Five Year Reunion
I clutch at my heart as my breath leaves my body by way of my mouth in a slow, drawn-out hiss. It feels as though the very hands of Goliath are gripping this heart with all their might, even as I clutch pointlessly at its pounding mass. After all this time, I still feel my eyes dampen and my nose fill with the putrid scent of regret at the sight of him. Michael still makes me weak-kneed; he still makes me think of kissing and holding hands. He looks good. His eyes are as amber as always, still evasive, avoiding mine as though looking into them will lead to the sharing of a secret; he forgets that it is our secret. His jaw appears stronger than before and his dark black hair is cut short, and already, I miss the feel of his curls. I can only smile at him despite the tears in my eyes, unaware of any other way to disguise the fact that I still love him, that he broke my heart, and that he should have handled me with more care.
She is with him now, Ashley, the girl of his dreams. She looks at me with a happiness I can only regard as stolen, as my own. With a flick of her long blonde hair, she shows off the smile that he gave her after he took my own. As always, she's stunning with her wide electric blue eyes, a pert nose, and a perfect string of pearly whites placed on a perfectly round face. Her long violet dress, with plunging neckline, glides down her body showing off her impossibly thin waist; her makeup is flawless as always. She is Barbie personified. I am under-dressed in a conservative blue summer dress. After a six-hour flight, the chances that I could be mildly appealing are out of the question. My short dull brown hair is up in a simple bun I had arranged as soon as I stepped out of the stifling plane. My make-up does very little to hide the many flaws that coat my face and the bags of fatigue poised beneath my hazel eyes do not help my appearance. My lips are barren, giving me a ghost-like and negligible appearance.
While I am lost in my thoughts, they draw close to me. I shudder in terror as Ashley's mouth opens to speak. "Laura, how are you?" Ashley's voice is as perky as always and her grin tells me that she does not actually need to ask that question, for she already knows the answer by looking at me: horribly. Blinking away my glassy-eyes, I shake myself out of my reflective state.
"I am doing wonderfully! Oh my goodness Ashley, how I've missed you. You are gorgeous sweetheart! " Pasting an immense smile on my face, I give her a tremendous hug. Ashley was my best friend in college reminding me of the ironic ways in which the world works. After Ashley releases me from her grip, I stand face to face with Michael. My mouth sets in a grim line. "Michael, you're looking healthy."
Michael half-grins. "You say that as though I looked ill the last time you saw me." Ashley laughs loud enough to hide the fact that I merely open my mouth and it is in fact emitting no laughter.
"Well, it has been quite a while since I've seen you both. I do not even remember what you looked like five years ago." I am smirking now and standing in an awkward position, with my left leg crossed in front of the other and my right hand perched on my left wrist. Michael grins. He can tell I am lying. He knows I can remember everything about him five years ago, including the scent of his skin.
"So what have you done since graduation, Gwen? You always were so motivated." Ashley's voice causes my focus to change from Michael to her.
"Well, I'm attending Calgary medical school in New York now. I am in my last year. I took a year off after Hilburn, thus I am still the penniless student," I respond being sure to not betray any of my secrets.
Michael smiles from ear to ear, reminding me of our college years. "Well, you always wanted to save the world. As for me, I have become the ruthless business man I was destined to become."
Ashley looks up at him in admiration. "Michael is climbing up the corporate ladder at an accelerated pace." I can almost hear her sigh.
"Is that how you two became involved? Do you work for the same company?" I chastise myself for allowing my curiosity to get the best of me.
Ashley draws closer to Michael, rests a hand on his chest, as though it were an obligation since she was sharing their story. "Yes, we both were hired by Triumph, a consulting firm, right out of college. Things just clicked from there."
Michael seems uncomfortable sharing this information with me, which tells me he had not completely forgotten we had once been involved, as it seemed Ashley had. His amber eyes shoot her a quick warning to which she seems impervious.
"Well, I am very happy for you both," I say just above a whisper. Ashley is too busy looking at Michael in awe to notice I have said anything at all. I look Michael right into his eyes and feel a shock course through my body. I open my mouth, but all I can say is…
"If you'll excuse me, I'm going to introduce myself to the hors d'oeuvres."
Returning home late the next morning, after having gotten no sleep, I gripped myself for the reality of my living situation. I opened my door and immediately saw a toy tie-die unicorn tossed to the left of the door, it's false mane held up in a braided ponytail. Bending to pick it up, I realized that the entire living room was strewn with Barbies and stuffed animals. I touched my right hand to my forehead in hopes that the contact would elicit a wave of strength to my body, but to no avail.
I looked at the green couch in the middle of the room, and the television past it. The nature-theme paintings were still up, and everything looked in tact. There were no stains on the plush blue carpet and I breathed a sigh of relief. I could handle an eruption of toys at seven in the morning, but certainly not stains or infrastructural damage. I crossed the living room into the hallway and entered the first door on the left.
Rosie, the sixteen-year-old teenager from next door was lying on the bed. With her slight afro of dark brown waves billowing about her pillow, and the slight smile on her tan face, she looked so peaceful that I hardly wanted to wake her up, but knowing she had to go back to her apartment to get ready for school, I approached the tiny bed and tapped her shoulder.
"Rosie, sweetie," I whispered. "It's time to get up."
She opened her eyes in immediate shock then smiled. "Laura, you're back! How was it?" Her voice was far too excited for my spirits at the time.
"It was nice to see old friends," I mused.
"No, I mean, how was he? How did he react when you told him the news?"
I smiled, more to myself than her, and shook my head. "I saw him and realized that he doesn't have to know." Rosie furrowed her brow, but I gave her a quick pat on the head before adding, "Now run along before you miss your bus. I'll get your mother your money before the end of the day. I really appreciate the help Rosie."
Rosie nodded with a disappointed look on her face and walked out of the room and subsequently the apartment. After her departure, I squeezed into the bed and lifted the covers off of the small figure that still lay softly sleeping.
"April, mommy's home," I whispered into her little ear.
My four year old turned towards my voice. She opened her beautiful amber eyes to greet me with her large smile. "Mommy, me and Rosie had so much fun!" Her black hair was spewing all about and she looked more than a little silly due to the blush all throughout her normally angelically pale skin. Her small arms reached out to hug me. I hugged back as hard as I could.
"I know you and Rosie had fun. I saw all the toys!" I held my little girl tight to my body and rocked her slightly. "I missed you so much April. Mommy's never going to leave for that long again." She beamed up at me with her gorgeous face, a face that bore nothing of my features but served as a constant reminder of Michael.