The High School Reunion

Brunette

Let’s see, I graduated high school in April of 1964, if I remember correctly. April of 1999 was my thirty fifth high school reunion. Had it really been that long? It didn’t feel like it but then again my memory ain’t what it used to be, to put it mildly. Since I had never made it to any of the other reunions, why should this one be any different? A phone call from my past was the answer to that one.

Sandy and I had dated in high school and afterwards, even though she went on to college and I went to work full time. The college was only about ninety miles away, so we saw each other most weekends and almost all holidays. The summers were the greatest and we were making plans for the rest of our lives, right down to the number of kids we wanted and where we would live.

That is until the Vietnam draft started to hit close to home. One after the other, my male friend’s that were not in college, were drafted into the army. I had been lucky so far and decided to enlist in the Marines. I figured I could get my choice that way and I’d much rather fly over the jungles and rice patties. Humping a rifle, twenty-four seven was not my idea of fun, especially with Charlie around.

To make a long story short, I received a Dear John letter in boot camp. It basically said that she was dropping out of the local college, changing majors and re-enrolling in a major college to be a lawyer. She also mentioned somewhat vaguely that she was dating some guy that was attending the same college. That was the end of that, except for a few good and lingering memories; over time, even those faded. I do have to admit though, that every once in a while; I’d wonder what had happened to her and how she was.

Then out of the blue, came the phone call. The voice sounded vaguely familiar as it verified my name, the high school I graduated from, and the year. Then she went on to explain that they were having a reunion of the class in my hometown. Suddenly the voice hit a dusty memory cell in my nearly fifty-year-old brain and I said, “Sandy?”

There was a pause and then a husky laugh that I remembered all to well. “I wondered how long it would take you to recognize my voice.”

I was speechless for several seconds that felt like hours. Memories chased each other around and through my head. This was the first time I had heard from her or about her since the letter in boot camp. I had no idea of what to say. Part of me wanted to yell at her for the way she had treated me back then and another part of me wanted to… Wanted to what? My mind shied away from that question.

“Are you there?” I heard her ask a little hesitantly.

“Yes, I’m here.” I said softly. I took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and asked in the same soft tone. “How are you? How have you been?”

I thought I heard a little catch in her breathing before she replied, “I’m fine, just staying busy, trying to get this reunion organized.”

Suddenly, I had so many questions that I didn’t know what to ask first. I also felt my anger rising. In my younger days, I had had quite a bad temper and it took me a long time to learn to control it. Well, maybe the word bad isn’t right; it was a quick temper that could be violent at times. I can honestly say that it was never directed at any woman, my grandmother raised me better than that. Back then; I just had a problem with guys wanting to show how bad they were. At thirteen, I was six foot tall and weighted around two hundred pounds. You’d think with my size that most guys would leave me alone but that wasn’t the case. At first, I laughed at them but after a while, I had enough and just unloaded on anyone who even looked like they wanted to mess with me. Word spread fast about the guy that fought at the slightest thing and fought to hurt you. I was left alone. Sandy was one of the very few people that ever got inside my shell, found out just how sensitive of a person I was, or could be if treated right.

I brushed my anger aside and asked, “Are you going to be at this reunion?”

“I sure am.” She answered quickly and then asked, “Are you going to come to it?”

I hesitated a moment as I wonder the same thing. I couldn’t remember but a hand full of names, out of the two hundred and something kids who had graduated with me. Other than Sandy, was there anyone I really wanted to see? “I don’t know. I haven’t attended any of the others over the years. When it came time for them, I was either out of the state working or I just plain forgot about them until after they were passed.”

“This will be the second one I’ve attended. I was here for the twentieth but missed the others. Like you, I was out of state or working.” She paused a second and added, “I would like to see you if you can make it.”

I thought there was something odd about her voice as she said that last sentence. Wishful think on my part, my brain threw in. “Give me the dates and where again, so I can write them on my calendar. Maybe I won’t forget this year.” I said and Onwin then added, “I would like to see you too; it’s been a very long time.”

