~ * ~ June 2017 ~ The Reunion ~ * ~
Celeste spent the better part of two hours getting ready. She fidgeted with her hair and fussed with her makeup. Erik had been to her room earlier in the day to deliver the It was stunning, and so much more than she had anticipated. It had an asymmetrical neckline and hemline with a mesh panel insert at the waist on the right side. The dress was sophisticated with cap sleeves and a straight skirt that helped accentuate CeCe’s long lines. Erik had texted her several days before the trip to make sure she had the right jewelry for the evening and, of course, the right pair of shoes. He had to have final approval on all of it. She assured him that she was set on the shoes. Her last boyfriend had bought her a pair of black Louboutin heels for her to wear when they were invited to dinner at the White House. Erik wasn’t impressed as to why she had them, he wanted to make sure they were appropriate for his dress. He made her take a picture of them and text it to him; amazingly enough, he approved of them and said they would work for this dress. He was insistent that she wear clear, chunky crystal drop earrings. She didn’t have those, so she had to go on a scavenger hunt around town to find them. She had to send Erik pictures for approval before purchase. Erik was also adamant that Celeste not were bracelets or a necklace with the dress, he didn’t want any other jewelry to take away from the design of the dress. He wanted her look to be simple; once she had the dress on she completely understood his decision. The dress hugged her in all the right places, and she felt sexy. She felt sexy enough that she actually wished Chris would be there tonight.
She was doing a final check of herself in the mirror when there was a knock on the door. Flinging it open, she saw Erik, her date for the evening.
Erik looked her over, top to bottom, and his smile could have lit up the entire Eastern seaboard. “I’ll tell you right now, if I weren’t so happily involved with George, I might just have to run off with you! Damn, CeCe, you look fantastic!”
She placed her hands on his shoulders, leaning in and then kissing both of his cheeks, “Thanks to you, the fashion wizard of New York.”
“Aw, shucks!” He waved his hands in mock embarrassment, “Are you ready to go and impress the hell out of some folks? I’m telling you, I think Liz might just shit her pants when she sees you.”
“Don’t think that’ll happen. But, if it does, make sure you get a picture for posterity, okay?” Celeste started to laugh as she turned to get her purse and made sure she had the key to her room. “Alright, I’m ready to go. Please don’t let me make a fool of myself tonight. I’m scared I’m going to do something stupid.”
“I won’t, scout’s honor!” Erik took her hand, leading her out to the car. He couldn’t help but feel a bit giddy about Liz and what would happen tonight. The mean girls would get what they had coming to them because Celeste didn’t deserve how she had been treated. Those girls would be shocked when they saw Celeste, and he knew they would be jealous, too.
Erik and Celeste walked into the ballroom at the country club. There was a long table set up for the registration and Celeste moved to get her name tag to put on her dress. Erik smacked her hand, “You are not putting that on my dress. I will not have you desecrate my dress with a cheesy ass name tag.”
Celeste was taken aback by his tone, “Wow, didn’t realize it would set you off. How are people supposed to know who I am?”
“Leave an air of mystery about yourself. Make them wonder who you are, it’ll be more fun. Besides, think of the expressions on everyone’s face when they realize it’s you!”
Celeste let out a huff and then walked into the decorated ballroom. She was observing the photographs that had been put out that depicted senior year. She found that she wasn’t in any of them. She found the pictures of the teams that she managed, she was even absent from the team photos. It just proved she was invisible, no one cared if she was around or not. It was a punch to the gut, and she was beginning to rethink her decision to be in the room.
Tara and Jason arrived and approached Erik. Tara noticed Celeste walking through the empty ballroom and used the opportunity, before their classmates came, to ask Erik the questions that were nagging her. “Several things were bothering me after dinner last night. Just how bad were things for CeCe in high school? I mean, I’ll be honest, I don’t really remember her. And when she said she was tortured, it didn’t register with me.”
“Ok, think back to school and who did Liz pick on the most?”
Tara thought for a moment and then looked over at her husband and back to Erik. “She used to pick on this poor girl that she called ‘cupcake’ because she was chubby. I remember she used to toss her toss her clothes in the hallway during gym class or get them wet and throw them back in her locker. She tormented the hell out of her. No one would stop her, either. But to the rest of the school, Liz was perfect.”
