The Reunion: Chapter 3

The dinner lasted much longer than seemed necessary. Unfortunately, I was stuck on campus, since I had taken the shuttle bus over. I grew restless and found myself wandering out of the banquet hall onto the terrace. The evening was relatively warm for a spring night in Western New York.

I leaned against the terrace rail and rested my chin in my hands. There was no moon, but the sky was clear, so the stars shone especially bright that evening. I closed my eyes for a moment and recalled a random memory from my undergraduate days at Lloyd Hastings. My friends and I used to sometimes get in someone’s car on the weekends and go for a nighttime drive on a country road. We’d stop by a field and get out of the car and run through the night. Or sometimes we’d play tag or man hunt in a cornfield.

Richard came up beside me and leaned against the rail. “I haven’t thought about this place much since I left. I guess I didn’t realize how much I missed it,” he said contemplatively.

He stood rather close to me so that I could feel warmth coming from him. I was struck by how much more attractive he had become. His face had developed a manlier look and his eyes possessed more depth.

“I don’t think I’ve missed it exactly. Just the people,” I told him.

Richard nodded. “Yeah. I feel like I don’t really talk to anyone from here much anymore.” He paused and then asked, “Why don’t I ever hear from you?”

It took me a moment to process his words.

Does he seriously not understand or is he just playing dumb? 

I honestly couldn’t tell.

I decided to play dumb too, assuming that’s what was happening here. I shrugged and sipped my wine. “I’ve never been good with long distance.”

Richard laughed. “Yeah, that does fit your personality.”

I smiled. “Anyway, there’s that saying: ‘it’s a two-way street.’”

Richard nodded in agreement. “Fair enough.” He grew thoughtful for a moment before saying, “It’s just that…I didn’t know if I could contact you…after graduation.”

We stared at each other, as if analyzing our current situation and trying to convey our thoughts without saying them aloud.

I wanted him to know how much I’d agonized over the break in our friendship over the past five years – how many times I almost reached out to him – but pride prevented me from doing so.

Now, to hear that he had been uncertain all along…

Then again, he might be lying.

As much as I wanted to believe he spoke the truth, I was much too cautious to dive back in to the way it had been. In fact, I thought it impossible to re-enter the past. We had both moved on. Life had moved us on.

“Well, there’s always the present. It would be great to hear from you…” he started to say.

I gave Richard a small smile, but didn’t say anything. I knew we wouldn’t be in touch. After all, he was getting married soon.

He changed the subject. “Have you heard about the scavenger hunt tomorrow?”

I nodded. “Mark told me.”

Richard took a sip of his drink. “I’m going back in for a refill. Want anything?”

“I’m fine. Thanks.”

He strolled back into the banquet hall, leaving me to my thoughts once again.

The music inside could be heard faintly in the background, but I began to hear voices murmuring in conversation. They seemed to be coming from below the terrace. I didn’t take much notice until I heard Hector’s name.

“Hector left it here. We got it wrong the first time,” I heard a voice say.

Another voice replied, “Maybe someone else got to it by now. It’s been too long.”

The voices stopped momentarily. I held my breath and tried not to move. Something else was said that I didn’t hear, but then: “We need to find it. Maybe we have the wrong location.”

The voices moved farther off until they could no longer be heard. My heart pounded. It was evident that I had overheard something significant – something that wasn’t meant to be overheard. I spent some time meditating on what was said and who could have possibly been involved in the conversation. I thought of the strange message scrawled in Hector’s memorial journal. Unfortunately, I was so full of alcohol that my thoughts were rather vague and I had difficulty piecing anything coherent together.

I wandered back inside to find that the party seemed to be winding down. The music had ceased and everyone was milling around, using the restroom and gathering their things. It was close to midnight.

Dominique came up beside me. “They’re getting on the bus. Come on. You look a little out of it.” She took my arm and led me into the foyer. I saw Richard briefly in the crowd, but allowed Dominique to pull me away. I don’t even remember getting on the bus. Before I knew it, we were back at the hotel.

