Some Things Never Change

Submitted into Contest #164 in response to: Write a story in which someone returns to their hometown.... view prompt


Fiction High School American

I was on the fence about attending my 20th high school reunion, but I was really glad I went, not entirely for the reasons I thought though. I was kind of shy in high school, and still am by nature, but being a high school English teacher for the past 15 years has made me more loquacious. So, I thought I could handle the small talk. There were a few people from my class that I thought would be fun to reconnect with too.  I decided that I could combine the reunion with a visit to my godmother Aunt Phyllis who still lived in the small town of Lincoln Creek, Illinois. The reunion was planned by the three most popular girls in high school, Lori Fox, Heather Matlock, and Suzi Madden, who according to what I read on class reunion website, hadn’t left Lincoln Creek. I certainly wasn’t anxious to see the three of them. Not that they would pay me any mind because they only blessed chosen people with their attention. The rest of us, they spread rumors about, ostracized, and manipulated. Actually, Lori and Heather weren’t too bad until freshman year, and I even hung out with them a bit. That was until Suzi established the exclusive Suzi-Lori-Heather trio, and I was tossed aside. My best friend from high school, Vivian, was going to be my date. She lives outside Philadelphia, and I live in Sandusky, Ohio. We both decided to attend solo.  We wanted to concentrate on reconnecting with former classmates rather than spending half the night introducing them to our spouses.

I took a deep breath, pulled my shoulders back, pushed a curly dark brown hair strand off my cheek and entered my alma mater Crestview High School. I hadn’t stepped foot in the school since I graduated, but it looked pretty much the same. The large bright white overhang at the entrance was still there. Inside the two glass paneled doors, sat a version of the large black floor mat I remembered. It displayed “Welcome to Crestview High School” in white lettering and a big picture of a colt inside blue and gold (our school colors) trim. The walls looked a little brighter and the tile floors a bit lighter than I remembered though.

When Vivian and I approached the registration table, I recognized the cheerful man and woman handling check ins but couldn’t remember their names. Luckily, they wore name tags. The woman named Sally Hutchinson Lang gave us our name tags,” The cocktail hour has just started. Go ahead into the gymnasium, mingle, get a drink, and don’t forget to check out the memorabilia.” I must say that the three little witches -- those of us not in their inner circle called the Suzi-Lori-Heather trio that-- did a great job, or at least delegated the decorating to energetic, creative people. The gymnasium looked like a nice restaurant, other than the bleachers. Numerous round tables and rectangular serving tables were adorned with dark blue tablecloths with gold ones over them. Behind the tables was a makeshift wall with 5”x 7” school yearbook photos of all attendees from the class of 2002. They were interesting if not slightly embarrassing. According to class reunion web page, out of the 98 of us who graduated from Crestview High, 52 were attending the reunion. Unfortunately, four of our classmates had passed away since graduation. Their pictures were also displayed.

As soon as we were done at the registration table, Vivian and I made a beeline to the bar. I was more nervous than I realized and was grateful to have a Titos and tonic in my hand and my bestie by my side. Vivian nudged me as Heather Matlock walked towards us resplendent in a tight little royal blue dress with a plunging neckline. “Oh my God, you two look fabulous,” she chirped and embraced us like she was our long-lost friend. “Vivian, you finally cut your long brown hair, and I like the addition of the highlights. They brighten you up.”

“Thanks,” said Vivian shifting her feet.

“And Abby Hart. What a beautiful smile you have. We couldn’t tell in high school because all we could see was your mouth of metal.”

“Yes, I suppose the braces were worth the agony,” I said forcing a smile. “Heather, I must say, you haven’t changed a bit.”

“Thank you. I was hoping people wouldn’t see me and say, ‘She hasn’t aged very well.”

“That’s silly of you.” That was all I could say because time had not been particularly kind to her. She had pronounced lines around her mouth and eyes, and her skin was kind of dull. Put it this way. She no longer looked like the Homecoming Queen.

“I’d better get going. I have a lot of mingling to do” she said and sashayed away. Before long, Suzi and Lori made their perfunctory greetings to us as well. Our conversations with them were about as endearing as the one we had with Heather. This may seem catty, but I was happy to see that Suzi had put on a few pounds since high school. She was such a stick then and made sure that anyone who’d listen knew she wore size 0.

Of the eight people I was looking forward to seeing, only four were there. I had a chance to talk to three of them, and a few others I hadn’t remembered from high school, during the cocktail hour. Before dinner, the Suzi-Lori-Heather trio got up on stage to introduce themselves, and Lori gave a speech thanking us all for coming together “to celebrate this wonderful event” and touching on some of the changes in the world that had taken place since our graduation—9/11, COVID, but also the digital age and, “of course, the Kardashians.” She also joked about the number of us who tried to lose ten pounds before attending the reunion.  Lori ended with a toast to Crestview High’s class of 2002 and instructed us to gather for a class photo.

