Check, please.

“I knew it was your month to pay the bills, so I made sure to use a lot of hot water.” I watched as he used the towel to dry between his legs and his torso, admiring his cleanly shaven male parts when the towel flicked up just high enough. “And your hair looks fine, Miss Over-Dramatic.” I bit my lip as I looked up and down at the bare and glistening body in front of me. “Been working out?”

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12. chapter 12

Marsha Lane was the first person to greet me as we walked inside. She made me feel overdressed as she stood in her jeans and black high school hoodie with her blonde curly hair secured back into a tight bun. She always seemed blind to the hatred that people had for our school. She attended all of the games, all of the club meetings that she could, had perfect attendance all four years, and graduated as salutatorian. Her being smart had nothing to do with her grades - she just kissed ass like I had never seen before. She thought the teachers at BSHS were the best teachers on the planet… and they had certainly loved Marsha right back by giving her grades she didn’t always deserve. Her school spirit was off the charts… the mental stability charts, that was.

“Welcome back!” She cheered, shaking a cheap pompom in her hand before choking Bud and myself I a tight hug. She hugged Harry forcefully too, almost taking him off his feet. Harry pulled back away from Marsha as if she were trying to maul him, an irritated look plastered across his face as he fixed his messed up curls and sideways shirt, but Marsha took no notice. She just kept giving instructions. “You sign in here, get your nametag there, and you’ll get your picture taken down at the end!” She pointed to each station that was set up down the front hallway. As Bud bent down and checked his name off of the clipboard, I looked around at the other people near us. I recognized all of their faces but couldn’t remember a single name.

Harry checked his and my name off of the clipboard and made us both nametags. I looked at his chicken scratch writing on my nametag and sneered.

Harry handed me the purple marker and a fresh nametag. “Well you do it then.”

“Hey, y’all! Come over here and take a picture with me. We can be a trio!” Bud called from behind the photo booth curtain. He disappeared behind the curtain, but I could see his feet bouncing underneath it as he made faces into the camera. Harry took my hand and pulled me to the booth. He climbed in and sat down, holding open the curtain for me. I ducked into the small area and sat down on Harry’s lap. I couldn’t help but feel like this was weird. The real trio was Harry, Anna, and I. I wished she was here.

“Ready?” Bud asked, his hand on the large green button that started the camera timer. I nodded and shifted so that Harry could put his chin on my shoulder. I giggled as he buried his chin into the side of my neck and kissed my skin light and quick. As Bud pressed the button, a large “3, 2, 1” appeared and the screen flashed to capture the picture.

“Wanna take another? Silly faces!” Bud said, slapping the button a second time. Before I even had time to think, the screen flashed again.

Bud jumped out of his side of the booth and snatched the two pictures from the booth printer. He laughed. “We all look pretty dang sexy in this one,” he said, shoving the first photo in my face. I inched backward and took the picture from him, holding it out so Harry could see it over my shoulder. “This one, you look so funny!” Bud said to me, shoving the second picture under my nose again. I tried not to seem too irritated as I took the picture from him and looked at it. Both Harry and I looked so caught off-guard, obviously not ready for the second picture.

“You look so funny!” Harry whispered mockingly in my ear, poking me in the side as he did it. I knew he was trying to make me feel better with all of the little kisses and touches. While a simple poke in the side didn’t make me feel suddenly excited for being at the school, it made me giggle. I knew Harry would be by my side the whole time.

“Harry. Styles. That cannot be you.”

Harry and I both turned to see who was calling his name. I wasn’t surprised to see a group of about ten girls all standing in a semi-circle around us (around Harry - I happened to be standing next to him). I immediately took notice of their hands. Not a single one of them had an engagement or wedding ring on their finger. I also took note of their outfits; they were a little more dressed up like I was in heels and flashy dresses, so I felt better about my attire. I slipped my hand around Harry’s upper arm subtly, remembering that we were there as a couple but not totally wanting to draw attention to it. Or… was I actually feeling jealous? Maybe protective of my date? I knew just from the star-struck looks on the faces before us what was coming next.

“Dear lord, it’s him,” one whispered to the group. No one took their eyes off of Harry.

