There are surprisingly a lot of people who turned out for this high school reunion. He thinks, as he scans the ballroom covered with memorabilia from the 80s. Pictures of them in high school, mostly scanned from their yearbook are projected in a slideshow on the walls. Almost everyone he remembers is here.
He remembers her own class reunion where he reluctantly went with her. Almost half the people from her class were absent. Some couldn’t make it because of their kids, some because of their jobs, some were not in the country, and some just couldn’t be reached. Like her now.
He continues to remember how her reunion went when he feels a tap on his shoulder. He turns his head to see who it is. It’s his old soccer teammate Mac.
“What’s up kid?” Mac says as they shake hands.
“I’m good, man. How about you?” He answers and as he looks at his friend closely, he comments, “I see you’re still ripped.”
Mac grins at him. “Yes. I get so much exercise from the family I don’t have.” Funny joke. Classic Mac. “How about you, hm? Family? Anything?” Mac asks him.
That was the last thing he expected tonight, being asked about his family. He returns the grin Mac gave him a while ago to stall answering. Although at the same time he can feel his eyes getting a little wet thinking of what to reply. Luckily his best friend Jim suddenly shows up beside him.
“What’s up guys?” He asks the two of them as he pats Mac on the back, “Good?” Mac raises his cup filled with scotch in reply. “Hey, can I borrow this good looking fellow for a sec?” Jim asks as he reaches for him. Nice save bro, he thinks.
“Dammit man, I can’t keep meeting these women alone.” Mac jokingly says before he can say anything. They all laugh it off and he and Jim walk off towards the dance floor.
“Thanks for that,” He says as he rests his hand on Jim’s shoulder. “It’s no big deal, but bud, you know this would have been easier if you invited them,” Jim tells him with sad eyes. Jim was her friend too and he knew he also shared his pain.
“It wouldn’t have mattered. They didn’t know her anyway.” He assures Jim who just shrugs and turns back to gazing at the people on the dance floor while he sips his bourbon.
It would have been great if she was here too, with him. Her high school reunion, although dull was bearable because she had him, he remembered her saying. He wasn’t used to her classmates who were city kids, who were posh and quite snobbish but her close friends in high school were pleasant. They told him stories about her and how she was Miss Popular and the class valedictorian. Among her friends, Jean, her best friend, was the only one he knew before the reunion. She has been present in most of the notable events in their lives and has been the greatest support not only for her best friend, but also for him. She was there when they got married, had their first kid, lost their first kid, when she miscarried, when they found out having a kid was not possible, and when he eventually lost her to the disease that hindered them from having kids. His reverie is broken when a laugh erupts from the speakers.
He and Jim look at each other and Jim points to his eyes which he didn’t notice were welling up from his reminiscence. He pulls out his handkerchief from his pants’ back pocket and wipes the corners of his eyes discreetly, away from the eyes of his classmates. At the same time, a video showing who the laughter was from earlier is projected on a white canvas propped on the stage at the end of the dance floor. It was Victoria’s, the class’s head cheerleader and his girlfriend in high school. The video was when she was giving her speech after being crowned Prom Queen. A shout and some laughter burst out from the back and he turns to see who it is. It’s Mac and some of the other boys from their team. He returns his gaze to the video and realizes why they were laughing as he comes face to face with his 18 year old self. His 18 year old self who had curly long hair, a smug smile, an awful fashion sense and who thought he had everything he could have at that time — a college scholarship to one of the country’s premiere universities, the hottest girl in school for his girlfriend and being crowned Prom King. From the same spot where the laughter began, a chant arises, and soon the whole gymnasium is yelling LET THEM DANCE AGAIN. Jim looks back at him, smiling, shaking his head and forcing not to laugh. He mouths, “Good luck kid.” On the stage, the emcee emerges and is now calling his name and Vicky’s “Brandon Fulham and Victoria Cheney? Can you come up here on stage?” After that, chants of their name fills the gym.
“What do you say stud? For old time’s sake?” A woman whispers behind his ear. He turns around and sees his ex-girlfriend. Nothing much has changed about her. She still has blonde hair and she still has the gorgeous body she always had, although she’s gained noticeable weight around her waist. She still looks good but there are visible lines on her face brought about by age and stress.
He holds out his hand to her, “For old time’s sake, c’mon.” She takes it and he loops it onto his arm as he leads her onto the dance floor. “Okay, wait a minute. Stop right there,” The emcee calls to them before they reach the stage. “Can we please clear the dance floor people?” He asks coolly and he and Vicky soon find themselves in a small circle surrounded by their classmates. A soft tune plays on the speaker and Phil Collins soon start serenading them with Groovy Kind of Love. He again offers his hand to her and she takes it. She rests her other hand on his shoulder and he rests his on her waist. They dance to the music, although shy at first, as they are called out by their peers, mostly by his soccer teammates. It soon is drowned out with ‘awwwws’ and applause when she suddenly hugs him as the song ends. He is startled but he hugs her back as a reflex and he hears her whisper a ‘thanks’ to him.
