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10 Things I Hate About Reunions

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 From: Bianca, 3:00pm:
Smiling Cat Face With Open Mouth

From: Bianca, 3:02pm:
Hey Smiling Cat Face With Open Mouth

From: Bianca, 3:03pm:
Cat Cat Cat Smiling Cat Face With Open Mouth Cat

From: Kat, 3:05pm:
What, Bianca? I’m at work

From: Bianca, 3:05pm:
Guess what just came in the mail!?!?!?!?!?!?!

From: Kat, 3:07pm:
My copy of Charm and Poise magazine? And only a decade late!

From: Bianca, 3:08pm:
No, silly, the invite to your 10 yr reunion!!!  Envelope Envelope Envelope Party Popper Party Popper Party Popper 

From: Bianca, 3:09pm:
I checked Image result for airplane emoji tickets online. They’re totally cheap now.

From: Kat, 3:10pm:
God no.

From: Bianca, 3:11pm:
Dad says you can stay with him, so you don’t even need to get a hotel. I’m so excited to see you!!! Person Raising Both Hands in Celebration Person Raising Both Hands in Celebration

From: Kat, 3:13pm:
No. I am not going to the reunion.

From: Bianca, 3:14pm:
Come on! Person With Folded Hands Person With Folded Hands Person With Folded Hands Loudly Crying Face Loudly Crying Face Loudly Crying Face Daddy and I miss you! You can see all of your friends! Heavy Black Heart

From: Kat, 3:16pm:
Do you remember me in high school? 

From: Bianca, 3:17pm:
Okay, you can see all of the people you used to make tremble in fear. Image result for knife emoji Image result for knife emoji Image result for knife emoji

From: Kat, 3:20pm:
Everyone I want to talk to I already talk to.

From: Bianca, 3:22pm:
What about Image result for mandela art? You haven’t seen her in at least a year.

From: Kat, 3:24pm:
Is that supposed to be a mandala emoji? Where did you even GET that?

From: Bianca, 3:25pm:
SO CUTE, isn’t it? We did a feature last month on mandalas and chakras and I just had to buy this specialty set. Image result for mandela art  Image result for yogi emoji Image result for buddha emoji Image result for hindu emoji Image result for hindu emoji

From: Kat, 3:28pm:
Jesus, Bianca. You’re a grown woman. You have a professional job.

From: Bianca, 3:29pm: 
Smiling Face With Halo 

From: Kat, 3:33pm:
I’m not going to the damn thing.

From: Bianca, 3:35pm:
All right, fine. We’ll talk later.

From: Bianca, 3:35pm:
When you come home for the reunion.

From: Kat, 3:38pm:
I’m not coming.

From: Bianca, 3:39pm:
Image result for bee emoji out

_______________

Somewhat against her will, Kat thinks about Bianca’s texts on her train ride home.

She really doesn’t have time to fly home for the reunion, anyway. Not even if she wanted to, which she definitely doesn’t. No matter how many times Bianca opines that working at a non-profit isn't a ‘real job’—of course Kat can take three weeks off to go to Paris fashion week with her only sister—she does have real responsibilities.

She'd sort of slid sideways into the job writing grants for Meinm Group. During her senior year abroad, Kat had volunteered on the ground in Phuket, working in the office where funds were given out to female entrepreneurs and helping the women navigate the seemingly unending obstacles they faced in getting their businesses off the ground. It had been a powerful experience, but she hadn’t realized until she was six credits deep into the PhD track at the University of Chicago’s women's studies program that she'd developed a passion for meaningful work—a passion that analyzing the feminist undertones of classic literature wasn’t fulfilling. She’d quit the doctoral program and begged for a job in Meinm’s grant writing program. Chasing down money was tough, but the constant relentless sell of the grant cycle proved no challenge at all when she thought about the impact those funds would have.

The F express train screeches to a stop in her neighborhood in Brooklyn and Kat expertly threads her ways through the crowds and starts the short walk home from the Church Street station without much mental effort.

So yeah, a job she loves. Vacation time she can’t take without her department falling weeks behind. Grant proposals to write that might mean life or death for women in the developing world and a boss who seems to prefer paying her when she’s actually in the office. Add all of that to her ZERO desire whatsoever to return to Seattle and Bianca's reunion fantasy has no place in the real world. 

Not a new tendency on the part of her sister.

Kat throws her bag down on the couch of her Brooklyn apartment and yells for her roommate. There's no answer; Shareen must be still be at Maimonides working the insane hours of a medical intern.

Thai take-out for one it is.

Mmm...the sweet taste of independence. 

_______________ 

  

From Bianca, 7:16pm:
You should quit your job.

From Kat, 8:22pm:
I love my job.

From Bianca, 8:24pm:
You hate your job.

From Kat, 8:25pm:
Noooo...I love my job. I’m pretty sure we’ve discussed this.

From Bianca, 8:25pm:
Boo. Quit and come to the reunion.

_______________

 

Most Thursdays the office closes at four, leaving Kat with a significantly less crowded commute and an extra hour in which to play her guitar with the windows open before her roommate gets home. Often, she also uses the time to have extended conversations with Mandella—who still lives in Seattle and works as an intern in an art museum run out of the back of a coffee house.

Today, as usual, they canvass the old high school stories and rant comfortably about the vacuousness of modern politics, interspersed with updates about Mandella's work on her latest sculpture installation (un-ending) and teasing probes about Kat’s love life (non-existent).

They catch up in person, too, when she’s home, but Bianca wasn’t exaggerating when she said that had been a while. The last few years have been inordinately busy.

Still, there’s really no point in going to the reunion. She does talk to everyone from high school who she wants to keep up with—well, everyone who's likely to be there, anyway. Mandella, Bianca, of course, the occasional Facebook chat with some of the girls from the soccer team.  It’s not like she has any nostalgia for the bad old days.

And there’s no way Patrick’ll show.

