Read Part Three here.
Somehow, through all of our laughter, we made our way out of the building. We still had about an hour to kill before coffee with Ann, so we drove around the town and pointed out places and talked about what had changed and what had stayed the same. There were some teenagers slung lazily over some chairs outside the ice cream parlor on the pier that was a big hang out when we were in high school. We parked, and one kid blew smoke at us as we walked by.
“We weren’t like that, right?” I said. We got to the end of the pier and leaned on the railing, watching families get their boats ready to go out.
“I’m pretty sure I can remember some instances of your adolescent defiance,” Keri said. “Remember that time you and Matt Manfre set fire to Sharon Frost’s lawn at her end of the year party?”
“Uh, that was him, not me, and I tried to get him to stop,” I said. “You were at that party? I don’t remember you being there.”
“Ah, yes. Sometimes I did get invited to the cool kids’ parties, you know,” she said. She found a fallen leaf and tossed it into the water. We watched it bob in the tiny waves. “There were probably a lot of times in high school that we were at the same party and didn’t know it.”
“So you’re saying that you followed me around a lot?” I said.
“Yep, your massive ego was irresistible to me. That’s why I was at all of the football games. It had nothing to do with being in the band and everything to do with you.” Keri grinned.
The midday sunlight bounced on the water and blinded us. “You don’t really think I had a massive ego in high school, do you?”
She pulled away from the railing a little and peered at me.
“I think you’ve changed a lot since high school.”
I wondered if that meant she thought I was better or worse, but I didn’t ask.
Keri leaned her chin in her hand and looked out at the boats. “I wonder who will be there tonight,” she said. “If there’s one person that you absolutely want to see again from high school, who would it be?”
I stared out at the boats and tried to mentally flip through our yearbook. “I have no idea,” I said. “I’ll have to think about that.”
“Yeah,” I said. I looked over at her. “Why, who would be your person?” I tried to remember Keri’s friends from high school. She hung out with the band kids – that much I knew – but I couldn’t remember who her best friends were.
“Easy,” she said. “Ms. Stinson.”
“What?” I laughed.
“Yeah, why not?”
“Ms. Stinson, the math teacher?” I said.
Keri nodded. “She’s the reason I became an engineer.”
“Only you would want to see a teacher at our reunion,” I said, shaking my head. “You’re an engineer?”
Keri laughed. “Wow,” she said. “Okay, yeah. Now I think your massive ego from high school has doubled in size over the years.”
I felt awful, even though Keri was laughing about it. She was right, I barely knew anything about her, post-high school. But, it seemed, I hadn’t known much about her in the first place.
“I kind of can’t picture you as an engineer,” I said. “All figures and numbers. You’re too free-spirited for that type of job.”
“The job isn’t my life, though,” Keri said. “Maybe it keeps me grounded.”
She checked her watch. “Time for lunch. We’d better go.”
We got back in the Corvette – this time Keri opened the door instead of stepping over it onto the seat – and drove back to the neighborhood.
Ann had sandwiches set out for us on the deck.
“Um, could we…” I started. I looked back toward the piano room with its small coffee table. There would barely be enough room for our plates. “Do you think we could eat inside, near the piano?”
Ann and Keri stared at me. It was a gorgeous day, and the deck was shaded from the sun. I could hear birds singing off in the distance. It really was a nice place to sit and catch up.
“My allergies…” I said, letting the words make the explanation.
Ann nodded. “Of course,” she said, gathering the food and bringing everything inside.
Keri narrowed her eyes at me. “Allergies, huh?”
I shrugged and sniffed, as though my nose was clogged.
In the piano room, I stuffed myself between Keri and Ann on the couch. We were elbow to elbow eating our sandwiches. Keri caught Ann up on her job and apartment in a town about an hour away, close to the city, while I scanned the room to see if there was anything significant. Why would the lunch need to be in the piano room? Was Ann the designer of this scheme and a terrific actor, or was she clueless?
Tom, Ann’s husband, came down the steps and poked his head into the room. “I thought I heard company,” he said, smiling.
I stood and shook his hand, then followed him into the kitchen to grab a beer while Keri and Ann talked.
“Ten year reunion, huh?” Tom said, handing me a bottle and unscrewing the cap on his own.
“It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long, but I guess a lot has changed,” I said. I leaned against the counter and sipped the beer.
“Yeah, I saw your car,” Tom said. “I bet that’s a nice ride.”
“You want to try it out?” I said.
“Yeah,” Tom said.
We peeked in once more to let Ann and Keri know we were taking the car for a spin around the block and we’d be back.
I tossed Tom the keys and he savored the feel of the leather seats, the purr of the engine revving, before he even rolled the car out of the driveway.
While he navigated the winding, hilly circle of our neighborhood, I pulled the note of tasks out of my pocket.
“Hey,” I said to Tom. “Do you know anything about this list? I was thinking Ann might be behind it. I’ve been getting these tasks since I was a teenager.”
He glanced at the note in my hand with the three weekend objectives. “I’ve never seen Ann write a list like that,” Tom said. “But you never know. She’s full of surprises. She still surprises me even though we’ve been together for, oh gosh, almost twenty years now.”
When we passed my house, I gazed at the yard, the meticulously groomed flower beds, the porch with its idle rocking chair. I thought about my first task that morning: breakfast with dad, and I felt bad about how we’d left it, but I’d said what I’d needed to say. I’d said what I’d been waiting to say for years, without knowing exactly how the words would tumble out. I was mad – mad at him and at Jim and at the world. But the hardest thing, the worst thing, was that I was also mad at my mom. They all made the decision to not tell me that she was sick. They all kept that secret from me. And I was mad at all of them.
I folded the note and put it back in my pocket.
We came around a curve and made our second trip through the neighborhood.
“Twenty years together,” I said. I remembered when I first felt met Tom, and I definitely didn’t feel like I’d aged enough for that memory to be two decades old. “Wow.”
We drove by the cluster of evergreen trees at the edge of my property. “And that’s where it all began,” I said, grinning at Tom.
“Oh yes,” Tom said. “The infamous kiss by the trees. The truth has become legend, I suppose.”
“Ann loves that story,” I said.
“Everyone does,” Tom said. He revved the engine and we shot down the straightaway. “But I’ve heard we’re not the only couple that took advantage of the cover of those trees.”
I coughed to cover up my surprise. I didn’t think anyone knew about that. “Well that was a long time ago,” I said. “I wouldn’t remember anything about that.”
“Oh sure, sure,” Tom said, slowing the car down for the last curve. “Maybe you’ll remember something about it when you get to the last item on that list of yours.”
He brought the Corvette into the driveway.
“Thanks for letting me drive,” Tom said, handing me the keys. “It was exhilarating.”
Inside, Ann and Keri had finished their sandwiches and were in the kitchen, cleaning up from our lunch.