High school reunions can be stressful until an unexpected romance leads to clarity.
Julie looked over the words on the screen in front of her, and sighed. The article for her college reunion wasn’t coming along as well as she had hoped. Ten years out of college and it still seemed like yesterday that she was walking the corridors to classes and fiddling with her old-school Nikon camera. At thirty-two, Julie considered herself to be a successful woman. After graduation she landed the dream job of working as a reporter for a local magazine. Financially secure, she owned her own home and had just started payments on her first brand-new-straight-from-the-showroom car. Julie had traveled to many points of the world and had captured cultures and animals and architecture with her camera. She was a smart, sophisticated, well-traveled woman, and she absolutely couldn’t understand why this paper was not coming out like she wanted it to.
Picking up the phone, she dialed Sarah, “I am so stuck right now,” she said in lieu of greeting once Sarah answered the phone.
Sarah had been the life line that an overstressed sophomore had desperately needed. While Julie didn’t pursue romance during her college years, she lived vicariously through Sarah, and the friendship that came out of their three years together had proved unbreakable.
“You need to focus and stop stressing about it. The words will come. We still have four months until the party. It’s not until June, you know.”
“I know, but I hate a deadline and prefer to get it done and over with,” Julie said.
“So, whatcha doing tonight,” Sarah asked? “Why don’t you come out with Rick and me? We are going to that dance club that opened up a couple of weeks ago. I got a sitter for Frankie.” Sarah and Rick had been together for five years, and had a three year old son named Frank Richard Solomon Jr. Also known as Frankie. Julie adored Frankie.
“Come on… it’ll be fun,” Sarah urged. Julie had become lost in thought thinking of her favorite little man.
“Okay, fine, it’s about three now, what time are you guys heading out?”
“We will pick you up at seven. Wear that sexy blue thing we bought for your birthday. Oh, and those strappy silvery shoes that you bought last week at Penney’s. And leave your hair down, no ponytails.” Sarah was getting excited and if Julie didn’t watch it, she would become a doll at her hands. Julie didn’t do the whole party scene, but she agreed with Sarah and disconnected the line. She was done working on the paper for the evening.
Sarah came early. Julie was just stepping out of the shower when she heard the buzzer. Julie lived in a small condo that she bought brand spanking new. She lived with her cat Mischa and her hermit crabs, Thing 1 and Thing 2. Low maintenance and easy to care for. After a quick hello to Sarah, Julie rushed into her bedroom to get dressed. She contemplated the blue dress, but discarded it for a much lower key black dress. Black undies, no bra, no hose, and she toed on some black sandals. She looked at her hair with a sigh of resignation and was reaching for the band to pull it back when Sarah walked it carrying Mischa.
“Absolutely not! No ponytails. Bad enough that you are wearing that relic, but you shouldn’t pull your hair back. It makes you look all stiff and photo-takery.”
“First, I do take photos, this is not a relic, and I hate my hair down.” Julie was whining and she knew it, but she swiped some mascara on and dabbed on some lip gloss. “Second,” she added, “it is time to go.”
Sarah reached the car first and leaned over to whisper, “By the way, Rick invited his friend Jack along, hope you don’t mind.” Just as Julie reached to strangle her former friend, Sarah jumped into the car and locked the door, leaving Julie to get in or go back to the house. Never one to back off from a challenge, and a surprise blind date was just that, Julie got into the back seat and buckled up.
Julie extended her hand in the direction of Jack, “Hey, my name is Julie Magioni. Sarah tells me you are a friend of Ricks?”
“Rick and I work together. I am Jack, Jack Spencer. Pleasure to meet you.” He gripped her hand and gave it a firm shake.
Once at the club, Sarah grabbed Julie’s hand and dragged her to the dance floor while the men secured a table and drinks. While dancing, Sarah asked “So, what do you think?”
“I think that you should know better. I am just not interested in dates, no matter how cute they might be.”
“So, you think Jack is cute?”
“I didn’t say that.”
Jack looked over at the two women dancing together and sighed. He knew that this was a blind date, but he owed Rick big for covering that shift for him last week. “Man,” he said, “when you said I could pay you back, I didn’t think this would be what you had in mind.”
Rick looked over, “I am so sorry, but for the security of my marriage, I had to do this. Jules isn’t so bad. Sarah and Jules go way back and she is a very smart woman. Just enjoy yourself tonight, have some fun.”
