General Disclaimer: Our Reunion is copyrighted by Jenah (September 1999). No part of this story may be used elsewhere without written permission from the author. It may not be altered in any way and this copyright information must appear with this work at all times.
Violence Disclaimer: This is essentially a non-violent story. There is enough violence in the real world already.
Love/Sex Warning/Disclaimer: Our Reunion depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age, or if this type of story is illegal where you live, please do not read it.
Age Disclaimer: Sam and Tina are around 40 years of age. If the thought of a few wrinkles, gray hairs, and extra pounds on the dynamic duo bothers you, you’d better skip it. However, if you are in the aforementioned age group, and have wondered why the main characters in fan fiction stories are always two super buff 20/30 year olds with nary a wrinkle or spare pound, this story is for you!
Music Disclaimer: All music references are used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended. Original lyrics appearing in this story belong to me.
Ring Ding Disclaimer: Now we get to the important stuff. Depending on where you live, Ring Dings may also be called Ding Dongs. Who comes up with these names anyway? In any event, they are chocolaty delicious but deadly to the waistline.
Author’s Note: Thanks to my beta readers, Gin and Beth, for their help and support.
This is my first attempt at writing any kind of story. Constructive feedback is welcomed.
Samantha turned into the parking lot of the Hyatt Regency, looking for a space as close as possible to the front door. Fortunately, someone was just leaving. Must be my lucky night, she thought as she pulled her Toyota Rav 4 into the prime spot. She went behind the vehicle, opened the tailgate, and removed two instrument cases. Lugging her guitar and saxophone into the lobby, the musician followed the signs to the ballroom. The place was a madhouse of activity and Sam moved carefully to the stage, trying not to get in the way of the numerous hotel personnel who were bustling about, making final preparations for the party.
“Hi, Lisa.” She smiled at the woman standing at the keyboard.
“Hi, Sis.” Several phrases of electric piano music filled the room. “How’s it sound?”
“Great!” Sam climbed onto the raised platform, exchanging pleasantries with her band mates as she unpacked and tuned her instruments.
“I’ll be right back.” Lisa stepped down from the stage. “I’m going to get my nametag.”
With a leap, Sam landed next to her sister. “I’ll go with you.”
The women strolled toward the lobby.
“So, how do you feel about playing at your 25th high school reunion?” Sam asked.
“Aw, c’mon.” Sam poked her with an elbow. “You’re not THAT old.”
“Easy for you to say.” Lisa returned the jab. “I’ll always be older than you!”
“But wouldn’t you rather just be a guest? I mean… it’s your reunion!”
“Nah, I doubt I would’ve come if it weren’t for the fact the band is playing. You’re the one who’s been to all your reunions. You should feel right at home tonight.”
“But this time I get to see YOUR classmates. That’s even better!” Sam teased. “Hey, did you talk Mike into coming?”
“Yeah. I promised to point out a few people I’ve told him stories about from my high school days.”
At the registration table, the volunteer had just finished arranging the nametags in alphabetical order. He saw his former classmate and smiled. “Lisa, how are you? I’m glad we were able to get your band tonight…”
While Lisa talked with her friend, Sam perused the nametags. As she picked up her sister’s, one near it caught her eye. Christina Mellekas? She’s going to be here? I remember…
“May I PLEASE have my nametag?”
“Oh! Yes.” Sam handed over the item. “Guess what?” she whispered as they walked back to the ballroom. “Tina Mellekas is going to be here.”
“Really?” Lisa whispered in reply. “Is that a secret?”
“Why are we whispering then?”
Sam spoke slightly louder. “Will you introduce me to her?”
“Me? I hardly know her myself!”
“She was on the track team with you, wasn’t she?” Sam asked, though she already knew the answer. Tina had been the star of the team.
“We were more like acquaintances.” Narrowing her eyes, Lisa looked at her sister suspiciously. “Why this sudden interest in meeting Tina? No one has seen her in years.”
“I don’t know… but if she does come, will you introduce me?”
“Alright.” Lisa conceded, knowing Sam wouldn’t give up until she agreed.
