Authors: J. Sterling
10 Years Later
10 Years Later
Copyright © 2015 by J. Sterling
All Rights Reserved
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Kindle Edition, License Notes 2015
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For anyone who has ever wished for a second chance at love….
I hope you get it.
You would think since the invention of the Internet that most people wouldn’t even be interested in having a high school reunion. Social media has all but taken away the mystery that used to be the most fun and appealing part of going to one in the first place. Nowadays, we no longer have to wonder how people from our class are doing; we see their mundane updates on the Internet every hour. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty sure my last status update went something like, “Taco Bell for lunch. So wrong, I don’t wanna be right.”
Yes, I realize I’m part of the problem.
Online interaction means that I know exactly what everyone from my high school has been up to for the last ten years. I know where everyone works, who they’re married to, what they look like now, how many kids they have,
. The very idea of a reunion seems anticlimactic, to say the least.
Yet, I still want to be there. And so does everyone else, apparently, because it’s happening. Even though we already know about each other’s lives, I guess we still want to see our classmates in person, to have face-to-face conversations instead of cyber ones. To be honest, for me it’s mostly about seeing one particular someone in person. And I have no idea if he’ll be there or not.
For whatever reason, Dalton Thomas doesn’t have any social media pages, and I’d be lying if I told you it hasn’t driven me absolutely bat-shit crazy at times over the last ten years. I have no idea where he is, what he’s been doing, if he’s married (
please don’t be married
), or what he looks like now. And trust me, it’s not for lack of trying. Because I tried . . . I tried to find him all over Cyber Land. Mostly I convinced myself that it was to satisfy my perfectly natural curiosity, but I know the truth lay somewhere deeper than I cared to admit. The more I tried to find him and failed, the more obsessed I became. But none of it mattered, because I always came up empty-handed.
Dalton Thomas refused to be found.
I swiped my employee badge at the building entrance before hearing the lock unclick. It tended to be chilly at this time of the morning, even in LA, and I didn’t like standing out in the dark all alone for too long so I hurried inside, taking a quick glance behind me to make sure no one else tried to sneak in. Taking a sip from my gas station coffee—even Starbucks wasn’t open at this ungodly hour—I walked toward the bank of elevators. Sliding my badge again, I was greeted by the sound of the motor whirring to life before a set of doors opened with a loud ding that echoed in the otherwise empty lobby.
Once upstairs on the eighth floor, I pulled out an actual key and slipped it into the back door lock. The hallway lights turned on as I neared, creating a lighted pathway in front of me. Once I reached my desk, I tossed my belongings inside one of the filing cabinet drawers and heard my name being shouted from an office down the hall. We had one hour before the guys were scheduled to start their morning radio show, and this was when we always went over the material and made sure we had everything we needed for the day’s guests, if we had any coming in.
I was usually tasked with researching the latest celebrity gossip to find interesting headlines from around the world for the DJs to report on, chat about, and/or engage the listeners by making a contest out of it. Grabbing my notepad and a pen, I walked down the hall, peeking into various offices until I found them.
I first started working at the radio station right after college, interning for a full year before getting a paid position in the promotions department. Since then, I’d spent the last six years working my way through different divisions until I was finally hired on with the morning show after a coveted opening became available. My goal had always been to produce either a morning or an evening radio show, since those were the two most popular time slots at any station.
I’d been the assistant producer for the last eight months, and aside from waking up at freaking dawn, an hour no one in their right mind should ever be awake for, I loved pretty much everything about this job. John and Tom were the DJs, both in their midforties, married with kids, and had been waking up Los Angeles since I was in junior high school. A fact I enjoyed reminding them of because it made them feel old, and it was one of the few things I could actually tease them about and get away with. While John was the one who tended to push the envelope and asked the tough questions, Tom tended to wait cautiously in the background, either laughing or jumping in to smooth over any wrinkles John created.
“Morning, Cammie,” the guys said in unison as I entered John’s office. Tom, John, and my direct boss, Scott, all looked up at me as I walked in.
“Hi. So, what have we got today?” I sat down and jumped right in, readying my pen over my notepad.
“We have Bronson coming in for the commute.” Scott stared down at a printed checklist as he asked, “Cammie, did you order the fruit plate, the special juices, and the bagels?”
