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New new from the old school

Coming home for the Ram reunion wasn’t in my plans this weekend. But when my paint party got cancelled at the last minute, my best friend Marissa said it was a sign that I should come down to Americus with her. I worked full-time in HR, did paint parties as my side hustle/hobby and was working on my master’s in human resources. Since I had nothing waiting for me at home except a pint of sea salt caramel Talenti and the new season of Designated Survivor on Netflix, I agreed.

Friday afternoon, Marissa and I were headed down 75 South, jamming to Jazmine Sullivan. We went to school together all our lives, but we didn’t get close until we were both in Ms. Andrews homeroom in 6th grade. This friendship has been through thick and thin for almost 30 years.

After high school, I went to college in Valdosta and Rissa went in Atlanta. For years I was looking for something in my field with no luck. Everyone wanted someone with HR experience, but no one wanted to hire me to give me the experience. It was the stupidest catch 22 ever. I decided to finally take Rissa’s advice and apply in Atlanta. I started getting phone calls and loved the time I got to spend in Atlanta with Rissa after interviews. Finally, I got the call I was waiting on and made the move. To be reunited with my BFF made the decision easy. We were close in middle and high school, but this friendship as an adult included alcohol, shopping and vacations.

Once I moved, I was so grateful for her because she helped me navigate Atlanta traffic, find great places to eat and gave me the rundown on the best places to live. Living in the city was so much different than where I grew up. Even though Atlanta was where I lived, Americus would always be home. The last six months I had heaped a lot on my plate, mostly because I was trying to heal from my divorce, and I hadn’t made time to come home as often as I should. That’s why I didn’t hesitate to come home for the Ram reunion.

The Ram reunion was the brainchild of Katrina Fuller. After our school system combined the city and county schools, Sumter County Comprehensive High School pretty much disappeared off the map. Trina had the great idea to have a reunion for all of the Rams that graduated from SCCHS before the merger. I hadn’t had the opportunity to go before but saw pictures on social media. It looked like everyone had a great time and I was ready to be in the mix this year. I was excited to see people I hadn’t seen in years and more importantly, to relax.

Once we made it to Americus, we went to Marissa’s sister’s house. We decided to stay with Tasha because she lived right off Highway 30 which was close to where this weekend’s activities would be. Since my parents lived in DeSoto and Rissa’s folks were in Smithville, driving to and from town would be an issue if we stayed out too late. Tasha was four years older than Rissa and me and we used to try to hang out with her. Now that we are older, she had no issues with it, but she couldn’t stand it when we were 14. We dropped off our bags, changed and then went to visit our respective parents for a little while before heading to the first night of the reunion.

15 minutes after getting to the fairgrounds, I was so glad I came. I remembered coming to the fair when I was in middle school and it made me feel so old. Tonight, I was seeing people I hadn’t seen since graduation night and it was good to see them in real life and not just on social media. In high school, I was a social butterfly and very active in different activities from cheerleading to track to FBLA to chorus. If it was possible, I was more social now. I made rounds to other classes’ tents, tasted their food and laughed at random high school memories. Me and some of the old cheerleaders even tried to remember some of our old cheers and died laughing at how much we messed them up.

When I made it to the class of '96 tent, I had to do a double take at the guy perched on the edge of a table drinking a beer. I knew that couldn’t be who I thought it was. Looking like a snack, nah, scratch that, a whole entire meal, was Justin Hendricks.

Back in high school he was the class clown. But he was also skinny as a twig. And short. And hell bent on doing everything except graduating high school. The guy I remember from high school was long gone and was replaced with an incredibly sexy chunk of chocolate.

“Well if it isn’t Makayla Bailey! Haven’t seen you in years!” he greeted me with a hug. The scent of his Polo Blue lingered after he let me go. His hands on me and his dimpled smile reminded me that it had been awhile since I made time to date since my divorce last year. I immersed myself in my work, my business and getting my degree… men and sex were the last things on my mind lately. Justin was reminding me of how long it had been. And in this moment, I missed sex. Bad.