“Did Chris ever know how Liz treated that poor girl?” Erik asked, trying to keep his voice from breaking.
“No, he never wanted to hear it. He always thought Liz was perfect. I tried to tell him she wasn’t the sweet girl he thought she was, but he didn’t want to hear it. I tried desperately to get him to ask anyone but Liz to the prom, but he was so laser-focused on her.”
Erik just nodded and started to turn away from Tara, wanting to go check on Celeste. He stopped and turned back to Tara, “Just so you know, cupcake was the nickname Liz gave CeCe.” The coloring left Tara’s face when Erik said those words. Tara had to push that to the side and move into hostess mode as alumni began lining up to enter the ballroom.
As the crowd dwindled at the door, Tara turned to Erik to resume their previous conversation. “You’re telling me that CeCe is the girl Liz tortured? Dear God, Erik, no wonder she was apprehensive about tonight.”
Jason took this opportunity to speak up, “Ok, I don’t know this Liz, girl. But you’re telling me that Celeste had a crush on Chris, and he never knew it? Damn, was he blind?” He asked as he turned and looked at his wife.
“She didn’t look like that in school, Jason. She had braces and glasses,” Tara began to repeat, but Jason put his hand up to stop her.
“I’ve seen pictures of Chris, he wasn’t Captain America back then, you know,” he said with a laugh.
“True,” Erik chimed in, “But CeCe didn’t have any confidence because of all of the abuse she was taking. No one paid attention to the fact that she was incredibly smart. And she was too terrified to talk to guys.”
“She talked to you, didn’t she?” Jason asked incredulously.
“Yeah, well I was an outsider and so was she. I was different because I was gay, she was different because she didn’t fit the perfect girl mold.”
“So, what does she do now?” Tara asked, interested in what her life has been like since graduation.
Before he could answer, Chris walked up to them, “Hey, guys, how are you?” They all turned and nodded, providing a ‘hello’ in response. Suddenly, Chris caught movement across the room, and his eyes went wide, “What in the hell is the NASA hottie doing here at our reunion?” Everyone turned to look in the direction where his gaze was focused; Erik knew he was staring at Celeste.
Jason was first to say something, he was utterly confused. “NASA hottie? What in the hell are you talking about?”
“Yeah, the NASA hottie, over there, the woman in that fabulous black dress.”
It suddenly dawned on Tara, “Oh shit, the woman you are constantly going on and on about on the NASA channel? That’s her, in the black dress?” Erik said nothing, he kept looking back and forth between Chris and his best friend, Celeste.
“Yes, that’s her! The NASA hottie, what the fuck is she doing at our reunion?” Chris asked again, getting a bit agitated that no one was answering his question.
Erik looked back at the group, “I’ll be back in a minute, excuse me.” He knew he couldn’t immediately walk off toward Celeste because Chris would see him. Instead, he took off for the lobby and dialed her phone, hoping she would hear it and he could get her to come out to the hall where could talk to her in private.
As Erik walked away, Jason and Tara made the split second decision not to immediately tell Chris who his ‘NASA hottie’ was. Well, at least not her true identity. “She apparently went to high school with us, Chris,” Tara spit out after Erik was out of earshot, “I mean, why else would she be here?”
“Well, she could be the wife of someone we went to school with. Although, who would that lucky bastard be?” Chris asked as he looked around the room, “And why in the hell would he leave her alone?”
“Chris, enlighten me, who exactly is the NASA hottie?” Jason was more than a little perplexed over this entire situation.
“There’s this show on the NASA channel that I watch, it’s called Beyond the Stars. It’s this roundtable discussion about the latest news regarding space,” Chris began to explain.
“Holy shit that is way nerdy, you actually watch it?”
“Shut up, yeah and I even record it if I’m not home,” as Chris said this Jason began to laugh. “Fuck off, man. Anyway, she’s one of the regular panelists on the show. Her name is Celeste, and I always thought it was ironic because her name is so much like celestial. It’s as if she was born to work for NASA.”
“You’ve thought a lot about this haven’t you?” Tara snarked at him.
“She’s not just beautiful; she’s brilliant, too. I enjoy watching her show,” Chris gave a devious smile and raised his eyebrows, “I really enjoy watching her show if you catch my drift.”
Tara reached up and slapped him in the chest, “Oh my God, Chris. Please tell me that doesn’t mean what I think it means?”
