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The Class Reunion

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Saturday, May 28, 2005Heather couldn’t believe it had already been ten years.  Ten years since she’d sat in one of those classrooms. Ten years since she’d heard Mrs. Wagner’s warbling voice.  Ten years since she’d heard that bell ring for the last time. Ten years since she’d walked across that stage. Heather’s ten-year high school reunion was approaching rapidly, and she was surprised to find herself slightly nervous.  In this case, “approaching rapidly” meant a matter of minutes—less than an hour—when she was supposed to be there. She checked the clock.  Twenty-three minutes to be exact. Why am I so nervous? she asked herself.  These are just all the same old people I knew in high school.  No pressure, right?  But those lingering thoughts kept creeping into her mind.  The same lingering thoughts and doubts that pretty much everyone has when attending their first high school reunion. What have I done with my ten years? What have I accomplished?  Am I successful? Not really. Am I married? No. Do I have children? No.  Sure, I’m a college graduate, and I’ve found a career in teaching that I absolutely love.  But that’s pretty much it—isn’t it? She sat down and tried to relax for a few minutes before it was time to leave.  Her parents’ big house—the house she grew up in—felt strangely foreign to her. They’d done a lot of redecorating since she’d left: new furniture, new carpet, new television, the walls had even been painted a different color.  Her bedroom was still there, with the same old full-size bed she’d slept on throughout her adolescence, but very little else was the same. Even her parents had changed.  They traveled more, stayed at home less.  Like this weekend, for example. While Heather had come home for her high school reunion, her parents had vacated the house—on their way to Arlington to watch the Texas Rangers play the Chicago White Sox.  Or, as her dad had put it, “watch the Texas Rangers play that team they were playing the night that Nolan Ryan beat the shit out of that guy.” (He pretty much refused to acknowledge Robin Ventura or the White Sox by name after that night). As Heather sat and listened to the clock on the wall tick seconds off, she attempted to do a mental roll call of her classmates, matching her success against theirs.  One she knew had become very successful; he was now the vice president at a bank. More than one had carried on their family farms—it was a pretty rural community after all.  She also knew that she wasn’t the only teacher in the group. She was pretty sure that John Thomas—a guy she had never really known that well—was coaching in a town not too far away, and of course, her friend Mitch was teaching as well. Heather let out a long sigh.  She wished Tracy could be here.  Tracy was her lifelong best friend, college roommate, and occasional lover.  They’d shared everything together. But Tracy had a life of her own now too. She’d had other things going on this weekend and wasn’t able to come.  Heather knew it just wouldn’t be as much fun without her. If Tracy were here, they’d be able to laugh at all the guys’ receding hairlines, and growing guts, and giggle at how many kids Sarah Moore had popped out (seemed like there was another one every time she turned around).  But, without Tracy, Heather wasn’t even sure who she’d talk to. She’d asked Mitch if he was coming and Mitch’s response was a vague, “We’ll see,” which in Mitch’s language, usually meant “no”. But she remained hopeful. She stood up and examined herself in the mirror once more.  She ran a hand through her short-cropped, spiky black hair and licked her lips.  She had been totally unsure of how to dress. It was an informal get-together, so, Heather being Heather, she’d opted for her favorite outfit—jeans and a  tank top. The weather was starting to get a little warmer, and she’d been in this building many şişli escort times in her life, and knew it always made her hot (but not in a good way). Heather made the short drive from her family’s house on the outskirts of town and parked her car in front of a series of old red brick structures.  The reunion was being held in a building that was, at one time, the town bar. However, like so many other buildings in this fading little community, it was now vacant.  Oh, it still had its tables, and the bar was still there, and even an old pool table in one corner, but the bar’s owner had died a few years ago. His son and daughter had no desire to carry on the family business.  These days, they just rented the space out for family reunions or groups like this one, who wanted to relive “the good ol’ days.” Heather stepped inside and felt an immediate surge of memories.  After she’d turned eighteen, she and her friends were allowed to hang out in here and shoot pool, but “not allowed to drink” (they just did that elsewhere).  After she’d turned twenty-one, there’d been more than one weekend when she’d come back to visit her parents, and ended up at the bar. But as Heather inspected the crew that had already arrived, a different wave of memories swept over her.  