The High School Reunion
The High School Reunion
Chapter One Look Inside
Chapter One Look Inside
There are three types of showers that I take. There’s the in and out: I soap and scrub for as little time as possible while leaning forward so as not to get my hair wet. Then I hop out and towel off before my hair starts to frizz in the steam.
This is the type of shower I take when I’m running late for work—or when my mother calls to announce that she’s in town and wants to swing by for a visit.
Judging by how often I’m pressing the snooze button in the mornings, it’s probably the type of shower I take most often.
Then there’s the lather and shave shower: I shampoo and condition my hair, bending in awkward ways to reach everywhere I can with a razor. In spite of my best endeavors, I almost always cut something.
Finally, there’s the goddess shower: I dust off all of my self-care tools, like the long-handled brush with bristles made of sandpaper which scrubs off the top two layers of my skin.
Other self-care tools include my body mask, jar of mud, and Himalayan salts. When I’m feeling particularly joie de vivre, I’ll light a candle or two as well.
Then I embark on a powerful journey of equal parts self-love and self-destruction as I scrub, shave, steam, and soak in an attempt to turn my almost-thirty-year-old body into that of a high school cheerleader.
The goddess shower is so time intensive I only get into it when super special occasions come up.
Like today, because I’m going to dinner at the Ritz with Todd—my long-term boyfriend.
This is it.
There’s only one reason a boyfriend of three years suddenly invites his girlfriend to a place as grand and luxurious as The Ritz.
Just the thought gives me butterflies.
Finally, all of my feminine wiles have charmed the rich bachelor into making the move.
That makes me sound like a money grabber.
I like Todd a lot. He ticks all of the boxes.
He’s handsome—his angular face sticks out in all the right places, strong jaw, nice cheekbones. Dimples.
He’s funny—he often takes me to fancy dinner parties at work and has the whole room laughing with his dry wit.
Kind—Yes, he’s rich and successful, but he never lets any of it go to his head. The other day, I saw him giving flowers to Margery, the newly-widowed neighbor in the first-floor apartment of his complex. He listened to her talk about her late husband until he was late for a meeting.
On second thought, maybe he’s going to ask me to move in with him tonight.
I suck in a nervous breath at the idea.
Moving in with Todd sends my Type-A brain into overdrive. Without the commitment of marriage, how can I be certain where we’ll end up in three months? Six months. Nine years!
If I don’t make a solid plan now, I could end up sitting on the sidewalk with two luggage bags and nowhere to call home in the future.
Sure, people get divorced. Marriage isn’t without its risks. But the idea of selling up my apartment and going all-in without some kind of assurance that he’s not going to run off with the secretary at any given moment makes me sick to the stomach with anxiety.
I’m the kind of person who needs to know what is happening, and I need the big relationship stuff to be in writing before I make any major moves.
There’s one person to blame for my obsessive mindset. Logan.
He lured me in and knocked down all the barriers around my heart. Oh, how I swooned over that man! He was my high school sweetheart. Then he became an NFL player and… dropped me faster than a millennial giving up on their new year resolutions.
Todd came along—the total opposite of Logan. He’s suave, cool, gentle, and attentive. I have to wonder if the guy is a saint, because we’ve never even passed second base and he’s still around.
But if I’m brutally honest with myself, I just don’t feel that zing with Todd.
Not like the way it was with Logan.
With Logan, I had the primal urge to jump on him and tear his shirt off like a wild tiger tucking into its prey.
I’m not that kind of person anymore. Now I watch the kind of sickly-sweet romances most of my friends roll their eyes over. They make me feel happy and content.
The thought of ripping shirts and getting intimate makes me slightly nauseous these days.
It takes a lot of commitment to be that vulnerable with a person.
I just want a ring on my finger, and a decent heads-up so I can prepare for it.
Then I can schedule a full body wax, do a sixty-day workout program followed by a juice cleanse to get my body in shape, and read a stack of self-help books to get an idea of what I’m supposed to do.
Physical stuff aside though, Todd and I are a good match. Our relationship moving forward might even make me more assertive at work. Maybe I’ll get a promotion.
Plus, moving out of my rotten apartment would be nice.
I flick my hair back and look at myself in the wall mirror by the door. The red dress clings to me like a second skin. If I didn’t have my shapewear on, I’m pretty sure I’d look like a swollen sausage link.
“Take a breath, Josie. You look cute.”
I nod to my reflection, repeating affirmations in my head. It helps with the sickly feeling swirling around in my stomach.
I glance at my bare wedding finger.
Yes. Tonight, Todd is going to put a ring on it. It’s about freaking time.
The buzzer makes me jump.
I slap on a slick of red lipstick, throw my purse over my shoulder, and march out of my front door grinning from ear to ear.
* * *
I look around me at the interior of the most prestigious restaurant in the city. It’s all glitzy, with the fancy chandeliers and carpeted floors.
The ambient sounds of murmured conversation and clinking cutlery are almost muted against the orchestral music playing in the background.
The servers look like the penguins in Mary Poppins—black suits that pleat at the back and white button-up shirts with black buttons.