“Let’s get out of here,” he whispers back as a throng of people join them on the dance floor. She doesn’t respond but she lets him lead her away from the dance floor toward some of the tables where he offered her a seat. “Want something to drink?” He asks her. “Some soda would be nice, thanks.” He heads off and gets them two cups filled with soda and as he heads back, he passes by Jim who gives him a thumbs up. “Here you go,” he says as he hands her a cup. He sits across hers and sips from his cup. After they finish hydrating, she clears her throat and starts to speak, “That was nostalgic, ain’t it?” He smiles and nods. “So, how have you been? I heard you were married. Why aren’t you with her? She didn’t want to come?” She asks. He knows he has to tell her. He couldn’t tell Mac because he didn’t know what Mac would say. He might make a joke about it, but he knew that with Vicky it was different. Vicky was very compassionate when they were in high school and after their dance, it felt wrong to lie to her. They were close after all. “Actually, I just lost her. She died two months ago.”
He sees her face immediately flush, and she immediately blurts, “Omigod I am so sorry. I didn’t know. I’m sorry. You must still be hurting right now. Whoa. I am genuinely sorry. I should not have said what I said. Can I hug you?” The last thing surprises him but he still obliges. He stretches his arms out and invites her in. She hugs him tightly while assuring him that everything would be alright. She breaks the hug and goes back to her seat awkwardly. “Hmmm, thank you for that,” he starts. “By the way, how about you? How are you?”
“Oh I’ve been busy with my business. I own several flower shops around town. And elsewhere. It’s really good.” She says, happy that the tension was lifted instantly.
“So I take it you haven’t settled down yet? He asks, suddenly curious.
“Oh I have,” she exclaims. “Though they can’t seem to take me being too busy with my business.”
“They?” He asks, bewildered. “Divorced, three times.” She says indifferently. “Oh. I’m so sorry to hear,” he says and she shrugs him off.
“It’s nothing, really. It happens often enough, you get used to it.” He nods, smiling as she continues, “Thankfully, I didn’t have kids. Although I really wanted to, but that would have changed a lot of things. So I guess it was all for the good. You agree?”
Remembering his wife and their struggle, he just nods again and murmurs an ‘hmmumm’ which she takes as his agreement.
“It was better when we were younger, right?” She began, looking at him intently. “It was simpler. Life was easier.”
“Yeah,” he mutters before he takes a sip of his drink.
“Do you remember the first time we talked,” she asks.
“Yeah,” he says, laughing as he remembers. “It was our first date.”
“It was,” she says, looking at him, her eyes glassy. “And we didn’t even know it.” She winks at him.
He smiles in response. David Pomeranz sings in the background as he thinks back to that Saturday night in November, freshman year. Jim had a date with a girl named Monica, a classmate from Science class. She wanted to bring a friend of hers so he asked Jim to bring a friend of his as well to make it seem like a double date and Jim decided to take him. They went to see a movie and got some pizza after. He wasn’t normally shy around girls but Victoria was just so beautiful and mesmerizing that his voice just left him for most of the night. She tried making conversation but he could barely form any words to say so eventually she stopped trying and just smiled at him for most of night while she just talked to Jim and Monica. He remembered feeling so terrified that he blew his chance with her after they accompanied the girls home and she just smiled at him before they left. Then Friday came and he saw her standing by his locker after last period. She asked him to the fair that weekend, only the two of them. This time, he was more confident and he talked to her more. She was very bubbly and always had a story to tell. He felt very happy then and he knew that they were in love when he held her hand on the Ferris wheel and she didn’t let go. He remembers it so clearly that it feels so real. He could feel a hand curl in his at that exact moment. His recollection immediately ends as he realizes that someone was holding his hand that moment. He looks at the hand in his and connects it to the face of its owner. For a second, he sees his wife. He breathes deeply in relief. He blinks and suddenly sees Vicky smiling in front of him, a glint in her eyes.
“Where’d you go darling?” She asks. He notices that the song has changed to a pop song and that most of their classmates were on the dance floor now.
“Uh,” he stammers. “I… uh… I was, just, remembering.”
“Remembering what?” She winks. “That time by the bleachers after our first pep rally, second year?”
“No, I was actually thinking about that weekend at the fair?” He says, a little confused. After a while he remembers. It was the night of their first kiss. It was also the night they tried to smoke for the first time – a habit he hated, but carried on ’til college anyway.
“Oopsies. I thought we were thinking of the same thing,” she grins, patting his arm. “We did had a lot of adventures, huh?”
