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The Realistic Optimist

She sat down at the table and     automatically lifted the mug of coffee towards her face, analyzed it, then sniffed it.

“I’m sure it’s fine,” he said with a snicker.  “Why do you always think it’s going to be wrong?”

She took off her hoodie and draped it over the chair behind her.  “Because they rarely, if ever, get it  exactly how I order it.”

“So negative for an optimist!”

“Let’s just say I’m a realistic optimist and leave it at that.”  She stirred the coffee and took another sniff.  “I think there’s too much cinnamon.”

He laughed.  “No such thing.”

“As too much cinnamon?” she asked with a smile.

“No, jerk.  As a realistic optimist.”

“Sure there is.”

“Optimists are dreamers by nature.  A person claiming to be a realistic optimist is just an undercover pessimist, trying to figure out why optimists are so optimistic, what makes them tick, why they think there will be a happy ending regardless of how things are in the present.”

“Nah,” she said, swatting his idea away from the table.  “I’m a dreamer who hopes for the best, but prepares for the worst.”

“An optimist wouldn’t prepare for the worst.  He or she would just know that either the best will happen, or they will take something from the bad event, no matter what it is, that will make them a better person.”

She sighed and took a sip.  “Hmmm…I was right, too much cinnamon, not enough milk.”  She put it down and pushed it away from her and towards him.

He reached over and grabbed the cup, walked to the self-serve table, and added some milk.  He sipped it, added a little more, and returned.

“It still has too much cinnamon, I’ll bet you,” she said.  He handed it to her and she sipped it, said nothing, and put it down, this time on the table right in front of her.  He smiled.

Photograph and some dialogue by Jessica Brookins.

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dan·de·li·on

The two of them lounged on the grassy hill, she barefoot, he in his flip-flops, watching the wind blow wishes from a patch of dandelions into the air and around the foot of the hill.  Her toes scrunched around grass and pulled on it nervously.  He chewed his cuticles until she reached up and swatted his hand away from his mouth.

“Stop that.  Those are there for a reason!”

“What reason?”

“How should I know?”

He shrugged, then started laughing and pushed her playfully.  She leaned away for about a second, then buoyed back towards him, letting her head rest on his shoulder.  He smiled, squinting into the sunshine that was filtering through the leaves in the tree overhead, casting dancing shadows on them, performing a ballet just for the two of them.  He thought of that and smiled.

“What are you thinking about?”

“Dancing leaves.”

She looked at him oddly, questioningly, as her mouth slowly curled up into a smile, and she shoved him.  He buoyed this time, but came back with enough force to knock her back over, and they both started laughing.  The laughing turned to smiling, then to a deep look that made them both feel as if time had stopped.  The smiles faded into seriousness.

“I’m sorry.”

“What can I say?  It happens.”

He looked sad, and her eyes began a tiny flood, and her lip trembled a little.  Just once.

“I don’t understand why.”

“Me neither.”

“Will we get over it?”

“Yes.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“I love you.  That’s how.”

They were still staring, and they both knew it to be as true as the day they first said it.

“Yeah, you’re right.”

Their attention went from each other to the wishes gently floating around them.  They looked down the hill at the bald heads of what were once flowers as yellow as the sun, one that many considered a weed.  The wind picked up and blew the wishes around them, one hovering between them, daring them to reach for it, and they both looked at it until their eyes focused on each other.  Neither moved, and the wish slowly rose up into the air, and away.