“Name please,” the lady behind the foldout table said.
“Elizabeth White.” Twenty-eight-year-old Liz was given a name tag and put it on her floral dress. She left the table and entered the old, dingy gymnasium of Pine Valley High. The strong smell of gym socks move around the air. It’s the same old smell from ten years ago. It was the class of 2018 high school reunion. Elizabeth didn’t want to go. She was more than happy staying in her one floor town home and watching old reruns Criminal Minds off Netflix. But, her current boyfriend of six months insisted she should go. He even drove her. He had to drive her, she had no one else to drive her.
After getting hit with that truck a little under ten years ago, it made her paralyzed from the waist down. Even though she was all ready to go to college, she had to dropout because the school didn’t have wheel chair benefits. While all her friends went to colleges and universities, she was stuck at home for a year trying to adjust to her new life in a wheelchair. For the first year, it was hard for her to adjust. Her arms would be tired from moving around all day. She put herself into a depression and is still currently still on some medications. She stopped seeing her therapist after she turned twenty-six because she was taken off her parent’s insurance and it was too expensive for her to keep up with it. On top of all that, her parents divorced not even a year into her college career. He dad was having an affair with some women who he worked with. He remarried and moved to Illinois.
As she was wheeling herself through the gym, she noticed the big banner that hung above a stage with a microphone. The banner said, “Welcome Back Class ’18” and was in the school colors, blue and red. It made the school seem patriotic. But, to Elizabeth, it was the same old high school where she spent the slowest four years of her life, other than college.
She didn’t get to go to her dream school, University of California, Los Angeles. She took that year off to find a new college that would allow her to move from class to class. After a long search and five rejections, she settled on a college thirty minutes from her home, Lewis and Clark College. She also changed her major three times between freshman and sophomore year. She went from biology to business and lastly to communication. Since she was only thirty minutes from home, her parents would come and get her and bring her to therapy. When she got to college, she was placed in one dorm for her entire time there and on the first floor. It was easier for her to get around, but it was annoying that she was living with freshmen while she was a senior.
She never left her dorm unless it was for class. The library was to far for her to move to, so she did everything in her room. After her first year, she nearly failed all her classes. She was point one away from being on academic probation from the school. By the end of her junior year, she managed to get out of her academic rut. She made decent enough grades where she could graduate on time, but only barely.
After college, it took her three years to find a decent paying job. Before that, she was unemployed and living at home. Her mother was kind of enough to let her move back in with her. It took her two years to look up jobs in her field that allows disabled people. It was harder than looking for a new college. Once she did find something, she wasn’t getting paid a lot because she was new. After a few years, she worked her way up to where people didn’t see the chair and saw her instead. Her parents still had to drive her to work, just like they did when she would go to therapy. When she met her current boyfriend, she moved out and they now live together. After working in the ad agency, they started dating. They have been together for six months before they moved out of their parent’s place and into a one floor town home. He now drives her to work
“I can’t believe that she’s pregnant with her second child” some girl with straight brown hair said.
“I know! It’s crazy. Remember when we use to throw stuff at her during study hall! Good times.” The other girl said. I think their names are Shelley and Emily. I don’t fucking remember, that was over ten years ago.
She kept moving around when she finally found a semi empty table. It was the only table that had plate and sliver wear with no chair. The school most have found out of my condition. Awesome. She moved closer to the table so she could rest her arms. After being in her chair for ten years, she would still get tired. I wish Max was here. At least I would have someone to talk to. Liz was just sitting there, watching all the people stand and talk or dance to the old hits that they would play at the dances.
There wasn’t anyone special that she was looking for. She was more curious, if anything. She wanted to know if her two former friends would show up. The trio hasn’t spoken to each other for a long time. She lost all contact with them and un-followed them off social media. They would post about their happy lived at college, about how they missed each other and would leave Elizabeth out of it. At one point, she would see them post stuff about her accident and said it was her fault. After the accident, they blamed her for putting in her head phones and listening to her music to loud. Liz blamed them for not going with her. Their parents were no help either. They sat on the sidelines to watch because at age eighteen, they were ‘adults.’ Maybe they won’t show. Maybe they have brains and stayed at home. She pulled out her phone and played “Words with friends.” Instead of friends, she played with the computer, because she didn’t have friends.
“This place hasn’t changed.” Elizabeth’s head shot up as she heard that voice.
“Even the smell stayed the same.” The second voice was different. No, it couldn’t be Alexa and Diana. The voices got closer as the moved towards the table. “Look, there are two empty chairs at that table.” No, please God. Please do not be talking about this table. The footsteps got closer and Elizabeth’s heart started to go faster. I should have stayed at home. Why the hell did I let Max talk me into going?
“Can we still sit here with you?” One of the girls asked. Elizabeth turned her head around and smiled. She was right, it was Alexa and Diana. Their jaws dropped as they looked their old friend. They were eyeing her and her chair. They must have been shocked to see her here. Elizabeth did the same thing to them. They hardly changed.
“Sure, you two can sit here. As long as you two stop staring at my chair.” They looked at each other for a second. They turned around to see that there were many chairs left, but not two together. They took the seats directly across from Elizabeth.
