her. "Oh, I don't think that will be a problem now." She smiled.


When Albert returned, the movie had already started again. In the dark, it took him a while to reach his seat and he almost fell twice. Not the time to break your hip now, is it? Albert thought. When he reached Margaret, she was looking at the screen as if transfixed. He could hear light snoring coming from her side. Toto. Albert smiled. He put his hand on Margret's shoulder. She jumped. "Who is it?" She asked in surprise. Albert's heart stopped. "It's me, Albert," he said concerned. "I just came back from the restroom."


"Oh Albert, don't startle me like that! It was just such a thrilling scene," Margaret said with a sigh. "I'm sorry darling," Albert said. "I didn't mean to scare you." His heart still racing when he sat. "I've got you some Junior Mints if you like. You know, to settle your nerves." Margaret smiled. "My favorites!" she exclaimed. "How did you know?" "You know me Marge-" Albert said "-I'm a wizard!" She giggled and slapped him on the shoulder. "Don't tease me like that!" Albert could hear the joy in her voice. "I would never" He grinned.


They both slumped back in their chairs. Their fingers intertwined and Albert pulled her closer to kiss her on her forehead. "I love you, Marge." "I love you too Albert." The movie continued to flash before them. Albert wouldn't have minded two extra hours of film. More even. But all good movies come to an end. He knew that. The credits were rolling across the screen as the lights came back on. He stared at Margaret. Tears were rolling over her cheeks. "It was just so beautiful," she said. "All of it. Thank you, Albert." "Nothing but the best for my birthday girl" Albert replied. Tears were forming in his eyes too. He wiped them away with the sleeve of his jacket before anyone could see them. The other people were already leaving the auditorium. They all smiled at him and Margaret. The lady in the pantsuit even waved at them, mouthing 'bye dad' as she left through the door. Albert laughed. "Time to go home Margaret," he said smiling. It was a good smile.


At the bottom of the stairs, Lenny was waiting for them. Albert gave him the rest of their Junior Mints and thanked him. "See you next year, Albert." "See you next year, Lenny"

May 28, 2022 00:20

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3 comments

Murray Burns
19:02 Jun 02, 2022

Well done. You expressed Albert's feelings for Margaret quite well. I enjoyed reading it.

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19:10 May 30, 2022

Great story, you took something really sad and made it into something beautiful.

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Lien Ruysschaert
06:40 May 31, 2022

Thank you for your kind words! I was a bit nervous to post a story here but I'm happy I took this leap of faith.

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