Lisa held up her hand with her pinky finger crooked. “Pinky swear.”
Grinning in victory, Sam locked her baby finger around her sister’s. They’d never reneged on a pinky swear in their lives.
Returning to the ballroom, they joined Robbie, Kyle, and Bryan for a sound check before they finalized the song list for the sets.
Lisa looked at the wall clock. “We have about half an hour before we start, so let’s take a break till then.”
“I’m going to go outside and get some fresh air,” Sam informed her sister. “Want to join me?”
“Nah. I’ll stay here and say hi to the early arrivals.”
“Okay.” Sam wandered back to the lobby. Exiting through a door that led to the rear of the hotel, she went outside, happy to discover a large garden area with benches. She sat down and inhaled the fragrant air. Whatever kind of flowers those are, they sure smell good. Tucking one leg beneath her, she thought back to the spring of her freshman year in high school.
Because she had to wait for Lisa to give her a ride home, Sam was at track practice every day. She would go to the top row of the bleachers, sit in the farthest corner, and open her books to study. However, not much studying actually got done. Oh, she had good intentions and usually accomplished about 10 minutes of work before the boys and girls started coming out of the locker rooms. Then, as the books lay open on her lap, her gaze invariably went to the track. From her vantage point, she had an ideal view of the whole field.
Tina Mellekas was, by far, the best athlete on the team. She was always so focused, repeating her events as many times as it took to perfect her form. And some form it was. Sam smiled at the memory. Long and lean, jet-black hair pulled back into a ponytail and her face serious in concentration, Tina practiced diligently.
The only person Sam had ever seen crack Tina’s solemn demeanor was her brother, Steven. It was obvious to everyone that the funny, outgoing sophomore idolized his big sister. Steven was on the boys’ track team and he was trying hard to be as proficient at it as his sibling. Every now and then he would sneak up behind Tina and say something that made the reserved girl burst into a brilliant smile. Watching from the bleachers, Sam often wondered what he had said that could cause such an amazing transformation.
The musician had always been fascinated with what made people tick and Tina Mellekas was definitely intriguing. Though, as much as she’d seen the track star practice, she’d never learned much about her.
Maybe tonight I’ll get a second chance.
Sam glanced at her watch. Uh oh… I need to get to work. Jumping up from the bench, she quickly headed back to the ballroom and, unbeknownst to her, an evening that would change her life forever.
Tina paced around the hotel room for what seemed like the hundredth time.
This was NOT a good idea.
I shouldn’t be here.
What ever possessed me to think I should come to my high school reunion?
I must have been out of my mind.
If I stay here arguing with myself much longer, the reunion will be over and I won’t have to worry about it.
Just do it, T. Sighing heavily, she left the room and slowly walked to the elevator. Staring at the aluminum door, she debated whether to press the button or bolt back to the room. At that moment, the door opened and a young couple exited. Tina looked at the empty car. Well, there’s a sign if ever there was one. I guess I’m destined to go to this reunion. Taking a deep breath, she stepped into the elevator.
Disembarking at the lobby, she heard music coming from her left and followed the sound. At the entrance of the ballroom, she stopped and leaned against the doorframe. The familiar feeling of being on the outside looking in settled over her as she surveyed the scene. The party was in full swing. Most of the attendees were dancing to music being played by a band onstage in the front of the room. What song is that? Something that was a hit on the radio when I was in school… can’t think of the name of it. She recognized many of her old classmates and chuckled to herself as she noticed they were grouped into the same cliques they had been part of in high school. Seeing a relatively unoccupied space near the back, Tina forced her feet to move. If I can just get over there and hang around for a little while, I’ll consider this a success.
“Class of ’74 RULES!” The shout from the crowd made Sam smile as she wiped the sweat from her face. The band was well into the second set now. They had begun the night with soft background music during dinner. Now they were providing dance tunes, mostly from the 70’s and early 80’s. Soon, they would be shifting into Sam’s favorites… 60’s classics. Replacing her damp towel next to her sax stand, the musician reflected on the evening thus far. She had seen quite a few people she remembered from Lisa’s class and was astonished at how different some of them looked. Most notable was the football player, Timmy Grant. He’d been an extremely popular boy in high school and a multitude of girls had had crushes on him. And here he was tonight, with a pudgy belly and practically bald! You never can tell how people are going to turn out.
