Jake can’t wait to take a trip down memory lane at their 20th class reunion. Being with his old friends is like guest starring in a favorite episode of Cheers. Everybody knows your name. Everybody’s glad you came.
The last thing Michelle wants to do is dredge up a lot of old memories and relive a part of her past that wasn’t that great in the first place.
Will the murky waters of the past destroy their dreams for the future, or will a water lily rise from the depths and bloom?
“You said the guys would be bald and have potbellies.” The only reason Michelle Jones had agreed to come to her class reunion in the first place was because Deb and Barb had promised her that things would be different now that they’d been out of high school twenty years.
They were different, all right. The scrawny, gawky boys from Red Oak High School’s Class of ‘85 had morphed into full-fledged adult males. More intimidating than ever.
“There’s one,” Deb said quickly, before Michelle could bolt. “I’m not sure who he is, but his hair’s definitely thinning on top.”
“Probably someone’s husband. Barb can’t be the only one who married an older man,” Michelle said.
“So I married Harry for his money. He’s also great in bed,” Barb said, scanning the crowd for bald, fat men to prove they hadn’t lied just to get Michelle to come. “Look at the baggy shirt Ralph Pendergrass is wearing. I’d bet my life there’s a boatload of fat hiding under all that fabric.”
Exactly. She never should have worn this dress. Who was she trying to fool? It wasn’t like anybody who looked closely wasn’t going to figure out that all those vertical pin stripes and tiny forget-me-nots were camouflaging something.
“We’re thirty-eight years old,” Deb said. “There’s got to be a certain percentage of men who’ve lost their hair. They’re probably just not here yet.”
Right. They’d had sense enough to stay home.
Barb pointed at a blonde woman a few feet away who looked about twenty-five. “David Mitner’s new wife. They drove up in a red Porsche convertible.”
Michelle looked at the blonde’s bare back and wondered why it mattered that a man she barely knew had dumped his childhood sweetheart and moved on to a mid-life trophy wife.
“She’s the reason my profile on DreamDates.com says ‘searching for 50-60 year olds,’” Michelle said.
Deb shook her head. “You can’t judge all men –”
“I hate to say it, but she’s right,” Barb said, looking at David. “If they’re not that guy, they desperately want to be.”
Michelle rolled her eyes and worked her way through the mass of people congregated around the bar.
She had no reason to be intimidated by a bunch of half-gray wannabes she hadn’t seen since 1985 and probably never would again. Her life was a literal who’s who of been there done that. She’d built a business out of nothing, traveled the world, and dined with dignitaries. She was successful, amazingly well adjusted, and generally happy with her life. Petty high school issues didn’t… shouldn’t matter anymore. The only reason she’d even come was because she’d hoped Jake Sheffield might… Liz Allen. Her heart sank all the way down to her too big knees.
“There goes the prize for ‘Most Likely to Re-ignite the Old Flame,’” Barb said.
Michelle looked again and got a glimpse of Jake’s dark blue eyes sparkling down at Liz in the same fond, teasing way he’d had in high school. That was where the similarities to the tall, skinny boy she’d sat by in art class ended, and Jake, the broad-shouldered, flesh and bone man, began. Her heart skipped a beat. “I thought Liz married some guy she met when she was in the Miss Minnesota pageant.”
“Miss America. Maybe she’s divorced. I think Jake is.”
Only Liz could attend a semi-formal soirée looking like she’d just stepped off the golf course and make it work. Her cherry red chemise was tucked into sapphire blue shorts circled around the waist by a pencil-thin, white leather belt. She leaned towards Jake, caught a strap on his nametag, and laughed.
Michelle had changed dresses three times, fussed over her hair for two hours, and used a half a bottle of apple pectin spritzer trying to achieve the same naturally windswept look Liz wore with such casual ease. She looked again, trying to find a tan line, a freckle, a sunburned nose, coffee-stained teeth – anything that might have made the woman human. Nothing.
