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Romance Fiction

6:50 PM. “I can’t wear this,” I mutter out loud to the dust bunnies floating in the air as my reflection stares back at me. My fingers fumble with the buttons of the light green collared shirt. I slide it off my shoulders and toss it on the floor into the pile of other garments that already failed inspection this afternoon. It’s the fourth outfit I’ve tried on so far, and I’m running out of time. 

But tonight has to be perfect. 

I rifle through my closet one more time and finally settle on my black Radiohead t-shirt and a pair of faded jeans. Old reliable. This will have to do. Mom always says it’s better to be yourself anyway. I slide my phone off the dresser and check the screen before sliding it into my back pocket.

7:15. Forty-five minutes. It’s only a twenty minute drive to the foot of Glassy Mountain, so I’m technically still ahead of schedule, but getting through the city can be tricky this time of day. Best to leave a little early just in case. Taking one last look at the guy in the mirror, I blow all the air out of my lungs, run a hand through my hair, and hustle downstairs. 

That’s what you’re wearing, bro?” asks Michael, my roommate, as he glances up from his video game on the couch. I don’t comment on the open bag of Cheetos splayed across his chest.

“It’s laundry day,” I lie. 

Michael huffs a laugh, returning his attention to the screen where his avatar is running in little circles around a box. “I’m just messing,” he says. “You look good, man.”

I don’t reply, letting the sound of me scooping my car keys up from the kitchen table be enough of a response. 

“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” he calls over his shoulder as I close the front door behind me. Despite myself, a smile curls the corners of my mouth.

7:25. I spy the blue tint of my 1998 Camry as I scan the parking lot of the apartment complex. It’s chilly, and clouds hang heavy in the air. I hope that they clear before too long.

Sliding the key into the ignition, I turn the switch over – 

click! click! click! click!

“You’re shitting me,” I growl. I turn the switch and try again, but am met with the same empty clicking sounds. Again. Again. 

Dead battery.

I sprint back inside the apartment, and Michael peers up from his game again. “Back already?” he asks dryly, his thumbs pushing frantically on the controller.

“My car battery’s dead,” I reply. “Can I borrow your truck tonight?”

Michael laughs. “Truck’s in the shop until tomorrow.” He pauses the game and swivels his body around to face me as I groan. “You can take my bike if you want, though.”

7:30. I’m out of options and running out of time. “Thanks, man, I owe you one!” 

“Bike’s in my room. You can grab it.” 

So I do. I decide to ignore the heaps of empty water bottles and food wrappers that practically fall out of the bedroom when I open the door, but tuck that observation away for later. Wheeling my trusty steed for the evening down the hall, I make my exit once more. 

7:35. Before I get moving, I shoot Olivia a text. On my way, will be a little late. Car trouble. So sorry! I don’t wait for a text back before I jump onto the rusting red bike and start pedaling. Maybe the bike is a blessing in disguise. I can probably speed past a lot of the inner city traffic. I try very, very hard not to think of how horrible these jeans are for my current mode of transportation and instead think about my date. I’m pretty sure I’ve been in love with Olivia since freshman year of college. We’re both juniors now. She’s the secretary of the Astronomy Club at Huntingdon, which I joined solely because it meant I could spend time around Olivia. 

Let me be clear, I do not give a single shit about astronomy. To be honest, I’m glad I did some research before my first club meeting, because I had been very surprised to learn that astronomy is not, in fact, about libras and capricorns.

Tonight’s the peak of the Taurid meteor shower, and I finally worked up the nerve to ask Olivia out earlier this week. So, ignoring my chafing skin, I imagine Olivia and I lying on a blanket in a field, her hand clasped in mine, gazing at the stars and each other's eyes as we fall in love tonight. 

7:55. I’m not sure, but I’m probably about halfway there. It’s dark out, so I switch on the lamp attached to the handlebars. Something cold lands on my arm and I glance down, praying it isn’t bird crap. Oh, thank God it’s not, it’s just –

Rain

Drip. Drop. Drip. Drip. Drip. 