Tina observed the proceedings from the back of the room. Several people had come up and talked briefly with her, but otherwise, she’d kept to herself. The noise level dropped abruptly as the song ended and the leader of the band began to make an announcement. Tina’s attention drifted to the stage. Isn’t that Lisa from the track team? Yeah… and there… the blonde guitar player… that’s her sister. Hmm… she cut her hair…
“Alright, folks,” Lisa spoke into the microphone, “we’re going to do one more and then take a short break. However, we’ll be back with lots more dance music, so don’t go away!” A cheer erupted from the audience and the band launched into a golden oldie.
Tina couldn’t believe it. Wild Thing? Memories of her brother, playing air guitar to this very song, flickered across her mind. I miss you, Steven. So many things remind me of you. Nothing’s been the same… nothing.
Sam looked out at the throng of partying alumni. Her eyes roamed beyond the dance floor to the clusters of people along the sides of the room. Then, scanning across… Oh my goodness… She missed the chord change and glimpsed at her sister. Geez, only three chords in this one… she’s going to ask how I could mess that up! When the song was over, Sam hastily put her instrument in its stand and rushed to the keyboardist. “Lisa!”
“What is it, Sam? You forgetting how to play the guitar tonight?”
“No. She’s here.”
Sam pulled Lisa close and whispered in her ear, “Tina Mellekas.”
“What is it about that woman that makes you whisper?”
“You PROMISED you’d introduce me.”
“Let me get Mike and I’ll introduce him, too. Then we’re going to get our picture taken. They have a photographer here, just like at a prom. Isn’t that great?”
“Yeah… great.” Sam nudged her sister forward. “Let’s GO.”
Lisa meandered through the crowd, eventually locating her husband. She hooked her arm through his and kissed him on the cheek. “Hey, Handsome, do you think I could get my picture taken with you? I want proof that you actually attended this shindig.”
“Are the kids over at Marie’s?”
“Yeah, I’m going to pick them up on the way home. As a matter of fact, I need to get going soon.”
Sam cleared her throat.
Lisa rolled her eyes. “Okay, but first, let’s go say hi to Tina. She was on the track team with me… but she hasn’t been around in years.” The trio moved toward the rear of the room.
“Where’s she been?” Mike asked his wife.
“Nobody really knows.”
They were almost to where Tina was standing and a fluttering in Sam’s stomach surprised her. Why in the heck am I nervous? She was the big track star in high school, but now we’re both adults.
“Hi, Tina,” Lisa said. “I don’t know if you remember me...”
“Of course I do. From the track team...”
Sam barely heard the conversation as she concentrated fully on Tina Mellekas. The tall woman was wearing a knee length, sleeveless black dress that revealed a healthy tan and physically fit body. Dark hair fell naturally over her shoulders and, even though the light was dim, Sam could see a bit of gray over her left temple. She’s going to have a shock of gray hair there soon. As the dialogue continued, the blonde examined Tina’s profile. It was exactly as she remembered, except this was MUCH better… being this close. There are probably a thousand words I could use to describe her, but it will only take three to sum it up quite nicely… drop-dead-gorgeous…
“And this is my little sister, Samantha.”
The sound of her name brought Sam out of her musing.
Tina held out her hand. “Nice to meet you.”
Sam found herself looking into the most beautiful blue eyes she’d ever seen. She managed to reach forward, grasp the offered hand and say, “N... Nice to meet you, too.”
“Well,” Lisa said, “Mike and I need to go get our picture taken. We’re glad you came tonight, Tina.”
Sam watched with dismay as the couple walked off. They’re leaving me ALONE with her? What’ll I do now?
There was an extended silence, during which Sam racked her brains to think of something... anything… to say. She saw that Tina was holding a hotel key card. Hmm… no purse… and she’s staying here at the hotel? Maybe I can ask her about that…
Tina was ready to leave. She’d been at the event less than an hour, but it was more than enough for her. Why is this girl still here? I guess I should say something. “The band is very good.”