“There’s Judy Morey.” Barb took a sip of her rum and coke. “The same big hair, blue eye shadow and shoulder pads she wore in high school. Doesn’t she know the Krystal Carrington look went out when Dynasty went off the air?”
“A little before, actually,” Deb said. “I swear she wore that dress the day we graduated.”
“If there’s a prize for ‘Least Changed,’ she’s got it,” Michelle said, as Hall and Oates’ Out of Touch wafted out of the ballroom.
Barb straightened, her newly enhanced breasts shifting under her slinky, red silk camisole. “Who wants a prize for being the same? I’m going for ‘Better Than Ever.’”
“Which is fine as long as you don’t feel the need to prove it to anyone personally,” Michelle said. “I promised Harry.”
“Harry Smarry,” Barb said. “A twentieth reunion is a once in a lifetime event.”
“Harry Marry,” Michelle said. “Harry-Kari if you don’t go home alone.”
“Michelle should get the prize for ‘Most Changed,’” Deb said. “You may be the same weight, but everything else is different.”
Right. Michelle may not have shed any pounds, but she’d gotten rid of any remnants of her repressed upbringing, her virginity, her naiveté, and her youthful idealism. Not that anyone could tell by looking at her. She liked to think maturity complemented her, that she was a late bloomer who had finally hit her stride. But the bottom line was – the only thing this roomful of people knew about her was the way she’d been in high school.
“Be thankful you haven’t gained weight like the rest of us,” Deb said.
“Speak for yourself,” Barb said, batting her bedroom eyes at another guy she’d apparently known in high school. “Although I sympathize with you, Michelle. It’s got to be hard to lose weight when you own a teahouse. All those leftovers.”
Michelle glanced down, then remembered what her mother always said about holding her head high so her chin didn’t look double. “I thought running up and down all the stairs between the basement and the third floor would help. I should have known I’d end up arthritic instead of thin.”
“It’s your Grandma Maddie’s knees,” said Deb, who was already a grandma, and didn’t seem to care that she looked soft and snuggly instead of svelte and sleek.
Michelle did share a lot of traits with her Grandma Maddie, both good and bad, except that Michelle wasn’t a grandma, and never would be. Not unless she hurried up and became a mother.
“It wouldn’t hurt you to try to forget The Past According to Michelle and have some fun tonight,” Deb said.
“Forgetting is exactly what I wanted to do.” Michelle knew Deb meant well, but resented the fact that here she was, being haunted by things she hadn’t thought about in years, experiencing old humiliations like they’d happened yesterday.
“I’m not saying you should relive the past. I’m saying you look lovely, you’re here, and as long as you are, you may as well use that creative mind of yours. Put a new spin on an old take – see what happens,” Deb said.
“I’m very open to new experiences,” Michelle said. “It’s old history I’m trying to avoid.”
“I understand,” Deb said. “If it hadn’t been for Liz, I always thought that you and Jake might have…”
“It was a silly schoolgirl crush. I haven’t thought about Jake since the day we graduated,” Michelle said as Whitney Houston launched into Saving All My Love For You.
Deb always knew when she was lying.
Michelle looked away. She and Jake had dissected a frog in biology, sparred for high grades in math class, and shared a worktable in the art room. The only reason Jake hadn’t been perfect for her was that he’d been the best-looking boy in the high school.
“Talk to him,” Deb said, perceiving Michelle’s thoughts before she verbalized them in the same uncanny way she’d had since junior high. “That’s the fun of reunions. You can be as young and silly and carefree as you want.”
All Michelle felt was as awkward as she had when she was sixteen. “But Jake is so…”
Jake hadn’t played football, but he’d earned jock rights when he’d led the swim team to a highly coveted state championship. He’d carried his popularity with a lot more grace than your typical jock. He’d been pleasantly different in that respect. But not different enough to resist Liz’s Bambi-brown eyes and Barbie-doll curves.
