Paige had always believed in love like it was pictured in movies.
Just after her 12th birthday, she was first allowed to go to the cinema without her parents and from that day on, she had spent almost every weekend there, spending every pound of her pocket money on tickets to see as many films as she possibly could. At first, she used to take her friends with her, but they soon got bored and started to protest when Paige dragged them into the same cheesy love movie for the third or forth or fifth time. That’s why she began going to the movies on her own, at first feeling a bit awkward about not having any company, but soon enjoying to watch films without being distracted. At 15, Paige was already spending more time at the movie theatre than at her parent’s house, the staff greeting her like a sister, giving her free snacks with every ticket and chatting to her for at least two hours each day. As much as she loved being with her mum and dad, they had become her second family and the little movie theatre with the small entrance hall, plushy red seats, big posters and the familiar smell of popcorn felt more like home than the house she lived in.
Even when Paige wasn’t at the cinema, her mind was always occupied with the film she had last seen, recounting the details of every dialogue or conversation, thinking about her favourite characters, imagining alternate endings and making up new storylines. People were worrying about her, saying that Paige had lost track of reality, that she always had her head in the clouds. And it was true, she was constantly dreaming, mostly of love and how much she wanted to find it. More often than not, Paige felt lonely in her group of friends, misunderstood, and longed for someone who’d truly understand her, someone who’d make her feel like she belonged.
To her, love was the ultimate purpose of life, the one thing that would make everything else seem small and insignificant, that would bring her endless happiness. And she was determined to find it.
Nevertheless, it came as a surprise when it first hit her only a few days after she had turned 16.
She met Nick at a friend’s party and at the beginning, it really was like in the movies. There had immediately been a spark between the two of them when they had looked at each other across the room that day and after exchanging a few shy smiles, Nick had taken up the courage to talk to her. Their conversation was like nothing Paige had experienced before, from the first sentence on, Nick and her just clicked. There was no need for smalltalk or awkward silences, nothing had ever been as easy yet fascinating as speaking to him. At some point, he asked her whether she wanted to go to the beach to chat some more and while they sat on the cold sand only comforted by the warmth of each other’s bodies and talked for hours, she noticed how his eyes had the same colour as the ocean. The sea had never seemed more beautiful.
When he walked her home and kissed her goodbye on her doorstep, Paige was over the moon. This, she thought, is what I have waited for all my life.
During the next few days, Nick and her got closer and closer and one week after they’d met, he’d first called her his girlfriend. Their kisses were not exactly like the ones of two movie stars, but that didn’t matter. Nick made Paige laugh, feel wanted and be like herself again and that was all that counted.
For about two and a half months, he wrote her a script to her own perfect love story.
Paige’s favourite films usually ended at the point when things couldn’t get any better, but when she felt like she’d reached that point with Nick, life surely didn’t stop. It went on, Autumn came, the seasons changed and so did Nick’s feelings for her. Deep down, Paige had already sensed that the way he looked at her wasn’t the same anymore, that his mind was elsewhere when they were together and that their bond wasn’t as strong as it used to be, but it still came as a shock when he told her he had fallen out of love as they were sitting next to each other on her bed one rainy Sunday afternoon.
He said he was sorry. He said he had been trying to make the feelings come back, but couldn’t. He said he didn’t want to lose her. But when he saw the hurt in her eyes as she looked at him, searching for a reason why everything had gone wrong, he knew that he already had.
It was three months since the breakup and Paige was still thinking of Nick every day. She still went to the cinema every Saturday and on Wednesdays if she had some time and money left, but she watched the films with different eyes now.
She hadn’t given up on love, not at all, she still held on to the thought of it as much as she had done before. But when she walked past the seafront one afternoon on her way home and stopped for a minute to watch the waves crash against the seashore as she had done with Nick on their first evening together, she became aware that it was not all there was to being alive. Loving and being loved in return might be one of the most wonderful things in the world, she thought to herself, but so is looking at the sea.
For the first time after losing Nick, she thought of the future and felt anticipation well up inside her. There was still so much to do, so many places to visit, so many people to meet, so many dreams to chase. With or without him.
She would take her GCSEs this year, go to college, maybe study direction at uni afterwards and perhaps, in a few years time, she would be making her own movies and create her own love stories. Not only stories about people falling in love with each other, but also about people falling in love with themselves.
She once again took in the beauty of the ocean and smiled to herself before she continued to walk along the shore. That was when she realised she didn’t need anyone to complete her. It was just her, the waves and the fresh, cold air surrounding her, and, in that moment, that was enough. She felt whole.