God. Kat strums an angry E chord. I hate that I’m even still thinking about him. It’s been years. High school is, thankfully, in the rearview mirror. Something so far removed from her current, adult, life that it barely even registers.

What, is she supposed to hop on a plane just to see how fat Joey Donner has gotten in the last ten years?

_______________ 

 

From Bianca, 10:38pm:
Kat

From Kat, 10:39pm:
Wow, I’m missing my emoji alter ego. What’s up?

From Bianca, 10:39pm:
Come home.

From Kat, 10:40pm:
I told you, I'm not coming to the reunion.

From Bianca, 10:40pm:
I know.

From Bianca, 10:40pm:
This is different.

From Bianca, 10:41pm:
Dad’s got something he wants to tell us. I think it’s an emergency.

From Kat, 10:41pm:
What!? He hasn’t called me. What’s going on?

From Bianca, 10:42pm:
Nothing scary-bad, I don’t think. He’s not sick or anything. But...can you come home?

From Kat, 10:43pm:
I’ll be on a plane tomorrow.

_______________

The Dallas-Fort-Worth airport is Hell. That's the only possible explanation. Hell, complete with five semi-circular terminals.

The last-minute tickets to Seattle that Kat had bought put her on a three-stop Delta flight that spit her out in DFW’s E Terminal. Her connecting flight, of course, left out of B1—about the farthest trek possible from her arrival gate—and she only had about twenty minutes of layover time.

A sweaty ride on the Skylink train, crammed in with humanity and all of its pointy elbows and plus-sized roller bags, followed by a sprint up the escalator and down the terminal have all ended...here. In Hell. Staring down the barrel of a blank-faced gate agent while the word “CANCELLED” flashes on the screen over his head.

“What do you mean, cancelled?”

“Well, ma’am, it means the flight won’t be going to Seattle.”

Kat takes a deep breath in through her nose and counts to ten. “Yes. I understand the dictionary definition of the word. WHY was it cancelled?”

The young man—an utter void comprised of workplace boredom—frowns and taps at his keyboard for what seems like a small eternity. “I’m afraid I don’t have that information.”

“Well, what connecting flight did you put everyone else on?”

More tapping. “I’m afraid I don’t have that information.”

“Well what DO—” another deep breath and a modulated tone. “When is the next flight leaving for Seattle?”

More tapping. “Not until tomorrow morning.”

_______________ 

 

From Bianca, 5:15pm:
So...you’re stuck in the airport? You won’t be home tonight?

From Kat, 5:17pm:
Looks that way. No flights until tomorrow. So tell me NOW - WHAT IS GOING ON? Is Dad okay? Are you?

From Bianca, 5:20pm:
Um, don’t worry. That emergency I mentioned is maybe not so...emergent.

From Kat, 5:21pm:
What does that mean, Bianca?

From Bianca, 5:23pm: 
Speech Balloon

From Kat, 5:23pm:
BIANCA.

 

_______________

It figures, actually. She should have seen it coming. In a lot of ways, Bianca has matured enormously since high school. She went to U-Dub, got a degree in marketing with a minor in communications, and ascended immediately to a cushy position as the associate editor of an online fashion and celebrity gossip site that’s based out of Seattle.

Spoiled little Bianca, all grown up, right?

But, she lives in a condo that Dad bought her ten minutes away from the house where they grew up, she goes home at least once a week for dinner, and, every once in a while, she still pulls Shit. Like. THIS.

Since Bianca continues to ignore Kat’s repeated texts demanding information—and/or her head on a platter—she settles for leaving her sister a series of angry voicemails that escalate until by the last one she’s just basically growling into the phone for a full minute.

Desire for a vengance-rant thwarted, Kat digs her hands deep into her hair, tugs briefly in frustration, and then pulls herself together to try to go untangle the mess of her travel plans.

A frustrating forty-five minutes later, she’s got herself booked on a flight headed back home to New York—because screw Seattle. Seriously.

Not surprisingly, this flight also manages to be leaving from the gate that is the furthest possible walk away from the customer care counter. Luckily, the plane doesn’t leave for four-and-a-half hours, so she’s got plenty of time to get there. Small victories, Kat, take them where you can.  

Okay then, I restrained myself from biting the head off the ticket agent when she suggested that I ‘enjoy the terminal!’ Yay me!

I deserve a drink.

Pushing away from the wall, she stows her tickets and merges into the hallway traffic, large carry-on messenger bag slung over one shoulder. She speeds up, boot heels clomping satisfyingly on the parquet floor, and weaves through the throng of travellers. Despite how crowded the terminal is, a path opens up in front of her; a satisfying indication that her HBIC face is still in working order. A stroller veers to the side, and she follows the fellow fast-walker in front of her onto one of the moving sidewalks that line the long stretches of hallway.

I hate airports, I hate airports, I hate air—

“Kat! Katerina Stratford!”

Kat jerks around in surprise, almost losing her balance on the moving sidewalk, but she can’t locate whoever called her name. It sounded almost like…

“Kat!”

She pivots, now walking backwards against the motion of the sidewalk to keep from moving too far away, scanning for… “Patrick?”

Holy shit, it IS him. She hasn’t seen him in almost seven years and they haven’t talked in almost five, but there he is: on the moving sidewalk across from hers—on the other side of the hallway, merrily ch-chunking along in the opposite direction—also walking against the flow of the belt and grinning.

Just as he waves and does a little hopping side-step around a clump of fast-walkers on his own people mover, an impatient man jostles Kat, passing on the narrow conveyor belt, the wheels of his roller bag clipping her toes, and she jumps back, scowling.

“Kat Stratford!” Patrick calls. “I’d know that expression of pure love for your fellow man anywhere.”

“Verona,” she returns.”You would be familiar with it.”

Patrick stumbles, his foot turning awkwardly, but he catches himself on the rail. People are starting to watch them. “I dunno about you, but this is getting a bit ridiculous for my taste.” He gestures back and forth between the two sidewalks. “Yours, or mine?”

