A/N: Okay so this story is a one-shot that I wrote really quickly after a night of inspiration - I went to Blockbuster and then rented/watched Say Anything, which was amazing and partially inspired this story. I'm debating expanding it into a full story, but I don't really know - let me know in your reviews!! Thanks everyone!! (PS, the part about the names, hope I don't hurt anyone's feelings - remember, it's the character talking, not me. Blame him.hehe)
She was the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen. But the thing was, I was apparently the only person who realized this. I hadn't been able to decide whether this was a bad thing or a good thing. It was a bad thing because it clearly showed how amazingly stupid the rest of the world is, which is depressing and makes me fear for the future. But then again, it was a good thing, because it made me believe I actually had a chance.
I never let myself get too hopeful, however. I reminded myself constantly that she had no idea who I was, no idea that I once sat 3 rows behind her for an entire semester of 19th century British Lit, failing the class because the only thing I studied was the back of her head. No idea that I had a mental file of everything that I knew about her that was growing to grossly inappropriate lengths.
Had no idea that I was in love with her. So in love, in fact, I think I would've given my left testicle just for her to smile at me and say "Hi Ryan," like she actually knew me.
I still remember the first day I saw her – of course I remember, I think about it at least twice a day. It was my first shift of the new school year. I was starting my sophomore year of college, and after spending a summer bumming around and sleeping on my parents' couch, I was back on campus. My boss at Blockbuster welcomed me back before handing me a stack of new releases. I was stacking the shelves when she walked in, and I'm not exaggerating when I say that she took my fucking breath away. She breezed in, wearing a lacy, gauzy white tank top and a denim skirt that showed off these amazing tan legs… her wavy blonde hair was billowing around her shoulders, but after a few steps into the store, she reached back and piled it on top of her head, revealing the few sweat-soaked tendrils that clung to the back of her neck. But what really did me in was her eyes. They were a crystal clear blue color, so shallow that I could see my reflection, but so deep that I could see every emotion swirling just below the surface.
It must've been a full minute before I finally started breathing again. She circulated the store with a few other girls that I had just noticed, all of them freshmen, if the campus maps dangling from their fingertips were any indication. I forced myself to focus on not dropping the DVDs stacked in my hands, but I kept her in my peripheral vision until she left the store a few minutes later.
I cursed myself when I realized I wasn't the one to get her a membership, because the next time I saw her she already had a membership card. It was 3 weeks after our initial meeting, and the 4th time she'd entered the store when I finally talked to her for the first time. Which, of course, added to the list of reasons I was so crazy about her – her frequent visits spoke to the fact that she was clearly a movie fanatic, just like me. That day, I had known she was in the store, and when I finished checking out some old guy, there she was, holding a DVD and a membership card as she smiled politely at me.
"Hi," she said quietly. Her voice rang in my ears. She stepped forward and put her DVD on the counter with her card on top of it. Somewhere in the back of my mind I realized I should've been talking to her, even if it was just to ask if she'd found everything alright, but like a dick I just stood there. It wasn't until she was looking at me weirdly that I managed to pick up and scan her card. Her name popped up at the top of the computer screen in front of me. Lynne Fischer.
Of course that's what her name would be. It couldn't be something boring, like Laura or Jenny. Or something annoying, like Tiffany or, I don't know, Muffy or Barbie or something. No, her name had to be beautiful. Amazingly unique and yet ordinary enough not to be pretentious. Her name rolled around in my head, and I had to literally bite my tongue to keep from saying it out loud, just so I could hear it roll off my tongue. It was then that I looked down at the DVD box that she slid across the counter towards me, and after that, our fate was sealed in my mind for me forever – we were meant to spend the rest of our lives together.
She was renting Say Anything.
Anyone who knows me knows how much of a movie fanatic I am. Usually people like me have a hard time narrowing down their ridiculously long lists to just one clear favorite, but it was no problem for me – Say Anything, hands down. One of my friends told me I reminded her of Lloyd Dobler, which is pretty much the best compliment I've ever gotten. I can see the resemblance too – tall, lanky, dark untidy hair, quiet with a somewhat intense personality, but awkwardly outgoing at times. And now, just like Lloyd, I was obsessed with the Diane Court of my acquaintance.
And there she was, my Diane Court, renting the movie that probed just how perfect she was for me.
I don't know how I did it, but somehow I managed to squeeze out a, "Nice choice" as I reached for the movie. She smiled more genuinely. My left hand was clutching the counter so tightly my knuckles were turning white.
"Yeah, it's one of my favorites… you like it too?" All I could manage was a nod. God, I'm such a loser.
"$4.35," I informed her, my voice dangerously close to cracking. She reached out her hand, her fingertips brushing mine as she handed me the five-dollar bill and exact change. My hand tingled.
I saw her repeatedly, at least 3 times a month in Blockbuster, plus the occasional sightings around campus. I couldn't believe my good fortune when the next semester rolled around and I saw her in Brit Lit. I convinced myself that I was going to take that golden opportunity to talk to her, as in real conversation, but of course I never worked up the balls.
