is the first story about events surrounding and people
in a school reunion. Individuals, incidents and events wil
up in each of the stories.
Suzanne looked again at
the open overnight
bag on the bed. She had mixed feelings about the event tomorrow, but
David was obviously looking forward to it. After all, he’d
of hardly anything else since the e-mail arrived a month ago and
nothing else at all for the last week. His bag was already packed,
zipped up and ready to go, sitting quietly minding it’s own
business by the front door.
What to wear during the day tomorrow and for the return journey the
next day wasn’t a problem. What the hell should she wear at
“event”? The invite had said “Smart
whatever that means. It’s okay for blokes, they just stick on
trousers and a shirt and they’re sorted, but for women
oh God. If you dress too smartly, too posh, people will think you are
trying to show you’re superior. On the other hand, too
“casual” and people will think you’re a
A year ago she would have had no second thoughts about it. Her
confidence was high and she would have been relaxed in a long black
evening gown or in a sack tied with string. Where had that confidence
gone? In the end, she decided to delay the decision and squeeze three
options into the bag.
Alarm set, door locked and car loaded she climbed in the passenger seat
of David’s pride and joy, his Audi S4. David was two years
senior, so he would have left primary school twenty-two years ago, but
like all men he was still a little boy at heart. The toys were just
bigger and more expensive. It was only three months since David had
traded in the old style A4 for the new, sporty and exciting S4. She
looked across at David as he concentrated on driving through the Friday
evening traffic, and wondered why she had the feeling that given half
the chance he’d also trade her in for something more
That was one of the reasons she was dreading the weekend. In his
gabblings over the previous week David had mentioned several old
“girlfriends” as well as boys he remembered. Of
anyone from Primary School couldn’t be called a real old
girlfriend, but … Suzanne had read all the stories about
marriages and shattered relationships from when Friends Reunited came
on the scene. She realised that if David felt as unsure of their
relationship as she did at the moment, then some girl that used to have
buck teeth and a flat chest, but now had an hour glass figure and
shining blue “come to bed” eyes, might just be the
She was quiet, thoughts bouncing around her head, all the way to
David’s mother’s house where they’d stay
Sunday, but she was quite sure that David never noticed. He was his
usual talkative self, and seemed to ignore the fact that her responses
were all monosyllabic. It was late when they arrived, and
mother, Diane, greeted them, gave her a lukewarm hug and said it was
past her bedtime but there were some sandwiches for them. They snacked
and then went to their bedroom. David pulled her gently towards him,
smiled down at her, brushed a lock of her shoulder length, natural
blonde hair that had the gall to cover her face, and asked her why
she’d been so quiet. She just shrugged too busy enjoying his
around her, the taste of his lips and the welcoming stubble of his
cheek. Even the familiar smell of his deodorant reassured her.
His smile melted her, as it had done since they’d first met.
desperately wanted him. She wanted him to make slow, tender love to
her. To reassure her by his actions that he didn’t want to
her in for a more exciting model. The kiss was every kiss
ever shared – comforting, familiar, warm, tender. Nice.
“NICE! Oh my God!” she thought. “Kisses
shouldn’t be nice. They should set your heart pounding. They
should leave you short of breath. They should be anything but
comfortable. Hmm, time to change …”
She unravelled herself from his arms, and putting on her best
mischievous smirk, she suggested he go to the bathroom while she
unpacked and hung up their stuff.
“And I’ll see what interesting bedtime clothes I
With that she hung up the three outfits she’d brought
still no nearer to a decision, and when he came out of the bathroom she
went in to get ready to inject some excitement. She probably spent a
little bit longer in there than she needed, but in the end, looking at
herself in the mirror, she knew the extra few minutes had been worth
it. She looked hot! The bedroom light was off, just leaving a bedside
lamp on, and the first thing that struck her was the slow, steady
breathing of someone in a deep sleep.
In getting into bed she made as much racket as she could. She bounced
on the bed as she sat down, but all to no avail. David might as well
have been drugged. He was completely out of it.
“So much for excitement! God I must be really rubbish in the
if he can’t even stay awake for ten minutes for
muttered to herself. Her confidence was draining away. Disappointment,
mingled in with her growing fears about the way their relationship was
heading, meant she lay awake for some time before her breathing matched
David’s and she drifted off to sleep.
The sun was shining through the curtains when she woke. Realising where
she was, she reached over to David for her morning cuddle, and
hopefully a little more. But his half of the bed was empty. As Suzanne
lay there she could hear voices – David and his mum were
obviously chatting over coffee in the kitchen. She got up, but on her
dressing gown and went to join them.
