Act 1: Can it be?
The curtain opens. A girl and a boy each sit in their respective one-bedroom apartments across Houston. It is early September 2019 and the air is still heavy and thick with the lingering remnants of Houston’s famous summer humidity.
She can’t get over it. He went to Duke (uhhhhh) and his title is “Clean Energy CEO & Founder,” all the makings of another frat bro too into himself. But, yet, his photos hint at a goofier side. An inner voice goads her, “come on, give it a shot, how bad can he really be.” Begrudgingly she swipes right on a blue devil. And so it begins.
His phone chimes to life. Probably another Bumble match. He rolls his eyes, but this one catches his gaze. He stops. She hikes, she’s witty, a smart mid Atlantic girl and gorgeous at that. He awaits her opening salvo. “Your move counselor,” he thinks.
After weeks of banter, a skill he is known to possess, they agree to meet. It’s a cool (for Houston) October Thursday night and she’s fashionably late while he’s early to the local wine bar he selected. She’s fresh to Houston from law school and awaiting her bar results. Promptly and energetically she espouses her knowledge of wine (because she went to UVA and Charlottesville is “known” for their wines) and orders two to taste. He acquiesces and is overcome with a sense of happiness. He’s really happy. One hour turns into two. They agree to part for the night. He leans in for a kiss, she smiles and returns the kiss. “Wow, what just happened” he says as he walks to his car.
It is New Years and the new couple are having a hell of a time. 2020, a new decade. Little did they know what was in store over the next year. They steal a few minutes outside alone in the crisp Texas winter air. It’s only smiles and champagne fueled giggles, they are in love and so he says “I feel strange when I don’t say I love you. It feels natural.” This is the first time he’s said it to her. “I love you too” she replies through an ear to ear grin. Their hearts are light.
The curtain closes and the house lights come to life. Intermission.
Act 2: The Fondness Grows
The curtain opens and the couple are in a car driving to Richmond, VA. They are in hour 18 of their 22 hour drive to spend time with her parents.
Coffee, more coffee, and even more. The caffeine is working and he is still wide awake while she drifts in and out of sleep, curled in the passenger seat, as a murder-porn podcast plays. The car smells of their highway dinner, Chick-Fil-A. The sign says 100 miles to Durham and then there is another 200 miles after that to Richmond. “I wonder what her parents will think of me,” he ponders. He’s excited but nervous. The couple had briefly met the respective parents in a quick jaunt to the east coast in February but the stakes felt higher now as he prepared to spend 5 days with the infamous Marguerite and Norwood. The car pulls in at 1am, and the bleary-eyed couple is greeted by an animated shih tzu, Teddy, alerting the household to their arrival. As the couple rolls into bed, she notes the Teddy, who has vehemently disliked every previous boyfriend, was curling up next to him.
Spring rolled into summer, which backslid into fall. The couple were thankful that despite all horrors around them they were one against the world. A global pandemic, isolation for weeks on end, together facing the unknown. Dubious coping mechanisms included sake bomb date night, line dancing tutorials, and a chopped cooking competition which nearly destroyed the kitchen. They traveled through the quarantines so that his friends could meet her and her friends could meet him.
As November came to a close, COVID Thanksgiving culminated in their families meeting for the first time. He was on edge, she was anxious for it all to go well. It was as natural as pumpkin pie, albeit eaten socially distant manner. The holiday meal had a simple familiarity to it. The families fit like a custom made glove.
The curtain closes and the house lights come to life. The last intermission before the denouement.
Act 3: To Hell and Back
The curtain opens and the couple is sitting on their couch in 3 layers of clothes under multiple blankets. The power hasn’t been on for days, cell service is spotty at best, the water isn’t working, it is 40 degrees inside their home.
He’s not panicking but he’s scared. The entire city’s power has been off for multiple days. The temperatures are low and dropping. She’s keeping good spirits but he knows that it could get worse quickly. He has had the engagement ring for a week and was planning to propose on Saturday. The fates have slapped him with a truly unforeseen crisis. He resolves that he will propose whatever the circumstances throw at him. She remains unaware of his intent through the hellish week, not expecting a proposal at such an awful hour.
He coaxes her to join him on a walk around the grounds of the Menil museum on Sunday morning. As the cold front breaks, they are surrounded by frozen vegetation that is springing back to life in the early afternoon sun. A commotion in the distance causes her to look away briefly under a majestic flowing oak tree. He drops to one knee and extends the ring. She turns back as he stammers, fighting back tears, “Clay, I love you so much. Will you marry me?” Elation and surprise arrests her as she responds “Oh my God, oh my God. Yes”. Paralyzed with warmth and happiness they make their way to celebrate and revel in the moment.
The curtain closes as the audience wipes their eyes. The actors come on stage to take a bow.
SCREENPLAY BY JAY MCKENNA