One of them leans over, smelling of musk and essential oils, and pours wine into my glass.
“Thank you,” I say in my poshest voice.
Todd sits across from me, looking as dashing as ever. His jet-black hair is gelled to the side and his eyes keep darting around as though he’s keeping a lookout for something.
There’s a sheen of sweat covering his upper lip.
“So, this is nice,” I say, breaking the silence. He looks at me and tugs on his shirt collar as he clears his throat.
“How was the salmon?” he asks. I give him an appreciative nod. “Delicious.”
He puffs out a breath and sits up. “Good, good.”
He’s been quiet all through dinner. Part of me wonders if he’s going to back out. I’ve never seen him this worked up before.
“Josie, I’ve brought you here to talk to you about something.”
I set down my fork and sit up. This is it.
“Oh, is everything alright at work?” I ask, playing it cool. He waves a hand aside.
“Yes, yes. Fine.”
I wonder if he’s going to repeat everything he says from now on. Will you marry me? Marry me? Like a human echo.
“Good,” I say, blinking slowly and trying to keep eye contact. He averts his gaze and dabs his face with a table napkin.
“Okay, I’m just going to come out and say it.” He looks at me again and clears his throat.
I hold my breath.
“Josie, we’ve been together for a long time now. How long has it been?”
“Three years, four months, and six days,” I reply with too much gusto. I blush and chuckle nervously.
“But who’s counting, right?”
Todd’s face breaks into an amused grin. “That’s just it about you, you always have a plan. Always keeping track of things. I think you’re the most organized person I’ve ever known.”
My smile widens. “Thank you.”
Todd’s smile fades. “That wasn’t a compliment.”
Now my face falls. “Sorry, what?”
Todd leans forward and lowers his tone. Judging by the intense look on his face, I’m not sure I want to hear what he has to say.
Ironically, I suddenly start to feel suffocated. I clutch the neckline of my dress and pull it away from my neck to swallow against a lump.
“I think I’ve just come to the conclusion that I’m not getting any younger, and it’s time I settle down.”
I frown. “So, you’re asking me to marry you?”
Todd jumps back. “What? No. I think it’s time we go our separate ways.”
I cross my arms as shock starts to numb me. “Then why did you bring me here?”
“Well, we can’t exactly have this conversation at Wendy’s, can we?” he retorts. Like the idea of breaking up with me at a fast-food place is repugnant. The truth is, I’d kill for a Twisted Frosty right now.
I make a mental note to pick one up on the way home while I shake my head. “You’re breaking up with me? Seriously?”
“Yes. And I knew you’d demand a reason why, so I wrote a list.” Todd takes out a folded piece of paper from his jacket and I watch with horror as he opens it up to read.
I glance around me, noticing that a few people have stopped eating and are beginning to stare.
“Number one: I’m not a monk. I am a red-blooded male with needs that are not being met.”
My face twists with repulsion. “This is a joke, right?”
Todd does not lift his eyes from the paper.
“Number two: I can’t be with a woman who does not possess even an ounce of spontaneity in her body.”
I gasp. “I can be spontaneous!”
I just need to plan for it first…
Todd does not react; he just keeps reading.
“Reason three: I need to be with someone fun, who isn’t afraid to let her hair down.”
I point to my head of brown waves flowing over my shoulders. “My hair is down. And am I not fun?”
Todd proceeds to talk for a further twenty-eight minutes about every part of my character that he doesn’t like.
I am too nit-picky. Too clean. Too polite. My voice is too soft. I eat too much. My sense of humor is too goofy. The list goes on and on.
Maybe he’s right. I am not spontaneous. Because if I was, I’d smack him with the drinks menu and toss my drink over his face for being so rude.
What kind of man takes a woman to the nicest restaurant in the city, only to read out a list that would make War and Peace look like a children’s novel?
Instead of letting off steam and throwing a tantrum, I sit and take it.
When he’s done, I take a final sip of my bubbly and pick up my purse. “Well, thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed list.”
Todd points at me. “And that is exactly why we should break up.”
I frown again. “Why?”
“Because most women show some emotion in your position. I mean, after all these years we’ve been together… you don’t even shed a tear? What the heck is wrong with you?”
I slide my chair back across the carpeted floor and rise to a dignified stand. “Well, if that’s everything, I expect you’re paying tonight.”
I should have had the lobster.
Todd’s eyes grow dull, and he looks at me like I really did smack him across the face. As if I’m the one breaking up with him.
I ball my trembling hands into tight fists. There’s only a shred of self-control left to stop me from making a scene, and I intend to preserve it.
I turn on my heel and walk out with my head held high.
I will not cry. I will not cry.
With every step, my heart breaks a little more. I move faster. I’m never one to make a scene. Especially somewhere as nice as this.
I expected him to put a ring on it, but he embarrassed me publicly and attacked every aspect of my personality. How could I have been so clueless?
Well, good riddance to him.
As planned, I drive through Wendy’s and order the biggest shake they have. Then I sit in the parking lot and try to cry.
