The Wallflower

They walked into the Courtyard Marriott Ballroom like Charlie’s Angels, a golden halo surrounding their bouncy hair, halter dresses split open at the chest to expose augmented breasts and hem lines revealing shellacked legs and pedicured toes resembling little candies.

An audible gasp and a few wows could be heard from the bar where half-cocked guys washed down their umpteenth beer with a Jager chaser.

“They haven’t changed a bit,” one guy ogled as the middle-aged harem entered.

It was the Belnap East High School Class of 1985’s thirtieth reunion and after reading various Facebook inquiries on whether or not a reunion was in the works I offered to organize an impromptu reception.  Just like the loopy scrawls of yearbook notes I read three decades earlier– Didn’t get to know you very well, but you seemed like a really good kid — the 2015 Facebook comments read “You’re so great … You’re so nice….You’re the best!” with emoticons of hearts and smiley faces. I was making their reunion a reality.

Fifty dollar tickets granted you a pasta bar, chocolate fountain fondue, cash bar and a D.J. who promised he had plenty of eighties music.  However, I quickly learned, not all eighties music you could dance to.

As Slayer screamed Hell Awaits, and the dance floor remained empty,  I got up to greet the 1980s beauty queens who were scanning the name tags, each tag featuring a black and white yearbook photo of a classmate thirty-years earlier.

“Hi ladies, you look great,” I welcomed them. The angels gave me a quick up and down before returning to see who else was at the reunion.  I unpeeled the backs of their name tags.

“So great of you to organize this Sandy,” Brook who traveled the farthest from Malibu acknowledged me in a sing-song voice like I was a five-year-old showing her my finger painting. She married well and had a stepson going to Pepperdine.

“It’s Sandra,” I corrected, never giving Brook or anyone else for that matter permission to give me a nickname.

The other dream girl was Lisa, a personal trainer with blown out brunette hair and tan muscles with a cursive script tattoo that read “Lacey”.   I eventually learned Lacey was an ex-girlfriend of Lisa’s who left her for a car magazine model.

The third angel, Marie, won best dressed in 1985 and was now a preschool teacher. She had aged well too and had triplet girls graduating high school in a year and a husband in pharmaceutical sales that kept her in Chicos and a Volvo.

“Have a good time,” I wished them as they walked past me to head to the drooling meat heads at the bar.

I sat down next to my husband Chris who was finishing his pasta.  His sports jacket was now off and he was fidgeting, ready to transition to the next activity.

“Did you get their money?”

“They prepaid, they’re set.  There are two guys at the bar who didn’t pay so I have to talk to them.”

Chris wasn’t thrilled that I had volunteered to help organize the reunion and he wanted my assurance that we weren’t forking out our money to throw strangers a party.  Chris was a southerner, not from a little Massachusetts town where people didn’t enunciate their Rs, wore Red Sox gear like a uniform and headed to the packy every Friday night.  He didn’t understand why I was bothering to organize the event and didn’t I have my fill of organizing events as the president of the visitor and tourism center?

I scanned the room, each classmate just a name on an Excel spreadsheet with a check off of paid or unpaid.

Sonja Jacobs fell into the chair next to Chris, wrapping her arm over his shoulder and her other arm clasping her 1985 yearbook.

“I’m bored, this music blows. Buy me a drink,” she ordered Chris.

“Okay, darling, what do you want?” cooed an unfazed Chris with his sexy drawl.  He had never met Sonja before and seemed amused at her sudden presence.

“Have her get her own drink!  And tell her she owes me $50!” I whispered in Chris’ ear.

Sonja, who had been top heavy since the third grade, had bamboozled someone else to sauce her up so Chris didn’t need to engage.

“I know you,” she pointed at me, her finger brushing up against my dress.

“I’m Sandra … we went to elementary school through high school together Sonja.”

“Na, that’s not it.”

“College too, we went to UMass together, remember?”

“You went to UMass?  I don’t remember. “Sides, I dropped out.  Too much partying,” Sonja snorted.

Chris got up, “I’ll get you a beer, c’mon,” he said to Sonja as he helped her up from the chair.  She clumsily fell against Chris’ baby blue shirt that covered his tan chest.  Her eyes registered Chris’ dimpled chin and full head of blonde hair.

“How’d you two meet?” Sonja suddenly remembered me — quiet, mute girl with a bad perm who toted around a French horn case and listened to Kajagoogoo.

I got up as well, hair straight again and a black cocktail dress that exposed my real cleavage, augmented only by a certain little boy I had birthed ten years earlier.  I nudged Chris while pointing out that he hadn’t bought me a drink yet that night.

“You didn’t ask” he yelled over the loud music.

I entered the mob of former teenagers turned bloated, grayer versions of themselves searching for Nick Citron and Mike Bennett, two best buddies who had driven up from Florida for the reunion, had RSVP’d and never sent a check.  I spotted Nick, sweaty from dirty dancing to Def Leppard with Shannon Egan earlier in the evening.  His Brillo-pad hair receding and chest hair poking above his collar.

“Hi Nick, you’re looking good,” this was the first time I had ever talked to Nick and he gave me a nod, “So Nick, really glad you made it tonight.  The reunion is $50 a head so if you can pay for your ticket now that would be great.”

He turned his back to me and headed to the bar and ordered a drink.  Another guy saddled up beside him, Jeff Lawful.