Chris and Jason immediately fist bumped, it totally meant what she thought it meant. “Oh, it means what you think!” He said and turned and walked away. He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and began to dial.
Jason turned and looked at Tara, “You’re not going to tell him who she is, are you?”
“Not after that comment! I’ll let him be all proud of himself for thinking how cool he is for jerking off to her before he realizes he actually knows her. I can’t wait to see the color drain from his face,” she said with an evil laugh.
Erik had no luck in reaching Celeste. Instead, she was standing in the middle of the ballroom talking with two members of Liz’s mean girl posse, Trina and Stacia. He couldn’t hear what was being said, but it didn’t appear that harsh words were being spoken. No hand gestures were being used, and there were no furrowed brows or scowls on their faces. Erik quickly scanned the room for Chris and spotted him walking away from Tara and Jason. He was putting his phone to his ear, apparently making a call. He was still far enough away from Celeste, but he was trying to get closer, he wanted a better look.
Chris was waiting for the line to pick up, finally the call connected, “Seb, where are you right now?”
“Hey, Evans, I’m in a bar with Mackie and Renner. Aren’t you at your reunion? Is it that boring that you’re calling me?”
“It’s not boring, I’m calling to make you jealous, dude. You’re not going to believe who is here, the NASA hottie is at my reunion.”
“No fucking way! Are you serious?”
“Yeah, I’m serious. I swear, she’s here, and she’s every bit as hot in person as she is on TV. She’s in this black dress that hugs all the right places. Damn, son,” Chris was getting himself worked up.
“Watch it, dude, you’re gonna get hard telling me about her,” Sebastian cackled as he took a pull from his beer bottle.
“Fuck, I’m past that point.”
“Did you go to high school with her? I mean, why is she there?”
“I have no idea, I don’t remember her being in my class, Seb. I mean, come on, I’d certainly remember that ass.”
“Well, make your move, Cap. But send me a picture before you have your way with her.”
“Okay, just don’t tell Mackie and Renner about this, I don’t want to have them texting me about her every five minutes.”
Seb started laughing, “Deal, good luck.”
Chris hung up and went over to get a drink, he was actually nervous. He started thinking, what if she was the wife or girlfriend of one of his classmates? She had turned, and he noticed she wasn’t wearing a name tag. Well, he wasn’t either, but hell, everyone knew who he was. Sure, that was kind of egotistical, but he was part of a successful movie franchise. He grabbed a drink from the bar and started to move in her direction, noticing she was now talking to Erik. Perfect, it would be a great way to ease into a conversation with her.
Erik kept his voice low as he talked to Celeste, he didn’t want anyone to overhear them. “What did Trina and Stacia want?”
“They wanted to apologize,” she offered quietly. Like Erik, she didn’t want to speak too loudly for others to hear. “They said they felt horrible for all the things they said and did to me in high school. They wanted me to know they had remorse and wanted to make amends.”
“Whoa, what in the world would Liz think about that?”
“They don’t talk to Liz or hang out with her any longer. They realize how vile and nasty it was to call me fat and to spread rumors. Stacia admitted it was Liz’s idea to have everyone moo at me during graduation. Not that I didn’t suspect that already.” Celeste hung her head, she looked as if she was going to cry. When she looked up at Erik, her eyes were glassy with unshed tears, “Did you know they spread a rumor about me and my spot on the academic decathlon team?”
Erik shook his head, “They told everyone that I wasn’t as smart as I led on. I got good grades because I put out. And I got my science spot on the team because I put out for Mr. Talley, the science teacher. He wanted to know what it was like to fuck a fat student. Since I wanted the spot on the academic decathlon, we each got what we wanted.”
Erik’s face began to flush with anger. He clenched his fists and tried to hold it together. He wanted to punch someone at that moment. He saw Liz and her husband across the room, and he needed to keep from marching over there and beating her to a pulp. He knew that hitting a lady was uncalled for, but Liz was no lady! As he was bringing his eyes back to Celeste, he noticed Chris walking towards them. “Hey, Erik,” Chris said as he approached them. He turned to look at Celeste, she was more beautiful in person than she was on TV. Her hazel green eyes sparkled in the ballroom lighting. While her long, chestnut hair with caramel colored highlights fell in soft waves around her shoulders. He extended a glass of wine to her, “Would you like a drink?”