By that time I knew so much about her it was almost sick. I knew she was smart, since she was in an upper-level English class as a freshman, and although I didn't have the luck to be in her discussion section, I could tell she was leading class, especially when she would raise her hand and ask the professor a question that would make the rest of the class look up from their crosswords and crane their necks to see who had asked it. And don't get my started on the way she took notes. Her eyes would squint at the overhead screen. I wondered if she needed glasses. She would watch intently, scribbling into her notebook every now and then. I always knew if the lecture was good or boring, even though I never listened, because when it was good, she would spend more time watching than writing, her eyes open wide and interested, her body shifting slightly forward. When it was boring she would lean back in her seat and take notes while she twirled a stray lock of hair, every now and then catching her bottom lip between her teeth. God she's cute.
But my main source of information about her came from the times when she came into Blockbuster and I was working. I could tell her moods, her taste in movies, her sense of humor, who her friends were, everything. And it extended to things unrelated to movies, too. She once came in listening to an iPod, pulling one of the earpieces out when she approached the counter to pay, and I could faintly hear a Weezer B-side playing, a song that only a true Weezer fan would have, and I fell for her a little more. I knew when she was particularly busy, because she would only stop by to drop off movies and gaze longingly at the new releases, and I knew when she was depressed, because she would rent two or three movies, and then I would see her stop at Walgreens across the street and come out with Ben & Jerry's.
When she was in a particularly goofy or happy mood she would get a comedy, sometimes a classic like What About Bob? or Ferris Bueller's Day Off, sometimes a more modern one, usually a Will Ferrell – Anchorman seemed to be a favorite. When she was homesick she got retro Disney, like Cinderella. I knew she didn't have a boyfriend, because she would be in Blockbuster by herself on Fridays and Saturdays, and while this fact made me extremely happy (see previous statement about good vs. bad, stupidity vs. hope) I knew when it made her depressed, because she would go for the chick flicks. I had seen her rent everything from Pride & Prejudice (both the Keira Knightley and Colin Firth versions) to Pretty Woman, 13 Going on 30 to Love Story. When she was going to be watching the movies with friends she would usually get new releases, and it even got to the point where I could tell which friend she would be hanging out with. Sometimes she would come in with another petite blonde, and the two of them would giggle and pick up a cheesy teen rom-com like 10 Things I Hate About You or She's All That, but I chalked that up to her friend's influence and chose not to hold that against her. She had another friend, an Asian girl with choppy black hair, and the two of them would always get the latest Indie flick or foreign film. I always knew when one or more of the group of friends she would be watching the movie with would be a guy, because she would get action – either classic, like Star Wars and The Godfather, or newer ones, like The Matrix. My stomach would twist, and I would realize just how much I would be willing to give up to be counted among her friends, hang out in her dorm room and watch a movie with her.
I knew what her weaknesses were – chocolate, and dancing movies. She would come to the counter with movies like Save the Last Dance, Center Stage, Dirty Dancing and even Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. And even though normally I would make fun of a girl to no end if she came to the counter with one of those, if not to her face then at least in my head, she would come to the counter with such a cute little blush and avoid looking me in the eyes, and I instantly forgave her, just for being so fucking adorable.
The thing that I noticed the most was the sheer number of times that she had rented Say Anything. It must've been at least 8 times in the 9 months of that first year. Even I didn't watch that movie that often. Every time she approached the counter with that DVD box in her hand I wondered why she didn't buy it – she had spent over $30 renting it over time.
I would ring her up and then watch her leave, muttering as I quoted my favorite line from whatever movie she had just picked up to her back, imagining that I was actually quoting it to her face, picturing how she would laugh and then quote me right back.
"Surrender pronto, or we'll level Toronto."
"It's the one that says Bad Motherfucker."
"Littering and… littering and… smokin' the reefer."
"I gave her my heart and she gave me a pen."
Now I don't want you thinking that I'm some psychotic stalker, watching this girl and making mental notes of her every move, waiting for the perfect opportunity to like, attack her and kill her or something. No, that wasn't it at all. I had a life outside of Blockbuster and catching glimpses of her in the street and Brit Lit. I had roommates, friends even, went out to parties and struggled through classes. Lynne was just an obsession on the side, one that was growing, I'll admit, but never consumed my life.
Until that fateful day.
But wait, there's more to explain.
I also talked to her occasionally, more than just "That'll be $4.35," but less than "Hi, I'm Ryan, and I would freaking love to take you out." There was one time when she forgot her membership card and her license, and under Blockbuster policy, we needed one or the other to rent out the movie. That was when I learned what a rule-follower she was. She walked into the store and straight up to the counter, surprising me with her directness.
"Hi," she said.
"Hello," I replied.
"So… hypothetical question… say I forgot my membership card. Can I still rent a movie?"
