Is That Really You?byTony155©
Author's note: An extra special thanks goes to LadyFalcon who edited this story for me. Her keen eye, attention to detail, and helpful suggestions made this story better than originally written. Thanks so much!
It was a bright, clear late October evening as Gary Buchanan trudged across the vast OSU campus. "I should have picked a smaller school," he grumbled to himself, but he had always had his heart set on going to Ohio State, the same school his parents and grandfather had attended. Since freshmen were not allowed to have a vehicle on campus, his bike was at home, and he did not care to ride the shuttle anymore after using it so much for his classes that week, walking was his only alternative. Besides, it was unusually warm for that time of year in central Ohio, so he might as well enjoy it while he could.
He had pledged and was accepted into the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity a week or so prior. It had been the same frat to which his father and grandfather belonged, so there was not too much doubt as to his acceptance. The hazing was not as bad as he had feared. In fact it was non-existent, probably because of all the lawsuits filed in the past, plus it was against school rules to haze the pledges in the first place. Throughout the first semester, usually on a Friday and/or a Saturday night, the frat would have a party and invite a sorority to it and it afforded him a great opportunity to make friends, especially the female variety. Sometimes, a sorority would do the inviting as was the case tonight. These mixers had been a lot of fun over the past few weeks and he met a lot of people and even made a few new friends.
Of course, the Delta Delta Delta sorority, or Tri-Delts, was on the other side of campus, as were most of the sororities, and he would more than likely smell like a sweating horse when he got there, but he could not complain too much. He had showered and loaded up on the anti-perspirant before he left his cramped dorm room, so he figured he would not smell too bad once he arrived. He turned down 15th Street and saw the row of houses that would soon become familiar to him. Loud music reverberated along the street as students lounged on the porches or mingled on the sidewalk or in the yards.
Gary found the house without any trouble and ambled up the walkway to the porch. Music could be heard from within, the Stones or some other 60's British group, although Gary did not care one way or the other. He was more into jazz or classical, an odd quirk for a teenager, but he usually marched to the beat of a different drummer anyway. Always had. Bright and somewhat sociable in high school, Gary was known as one of the brains in his senior class and a decent baseball player. He was as comfortable with his nose in a textbook as he was fielding a ground ball at shortstop. He had the choice of an academic or athletic scholarship to OSU, so he chose academic because he knew he was not good enough to play pro ball after graduation. He was not even sure he was going to try out for the baseball team because of the academic workload he planned to tackle.
He never dressed to the fad of the day, preferring boot cut jeans, no name t-shirts, and a ball cap. He was sans the ball cap this evening and had even added a red polo shirt to his ensemble. It was a special event after all. He rang the doorbell to the two story wood abode and waited to be let in. He had his ID with him as they had a list as to who was invited. Some parties were open to pretty much anyone who walked in, but that was not the case this evening. The door opened and an overly perky petite blonde came into view.
"Hi there," she said enthusiastically, "I'm Debbie. Can I see your ID and invitation?"
Gary groaned within. A bubbly blonde, he could almost stomach, but he had forgotten the invitation. Everyone in his frat had been given one and he did not know if that would make a difference. He certainly was not going to walk all the way back across campus to get it and then walk back.
"I forgot the invitation, but I have my ID."
Debbie frowned a bit. "I'm not supposed to let you in without it. What's your name?"
"Gary Buchanan." He showed her his ID through the screen of the storm door. She peered at it closely, wrinkling her cute button nose a bit as she squinted.
"I'll be back in a minute," she said as she closed the main door part way. Through the open door, he could hear the loud music, definitely the Stones, muffled conversation and laughter. Debbie returned in less than a minute and unlocked the storm door. "Come on in, Gary," she said sweetly as she pushed the door open for him.
Gary brushed past her and waited a few feet into the hallway as Debbie shut the door behind them. "Sorry about that," she said apologetically, "but we've had a lot of crashers lately and we wanted to keep this small.
