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Authors: marian gard

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BOOK: To See You Again
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"Collin," I say, sounding desperate and panicked.

"Don't," he says, blowing more smoke in my
direction and pointing his lit cigarette at me. Then he turns and slips out the
door, shutting it quietly behind him. I sit silently at the table listening to
the sound of his boots thumping down the stairs until I can't hear them anymore.

Chapter 4
(Ten Years Later/Present Day)




Meredith is standing in the doorway of my office
looking at me. She makes a little sniffing noise. It's one of her signature
sounds; that, and her clambering heels clacking on the floor as she walks down
the hall. I can always tell when she's coming. Now she's standing here
sniffing; she wants my attention. Use your words, Meredith
I raise my
eyes to hers.

"Uh, Rachel? Is this an OK time?" Is she
trembling? God, she is.

Meredith is the most nervous creature you will
ever meet. She's a tumultuous ball of slipping, spilling, and nervous shaking.
She wants desperately to please, but she gets in her own way, tripping over her
words, falling all over herself. To watch us interact you'd think I must've
treated her poorly, done something horrible to her to leave her shaking and
fearful, but she does that all by herself. I'm pretty sure she could be
frightened by her own shadow. For some reason all of this makes me just want to
shake her. It's almost impossible
to want to be mean to her.

 "Yes, Meredith. What is it?" She moves forward
into my office, predictably dropping papers to the floor. She reaches down to
pick them up, and as she does her wispy blonde hair obscures her tiny face and
she manages to spill even more. I restrain a sigh and an eye roll. I used to
help her when she got like this, but oddly, it just seemed to make it worse. She
starts babbling on about the reports I asked her to get me. I ask her one
straightforward question and she freezes like a deer in headlights, and then
starts jabbering again.

My boss, Tim, insisted that we hire her. We've
recently hired about half a dozen new employees, all twenty-somethings, right
out of college. I'll hand it to them; they get the world of
tweeting/texting/status updating more than I ever will, and their expertise is
needed as our companies move farther away from anything on paper.

We used to do web design mostly, which was all new
and exciting back in the year 2000, when I started with them, and now we do an
increasing amount of internet advertising. We have an even newer department
that specializes in consulting with companies on how to use social media to
promote their company or products. I'm an account manager and I work with some
of our largest accounts, because of that, people from the "twitterface team"
(as I like to call them) report to me on a lot of their projects; this often
includes Meredith.

She and I hold the same degree from similar
colleges, but our educations are not only years apart, but worlds apart, too.
When I was in college I thought about how incredible it would be to have a
large print ad in the newspaper. Some of our interns would swear they have
never even held an actual newspaper. I dismiss Meredith and send her clip-clopping
down the hall.

My phone buzzes in my desk drawer and I pull out
my cell to see a text from Vanessa, asking if we're still on for brunch. I'm
ashamed to admit, she's been burned by me before. I never intend to blow anyone
off, but sometimes when I'm at work I just get into a zone and lose track of
anything unrelated to my immediate tasks. I check the time and I realize I'd better
get going if I'm going to meet her. I text her back, affirm our plans, do ten
more minutes of work, and then head out the door.

I work about sixty, sometimes nearly seventy,
hours a week. Since I'm available nearly all the time via cell or email, I
could probably go blow off work and ride the Sea Dog at Navy Pier all afternoon
and no one would assume I was doing anything other than working, but I never
take advantage. I just work, and then work some more.

I push through the doors of our favorite breakfast
spot and see Vanessa waving wildly in a booth in the corner. I feel a smile
flush my face, it's hard to pull myself away from my job, but hanging out with
Vanessa is always worth it. She and her husband, Ryan, live a few blocks west
from the apartment she and I shared for three years after we graduated from
college. We don't see each other these days as often as I'd like, but we text
and chat a lot.

