Young love is a myth.
It’s something we’re conditioned to expect by movies and stories. It’s something we all wanted but could never find. And even when we get older and know the truth, we still wish, just a little, that we had it.
When two young cousins find themselves bored to tears at a family funeral, they find another cousin willing to tell them a little story about his young love: how a simple Valentine’s Day gift from a mini-mart became one of the best he’d ever given.
It's a fine story on its own, but as the girls dig deeper, they find themselves enveloped in a longer saga, told one story at a time. One about the difference between a crush and love. One that challenges their notions of fate and perfection. One about how our own worst enemies can be ourselves, and how in the end, we’re all just a little messed up.
The cafeteria was one of those places where you waited in line at the buffet, got served and then chose your seats. The family had essentially conquered one corner of the dining room. It had started with immediate families sitting together and mingling, but as the eating went on, a shuffling of seats had occurred. The older men in the family were renewing college rivalries, talking about the upcoming week’s games. The wives had gathered in the corners. That left the kids.
Most of the young ones were sitting at the undeclared kids table, and near the end of it, Joseph and Natasha had sat down. Jackson was in a baby-seat at the end of the table, and Natasha was trying to feed him here and there as she ate. Samantha had decided on the lesser of two evils, and sat with Joseph rather than her cousin. It meant dealing with her other cousins, but the boys were mostly self-contained. While she shot some icy glares in Natasha’s direction, the baby had taken most of her attention, so Samantha was able to eat in peace.
At least, she was until Jessie came over.
“You were drinking Coke, right, Joseph?” she asked as she walked up behind him.
“Yeah, I am. Why?” Joseph looked up.
She placed a full cup in front of him. “So you have no excuses to stop. Come on, keep talking. I want to hear more about you and Sera!” Samantha rolled her eyes.
Joseph looked at Jessie, who had plopped herself next to Natasha. “What has gotten you so into this story?”
She beamed. “It’s so good. It’s like a lot of the books they make for teens, except more real.”
Natasha stifled a laugh from next to Jessie. Joseph ignored her. “How do you know I’m not lying to you? Making it up as I go along?”
Jessie shook her head. “Nope. I’m good at knowing when people are lying to me, but you’re not. Too much detail, and when you’re telling it…you’re too into it. You know this story. Anyway, Natasha and Aunt Carol keep talking about you and your story, so you must’ve told it before.”
Joseph laughed. “You know, the best lies are the most repeated ones.”
Jessie mock banged her fists on the table, and some of the family looked around at them. “C’mon, Joseph,” she said in a hushed tone. “It was meant to be! You don’t have lives that are that close to each other for no reason. I don’t believe in coincidences!”
Joseph smiled at her. “You don’t? Are you sure you’re old enough to choose to not believe in something like that?”
Jessie frowned at him. “So? I can’t wait until I have a coincidence to know if I believe in them. If they don’t exist, then they’ll never happen, then I won’t get to choose, will I?”
Even Samantha had to stop and think about that. She looked over at Joseph, who looked back at her. “You know, that almost made sense.” Joseph laughed a little.
Natasha rolled her head over and looked over at Joseph. “She’s not going to stop, you know,” she said. “You need to tell her, or else she’s going to drive us all crazy.”
Joseph sighed. He looked at Samantha. “What do you think?” Samantha shrugged. Joseph looked back over to Jessie. “Well, you aren’t alone about not believing in coincidences.”
“You don’t either?” Jessie asked.
“No, not me. Sera. She didn’t believe in them either. Especially after what happened once we were out of high school.”