Sally gets an invitation to a school reunion
Sally Livingstone groaned, she turned her head and glanced at her sleeping husband, feeling a sense of relief that at least she found herself in her own bed and not in some stranger’s.
Right, I need to concentrate. Her lips moved silently, urging her brain to recall last night in some detail.
How did I get home? she closed her eyes tightly in concentration, it was no use she couldn’t remember.
Okay, let’s start at the beginning, before I left to go to the reunion.
Her thoughts returned to the day she’d received the invitation in the post.
‘Hi Guys and Gals, come and reminisce with the class of 1997.” It read.
“Hey John, look at this.” She passed him the invitation. “I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than go to that.”
“Why?” Her husband queried, “maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, what about that friend of yours, Jackie isn’t it? She might be there.”
“Yeah, maybe, but we lost touch years ago. Sometimes it’s not a good idea to go back, we may both end up being disappointed.”
“Oh, please think about going babe, it would do you good to have a night out.” John urged.
“I don’t know hon, they’ve probably all done amazing things, they’ll be asking about careers and stuff. I mean, what have I done? Nothing!”
“Come here, silly.” John held Sally in a warm hug. “You’re an amazing person, you’re funny, you make everyone you meet feel special, and you’re a wonderful mum. I want you to send off a reply saying you’d love to attend, right now.” He urged.
“The invitation says not to bring partners though, I’m not sure I want to go without you.” Sally pouted.
“You’ll have a great time, I’ll be here looking after the kids. You’ve been nowhere since the twins were born.” He kissed the top of her head gently.
“You see things in me that others don’t.” She said, smiling up at her tall, handsome husband, wondering, as she did often, how she’d ended up with such a hunk.
“I’m the lucky one, you were the prettiest girl at work, I had to snap you up before anyone else did.”
“And now look at us hon, three kids in five years, sometimes I can’t believe it, can you?” Sally asked.
“I can’t believe how lucky I am, three healthy kids and a beautiful wife, what more can a man ask? John said. “I’ll make us a coffee, you email the reunion mob, and say you’ll be there.” He playfully slapped her round bottom.
“We can’t afford a new outfit John!” Sally snapped, a few days later, when he suggested she should buy something new to wear.
“I wish I’d never agreed to go!” she cried, stripping off down to her underwear. She was still not back to her pre-baby body, after having the twins six months ago, and she was still breastfeeding, so nothing seemed to fit. She’d tried on everything she owned. Red faced, frustrated and unhappy with the image she saw in the full-length mirror, she shed a few tears. Eventually she settled on a sleeveless floral dress, a summer jacket, and a pair of evening sandals, and hoped that she wouldn’t look too under dressed. Sighing, Sally started to clear up the mess her frantic searching for something to wear had caused.
As she lay in her bed, her head was throbbing, the morning light crept under the closed blinds. Kookaburras were making a racket. She felt sick and guilty, but was unsure why, as she snuggled up to her husband’s broad back, seeking comfort.
She tried desperately to cast her mind to the previous evening. She started from the moment she’d first arrived at the venue, the old school gymnasium.
She recalled she’d splashed out on a taxi, knowing from the outset wine would be a necessity to ensure getting through the ordeal.
The reunion committee had done their best to give the vast space a party feel. Hundreds of balloons and streamers hung from everywhere, but the auditorium was much too impersonal to generate any sense of intimacy.
The acoustics were terrible. There was still a faint smell of sweat, which reminded Sally of many excruciating hours she’d spent there, playing team sports, or enduring dancing lessons with the boys.
“Wow, it’s Sally Webster isn’t it?” Someone pounced on her as soon as she stepped into the hall. “I’d have recognised you anywhere. Here’s your name badge, try to keep it on all night, it makes it easier for everyone.” Hearing herself called by her maiden name seemed strange, she’d not been a Webster for six years.
She spoke to several men and women who seemed to know who she was, but she found it hard to recognise many people there.
“I need a drink.” She muttered, desperately seeking the makeshift bar in the corner. As she sipped the warm cask wine, she cast her eye over the crowd, thinking at least she’d aged better than some.
“You married Sal?” A voice she recognised, said. Brian Jones sidled up to her. Sally once had the biggest crush on him in year ten. He stood a little too close for comfort.
“Yes Brian, how about you?”
“Divorced, discovered marriage wasn’t for me. I think it unnatural being tied to one person for life, so I’m a free agent now.”
Sally thought she must have been crazy to have liked this man. He was now almost bald, and it seemed he loved his food too much. He still thought of himself as God’s gift to women though.
She quickly made her escape and searched the now crowded hall to see if she could spot her long-lost friend.
Seeing a crowd of people, she headed over. The person in the centre of the excitement was none other than Jackie.
“Ah, babes is it really you?” Jackie hugged Sally tightly, before releasing her. “Let me take a look at you. You still look exactly the same! “
The same couldn’t be said for Jackie, her changed appearance made Sally take a breath. Her nose, lips and ears were pierced.She looks as if she’s fallen into a tackle box, and what’s happened to her beautiful hair? It was now a mass of dreadlocks.
