The year? 1984. On the silver screen, all Samantha Baker wanted for her sixteenth birthday was for Jake Ryan to notice she was alive, and Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese were running for their lives from a lethal cyborg who promised he’d ‘be back.’ Fast forward five years to 1989. Sally Albright and Harry Burns had just begun a decade old argument about whether or not men and women could ever really be friends.

What do they all have in common? Sixteen Candles, The Terminator and When Harry Met Sally are all love stories that’ve become a part of me and my imagination, and continue to speak to my heart, years later.

And they’re all stories that convey the lasting, soul deep, quirky, crazy and desperate facets of romance, passion and love that I’m keen to put on the page for my readers.

I was an awkward, impressionable fourteen year old in 1984. I got Samantha Baker. In a lot of ways, she was me. And I wanted to be Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles. She gave me hope, along with thousands of other girls who didn’t have the perfect hair, body, outfit or friends, that love would find a way. And she did it by staying true to herself, and by being kind to Farmer Ted, a.k.a the geek. Lots of laughs to be sure, but the tender dreams in her young girl’s heart echoed my own—and that’s what permanently etched this flick across my heart.

Every time I watch Terminator, I hope Kyle Reese will somehow escape the clutches of the Terminator and have a happily ever after with Sarah Connor. How can I not? He crossed time to find and save the woman he loved. Is there anything more romantic? Or more thrilling than watching the pair run for their lives? From the safety of my seat in the theater, I still remember watching the eighteen wheeler almost run them over. The fleeting amount of time that Kyle and Sarah share is, to me, the indescribable essence of true love in many ways. And this flick captured it, beautifully. The End. As Sarah says, ‘they loved a lifetime.’ And so they did. Time, in and of itself, is meaningless, a paradox in a story about the future. And then, not at all. The special effects might be simple by today’s standards, but the music has me hiding under my pillow every time. This one’s a keeper!

Every time I watch When Harry Met Sally, I think I love it more. Kudos to the incomparable Nora Ephron. The stories within the story cover the gamut, from like to love, from marriage to divorce, from friendship to courtship. And the struggles and triumphs are just as relevant today. I love that Harry and Sally are the complete opposite of love at first sight. How fascinating in our world of instant gratification. Too, the couple interviews throughout not only endear, but echo their journey. Love wins. It works. It’s strange, sometimes unexpected. But young or old, we’ve all got a story to tell. Of how we’ve lost. And won. Too many reasons to count, but this one’s on my permanent HEA list, because I walk away with the message, loud and clear: love endures.

Stories don’t change. But we, the readers, the viewers, do. Not only because of life experiences. But because of the story itself, I like to think. I’ve revisited these epic faves as I’ve moved through the seasons in my own life. From the comical to the confused, the passionate to the paranormal, every time, I think I find a little bit of myself.

To bring us full circle, my daughter (who, interestingly enough is sixteen) was watching an episode of The Vampire Diaries recently on Netflix. As I was making dinner, I caught the tune playing at the end. A cover of The Thompson Twins song, “If You Were Here”, by the Cary Brothers.

Red Porsche. Bridesmaid’s dress. “This is the guy!” Need I say more?

Fun fact: Molly Ringwald actually played Sally Albright in a stage production of When Harry Met Sally, circa 2004.

This post originally appeared on USA Today’s HEA blog.

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Rebecca E. Neely is a blogger, storyteller, writer & author. Visit her at www.rebeccaneely.com 

Romance. Paranormal. Suspense.

All books available on Amazon

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