David was in an animated discussion with his mum about some family
thing, and maybe that was the reason she got a minimal response to her
“Morning, sleepy boy!” accompanied by a hug and a
she poured herself coffee, she couldn’t believe it as Diane
changed the conversation to the School Reunion tonight. As if it
wasn’t bad enough that David had talked of little else for
past few weeks. Suzanne didn’t pay much attention as they
about various people who were going. Then something Diane said stopped
her in her tracks:
“I bumped into that nice Jenny Hartley the other day. The one
used to call your girlfriend. She asked if you were coming and I said
‘Of course you were’. She said that almost everyone
be there and they’d arranged for the disco to play lots of
Suzanne cut in before David could reply:
“Sorry! What did you just say?”
“I said that Jenny mentioned just about everyone was
“No, about the disco.”
“Oh yes, they’ll be playing lots of music from when
was at school.”
Suzanne looked at David. David looked back at her, obviously trying to
work out what the issue was, and when it was clear to her that he had
no idea, she continued:
“I thought it was a smart casual buffet and drinks
“Yes, it WAS”, said David,” but they
everyone this week saying that because they’d had lots of
wanting a disco, they’d changed it.”
“And you didn’t think it worth mentioning that to
And as David opened his mouth to reply, Suzanne gave him no chance and
“So that perhaps I could have put some suitable clothes and
“Don’t worry!” Suzanne was in full flow
was wondering what we’d do today. Now I know, I’m
shopping!” The “I’m” made it
quite clear that
she would not be requiring David’s company on the trip.
“I’m sorry, just slipped my mind I guess.”
“What I find astonishing is that you’ve talked
nothing else all week, and forget to mention to me the most important
thing about it! No, it’s been all Stuey, and Stinky Ian, and
Jenny and Rachel and God knows who else.”
Then the truth of the situation dawned on her. She wasn’t
mad at him over his forgetfulness; she was used to that by now. No, it
was just the whole Reunion obsession capped by his falling asleep last
night when she wanted fire and passion. She rather sheepishly
apologised, kissed him on the cheek, called him a forgetful idiot, and
“Well, I needed an excuse to buy some new glad rags and
shoes.” And breakfast continued on a slightly strained but
Suzanne got showered, dressed and agreed to meet David at lunchtime in
town. She was still miffed that David hadn’t mentioned the
change, but more concerned that it was just completely thoughtless. As
she strolled round the shops looking at what to wear, it was dawning on
her that in some ways this weekend was a kind of “make or
break” for them. She really liked David, and had enjoyed most
the eighteen months they’d been together. Since
moved in together over a year ago, they seemed to be moving steadily
and agreeably towards a more permanent, long term relationship.
But just recently the cracks had started to appear as they moved from
the new and exciting to the more routine. As she flicked through the
clothes racks – trying to decide on a dress or skirt and top,
was immersed in her thoughts:
“Is it the same for everyone? That all relationships lose
gloss, sparkle and excitement? That they change and become more routine
If that were the case, then she could see why people, men and women,
had affairs. It wasn’t because they loved their partners
just for the adrenalin, and the tight feeling in your chest of
something different and exciting.
“Is that really true? Oh God, how depressing. Maybe it was
her, and most people slipped into the subtle change of the
relationship, into the ‘comfort’ zone quite
The worrying thing was that she didn’t know what was wrong,
that it all didn’t feel quite right. But she felt determined
try her hardest to make it work; to keep their relationship alive and
vibrant. .She forced the thoughts of her and David out of her mind, and
concentrated on the task in hand. The outfit she picked had to be good.
She wanted to make an impression with David’s old friends, to
accepted by them, so that she became part of the circle and not an
outsider. So that she, Suzie, became one of them, and not
“David’s partner, whatsername?” She knew
going to have to try really hard, but not be too pushy, so the outfit
As she walked from one shop to the next she noticed a hair and beauty
salon, and on the spur of the moment, she went in. They’d had
cancellation for the afternoon, and so she booked the slot.
Clothes-wise, she finally decided on a little black dress –
you can’t really go wrong can you? This was shorter and lower
than either of the two in the wardrobe back at the flat (well, a girl
can’t have too many LBD’s, can she?), so if that
didn’t stop David’s eyes from straying then nothing
She bought some shoes with a heel an inch higher than the highest she
had. They looked brilliant, but she knew she’d pay for it in
morning! She was already starting to feel like the new, exciting model
her head had convinced her that David craved.
