tagMatureTen-Year Reunion

Ten-Year Reunion


"There she is, man! I can't believe she came. Check her out, dude. Damn! She's still hot as hell!"

He looked over and saw her walking in alone and thought, "How could I have let her have so much power over my life back then?"

Jimmy was right. She was still hot as hell. In fact, she'd gotten even more beautiful over the last ten years. Her hair was shorter, but it still fell slightly below her chin. It was dark, soft, silky, and smooth; it even appeared to shine. Her face was still gorgeous, but it now had a more mature, more sophisticated look to it.

As his eyes continued their trip down memory lane, he fondly remembered those two naturally-large melons he'd fallen in lust with back in high school. They were typically adorned by soft, figure-hugging sweaters most of the year and they'd driven him crazy day after day. Her body was still long and lean and her legs were as shapely as ever. In a word, she really was still hot. Smokin' hot. He laughed when he remembered wondering if he could hurt something by 'doing that to himself' three or four times a day while fantasizing about her.

He thought about walking over her to her and saying hello just to see if she even remembered his name. He also thought briefly about letting her know he'd graduated from college, spent five years in the Air Force flying F-16s, and now had a job flying for United Airlines out of SeaTac airport but decided against it. He was bigger than that now. Besides, Campbell Edwards came from money and she wouldn't be impressed with his minor, little, insignificant accomplishments. She'd likely just say something like, "Oh, how nice for you...um...what did you say your name was again?" even though it was printed in big letters on his name tag.

Chaz Rhodes didn't need the headache or the heartache. Like so many other guys he'd been hopelessly and helplessly in love with Campbell Edwards his last two years of high school while she'd had no idea he was even alive. Then why would she? He'd been a good 25 pounds overweight, was still wearing braces, and could barely speak to a girl without getting so tongue tied he'd stammer and turn red.

As to Campbell, she was well...Campbell. She was...her. She'd arrived at the start of their junior year and it seemed as though everyone, both boys and girls, was talking about her from the first day of school on. The girls felt threatened by her presence and/or desperately wanted to be her friend—or at least not become her enemy, and the boys all wanted her.

What everyone else was also saying back then was there only one guy who even had a chance and he was already dating the cutest, most popular girl school. Well, now that Campbell was on campus, Karen Powers was the second cutest girl in school. The only question was would Mark Harding dump his beautiful girlfriend and make a play for the new Queen Bee? Even he might might be found wanting. For that matter, it might well be she preferred older guys; college boys or even men a little older than that. After all, she could have anyone she wanted and she knew it, so would she even consider Mark?

Like a moth to a flame, Mark let Karen go and made his play. Chaz remembered feeling almost sorry for him when he heard she'd not only turned him down, she'd laughed at him when he asked her out. She'd been surrounded by her normal entourage of adoring sycophants when he walked up and asked if he could talk to her alone. "Right her will be fine," she'd told him. He evidently looked around then asked her to Homecoming. She looked at her best 'friend', smiled then said, "In your dreams." Everyone nervously laughed while secretly wishing he'd asked them as Campbell said, "Come on, girls. Let's roll." And off they went down the hall carefully adhering to their assigned pecking order.

Via Jimmy, Chaz learned that Karen had made Mark sit in the penalty box for three months but ended up taking him back with open arms. He'd also found out they married each other right after graduation and had a couple of kids in quick succession. Two or three years ago they divorced and Chaz wondered whether either of them would show up.

In the final analysis, Chaz knew none of it mattered now. That was high school and high school was a fantasy world. For him, it had been a cruel-nightmare fantasy world, but it certainly wasn't reflective of reality. It was a kind of phony dress rehearsal for real life where popularity, looks, and athletic ability trumped hard work and intelligence—the things that mattered after graduation. Sure, a girl as beautiful as Campbell Edwards could become rich-er and successful on her looks alone by marrying wealth or power, but Rhodes knew that didn't necessarily equate to happiness, the things money and power were supposed to deliver to the rich and famous. He'd often wondered whether or not she was possibly miserable deep down and all her bluster just a show. He'd learned over the years that truly beautiful people were often some of the loneliest people on earth. It was counterintuitive to be sure, but it often seemed to be the case.

