The Box – A Love Story

The Box
A Love Story
I stepped up to the box and scrolled through the selections. ‘So many good movies to choose from, so little time….’
Seconds later, I spotted Master and Commander, something I’d been wanting to see for a while. My eyes lit up and I tapped the screen.
A message popped up – ‘Selection not available at this kiosk.’
My shoulders instantly drooped and I sighed, tapping back to the array of selections. As I skimmed the movies, my mind kept going back to Master and Commander. Nothing seemed to catch my eye.
I stepped back, eying the identical box beside me. I adjusted my purse on my shoulder and pushed my glasses up, watching the young man beside me tap its screen. Biting my lip, I took a step towards him.
“Um….” I pulled my hair behind my ear. “Excuse me, sir.”
He turned, his eyebrows raised. “Yes?”
I smiled nervously. “Can you look up a movie for me? I mean…. Do you think, if a movie wasn’t in that box-” I pointed to the one I’d just walked away from – “it might be in the one you’re using?”
The man thought for a second, his eyebrows now furrowed. He smiled a moment later and shrugged. “Might as well try. What movie?”
I stepped closer towards the box so that I could see the screen. “Master and Commander.”
I watched him tap the screen. The movie came up a moment later and he tapped it. “Looks like it’s here. Do you want it?”
“Yes,” I replied, beaming. “I’ve been wanting to see it for a while now and didn’t know they had it here. I’ve heard that it’s a really good movie, and, I mean, it’s got Russell Crowe in it and I loved him in….” I stopped and felt my face grow hot. “Sorry…. I talk a lot when I’m excited.”
The young man laughed. “I don’t mind. I have sisters, so I know.”
He glanced back at me with a wink and I smiled up at him, taking in his strikingly blue eyes.
“Just let me finish up here,” he said, tapping the screen again.
I couldn’t help but notice the movie he was checking out. “Pride and Prejudice!” I exclaimed before thinking about what I was saying.
The young man seemed to freeze for a split second. He tapped the screen once more and cleared his throat. “I’m, uh, getting it for my sister.” He gave me a lopsided grin. “Actually, I’m getting it because she told me to. She’s been begging to watch it with me for a few months now.”
“Well, you should be excited. It’s a great movie,” I told him. “One of my favorites!”
“Oh, really?” He took the movie out of the box and stepped aside. I tapped on the screen and he continued. “Weird as this may seem, Master and Commander is one of my favorite movies.”
My gaze shot towards him. I stared at him for a minute, then burst out laughing. “What a coincidence!” I turned to the box again, shaking my head. “Weird. My sister-in-law keeps telling me to watch it.”
The young man smiled. “You won’t be disappointed. Unless you don’t like period dramas or tales of high adventure….”
“Favorite genre ever,” I told him. I took the movie out of the box and turned towards him. Grinning, I put my hand out. As he shook it, I said, “Well, it’s been great meeting you!”
“Likewise,” he agreed, smiling. “Enjoy the movie.”
“Same to you!”
~
Pride and Prejudice turned out to be a great movie… all five hours of it. I enjoyed most of it – except the part with Lydia and Wickham. I knew that guy was fishy from the first second he appeared onscreen. When I told Liz this, she just laughed.
As I stood in line for the box to return the movie the next day, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d see that girl again.
‘I never even got her name,’ I realized with a grin. I glanced around, but didn’t see her face amongst the few there. ‘It would make sense, though. I’ve had Pride and Prejudice for three days, and she probably watch Master and Commander the day she got it.’
I stepped up to the box and returned my movie. I tapped through the selections again, whistling a tune that’d been stuck in my head for a few days. Seeing nothing I wanted to watch, I turned to leave – and bumped into the person standing in line behind me.
“Excuse me!” I sincerely apologized, holding my hands out.
“That’s okay….” The young woman burst out laughing. “Haven’t I met you before?”
I grinned and nodded. “You got Master and Commander
. What’d you think?”
“Oh, I just loved it!” she responded, adjusting her purse strap on her shoulder. “Except for the parts when main characters died. I’ve never done well with authors or screenwriters killing off main characters….” She folded her arms and smiled up at me, the sun slightly reflecting off the sunglasses that kept her hair back. “What’d you think about Pride and Prejudice?”
“I enjoyed it,” I replied, shoving my hands in my pockets. “That Wickham guy, though…. Man. Didn’t like him at all.”
“I’ve never met anyone who did!” the girl joked. “Jane Austen writes a good bad guy.”
“A ‘good bad guy’?” I echoed, laughing. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
She rolled her eyes in response and tucked her hair behind her ear. “I meant to say that she writes a convincing bad guy. You really hate him, but you kind of understand why he’s so bad.”