Kat snorts a laugh, much to her internal dismay, and turns around to let the sidewalk take her with its current. He does the same and they debark and meet in the middle of the hallway.

Holy shit, Patrick.

He looks simultaneously exactly the same and impossibly older, face still a broad map of planes, tan skin over sharp cheekbones and a smattering of light freckles that are only visible up close.

He’s still smiling, grinning. Without hesitation, she leans in for a hug and it’s a weird jumble of impressions—mmm, cologne; he’s gotten bigger; his five o'clock shadow is scratchy against her forehead —and then he steps back.

“Stratford, what’s a pretty girl like you doing in a place like this?”

“Wow, your lines haven’t improved at all, have they?”

_______________   

 

From Bianca, 6:36pm:
Soooo I feel super super bad that you’re stuck in the airport because of me.

From Bianca, 6:37pm:
And I know what to do to make it up to you because I am SUCH A GOOD SISTER AND I LOVE YOU SO MUCH.

From Bianca, 6:37pm:
I’m gonna gate crash your reunion!!

From Bianca, 6:38pm:
Cameron’s in town. I called him up and he said I could go as his plus one.

From Bianca, 6:39pm:
I’ll live text you the whole thing. Minute-by-minute updates. It’ll be just like you were there yourself!

From Bianca, 6:39pm: 
Dancer, Type-3 Dancer, Type-3 Dancer, Type-3 Dancer, Type-3 Dancer, Type-3 Dancer, Type-3

 

_______________

It’s surreal. Bizarre. Obscene, almost, to run into him here, in the middle of the Dallas Fort-Worth Airport, the overhead fluorescent lights buzzing menacingly and a tide of irritated humanity turning them into an island in the stream of traffic.

“It’s been a long time, Kat.”

It’s been...forever.

That summer after high school was the best of her life, in retrospect. Not that she’s heading toward the grave yet or anything. She’s probably still got a few good summers left, but yeah, eighteen and trembling with possibility and wrapped up in Patrick. It didn’t suck.

They’d had an intense three months, knowing she was going across the country to college and Patrick...was not. She remembers thinking they were both too smart to try for anything long term. Too smart to ruin a perfect ending to the shit hole that was high school by dragging out the inevitable into drama and awkwardness. So they’d played her new guitar, went to concerts, necked like kids—and then not so much like kids—in cars and quiet bedrooms and loud back rooms of clubs and on the porch of her house in the dead of night and an agony of giggling suspense. They drove around and around and around Elliot Bay and spent a memorable week under the hood of her car, fixing the engine, until laughter sometimes still tastes like motor oil smells to her, all these years later. When the end of summer came, they said goodbye with a kiss and smiles and no promises. No strings.

Of course, home for Thanksgiving, she went over to “say hi” and wound up jumping his bones before his front door was fully closed. And at Christmas that first year he’d met her plane and they’d had wild sex in the airport bathroom.

Stupid.

Before the next summer, Patrick had left Seattle, following a job back to Milwaukee and his Grandfather, and then...Cleveland? Yeah, he’d been in Cleveland while she was a Sophomore, hadn’t he?

She no longer ran into him when she went home to visit family, and things started to...drift. He came through New York one memorable weekend late in Sophomore year and they’d talked on the phone occasionally for another year or so. Then emails. Neither of them were much for texting. Then she’d done her Senior year abroad in Phuket and she’d lost all of the numbers in her phone in the international transfer. The next time she tried emailing him the email bounced back undeliverable. After she graduated, her email address changed too and then...

It occurs to her now—much, much belatedly—that the problem with keeping it smart with no commitments, no drama, no strings, was that they never got any closure, really. They never really ended. The first time she’d slept with her college boyfriend it felt weirdly like an affair.

For a long time it was Patrick her mind had flashed to when she was lonely; Patrick who made all of the serious, troublesome inequities of the world seem more bearable; Patrick who she still thought of as her first real time (the first time that it mattered) (the first time that she’d chosen).

Patrick, standing in front of her explaining that he's only in town to meet with a supplier and has nothing to do except head to an airport hotel room. He smiles that close-lipped smile that transforms his face into a series of parenthesis.

“Do you have time to go get a drink or something before your flight?”

“Yeah. Yes, I definitely do.”


_______________  

  

From Bianca, 7:31pm:
Cameron says hi

From Bianca, 7:31pm:
HE thinks that me trying to get you home for the reunion is

From Bianca, 7:31pm:
And I quote

From Bianca, 7:32pm:
"SWEET" Heavy Black Heart Heavy Black Heart Heavy Black Heart

From Bianca, 7:32pm:
Just saying

From Bianca, 7:36pm:
I’m still REALLY SORRY about that, tho

_______________

 

They wash up at a rodeo themed bar a few gates down from their spontaneous meeting point and both order whiskeys. Before they’re more than a few sips in, Kat is fully launched into the story of her travels.

“My fucking sister—Bianca, you remember her?” Patrick bobs his eyebrows in wry affirmation and crunches ostentatiously on a piece of ice. “She tricked me into flying home for a ‘family emergency’ that turned out to be a pretense to get me in town for our reunion.”

“Our...reunion?”

“Yeah, you know, high school? Ten years? It’s tonight.”

“Christ.” His accent has changed a little over the past years—mellowed or shifted somehow so that it curls around the words a little differently than it does in her memory.

“Yeah, yeah, I know. But I’m the sucker who fell for it, so.”

“No, I mean...ten years. I’m feeling old. I hate that.” He still has that charming little half-quirk of a smile, damn him. Why do men age so well?

Kat rolls her eyes. “Speak for yourself. I’m unwilling to declare myself old at the nubile age of twenty-eight, just because societal standards for female beauty stop at the barely-pubescent.”

“I guess that means I shouldn't tell you I like your new haircut.”

She puts a hand up to finger the short pixie cut she'd gotten in a fit of pique after one too many long-hair-related leers during Junior year. “One, it's not a new haircut. Two, you know there's a difference between playing into the misogynistic structures of modern society and genuinely complimenting a woman you actually know, so don't be a dick, Patrick.”