Chaz had taken the reverse path. High school—well, school in general—had been a long, lonely time for him. He'd had only one real friend—Jimmy—and never so much as had a date. But once he got his braces off and started college, he made a discovery that changed his love. He found the gym almost by accident and started fooling around on the various machines. His curiosity kept him coming back and soon he was spending countless hours each month there transforming his body from soft and round to hard and firm. Coupled with a perfect smile and great hair, and his newly-developed physique, Chaz Rhodes became what others proverbially called a chick magnet.

He'd always been smart and he did extremely well at the University of Washington in Seattle, graduating with honors while serving in Air Force ROTC. Socially however, his life did a virtual 180 and he was dating (and bedding) more co-eds than he could keep up with.

As an Air Force pilot, he continued to enjoy a never-ending stream of beautiful women and had become a hardcore, committed bachelor who never saw the same girl more than twice and most only once. But since he left active duty just under a year ago and started flying commercially, that old fire had slowly died out. Maybe it was due to no longer pulling G-forces but just taking off and setting the plane on autopilot until it was time to land. Even then the pilot-in-command did most of the flying. Maybe it was just a function of age. Whatever it was, for the first time in his 28 years, he thought about actually settling down. He laughed out loud when he thought about doing so with Campbell Edwards.

"Dude? What's so funny? Does that mean you think she isn't smokin' hot or something? Seriously?"

"What's that? Oh, no. Not at all, Jimmy. She's definitely still fine as fine can be. But just look at her. Expensive dress. Fancy jewelry. It's that same old veneer. Beautiful outside but rotten to the core below the surface. It all still screams snob. No thanks. I don't want any part of that."

"Yeah? Well, I'd hit that," he said. Rhodes didn't laugh out loud, but Jimmy's chances of 'hitting that' were less than the odds of an asteroid scoring a direct hit on Manhattan and wiping out the earth. Time had not been a friend to Chaz's buddy. He'd completely let himself go and was now sporting a beer gut that could more accurately be called a 'deer gut.' He was also losing his hair—no fault of his own, but when coupled with his thick glasses and asymmetrical face, it wasn't hard to understand why he was still single. Were it not for 'ladies of the night' and massage parlors, Jimmy might well still be a virgin.

"Yeah, she is beautiful. I'll grant you that. But unless something's changed—seriously changed—I wouldn't hit that with your rod, dude."

Rhodes also laughed to himself at having said 'dude.' He only talked like that with Jimmy. Even though they only spoke on the phone two or three times a year, he always fell right back into their same old high school routine anytime they talked.

"So...who else looks hot?" Jimmy asked him.

Rhodes smiled and said, "Go take a look around, dude. Flirt a little. Those same girls who wouldn't even talk to us in high school will be some of the most approachable women here now. Trust me on that one."

"Yeah, but they'll all be married, too."

"Okay, you got me on that one." He looked again then said, "But um...I don't see a ring on Campbell's finger. Go say 'hi' to her."

"Dude! Are you kidding? No way. No chance in hell. Uh-uh. Ain't happening. You go say 'hi' to her."

"Nah. I'll pass. I think I'll just sit here and nurse this beer. But don't let me hold you back, bro. Go check it out. Who knows? Maybe you'll strike gold."

"Yeah. And maybe pigs will suddenly sprout wings and fly." He paused and said, "Speaking of pigs. Is that Ellen..."

"Dude? Grow the hell up, would you?" He looked over and saw Ellen Townsend, the one Jimmy had always cruelly called 'soo-ee!' to. She looked...different. Really different. Wow different.

"Wish me luck, man. I'm goin' in," Jimmy said.

"Good luck, dude. And hey...be nice!" he called out to him. Jimmy turned around as he walked away, flashed a 'thumb's up' to Chaz, then managed to trip on his own two feet. Rhodes chuckled as Jimmy skidded directly in front of Ellen's feet. He saw her try not to laugh as his friend stood up, brushed himself off, and said hello. To his surprise, Ellen smiled and nodded to whatever Jimmy had suggested.

Sitting all alone with his beer and his thoughts, he watched Campbell fend off one guy after the other with a quick smile and an, "Excuse me."

"Same old cu...bitch," he said quietly to himself.

Many of the girls who'd hung on her every word barely spoke to her. A few however, warmly embraced her and told her how good it was to see her again. Evidently, she'd moved away from their home town of Renton, Washington. Perhaps she'd married into even more money and already been divorced. Maybe even more than once. It wouldn't be that surprising. After all, who could live with a woman like that?