“Stop analyzing everything and just do it,” Deb said.
“So I’m supposed to throw my inhibitions to the wind and make up for lost time, but Barb…”
“Barb had enough fun in high school to last ten lifetimes,” Deb said. “You promised Harry you’d make sure she leaves the reunion alone. That doesn’t mean you have to do the same.”
“I heard that.” Barb flounced back to them, her drink sloshing madly. “I suppose I can’t blame Harry for wanting an insurance policy. He might be old, but he’s no dummy. He knew I wouldn’t get into trouble if I came with you.”
“I beg your pardon,” Michelle said. “I could get both of us into plenty of trouble if I wanted to.”
Barb laughed. “You wouldn’t know trouble if it hit you on the head. Now, if Rae or Tracy were here…” She waved at another old flame and flitted off.
“Isn’t it your turn to follow her?” Michelle said, wishing Barb’s assessment of her sisters was wrong.
“You’re the designated drive-her-home-alone person, not me.” Deb dug in her Birkenstocks and refused to budge.
“What do I look like, some sort of chastity belt?”
When she looked up again, Jake had slipped his arm around Liz’s waist and was talking to another couple just outside the ballroom door.
The DJ’s next pick was I Can Dream About You. Damn. All that money spent learning to love herself, all that time spent away from her mother, and she was back to square one. A poem she’d written about Jake the semester she’d sat behind him in advanced algebra darted through her mind like it was yesterday.
Why don’t you ever turn around and smile at me?
I smile at your back all the time, but you never see.
You’d think that after three weeks
of sitting behind you, the least you could do
is turn around and smile at me,
or even say something once in awhile!
You must be shy; why, if I sat in front of you
I’d turn around and smile.
Yesterday the teacher changed our seats around.
I wonder if you’re smiling at my back?
I wish I could sit behind you again.
Why don’t you ever tap me on the shoulder?
You must be shy; why, if I sat behind you
I’d tap you on the shoulder.
Of course, Jake wouldn’t have had a clue it was about him, even if he had seen it in the school paper. “Jake was out of my league then. Still is.”
“See, that’s the nice thing about being all grown up,” Deb said patiently. “You’re confident enough to put aside your petty insecurities and go after what you want.”
Fine. So she wanted to dance with Jake Sheffield. The only reason she’d come to the reunion was to dance with Jake. Was that so far-fetched? Was it so lofty a goal to want to dance one dance with Jake, to be held in his arms, to be that girl, the woman she’d become, with him, for just a few minutes? The last few strains of Footloose ended with a punch. She was going to re-forget the past all right, but not until she’d danced with Jake Sheffield.
She took a deep breath and let the crowd pull her into the ballroom. Phil Collins’ Take a Look at Me Now rang out from the dance floor. Maybe her fairy godmother waved a wand; maybe God decided she could use a break, but before she knew what was happening, Liz had disappeared and she was standing beside Jake.
“Michelle Jones,” Jake said, looking inexplicably pleased. “I thought you were living in Italy.”
She nodded. “And in Colorado until a year or so ago.”
“I like your dress,” Jake said, “Only you would think about wearing forget-me-nots to a class reunion.”
“Thanks. That’s me. Big on details, just like always,” she said. “You’ve still got your hair.”
“You’ve still got your smile.”
She froze, so used to being teased that she thought for a second he was making fun of her. But his expression was tender, not leering, his gaze almost adoring.
Every voice but Jake’s faded to nothingness.
“What brought you back to the Midwest?” Jake said.
“I bought an old Victorian just south of the Iowa / Minnesota border – in Maple Valley – and opened a teahouse and interior design studio.” She looked up, half-expecting to find Jake’s eyes scanning the room for a more attractive woman to engage in conversation, as handsome men so often did when they spoke to her.
But his piercing blue eyes were focused intently on hers, his face just a breath away. She could see the fine crinkles at the corners of his eyes as he leaned in closer. “You always did have a soft voice. I can barely hear you over the din.”
