A Night At The Movies

Maisie may have known how the movie ended, but she had no idea how this evening was going to turn out…

A froth of milky clouds bubbled over a strawberry sunset as Maisie gazed out from the retro diner doorway.

She’d been serving milkshakes, hot dogs and fries, and cartons of popcorn for the past twenty minutes.

The last few cars rolled through the movie drive-in entrance waving their tickets, the barrier snapping shut after them like a clapperboard.

Ushers cheerfully directed the drivers to the parking view area, dipped headlamps acting as torches in the half light.

Maisie felt lucky to have secured a job here.

The open-air cinema was a novelty attraction for the warmer seasons.

She had to admit the pay wasn’t bad either. It would definitely cushion her student loan in her last year at the local university,
and working at a movie drive-in complemented her Film Studies course perfectly.

Plus, she was offered free food and refreshments each shift which, on her budget, was a definite bonus, even if it did mean donning a mid-century mint and pink “diner” costume most evenings.

Also, if she craned her neck really hard, Maisie could just about see the giant open air cinema screen playing in the distance.

Showing tonight was an old 1950s classic. The reel still had crackle lines rolling across the picture screen here and there where it had aged. A romantic at heart, Maisie thought it added a charming authenticity.

She heaved a sigh. There was something so nostalgic about drive-in movies.

That’s if you had someone to go with, of course, which Maisie didn’t. Her boyfriend, Jonathan, had split up with her just before the holidays, citing a little too enthusiastically that now was probably a good time for them to take a break – just not together.

Maisie quickly realised that for once Jonathan was probably right.

“Any chance of getting a drink over here?” A voice pierced her thoughts.

Maisie’s head spun towards a man next to the counter. He looked a couple of years older than her and was nicely dressed in jeans and casual tee. His sharp tone though, was a little out of keeping with the drive-in’s usual happy friendly ambience.

Her colleague, Denise, glanced up from clearing tables, raising her eyebrows supportively.

Maisie walked back around the counter to serve, offering him a polite smile. It was after all, she conceded, her job.

“What can I get you?”

“Just a coffee.”

Please, Maisie silently added. She tried not to take umbrage at his apparent lack of manners.

Nodding, she poured the black liquid into a fresh white mug, sliding the drink across the counter towards him.

“That’ll be two pounds fifty – please.”

She couldn’t help it. Manners cost nothing extra, surely?

The man stared at her, his jaw set tight. His lips parted slightly, as though about to say something in response, but as if changing his mind they swiftly returned to a thin grimace. He placed the exact money on the counter and took his coffee.

Maisie watched him walk across the diner, selecting the window seat table furthest away from anyone.

He slouched onto the bright quilted leather bench, took a slurp of coffee, and set his phone down on the table with a gloomy expression.

Maisie wondered what was up with him. Had he been stood up? He’d miss the start of the film if he was going to drink his coffee in-house.

In agreement, a sudden boom of brass instruments blew out of the drive-in’s loudspeakers and in through the diner door.

Denise appeared beside Maisie at the counter and nudged her.

“He seems cheerful,” she smirked.

Maisie giggled.

“He’s actually rather handsome, don’t you think?” Denise waggled her eyebrows mischievously.

Maisie snorted. “He would be if he didn’t have such appalling manners!”

The girls burst out laughing, a little too loudly. The man looked up from his coffee. Maisie’s cheeks spotted pink – she hoped he hadn’t heard them.

The next hour rolled by like a silent movie, with the exception of Maisie and Denise exchanging jovial conversation as they served up takeaway milkshakes and coffees, baskets of fries, and hotdogs to customers beating the interlude’s queue.

To relieve the boredom, Maisie spent a lot of time unnecessarily mopping a spot of floor near the diner entrance, craning to catch parts of the film showing in the distance.

They’d shown this one last Saturday night, so she knew when the good bits were coming up. She was a sucker for an old fashioned love story.

The camera panned round the charismatic leading man as he wrapped his strong arms around the beautiful leading lady as they stood, finally reunited, beside a tall ship.

The camera zoomed in just as he whispered heartfelt words to his love.

They shared a romantic kiss and the boat sailed away towards the horizon.

Maisie rested her chin on the top of the mop handle, her dark eyes mesmerised by the silver screen. If only real life could be as perfect, she thought, dreamily.

She exhaled a small defeated sigh, still a little dejected from Jonathan’s parting words a few weeks ago.

A sudden loud tapping of a smartphone from behind interrupted Maisie’s daydreams. The man with no manners sitting in the diner window seat on his own was scowling at his phone screen, muttering to himself.

Maisie looked over. She assumed, half-smiling, he was not uttering declarations of love for a sweetheart.

His phone beeped again. He tapped out another lengthy message and then stared at his phone.

Were teardrops glinting in the corners of his eyes?

Maisie suddenly felt a pang of guilt. Whoever he was texting had obviously upset him.

