*It’s Valentine’s Day; why not write a romantic short story?
*I imagine this being told from a male perspective, but you can imagine whatever you want.
I’m twenty-five with a full life to live. I spent the last year and a half traveling the world; I went anywhere and everywhere you could possibly imagine, except Antarctica of course. I was ready to share adventures from my travels with my family upon my return, but the only thing they cared about is if I brought back a girl with me. When I told them “no,” they nagged me about settling down. Again, I’m twenty-five with a full life to live.
My parents got married the moment my mom turned eighteen. Literally; her birthday is also her wedding anniversary. My dad said he knew my mom was the one for him when she was ten, even though he was fourteen at the time. I guess she was a mature ten-year-old? My older brother has me beat by three years but already has a wife, three kids, and the gray hairs of a stressed out, overworked family man. I’m the only one left, and the pressure’s on. The pressure being my family, and it’s quite annoying.
My brother Jacy (combination of our parents, Jack and Tracy) is always talking about how his wife Ruth is “his person” and says I need to find “my person.” I didn’t know what it meant to be someone’s person, so as any millennial would, I googled it. Up came an article by Thought Catalog. Being the first one, of course, I read it — well, I read what was in bold. It said that being someone’s person meant that
Based on these standards, I figured I’d never find my person.
My brother and I decided to go to a local Italian restaurant called Fettuccine’s (where they serve various kinds of fettuccine) after our great-grandmother’s funeral. Considering we’d only seen her once in our lives, we aren’t too torn up over her passing.
Anyway, we walk in wearing our party hats and all black suits; nothing out of the ordinary. Our host sits us at a table right next to the window so we can watch the dreary weather outside. Seems appropriate for the occasion. Pretty soon, I find myself getting lost in the pitter patter of the raindrops, contemplating what life would have been like if I actually knew my great-grandmother. Next thing I know, Jacy is hitting my hand repeatedly with the salt shaker. I look down and see a red circle forming on my skin.
“What do you want?” I aggressively ask when my head snaps in his direction. Jacy doesn’t seem the least bit bothered.
“Order. Our waitress has been trying to get your attention for the past couple of minutes,” is his response.
When I turn to the waitress to say my order, I’m rendered speechless. I have never seen anyone more beautiful in my entire life. She has wavy brown hair cut in a short bob with long bangs. She is incredibly thin, almost model-like, with the cutest little nose I’ve ever seen. What got me most were her eyes. One eye is completely hazel; that’s a fact. The other eye looks to be hazel, but there also seems to be a little green in there. That’s just the beginning when it comes to her beauty. Every single thing about her takes my breath away.
“Are you going to order, or are you going to keep looking at her like she’s the meal?” Jacy says across the table.
I clear my throat. “Right. I’ll just have the Classic Fettuccine with water. No lemon.”
“Alright. Gotcha,” she says in a happy, but not overly cheerful, disposition as she jots down my order; she’s a lefty. “Are we celebrating a birthday today?” She leans in closer; she smells like the best peaches to ever exist. Peaches, really? “Please say no because I really don’t want to sing that stupid song.”
“Nah. We were just at a funeral,” Jacy answers after looking at me for a few moments for a response. Apparently, I forgot how to speak.
“If you were just at a funeral, why are you wearing sparkly party hats?”
“That’s the way our great-grandmother wanted it,” I am finally able to reply. Our waitress, whose name tag says “Arie,” eyes me up for a second before giving us a smile and responding with, “She sounds really cool. Well, I’ll get your order right out to you. Thanks guys.” Then she’s gone.
Arie never comes back. When another waiter brings our food, I ask about her, and he says her shift was over before our food was ready. As everyone does when it’s time to clock out, she left. As any sensible person does when seeing an incredible beauty, I return to Fettuccine’s the next day to seek Arie out. I know she’s there as soon as I walk in. I can feel it; she has such an intense gravitational pull about her, but I guess I’m the only one who feels it? I don’t know. It’s weird, but I know I have to find her. The only problem is I can’t find her short brown hair. “How many?” the same host from yesterday asks me when he returns to his stand. “Ret” his name tag reads.
“I’m not here to eat. I was wondering if Arie was working today?” I ask. No point in beating around the bush.
“Yeah. Let me go get her.”
Five long minutes later, the host appears with Arie, but she doesn’t look the same. Her hair is pin straight and pitch black, and there are no bangs. No wonder I couldn’t find her.
“Party hat funeral guy,” she says with a giant, radiant smile when she sees me. It makes me feel good inside; I can’t help but smile too. “What can I do for you?”
“Can we sit and talk for a minute?” I ask, swallowing the nervousness that tries to make itself present.
“Sure. Let me grab a drink first. Do you want anything?” Arie smiles again, and words temporarily go extinct. I do want a drink, but since my voice forbade me from speaking, I’m not able to tell her.
The second I sit down, Arie appears at the table Jacy and I sat at yesterday with a bottle of root beer in hand. “I never got your name yesterday,” is the first thing Arie says.
“It’s Davy,” I say. I’m not able to hold the nervousness down this time as I speak with a shaky voice. I can’t believe she actually agreed to talk with me; I’m essentially a stranger to her.
“Well, Davy, what can I do for you? Were you unsatisfied with your service yesterday?” She sounds genuinely concerned.
