The following is another fictional short story. The idea for this one came to me one day a couple of weeks ago, when I was walking my dog. If I ever publish anything in an actual book, I suppose I’ll have to thank my dog Porkchop in the Acknowledgements. This one’s written in the 1st person, rather than in the 3rd person like my other two stories, so I wanted to be sure to explain that it’s not actually me. Now that that’s cleared up, on to the story!
Seven months. That’s how long it had been since I’d last had a date. I was trying not to complain (or worry) because there were plenty of worse things in life to complain (and worry) about, but still. Seven months felt like impending doom for me to be a tragic spinster forever. A bit of an exaggeration, I know. I felt like I should have prayed an Our Father or two to ease the Catholic guilt of being more concerned about my lack of a guy rather than about the plights of the world.
Feeling sorry for me (and increasingly annoyed with my constant moping), Nonna gave me a weathered penny and told me to go make a wish in the old fountain in the park. She said it was how she had met my Nonno many years ago, back in the “old country,” as she called it.
Apparently, Nonna was quite the catch back in her day. She was outgoing and fun, caring and kind, intelligent and curious. She had always considered herself quite plain in the way of looks, with her brown hair and a few freckles, so she tried to make up for her supposed beauty limitations by being courageous. According to her stories, many of which I still can’t determine if they’re true or not, she was the most daring little girl in her village in Italy. Many of the other girls wanted to be like her, and the boys were afraid of her. She grew up to be a courageous woman. Even now, in her old age, she was still sassy.
Well, I had certainly inherited the same boring hair and freckles from her (Ragazze con le lentiggini sono baciate dal sole, Nonna often said. Girls with freckles are kissed by the sun). However, I didn’t feel like I had any of her bravery or feistiness. I didn’t go out on the town with my friends all that much, like she had and still did. I know it makes me sound like a total book worm, but I preferred reading a good book to facing the challenges of real life. The bar scene or any drama just wasn’t for me. I had a close-knit group of dependable, yet fun friends who were introverts just like me. Sure, I had moved out to an apartment when I had turned twenty-one, but it was only a few blocks away from my parents’ house. I felt like I was living a small life, but it was a safe life.
So with Nonna’s penny in hand, off I trudged to the fountain, feeling rather embarrassed and pathetic. Usually I didn’t mind walking around the city. There was some truly great architecture to appreciate in the older part of the city. Also, if you knew where to look, you could find amazing street art to admire.
Today, though, something wasn’t right. I felt like a weirdo, and the weather was depressing, reflecting my mood. When I got to the park, even that seemed off. The flowers growing nearby looked like they were wilting. The wooden benches to the side had ugly graffiti on them. Even the water in the fountain looked gloomy. I felt so alone and stupid and vulnerable. I took the coin, hastily threw it in, and headed back to my apartment.
Weeks went by and nothing happened. I wasn’t really surprised. Now it was eight months of no dates and I was beginning to wonder if being fixed up on a blind date wasn’t a completely terrible idea. Nonna wouldn’t give up, though. She said matter of factly that she hadn’t given me the right coin. Wishing for something as important as a decent man required big money (as she phrased it), so she gave me the shiniest dollar coin she had in her purse. I noticed she said a prayer in Italian over the coin before she placed it lovingly in my hands. I told her I couldn’t possibly take anymore of her money, but she waved me away, claiming that she had won lots with her friends at the bingo hall. I didn’t know whether to feel impressed that my grandma had such a cool social life, or pathetic that my grandma had more of a social life than I did.
So I went back to the fountain. But this time, the atmosphere was different. The sun was shining brilliantly. Some older gentlemen were concentrating on their game of chess. I wanted to join them, but I was on a mission to make my Nonna proud…and just maybe get a decent guy out of it. A young couple walked by, holding a coffee cup from a nearby coffee house in one hand and each other’s hand in the other. There were children nearby, drawing on the sidewalks with chalk. One little girl was blowing soap bubbles, and the effect of all of those bubbles gently floating in the air was magical. The air felt charged somehow, as if there were going to be a thunder storm soon, but the clouds were like white cotton candy. The fountain was turned off, and so the water was smooth, clear, and sparkling. I saw hundreds of coins at the bottom, shimmering like an open treasure chest in the sun. Whether or not Nonna’s coin did the trick this time, it felt incredible just to be alive and to be in that exact place at that exact time.
As I was standing there at the edge of the fountain, staring into the shimmering water, feeling the warm sun on my skin, enjoying the sounds of the world around me, I decided that I didn’t want to just merely exist. I didn’t want to let life pass me by all the time. I didn’t want to be the quirky sidekick in my own story anymore. It was time for a change, even if it started out small. It was time I had courage and some adventures of my own.
The coin was hidden in my pocket, but with an increasing sense of determination, I took it out and looked at how shiny it was in the sunlight. I ran my thumb around the edge, feeling the ridges of it. Even though it had been in my pocket and should have been warm, it felt cool to the touch. People were probably watching me, but I didn’t care. I held the coin to my heart and closed my eyes. I thought about my grandparents and how happy they had been. In my mind was a memory of a photo that I had seen of my Nonna and Nonno on their wedding day. She looked radiant and was boldly looking at the camera. He was gazing at her and looked like he had just figured out one of the few secrets to life: love.
With a smile on my face and a weird, sudden ache in my heart, I said a silent wish in my head. I kept my eyes closed and gently tossed the coin up into the air, listening for it to land in the water.
Wait a minute. That can’t be right. Two splashes? I opened my eyes and saw the ripples along the top of the water. No one else was around the fountain. No one even seemed to notice I was there. So what caused the other splash? I was still staring at the water, my non-existent detective skills failing me, when I heard someone behind me.
“Sorry. You looked really deep in thought and I didn’t want to interrupt you, so I tossed in my coin over your head. Hope you don’t mind.” It was a guy’s voice. Deep, yet smooth. Polite and not too loud. It was really a nice voice.
So you know those romantic stories where the girl turns around and there’s a rather charming guy right there? Well, not to spoil the ending, but…
Yes! That’s exactly what happened! I slowly turned around (so slowly that he probably thought something was wrong with me) and there he was. He was around my age, athletic build like he maybe played soccer or went to the gym once in a while, recent haircut, and eyes that seemed friendly.
The tiniest of voices inside my head reminded me that a safe life was good, but not necessarily the best for adventure. It also reminded me that if my Nonna could find love by an old fountain in Italy, then I could find something magical, too. Maybe. And so I smiled, told him that it was fine as long as his coin hadn’t cancelled the wish of my coin, and introduced myself.
And get this. He didn’t look at me like I was a weirdo! He didn’t make some excuse to leave in a hurry. He smiled back, introduced himself, and told me that he was pretty sure two coins were better than one.
Copyright © Mommyhood and Moxie, 2021
I hope you liked it. It seems like a fitting story for me to have written with Valentine’s Day right around the corner! Feel free to let me know what you thought of it. Likes and comments are always appreciated. As always, thanks for stopping by. ❤