Scene 9. The Reunion.
I traced the single C embossed on the flap of the cream linen envelope. Inside was an invitation for a dinner party she is hosting at a quiet little place, with a promise to be among very close friends and family. It even had a hand-written note: “Please do come, my birdie (she still calls me that after all these years)! You have always been my very best friend. – C”
It’s been 20 years since we’ve seen each other. I have been busy: I left the country without saying goodbye to her and have been away for so long, without replying to the many letters she sent when she got my address from my mother. Mama said C called her from time to time even if I was an absentee friend. I never replied to her long missives, stories about her work, getting married, being sad that she had no kids. Not even a single postcard from me — I sighed. I am surprised that she still considers me her “very best friend”.
I smiled remembering our good old days in high school — doing homework together, promising to get better grades (well, I did get better grades, she laughed at “the promise” — as if it was just a joke to get me to study harder), falling in and out of love. It has been a long, long time.
Busy? Well, I will have to find time, after all it’s been a long, long time since our graduation.
Need to buy me a nice evening dress —- it is after all our reunion of sorts.
I came in red, a color she has always loved. Everyone else seems to have decided to wear neutrals — shades of white, gray and cream. I felt a bit uneasy about my dress, more so, when I did not see anyone I know in the crowd. I looked for my name plate and smiled to everyone in my table with the number 2 (Could it be that she remembered my favorite number?), near the small stage they had in the center of the room.
Shortly after, a young lady came up to the stage to say that C could not make it to her own party but that she had prepared a video for such an eventuality. Everyone went “oh” and “awww” and someone from our table said: “She must be feeling weak again.”
I hesitated to ask the other guests, but one started to say, “I can almost imagine C saying, “Sorry to be the party pooper, guys. Just can’t make it — too weak, am dying, so don’t waste the food … have a good time.”
And another, “We’ve been praying together for her recovery but she said that she wasn’t counting on it.” She smiled at me and then added, “Oh, you didn’t know? Well, you see, ….” but her voice trailed off since the video has started.
And there she was on the screen, propped on a hospital bed, a frail version of my friend, speaking with a raspy but happy tone: “Hi, guys! Sorry about this — didn’t know I couldn’t make it. I hope you are all enjoying yourselves. Hey, Birdie! Don’t disappoint me now — are you in red at table 2? Everyone, please … a round of applause for my dearest friend since high school.”
I was so embarrassed with the introduction, but smiled to those who looked my way. (Oh, C! How could you? Why did you not tell me —- or mama?)
“Anyway, really sorry for this boo-boo. Kree, my secretary, did warn me that it may be a tad too late for this party …. but anyway, I’m still here, I think” —–” She paused for a smile directly to the camera. “Was dinner any good? I tried to get everyone’s favorite dish in the menu. Hope you appreciate the effort ....”.
The screen went blank and then there she was again, looking so much better than the first few scenes, giving instructions to her secretary: “OK, Kree, The whole idea is to have all of my dear ones at this party. Have dinner, maybe listen to some music and then have this talk —- I will tell them that they need to change one thing about themselves.”
She looked briefly at her secretary as if she had said something offensive: “No, no, no! Don’t give me that look. I’m not being mean here. I am giving each of them a gift — call it feedback —- or the truth about each of them. They still have time … I don’t so I am giving them a chance. Well, don’t worry. Some aren’t all that bad —- remember, the one who came here the other day — the one who brought her daughter. Yeah — yeah! You should know —- I’ll tell her about her halitosis. Well, lucky her … I just couldn’t stand her bad breath. One of them owes me money and he had not paid me yet. I am going to tell everyone about him. ” She chuckled.
The younger one said, “You know them better, some may feel hurt.”
“It’s the truth, Kree. Some will be hurt, but I am being a friend … I am just being me. They should know that about me by now. They are my friends.”
The lights went on again and Kree took the microphone and spoke: “Good evening, everyone. Sorry but she couldn’t make it. I will hand each everyone a goodbye note from her before you leave. She said that she does not expect a reply —- please do whatever it is that she has suggested in her letter. Thank you all for coming.”
There it was again, the C on the cream linen envelope. I dreaded opening the note as she may have hurtful words for me —- all those long, lost years.
It was in her handwriting and it read: I miss you, Birdie. I was just asking for your time.
Welcome back, Ground!