Contest #167 shortlist ⭐️

23 comments

Fiction Funny

Beep beep beep. The alarm clock on your bedside table goes off, and your hand shoots out from beneath your mountain of comforters and pillows to smack it into silence. You shoot up in bed, already smiling, and the day begins.

Katy Perry’s “Eye of the Tiger” plays as you roll your morning montage. The steps are always the same: hot shower (don’t forget to shampoo your hair into a tall spike and laugh in that carefree way you do), brush teeth and write your morning affirmations in the steam on the mirror (follow it with a kiss that leaves a perfectly lip-shaped outline), spend too much time on makeup and on picking the outfit that says sexy, but serious, and lastly, realize you’re running late and adorably grab a single apple from the counter as you rush out the door.

The sky is blue and clear. It’s one of those days in which you can’t help but raise your face to the sky, breathe in the fumes, and proclaim, “I love you, New York!” Everyone who walks around you like water flowing around a boulder thinks that you are gorgeously inspired. Someone bumps you roughly - an accident, to be sure. People as charming as you do not get jostled. You walk down the sidewalk to the subway, aware of the way you are turning heads as you hustle (but not hard enough to break a sweat) to make the train. People love a protagonist. The song is now “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles. 

You make it to the train just in time, the doors closing just as you squeeze your way through them. Don’t you just love being lucky in New York City? You lean your head back against the seat behind you and let out a wry chuckle. Some women have it all, but you? You know you have something better. You have good fortune and a healthy dose of spunk. You use the train ride to check your social media feeds. Your photo of last night’s solo salmon dinner next to the book you’re currently carrying around to pretend to read in public places, captioned “Just a single girl learning to cook for one, #issalmonanaphrodesiac” is raking in the likes, just as you knew it would. You’re practically an influencer at this point, but that’s not why you do it, not at all. You post in order to give the world the gift of your insight, your unique wit, your fresh take. You regard your two thousand followers with humble (and adorable) gratitude. You even reply to the comments occasionally. Well done, you. They don’t need to know that you have spent over one hundred dollars of much-needed rent money purchasing followers from websites that claim to boost your rise to Insta-stardom.

You are still scrolling as the subway arrives at your destination and you make for the doors. That’s why you don’t see your Meet Cute until you collide with his chest. You expertly drop your bag as you fall (clumsily, perfectly, just as rehearsed) into the arms of….him. Whoever he is. You can’t make him out at first because of all the pieces of paper floating down around you (you always keep your work bag full of important-looking documents for moments like these; they create romantic suspense). The music changes again, now soft and instrumental so you can be heard apologizing. The last paper falls to reveal a very, very handsome man. You stop mid-apology (again, just as practiced) as you meet his green eyes, lensed behind small glasses. You think he looks like a studious Matthew McConaughy. He delicately disentangles himself from you, and you clock tanned forearms with sleeves rolled up to the elbows. 

“I’m so sorry,” you say breathlessly again. “I don’t know what happened there.”

“You were on your phone and you ran into me. That’s what happened.” His voice is low, sexy. He looks down at you in what most people would call annoyance, but you know is intrigue. You intrigue him.

You laugh lightly, touching your flushed cheeks. “Well, sorry, again. Of course this happens when I’m already running late, right?” You shoot him a look that says, It’s just us against this crazy old world, huh? He is looking over your shoulder at the train doors. “I’m Claire,” you say, extending your perfectly manicured hand. He doesn’t take it.

“I am also late,” he says, making to step around you. You deploy the Paper Plan, sighing sadly as you bend down to start scooping up the meaningless papers around you. The man looks down at you, back at the train, and then jogs lightly to grab a couple of the papers swirling around in the air from the subway station. He hands them to you, and you take them, brushing his hand as you do.

“Thank you so much,” you beam up at him. He is so, so tall. “I don’t know what I would have done if I lost these, I have a meeting in less than an hour.”