I let out a cry of frustration and pedal faster, my already burning legs groaning in protest. The raindrops begin falling much more frequently, until I am being pelted by the water. To be honest, I’m not sure if I’m more angry that I’m getting soaked or that the rain might ruin our chance to watch the meteor shower. I shake my head, reminding myself that I have to actually get there first.

8:00. I’m supposed to be with Olivia right now. I hop the bike up onto the sidewalk, empty of pedestrians, and speed past the stopped traffic in the road. I’m almost to the outer edge of the downtown area, and it will be smooth sailing from there. My clothes cling to my body now, soaked and dripping. I’ll figure that out when I reach my destination. One more block and I’ll be out of the city.

I’m nearing the city limits and I can see the line of cars has grown much thinner out here. I’m blinking rain out of my eyes as I pedal when the front tire knicks something that I can’t see. I am suddenly jolted off Michael’s bike. I land a few feet away, my body colliding with the solid pavement and sliding. My skin burns white-hot as it scrapes across cement. I don’t have time for this! I lie on the sidewalk just long enough to gather air back into my lungs, ensure there are no hanging limbs, and feel around to find my phone. 

I find the phone next to Michael’s bike. It’s lying in a puddle. “Shit,” I gasp, ignoring the burn of my scraped elbows and scrambling to pick it up. The screen is black. “Shit! Shit! Shit!”

What time is it? Did Olivia even see my message earlier? Would she actually wait for me? There’s no time or way to find out, so I hoist the bike back to a standing position and throw myself back onto the seat. There’s an awful squeaking sound when I pedal now, but I’ll have to deal with that later. I can’t blow what’s probably my only shot at this.

Probaby 8:15ish? There’s no way I’m not at least fifteen minutes late. There’s a good chance Olivia has gone home now, especially with the rain. I wish I could check the forecast on my phone – I wish I had checked earlier, too. I wish I could text Olivia and ask her to wait for me for just a little longer.

I’m outside the city now, and extremely thankful with the scarcity of street lights that Michael’s bike lamp wasn’t damaged. It’s the only regular source of light between the city and the park, although it’s not really illuminating much other than the sheets of rain.

Definitely at least 8:30. Who knows. Probably ‘Half-Past Olivia Ditched Me O’Clock. Truthfully, I won’t blame her if she has given up and gone home. This night has gone to crap before it’s had a chance to begin. But, I can see fluorescent lights peeking through the darkness and know that I’m nearing the park. My fingers have become very wrinkly and prunish, and I feel like I’ve been soaked straight through to the bone. It is an effort to keep my teeth from chattering.

I wheel into the lot just as a vehicle is pulling out. It screeches to a stop, kicking up a puddle which flies directly into my face. I’m wiping dirt and water and grass from my eyes as the window rolls down. I’m just about to start cursing when a sweet, familiar voice calls out from the car.

“Connor?” the voice calls, its tone pure shock.

Olivia.

Despite the weather, my phone, my dead car battery, and my burning skin, I smile. I’m positive I look like a wet dog. But I smile. “Hey, Olivia. Sorry I’m late.” I wince at the sound of my own teeth chattering as I say the words.

She makes a frantic waving motion with her hand. “Get in! You’re going to catch pneumonia out there!” 

I want to protest, to show her that I’m tough and strong and not at all ready to disappear from the planet for good, but I’m none of those things. So I shuffle in front of the hood of the vehicle and leap inside. 

I don’t look at Olivia as she blasts the heat and turns the vents toward me. “Alright,” she says. “You look like you’ve got about ten stories to tell. What the heck happened to you tonight?”

“If I said ‘bear attack,’ would you believe me?”

“Not a chance.”

With a small chuckle and a sigh, I launch into my recount of the evening’s events. The entire time I’m explaining, I stare out the windshield at the patterns the rain forms on the glass.