My ears were ringing when I finally settled into the quiet of my room. I felt like I was sleepwalking. Dominique was talking, but I didn’t really hear what she said.

“How did it go with Richard?” she asked.

“Fine,” I said.

I pulled off my dress and slipped into shorts and a t-shirt.

“That’s it? You don’t want to give me more details?” She was brushing her hair in the mirror. She stopped to remove her earrings.

I shrugged. “There wasn’t much to say I guess.”

Dominique nodded as she finished brushing her hair.

“I did overhear something odd thought,” I said. “It was about Hector.”

“Oh yeah? What was it?” She came around and stretched out on the bed next to mine.

“I’m not even really sure myself. Did he ever talk about hiding something on campus?”

“Like what?” She gazed at me expectantly.

“I have no idea, that’s the thing. They just said, ‘Hector left it here.’ It was weird.” I flopped onto my bed and pulled the covers up under my arms.

“Who said it?” Dominique looked like she was getting tired.

“I don’t know. But did you see the memorial journal? Someone wrote ‘I will avenge you’ on one of the pages.

Dominique let out a laugh. “Sounds like a regular mystery to me. You sure do have an active imagination. Maybe you should write books instead of editing them.”

I laughed too. “I guess. I’m also kind of drunk. Remind me we had this conversation tomorrow and I’ll decide how seriously to take myself then.”

We turned out the light. Soon after, I could hear Dominique’s slow, deep breathing. I couldn’t sleep. I really wasn’t drunk anyway. My mind was too preoccupied with the conversation I’d overheard. I thought a lot about Hector that night. Why couldn’t I remember more about him? Five years shouldn’t have felt like so long ago, but for some reason it did when I tried to recall any memory of Hector. I’d forgotten about him really. That bothered me.

After some time, I could no longer follow a consistent pattern of thought. I gave up and fell asleep.

My dreams were a jumbled mess that night. I was restless and frustrated as I searched for something I couldn’t find. I was at the banquet again, but the people were featureless and the room kept changing. I passed through hallways and rooms that didn’t seem to belong. The colors were dull and objects blurred together. Richard came up beside me and tried to tell me something I couldn’t understand. Although I tried not to lose sight of him, he did at last disappear.

Abruptly my sleep ended and I was wide-awake. The clock informed me it was much too early to venture out of bed, but my bladder begged to differ. I reluctantly dragged myself to the bathroom, my head still a bit cloudy from exhaustion and alcohol.

As I was preparing to go back to bed, I heard a shuffling noise coming from the hallway. I peeked through the eyehole in the door, but the hall appeared empty. The noise could have been any number of things naturally, but I felt rather restless and decided to go for a walk of my own.

After dressing quickly, I scribbled a quick note to Dominique in case she woke, and opened the door to the hall. There was no sound now. I meandered from hall to hall and found myself near a sort of glass atrium toward the back of the hotel. It showcased an attractive stone garden and sitting area. Two people sat serenely on one of the benches. They looked like they were praying.

I recognized the couple as Greg and Mary Platt. They had started dated each other almost as soon as they arrived at Lloyd Hastings and were known for being rather eccentrically religious. I hadn’t really spent much time getting to know them, as we socialized in different circles.

It wasn’t my intention to disturb them then, but Mary caught my eye and smiled at me. She said something to Greg and stood up, making her way to the atrium door.

“Samantha Fields?” she said softly, as she poked her head around the corner.

“Hi Mary. Sorry for disturbing you,” I replied.

She shook her head. “Not at all. Want to come in? It’s a beautiful little garden.” She motioned with her hand for me to follow her inside.

I hesitated a moment, as she looked at me expectantly. Then I followed her through the glass door.

Greg sat on the bench, scrolling on his phone.

“Greg, remember Samantha?” Greg nodded and stood to greet me. “You were in the English program, right?” she asked me.

I nodded. “And you two were…” I paused.

“Cultural Studies,” Greg finished for me.

“Right,” I said.

“We’ve been in Tibet these last few years as missionaries,” Mary explained.