"Yep. Just need to see an ID." She looked away as she leaned forward and bit her lip, resting her elbows on the counter. I gulped when I realized that in that position, in her top – what looked like a white spaghetti-strap tank top underneath a blue flannel shirt with the top few buttons undone – gave me a pretty clear view down the collar, to the slightly pale skin of her breasts that were revealed above the skintight white top. I'd like to say that I was a gentleman and looked away, but I'm not going to lie. I mean, this girl is perfect, and fucking gorgeous, of course I looked.
"Okay, so… another hypothetical," she said. I tore my eyes away just in time as she looked at me again. "Say I don't have a photo ID either?" A million different responses ran through my head.
"Don't worry, baby… this one's on me."
"I would think that after obsessing about you for 3 months and watching you every single time you come in here it would be okay for me to trust you to rent a movie."
"I can let it slide this time." What a dick. And yet she smiled at me before pushing off from the counter and making her way towards the shelves. She came back a few minutes later with a copy of The Sum of All Fears and I pretended to ask for her name, though obviously I already knew it. She gave me an extra smile and "thank you" before she left, and my heart twisted.
By the time May rolled around, I had almost fully resigned myself to the fact that nothing would ever happen with her – almost. It seemed like such an insurmountable task, to try and defeat the image I was sure she had of me as that one Blockbuster guy who was always there when she went in. But then, one Friday night, after she had just left the store carrying Donnie Darko, I realized that in a few weeks, I wouldn't see her for three full months, at least. I knew from the out-of-state check that she had once given me that she wasn't from around there – she was from Iowa, a full two states away. She was just finishing up her freshman year, so obviously she wouldn't be sticking around for the summer, she was still too young. I was staying on campus, but that didn't matter, did it? She wouldn't be there. I leaned back against the counter and watched through the glass doors as she turned and walked down the street, watching until she disappeared from my sight.
Then it happened.
That one, fateful day.
It was Monday, the first study day before finals week started. I knew when she walked in that she was stressed, since she was wearing a pair of sweatpants and her hair was pulled back into a messy ponytail. She was wearing a pair of glasses. My suspicions were confirmed when she came to the counter carrying Say Anything, a stress-reliever.
I don't know what made me say it. Maybe it was what I had just been thinking about, about how I wouldn't see her for three months, or maybe it was the realization that I knew her so well that I had known she needed glasses before she did. Maybe I just snapped.
"Why don't you buy this movie?" I blurted out when I picked it up. She looked up from where she'd been digging through her wallet for change, looking surprised.
"What?" she asked. My heart pounded. No turning back now. I held up the box.
"Say Anything. This has gotta be the, what, 20th time you've rented it? You do realize you could've paid for it about 3 times over if you just bought it." Somewhere in the back of my mind I realized that saying that implied not only that I recognized her, but that I kept tabs on what she rented. Lynne apparently didn't notice. She looked from me to the box in my hand and back again before she laughed to herself.
"Um, well… right. So… you're gonna laugh," she said, her cheeks getting that reddish tinge.
"Try me." Since when was I so fucking bold?
"Okay… well, I have this theory. Well, actually, it's more like… a belief, if you will. A principle to guide my life." She paused. "I love movies, especially that one, and I think that they're just so great that as many people as possible should see them. And if I buy it for myself, just so that I can watch it… well, I feel like I'm being a little egotistical and self-centered. I'm watching it for selfish reasons, really. But if I rent it… well then I'm participating in the sharing of an amazing piece of art, which makes me feel like I have a hand in something that's bigger than myself." Her cheeks were full blown red now, and she shrugged one shoulder. "Told you it was dumb."
I couldn't say anything. I was too busy falling even deeper in love with her.
I finished checking her out and handed the movie back to her and she looked up at me.
"You should smile more often, Ryan. You have a really nice smile."
She was almost out the door when I found my voice again.
"Wait… you know my name?" She smiled shyly, leaning one arm against the door.
"Of course I know your name. You've been my date just about every weekend for the entire year." She laughed to herself, shaking her head as she pushed open the door and left.
The rest was a work of divine intervention, I swear to god. Nothing earthly can explain how after a year of watching her, wanting her, dreaming about her, I finally managed to work up the cajones to look up her address in the computer database and force my feet to take me to her dorm room after I got off work. Nothing can explain how I ended up in front of her door, knocking on the wood, and nothing can explain how actual words came out of my mouth when in reality my mind was a complete blank.
Her door swung open, and there she was, taking my fucking breath away again. She was in pajama pants now, her hair wet and hanging down in a braid balanced on one shoulder, wearing what looked like an old softball t-shirt. I was still in my work uniform. Her eyes were wide, and I forced myself not to get lost in them, because I knew that if I did, I would never find my way out again. I didn't even let her say anything.
"Seeing as how I've been your date all year without really knowing it, I was wondering if maybe I could actually take you out on a real date." I paused, a smile appearing from out of thin air. Divine intervention. "I mean, how cheap am I – nine months' worth of dates at Blockbuster?"
It was silent. Behind her the TV was on, showing Lloyd Dobler holding a boombox over his head, Diane shifting in bed to the sounds of "In Your Eyes."
"Would you like to come in?"