She chuckled and I could see her crooked smile as she replied, “Yes it has.” She went on to give me the information about the reunion. When she finished, she paused a second, and then said, “I’m sorry, I treated you so badly, way back then, and I’d like to explain some things, if I can. That damned letter has eaten at me; I should have waited until I saw you face to face to tell you what I had to say. I don’t want to make the same mistake again with a phone call. Does that make sense to you?”

A feeling for her that I hadn’t felt in a very, very long time washed through me and I smiled as I said, “I understand and I will be at the reunion.”

I heard her take a deep breath before she said, “Good, I’ll see you there.”

That was two months ago and here I am in my old hometown, checking into a Holiday Inn. I’m a day early because I realized, I hadn’t visited any of my kinfolks in this area in a long time. I figured I’d use the day to make the rounds and then have a good nights sleep before starting the festivities of the reunion, whatever they might be.

The visits with the relatives went better than I figured they would. I was raised for the most part by my grandmother; she passed away while I was doing my first tour in Vietnam. My dad died in the early seventies and my mom, well, that’s a whole other can of worms. I went to see her but didn’t stay long. I spent a little time with a couple of my aunts and saw one of my cousins. Other than those few, the rest can go to hell. That may sound harsh but then you don’t know my relatives.

Around six that evening, I returned to the motel and got myself cleaned up. After a quiet supper at one of the better restaurants in town, I decided to do a little bar hopping like I used to do in my youth. The funny thing is that since they voted gambling in, most of the bars I used to haunt are gone. The couple of places still in business were pale shades of their former selves. I ended up at a small club on the west side of town that was close to the high school and my motel. It was still as dark and quiet as I remembered it. Sandy and I used to come here from time to time to relax and talk. She had never been much of a drinker or party animal; come to think of it, neither was I. That is until after we broke up, then I went a little crazy. Drinking was another thing it took me a while to learn to control.

I finished my second beer in the place and told the bartender that I didn’t want another; that I was heading back to the motel. Just as I slid off the barstool and turned around, the front door opened. An older woman walked in and paused just inside the door. I recognized her instantly; it was Sandy. I was surprised to see her in a bar. I was taken aback by how well she looked. The girl I had known had blossomed into a stunningly beautiful woman. At five foot five and a hundred and ten pounds, she was neat and trim. As I studied her, I compared the old and the new. I must say the new was an improvement. She had been pretty back then but now she was beautiful. The few lines in her face seemed to highlight her features and to accentuate her best features.

Her eyes locked onto me and she frowned for a second. Then she gave a little jerk as she realized who I was. Slowly a crooked smile came to her lips, the same crooked smile I remembered. She had been hit by a car, while riding her bike as a very young girl and had some nerve damage in one side of her face. When she smiled, one side of her lips went up higher than the other side. She walked straight over to me, put her arms around my neck, and kissed the hell out of me. I had been prepared for a handshake or a hug, but this took me by complete surprise. I froze for a second, then my arms wrapped around her and I was a teenager again, kissing my girlfriend. Talk about your time warps.

She broke the kiss and took a step back, she looked me up and down slowly and then she laughed as she said, “I hope you are, who I think you are.”

“I hope so too, if not then I’m the luckiest guy in town.” I replied with a grin. “I would have recognized you anywhere; you’ve only gotten better, not older. You’re still the best kisser I know.”

She laughed before she said, “Thank you, you still kiss great yourself. The mustache is a big change and you look bigger than I remember.” She paused to chuckle. “Maybe I’m just smaller.”

I shook my head and replied, “Nope, you’re still the same size. I just learned how to stand up straight finally and I’ve added a little padding around the middle.”

With a smile, she said softly, “You look great to me. I had no idea what to expect.” She glanced around to see everyone looking at us. With a grin she added, “Maybe we should find a table and sit down before someone tells us to get a motel room.”

I chuckled and said, “I already have one.” She looked at me Onwin Giriş sharply and then took my arm, and we moved to a table in the corner.

After we ordered a couple of beers, we both asked at the same time, “How have you been?” This made us both laugh.