“Stimpy!” I smiled hoping to mask the inappropriate thoughts that entered my mind. He rolled his eyes at me referring to him by the nickname some of us called him. I really had no idea why we called him that, but he always answered.

“Why you gotta call me that?” he laughed. “You made me feel like we were back in Mrs. Carter’s keyboarding class.”

I laughed at the memory. That was the one and only class I ever took with Justin. He sat by me and tried to get me to help him, but he did nothing but play all day. Mrs. Carter put him out constantly for cracking jokes and getting the whole class off task.

“I mean, you always answered to it,” I shrugged.

“Yeah, but I think I’ve outgrown that name,” he winked.

I laughed and nodded in agreement. There was nothing ‘stimpy’ about this man now.

I laughed and joked with some of the class of 96 folks before heading back to the 98 tent. Justin followed me and I didn’t mind his company at all.

I saw how Rissa was looking at me when we walked up but I ignored her. It took a second for her to realize who I was with. “I know that ain’t Stimpy!”

“In the flesh!” he beamed.

“Damn you got fine!” Marissa had absolutely no filter whatsoever. None. Whatever came to her mind came out of her mouth.

I laughed but Justin looked defeated. “Are you insinuating I wasn’t fine back in the day?”

“Dude, you probably weighed 100 pounds soaking wet. And you were short as hell!”

I doubled over in laughter because, well, it was true. There was no way he was on social media because I would have found him and undoubtedly saw how fine he’d gotten. There was no use on dwelling on who he used to be when he was sexy as hell now. I knew it, Marissa knew it and I was pretty sure he knew it, too.

“Man, what are you doing over here at this lame ass ’98 tent?” Marcus Peterson announced throwing his arm around Justin. Back in high school, Justin and Marcus were best friends. It looked like they still had that tight bond like me and Rissa.

“Lame? You know ’98 was the absolute best class to come out of SCCHS!” Marissa shot back.

“Whatever Rissa,” Marcus scoffed. “We kicked ya’ll ass every pep rally and won the spirit stick!”

“Who cares! That was like 20 years ago!” I chimed in.

“Marissa, you remember when you fell going to lunch that day? That shit is still hilarious!” Marcus asked with a smirk.

I burst out laughing but Marissa popped my arm and I had to try to stifle my laugh. “You didn’t have to bring that up!”

When we were sophomores, Marcus and Justin were seniors. Marissa had a huge crush on Desmond, another guy from the class of '96 that hung out with them. One day, she tried to put a little pep in her step walking into the lunchroom. She missed a step and her and her lunch went tumbling down the few stairs that lead down to the cafeteria. She laughed about it, but she could never live it down. Someone even put it in the yearbook so we could remember it forever.

We spent the next few hours laughing and talking about our high school days… the football and basketball games with our city rival Americus High, going to Burger King to hang out after home games, riding the activity bus after practice and games, the fights, the teachers we remembered, was great to remember all the fun times we had in high school. After a few hours, everyone was packing up and getting ready for the next day. Justin and Marcus didn’t help their class clean up; they stayed over there with us. Once we finished, they guys walked us to my car.

“Am I going to see you tomorrow?” Justin asked, catching me by surprise.

“Yep. I’m going to do some of the face painting for the kids,” I announced. When I told Marissa I was coming, she immediately volunteered my services to Trina for the family day tomorrow. I didn’t mind at all and I was looking forward to it.

“Ok cool. Are ya’ll coming to the party tomorrow night?”

Maybe I was crazy, but the sound of his voice sounded like he wanted to see me. That couldn’t be true, right? “Yep. We’ll be there!”

“Cool. Ya’ll have a good night and I’ll see you tomorrow.” Justin and Marcus waited until we got in my car before they walked off.

“Soooo,” Marissa began. “I know you think I didn’t hear Stimpy ask if you were coming tomorrow.”