My eyes widen. “Absolutely not. I just… there was something about you that made me want to come back today. I don’t know what it is. I guess… I just… I was wondering if maybe you wanted to hang out some time? There’s a really cool art installation around the corner we could check out whenever you’d like.”
“Hang out as in a date? I don’t date people I hardly know, not even if they’re as attractive as you are.” She crosses her arms. Good to know. Wait, she thinks I’m attractive?
I cleared my throat to swallow the nerves. “No. You just seem really cool, and I thought it’d be fun to hang out.” Unfortunately, that is the best answer I could give. I sound like a scared middle school kid asking a high school girl to homecoming.
She takes a couple of minutes to think, and they are the most excruciating two minutes of my life. “Sure. I can tomorrow night after work. How about 7? I can even sneak you some of the Classic Fettuccine you ordered.” She says the last bit with a cheeky grin, and I immediately smile. It’s quickly becoming a natural habit to smile at her whenever she smiles.
“That sounds perfect.”
“Great.” She stares at the table for a second, seemingly lost in thought. “But you’re going to see me at my natural state? Are you sure you still want to hang out? A lot of people don’t like me at my natural state.”
I lean forward with intrigue. “Well, what’s your natural state?”
Arie looks around for a bit before she starts playing with the back of her hair. Less than a minute passes before she takes her black hair off. It’s a wig; I should’ve known. “Are you sick?” I don’t know how to sugarcoat the subject; my parents didn’t teach me the art of sugarcoating.
Arie simply smiles at my straightforwardness. “I was,” she replies, “I was diagnosed with cancer three years ago; don’t ask what kind. I’m currently in complete remission. My hair tries to grow back, but I keep it shaved. It’s kind of a reminder of my journey and the journey many other people have to go on, sometimes by themselves. I keep my head shaved for them, but I have to keep a wig on while I’m working.” She takes a deep breath. “One day I was serving a family that had a toddler, and he screamed every time he saw me– like he saw a monster. It didn’t offend me, but my boss said I had to start wearing wigs to prevent ‘those kinds of disruptions.'” I am in complete awe by Arie, and this is the only thing I know about her. I can’t believe she is this open with me without knowing anything about me. I move to her side of the table and give her a hug; this is the only way I know how to respond. To my amazement, she lets me hug her. In fact, she hugs me back. “Don’t think this is like The Fault in our Stars. It’s not.”
“I know,” I say as I kiss her shaved head. She lets out a quiet gasp. “Because I’m never letting you go, and I’m not going anywhere.”
The gravitational pull I felt when I first entered Fettuccine’s was just the beginning. After a month of hanging out, Arie and I went on our first official date. I didn’t do anything big since Arie’s not that kind of girl, so we just went to a drive-in movie and conquered three large pizzas together. She said it was perfect. Before I know it, six months of dating have passed, and I’m on cloud nine; the gravitational pull hasn’t gone anywhere. During those six months, she never let her hair grow back like she said, and I wouldn’t want her any other way. I know so much about the beautiful fireball that is Arie, and I want to know so much more. She let me into her world and told me things she’s never told anyone, like how her parents went away on a business trip but never came back (police found their bodies chopped up in a ditch eight days after Arie called them). Arie is letting me get so close to her, and I’m letting her get close to me; I’ve never let anyone get close to me, not even my family. I’ve never been in a relationship quite like this; I am completely smitten.
Because I’m so smitten, I decided to introduce Arie to my family. As soon as I introduce her to everyone, the women in the room take Arie into a second room. All I can hear is Arie fawning over different statues in my mom’s dining room and Ruth hounding her about details of our relationship; Arie is handling it so well. Then Jacy comes up to where I’m still standing by the front door, smiling like an idiot, and says, “Looks like you’ve found your person.” His words turned on an imaginary lightbulb– Arie met the standards of everything the Thought Catalog article talked about:
After the get-together, I decided to tell Arie all about the article, which I have saved on my phone’s home screen; I should probably delete it. I also tell her about how she matches everything on the list. Big mistake.
“Did you just indirectly say you’ve been in love with me?” she asks with disbelief while we sit on her couch. We were cuddled up with her being the little spoon and me being the big spoon, the way I like it, but as I told her about the article, she moved further away. Now we’re sitting on opposite ends of the couch; she’s staring at the TV with an emotionless expression, and I’m staring at her with worry.
“Uhh. Yeah.” I don’t know how to respond. I don’t know where this conversation is going. Will you calm down?
She slowly turns to look at me with a pale, tear-stained face. This isn’t angry or sad Arie; this is hurt, disappointed Arie. I hate this Arie. “You love me because I match some signs in an article you read?” she asks. The hurt is evident in her voice, and I desperately want to make it go away.
“As soon as I saw you standing at my table that fateful day at Fettuccine’s, I knew you were it for me. I guess I just used what the article said as validation.”
Arie turns back to the TV again with a blank expression and stares. Fortunately, she regains her color, which is a good sign. I remove myself from the couch and kneel in front of her. She doesn’t look away when I wrap her hands in mine. “I should’ve ignored that stupid article,” I say, “you’re my person, Arie. I don’t need some online article to tell me that. I love you more than you’ll ever know. Please don’t let my idiocy break us apart.”
Arie deeply stares in my eyes for what feels like forever before whispering, “I love you too.”