She felt her blush deepen. “It’s called ‘The Painted Lady.’”
His face registered surprise. “You’re the miracle worker everyone’s talking about? I drive through Maple Valley every other weekend. I never dreamed it was someone I know transforming the place.”
Jake held out his hand to her and looked at her like no one else was in the room, except for REO Speedwagon – who were singing I Can’t Fight This Feeling, which she couldn’t.
“Great song. It was one of my favorites.”
“Mine, too,” she said, and felt her hopes soaring.
“Was the poem about me?” he said.
“What poem?” she asked, knowing full well which poem.
“I thought so,” he said.
She extended her hand to take his.
A second before their fingers touched, the music changed.
Liz was on them like a flash, bouncing tiggerishly to Michelle’s Eeyore. “Oh, Jake. It’s Uptown Girl! My all-time fave! We danced to it at prom. Remember?”
Jake looked at Michelle.
“Oh, hi, Michelle,” Liz said. “You haven’t changed a bit.”
I have so, she wanted to say, but didn’t.
“Please…” Liz chortled, latching on to Jake’s arm.
Jake shrugged, mouthed a quick “sorry”, and let Liz pull him off to dance.
Michelle thought a litany of words that would give her mother a heart attack and shrank back against the wall. Stupid hopes. Silly dreams. All she knew about hopes is how easily they were dashed. You nurtured them for months, even years, then when they finally soared, they crashed.
She looked around for Barb and Deb. Barb was dancing. Harmless enough. The guy’s wife was watching them like a hawk. That didn’t mean she could leave. She’d promised Harry. She’d promised herself. Deb was in the middle of a cluster of mothers she hadn’t even been friends with in high school, passing around photos of their kids.
It was up to her. Which was fine. She didn’t need an excuse, a security blanket, or a cheerleader. She loosened her shoulders and swayed to the beat. She hadn’t known how to dance in high school, but she did now. If Jake wasn’t going to dance with her, she’d find someone who would.
* * *
Jake Sheffield stroked Liz’s waist and hummed along with the last few strains of Owner of a Lonely Heart.
“Hey, Sheff. What’s cookin’?”
He reached out to shake the hand of a friend he hadn’t remembered existed until sixty seconds earlier.
“Jake! How goes it?” an old swimming buddy asked.
“Sheffield! Good to see you!” Ron Barton pumped his hand in passing.
The music started up again and Liz grabbed his hand. Man, he loved this. Nothing like a little déjà vu to perk a guy up. It was like being Norm at Cheers. He hadn’t felt this way in twenty odd years. Everybody knew his name. And Liz… he had no intention of hooking up with Liz again, but he had to admit that having her on his arm was a nice boost to his ego. He needed a few positive strokes to make up for the abuse his ex-wife had put him through over the last few years. If there was one thing he’d learned since high school, it was that you took it when you could get it, because you sure couldn’t count on…
“Life been decent to you, Sheff?” Tom Anderson asked.
“Doing great,” he lied. Not that he was doing all that badly, but great was definitely over the top.
“How goes it, Jake?” A friend from grade school thumped him on the back.
“Never been better,” he said, which wasn’t true either. He looked around at the throng of familiar faces. There was definitely something to be said for life pre-alimony, child support, mortgage payments, utility bills, federal income taxes, and family tragedies. Say nothing about 9/11.
Here, he was accepted for no other reason than because he was Jake Sheffield. You just didn’t find that anywhere else in the world. He was somebody here. Not a number. Not the guy from engineering. Not a face in the crowd. Here, he was Jake Sheffield – smart, talented, popular, generally well-liked and respected – good old Jake Sheffield.
He pressed himself a little closer to Liz and swirled her to the beat of Time After Time. This was bliss, all right. He’d come to relax, to revel in his memories of a sweeter time. And that’s exactly what he was doing.
