It was just another wedding. It was just another chance to remind me of how old I’ve become. It was just another moment to wear a dress and pretend my life was better than it actually was. Yes, it’s been almost fifteen years since I last saw these people in our high school graduation. Many of us have gained weight. Some of us have high-paying careers and some of us just get by. Some have children and some are still living like bachelors. All of us have aged. All of us the same and yet so very different from who we were when we were younger.
I actually felt weird being invited this time. I wasn’t really close with Regina and as far as I know she wasn’t aware that Trent, her husband now, used to like me in sophomore year. His affections weren’t really reciprocated though since I only had eyes for one particular guy at that time.
I smiled as I recalled how stupid I was back in high school. I avoided every other guy who courted me back then just in the hopes that one day he’d notice me. Let’s put it this way. He had three steady girlfriends in high school. One of them was the girl who transferred along with me in sophomore year. One of them was the girl who was 2nd place in a school singing contest that I won. The other was a girl whose name I could never remember. Not me. Never me.
I saw him one last time in college before he moved to London where he’s been working for the past few years. We didn’t become friends. We didn’t talk after classes. I haven’t seen him for the past fifteen years. There was no special connection. No way of him knowing that I liked him - have liked him for the past few years. Then I gave up. I guess our paths were never meant to cross.
I slumped in the chair sipping a cocktail. Typical, I tell myself. The only chance you have of actually socializing and you start thinking about him again. I chastised myself. I couldn’t allow myself to think about the past since there was none to think of.
"Is that you Celine?" A voice asked. "Oh my gosh! It is you!" The voice shrieked and a figure slowly formed from the hazy pre-drunken stupor I was in.
The figure turned out to be a giantess in a glittery red dress with curly black hair. "Abbie?" I asked to make sure.
"Yes, you meanie," she said as she gave me a suffocating hug. "I can’t believe you’ve shown yourself after all this time. How have you been all these years? Are you married? Kids? Still singing or what?" She barraged me with questions.
"Uh…" I tried to form concrete answers. "I’m fine." Was the only one I could come up with. "How have you been?" I managed.
"Well, I’m working in insurance right now. I’m really great in fact. I used to work in a desk job, 8 to 5. You know how it is. I heard about this and decided it was exactly what I needed. I quit my job and now I’m not that stressed anymore. Maybe you’d be interested. I mean, you’re not getting any younger Celine. This is an investment." I was really in no mood to get a sales talk right now and tried to find a way to get away from her.
Before I could think of what to say, I was pulled away by someone else in a tight hug. "Celine!" I laughed out loud and returned the hug as I recognized one of the only people I could stand in our high school.
"Dana, you look hot!" I remarked as I pulled away and gave her a little twirl. "Of course, my dear. I should, with all the things I’ve had done." She winked as she showed off her new assets. And we both laughed in unison. At least Dana still retained her sense of humor.
"I missed you so much girl. I’m so mad that you’ve been hiding yourself from all of us these past few years. I mean I get it. This town is too small for our little nightingale, but you should have at least called." Dana pouted.
"I know, D. I missed you too. I’m really sorry. I just… I’ve been so preoccupied lately. It’s been really difficult." I tried to hold back tears. There was something about this town that made me so emotional. Maybe it was just the people here. I’ve been so scared of coming back. I was so scared of people judging me. I was so afraid of them finding out that I was still the nothing that I was when I left.
"Let’s stop this depressing atmosphere, okay?" Dana said as she grabbed me by the wrist and led me to the dance floor. "Let’s dance!" She said as she started gyrating to a ‘90s boy band song.
I snickered and joined her hilarious attempt at dancing.
Half-plastered with cocktails and half-intoxicated with memories of these people around me, I didn’t notice what happened next.
Like some senseless music video for a soul ballad, everything and everyone stopped moving. The air was filled with more smoke that I swear was not from liquid nitrogen. And a song started playing, that reminded me of something that Adele would probably sing.
I looked around to check if I wasn’t going crazy. I was probably more drunk than I was aware of. Before I could pinch myself, the crowd parted and there it was. The cause of all my sleepless nights; The reason for all the depressing love songs I’ve been writing; The hero of all my novels full of tragedy.
Just like that, the moment was over and everything went by faster than I wanted them to. I watched him talk to his buddies. I looked at how he guffawed at some joke Megan told him. I stared as he walked past a table of wedding gifts seemingly oblivious to his little stalker. Oh no, why didn’t anyone tell me that he was back? I thought he was supposed to be out of the country. He shouldn’t be here.
It was not until I heard Dana yell, "Blake!" And casually wave to him that I realized I needed to hide. As I turned around and tried to find the perfect exit, I felt Dana grab my shoulders from behind. Before I could react, I felt his presence behind me.
So I turned around and faced the one person I shouldn’t have seen again in this lifetime.
"Hi Dana!" He said as they exchanged a brief hug. When he noticed me standing next to them dumbfounded, he finally acknowledged my existence.
"Celine," he said, a half-smile forming on his still handsome face. He didn’t change much. He had a different hairstyle, but the face - the face was exactly as it was fifteen years ago.
Dana coughed as she gave me a look that could kill. "Hi Blake, I didn’t know you’d be here." I coped in saying.
"Oh, I’m not allowed to be here?" He asked.
"No, it’s not… what I… I mean, of course you’re allowed," I stammered.
He laughed as he noticed my utter discomfort. Really? I told myself. It’s been fifteen years and you still act like a total dumbass when he’s around.
Dana interrupted us as she managed to make up some excuse to leave and I was left all alone with the man that I couldn’t even talk to for more than five seconds.
I wanted to cry for help, but Dana was already chatting up the newlyweds. "Do you want to dance?" I heard him say. It was only then that I realized we were still standing in the middle of the dance floor and all the people near us had already paired up for a slow tempo dance.
"Okay," I answered shakily. He held my hands as he placed them on his chest. I liked how he wasn’t so tall that I had to look up to see his face.
"How have you been?" He asked. I could feel my heart beat faster and I hoped that he didn’t feel it as we got closer for the start of the dance.
"It’s been a bit of an adventure. I… I had fun." I answered, not trusting myself to look at his eyes.
"I know," he said. "What?" I uttered as I tried to look at his expression. It was always his favorite pastime to make fun of me.
"I’ve seen your Facebook page. You’ve been… to a lot of places. You…" he smiled. "You’ve been doing all the things you said you wanted to do back in high school."
"You’ve been stalking me?" I blurted out before I could stop myself and he laughed at my strange expression.
"Not stalking, exactly. Just watching," he said.
"Why?" I asked him, still disbelieving this whole serious side of Blake.
"Well, you… everyone here… you remind me of home," he said, a distant expression on his face. "Do you know what I mean?" He asked.
"Yes, I know exactly what you mean," I said as I felt him pull me closer.
I heard the song end and another one begin, but we didn’t stop. We danced for hours, not knowing what to say to each other. I guess we had our whole lives to find out what to talk about.
I realized then, we were both scared of the past yet it was the one thing we craved so much in our lives. We both left this small town to be the people we were meant to become, thinking that the past would just vanish one day. What we didn’t know back then was that we were always destined to come back. I knew then that this feeling of being here with him, with all these people, in this town, this was better than any movie, any song or any story I could come up with.
We will probably never be the people we were when we were younger. Yet this future that is so uncertain is one I would gladly live.