Relieved that one of them had finally spoken, Sam responded enthusiastically. “Thanks! We have a strong following locally and a steady amount of work. We do weddings and clubs and really just about anything. My sister started the band years ago and it’s kind of evolved...” Her voice trailed off as she realized she was babbling.
Good Lord, she sure can talk! Tina couldn’t help but grin at the blonde’s exuberance.
Peeking up to see if the track star was even listening, Sam’s breath caught. The serious look on Tina’s face had given way to a small grin. Oh! She has little wrinkles around her eyes when she smiles. And those eyes… Time seemed to stand still. Sam saw pain, sorrow, guilt, and… a good heart. How she saw all that… sensed all that… she didn’t know. It was just very clear. She’s the one.
Feeling as if the younger woman was looking right inside her, Tina broke the eye contact. “I think you’re needed.”
“The band.” Tina pointed to the musicians returning to the stage.
“Oh… yes. I have to get going. Are you staying for a while?”
“No. This isn’t my kind of thing.”
Sam’s mind was racing, trying to think of what to say to give her an opportunity to see Tina again. The sound of the keyboard stopped her train of thought. She knew her sister was signaling her to return to work. “Umm… I’ve really got to go.”
“Well, don’t let me keep you.”
I’d LOVE for you to keep me. “Bye.” Sam gave a little wave and a smile before turning and jogging to the stage.
Tina made her way to the door. That one would be trouble… good thing I’m out of here on Monday. She stopped to take a final look around the room. The band had started playing a popular 60’s tune and it seemed like everybody in the place was dancing, singing, or both.
I still don’t fit in here. I shouldn’t have tried to come home.
Sam was exhausted. As usual, the third set had been the longest and she felt drained and dehydrated. She was soaked with sweat, her bangs sticking to her forehead and shirt clinging to her chest. The band members were the only ones in the ballroom now. Even the hotel personnel had finished cleaning up and left. This was always the most difficult part of the night for Sam. Instruments had to be packed, yards and yards of cords wound, and then everything had to be loaded into Robbie and Bryan's trucks. It didn’t matter how tired they all were. It was part of the job.
Lisa called out to the group, “I’m going to get us some drinks. I’ll be right back.”
While she was gone, the rest of the musicians moved the gear over to a side door where the trucks would pull up. Sitting on the amps and equipment boxes, they chatted while waiting for the bandleader.
“Here we go!” Lisa returned with a tray full of beverages. “A much-deserved drink after a hard night’s work.”
Sam accepted a bottle of water and took a big gulp to quench her thirst. “Thanks, Sis, I needed that.”
“No problem.” Lisa took a swallow of beer. “By the way, guess who I saw in the bar?”
“Would you do me a favor and take my guitar and sax home for me?”
“Suddenly feel the need for a drink from the bar, huh?”
“Well, maybe just one.” Sam felt a blush start to rise to her cheeks.
“Just be careful, okay?”
Lisa smiled as her sister dashed out of the ballroom. I saw the twinkle in your eye when you looked at her. I just hope you meant it when you said you’d be careful.
Sam entered the almost deserted bar and had no trouble spotting Tina seated at the far end.
“Good evening, Miss.” The bartender hustled over to his new customer. “What can I get for you?”
“I’ll have a Lite beer and please give the lady,” she glanced at Tina, “another of whatever she’s drinking.”
“She’s made it pretty clear she doesn’t want company.” The bartender served Sam her beer. “You sure?”
“Yeah, I’m sure.” Sam saw that Tina had changed into jeans and a white V- neck tee shirt. Can it be possible that she looks even better now than she did in that black dress? Heck, she’d look good in a burlap sack. The musician paid for the drinks, took her beer, and headed in Tina’s direction. Okay, you wanted a chance to talk her again and here it is. Now, what in the world are you going to say?
Tina was monitoring Sam’s movements in her peripheral vision. The blonde had a compact, athletic build and she walked with a spring in her step. Her hair, cut in a short, layered fashion was still moist with sweat, as was her shirt. She had a smile that lit up her face and expressive green eyes.