“Genuine, huh?” He purses his lips in mock thought and takes another long sip of his drink.

“If you like my haircut, just tell me, Patrick.”

“I like your haircut, Kat.”

“Thank you.” She responds, primly. “I've been thinking about growing it out again.”

He sputter-laughs in frustration, and tucks back his own hair—still a little on the long side, but shorter than in high school. “So, you like living in the Windy City?”

Hm, interesting. He kept up to a point. “I think your information is outdated. I live in Brooklyn and the only excessive wind there comes from the hipsters' gasps of outrage when they open a new Starbucks.”

He looks way more surprised than this information warrants. “Brooklyn?”

“Yeah, Kensington. I did move to Chicago right after college, but I got a job in the city, so I came back. What about you? You said you were in town to meet a supplier, so you don't live in Dallas?”

“Well, actually—The guy sitting one stool down from them pushes off to leave and, as he swings around, his laptop bag clips Patrick’s drink, sending melting ice cubes and the watery dregs of whiskey cascading across the bar and Patrick’s lap, missing Kat by inches.

“Shit!” She leans out of the way and pulls Patrick’s bag toward her to keep it out of the mess.

Patrick, who has already established that mysterious connection he always seemed to have with bartenders everywhere, jumps up and rounds the corner of the bar to snag the wad of paper towels the bartender is passing over, blotting at the wet spot on his dark jeans.

The businessman buys Patrick another drink in apology and then leaves in a sweep of coat.

She sets Patrick's bag down on the far side of her stool. There’s an Alabama Shakes song playing over the bar speakers that she’s been hearing a lot lately and she gets distracted for a second trying to pick out the lyrics. ‘Take from my hands, put in your hands…’

“You still play?”

“Hm?” She refocuses on Patrick, who has returned semi-dry, and he nods at her hand, resting on the edge of the bar. There's a set of raised metal ridges running along its length and she realizes she been unconsciously fingering chords like it’s a guitar neck.

“Yeah, sometimes. For myself, the occasional open mic night, you know.” She pauses. “I still play the Strat.” It feels more significant than it really is, right? It's just a really nice guitar. Of course she still uses it.

“You think of me whenever you play it?” He leers, and yep she still finds that charming, too. Dammit.

“Only when we cover ‘So Weird’.”

He laughs, broad and open, and drops his voice to a teasing growl to sing, “You're a stranger, With bad behavior, You're so weird I'm terrified…”

She clasps her hands to her heart. “You know Veruca Salt! I am so proud of your continued girl rock cred right now.”

He laughs louder.

“I mean it. I feel like I had a real, significant impact on your life.”

“Ooh, she’s still cocky, huh? How do you know I didn’t always cherish as secret love for angry girl music?”

“Of the two of us, I’m the only one who was ever an angry girl, so.”

“Was? Don’t tell me that waspish tongue has been tamed.”

“Channeled, more like. I make an effort to only sting the unworthy these days.”

“Conformists beware.”

“That doesn’t put you in any danger, I hope?”

“Me?” His smile widens. “Never.”

_______________ 

    

From Bianca, 8:15pm:
We’re heeeeeere

From Bianca, 8:17pm:
It’s a little quiet, but you know, the party don’t start till I walk in

From Bianca, 8:29pm:
Mandella’s here!

From Bianca, 8:29pm:
She says Face Throwing a Kiss Hugging Face on Apple iOS 10.2 Hugging Face on Apple iOS 10.2

From Bianca, 8:32pm:
That haircut was not a good choice for her, was it?

From Bianca, 8:40pm:
What is with your class, anyway? No one is dancing.

From Bianca, 8:42pm:
Actually, there is a pretty turnt crew over in the corner by the snack table.

From Bianca, 8:43pm:
You go dancing boys! 
Man Dancing Man Dancing

From Bianca, 8:43pm:
Who are they, anyway?

From Bianca, 8:45pm:
OH MY GOD

_______________

 

“Do you need to get that?” Patrick gestures toward the outer pocket of her bag, where her phone is buzzing at regular intervals.

Kat rolls her eyes and finishes the last of her whiskey. “God no, it’s just my sister.”

“So, how do you think she was planning to do it, anyway?”

“Do what?”

“Get you to the actual reunion? I mean, you’d fly in and obviously you’d figure out the lie pretty quickly. There’s no way at that point that’d you’d voluntarily drive to the old alma mater, right?”

“I have no doubt there was an elaborate, but ill-conceived, plan involving my bedroom window and a coil of rope.”

“Ah, the old Lindbergh Baby shtick.” He picks up the thin straw from his drink glass and chews on it thoughtfully. “Classic.”

Some more buzzing. “She’s actually ‘live texting’ from our reunion.”

“What now?”

“She was so determined to—” Kat waves a hand impatiently. “You know what, not important. Anyway, she got Cameron to take her to our reunion and now she’s there, sending me minute by minute updates about our old teachers having some sort of twerk-off by the punch bowl or whatever.”

“Cameron? They’re still together?”

“Really? Out of all the information I just gave you, that’s what you’re going to focus on?”

He juts his chin toward her in teasing earnestness, brow wrinkling. “I care deeply about interpersonal relationships, Stratford. I can see that fact’s somehow escaped your memory.”

She swirls her glass between her palms. “No, she’s not with Cameron any more. They broke up a long time ago, but they’re still really close. It’s ridiculous actually. Bianca’s had all of these crazy hot and successful boyfriends, and she’s broken up with them all but somehow managed to remain BFFs. She and Cameron talk on the phone like twice a week and I’m pretty sure she has a standing lunch date with Josh the junior Senator.”

He nods, assimilating, and then tilts his head: “Did you say the teachers are twerking?”

