1998 was a hard year for Juliet Stoughton. Sure, she almost single-handedly ended the political career of would-be mayor Raymond Cooper, seriously contemplated a protest at the Baptist Church, and made two close friends in Sarah Hyden-Smith and Iris Long. The truth is, however, there were things going on within Juliet her newfound fame couldn’t camouflage.
She had nothing against Tangi Blevins, but she just couldn’t sit any longer, listening as the pseudo-superstar sang those famous lyrics by Dolly Parton:
And I will always love you
That’s all I have
And all I am taking with me.
Juliet left the fairground stands rapidly, making her way past the ticket booth and vendors selling corndogs, cotton candy and funnel cakes. She walked quickly, her only thought being how she would soon be anywhere besides there, surrounded by all those happy people.
Juliet was an avid reader. Ancient history had always been her favorite subject. She thought a lot about something Plato said. "Love is a serious mental disease," he explained.
Juliet used to believe Plato was too busy thinking elevated thoughts to understand something as simple as true love. Now, she was beginning to understand what he meant.
Finally, nearly out of earshot of the concert, Juliet took a turn in the direction of the fair exit. In just a hundred feet or so, past the Chamber of Commerce display, she would be safe, or so she thought. As she hurried, Juliet kept her eyes on the ground, taking long steps to keep her pace.
That’s when it happened, like a scene from "Love Story," with Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand. The 1970s tale shifts between four different time periods as two young lovers meet and break up in college, only to be reunited, and married, years later.
"Juliet?" the familiar voice said.
She looked up to see Chris Rhodehouse, the man she once considered her soulmate, directly in front of her.
"You look great," he said, seemingly as surprised as she was.
"What are you doing here?" Juliet asked. "I mean, I never took you as a ‘fair’ kind of person."
"My company has a booth in the Exhibit Hall," he answered. "You must not have gone in there or you would have noticed."
He asked how she was. She said she was fine. The truth was she felt anything but fine at the moment. He told her he saw her name in the newspaper.
"Did you really run for mayor?"
Juliet didn’t have much to say. Or perhaps she just couldn’t get the words out.
He told her he missed her, and thought of her a lot. Juliet sensed he might be waiting for her to say the same.
After a moment of awkward silence, she spoke. "You know, Chris," she began, "it’s been really nice to see you."
"Would you like to get a soda or something?" he asked.
"No, actually, I was just rushing to the ladies’ room so I could get back to the concert."
Chris was surprised by her newfound interest in country gospel music.
"It was nice seeing you," Juliet said just before turning toward the ladies’ room just 20 feet to her right. "Take care."
Suddenly, Juliet realized she was in the mood to see the rest of the concert. Upon entering the stand area, she noticed Iris Long taking pictures for the newspaper. She slipped in beside her new friend.
"I’m surprised to see you here," Iris noted with a friendly laugh.
"Well," Juliet replied with a grin, "I wanted to see what all the excitement was about."
She was just in time, as Tangi reappeared on stage for her final encore:
Turn your radio on,
and listen to the music in the air.
Turn your radio on and glory share.
Turn the lights down low,
and listen to the Master’s radio.
Get in touch with God, turn your radio on.
Just then, she remembered a quote by her favorite modern author, J.S.B. Morse:
"A broken heart is just the growing pains necessary so that you can love more completely when the real thing comes along."
Slimp makes his home in Knoxville, Tennessee. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.