By Popular Demand: Reunion Continued

First of all, thank you guys for making me feel like such a rock star on a daily basis. I was so flattered to read all your comments and your petitions for more of the story. How can I say no when you’re all making your puppy dog eyes at me?? I can’t. So here is more of the story!

By the way, if you have no clue what I’m talking about, click here to read part one of “Reunion.”

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Reunion Continued
I am perched in an awkward half-crouch on the stiff white sofa and Charlie is staring at me like he’s seen a ghost. My throat feels like it’s closing up. After a minute that lasts for six years, I manage to stand, albeit while bracing myself on the arm of the couch.

“Hi,” is my dramatic opening line.

He does not respond, but covers the fifteen feet between us in three strides and wraps me up in a hug so warm it makes bubbles of joy rise up inside of me and pour out through the top of my head. His scent overwhelms me: cotton and Old Spice with a hint of sweat. I inhale it until my lungs start to protest, then exhale with a laugh.  

“I can’t believe it,” he mumbles into my hair. We break apart, and the expression on his face makes all my misgivings about finding him seem childish and irrational. He is holding me by my shoulders in much the same way my father does when I’ve been away for a while, examining me as if to remind himself of my face’s every detail. I am doing the same thing, letting my eyes rest on each of his features in turn: Perfectly straight nose. Warm brown eyes. I had forgotten how full his lips are, but there they are, sitting right in front of me, just begging to be remembered.

It is all I can do not to kiss him right then and there. Fortunately, he says something else to me before I can make an idiot of myself.

“What are you doing in New York?”

“It’s my Spring Break,” I explain, shrugging with a casualness I don’t feel.

“So you just decided you would come here? Are you with anyone else?”

“Nope. Just me.”

He pins me with a curious look, and a wave of embarrassment crashes over me. I’ve come all this way just to find him, and he’s figured it out. He obviously thought I had come here with a bunch of friends and only happened to stop by and say hello, but now I’ve made it clear I’m here by myself, with no other goal but to stalk my ex-boyfriend. No wonder he looks bemused.

The moment passes quickly, though, and Charlie recovers. He drapes his arm around my shoulders and steers me toward a hallway on the other side of the lobby. “So, would you like a tour?” he asks as we pass the desk with the window. I nod and he squeezes me into his side for a moment.

The beautiful girl in the cowl-neck sweater is watching us with a large amount of interest, and as we pass by her window, I convince myself that she is jealous. She’s probably been chasing after Charlie for months, maybe even years, but all her advances have been to no avail because Charlie is still secretly in love with me… He’s tried to let her down gently but she just can’t accept his resistance of her silky blonde hair and her toned body… And Charlie will have to explain to her that there isn’t anything between them, that there never was, and that I’ve always been his one true love….

“EAT LEMON, WHEELER!”

A small black-haired boy erupts through a door in front of us, followed by a chunky blonde boy whose face is obscured by what looks like lemon meringue pie. I peer into the room they’ve come from and see tables full of children with lunch trays in front of them. One table has bits of meringue splattered across it, and several other boys are howling in laughter. Both boys are running at top speed, but Charlie is too quick for them and wrangles them both into headlocks.

“Just a second, Madelyn,” he says with mock formality, and I nod, laughing. He drags the two squirming boys into an office across from the cafeteria where, I can only assume, they will be asked to explain themselves. I watch through the open blinds as Charlie deposits the two boys onto a small sofa and says a few words to the man sitting behind a big desk. He must be the principal because he is wearing a suit and seems to have his own secretary; sure enough, a sign on the door reads Headmaster Durkins. Headmaster, then, not principal. I was close enough.

Headmaster Durkins levels a scowl at the two boys, neither of which is looking particularly remorseful and one of which is still covered in pie. I smile to myself, wondering what in the world poor little Wheeler did to deserve a pie in the face.

Charlie and the headmaster are still talking, so I move closer to the wall by the office window and begin to examine a bulletin board full of student artwork. The movement seems to have attracted Headmaster Durkins’ attention, because I see him point at me and look questioningly at Charlie. Oh, gosh, I hope I haven’t gotten him in trouble somehow.

“So,” says a voice behind me, and I jump out of my skin. It is the beautiful blonde girl from the front office, the one I’d imagined was in love with Charlie. “How do you know Charlie?”

