The Organised Author

Falling for Grace—a true story



Falling for Grace—a true story

The cinema’s foyer had nothing cheerful. Worn red and brown carpet, threadbare in spots, covered the floor. Loveseats with holes from cig burns occupied a corner. The sweet smell of marijuana lingered.
Charming.
I twitched my nose, taking in the crowd of hippies cramming the hall. Long hair, rainbow clothes, flowers… as if we were still in the seventies. A unicorn would’ve completed the picture. I inched forward in the queue to buy my ticket. Anne and her boyfriend Mike stood in front of me, arms wrapped around each other.
Anne turned and frowned at me. Her long brown braid swished about her waist. “Jay, you sure about this? You really want to see this film?”
“This isn’t Fast and Furious, you know that,” Mark added, pushing his glasses up his nose.
I sucked in a deep breath, going dizzy from the Maryjane. The poster of the soon-to-begin movie hung on a wall. A train station soaked with rain and a tattered luggage, like one of those suitcases Irish immigrants used to travel with in the US, filled the picture. Nope, it wasn’t F&F. A four and half hours film directed by a Russian guy with a name not even his mother could pronounce was tonight movie. The Endless Travel of Mrs Nobovsky: the title was written in small white letters as if the director felt ashamed of having shot it.
I groaned. But love brought me here, and here I’d stay, and I’m a man of my word.
“Totally sure, guys. I’m staying.” I twirled my wallet and adjusted my blue hoodie. It was brand new, still smelled of the softener Mum used, and matched the colour of my eyes, or at least so my sis had said. I was aiming to impress, and chicks loved blue and men who smelled nice.
Anne shook her head, moving forward. “You’ll get bored. Why did you decide to come, anyway?”
“Grace,” I replied without hesitation. Just saying her name sent my heart into hyper-drive.
“Grace?” Anne scrunched her face in a “she’s out of your league” expression.
Yeah, maybe she was, but I was ready to give it a try. We had talked a few times. She knew my name. That was a start.
“The new girl?” Mike asked.
“Yep.” I closed my eyes for a moment. Her perfectly oval face, auburn hair, and brown eyes materialised in front of me. “She should be here. I heard her talking about coming tonight with her friend on the bus.”
Anne turned around. “You sure? I don’t see her.”
“She’ll be here. I have a good feeling.” I paid for my ticket and held it in my hand. This ticket would be my most valued treasure. When Grace and I were grandparents, we’d remember this night and this movie as the one that brought us together. Grace was my one true love. I knew it. I could feel it. She would be here.
  I sat in one of the stuffy chairs of the theatre. People chatted and drank from plastic bottles as they found their seats. My heart skipped a beat as a girl with a red hat weaved her way through the crowd. But nope. It wasn’t my Grace. My Grace… it sounded perfect. A man with a long auburn ponytail sent my stomach rolling. With a sigh, I slouched back on the chair. Grace would be here.
The lights died down in sync with the chatter. Ambient music drifted out of the speakers, and the screen turned a chaos of yellow, green, and blue. I shifted on the seat, searching around. The light glinting off the screen gave enough illumination to make out a few faces. Grace’s wasn’t among them. I could’ve asked her phone number, but what was the point when I could sense her presence? We were soulmates after all.
The film opened with a woman dressed in a grey coat and sitting in a train. She looked outside. The view was all white and grey stuff. No other person was around. Her sad dark eyes kept looking outside… and kept looking… and looking.
Geez. I rubbed my face. Ten minutes of this stuff and I wanted to leave, but I couldn’t give up at the first obstacle in the path of a happily ever after. That was my plan: Grace would come here, see me, realise what a profound and sensitive guy I am—because only a profound and sensitive guy would watch this, right?—and then she would ask me out.  See the perfection of the plan? I wouldn’t need to strive or stress or get my knickers in a knot, worrying about asking her out. One boring movie and she would do the rest. I was impressed by my cleverness. Yet, as the still unnamed woman in the screen stared out of the window, boredom appeared with a dark cape and a scythe.
“Marvellous photography,” Anne whispered.
“Shush!” Mark chided as if the scene was hard to follow.
I fished out my phone. Guess I could pass the time, and I’d be able to follow the plot. The phone’s screen came back to life, shading blue light on my hands, and the welcome music sang out. Someone patted me on the shoulder.
“Turn that off or go out,” a female voice hissed from behind me.
I turned and faced three angry women, staring at me. Bushy hair, narrowed eyes, and bared teeth.
I gestured to the film where the rat-rat of the train was the only sound. “Nothing is happening.” Honestly, the Russian chick there could be dead and hibernating in Siberia.
“Put that out,” the three weird sisters straight out of Macbeth chorused.
“Fine!” I switched off the phone and folded my arms across my chest. I’d do anything for Grace, even endure three witches.
I jolted as the Russian woman finally spoke… in Russian. I had barely time to read the subtitles, which contained many, many more words than she could’ve possibly pronounced, that the dialog was over.
“What did she say?” I asked Anne.
“That she—”
“Shush!” the witches repeated.
Anne shrank in the seat and hid her face in her scarf.
Great. I scoffed, ready to endure four hours of Russian snowy landscape before another line of dialog appeared.