She met David and they had a great lunch together. Great because David
didn’t mention the reunion at all. They talked about the
that two people familiar and at ease in each other’s company
about. Halfway through, smiling, laughing together and with David
stroking her hand, she was beginning think her worries were all in her
head. David wanted to see her shopping, but she just smiled:
“Nope, your penalty for being an inconsiderate boyfriend and
forgetting to tell me is that you’ll have to wait. But I can
assure you that you won’t be disappointed.”
And with that she winked and licked her lips, making David all the more
curious and asking questions like “is it short?”
she knew David loved her legs. In the end, he realised he
wouldn’t get anything out of her and asked what they were
this afternoon. Suzanne looked at him and smiled:
“Well I don’t know what you’re doing but
not finished yet. In fact, I’d better get going!”
And with that, she gave him a peck on the cheek, thanked him for a
brilliant lunch, and said she see him about five.
“Christ! How much more shopping can a woman do?”
With a huge grin, she feigned an incredulous look.
“That’s a question you should never ask a woman.
besides, who said anything about shopping…”
She disappeared out of the bar, leaving David puzzled, and admiring her
legs … and other notable attributes as she walked
through the door. David got himself a coffee and sat and thought about
Suzie. She was everything he’d ever wanted in a woman. She
clever, funny, looks that could have got her a modelling contract if
she’d ever had the inclination, and she was sexy as hell.
But… was there a but? Nothing he could think of, so why
wasn’t he rushing to ask her to marry him? Doubts, about what
wasn’t sure, and something else. A fear. A fear that there
be something better. But right now, he couldn’t think of
“Hi, I’m Rachel, the senior stylist. What did you
Suzanne looked at her. Rachel was about her age, attractive enough,
with immaculately layered and tastefully highlighted shoulder length
dark brown hair. Unlike Suzanne’s wavy blonde hair,
Rachel’s was dead straight. But it definitely suited her.
“You know the blonde one in Girls Aloud?”
“You mean Sarah? Wow, you mean you want to do what she
“Yep, I want a new me. And I think that haircut is
– so let’s do it!”
A short while later Rachel was snipping away with a growing pile of
blonde hair around her, and amidst the usual chat about holidays, jobs
and life in general, she asked Suzanne if the haircut was for anything
“Just to surprise my boyfriend really. I think he’s
for a new model, so I thought I’d change my looks to save him
trouble of looking. What about you? Married?”
“My divorce is just about to come through.”
“Sorry to hear that.” There was genuine sympathy in
“Don’t be. He was a dick head and we were just too
I’ve got a five year old, so it makes getting out difficult,
I’m going out with some old friends tonight, and
high hopes. Yeah, there’s a guy I used to know. Not seen him
years … so you never know.”
“Well, good luck. I think your hair is gorgeous, and you
wouldn’t know you’re a mum. I don’t see
how you can
fail. I hope it goes well.”
They chatted on until Rachel announced that was it! Finished. Suzanne
almost didn’t recognise herself in the mirror. It had been
fifteen years almost, back when she was competing at gymnastics, that
her hair was last this short.
“Well Rachel, what do you think? Honestly.”
“Honestly? Forget a tip, I think I’m so proud of
it looks I’d do it for free if the salon were mine. I love
and your boyfriend will too.”
“For that, you’ll definitely get a tip.”
She paid up, thanked Rachel again, and set off to face the moment of
truth with David. His mum answered the door and, not recognising her
straight away, started to ask what she wanted. Then the jaw dropped,
and she uttered a non committal:
“Goodness, that’s a change!”
Pleased with the effect, if not the comment, Suzie headed for the
living room, where she could hear the drone of the football results.
David said “Hi” without looking up as she plonked
down in the chair across from him.
“How was shopping mark two?” he queried still
the Championship results, then he looked up. Double take.
Suzie just smiled a questioning smile.
“That looks bloody fantastic! My God, it’s like
got a new girlfriend!”
“Yeessss” was all that Suzie could think. She
punch the air. Success.
“Well, how about a hug and a first kiss for you new
David said something about knowing what he’d rather do, but
mum might interrupt them.
“What time are we leaving?”
“About half seven,” David still hadn’t
taken his eyes
off her hair, and kept touching it.
“Easy tiger. You wouldn’t do that if you knew how
cost. Right, that’s two hours – I’m off
David was about to protest that two hours was ages even for her, but in
the end just shook his head and smiled. In the event, she was ready at
seven thirty-five and David had been lying on the bed for ten minutes
watching her put the finishing touches to her make-up.
“Right, I think that’ll do,” she
“It’ll more than do, you look absolutely
She came close to him and whispered he looked pretty good too, and he
suggested – only half in jest – that maybe they
“If you think I’ve just spent two hours making sure
this good, so you don’t run off with any of your old
only to have you rip off my clothes and mess my hair in a torrid hour
of sex, then … hey, sounds good to me.”
