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Authors: Linda Hill

Class Reunion

BOOK: Class Reunion
13.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub



“Come on, Jenny. Let’s get out of here.” Sheila Hoyt shuffled her schoolbooks to one arm and placed an impatient hand to her hip.

Jenny’s twelve-year-old blond head swung around, her eyes finding Sheila’s as she trotted up the field. Her cheeks were flushed, and she was breathing hard as she flashed a smile.

“One more,” she called while holding up a single finger and pretending she didn’t see the way Sheila rolled her eyes. She was the last to join the small group of boys that huddled together, several feet behind the football.

Johnny Shaw was outlining a play, telling Danny Johnson to run out toward the baseball diamond and then cut left.

“What about me? I’ve been open all day.” Jenny knew that if Johnny would just throw the ball to her, she could score a touchdown. Nobody was covering her.

“Take the sideline. Straight out,” he told her.

She caught the smirk that passed between Danny and the other boys but ignored it. After all, she was used to it. But if they would just give her a chance.

“Okay. Let’s go.” They clapped their hands and broke the huddle, each crouching down at the line of scrimmage. Jenny tugged up her skirt, pulling it high over her knees so that she’d be ready to run.

“One. Two. Three. Hike!”

The ball snapped and Jenny took off, Sheila’s dark head a blur as she sped past on her way down field. Watching over her shoulder, she saw Johnny pumping his arm. She curled in toward the center of the field.

“I’m open! I’m open!” No one was around her, and she watched with determination as the ball spiraled through the air, just to her right.

She raced over, the cold air whipping her cheeks as she stretched her body, reaching out both hands for the ball.

In midair she felt her body slam against someŹthing hard, knocking her off balance as she fell to the ground.

“Shit!” Danny Johnson had grabbed the ball, nearly falling as he stumbled over her. He twisted toward the sideline, his body colliding with another as his shoulder hit the ground and the ball shot from his grasp.

“Shit. Stupid girls!” Danny launched into a tirade as Jenny lifted a face hot with humiliation from the ground.

He sat several feet away, his legs tangled with arms that belonged to Heather O’Brien. The girl had somehow managed to wander into his path, and she was now sitting square on her backside, looking around like she didn’t know what had hit her.

“You stupid idiot!” Danny was furious. “What are you doing out here in the middle of the football field?”

The fact was, Danny had run out of bounds as Heather had wandered by, her face buried in a book, totally oblivious to her surroundings.

Jenny picked herself up, noting the grass stains on her bare knees as everyone trotted back to their huddles. Everyone except Danny. He’d picked up the football and was glaring down at Heather.

“What’s the matter, Four-Eyes? Did you lose your glasses?” he taunted. “Is that why you didn’t see me coming?” He tucked the ball under one arm and hovered over her menacingly.

Jenny watched the scene, wanting to interrupt, but not wanting to draw attention to herself. Especially after she’d practically collided with Danny herself.

Heather’s books were strewn everywhere. She was on her knees, squinting at the ground as she picked up several books. She was running her hands across the grass, searching for something.

Jenny could see that Heather was crying, her face bright red as she kept her lips tightly pressed together over the braces that covered her teeth.

Heather had Johnny’s full attention now. He began ridiculing her in earnest as his voice grew louder. “Did you lose your glasses, Tracks?” He lifted one foot, pushed his sneakered toe against her shoulder, and sent her sprawling.

Jenny had seen enough. “Leave her alone, Danny,” she said, her voice sounding braver than she felt. She sauntered over, squatting down beside Heather and reaching out a hand to help her up.

“Are you okay?”

Blue eyes, made bright from tears, turned to Jenny.

“My glasses,” Heather said. “I can’t see without my glasses.” Her nose was bright red, and tears rolled down her cheeks. The metal braces on her teeth winked in the sunlight.

Jenny searched the grass with her, her hands and eyes sweeping out, but coming up empty. Her ears heard the crunch just as her eyes caught sight of Danny’s foot grinding the spectacles into the ground.

