Tales of Romance: Unlikely Lovers

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Reunion

Eleanor pulled up to her old high school Archbishop Samuel Catholic High. It had been ten years since she last saw it. For some bizarre reason, she was surprised it still stood, mostly unchanged, but seeing the parking lot, grounds, and façade of the school made her heart smile. She had had so much fun at Samuel. Tonight was her reunion and she was so excited to see her old friends, some of whom she hadn’t seen since graduation. She wondered if they would recognize her, or even if she would recognize everyone else.

She parked in the lot right in her old parking space from Senior year, number fifty-four, despite it being so far from the front doors and walked across the darkened lot. The only sound came from her clopping high heels and her own shivering breath. She should have at least brought a wrap, but she didn’t want to distract the eye from her little black dress.

The lights from the football field were on and cast her a long shadow on the ground that grew shorter as she approached the school. When she reached the porch, her shadow which had shrunk considerably was now thrown every which way by the lights lining the school’s entrance.

She pulled open the front door and entered her old cafeteria which had been redone with new tables, chairs, and a new floor. But she looked past all that when a slender, young woman turned to see who entered. “Omigod! Elle!”

“Brenna!”

They ran up to each other, squealing and jumping up and down.

“It’s so good to see you!”

“It’s so nice to see you, too!”

“It’s been so long.”

“It really has.”

“How have you been?”

“I’ve been alright. How ’bout you?”

“Hanging in there.”

“Yeah, I know it’s tough.”

The two carried on like that for a few more seconds before Adam walked up to them. “Hey, Elle!”

“Hi, Adam!”

“It’s been a long time.”

“Sure has. How have you been?”

“No major complaints. Yourself?”

“I’ve got complaints…” The three of them laughed.

“Well, come on in and forget your cares,” said Adam, leading them deeper into the cafeteria. “We have a buffet set up here and all the drinks are at the end.”

“What’s our signature cocktail called?”

“Warrior Whiskey.”

“Warrior Whiskey?”

“Yeah. It’s Jameson mixed with black tea and lemon juice. And just a hint of beer.”

Elle grimaced. “It sounded good until you got to the beer. Whisky connoisseurs like my cousin would shit bricks if he knew someone mixed beer with Jameson.”

“Yeah, it’s not great, but it does the trick.”

“Oh, just like Buckfast wine. Buckfast gets you fucked fast.”

Adam and Brenna laughed. “Pretty much!” said Brenna.

“Care for a glass?” said Adam, picking up a cup.

“Sure,” said Elle with a shrug.

Elle took her drink from Adam. “So, who all is here? Doesn’t look like everybody showed up.”

“No,” said Brenna. “There’s only about twenty-five of us, not including guests.”

“That’s barely a quarter of our class,” added Adam.

“Is that Darian over there?” asked Elle.

“Sure is.”

“Who’s that girl he’s with?”

“Someone he met through work. I think her name’s Maddie.”

“Hm. I didn’t think he went for cute blondes.”

Suddenly, a tall fellow entered Elle’s line of sight and clapped Darian hard on the shoulder. Elle squinted at the new entry.

“Hey, Darian!” said the man.

“Hello, Anthony,” replied Darian, he and his date turning around.

“I heard you’re a writer now. What was your book called again? Remnants of Chaos: Chaotic Omens?”

“Yep. It’s about demon slayers. I heard you wrote a book, too.”

“Sure did!” said Anthony, beaming. “Heroes of Majestia: The Company of Flight. It’s a fantasy. You can buy it from Amazon.”

“Likewise.”

Elle lifted her cup in front of her face and stuck her tongue out. “Ugh! Anthony Palazzolo,” she spat. “I hate him. He was such a douche.”

Adam recoiled. “Yeah, he used to be, but he’s very different now.”

“He’s very personable,” added Brenna. “He’s been saying hello and talking to everybody. He might even have something nice to say to Chris.”

“Chris who?”

“Christopher Nucks.”

“Oh, that loser. He was a douche, too.”

“Maybe he’s changed as well,” speculated Adam.