They were both sort of small and tan and looked as if they lived on vegetables and granola. I could tell they didn’t have much money, based on their clothing and hair, but they seemed content. Oddly, I felt a twinge of envy when I thought about their life together.

Mary sat on the bench beside her husband and I perched on a chair nearby. The garden was quite peaceful. Water gently trickled from a small fountain in the center and various plants and rocks decorated the circular area. The sky could be seen through the glass skylight above, creating a soft aura around us.

Despite the hour, I felt very awake and suddenly conversational. “How did you enjoy the dinner last night?” I asked them.

The two of them looked at each other. Mary replied, “We didn’t stay long. We’re sort of in a different time zone right now. I guess it wasn’t really our kind of party.”

“Oh, I see. Well, you didn’t miss anything. It went on a bit long,” I told them. They both smiled and Greg chuckled. “There was a table for Hector Reyes set up in the corner. Did you see it?”

Mary nodded. “We signed the book. Hector was a good friend of ours.”

I was surprised.

“Biggest shock ever when we heard about his death,” Greg commented, shaking his head. “We knew he struggled with substance abuse, even during his time at Lloyd Hastings. But once Dominique got pregnant, he swore off narcotics. He was serious about it too.” He shook his head again.

Mary nodded sympathetically, but gave me a look, as if she wasn’t shocked by Hector’s cause of death. Then she said, “Hector was acting weird those last weeks before his death. He must have been under a lot of stress.”

“How was he acting weird?” I asked, intrigued.

“Well…” Mary hesitated, glancing at Greg.

“He wasn’t himself, that’s all. I think he was stressed about becoming a father,” Greg suggested.

Mary nodded in agreement. I thought I detected a slight sigh of relief on her part for Greg’s explanation. I really wanted to continue discussing Hector, but the two of them quickly turned the conversation to me, and my career as an editor. Their questions came almost too quickly, as if they wanted to erase any chance for me to bring up the subject of Hector again. It was baffling and rather frustrating, but I decided to let it go for now.

As soon as I could, I excused myself from the Platts and returned to my hotel room. The hour was somewhat later and Dominique was in the bathroom. My stomach had started growling.

“Samantha?” Dominique said from the bathroom. “Can you get my little purple make up bag for me?”

I found it atop her nightstand and stretched my arm into the bathroom so she could grab it.

“Thanks love,” she said. “How long have you been awake? I just got up like two minutes ago.”

“I don’t know. Almost an hour maybe. Remember the Platts?”

A pause. “The hippie couple that went to live in India?”

“Tibet. Yeah. I had a conversation with them,” I told her.

“They were pretty tight with Hector,” she said, sort of absently.

“They told me. I had no idea. One thing they said I found sort of interesting: they said Hector was acting weird before he died. What do you think about that? Was he?” I had intended to be a little less direct when asking her about it, but it all just sort of tumbled out at once. My curiosity got the better of me.

Dominique didn’t reply. I waited for a moment, until she finished fixing herself up. Then she came out of the bathroom. “Why don’t you get ready and we’ll get some breakfast. I’m too hungry to talk just yet.”

I didn’t argue. I knew she’d heard me, but maybe she needed time to think over Hector’s behavior before answering. I grabbed my things and stepped into the bathroom to take a shower.

We headed toward the dining room a little while later, but Dominique still hadn’t commented on what I’d heard about Hector. She didn’t say much of anything really.

We found a table in the corner of the dining room, after we’d selected from the breakfast buffet. I poured cream into my coffee and sipped it while Dominique spread jam on a piece of toast. We ate in silence for several minutes.

“You know, Hector was nuts toward the end,” Dominique stated, breaking the silence between us. “He used to call me crying. I could hardly understand him. Then he would call back later, screaming at me in Spanish. I thought he was losing it.” She looked into my eyes, her expression serious. “I was relieved when he died Sammy,” she practically whispered.

“You never told me this. I thought you were devastated when he died,” I said, a bit taken aback.

She nodded. “Yeah, but I was still relieved. Something happened to him, but he wouldn’t talk about it. He acted paranoid sometimes. I think he started using again.” She stopped and drank some of her orange juice.