“Ah, he gets there at last.” Kat pulls her phone out and reads the last text out loud in her best ‘Bianca’ voice. “Mr. Morgan and Coach Chapin are TOTALLY twerking.” She scrolls down a bit and continues. “Or, wait, what’s that old one with the sprinkler? Whatever it is, it could not BE more embarrassing.”

Patrick laughs, tapping his fingers on the bar. “Your sister, man.”

“Yeah.” Kat tucks her phone away. “She is simultaneously the worst and the best. I’m actually just surprised Perky isn’t out there with them. You remember her?” She throws her hands up, rears her head back and shrieks, “Scoot!” The force of her impression almost throws her off the bar stool. Recovering, she straightens the bottom of her shirt and looks up to see Patrick fixing her with an odd look.

“You mean you don’t know…?” He asks, slowly. “Oh. Just wait.”

_______________   

From Bianca, 9:12pm:
this Clapping Hands Sign  reunion Clapping Hands Sign is Clapping Hands Sign  NOT Clapping Hands Sign  lit  Clapping Hands Sign

_______________

Patrick tosses down a few bills to pay for the drinks and hauls her away from the bar. They dodge and weave through hallway traffic until he makes a sharp cut sideways into one of the ubiquitous CNBC News Stores.

They bump into a stand of shelves, sending blister-pocket-sealed pairs of headphones and packs of wet wipes swinging. Kat stops to lay a steadying hand on shelves and when she looks up, Patrick is at the back of the store, partially hidden behind a large shiny metal support pole, in front of the wall of books.

As she makes her way toward him, he grabs the pole with one hand and swings toward the rack of books. Balancing on one heel, he browses the paperbacks and then snags one with a lurid pink foil cover. Swinging back toward her with a squeal of his palm against the metal, he presents the book with a flourish, grinning in a way that makes her instantly suspicious.

“Behold!”

Kat takes the book from him and examines the cover, the title flowing in curliqueued silver script. “‘Tame Me,’” she reads, “by…Charice Perkins?” She searches for the relevance for a second and then the penny drops… “PERKY. Is this by Ms. Perky? Holy shit!”

She looks at Patrick for confirmation, but he only raises one eyebrow and spins his finger in the air, gesturing for her to turn the book over.

Kat reads the back. “Blah blah...from New York Times bestselling author—damn, Perky —New York Times bestselling author Charice Perkins comes another epic tale of sizzling romance. Katrin Stringer is known by the whole town as a ‘heinous bitch’—” Kat’s voice rises in disbelief on the last few words and the sleepy cashier at the checkout station looks her way as she continues to read at top volume. “—can the sweet, hot loving of bad boy Paxton Verdun tame the savage beast!?’”

She slaps the book close to her chest, hiding the cover, “PERKY, WHAT THE FUCK!? She wrote about us!! AND IT’S A BESTSELLER. I hate literally everything about this.” She immediately opens the book up and starts scanning the pages.

Patrick lays a hand across the words, blocking her reading. “Hey, at least your fictional bratwurst wasn’t described in loving detail by your former guidance counselor.”

“No, but, I do apparently have…” Kat yanks the book out from under his hand, flips a few more pages and then quotes, “...rubicund niples that are as diamond-hard as my icy glare.”

Patrick favors her with a wink and then laughs so hard at the expression on her face that she has to smack him with the book. Hard. It is necessary.

Kat helplessly surveys the row of shiny pink paperback monstrosities. “Oh my GOD. I’m buying them all to burn them. Bianca must never know about this.”

“It’s been out for over a year. It's a bestseller,” he reminds her, solemnly. 

“God. We need to get out of here. This is too much.”

“Sure.” He retrieves the book from her and places it gently back on the rack. “We’ll just leave our alter-egos to their torrid love-making.”

He goes to leave, but Kat has a sudden thought and paws wildly through her bag, triumphantly retrieving a miniature bottle of airplane vodka. She shotguns the contents while he looks on amusedly, and wipes her mouth with the back of her hand. “Come on, let’s go see what trouble we can get up to in this place.”

_______________

 

From Bianca, 9:28pm:
I see Joey Donner Eyes Eyes Eyes 

From Bianca, 9:30pm:
xcuse me...nametag says JOSEPH

From Bianca, 9:30pm:
Not fat, but definitely receding hairline

_______________

An hour later, Kat and Patrick are still wandering through the terminal, shoulders bumping occasionally, bantering and mocking the shopping opportunities. Although the momentary glow of miniature vodka has worn off, Kat can still feel the words pouring out of her in a joyful rush.  She tries to stop them—regain some of her cool—but it’s just so easy with him. Back in high school, she’d chalked the sensation up to teenage hormones and advanced lust. She’s not sure what to blame now. Suddenly-reappearing-in-the-late-twenties hormones? Continued lust?

He turns so that his profile faces her and casually rakes his hair back with one hand.

Definitely continued lust.

By the time she admits this, they’re in a Gepetto’s, messing with the toys under the annoyed glare of the shop clerk. Kat tosses a small clear plastic ball with spinning LED lights inside from hand to hand while she tells him about the proposal she wrapped up last week to expand a series of female-owned cobbler shops in west Africa. 

“Using your talents for good, eh?”

“It was that or stalk the dark streets at night, wreaking vengeance on the degenerate and the douchy alike.”

“See, but think of the resume opportunities you’ve missed.” Patrick picks up an old-fashioned marionette puppet of a peasant woman in a dress and apron off a hanging rack. He waggles the cross bars experimentally and the toy does a little impromptu jig. “They do say obedient women rarely make history.”

“That's such horseshit.” She grabs the puppet’s hand and points it back at him accusingly. “That quote is taken wildly out of context. The woman who said it originally was lamenting that we don’t pay enough attention to women who contribute in quiet ways, not that women should go crazy in order to be remembered.”

He lifts the puppet up high, above their heads, and smiles crookedly. “I’m getting the sense that you had fun in college.”

“I did.”

“I’m glad.”

She snags the puppet out of his hands and replaces it on the shelf. By silent mutual agreement, they wander out of the shop and down the hallway as Patrick tells her about a motorcycle trip he took near Brisbane last year.