“No problem,” he says, sidestepping. Is he nervous? It’s so cute when they’re too nervous to stay and talk. “I don’t want to miss the train. Excuse me.”

“Thanks again!” you shout at his broad back as it retreats into the subway carriage. 

He turns to look back at you, and you know that this is the moment that he will hop back off the train, stride confidently up to you, and ask you if you maybe wanted to grab a coffee sometime, to which you’ll respond, “How about now?” even though you are actually quite late for work at this point. Instead, he gives you a look that you aren’t quite sure how to decipher. Not frustration, definitely not that. Attraction, probably. The instrumental music builds.

“You know all your papers are blank, right?” he says as the train doors shut between you.

….

You spend the whole day thinking about your mystery Meet Cute. The side characters at your office work around you, sped-up fast motion to your slow-mo, and you spend the day in a haze of newfound love. The montage of your day continues. Filing, faxing, lunch at the deli around the corner where they are definitely starting to recognize you as a regular, you’re sure of it. 

The guy at the train station is perfect, and you’re already thinking of how to orchestrate another cinematic run-in. You decide you need backup for this plan and text your Gay Best Friend, Natalia, to see if she’ll grab a drink with you after work. She agrees.

You meet Natalia at a dive bar that you found in college. The song is “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. You walk in, and your friend is sitting at a booth in the corner. You approach her and tell her you want to sit at the bar; your outfit and makeup are too cute to be hidden away in some booth. What if the guy from the subway was to walk in? He probably would, after all - it was just your luck. Plus, he had never even told you his name, so you would need at least one more run-in with him before the whole thing could really get going like it was supposed to.

You order a gin and tonic and immediately dive into the story about the man at the subway. Natalia sips her beer. She is such a great listener; that’s why she’s your best friend. Well, no actually, she’s your Gay Best Friend. Your Actual Best Friend is Kayla, who wears the same dress and shoe size as you, but Kayla doesn’t give boy advice like Natalia, which is ironic because Natalia doesn’t even date men.

“So yeah, it turns out this guy is actually gorgeous, like GOR. GEOUS. And he helped me pick up my papers, and when he looked in my eyes…it was like being struck by lightning. Like, magical. Natalia, I think he might actually be something special.”

“Did you get his number?” Natalia asks.

“Well, no,” you reply. “He was in a rush and had to get on the train, but then he turned back to me and we had this moment. Like I swear to god, he was about to jump back through the doors and come back and just, like, kiss me, but the doors closed and it was too late.”

Natalia sighs.

“But I know we’ll run into each other again because, well, we have to, right? It was just so perfect. The stars aligned so that we could meet each other! It’s fate! So, now I’m thinking all I have to do is make sure I’m at that station at the same time every morning, because clearly that’s his station, right? And then, we’ll get to meet by chance again, and then, I’ll get his phone number. And his name.”

You get lost in the fantasy. First, he sees you again from across the platform and races to get to you, so strong is the force of attraction. He tells you that he couldn’t stop thinking about you, the girl with the papers, that he knows it sounds crazy but he might be falling for you. He kisses you as a train rushes into the station, blowing your hair back in the wind, and it is electric. The kiss is followed by several very cute dates in quick succession, like picnics in the park in which you both get swept away by the whimsy of it all and end up splashing barefoot in the fountain, laughing the whole time. The dates lead to renting a studio apartment together, one that you both jokingly say is the size of a shoebox but somehow fits all your things and all of his things and all the things somehow match to create a perfectly quirky and eclectic little home. Soon enough, you’re getting engaged on a romantic getaway to Paris, getting married in your parents’ church, moving to a sleek apartment in Manhattan, popping out little ones like a Pez dispenser. It all looks so perfect.

“Can I ask you something?” Natalia says, breaking your reverie. You say yes. “Why do you do this to yourself?”

“What do you mean?” you ask, taken aback.