We sat there just looking at each other for a few seconds before she said; “I’ve been fine, a little lonely since my husband died last year. My kids are both out on they’re own, my daughter is married and has two kids. My son is in the navy and overseas.” She paused as the bartender brought the beers. When he left she said, “Damn, you’re a good looking man. You were good looking in high school but now you have more character in your face.”

I laughed and shook my head, “Yeah, its called old age and wrinkles.”

She cocked her head to one side and smiled for a moment. “That’s not what I meant. You’ve grown up, it shows in your face, and how you carry yourself. Your anger has turned into humor and confidence.”

I chuckled softly and said, “It had too, otherwise I wouldn’t have lived this long. I can’t take all the credit for it; I met a really great lady that taught me a lot about truly living life and enjoying it.” A shadow passed over Sandy’s face so I added, “She passed away about ten years ago. My two kids with her are also out on they’re own, like yours. My daughter is married too and has a couple of daughters. My son is living in Las Vegas and works for a large auto auction company; he’s their computer guru. My oldest son by my first wife lives in California and works for a computer company. He has a couple of kids but I’ve never seen them. I don’t hear from him much.”

She looked at me for a few moments before she said, “So many years and so much has happened to both of us; I sometime wonder what it would have been like if we had stayed together.” When I didn’t say anything, she sighed and went on. “Since I talked to you on the phone, I’ve been trying to figure out how to explain what happened all those years ago. To keep it short and simple, I met someone who swept me off my feet. He was home from school, visiting his parents. His sister was my roommate and she introduced us. The next thing I knew, I was changing majors and schools. When he graduated, we got married and when I graduated, I went into the law firm with him. A few years later, we opened our own law office. Somewhere in there, I read your obituary in the local paper. We had a good life, all in all, until he died from a heart attack.”

I nodded and smiled before I said, “Yeah, I spent three tours in Vietnam and the silly paper in this town printed three obituaries for me. I’ve often wondered who worked there that didn’t like me.” I paused a moment and looked into her eyes. “Look, that was a long time ago and ancient history. The whys and whatever’s don’t really need to be explained. We’ve both lived through them and have had good lives so far, so why complicate things. I admit I was hurt by that letter but I didn’t have much time to dwell on it in boot camp, they kept us quite busy. By the time, I had a chance to breath and to try to find you, it was too late. Anyway, I got distracted by my first wife about that time and it was six years later before I got untangled from her. By the way, her name was Sandy also.” I ended with a laugh.

“Just how many wives have you had?” She asked with a grin.

I laughed and shook my head. “If you must know, three. The first I told you about. The second was the lady that straightened me up; we were together for eighteen years. After she died, I went to hell in a hand basket for a couple of years and ended up married to a woman I met through a friend of mine. That lasted for about five years. For the last five years, I’ve been single, more or less. I’ve had a couple of girlfriends that have lived with me but it didn’t work out. For the last year, I’ve lived alone.” I grinned and added, “So now you know my history, I guess you just had the one hubby? It’s how I’ve pictured your life anyway.”

“Yeah, just the one, I had enough problems raising him. I can’t complain too much, I guess.” She said with a wistful look on her face. After a moment of silence, she came back from whatever memory she had been lost in and added, “I can understand the hell in a hand basket that you spoke about. I find it hard at times to keep myself out of it. Thirty years is a long time to spend with one person and then to be alone suddenly…” She let the sentence trail off.

I reached across and put my hand on hers, “Believe me, I understand.”

Her eyes focused on mine and she smiled, “Thank you. A lot of people think they do but if they ain’t been there then they haven’t got a clue, as the saying goes.”

We talked about our lives and compared notes on kids and grandkids. We were both surprised when the bartender came over and said, “Sorry folks but its closing time.”

I looked at Sandy and she looked at me, we both laughed, where had the time gone? We told Onwin Güncel Giriş him goodnight and headed for the door. Outside in the cool night air, I asked, “Is there a café around here where we can get something to eat?”

