By Shawna Fisher
Barry lifted his right foot, dropped to third, and slammed the gas as he entered the freeway ramp. The Italian engine hummed a robust middle F. Curvy roads were scarce in North Texas, so he made the most of the sloping, circular on-ramps scattered through Dallas.
He rarely felt nervous, but tonight his stomach churned at the thought of seeing Raquel. Thinking of her took him back to sophomore geometry class, watching Dwayne flirt with her, talk about music videos, and how she should be in one. Barry’s tongue twisted in her presence, but he happily obliged when she asked to copy his homework. The days he spent in detention were well worth the moments she smiled and said, “Thanks, Barry!”
Get a grip, he thought. Sure, according to Facebook, she’s still pretty and her relationship status recently changed from “Married” to “Single,” but since when did he ever have anything in common with people from high school?
Thwack! Barry flinched at the hailstones slapping his windshield. The hail was tiny, perhaps pea-sized, but so much of it fell from the sky that he took the next exit and pulled up to a gas pump. He’d just swiped his card when some papers grazed his shoulder and landed on the trunk, threatening to take flight again in the gusty wind.
“Sorry! Can you catch them before they blow away?” Barry looked up and saw a female form topped with honey-colored hair. A hand brushed some hair aside, revealing a smile.
“Sure,” said Barry. “They’re all here, I think.” He straightened the papers. “This is lots of homework for a Saturday night.”
“I’m meeting a client. Demented, I know. But it’s my only chance to see him this month,” said the honey-haired woman.
“I have my own business, and would do the same thing.”
“You from around here? I could use some help with directions,” she said while unfolding a piece of paper.
“I’m actually visiting from San Francisco, but I know the area,” Barry said, stepping closer to her.
“Really? What a coincidence, I’m from Menlo Park! Lisa Beck.” She offered her hand.
“Barry Woodward. Nice to meet you,” he said, smiling as he took the paper from her hand. “Let’s see where you’re going.”
“I’m meeting my client at the restaurant Three Forks. Heard of it?”
“Yeah. Take Keller Springs, and go right. Just look for the gold-domed roof.”
“Thanks, Barry!” She touched her cheek. “What do you do in San Francisco?”
Barry’s eyes lit up with pride. “I make software for online security.”
“That’s funny. Most of my clients are tech. I practice intellectual property law,” she said, her eyes searching his to see if he noticed the coincidence.
“We should talk! Do you have a card?”
Lisa pulled a card from her purse. “I’ll be back in the office on Tuesday.”
“Great, thanks. Good luck with your meeting and safe travels,” said Barry. He noticed her skirt slip over her knee as she slid into the rented sedan.
Barry took off, noticing how beautiful the big, orange sky looked as he crossed from city to horse country. He really did need another attorney because Rob is in over his head with the Microsoft negotiation. Lisa might be just what the deal needs, he thought.
When he arrived at the Limestone Inn, he was surprised to see a valet stand alongside the Class of ’03 banner. After handing the valet his keys and a few bucks, he looked up and saw Raquel getting out of the small car behind his.
“Barry? Is that you?” she called.
Barry’s tongue turned into a cotton ball the moment he heard her voice. “Hi, Raquel,” he tried to say, though his “hi” came out more like “huh”.
“You look great. You’ve really—” she paused to find the right word,“—grown since high school.”
“Yeah, you could say that,” he said.
Raquel turned toward the hotel and smiled. “Let’s go in.” Barry followed her silently all the way to the bar, heads turning as she passed through the ballroom.
“Hey, Woodchuck! How the hell are you?” He cringed at the sound of his old nickname.
Dwayne grinned and extended his hand. “Whaddya know! I guess paying attention in school did one of us some good.” He winked at Raquel. “You’re in some kind of high-tech business, aren’t you?”
“Online security. My company protects consumers when they shop online,” Barry said.
“Are you hiding my credit card number when I order stuff?” asked Raquel.
“That’s one thing we do. We’re about to launch a new identity verification program.” Barry felt his tension ease.
“We always knew you’d go for that high-tech stuff.” Dwayne turned to Raquel. “The first dance is mine.”
Raquel shot Barry the same sweet smile he remembered from geometry class as Dwayne led her to the dance floor. Barry turned to face the bar. Scotch safely in hand, he returned his gaze to Raquel, ready to ask her for the next dance.
“Barry! I called you, but kept getting your assistant. How are you, man?” Barry searched for some clue, then saw from the name tag that it was Kevin, the organizer of the reunion. “We’re handing out some awards tonight, and you’re a nominee. Hope that’s okay,” said Kevin.
“I’m honored. Nice job putting all this together,” said Barry, barely moving his gaze from Raquel.
“It’s pretty unbelievable, isn’t it?” asked Kevin.
“Yeah, I wasn’t expecting this turnout,” said Barry.
“I wasn’t either, but that’s not what I meant. I mean, Raquel and Dwayne. Can you believe it?”
“Believe what?” Barry’s heart thumped twice, then skipped a beat.
“Her affair with Dwayne broke up her marriage. What she sees in him, I’ll never know.”
Barry laughed heartily. “I don’t get it, either. Great party, Kevin.”
Barry took out his phone and opened Facebook, doing a search for Lisa. Smiling, he turned to walk around the room, fingering her card in his jacket pocket to make sure it was still there.