It was one of those sappy western love stories, where the hero leaves behind his true love to save the world … or, at least, to round up some little doggies … only to realize once he’s been on the trail for awhile that she really is his true love, and he races back to marry her.
All the better if he snatches her from a bitter rival at the altar.
Even though she knew how they’d turn out, those old films always made Jane cry. And the free Thursday night showing of Hopalong to Happiness at the Chateau hit her harder than most, even though it just might have been the cheesiest of the lot.
Normally, Dan would have been there by her side, or they would have been cuddled up on the couch watching a VHS copy of a classic, but he was out of town for work. Had been out of town for a month and wouldn’t be back for another two.
She really, truly missed him.
As Jane dabbed her eyes in the ladies’ room mirror after the show, another patron stepped up to the sink next to her.
“Wasn’t that a wonderful movie, dear?”
Jane glanced at the woman’s reflection. She was in her sixties, and her face beamed with expectation as she awaited Jane’s reply.
“Oh … oh, yes,” Jane said, trying to compose herself. “I love these old movies.”
“Oh, me, too!” the woman enthused. “So sad! So happy! And so exciting! Why, my heart nearly pounded out of my chest when Blade rode back into Beechton to find Sally with Lance. And then the way he dropped to his knees and professed his love!” The woman clutched her chest. “Bestill my heart!”
Jane mustered a sad smile. “Too bad that only happens in the movies.”
“I don’t know, dear,” the lady said, turning her attention to her own reflection, fixing a few stray hairs. “There may yet be some real cowboys out there in the world just waiting for their big moments.”
“I suppose,” Jane said as she walked toward the bathroom door. “Take care.”
“You, too, dear.”
When Jane pulled open the door and stepped into the lobby, something seemed different than when she had gone into the restroom. It appeared as if all of the moviegoers had gathered there at once, forming a circle around the center of the foyer.
People were whispering and pointing, and there was an electricity in the air.
Whatever was going on, Jane didn’t want any part of it. She just wanted to go home and call Dan, then go to bed.
“Excuse me,” she said to the woman standing with her back to Jane.
The woman looked over her shoulder, studied Jane’s face for a moment, then smiled and stepped to one side. The whispers grew to a crescendo, and other faces in the crowd turned to look at Jane.
“It’s her!” somebody said.
Jane was confused but happy for the clear path that had opened in front of her. She shook her head, still not sure what to make of the ruckus, took a step forward … then stopped cold.
There in the center of throng knelt her Dan, down on one knee, a ring extended in his outstretched palm.
Jane’s eyes filled with tears again, and she ran to throw her arms around her cowboy.