Honestly, I haven’t been able to cry since my grandmother died nineteen years ago. And a part of me is glad I can’t shed a tear right now.
Because he’s not worth it.
One thing sticks out, though. Of all the criticism, it’s the thought that I’m not fun or spontaneous that bothers me the most.
I am totally fun.
I mean, sure, I’m not skydiving any time soon… And my nerves start to short-circuit at the thought of dancing on tables… But that doesn’t mean I’m not a fun person to be around.
I think about my closest friend, Leila. What would she say about this?
Before I know what I'm doing, I've dialed her number. Her chirpy voice fills the car.
“How did it go?”
I grit my teeth. Why did I have to go and open my big mouth this morning to tell her I think Todd’s going to propose?
“Um. Todd and I decided to go our separate ways.” I try to keep my voice level, but my tone is way too formal to come off as convincing.
There’s silence and a few heavy breaths as Leila processes the news.
“So… You’re not engaged?” she asks carefully.
I clutch my shake and bite my lip. There’s a pressure spreading across my chest.
Hearing Leila say it makes it all feel more real.
“No.” My voice is firm. Too firm. I clear my throat and force my fingers to relax. “No,” I say, softer now. “We just realized we’re too different.”
Leila hums and it comes out like a rumble all around me. “I’m coming over.”
I hitch a breath and squeak. “No! I’m not home.”
Leila has these big doe eyes that tear up when she’s disappointed, and I just know she’s going to give me that look every time she asks me if I’m okay—which she’ll probably do every sixty seconds. I can’t cope with that right now.
My head feels like a beehive.
Maybe Todd has a point.
Up until now, I’ve planned out my entire life. So much for that, because look where it’s gotten me. Alone in a Wendy’s parking lot, talking to my friend who used to look up to me. Leila is the hot mess. Not me. Now my hot mess friend is pitying me.
This is a fate worse than death.
“Well, I’ll come over tomorrow. You don’t work on the weekend, right?”
“Haven’t you got that dog walking job this weekend?” I shoot back. Leila’s derisive laugh almost makes me smile. I love the sound of her giggles.
“Um. Let’s just say Doggy Walkies and I came to a mutual agreement to go our separate ways.”
I know what she means. She got fired. Again.
“Ah. I’m sorry,” I say through a breath. “How about you come over in the morning? I'll make blueberry pancakes.”
“Sounds like a date!” She sounds delighted and I’m extremely relieved that I can’t sense any pity in her tone.
“Hey, before you go…” I scratch an invisible itch on my arm. “Am I fun? Tell me the truth.”
Leila lets out a hearty laugh that almost bursts my eardrums.
I slide my tongue over my front teeth, nervous at that reaction.
“Of course you are!” Leila says, still chuckling.
My shoulders relax.
“Remember Spring break when you made us go on a road trip to Yellowstone, and got chased by that bison?”
I groan. “Actually, you brought up that idea. And the bison chased me because I was shouting at you to stop taking pictures of it on the side of the road and come back to the car!”
I sit up a little straighter. Leila carries on undeterred. “And the surprise birthday party you arranged for me in college? We broke the campus record for the most students to be in a dorm room.”
I shut my eyes and pinch the bridge of my nose.
That was Leila’s other friend, Hollie. I just helped with the preparations. Cramming twenty sweaty college kids into our room until it stank of BO and cheese was not my idea of fun.
“We always have a blast when we hang out. You are fun, Josie. Don’t even question it.”
But I am questioning it. Todd’s voice has taken root inside my head, and it keeps whispering to me in a creepy voice that sounds suspiciously like Gollum.
You’re not fun, Josie. No fun at all.
Leila’s examples did nothing to change my mind. “Well, thanks, girl. See you in the morning.”
After I’ve ended the call, I slurp the last of my shake and stare intently at the lights. I need to start being fun and spontaneous if I’m going to get what I want out of life.
What do I want?
I want a good job. A husband to snuggle in the evenings and maybe a couple of kids too.
I’m probably not going to get a promotion or a husband if people think I’m boring.
I promise myself I’ll start taking more risks and embracing spontaneity. But first… I’m going to the store. A sudden breakup calls for a cartload of ice cream.
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Imagine this: You're dolled up for a swanky dinner at the Ritz, expecting a magical evening with your boyfriend of three years. But instead of sweeping you off your feet, he shatters your heart into a million pieces. And just days before your high school reunion, no less!
With your world turned upside-down, you're mortified to face your old classmates. But fate steps in when you collide with your high school sweetheart – the one who broke your heart, now single and ready to mingle.
In a twist of delicious irony, you both agree to feign a romantic reunion, just for the night. But when secret stolen kisses feel more real than pretend, you wonder if this charade could become your second chance at true love.
"The High School Reunion" is a sparkling, feel-good novella brimming with wit, charm, and the magic of second chances. Indulge in this enchanting tale of rediscovered love that will have you grinning from ear to ear. Don't wait another moment – scroll up and one-click now to dive into this heartwarming romantic adventure!