A BOTTLE OF RED
Samantha Seal you are cordially invited to the Class of ’82 reunion.
The invitation and the thought of gracing the hallowed halls of Gilmour Collegiate made my blood run cold.
To say it was not a positive experience would be an understatement of epic proportions. In short I had few friends who were on the same social strata as I was. I was an untouchable, one of the project kids that everyone avoided. It would have been easier to be one of the unknowns. They were ignored. We got bullied. I really did wash my hair on Saturdays out of sheer boredom. There were no dances or football games on my calendar.
I blanched at the memory of my five years at the high school. It was hell on a good day.
Staring at the invite was weird as it made me want to go and prove I wasn’t the pathetic loser they knew me as back then.
I am an accomplished author and an Internet radio host. I funded my hobbies as a virtual assistant. I have made friends and I even managed a marriage and two kids. Mind you the marriage tanked after 7 years—yes the moron got the itch shortly after Jake hit kindergarten and Melanie was going through the stubborn threes. Something looked better to him than our harry domestic life. Tommy was a dreamer and looked to the fanciful when everyday life got tough.
I didn’t let the end of the marriage get to me too badly, It was the fact that I was blackballed at work and accused of stealing a colleagues ideas for an ad campaign that caused my nervous breakdown. I was hospitalized for two months while my kids stayed with my parents.
I was diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder and depression coupled with a raging case of agoraphobia. This forced me to work from home as a virtual assistant as it was later called. In short I was a secretary who typed and faxed reports for a curmudgeonly accountant named Sid.
Despite the breakdown and the loneliness of single parenthood I maintained a positive mental outlook. I coped with my new circumstances and eventually the agoraphobia subsided after years of therapy.
I could go from having home visits to actually attending sessions at a hospital with other people. Yay me! Talk about progress.
I was able to manage the kids without a major conniption. Mel and Jake seemed to know that they needed to tiptoe around mom and avoided trouble so the bad lady stayed away. Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t mean but they were afraid of my attacks. Jake educated himself as he got older and I was sure I was going to have a psychiatrist on my hands. My son the doctor sounded really good no matter how cliché it seemed
I was brought back to the present by the phone ringing.
“Hey it’s Moe.” Moe was one of my friends from the first day of grade nine. She was also labelled untouchable by association with myself and the others in our group even though her folks weren’t welfare bums and had good jobs she still didn’t mind slumming as she hated the snobbery around the school.
Hey yourself. What’s up?”
“Did you get it?”
The invitation? Yeah it came today.”
“Thinking about it.”
“Matter of fact yes but that’s beside the point.”
“They’re going to fillet you and serve you up for dinner.”
I have the optimistic hope that some of my former classmates may have grown up. “I am done running from them Moe. They don’t scare me. After years of therapy I am finally comfortable in my own skin.”
“Well they still scare the shit out of me and I am forty eight years old.”
“No reason to dear. You have a great life now, and if they are still calling us losers it’s their problem not ours. Suck it up and come with.”
Moe took a minute to think and said “okay but if they bring out the boning knives I am so out of there!”
“Deal.” I laughed and told her I was RSVP’ing immediately. Moe agreed to do the same.
Looks like the kid from the projects made good. I thought to myself. I had written five steamy romantic suspense novels and three light hearted mysteries. Even after a cruddy marriage I still had hope for love and all my leads got what they wanted in the romance department while steaming up a few windows after catching the bad guys. I had reached the same stratosphere as Nora Roberts and Catherine Coulter. My covers sported hot guys and gals that made readers drool.
I had turned a hobby into a well-paying enterprise while still working from home during my illness. I was happy and nothing was going to stop that.
I called the number on the invite and told the alumni rep at the other end who I was and that I would be attending.
There was a minute of silence then “Hey weren’t you a …?”
“Yeah Cynthia I was but I don’t see what that has to do with the present. Weren’t you a bitch?”
“Hey that’s not nice Sam.” Cindy was blustering at the other end of the line.”
“Seems like nothing’s changed Cin, you made my life hell in gym class and it appears that you’re still a nasty piece of work. “
“Don’t you judge me Samantha Seal.”
“Ha tell that to your younger self and your snotty little friends.”
Come on Sammy. Let’s not be nasty thirty odd years later. Maybe we can meet for lunch and talk things out I still live here in Gilmour, not too far from you. What do you say we bury the hatchet?”
I thought for a minute about how I would love to bury the hatchet but here I was supposedly evolved from my formerly timid and bitter self so I acquiesced and agreed to meet for lunch the next day.
As planned I met Cynthia for lunch at was surprised by her appearance. Gone was the svelte size five cheerleader. She wasn’t fat but it seemed that childbearing years had not been kind to the woman.
Cyn caught my look and said “You were expecting Barbie right?”
“Well er kind of…”
It’s okay Sam I have dealt with the weight since my youngest was born. I was gestationally diabetic and developed a thyroid deficiency. It’s been years of therapy and intense workouts to maintain the size I am now. After Andy was born I ballooned to an uncomfortable three hundred pounds and I have whittled it down to a scant one-seventy –five. I am okay with this really.”
I was honestly sorry for her healthy issues. “Listen sorry I jumped down your throat yesterday. I was sort of nervous about replying and hoped I would get someone who wouldn’t remember me. When you mentioned who I was I reacted badly.”
It’s all good honey. I was a bitch and yes the girls and I were merciless.”
I was beginning to see I was wrong about Cyn. “I have a question. “What are the chances of me going to this shindig and not get filleted?
Ha Ha Ha cute. Bring a bigger knife.
