It's Been a While
Wrightsville Beach Water Tower
Nothing to Lose by Going
Attending his high school reunion was something Trevor never planned on doing, but his friends at work convinced him he should.
“After all,” his friends said, “it has been thirty years since you’ve seen anyone from back there. Aren’t you curious to see how they turned out?”
Trevor decided it would be interesting to see how certain people, especially the in crowd, had turned out as adults, so he went.
Having moved steadily closer to his hometown over the years, Trevor lived only ninety minutes up the Interstate. Suspecting it was going to be a late night, he decided to stay in town after the reunion, so called and made a hotel reservation.
The morning of the reunion Trevor rose late. He packed his bags and fishing gear, tossed them into his four-by-four pickup, left a couple of days supply of food for his cat, Joe, and headed to the coast. Arriving in Buzby Beach in time for lunch, Trevor stopped at the Beach Cone on Sound Street before checking into his hotel. Trevor might have felt conspicuous sitting there eating alone if he wasn’t so used to it.
Remembering a Horrible Day
Upon graduating high school, Trevor joined the military. After his four year hitch, he used his GI education benefits to go to college. Instead of returning to Wilmington to attend school he wound up going to school in Maryland. Trevor’s barracks roommate, Zeb, was from Frostburg, Maryland. Trevor had stopped there to visit on his way to North Carolina and wound up staying for college, earning certification as both a middle and high school math teacher. It was at the University he'd met and fallen in love with Jessica, a business major.
Out of college, Jessica was offered a job with a regional bank in eastern North Carolina. Trevor found a position at the local community college teaching what was at the time called remedial math but became the more politically correct pre-curricular math some years later. Over the next four years, Jessica’s bank changed owners three times until it was eventually run by the company whose headquarters she was visiting on 9/11. Trevor had stayed at the community college until that fateful day.
Trevor was teaching a class at the community college when the news of the attacks came. His grief and anger were deep and debilitating for a long time afterward. Trevor and Jessica never had any children, but they were dedicated to each other. She was not just his wife but his best friend and partner in everything they did. Losing Jessica tore a huge hole in Trevor’s life he feared could never be filled.
Being alone had become the norm for Trevor after losing Jessica in the World Trade Center on 9/11. She'd been in New York for a conference at her employer’s world headquarters on the 97th floor of the North Tower when the plane hit. She never had a chance.
The insurance money and government settlement would have allowed Trevor to live out his life without needing to go back to work, but eventually, he realized he needed to return to the classroom. He needed to find some purpose in his life, and Trevor knew he could find it in teaching. Rather than returning to the community college, Trevor took a position teaching math at a high school. In all his years there, despite his colleagues’ attempts to find someone for him, Trevor had not dated or led much of a social life. Instead, Trevor spent his energies earning a Master’s Degree and his National Board Certification. These pursuits had filled his hours outside of school. At the time of the reunion, he was looking for what to do next.
Johnny Mercer's Pier, Wrightsville Beach, NC
After lunch at the Beach Cone, Trevor drove to the ocean side of the island where the Top 'o the Beach Inn was to see if his room was available. Since it was ready, they let him check in. As he was already dressed for fishing, Trevor simply took his bag to the room, hung up the clothes he planned to wear to the reunion, returned to his truck, and headed to the beach for a couple of hours of fishing on Buzby Pier.
Though the calendar showed late October, the weather hadn’t caught up with the season. The day was warm and partly cloudy. Trevor paid eight dollars for his pass, bought a quarter pound of shrimp, and set his line about three-quarters of the way down the pier on the south side.
From where he sat, Trevor could see the Coastal Towers Resort rising near the island’s South End. Trevor sighed as he thought of the hours he’d spent working in the restaurant at the Coastal Towers.
The fish weren’t biting; at least not fish big enough to get their mouths around the hook. Trevor resigned himself to an avid session of feeding shrimp to fingerlings until his quarter-pound was gone.
As he put the last piece of shrimp on the hook, Trevor glanced at his watch and saw it was time to head back to the hotel to get ready for the reunion. He wanted to leave enough time to grab a bite as they were only planning to serve hors d’oeuvres at the country club, that and beer.
After grabbing a quick bite at Crack 'Em & Stack 'Em, right down the street from his hotel, Trevor arrived at the Pine Valley Country Club a few minutes before the scheduled seven o’clock start time. Even so, he wasn’t the first one there.
