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<h2>Is This For Real?</h2>
Kathy Strobos

Romantic Comedy/women’s fiction with romance as a central element
<h2>Chapter One</h2>
I just have to make it through this brunch with my crush. And convince him that I’m over him. That there’s absolutely no risk I will say “I love you” to him again.

I adjust my 1920’s cloche hat and push through the subway turnstile. At least Rory agreed to join me at this brunch with Jamie and his new girlfriend, so I’m not the rejected third wheel. I jog up the stairs out of the subway station to be greeted by the smell of honey-roasted nuts from the Nuts 4 Nuts vendor cart at the corner. I walk down Sixth Avenue towards the restaurant, passing by a juice shop which smells of coconut and lime, a phone store, a clothing store with back-to-school sale signs, some boarded-up stores, and Michael’s. I should have left earlier, so I could’ve popped into Michael’s. Not that I need any more crafting supplies, but it seems a waste to be in the neighborhood and not check out their sale selection.

One more block. I pass by a cute guy with a backwards baseball cap carrying a basketball. He smiles and whistles. I look behind me to check out who caught his attention. There’s nobody. I flush. I knew my hat was the right call. Hats have a certain magical power that we New Yorkers have completely forgotten, bestowing a sense of glamour upon the wearer. My average looks and height are not such that people are usually whistling at me on the street. At 5’4”, with my brown curly hair and blue eyes, I am the epitome of “cute” or even worse, “pixie-like.” This hat changes that to “sophisticated” with my curls peeking out.

Rory is leaning against a streetlight, reading a book. One lock of his brown wavy hair has fallen onto his face, and he pushes it away, to join the rest of his unruly mop of hair. He could be modeling menswear, except that the cover of the book he’s holding is bright pink and yellow. A romcom book I recommended. He wanted to read other books in my genre so he could compare my draft manuscript to the competition, and so I gave him a list of my favorites. He looks up and our glances catch. My heart melts just a little bit. Rory’s blue-green eyes slayed many a woman in college.

“Like your hat, Penelope. Suits you,” Rory kisses me on the cheek. He smells like fresh laundry.

We push open the door to the brunch place. Bells jingle and I breathe in the buttery smell of pancakes. The restaurant has this white-washed wood old farmhouse vibe. Lots of vintage signs with pictures of black and white cows or a bushel of peaches for $1 decorate the walls. We stand in line in the small foyer waiting to be seated. I’ve been seeing more of Rory lately. He broke up with his last girlfriend about two months ago. When he has a girlfriend, we see each other about once a month. But now he calls me to get together for brunch nearly every Sunday. My best friend Zelda, who also knows Rory from college, was like: “Well, he obviously likes to hang out with you, but you’re solidly in the friend lane with this Sunday brunch thing.” It’s not that I thought I was changing lanes and moving to the speeding girlfriend lane. I just wondered. Trust Zelda for straight talk.

“Do you like the book?” I punch his arm playfully.

“It’s good. Better than I expected. Funny.” Rory smiles. “So, what’s with this fake boyfriend trope? This is the second one with it.”

“I like that trope.” I tilt my head.

“Do you?” Something in the way he asks makes me look at him more closely.

“I’m using it in the book I’m writing now. Why? Are you looking for a fake girlfriend?” I ask.

“I think I am.” He bites his lip. “My client’s wife keeps hitting on me. At the last event, she copped a feel of my butt.”

“That’s awful.”

He frowns. “It is. I totally jumped. I wasn’t expecting the older wife of my client to be . . .” He shakes his head. “It’s fucking awkward. So, I’m thinking I need a girlfriend to protect me.”

“Aren’t there any women currently in the running to be a real girlfriend?”


“How is that possible?” I ask. We move up in the brunch line. We should be next. The smell of bacon frying is making me hungry.

Rory just gives me his look of annoyance, which is one eyebrow cocked, head tilt and a slight shake of his head. “You of all people should understand. You never date. And there’s too much pressure now that we’re older. Marie was scoping me out as potential husband material. I liked her, but not enough. I just didn’t feel that connection.” Another couple enters the foyer. Rory and I move closer together to make space. I am practically on top of Rory.

I look up. “That magical connection can be dangerous.” Rory is such a romantic.

“Is that bad?” He gives me a lopsided grin.

“Dangerously devastating if you lose that person.” Or he doesn’t “feel the same way.”

“So, you’re not looking for a magical connection?” Rory asks, a crease in his forehead.

“I’m not particularly looking.” I cross my arms.

“But you’re writing a romantic comedy.”


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