“It’s just these dead switchbacks down the mountain, see, so people skid out all the time, but my mum lives right nearby so I was able to take a few go’s at it.”

She nudges him with her shoulder. “You’re getting more ‘Stralian by the second, here, Verona.”

“Too roight.” He gestures for her to proceed in front of him.

They’ve reached an empty carpeted alcove with windows on two sides. Bright, primary colored paint spells out “Junior Flyers Club” across the long side wall and a cluster of plastic play equipment is scattered around a foam mat. Kat plunks her bag down on the floor and climbs into the ride-on plane, tucking her legs awkwardly around the toy’s wing and anthropomorphic eyes. Patrick settles onto the fire truck nearby. He grabs the plastic steering wheel and makes siren and truck noises with his mouth as he pretends to steer.

Kat reaches out across the gap between their vehicles and lightly touches a large, half-healed burn on his right thumb that she’s been eying all evening. “Still welding in your spare time?”

“Yeah, kind of. Actually—” He pauses to ‘steer’ the fire truck to an imaginary stop. “—I took it a little farther. I’m doing stained glass now.”

“Stained glass.” She twists around to look at the large, clear, floor-to-ceiling pane next to them. “Like windows?”

“Yeah, windows, panels, sometimes more sculptural stuff. Whatever.”

“Wow,” she says inanely, trying wrap her mind around that information. When he’d said he was in town to meet with a supplier this wasn’t exactly what she pictured. Is it wrong that she hates how little she knows about him, when he’s been such a prominent figure in her memory all these years?

Kat unfolds from her plane and moves over to the small, sturdy playset bolted to the floor nearby. Grabbing the cross-bar at the top for balance, she walks up the slide. Patrick follows her and they cram themselves into the child-sized crows nest at the top, hip to hip and shoulder to shoulder in the small space. He eases a companionable arm around her so that they fit together better. It’s nighttime, but the runway outside is lit up with enough sickly orange lights that the plane slowly parking at the neighboring gate is clearly visible. She watches the little neon-vested crewmen scurry around the base of the idling jet in silent pantomime and surreptitiously breathes in the lingering scent of detergent and spicy male deodorant clinging to Patrick’s t-shirt.

“So, are you a professional stained glass...maker?”

“Kinda. You said you live in Brooklyn, right? Have you ever been to Alice’s? It’s a bar in Ditmas Park.” Kat shakes her head. “Well I did a full set of panes for them—even blew a custom blue. It turned out pretty good.”

He wriggles a little and takes out his phone without removing the arm around her shoulders. One-handed, he unlocks it then taps the screen a few times before handing it to her so she can flip through the photos. Even on the small screen of the device, the window panels are breathtaking in a through-the-looking-glass surrealist kind of way. Cobalt clouds scudding across a drunken yellow sky. She flips to a close-up of an amazingly detailed ant wearing a top hat and cumberbund.

“So you’re doing this for a living?”

“Not fully, yet, but I hope to. That’s my biggest commission so far. Um, a buddy of mine knows the guy who owns the place.”

She hands the phone back and he tucks it away. “Well it’s pretty amazing, good for you.”

He scratches at the light stubble on his chin. “You should go see it in person sometimes. It’s hard to get the feeling of the light right in a photo. I feel like you were somehow, hm, meant to see it. Take your boyfriend.”

“Well golly gee, Patrick, is this the part where I say ‘I don’t have a boyfriend’ and you drag me off to relive some high school memories in a bathroom cubicle?”

She says it with the light brand of sarcasm that was (is?) their trademark, but he doesn’t banter back. Instead, he shifts around until they are facing each other and holds her gaze with uncomfortably sincere eyes. The silence drags long enough to become acutely awkward.

A loud throat clearing from below breaks the moment and she looks down to see an airport security guard eyeing them resignedly.

“Excuse me, Sir, Ma’am? I’m going to need you to get down from there.”

_______________  

 

From Bianca, 9:46pm:
hot goss around the punchbowl says joey owns a chain of used car dealerships. Face With Tears of Joy Pile of Poo

From Bianca, 9:46pm:
Well, he’s got a hot wife, anyway.

From Bianca, 9:52pm:
Scratch that, no Ring on Apple iOS 10.0 Hot GIRLFRIEND.

From Bianca, 10:11pm:
Scratch that again, you will never BELIEEEEEVE this.

From Bianca, 10:11pm:
Joey bribed his date to come.

From Bianca, 10:11pm:
I ran intel in the bathroom

From Bianca, 10:12pm:
lay in wait for her like a Poodle

From Bianca, 10:13pm:
opps...I hit the wrong one. Like a Leopard Leopard

From Bianca, 10:13pm:
Although I would definitely make a CUTE poodle.

From Bianca, 10:13pm:
ANYWAY

From Bianca, 10:14pm:
I lay in wait in the stall...heard Joey’s date on the phone with her mom.

From Bianca, 10:15pm:
He’s her BOSS. She thought this was a BUSINESS DINNER.

From Bianca, 10:15pm: 
Face With Tears of Joy Face With Tears of Joy Face With Tears of Joy Face With Tears of Joy Face With Tears of Joy Face With Tears of Joy Face With Tears of Joy 

From Bianca, 10:16pm: 
Skull and Crossbones Skull and Crossbones Skull and Crossbones

  

From Bianca, 10:20pm:
Hey, Kat...cheetahs pounce, right? Rmnd me to wiki it later.

_______________

After the security guard chases them off the playground equipment, they settle in the food court for some late night french fries, but before they can finish it’s time to head to her gate.

Patrick walks her over and looks up at the sign over the ticket counter. “Ugh. Newark?”

“Yeah, I was kinda desperate and I couldn’t get into LaGuardia.” She shifts the strap of her bag on her shoulder. “Well, Verona, this has been...surprisingly fun.”

