Heart-Shaped Box of Memories
By Nicole Luiken
The first fan mail confused the heck out of Brooke.
Dear Brooke (I know I should probably call you Ms. Harper, but I feel like if we met we’d be friends):
I just wanted to thank you so much for sharing your Perfect Date with me. Valentine’s Day has been a low spot for me in recent years (I’m a widow). I picked your chocolate on a whim and it was so sweet! It brought tears (of joy!) to my eyes and has buoyed my sagging belief in True Love.
Wishing you and Jon many years of happiness,
Brooke wrinkled up her nose. She couldn’t remember ever being in a movie called Perfect Date or even a Valentine’s movie of any sort. Ms. Dorrheimer must have confused her with someone else. She deleted the message.
The next day there were nine more, all in a similar theme, thanking her and congratulating her on finding True Love. The next day there were 600.
Brooke stormed into her agent’s office, waving a handful of print-outs. “Avery, what is this? Did you sell some subsidiary rights I’m not aware of?”
He barely glanced at the papers. “Brooke, darling, perfect timing! I just got a call. Paramount wants to make a romance starring you. The script is still in development, but they’re very excited about it.”
Her jaw dropped open. All thoughts of the weird emails flew from her head. She’d had a few lead roles before—seven years ago, to be truthful—but those had been hard-fought auditions. Apparently, she was more girl-next-door than Steamy Seductress. She’d never been courted before.
“That’s—that’s fabulous. Tell me more.”
“It’s called Perfect Date, and they’re trying to get Jake Gyllenhal as the male lead.”
Her euphoria crashed to a halt. “Perfect Date?” That was the name mentioned in the weird emails.
“Avery, stop. Something strange is going on. Do you know anything about this?” She handed him the print-outs.
He rolled his eyes in impatience, skim read one, then stopped and read three more with a more serious expression. “I don’t know what this is. It sounds like someone has infringed on your rights. I will look into this—but Brooke, regardless, the Paramount offer could be your big break.”
Brooke nodded, but worry tainted her earlier happiness.
At their next meeting, Avery was missing his normally jovial smile, his mouth set in a thin line. He shoved a heart-shaped box across the table. “It’s being marketed like a box of chocolates, but it’s actually downloadable memories. Yours is Perfect Date Caramel. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s actionable. It’s not your memory. Everything is seen from the point of view of your date.”
The bottom dropped out of her stomach. “Is there… nudity?”
He shook his head. “It’s just a date. A romantic one,” he added.
“Who?” she asked. Several of the emails had referred to Jon or John. While she knew a number of Johns and two Jonathans, one of whom was a close friend, she’d never dated any of them. How memorable could the date have been if she didn’t even remember the guy?
Avery shrugged. “The memories don’t have names credited to them, not even yours. I’m trying to get names from the company so we can sue, but we’re stalled in legal limbo. Your hair is caramel-tinted and short, the way you wore it in Flesh and Spirit. You need to view the memory, Brooke. Give me a name so we can sue his ass.” He pushed the heart-shaped box across the table at her.
With great reluctance she took it.
The memory chocolate gave Brooke severe indigestion.
She remembered that sweet red-and-white polka dot dress. She remembered getting slightly buzzed on wine, but more intoxicated on his attention. She remembered kicking off her white sandals and running hand in hand on the beach, though she had no idea she’d looked so starry-eyed. God help her, she’d thought she was sophisticated back then, but her emotions were written on her face. She’d been so in love with him. But his name wasn’t Jon or John, it was Conrad Whitten. Her co-star back in Flesh in Spirit.
And he’d turned out to be such a jerk. He’d slept with her that night and sneered at her in the morning. She remembered the pity in the cameraman’s eyes when she’d made a fool of herself on set by daring to act as if they were a couple.
After Conrad Whitten, she’d learned to guard her heart. She let friends in, dates not so much.
Her throat swelled with emotion, choking her. How dare he? How dare he stomp on her heart and then make a cheap profit off of it? She started to reach for the phone, then stilled. Conrad Whitten was pulling down millions a movie as an action hero. Why would he sell this?
She watched it a second time and spotted some discrepancies. Like she’d only danced a slow song with Conrad, not a fast one.
And then she remembered: it had been a double date. She’d gone with her friend Kerri, who turned out to not be a very good friend at all, sleeping with Conrad a week later. And Kerri’s date had been—
The phone rang. It was Avery. “Some interesting news. The Perfect Date Caramel has been withdrawn. Apparently the owner of the memory is also suing—though I still don’t have a name. He claims it was stolen from his private collection and that it’s a fantasy. Brooke, I know you’re upset about this, but as long as we have a disclaimer that it never happened, I’m not sure pulling it is the best move for us. This is generating a lot of publicity. If it fades, Paramount may not green light the movie project.”
Brooke wasn’t listening. “I’ll think about it, Avery. Good night.”
Brooke rang the doorbell of Jonathan’s condo. How many times had she come here bearing pizza for a movie marathon or script reading fest? How many times had she cried on his shoulder after a bad date? Kerri had turned out to be no friend, but Jonathan had become her best bud. He was sweet and funny and cute in a bookish way.
Jonathan opened the door, his expression wary. “Hi, Brooke. What’s up?” But he was a cameraman, not an actor, and she could see the panic behind his eyes.
She asked him flat out. “Jonathan, are you in love with me?” Her knees were shaking.
He didn’t lie. In fact his shoulders straightened like a burden had been lifted. “Yes. For years. I’m sorry—”
“Shut up.” She went up on tiptoe and kissed him until he stopped talking and kissed her back.
Fade to black.
Thank you so much for your email. I’m glad the memory of our first date gave you joy, and I wanted to let you know that True Love is out there—even if sometimes it takes some of us a while to find it.
Brooke and Jonathan
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