“I mean, why do you get so wrapped up in every chance encounter you have with literally any remotely cute guy? The city is full of guys. I feel like you’ve talked about each and every one of them like they’re your soulmate, even though you only meet them for like, five seconds.”

“Well you never really know, Natalia. Love is all around us, after all.” You sit back, finish your drink, and wonder at what could possibly be bringing up this line of questioning. Natalia always loves your stories, why else would she listen to them all? 

Maybe she’s falling in love with me, you think in equal parts annoyance and glee. Why does this always happen to me?

“Don’t take this the wrong way, Claire,” Natalia continues. “But this whole boy-crazy, star-of-the-romcom thing you do is getting a little old. You’re almost thirty, and you never ask me about my love life, but every guy you meet could fill a textbook. Plus, you never want to talk about what’s actually going on in the world. Like, you thought BLM was a new type of butt surgery. You know there’s a war going on in Ukraine, right?”

“Natalia, I don’t read the news on principle. And I would ask you about your love life if there was anything to ask about.”

Natalia finishes her beer in silence. You pay the bill, and then pick up your purse to leave. “I’ve got to run, early morning tomorrow. I’ll text you if I see him at the subway! Don’t lose faith Nat, there’s someone out there for you.” You air kiss Natalia on either cheek, careful not to actually kiss her and give her the wrong idea. You saunter out past all the regulars (most of them are secretly in love with you) and onto the street. The cool night air calls for another moment of head-tipped-back, New York City-fueled bliss. You have a good feeling about tomorrow. As you walk home, the whole of the city wrapped around your little finger, the song playing is Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe”.

October 11, 2022 20:48

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23 comments

Tommy Goround
07:46 Oct 22, 2022

Yummy. Just yummy. Reminds me of the imaginary friend that accidentally got pregnant when I was 30. Good times. Congratulations. Glad you won because missed seeing this earlier. Just a happy and joyous read. Thank you. Clapping several times.

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Bestie Slay
05:28 Nov 02, 2022

I really like this story because the main character (Claire) is an It-Girl and I love It-Girls because they are always so confident and pretty. I also really liked this story because it's kind of relatable. I talk to my friends about boys and have a funny morning routine just like Claire does. Finally, I like how the funny bits in the story really put it together like when Claire thought BLM (Black Lives Matter) was a butt surgery. Keep writing I would love to read more stories like this one!

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Amanda Lieser
15:53 Oct 29, 2022

Hey Beth! This piece was brilliant. I love how you played up all of the best tropes and gave us a solid soundtrack to play alongside the story. I think that restaurant scene at the end is my favorite, though. Because that scene in itself is a trope: the let’s call the MC on the BS moment but she never changes because she’s the MC. NICE JOB AND CONGRATULATIONS!

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Kevin Broccoli
16:30 Oct 25, 2022

I thought it would be so hard to do this as a short story but you nailed it. I really enjoyed getting to read something funny and fresh. Well done.

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Jim Firth
07:06 Oct 25, 2022

This was SO on point with all the rom-com tropes. It had me laughing out loud particularly in these parts: “You know all your papers are blank, right?” 'Popping out little ones like a Pez dispenser' (that whole imagined life/fantasy paragraph was great.) Also, mad props for writing a seamless story in 2nd person :) A joy to read.

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Anne Marie Miles
05:28 Oct 24, 2022

You are funny! When I saw this prompt I wasn't sure how to approach it but, wow, thanks for making me realize I just needed to write about myself 😂😂😂 [(half) kidding] "hot shower (don’t forget to shampoo your hair into a tall spike and laugh in that carefree way you do), brush teeth and write your morning affirmations in the steam on the mirror" - LOL! "You shoot him a look that says, It’s just us against this crazy old world, huh?" - omg yes! Followed by the blank papers comment = gold! And of course....assuming her gay best friend i...

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Philip Ebuluofor
10:59 Oct 23, 2022

Congrats.

