This story is by Toni Kief and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
After decades of heartbreak and the last few years alone, Maggie decided to go to the 50th Class reunion. Every mile closer to her home town, the louder the radio trying to silence the apprehension. She pulled into the Hilton parking lot and resolved that there was nothing to lose, just an evening to remember, some laughs, and maybe some war stories.
She faked confidence as she walked the hall to the gymnasium. With her invitation in hand, her mind reeled, “Blah-blah-blah meet old friends. I only had a couple of real friends, and one is dead.” Voices and music filled the school as she walked; Maggie rolled her eyes, and made a left turn through the double doors.
The gym seemed smaller than she remembered. She was entertained by the familiar, yet unknown faces. Maggie picked up her name tag, checked the list of those who passed away, and went to the bar. One sip, and another when she heard a vaguely familiar voice from behind. It was Kenny, her high school confidant, and the co-editor of the school paper.
She breathed a sigh of relief when he spoke, “Maggie, old gal. Did you just get here? Please, sit with us. I found some of our yearbook buddies.” He led her to the table, and she smiled in relief. She knew most of the faces, some looked old and others looked ancient. The group scooted around, and another chair appeared.
The conversation was easy and full of laughter. Maggie ordered the second drink, “It’s as if no time has passed at all, except now we can drink legally.”
Kenny laughed, “Once a geek always a geek.” They slipped into stories of bullying, and finally their successes. The banter was disrupted by a loud and very bad Elvis Impersonator. He worked the room, embarrassing most and finally ended as he ground his pelvis into the face of Dawn Litner, the head cheerleader.
Maggie leaned over to Kenny, “funny how he found the one person who loves the attention.”
He nodded, “And the pelvis plant. Dawn used to be beautiful, but damn she looks worn out now. Must be karma.” Maggie agreed but said nothing.
Thankful that Elvis was the only act, she relaxed as the band started to play the first Beatle song. Maggie sat back in the chair enjoying the Midwestern fall night and hummed the familiar tune.
There was a tap on her shoulder, “Hey Scoop, what’s up?”
There was only one person who ever called Maggie that. She turned and looked up to the tall, still handsome, football hero, “Jack? Jack Hampton?”
His deep voice stunned her, “Would you like to dance?”
She stuttered before she could answer, and Kenny elbowed her in the rib, he was the only person that knew of her high school crush, “Yes, I would.”
He was balding and slightly overweight but she could still see the boy in his eyes. They started to move with the music, and both remained silent. He spoke first, “I’ve dreamed of this dance since the Prom. You turned me down, and broke my heart.”
Maggie looked at him deeply, “Dawn told me it was a joke, that you didn’t mean it. I never went to the Prom.”
He whispered to her, “I only wanted to go with you. I was in the Kings court and had to go. I left after the ceremony and went home. You’re more beautiful than I remembered. I knew you would be a journalist you were so smart. I kept the articles you wrote about the football games.”
“Really? I think you are pulling my leg. That was a long time ago.” Maggie didn’t want to believe him, but the memories of unrequited love kept her in his arms. She could hear him hum as they danced, “I heard you married Dawn.”
“A life time ago, and it was over in four years. She was always a liar. I’m sorry I don’t have any kind words left for that snag.”
Maggie didn’t want to ask any questions, it was his heartache and not her business. “Are you married now?”
“Nope, and I’ve come to the last four reunions hoping to see you. I followed your career for a while, but lost track when you quit the Tribune.” The band started a slow song, and he pulled her closer. “Can this be our Prom?”
Maggie giggled, “Sure if that’s what you want.”
“Good, can I give you a ride home?”
She looked deeply into his pleading eyes, “Sorry, I drove.”
“I wouldn’t let you drive to the Prom. We will figure that out later.” They danced several more songs then he guided her to the chair, and picked up her purse. Jack looked at the stunned party around the table, “Good Evening, Ladies, Gentlemen. Nice to see you, again.” He bowed, and they waltzed to the door, Maggie waved and shrugged her shoulders.
Unsure of what was happening Maggie sat in silence. Her mind was reeling with nostalgia and questions. He drove to lover’s lane, which had changed to an abandoned mall. He pulled around back and parked. Jack unhooked his seatbelt, and reached over to turn the radio down, “I know I must be freaking you out. I’d like to explain.”
She thought a moment and then spoke, “Please, we barely knew each other. We don’t, er didn’t belong to the same groups.”
“I never took that seriously.”
“Easy for you to say, Jack, you were in the popular clique. Football, beauty queens, rich kids, and scholarships.” Maggie was defensive.
He answered, “Yes, I know, but I never belonged. I went to college on a football scholarship, but after a year I gave it up to study art. I married that crinkly old cheerleader, because it felt predetermined. I spent a life trying fulfill what was expected of me. The entire time there was someone else I cared about.” He reached over and unhooked her seatbelt and moved towards her.
“Whoa. It is fifty years later. I don’t believe that you carried a torch this long. Let alone for me, of all people.” She put her hand up to stop his advance. “This is ridiculous.”
“I had a full life, but you were always my first love. When things were dark, I would remember you. My first love, my unrequited love, my Scoop. The memories and fantasies helped me through difficult times.”
“Well you say all the right things, but reality keeps nagging.” Maggie turned to the passenger window and stared at her reflection. It must be the lighting, but she almost looked like the girl she was. “You know I’m not her. I’ve changed.”
“Me too, but could we just let tonight be our missed chance?” She could see his image in the window next to her own. His eyes were sad and pleading.
Maggie realized she had nothing to lose and no one waiting for her, “Oh, alright. Don’t expect sex; I was a virgin then.” His reflection lit up as time slipped away. She watched him reach into his pocket, and he pulled out some flowers. “Isn’t that the centerpiece from the reunion?”
“No this is your corsage. Not the one I ordered, but it will have to do.” He took one of the carnations, broke off the stem and slid it behind her ear. “Now, you are perfect. Would you like another dance?”
“That would be lovely.” She was captivated as he put in a CD and turned up the music. He reached across her and opened the car door.
They danced under the blinking street light, and the night was lost in time and became theirs alone. “Scoop, may I kiss you?”
She stopped moving and looked at him, “I don’t know what you expect?”
He held a finger to her lips, “Wrong, that isn’t what you are supposed to say. Try again.”
Usually, her serial killer alarm would have sounded, but Maggie felt safe with this gentle giant. “Pardonnes moi. Yes, Jack, you may kiss me.”
“You remembered, we had French together.” His face glowed as he leaned in and kissed her gently on the lips. Then he simply held her, not pushing further.
Maggie didn’t remember French class but decided not to mention it. They danced another song in silence. “Jack, can we stop now? I have to be back by eleven.”
“Of course, your curfew. I forgot. Do you think your dad will be up?”
“No, I’m sure he is still dead. I planned on leaving in the morning and need to get up early.” Maggie was quiet on the way back to school. There were only a few cars in the lot. “I’ve been thinking, and I don’t know the script, but if you would like to follow me to the Hilton, the bar is still open.”
Jack answered, “Yes, I would like that very much.”
Maggie winked at him, “I hope you have a valid I.D.”