He took a sip of his beer and looked around. Everyone he'd spoken to had been friendly. No one could believe it was him. "You're Charles Rhodes? Chubby Chuck? That's you? Seriously???" He'd told his transformation story more times in 30 minutes than he had in the last ten years. He wasn't surprised at the way many of the girls—well, women—treated him. They weren't oohing and ahing, but he could tell they were definitely looking; even those with big diamond rings on their hands. He wasn't looking back, though. Married women were strictly off the table and off his bed.

Truth be told, Chaz was looking, too. But with most of the really attractive women wearing that unique piece of jewelry, he was already pretty sure tonight wouldn't bear any fruit. He got up and walked toward the hors d'oeuvres table and as he loaded his plate, he felt a presence behind him. He turned over his shoulder and saw her.

"Hi. I noticed you when I walked in but don't believe we know each other and I'm kind of hoping we don't." The way she looked at him was different. There was no scorn, no contempt, no haughtiness. "I'm Campbell Edwards."

She extended her hands and a warm smile as Rhodes turned around and shook it. "Hi, it's nice to meet you, Campbell."

She looked at his name tag and saw 'CHAZ.' She tilted her head and said, "I don't remember anyone named Chaz from high school. Can you help me out here?" She was still looking at him in a way that said maybe, just maybe she'd changed, too.

"Oh, sure," he said. "Back then, everyone called me Charles. Charles Rhodes." It still wasn't registering. "Fat, braces, no friends."

Her smile faded as she covered her mouth with one hand. "Oh, my goodness. You're Charles? Chubby Charles?"

"In the flesh," he said flashing her his own brilliant smile. "Only the more popular moniker for me back then was Chubby Chuck. But yeah, that's me."

He saw her look down as though she'd been hurt. "You okay?" he asked.

"I was so awful to you," she said quietly. "Then again, I was awful to everyone."

"Hey, that was high school. No big deal," he said still smiling. "Can I get you something to eat or maybe drink?"

"Oh. Thank you, no," she said still looking down. Finally she looked up at him and said, "Charles? Sorry. Chaz? I have no right to ask you, but is there any way you can forgive me for being such a...bitch? I know it was 'just' high school, but I've always been a bitch. Truth be told I still am. I'm just so...tired of it all, you know?"

He saw her eyes welling up with tears and his first thought was, "Wow, she's an even better actress than she was a bitch." And yet, on some level at least, he couldn't help but feel sorry for her. He grabbed a napkin and offered it to her.

"Thank you," she said. "I must seem like some kind of flake. I never cry." She dabbed her tears and said, "I wasn't going to come, but curiosity got the best of me. I haven't spoken to anyone from our graduating class since I left for Vassar the following September." She stopped talking, looked down, then said, "Wow, even that sounded pretentious. You see, I always thought of them as, you know, the little people. And now, just walking in here and seeing all these very real people I was so rude to... Rude. Wow again. That's an understatement."

He saw her blink away more tears. She took a deep breath and said, "I wish I had the nerve to get up on stage and apologize to everyone, but I'm a coward, Chaz."

"What's stopping you?" he asked. Realizing how bad that sounded he said, "What I meant to say is I'm sure that if that's something you feel you need to do, it seems to me virtually everyone would be more than understanding and willing to forgive you."

"Really?" she asked not sure whether to believe him. "Why? I mean, how could they? I don't think I could just forgive someone who made my life a living hell."

"Well...I would and you were um...pretty darned awful to me." He smiled letting her know it was water under the bridge.

"I don't mean to make this all about myself," she began. She paused then said, "Then again, it's always been about me so..."

"People change, Campbell."

"I know," she said. She looked him up and down quickly and said, "Sometimes they really do."

"I don't mean physically," he told her.

"Sorry. Old habits. But you really have changed, Chaz. You're by far the best looking guy here tonight."

"Well, thank you, but I meant in other ways. A lot of us survive high school and we grow up. We mature. We learn to look past things. Even hurtful things. And I think—I hope—most of us learn to look for the best in other people."

"They'd have to look very deep to find anything decent inside of me," she said, a look of genuine sadness in her eyes.

"They say beauty is only skin deep," he quipped. "You clearly have some very thick skin." He smiled again letting her know he was trying to be polite.

She finished drying her eyes and managed a smile of her own. "Even that's not true. I've always been overly sensitive to criticism. Being rude...being a bitch...gave me an excuse to push people away. Whatever looks I have gave me the ability to ignore people and protect myself from being hurt." She looked right at him and said, "How pathetic is that? How...cowardly is that?"