“Hi.” Sam sat in the empty chair next to Tina.
“So… we meet again.”
The bartender put a beer in front of Tina. “Compliments of the little lady.”
“Thanks.” The dark-haired woman nodded at Sam.
“You’re welcome. I… I wanted you to know. I think it’s great that you came to the reunion.”
“Well, you’re one of the people from Lisa’s class that I distinctly remember. I always got a ride home from school with my sister, so I used to be at track practice every day. I just wondered how you were doing.”
Tina stared at the TV above the bar and didn’t reply.
She sure isn’t making this easy. Sam decided to be more blunt. “I’d… umm… like for us to be friends.”
“Why not? Unless you seniors are still worried about being seen hanging around with freshmen.”
Tina looked at the rows of liquor bottles, her drink, the bartender, anything but the woman next to her. She’s so wholesome. I’d ruin her life in nothing flat. “I don’t think that would be a good idea. Besides, I’m leaving Monday morning anyway.”
“Are you busy tomorrow night?”
“Tomorrow night?” Tina immediately tried to think of a feasible excuse.
“Yeah, we have our big Labor Day celebration. It’s fun. All summer there are concerts at the park. On the last weekend, the orchestra performs and there’s a fireworks display. It’s REALLY cool. And, well… I’m in the orchestra, but I could pick you up and bring you to the park. You can listen to the concert and then we can watch the fireworks together. I’ll even make a picnic dinner. I…”
“Look,” Tina cut in harshly, “I’m not sure why you are doing this… we don’t even know each other.” She instantly regretted the comment when she saw the dejected look on Sam's face. Lighten up, T. You came to this reunion thinking it might be the first step in getting your life in order. And here is somebody actually making an effort to know you… maybe even become a friend. Don’t push her away.
The air conditioning in the bar kicked on and the musician shivered.
“Are you cold?”
“It’s okay. I’m fine.”
Tina regarded Sam’s damp shirt and raised an eyebrow at the visible lie. “Here.” She removed her jacket from the back of her chair. “Put this on.”
“Oh, no.” The blonde put her hands up in protest. “I’ll get it all sweaty.”
Tina stood and held out the brown suede jacket. “C’mon. A little sweat won’t hurt it. It’s the least I can do for the gracious woman who bought me a drink.”
“Well… alright.” Sam slipped her arms into the sleeves of the coat. Oh, my. This is NICE. “Thank you.”
“What time is the concert going to be?”
“It starts at 7:30, but I’d need to be there around 6:45 for the orchestra.”
“Yes… okay… I’ll go.”
The smile that brightened Sam’s face made Tina glad she’d said yes. It won’t kill me to go and if it makes her THAT happy, well… it’s worth it.
“How about I pick you up here at the hotel at about 6:30? What kind of sandwich do you want?”
“Whatever you’re having will be fine.”
The bartender came over to check on his customers. “Can I get you anything else, ladies? Last call.”
“No, thanks,” they replied in unison.
“Well, I guess I should get going.” Sam began to take off the jacket.
“Leave it on. I’ll walk you to your car.”
“That’s not necessary. I…”
Tina started striding toward the exit. “Are you coming… or not?”
Hmm… you like to get your own way. Sam had to jog to catch up with the long-legged woman. “Do you always stay up this late?” she asked as they walked through the lobby and out of the hotel.
“A lot of times, yes. I don’t sleep very well.”
“Oh.” Wonder what that’s all about. Sam stopped next to her Toyota, took off the suede coat and gave it to Tina. “Thanks for letting me wear this. I’ll pick you up tomorrow night at 6:30... right?”
“Good night, Samantha.”
The musician got into the car and Tina watched the woman drive away. She waited until the vehicle was out of sight before returning to the hotel.
Sam looked in the rearview mirror as long as she could. She could see Tina standing there until she made the turn onto the main road. Samantha… wow… I like the way she says that.
