When Life Imitates Art (short story)

Individual release of my short story (March 2020)

~ Who would’ve thought when I walked into my neighborhood Chicago bookstore that I’d meet my fantasy boyfriend? Or was he…?! ~

When a twenty-something magazine writer visits her favorite indie bookstore, she doesn’t expect to run into the hunky man of her dreams. But even though their real-world encounter is brief, something about him sparks her imagination…

Soon, she finds she’s built up a relationship with him that is part reality, part fantasy, and part literary. But what happens when her whimsical imaginings come face to face once again with the very real man who’d inspired them? Is it possible for an actual romance to have its origins in fiction?

“When Life Imitates Art” is a 7,000-word original contemporary romantic comedy by bestselling author Marilyn Brant.

Buy a copy from your favorite ebook retailer for less than a dollar!!



Twelfth Night Publishing
Ebook Exclusive
New Adult Romance
March 23, 2020

**Hope you’ll enjoy this EXCERPT below!!**

WHEN LIFE IMITATES ART: A Romantic Short Story – copyright 2017 by Marilyn Brant

I could tell they weren’t married by their voices. As the couple browsed through volumes on the second floor of Between the Pages, my favorite Chicago indie bookstore, a woman I decided to call “Cherry,” after her bright-red fingernail polish, purred in response to her man—a tall, hunky guy wearing a black leather jacket.

I overheard the hunk in leather say, “I’m not going home without the book I need.” He ran his hand through his light, wavy hair and then sighed in a show of mild exasperation.

Her reply was kitten-like—playful but sharp. “Well, we’ll find it for you. I’m not a woman who leaves without accomplishing her mission.”

Ah, defining herself. She spoke a decibel too loud for the quiet section of the bookstore and used that irritating, overly solicitous, enthused tone reserved for people still trying to make a good impression. I guessed they’d been dating for three weeks. Okay, maybe four. But for anyone within a fifty-foot diameter, hearing more of their conversation was unavoidable.

“How about this one?” Cherry asked. “It’s an hors d’oeuvres handbook.”

“A Martha Stewart cookbook?” Hunk said slowly. “Well, um, that’s a thought…”

“Right!” she said, emboldened by his response, somehow missing the fact that he didn’t even reach for the book.

After an awkward pause, he pointed to another title. “Hey, they have Entertaining for Dummies.”

“That’s funny,” she said too quickly, her laugh sounding forced to my ears and tinged with relief at having managed to keep the conversation with him going. She reached over, fondled his leather jacket’s collar and fluffed his hair—letting her fingertips play cat and mouse with his neck before sliding her shockingly red nails down his spine and bringing them to rest on the back pocket of his Levi’s. She announced her ownership of the man (and, apparently, all of his clothing) with a pointed stare in my direction.

I smothered a snicker and glanced down at my book.

Before their arrival that April night, I’d been lounging in a chair to their left. I was flipping through a huge volume of preschool “fun foods” and party ideas while surreptitiously taking notes for a short article I’d been commissioned to write for a parenting magazine. This was a solid text and, if I ever had a toddler in my life, I’d buy it for sure. With my Single/No Kids status, however, I tended to restrict my purchases to fiction.

The atmosphere upstairs in the Cooking & Crafts section was always casual and relaxing, though. I was in no rush to leave.

A moment later, the woman sauntered off to inspect books on a nearby table while the guy moved closer to my chair. There were other catchy party-planning titles displayed on a rotating shelf not more than three feet from me. Perhaps the book he was in search of was a present for someone unforgivably social, difficult to shop for, and/or really into complicated canapés?

I studied him carefully and scribbled a slew of mental notes while he was busy perusing the volumes.

A young professional—newly out in the world.

Preppy. Like he’d just walked off the set of one of those legal dramas on TV.

He couldn’t have been more than twenty-five—about my age—and, beneath the black leather jacket, he was dressed in a layered cream shirt and pullover, fitted blue jeans, and dark loafers.

Attractive. No rings on his fingers, I couldn’t help but notice.

I stole a longer look at his girlfriend, too. No rings either. Blond, fine-featured, and slim, she was clad in carelessly tight black pants, a red knit top, black boots, and was in possession of perfectly manicured, chip-free nails.

Add to that, she wore impeccable makeup and what had to be a pricey name-brand handbag (I’d be damned if I knew which designer) slung over her shoulder. She gave off an arrogant, entitled air, and my dislike was instantly cemented. I returned my gaze to the handsome dude in the black leather jacket but, when he glanced over at me, I buried my nose into my book.

I sensed him moving a few paces forward, though.


Leaning in.

Taking another step or two nearer to me.

My left elbow, draped in part over the armrest, was closest to him and to the revolving shelf he was spinning in that slow, deliberate way. I was determined not to look up, but he was so close. His loafers were in my direct line of vision.

He inched even closer, his thigh brushing against my elbow. I just knew it was an intentional act. In that instant of epiphany, though, I lost my equilibrium. The big book I was holding wobbled. I grabbed at it, steadied it, but then dropped my pen, followed by several note cards and a couple of loose-leaf pages, which fluttered to the floor. I closed the book and bent to snatch my fallen items.

He immediately kneeled to help, but I was faster. Once I righted myself, I found his face at eye-level with mine.

“Sorry,” he mouthed, looking intense, uncomfortable, and so incredibly hot. Wow. I held my breath.

Our gazes locked for a second longer and I noted with a writer’s observation the way his light brown lashes appeared to disappear as they moved away from his eyelids. I struggled to think of an appropriate metaphor, but he angled his torso toward the bookshelf again and rose to full height before I could complete the thought.

The blonde, with the ever-present radar of somebody on perma-alert to potential threats, suddenly focused her attention on us. Ignoring me and addressing him, Cherry asked, “What are you doing?”

“Just looking at titles over here.” He grasped a random volume, running his thumb along its spine.

With a shrill laugh that sounded like the scratch of a fingernail she said, “Oh, no, you’re not. You just want to see what she’s writing.” Her eyes washed over me coldly, then she flipped her hair back and emitted another pseudo giggle.

I gazed directly at the guy, expecting some kind of reaction from him.

Expressionless at first, he caught my eye once more before turning away—his face reddening. Then, trailing behind her, I heard him protest, “No, I wasn’t…” And with that, they avoided me for the rest of my visit.

When I’d finished flipping through the book for inspiration and had jotted down the author’s name and the title for reference, I returned the large volume to its shelf. I snagged one last glimpse of the couple, huddled in an aisle between two long stacks, before I walked out the door and into the spring night.

I thought that would be the end of it. After all, I lived in the heart of the city—an enormous, frenetic place. Any chance of running into Hunk and Cherry again in downtown Chicago would be unlikely at best.

The problem, though, was that I couldn’t seem to forget them.

They haunted me like an unsolved mystery. Like a mental puzzle my brain had to unravel. I found myself wondering what was going to happen to them next. Were they falling deeper in love and on to a greater commitment? Or, was that day the pinnacle in their short relationship and had things already begun to break apart?


“When Life Imitates Art” was originally released as one of the short stories featured in SECOND CHANCES: A Romance Writers of America Collection (Sept. 2017)