Our conversation was interrupted then as Mark and Richard approached our table with trays of food. “Good morning.” They said. We smiled as they sat with us, Mark next to me, and Richard across, next to Dominique. We all chatted for a few minutes, but then Dominique excused herself and left the room.

“Have you looked at the activities list?” Mark asked me as he stirred his coffee.

“Yeah. Lots to do today I guess. I haven’t really settled on anything quite yet though,” I replied.

The reunion gathering had been set up like something of a convention. Our class’s student council had planned a variety of activities, including team sports, hiking, and several artistic and musical events, all of which took place on the university campus. It wasn’t like any reunion I’d ever heard of, but then our class was unique. We were given a brochure where we could select and sign up for those events we found interesting.

“They set up some exhibits in the art wing you should see,” Richard told me. “I snuck a peek last night.”

Richard had been in the art program for his first two years at Lloyd Hastings, but he switched over to business early in his third year. I’d heard he had started his own real estate company and was doing rather well for himself now.

“Yeah. I’ll check it out. Are you guys signing up for any of the team sports events?” I asked.

Mark looked at Richard. “He was thinking football,” Mark said, nodding to Richard. “I’m probably going to sign up for the hike.”

“He doesn’t want to hurt that pretty lawyer face of his,” Richard smirked.

Mark grinned. “Nah, I just can’t stand to see you make a fool of yourself,” he countered.

I laughed at that comment. Richard did have an unusual way of running when he played football, but he was good at the game.

Richard good-naturedly brushed off Mark’s dig. The two of them often bantered this way. “I suppose you’re going to read poetry in the gazebo or something,” Richard shot at me, in response to my laugh.

“Alone of course. That’s the only way to truly enjoy it,” Mark added.

“That’s the reason she likes to give, but we know it’s really because no one will read their work to her,” Richard laughed.

They were referring to my reputation in the English program of ripping my peers’ writing apart. We had this one editing class in which all we did was read each other’s writing and give feedback. I guess I was kind of merciless; I had little tolerance for poor sentence structure and clichés.

“I’ve already reserved the gazebo for several hours, naturally,” I returned. “Oh, but I will most certainly make time to watch you fumble during football,” I said, to Richard, with a grin.

He met my eyes with a shining look. I held his gaze for a moment. This had often happened with Richard before. That look he gave me led me to believe he felt more for me than he would ever actually admit. I made myself break eye contact and the three of us continued to tease each other as we brought up fond memories of our days at Lloyd Hastings.

The dining room was beginning to empty. Mark and Richard were engaged in a debate over something that had happened years ago. They couldn’t seem to agree on some of the details. I listened and laughed with them now and then, but then my phone buzzed with a text message. The number was unknown and the message read: “Forget what you heard about Hector.”

The Reunion: Chapter 2

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.

“Samantha.”

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?”

“Yeah.”

“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.”

Read Chapter 3

The Reunion: Chapter 1

“It’s going to fall,” I said.

Dominique very carefully pressed her pointer finger against a Jenga block in an attempt to push it through the opening. “I’ve got this,” she replied, her attention fixed on the teetering tower.

“No, it’s going to fall,” I insisted. I watched as she continued to push the block, in a vain attempt to free it from its place. The blocks tumbled in a heap. “I told you.”

She let out a classic, Dominique-style laugh, cackling good-naturedly at her error.

I shook my head and smiled. “You’re so stubborn sometimes. I guess some things never change.”

We had already begun to rebuild the tower. Dominique took a bite of her free oatmeal cookie, courtesy of the hotel lobby. “You know me too well,” she said, still chuckling at herself.

“Why don’t we see each other more often? It’s not like we live very far away,” I mused.

“Yeah, but you’ve got your big career and all. I don’t make it to Manhattan much anyway.”

“But Queens is right around the corner. I’m just a bad friend,” I muttered.

Dominique laughed. “We may as well be across the country. I’ve got the husband and the kids, and you’ve got all those books to edit. You seeing anyone these days?”