He kissed her softly, smiled and said:
“Come on new girlfriend, let’s go boogie!”
There was already a decent crowd when they arrived. The thing that
struck Suzie immediately was the variety of shapes and sizes of men and
women. It was hard to believe that all these people were roughly the
same age. Some still looked in their early twenties, whilst a couple
looked almost old enough to be her parents.
“Well”, came a sultry voice from near the door.
David turned to see a leggy blonde with an hourglass figure just about
covered by a green dress.
“I don’t need to ask who you are. Hello
put her arm round his neck and kissed him. Lingering a bit too long for
Suzie’s taste, and thus reawakening her fears about the
David looked suitably taken aback.
“You don’t know who I am, do you? It’s
David’s jaw dropped open, Suzie could see he was picturing
as she was. Louise just smiled, and with a “we’ll
dance later”, she was gone into the crowd. David turned to
“You wouldn’t believe it but she had buck teeth and
“Err, well she was only eleven, remember,” said
shaking her head and taking his hand. It was going to be a trying
David quickly found his old best mates Stuey and Pete, and they were
all swapping stories about what had happened to each other since they
left school. David’s dad had sent him off to private school
thirteen, so they had lost touch eventually as their circles of friends
changed. Having given them both the once over, Stuey was pretty cute
really, Suzie was half listening and half looking around at the
“competition” when someone caught her eye.
The girl, well woman really, had her back to Suzie but the brown,
highlighted hair was unmistakable. She let go of David’s hand
“Hello Rachel,” she smirked.
The hairdresser turned with a mixed look of surprise and delight.
“Christ! What are you doing here? You weren’t in my
class.” A pause, then:
“You look absolutely sensational. I love that dress,
gorgeous. Where did you get it?”
“No I wasn’t in your class, but my boyfriend
“Oh, who’s your boyfriend? … no, let me
guess.” And she started to scan the room. Suzie joined in:
“Okay, and I’ll try and guess which old flame
got your eye on…”
Having looked around there seemed to be quite a few couples. A few
single women in a group over there. One of them must have been the
sister of the woman next her. They were almost identical, and pretty
good looking. A group of guys near them, probably other halves; nobody
likely looking there. She looked at the bar. There was one guy by
himself there. He has quite burly, and already looked the worse for
wear. No, Rachel would have better taste than that. After due
consideration, Suzie decided it was Stuey, and was just about to say so
when Rachel announced:
“Stu, he’s pretty good looking. Yeah, Stuart Kemp
“I was going to say it was Stu you were after.”
“Oh no, I ….” And Rachel let it tail
off, then she
started to giggle. “Don’t tell me! You’re
Suzie looked sheepish and mouthed a “sorry”. Rachel
“Well you’ve got something in common.
You’ve both got
great taste! I just want a nice bloke, who loves kids, and will bring a
bit of romance into my life. And it would help if he was the opposite
of my ex husband – you know, not a drunk and great in
“If I find one I’ll let you know.”
They talked for a few minutes and David came bouncing over.
“Rache! God you look great!”
He gave her a huge hug and she said a smothered “Hello Dave,
you like you new girlfriend’s hair?”
David let her go with a puzzled look:
“Yeah, I think it’s absolutely
Rachel, or Rache as everyone seemed to call her, took a bow.
“You cut it?” David raised his eyebrows, and Rachel
“In that case, you deserve an extra hug!”
They’d been talking for a few minutes when another woman
them, Jenny Hartley that David’s mum had mentioned.
pretty but slightly overweight”, was Suzie’s
instantly she felt guilty at being catty.
David dragged her off to go and meet a man in his late forties
Mr Wright. The year 6 teacher. As they walked over David mentioned that
twenty years ago this was his second post, and all the girls had
crushes on him. He could play the guitar, and was funny as well as
being a great teacher. He even kept giving music lessons to some of
them after they’d gone to secondary school.
Suzie expected someone much more outgoing from the description. But all
the time they talked he seemed distracted. Kept glancing round and
looked very nervous. Suzie watched him while David talked and she
realised he kept glancing at the group she’d noticed earlier,
whilst trying to spot Rachel’s long lost love.
She met more people whose names she knew she’d not remember.
David was with her most of the time, and Suzie was pleased that he was
the one holding on to her and not vice versa. But every so often, and
it seemed increasingly frequently, he was getting dragged off to
“come and meet so and so.” So more and more she was
starting to be left to her own devices. But whereas twenty four hours
ago she would have been increasingly worried about it, she was actually
feeling quite close to David, and increasingly confident in herself.