Forty minutes later, I started to hear voices. Seriously, I did. It was because of the silence. Not even music played. My friend Max, who did spelunking, once had remained trapped in a cave for a couple of hours. Alone and without any light. After twenty minutes, he heard people talking and laughing, a trick of his imagination, and he answered back. I’d always thought it was rubbish, yet here I was, hearing voices.
Another silent woman had joined the Russian cast. Now the two protagonists were observing each other in a staring contest not even Clint Eastwood would win.
With a sigh, I reclined my head backward. Gosh, I needed a break. My butt felt numb, and by now I’d memorised every stain in the seat in front of me: a chewed gum, a greasy thingy, and a scratch like from a cat’s claws, and other tiny spots that seemed to form a pattern. Maybe if I used a pen to join them with a line, a secret message would appear.
I checked the time. Only an hour had passed… three and a half more to go.
By the end of the second hour, a third woman had joined the story and now she and the other two women were in a Mexican standoff, looking at each other. I’d admit that if they had had guns, it could’ve almost worked. If I could’ve slept, I would’ve done it. But what if I fell asleep and Grace came and I didn’t see her?
And then it flooded me: Grace’s presence.
I searched around. She had to be here, somewhere. Her sweet soul called to my heart.
Slowly, I stood up and walked along the row of seats. Anne barely glanced at me, too immersed in the Mexican standoff. I didn’t need any light. I didn’t need to know where Grace was. The bond between us would guide me to her.
“Ouch!” a woman said as I tried to brush past her. “That was my foot.”
“Sorry,” I muttered.
Once I reached the aisle, I inhaled deeply. Grace, where are you?
My feet pushed me forward on their own accord. Joy filled my heart. Grace was here, somewhere, and soon I’d meet her. I climbed the shallow steps toward the end of the hall. In the last row of seats, under the dim glow of the emergency light, an auburn head appeared like a mirage. I paused, my heart beating a wild rhythm. It was her. My soulmate, my angel. My efforts had been repaid. Except that… I tilted my head. What was she doing? I squinted and inched closer. A man was hunched over her, kissing her. Her arms circled his neck.
My mouth hung open, and my heart dropped to the floor. The vision crushed all my dreams. Years of loneliness stretched out in front of him. I would never marry anyone if I couldn’t have Grace. Maybe I could ask a monastery to take me, learn to grow stuff, meditate… until this pain faded. Oh well, why was I surprised? A smart, beautiful girl like Grace would have dozens of men throwing themselves at her. I was no one.
I was about to leave when I stopped. Wait a second. We were soulmates. I couldn’t give up so easily. With new resolution, I stepped closer, not sure what I wanted to do, maybe just let her know I was here.
Grace lifted her gaze to me and scowled. “What the heck do you want, perv?”
Oops, the voice sounded all wrong, low and raspy, while Grace’s was sweet. And now that I stood close, even the nose, mouth, and face were wrong. This wasn’t Grace. I sagged in relief. Phew! No priests and meditation for now.
The man rose and almost came chest to chest with me. “Why don’t you leave?” he hissed into my ear.
A few people shushed us, and I shrank backward, lifting an apologetic hand. “Sorry.”
I jogged to my seat. How could I have doubted the power of love? Of course it wasn’t Grace. Happy that the universe wasn’t against me, I sat again, ready to endure another three hours of torture for her.
Okay, I wasn’t so ready. After another hour, I had learned a few Russian words: zavtrak, breakfast; Ya ne govoryu po-russki, I don’t speak Russian; and Gde vodka? Where’s the vodka? Which pretty much summed up the entire film. It had to be the shortest script in the world. 
The next hour crawled. I drummed my finger on my leg… counted the spots on the chair in front of me… played the entire repertoire of Coldplay in my head… On the screen, more snow, grey landscapes, and silence.
By the time the fourth hour had passed, tears burned my eyes and stifled sobs hurt my throat. When the words ‘the end’ scrolled, I punched the air. “Yeah!”
I left the hall in a daze like the wake up after surgery. Grace hadn’t come. I’d been tortured for four and half hours. My muscles throbbed, my eyes hurt, and my brain might not recover. Ever. The chatter around me was an indistinct noise. Even the people mingled into a confused blur.
“Wonderful film,” Anne said, her eyes brightening. “So poetic.”
“Huh?” I needed water, coffee, tea, anything liquid.
On wobbly legs, I headed to the vending machine, jabbed a few coins inside, and grabbed a bottle of whatever. The cold drink refreshed my head and soothed my throat. What a nightmare. When I got home, I’d start an F&F marathon to recover. I felt like I needed a shower or something, and—
“I can’t believe you’re here,” a sweet voice said from behind me.
I swallowed and pivoted, one inch at a time. Here she was, my one true love. She looked adorable with her auburn curls framing her face, pink lipstick, and a pair of tight jeans.
“H-hi.” I waved a hand.
She moved closer, her flowery scent enveloping me, and slid a hand into mine. My head spun, and my heart drummed so fast I had a rush of oxygen in my brain that made me dizzy.
“I’ve just arrived. Are you here to see the film, too? Would you sit next to me?”
I stared into her brown eyes, then to our joined hands, and then to the door that led to theatre and to four hours of torture. My brain pleaded to go home, my legs thought it was a good idea, too.
“Yes,” I replied.
THE END

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