Harry ended up buying a gray suit, but not for the reunion. He wasn’t going to buy it initially; he simply saw the suit on the mannequin and felt like trying it on. However, when I couldn’t stop drooling over how damn good he looked in the suit – how nicely the gray hung on his legs and shoulders and how long and lean it made his body look – he bought it. He teased me about it all day, telling me I better find a killer outfit to wear or else he was going to steal the spotlight without me. That didn’t bother me, though. I was more of a behind-the-scenes kind of girl anyway.
I was a little surprised when Harry didn’t come out of his room in the new shirt that he bought yesterday though either. When we emerged from our rooms to face each other the morning of the reunion, Harry started to say something but stopped as he took in my appearance. His eyes scanned my body carefully as I stood in my new dark red dress and black heels. The dress was fitted, stopping just above my knee. The sleeves covered my shoulders but barely any of my arm and the front of the dress cut straight down between my breasts into a deep V that stopped just beneath my chest, barely above my abdomen.
I smiled at Harry confidently for a few moments, but when he didn’t say anything, my confidence began to fade and the corners of my smile dropped slowly. “Eh… good or bad speechless?”
Harry’s eyes fluttered open and closed a few times and he choked on his own breath. “I’m not speechless – I mean it’s – Grood! Grood, I meant good and great and said grood…” He ran his fingers through his hair. “You look fantastic, Scotty. Did you get that dress yesterday? I didn’t see you try it on.”
I hummed and ran my hands down my thighs to flatten out the wrinkles. “I just wanted to surprise you I guess.”
“Well you look great,” Harry breathed.
I felt my cheeks flush and twisted my heel into the wood floor. I avoided Harry’s still awestruck gaze as I looked him up and down.
He was wearing his new casual black suit pants and a light blue button-up collared shirt. The shirt hung open to reveal part of his swallow tattoos on the upper part of his chest.
“Skipping a tie today?” I asked.
“Well, we still don’t know if it’s casual or not,” he replied, reaching into his pocket and removing a long black tie. “If I need to put it on, I will.” He looked back up at me quickly and raised his hand to pull on one of my carefully curled blonde strands. “Hey, you look really good.”
I giggled and gently pushed his hand away. “You already said that.”
“Oh,” Harry said shortly, turning and walking down the hallway toward the living room. “Uh, yeah. Okay. Where are my keys?”
We were both jittery as we rode just outside of the city and to our old high school. That shitty old place that I struggled through for four years. That hell hole that I had so many bad memories in. The closer we got to it, the more I wanted to stick my finger down my throat. I always played sick with Harry and he had gotten good and knowing when I was faking, so if he could actually see vomit maybe he would turn the car around. I knew he hated vomit too, so maybe if I threw up on him, he would definitely turn around. As I looked out the window, I silently scolded myself for thinking of such a vile plan and went on to thinking about another way to get out of this. Harry didn’t look so sure about going to the reunion either once we pulled into the parking lot. He put the car in park and exhaled hard as he stared at the huge brick building before us. I was almost too scared to look at it, but I didn’t even have to in order to be able to picture the huge glass panels that made up the entrance to the school – the three stories of windowless bricks that secured the jail cell-like classrooms – the red bathroom stalls that had graffiti and gossip all over them – the lunchroom that reeked of old eggs and had food stains on the ceiling. Barton Smith High School – or as most of us called it – Bull Shit High School.
When Harry’s hands left the steering wheel, I noticed a few spots of sweat along the wheel cover where his hand just gripped. I know we had been over it a million times, but I wanted to ask him just once more – Why? Why were we forcing ourselves to do this?
Before I could say anything to talk Harry out of going to this reunion and before he could think himself out of it, he yanked the keys from the ignition and jumped out of the front seat. I sat in my seat and watched him as he leaned on the front of the Celica, shoved his hands into the pockets of his pants, and looked up at the school, probably having horrible flashbacks from years ago. When he noticed I wasn’t out of the car yet, he squinted at me through the tinted windshield and sighed. He pulled my door open for me, leaned across me to unbuckle my seat belt, and grabbed my hands. I pouted as he pulled me to my feet. I closed my eyes while he turned me to face the school and I listened as he grabbed my purse from my seat and locked the Celica. When he put his hand on my lower back and began to urge me forward, I snapped around and gripped the shirt on his chest.