“Ugh! I don’t care. I didn’t come here to relive my regrets. I came here to party!” Elle threw her arms in the air and started catching up with old classmates. It amazed her who changed and who hadn’t. Some people were the spitting image of their younger selves like Dave Talbert and Lindsey Zulenski, but others had changed quite a bit. Some of them had aged quite poorly, gaining weight, balding, and looking like they were ridden hard and put up wet. Everyone in the room was either twenty-seven or twenty-eight, but some people looked like they were pushing forty and beyond.

Eleanor made the most of her night talking, greeting, and going back to the bar for refills. Once in a while, she’d hear a deep, jolly voice behind her and with loathing she’d turn and see Anthony Palazzolo talking to someone about his new book or trying to network. Elle smirked. So that was his game. This was all just a marketing or social networking ploy so he could make something of himself. His book probably sucked.

She pulled out her phone and went to Amazon. She couldn’t remember the book’s name, it was too long. So she typed his name into the search bar. When his work popped up, her face fell. He had written more than just the one fantasy novel and she was dismayed to find that all his work had more than four-and-a-half stars. Suddenly, a hand landed on her shoulder. “Elle McCormick!”

Eleanor squealed as she turned around. It was Anthony, looking at her with a bemused smile and his hand up. “Sorry. Did I startle you?”

Elle breathed out. “No more than usual.”

One of Anthony’s eyebrows fell, looking for the meaning in that statement. He moved on. “So, what are you up to these days?”

“I’m a realtor.”

“Ooh! In the go-go world of real estate. Buying and selling houses and helping people make their dreams come true.”

“Most of our clients are small business owners,” she corrected.

“Even better! True, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of home, but businesses provide jobs which help people buy houses. Killing several birds with one stone.”

“I suppose,” replied Elle stiffly.

“What’s your territory?”

“Oakland county.”

“Good area,” said Anthony with a nod. “I’m more of a Macomb county man myself.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Lot of small towns. You want more of a suburban feel, head south toward Detroit. Want more of country feel, head north. And if you like water—”

“Head east! Yes, I know how Macomb is laid out.”

Anthony stopped and stared at her. He looked stunned.

Elle feared she may have snapped too hard. While his conversation so far had been asinine, she didn’t want to make a scene. She forced herself to say, “What have you been up to?”

“Oh, I’m a writer these days,” said Anthony much more subdued. “I’ve been writing up a storm.”

“What sorts of things do you write?”

“All sorts. I don’t really have a niche. I just write whatever I want to.”

“Written anything I would’ve heard of?”

“No,” said Anthony with a half laugh. “I don’t think so.”

“Why not?” said Elle suspiciously. “I read.”

“I didn’t say you didn’t. I’m just not that popular. Besides, the industry is swamped with talent! There are writers all over the world trying to break into the scene. Some of them don’t even speak English fluently.”

“Huh.”

“Yeah…”

Anthony and Elle stood there for a second, staring at each other’s torsos so they wouldn’t have to make eye contact, letting the awkwardness swell.

“Well, this has been fun,” said Anthony, clapping his hands. “I’m going to go talk to some of the others. Ciao!”

“Ciao,” said Elle to the ground.

Elle groaned and rubbed her face. She went and sat at one of the empty tables far from the others. She was embarrassed. She and Anthony never really got along, but that was his doing. He always seemed annoyed with her. That had hurt because she had had a rather big crush on him back in the day. She finally had the courage to talk to him one day, but not only was he annoyed, he was outright horrified and completely scorned her. She nearly cried her eyes out on the spot. But, having given him the benefit of the doubt, she tried again and again and again, but eventually, his irritation turned to hatred. She didn’t know why, and one day when she’d had enough and bit back, they became bitter enemies.

Now it was ten years later and he had tried being nice. He had tried to be friends. Maybe he had tried to make up for what he had done. Or maybe he forgot—that possibility stung. But what stung even more was that he may have been trying to gloss over the past just for the sake of appearances. Elle forgot her embarrassment for a rising anger. She clenched her fist and beat it against her thigh.

Suddenly, the lights dimmed and the curtains on the far stage were pulled back. A screen was drawn down and a spotlight hit the stage on the far end of cafeteria. Adam appeared. “Hey, hey, Archbishop Samuel Catholic High School’s class of ’07! Welcome to the ten year reunion!”

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