When I finish, the car is utterly silent. The only sounds are the pitter patter of raindrops, the roar of the heat flowing out of the vents, and the occasional whisper of the windshield wipers.

After what feels like an eternity of silence, I finally steal a glance toward the driver’s seat. 

Olivia’s just staring at me. 

I gaze downward again. Of course she’s disgusted. I don’t even have a working car. I’m clumsy. And, I probably smell. 

“You did all that for me?” Her voice is soft.

I cock my head, confusion knitting my brows. “Well, yeah,” I say like it’s the silliest question anyone’s ever asked me. I realize that I might as well go for it. After tonight I might not get another chance. “I’d honestly do a lot of things if it meant I get to spend time with you.” 

She’s quiet again for a moment. Then she says, “Connor, as weird as it is to have you soaked and freezing and a little bit bloody in my car, this might be the sweetest thing anyone’s ever done for me.” She leans over, and I swear heat warms my whole body when she kisses my cheek. 

Yeah, I’d definitely do it all over again.

“I’m sorry we didn’t get to watch the meteor shower,” I say. 

She laughs a little. “We probably should have checked the weather tonight, huh?” 

I huff an agreement, a smile tugging at my blue lips. 

“Well,” Olivia says, “throw your bike in the backseat. I’ll give you a ride home. There’s still a few more nights of the Taurids, tonight was just supposed to be a really good view. Maybe we can try again tomorrow?”

“I’d like that,” I reply.

A wise man once said, “Shoot for the moon; even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” I think it was Lance Armstrong – wait, no, that’s the bicycle guy. Neil Armstrong? Spaceship guy. Yeah, probably him. Anyway, that’s not important. What’s important is that I always thought that quote was stupid, ever since I saw it on a poster in my sixth grade science class.

That is, at least, until tonight.

January 13, 2024 03:55

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11 comments

Radek Michalik
19:38 Jan 20, 2024

Great work! Very confident prose. Also... very relatable, haha... Wonderful job working the details in. In that situation, every little delay feels like forever, and you took us right into that headspace. The countdown is a nice touch. (And then taking away the character's awareness of the precise time makes it even more tense)! And great choice for a title. I usually have immense trouble with that. I did wish that Connor ultimately got his comeuppance and learned to appreciate that meteor shower (or some other astronomical event). Maybe o...

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Kailani B.
17:14 Jan 15, 2024

What an adorable story! And I'd feel the same way as Olivia if a guy did all that for me.

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Lindsay D
17:26 Jan 15, 2024

Haha, I agree! I had a couple of different ideas on how to end this story, but I figured poor Connor had been through enough! He deserved to get the girl! Thank you for commenting!

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17:08 Jan 13, 2024

Nice story, cute and very well told, liked the flow to this one. Thank you!

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Lindsay D
19:25 Jan 13, 2024

Thank you!

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Trudy Jas
14:19 Jan 13, 2024

How sweet. Lovely story.

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Lindsay D
19:26 Jan 13, 2024

Thank you for reading! Glad you enjoyed it!

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13:57 Jan 13, 2024

I'm happy he made it in one piece. Nice story! I'm probably showing my age, but (at least in my day) every guy and some girls knew how to jumpstart a dead battery in a few minutes - we all carried jumper cables in our vehicles. Maybe make it a dead fuel pump or something that's not quickly fixed. (IMHO) xi

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Lindsay D
19:27 Jan 13, 2024

Haha, that’s a great point! I was getting a little too close to the submission deadline and got a bit stuck 😅. Thank you for reading and for the feedback!

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Mary Bendickson
06:37 Jan 16, 2024

Such a soppy romantic story! Nicely done. Thanks for liking my 'Too-cute Magic'. Thanks for the follow.

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21:17 Jan 15, 2024

Loved the detailed timeline it kept me engaged and also stressed for him! lol great story!

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