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10 Years, Actually: Rufus
This is part of a week-long series celebrating the tenth anniversary of Love Actually.
We last saw Rufus in London Heathrow Airport. After helping Sam sneak past security, he gathered his topcoat and proceeded to his gate. New York. Non-stop. He hadn’t been to the city in nearly two decades, but was finally ready to return. After picking up extra holiday shifts at the jewelry store he was able to save enough for a two-week stay. It would be more than enough time find her, he thought. It would even be, perhaps, more than than enough time to fall in love again.
Though he never really fell out. He just left it across the Atlantic. The top floor of a Hell’s Kitchen walk up, specifically, with a view, if you stuck your head out just far enough, of the Empire State Building. “Edison Hotel,” he told the cab driver at JFK. “Times Square.”
After a long shower, Rufus dressed and sat on the edge of his bed. He pulled an envelope out of his suitcase. Solid white. “Ellen” written in cursive on the front. The most important gift he’d ever wrapped was the most unassuming. He pressed the name against his lips and slid the envelope into his inside pocket. Now well below freezing outside, those three layers of paper were all he needed to keep his heart warm.
The walk to the theatre was short—just six blocks—but he took his time. He smiled at the tourists snapping pictures of advertisements. At the men in food trucks keeping warm in front of their grills. And the old couples in their best coats walking arm in arm to a show they’ve seen twice before. How nice it must be, Rufus thought. To walk in silence with the one you love.
The usher escorted him to the front row. An aisle seat. He opened his Playbill to the cast list. Ellen Giles—Regina. Her biography was the longest of the bunch, but contained no information Rufus wasn’t already fully aware of. He knew the shows she had won awards for, the shows she should have won for, as well as (because he was nothing if not rational) the shows she shouldn’t have won for. (Everyone but the Tony voters knew her performance as Martha left plenty to be desired.) She was human, after all. And, as the lights went down, she was on stage. The first actor to appear. The first monologue of the night. The first time he’d seen her in so, so long.
The show was almost flawless, which was to be expected for something that had been extended that many times and cost that much. After the lights came up, he spoke to kind strangers in the lobby about his favorite moments. They all agreed Ellen would take home another award, and they all agreed this one was well-deserved. “Remember Virginia Woolf?” one asked. And everyone did. Rufus said his goodbyes and walked down to a small bar a few blocks south. Though renovated to seem more upscale and tourist-friendly, it was still much like he remembered. The tables, in the same places. The big corner booth as red and inviting as ever. The gin and tonic, still precisely what he needed.
With each opening of the door came a gust of wind and flash of hope, but never Ellen. 20 years, he thought. Of course she doesn’t come here anymore. Only a fool would keep doing the same thing for 20 years. Only a fool would have traveled across the ocean to fix something that had been broken this long. Rufus reached inside his coat and felt the envelope with his fingertips. Still warm. He rested his head in his palm, and as he shut his eyes, his face went cold. Then warm again. He opened them and there she was, a martini in hand, smiling the softest smile he had ever seen. It was meant for him. It had to be meant for him.
“Ellen.” He reached into his pocket pulled out the envelope and began stuttering. “I came to bring you this.”
“I know what it says,” she said before sliding it into her purse. “Now how about another drink?”
Ten years later the envelope is still framed in their top floor walk up, where it will remain, unopened, forever.