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"Okay, just to recap...everything has been taken care of. The invitations have been delivered to the committee and the trophies have all been purchased and engraved."
"I still don't agree with the vote for most successful."
Everyone present sighed. "Yes, we know. You wasted 10 minutes of the meeting trying to explain why." The tart response came from Cathy Klein, the original speaker. She had spent most of her high school years in detention. No one who knew her then missed the irony that she was now the principal of the very school they all attended years ago. "Inheriting your family's fortune does not a success story make. Now," she fixed all her classmates with a stern glare, "this meeting is adjourned."
Evelyn Jones waited until most of the people were gone to approach the two classmates tasked with mailing out the official invitations to the Madison High School Class Reunion. There were seventy-six people in her graduating class and their life stories after high school ranged from Juan Mendez, the first among them to earn a million dollars (and make public that all throughout high school he'd been involved with the male physical education teacher, the poorest-kept secret there was) all the way to Sharon Ellings, the girl privately voted most likely to have a baby with someone else's husband (She had. Several times.). Evelyn dared say her graduating class was no different from countless others all across the country. Lifelong friendships that had been forged over four years continued after graduation while casual associations were abruptly ended.
It was two months before the reunion date and Evelyn wanted to ensure that the invitation of one of the class members was placed into her hands. "I need a favor." She did not bother with pleasantries. Evelyn ran a finger down the list of addresses that would be used for mailing out invitations. "I need this invitation given to me."
"Instead of mailing it, you mean?"
"Let me understand this," Reunion Committee Chair Darla Granville-Thorp interrupted from where she had been gathering her things across the room. "You would like to have someone else's invitation given to you. Why?"
Evelyn bit her tongue and attempted to reply politely. She and Granville-Thorp had been school adversaries since the day the other woman enrolled at Madison Elementary. The Granville family migrated from Kentucky after stumbling across and managing to acquire a horse that went on to win horse racing's Triple Crown. The family became rich by selling yearly leases to the breeding rights of the horse. But after years of not producing a racing thoroughbred, demands for the services of the Derby winner dried up. Horse racing experts considered the Granville's horse a fluke and the Granvilles lost their place among the horse racing elite. Nonetheless, upon each encounter with someone new, Darla never failed to introduce herself as 'one of the Kentucky Granvilles. "
"They're invitations to a party, Darla, not stock certificates. I want to make sure this particular invitation gets delivered."
"That's highly improper. The-"
"I don't see the problem," Alderman Cliff Vernon interrupted. He was one of the people responsible for reunion correspondence. "Stop by my office in about thirty minutes and pick them up. I've got a meeting with Senator Powell at the courthouse. He's only passing through," the alderman explained, "so I shouldn't be too long."
"Thanks, Cliffy." Evelyn called him by the name he'd been known by all throughout high school. Even back then he'd shown a penchant for politics. Cliff Vernon had been elected the youngest class president in Madison High School history. His progression to local alderman was a logical next step in what those who knew him assumed was his plan to eventually enter politics' national stage.
"You haven't outgrown that crush, have you," Evelyn heard Darla Granville-Thorp hiss at Cliff Vernon as she headed out of the room. "It was obvious and embarrassing back then. It's even more so now!"
Cliff Vernon had had a crush on her back throughout high school, Evelyn acknowledged. But then again, so had Darla Granville-Thorp's future husband Mike. Evelyn suspected that was the real reason behind the other woman's continued animosity toward her, even after all these years.
Michael Thorpe was practically a high school cliché. He was tall, handsome, athletic, and had the bluest eyes Evelyn had ever seen. He was from an insanely wealthy family and made absolutely no secret of his attraction to Evelyn. She was a confident, friendly girl who wore her dark skin proudly. Long before short-cropped natural hair became de rigueur, Evelyn sported a short Afro that only served to highlight her brilliant smile and deep dimples. But she only had eyes for Leonard Jones, a run-of-the-mill student whose grades never got above a C average.
Leonard and Evelyn met before they ever reached high school. On the first day of seventh grade Evelyn climbed onto Madison Middle School's big blue school bus. Leonard sat in the seat directly behind the driver. He was sound asleep, mouth open. Every school day that year Evelyn boarded the bus and found him just that way. Eventually she discovered that Leonard had a job after school bagging groceries in order to help his single mother.
They'd married just after high school. Then Leonard took a laborer's job while Evelyn attended the local community college. It wasn't long before there was a baby on the way, a development that thrilled them both. Leonard joyfully put in long hours to provide for Evelyn and the baby and they were happy… until Evelyn awoke one morning to find Leonard cold and stiff in bed beside her. He was only 37 and had died from an aneurysm that burst in his brain while he slept. in time, Evelyn would tell those who asked about Leonard's death that he died as he lived - quietly and without fuss.
The thought of her late husband made Evelyn smile. She glanced at her watch. Still twenty minutes or so to go before she could pick up the reunion invitations. She might as well go and visit with Leonard for a few minutes.