Dominique and I had returned to our room to get ourselves ready for the reunion dinner at the college. The hotel we were staying at was within five minutes of the campus, so it was selected for our party. Arrangements had been made for a shuttle bus to take everyone to campus at 6:30 pm. Dinner was at 7:00 pm.
I found that as the time drew near, I felt increasingly jittery. I’m pretty sure I put much more effort into getting ready than I usually would for an evening out, although consciously, I denied this. We’d been told the dinner was a semi-formal one. I had packed a classic black cocktail dress and heels. After dressing, I pulled my long, dark hair into a sleek pony tail.
Dominique took even longer than I did to get ready, but it had more to do with a lengthy phone call with Paul than primping. He had questions for her, as he was taking care of the kids in her absence. I got tired of waiting and stepped out into the hall.
I could hear more activity now in our wing of the hotel, signaling that more people from our party had arrived. I had mixed feelings then, unsure if I were more nervous or excited to see these people in person after five years. Even though many of us kept up with each other on social media, I was aware of how little I really knew of their lives.
Mark strolled toward me from the other end of the hall. As he approached, I could smell his cologne. “How have you been?” he asked, smiling. He pulled me into a friendly embrace. With my heels, we were of equal height.
“Great,” I said, returning his smile. I gave him a quick once over. “Sharp suit.”
He looked down at himself. “Yeah. I guess Westchester lawyers don’t usually wear old t-shirts and torn up jeans.”
I laughed. “Oh no? Where’s that awful beanie you used to wear? They didn’t make you get rid of that too, did they?”
Mark smiled. “How’s editing?”
I shrugged. “It suits me fine, and I like the city.”
We strolled down the hall together.
“Where’s Dominique? Aren’t you two sharing a room?” he asked.
“She’s on the phone with Paul. Are you sharing a room with anyone?”
“No. I didn’t want to get stuck with a snorer. Richard wanted his own room too,” he explained.
Mark was one of the first friends I made on campus. He and Richard had been roommates during freshmen year, and each subsequent year at Lloyd Hastings. Since my friendship with Mark had always been platonic, it didn’t take long for me to begin noticing his tall, dark-haired roommate.
“Is Richard here yet?” I asked.
“He’s on his way. He got caught in traffic.”
We were both silent for a moment.
Mark had known about my interest in Richard, but he never said much to me about it. I felt like he used to try not to notice, even when I brought it up to him in conversation. In fact, it had always been somewhat of an awkward topic between us, although I was never exactly sure why. Dominique was convinced that Mark had feelings for me. I really couldn’t tell.
“The bus is probably leaving soon,” Mark said as we made our way toward the lobby.
We were met by a bit of a crowd. I scanned the room briefly, noting who had arrived and taking an interest in the way these people had changed in five years. Mark was greeting and shaking hands with some of his old buddies. I sort of smiled and nodded to those I knew well enough to acknowledge.
It wasn’t long before we boarded the bus and were on our way to the college campus for dinner. I sat next to Dominique, but my seat was by the window. Dominique was half in the aisle as she laughed and chatted with other people. It was noisy. I decided to wait until we got to the campus before trying to have a real conversation.
We pulled up to the university and some people cheered. I’ll admit I wasn’t one of them. Somehow being there just didn’t seem so exciting, and I sort of wished I’d skipped the reunion altogether. The whole thing was really just an excuse to relive “the good old days.”
We’d taken two buses from the hotel and it took a while for everyone to get off and gather in the courtyard.
We moved into the banquet hall. Little had changed really, so far as I could tell. They’d done a nice job of setting the place up with big, round tables and a rather fancy motif. I appreciated that whoever had decorated the place had gone less high school prom and more sophisticated; soft candle light glowed around the room and the muted color scheme managed to tastefully incorporate the university’s deep purple. Even the music playing was more than mere throwback songs or trashy trend music. It was rather impressive. I began to have hope that the evening might even be a little pleasant.
My eyes drifted around the room as I sought other familiar faces.
Then I saw Richard.
He stood not far away, talking and laughing with several other people. From where I stood, he didn’t notice me. I grabbed a glass of wine from the table beside me and took a gulp. I told myself after each successive sip that I’d approach him, until I finished the glass and was still standing in the same spot.
Before I knew it, it was time to be seated for dinner. I still hadn’t spoken to Richard, as he sat way across the room, surrounded by his friends from college. I ended up at a table with Dominique and several others she had known better than I. We ate salmon, drank wine, and reminisced. I began to enjoy it a little more after a while. Some people started to dance.