Jimmy’s stupid laugh—as loud as ever and twice as annoying. Alicia’s vacuous smile, so friendly, yet so fake.  Brody’s protruding lip, a dip of snuff perpetually in place (many times even during school). God, I hate these people.  After all, that’s why I left this shit-ass town.  Why did I even come? She took a deep breath and entered the fray.  She said “hi” to everyone she met, and answered the standard questions: “What are you up to these days?” “That’s great, how about you?” “Are you married?” “Any kids?”  By the time she made it across the room, she was already wanting to leave. That’s when she found an old friend. Beer. Her classmates who were running the show had provided a large metal tub filled with ice and bottles of beer.  Heather couldn’t help but smile. “A tub of beer.  That’s about as fancy as it gets in this town,” said an unfamiliar voice that was echoing her thoughts completely. “That’s what I was just thinking,” Heather replied with a grin.  She looked up and examined the newcomer. He was slim and seemed to be dressed much nicer than everyone else.  He was wearing a pink button-up shirt, the top couple of buttons unbuttoned, and a nice pair of pants. He appeared both well-dressed and casual at the same time—if that were possible.  His hair was cut extremely short, which had obviously been done to conceal the fact that he was losing his hair, but it still looked good on him. Heather reached down and grabbed two bottles of beer, handing one to the mystery man.  She studied his face for a moment, trying to place him. Finally, it occurred to her. “John?  John Thomas, right?” The guy that she had heard was coaching in a nearby town. She hoped she had guessed right, because if not, it would be really embarrassing. “That’s right,” he said, holding out a hand. Heather shook the offered hand as she continued gazing at her classmate.  This was not the John Thomas she remembered. The John Thomas she remembered was slightly overweight, frequently smelled bad, and had terrible acne.   “To be perfectly honest,” John said in a whisper, “I never got along real well with most of these guys.  I was looking for someone safe to talk to. You seemed like a logical choice.” Not only did John’s appearance seem different, his manner was different as well.  He’d certainly changed. He seemed more… Heather searched for the right word in her mind, sophisticated.  Yet, his demeanor struck her as all wrong for a “coach”. He was too well-spoken, too—dare she say “effeminate”.  He reminded her a lot of many of the friends she’d made in college. “I’ve never really mecidiyeköy escort thought of myself as safe,” Heather said with a coy grin, unable to resist the temptation to flirt just a little. John laughed.  “Okay, poor choice of words, perhaps.  At least I know you’re intelligent, and I can have a conversation with you.” Heather motioned towards a table where the two sat down and began to visit.  As they did so, they both seemed to silently share the same opinions of the other people around them.  They listened as Brody recounted a story about a game-winning touchdown he’d scored—and then bragged about how drunk he got later that night. “That wasn’t the only time he scored that night,” Heather heard someone whisper. “So,” Heather said as she sipped on her beer.  “I’ve heard you were coaching. Is that true?” “Oh sure,” he said casually.  “I coach tennis in the afternoons, but otherwise I’m in the classroom all day long.” “Me too,” Heather said with a smile.  “Not the tennis, just the classroom.” Suddenly John was making a little more sense. As they talked, more and more classmates arrived.  Heather found herself moving closer to John, simply so she could hear him better, and so they could exchange snide comments about their classmates without being overheard.  She found it amazing that she had hardly ever said more than “hi” to this guy in high school, yet apparently, they had many of the same feelings about many of the same people. Strangely, as more people arrived, many of them said hello to Heather, and greeted her like an old friend.  But when it came to John, they often asked Heather, “Who’s this?” assuming he was someone Heather had brought with her.  After this had happened a third time, Heather giggled uncontrollably. “I guess you’ve just changed too much,” she said to John.  “No one even recognizes you.” “Good,” John replied.  “I don’t really want people to remember the old me.”  He had a look on his face that seemed a blending of sadness and regret, but it didn’t last long.  Suddenly, he said, “By the way, where’s Tracy? I was hoping she’d be here this evening. She was always nice to me.” Heather was just explaining why Tracy couldn’t make it when a newcomer caught her eye.  Mitch had just walked into the bar. She stood up and waved excitedly, encouraging him to come over. “Hey there,” Mitch greeted warmly, giving Heather a big hug.  He then turned to John. For a moment, Heather feared that Mitch would make the same mistake all the others had, but without missing a beat, he shook John’s hand.  “How you doing, John?” he said with a grin, “Haven’t seen you since graduation.” Mitch joined them at the table and instantly jumped into their conversation.  