“I get it.” I nodded. “Kinda reminds me of Aubrey from Master and Commander. He’s a hero, but he’s got his faults.”
“Yeah, but that’s more along the lines of Mr. Darcy, who was the real hero of Pride and Prejudice
.”
“True…. He’s so prideful!”
“Yeah,” she replied. “It drove me nuts the first time I watched it….”
I grinned. “Same here. Colin Firth is a good actor.”
“As was Russell Crowe. I think they portrayed their characters very well, don’t you?”
Before I had a chance to reply, someone behind the girl coughed loudly. Someone else said, “Hey, can you carry on this conversation somewhere else? We’ve got better things to do than stand here and listen to you guys chat about movies.”
I grinned, nodding. “Sure.”
The girl stepped up to return her movie and I stood beside the box. More than a little awkwardly, I might add. I didn’t know whether to wait for her to be done or just leave.
“Thanks for waiting,” the girl told me when she’d finished returning her movie. “I wanted to talk to you some more, if I could…. That is, unless you’re busy and need to do something else somewhere else….” Her voice trailed off and she stood there, looking up at me expectantly.
How could I say no?
~
We sat in a coffee shop together and talked for hours. I knew it wasn’t a date – after all, he didn’t offer to buy my coffee – but I enjoyed it all the same.
About an hour into the conversation, one of my friends walked into the coffee shop. I waved and she walked over.
“Hey, Mandie!” I greeted her with a wide grin. “This is my friend…. Um….” I burst out laughing, staring at the young man sitting across from me. “I never got your name….”
“I’m Sam,” he replied, chuckling. “And you’re…?”
I almost couldn’t stop laughing after I’d realized I’d never given him my name, either. “I’m April,” I told him.
He put his hand out across the table. “Nice to meet you, April.”
“Likewise.” I shook his hand, then turned to Mandie again. “Mandie, this is my friend Sam. Sam, this is Mandie.”
“It’s a pleasure,” Sam said, shaking Mandie’s hand.
“Same here,” Mandie replied, giving me a look. “What’re you guys doing here?”
“Just talking,” I replied, knowing what she was wondering and wishing that mental telepathy worked. “I just met him a few days ago.”
“Oh, how nice.” Mandie glanced back towards the counter, where a line had formed. “Well, I’d love to chat, but I really have to go. I have a friend waiting in line.”
“See you later, then,” I answered.
“Bye.” Mandie waved, then walked to the line.
“Well, that was a little weird,” I told Sam. “I’ve never done that before.”
“What?” he asked, sipping his coffee.
“I’ve never introduced a friend to someone without knowing their name!” I laughed, shook my head, and nibbled on the straw of my frappuccino.
“It’s a first for me, too.”
Sam grinned at me and I smiled back, blushing a little.
“So. Where were we?” Sam asked.
“Umm….” I tapped my fingers on the table, thinking. “Oh, yeah. We were talking about how movies compare to books and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, which reminds me….” I thought about how to phrase my thoughts, then took the plunge. “I think C.S. Lewis wrote a very compelling allegory in the Chronicles of Narnia. Don’t you think so?”
Sam nodded and put his coffee down. “I read the books when I was a kid. Loved them, but didn’t really think of them as any more than a story. About, oh, five years or so ago, I re-read them, specifically to look for the allegorical connotations. I wrote a dissertation on it for my master’s degree.”
“Wow. What is your master’s in?”
He smiled timidly. “Pastoral Theology. I’ve been working on it for a few years ago and finally completed it last month.”
I shook my head, finishing off my drink. “That’s crazy. You don’t look a day over twenty-three! How can you have a master’s already?”
“I’m twenty-five,” he corrected me, shrugging, “but people think I’m younger than I really am all the time. Always have, and my sister Liz says that they probably always will. Also, I’ve been working on my master’s since I turned twenty. I graduated from seminary early.” He grinned. “But enough about me. What do you do?”
“Well, I just finished my degree last year. Nothing fancy, just high school lit.”
“There have to be teachers in the world, April,” Sam said.
For a split second, it felt a little weird to hear him say my name, but I’d gotten used to it and liked it – a lot, actually – only a moment later.
“It’s where all the other professions come from,” he continued.
I nodded. “I love teaching. I started at Apple Valley High during my first year of grad school and basically got addicted to it. I love the kids, I love the atmosphere – well, most of the time….” I smiled. “I also love researching books and their various adaptions. Which is why I’ve seen Pride and Prejudice and why I’ve been wanting to see Master and Commander.”
“I see,” Sam replied, nodding.
~
I loved talking to April. From the moment I laid eyes on her, I knew she was someone special. That idea blossomed as I discussed movies and books with her. And not just trifling parts of those books and movies – no, she brought out details in books that I’d never considered before. We talked for at least an hour about The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and I enjoyed it much more than any lecture I’d ever received on the subject.
