WeightlessBy: Michele Gorman
‘Ow.’ My beer bottle clinked against my teeth as I felt a hand gently grasp my shoulder from behind.
‘Oh my god, Christy, is that you? How great to see you!’
‘I’m not-’… Christy, I was about to say. But then I turned and saw whose hand it was. ‘Hi.’
‘Ten years, can you believe it?’ asked Jack as his smile threw me back to our last year in school. ‘You look… different but I’d still recognize you anywhere. Did you come from France or are you based here now? Wait, we both need another drink and then we can have a proper catch-up.’ He pointed to my bottle. ‘Another beer? I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere, okay?’
He loped off to the bar where our former classmates jockeyed for the overworked barman’s attention. And I admit it, dear Reader. I ogled him. I took in his broad shoulders beneath the fitted black jacket, his long jeans-clad legs and wavy blonde mop of hair.
Jack Winslow, my unrequited love, had actually just spoken to me. He was buying my beer! … All right, so he thought he was buying Christy’s beer, but still, beggars shall not be choosy about free drinks.
When the reunion invitation arrived with the school’s annual newsletter I chucked it into the bin. Those newsletters arrived every year in December, as welcome as a urinary tract infection. They’d wheedled my mailing address from my Dad and I didn’t have the guts to ring them to opt out for fear that they’d extort me for a donation for the playing fields or something. I’d been miserable on those fields. I hated every rain-soaked blade of grass that slipped me up and each ankle-twisting rut.
Jack returned with our drinks. He set my empty bottle on a nearby table for me. ‘Cheers. To old times,’ he said.
‘Cheers. Jack Winslow, I can hardly believe it’s you. Here’s to new times, eh?’
His grin faltered, then widened. Great work, Annabel. Two minutes into the conversation is just the right time to suggest a future together.
‘Believe it,’ he said. ‘So tell me what you’ve been doing for the last decade. Are you living in London now?’
I nodded. ‘I live in Notting Hill. Well, according to the real estate agents anyway. My closest Tube is Shepherd’s Bush though. Where are you living?’
‘Well as long as we’re speaking in real estate agent, then I’m in South Hampstead. If we’re being honest then I’m off Finchley Road.’ He stared at me. There were tiny lines around his grey eyes and his lashes were darker than I remembered. ‘I’m really happy you’re here.’
I smiled, surprised that he even knew who I was. Then I remembered that he didn’t. To him I was Christy. Of course he’d be happy to see her. Christy and Jack were our school’s answer to Brangelina, though I don’t think they actually went out together. They just swanned around the school in their own golden glow, the central figures in our teenage romantic fantasies.
Jack and I stood at the edge of the room together watching the crowd. Five minutes ago I was just Annabel Markham, aka AnnaBall, Annabell-end, all-round bully fodder and soft target. Suddenly I was promoted to head of the class.
What a difference short-sightedness makes.
‘Do you wear glasses?’ I asked before taking a swig of my beer.
His brow furrowed as he hesitated. ‘Ah, well, no. Why?’
‘Oh, well, I guess I remembered you with specs, that’s all. I wasn’t implying that you need them.’ Please shut up, Annabel.
‘Oh, you mean reading glasses. Yes, I did sometimes, for my astigmatism. But that’s been corrected now.’
He kept staring at me like he had more to say. Surely he’d figured out that I wasn’t Christy. Aside from being among the tallest girls in our year, we looked nothing alike. My hair had been much darker, for one thing. And my waistline had been much bigger for another.
But he really did seem to think I was Christy. Which wasn’t at all how I imagined my night would go when I’d first walked in.
I nearly didn’t turn up at all. Who willingly goes back into the bear pit once they’re freed? Someone who’s flippin’ out of her mind, that’s who.