The “Meet-Cute”

Have you ever heard of the “meet-cute?”  If you’ve seen the movie The Holiday with Kate Winslet or are an obsessive movie fan like myself than there’s a good chance you have.  If you haven’t, the “meet-cute” is very simply the part of a movie when boy meets girl in a cute and/or charming way.  Think of:

  • Vivian taking Edward’s Lotus for a drive down Hollywood Boulevard in Pretty Woman
  • Sandra Bullock meeting Bill Pullman after she pulled his brother from the train tracks in While you Were Sleeping
  • Scarlet O’Hara throwing the vase against the wall only to find Rhett Butler had been lying on the couch, listening to her fight with Ashley Wilkes
  • Harry and Sally’s post-college car trip from Chicago to New York when they decide that men and women can never be friends.

In the movie The Holiday, Eli Wallach’s character explained the concept even better, so why don’t you go watch that movie then meet me back here.  Go ahead… I’ll wait. 

Welcome back!  You may be wondering why I’m subjecting you to a lesson on Hollywood cliches, but the reason is very simple:  I just wrote my own “meet-cute.”  If you’re a regular reader of my blog you probably know I’m working on a novel, but this one is coming together painfully slowly.  Since I was on vacation from my real life last week I took the time to play writer and finished the first chapter.  The surprising fact is that I like what I wrote!

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Setting:  I haven’t figured out an exact time/place, but imagine a small village in Arthurian England where tavern-owner Thad and his daughter Margaret are preparing food for the lunch crowd when they are interrupted by loud, rhythmic thumping noises that shake the building.  It turns out a traveling fair has arrived in their village!  Margaret watches for a few moments, before turning to return to her chores.

The Meet-Cute: 

“Bored so soon?”

Startled by how close the speaker was, Margaret whipped her head around only to find a perfect pink rose held out by a young man – perhaps a few years older than herself – tall with green eyes and dark blonde hair that was a bit shaggy and unkempt, but clean.

That was more than she could say for most of the men in town.

“Liam McCain.”  He said with a flourishing bow, keeping the rose aloft and at Margaret’s eye level.  He stayed in that position for a moment, peeked up through his bangs and then finally shook the hand with the flower impatiently.

“Oh!”  She finally clued in that she was meant to take the bloom, pleased by its sweet pure, scent despite being shockingly out of season.

“McCain did you say?  Wasn’t that the name on the banner?”

“That’s right.”  Hands now free, the man pointed them both to the banner now more than three cart lengths down the road.  “Liam McCain of the illustrious McCain Traveling Family Fair.  I see that you are literate as well as lovely.  My lucky day.”

With a snap of his fingers, the rose Margaret held burst into a shower of petals surrounding her in a pink cloud.  She dropped the stem in surprise while the village children watching from nearby oohed at the spectacle, their eyes growing larger by the moment.

The children were not the only ones astonished by Liam’s sorcery.  She plucked a petal from where it had snagged on her coarse curls and rubbed the soft, velvety texture between her fingers, watching the young man address the growing crowd. 

“Liked that, did you?”  He asked the children, then turned back to Margaret with a wink, the gesture drawing her into the act as she had been a planned performer from the start.  Thoughts of frayed seams and patched clothes slipped away as the young woman found herself enjoying the warmth she felt standing in the reflected magic of this man’s spotlight.

“Watch this.”  Liam McCain furrowed his brow, appearing to take a great deal of concentration and waggled his fingers about, causing a small shower of sparks to apparently come from nowhere.

“How did you do that?”  Margaret whispered.

“Family secret.”  The man winked.

While there were some in the village either old and superstitious or young and innocent enough to believe in magic, Margaret Lowery fell into neither category.  Enchantments were fun to read about, but she was an earth-bound and practical enough creature in her daily to know there must have been some flint or powder behind this latest trick.  Even so, in watching the joy on the faces of the young crowd around her and the even more delighted grin on the tall perpetrator of the hoax, Margaret wished for a moment she could believe in the magic of the unexplainable.

“Liam!”  An older woman yelled from her perch on a cart drawn by two donkeys draped in colorful fabrics as the parade continued to roll by.

“Gotta go.”  Liam ambled toward the cart where he exchanged a few whispered words with the woman before turning back toward Margaret and yelling words unintelligible over the cheers of the ever-growing crowd.

“What?”

“I said, what’s your name?” 

“Margaret!”

“A pleasure meeting you, Margaret!”  Liam grinned again, displaying a lone dimple in his left cheek.  Then, instead of merely running ahead to regain his spot in the parade, the man proceeded to execute a complicated series of hand and front springs, leading to even more hoots and hollers.

The fleeting interlude with the young magician had left Margaret bewitched by the cacophony of sound and dazzle of lights that surrounded her.  Tearing her eyes from Mr. McCain’s retreating form, her gaze bounced from one spectacle to the next.  Near the communal well she watched as one man pulled flowers out of thin air for the school mistress while just a few yards across the way, a stooped old woman painted a smiling face in the sky with a wisp of white smoke protruding from a burning stick as most of the town council watched in awe.

Perhaps the fair was as shabby as her father had pointed out, but it was still the most excitement Margaret had experienced in her years living in the lifeless, dirty village. 

Surely a shabby fair was better than none at all.

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