Invisible. That’s what she was. Nothing is what they would see if they looked her way. There was nothing striking or noticeable about her, at least not in a good way. While her peers would be coupled up in between classes and spending their lunch time with their love interests, she would be under a tree, alone with her best friend, a book.
While her sister would be going out on dates with this guy or that, she would be loading the dryer with the week’s laundry. No guy would ask her out because none would speak to her. She wasn’t like the other girl at school. Flat-chested with no hips and adolescent acne atop, she felt she had the perfect recipe to be an outsider. Even her parents became concerned asking when she would bring a young fellow home for them to meet. Never, at this rate!
She pushed the door open and made her way into the auditorium. The whispers and stares began. They slinted their eyes and covered mouths as if she didn’t already know what they were thinking.
Apparently her plan to return to her high school reunion as the most successful was not the only think she achieved. She was also the most attractive woman in the room and no one could deny it. Not even the married old football captain beside his wife of 6 years or her former principal could deny it. The women began to slap their husbands and dates as she made her way to the punch bowl and men cleared their throats.
“Hello,” he said after clearing his throat. “You, um, you, you look amazing.”
“Thank you” she politely responded, taking keen note of the pale ring imprint he so desperately tried to hide.
The punch bowl was the first logical stop since she came alone and had no friends in the room. Not one. She turned to give her attention to the person on the microphone and there he was. Standing a striking 6ft 9”, just as easy on the eyes as he was in high school, Mark Townsend. It was rumoured that after college he came home and took over his father’s little catering business and did nothing with that fancy degree he said he would get.
Her stomach turned. If she disliked no one in the room, she disliked Mark Townsend. He made it his duty to let her know for 5 whole years that she was a nobody and never would be a somebody. She couldn’t sit with the cool kids, not that she wanted to. But while they partied and had fun, she studied.
“I apologise for staring,” said a pot-bellied man, “but I just had to let you know that you are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”
“That’s so kind of you to say,” she replied
After his boring speech about Brown Memorial High laying some foundation or the other that affected lives in some part of the world and something about some change somewhere, he descended from the platform. After shaking a few hands and exchanging some ‘how’ve you been?’s he wove through the crowd to the punch bowl.
Still standing there, sort of like a wall flower but an attention grabbing wall flower, she didn’t even make eye contact with him. Mark took this as confirmation that she must still not know who he was after all this time. No worries, they were on level ground because he didn’t know who she was.
“Are you enjoying yourself?”
“As much as can be expected at events like these.” Thus began the awkward silence as they sipped on their cups of red liquid that had anything but punch.
“What’s life been like for you since grad?”, Mark asked not wanting to show his ignorance to her identity.
“It’s been great, thanks. I never really lived till I left these walls.”
“I feel the same. College opened my eyes to the world out there. Still so much I want to do and places I want to go, you know? It’s just that circumstances aren’t in my favour right now.”
She nodded, remembering her mother’s words ‘if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing’.
“What do you do now?” Mark asked, moving forward with his plan.
“I consult for James & Crinchlow law firm and I have my own businesses upstate. When I do have the time I speak at conferences around the world that the CEO of Wells Fargo is invited to but cannot attend.”
“Wow, that’s a lot.” Mark stated. Baffled by her success. “Leaves no time for a personal life huh? I noticed no ring.”
“My personal life is quite fine, thank you.” She politely responded, thinking of her wonderful man back home preparing a candlelit dinner for no particular reason.
“How about the punch?” Mark asked to break the silence.
“Its good. Better that what the cafeteria served.”
Mark chuckled. “So you did attend this school!”
“Would I be here if I hadn’t?”
“I’ve been trying to place your face but I can’t seem to. How about we go to the diner on the corner where we can sit and get to know each other a little more?”
She turned to him with a surprised face. “You really don’t remember me?”
“Uh, I’m sorry. I really don’t. Care to remind me over a drink?”
She turned to look him square in the face and said “9th Grade Talent Show, you booed me off stage and called me a Freak of Nature. Lunch time 8th grade you made sure there was no table for me to sit at and have lunch. Gym class you made fun of me saying that a boy like me shouldn’t be over on the girls’ side. Every valentine’s day you pointed out that I was the only undesirable girl in the whole school! Grace Dean- flat chested, acne ridden outsider? Remember me?”
Mark just stood in shock with his mouth open. Grace Dean was standing before him and he could kick himself in the ass for not seeing this woman before.
“Oh, and here’s your drink.” Grace threw the remainder of her punch in his face and walked through the door. It might have been years later but it felt just as good as it would have if she had done it at grad ball.