This story is for the 4th Anniversary Blog Hope of Friday Flash.org Congrats making it this far and hope we’ll all be around for many years to come.
Thirty years had passed and it hadn’t seemed like anything. Patrick shook his drink gently, loosening the ice cubes from their fragile grip on one another, and watched his high school classmates try to boogie down to a wannabe KC and his not-very-sunshiny band.
Letitia Graham was heading his way with a determined look on her slightly horsey face and he sidled through a group of former jocks whose waistbands had expanded and whose hairlines had definitely contracted. He caught a couple of glares, but they subsided as he muttered “Letitia” out of the side of his mouth and gestured slightly in her direction. One of them, whom Patrick dimly recalled as one of his schooldays tormentors, replied with a sardonic “Good luck. You’ll need it.”
Fortunately for Patrick, a caterer opened the side door to bring in more ice and he made his escape as the door swung shut behind him.
Why the hell did I even come here tonight? The fireflies flirted with one another as he walked around the back of the building, kicking at stones, the drink in his hand of no more interest. He tossed the plastic glass in the dumpster and walked out to a stand of trees that he was pretty sure had been saplings in his day. Patrick leaned his head back and looked at what few stars were visible above the parking lot arc lighting.
It wasn’t as though I had a lot of friends here, or anything. And the few I did … Of the tiny group of people who were willing to be seen with a scrawny, bucktoothed, coke-bottom-glasses boy, one, Mike Dotrice, had died in a car accident three days after graduation, and another, Andy Soames, had gone into the military and Patrick lost complete touch with him. He’d heard a rumor that Andy’d gone down in a “training accident” (he’d always thought of it that way, with quotes around it), but he didn’t know the truth of that and he found himself without the emotional energy to care enough to find out.
These days, he was no longer scrawny, thanks to the gym, adult braces had taken care of the buck teeth and LASIK the glasses, but he was no more popular than he’d been back then. Long ago, Patrick decided that there was something about him that people didn’t seem to like in the long run. At first, they’d seem to be okay with him. After a while, though, calls weren’t returned, and people never seemed to be available for dinners or movies or ball games. He’d never understood why and it wasn’t the sort of thing you asked someone unless you wanted to sound really needy.
Of course, his luck with women was no different. Patrick snorted. Luck? What luck? Even Lily … ah, Lily. She was the female member of their little band, tiny, shy, not really ugly, but without the confidence or desire, really, to do all the expected things with dress and makeup to make herself stand out. He was sure, also, that had anyone known she existed, they’d have felt she was far too intelligent. She was quietly at the top of their class and Patrick remembered with amusement the bewilderment of many when Lily had been announced as Valedictorian. Other than her teachers and their little gang, he’d have bet most of his classmates had no idea she’d even attended school with them for twelve years.
He spun about abruptly. There she stood, as if his thoughts had conjured her.
“Lily?” Patrick stepped forward and touched her shoulder hesitantly, as if he expected her to vanish into the late summer twilight.
“Yes, Patrick, it’s me.” She smiled at him, glossy hair catching the last glints of the setting sun, wearing a minimum of makeup and not needing more. She wore a softly purple dress than he guessed probably cost more than it looked like – he was no expert on women’s clothes, but quality was quality and he could recognize that.
“You look great, Lily.”
“Thanks. I almost didn’t recognize you.”
“Yep. Those last-minute growth spurts …” He laughed awkwardly. “So where did you go off to? I seem to remember something about MIT.”
“No, I wound up studying engineering at Akron U, believe it or not. I lost a scholarship and it all just came apart for me.” Her eyes met his, the small smile still on her face. “Then a group of us designed a microcomponent that one of the majors couldn’t live without when they built their computers and it all took off.”
“Wow.” He shook his head. “Sorry – that’s not much of a reaction – I’m just stunned, although I guess I shouldn’t be. You were always the smartest person I knew.”
“It’s all right. We wound up selling the company and moving on.”
“You did well for yourself. I’m glad.”
She nodded silently.
“Hey –“ Patrick was feeling awkward again. “How about we blow this pop stand and go get some coffee or something. We’ve got 30 years to fill in the blanks on.” He reached out tentatively and brushed a strand of hair from her shoulder.
Lily paused. “Patrick – I don’t know. I have a partner – Angie.”
“Does that mean you don’t drink coffee?” He managed to sound both puzzled and amused.
She grinned and shook her head. “No. I just didn’t want there to be any misunderstandings between us.”
“Sure. I get that. But to be honest, what I need – what I need to BE – more than anything else, is a good friend.”
“Good.” They shared a companionable silence and then walked on.