Four hours later, I looked at my watch and realized that I’d promised to help Liz with a project an hour earlier. I didn’t want to leave, but April understood and said that she needed to get back to her apartment, too.
We exchanged phone numbers and I invited her to coffee again a week later. She accepted with grace and I nearly went through the roof with joy.
The week went by slowly, then faster, then much slower again. I couldn’t get April out of my mind and was constantly thinking about her. Even Liz noticed that something was up. When she asked me about it, however, I didn’t know what to say. On a whim, I asked her to come with me to meet April and so that our second meeting wouldn’t be quite as awkward as the first and would seem like less of a date.
“Okay, I’ll come,” Liz replied. “But I’m not going to be a third wheel. If you guys get into a deep discussion and I suddenly feel the urge to go shopping, don’t keep me there.”
“You won’t be a third wheel,” I told her.
She grinned. “Come on…. It’s your second date with this girl.”
“It’s not a date, Liz.”
“You can bet your sweet life it is, Sam,” she laughed. “Anyway, it’ll probably look like you asked me to come to make you feel less scared or something. I’ll just pop in, meet this girl, say hi, and leave. You don’t want me hanging around there with you.”
“That’s not true, Liz,” I countered.
“We’ll see.”
The day came and I literally couldn’t stop grinning. I’d never felt this way before – about any girl – and didn’t really know how to cope. I made it through the day, though, and left our house with plenty of time to spare before our 7 o’clock… meeting. I still refused to call it a date.
“Hi, Sam!” April greeted me as she walked through the door of the coffee shop.
“Hey.” I grinned and waved her over. I stood as she walked up to our booth and motioned to Liz. “This is my sister, Liz.”
“Oh, you’re the one who really loves Pride and Prejudice, right?”
Liz smiled. “How did you know?” she asked, glancing at me.
“Sam told me about you when I saw movie he was getting the other day.”
“It’s one of my favorites,” Liz replied, sitting down.
April sat down next to her, and I sat across from them.
“I’m going to go up there and order,” I told her, standing up again. “What would you two like? My treat.”
Liz shot me a look that I could read blindfolded. It read: This is so a date.
“Oh.” April smiled. “Thank you. I’ll take a mocha coffee. Tall, please.”
“That’s my favorite!” Liz told her.
“How weird!” April replied.
“I’ll take that, too,” Liz quickly told me, then turned back to April again. “I especially like it with a shot of peppermint.”
“That sounds amazing,” I heard April tell her as I walked away.
I smiled.
~
I really enjoyed my second talk with Sam. I knew it wasn’t a date – especially since he’d invited his sister to come along – and I couldn’t have been happier to talk with him again.
“So, what do you do for a living, Liz?” I asked her about two hours into our conversation.
“I’m a librarian at Rock Hill Middle.” She smiled. “It’s where I got my love of reading when I was a little girl, and I’ve always wanted to go back there and pass on that love to other kids.”
“Teaching is so much fun,” I told her.
“Isn’t it? I mean, I don’t really get to ‘teach’ the kids, but I get one-on-one time very often and enjoy it a lot.”
“Same here,” I replied. I turned to Sam. “Where are you going to teach? I mean, now that you’ve got your master’s?”
“I’m actually a professor at Harrison Community College right now, and I’ll be transferred to Madison State in a month or two.”
“How exciting!”
We talked about the differences in our teaching environments for a few minutes, then the talk turned to our families.
“I was homeschooled until high school,” I told Sam and Liz, “then, when I went to high school, I noticed a lack of good lit teachers. I mean, mine was fine, but…. I knew that not every kid who ever went to Ashworth High would get Mrs. Turner. So I decided to teach.”
“That’s neat. I have a few of friends who were homeschooled,” Sam said.
“Actually, we were homeschooled for a few years,” Liz told me.
“Three years hardly counts,” Sam told her.
“It’s something.” Liz rolled her eyes and turned to me. “Then, our mom passed away, so we had to go to private school.”
“Oh…. I’m sorry,” I said.
We sat in awkward silence for a minute and I decided to change the topic. “Do you have any brothers or sisters?”
Liz smiled and nodded. “I have an older brother named Sam.” They grinned at each other as she went on. “He used to be a real pain, but now he’s shaping up to be a real Mr. Darcy.”
“Hey!” Sam interjected. “Is that supposed to be a compliment?”
Liz just laughed in reply.
“Do you have any siblings, April?” he asked me.
“Yes,” I replied, nodding my head. “I have an older brother and two younger sisters.”