Her voice is sharp, almost accusing, and I bristle in defense. I want to begin my reply with, “Well, although it’s none of your business,” but I decide to skip that part and instead say, “Oh, we used to go out.”

She shifts the pile of mail she’s carrying and gives me a shameless once-over. “Really. How nice. So you’re still friends?”

“Oh, yes, absolutely,” I lie. “We’ve made it a point to keep in touch over the years. You know, it’s hard to cut someone completely out of your life after they’ve been such a big part of it.”

She smirks at me. “Madelyn, right? I don’t think I’ve ever heard Charlie talk about you, but then again I’m not with him every second of the day.” She gives me a false smile and I notice, with an irrational amount of satisfaction, that her front teeth are a bit snaggley.

“Well, you know Charlie,” I shoot back, flashing my own perfect (thanks to my orthodontist) pearly whites at her. “Never one to discuss his private life, is he?”

She frowns at me because she knows I’m right, and I feel a little buzz of satisfaction. Just then, Charlie emerges from the Headmaster’s office to find me locked in a staring contest with the girl from the front desk.

“Uh, hey, Amanda,” he says. “What are you doing? Delivering mail? You know the mailboxes got moved to the second floor last week.”

“Oh, right,” she chirps, giving the mail in her hand a confused look, as if it had appeared there of its own accord. “Don’t know what I was thinking! Guess I’m a little slow today. Well, Madelyn, it was so great to meet you! Do drop by again, won’t you?” She turns and catwalks down the hall before I can even do so much as raise my eyebrows at her.

I look at Charlie, who is watching her walk away with a strange expression on his face; before I can ask him what’s wrong, though, he’s got his arm around me again. “Sorry about that,” he says, herding me toward a staircase.

“It’s no problem. Is she okay?” I jerk my thumb back in Amanda’s direction.

“Hmm? Oh, yeah, she’ll be fine. Now, I do have to eat lunch at some point, but I generally do that in my classroom. You don’t mind sitting with me while I grab a bite, do you? I’ve only got a couple minutes left.”

“Oh,” I say with a glance at the clock above our heads. I shake my head. “No, no, I won’t keep you any longer. I just wanted to say hello.” I smile, and it’s the most painful thing I’ve ever done. “It was great to see you again, Charlie.”

I move to hug him and he envelopes me in one of his bone-melting embraces. My mind goes pleasantly blank until it realizes that this might be it. This might be all I get of Charlie. I promised myself, before I even got to the school, that I would not ask Charlie to hang out with me; if he wants to spend any more time with me, he’ll have to initiate it. So the ball is in his court. I can’t act desperate. Even though I am. 

Despite my determination, my willpower is wavering and I’m wondering if I’ll have the guts to just walk away. What if he doesn’t ask to see me again?

As the stream of students flows around us, Charlie takes my hand and we push our way into a small alcove by the bathroom. “How long are you here for?” he asks.

“Three more nights. I leave on Saturday morning.”

“So you’ll be here tonight?”

“Yes.”

He grins. “Want to grab a drink at O’Shea’s?”

I can’t help the ridiculous smile that breaks out on my face and barely manage to contain the tears of joy threatening to leak out of my eyes. O’Shea’s Pub is our place. It’s where we met. Where we fell in love. I can’t even count how many nights we spent closing that place down.

“Is that a yes?” he laughs as I try to collect myself.

I nod, then throw my arms around his neck again.

I knew I had a good reason for coming back to New York.

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9 thoughts on “By Popular Demand: Reunion Continued

  1. Piedmont Writer says:

    I am SO glad you posted the rest of this however I just know someone is lurking in the background to make this reunion not so great.

    Great work Anne, I love the line "…a minute that lasts for six years…" Fantastic!

  2. Carolina Valdez Miller says:

    Yay!!! Loved it, Anne. The tension Amanda brought into it was just wonderful. It was at that point that I thought, hmmm…cue conflict. Fab job with characterization, by the way. My teaching experience is limited, but everything felt very genuin to me, like I was right there in the school. And the boys with the lemon meringue? Haha! Charlie's handling of it (through her eyes) was just adorable. Love the perspective on that.

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