I made a face.

Everyone asks me this question.

“I see people everyday,” I replied.

Dominique shook her head at me. “What was it you said about things not changing? You’re gorgeous Samantha. Why haven’t you found a nice guy yet?”

“You assume I’m interested in finding ‘a nice guy.’ Maybe hooligans are more my speed,” I retorted with a smirk. “Or homeless men. A little unpredictability adds spice to a relationship.”

Dominique was losing it. She laughed loudly at my silly joke and I couldn’t help but join in this time.

“How’s Paul?” I asked her.

“He’s alright. Sort of in a slump with the job right now, but that’s how construction is. Little Hector is going into kindergarten now.” She shook her head. “Time sure passes quickly.”

You’re telling me.

It had been five years since we graduated from Lloyd Hastings University. I hadn’t particularly wanted to come to the five-year reunion, because it didn’t feel like much time had passed since I’d left the place. Although I enjoyed the freedom and social life from my undergrad years, I’d been through some unpleasantness as well, and I’d found five years insufficient to erase the sting of it all. I was also currently very much focused on my Manhattan editing career, even if I hadn’t yet climbed very far up the publishing ladder.

“Do you have any idea who’s coming this weekend?” I asked casually, while I pushed a block on one side and grabbed the other end.

Dominique found herself another block to remove as she replied, “You mean Richard?” She shrugged. “You would know better than me.” She listed several other people she had heard were coming.

“Mark should be coming too,” I told her. “He texted me last week.”

“Isn’t he a lawyer now or something?”

“Yeah. He works in Westchester. I never see him either though,” I said. I let out a quiet sigh.

“I always thought you and he would hook up,” she commented. Her dark eyes traveled from the wooden tower to my face as she pulled another block and leaned back in her chair.

“Yeah, a lot of people thought that. We were only ever friends,” I said.

“You were always too busy chasing after Richard,” she remarked a bit wryly. “You nervous about seeing him this weekend?”

“I don’t know. It’s not like anything is going to happen. It’s only two nights. Then we all go back to our grown-up lives.” I turned my paper coffee cup absently. “I think I heard he’s engaged or something.”

“Oh yeah. I saw he posted about that online.” Dominique had taken a break to finish her cookie. She turned her attention back to the Jenga tower and said sympathetically, “He was never right for you Sammy. Any other guy would have loved to have you pay attention to him. Richard was an idiot, plain and simple. You don’t want someone who doesn’t appreciate you.”

Something about her sympathy almost made it feel more humiliating. I had spent most of my undergrad years pursuing Richard, only to find that he could never make up his mind about me. Since graduating, I lamented this wasted time and agonized over what I’d done wrong. The worst of it was that there was never any closure. I knew Richard had been attracted to me – he’d told me so more than once. I thought we had great chemistry together, but then I made the mistake of telling him my feelings before graduation. He was awkward after that, and I had little contact with him since.

Dominique knew all this and had, on more than one occasion, reassured me Richard wasn’t worth the effort. I was getting tired of hearing it. Even though I brushed off the upcoming encounter with him, I secretly hoped something would reignite. But I was too ashamed to share this with Dominique.

“Let’s go for a walk,” she suggested. “I have to pee.”

We scooted our chairs out from under the table and exited the hotel’s conference room. It was a four-star hotel, the type of place fancy enough to make you feel like you got your money’s worth, but easy on the budget. The halls were carpeted in a deep shade of green and the walls were decorated with typical hotel-artwork. I could smell chlorine from the pool. We wandered back toward the hotel lobby where we’d met earlier that day. The lobby had one of those gas-lit fireplaces and a few stuffed leather chairs. In the corner of the room there was a bookshelf with games, which is where we’d picked up Jenga.

Dominique and I seemed to be the first ones to have arrived; at least, I hadn’t seen anyone else from our university yet. We’d arranged ahead of time to share a room together. I remembered how messy of a roommate she’d been in college, but after five years, I sort of missed those days. Things were so much simpler back then, before taking on more adult responsibilities.