Bronson was an up-and-coming singer, and teenage girls who sneaked out of school would be lining up around the building just to catch a glimpse of him.
“I did. Everything should arrive by seven thirty, and I’ll set it up in the green room.”
We called our holding room the green room because it was literally painted green and looked like something out of
The Jungle Book
, with more plants than any one room should ever hold. It was furnished simply with a sage-green L-shaped couch, an oversized table, and a bookshelf overflowing with compact discs, something we didn’t even use anymore. All the compact disc players were kept in storage since everything was converted electronically and run via computers. We couldn’t even give them away to listeners because they didn’t have a way to play the damn things.
Scott nodded. “Sounds great. Make sure the camera’s working in the main booth so we can upload pictures to social media while we’re interviewing him. And we’ll be having a contest to win front-row seats to his concert next Friday, so be prepared for the phones to blow up.” He looked down and scribbled notes on the checklist he held.
“Got it,” I said with a smile.
“I heard that Crineene got kicked out of a club last night after getting into a fistfight with her boyfriend. A fistfight,” Tom said with a grin. “Make sure you find that story.”
“Awesome.” I smirked as I shook my head.
The meeting ended and I headed back to my computer, reading and printing up stories about celebrities that had happened overnight, including Crineene’s incident. On the one hand, I was thankful that there was enough drama to fill the three entertainment segments during the show, but on the other I wondered how the hell all that had happened in the span of twenty-four hours.
This was exactly why I had no interest in dating a musician or someone in
. That entire scene didn’t interest me outside of this radio station. I loved my job and it was fun to meet the people whose music I enjoyed, but that was as far as I took it.
In college I dated a drummer for a local band that ended up getting a record deal. The experience pretty much cured me of any future crushes I might have on boys who sang or played instruments. It didn’t take me long to catch on that most of those guys had a problem staying faithful, expecting their girlfriends to overlook any indiscretions because girls were constantly throwing themselves at their feet.
“You can’t expect me to resist that kind of temptation every night, babe. It’s not like I like them the way I like you. I mean, you understand, right?”
No, I didn’t understand, and I didn’t want to.
Realizing that I’d had more than enough craziness in my life, I found myself craving normalcy when it came to the opposite sex. Problem was, I had no idea where to find said normalcy since celebrities and people in the radio business were the only people I tended to associate with during my waking hours.
To be fair, the majority of those guys weren’t interested in dating me either. Most of them wanted girls who liked to go out all the time—the kind of eye candy who enjoyed being seen, causing a scene, and doing
things. I wasn’t that kind of girl, and as soon as they found out that I’d rather be at home in my pajamas than at a party in the Hollywood Hills, they seemed to lose any interest they might have had.
The truth was that being required to attend VIP parties, concerts, private events at clubs and bars for work made me not want to hang out at any of those places outside of work. I wanted to spend my days off binge-watching my favorite TV shows on my DVR and catching up on sleep. And when my best friend, Kristy, called every Saturday afternoon and begged me to go out with her that night so she could blow off steam, I usually compromised by agreeing to have dinner with her somewhere fun. It was the best I could do.
During the show, I sat outside in the control room and listened in on the guys as they sat in front of the mics in the on-air booth and talked effortlessly to the general Los Angeles area. They had moved on to a segment about worst first dates, and I was manning the phones.
Tom and John in the Morning
,” I said automatically as I answered the phone.
“Oh, hi!” The female voice responded slowly, almost stuttering, as if caught off guard. She sounded nervous, which was pretty standard in my experience.
“Hi.” I hesitated, wondering how much I would need to probe her about why she called in the first place.
“I was calling about the worst-first-date stories they were talking about.” She giggled into the phone, and I found myself smiling too.
“Awesome. Okay, give me the quick version,” I said.
Working for the number-one rated radio morning show meant that one of my jobs was to screen the callers before we put them on the air. Someone needed to make sure the listener wasn’t going to screw up the show, be vulgar, or say things that had nothing to do with what the guys were currently talking about.
I also needed to make sure the story didn’t suck. If the caller couldn’t get through their own words without stumbling, I would politely thank them for their call before telling them we had moved on from that segment. It was usually a lie, but it was my job to keep the show flowing and ensure the callers were contributing something relatable, or at the least, entertaining.