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Sonia Walcott
18:25 Oct 22, 2022

Hello everyone, my name is Sonia from Los Angeles, California, I tried getting a car loan sometime last year but my credit score of about 521 ruined the process. Since I was in desperate need of a car due to the nature of my new job, I resorted to making online research on how I could restore my credit to a minimum of 650 to enable me to qualify, after a few months of searching, I bumped into a blog and found positive reviews about HACK VANISH CREDIT SPECIALIST, So I reached out to them to explain my credit situation, they requested my info ...

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Sonia Walcott
18:25 Oct 22, 2022

Hello everyone, my name is Sonia from Los Angeles, California, I tried getting a car loan sometime last year but my credit score of about 521 ruined the process. Since I was in desperate need of a car due to the nature of my new job, I resorted to making online research on how I could restore my credit to a minimum of 650 to enable me to qualify, after a few months of searching, I bumped into a blog and found positive reviews about HACK VANISH CREDIT SPECIALIST, So I reached out to them to explain my credit situation, they requested my info ...

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Rama Shaar
04:51 Oct 22, 2022

Great story! She's trying to be happy but not investing in the right places. We can all be guilty of that. Very well captured!

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Sumiko Courtney
19:58 Oct 21, 2022

I loved this. So tongue in cheek and perfectly capturing the rom-com genre. I see Cameron Diaz as the star. I especially liked these lines: "adorably grab a single apple" 'raise your face to the sky, breathe in the fumes, and proclaim, “I love you, New York!”' "the size of a shoebox but somehow fits all your things and all of his things and all the things somehow match to create a perfectly quirky and eclectic little home"

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Tommy Goround
07:50 Oct 22, 2022

Diaz...hmmm...I was seeing McCarthy. Highest paid actress in Hollywood, last check. She's even a fashion designer. Too old? Ok...Diaz has me spooked because she talked about "organic wine" with another actress for an hour (YouTube random pop up). Yeah..we make millions of gallons in Lodi that is organic, real cow poop fertilizer and everything. Ok...someone not doing that.... Ummm.. Agreed. This should be a movie.

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Bestie Slay
05:35 Nov 02, 2022

If you are talking about Melissa McCarthy, then definitely a YES! She's the whole reason I watched Gilmore Girls!

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Sue Hunter
16:05 Oct 21, 2022

I definitely felt like the main character felt like she was some kind of gift sent from above. It was like she had read a bunch of Mary Sue type stories and then thought, 'Hey, that's me!' Overall this was a very fun story to read, and I definitely know a few people who have this same outlook on life :)

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Beth Elliott
17:12 Oct 21, 2022

Thanks for your insightful comment Sue :)

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Marty B
05:59 Oct 20, 2022

Good song choices! Claire is the living embodiment of 'when ignorance is bliss, and all that-

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Beth Elliott
16:29 Oct 20, 2022

Thanks Marty! Definitely tried to tap into that sentiment for the character :)

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Kristin Johnson
21:39 Oct 19, 2022

It's hard not to like this character even though she could do a little better in the listening department...and the news is depressing, which is why people turn to rom-coms (or House of the Dragon or sports or whatever your diversion is).

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Beth Elliott
16:30 Oct 20, 2022

Totally agree! I think we all have a little of the character's naivete inside.

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Jennifer Cameron
14:41 Oct 18, 2022

I loved this story! This was definitely a hard prompt but the way you wrote this was amazing, it was a nice easy read and very fun.

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Beth Elliott
16:36 Oct 18, 2022

Thank you Jennifer!

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Thom Brodkin
14:09 Oct 16, 2022

I love how you truly embraced the prompt. It seemed like one to avoid but you nailed it. You have a talent for description. You pick out the things that move your story along without getting bogged down in details. Really great writing. Congrats on getting recommended.

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Beth Elliott
13:48 Oct 17, 2022

Thanks for your comment!! This was a challenge, which is why I picked it :)

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