"It isn't, really," Chaz told her. "It's just...sad. Look, we all have our proverbial crosses to bear in life, Campbell. It doesn't matter how much money you have or what you look like, problems and conflict are a part of the human experience. No one escapes. They're baked into the cake of life. They just have different problems. You know, like whether to buy the Jaguar or the Bentley." He smiled and said, "Life can be tough like that. Or so I hear."

Campbell laughed and said, "I don't know whether you're describing me or my father, but either way, we're both guilty." She hesitated then said, "So...Chaz, are you still single?"

"Hah! My turn to say 'guilty.' Yes. Still single. You?"

"Oh, yes," she said. "I was engaged to a really great guy about three years ago, but..."

"But?" Chaz asked.

"I drove him away. Just like I drive everyone else away. I find fault. I mock. I'm sarcastic. Let's be honest. If I didn't look the way I do, no one would even well...look at me." More tears welled up as she said, "You know what? I should probably just leave. This was a big mistake."

She turned to walk away but Chaz gently grabbed her elbow and said, "Please don't."

She stopped and turned around and asked, "Why not?"

"Because you belong here. Just like the rest of us. We're all connected in some way, Campbell. The ties may be messy or even ugly, but the ties are there. And it's never too late to start over. Why don't you just walk around and tell a few other people what you just told me?"

"Would it be okay if I stayed and talked to you for a while?" she asked sincerely. "I promise I won't monopolize your time."

"No worries," he assured her. "I was kind of hoping against hope I might find someone here I could you know..."

"Hook up with?" she said assuming that's where he was headed.

Chaz laughed politely and said, "Until a year ago, I'd have answered 'yes' and done so unequivocally. But lately I've actually been thinking about maybe finally settling down."

"Me, too. Maybe it's that biological clock thing. We're not even 30 yet and I know people wait longer now to get married, but if I met someone who could, you know, put up with the likes of me, well...who knows?"

"Do you want kids someday?" he asked her.

"Yeah, I think I'd like that. But not until I get my own act together. I want them to have a real mother, not some plastic shell who hands them a credit card as though that equates to love."

"I see. Is it safe to assume that's how love was shown in your family growing up?"

"Yes indeed," she told him. "I had silver, gold, platinum, and black. You know you're loved when you get the black American Express card with no limit for your 16th birthday, right?"

"I'll take your word for it," Chaz said.

"Do you want kids?" she asked him.

"Sure. I just need to find a wife first," he said with a smile.

Campbell eyes were finally dry. She even managed a smile. "Listen, Chaz, I was wondering if..."

"Hey! Dude! Whuzzuppp!!"

Campbell was startled by the sudden loud voice as Jimmy slid in holding his shoes in his hands.

"I'm not even gonna ask why you're not wearing your shoes." He looked over at Campbell then said, "Campbell? This is my best friend, Jimmy Burns."

"Hi, Jimmy. It's nice to um...see you again?," she said extending her hand not sure she remembered him, either.

Jimmy stood there holding his shoes, a blank stare on his face as he looked at her. "Jimmy? This is where you shake her hand and tell her it's nice to see her again, too," Chaz told him.

"Huh?" he said still just staring.

"He's still a little shy," Chaz offered.

"You are SO hot," Jimmy mumbled. "We had like the biggest crush on you ever back in the day."

Campbell smiled politely and said, "That's so sweet."

"Yeah...shweet!" was all Jimmy could come up with.

"Hey, I could use another beer, dude. How about it?" Chaz said tipping his from side to side.

"Oh, yeah. Cool. Sure thing. How about you, Campbell. You wanna beer or somethin'?"

"No thank you, Jimmy. Thank you for asking, though."

"Yeah. Sure. Okay. Cool." He turned, looked at Chaz, mouthed the work 'smokin'' and went to grab two more beers.

"If we run now we can escape," Chaz joked.

"He seems really nice," Campbell said trying hard to be the kind of person she wanted to become.

"He tries," Chaz said. "And he means well. He has a heart of gold and he'd give anyone the shirt off his back." Chaz laughed then said, "But he's kind of got a sweater back so that might not be advised." Campbell smiled as Chaz said, "I didn't mean that the wrong way. Jimmy really has been a great friend over the years."

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