Celeste was surprised to see him. Erik had said he wasn’t coming and now he was standing in front of her, offing her a glass of wine. She was nervous and had to pretend as if this was an everyday occurrence. She sheepishly accepted the glass, “Thank you.”
“So, Chris, how is the movie shoot going? You’re filming in Atlanta, right?” Erik asked, trying to make small talk in the hopes of elevating the anxiety attack that Celeste would be having at any moment.
“Yeah, it’s hot, and I’m not a fan of the heat or humidity, but it’s a great city. I’ll be down there for several months, you should come down and hang out.”
Tara walked over and joined the group, “Chris, I am sorry to interrupt, but are you aware that Liz has been staring you down for the last ten minutes or so? I’m thinking she is getting ready to come over here and pounce at any given moment.”
Erik turned to look at Tara, “Before she does, let met ask you, did you ever hear a rumor about Mr. Talley and the academic decathlon team?”
Chris’ eyebrows shot up, “Yeah, I did,” before he could say anything, Celeste’s blood ran cold, and she felt as if she would be sick. Erik pulled her close to him, and Tara watched them carefully. Chris was oblivious to it, “I heard he had sex with one of the students who wanted a spot on the science team. I don’t know who, but I heard it was some chubby chick that he had a thing for. She was willing to put out, and he gave her the spot. Hell, I don’t even remember who it was; I don’t even remember all of the nerds on the team.”
Celeste tensed and then released herself from Erik’s grasp, “If you’ll excuse me, I need to powder my nose.” She quickly walked off, leaving the ballroom.
Tara was concerned, she had a feeling she knew what this was all about. “Let me guess, this is a rumor that Liz started?”
“Yeah, Trina and Stacia just admitted it earlier this evening. We’d never heard about it until then. I think the memories are more painful than we could have anticipated. I believe she regrets coming. It would probably be best if I get her out of here before Liz has a chance to say something to her.”
“Whoa, what are you two talking about?” Chris asked, suddenly confused. “More importantly, who are you talking about?”
Before Tara and Erik could answer, Liz Bagley made her presence known. She walked up beside Chris, sliding her arm around his waist, “Well, hello there handsome. It sure has been a long time since I’ve seen you.”
Liz Bagley was trying her best to hold on to her looks; unfortunately, she wasn’t succeeding. She looked older than her thirty-six years, and it was evident that she frequently tanned since her skin had the look of leather. Her wrinkles and crows feet were a sharp contrast to the clear complexion and soft skin of Celeste who barely looked thirty-two, much less thirty-six. Liz still had blonde hair, only Tara was pretty sure it came from a bottle since that shade did not occur in nature. Liz kept her hair cut very short, which only elongated her face; it wasn’t a good look for her. The botox and lip injections had been a failure as well, she looked like an overused pin cushion.
Chris pulled away from Liz, “Yes, it has been a long time. How are you?” He was trying to be polite, but he definitely wanted to put some distance between the two of them. Especially in light of the conversation that he was having with Erik and Tara before Liz’s arrival, he didn’t want to touch her.
“I’m good; been married for seventeen years. I’ve got three kids, that I homeschool, and I work in the church.”
Chris’ eyebrows shot up, “Ah, found religion? Are you trying to make up for all the things you did in high school?”
“Ha, oh that’s funny, you have such a sense of humor.”
“Oh, that wasn’t a joke,” Chris said flatly.
Liz’s hand flew to her chest like she was shocked and could not even begin to imagine what he was referring to. “Well, then I have no idea what you might be referring to. Would you care to enlighten me?” Erik, Tara, and Jason were fighting to hold back their laughter.
“Sure thing, we were reminiscing about how you tortured kids in high school. Specifically, we were talking about the rumor you started about Mr. Talley and the science spot on the academic decathlon team. Do you remember that one?”
The look of shock registered on her face, she wasn’t going to be able to get out of this. He knew of the rumor, and it was linked back to her, she could try denying it, but it would only make it worse. “Well, it was a joke, not meant to harm anyone. I don’t even think it had traction, it didn’t make it through the entire school.”
Tara stepped forward, “Did you know that Mr. Talley lost his job over it? He was questioned about it, and although he vehemently denied it, the school district said it was too scandalous and let him go.”