“Wow Jackie, it’s so good to see you, it must be fifteen years. How did we lose touch?”
“I suppose it was my fault, I lost your new address after you got married and I’ve been moving around all over the place. Oh, but it’s amazing to see you.” She gave her friend another hug.
“You’re still so skinny Jackie! Look at me, so fat after having the kids.”
“Mate, you’re as gorgeous as ever. God, how did we get to be nearly forty. Where did those groovy chicks go, hey?” She laughed her unmistakable laugh.
Jackie prattled on as they went to the bar. “Cool idea this reunion, hey? I hoped you’d make it tonight, and what’s with you not even being on Face book? I’ve been trying to find you for ages.”
“Well, what’s with the dreadlocks?” Sally raised her eyes in mock horror.
“I forgot, you don’t know, do you?”
“Don’t know what?”
“Well, nowadays I spend most of my time in Jamaica. I run a little resort in Trinidad, teach yoga and show the tourists around. Got to look the part, babes.”
Sally was in awe when she looked at the photos Jackie produced. The resort looked so amazing. “Who’s this?”
“That my dear, is Leroy, my boyfriend. Nice, huh?”
The photo showed a dark-skinned, fit young man. He appeared to be about twenty.
“You couger! A bit young, isn’t he?”
Jackie shrugged and laughed. “You’re gonna have to come and meet him, bring that hubby of yours, and the kids for a holiday.”
Sally could just imagine John’s reaction if she sprung on him they were all going off across the world to Jamaica. He’d never agree to that, he was too much of a homebody.
As they were chatting and catching up on old times, one of their old teachers Mrs James them joined at the bar.
“Now, there’s trouble.” She declared loudly as she saw the two friends together. “My word, the times I had to separate you two. I seem to recall an incident involving a frog dissection.”
Jackie and Sally shared a look, and then they both burst into laughter as they remembered that day.
As the evening progressed, someone dragged Jackie away, leaving Sally to watch her friend’s retreating slim figure, in the short, tight fitting dress.
Holding her glass of flat champagne, she was aware of her flabby tummy under the loose dress, and the fact she’d not been to the hairdressers for months. As she stood there, she felt something she’d not felt for years. Discontentment.
From where she stood she could hear Jackie’s loud voice reverberating around the large hall. “You only live once guys, you’ve gotta enjoy life. Come on Frank, let’s dance.”
Sally watched as her friend grabbed the nearest man, taking him on to the dance floor, when the DJ started to play ‘Barbie Girl’ by Aqua, one of the top twenty hits of 1997.
Feeling her mobile vibrating in her jacket pocket, she checked the message from John. “Kids asleep, I’m going to bed now. Hope you’re having fun, will leave the light on. Love J xx”
It was getting late, some people were leaving. Sally heard a shout of, “ see you in ten years, at the next reunion.”
Ten years! God, I’ll be nearly fifty then. The thought gave Sally a shock as she recognised how quickly her life was slipping by.
It was nearly midnight. It’s time I left and went home. Then, on an impulse she went over to Jackie, and said, “Let’s get out of here and go and have some fun.”
Her friend didn’t need asking twice. “Great idea, let’s go Sal.”
Linking arms they quickly left the school hall, shouting out goodbyes as they walked out of the school gates.
”Yes.” Sally whispered, as she lay looking at the cracks on the ceiling. I remember leaving. We got a taxi into the city.” Her head hurt, she felt sore as she rubbed her hands over her naked body. Raising herself up, she leaned over the side of the bed. She saw all her clothes in a heap on the floor, but she could see only one shoe. Flopping back exhausted, she gave a deep sigh, and tried to recall what happened next.
“Where to girls?” the taxi driver asked, as they climbed into the back seat.
“Oh, my God, I’m starving, take us to King’s Cross mate. We’ll get some Tapas. That okay with you, Sal?”
“I’ll leave it with you Jaks, you’re the city girl.”
They soon disposed of plates of Tapas and a jug of Sangria. The girls were so happy to be together again, sharing memories and filling in the gaps. “We must never lose contact again babes.”
Sally promised, even saying she’d try to come to Trinidad for a holiday.
“Yeah, you must come! It’s fabulous there, the Jamaicans know how to live. Jackie urged. “You’d love their music, the colours, the smells! Oh, my God, I can’t wait to get back!”
“You’ve inspired me, let’s go dancing.” Sally took her friend’s hand. They left the restaurant and went out into the stream of people, all out for a fun Saturday night in Sydney.
Music poured out on to the street from the nightclub. The bouncer on the door smiled, and said, “Got your ID’s girls, gotta make sure you’re not underage.” He winked, his eyes wandering all over Jackie’s figure.
