First and Ten
A Carnal Reunions tale...
Hello to all of Gracie’s Girls, class of 1999. Once again, thanks to all of you for the flowers and phone calls after my aunt Gracie’s passing last winter. You all meant so much to her, and to me.
As I’m sure you all know, our tenth college reunion is coming up this summer. Since I now have Gracie’s big rambling house all to myself, I’d like to extend an invitation. If any of you are coming back for the reunion, you’re more than welcome to stay here, in your old rooms. Gracie quit taking in college students several years back, so there’s no one here but me, and I’d love to have some company while I’m getting the house ready to put on the market. So what do you say? One last time as roommates? It would be great to see all of you again.
She hadn’t planned to attend, at least not until she received Karen’s guilt-inspiring e-mail. Every instinct she possessed screamed at her to hit the delete key and pretend the e-mail hadn’t arrived, but she just couldn’t do that. Karen was having financial problems, and had to sell the historic but dilapidated old Victorian house they had all shared in college.
She shouldn’t feel so gun-shy, but even after all these years, it would be hard for her to go back and see all her old pals with the memories of her college years slamming hard into her refurbished self-image. A self-image that had taken her seven long years of analysis and hard work to create.
Fran sighed and rubbed her temples, shoving her reading glasses up onto her sleep-tousled head. She received the formal reunion invitation last week, but she had tossed it. No use reliving the whole college scene just to see how everyone else looked…see how many of her friends had kids…how they had changed over the ten years since she’d last seen them. Listen to them telling stories about new babies and favorite pets and how they’d met their husbands.
All the things Fran had excluded from her life in favor of monetary success and being “her own woman”.
Fran was a realistic woman now. She refused to kid herself. She had never found the man of her dreams and settled down to raise a family, mainly because it had taken her seven years to get past her own demented mental image of herself. And now that she finally recognized her own worth, and had learned to love herself as she was, she was way past the desire to flaunt her wares and try to trap some unwary male. Besides, most men in her age bracket were already married…or divorced and on the rebound. Or just looking for a one-night stand. So far, that had never quite appealed, no matter how damned good looking the man in question happened to be.
Men were not a necessity to life. Besides…she’d royally screwed up with the only man she’d ever really wanted any sort of relationship with, long ago.
She ran her fingers through her wild curls and pressed her thumbs against the bridge of her nose. Back then, she’d been so sure the tentative advances he’d made were simply another way for the jock community at WIU to have a laugh-fest at her expense. She’d reacted defensively, tearing his ego into tiny strips. And then he’d basically left her alone. Damn…
Only years later, after many long sessions with her uber-patient therapist, had it flashed with astonishing clarity into her mind. Jack Gerrard…her dream man… and he’d actually tried to ask her out on a date. And she had gone off on the man as if he’d just asked her to jump naked into an anthill.
She gave a sigh of resignation. The worst part of it was she had always had the most pathetic crush on the man—most girls had crushes on the hot, sexy hero of the WIU gridiron.
Even in high school, Gerrard was always in the company of cheerleaders and prom queens and the most popular girls. They hung all over him like bees around a honey pot. One look from those riveting blue eyes could make any girl drop her panties with a scream of delight. But Jack had ignored them most of the time, keeping up excellent grades so he could play varsity football. She supposed that was the true attraction.
Sure. There she went, lying to herself again. She had been hot for his ripped body, just like all the other girls. But it had gone deeper than that with her.
He had offered her some modicum of friendship, and good-looking guys did not want to be pals with Fran Jamison. So when that friendship was withdrawn without explanation or reason, it had torn her up inside.
Fran leaned back into her leather desk chair. Getting through high school and completing college had taken every ounce of strength she possessed…but she had managed it with top grades. She had avoided Jack Gerrard as if he no longer existed. She had made certain that she built a shell around her mind and soul, and in college, she had toughened up that outer shell to ward off any painful quips the guys made about her size or her height.
She had graduated first in her class, with a full post grad scholarship to Harvard Business School for her Master’s studies. She’d left WIU behind and had never looked back.
She had spent the last ten years methodically building one of the most sought-after consulting firms in the world. She had parlayed a first class education into a multi-million-dollar corporation using government grants for seed money, and a sharp business acumen that took her to the top of her profession. Eight and a half years of working 24/7 on her business. Seven years of therapy. A totally new Fran Jamison.
And now she was actually going back to the beginning of it all? She had more guts than she’d thought. And it almost made her physically ill.
She typed a quick acceptance, and then slowly closed her laptop. She rose from the desk chair and scratched her head as she yawned capaciously. Glancing into the mirror that graced the far wall…the one with the giant slogan hung over it that said “See not the world through the eyes of others”, she smiled grimly and said, “Okay, Fran…that gives you exactly four days, thirteen hours and twenty six minutes to get your shit together.”