Home > Two to Tango

Two to Tango
Author: Kathleen Fuller




Olivia Farnsworth always had a plan. Every Monday for five years, she had been precisely thirty minutes early for the Sunset Cinema’s monthly Vintage Movie Night. As always, she ordered a Diet Coke—no ice, please—then entered the theater and headed straight for her seat. Seventh row, tenth seat, square in the middle of the room. Although all the Vintage Movie Night features could be seen on TV or a streaming service or purchased for her personal collection, viewing the classics at home couldn’t compare to sitting in a darkened theater, the characters larger than life on a massive screen, the surround sound resonating through huge, albeit outdated, speakers. That was an experience.

But as she settled onto the nearly threadbare cushion and waited for Sunset’s yearly showing of The Quiet Man to start, her mind wasn’t on the movies. She was in a rut. A Grand Canyon of a rut. That fact had been pointed out to her last week when Aunt Bea dropped a less than subtle hint that she needed to “step out of your comfort zone, dear.” And Flo, one of her assistants at the Maple Falls Library, had once again offered to introduce her to her grandnephew, a “charming” young man who was still “finding himself.”

A thirty-eight-year-old guy without a plan? No thanks.

She stared at the empty screen. Over the past five years, she’d seen a variety of films in numerous genres. Noirs, musicals, World War II epics, farces, westerns, and the occasional foreign flick with subtitles. But The Quiet Man was her favorite. She watched it at least twice a year. She should be eager to see it for the thirteenth time.

Instead, she was restless, and not only because of her aunt and coworker. For a single second she’d considered not coming tonight and doing something different instead. What that would be, she had no idea. Diverging from her plan wasn’t part of the plan, and her five-year habit of sitting in the seventh row, tenth seat was a hard one to break. So here she was, attending vintage movie Monday again. And after the movie was over, she would go home alone . . . again.

She glanced around and noted a few college-aged students sprinkled among the seats, most likely students from nearby Henderson and Ouachita Baptist universities. To her left, three rows back, she noticed a couple sharing their drink. The girl leaned her head on her date’s shoulder, her expression blissful.

Olivia faced forward again. When was the last time she’d been on a date? Much longer than five years.

Talk about a rut.

A man plunked down on one of the chairs two seats over, a bucket of popcorn cradled in the crook of his arm and a drink in his other hand. Curious, she glanced at him. This was the first time anyone had sat near her in five— Wait. She knew this guy. “Kingston?”

His light-brown eyebrows furrowed over cornflower-blue eyes. Then he grinned. “Olivia?”

She returned his smile. Kingston was her best friend Anita’s older brother, and Olivia hadn’t seen him since last summer, when he’d made a rare appearance at one of the church’s softball games. She inwardly cringed, remembering that despite her determination to overcome her exceptional lack of athleticism, she’d been awful. Oh well; this was Kingston. She wasn’t out to impress him.

He glanced at the empty seat beside her. “Are you waiting for someone?”

She shook her head and motioned for him to join her. He quickly moved to the seat as she took another sip of her drink.

Kingston balanced the popcorn on his knee and set his drink on the floor. The Sunset had been constructed before the dawn of built-in cupholders. “I didn’t know you were an old-film buff.”

“Every third Monday night,” she said. Sigh.

“Me too. When I’m not on call, that is. Usually I’m running late, so I sit in the back. Popcorn?” He tilted the bucket toward her.

“No, thank you.”

“I can’t eat all of this. I should have gotten a medium.”

She was a little hungry, having skipped lunch this afternoon to work on the youth spring program at the library. As head librarian, she had a variety of jobs and tasks to do, but planning the programs for the kids was her favorite. “Just a few.” She picked three kernels and ate them. Hot, buttery, salty. Yum. Why hadn’t she gotten popcorn before now?

Because I always get a Diet Coke, and only a Diet Coke.

He shook the bucket a bit. “How’s the library business going?”

“Good.” Better than good. After years of hard work, and plenty of near begging for extra funds from stingy Mayor Quickel, the Maple Falls Library was finally where she wanted it to be, especially the children’s and young adult programs. She’d even had nearby librarians ask her for advice on how to implement her ideas into their own systems. “Still busy with your practice?”

“Yep. I do some volunteer work at the health department too. And a bit of teaching on the side at Henderson.” He shoveled a handful of popcorn into his mouth. When he finished chewing, he asked, “Have you seen this movie before?”

She glanced at the straw poking out of the plastic top of her cup. “Once or twice.”

“I haven’t.”

“Really? And you call yourself a film buff?”

“I guess I’m an aspiring film buff, when time permits.” He settled back in his seat. “This is a nice spot. Much better than the back row.”

Olivia nodded. As she turned to him, a sudden pleasant shiver danced down her spine to her toes. She froze. Kingston had always been good-looking. Through the years even she’d noticed—when she bothered to take her nose out of whatever book she was reading. But she’d never felt anything when she saw him. Until now. He’d taken off his charcoal-gray puffer jacket without spilling the popcorn, and his blue-and-white checked shirt paired with khaki pants and tan dress shoes looked good on him.

Very, very good.

Normally she wouldn’t care that one of the—if not the—most eligible and desired bachelors in the greater Hot Springs area was sitting right next to her, especially since he was Anita’s brother. But good gravy on a biscuit, was he gorgeous. And as she kept looking at him, she experienced something nice. No, nice wasn’t the right word. More like delectable.

Her cheeks heated, and she stared straight ahead. Where had all that come from? She’d never put Kingston and delectable or gorgeous in the same sentence.

“Have some more.” Kingston set the popcorn bucket between them.

She snuck another glance at him. Delectably gorgeous. She jerked her head away and pinched the top of her straw closed.

“Do they show commercials here like they do in other theaters?” he asked.

“Uh, what?” she replied, still grappling with the unfamiliar thoughts and sensations he was causing.

“You know. The previews before the previews.” He frowned. “When was the last time you saw a current movie?”

She thought about it, grateful to have something different to focus on. “Eleven years ago.” That had been a group outing with her fellow students when she was in college getting her master’s in library science. She would have preferred to continue studying—she had fast-tracked both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees—but her study partners insisted she go with them. She couldn’t recall what the movie was, only that she’d found it dull and preferred her classics.

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