Besides contacting local businesses to donate supplies (including the white paint I'm presently speckled with), Jake had the brilliant idea to organize a weekend Park 'n' Swap right here on the lot. Professional vendors paid to participate, and the flea market folks gave Wes a portion of their profits. The way people in the community rallied was truly inspiring, and we raised enough money for all the necessary repairs as well as extra funds to rent a digital projection system for our big reopening in two days. Someone even donated a new speaker sound system that's being installed tomorrow.
All Wes needs now is a successful night on Friday to prove to the bank they should give him a loan. If he can just borrow enough for a down payment on the digital projector system, he can start showing new releases, and the future of the theater will be secure. Of course, he's already promised Jake and me he'll keep running Classic Horror Movie Tuesday once a month as a thank you for all our hard work.
Out of everything Jake and I accomplished, I think Wes is most excited about the T-shirts we designed, because he wears one constantly. The front of the shirt has a cartoon silhouette of two people about to kiss inside a car with the words "Experience the magic of the Starlight" written among the stars over their heads. For the design, we wanted to play up the local legend that claims a first kiss exchanged at the Starlight guarantees a long and love-filled relationship.
After all the stories Jake and I heard from so many couples of all ages, still together after sharing their first kiss here, I don't even think it's false advertising to call kissing under the stars at the Starlight "magic."
Which is why I can't believe Jake decided to try and shift our relationship from buddy comedy to blockbuster romance right now instead of waiting two days for opening night on Friday. Magic never happens on a Wednesday afternoon.
"Whoops!" I say as I flinch away from his near-kiss.
We're almost done painting the bottom section of the screen, standing in the grass with our paint rollers on long extension poles. Jake must've interpreted the quick wink I gave him before detaching the pole from the handle of my paint roller as a "this is it" moment.
Except that I've turned it into a "what was that?" moment by acting like Jake just tried to murder me. I'm practically shaking as I try to act casual, bending down to dip my roller into the tray. I pretend my maneuver was just to reload with paint, despite how awkward the angle of my arm is now.
Jake blinks a few times in confusion and quickly shoves his long bangs out of his eyes. I look down at the now-dripping paint roller in my hand and try to come up with a diversion. Inspired, I wave the long, detached pole back and forth, wishing it were a wand that could turn back time and give me a do-over.
Jake just blinks rapidly as he watches me.
In desperation, I give the pole a playful spin, knocking myself lightly in the forehead. "Ow!" I drop the paint-filled roller onto the grass at our feet.
I laugh and Jake doesn't, and my heart clenches as I bend back down to pick up my roller. Green blades of grass now stick out from the white paint. Great.
By the time I've finished picking the grass from the roller, Jake has turned his focus intently to the section of screen just above him. His face is bright pink as he rolls on yet another coat, ignoring the fact it has plenty of paint already covering it. I clear my throat, but he refuses to look my way, and so I turn my attention to my own 'already-very-much-finished' section.
I've been crushing on Jake ever since we first made eye contact, each setting out our lawn chairs beside our cars at dusk early last summer as cartoon hot dogs and sodas paraded by onscreen. We lined ourselves up close enough to start a casual conversation and quickly discovered our mutual obsession with old horror films.
It was a happy accident that the battery in his Bronco died from having the radio on throughout the whole movie and I had to give him a jump from my parents' minivan after the film ended. Which of course turned into the perfect excuse to keep our connection sparking.
And now, after having so much fun together for almost a year, summer is starting again and we're finally getting to the part where we share a magical kiss, and I've just ruined everything. My mind feels as blank as the screen we're both over-painting.