“Yeah.” He steps closer. Closer. She doesn’t back down, looking steadily at him.

He kisses her, firm and sure, and it's not the tentative re-exploration she’s been half anticipating all night. It’s zero to sixty right back in the fast lane. All the explosiveness of Senior year and ten more years of—holy GOD what is he doing with his tongue, keep doing it keep doing it, yes please—ten more years of experience. Fuuuuuuuck. She’s screwed. She’s always been screwed. Diamond-hard nipples, indeed.

By the time they break for air on a mutual gasp she’s somehow draped herself all over his chest and a shaggy pre-teen skater boy breaks out into a short round of sarcastic applause.

“Shut it, kid,” Kat snaps, over Patrick’s shoulder, “before I shut it for you.”

“EXCUSE ME—” The kid’s mom begins, indignant, but she breaks off at Kat’s steady glare and hustles her offspring off towards a nearby McDonalds.

Patrick reaches out and gently fluffs her short hair with his fingers. “I love it when you're terrifying.”

“See, that's why we get along.”

He reaches around behind her into the pocket of her bag and snags her phone. He starts to tap at the screen with a confident smile, then frowns. Taps some more.

She raises one eyebrow at his frustration. “It’s locked, what do you think I am, a moron?”

“Uh,” he turns it back toward her. “I was going to put my number in.”

She melts a little, the way she always does when his Fail overwhelms his charm offensive, and quickly taps out her lock code, handing the phone back. He swipes around a bit and she can hear his own phone chime a text message sound in his pants pocket before he hands it back.

He smiles again. Patrick.

“Hey Kat? I'll call you this time. Promise.”

_______________  

  

From Kat, 10:45am:
Okay, I’m home.

From Kat, 10:45am:
I am still definitely SUPER PISSED at you

From Kat, 10:46am:
But you are never going to believe who I ran into in the airport.

From Bianca, 11:08am:
OMG just woke up and saw this, sorry. Who?

From Bianca, 11:10am:
WHO??? Person With Folded Hands

From Bianca, 11:17am:
Kat, I said I’m sorry. WHO DID YOU RUN INTO?

From Bianca, 11:23am:
You are the meanest sister ever. Rat Rat Rat

_______________

The bar with Patrick's windows—Alice’s—turns out to be only a twenty-five minute walk away from Kat’s apartment, on the corner of Cortelyou and Stratford Road. Meant to see it, indeed.

Kat’s flight had gotten in early in the morning and she’d crashed hard, but woken up after a long nap feeling refreshed and somehow anticipatory. She’d really only left the house this afternoon to pick up some groceries at the supermarket and deli on Church, but it’s a gorgeous day—afternoon edging into early evening—and she kind of felt like a walk.

Somehow she’d found herself going right past the deli and towards Ditmas Park. Not so very far, but also not a direction she usually heads. It’s a pleasant walk, munching on the taco she picked up from a street truck and strolling past some beautiful Victorian homes on Stratford. Somehow she always forgets that this neighborhood is here, tucked just a few streets away from where she lives. The big old houses remind her starkly of the neighborhood she grew up in, but the thought doesn’t evoke the usual squirm of memory and guilt. 

It really wouldn’t be so bad to go home to Seattle for a visit. Maybe at Christmas. It has been a while and work does owe her the days. She wads up the foil from the taco and wipes her hands on the flimsy napkin she’d grabbed from the truck, tucking her trash away in her shoulder bag until she can find a trash can.

As soon as she turns the corner from Stratford she can see the bar and Patrick’s stained glass panels, like dark jewels from the outside as evening sun floods through them into the bar.

She pulls open the door and wanders inside to the ding of the bell over the doors. The bar is completely empty, but she can hear heavy thumping noises from behind a partition wall that suggest whoever is on shift is back there moving boxes, or something.

Pivoting, she takes in the full glory of the windows. God, he was right. The do look immensely different in person, sunlight glowing through, colors somehow both intense and diffuse at the same time. She walks forward into the large patch of wavy blue light cast by one of the massive clouds to check out some of the details close up. The scale of the work is impressive, a large sky-scape and a miniature world below, peopled by strange characters and animals. Tucked into the lower corner, almost like a signature, is a hissing cat with an arched back and a spray of delicate flowers instead of a tail. She reaches her fingers out to touch it.

“Be careful, the cat bites.”

She whirls around. It’s Patrick, wiping his hands off on a bar rag and looking smugly at home. And...RAGE. There's a flash of immediate, all-consuming rage like she hasn’t known since her angsty teen years. Her fists ball up unconsciously. “You...you ASSHOLE. WHAT are you doing here?”

He has the grace to look a little sheepish, at least. “I own the place? Partially, anyway.”

“You lied to me? Played me?” She can feel her face flush hot and her jaw tighten. Their achilles fucking heel as a couple and he went there again. Maybe he doesn’t want...

“I told you I knew the owner!”

“You told me he was your buddy. God, Patrick, I thought—”

“Kat, listen, I’m—”

She steps away from him. “—So telling me to come see this place was, what, a joke? You KNOW I can’t stand that shit.”

“No, not a joke, I just—”

Her overwhelming urge in this scenario is to run away—spit out a dramatic goodbye, spin on her heel, and flee forever. Satisfying, as far as responses go, but not terribly mature. Or helpful. But... sometimes I HATE that I’m not a teenager anymore. She crosses her arms across her mid-section and turns to face him more fully. “You just what, Patrick?”

His hands come out to hover around her shoulders, like he wants to grasp them, but he doesn’t. “Kat, look, I’m sorry. I thought this was going to be funny, I swear. I was going to show up at your door tonight with a tambourine and ask you out. I just got home like an hour ago and I never thought you’d come here first.”

Funny? Try juvenile. This isn’t high school, Patrick. Why didn’t you tell me you lived in Brooklyn?” She can feel her spine relaxing inch by inch with relief—not playing me—and a small sliver of guilt—shouldn't have thought he would—but she’s not fully ready to give way. “You do live here, I assume.”