Funny. Moe said she would turn and run at the first sight of weapons.”
You mean Maureen Clifford. Did she marry Don Axelrod?
“Yes, and divorced him after Kim was born, He was schtupping the babysitter on his lunch breaks. She’s married to a great guy named Wayne Harper now; two great kids later.
“So cool. And you, did you marry?
“That’s a long story; how much time do you have?”
“I’m all ears babe, do tell.”
After an hour and a half I had dished about my marriage, the failed career in advertising leaving out the nervous breakdown as I wasn’t comfortable talking about that with Cynthia. She was playing nice but when people hear that you were hospitalized or incarcerated the claws come out or they back away. Nutters and criminals make people nervous. Such is the stigma of mental illness.
“So what about you Cyn, did you land prince charming after the prom.”
She chuckled. “As a matter of fact I landed the running back for the Wolverines over in Hammett. “
“I remembered our teams arch nemesis on the football field. How did you land Barry the brute?”
“College, we ended up at Centenial College in Toronto. I tutored him in Psychology. I was instrumental in keeping him on the team and his scholarship. I learned more than he did but he graduated. Dumb as a post but great in the sack if you catch my meaning.”
I was still curious. “So what happened?”
During that time I tutored the dude I learned more about myself and decided I didn’t like the shallow bee-atch I was in high school. I evolved some but Barry wanted a Barbie doll and I wanted more out of life than being someone’s trophy girlfriend. I dumped his sorry hide and concentrated on self-improvement. I married a psych major and now I am a social worker for Children’s aid and he works at Community living. We have a great life and our kids are teachers with special Ed.”
I was impressed. Cyn really had evolved and I found that I liked her. Moe would be shocked as she had to adjust Cyns attitude in the change room a few times. Cyn laughed at the memory and admitted that the swirlies she got were well earned.
It was time to get home and attend to some writing but we promised to meet up at the reunion on the weekend and I didn’t fear the idea of meeting my former oppressors as much as I thought.
I was standing in my bedroom still trying to decide what to wear for tonight’s meet and great. The main event was tomorrow.
I finally decided on business casual. I am big boned but I put on form fitting black denims with a camisole and a sleeveless animal print blouse and ankle boots. As Mel would say I looked hot for a middle aged broad. Mel was twenty-five and five months pregnant which would make me grandma in about twenty weeks.
“You still nervous Ma?”
“I was but after talking to Cynthia the other day.”
“She really has changed and I figured if the person who caused me the most grief could change then there is hope for the other morons.”
Melanie has known about the teenage angst I experienced since her teen years. I spent countless hours stroking her back and brushing her hair after a fight with a friend or when she was shut out of student council elections. I told her about the bullying was a victim of repeatedly and she came to the conclusion that my life did suck worse than hers.
She thought I was brave yet crazy to go face them again but I told her I’d be fine. Being a writer I have developed an arsenal of comebacks for my characters could use. If need be I would be employing them myself over the course of the weekend.
The doorbell rang and it was Moe. She sported a pencil skirt with a slit and killer heals. Her auburn hair was coifed to the hilt like she had spent three hours in a spa. It was a do it yourself job that had taken just as long but she looked fantastic.
My daughter gave a wolf whistle as both of us headed out the door. “You ladies have nothing to fear. Go kick some ass, literally if you have to. We would be fine Moe was a scrapper and I had a caustic tongue.
Remember how I said I would rather not see the inside of my alma mater again if my life depended on it? I had psyched myself up for this since Tuesday but the old feelings came rumbling back as I stepped over the threshold. Moe stopped me from turning on my heels and running hell-bent for the car.
“Suck it up Sammy!” Moe grabbed my elbow and dragged me to the reception table.
I succumbed to the pressure from my best buddy.
I gave my name and got my name tag from the lady manning the table. Her tag read Heather Angel class of 82 and she had been one of the smart ones who paid no attention to the social norms during her school experience. Her head had been buried in the books for five years and sneered at the cliques.
Heather had been nice to me and suggested I grow a thicker skin and ignore the shallow bastards. It took me years to appreciate the meaning of that and would thank her for it later.
Cyn was standing off to the side talking to a few of her fellow cohorts from back in the day. She spotted Moe and I and summoned us over. I put on my game face and approached with caution.
Hey Shell, Cathy.” I said with some hesitation. My game face was going to melt as I felt a cold sweat of fear. I told myself to get a grip and smiled.
“Hey Sam you look fantastic Cyn stated enthusiastically. She was wearing a denim dress and sandals and looked quite homey. Shell and Cathy nodded in agreement but didn’t say much. Maybe Cynthia had coached them to play nice but I still expected the claws come out later.
I said my good byes and headed for the wine bar where the old school store had been. We had called it the hole in the wall back then and I never pictured them serving alcohol where I had once bought school supplies.
The guy serving sported a name tag with Tim on it. His high school pic was below his name as was mine.
“Sammy Seal? “
“Ugh Yeah tis me.” I was waiting for the seal noises people used to make at the mention of my name. None came.
“What’ll it be we have red or white and some good ol’ Molson Canadian. “
Give me a red or can I buy it by the bottle?”
You should save that for the rest of us we may need it too Sam>”
Ok a glass for now but I may be back. I hate reunions but Moe and my morbid curiosity dragged me here.
Ha, you were the one who told me to suck it up Sam.
Ladies drink your wine and behave.
Moe and I laughed and entered into the abyss which had been the school cafeteria.
Cyn caught up. “Are we having fun yet?”
Moe replied “Not loaded enough ask me in an hour.”
I nearly choked on my drink as I laughed.