“Uh, hey girls… long time no see…” Harry said slowly, looking from face to face to see if he could remember anyone’s name. He nudged me for help, but I didn’t know who any of them were either.

One of the more stout girls stepped forward, flipping her poorly-done black curls over her shoulder. I couldn’t help but notice that her black eyeliner was beginning to rub onto her upper eyelid and into her tacky purple eye shadow. It’s not that I was being judgmental; it’s just a part of my job to notice things like that before I take a picture. Sometimes I wish I would stop noticing those things when I didn’t have a camera in my hands. When the girl spoke, her voice was shaky and she began to sweat nervously. “Harry, I’ve seen all of your shots in Vogue and on the TV once I saw you did a commercial for Calvin…” Her breathing became shallow as she replayed the commercial of a basically naked Harry in her head. “Calvin Klein,” She gulped, snapping back to reality.

One of the other girls stepped forward, her pink lipstick a different shade than the pink flowers that decorated her white dress. I shuddered. A springtime dress in the fall, Ithought. Horrendous.

“Can I please take a picture with you? My sister is not going to believe that I met you.”

Harry started to say yes, but frowned as he recognized the face of the flower-dress girl. “Mary Bower?”

Mary blushed hard. “He knows her?!” One of the other girls in the back of the group whispered jealously. Mary straightened up, clearly proud that Harry knew her.

“So you remember me?” She asked slyly.

Harry laughed. “Yeah! You’re the one who used to sit next to me in Mr. Lance’s history class!”

Mary ran her fingers through her hair showily in front of the other girls, all whispering behind her back. “Oh dear goodness, how could I have forgotten?” She forced a laugh and took a step closer to Harry. I could see her nostrils flare as she breathed in his cologne, the cologne I got him for his 22nd birthday. I hadn’t actually noticed that he was wearing it since he hadn’t worn it before. He actually hated it. Why was he wearing it?

Harry shook his head. “I didn’t forget. You cheated off of my test on time. You threatened that you would tell everyone I had herpes if I didn’t let you and I almost got expelled for cheating off of you! But really you cheated off of me! Ahh…” Harry looked up at the ceiling and smiled. “Good times.”

Mary was stunned. She had clearly forgotten about all of that. She blushed again, but this time with embarrassment. She gulped loudly and began to stutter, trying to find some sort of excuse for what she did or maybe even trying to deny it. The other girls behind her stayed silent and widened their eyes at Mary as she searched for something to say.

When she didn’t say anything, I couldn’t help but giggle. Immediately, all eyes shifted to me. Harry grinned down at me proudly, trying not to laugh himself. He patted my hand on his arm and looked up at the other girls. “Oh, this is my date, Scotlan. I’m sure you all remember her.”

Each of the ten girls stared blankly at me. None of them knew me and Harry knew that.

When the silence continued, Harry slapped his thigh. “Well? How about that picture? Oh, Mary, do you mind taking it?” He reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone to hand to her. She was dumbfounded, but simply turned to face the group as Harry and I joined it. We stood in the middle surrounded by girls, all trying to push and get closer to Harry. Harry put his arm around me and pulled me into the side of his body, turning so that none of the other girls could push between the two of us.

“Uh… okay… one, two… three?” Mary counted quietly. She handed the phone back to Harry and stood off to the side of the group, clearly ashamed and humiliated.

“WELL we will see you all later!” Harry called over his shoulder as he took my hand and pulled me to the gym. I laughed harder the further away we got, thinking over and over about Mary’s horrified face when Harry called her out in front of everyone.

“Harold…” I giggled, trying to calm myself. He grinned back at me. “You are… SO mean.”

He pulled me into a tight hug and laughed as we entered the open gym. “You know I’m just doing it for you.”

I punched him lightly in the side.

He grunted playfully and kissed me on the top of my hair. “Okay… and for myself.”

The gym was decorated with some tacky black and white streamers. Someone made a banner (or bought a really, really, REALLY cheap one) that had our school’s name spelled across it. Barton Smith High. How could you NOT hate a school with a name like that? The large gymnasium lights above us flickered continually like they always had. The air reeked of sweat and low self-esteem, probably from the high schoolers who were currently attending the school and struggling not to fail even the easiest of courses, Physical Education. Thinking about being forced to run The Mile every Friday made me shudder. The paint was chipping off of the walls of the gym, but most of the damage was covered by student-made posters about Student Body elections coming up soon. White, plastic tables and chairs were set up in around the gym floor like it was a lawn party, five chairs to a table. As we got closer to the tables, Harry and I noticed that four of the five chairs at each table had a name on it.

