Charlie studied the invitation on his computer screen. High school reunion, July 25th, 7:00 to 10:00 pm. At their beloved high school, Trailwood High. Class of 2014.
Charlie shook his head and chuckled softly, knowing that he would never go to his five-year high school reunion. There was no point. He barely had any friends in high school. He was always the nerd with his nose stuck in a book. And she would probably be there… another reason not to bother.
No, he would just skip it. Nothing good ever came from those things anyways. People always ended up squabbling with their old enemies and disagreeing about things that didn’t really matter.
The only reason Charlie would have any desire to go was to see how messed up his classmates’ lives were. That would be highly entertaining. But why would he drive three and a half hours when he could eavesdrop on people’s lives through social media?
Speaking of social media… Charlie was scrolling through his Facebook feed when he saw that he received a new message. He barely glanced at it. It was just some random-
Wait. He checked again, recognizing that name… He leaned forward.
She hadn’t spoken to Charlie for five years, so why on earth would she start now? Charlie had ended their relationship before they left for college because they were simply too different. She didn’t even like to read! Charlie couldn’t even imagine. But the real reason was that she just got too dramatic. She ignored Charlie for a week after he picked up Hayley’s pencil (he was just being nice). She cried in the car after he stared at Stacie in the hallway (she had just dyed her hair hot pink). She slapped him in the face when he said that Jessica had a really good singing voice (he was just being honest!).
And Charlie never said a word when Lacy flirted with other guys right in front of him, although he probably should have. He finally had enough and ended it right after Lacy had screamed at him about going to his sister’s dance recital instead of going to watch her cheer at a football game.
Lacy was pretty upset with him, and she didn’t talk to him after that. Charlie didn’t mind. He could barely remember why he fell in love with her in the first place. He remembered having a good time when they went to movies. She would always guess the ending in the middle of the movie, and she was always hilariously wrong. When they went to fancy restaurants, she would speak in a British accent the entire time. Charlie liked it when they were alone together, because she was a completely different person when she was with her friends. She stopped being goofy and acted all bratty and rude, like she was better than everyone.
Charlie found himself clicking on the message she sent him. It read:
Hey, Charlie! You should totally come to the reunion! It’ll be super fun and I haven’t seen everyone for so long. I know that you’ll probably want to stay home (because you’re weird like that) but I really think you’ll have a good time. (Did you know that I’m actually a teacher now? I teach high school English. What do you do?)
Charlie could almost hear her voice through the screen. He noticed that her grammar had drastically improved since high school. That was probably due to her becoming a teacher. Maybe she really has changed, Charlie found himself thinking. Then he shook himself. No. She would never change. He replied:
Sorry. I’m really too busy to go to a reunion. I live in New York now, and that’s quite a bit of distance. To answer your question, I’m going to school to be a doctor. A cardiologist to be exact. I can’t really afford to take a couple days off.
He hit the send button before he could stop himself. Within seconds, a new reply was sent. He opened it.
Party pooper! (just kidding!) I live in Maine, but that’s not stopping me from visiting good old Vermont. You don’t even have to drive through another state to get to your destination! And I think you should go. This is a once in a lifetime thing, I would hate for you to miss it.
Since when does she care? Charlie asked himself. She usually only thinks about herself.
But it had been five years. A lot can happen and a lot can change in that span of time. Almost against his will, Charlie found himself composing a new response.
You make a good point. Fine, I’ll go. Hopefully, it isn’t disappointing.
Charlie spent the next three days trying to decipher Lacy’s reply. Soon after Charlie had caved to her demands, Lacy had responded: Yay! I can’t wait to see you!
Charlie didn’t know how to respond to that, so he didn’t. He knew that was a cowardly move, but he couldn’t bring himself to type anything. But today was the day. The day that he would visit his old high school. See his classmates… see Lacy. He had already taken the day off, and the next day, planning on staying in Vermont for an extra day. Maybe drive by his old house.
Two hours later, he was on the road, and in another three hours, Charlie found himself in his hometown.
Putney, Vermont. Charlie had forgotten how small it was. Compared to New York, it was absolutely minuscule. Most of the buildings were small and homely, while the ones in New York were showy and boastful. Charlie felt a little out of place. But he pulled up to the high school and felt a rush of anxiety.
What if this was a huge disappointment? What if he drove all this way only to be treated like an outcast?