"Hey, girl!" Vanessa stands up, hugs me, and then
pats the table urging me to sit down across from her. Since having her kids
she's developed all these mom gestures. The table tap is one of them. I'd point
it out to her, but she'd probably freak out. She's forever fretting about
losing her identity entirely to mommyhood. "I got your favorite, because I figured
you didn't have much time and I didn't want to waste all our brunch time in
line." She winks.

I stare down at the iced tea and egg white breakfast
sandwich and wonder when I became so scheduled and predictable. "Thanks,
Vanessa, you're too good to me." I smile at her, yanking my scarf from my neck
and tossing it on my purse beside me.

"Please," she says in an exaggerated two-syllable
way, "consider it my thank you for being my adult contact today."

I take a bite of my sandwich. "How was your

"Hmm…Well, Saturday morning Ryan and I woke up, stared
deep into each other's eyes, and asked the very profound question, ‘Just how
much do we hate ourselves?"

I giggle. "You drove all the way out to Costco on
the weekend—again?" I shake my head in mock disapproval.

Vanessa shrugs while grinning. "I know. An
important lesson continues to go unlearned. Ryan was sweating by the time we
pulled into the parking lot." She snickers.

I can picture her husband in full-on panic mode
surrounded by mini-vans and SUVs, and I laugh out loud. "I've still never been
in one."

"Good for you. Don't do it. When we left I ran out
into the lot shouting, We made it! We survived!"

"You did?"

Vanessa slams her hand on the table. "No way! Ryan
would've killed me and he was already homicidal by then. I didn't want to push
him over the edge." She sips her coffee. "The kids would've thought that was
funny, though." She smirks.

"How are the girls?"

"Busier than two girls under the age of seven
should be. I swear, all I do is shuttle those two around to and from dance,
music, gymnastics, school, you name it. Were we this busy when we were kids?"
She flips her long, brown curls over her shoulder.

I doubt my mother would've even remembered I'd had
a dance class if she'd ever signed me up for one. Which she didn't." I put my
hand on top of hers. "I think you're supermom, Nessa."

"Ha! Well, maybe if supermom's attire includes
stained t-shirts and jeans that have melted chocolate on them." Vanessa points
down at her lap.

I giggle. "Today?"

"No, this happened yesterday. I went all the way
through the grocery store, pick-up at school and to the library before I
noticed the long streak of chocolate that was decorating my favorite pair of

"Oh, no!"

"Yup," she replies, taking another bite of her

"Well, at least you've got little people you can
blame. I do it all by myself. I gave a twenty-minute sales presentation awhile
back with a giant olive oil stain on my blouse. That's what I get for eating
lunch while driving to the appointment." I roll my eyes. "Of course Donna waits
until the very end of the meeting to point out the stain."

"Bitch," Vanessa declares.

"She's the queen of them."

I swipe a chip off of her plate. "So, what's new?"

Vanessa splays her hands out on the table and
leans toward me like she's about to whisper covert plans. I follow her cue and
lean forward too.

"What's new you ask? How about something new on a
very old topic?" Her left eyebrow curves just so, as her whimsical smile
appears. I raise my eyebrows in return, skepticism on my face. Vanessa loves to
be in the know. She pauses dramatically, and then asks, "Have you been on Facebook

I lean back, wondering where the hell this is all
going. "For work or pleasure?" I ask. Sometimes I just want Vanessa to get on
with it. If I let her, she will drag this out as long as possible. She's just
like one of those awful reality TV game-show hosts who prolong the elimination announcement
until you're ready to hurl the remote at the TV. My impatience probably comes
from years of working for Tim. He can't tolerate unneeded words at any time.
Everything Tim does is accelerated to speeds beyond that of a normal person.
He's constantly in motion and if you want to tell him something you need to do
it quickly, in bullet points. It took me a long time to get used to it, but
once I did, I kind of enjoyed it. It's like everything gets sifted down to its
most precious parts. There's no time or space for filler where we work. We have
two seconds to get your attention, that's it.