The sound of a door closing and voices in the hallway woke Tina. She rolled over and looked at the bedside clock. The large red numbers proclaimed it was 7:14. Lying back, the woman threw her arm over her eyes to block the sun that was sneaking in from around the edges of the drapes. She listened to the sounds of other hotel guests leaving their rooms, excitedly yakking about their upcoming day.
Well, I’m in no rush to get where I’m going this morning. Tina thought about her plans for the day. Plans that up until last night hadn’t included a concert and fireworks. How did I let myself get talked into that? An image of sparkling green eyes flashed across her mind. You know damn right well how you got talked into that. She didn’t exactly have to twist your arm, did she? At least the day might end better than it’s going to start.
Tina groaned as she pulled herself into a sitting position. She paused before slowly standing and performing several stretching exercises. Feeling the tightness in her back loosen a bit, she picked up the room service menu. Frowning, she straightened her arm, trying, in vain, to find the distance necessary to see the small print. You’d think they’d make these things so people could read them! Slamming the menu down on the table, the aggravated woman grabbed her backpack off the chair. Rummaging through it, she found a small case and pulled it out. Putting on her glasses, she checked the choices again. Breakfast of Champions…I may need that today… a banana and some coffee. Her decision made, Tina called in the order, put her glasses away, and went into the bathroom. I can probably take a quick shower before the food is delivered. Looking into the mirror above the sink, she inspected the crop of gray just above her temple. I can’t believe it… more gray hairs. Maybe I should color it. Geez…glasses, gray hair… you’re getting old, T… like it or not. Scowling, she undressed and stepped into the shower. It was going to be a long day.
Sam put her pillow over her head. Who in the heck is making all that noise down there? Even with the pillow muffling the sound, she heard the automatic garage door opening and someone moving around below her apartment. Finally, the door closed and it was quiet again. She tossed and turned, trying to fall back asleep, but it was impossible. Her mind was too busy reviewing the events of the night before. I need to talk to Lisa.
She heaved herself out of bed and went to the front window to see if her sister’s car was parked in the driveway. Yes! She’s home. Barefoot, and still in the tee shirt and shorts she had worn to bed, Sam went down the stairs and across the walkway to Lisa’s house. She tapped on the door and entered the kitchen. “Good morning!”
“Well, if it isn’t Ms. Sleepyhead,” Lisa remarked. “You ready for a cup of coffee?”
“So,” Lisa got two large mugs from the cupboard and filled them with piping hot liquid from the coffeemaker, “how’d it go with Tina last night?”
“She’s... umm.... very interesting.”
“She is?” Lisa grinned as she handed Sam her coffee. “Do tell.”
The sisters took their drinks and sat at the kitchen table.
“It’s hard to explain, but the main thing is… I definitely want to get to know her better.”
“Uh huh. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s beautiful, either.”
“She’s gorgeous! Her eyes are SO blue and she has this little patch of gray... and...” Sam stopped in mid-sentence as Lisa started laughing.
“You, Samantha Whitwell, have it bad. I’ve seen that look before...”
“I don’t have any lo…”
“Ah, ah, ah,” Lisa halted Sam’s objection. “Don’t try to tell me differently. I thought you were going to faint when she shook your hand last night.”
Sam felt the heat creeping up into her face. “Alright, I’m busted. But Lisa… she’s the one.”
“What do you mean?”
“Remember you told me about when you first met Michael? And how you knew he was the one you wanted to marry? You said somewhere inside it just felt… right.”
“Yes, that’s true. From the very beginning, I knew he was the man for me.”
“I got that same feeling last night. I looked into Tina’s eyes and saw... I don’t know how to say it... so much pain and conflict... but I think I’m the one who’s meant to reach out to her. It was very strange. I felt it way inside of me... deep in my heart. I’ve never felt like that before about anybody.” Sam stared down at her coffee cup. “I guess it sounds crazy, huh?”
“No, it doesn’t sound crazy. But what are you going to do about it? Have you told her you’re gay? Is she gay?”
“No, I didn’t tell her. And I have no idea if she is or not. We didn’t get much of a chance to talk.”
“Are you going to see her again?”
A big smile spread across Sam's face. “Yes. She’s going to the concert and fireworks with me tonight.”
