Rebooting Their Lives
It was Sherry Volk who was responsible for getting Nikki Kaufmann to attend their high school class 30th Reunion. Nikki had no intention of putting herself out there as a third wheel charity case but it was Sherry who reminded Nik that she wasn't the only single woman in the group.
"I haven't found the right guy yet," Sherry was quick to point out. "Don't you think I know my biological clock ran out a long ago?" She said sadly.
"You'll find your guy," Nikki predicted as she and Sherry sipped on their specialty coffee at the Greenville Coffee Shop.
"Come on, it's the first time all of the Fast and Furious girls will be together since we graduated!" Sherry encouraged. "It's been thirty frgin' years."
"I don't want to be the sad sap," Nikki reasoned.
"Kelso's divorced and Tuts says no way her husband is coming so you and me aren't going to be the only single woman there," Sherry reasoned.
"I'll be the only widow," Nikki replied.
"You'll get the sympathy vote," Sherry assured her. "Come on, Nik, it's time to put yourself back out there. Have a little fun!"
Nikki replied with a defeated sigh but Sherry was able to mostly guilt her disinterested friend into attending the class reunion and that was okay with her – as long as Nik showed up there was a chance that she might jump start her life.
Nikki was unaware that Sherry had dispatched her good friend Mike Clark to convince widower classmate Todd Landers that he too should attend the same class reunion.
"I went to all of them with Linda," Todd said with a sigh as he and Mike nursed a beer in front of the ball game on the tube at Todd's house. "It would feel strange showing up to this one stag. I think I'll just stay home."
Mike tried to use the football angle to get Todd to come- reteaming with all the old guys from the squad but Todd said reliving the old glory years thirty years later was kind of lame.
Mike had no choice but to play the ace card in a final attempt to get his friend to show up. "I hear Nikki Kaufmann is going to be there," he said slyly.
Todd's eyebrows lifted. "Really?" He asked with intrigue. "I don't think she's been to one of them yet."
"I think you're right," Mike agreed. "Maybe you should go just to see what she looks like after all this time."
"Her husband died," Todd said, deep in thought.
"See, you'll have something in common!" Mike said.
Todd gave him a funny look. "It's not a good thing in common, Clarkie."
But Todd reluctantly agreed to attend the reunion mostly to get his nagging friend off his back.
"It's not going to be any fun being the guy with the dead wife," Todd sighed.
Sherry knew there was a good possibility that Nikki would change her mind and bail out a the last minute so she showed up at Nikki's mother's house where Nikki had been living for the past few months. Mrs. Kaufamann was giddy to see Sherry dressed in a pretty and pillowed white dress with a flowered print.
"It's to hide the bulk, Mrs. K," Sherry laughed before heading up the stairs to find a nervous looking Nikki standing in front of a full length mirror hanging on the closet door squinting at her reflection.
Nikki was wearing a black dress with straps. Her auburn hair (with the help of a little hair coloring) was pulled up on the top of her head in a school teacher's bu. She had her hands to her face, frowning as she traced the crow lines by her eyes with her fingers.
"I'm old," she groaned into the mirror.
"As long as you smile they won't notice," Sherry grinned as she took a seat on the foot of Nikki's bed.
"As long as I don't talk they won't notice," Nikki clarified.
Sherry laughed. "God, it's so great being back in your old room again after all these years," she beamed. "We sure did have fun back in the day."
Nikki was focused on her hair. "I'm sure any of this is worth the effort," she said into the mirror.
"Don't be silly," Sherry countered. "We're going to our high school reunion!"
"So what?" Nikki sighed at her reflection. "The Fast and Furious girls have moved on. What's the point?"
Sherry groaned. "Since when did you turn into a fuddy-duddy?"
Maybe I should forget the whole thing," Nikki said. "You guys can get along without me."
"No way!" Sherry protested, springing from the bed. "When's the last time you had fun, Nik!? It's time to get out of the house!"