"That's okay," Gary replied. There was a table nearby with plain labels and a few markers.
"If you'll just put your name on one of these, it'll make it easier to get to know you." Gary was used to doing this as he had done the same for other such parties. He took a label and a pen and began to write his name. "Where are you from?" she asked curiously.
"Really? A few of my sisters are from Detroit. Maybe you know each other."
"I might," he answered as he peeled the back and pressed the label to his shirt. He thought the possibility to be remote since Detroit was a pretty big city. "Who are they?"
"I don't remember off hand. I could look them up in our directory if you like."
"No, that's okay. I guess we'll know each other if we meet."
Debbie shrugged indifference. Sometimes, she liked talking to the guys who came over for parties, but tonight, she just wanted to go to her room and be by herself. She already had a boyfriend, but he went home for the weekend. Although she knew these mixers were mainly to hook up with guys, she did not want to give anyone the impression she was available or looking. Because she had to be extra nice as part of hosting the party, some guys took that as being an invitation to perhaps ask her out. The tall guy in front of her, though, looked a little nerdy with his short hair, lean build, and glasses and she wondered how he managed to get into a frat to begin with. He seemed nice enough, but definitely not someone with whom she wanted to converse much longer.
Gary could begin to feel the coolness coming off her and knew her time to be the good host and entertain him was rapidly running out. He had been through it before. He was not interested in her, although he found her mildly attractive, but he had been nice back to her and she probably thought he was interested. Gary knew he was not the best looking guy in the world, so he knew his limits as to what type of girl might be worth getting to know. Usually, they were the mousy librarian type who studied as a way of entertainment. In high school, he had been casual friends with some very nice looking girls and it was fine when they talked one on one, but he could tell they became uneasy talking to him when their friends came by, as if he was not in their same class. He was beginning to get that same feeling now.
"Sure, of course you would," she said absently. "There's snacks and pop in the kitchen down the hall. No beer, though. We got busted last year and we're on probation for the year."
"Busted for what?" he asked. He was not that curious, but he decided to see how fast she wanted to make her exit.
Debbie sighed lightly, but kept a straight face. "Some undercover cop caught us giving beer to anyone who came in and one of those happened to be under eighteen. We almost lost our charter, so we have to be really careful now." She looked up at him and saw he was making no effort to move. "Well, feel free to mingle. I'm sure you'll have a great time. If you need anything, let me know."
"I will. Thanks." Almost before he could finish his sentence, Debbie had turned and bounced up the steps to the second level.
Slightly amused, Gary followed the sounds of conversation from the room to the right and found himself in a large living room with many people walking around. He recognized a few of his frat brothers and went in to try and enjoy himself.
As the evening wore on, Gary could say he was having a good time. The girls he talked to were pretty nice and did not grimace or look disgusted when he approached them. He recognized a few of them from classes and at least they could talk about an English paper due or a Biology lab they shared. After a while, he became thirsty and decided to get a soda from the kitchen. Gary excused himself and found the kitchen without any trouble. The sodas were in four large coolers on the floor and there were plastic cups and ice on one of the tables. Chips, crackers, and other snacks covered the table and paper plates were there too. Others were milling around grabbing a Coke or filling a plate with chips and dip and either going back to the living room or to the back yard to socialize.
With his back to the doorway, he did not notice a tall, brown-eyed blonde studying him intensely not fifteen feet away. Gary straightened with a Sprite in his hand and closed the lid to the cooler. He saw the girl, smiled politely, and turned to leave the kitchen.
He had taken but a step or two when she said, "Gary? Gary Buchanan?"
Gary jerked to a stop as if someone had him tethered and he reached the end of the rope. It was not often a girl called him by name, especially one he did not know. He turned to her and looked at her quizzically. He raised his eyebrows, but he still did not know her. She was quite pretty and that was another reason why he was surprised she was talking to him.
"Don't you remember me? I'm Michelle, Michelle Mayfair from St. Augustine's." Her eyes looked hopeful. "We went to school together." She hoped that would jog his memory.