“Two sisters? Lucky duck,” Liz muttered. She laughed and poked Sam’s arm. “I’m just kidding, Sammy. I wouldn’t trade you for anything.”
“I wish I could say the same about you,” he said, winking at her a second later.
“It’s nice, but it can be a real pain when you have to share a room… especially with both of them.”
“And, suddenly, I’m glad I’m the only girl!” Liz told me, smiling.
I laughed.
~
We parted ways an hour or so later. I had a lecture to study for, as did April. We didn’t set up another coffee appointment, so I knew the next time I invited her out would be a real date.
“She’s really nice,” Liz told me during the car ride back home. She turned to me. “The next time you two get together is going to be an actual factual date – you do know that, right?”
I smiled at her. “Yes, I know. I was just thinking about that.”
I repositioned my hands on the wheel. Liz must have registered that as nervousness, because she turned on the reassuring switch.
“You’re going to be great,” she told me, patting my arm. “You did a great job keeping the conversation going back there at the coffee shop, so who’s to say you won’t do that at a fancy sit-down restaurant?”
“I’m not nervous,” I told her.
“Then what are you?”
I smiled and she laughed.
“You can’t wait to get together with her again, am I right?” I nodded and she pumped her fist. “I knew it! Well, you’re a very lucky guy to have her,” she told me, patting my arm again.
“Would you please stop doing that?” I asked, swatting the air in her direction. “It feels weird. Also, she’s not my girl and I don’t ‘have her.’ I don’t even know where or when we’re going to go on our next date – I mean, our first.” I frowned slightly. “Our first.”
Liz laughed the whole way home, which, luckily for me, was only about ten more minutes.
Our first date ended up being at Longhorn three nights later. I met April at the door and held it open for her. As she walked through, I took notice of her casual evening dress and was instantly glad that I had made the effort to dress well.
“Thanks for inviting me to dinner,” April said as we sat down in a corner booth. “I’ve really enjoyed talking to you.”
“Me, too,” I replied, smiling.
The next few minutes were spent looking through the menu. I was glad we didn’t talk much during this, because I was replaying something she’d said when we first met over and over in my mind. I’d been thinking about it ever since we met and wondering what it meant.
I finally decided on a stealthy way to find out. I took a sip of my water, glancing up at her left hand. ‘She’s not wearing a ring….’ I smiled a little, then studied my menu, thinking. ‘What did she mean, though, when she said she had a sister-in-law?’
“Are you ready to order?” a waiter asked a moment later, interrupting my thoughts.
I glanced at April. She nodded and I looked at the waiter and nodded, “Yes, we are.”
“Alright, what can I get for you two tonight?”
We placed our orders, both deciding on the same thing before even mentioning it to each other, which made her laugh.
I made an attempt at small talk while we waited for our food, which barely lasted us until then. When our food arrived, we laughed again about ordering the same thing.
“This is really good,” I said, pointing at my food with my fork. With a grin, I added, “How about yours?”
April laughed and I smiled. If a laugh could be described as a trickling waterfall, April’s laugh would be the definition’s example.
We ate in silence for a minute, then I decided to take the plunge. I took a sip of my water and set down my glass, thinking intensely. A split second later, I crossed my arms on the table and abruptly leaned forward. “I have a question for you.”
“Okay,” April slowly replied. She put her glass down and smiled at me. “And what might that be?”
“Are you….” I paused, wincing at the absurdity of the question. A random thought whizzed through my mind, but I decided to ask her anyway, in as quick a way as possible. “Are you married?”
“Am I….” April burst out laughing. “Am I married? What kind of question is that?”
I grinned. “I don’t know….”
“If I was married, do you think I’d have accepted your invitation to dinner?” April asked me, her eyes twinkling.
I chuckled. “I guess not…. But I just felt the need to ask.” I tapped my fingers on the table. “But what was that about your sister-in-law, then?”
“What?” April asked, furrowing her brow and cocking her head slightly.
“The day I met you, you said something about your sister-in-law. Oh, I remember. You said that your sister-in-law kept telling you to watch Master and Commander.”
She thought for a moment, then her face lit up. “Heather is my brother’s wife. My older brother Vince married Heather about two years ago, and she then became my sister-in-law.” She smiled and shook her head. “I’m not married.”
I grinned. “Good. I’m glad. I mean, uh….”
April burst out laughing again. I joined in her laughter… partially from relief, but also from excitement.
~
Two years later, Sam and I were married. Every year on the anniversary of the day we met, we go to the box together and pick out a movie. We’re enjoying our life together and couldn’t be happier.
It makes me laugh when I think about how we met. Who could have thought that a love story as sweet as ours could have come from a chance encounter at a box?
Sometimes, little things can impact us in such a way that we’re forever reminded of them. And forever grateful.
The End.