"But when the night is over everybody goes back to their regular lives forgetting each other all over again and I'll be right back here feeling sorry for myself," Nikki pouted. "High school is just a feel good memory now. It's not based in reality."
"Shut up and come with me," Sherry ordered, taking her by the arm. "We're going to the reunion."
The reunion was being held in the banquet room of Serguci's Italian Family Restaurant. The reunion committee had done a good job of decorating the room with banners and streamers and balloons. A memorial table had set up to remember the six deceased class members and a second large memory table featured yearbooks, copies of The Hurricane student newspaper and other publications, flyers, programs and artifacts from their high school era. A bar took up most of the far corner of the room and that's where Sherry led Nikki.
"Let's get a drink to calm your nerves," Sherry suggested.
Nikki watched as former classmates and spouses flowed into the room, people she she hadn't seen in thirty years but she saw hints of their former selves in their faces and Nikki realized she wasn't quite so alone after all.
Mike Clark showed up at Todd Lander's house at around the same time Sherry arrived at Nikki's place. He found Todd pacing back and forth in the living room, second guessing his decision to attend the reunion.
"I don't want people talking about me behind my back," he told Mike.
"Nobody's going to say anything," Mike assured him.
"To my face maybe," Todd agreed. "But people can be insensitive rude assholes when they don't think I'm listening."
"The reunion isn't about Linda, Todd," Mike told him. "It's about you getting yourself out there again and not worrying about what people think."
Todd adjusted the silver tie he was wearing along with a silver dress shirt and blue jeans. "I don't want them feeling sorry for me either," he said.
"They won't," Mike said with confidence. "Let's go live a little."
The rest of the Fast and Furious girls arrived at the reunion and exchanged hugs and small talk before commandeering a table as their own where the reminisced and updated each other on their lives. Sherry was the leader – the glue that kept them together. Kelso was the rough and tumble member of the group, loud mouthed and opinionated who didn't take shit from anybody which was probably one reason why she was divorced! Tuts was the beauty queen member of the group, still looking model ready at 48, still capable of turning heads when she walked through a room. Beanie was the brains of the outfit, the bookworm scholar who helped the others through their school studies and made them smarter just by being around her. Nikki had been everybody's friend, able to mesh and meld into the group without much of her own identity but the others respected and liked her.
"Hey, Nik, isn't that Todd Landers just coming in the door?" Sherri asked.
Nikki squinted in Todd's direction with interest. "He's looking pretty good," she observed.
"Maybe you should go talk to him," Tuts suggested.
"Oh, I'd have nothing to say," Nikki sighed.
"Didn't you used to sort of kind maybe like him a little?" Beanie asked.
"We used to flirt," Nikki admitted.
"His wife died," Kelso revealed.
"I heard," Nikki replied, not taking her eyes off of him.
"Go say hi," Sherry encouraged.
"He's talking to the guys," Nikki said, watching him chat with Mike Clark and a couple of the other former football players.
"So what?" Kelso laughed.
"Go for it, Nik," Sherry said, standing and practically lifting Nikki out of her chair. "I'll walk you to the bar as a pretense."
The two women walked across the room and when they were close to where Todd was standing, Sherry purposefully gave Nikki a small shove so that she stumbled into Todd Landers. He turned suddenly to see who had jarred his drink in his hand and his eyes went wide when he saw Nikki Kaufmann standing by his side. Sherry had disappeared into the crowd.
She returned his gaze.
"Hello, Nikki," Todd said politely. "It's good to see you."
Nikki stared at Todd, her heart suddenly skipping a beat as she looked at him up close and personal. His gray streaked brown hair was much shorter than their high school days, clipped short. His graying goatee shaped his mouth and she noticed the same crow's feet on his face that haunted hers. He seemed taller then she remembered for some reason.
"How are you?" he asked.
"I'm good," she replied and all of a sudden she was very happy that she had come to the reunion. "Nobody told me you were going to be here," she admitted.
"Really?" Todd asked with surprise. "I was told you were going to be here."
"That's why I came," he smiled, lifting his drink to his mouth.