Sensing he was being watched, his almond eyes glanced up and caught Maisie’s gaze for a moment. Embarrassed, he looked away quickly, staring out of the window and holding his phone protectively close.

Maisie decided it was probably about time she busied herself behind the counter, instead of being a nosy parker.

The interlude would be commencing in a few minutes, and last Saturday night the customers had been queuing out of the diner’s doors for its entirety for takeaway treats to enjoy during the film’s second half.

However, as a stream of cheerful people filtered in and out of the diner’s doors with coffees and ice creams, Maisie couldn’t help keeping part of her gaze on the unhappy man in the window seat.

After all, you never really knew what was going on in people’s lives, and she hated to see anyone upset, even if he had been a bit frosty with her.

Here – you look like you need this.” Maisie placed a chunk of chocolate cake with fudge sauce and a dollop of vanilla ice cream in front of him. “On the house.”

She’d used her own refreshment tokens to cover the cost, instead of having a snack herself this evening.

He looked up in surprise. Maisie smiled at him.

“I can take it away if you’d prefer?”

“No,” he said quickly, looking hungrily at the delicious dessert on the table. His gaze slid to Maisie and suddenly he half smiled, as if finally remembering his manners. “I mean, thank you. That’s really kind.” He glanced at her name badge. “Maisie.”

“No problem, em…?”


There was an awkward pause.

“I’m sorry I was so rude earlier,” Dan blurted. His cheeks pinked. “I promise I’m not usually like that. It’s just been a…” His chin dipped and he stared at the dessert with a woeful expression.

“Bad day?” Maisie bit her lip, wondering whether to sit down. “I’m a good listener. You have to be, in here, if you’ve any chance of catching some of the films shown outside,” she grinned.

An involuntary chuckle escaped his mouth as he looked at Maisie.

“So go on, what happened?” She perched on the corner of the leather bench seat opposite.

Dan’s eyes slid sadly to hers.

“It was me and my girlfriend’s one year anniversary tonight. I thought I’d surprise her with tickets for the movie drive-in, but as I pulled up outside her house, I checked my phone and she’d sent me a text telling me she was sorry, but she was breaking up with me.”

Maisie’s heart sank. She knew exactly how that felt.

“I’m so sorry…”

He shook his head, running a hand through his dark hair.

“I should’ve seen it coming, I guess. She’s been distant with me the last few weeks. I suppose I just didn’t want to believe the romance had fizzled out.”

Maisie frowned. “It’s not the nicest way to find out though. Did she say why?”

Dan nodded. “She wants to go travelling for a year. Alone.” He sighed. “I don’t even know why I still drove here tonight. Going to see a romantic movie when you don’t even have a date any more. Not very cool.”

Maisie laughed. “Well, technically you can’t have seen much of the film from this window, so really you’ve just gone for a coffee on your own. That’s totally acceptable. Everyone does it.”

Denise suddenly appeared beside them with a twinkle in her eye.

“Wow, you haven’t even made a dent in that chocolate cake yet. Here’s another spoon,” she said.

Maisie’s cheeks turned as crimson as her diner-girl neckerchief as Denise pointedly pushed the spoon into her hand.

“I’m supposed to be helping you clear up, Denise.”

Her colleague batted Maisie’s excuse away with a flourish of her dishcloth.

“No need. I’m almost done and we’ll be closing soon anyway.”

Dan slid the plate into the centre of the table.

“It is a sharing-sized portion of cake,” he smiled. “You deserve it for listening to my problems.”

Denise gave a satisfied smile. “And Maisie, don’t forget you’re not on the rota to work next Saturday night,” she called out unnecessarily loudly, strolling away with an even bigger grin.

Maisie’s eyes widened. She knew exactly what Denise was up to!

So did Dan, judging by his slightly awkward expression. He dug his spoon into the dessert and scooped a large chunk of gooey cake into his mouth. He nodded his appreciation approvingly.

“Good choice.”

Maisie smiled. “Chocolate always makes things seem better.”

His eyes brightened. “At least for five minutes anyway.”

“So, Dan. Seeing as you missed the film, and I’ve already sort of half seen it from a distance, twice,” said Maisie, “Shall I tell you what happens?”

Dan took another scoop of cake, his spoon lingering on the plate. “You could do… although, I’d still like to see it. Maybe we could both watch it next Saturday night?”

Maisie blushed. Dan’s face turned red.

“I mean as friends. Not as a date. I mean, not that I wouldn’t want to go on a date with you, because you’re really nice, I just meant…”

“It’s OK, I know what you meant,” said Maisie, grinning. “It would be lovely to watch it properly without having to crane my neck out of the diner doorway.”

Dan smiled. “Great, that’s… great.”

As the credits stopped rolling and the music faded outside, Maisie and Dan exchanged numbers with shy smiles.

And for the first time, Maisie thought, perhaps real life was actually better than the movies.

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