“My goodness, you must have really turned on the Whitwell charm!”
“Hey… if it worked for you with Michael, it can work for me, too!”
They both laughed.
“What do you know about her? Will you please tell me?”
“Well, let me think…. after graduation, she went to Florida State University on a track scholarship. She came home and was working for some corporation. I’m not sure what kind of job it was. I heard she was engaged...”
“Yes. To some guy she worked with, I believe.”
“What happened?” Sam was leaning forward now, as if she could hear the words sooner that way.
“Give me a second here. I wasn’t even friends with her. Most of this is gossip from other people, so I don’t even know if it’s all true.”
“Just tell me the rest,” Sam urged.
“Around ten years ago, she was involved in a terrible automobile accident and her brother was killed. Tina was driving the car they were both in and word had it that she felt responsible for his death.”
“I heard about the accident, but I didn’t know she thought it was her fault.”
“Well… after that, she left town and I don’t think anyone has seen her since.”
“Tina must’ve been devastated when Steven died. I used to watch them goofing around at track practice. He could make her smile like nobody else could.”
“You had your eye on her back in high school, did you?”
“I just thought she was cool. I didn’t even know I liked women then... so stop that!” Sam swatted at her sister’s arm.
Lisa grabbed Sam's hand. “Please be careful. Tina has a lot of guilt... problems... whatever... who knows.”
“I can handle it.”
“Uh huh. Like you did with Sally?”
“Sally? What does she have to do with this?”
“Well, I recall being concerned about my sister dating this tattooed drummer chick. But I was told not to worry because all Sally needed was love... and understanding... and....”
“That was YEARS ago! Will I EVER live that down?”
Lisa laughed. “I doubt it.”
“This is NOT the same as Sally... or anybody else you plan on dredging up from my past.”
“Even Kim? Are you sure that’s over?”
“I’m sorry it didn’t work out, Lisa. I know she’s your friend and you think she’s perfect for me. I really do care about Kim. She’s a terrific person. I’m just not in love with her.”
“She’s still in love with you.”
“I know. There’s nothing I can do to change that. I’m hoping, in time, we’ll be friends.”
Lisa took the mugs to refill them. “All right then. You’re sure Tina is the one, huh?”
“Yes. I’m telling you, this is something special. I swear it.”
“Yeah, pinky swear.”
The sisters joined pinkies.
“I hope for your sake you’re right,” Lisa commented. “Otherwise you’re headed for a whole lot of hurt.”
“I’m sure about this,” Sam replied, remembering those troubled blue eyes. “She needs somebody, Lisa. She needs me.”
Tina pulled out of the hotel parking lot and drove through the familiar streets of her hometown. Becoming more and more anxious as she got closer to her destination, she made the final turn and saw the high school directly ahead. Entering the parking area, she stopped the car and looked at the three story, red brick building. I can do this. Her hands, resting on the steering wheel, were shaking and Tina took a couple of deep breaths, trying to prepare for the flood of memories she knew would be coming.
Pressing her foot to the gas pedal, the panic-stricken woman accelerated quickly around the school and parked at the track. She stared out the windshield at the place she had avoided for ten years. It looks the same… but things have changed so much. Picking up her backpack from the passenger seat, she got out of the car and slung the bag over her shoulder. Hesitantly, Tina took the few steps necessary to get to the fence surrounding the track and grasped the chain link with her hands. Tears filled her eyes and she fought to keep them from falling. This was the last place she and Steven had been before the accident and she could still picture the two of them happily running around the track on that fateful day. Unable to hold the tears back any longer, they silently trickled down her cheeks.
After composing herself somewhat, Tina pushed away from the fence and went through the gate. Several people were already there, either walking or jogging around the track. Ambling onto the grassy infield, she sat down. Okay. I'm here and the world didn't end. I’ll be all right. She did some stretching exercises before jogging onto the track. Starting out slowly to warm up her muscles, she made her first lap around. Then, increasing her pace, she continued to run, lap after lap, finding that it was helping to calm her. Finally, beginning to feel the fatigue in her legs, Tina picked up the pace once more, in order to push herself for the last lap. Faster and faster she went, feeling her body hold its form, imprinted from years of practice.
