I stood in front of my bathroom mirror, looking at the sundress that flowed around me from the wind coming through the open window. The golden yellow up against my skin was satisfying, and the white stripes didn’t look bad at all. But something was missing.
I walked back into my bedroom, back to my closet. After scanning all of the articles of clothes, I took a denim jacket off of its hanger and slid it on. The mirror in the bathroom showed me that my outfit was much better, so I raced downstairs and threw on some white sandals.
“Bruno! Come here, boy!”
My pure-bred boxer came bounding in from my office and immediately attempted to jump on me, but I pushed him down. I shook my finger at him, then patted him lightly on his head.
“No, Bruno. This is a new dress. I’m going to the reunion. Now, here’s a treat.” I grabbed a dog treat from the container and threw it to him. He caught it in his mouth mid-air. “I gotta go, boy. I love you.”Bruno looked on after me (still chewing on his bone) as I grabbed my purse and ran out of the door.
The moment I pulled into that parking lot, I knew that I had made the right choice of coming here. I immediately spotted my old friends gathered around the open doors, a smile playing on my lips. Grabbing my purse from the passenger seat, I got out of my car and jogged up to the group of people in front of the township hall.
“Carrie! Oh, my God! It’s been such a long time!”
“Carrie? Is that really you?! Oh, I missed you!”
“Carrie! It’s so nice to see you!”
“Carrie, how is it going?!”
A few women standing there started shouting, hugging me, and I replied kindly, hugging them back.
“It’s really me! I missed y’all, too! Things have been going pretty good back at the ranch. Let’s just say that I am not used to wearing dresses and sandals. More like overalls!” The five or six of us busted out laughing - so hard that tears came to my eyes.
“Wait, you’re seriously running your dad’s ranch by yourself?” Carla looked at me with disbelief written all over her face.
“Yup. Just me and Bruno, my puppy. Well, and just a couple of volunteer teens. But they only come on the weekends. So yeah, pretty much all by myself. It’s not too hard.” I smiled, and my lady friends continued to boggle at the fact that I ran a ranch by myself. But I was zoned out. There was a smell, something in the air that was putting up a red flag in my mind.
Then it came to me. It was his smell - that smell that still haunted me. I turned around, and there he stood. Justin Okers. In the flesh. His back was turned to me, but his voice still came out strong.
“Haha! That’s a good one, Joe. God, I missed this.” Justin’s boastful laugh still haunted me. He patted Joe Likki on the back and took a drink of a Coke. I still couldn’t see his face, though.
“Excuse me? Justin?” Oh, my gosh. Did those words seriously just come out of my mouth? Justin turned around me, confused for a moment before a look of recognition crossed his face.
“Carrie Yeccer. I’m surprised to see you here.” The moment he turned, I realized that he looked the same. The same chiseled jaw, the same dimples on both of his cheeks, the same wrinkles on the outside of his eyes. If it were somebody else, I would’ve thought he was handsome. But because it was Justin, he looked as ugly as he did that day I found out he was with Lia Jones at the same time he was with me.
“I could say the same to you. Are you and Lia still together?” I smirked, then chuckled to myself at the look of shock on Justin’s face.
“Yes, in fact, we are. We got married last year. How about you? Are you with anyone?” At first, I thought he was joking, but the look on Justin’s face proved that he was truly curious.
“Well, congrats. And no. It’s just me and my pup Bruno on my dad’s old ranch. But I’m fine with it. It’s not lonely out there - it’s peaceful and calming. Don’t you live in an apartment building on the busy city streets now?” I added extra scorn to my last question, and Justin noticed it. Unfortunately for me, he couldn’t get the chance to stammer because his new wife came jogging up to us. She immediately pecked him on the cheek and hooked her arm with his.
“Hey, babe. Oh, hi! You’re Carrie, right? You graduated with Justin?” Lia’s smile was bright, and her eyes were a bright blue to match. Her brown hair fell on her shoulders beautifully. She looked like a model. No wonder Justin cheated on me with her.
“Yeah, I was the one that Justin cheated on. With you.” The look on her face was priceless, but I turned around with another smirk on my face and started to chat with my lady friends again. We drifted into the hall, away from the cheater and his model wife.
I walked out of the township hall bathroom in jeans and a sweatshirt, then went out to the back to where everyone was gathered around a bonfire. There was a cooler full of drinks and s’ more ingredients on top of the cooler. I smiled. It reminded me of all of the backyard parties that we had when we were all still in high school.
“Hey, y’all! What’s going on?” My smile not fading, I strutted up to my group of friends. They were sipping their cold drinks and laughing.
“What’s going on is that we were just waiting for you to come over here! We’re playin’ Twister!” Twister? I hadn’t played that in years! This would be amazing!
“Carrie, you go first!” Someone spun the spinner and yelled that my move was ‘right hand on blue’. The rest of the night is a blur to me, but I do know that I didn’t run into the cheater or his wife once the rest of the time. And I might have met a guy to work on the ranch with me. And maybe I like him like I’m a teenager. But who knows?