Reunion of Death – Part Three
continued from part three
Not a minute later, another set of headlights lit up the driveway. Who ever was in the car honked a few times upon getting closer to the house, as if their headlights weren’t enough to indicate that a new guest had arrived. Matt pulled the piano room curtain back and was trying to distinguish which one of the last two it was.
“It looks like Rita. But I could be mistaken. It depends on what color Christina is keeping her hair these days.” Matt said. Seth ran to the coat closet, and began to do what he had already done three times prior: he battened down his hatches and ran out with an umbrella to welcome whichever of the final two ladies.
It was Rita. Rita was the one Seth–and frankly, the entire rest of the committee–knew of the least. In all four of Matt’s yearbooks, Seth could count the number of times Rita’s picture was featured on one hand. She was a mousey, small, quiet girl back in high school. Her long, straight brown hair hid her face most of the time she was in school, and this helped keep her introverted self from having to converse with too many of her classmates. Somehow, she had been elected class secretary. There was a rumor that it was a prank pulled on her by the plastics even putting her name on the ballot. That she didn’t even want the position in the first place. She most certainly only had a few friends at best. But she won the election somehow and managed to keep the lowest profile of any class officer ever.
When Seth reached her car, it was if she hesitated for a minute to lower the window. Seth didn’t blame her: it was pouring rain like a son of a bitch and, at that point, had turned into a full blown thunderstorm. When she did finally open her window, she gave Seth the oddest look he had ever seen. He couldn’t quite place where he had seen that look before, but immediately shook off any feelings of contempt for this new arrival.
“I’m Seth,” He said. “Can I take your bags?”
Soon, Rita was inside, shaking off her umbrella, and being assaulted with hellos and warm wishes. Holly couldn’t believe she drove in this storm, and Rita admitted that her first flight had delayed her getting there by several hours. Matt had gone into the kitchen for something and hadn’t yet laid eyes on his classmate. Rita was undoing the scarf from her neck and talking about a few roads being reported as washed out when she suddenly stopped what she was saying. Matt had re-emerged and it was if Rita was seeing the love of her life for the first time. She didn’t bother to continue what she was saying, and instead began walking up to her host.
“Hello Matthew,” Rita said in a deep raspy voice.
“My god, you look so different,” Matt noticed. “You look fantastic.” He grabbed her right hand with his, spun her around, and smiled at her before embracing her. She was startled by all of this, but played along up until the point that he hugged her. She let her arms hang at her sides as he squeezed her shoulders tight.
Rita was about five-foot-four, same brown hair, but a much more contemporary cut. Her green eyes stood out a lot more now that her face was no longer hidden. She had grown into her body and actually had an excellent figure: something no one would have thought of the pear-shaped girl twenty years ago. When she took off her trenchcoat, Matt really stared her up and down and almost did a double take.
“Rita- you don’t even look the same.”
“I know,’ She said. “I was one of the nerdy ones.”
“But you look great. Dr. Chastain,” he said, standing there admiring her.
Poor Dr. Rita only held the spotlight on herself for enough time to say hello to everyone before another set of headlights appeared in the driveway. Alexis pranced over to the window and, almost completely having forgotten about Rita at this point, she yelled, “It’s Christina. She’s in a taxi.”
Christina Mathewson was the rebel with a cause in this motley crew. Everyone’s favorite multi-colored hair pot dealer in high school, Christina used her entrepreneurial skills that she learned with cannabis in school and was now applying that in real life. As the owner of two legal marijuana dispensaries in Denver, Christina was successful, happy, and high on life. If you looked up “stereotypical love child” in the dictionary, there would be Christina: a flower in her red wavy hair and a joint in her hand. The committee members would be correct in thinking that very little of Christina’s appearance had changed over the last twenty years. (Least of all, her goofy little grin.)
Meanwhile, poor Seth had just taken his wet shoes off and laid them down in front of the fire place inside the lounge. He went to go get them, but Matt stopped him short.
“I’ll go get her,” Matt said, looking at Seth. “You’ve already done enough.” He smiled at his husband, who smiled back, and he was off to go rescue Christina from the monsoon that had invaded the central midwest.
After a minute or two had gone by without either Christina or Matt re-entering the house, the taxi drove away and the remaining six were left wondering where their host and last arrival had gone. Someone even said aloud:
“Where the bloody hell are those two?”
Seth, acting overzealously, ran to the front door in his socked feet, and swung it open. There at the top of the stairs to the front porch were two small suitcases. The rain was coming down like hurricane Katrina and he squinted his eyes nervously for the sight of his partner. He almost stopped trying to scan the darkness when he heard laughter. Finally, he spied Matt and Christina holding hands out playing in the rain. The two were spinning pinwheels, laughing and giggling together like school girls, despite thunder and lightning going off all around them. Almost like a scene from a Brat Pack movie, the other five committee members walked out and joined Seth on the porch. The six of them stood watching as their host and friend were going completely bonkers in the storm and having the time of their lives.
Within a matter of a few hours, all six guests were checked into all five guest bedrooms, they went on self-guided mini tours, warmed up by the fire, and enjoyed a gorgeous dinner that Seth had catered.
The reunion committee was in full swing of discussing everything other than the actual planning of the reunion still left to be done. They were laughing and figuring out what each of them had been up two of the last two decades, realizing the seven of them really had no clue who each other was at the present or what everyone had been up to in the time since they’d last been in each other’s presence.