Vanessa bristles a little at my not so subtle
irritation and then continues, "Collin is on Facebook." She says this like it's
a proclamation of world news, or a headline for the ages, tantamount to the
Berlin wall coming down. I stare at her blankly.

Taking another sip of tea I say, "Collin, who?"

Vanessa's mouth drops open and then she tilts back
her head and does what could best be described as a stage laugh. "What? Um, no,
you don't get to pull that shit with me, Rachel." Vanessa also loves to swear
now more than she ever has. She would never ever curse in front of her kids,
but get her with a group of adults, sans kiddos, and she's positively R-rated.

"Have you forgotten that we lived together for
three years after college? I had a front row seat when you pretended to be
mourning your breakup with Spencer to the rest of the world, but in reality were
lamenting blowing it with Mr. Tall, Hot and Troubled."

She's right. I know I can't slip much past her,
but I'm not sure I can handle any of this. "Vanessa," I whine, sounding like an
annoyed teenager. She ignores me and plows on.

"Don't act like you aren't curious, Rachel," she

I let out a long exasperated sigh and try to
ignore the fact that my heart rate has inexplicably increased to a pace I
associate with runs on the treadmill. "How do you know it's even him? I mean, I
can't picture the Collin I knew having a Facebook page." I don't mention having
searched for him on there more than once since having joined the site a few
years ago. Although honestly, I hadn't thought much about him at all, since I
started dating Beckett.

Vanessa launches into her case regarding the
legitimacy of his page, all the while attempting to monitor my reactions to
each detail. "Well, let's see, first of all, we have a friend in common." I
raise my eyebrows, the only common friend I can think of between them would've
been me. Vanessa is one step ahead of me, clearly she's rehearsed this
conversation in her head. "Remember his old roommate, Jeff, who I dated for
like three seconds?" I nod. "Well, he and I are friends on there."

"Why are you friend's with Jeff?" I interject.

"Oh no," she wags a finger at me, "that's not
going to work. You're not going to distract me away from telling you this."

I squirm in my seat. I'll admit morbid curiosity,
but that is what it is, morbid. It took me years to fully get over the pain of
losing Collin, and I've fought internally not to think and obsess over him,
over what could've been. I'm finally in a good place with all of that, and I
have been for a while now. I feel like an addict in recovery. How will I react to
getting a hit of Collin like this?

"Secondly," she continues her tone warning me not
to interrupt again, "his profile picture was definitely him. I mean he's older,
we all are, but it's still him." She stares at me expectantly. "Well?"

"Well, what? Can I talk now?"

Vanessa props her chin on her folded hands,
ignoring my sarcasm, and tells me to ask away.

I take a deep breath and try to reign in my
nerves. I think of Beckett, who represents everything about my life today. We've
been serious now for quite a while and friends for years. We have plans to move
in together this coming September when our respective leases run out. Beckett
is my present tense, and my future; Collin is past tense in every way possible,
including the friend part. I haven't seen or heard from him since the night we
had together ten years ago. I don't know what it is, nostalgia, curiosity,
guilt or residual emotions, but suddenly I have to know more. I look up at
Vanessa and begin firing questions.

Thirty-five minutes later I'm in the elevator
heading back up to my office trying to process what I've learned from Vanessa.
Apparently, Collin accepted her friend request rather quickly, which is
interesting in and of itself, but it also resulted in her being able to gleam a
fair amount of information. The facts? Fact one: Collin lives in Chicago. He
grew up north of Chicago in a wealthy suburb; so, this is technically his
hometown, I guess. While I knew he loved the city, he'd never expressed a desire
to return "home" at any point.
. Fact two: He's in a
relationship. This one's shocking, though it shouldn't be. It's been ten years;
of course he's with someone. I'm surprised he isn't married, actually.
that's a lie
. I could never picture Collin married. Fact three: the alleged
girlfriend is a lot younger.
No comment
. Fact four: I need at least a
twenty-four hour, self-imposed ban on Facebook.

BOOK: To See You Again
12.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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