“Shit, assigned seating? What are we, in high school?” Harry whispered, reading each of the names frantically.

“That’s exactly where we are, Harry,” I growled quietly as I looked at the names too. There was no way I was leaving Harry. Other people around us searched for their spots at the tables. I recognized a few names but had no inclination to wait and speak to any of the people. Finally, I spotted Harry’s name.

“You’re here.”

He interlocked our fingers and pulled me to another table. “Remember where I am. Let’s look for you.”

We blended in with everyone else as we continued to read the names off of the small cards in front of each chair. Occasionally, someone with a familiar face would smile and nod at Harry or myself, but thankfully no one stopped to talk to either of us. I was getting frustrated with how long it was taking us to find my name, but right as I gave up, Harry snatched my card off of a table. “Come on.”

We ran back to his table and switched my card with the person next to him. He left me at our chairs, running back to the other table to place the card in my old spot. I reached out my hand to him as I saw him running back to our seats and he took it quickly, twisting our fingers together tightly like someone was trying to pull us apart. We stood and looked around awkwardly as people passed our table, searching for their names. Again, everyone made eye contact, but no one made a big effort to stop and talk with old friends.

“Well this is fuuuuun,” Harry dragged out, bouncing up and down behind his tucked-in chair and squeezing my hand.

I sighed and ran my free hand over my thigh to smooth the fabric on my dress. I suppose this wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. It wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t horrible yet.

I tilted my head back and stare up at the tin over us. “Remember when you kicked that soccer ball up to the ceiling?”

Harry laughed, thinking about the time in gym where he almost made the light fall out of the roof. “We were blazed.”

“High as fuuuck.”

“We were stupid.”

I giggled. “We still are stupid.”

Harry contorted his face. “Speak for yourself, Scotty.”

“Scotty? As in Scotlan Ray?” A familiar voice called my name from behind me. I suppressed a shudder. I knew exactly who it was. I turned around to face her, trying to be as calm as I could be. Relax, Scotlan. Relax, I urged myself. She just wants to say hello.

Therese Dillard looked the exact same as she did when we graduated high school. She really just never changed at all. Her black hair was still perfectly “naturally” curly, her long black eyelashes batted slowly as she looked at Harry, peering up at him with her icy blue eyes. She hadn’t grown vertically at all, but it looked like maybe she got a boob job or just a really good push-up bra. Her dress was cut similar to mine in the front, dipping down into her cleavage, but it didn’t drop as far as mine. At least I had that much on her.

“Therese… so good to see you,” I lied. A fake smile spread slowly across her face before she pulled me down to her in a cold-hearted, insincere hug. To everyone around us, it probably looked real, but Harry and I both knew that her actions and words were anything but. I don’t know why she chose me out of everyone to hate all four years of school (and even in middle school, just before 9th grade), but she did, and heaven knows she did it well.

“I’d recognize the back of your head anywhere,” she beamed, hinting at the time she offered to curl my hair for me and then burned off half of my hair on purpose. It was before Harry and I met, so I had no one to tell me that my hair was missing. I was too stupid to realize that the burnt smell was my blonde locks being sizzled to oblivion. I went to school thinking that I was the prettiest I had ever been while people were laughing behind my back in the mean time. My mother cut off the rest of my hair at home, turning me into a boy for the first half of 8th grade.

I pursed my lips and squeezed Harry’s hand. Harry straightened up, sensing my discomfort and drawing attention to himself.

“Harry Styles, is that you?!” She gawked at him before yanking him down into a hug and kissing him on the cheek. “Well aren’t you a handsome hunk of man?” A tall man stood behind Therese, staring strangely at everyone with his hands shoved deep into his khaki pants. He pulled at the collar of his striped shirt as Therese touched Harry’s bare chest with her long fingernail. I assumed the man was there with her since he stood so close to her, but judging from the way he looked afraid of everyone that passed him, he didn’t go to high school with us. He and Therese must have met in college.