Christina was now the center of attention as the last guest to arrive. Matt and she had changed into their pajamas to be rid of their soaking wet clothes. Now in front of the fire, she was informing the others about her perilous journey to get to them. That she actually had rented a car, but Christina was too worried driving it through the rain and down all the backroads. So she hired a taxi, instead. He almost wouldn’t bring her out to the house telling her that two bridges and several of the roads in the county were flooded out.
“Don’t plan on calling me for a ride back into town for a few days, lady.” The cabbie had warned her.
After dinner, they went through to the lounge to span out, to plan, and discuss. Suddenly, Seth walked into the room with a silver tray full of fresh baked cookies.
Alexis stopped what she was saying in midsentence to Holly, smiled up at Seth, and exclaimed, “I thought I’d been smelling chocolate chip cookies! How thoughtful.”
Christina chimed in: “You are so awesome. Just like my childhood.”
“Well aren’t you just lovely?” Holly asked rhetorically.
Both ladies giggled appreciatively as Seth curtsied and stooped low to allow the two ladies to grab some cookies from his tray. He continued passing the tray around the room to each guest and Matthew, as each thanked him adoringly at his suburban success.
Everyone took at least one cookie except for Paul, who refused them altogether. When the tray reached Rita, she took more than just a few. Paul curiously stared at her, almost as if in disbelief.
“Aren’t you a dear? Thank you so much!” She seemed thrilled to partake in the cookies along with the rest of them. “I’ve always had a sweet tooth.”
Rita was quick to wolf one cookie down, before she turned to Matt, swallowed the last bite of the first cookie down, and proclaimed: “These cookies are delicious! Matthew, wherever did you find him? He is such a delight.”
Seth bowed in front of the small group, blushed, then grinned.
Matt smiled. “We met at UCLA. I was teaching creative writing. He was a research assistant.”
“That’s so sweet. And it was love at first sight?”
Both Seth and Matt glanced at one another and Matt giggled; Seth almost choked on his tea.
“Not entirely love at first sight, but we knew our first date that we were going to be connected in some way forever.”
Paul and Alexis both uttered simultaneous “Awes.”
“Whether Seth likes it or not!” Matt joked.
Everyone in the room seemed to find his joke humorous. Everyone except Philip. He had been itching to dive straight into the white elephant in the room, and he used everyone’s lighthearted commiserating over Matt’s comment to his advantage.
“What did exactly happened to Sarah? Did you guys end up getting a divorce?”
As soon as Philip asked his inquisitive questions, the entire room went silent for a few seconds that seemed like an eternity to the hosts. One could have cut the tension with a machete.
“Jesus Philip,” Alexis piped in. “How rude!”
“Well, what?” Philip questioned. “I haven’t seen him for years. Not since he was, well straight…”
Matt hadn’t taken his eyes off of the ground since Philip started his inquisition. Seth had left the room briefly and returned with a fresh tea tray as soon as she had snapped at Philip. Not totally aware of what they were talking about, it didn’t take long for Seth to realize why the mood of the room was so on edge.
“Why don’t we talk about something else?” Lisa insisted, obviously trying to get control of the situation. “There are a few more things we can do like making sure there are enough taxis and Ubers for the reunion guests.”
“Have we established a smoking section?” Rita chimed in, seeing where Lisa was going with this and trying what she could to aid a helping hand.
“You don’t need to deflect for me anymore, Lisa…Rita.” Matt spoke without even lifting his head. If all eyes weren’t on him before, they were now.
He continued: “Our marriage wasn’t working. Sarah knew it. I knew it. It wasn’t just that I was gay, because I think she knew even before I knew. And I loved her. You may not think I did or that it was all a sham, but it wasn’t. There was a time in high school when we really love each other and would do anything for one another. Deeply in love with each other. But somewhere along the lines, things just began to fall apart.
“We were both carrying too many secrets. The Kansas City days were the worst. We were newlyweds who were holding onto the idea of a relationship that never could be: she worse than me. She still wanted to be affectionate and wanted to pretend long after I came out to her. I never acted on my feelings towards men when I was with her. Call me a modern day Liz Taylor, but there was just no way I was going to cheat on her.
“I just couldn’t take it anymore. It was pulling teeth on a rabid pitbull to get her to sign the divorce papers. All the while she had stopped believing that I was doing this for both of our well being. I felt that our life was a sham, and I just reached a point where I couldn’t live like that anymore. Near the end, something in her just snapped. She had been crying for weeks at the promise of the end. But, about a month before it was all said and done – I had moved out and everything – she just snapped. Like a lightbulb went off in her head or the drawer of the memories of us was just slam shot. And instead of weeping all the time, she was suddenly so cheerful. Weirdly kind to me and almost happy that everything was turning out the way that it was.
“The last time I saw Sarah was in the conference room at her lawyer’s office in downtown Kansas City. Even then, she seemed almost gleeful. I was happy to be able to live a life more authentic, but I was terribly upset by the entire experience because I was losing my best friend. The only person I had ever loved. It was so odd: she hardly said a word that day but couldn’t take her eyes off of me grinning.
“I never saw her or heard from her again.”
previous: Reunion of Death – Part Two
first chapter: Reunion of Death – Part One
more by KOELEN ANDREWS
photograph by Dominik Lange