The other people present had stopped their exercising to watch the speedy woman. Her long, dark hair was pulled back into a ponytail that trailed behind her. Her tank top and gym shorts revealed a well-toned body working in perfect synchronization. She seemed to have limitless energy, sailing around the track again and again. She was a sight to behold.
Tina was oblivious to everything around her. Her legs were aching, but she pressed on, wanting to end at the spot where the finish line had been during high school. She lunged across the imaginary line, reduced her pace to an easy jog and, eventually, a walk. Returning to the infield, she drank liberally from her water bottle before doing her post-workout exercises.
She stayed for another half-hour, contemplating the direction her life had taken after that horrible day so long ago. It seemed like she was a completely different person now. There was the Tina from before the accident and the Tina from after the accident. She tried to reconcile in her mind that she was, indeed, both of them. I feel better now that I’ve been here, though… I'm glad I came. She collected her things and walked toward her car. Just one more stop…
Tina drove slowly through the open wrought iron gates of the cemetery. The tires made a crunching noise on the gravel road as she guided the car along the path she knew so well. After a succession of turns, she pulled over and parked. At the moment, she was the only person in this section of the cemetery. Good… I like it that way.
It was a beautiful Florida day. The sun was shining but it wasn’t too hot yet. Puffy white clouds dotted the bright blue sky and a slight breeze rustled the tree branches. Stepping into the shade of a large oak tree, Tina knelt down at her brother’s grave. “Hi, Stevie.” She kissed her fingertips and touched his name engraved in the granite.
Beloved Son and Brother
Tina often wondered if she looked at it long enough, maybe she could convince herself that it really was true. He was gone… forever. In one split second on a rain-slicked street, Steven’s life was taken and hers irreversibly changed. It was something that she’d replayed over and over in her mind. She would give anything to be able to go back and alter what had happened that day. She’d wished many a time that it was she, not Steven, who had been killed. He didn’t deserve to die. And she was to blame.
Shifting to a sitting position, Tina leaned against the headstone.
I went to the high school reunion, Stevie. Can you believe it? I must have surprised a few people with that. I was going to come to visit you anyway, so I figured, what the heck… I’ll go to the reunion, too. It was hard to be there without you. But that’s the point I guess… to start trying to live my life again. And realizing that what happened can’t be changed… you’re not ever coming back.
Tears filled Tina’s eyes. I have you in my heart, though. I carry you everywhere with me… and I always will. I know that after the accident you’d have wanted me to go on and have a happy life. It just hasn’t been that simple. But today, I promise that I’ll at least try to pull my life together. That’s what you’d want… so… I made myself go to the track today. It wasn’t easy. I almost turned around and left when I saw the school, but I knew I had to do it. I had to face that place… and the memories.
She sniffled and brushed her tears away.
Lisa Whitwell was at the reunion. You remember her, don’t you? She ran sprints and the hurdles. Her sister was there, too. I know you remember HER. A smile appeared on Tina’s face. Well, her name is Samantha and she asked me to go to a concert and fireworks display tonight. I’m not sure how it happened, but I’m going. I bet you’re finding that amusing and you’re laughing at me right now. She reminds me of you, Stevie. She’s one of those people who are so full of life, always with a twinkle in her eye. When she looks at me, though, I feel so… exposed. It’s as if she can read everything going on inside me. Honestly, that scares the hell out of me. At the same time, there’s something about her… I can’t really explain it … but I like her.
She said she wants to be my friend. I haven’t had a friend in a long time. I’m not sure I remember how.
A flock of sparrows flew from the tree above and landed in the sun-drenched grass a short distance from Tina. She remained still, resting against the headstone, feeling the sense of peace that always came over her when she sat here. She knew it was Steven. It was as if he were covering her with a blanket of love and acceptance… no matter what she had done. She watched the birds, felt the breeze, and breathed in the smells of the grass, trees and flowers.
It was extraordinary that here, in the cemetery, was where she felt the most alive.
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