The song ended, and Liz wiggled out of his embrace to greet another of her girlfriends. Not that he’d undo the past even if he could – that would mean giving up Nate and Josh. But when you’d been living in a pressure cooker, it was sure sweet pretending life was stress free, even if it was for just one night.
He looked across the room. He’d been about to ask Michelle Jones to dance when Liz grabbed him. Man. He hadn’t thought of her for years. She looked so different he might not have even known it was her if he hadn’t seen her talking to Deb Landers.
He laughed. Talk about Mutt and Jeff. Michelle had been all studies, class work and seriousness to Deb’s bubbly cheerleader, party-girl style, but they’d been fast friends nonetheless.
He glanced at Liz to make sure she was still occupied and worked his way across the crowded dance floor. Michelle looked good. She had a confidence about her she hadn’t had in high school.
“Hey,” he said as soon as he was within earshot.
“Jake.” Michelle’s eyes widened like a deer caught in headlights.
“Sorry we got interrupted. Liz is having a rough time. Something about everyone expecting her to look like a beauty queen even though she’s almost forty, and being a size six in high school as opposed to the size twelve she is now. She looks fine to me, but I suppose in her mind, the ratio of increase is a little daunting.” He smiled. “Not that I’d win any swim meets right now either.”
Michelle didn’t appear impressed by Liz’s trauma. “So you and Deb still keep in touch?” he said, impressed that their friendship had survived the years.
“Lunch once a month.” Michelle nodded in Deb’s direction. “She’s got pictures of her husband and kids.”
“Same guy who…?” Deb had gotten pregnant by some jerk whose name he couldn’t remember her senior year in high school and been forced to finish out the year at the vocational-technical school in a special class for kids who had gotten in trouble.
“No. He skipped town after kid number three. Mike is a real sweetheart though.”
“It took guts for her to walk across the stage the way she did on graduation day. Her belly was bigger than a basketball.”
“She’s amazing. If it had been me… I mean, they made her leave the cheerleading squad, and go to that class, and they wouldn’t let her sing with the choir on graduation day, yet she walked across that stage as proud as could be,” Michelle said.
“I’d forgotten all about that,” he said. “Amazing how much the world has changed in twenty years.”
“For better in some ways, in others, worse.”
“Still, it’s fun to reminisce, isn’t it?” he said.
“Sure,” Michelle said with a little cough.
“I can still see you pecking away at that rusty old typewriter we had down in the art room.”
She smiled. “How did we ever live without computers? Did you get your degree in engineering like you planned?”
“I’ve been with MicroData for almost fifteen years now,” he said, then changed the subject. “The only thing that was worse than the dungeon where we worked on our art projects was the old underground swimming pool, huh?”
The medals he’d won swimming flashed in front of his mind’s eye. These days it took a lot more than jumping in a pool and swimming your heart out to win any accolades, say nothing about a damn pat on the back. He guessed it was a good thing he’d had his moment in the sun in high school. “Remember the year we went to state?” He grinned. “It took forever for my hair to grow back.”
Her face froze and she gave him a blank look. Man, how could she not remember that? The whole swim team had shaved their bodies – heads, legs, arms and all – to eliminate the slightest degree of friction prior to the State Championship meet. The school had buzzed about it for weeks.
“Are you still living near the U of M?” she said, snapping him back to the present.
“No. My ex moved to Iowa with her new husband shortly after our divorce. If I wanted to see the boys, it was up to me to follow,” he said, swallowing his reluctance to talk about it. “I’m in Cedar Rapids now.”
“So that’s why you drive through Maple Valley.”
“I bring the boys up to see my folks as often as I can.”
“I’m divorced, too, but we never had any kids. It’s strange thinking of you all as parents.”
“You’ve got that right,” he said, trying to stay upbeat. “Isn’t it great seeing everybody?”
She gave him a bright smile. “How old are your boys?”