During our meal, Vivian and I sat with our friend Al and his wife Bonnie, Sam, a guy I dated briefly in high school, and three other people I kind of remembered. Sam told the story of our second date. “I took Abby to a Chinese restaurant. By the time we got to my car, she said she wasn’t feeling well and asked me to take her home. I looked over at her, and she was white as a sheet and had a rash going up her neck.” I said, ‘I think I’d better take you to the ER instead.’ “

“Apparently, I was allergic to cashews and didn’t know it. We had ordered cashew chicken, and the ER staff said I was really close to going into anaphylactic shock." I patted Sam on the shoulder and said, “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Sam.”

“How long did you guys date?” asked Bonnie.

He looked at me and smiled. “We went out a few more times, but I never took her to a Chinese restaurant again.”

I remembered one of the reasons I broke up with him was because that cashew chicken was the only meal he ever paid during the few weeks we dated. I didn’t tell that story though. Across the table from me was a cute little woman with shoulder length auburn hair named Brianna who told me that she came to my house one day after school. I vaguely remembered her name but nothing else about her until she reminded me that we shared the same birthday. I wondered how I could have forgotten that.

After dinner, I went up to the bar for another Titos and tonic. On the way, a stunning woman came up to me and gave me a hug. “Abby Hart,” she exclaimed. “It is so wonderful to see you again.” It wasn’t until I read her name tag that I realized she was Mary Gibbons. In high school, she had long frizzy brown hair and was about twenty pounds overweight. Now, she was svelte, and her blonde hair was cut into a short sassy hairdo. As the evening went on, I reconnected with some of  my other classmates. I even had a lengthy conversation with Matt Daminger the high school quarterback, who I never spoke with in high school, about the trials and tribulations of teaching high school. He had taught high school math for the past eight years. Although I had been reluctant to attend the reunion, I had to admit I was having a great time talking to everyone. Right before the dancing was to begin, Suzie announced that we would be watching a PowerPoint to honor class members who passed away.

We all went back to our tables and took our seats. The crescendo of voices subsided as the show began with a heartfelt poem:

Much has happened

 Since they have gone,

But memories of them

Continue to live on.

Though from us

They had to part,

They will forever remain

 Sealed in our hearts.

Then, Jodi Godfrey’s yearbook picture filled the screen with the date of her death above it and an angel icon to the side. Followed by that were pictures of her cheerleading, dancing at homecoming and other school functions, and posing with her friends, which of course included Suzi-Lori-Heather. After Jodi’s tribute came praise and acknowledgment of the late Bryan Hale which included pictures of him playing football, roughhousing with the guys, and posing with friends, which once again included Suzi-Lori-Heather. Following those touching tributes, I expected we were going to see similar accolades for Mike Rossi, who was part of the drama club and had a lot of friends, including me, and Justin Boyle, who was a bit of a loner but was always winning spelling bees. Certainly, there would have been photos of both Mike and Justin on record. Instead, all we saw were their yearbook pictures and the date they died. Then, the slideshow ended. I was absolutely flabbergasted. The three little witches only put effort into honoring their friends! I looked at my tablemates and around the gymnasium and noticed that I wasn’t the only one with an astonished expression. I whispered to Vivian,” I can’t believe Matt and Justin were essentially cast aside.”

“They only honored the two people they had been friends with.” Who does that?” said Vivian.

“Somebody should stand up to these bitches.”

           “Yeah, but you know nobody will.”

            “We’ll see about that,” I said as I rushed towards the podium. If shy little me can successfully manage challenging high school students, why can’t I confront the Suzi-Lori-Heather trio?    Luckily, nobody could see my shaking legs or hear my pounding heart. “May I take the microphone for a moment”, I said to a bewildered Suzi Madden. She unenthusiastically relented, and I began, “Hi, my name is Abby Hart, now Abby Hart Newman.” I looked at Suzi and to my left where Lori and Heather sat. “That was a beautiful tribute to Jodi and Bryan, but I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that we didn’t really get to commemorate Mike and Justin.  Since we didn’t get to see photos of them during their high school days, would anybody like to come up here to share their memories of them?”

Suzi-Lori-Heather didn’t have the sense to be embarrassed. Instead, they were seething. For a moment, I thought Suzi was going to rip the microphone from my hand, but she just sighed. A couple minutes crawled by. I noticed a lot of gaping mouths and squirming people in the audience, but nobody seemed up to my challenge.  Twenty years later, and people still weren’t willing to stand up to the three little witches. In desperation, I searched my memory for a story I could tell about Mike or Justin. Then, I saw Mary Gibbons rise from her seat.

September 23, 2022 18:06

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Karen McDermott
13:02 Sep 26, 2022

What a cliffhanger!


21:25 Oct 02, 2022

Thanks for reading my story, Karen.


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