“What ya  been up to Nick,” Jeff asked as I circled in front of the two guys to stare and listen to their conversation.

“I’m down in Florida, drive a forklift for Costco.”

“I hear Costco pays pretty well there Nick,” I interjected, “How about that $50 you owe for the reunion.”

“Who is this broad,” Nick said to Jeff as the two reentered the crowd with their $5 beers.

I sighed, and began to see if I could find Chris who wasn’t in the banquet hall any longer.  Finally the DJ was playing some Frankie Goes to Hollywood and I thought I’d get Chris to dance with me and take a break from rejection.

I walked out to the lobby and outside for some fresh air only to bump into a cluster of girls from my class smoking cigarettes.  There at the center of the circle of girls was Chris, taking a drag from a cigarette he had bummed from Angela and Jennifer, two girls that spent all of high school in the bathroom.

“This is your husband?” Angela greeted me.

Angela and I  went way back, all the way to elementary school when she chucked ripped bus seat stuffing at my head during the commute to school.  By the time high school rolled around she had graduated to stealing my gym clothes out of my locker and regularly shoving me into walls, laughing with her sidekick Jennifer.

Chris, standing there, chatting up these girls was like a dagger to the heart.

“Angela, Jennifer, hi, how are you?”

They took a drag from their cigarettes.

“Chris, are you coming back in?  Frankie Goes to Hollywood is playing, want to dance?”

Angela and Jennifer started laughing, “Oooo yea Chris, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, better get on that dance floor.”

Chris laughed with them.

At home slept our ten year old son Jake in the 4, 000 square feet we had finally remodeled, furniture and design choices negotiated over, our co-mingled bank accounts, Jake’s college fund, and my mother-in-law watching Shark Tank and eating the left-over manicotti I made.  And here we were at my reunion, Chris betraying me for a quick jolt of nicotine with the girls I hated most.

“Skip it, you hang and smoke up,” I spun back into the reunion, my brain on fire, fists clenched and ready to scream.

It was time for me to leave, I had seen what had happened to the people I knew way back when, but as I scanned the room of 48 year-olds I realized I never knew these people.  The snippets of catch up stories I overheard of parents divorcing freshman year, the classmate  who went to rehab when I thought they were on a study abroad, the long-time perfect couple that was really a nightmare stalking situation, the time everyone spent in front of the Dairy Queen loitering, and the Saturday night parties I heard about Monday morning.  I was part of the landscape of high school; but no more involved than a row of lockers, or the flag that hung at the front of homeroom.

“Sandra?”

My negative self-talk was interrupted and I looked up to see Matt Austin smiling at me.  I had read online that he just sold his documentary production company for millions and was living in Manhattan in an apartment featured on Million Dollar Listing.

“Hey Matt, how are you?”

“You look great,” Matt shoved his hands in his pocket and swayed side to side, seeming nervous, his face blushing.  “I can’t believe I’m saying this out loud, but  I had such a crush on you,” revealed Matt, still smiling at me, “I wanted to ask you to prom and wimped out.”

“Really?”  I tried to remember Matt and had a vague recollection of working on a group project with him.  He always wore decal t-shirts and stone washed jeans with white Reebox.  He did say hi to me all the time. “I wish you had asked me.  Would have been better than sitting home watching Star Search.”

Matt laughed.  He was over 6 feet, broad smile and a sports jacket that he didn’t buy at Men’s Warehouse.

“Star Search was the best.  Precursor to American Idol, The Voice.”

“But those shows didn’t have Ed McMahon sitting on a stool.”

“You’re still funny.  I remember you being funny,” recalled Matt.

I was funny? I couldn’t even remember talking to anyone in high school.  I smiled at Matt, finally having a conversation with someone who knew me and paid his $50 ticket

“I was just about to leave, do you want to go grab a drink and catch up,” I asked Matt.

“Sounds good.”

I collected my purse wondering if there was anyone I should say good-bye to when I spotted Nick and Mike, whooping it up with Charlie’s Angels.  They were having a heck of a time.

“Give me one second, Matt,” I marched up to the popular group.

“Hey guys, how’s it going?” I sang with an extra syrupy twang.

I pulled Nick into a side hug, “Brook, Lisa, Marie, did you hear Nick and Mike have fallen on hard times?  Destitute.  Really bad.  So bad they couldn’t manage the $50 tickets for tonight. But I am so happy they came anyway, aren’t you?”

I gave a forced smile, batted my eyes and walked away.

As Matt and I headed to the door Chris, Angela and Jennifer were returning to the lobby, the laughing smile that was on Chris’ face was now a sober look of concern.

“Oh good! Angela and Jennifer, I’m glad I bumped into you again.  Do me a favor and give Chris a ride home?  It’s so great you all hit it off and are having so much fun together.  Matt and I are going to grab a drink.  Have fun!  See you at home Chris.”

Author’s Note:  The above is a work of fiction.  Although I did help organize my class’ 20th anniversary back in 2007 most of the above did not happen.  Accept for:

  • Two guys not paying their $50 tickets and walking away from me when I asked them to pay up
  • An audible gasp from an entire bar of guys when a group of popular girls arrived late.  Admittedly, they looked good, and I don’t believe they had any plastic surgery
  • My husband was propositioned by a drunk female classmate who wanted to be “entertained.”  All he gave her was a bottle of beer and we drove home together despite the fact that he did chat up some former “Mean Girls” that used to tease me.  

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