Jack studied his drink as the women finished their dance and wound their way through the crowd to the table. Both were laughing as they edged onto the stools. This is gonna be a long evening, Jack thought as he lifted his bottle of beer to his lips.
Julie was buzzing. She was also giggling at something that Jack said. She wasn’t sure, but she thought that she might have just agreed to go to dinner on Wednesday night with the man. As, Rick pulled up to her building, Julie rattled off her cell phone number for Jack and escaped into the closed in patio.
She heard Rick drive off as she locked the door behind her and stood there contemplating what had happened this evening. Walking toward the bathroom, she kicked her shoes off in the hallway and decided a long, hot bubble bath would clear her head and her perspective. Slipping the dress over her head, she let it fall in the doorway to her bedroom, heading to her jewelry box to deposit her earrings and pendant. Entering the bathroom, she turned the faucet on and poured a capful of peach scented bubble bath in the rising water. Turning around, she studied herself in the mirror. Wearing nothing but panties, she looked at her body as objectively as possible. It had been a long time since a man had caused her to want a relationship again. Jack did that for Julie. She had shoulder length brown hair, on the wavy/unruly side, and if it didn’t get colored on time, her roots were starting to go gray. A cute nose, with big brown eyes and an excellent smile; thanks to Dr. Bob, graced her face. Her boobs were a solid “B” cup and while she wasn’t a size zero, she loved the curves that being a size 10 gave her. Sturdy is what her mom would call her, and Julie couldn’t help but agree.
Turning around, Julie turned off the water and; shedding the rest of her garments, she eased into the hot water.
Closing her eyes, she relaxed and thought about the last two hours in the company of a charming man and her two closest friends. Once the initial awkwardness of being on a blind date eased, Julie was able to enjoy the company of an attractive man. She found that they had a lot in common and that he was not only funny but very eloquent in his speech. After dancing, and drinking, the four of them went to dinner at a restaurant that specialized in Thai cuisine. After a couple more drinks, and some good conversation, Julie was on the brink of having had too much.
Just as Julie started to drift off, a persistent buzzing sound came from the bedroom. Julie jerked upright in the tub and sloshed water over the lip, before grabbing her towel and running to her room. Standing there, dripping water, Julie realized that the buzzing was her phone; she had placed it on vibrate earlier in the evening, and she grabbed it off of her night stand.
“Hey, Jules, it’s Jack. I just wanted to tell you that I had a wonderful time tonight and I am looking forward to having dinner with you on Wednesday. I didn’t mean to call so soon, but I was thinking about you and…” Jack paused,
“Jeez, that sounded very tenth grade right then.”
Julie couldn’t help the grin that came on her face, “Funny that you should call, I was just sitting in a nice hot bubble bath thinking about this evening.”
Jack stood in the kitchen preparing dinner. Slicing potatoes, Jack couldn’t help but smile. He still couldn’t believe his luck in finding Julie. Jack had just turned 34 and had been divorced for three years. He had married his high school sweetheart, and for him, he loved being with that one special person. Unfortunately, his ex-wife thought the more the merrier. His divorce had been bitter and left him with a sour taste in his mouth at the thought of a relationship. And tonight, he had to tell Julie about the most important part of his life. He had to tell her about Max.
For weeks, Jack had put off sharing Max with Julie. He had made excuses on the weekends that Max visited and had always excused himself to another room when he received phone calls from his son.
Try as he might to fight it, Jack was in love. Julie was everything calm and beautiful in his world. She was smart and independent, he thought she quite possibly had the most beautiful nose and, of course, she was sexy beyond belief. He only hoped that she would love Max just as much as Jack himself did.
Sliding the potatoes in the oven, he set the timer and headed to the fridge to get out the bottle of wine. He wanted to give it time to breathe before his lady arrived.
He picked up the living room, tidying up the dog toys that his Husky, Rufus, left behind. Rufus had a basket kept by the staircase for his toys and an old pair of Jacks’ slippers that he had stolen as a puppy. His bed, however; was in the corner of Jack’s room. Jack fussed a little more, trying to kill time. By the time Julie pulled up, he was taking the potatoes out of the oven, tossing the salad, and had the steaks sizzling on the grill.
Leaning toward her, he planted a kiss smack dab on her nose as he was transferring the potatoes to a dish. He was decidedly distracted, but not too much to notice that she smelled very female and looked as fresh as… hmm, his thought left his head as she came around him from behind and leaned her head against his back. He stopped plating and slipped around to cradle her against his chest. This was the time of the day he loved best.