Sally was too relaxed to feel any jealousy, and they entered the darkened space. Their eyes adjusted to the dimly lit room, the dance floor was tightly packed with swaying bodies. They joined the crowd on the floor, and before long the two girls were dancing uninhibited with strangers, who sometimes thrust their bodies against theirs. Sally danced, her arms above her head, eyes closed, the beat of the music taking her to another place, far away from her normal family life. She imagined she was in Trinidad, dancing with a beautiful dusky boy. His eyes glistening with desire, teeth white against his black skin. The smell of sweat, perfume and desire permeated her soul.
The night had been a kaleidoscope of images, colours and sounds, impossible to untangle in her mind, as she struggled to make sense of events. Sally glanced at the clock on her bedside table. The babies will be awake in a few minutes, I’d better get up.
Creeping from the bed, trying hard not to wake her husband, she slipped her dressing gown on to her naked body. She was not yet ready to talk about the events of the evening, knowing John would want a blow by blow account of her night out. Before then, she needed to remember how she’d even got home.
They staggered out of the nightclub into the soft summer night, their arms around each other, giggling like schoolgirls.
“What shall we do now Jackie?”
“We should go somewhere and sing. Let’s find a karaoke bar, we need an audience.”
On the little stage in the Karaoke bar, a young man was belting out ‘Purple Rain’. The response from the crowd was favourable, they whistled and cheered as he staggered off stage, beaming, accepting the applause with a wave of recognition.
“I’ve put our names down Sal, it’ll be about half an hour before it’s our turn. Come on, let’s have a drink.”
Sally hadn’t drunk so much for years, but was intent of making this a night to remember.They lined a row of shot glasses up on the bar. “Make a toast Jackie.” Sally was having the time of her life. Slurring her words she said, “I’m so glad John talked me into going to the bloody reunion. I love you Jackie.”
“I love you too Sal.” Jackie draped her arm over her friend's shoulders “Have another drink, you only live once.” They tossed back another shot of Vodka.
“Sally and Jackie, come on down!” The voice of the MC called out. “Give them a big Sydney welcome!”
The two girls belted out their very own version of Whitney Houston’s, “I want to dance with somebody,” to great acclaim.
“I haven’t lived Jackie, I love my kids and John, but I haven’t really lived!” Sally moaned. “I need to do something different. Just look at you, you’re amazing with your hair and piercings. You are an exotic creature.”
“Come on sweet cheeks, I’ve got an idea.” Jackie took her friend’s arm, and they left the pub.
Sally walked into the kitchen putting the kettle on for coffee. She could hear the twins babbling to each other, she knew that she had limited time before she needed to start her day.
She recalled leaving the bar. It was what happened next she was unsure of. Pouring herself a coffee, she sat down at the kitchen table and closed her eyes. Her stomach was in knots as a memory became clearer. No! She wouldn’t have. Would she?
Her breasts were full, and she was ready to feed the babies. She slipped her hand inside her dressing gown feeling the fullness of her breasts, and something else, heat, and an unusual soreness.
Sitting up suddenly, spilling the hot coffee all over the table, she sat motionless, staring into space, willing her mind to remember.
She jumped up from the kitchen table and rushed to the bathroom. Standing in front of the mirror she took a deep breath before unfastening the dressing gown, letting it fall to the floor.
Her faced paled, she felt sick to her stomach, and slid down on to the cold tiles.
“Mummy what are you doing on floor?” Five-year-old Thomas was standing at the door.
“I dropped something honey, just looking for it, I’ll be there in a minute, turn the telly on.” Tom raced off before she could change her mind. He wasn’t usually allowed to watch television before breakfast.
“The babies are awake Mummy.” He called from the lounge room.
“Okay honey, I’m coming now.”
The girls held on to each other for support, zig -zagging their way up the almost empty street.
The area was badly lit; they were unsure of their exact whereabouts.
“Where are you two ladies going?” A voice from behind them called out.
They both spun around to see three men walking several steps behind them.
“Keep walking Sal, ignore them. Let’s get cracking.” Jackie whispered.
The men caught up with them, shoving and grabbing for their bags.
Jackie gave one of them a quick knee to his balls, making him squeal like a pig, and drop to the pavement, the others swore loudly, and ripped their handbags from the girls, running back the way they’d come.
Jackie quickly threw herself on to the guy on the ground, pinning him down. He was still groaning and rolling around.
“Call the police Sal, tell them we have one of the slime balls, and tell them to hurry.”
Sally remembered now how she’d got home. After losing her bag, containing her credit cards, and money, the police had dropped her home. The night had not ended well.
She sat in the nursery; her twins both feeding contentedly, whilst she did her best to avert her eyes from her breasts.
Everything was coming back to her now. The reunion, the tapas bar, nightclub, karaoke and the tattoo parlour. It had been so long since she’d had a hangover, she swore silently this would be the last. Never again!
Wild child Jackie was welcome to her life in Jamaica, she herself would be content with her normal, boring life.
All that remained for her to do, was to wake John up with a cup of tea, a smile and an explanation as to why she had, ‘You Only Live Once’ tattooed upon her breasts.