The room reserved for the reunion was on the second floor of the clubhouse at the top of the stairs. Trevor knew he was headed in the right direction because of the silver and burgundy balloons strung up along the stairs.
Waiting at the top of the stairs, behind a table set up with sign-in sheets and name tags, sat Jackie, Fran, and Sally, three of the ladies from the committee of the Class of ’79 alumni. They recognized Trevor right away from his Facebook profile picture. Most of the coordinating for the reunion had been done on Facebook. That’s how Trevor was able to identify each of the ladies. Jackie found his name tag while Sally handed him his beer tickets and explained the bar rules. Fran checked his name off the list of registered guests. Noticing folks starting to come up the stairs behind him, Trevor excused himself with the stated purpose of visiting the bar and using his first ticket.
A keg of Bud Light was sitting in a barrel of ice, and this turned out to be the beverage available in exchange for the beer ticket. While Trevor was not a fan of light beer, he accepted the news with a smile as he stuffed a single into the tip jar. Moving back out to the main room he spotted his old friend Wesley. Wesley had been his Junior ROTC cadet commander. Trevor walked up, came to attention, and saluted. Wesley shook his head and started laughing.
“Trevor Walker, how are you doing, man? It’s been a long time.”
Trevor dropped his salute and took a sip of his beer.
“It’s been too long, Wes. What have you been up to buddy?”
Wesley introduced Trevor to his wife, Kelly, and filled him in on how he’d spent the last thirty years as a career Marine. While they were talking, other old friends and acquaintances stopped by to say hi and catch up. The DJ began playing music from the seventies, a little loudly, so Trevor and Wes moved outside to continue their conversation.
Kelly noted through the door that folks were starting to find seats at the tables and suggested they do so as well. Setting the example, she went on inside. Wesley looked at Trevor and shrugged, following his wife through the door. Trevor smiled in amusement at the expression on Wesley’s face.
Inside Wes stopped to talk to David, another member of their JROTC class. Seeing Trevor, David reached out for a handshake and pulled him in for a bro hug, shaking one hand while reaching around and patting him on the back with the other. Male bonding complete, Trevor retrieved his beer from the table he’d wisely set it on.
Hearing a female voice behind him say his name Trevor turned to see Lydia Williams smiling at him as if she was glad to see him. He found this to be somewhat ironic as he had been invisible to her throughout high school. After a few words of small talk, they smiled awkwardly at each other and Lydia moved on. Trevor looked at Wes and David with raised eyebrows. They both shrugged and turned to watch her walk away.
New Spark In An Old Flame?
Reunion at a Reunion
Before they could get back to their conversation, another female voice caught their attention.
“Hi, David, Wesley, how are you guys?”
Trevor looked up to see who had spoken and couldn’t quite believe it. He hadn’t known she would be there. His heart skipped a beat as he realized how much he’d been hoping she would show up.
As their eyes met a hush seemed to fall over the room. Perhaps it was just his imagination.
Katie didn’t say anything as she stood looking at him with a hopeful smile on her face. Trevor didn’t know what to say either. A broad smile formed on his lips and he held out his arms toward her. David and Wesley stepped out of the way as Katie moved toward Trevor. As she moved into his arms and they embraced thirty years seemed to melt away.
With a hitch in her voice Katie whispered, “God, I’ve missed you, Trevor.”
Trevor tightened his arms around her. “I’ve missed you too, Katie. I was so afraid you wouldn’t be here.”
He relaxed his grip just enough to let her lean back so he could see her eyes. While Katie might have changed over the years, her hazel eyes were just as he remembered. He gently brushed back the hair that had fallen across her face.
Keeping her arms around him as if afraid to let him go, she confessed, “I hadn’t planned to come until Sally told me you were going to be here. Even then I wasn’t sure you’d be glad to see me.”
Trevor frowned at that. “How could you think that? I’ve never stopped thinking about you, not in all these years.”
Suddenly aware they were the center of attention, Trevor looked behind Katie expecting to see a jealous husband.
Thinking along the same lines, Katie looked about for an angry wife. Not seeing one she gave Trevor a puzzled look.
“Are you here alone?” She saw the question bring pain to his eyes, a pain she knew only too well.
“I’ve been alone for a long time now,” Trevor explained. “I lost my wife on 9/11.”
Katie looked sympathetically into his eyes. She brought her hand up and gently laid it on his cheek.