“Good evening,” she whispered.
“Right back atcha, gorgeous. How was your day?”
“Well, I got to proof several articles, but I did get a new assignment that I am excited about. I get to go to Cincinnati, for some festival that they are having. I will fly out next week and be gone for about a week. The festival lasts for two weeks, but I should get enough to please the editors. I am really excited; I haven’t been there in, jeez, about four years.” Stepping away, she leaned past Jack to steal a piece of lettuce from the salad bowl.
Jack walked to the table, set in the corner of the kitchen, and started setting the table. “Sounds like fun. Where are you staying?”
As they chatted back and forth, Jack caught himself glancing over at her to watch the way her eyes shone. He loved the little thing she did with her nose when she was giggling and when she was not paying attention she would twirl her hair around her finger. It was the little things that made Jack want this woman.
After dinner, Jack and Julie walked to the sofa in the living room. The music that Jack had turned on earlier in the evening floated around the room and the atmosphere was cool and relaxed. Now or never, thought Jack. And he began to talk, about the joys and disappointments that had come from his marriage and about the greatest gift that his ex had ever given him, his son Max.
Julie prepared for this evening with care. She had finally decided that tonight was the night that she and Jack would have sex. Sure, they had petted and he was definitely a great kisser, but they had yet to take that next step. As she stepped into the shower, she thought about the past couple of months, and wondered at the relationship that had grown. Jack was a great man, she had seen him play with Frankie, and he seemed intrigued by her relationship with the Things. He knew the ‘smile and nod’ gesture, he had great taste in restaurants, and he liked the Ferris wheel.
Since meeting his son Max, Julie was on a roller coaster of emotions. She had been shocked that she had known this man for weeks and didn’t know about his son. She had felt fear at the thought of what a future with a single father would mean for her. And she had felt oddly humbled that Jack thought enough of her to share his son with her. After thinking it over, she began to understand his caution in not talking of Max until he was sure of them as a couple. And, after meeting Max, she couldn’t imagine Jack without him. They were natural together and just another facet of a man that she had grown to love and admire.
Tonight, they were going to drive down to a little town in the southeastern part of Georgia and go to see a drive-in. One of only a few left in the U.S., the Jesup Drive-In still had the speakers that you could attach to your windows if you really wanted a retro feel. Julie had visited several times, but this was a first for Jack.
As it was still cool outside, Julie opted for jeans with a t-shirt. She had a zippered hoodie by the door that she would grab on her way out. Sneakers and a ponytail completed her look. This was how she was most comfortable and she wanted to be herself this evening. Jack showed up at about five and they hit the road. The movie started at sundown and they wanted to make the 2 hour drive with time for dinner too. They talked about their day and what had happened since they had last seen each other. Julie told him about being sent to New York to cover the fashion shows, and Jack talked about the possibility of a promotion at the plant. They laughed through dinner and as the movie began they slid as close together as the car would allow. When the movie became boring, they began the age old tradition of making out. Giggling like a teenager, Julie thought about the joys of being in love.
She had finally found someone that she felt whole with and she planned to tell him that she was in love with him this evening when they consummated their relationship for the first time.
Standing in front of about fifty of the graduating class of 1995, Julie delivered her speech. She spoke of the changes in her life, and how much the years spent at college helped mold the woman she was. She glanced at Sarah, and spoke of the friendship that survived marriage and children and careers. She smiled toward Jack, as the crowd clapped and the music began again. After dinner came the slideshow and everyone laughed and pointed at the changes in them since graduation.
They say time flies when you are having fun, and for Julie and Jack, the next few months passed in the blink of an eye.
Summer gave way to autumn, and autumn meandered into winter and suddenly Julie found herself standing in front of a Christmas tree videotaping a young boy and his father as they tore into their gifts. Even Rufus was jumping around and pawing at the paper on the floor. Julie laughed at the scene before her and whispered a word of thanks to God that she had found this family.
Early February brought back memories of meeting Jack for the first time. Taking care with her appearance, she readied herself for a night on the town to commemorate the occasion.
Sitting at the table that they had sat at that first night, Sarah, Rick, Jack and Julie lifted their glasses in unison.
“To good times,” said Sarah.
“To good lays,” said Rick with a wink.
“To lousy jokes,” Jack replied with a grin, “and to my girl, may she always smile at me and forever be at my side.”
Smiling, Julie thought a moment and said, “To my best friends and Jack, I love you all.