by Katie Gilbertson
It’s time for my 30th high school reunion. I’ve become friends with all the cool kids of 1980 on Facebook. I click the “like” option on their walls. Against my will I find myself toadying for their approval as if I was still seventeen. They want me to come to the reunion, two states away. They are looking forward to laughing about the crazy things we did together. Apparently they don’t realize that I have no memories of those wild and crazy times because there weren’t any.
Once I did ride with the cool group in a van one crisp fall night after the Senior Girl’s Powderpuff Football game. It was in that van I had my first cigarette. So awed was I by the proximity to those impossibly polished and svelte girls I lit up the nasty thing to show them I was cool too, though neither polished nor svelte. It was also during that ride that I ratted out one of my best friends, divulging details of her unhappy home life with her aunt and uncle because it made me feel important to tell such shocking information and to have them paying rapt and horrified attention to me as I spilled all Debbie’s sordid secrets.
I eventually went away to school and Debbie went to community college because her uncle would not let her leave home. We wrote a little. She told me that a distant cousin had come to visit and she was going to marry him. Her uncle pitched a fit about her leaving so she eloped to Arizona with her cousin.
The following year I went to see her in Phoenix and found she had only inevitably recreated the creepy home she grew up in.
As we were unhappily reminiscing, she told me that for some reason all the kids at school had started treating her differently early in our senior year.
“No one would talk to me. People whispered about me when I walked by. It ruined my life. I didn’t know why.”
I remembered back to that October night in the van.
She continued, “I had to get away. I thought I was stuck before but it’s worse now.” She showed me the old scars and fresh bruises – keepsakes of her husband.
When he finally killed her two years later, a permanent burden of guilt settled on me like the sweaty football jersey I wore the night I set her fate in motion.
I went to the reunion. The cool group was still cool. I was greeted as though I was one of them. I was tongue tied and nervous.
“W hat ever happened to Debbie Wilson?” I was asked. I had the complete attention of the Homecoming Queen, two cheerleaders and the class president.
“She was murdered by her husband,” I said. After the gasps subsided I nodded. “You know, her uncle abused her for years…..” and I was off again telling her story.
I have been submitting my work for about six months and have one published piece in The Guild Companion. I live in the Minnesota woods and surface only long enough to meet with my writers group. Contact Katie.