I blink a few times, staring straight into Drew Danforth’s face. It’s like when you’re a kid and there’s a solar eclipse, and all the teachers are like, “Don’t look directly into the sun! You’ll destroy your retinas!” but there’s always that one kid (Johnny Berger, in our class) who can’t stop staring.
In this situation, I’m Johnny Berger. And I guess Drew Danforth is the sun.
“Are you okay?” he asks again, enunciating his words even more as if me understanding him is the problem. His brown eyes, I notice, are flecked with tiny bits of gold, which is something you can’t see when you watch him on TV. His hair is just as voluminous as it seems in pictures, but in person, I have the almost overwhelming urge to touch it, to reach out and pull on that one lock of hair that hangs over his forehead.
“She’s not responding.” He turns to Chloe. “Is something wrong?”
“She’s French,” Chloe says without missing a beat. “She only speaks French.”
“I’m not French,” I say, breaking my silence. Chloe and Drew’s heads swivel to look at me.
“I’m sorry about your coat,” I whisper, then I run toward Nick’s.
Chloe bursts in the door behind me, the bell jingling in her wake. “I’m not French?” she screeches. “Those are the first words you spoke to Drew Danforth? Really?”
“Well then, why did you tell him I was French?” I shout, ignoring the curious stares of everyone working on their laptops and the calming melody of whatever Nick put on to replace the Doobies.
“I don’t know!” She throws her hands in the air. “You weren’t talking, so I thought I’d give you an interesting backstory!”
I put my hands over my face. “This is ridiculous.”
“No,” Chloe says, grabbing me by the shoulders. “This is your meet-cute, and now you need to go back out there and find him and say something that isn’t a negation of your Frenchness or an apology for destroying his probably very expensive coat.”
Nick stares at us from behind the counter, a dishtowel in his hand.
“A meet-cute,” Chloe stands up straight, shoulders back, as if she’s delivering a Romantic Comedy 101 lecture to Nick and his patrons, “is the quirky, adorable, cute way the hero and heroine of a romantic comedy meet.”
Everyone stares at her blankly.
“Or hero and hero. Or heroine and heroine. Not to be heteronormative,” she clarifies.
“Like how me and Martha met at her wedding,” Gary says.
Chloe thinks about it. “I don’t know that I would necessarily call that one a meet-cute, but sure, Gary.”
“Did you just make that up?” Nick asks, arms crossed.
I shake my head. “No. It’s a thing.”
“Watch a romantic comedy, dude,” Tobin says.
Nick rolls his eyes.
“Anyway,” Chloe continues, “Annie straight up ran into Drew Danforth and spilled a cup of coffee all over his coat, which is, like, the cutest of meets.”
“That doesn’t sound very cute,” Nick says skeptically, rubbing the scruff on his chin. “Was it still hot?”
“Scalding,” I say, sinking into my chair and resting my head on the table.
“Sounds like a meet painful,” says Gary, and a few people laugh.
“Thanks,” I mutter. “I’m so glad you all find my embarrassment entertaining.”
“Annie!” Chloe sits down across from me as a customer walks in and the rest of the shop stops paying attention to us. “This isn’t embarrassing. This is merely a story I’ll tell in my toast at your wedding to Drew.”
I lift my head to look at her. “I hate to break this to you, but I don’t think he’s my Tom Hanks. I think he’s just a famous guy with a possible third-degree burn on his chest. And now my first day on set is going to be super awkward because I accidentally assaulted the lead actor with a beverage.”
Chloe’s about to say something, but then a song starts and she closes her mouth, looking up toward the speakers. “I swear to God, I told Nick not to play any more Bon Iver. It makes people look up their exes on Instagram, not buy coffee. I’m gonna go put on some Hall and Oates.”
As she walks away, I rest my head on the table again. As if it wasn’t embarrassing enough to have my uncle get me a job on set, now I have to deal with this.
I’ll have a review for Waiting for Tom Hanks up next week!