I didn't really want to come, but I figured that I hadn't seen her for five years, so maybe it was better that I did. I don't know what I was expecting, I wasn't hoping for it to all come back, or for it all to be gone. But I was hoping she would be there.
I have to be honest and say that I was expecting her to be the same person I knew back then. Not because of my nostalgia, but because I remember the way she was and she didn't strike me as one who would change easily.
I guess I was wrong.
I was outside, smoking, and avoiding the old teachers, when she arrived. She was hardly subtle, I would have said ostentatious if it hadn't been immediately obvious who it was. There was always something about her that was the same, I always knew her. That hadn't gone.
She came on a motorbike, which I hadn't expected, it was slim and deep red and she rode it like a natural. Totally different from the last time I had seen her. She hadn't had much in the way of balance, and she wouldn't have looked good in a leather jacket.
She was always dressed formally, even outside of school, where we didn't have to wear the uniform. She would always wear a shirt and black pants and dress shoes. She had this waistcoat that she would wear from time to time. I used to tell her she should wear it more, she always looked really good in it, especially with her hair tied back.
I stamped out my cigarette and watched as she parked and dismounted, pulling the helmet off.
If I was the melodramatic kind I would have gasped, but I never have been, so instead I just stared ardently. She didn't look much different, but the little changes made all the difference. She had been a bit rounded back in school, and of course that had had no effect on my view of her, but now that she wasn't… wow.
I couldn't be quite sure what the difference was, because it was small, but if I had to say, it would be that her face was sharper. She was more defined that she had ever been before. It was more apt than it was meant. She had never had much of a sense of self, she had been unique, sure enough, but that wasn't the same. She had never had much confidence or much presence.
She certainly did now.
And then she saw me and I really did gasp.
It was the same as it had always been, and it still blew me right off my feet, still made me want to sink into a puddle and be still. There was something about it that was far from warm and far from cold. It wasn't more than one thing, it wasn't mixed, it was just different. It was not something I'd ever seen on anyone else.
"Ma cherie, it is a pleasure to see you again," she said, smile still on her face. Did I forget to mention that she was French? A native of Paris if I was to believe the tails. She didn't have so much of an accent when last I saw her, she was leaving for France, to study there or visit family or something.
We didn't quite manage to stay in touch.
She stepped right up to me and somehow I was surprised that she was taller than me. She took my chin in her hand and bent down to kiss me on the mouth. She used to do that sometimes, when she was in a good mood.
She'd been taller than me all the time I knew her, but it never stuck in mind, she didn't have much of a presence and so she didn't seem tall. But now she had presence, and I was dumbstruck. It was probably more than I hadn't seen her for five years and she just turns up and kisses me.
Also, I hadn't kissed anyone in five years.
"H… He… hello again," I managed.
She looked down at me and smiled. "It used to be me who stuttered," she commented. "It is very good to see you again, Rebecca."
I looked back up at her and couldn't help but smile in return. "It is good to see you too Adela," I told her. "It has certainly been too long if you can ride a motorbike and I didn't know about it."
She smiled even wider. "Good of you to return to us," she said. "I thought I had frightened you too much there."
"I think surprised is a better word," I replied.
"A preferable word maybe," she said. "Shall we go in?"
I followed her into the unreasonable lobby and observed as she checked in her coat and helmet. She was wearing a white shirt and a black waistcoat, with dark jeans and black boots. Somehow the look was completely different from the one she had once had. She wasn't so formal anymore.
"You always said that you liked the waistcoat," she said, noticing me.
"I always did," I replied. "It looks good."
She smiled again and offered me her arm, something no one else ever did. It was interesting that the way she had once done it had been because she wanted me there to help her, and now it was the opposite, almost. She wanted me to be there with her, not for her.
So we went back in together and we sat down together. It was still early in the evening, and not that many people had arrived. So we sat together and talked of the intervening time. I told her about my last five years and she refused, despite my protests, to tell me of hers.
I went to uni, turned down a great many people, was turned down twice, and cried into some ice cream. I finished my course, found that it didn't make me very employable and so started another course that would possibly make me more employable. I finished that and found that I was employable, and was shortly employed.
And that was all that happened to me. I didn't think it was very interesting.
"I don't think you should be so self depreciating," she told me. "You are interesting to people who are interested, and I am. I don't know much about what you studied, but never the less it interests me to know that you studied it, or that you can't seem to tell when a boy is interested."
"I can't tell if a person is interested unless they say it outright," I told her. "You of all should know that."
"I do believe that you asked me on our first date, and not the other way around," she replied.
"If you will recall, you then informed me, on the date, that you had wanted to ask me out for quite some time and never been able to get up the nerve," I said. "And I told you that I wouldn't even have guessed, you took it poorly."
"I do recall that," she told me.
"I haven't changed as much as you have," I said. "I still have that same problems."
"I imagine that you have not had such inspiration to change," she replied. "I always thought you were perfect, you know. Or as perfect as a real person can be."
"I think I remember you saying so repeatedly and rather ardently at some point," I told her. "I would be surprised if you remember that though."
She smiled. "I used to rather overindulge, didn't I?" she asked. "I haven't had that much to drink in years."
"I don't think I have ever been drunk," I told her.
She raised an eyebrow.
"Ok," I conceded. "But only that once, and I don't remember you complaining at the time."
"I'm sure that at that time I was at least equally inebriated," she said. "But still it sticks with me, because it was the least refined I have ever seen you."
"Unrefined is rather a nice description," I said.
We chatted about the past until late into the night, not once was she coerced into parting with a single day of her time in France. She would tell me little things, like that she hadn't drunk so much when we were apart, or that she had never even been offered drugs. But she wouldn't really tell me about it.
I didn't really want to press her. She was never one to be pressed, you couldn't make her speak of something she would rather not. She was never one to part with things easily, I may have once tried to seduce her just so that she would share something with me. It was fun, but she never did tell me.
"What are you smiling about?" she asked me. She was starting to flush, and she looked so much like she had back when we were younger. I hadn't noticed her drinking that much.
"I was just recalling your inability to part with information," I told her.
"And here I was thinking you were recalling something more fun," she said with a devilish grin.
"They were once related, if I recall correctly, and I remember that being quite good fun," I told her.
"I remember it being similar to torture, just in a different way," she said. "You kept stopping to try to get me to talk, it was… interesting."
"I remember you looking proud of yourself after that," I said.
"I managed to resist, didn't I?" she replied.
There was a sound from the speakers. "We're sorry everyone," a voice said, the old principal. I looked around to find that there were very few people remaining. "But it is almost eleven and we have to wrap up."
"Eleven seems early," I commented.
"I expect it is a limitation set by the venue," she said. Standing, she offered me her arm again. "Shall we go somewhere and continue our conversation?"
I stood with a smile and took her arm. "I think you may have just asked me out."
I blushed as I realised what I had just said, I hadn't meant to say it that way, but I did not take it back. Just because I didn't intend to say such a thing doesn't mean that I didn't mean it.
"I felt it was about time," she told me with a grin.