Normally he loved talking about his boys, but tonight he wanted to forget his dismal, day to day existence and pretend the whole world was a shiny new present, waiting to be opened – no plans gone south, no bitter defeats, no regrets, no disappointments. To be young and unsullied again… for just one night…
He cleared his throat and glanced over his shoulder, hoping someone would save him from having to remember that his life wasn’t exactly a walk down cherry lane. No such luck. Don’t get me wrong, he was tempted to say, I love my kids. But I don’t want to think of myself as a parent right now, nor you as somebody’s ex-wife. Not tonight.
He turned back to Michelle. “The oldest is eight. The baby is five. They’re great kids, but being carted back and forth between two houses takes a toll on them and me.”
“Ready for another dance?” Liz whispered from behind him in a voice so sultry it made him feel as though she’d rubbed a feather across his cheek.
He tried not to look too relieved. Could I Have This Dance wasn’t exactly his favorite song – just one more reminder that the rest of our lives hadn’t meant much to his ex-wife. But he had promised Liz. And unlike Sandy, he kept his word.
“Sure, Liz,” he said. “Talk to you later, Michelle.”
He turned his back on Michelle and led Liz to the dance floor. One would never know from her body language that Liz was in the midst of a full-blown anxiety attack. The legendary poise that had won her the title of Miss Minnesota was in high gear – she was still smooth as silk when it came to public appearances. In reality, she was a wreck. They’d played a round of golf before the reunion in hopes that a little sunshine and fresh air would relax her.
He hoped it had helped. Anyway, he was glad he could be there for her. She’d rescued him when he was at his lowest. The least he could do was return the favor.
* * *
Michelle watched Jake twirling Liz around the dance floor and wished she could sink into the floor. The blessed balm of time was fading, the twenty years worth of insulation she’d padded herself, stripped away. The long-forgotten faces lining the ballroom walls were taking shape and acquiring personalities with sickening alacrity.
How could she have forgotten these people existed? They’d been her whole world for six years or more. How could she have lost them so easily?
Well, she’d left the day after she graduated and hadn’t looked back until Rae had talked her into moving home. She’d made it a point to go to college as far from home as she possibly could without running into an ocean. When she’d gotten married, she’d gone even further. The Atlantic was one deep body of water, and it hadn’t hurt her feelings any to put the whole damn thing between she and the past.
Journey stopped singing Worlds Apart so Joan Jett could do I Love Rock and Roll. Michelle moved her head to the beat and tried to look like a dancing kind of woman, but when the end of the song came, and the others were laughing and swirling to Girls Just Want to Have Fun, then Let’s Hear it For the Boy, she was still by herself.
Several women she’d known from choir and art club came up and spoke to her about their memories of her, and the positive impact she’d had on their lives. She’d evidently been better at friendship than she remembered – definitely better than she’d been at boy/girl dynamics. She’d spent so many years blocking out things she didn’t want to remember, it appeared the good memories had disappeared right along with the bad.
“Hi, Michelle.” Another girl whose name she couldn’t remember said hi on her way to somewhere.
“Hi.” She’d forgotten everyone else – why couldn’t she forget Jake?
Leave it to her traitorous mind to remember the one thing she so didn’t need to be thinking about. She’d never admit it to him, but the image of Jake’s hairless body gliding through the water at the state swim meet was still as sharp as ever. That, and the stubble that had soon after started sprouting from his head, arms, and legs – and places she dared not imagine. It had reminded her of the down on the baby chicks on her Grandma’s farm. When she’d told him, he’d said, “So rub my head and see if you’re right.”
She had never forgotten that one, electrifying moment when Jake had gingerly taken her hand and touched it to his head – his silky skin, the newborn fuzz standing straight on end. She eyed him tenderly across the room.
Oh, grow up, she told herself. Fantasizing about the way Jake’s hair would feel against her fingers while he was off dancing with Liz was certainly not accomplishing anything. Besides, she was old enough to know now that Jake’s shiny tresses hadn’t been some fanciful marvel of nature. The chlorine in the swimming pool had bleached his hair. Science, pure and simple.