She shrugged and said, “I don’t have a clue. I’m never out this late and I don’t know this part of town too well anymore. I live out in the country farther west of here and do all my traveling to and from town on the interstate. I was at the school late tonight and I usually hit the interstate at the first light, but tonight I decided to have a beer and to think about what I was going to say to you. Then I ran into you.”

“Is the old truck stop restaurant still open out west of town?” I asked.

She chuckled and replied, “Yes it is, and there’s two new one’s besides. They hadn’t even crossed my mind when you asked about restaurants. Our meeting like this has my mind a little out of whack. At least that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.”

I laughed and said, “I’ll buy you breakfast if you’re hungry or just a cup of coffee if you’re not. I haven’t talked to you in so long and I’m not really ready to let you get away so soon.”

“We’ll see each other at the reunion.” She said softly.

“I know but I might not get you alone to myself, there. I never forgot you, you were always on my mind from time to time and I too always wondered how it would have been with us.” I told her. The next thing I knew, she was back in my arms and we were kissing.

The door opened right behind us suddenly and we hurriedly moved apart. The bartender grinned and said, “Don’t mind me folks, I ain’t here. I ain’t seen a thing and I’m gone.” With that, he hurried across the parking lot, got into an old truck, and drove away.

We stood there grinning like a couple of school kids caught necking out behind the gym for several seconds, before Sandy said, “I think coffee would be a great idea but not at the truck stop. Why don’t you follow me home and I’ll make us a pot. Then we can relax, get comfortable, and talk all night if we want.”

The offer was tempting but I said, “I don’t know if that would be a good idea or not. We might just get a little to comfortable and do something we might regret later.”

She cocked her head to one side and looked at me, a smile slowly coming to her face. “Would you have any regrets?” She asked softly.

I shook my head, as I said, “None whatsoever but then again, I’m not the one who just lost a long time love.”

Still smiling, she told me, “I’m a big girl, and I can take care of myself. Anyway, if something did happen, I don’t think I would have any regrets either. We dated all that time, long ago and nothing ever happened except for some heavy petting, if you remember. I think I can still trust you.”

I grinned and said, “Yeah I know, but can I trust you?”

She laughed and said, “Get in you car, follow me home, and find out.”

I was very familiar with the place where Sandy lived, it was one the old farmhouses that we had once talked about living in. It was only a few miles from the lake and sat well back off the main road on a dozen acres of land. As we got out of our cars at the side of the house, I said, “I see that you ended up with one of our houses. It looks like there’s been a lot of remodeling done to it also.”

As she was unlocking the back door she replied, “I just moved out here about five months ago. We lived in the same condominium for fifteen years near downtown. After he died, I found it harder and harder to stay there. I have a couple of young people working in the law office now and I just consult most of the time. This place came on the market and on a whim, I bought it. The remodeling was done by the last owners. It’s a little to big just for me but I love it out here in the country.” She sat her purse on the small breakfast table in the corner of the kitchen and then just stood there looking at me. After a moment she said, “I never forgot you either. Once when my husband and I were having some bad problems, I tried to find you. I spent one whole afternoon driving up and down through the subdivision where your mom lived. I thought I remembered where it was, but I could never be sure, so I ended up going home and patching things up. When I saw this place for sale and came to look at it, I almost didn’t buy it. I remembered it was one of the places we talked about and I felt like I was doing you wrong again. Then I wondered if it was an omen of some sort.” She paused to laugh and then added, “I guess, I was just being silly and looking for an excuse to stay where I was, change is so very hard.”

“Yes it is.” I said and smiled at her. “I’ve made a lot of changes of one sort or another in my lifetime. Some were large and some were small but none were really easy to make. Some were good for me and some were not.” I stopped talking and just stood there looking at her for a long moment. She tilted her head and gave me a questioning look. I smiled and told her, “Don’t mind me, I’m just running off at the mouth because I’m nervous. I need to shut up and relax.”

She smiled her crooked smile at me and then laughed, “I thought I was the only one nervous here. Maybe I should make that coffee now.”

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