Tina took a deep breath to steady her nerves as she entered the hotel lobby. Immediately she was accosted with signs welcoming her class to their 30th reunion.
"I don't think I can do this," Tina said to herself as she backed into a corner where she could watch the goings-on. She observed many people heading toward the banquet doors, mostly in pairs or small groups. With the doors open, Tina was able to see the greeters' table and watch as former classmates were recognized.
As she observed the gathering from a safe distance, Tina remembered the conversations with her best friend regarding this monumental event.
Every Friday the best friends met for dinner and drinks. This Friday was no different. The only difference was the intensity of the dinner conversation.
"Thirty years, huh? So, you think you're going to go?"
"I'm not sure, Christie. I doubt anyone will remember me," Tina picked at her dinner before savoring a sip of her wine.
"What makes you think that?" prodded Christie. "Your college friends remember you, and you knew your high school friends longer."
"Classmates," Tina corrected.
"I had very few friends in high school; I was too shy. They were just classmates."
"I find that hard to believe," scoffed Christie, taking a bite from her meal. "A lot of people know you. You're always surrounded by people. And you're just so out-going." Christie stared at her friend, a senior software trainer. "Besides, you can't be shy and train as well as you do. It's just not possible."
"Oh, it's possible, Christie, and I'm proof of it."
"Okay," Christie sighed, "so it seems to me you've changed for the better then. All the more reason to go to your reunion and show them you've changed."
"I haven't been back to town since college. I've never been to any of my high school reunions."
"Again, all the more reason to go."
"I'll think about it. Can we change the subject now, though?" Tina took a drink to help wash down the food that was getting stuck in her throat.
"Met anyone interesting lately?" Christie had a twinkle in her eye as she noticed her friend's uneasy composure.
"Are you going to try to set me up on another blind date?"
"There's nothing wrong with dating..." Christie looked at her best friend and noticed her expression change. With a sigh, Christie decided to change the topic again. "Any news from Carl?"
"He's in love ... again," announced Tina. "I keep telling him to go slow and enjoy his college years, but he insists this is 'The One.'"
Christie couldn't help but chuckle. "How many does that make?"
"Five in the year and a half he's been at college."
"Ah, to be young and stupid again," sighed Christie. "Any news from the others?"
"Jon's still juggling work and grad school, but he says it's getting easier. Taking the extra classes during the summer has lightened his load this semester. He is still planning on graduating in May."
"Good for him." Christie raised her wine glass in a toast. "What about Peter? Are you a grandma yet?"
"Peter says Kim is doing well. She's due in the next couple of weeks, so it'll be any time now," reported Tina, between bites of her dinner.
"What do your boys say about you going to your reunion?" quizzed Christie.
"I haven't told them." Tina visibly winced when Christie slapped her hand on the table.
"I'm telling you," admonished Christie, "you should go. You've done real well for yourself since high school. You should be proud."
"Yeah, my failed marriage and subsequent lack of a relationship is something to brag about." Tina didn't even try to hide the contempt in her voice. "The old high school clique would have a field-day with that one!"
"You raised those three boys virtually by yourself and all of them are responsible, successful young men. You're quite the success, too."
"I told you about my childhood, Christie." Tina took a drink to steady her voice. "We grew up poor, living in a housing project. Mom barely had enough money for us kids sometimes."
"But you still didn't go without," interrupted Christie.
"We never went without necessities," Tina corrected, "but we really didn't have much for extras. That, in itself, set me apart from my classmates; they all seemed to have money for the 'extras.' Once I got a chance to go to college, I knew that would be my ticket out of the projects. I worked during school and during breaks. When I got my degree, I left town and never went back."
"Except for your mother's funeral."
"Except for that." Tina's eyes glazed over as she stared over her best friend's shoulder. "It's only been recently that I've even been in contact with anyone from my hometown."
"Hooray for social networking! All the more reason to go back to your reunion," Christie continued.
"Not really. Most of the people I've connected with from high school were with the band and are younger than I am."
"At least consider it."
Tina tossed the idea around after that evening, but whenever she thought there might be a reason to go, she would talk herself out of it. Then she received a message.
Major J: Reunion is coming up. You going?
Little 1: Not sure. Don't think anyone will remember me.
Major J: I know many remember you. And want to see you.
Little 1: Not sure if I can get away.
Major J: You should try. Would like to see you after all this time.
Little 1: What? My pic isn't good enough for you?
Major J: LOL. Prefer face to face.
So, here Tina stood, watching the adult versions of her childhood classmates milling around. Childhood insecurities crept up on her as she spied the class princess holding court right inside the doorway. She had not been battered by time the way Tina had. And her cackle had not changed, either.
Tina backed further against the wall and out of sight while she continued to scan the entrance to the hall. She continued her observations until her sight narrowed in on one person: him.
She watched him greet a number of classmates before heading toward the doorway. Once Joe was in the hallway, he turned in her direction. After only taking a couple of steps, Joe's eyes locked onto Tina's and he smiled.
Walking with the confidence of his destination, Joe headed directly to Tina.
"Hey, you made it." Joe gently held Tina's hand while he leaned over to kiss her cheek in greeting. "I'm glad," he whispered in her ear before standing erect again.
"I'm still not entirely sure why I'm here," Tina responded, barely above a whisper.
"Come on, it'll be fun. Some friends want to see you; they've already been asking about you." Joe hooked Tina's arm through his as he led her through the door.
Joe remained at Tina's side. He reintroduced her to some of their classmates, and others came up and reacquainted themselves with Tina on their own.
As Joe led her to the table for dinner, he whispered in her ear, "Leave the first and last slow dances for me, honey."
Tina felt a shiver run up her spine.
The dinner was superb and the conversation and reminiscing at the table went smoothly. Everyone was able to find happy memories from high school, even Tina. They then took turns telling where their lives had taken them after graduation. When the first slow dance began playing, Joe rose from his chair and extended his hand toward Tina.
"If you'll excuse us," he said to the table, "they are playing our song." Joe led Tina to the dance floor and smoothly took her in his arms. "I have waited over thirty years to get you in my arms."
"I'm sorry," Tina responded quietly. "I didn't know."
"There's nothing to be sorry about, honey; it was definitely worth the wait." Joe held Tina a little tighter to his body and felt her relax in his arms.
After that first dance, Tina and Joe shared more slow dances, and Tina danced with various other classmates as well. She even surprised herself by dancing some of the faster, rock tunes from their day with some girlfriends she had been friendly with in high school.
When the deejay called the last dance, Tina scanned the room looking for Joe. Before she finished her scan, Joe was at her side leading her back to the dance floor.
"Did you have a good time tonight?" he asked as he guided her across the floor.
"Surprisingly, yes. I never realized that so many people would remember me or that they noticed me at all back in those days."
"See? I told you." Joe gave Tina a little squeeze while they danced and then leaned down to plant a soft kiss on her forehead. "Did you drive yourself here tonight? Where are you staying while you're in town?"
"I did drive here, but I'm staying here, too. I figured if I was going to go all out with coming, I should pamper myself along the way, so I rented a room. That way, I could escape early if I wasn't having a good time, or not worry about driving if I drank too much or was too tired."