I’d always been rather studious, so I didn’t really struggle with class assignments and papers. By contrast, Dominique was usually catching up or barely passing class. She had a tendency to procrastinate and get caught up in social things. More than once I helped her edit through her papers late at night to meet an early morning deadline.

Cleanliness and study habits weren’t the only things that differed between myself and Dominique. I’m innately quiet and reserved with people I don’t know well, unless of course, I’m interested enough to get to know someone. I was often believed to be rather stuck-up in college, merely because I didn’t mix in many social scenarios. I kept to myself and had a small group of good friends.

Dominique was rather loud and would sometimes burst into rants in Spanish when she was excited or upset. She liked to talk to people, even those she didn’t know, and genuinely cared about your family or whatever it was you were going through. Somehow these distinctions in our personalities made for a great friendship.

“My hair is crazy. The rain always does this,” Dominique said as she untied her frizzy, black hair in front of the bathroom mirror. She quickly swept it all in a big bunch on the top of her head and wrapped a hair band around it so it sat in a loose, messy bun. “I’m such a mess,” she laughed.

We left the bathroom and wandered aimlessly down the hall together, catching up on the mundane details of our lives. We ended up at the indoor pool, and each grabbed a towel from the wall to sit on as we stuck our bare feet in the Jacuzzi tub. The pool area was empty.

“Do you still think about Hector?” I asked her quietly.

Dominique sighed and lifted her eyebrows as she moved her feet back and forth in the warm water. “Yeah. It’s difficult not to with little Hector around everyday. He looks more like his dad all the time. Paul’s been great with him though. He seems to understand him.”

Dominique had spent most of our four years at college dating Hector Reyes. The two of them had a rather intense relationship. He was a muscular guy, a little intimidating if you didn’t know him. His tattoos suggested that he may have at one time belonged to a gang, but he was conscious of keeping them covered on most occasions. Dominique and Hector were prone to argue in Spanish, especially in public or when the situation least warranted it.

I liked Hector, yet I sometimes wondered how suited he and Dominique were for each other. I sort of assumed most of the relationship was based on pure attraction rather than compatibility. Sure enough, halfway through our senior year at Hastings, Dominique was pregnant with Hector’s son. It was right around that time in late March that Hector was found dead. He had gone to a friend’s funeral back home and gotten hold of some narcotics. Detectives discovered his body in an abandoned building, not far from the funeral home. We were told the cause of death was drug overdose.

I remember how shocked I was when I heard the news. It was the first time in my life I had been good friends with someone who died. Sure, I’d lost older relatives, but it’s different when the person is in your circle of friends.

Dominique nearly fell apart afterward. She was barely three months pregnant and felt crushed at losing her baby’s father, not to mention she had been fiercely loyal to Hector. She didn’t finish the year, although we were close to graduation. I knew she would have probably had to retake some of her classes anyway, since she had failed a few of them. None of that mattered to her anymore when Hector died.

If not for meeting Paul, I’m not sure how Dominique would be now. Paul was a calm, steady man with kind eyes. I was happy she had found someone to help her raise Hector’s son.

“Do you ever see Hector’s family?” I asked her.

“I visit his mom sometimes in Harlem. She likes to see her grandson now and then. Paul doesn’t come though.” She kicked her left foot and made a small splash. Dominique became thoughtful. “It’s strange. Sometimes when I try to remember things about Hector, I feel like they’re gone. It’s almost like it was just taken from my memory. I guess the culprit is time really.” She shrugged.

I found this statement somewhat intriguing, but couldn’t really relate to it. My memories of the things Richard had said to me and the times we’d shared together were all too fresh in my mind. But I knew one of the reasons for this was that I had replayed the memories over and over for a long time. Dominique had moved on in a sense. She now had a husband and children to think of and probably didn’t have as much time to dwell on the past.

“Lately I’ve been thinking about the last time I saw Hector,” she said. “I drove him to the train station. We had a long, serious conversation in the car that day. I remember he said something sort of odd then but…” Dominique frowned and looked at me. “I feel like it was about something important, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what it was.”

Read Chapter 2