“Let’s hit the ladies room,” Dominique said to me after we’d eaten dinner.
As we stood to our feet, I suddenly became aware of the amount of wine I’d consumed. We wove our way carefully through the tables as we headed toward the ladies room. Richard noticed me when we passed his table. His eyes followed me for a moment, and then he went back to his conversation.
“Have you talked to him yet?” Dominique asked from inside the stall.
“No,” I answered. “I haven’t had the chance yet.”
Dominique didn’t reply. I heard a flush and the stall door opened. She ran the water. “I’d say you should just enjoy yourself and stay away, but I know it won’t happen.”
“He already saw me before we went to the bathroom,” I told her.
He’s going to seek me out now.
It had always been that way with Richard. The less interest I showed, the more he did. But as soon as I started to bite again, he backed off and I was left to scratch my head and wonder what I’d done wrong this time. It was maddening.
“Just be careful around him. He’s engaged now.”
“Yeah. I haven’t forgotten,” I assured her.
Somehow the music sounded louder once we re-entered the room. More people were dancing. Dominique headed straight for the dance floor where she joined the other ladies from our table. I hung back and watched Mark interact with Claire Friedman. She was still as attractive and sweet looking as she had been five years ago. Mark was standing rather close to her so he could be heard and was making her laugh about something.
From the corner of my eye, I saw someone tall and dark approaching. I knew it was Richard, even without turning. I kept my attention fixed on Mark and allowed my eyes to wander about the room. But I pretended I didn’t see Richard coming.
“Samantha. I thought I saw you earlier,” he greeted me.
I smiled. “Hi Richard.”
He slipped an arm around me and gave me a squeeze. I came up to his shoulder, even with the heels.
“Some event, huh? I’m sure you’re loving it so far.” He grinned at me.
I grinned back and rolled my eyes.
Richard always seemed to know what I was thinking.
“Caught up with everyone already?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I’ve been around the room several times,” I quipped. “I was saving you for last, naturally.”
He laughed and shook his head. “Still as anti-social as ever. You look good. The publishing world must be treating you well.” His tone was cordial and warm, as if he’d forgotten we hadn’t spoken in nearly five years. I expected nothing less.
“I hear you’re engaged. Congratulations,” I said.
What followed was an almost painfully banal conversation about the mundane details of our lives. Naturally, there was little mention of the past, aside from typical reminiscing.
After a little while, we parted, and I returned to my empty table to observe people. Some coffee cups and cake had been distributed. I nibbled on the dessert and helped myself to the hot beverage. My eyes drifted around the room.
Mark made his way over to me and sat beside me.
“Enjoying yourself?” he asked.
I sighed. “Is it over yet?” I gave him a mock, pleading look.
“There’s plenty more on the agenda this weekend. You’re bound to have fun at some point.” He laughed.
“I spoke to Richard,” I told him. “He seems to be doing well.”
“Most of the people here are,” Mark commented. “But I guess our class was always full of ambition. That’s why we had so many troublemakers.”
He’d removed his suit jacket so that he was wearing just the vest. I decided then that Mark had nice taste in clothing.
“You know there’s going to be a scavenger hunt tomorrow night,” he informed me.
“You’re kidding. That wasn’t on the agenda they sent us,” I said, a little baffled.
“I’m not sure who set it up, but the news has been circulating. People are already getting excited about it.”
We let a couple of minutes pass in silence as we finished our dessert and coffee.
“Mark, do you remember Hector Reyes?” I asked suddenly.
Mark thought for a moment. “The guy who overdosed? Wasn’t he dating Dominique?”
“Did you see the memorial table they set up for him?” Mark asked.
“Where is it?”
We got up and Mark walked me to a corner of the room with a small table. Some candles were burning and a photo of Hector in a frame was sitting in the middle. Someone had brought other photos of him and people had written messages in a journal-type book.
As I began reading through some of the messages, I was reminded of how many people knew and liked Hector. He could be a bit rough around the edges, but the general feeling was that he had a good heart.
“A lot of people signed the book,” Mark commented quietly. “I never spent much time with Hector, but he seemed to know everyone.”
As Mark spoke, I continued to peruse the pages of the journal, carefully reading through each entry. Most of the messages contained similar sentiments, about how much Hector was loved and missed. And then I saw one that struck me as especially unusual. It was scrawled in a rather sloppy manner, yet that wasn’t what had caught my eye. It was the nature of the note, and it was unsigned. It read: “I will avenge you.”