Monday, February 17, 2014

Reunion


The principal of Jefferson High School, who had been here ten years ago when I graduated as an seventeen-year-old girl, stood on the stage in the Starlight Ballroom and finally said into the microphone, "Now that I've finished with my little speech, let me tell you that we are fortunate to have with us tonight for your reunion your Homecoming Queen and King—Danielle Collier and Reid McMahon."
Applause exploded through the ballroom, smothering out the clinking of cocktail glasses and the murmur of conversation.
"As is our tradition, I'm going to ask our king and queen to come forward and lead off the next round of dancing."
The murmuring stopped.
Everyone seemed to be holding their breath. I'm sure they'd all heard rumors about what'd happened shortly after Reid and I graduated.
Blond and still handsome, he came strolling across the dance floor to stand within inches of me. My breath caught. My heart pounded. I searched his face for a sign of pent-up anger, and I prayed for forgiveness.
"Dance, Dani?" he said softly, no hint of anger in his voice or eyes. The music was slow—a song from back in our time but my mind was reeling so fast I couldn't remember its title.
"We can't break tradition," I said, and offered a smile.
Smiling back, Reid opened his arms, I stepped into them, and the crowd applauded. As the music surrounded us, other dancers joined us on the dance floor.
With Reid's arms around me once again, my mind flashed back to a decade ago. A week after Reid and I graduated, my mom whisked me away early one morning on a plane to Boston. Dad remained here in Lost Nation—our little Midwestern home—for a short time. He eventually sold our house, closed down his real estate agency, and moved to Boston, where Mom was from. They'd moved to Lost Nation originally because he'd wanted me to grow up in a small Midwestern town like he had.
"Your leaving devastated me," Reid said, as I swayed in his arms to the music. "I never knew exactly what happened. I managed to talk to your dad before he left town. He said he was saving us from ourselves, and besides your mom wanted to move back East. Someday we'd thank him. Your mom had found a letter—what letter?"
"Mom found a letter in my dresser that I'd written to her and dad, telling them you and I had run away to be married. I wanted the letter to be ready so when the moment to leave came I wouldn't have to think about writing it."
"All we needed was a few hundred dollars more," Reid said wistfully.
I lifted me eyes to his. "The move back East was forced on me," I said. "Honest. But when I look back, I realize it was the best thing for us. I mean, we were only kids—in love, yes, but by no means ready for marriage. "
"I admit," Reid said, smiling ruefully, "your folks did the right thing. They saved us from ourselves and gave us a chance to grow up."
"We needed that."
"Since my folks died, I've had to work night and day—I would've had no time for a family—but the farm is finally prospering now." Then he said solemnly, "I didn't know where you were, but you could've written. Or called. Or emailed."
His forehead dipped. Touched mine. A warmth spread though me.
"Oh, Reid, I wanted to, but what would any of that have done but bring us more misery? I was in college, you were here...fifteen hundred miles away. I thought it best to keep the break clean." My eyes slid up to his. "You're not angry, are you?"
"I was—bitterly. But not any longer. I'm...just delighted to see you." He seemed to hesitate. "Married?"
"Divorced. Three years ago. No children. I kept my maiden name. I know you're not married—I asked about you."
He pulled me closer, my heart pounding again. "Will you be staying in town for a while?" he asked.
"I could. I'm a teacher. I have the summer off."
The music stopped. But another slow ballad started up. Reid's arms roped themselves around my waist. My arms tightened around his neck. As if I were in high school again, I felt flushed and happy. I could think of nowhere else I wanted to be.
"Would you like to see the farm?" he asked.
"Love to," I said, and we continued to dance.