The woman, who identified herself as Monica, told me all about her horrible first date back in college where the guy was only using her to get to her roommate, and couldn’t even fake being interested in her for more than twenty minutes. It was perfect.
“Okay, Monica, I’m going to put you on hold. The guys will be with you in a minute. Try not to cuss, and make sure you turn your radio all the way down while you’re on the phone with them, okay?”
Most of the callers didn’t follow my instructions about turning the radio down on their end. They ended up live and on the air with an echo that reverberated through their car speakers and everyone else’s. Hearing their own voice talk to them over the radio seconds after they had already said the words caused most people to stutter and become confused. The DJs would normally yell at that point for them to turn their volume down before giving me a glare, like I didn’t do my job.
“Okay. Turn it down? How will I hear?” she asked, confused.
“You’ll hear the station through your phone. There’s a five-second delay, so if you keep your radio on there will be all sorts of feedback, and it usually messes people up.”
“Oh, okay. That makes sense.”
“All right, I’m going to place you on hold.”
I quickly typed Monica’s information into the computer that transmitted the info to the DJs in the other room. Anything I typed would show up on the screen in front of them.
Monica, age 22—first date with a guy who was using her just to get to her roommate! asshole!
Peering through the window that divided the on-air booth from the control room where I sat most mornings, I was excited to watch the guys talk to her. This kind of call was right up their alley. Tom read the screen first before glancing out at me, and made a funny face. I threw my hands up in the air in response and made a disgusted face, signaling that Monica’s date was a complete tool.
“Cammie! Cammie, get in here.”
Hearing my name, I snapped my gaze from the notepad I was currently doodling on. I looked through the window and into the booth where Tom and John sat staring at me. They did this to me on most mornings, included me in the show. The guys constantly needed material and I usually took the bait, volunteering to do crazy stunts, taking embarrassing photos for blog fodder, talking about the fact that I was still single, which was something they loved to bring up every chance they got. They tried to marry me off to practically every guest that stopped by. It never helped that the majority of them were musicians and singers, which meant we tended to be mutually not interested in each other.
“She’s not moving,” John said into the microphone, and his voice echoed in the speakers that surrounded me.
“I think she hates us,” Tom added with a smirk.
“She definitely hates us. Cammie, why do you hate us? Get in here!” John yelled again, and I begrudgingly pushed away from the desk and walked into the messy room.
Empty cans of soda and coffee cups were scattered over the tables and desks. A whiteboard was covered with scribbled notes of daily contests and upcoming guests that each DJ was to promote during their show, surrounded by opened bags of cookies and half-eaten doughnuts. It was a disaster area, to say the least, a place clearly run by men. Or not enough women.
Reaching for the spare pair of headphones, I slipped them over my ears and sat down at the lone microphone across from the guys that was usually reserved for guests. I found myself sitting there far too often.
“Hi, Cammie,” John said, trying to sound sweet, as if he hadn’t brought me in here to humiliate me.
“Hi, John.” I rolled my eyes and wondered exactly what they had been talking about before calling me in. I suddenly wished I’d been paying better attention.
“We were just wondering if you had a horrible first date story?”
It was all I could do not to sigh with relief that they were still on this topic. Not that I had a story, but this topic was a lot tamer than most conversations they included me in. I only had one hard-and-fast rule for the show: my family was off limits. The guys weren’t allowed to talk about my mom or my dad unless I offered, which I never planned to. Everything else in my life and my past was up for radio fodder if they wanted.
“Actually, I don’t,” I said, hoping they wouldn’t be upset with me later for being so boring. “I think all my first dates were pretty normal.”
To be honest, this was the only part of my job that made me uncomfortable. I didn’t mind being put on the spot occasionally, but I hated when I honestly had nothing to contribute and they expected me to make something up. Tom and John often encouraged me to lie, to wing it for the sake of the show, but I had always been a terrible liar, and we quickly found out that I couldn’t do it when they tried to force me. I would stumble and forget what I had just said. Basically, I was a disaster, and it didn’t make for good radio.
“Fine,” John said with an evil smile. “If you won’t tell us about a bad first date, then we’ll talk about high school.”