Hello to all of Gracie’s Girls, class of 2002. Once again, thanks to all of you for the flowers and phone calls after my aunt Gracie’s passing last winter. You all meant so much to her, and to me.
As I’m sure you all know, our ten-year college reunion is coming up this summer. Since I now have Aunt Gracie’s big rambling house all to myself, I’d like to extend an invitation. If any of you are coming back for the reunion, you’re more than welcome to stay here, in your old rooms. Gracie quit taking in college students several years back, so there’s no one here but me and I’d love to have some company while I’m getting the house ready to put on the market. So what do you say? One last time as roommates? It would be great to see all of you again.
She hadn’t planned to attend, at least not until she’d received Karen’s guilt-inspiring email. Every instinct she possessed screamed at her to hit the delete key and pretend the email hadn’t arrived, but she just couldn’t do that. Karen was having financial problems and might have to sell the historic but dilapidated old Victorian house they had all shared in college.
She shouldn’t feel so gun-shy, but even after all these years it would be hard for her to go back and see all her old pals with the memories of her college years slamming hard into her refurbished self-image. A self-image that had taken her seven long years of analysis and hard work to create.
Fran sighed and rubbed her temples, shoving her reading glasses up onto her sleep-tousled head. She’d received the formal reunion invitation last week but had tossed it without even looking at it. No use reliving the whole college scene just to see how everyone else looked… See how many of her friends had kids… How they had all changed over the ten years since she’d last seen them. She certainly didn’t feel like listening to them telling stories about new babies and favorite pets and how they’d met their husbands.
All the things Fran had excluded from her life in favor of monetary success and “being her own woman”.
Fran was far more realistic now. She refused to kid herself. She had never found the man of her dreams and settled down to raise a family, mainly because it had taken her seven years to get past her own demented mental image of herself. And now that she finally recognized her own worth and had learned to love herself as she was, she was way past the wild need to flaunt her wares and try to trap some unwary male. Besides, most men in her age bracket were already married. Or divorced and on the rebound. Or just looking for a one-night stand. So far, that had never quite appealed, no matter how good-looking the man in question happened to be.
Men were not a necessity in life. Besides…she’d royally screwed up, long ago, with the only man she’d ever really wanted any sort of relationship with.
She ran her fingers through her wild curls and pressed her thumbs against the bridge of her nose. Back then she’d been so sure that the tentative advances he’d made were simply another way for the jock community at WIU to have a laugh-fest at her expense. She’d reacted defensively, tearing his ego into tiny strips. And then he’d basically left her alone. Damn…
Only years later, after many long sessions with her uber-patient therapist, had it flashed with astonishing clarity into her mind. Jack Gerrard—her dream man—had actually tried to ask her out on a date. And she had gone off on the man as if he’d just asked her to jump naked into an anthill.
She gave a sigh of resignation. The worst part of it was that she’d always had the most pathetic crush on the man—most girls had crushes on the hot, sexy hero of the WIU gridiron.
Even in high school, Gerrard had always been in the company of cheerleaders and prom queens and the most popular girls. They hung all over him like bees around a honey pot. One look from those riveting blue eyes could make any girl drop her panties with a scream of delight. But Jack had ignored them most of the time, keeping up excellent grades so he could play varsity football. She supposed that was the true attraction.
Sure. There she went, lying to herself again. She’d been hot for his ripped body, just like all the other girls. But it had gone deeper than that with her.
He had offered her some modicum of friendship, and good-looking guys did not want to be pals with Fran Jamison. So when that friendship was withdrawn without explanation or reason, it had torn her up inside.
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