I felt like I might cry. “Harry-“
Harry shook his head and gripped my shoulders. I could smell his minty breath as he spoke, so close to my face. I wanted to taste the mint on his lips. “Scotlan, we’re doing this. Even if we just stay for ten minutes.”
“We have to.”
“Scotlan, just promise me that if they bring up anything from the past… and I mean ANYTHING, you HAVE to play it cool. Don’t let them see that they get under your skin. You’ve been to therapy for these kinds of things, so I know you can handle it.”
“Oh, well shit, Harry. Now I really don’t want to go in-“
“You know we have to.”
“But why should we give a damn what they think?” I beat my fist into Harry’s chest as I felt tears spill down my cheeks. I hated these people more than anything. I hated that I couldn’t just forget about them and erase all of my high school memories from my mind. ”I don’t give a shit if they think I didn’t come because I was scared or just have a horrible life. I know I’m doing well and that’s all that matters.”
Harry cupped my chin and wiped under my eyes with his thumb. “Do you really want to go home?”
I nodded and sniffed once. I felt like such a baby, but I really didn’t want to go inside.
“Okay,” Harry whispered. “Okay, I’m sorry Scotty. Let’s go.” He rubbed my back and pulled me into a hug. He kissed my forehead softly. “C’mon.”
He turned to open my door for me, but before he even got close enough to grip the door handle, someone called his name. I wanted to shoot myself. Of course that would happen.
“HAAA-RAY! Hey man! How’s it goin’!?” Bud Elkins strutted across the parking lot, a beer can in his hand. He had a stain on his jeans, a plaid shirt on, and a camouflaged hat on his head. He was in a lot of Harry’s classes but he and I never spoke. I don’t think that Harry really knew him much either.
Harry cleared his throat and took a few steps in front of me. I knew he was giving me a chance to wipe my eyes and pretty-up before seeing anyone else. “Bud, great to see you mate.”
“Yeah MATE! Great to see you. You’ll probably be the only person I’ll be glad to see. I hate the rest of these shitheads.” I swallowed down a gag as Bud spit some tobacco out onto the parking lot pavement.
The feeling seemed to be mutual between all of the people in my graduating class. We all hated each other. I don’t know why we were even having a reunion and I was stunned by how many cars I saw in the parking lot. I figured no one would waste their time at these. If it wasn’t for Bud, Harry and I would be long gone by now.
Harry finally stepped to the side from in front of me and put his hand on my lower back. “This is Scotlan, I don’t think you guys really knew each other too well.” The only things I knew about Bud were the things Harry shared with me years ago: that he was originally from the deep southern parts of Alabama, but his family moved up to New York “for a change.” It’s a bit of a drastic change, if you ask me. People at the school had never heard such a deep southern draw or seen such a person in their life, so Bud was constantly picked on.
I stuck my hand out to Bud and smiled the best I could, although I know it was probably a horrible looking attempt. Bud looked star-struck as his eyes wandered up and down my dress, taking an extra second to stare at my cleavage. Why did I have to choose this dress? He took my hand and kissed it. I grimaced as I thought of him chewing on tobacco and now kissing my skin. “I don’t know how I ever missed you, you’re a damn fine lookin’ lady.”
I grabbed Harry’s hand and squeezed it as he tensed next to me. My memory shot back to the last time we were at The Lock and he beat the shit out of Zach for calling me hot. “Well I’ve definitely matured physically over the last couple of years,” I laughed uneasily, trying to play off the comment like it was nothing.
Bud licked his lips before taking another sip of his beer. When he finished the can, he crushed it on his head and dropped the empty can on the concrete. “Well shall we?” He stuck his elbow out for me to take and motioned toward the school. I hesitated for a second, sensing Harry’s eyes on me, waiting for me to make the decision. I swallowed hard and then tried to smile again before lightly wrapping my hand around Bud’s arm. As we walked down the front walkway to the school, I heard Harry’s feet clicking behind me. I turned around briefly and mouthed “Ten minutes” to him. That’s all the time I was planning on spending in this despicable school. Lord knows, that would be all the time I would be able to handle.