Michelle Mayfair? Gary researched his mind for a scant second. He then remembered her instantly. St. Augustine's was the parochial school they attended from first grade through eighth. Michelle was a classmate all those years and they had always been friendly. She was one of those girls who blossomed very early and paid dearly for it with taunts and ridicules from the boys and girls alike. By sixth grade, she was almost six feet tall and very stocky. She was not fat, but that did not stop comments about her weight, either. Gary was one of the few who never made fun of her. He was a short, scrawny kid with glasses who had difficulty talking to girls and Michelle was one of the few who treated him nicely.
In the seventh grade, someone started a rumor that they had seen them kissing during the lunch hour. Both vehemently denied the falsehood because, one, it was not true, and two, they would get into very serious trouble if it were. Holding hands was strictly forbidden at the school, so kissing was probably punishable by expulsion. Luckily, the story died quickly and nothing happened, but Gary did not mind being thought of as Michelle's boyfriend and the thought of them kissing was very pleasant in his young mind. They never did anything together outside of school, but they still considered the other a good friend.
Upon their eighth grade graduation, Gary went to Waddell High School, a public school, while Michelle attended Archbishop Sheen Catholic High School. Gary could remember seeing her but once since and that was during their freshman year at church.
He looked at her again and smiled, knowing the reason why he did not recognize her. In grade school, she had been a brunette, but now she was a dark blonde. It looked really good on her and he was impressed. She also has lost weight or whatever baby fat she had four years prior. She looked athletic and toned in her jeans and knit shirt. Her face had lost its roundness and was replaced by thinner version with high cheek bones and a very nice smile.
Her brown eyes continued to search his face in hopes he remembered her or recognized her. She knew she had changed quite a bit in four years, but she recognized him immediately when he faced her.
"Gary?" she asked once again.
Gary put down his Sprite and continued to stare. "Is that really you, Michelle?" he finally said. "What happened to you? You look great."
Michelle beamed with pride. "I should say the same about you. You changed so much." And that was true because he was barely five feet two in eighth grade and one hundred pounds, but he grew a lot in high school and was now almost six foot three and one-seventy five. Shaking her head in disbelief, she moved to him with outstretched arms and hugged him. It was so good to find a real friend in such a big school.
They held each other for a few seconds and it was as if those four years apart did not exist. Gary was surprised by her hug and even more surprised as to how long she held him. He was definitely not complaining as he enjoyed the warmth and softness of her in his arms. It was kind of puzzling to him why she was being so affectionate. He never thought they were particularly close in school, very good friends of course, but nothing more serious than that.
"It's so good to see you again," she said when she backed away. "I had no idea you went to school here."
"Same here," he grinned as he shook his head in disbelief. "I didn't see you before. Did you just get here?"
"No," she replied, "I had a massive headache and I was laying down upstairs to get rid of it. I came down and saw your name on the list and I had to see if it was you. It's so good to see you again!" she repeated. She could not stop smiling, nor could she believe the change in him. Facially, he had not changed too much, but his height and weight was so much different. When she saw him, she almost did not say anything for fear she had the wrong person.
"So, what have you been doing with yourself for four years?" she asked.
"Well," he began, and so Gary started to tell her about his high school life. He told her of his playing shortstop on the baseball team and being named valedictorian of his class and all of the clubs to which he belonged; German club, chess club, and math club. He told her everything he could think of except for the one thing in which she was most interested up to that point.
"So, how many girlfriends did you have?" she asked when he finished.
Gary blushed and looked away for an instant as embarrassment was beginning to creep in. He felt the same as he did his senior year when asked who he was taking to the prom. "I didn't have any," he replied softly.
She recognized the pained expression and immediately wished she could take back the question. As nice at he had always been to her, she just assumed he dated. What girl would not want to date him?
"I wish we had kept in touch. You could have gone out with me," she said.
"Me?" he asked. "As pretty as you are, the guys were probably standing in line to date you."
