I frowned as I stared back at my reflection in the full-length mirror; then, quickly broke into a fake smile to erase the deep furrows on either side of my mouth. I twitched my new dinner dress one way and then another, trying to hide the middle-age bulges. I wanted to blame my three pregnancies, but that was just a poor excuse for not dealing with it earlier.
“Ready, honeycakes?” Stan peeking around the bathroom door and giving a poor imitation of a wolf whistle, “Wow, you’re gorgeous!”
I smiled briefly, thankful for the umpteenth time that, after 25 years of marriage, love could still be blind.
We were heading out to my 20-year high school class reunion, and I was dreading it. I had loved grade school as a child, taking to memorization and learning like a dog to a bone. But high school was the pits! I just didn’t fit in. I had a couple of friends who were also “goodie-goodies”; meaning, we didn’t smoke or drink or go to wild parties and we went to church and had a personal relationship with God. We did the required homework, didn’t cheat on tests, obeyed the rules, and didn’t skip classes. I had learned early on to hide my true self when making contact with the bulk of the student body, fear of ridicule and peer pressure always present. I had little in common with most of the other kids, and, consequently, felt ostracized for belonging to a minority. I related best with the “underdogs,” any other students who were picked on or ignored by the majority.
Therefore, I was not anxious to be reunited with my high school counterparts. It would just be a newer version of the old at a reunion, the “worldly” students of yesterday having become the liberals of today. I hadn’t related well with them back then, and was anticipating the same type of segregation now.
But Stan, who had attended a private Christian school many states away which made it next to impossible to get to his reunions, was really looking forward to my local one, his next best alternative.
The evening started out on the wrong foot, the reunion committee chairperson not recognizing me or able to find my nametag. My high school buddies lived too far away or had opted out, which did not surprise me. Little bevies of chatting ex-students congregated in separate clutches, a reminder of school hallways in between classes. Most were dressed in expensive clothing and looked like they walked off the pages of a fashion magazine. Stan sauntered over to the yearbook table while I approached one of the circles. Just as I reached its outskirts, the gals and guys traveled as one to the open bar for refills, their ice-cubed glasses tinkling behind them like Little Bo Peep’s lost sheep.
I stood alone, lost in the empty crowd, when there was a tap on my shoulder.
“Aren’t you Maggie Brown? You look just like I remembered you!” the stranger’s compliments a balm to my wounded ego.
Suddenly, recognition set in. She was one of the most popular girls in our class, whom I had imagined didn’t even know I existed those decades ago.
“Natalie, isn’t it? How are you?” my words lacking conviction even in my own ears, “I’m surprised you knew me.”
She seemed different than the outrageously vibrant young girl of yesteryear. Her outfit was definitely not in the latest style, her hair and nails not professionally done; and, like me, she had acquired more girth along the way. The glass she held appeared to be ice water and she nodded over at the banquet hall’s punch bowl.
“It’s not spiked, honey, and you can order water,” she explained, and shared how she had married and divorced (twice) and lost a fortune in the process, which had pretty much left her homeless.
“You know, Maggie, I always admired your spunk and sense of purpose back then. If I hadn’t been such a coward, we could easily have become friends . . .”
Suddenly I didn’t feel so vulnerable anymore. Stan joined us then, and we became a unit for the remainder of the evening. I even invited her to church.
“I really don’t have good enough clothes to wear, Maggie. I’ll feel out of place.”
“There’s no dress code anymore--it’s strictly ‘come-as-you-are’ and you’ll fit in just fine—how about we pick you up so we can all go in together?”
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