“Oh shit,” Erik gasped, “Seriously, Tara? That is awful.”
“Yeah, he was was friends with my parents. It was a severe blow to him and his family. He had to move out of state, and it was hard to overcome.”
“Liz, who was the girl the rumor was about?” Chris asked quietly. He looked over at Erik and Tara, they kept their heads down. Chris knew that they had the answer, but they didn’t tell him and they were trying to keep it from him. He had a sneaking suspicion as to the answer, but he needed to hear it.
“Oh, that nerdy, chubby girl in our class. She was the science and history nerd, with the glasses and braces. I always called her cupcake because she was so fat,” Liz sneered.
“I thought you called her cupcake because she was sweet?” Chris commented back to her.
“Hell no, you were so naïve. I don’t remember her real name, but she was such a nerd and thought she was so much smarter than everyone else. I couldn’t stand her, so I started the rumor about her.”
“Celeste Carpenter,” a voice from behind said. Everyone turned around to see Celeste standing there, her shoulders back and she was ready for a fight. “My name, Elizabeth, is Celeste Carpenter. And for the record, I didn’t have sex with Mr. Talley for my spot on the academic decathlon team, I earned it. I didn’t think I was smarter than everyone else, I knew I was smarter than everyone else. I was certainly smarter than you. Because what idiot would take Chris Evans to the prom and then dump him for Derek Stone?”
Liz just stared at her for a moment before responding, “That is my husband you are speaking of, and it would be in your best interest to watch yourself.”
“I’ll remember that, but you might want to remind him that he’s married. He’s already hit on me four times tonight.”
“You’re a bitch. Just who do you think you are?” Liz started walking toward her, “You think because you lost weight and don’t have braces that you’re suddenly better than us? Did you have to get fat girl surgery to lose the weight?”
“I didn’t need bariatric surgery, Liz. I lost weight while I was doing astronaut training and running six miles daily on the beach. I lost weight while I was working my ass off to put men and women in space with my Aeronautical Engineering degree from Purdue. If you need me to spell it out for you, I’m a rocket scientist, Liz. So, do I think I’m better than you? No, I know I’m better than you, because I didn’t need to pick on people and be a bully in high school to feel superior, I had a brain that allowed me to that.”
“You’re still not married, though, are you?”
“No, Liz, I’m not. But I’ve dated astronauts and didn’t have to settle for a loser like Derek. So, I still win.”
Liz stomped her foot down and spun around to walk off. She went straight for Derek who was standing in the corner with his football buddies and was oblivious to the fireworks going off between Liz and Celeste. Her movements made it clear she was not happy, and most everyone in the ballroom could tell that something had gone down and it was most likely not over.
Celeste began to shake as Liz walked off. Erik moved to her side, sliding his arm around her and turning her toward the ballroom entry way. He knew she would want to leave the room, and most likely the entire event. As they got into the hallway, Celeste looked to her best friend, “She acts like she’s still in high school. She hasn’t grown up any at all, it’s scary. I don’t like that I said those things to her. I’m no better than she is.”
“Look at me,” Erik said, cupping her face in his hands, “I’m so very proud of you for standing up to her. You needed to say those things to her and put her in her place.”
The tears began to silently run down her cheeks, “Except now he knows. I said all those things in front of him, I made an ass of myself in front of him. You promised you wouldn’t let me do that. The only thing that could be worse is if he knew I had a crush on him,” Celeste collapsed into Erik’s arms. He couldn’t say anything, he just rubbed her back to console her.
Chris watched as Erik and Celeste walked out of the ballroom. He turned to Tara and Jason, “Holy shit, CeCe from high school is the NASA hottie?” Chris groaned and shook his head. It took him a minute to get his thoughts together. “You knew when I made my comments earlier, who she was?” Tara and Jason nodded their heads. “Fuck, I know her, and I’ve,” Chris let out a groan when he realized what he’s done when watching her on TV.
Jason patted him on the shoulder, “Dude, I’d probably leave that out when you talk to her. Maybe tell her you’ve watched her, just leave out the happy endings.” Chris glared at him, wanting so bad to tell him off but figuring it wouldn’t be the time or place.
Chris thought he should change the subject, “So, how bad was it? The torture that she suffered at the hands of Liz?”