“Oops,” he drawled dramatically. “Guess I must’ve stepped on ‘em.” He grinned broadly as he lifted his foot. “Gee, I’m sorry, Tracks.” His laugh was cruel.

“You’re a butthead, Johnson.” Jenny couldn’t keep the words from slipping out. Her heart sank as she reached over to pick up the glasses. They were crushed. One lens was shattered, and one earpiece hung, uselessly bent.

She held them out to the other girl, hating the look of pain on Heather’s face as she took the glasses in her own hands. Anger and frustration showed in the cheeks that seemed to grow redder and redder. Then she lifted what was left of the spectacles into place on the bridge of her nose. She blinked hard and stared, eyes wide, right into Jenny’s face.

Jenny knew the other girl was biting back angry words. She’d never seen Heather angry before. No matter how many times she’d witnessed the other kids laughing and calling her names, Heather had always simply dipped her head and walked away.

But this time Jenny could see the frustration and disgrace hot in her cheeks. Those startling blue eyes were staring, not at the cause of her torment, but directly into Jenny’s gaze.

“I’m sorry, Heather,” she muttered, watching as Heather’s bottom lip began to quiver.

Jen’s stomach hurt. She hated Danny Johnson. She hated him because he never let her play with the boys. And now she hated him even more. For crushing Heather’s glasses. For calling Heather Tracks and Four-Eyes., For making those tears slide so easily down Heathen’s face.

Danny was laughing now, but he was losing interest in his game. He sauntered toward the other boys as he flipped the ball in the air.

“Hey, guys,” he called. “Tracks lost her glasses!” Jenny’s ears burned as she heard the hoots and taunting from the other players. “And would you believe she’s even uglier without them? Phew,” Danny continued at the top of his lungs. “We’ve gotta find something to cover that face up!”

Something inside of Jennifer snapped. Rage boiled and burned in her gut. Without thinking, she leaped to her feet and charged after Danny, hatred pushing her faster, until a growl burned low in her throat.

She vaulted high and onto his back, catching him by surprise. Satisfaction coursed through her veins as she tackled him to the ground with a loud thump. Then she was upon him, flailing her arms and fists wildly, knowing any contact was better than none at all.

“Fight! Fight! Fight!” Every kid left on the playŹground was upon them, chanting, howling, urging them on.

Jenny was vaguely aware that the skirt of her jumper was hiked up around her waist, but she didn’t care. All that mattered was hurting Danny. He was no longer stunned, and his fists were flying out now, aiming for her face. She felt blow after blow begin to strike her, and she grew more determined. She closed her eyes, continuing to flail wildly.

Shouts of “Fight! Fight! Fight!” were interrupted by other shouts. “Teacher! Teacher! Teacher!”

Adult hands under her arms lifted her high and away from Danny’s body. She struggled incoherently against her captor, but strong arms wrapped around her, holding her firmly.

“Jennifer Moreland! What do you think you are doing?” Mrs. Martin’s sharp tone brought her quickly to her senses. Shame ripped through her body, quickly replacing the anger that had pushed her just moments ago. Of all the teachers at the grade school, Mrs. Martin was her favorite.

Mr. Schofield, the physical education teacher, was hauling Danny up by the collar of his shirt. “What are you doing? Fighting with a girl. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

“Principal’s office. Now, young lady.” Mrs. Martin’s voice left little room for interpretation, and

Jenny made a quick about-face and headed toward the school building.

The walk seemed to take forever. Jenny tried unŹsuccessfully to avoid one pair of eyes after another as she searched for Sheila. She knew that Sheila would be mad, but she wasn’t prepared for the frown on Sheila’s face — or the way she shook her head in disgust. But the final blow fell when Sheila simply turned away, holding schoolbooks firmly to her chest, and began the long walk home, alone.

Chapter 1



Jennifer couldn’t put it off a moment longer. As much as she wanted to turn around and march right out of the airport terminal, she knew she had to put one booted foot in front of the other and get on that plane.

