How did you get here/ Nobody’s supposed to be here…
Deborah Cox’s powerful vocal sailed from the banquet hall out into the hallway where I called myself getting some respite from the circus that was my twenty-year high school reunion. Coming back to Mayview wasn’t the smartest idea I’d had in recent history, but I let my boy Rod talk me into attending our reunion. I’d left this little piece of shit town as soon as I could twenty years ago and never looked back. Growing up in a town this small had its good and bad portions. The good was the camaraderie that was shown to every citizen our our tight knit community, young and old.
Returning home, it was almost like I’d never left. I’d received a hero’s welcome when I arrived at the tiny airstrip in our town, thanks to the private jet of my employers—the Nashville Trojans, a new NBA franchise that I’d recently become the face of. Before the Trojans, I bounced around the league from team to team, always playing second banana to the starting point guard. With the creation of the Trojans, I’d been able to step out of the shadows into the spotlight. It took me back to my days at Mayview High when I was big man on campus, with everything I could ever want at my fingertips. The pressure to not only be a high performer, but infallible weighed heavily on my shoulders.
Coming to this reunion was a mistake. From the moment I stepped into Mayview, it had been a whirlwind of activity—Rod, a teacher at our alma mater, had me signed up to do activity from the time I stepped off the PJ until I was scheduled to head back to Nash. Ducking off into this damned hallway was the only peace I’d had since I’d been back.
I sat on a tufted bench, head braced against the wall, eyes closed—breathing deeply, when the air shifted. I felt as if I were being watched, so I slowly opened my eyes to see I’d been joined by a vaguely familiar face that looked as overwhelmed as I’d felt.
The woman collapsed onto the bench next to me but didn’t speak a word. It was almost as if she were completely ignorant of my presence.
“Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck, this was a bad idea,” she swore lowly under her breath, “Pull it together, Em. You got this. These bitches are your sons.”
I chuckled at the Nicki Minaj reference, when Deborah Cox broke in once again reminding me that nobody but me was supposed to be here. My chuckle startled the lady stranger out of her haze and she peered curiously at my face.
“You’re Vaughn Wilson,” she said, an aura of dread coating her words.
“I am….and you’re…” I started and peered closely at her.
Her name was on the tip of my tongue; I peered deeper into her entrancing hazel eyes, searching for the answer in their depths.
“Nobody. I was nobody in high school and I’m nobody now,” she replied, miserably.
I racked my brain in remembrance, because despite her utterances, she seemed really familiar to me. Almost instantly, it hit me.
“Shantel. Shantel Wilkerson.”
Her eyes widened in shock, cheeks flushed.
“Y-you know who I am?”
“How could I not? We sat next to each other at every graduation from Kindergarten onward. How have you been?” I asked, in what I thought was an affable tone.
“You don’t care. It’s fine. I’ll…I’m gonna just go. I didn’t realize anyone else was out here,” she replied, quickly, rising from the bench and scampering off before I could reply.
“Damn,” I breathed out, disappointment coating my words.
Shantel…I hadn’t thought about her in years, but she was still as beautiful as she was the first day I laid eyes on her. We never ran in the same circles growing up, but I’d always thought she was out of my league when we were growing up. I was the dumb jock, unworthy of wasting her time with my stupidity. Despite being momentarily stunned, I quickly regrouped, rushing in the direction in which Shantel had disappeared. I rounded the corner to nothing, as if her presence were a figment of my imagination. A few people stood in the hall and I approached them one by one asking if anyone had seen her, but all claimed to not have seen anyone pass in the last few minutes.