“Hey, Michelle.” A guy this time. Steve? Rick? Mike?
“Hi.” She shrank back against the wall and sighed with relief when he kept going.
She hated this. Her face felt as hot and red as the balloons bobbing over the dance floor. She watched as their ribbon tails swayed back and forth in the breeze as seductively as dangling carrots.
They were supposed to have worn red clothing to the reunion to show school spirit. The border of red hearts and 45 records on the wall had played to a Heart of Rock and Roll theme at their senior prom, according to Barb. Lord, how she’d hated sitting home alone on prom night, knowing everyone was there but her. Even her little sister, Tracy, had been asked. It was all coming back.
She’d never looked good in red.
Jake caught her eye from the dance floor and waved. Caught staring. Could she be any more embarrassed?
She glared at Liz Allen for a second and decided not to be a victim any longer. Jake’s rejection was to her like a red flag was to a bull. She could do this. She could. A few seconds later everyone on the dance floor started singing along to Ghostbusters and Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called to Say I Love You. She joined in lustily. But acting like she belonged wasn’t the same as belonging, and her attempts at sideline camaraderie didn’t make her feel any less pathetic a few minutes later when everyone in the room but her was snuggling cheek to cheek while Lionel Ritchie sang all five minutes of Stuck on You.
Jake tried to catch her eye one more time, during Jump, which she had to give him credit for, since at the time, Liz’s breasts were nearly bouncing out of her scoop neck.
It was too bad Jake wasn’t bald. A bareheaded Jake would have been far less intimidating than still-damn-near-perfect Jake. Just like in high school. Once his hair had grown back, Jake had been too perfect to tease, talk to, or touch.
Fine. So she was feeling a little grumpy. Overload was her new favorite song. The fact that no one ever did ask her to dance would have been downright humiliating if anyone had noticed. But Deb was still talking to the other mothers, Barb was flirting with Tom, Dick and Larry, and everyone else was talking or dancing.
Nice as it was that Jake had wanted to dance with her, it wasn’t the same as really doing it. She bought a second glass of white zinfandel during Wipe Out, a song she’d thought was vastly overrated until now, when it seemed to fit her mood pretty precisely. She gravitated back to the sidelines of the dance floor, nonchalantly sipping and trying to make herself apparent on her favorite songs.
When the DJ announced his last song was going to be I’ve Had the Time of My Life, she was still humming I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues and trying to convince herself that Big Girls Don’t Cry. It didn’t help when she realized Barb was dancing with Kevin Jamison, the former captain of the football team, her new breasts squished so tightly against the man’s chest that it must have hurt.
Something clicked inside her. Before she knew what was happening, she strutted across the dance floor, pried Barb’s slender arm away from Kevin Jamison’s bull-neck, and told him “Time to say good-bye to your little Barbie doll. She’s married, and she’s coming with me.”
She led a gape-mouthed Barb to the parking lot, waving a quick good-bye to Deb as they strode across the lobby. Barb could dream about reliving old memories all she wanted to, but she was going home alone. Michelle could stand there, hoping Jake would notice her, for the rest of her life, which might not be long given the way Barb was glaring at her, but Jake was not going to dance with her. No one was going to see what a great dirty dancer she was. She and Barb were both going home alone.
Sherrie Hansen is a 1975 graduate of Austin High School, and the daughter of Everett and Mary Ann Hansen of rural Austin. Sherrie was co-editor of the Austinian, sang in High School Choir, and was active in Enterprise 4-H Club and Grace Baptist Church. She attended Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL, and University of Maryland, European Division, while living in Augsburg, Germany. She moved back to the Midwest to be nearer to her family and opened the Blue Belle Inn Bed and Breakfast and Tea House after living in Colorado Springs, CO for 11 years. She is married to the Rev. Mark Decker, Bethany Lutheran Church, Thompson, IA, who formerly served at St. Olaf Church, Austin, MN.