by Elizabeth Brown from the September 30, 2013 issue
Tagline: Rosie was happy in her marriage, but she couldn't help wishing there was a little more romance in her life...
In a Nutshell: Rosie is having lunch with a friend when she sees a couple kiss. Her friend remarks that the two can't be married because married people don't do that in public. As Rosie tells her husband about it, she realizes how much she is grateful for. Hubby realizes it too and asks her out on a "date" the next day to prove it.
Observations: Okay, this is THE perfect already-married story. It's the best one I've read in the eight years I've subscribed to this magazine.
In most already-married stories, it's all about the character growth. You have a character--usually the wife--who is somewhat disgruntled or unhappy or in a rut in regard to the marriage. By the end of the story, she has a change of heart and sees all the wonderful things her marriage has to offer. Usually it's by looking at the history she has with her husband or at some facet of his personality or habits that she hasn't appreciated or looked at in a different way before.
In this story, we do get all that. But we also get the husband realizing as well. Usually, the husband is oblivious to his wife's emotional distress and he ends up surprised at the end of the story. Not so in "Secret Rendezvous."
I wanted to point out that Brown actively showed Rosie walking this path of self-realization. Here's the doubt:
I tried to think of the last time Harry and I did anything romantic. Two Friday nights ago we went on a "date," but all we talked about were the kids.
Huh. Been there done that!
But then Brown starts showing Rosie coming to her senses.
His brown hair was thinning on top, but still, I thought, he's so handsome. I used to love to run my fingers through that hair. Why had I ever stopped?
Because he didn't have hair anymore? Heh heh. Just kidding. This is where Rosie begins to realize what she has. The next paragraph continues that. She thinks about what they've built together and what they continue to work toward.
In a masterful stroke, she ties Rosie's observation of "the man gazing at a spot somewhere above [his wife's] head" at Costco to an observation at home with Harry doing the same thing, increasing the tension and weaving the story together a little tighter.
Lastly, where I would have expected the story to end with Rosie accepting Harry's invitation to lunch, Brown takes it one step further and shows Rosie choosing a special dress for the date. She brings us back to Rosie's observation of the kissing couple whom she thought looked like old time movie stars. Rosie's dress makes her feel like she might be "a star on her way to a rendezvous with a tall, handsome stranger." However, the author reminds us:
But in truth, it was me, dressing for lunch with a man I'd known intimately for 18 years--a man who, maybe, I was just getting to know all over again.
Happy sigh. That, my friends is a great ending. It would have been a fine ending if that last part, with her getting dressed, hadn't been there, but in my opinion, Brown knocked it out of the park with that final paragraph. I say in my online/email class that it's worth it to spend as much time on the ending of your story as necessary to make it SING. This is a prime example of why.