by Mel George
Twenty years. Twenty years and they hadn’t changed one bit. The beautiful people stood across the room, laughing falsely at the people they despised and basking in the helpless admiration of grown women who were now old enough to know better. There they were, just like when we were teenagers, except that now they were armed with tales of their towering successes, their prize-winning offspring and their perfect husbands. I thought of my own perfect husband crashed out on the sofa at home, and steeled myself as they made their predatory approach. I would not fawn, I would not allow a single delighted giggle to escape my lips as they paid me false compliments. I would not tell them about my unexpected good fortunes or let them make a lunch date. It was too late for popularity now. It was twenty years too late to become one of them.
The ringleader lavished an enormous, saber-toothed smile on me and crooned, “Darling! I’ve been simply longing to catch up since I spotted you across the room. Now tell me, what are you doing nowadays?”
I looked her square in the eye. “Thirty years,” I replied, deadpan. “Arson, manslaughter. Wasn’t it nice of them to give me day release for something like this?” I glanced across at one of the waiters who was lurking by the door, and nodded reassuringly to him, raising a hand.
Her head shot from me to the waiter and back again, her perfectly-formed jaw hanging open. “It’s all right, they won’t get their weapons out as long as I behave myself, eh?” I grinned, elbowing her in a chummy manner.
Later, when I replayed the night to myself over and over until I could grin no more, I reflected that the elbow was the real touch of genius. She leaped back, and spent the whole rest of the evening trying to pretend that she hadn’t. I suddenly began to rather enjoy this reunion, as I watched the rumour spread in whispers; written over beautiful faces which struggled admirably to smile politely and respond to my jovial conversation as if nothing at all were the matter. One of them, taking a headlong dive off a conversational cliff, talked to me passionately about beekeeping for a good half an hour. I smiled, and nodded, and watched her squirm through the bottom of my wine glass.
“This was one of the best evenings I can remember,” I declared, quite honestly, as the last stragglers left with nervous glances at the waiters. “Even before I was sent down,” I added spontaneously, and scolded myself for enjoying this all a little too much.
Mel George is a frustrated administrator and copy-editor living in Oxford. Editing this thing keeps her brain working. She really is a pygmy giant.