“Yeah, it’s me,” Harry said, cracking a small grin. I envied Harry. If he wanted to avoid drama, he would, like right now. If he wanted you to know that he hated you, he would take you down with a certain admirable cleverness, like with Mary moments before. I, on the other hand, either showed no emotion or full emotion… there was no in-between and no controlling it. Right now, I was trying to at least remain impassive.

“You’re that stud in all of those fashion magazines, aren’t you? If someone had told me you would be this big in the fashion world five years ago, I might have kept in touch,” Therese giggled, attempting to wrap her arm around the side of Harry that I wasn’t on. I squeezed Harry’s hand so hard that he flinched. He caught Therese’s hand before it slipped under his arm and shook it, but dropped it quickly.

“Well I wouldn’t look nearly as good as I do in those pictures if it wasn’t for Scotlan. She does all of the pictures for me, and even other people like Louis Tomlinson and Niall Horan.”

Therese smiled shortly at me. “So I guess walking around taking pictures of dead flowers and losers like yourself all those years finally paid off, huh?”

And this is exactly why I didn’t want to come.

A horrid sound from the microphone on the stage pierced the air as someone tapped it with their finger. Everyone in the gym spun around to see who was causing such a noice. Marsha Lane shifted bashfully in front of the microphone as all attention came her way. “Sorry about that. Thanks for coming out today! I’m so excited to see all of us so grown up! And how awesome is it to be back here at BSHS!?” She clapped and cheered. No one else did. “Er- Okay. Well please take your seats! We’ve put you at tables with people you’re no supposed to know and we’re going to play a few ice breakers to get to know one another! If you brought a guest, they can sit at the nameless seat.”

“I don’t want to get to know any of you,” the guy beside me grumbled as we sat down. I laughed once and he looked at me quickly. “No offense.”

I grinned and shook my head. “None taken. I don’t even want to be here.” I eyed the nametag in front of his seat. “James Adamo?” I read out loud. “Aren’t you the guy from the wrestling team who turned out to be gay?”

Adamo chuckled and nodded. “That’s me. The genius who got to roll around on matts in spandex with guys until they found out my little secret. Then they voted me off the team.” He sighed heavily and began to twiddle his thumbs disappointedly.

Harry leaned across me. “If it’s any consolation mate, I wouldn’t have voted you off the team.”

Adamo’s eyes closed as he threw back his head and laughed. “Well thanks man, that makes me feel a lot better about my high school years.”

I groaned as Therese plopped down across the table from us with her date. Of course she would be seated with us. I don’t know why we didn’t check the other names on the table before we sat down. She smiled pleasantly at Harry, pulling her strapless purple dress up over her bust in the most obvious way ever. Didn’t college teach you anything? I wanted to ask, but I held my tongue.

“Okay! Okay! Listen!” Marsha called over the microphone again. “Now that you’re seated, we’ll do the first ice breaker! There are cards in the middle of the table with questions on them. Pick up a card and everyone answer the question!”

Therese snatched up a card from the center of the table and read it aloud. “’What do you do currently for a living?’ I’ll begin.” She folded her hands on the table and straightened up before clearing her throat and saying, “Well, I got my nursing degree from Duke University and am currently working in Bethesda, Maryland at that HUGE hospital down there. I do a lot of-“

“No one cares,” Adamo interrupted. He sat back casually in his seat and rubbed his hand over the blonde stubble on his chin. “I’m a lawyer.” He looked at me.

“I still take pictures of dead flowers and losers,” I shrugged.

Harry laughed and sat forward, putting his elbows on the table. “I’m the loser she takes pictures of, usually wearing the dead flowers.”

“Aww, Harry…” Therese said, reaching across her date to put her hand on Harry’s. “You’re not a loser!”

Harry slowly pulled his hands away from Therese and remained silent. When Therese didn’t get the flirty response she was hoping for, she withdrew her hand and sat back in her seat.

We all looked at Therese’s date who sat up uncomfortably in his own chair. He started to share, but Therese cut him off, clearly pissed from Harry’s lack of interest in her. “He didn’t go to BSHS, he doesn’t need to share.” The man sat back and relaxed, relieved that he didn’t have to share. “Next question!” Therese leapt forward, picking up another card. “What is your favorite memory from BSHS?” She slapped the card down on the table.