Within a half an hour, they were yucking it up and sharing old stories, as if the three of them had been having chats like this their entire lives.  As a half-hour turned into an hour, and then two hours, the empty beer bottles began to crowd the table.   As Heather watched John and Mitch quickly become closer, a sort of happy confusion filled her head.  She and John had really been hitting it off—like, in a way she hadn’t hit it off with a guy in a long time.  Yet now, John and Mitch seemed to be hitting it off… and as she observed them, she understood through a slightly drunken stupor that they were really hitting it off.  This made her smile.   The trio pretty much ignored all their other classmates, except for when they were directly spoken to.  For example, Heather’s old boyfriend, Jimmy, drunkenly stumbled over and started hitting on her. Of course, Heather was used to this.  Drunken guys had been hitting on her since she was a freshman in high school. She’d gotten very creative about expressing how uninterested she was.   “Drunken rednecks,” John muttered. “I fucking hate him,” Heather agreed.  “I can’t believe—” she started, but then stopped.  The three of them had been having such a great conversation, she didn’t want to spoil it by bitching about old boyfriends who weren’t worth the time of day.  As she watched Jimmy stumble away, she realized she dodged a major bullet. If she remembered correctly, he had two ex-wives now. Heather was right about one thing—the old bar had made her very hot.  Her cheeks were flushed and she could feel herself sweating. It wasn’t pleasant.  The mood of the get-together had shifted slightly as well. Heather was beginning to recognize some familiar cues.  A lot of the same old guys were putting a lot of the same old moves on the same old girls. To Heather’s surprise, the same old moves were working too.  The girls never seemed to learn (not even the married ones)—or maybe they just enjoyed it. She wasn’t, for sure.   “Why are we here?!” Heather suddenly blurted out.  She knew she had caught Mitch and John by surprise.  She hadn’t even really been paying attention to what they were talking about, but she was savvy enough to see that they had an interest in each other… and to see that maybe John had an interest in her as well, at least, she thought he did.  She also knew that sitting in a bar surrounded by all their old high school classmates who were starting to get a little grabby with each other, was not the place to explore those possibilities. “What do you mean?” John asked. “I mean,” Heather said with an impish grin, “Let’s get out of here.  My parents’ house is empty. The three of us could go there and just sit and talk—or whatever.”  She threw the “or whatever” in there casually, hoping she hadn’t been too obvious. “Sounds good to me,” Mitch agreed eagerly giving Heather a sly smile, as if to say ‘great idea’.  Heather knew what he was thinking.  They’d known each other for too long.  She could read him like a book. The three of them got up and quietly slipped out of the building.  No one even noticed them leave. The other two followed Heather back to her family’s home, and all three tiptoed inside, just as if they were still in high school, and trying to avoid the wrath of angry parents—even though no one was there. She offered them seats on the couch as she went to retrieve some of her dad’s special reserves.  Imported German beers. It was supposed to be good stuff. He never let anyone else drink it. She knew he’d probably be pissed, but she really didn’t care.  She’d buy him some more. She handed one to each of them, opening the third herself, and eased into a recliner just inches away from John’s position on the couch.  It was a good spot, where she could easily see both John and Mitch, and the three could talk easily in a triangle. They chatted for a long while, making fun of their old classmates and discussing mutual frustrations about their jobs.  As late evening turned into night, they continued to get more comfortable around each other. Heather transitioned from the recliner to the couch and playfully stretched her legs out, letting them come to rest across John’s thighs.  Moments later, John moved one of his hands to her leg. As they talked, the hand worked its way under her jeans, as he casually rubbed her smooth bare calves back and forth. Mitch was not to be outdone.  As they talked, he kept moving nearer to John’s side.  He subtly wrapped an arm behind the couch, which then made its way closer and closer to John’s shoulder.  John didn’t seem to mind at all. He didn’t shy away from the advances made by either one of them—which solidified Heather’s earlier suspicions.  Mitch laughed, clapping a hand on John’s arm and leaving it there. All doubts were washed away just a few minutes later, when John’s free hand gingerly landed on Heather’s thigh and quickly started working its way higher, towards her zipper.  At almost the exact same moment, Mitch’s hand slid forward and found John’s chest, unbuttoning the next two buttons of his pink shirt. Within just a few seconds, he had the shirt unbuttoned completely.  Mitch worked fast.

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