"Well, yes and no," she replied. "You see, I didn't lose weight until after my sophomore year. I began to train real hard because I wanted to make varsity volleyball and I was too slow, or so said the coach. I watched my diet, worked my ass off, and the pounds melted away. Well, yeah, the guys started to come around when school started, but they were the same ones who wouldn't even look at me before. Hell, nobody gave me a second look before. Probably not even a first look!" She laughed painfully as the memories came back to her. "We could have stayed in touch," she said accusingly.
"We should have," Gary said. "I was an idiot."
"We were idiots," she corrected him. "My phone worked just as well as yours."
"It doesn't matter anymore. We're back together, just like the old days."
"Old days? You make it sound like ancient history. It was only four years ago." He chuckled at the thought.
"I'm only nineteen. Four years is a long time," she laughed.
"True, true," he replied. "So, what about you? What have you been doing with yourself? What wonderful memories of high school do you want to share?" He grinned at her.
More people began to come into the kitchen and Michelle felt a bit uneasy talking with that many people around. "Why don't you grab your drink and take a walk back to campus with me? I'm not in the mood to stay any longer."
"Sure," he said. He, too, wanted to leave. He picked up his Sprite and they left the house.
Along the way to the campus, Michelle talked about her previous four years. Her improvement from her sophomore year to junior year was remarkable as she was named second team all-league. In her senior year, she was named MVP of her league and third team all-Michigan. When she received a volleyball scholarship to OSU, she jumped at it. As she had said previously, she did not date and had pretty good grades. She worked at a teen clothing boutique during the summer to earn some extra spending money. When she finished speaking, Gary was dutifully impressed, but he had a few questions of his own.
"So why didn't you date?" he asked. "Was it out of spite for not being popular with the guys before?"
"Exactly," she said without hesitation. "Why would I go out with someone who didn't like me until I changed? I was still the same person inside as before. No way was I going to date someone like that."
"So, you didn't date at all?"
"Seems like a waste."
"Maybe, but that's the way I felt. I don't regret it," she added.
"If someone had shown interest in me, I would have dated her."
"It was a different situation with me."
"I know." He looked at her and sighed. "Can I ask you something else?"
"What's with the hair?"
"You don't like it?" she asked as she touched it.
"No, no, no," he said defensively. "It looks great on you, it really does. I just didn't recognize you back at the house, you know, with the weight loss and your hair and stuff. I always remember you as a brunette, but I guess I can get used to this."
"I hope it won't be too much of a burden for you," she said sarcastically.
"No burden. So, why did you do it?"
"No real reason, I guess. I just wanted a change, you know, just like coming here for school."
"You mean you just had it done?"
"I had it done a few weeks before school started."
Gary shrugged and looked ahead. The campus was not too far away. He hoped she did not mean to go straight to her dorm when they arrived.
"So, coming here was a change for you, too? Why's that?"
"Well," she sighed, "everyone wanted me to go to Michigan, Michigan State, or any other school in the state, but OSU was interested from the start. My dad is still upset at me, but I wanted a clean slate."
"I guess I can see your point," Gary said
They walked a bit further and he could see some of the dorms come into view. "Which dorm are you in?" he asked.
"You want to grab a coffee before you head in?"
Michelle checked her watch and it was only a few minutes after eight. "It's not very late. Are you trying to get rid of me?" she teased. "Do you have another date?"
Gary's face turned red from embarrassment as he looked down. Even though in the back of his mind he realized she was the same Michelle as before, he still had a hard time getting past the fact that a very pretty girl wanted to spend time with him. That sort of thing just did not happen to him. "No, I don't have a date and I'm definitely not trying to get rid of you," he replied without looking up. "I just thought you were heading to your dorm, that's all."
"Don't worry about it," she said as she patted his arm. "I'd love to have a coffee with you." She had a game the next day, but it was not until one. She simply wanted to spend time with the first boy who treated her nice and whom she considered her best male friend while growing up.