“Uhm-hmm,” he manages as he takes a sip of his drink. Of course they did. They were together for most of high school anyway. They started dating freshman year. They usually just studied together or ate out with friends at the local diner. Sometimes they would hang out and watch movies at each other’s houses. On their second year, he decided to try out for the soccer team and she tried out for the cheerleading team. They both got in and it strengthened their relationship. Starting then, they listed goals which they wanted to achieve together. They thought it was a perfect combination. Their friends and family thought so too.
He suddenly thought about his wife. His friends and family loved her too. And they also said that the two of them were a perfect combination. But looking back, he saw the differences between the two. He had thought then that Vicky was The One. They got into the same college away from home and felt that it was a start to a lifelong relationship together. However, just as he was getting comfortable with his life in college, he tears his ACL during one of his soccer games in his second year and that same year, his father dies. These forced him to go back home and complete his studies there. He felt so depressed at that time, thinking everything was being taken away from him — his college scholarship at one of the country’s greatest university, the freedom and comfort of living in the city, his girl and their dreams together. Even so, everything proved to have a silver lining. He might have lost all those things, but it did help him see life in a different light. He realized that there was more to life than soccer and parties and the perfect girl. Most importantly, when he came home to recover and grieve, he met his wife, Dana.
She had an internship at the local observatory. She was not a local nor from any of the nearby towns, or else he would have known about her. He saw her for the first time when he visited his sister, who was also an intern at the observatory, for their Wednesday lunch date. She was not very tall and she had short auburn hair resting just above her shoulders. She wore glasses and she wore a flowy black dress with sunflowers on it. He asked about her and his sister told her that she was from the city. She was the outcast of the group and no one really talked to her because they were intimidated of her intelligence and they felt that she was snobbish since she was a city girl. He kept seeing her in the observatory every time he fetched his sister for lunch. One time, he invited her to have lunch with them. She declined his invitation but that started his every day visits to the observatory just to ask her out to lunch. He even asked for his sister’s help. She befriended Dana and soon enough they became very close. She still did not relent to his advances, though, which had his sister making fun of him because of it. On the last week of her internship, however, he had finally convinced her to go out with him and when he asked her why she gave him such a hard time, she told him, “I wasn’t playing hard to get, not really, but I just really wanted to know if you were sincere. That you were asking me out because you really wanted to know me and not because you just saw me because I was pretty and thought you had a shot at me.”
“Earth to Brandon, are you there? I think we’ve lost you,” he hears Dana’s soft voice from behind him. He turns his head instantly and he comes face to face with Vicky, again.
“I’m so sorry,” he says, his face flush from being caught daydreaming for the second time.
“What’s it this time, kid?” She asks, sipping a new cup she might have gotten while he was busy remembering the past.
“Nothing,” he starts, “It’s just that, I miss my wife so much and that I remember her every now and then.”
“Oh darling, it must be so hard,” she says as she inches closer to him. “That’s just how loss works. It feels like shit in the beginning, then eventually you’re gonna get over it and move on.” She continues to blab about moving on and he finds himself staring of the distance, seeing himself and Dana on their first lunch together at the new café across the observatory.
The image disappears when he feels a pat on his back, “Hey bro, you alright?” He turns his head. It’s Jim.
“I don’t think he is. He keeps on going off to dreamland, remembering his late wife all night,” Vicky answers for him. He feels something snap inside him when he hears this and he feels Jim touch his arm slightly before he goes to Vicky. Jim pats her on the shoulder, “Vick, I think you’ve had too much vodka.”
“Oh Jim, shut up! This is just my second glass!” She says, waving his glass at him. She turns to Brandon and says, “What do you say, Brandon, darling?” She winks, “I could help you forget her.”
He clenches his fist and unclenches them instantly, breathing deeply, he faces Vicky, smiling he says, “There’s no need Vick, but thanks.”
Her brow shoots upward, “Really? Oh well, if you change your mind honey, here is my number,” she grins handing him her card. He takes the card and smiles at her.
He nudges Jim and he whispers to his best friend, “Guess I’ll have to leave earlier, I’m suddenly not feeling well.”
“Sure thing bud, you want me to come with you?” Jim whispers back.
“No, it’s alright. I can handle this.”
He turns to Vicky, “It was nice seeing you again, Vick. ‘Til we see each other again.”
“Leaving already?” She asks as she pulls him to her for a hug, “I’m sorry if I might have said something. I hope you’re not leaving because of me.”
“No, it’s not you,” he says as he kisses her lightly on the cheek. He turns to his best friend. He squeezes Jim’s shoulder as Jim smiles at him, “I’ll see you.”
“I’ll see you too.”
With that, he left them and walked through the crowd, smiling and nodding at his classmates. He went through the double doors and headed to the parking lot. He got into his car, and before he started it, he whispered, “I miss you dearly Dana. I wish you were here with me.” He reaches to his back pocket and produces the card. He opens his window and throws the card out onto the wet pavement. Then he drives away.