It was quiet at first. The music and other side conversations seemed to be louder. Elizabeth was on her phone, still playing her game. Diana and Alexa didn’t know what to say. Do they complement her dress? Do they ask what she’s doing now? How college was for her? It was only a few minutes, but it felt like forever.
Diana was trying to break the silence, “So, Liz. How are you?” Elizabeth looked up from her phone and just stared at them.
“Just dandy Diana. Just fucking dandy.” Elizabeth says. Diana looked down, but Alexa rolled her eyes. Diana was the always the nicer one, even though she always complained. Alexa on the other hand could be a down right bitch. Back in high school, she never was afraid to speak her mind and people classified her as a bitch. Before she could say anything, the principal began to speak. Everyone took their seats. Only two more people showed up. Some one named Andrew who was on the football team and Larry from the AV club. The three girls acknowledged them and acted like nothing happened.
“Welcome back class of 2018! How’s everyone doing?” The whole gym cheered, and the three best friends just clapped. “I hope everyone has had an enjoyable time catching up with old friends and seeing some of your favorite teachers. I love this time. I get to see old students of mine and see some potential future soldiers. Take this time to catch up with everyone. Make new friends. Talk to the people that you’ve never talked to in high school. If you had a fall out with someone, get that friendship back. Make amends with the people who you spent the best four years of your life. That should be one of the goals being back here. Enough of the sappy stuff. Please enjoy the food, drinks, and company.” He left the stage, and everyone was going back their conversations, and some went to go get food. Andrew and Larry left to go get food from the buffet while Elizabeth, Alexa, and Diana just sat there for a moment. That last half of his speech seemed like it was directed to them. Well, this is awkward.
“I’m going to get food. Maybe even a drink or two, you know, since I won’t be driving anytime soon.” Elizabeth leaves with her plate and moves to the buffet. There was an assortment of different foods from shrimp to pizza. The school finally got some decent food. Hopefully I won’t throw it all up. After she grabbed some food and a vodka tonic, she went back to the table and noticed that Larry and Andrew were there minding their own business. She waved to them but didn’t make conversation. Just because the principal says to talk to people, doesn’t mean I have to.
“Wow, the school actually went all out. We must be the best class this school has ever had.” Diana says. Elizabeth did even realize that they were gone. She didn’t really care.
“Yeah, I know,” she looked at Elizabeth and her drink, “got yourself a vodka tonic Lizzy. Turned out to be a little alcoholic in college?” She smirked. Bitch.
“You mean like your parents? No,” Elizabeth watched Alexa’s eyes turn into a glare, “I’ve known you for years Lexi. I know your parents still drink until they don’t know where they are anymore.” Before Alexa could do anything, Diana stopped her and whispered something in her ear. They both sat down and started eating. No one talked. Andrew and Larry tried to make small talk with them, but they stopped when they realized that the three girls weren’t friends.
“How was UCLA Liz?” Diana asked.
“I couldn’t go. It wasn’t wheelchair friendly. I went to Lewis and Clark College thirty minutes from home. It was really the only choice for me and I was able to go to my therapist.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“It’s better than nothing. How was beauty school?” Am I really having a civilized conversation with her. It wasn’t her fault that the three of fought, I guess.
“It was great! I absolutely loved it! I work for Ultra Beauty right now, but I am hoping to move to New York or California.” They sat in silence letting the music and other conversations take over their eardrums when Diana broke the silence.
“Remember when the three of us went to the water park in eighth grade and Lex went flying from the inner tube after going down the slide.” Both Alex and Liz smiled at that memory, “Or that time when Liz used self-tanner and ended up looking like an orange.” Both Elizabeth and Alexa laughed and looked at each other. It was clear the Diana was trying to get the other two girls to be friends again, “What about when we attempted to road trip to California but didn’t make it.” The two girls stopped laughing and looked at each other.
“Yeah. I remember. I remember our GPS losing service. I remember Dinna’s shitty car running out of gas. I remember fighting the majority way there. I also remember getting hit by a fucking truck that paralyzed me.” Elizabeth yelled. Everyone’s eyes were now on them. Even Andrew and Larry didn’t know what to do.
“I’m sorry. We’re having a such a good time I didn’t think—”
“No, you didn’t think. You never think. You didn’t think about having extra gas or printing out the directions. You can’t even think before opening your own damn mouth!”
“Leave her alone! It wasn’t her fault you can look both ways and had your music to damn loud!” Alexa said defending her best friend.
“Maybe if someone came with me to the gas station or maybe made sure we had gas in that damn red container, then we would’ve had a decent summer! Neither of you tried to visit me in the hospital after the accident. I was stuck there for two days and I heard nothing.” Some of the teacher were starting to walk towards them in hopes to stop a fight from happening. At thins point, Alexa and Diana were in tears. Diana was more from sadness and Alexa was more frustrated. Before Alexa could say anything, Elizabeth cut her off.
“I hope you have a good life. I hope to never see either of you again.” She pulled back from the table and rolled away. She went out side of the school and called Max.
“Hey babe. Is the reunion over already?” He asked.
“Please come get me. I want to go home.” She said crying.
“Is everything okay?” Why does he have so many damn questions?
“Please. I’ll tell you everything when I see you”
“Okay. Love you”
“Love you too.” At least I have one friend that cares.