“Prospect Lefferts.” She narrows her eyes and he continues hastily,”I know. I’m sorry. I am genuinely and truly sorry. I should have just told you at the airport. I was trying to be charming.”

“Well, you failed.” Her heart is beating hard as rage sweeps away, replaced with...something else. He lives here? Here in Brooklyn.

“I know.”

“That was a real dick move, Patrick.”

“I know.” He’s still trying to look contrite, but it’s barely concealing an emerging grin. Shit. Should have called him Verona.

His hand creeps up her neck and twines in the short tendrils of her hair.

“You’re not charming. At all.”

“No.” He leans toward her. “Not one bit charming.” His lips brush hers. “Zero charm, Ma’am.”

She winds her arms around her neck and gives in to the kiss on a rush of giddy relief. “It better be a nice fucking tambourine.”

_______________ 

  

From Bianca, 11:12am:
Kat, I really am sorry about trying to trick you home for the reunion

From Bianca, 11:12am:
I REALLY just thought you’d enjoy it

From Bianca, 11:13am:
But I shouldn’t have involved Dad or told you it was an emergency

From Bianca, 11:13am:
I am sorry

From Kat, 11:14am:
Thank you, Bee.

From Kat, 11:14am:
But WHY would you think I would enjoy it?

From Bianca, 11:15am:
Honestly, I was hoping you’d run into Patrick. I heard a rumor he might be there and I know you miss him.

From Bianca, 11:15am:
But he wasn’t there

From Bianca, 11:16am:
So I’m sorry.

From Kat, 11:17am:
Still want to know who I ran into at the airport?

From Bianca, 11:17am:
YES! Person With Folded Hands Person With Folded Hands Person With Folded Hands

From Kat, 11:18am:
Patrick

From Bianca, 11:18am:
SHUT UP.

From Kat, 11:19am:
We’ll probably come home for a visit at Christmas

From Bianca, 11:20am: 
Thumbs Up Sign Person Raising Both Hands in Celebration Thumbs Up Sign Person Raising Both Hands in Celebration Thumbs Up Sign Person Raising Both Hands in Celebration Smiling Face With Heart-Shaped Eyes Smiling Face With Heart-Shaped Eyes

From Bianca, 11:20am:
I AM ALWAYS RIGHT.

_______________

The door to the apartment flies open with a bang and Kat, on her hands and knees with her head in the cabinet under the sink, almost smacks her head into a pipe.

“Katerina!” She can hear Patrick’s boots clomp and the rustle of plastic bags. “The Pad See Ew looked a little sketchy so I got extra Pad Kra Pao instead. I’d ask if that was okay, but I’m not going back out there no matter what you say. I swear half of Brooklyn was in that line.”

She can hear him set the bags down on the counter on the other side of the kitchen and then he gives her protruding ass a light slap. “Ah, but the view more than makes up for the wait.” She kicks out with one leg, catching him glancingly on his ankle. He laughs and jumps away.

She tugs on the wrench in her hand a little harder, tightening the pipe coupling while he kneels down next to her.

“You know,” His face appears next to hers under the sink. “I could definitely take care of that for you.”

“I've got it.”

“All righty then.” He disappears again.

“I said, I’ve got it.” And with another almighty pull, she does. She sets the wrench down with a dull clang and starts to crawl backwards out from under the sink. “It’s my place, I handle the repairs.”

“As we have discussed. Was it a leak?”

“Yup. And I stopped it, but I may have learned more about our apartment’s roach population than I wanted to know.”

He screws his face up and snags a carton of Thai food and a set of chopsticks from the mason jar by the sink. “We really need to start spending more time at my place.”

By the time she gets up from the floor, he's already in the living room, sprawled out across the couch and the coffee table, shoveling a mouthful of noodles into his mouth.

She washes her hands and yells back over the sound of the running water. “And if your place had room for two people to sit next to each other instead of on top of each other, we would.”

Kat grabs her own carton and a spoon and crosses to the couch. Kicking Patrick's legs off the coffee table, she settles in next to him, tucking her feet under her, and scoops up a mouthful of Pad Kra Pao.

Patrick swallows his noodles in a big gulp. “Listen, Johnny wanted to know if you were playing again tomorrow.”

“I do have other things on my schedule than your bar’s open mic night, Patrick.”

“So, yes?”

“Yeah. Same set as last time, though.”

“Good.” He wrinkles up his forehead. “I do love that ‘Rebel Girl’ cover you do.”

“You hate that cover.”

“I love it.”

“You hate it.” She picks up a throw pillow and tosses it at him, laughing at his outraged expression.

“Ohhhh, it’s on girlie.” A tussling match ensues that almost tips the couch over and ends with her kneeling on top of him while he uses a pillow to try to fend off her attacks.

“Enough!” She calls, and flops back onto the couch, weak with laughter and red-faced with exertion. He hauls her socked feet into his lap and leans back, winded as well.

Kat prods him in the side with one of her toes. “Hate it.”

“Love it.”

"Hate."

"Love."

_______________

 

From: Bianca, 6:36pm:
Checked the mail and, guess what? Finally got the pictures Cameron and I took at the reunion. 

From: Bianca, 6:37pm:
We look super cute. I'll send you a copy.

From: Bianca, 6:37pm:
Honestly, tho, I've been thinking and that reunion was kinda lame…

From: Bianca, 6:38pm:
Maybe I won’t go to mine in two years.

From: Bianca, 6:38pm:
UNLESS...hear me out

From: Bianca, 6:39pm:
What if you WENT WITH ME?

From: Bianca, 6:39pm:
It’d be a sister date! Woman With Bunny Ears Soooooooo fun!

From: Bianca, 6:39pm:
You could see Dad! I’ll start looking at tickets now and we’ll get a totally great deal.

From: Bianca, 6:40pm:
This is brilliant beyond brilliant!!      

From: Bianca, 6:42pm:
Smiling Cat Face With Open Mouth ???