© 2013 by Abbie Johnson Taylor
I hadn’t had a drink in ten years, but when I went to my first high school class reunion, that changed. My wife was attending a writing conference that weekend and couldn’t come with me. She’d been doing a lot of traveling since her romance novel made the bestseller list. We were living in Sheridan, Wyoming, where I went to high school, so I didn’t have to drive far to the reunion.
On that Friday night in early June, I went to the Holiday Inn, where most of the events were held. The first was an icebreaker with a cash bar. Since I didn’t keep in touch with most of my classmates, I only planned to stay long enough to greet a few people and get some free food before heading home after a long day at the office.
When I walked into the ballroom, I spotted her. She stood in a corner, looking as beautiful as she did when we graduated. Her long blond hair cascaded in waves down her back, and her sea-blue strapless dress, the same color as her eyes, accentuated her tanned shoulders. She was wearing black sandals, and her red nail polish said a lot. Our eyes met, and against my better judgment, I found myself walking in her direction.
“Ryan Foster,” she said. “I’d have known you anywhere.”
“Heather…is your last name still Wilson?” I looked at her left hand and didn’t see a ring.
“I’m afraid I’m still single. I heard you got married. Your wife didn’t come with you?”
“Nope,” I said, captivated by her eyes. “Kate’s at a writers’ conference.”
“A writer?” Heather said. “What does she write?”
“Mostly romances,” I answered. “You may have heard of her latest one, Sunset Passion. It’s on the New York Times bestseller list.”
“Wow! I picked that up at the Denver airport, so I’d have something to read during my layover. Did you know I’m living in Los Angeles?”
“No,” I said, relieved at the opportunity to change the subject. “Are you an actress?”
“I work in an art gallery. Let’s get something to drink and catch up, shall we? I’m dying of thirst.”
We found an empty table in a corner, and I went to get our drinks. I hoped by the time I got back, others would be there, so we wouldn’t be drinking alone. When I returned a few minutes later with a bloody Mary for her and a Scotch and soda for me, the table was still empty except for Heather. I put down our drinks and sat across from her. “So, if you’re not an actress, what do you do with yourself besides working in an art gallery?”
“I model on the side to make extra money.”
“Modeling? I’m not surprised. You were always the prettiest one in the class.”
“That’s sweet of you, but it’s just a way to pay the bills,” she said nonchalantly.
“I thought models worked in New York.”
“Not if they model swimsuits. Wait a minute. I think I may have…”
She opened her purse and pulled out a photo that looked like it could have been from a magazine cover. I stared at Heather’s body, clad in a black bikini. Looking at her lying in all her splendor on a sandy beach, I felt myself getting hard.
“Wow!” was all I could say, as I handed her the photo.
“I’m glad you like it. I’ve been told I’m pretty irresistible, even to married men.”
“Well…um…I…um…I’m sorry. It’s just that the last time I saw you was at graduation, and now, look at you. With that scholarship you got to UCLA, I should have known you’d do well.”
“I majored in drama, but I’ll admit I just don’t have the talent. So, during my sophomore year, I switched from drama to art, but I couldn’t paint, either. I considered moving back here. I thought Dad might let me work with him in his coin-operated machine business, but I knew that would bore me to tears, so I stayed in Glendale, and as they say, the rest is history.”
“You always had a head for figures. Remember when you sat next to me in geometry?”
“Yes, I remember cheating off your tests because I’m really not that good with numbers.”
I found that hard to believe but decided to let it drop. “You like living in California?”
“Most of the time.” She took a long sip of her drink. “But I often think about what would have happened if I stayed here. Anyway, I saw an ad for a modeling school and dropped out of college to give it a try.”
“And you became a successful model overnight.”
“Well, it wasn’t easy. I had to work a few topless jobs before I found an agent and started modeling for Sporting Life.”
“So, you only model swimsuits?”
“I’ve also modeled water skiing, scuba diving, and tennis wear, but that’s not nearly as lucrative or fun.”
“Wait a minute. Didn’t I see you on the cover of Sporting Life last winter wearing nothing but a tiny bikini and skis?”
“Oh, God! That was the worst shoot I’ve ever done. Remember when I went skiing with you and your brother when we were seniors? I kept standing and falling, standing and falling. Your brother said I was falling wrong and could get hurt. So, I ditched the skis and walked to the lodge, where I waited until you guys were done skiing.”
“Yeah, I’ve always remembered that day.”
“Okay, enough about me.” She took another sip of her drink. “What have you been doing with yourself all this time?”
“Honestly, there’s not much to tell. After high school, I went to Sheridan College and majored in police science. After a year, I decided I’d rather defend criminals, not arrest them. So, I transferred to the university in Laramie, where I got my law degree, and that’s where I met Kate.”
“Your wife.” It was more of a statement than a question from Heather.
“She was majoring in creative writing, got her MFA, and after I graduated, we moved back here and got married. I think she’d rather be in New York City, where all the agents and editors are…”.
“Who doesn’t want to live in New York City?” Heather snorted.
“But at least these days, there’s email and other ways around that,” I continued. “I don’t think she’s happy living here, but there’s not a lot I can do about that now.”
“Oh, the things people give up for love. So, do you have any kids?”
“No, Kate never wanted children,” I said, for the first time regretting my marriage. “She was too busy writing to be bothered. She always wore a diaphragm when we, well, you know.”
“Yeah, I had to do a little of that to get where I am today, but I don’t mind. I like a good fuck.”
I found myself laughing so hard I almost peed in my pants. She handed me her empty glass and said, “I’d love a refill.”
“I need to make a quick pit stop first.” As I walked across the ballroom, I kept looking back at Heather. What was I doing?
In the restroom, I heard the band playing “Islands in the Stream” and remembered dancing with Heather to that song during our senior prom. I was anxious to get back out there with her and do it again, although I knew it wasn’t a good idea. I finished my business, hurried to the bar to get our drinks, and headed to the table. Setting our glasses down, I took her hand and said, “Come on, let’s dance.”
By the time we hit the floor, the song was over. The band went right into “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go,” which was a bit livelier than I would have liked. Heather began swinging her hips. So, I went along with it and got into the song’s rhythm.
Throughout the rest of the night, we danced several times. The more I drank, the more things blurred. One minute, I was feeling her body against mine, and the next, we were back at the table, laughing, talking, and drinking.
After we danced to “Sexual Healing,” we walked out to the lobby to say our goodnights. Instead of pecking her cheek, urging her to keep in touch, and walking away, I went with her to the front desk, got a room, and stepped into the elevator with her.
When I woke up, it was dark except for the faint light from the clock that showed it was four in the morning. My head ached, and there was a knot in my stomach. Heather was asleep in my arms, and at the warmth of her body, I started to feel aroused. I had to slip out, go home, and pretend all this never happened.
The room spun when I sat up. I disentangled myself from Heather and the sheets and looked around for my pants. In the darkness, I couldn’t find them. Heather stirred.
“Aw, what the hell!” I said, crawling back into bed. “Maybe I could move my law practice to LA.”
“Now, you’re talking,” she murmured, pulling me into an embrace.
The above story was published in the current issue of Magnets and Ladders, which you can be read here. I wrote it ten years ago in response to a prompt to start a story with “I hadn’t had a drink in ten years” and end with “Where were my pants?” This story will be included in my collection, Living Vicariously in Wyoming, which I hope to publish sometime this year. Thank you for reading.
Photo Courtesy of Tess Anderson Photography
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