Reunion of Death – Part One
“Honey, I thought the point of moving back to your hometown was to get back in touch with your roots.”
-“Excuse me? You are the one who insisted we move back here to further my ‘healing’ process! It was your idea!”
The two late-thirty-something men stared at one another; their kitchen island the only thing separating them from either ripping one another’s heads off or embracing and kissing.
“I know baby,” the first one said in a puppy-dog voice. “I know you didn’t really want to move back here. I just thought it would be good for you. What is that saying I always say?”
The second one mockingly began: “Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power. You are free.” Before he could finish, both were saying the words aloud in unison.
“Thank you so much, Jim Morrison. I think about that every time I go to Wal-Mart and run into someone else I went to school with that I would prefer never to see again,” the second one said.
The first gentleman had rounded the island corner at this point and walked up to his partner. Wrapping his arms around his spouse’s waist, he looked into his eyes and said: “It’s just a high school reunion, Matt. Stop being so Romy and Michelle.”
Matt smiled in agreement, pulled his lover in, and the two kissed passionately.
Seth and Matt were two men in love who had been married three years in their previous home state of California and together as boyfriends for a year before that. Matt’s mother had passed away less than a year-and-a-half into their marriage, leaving behind–to her son and only heir– the family home back in Missouri. Matt had suffered a lot in his life, and the blow of losing his mother was almost more than he could bare. It was actually Matt who suggested and Seth who agreed that perhaps the best thing for them was to move to The Show-Me State and renovate his mother’s old home: turning into it a bed and breakfast.
“We could move home and clean up mom’s house. I could get a job teaching, and you could renovate the place. Rent out a few rooms or something.”
Seth’s love for Matt was apparently so great that he was willing to trade his “oh-so-glamorous-life” in Los Angeles for the midwestern variety and do as Matt, who had already experienced so much tragedy, had wished. Now, more than a year had passed since they had begun opening up their new seven-bedroom, plantation-style home as a bed and breakfast seven miles outside of Sedville, Missouri. The extra income was helping them live beyond what Matt’s meager salary from teaching at the local community college contributed. The advent of AirBnB only helped further their exploits hosting lodgers within their abode.
They felt lucky: gays were still not very accepted in the Midwest, and this gay couple was not the likeliest of pairs to have a sympathetic ear lent towards them in this village. Matt had returned to pick up the pieces of his childhood not without a lot of dark baggage in his past. The fact that he had returned to town and was immediately able to find employment at the college, however, was an indication enough that they had made the right decision in moving. The decision became solidified even further with a growing Bed and Breakfast under their roof.
The one aspect of discomfort that they had encountered since Matt’s return was the feeling of solitude. All of the pair’s friends were back in California. Everyone who still lived in Sedville after Matt had graduated high school knew who he was back then. Seth knew better than to bring up those bad times and Matt was unwilling to reacquaint himself with most of the people from his childhood. Seth knew it wasn’t because Matt felt better than anyone else. It was because spending time with these people for Matt meant opening a Pandora’s box of terrible circumstances and feelings that he had worked so hard in therapy to deal with. Seth did what he could to re-introduce long lost buddies, but Matt was apprehensive at best.
Over the last year-and-a-half, he had begun to relaxed a bit. Hosting travelers from all over the world had really allowed Matt to open up and feel human again after the passing of his mother. But the lack of steady camaraderie had begun to take their toll on both of them. The self-inflicted seclusion had done a number on their relationship, and they eventually realized that they needed to actively begin pursuing making new friendships.
The notice that arrived in the mail seemed serendipitous. While extremely hesitant at first, Matt finally buckled under extreme Seth-ian pressure and agreed to attend his twentieth high school reunion, to be held at a local restaurant in Sedville.
“You were senior class vice president, homecoming king, and on the reunion committee. I think you have to go.”
“You know what this means to me and how hard it will be for me, right?”
Seth shook his head that he understood. There would be so many questions asked, and so much more to explain than just coming out to everyone from his past.
“I know, babe. And if you don’t want me to go, then I will understand.” Seth earnestly meant it.
“I can’t imagine going without you,” Matt answered honestly. “I don’t think I could face all of that without you.”
Convincing his lover and partner to attend the reunion wasn’t hard, considering it was Matt’s idea. But Seth knew his husband better than himself, he felt. He realized it would be a lot easier for Matt to attend the reunion if he was armed, ready, and had lots of backup. Without a posse of people at their side, it would be difficult for Seth to take on the role of superhero sidekick all by himself. Yet, they really didn’t know anyone that he could ask to join the defensive.
An idea most ingenious occurred to Seth one afternoon while cleaning out the fourth bathroom after a guest’s departure. The woman who had stayed the night before had also lived in Sedville long ago but mentioned that anyone coming to town for anything was luckier to have stayed at Seth and Matt’s Inn versus the “crappo motels” that served passers through with lodgings in town.