“The last day,” I answered too quickly.

Harry laughed and nodded. “I’ll have to agree with that one.”

“Oh lord, me too,” Adamo added, shaking his head. ”I didn’t get out of here soon enough.”

Therese looked disgustedly at the three of us. “Well I have a lot of good memories from here. Like when I won the political race for Student Body President.”

Adamo frowned. “No one was running against you. You didn’t win anything.”

I was beginning to wonder why Adamo and I weren’t friends before. I liked his attitude.

Therese threw down the second question card and picked up a third. Her smile turned cruel as she read the card to herself. She eyed me before reading the card aloud. “If you could put yourself in a group from high school, what group would you be a part of and why? Scotlan, why don’t you start?”

I picked at some of my chipping red nail polish and thought. “The uninvolved.”

“Hey, that’s what I was going to say,” Harry said, grinning at me and patting my thigh. “We were so uninvolved.”

Therese raised her eyebrows. “Really? Because I was thinking more along the line of maybe the sluts? Weren’t you like, the Queen of Skankland, Scotlan?”

For some reason, I wasn’t as offended by her comments as I thought I might have been. I was almost entertained.

“Unfortunately I think I still claim that title,” I said, shrugging. “I fucked 7 guys in a week about two weeks ago, Harry included.”

I smiled at Harry who grinned back at me. Therese turned a bright red and her date’s face fell in shock. Adamo, on the other hand, high-fived me. “You go girl! Embrace your inner slut!”

Therese gasped, partially out of disgust but mainly because she was mad that her insult was backfiring. “Doesn’t that bother you? Sleeping with anyone and everyone? Geez, I’m sure you banged like every guy in this gym in high school.” To be honest, it bothered me a little bit to think about how many people I slept with in high school just to obtain some sort of status on the totem pole of popularity. But at this point, it was also a part of my life that was unalterable. It was done. Over with. I couldn’t change it even if I wanted to, and to be frank, I wouldn’t want to change it at this point if it meant changing the current Scotlan.

I glanced around at the other tables. Most of the guys that I found myself in bed with still looked like little boys when we were in high school. Most of them had shaved their shaggy hair and grown out of their acne at this point, so it was hard for me to recognize any of them unless I stared hard for a few minutes. I noticed one male staring at me, his dark eyes studying my face like he was trying to piece it together with a memory. Mentally, I took some age off of his face and tried to picture him with longer, brown hair. My imagination worked and I immediately remembered him from homecoming in the 11th grade.

“Him,” I said, pointing his direction. “I banged him. I remember because her lost Homecoming King and he was upset and I… well, I helped him feel better.”

Everyone at the table looked his way. They guy frowned, suddenly aware that all five of us were staring at him, and glanced away quickly.

“Holy shit, is that Thomas Green?” Adamo asked, squinting at the guy a little harder.

I nodded. “He lost Homecoming King to… Ryan Henderson, was it?”

Adamo laughed. “Thomas Green. When did you bang him?”

“Homecoming night, 11th grade.”

“You’re disgusting,” Therese spat at me, but I could barely hear her over Adamo’s laughing.

Finally, he contained himself enough to gut out “Me too” between smaller fits of laughter.

“You too? You too what?” Therese asked, irritated that she was missing out on what was funny.

Adamo took a deep breath and sat back. “Me too. I banged Thomas Green Homecoming night too.”

Next to me, Harry couldn’t have held in his cackling even if his life was on the line. I couldn’t tell if I was horrified or entertained, so I just sat and watched the two laughing idiots next to me with a stupid grin on my face. Both Therese and her date had turned a shade of green that I had never seen before and their contorted faces displayed a level of discomfort that I never wished to ever reach in my life. I was almost beginning to feel glad that we came; while it was still somewhat unpleasant to find out small things about the past like Thomas and Adamo, it was funny.

“Aww, come on Therese, laugh a little…” Harry said, nudging her hand as it laid limply on the table, still loosely grasping the question card.