Charlie steeled himself and walked through the doors of the old building. Dozens of people stood talking, hugging, and shrieking at their friends. No one acknowledged Charlie. Everyone was already standing in their little friend groups. Nothing had changed, everyone looked exactly the same. Charlie self-consciously looked down, wondering if he had changed. Probably not.
He really wanted to hide in a corner, but Charlie figured that since he came all his way, he should make the most of it. He searched for a face he recognized and made a beeline towards him.
“Jake!” he hollered loudly. Probably too loudly. He winced as Jake jumped and spun around. Jake’s friends also turned around and stared right at Charlie.
“Charlie!” Jake’s face lit up with recognition and he slapped Charlie on the back. “Nice to see you! You’ve certainly gotten louder since I’ve last seen you.”
Charlie mentally face-palmed himself.
“Ha-ha, yeah. So, what are you doing these days?” Charlie asked, trying to get the attention off of himself.
“Oh, nothing much. I work at the Home Depot down the road. Engaged to this really hot girl. What about you?”
By this time, all of Jake’s friends had moved to the refreshment table, leaving Charlie alone with Jake. Charlie didn’t like that. He wasn’t fond of where this conversation was heading.
“I’m going to med school,” he replied lamely.
“Nerd! Not dating anyone, are you?”
Charlie shook his head. Jake shrugged, already bored with the conversation.“Sorry, dude, he said, patting Charlie on the back as he walked away. Just like that, Charlie was alone. His closest friend in high school couldn’t even have a two minute conversation with him.
He looked around helplessly. More people had arrived, and Charlie found it hard to breathe. Maybe I’ll just step outside for a few minutes, he thought.
So that’s what he did. He weaved his way through the people clustered by the door and stepped outside, almost choking as he tried to consume the crisp air in huge gulps.
“It’s overwhelming, I know,” said a voice. Charlie turned, already knowing who it was.
“Hey, Lacy,” he said, the calm in his voice surprising him. He wasn’t freaking out at all… which confused him a little. Lacy was leaning against the building, arms crossed. She looked angry. “Long time no see,” he continued, standing beside her. But not too close.
“Tell me about it,” Lacy sighed dramatically. “I’ve missed you, Charlie,” she said, batting her eyelashes. Charlie winced tried to lean away from her so she didn’t notice. What was he supposed to say to that?
“Hm,” he grunted, going with the safest option.
“Did you miss me?” Lacy pressed, pursing her lips together. Charlie avoided her eyes. This was not how he was expecting the conversation to go.
“Uh, I don’t know.”
“It was a yes or no question,” Charlie heard her mutter, although it probably wasn't meant for his ears. She moved her hand up to brush a strand of hair from her eyes and Charlie spotted something glittering on her finger.
A wedding ring?
“You’re married?” Charlie blurted before he could stop the words from exiting his mouth. Lacy glanced at her ring absently.
“No,” she said heavily, offering no explanation.
Lacy sullenly nodded. Charlie was beginning to hate this one-way conversation.
Lacy rolled her eyes. “Jake Davis. I’m surprised he didn’t tell you already.”
Charlie didn’t know what to say to that. He decided that it wouldn’t be wise to mention that Jake did tell him… but he just referred to her as a “hot girl”.
“Uh, I didn’t talk to him long,” he said carefully. Lacy no longer looked angry, just sad.
“I’m going to break off the engagement. Today.”
Charlie raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Really?”
Lacy nodded, meeting his gaze. “Really. Because I’ll never be happy with him. But I might be happy with someone else.” She stared at Charlie pointedly.
Before Lacy was even done talking, Charlie could guess what she was hinting at. But he also realized something else.
“To be honest, Lacy? I was looking forward to seeing you. To catch up. Talk about the old days. I even thought that we might… get back together. But now I realize that I’m not looking for a romantic relationship with you. I just want to be friends. That sounds so hopelessly lame, but it’s true. I’m sorry.”
As Charlie said those words, he knew they were true. He was done with second-guessing his choices. He was ready to move on.
Lacy’s eyes widened like she wasn’t used to being refused. But as she studied Charlie, she seemed to understand and accept that he would never change his mind. She nodded, and for the first time in their lives, the ex-couple came to an understanding. As they stepped toward each other to hug, a huge weight lifted off both of their shoulders and they sighed with contentment, comforted by the fact that they could finally be satisfied with their pasts.