Seth figured out that anyone coming to town would need a place to stay for Matt’s upcoming high school reunion. He reckoned that the reunion planning committee–of which Matt was a member–would be the first to arrive into town, so why not invite them to stay at the BnB as a way to contribute to the success of the occasion? Matt, as per usual, was his usual hesitant self. Eventually, Seth rationalized that it would be a lot easier for Matt to combat his past, and reveal everything that had happened to a small group of people first–even one on one–before tackling his entire ninety-eight-person-graduating class. Matt finally conceded defeat, but only with the agreement that Seth would be the one to arrange it all.
The night the invite arrived, Matt and Seth were turning down their bed, readying to go to sleep.
“Everything will be great, Matt. You’ll see.”
Matt held onto the pillow in his hand, and said simply:
“I surely hope so. I mean, I guess what could go wrong?”
“You must be Holly. I’m Seth. We spoke on the phone this morning. Won’t you come in?”
Seth stood in the open doorway and welcomed their first guest.
It was the Tuesday before the reunion. All six other members of the reunion committee had not only RSVPed but had committed to spending the half week with Seth and Matt at their bed-and-breakfast. Matt was convinced they had all agreed to come stay with them purely out of a desire to learn the truth about his past and gain a little bit of extra gossip.
Seth, meanwhile, insisted that the other members had only their parent’s houses to stay in:
“Even then. You probably weren’t the only one who picked up and moved from this town the second you finished school.”
Matt had done his best to remember who each of these people were that his husband had invited to their home and to discuss each of them with Seth. He remembered little nuances and traits of each of the characters and made note of where they had planned to put everyone once they had all arrived.
Holly, just like Matt had warned, would most likely be “absurdly early. Beyond the point of being rude. It’s annoying.” And of course Holly was the first guest to arrive. Why shouldn’t she be? Holly Marshall was, after all, senior class president and winter formal queen. The weight of the reunion rested, as she felt, mostly on her shoulders.
They were a proud set of shoulders that Holly possessed. At nearly 5’10”, she was still a beautiful woman and blossomed far more in her looks after she graduated. Her brown hair and killer blue eyes could melt the heart of any jury, and as a defense attorney in Kansas City, she was more than capable of handling pressure. She had arrived into Sedville early, and in true Holly fashion had arrived at the BnB nearly three hours before anyone else decided to grace the boys with their presence.
Luckily, Matt had warned him about Holly’s early bird antics, and was ready for game play before the doorbell even rang. He had the kettle already on the stove and fresh bread baked by the time Holly arrived, and Matt was still upstairs getting ready when the president of his class showed up on his stoop.
“It’s very nice to meet you,” she said, taking off her jacket and shaking off her umbrella. It had only slightly started raining: Missouri weather, due to its location in the middle of the country, can be anything but predictable.
“Can I take your jacket and umbrella?” He asked her, sizing her up and noticing just how beautiful Holly still was.
She smiled her million dollar smile and said to him: “Yes, thank you so much!”
After he had put her wet things away to dry, he led her into the living room.
“Please make yourself comfortable. I’ll go take your bag up to your room and I’ll come back with some tea.” Seth said. Holly nodded in appreciation. “Maybe we can go on a tour of the house later, too,” he suggested.
“I’ve been here plenty of times.” Holly almost snapped back quickly. Seth immediately noticed the offhanded comment, thought it a tad bit rude, but tried not to be put off or change his poker face in front of high school dance-winning royalty. He smiled and left the room.
A few minutes later, he entered through the breakfast room door with a tray in hand full of tea settings and accoutrements. Holly didn’t care for tea but sipped on some hot water while they small-talked for twenty minutes about her journey and the weather.
Finally Holly asked:
“Will Matthew be coming down soon?”
“I’m not sure,” Seth answered.
Holly suddenly stood up, “Well, in that case, may I see my room? I had depositions up to my ears this morning and I have a headache that just won’t quit.”
“Of course you may,” Seth was actually eager to part ways with her as he felt as if he was dragging a conversation out of her like an anchor at the bottom of the Mississippi. He walked her out of the lounge, into the hallway, up the stairs, and into the room that would be hers. Seth noticed she made no comments about any of the restorative work he and Matt had done on the place, considering it looked completely different to the last time she had been there “plenty of times.”
Before closing the bedroom door behind him to let Holly rest, Seth turned to her and he asked: “Would you like me to come you up when the other guests arrive?”
She was already busy unpacking and only looked up at him when she finished saying: “No thanks. I appreciate it.”
continued in Part Two
more by KOELEN ANDREWS
photograph by Stephanie Krist