Therese’s body became more rigid than before, and she flinched when Harry touched her like his skin burned her own. “Laugh? You think these things are funny?”

Harry furrowed his eyebrows but chuckled. “A little.”

Therese stood up abruptly from the table. She looked from Harry to Adamo and finally to me. Her eyes turned to slits as she studied the grin that spread across my face. “I’ll give you something to laugh about.”

I thought she was standing up to leave at first, but she surprised me by walking up to the stage in the gym and taking the microphone. “Hi everyone!” She sang merrily, though her voice had a certain edgy tone to it. “It’s me, Therese! You all voted me Student Body President – I don’t know if you remembered that…” She giggled and tapped her fingers along the side of the microphone. “Well, as you all know, we are supposed to donate a gift to the school-“

A nervous Marsha Lane rushed up to Therese. She meant to whisper to Therese but instead whispered straight into the microphone. “The gift isn’t supposed to come until later in the day!”

Therese’s fierce glare scared Marsha off of the stage in seconds. She cleared her throat quickly and forced a grin. “I think now is a perfect time for the gift.”

“Alllllright,” Adamo whispered over Therese as he stood up from the table. “I’m leaving. Nice seeing you all.” He pinched my cheek and shook Harry’s hand. Moments later, he was gone. Therese was still talking about the gift and how each class gives one at their first reunion. For the class of 2000, it was a concrete walkway in the back of the school. The class of 2004 donated used books to the library. As Therese began to talk about the class of 2005, I leaned over to Harry.

“I think it’s been ten minutes, babe.”

Harry checked his watch and nodded. “Wanna leave?”

I hummed a quiet “yes” before reaching down to the floor for my purse. ”I don’t care about the gift.”

“…So this year is our year.” I heard Therese say. “I thought long and hard about this gift…” Harry held out my chair for me as I stood up. We walked around tables and slid between chairs as we made our way quietly to the exit. I had blocked out Therese’s ongoing jabber and was just focused on getting home, but as I reached the door, Marsha Lane stopped me. “Aren’t you staying?”

I frowned and looked at Harry. “Why would I?”

Marsha glanced back at the stage where Therese was. “Therese said you helped her with the gift.”

Suddenly, I tuned back into what Therese was saying into the microphone. I turned slowly to listen and watch her. “Our gift should be meaningful and helpful to the youth who spend their time and energy at BSHS. A huge problem that we seem to have had in the past and still have today is the issue of alcohol addiction. I know many of you know what it’s like to be trapped and feel so dependent on that horrid poison to help you escape from your miserable reality.”

Harry put his hand on my shoulder, but it wasn’t a loving or gentle touch. “Scotlan, I think we need to leave.”

My feet were like cement blocks. I just couldn’t make myself turn away.

“We have to help these kids understand what alcoholism can do to you,” Therese continued. A few bulky guys who I recognized as previous BSHS football players came out from behind the curtains of the stage, pushing a massive rolling platform to where everyone could see it. On the platform was a black sheet that covered a large object. It looked to me like a pile of garbage.

“We have to show them what can happen using real-life stories-“ Therese’s heels clicked as she approached the black mass.

“Scotlan,” Harry growled, gripping my shoulder more tightly. “I don’t think this is going to be good for you.”

The situation had already ruined me. I didn’t think that it could get any worse. I was intrigued by the black mass on the rolling platform. What was it? I had to know. Why not stay another ten minutes? What difference would it make? I knew exactly where Therese was going with this - attacking the ridiculous problem I had in high school that destroyed me, but I had no idea what could possibly be under the black sheet. Show me, I pleaded silently. Rip the sheet off. Hit me with all you’ve got.

Therese’s hand brushed over the black fabric slowly and carefully. She looked around the room proudly at the other BSHS alumni who were all waiting patiently for her to tear the sheet off of the mass. She had their attention. Harry tugged on my shoulder lightly, trying to get me to turn away and escape the misery before it flooded into my veins, but I knew that he was even intrigued at this point. If he really wanted to leave, he could throw me over his shoulder and take off. But he didn’t.

The last person that Therese made eye contact with was me. The blue of her eyes seemed to freeze over before she twisted the black fabric into her fingers and ripped the sheet off of the mass, revealing the one true memory that ruined my entire life.

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