“I know what you’ve been through. I lost my Gordon five years ago, to cancer.”
They stood there together, still holding each other, for a long moment, lost in their shared grief. Slowly they became aware of the other people around them going about the business of saying hello to old friends and renewing old acquaintances. With an embarrassed laugh, they moved apart a bit and smiled at the nearby folks who were watching them curiously.
“Let’s find a quiet table where we can talk,” Trevor suggested.
Katie quickly agreed. Joining hands, they moved to a table in a far corner where they could hear each other over the music.
Kelly got up and walked over to Wesley. “What’s with those two?”
Wesley answered as he watched Trevor and Katie walk off. “They were quite the couple back in the day. They broke up at the end of high school, on graduation night, by mutual agreement. The idea, as Trevor explained it to us,” Wes said indicating himself, and David, “was that once high school was over, they would go their separate ways since they had such different ideas of what they wanted to do with their lives. As far as I know, they haven’t talked to each other since graduation.”
The Song, Their Song
Can They Find It Again?
It was true; Trevor and Katie hadn’t seen or talked to each other since graduation. That wasn’t the original plan. When they parted they intended to keep in touch and stay friends. However, time, distance, and the different paths they chose resulted in them losing touch almost as soon as Trevor left for basic training. Katie intended to write Trevor at Fort Benning but got busy with her summer job and preparing for college. Trevor intended to write Katie from basic training, but his days were so full that he just never found the time. By the time Trevor came home on leave, she was involved with a new guy, so he didn’t even bother to call on her to say hi.
It wasn’t that Trevor was jealous or angry; they had parted on friendly terms fully expecting the other to move on. So, he let her move on and left for his first duty station in Alaska without seeing her. They didn’t see each other again until that night at the reunion.
Sitting by themselves for the moment, they tried to catch up on thirty years apart. Trevor told Katie about his time in the Army, meeting Jessica at college, and losing her on 9/11. He confessed how he had been existing more than living since then, engrossed in his work.
“I wasn’t even going to come tonight, but the ladies I teach with insisted I should. I’m so glad I did.” He raised her hand to his lips and kissed it lightly. “I’d hardly dared hope you would be here, but here you are.”
Katie felt a tingle where his lips brushed her hand. She described to him how her original college plan hadn’t lived up to her expectations, how she’d transferred from Appalachian State to Campbell College and changed her major from sociology to business.
“I had all those lofty dreams about saving the world. One summer internship was all it took for me to realize most of the people I hoped to save didn’t want to be saved; they just wanted someone to do it all for them.”
Katie told him how she met Gordon at the first marketing firm she worked for out of school, how she hadn’t liked him much at first but he’d won her heart. With some bitterness, she talked of how Gordon had waited too long before going to the doctor and learning of the cancer that took him from her.
Done recounting their pasts, they sat quietly, her hand in his, not sure what should come next. Katie broke the silence first.
“Did you mean it when you said you’d thought about me over all these years?”
There was skepticism in her voice but hope too. She tried to keep her face from showing how much Trevor's answer would mean to her.
Trevor considered carefully how to answer her question. He thought he understood the doubt he heard in her voice. Katie wondered how he could have loved and married Jessica if she, Katie, still had any place in his heart. Trevor truly had loved Jessica. Losing her had nearly destroyed him. But with all that, he had never forgotten Katie. He heard that old saying that you never really get over your first love run through his mind. Trying to think of what it was that would bring memories of Katie coming back most strongly he realized it was the song, their song.
“Do you remember Feels So Good, by Chuck Mangione?”
Katie felt a knot form in her chest. That had been their song. Trevor went on.
“Every time I heard that song over the last thirty years, I thought of you and what might have been between us. I listened to it on the way here tonight and prayed that you would be here.”
Suddenly Katie found herself blinking away tears. Trevor reached up and gently brushed one from her cheek. She noticed his eyes were glistening, too. Katie wondered to herself what Trevor would have done if she hadn’t been alone, if Gordon was still alive and had come with her, or if she’d found someone else. But none of that mattered. He was here, and she was here, and they were both alone, only now they’d found each other again.
“I don’t know if I’m the answer to a prayer,” she said, her throat tight, “but I’m sure glad you’re here with me tonight.”
And Now There Are Two Less Lonely People In The World
Remembering High School
When did you graduate High School
© 2015 DW Davis