She wandered over to the buffet and found herself standing next to a
real hunk. If David hadn’t been on the scene this guy would
been in trouble. She waited for him to break the ice, and when he
remained silent she decided that maybe she wasn’t as
as David thought she was – or maybe the guy was gay. Anyway,
took the plunge and started a conversation with a comment about curried
chicken not being ideal for a disco if you had plans to get
close and personal”. He just laughed and uttered an
should be so lucky”.
She asked him why he wasn’t mixing in with his old school
“Probably the same reason you’re not. I’m
not one of
them – I’m with one of them.”
“Oh, boyfriend? Husband? Which girl?”
“To be honest, I only met her last weekend, and I think she
invited me because she didn’t want to be seen without a bloke
tow. That’s her, Louise, in the green dress. I’m
Suzie introduced herself, and said she thought that Louise was really
hot, and that Andy was a lucky guy. Then she asked him how
“Blind date. I split from my girlfriend a few weeks back,
we’d been going out for five years. I asked her to marry me
could have kids and ... poof … she left in a cloud of dust.
Anyway, Adam my mate and his girlfriend got me to go out to make up a
foursome with Louise. She wants a good time, and I want …
someone a bit steadier. Know what I mean? Don’t get me wrong,
I’m far from boring, but I’ve just kinda grown out
getting trolleyed every weekend.”
Suzie listened and interjected with questions, and jokes about
ex’s. She got to like Andy, and he was right. He
boring, he was witty, and funny. And he was definitely cute. But he was
also still very bruised from his recent break up. She looked at him:
“Wait here. Don’t move. Okay?” She handed
plate of frankly unappetising finger food and headed off to the other
side of the room. The person she was looking for was with a group of
people that included the two sisters. Up close, she realised the
younger one must still be a teenager. But God, were they alike? She
grabbed Rachel, winked and said:
“Follow me. I told you I’d let you know if I found
Suzie dragged Rachel over to where a confused looking Andy was standing
with two plates.
“Rachel, Andy. Andy, Rachel. I’ll take this
saying, Suzie grabbed her plate and left them both looking embarrassed
and lost for words.
She hunted round and found David back with Stu, Ian, Jenny, Louise
several others whose names she had, as expected, forgotten.
“Come on you, how about a first dance with your new
They jiggled about to “Somewhere in my heart”, sang
with “Don’t you want me” and held each
other close to
“Vienna”. Suzie rested her head against
and looked across the dance floor. Just then there was a crash as a
chair went flying and a heated exchange by the door.
heads swing round to see the large, overweight guy who Suzie had seen
drinking at the bar heading out and another guy staring after him.
“What was that all about?”
“That was Dave, the other Dave in the class. Arsehole. I
kept out of his way. He was a bully. Looks like he was up to his old
tricks, I think that’s Harry, who he used to pick
Harry had picked up the chair that had fallen, and people turned back
and got on with enjoying themselves. The incident made David ponder the
evening. Meeting his old mates had made him realise something.
Something he’d somehow lost sight of … quite
his best friend was in his arms.
Suzie was smiling. She’d noticed that Rachel and Andy had
them on the floor, and she was laughing and he was smiling. Suzie
“I hope for her sake he didn’t eat the curried
the onion rings.”
David ran his fingers through her hair, it sent shivers down her spine.
Of course, that could have been the backless dress.
“I love this hair. And I love this new girlfriend. Do you
she’ll marry me?”
Suzie stopped and looked into his eyes. Twenty-four hours ago it would
have been a swift “yes”.
“Ask me again in three months. If you don’t want to
me in for new model then I’ll say
She wanted to leave and take David home to bed, but they decided to
stay a while longer. They swapped partners with Rachel and Andy, and he
soon had Suzie giggling at some silly story. Louise was dancing with
Stu, and didn’t seem to notice that Andy was enjoying himself
without her. After a few more dances, she and David said their
goodbyes. Rachel gave her a hug, whispered “thanks”
said next time, the haircut would be free! Then chatting away, arm in
arm, they headed out of the building. As they walked past the door to
the ladies, they could hear crying. Sobbing in fact. Suzie shrugged,
probably some bloke disappeared with an old girlfriend and his
wife’s just found out. She hugged David’s arm What
been so worried about?
They walked into the cool, evening air and stopped dead. The flashing
blue lights of the police car were the focus of their attention, and
that of a group of smokers. David had a vision of the group, twenty
years ago, huddled behind the bike sheds. The officers got out of the
car and went in. David looked at her:
“Shall we go back and see what’s going
“Someone probably just called them fearing that little fracas
earlier was going to kick off into a major fight. Let’s go to
Ken Orford, 2008