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The Right Amount of Exciting

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Kate sees the rose peeking out of a beer mug on the bar, but doesn't really see it. It's just another oddity in a string of oddities - working at Buddy's is like that. But suddenly she remembers that this isn't the first time, in fact, she's recalling that some sort of flower has been there every Monday for the last month.

She approaches it with curiosity and lifts it from the glass. Water drips from the stem and there's a faint scent of vinegar. To keep it fresh? Someone has placed it there deliberately.

"BJ?" she calls, “Is this yours?" (Though Kate’s pretty sure it isn't BJ’s style.)

BJ eyes the glass from a distance. "Are we doing this now? Very chic." She saunters over and plucks the flower from Kate's hand. Swirling it in the water, she then lifts it to her mouth, and before Kate can say more than "That's not--", BJ sucks on the end of the stem.

She makes a face. "Terrible. We have got to stop buying the Kyrgyzstani vodka."

"It's only water," Kate says, taking the flower back. "Maybe a little vinegar. I didn't taste it."

BJ tilts her head, "Really?" She nods in approval. "More profit for us, then." She taps her temple. "Slick businessman, that Buddy."

"It's not--" she begins, then gives up. She's going to have to make sure BJ doesn't actually try to pass that off as a 'drink special' tonight. "I just wonder if you know who keeps leaving flowers here. Have you seen anyone?"

BJ shakes her head, and turns away, her attention caught by a customer.

Kate lifts the mug. Faintly, on the side of the glass, she sees writing. "For Kate." She takes in a breath. Have the Monday flowers been for her? How could she not have noticed until now? She looks around the bar, trying to see if anyone is watching her, but none of the bar's patrons try to catch her eye. Frowning, she takes the mug and places it at her station. Still, it makes her smile every time she sees it that night.

---

Kate notices the envelope tucked under the placemat at the table, but pretends not to. She figures it’s a stray piece of mail that Ben brought in the house and didn’t place in the mail bin. But she’s too busy reorganizing the silverware drawer (is it really so hard to place the forks with the forks?) that she decides to deal with it later.

"Mommy?" Maddie says behind her.

"Yes, Monkey?" She doesn't turn around, grimacing at the state of the steak knives.

"What's this?"

That makes her turn around. Maddie has the envelope in her hand. It's not mail at all, it's a greeting card-sized envelope with her name printed on it. "I don't know... let me see."

Maddie hands it to her and bounces on her toes while Kate opens it. Inside it is a Starbucks gift card for $5 and printed note. Have a treat on me.

"Ooh, can I get a steamed milk?" she asks eagerly. "Who's it from?"

"Maybe, and I don't know." First the flowers and now the gift card? And how did it get here? She glances toward the door to the garage, where Ben's 'apartment' is. She would bet her brother knows something about it. But he isn't home right now, and she doesn't feel like having this conversation over the phone.

"Can we go now?" Maddie asks.

Kate looks at the drawer again, then shuts it firmly. Reorganization can wait. Instead, she beams at Maddie. "Race you to the car."

---

She definitely sees the movie tickets sticking out of her purse. Kate looks around the bar, sure that Ben is hiding in some corner to gauge her reaction, but she doesn't see him. So either he snuck in and out when she was in the kitchen getting an order, or... maybe he never had anything to do with it at all. She never confronted him about the Starbucks card.

Truth be told, she's sort of enjoying the mystery. Normally she needs routine, needs to know what's going to happen next, needs to be prepared for any situation. It's the way she adapted to the chaos of her childhood. But this? Is just the right amount of exciting.

When she's sure no one is directly looking at her (it could be anyone, she decides) she slips the tickets out (there are two of them) and reads the title of the movie. It's for the new romantic comedy coming out, the one she really wants to see. But Kate never gets to see movies, not since Maddie came along, and certainly not working bar hours.

But the tickets are for a matinee, on her day off. Whoever did this A) knows her schedule and B) knows she loves romantic comedies. Who is she supposed to go with? There's no note this time, no indication of anything at all.

She thinks for a minute. Maybe it's for a 'girls' afternoon out.' Ben's always trying to get her to have fun, to relax more, especially now that he's watching Maddie. She sees BJ walking toward the bar, carrying empty glasses on a tray. "Hey, BJ... you want to see a movie tomorrow?"

"A film, eh?" She sets the tray down and leans forward on the edge of the bar. "What are you up for? A slasher flick? An adrenaline-fueled action extravaganza?"

Kate lifts her eyebrows hopefully. "A romantic comedy?"

"Absolutely..." She rests a gentle hand on Kate's shoulder and smiles. "...not. You know I don't have the stomach for those."

Kate sighs. "I know. I just have these tickets, and I don't know who to go with..."

BJ's eyes light up. "Ask someone in line. It's the perfect pickup." She waggles her eyebrows as if she knows, and walks away.

Kate laughs. She wouldn't put it past BJ, but it's so far away from what Kate would do that it's out of the question.

She does want to see it, though...

She finds herself in front of the theater the next day, alone. Maybe she can get a refund for the unused ticket?

But that doesn't seem right, she didn't pay for them in the first place. Maybe she could give it to one of the older ladies walking toward the theater with a group of her friends?

"Kate?" she hears from behind her. She turns to see Tommy with a surprised yet delighted look on his face.

"Tommy." She's suddenly suspicious. Were all the gifts from... him? If he wanted to go out, why didn't he just ask? She thought she'd made that perfectly clear on her birthday.

"Are you here with BJ?" He looks around past her.

"No, by myself." As if he didn't know. "Are you meeting someone?" she says, playing along. Ben's watching Maddie, but she's sure Tommy has other friends, even if she's never met them.

"No." He shrugs. "A brother can't experience some rom-com magic by himself?"

"What a coincidence!" Though it surely isn't. "Want to see it together?"

He smiles wide and pulls his wallet from his back pocket. "Let me buy my ticket and I'll meet you inside."

“Wait, I have an extra... ticket....” She frowns. “You didn’t know?”

He tilts his head, confused. Either he’s a really good actor, or he really didn’t give her the tickets. Then...

Her phone buzzes with a text. She fishes it out. It’s from Ben, and reads, Enjoy the movie! Tell Tommy hi. Kate smiles and shakes her head.

“What?” Tommy asks.

She slips the phone back in her purse. “Just Ben being Ben.”

“I know about that!” he laughs.

She hooks her hand under his elbow. “Ready for some rom-com magic?”

That ultra-serious look comes over him, and he says as they push through the doors, “I was born ready.”