“Final call for flight five-seventeen to Saint Louis. Passengers should now be onboard. This will be your final call.” The flight attendant was looking right at her, eyes hard flints as they beckoned her to board the plane.

Jennifer grimaced, running long fingers through her short-cropped dark-blond hair and letting it fall back across her brow as she leaned over. She hefted a carry-on over her right shoulder while fishing for her boarding pass in the back pocket of her Levi’s.

She returned the attendant’s cool smile and bit her tongue when the shorter woman told her that the airline preferred passengers to board early if they were holding tickets in the higher row numbers. As if she didn’t know the rules.

She made her way down the aisle, waiting patiently behind one passenger after another as they made last-minute adjustments to their carry-ons. Then she settled down in 32-C, thankful that no one was occupying 32-A, and that apparently no 32-B existed. She stretched out her long slender legs as much as possible, noting that the seat belt sign was already flashing. The plane began to roll away from the gate. No turning back now.

Why had she let her sister talk her into this trip? She hadn’t been back to Des Moines more than four times in the past eight years. Even then, it had taken a death, a wedding, and two births to get her to return. A high-school reunion hardly belonged in the same category as those other events.

To say that Jennifer had misgivings was an understatement.

“But you’ll have fun,” her sister had insisted. “I had a fabulous time at my reunion. They voted me the one who had changed the most.”

Of course Sally had had a wonderful time. Of course she’d been voted the one who had changed the most. She’d transformed herself in ten years from a dowdy bookworm to a drop-dead, knockout, gorgeous female with a handsome, successful husband and two equally gorgeous children. Of course she’d had a fabulous time at her reunion. Everyone had fallen all over her. Every guy in the place must have wondered how they had ever let her slip through their fingers. And I’ll bet a few of the women thought the same thing too.

“It’s, uh, different for me,” Jennifer tried explainŹing.

“But why?”

How could she explain it to her sister? Because I went from being a nobody jock to being the only dyke in the entire high school. With the exception of Diane Miller, of course. Now there was a bull dyke.

“Everyone will show up with their husbands and wives. They’ll ask questions that I’m not sure I want to answer,” she’d finally said.

There was a moment or two of silence on the other end of the line before Sally replied, her tone suddenly hushed.

“Nobody will know that you’re gay.”

Jennifer cringed as her sister emphasized the word. “Of course they will,” she snorted.

“Well, how will they know? You don’t have to tell them.” Again the near whisper.

“I’m certainly not going to lie.” Her feathers ruffled, Jennifer dropped her own voice low, mimicking her sister. “And I did live there, you know. I wasn’t exactly a nun.”

“You slept with someone here?” Sally’s voice grew a full octave higher.

Jennifer rolled her green eyes. This was almost amusing. Almost. “Yes, I slept with someone there,” she whispered. An image of Sheila Hoyt flashed across her mind and she sighed, her voice returning to normal. “I’m sure it’s made it through the grapeŹvine by now. Des Moines just ain’t that big,” she drawled.

“Who? Who did you sleep with?” Sally demanded. Jennifer could hear the kids in the background, squealing and giggling. Is that why Sally was whisŹpering? She didn’t want the kids to hear?

“Nobody you know,” she lied flatly.

“Oh.” Her sister sounded disappointed. “Who cares what they think anyway. Just think about coming, okay? You never know. Maybe Sheila will show up. Do you ever hear from her?”

Jennifer went cold at the mention of Sheila’s name. “No. Not in years,” she said quietly.

“There you go. She’ll probably be at the reunion.”

“Probably,” she agreed. One more reason not to go.

“All right, I won’t tug anymore. Just think about it, all right? Tommy is nearly two, you know. You haven’t seen him since he was born.” There it was. The guilt.

“I’ll think about it,” Jennifer conceded, already trying to figure out how to arrange the time off from work. Guilt was a wonderful motivator.

BOOK: Class Reunion
13.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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