“From what Erik was saying, it was bad. She wanted to come back and face her demons, but I don’t think she knew about the sex rumor. I think that hurt on a whole new level,” Tara offered quietly.
“Why is that? Why did that hurt more than anything else?”
Jason decided to be the one to give him the reality check, “Look, Chris, I think this one hurt more because you so easily recalled the rumor of a chubby girl and your willingness to believe the story. The rumor was about her, and you were declaring it right in front of her, and you had no clue.”
Tara spoke up, “You didn’t recognize her, didn’t realize it was CeCe from high school. You only thought of her as Celeste from the NASA channel. And, to add insult to injury, she had a major crush on you in high school.”
Chris bent over, put his hands on his knees, and shook his head. He stayed like that for a few minutes, he wasn’t going to get sick, but he sure did feel like an ass. “Wow,” he said as he stood back up, “I’m a complete idiot. I can go from being smooth to being a total meatball in seconds flat.”
“Yeah, well, it happens, Evans. Did you ever pay attention to her in high school?”
“She was smart, I thought she was cute, and she was so shy. I said hi to her every day, but I had no idea she had a crush on me. And I didn’t know that Liz was picking on her the way she was. You know, if I had, I would have stood up for her. Do you think she knows that?”
“Maybe you should tell her,” Tara offered, giving Chris a hug. “And it might not be a bad idea to tell her that you fanboy over her now.”
Chris straightened the sleeves of his gray suit coat and fixed his tie. He wanted to make sure he looked pulled together before he went to find Celeste. He headed toward the ballroom doors and ran into Erik, “Where is she?” He asked, a hint of panic in his voice when he noticed she wasn’t with her best friend.
“She’s out front, walking around,” as Chris started to walk away, Erik reached out and grabbed his arm. “She doesn’t need your pity. If that’s why you’re going out there, save your breath. I’m a fan of your’s Chris, but she’s my best friend, and I have to protect her.”
“I respect that, Erik. Did you know I didn’t recognize her as someone from high school when I came in? I only recognized her as someone I watch on TV.” Erik gave Chris a curious look. “Yeah, I did the fanboy thing when I saw her, I watch the NASA channel, and I have a thing for her. I didn’t realize I know her, man. I’ve got a crush on her.”
Erik started to laugh hysterically. “So, she liked you, and now the roles are reversed? Oh, this is rich. You know, Tara was keeping you out of the restaurant last night because we told Celeste you weren’t coming tonight. She was so nervous about seeing you that she was going to skip coming. So, if you go talk to her, go easy, okay?”
~ * ~
Liz stood at the bar, watching as Chris spoke to Tara and her husband. She had been waiting to see Chris all night. When he had walked into the ballroom, she had forgotten that everyone else existed. She had spent the last few years regretting the decision to break up with him at the prom. She had begged for this reunion, hoping that Chris would come home for it and she could have her chance to see him and win him back. But her excitement began to dissipate when she saw him talking to the attractive woman in the black dress. Liz couldn’t place her but thought she looked familiar. The fact that Tara and Chris were fawning over her, it pissed her off. She would just have to insert herself into their little group and make her move.
She had not anticipated that the woman in the black dress would be cupcake. Or, that she would be confronted with the things she did to her in high school. Suddenly the girl lost weight, and everyone wanted to feel sorry for her. But the fact that Chris was defending her, that was not what she had expected at all. It was if he found her actions reprehensible and unforgivable. She was going to give Tara and Erik a piece of her mind. After all, it was their fault he felt that way because they brought cupcake to the reunion.
Liz stumbled her way over to where Tara and Erik were talking. She didn’t care she was interrupting, and she wasn’t going to apologize for it. “You guys ruined my night you know. He was supposed to be leaving with me. Why did you have to go and get him to hate me?” Her words were slurred, and she had a difficult time standing upright.
Tara and Erik looked at one another, trying to determine who was going to take this one first. Tara elected to go first, “Liz, would you like to be more specific?” She thought she would play it cool and let Liz dig her own hole.
“This reunion was for me, I asked you to plan it and have it so I could get Chris. This was my chance to get him back. And you had to make sure that little cupcake floozie was here. You get him to hate me and have him fall all over her, and he’s not going home with me.”
Erik tried to keep from laughing out loud at how ridiculous she sounded, “Liz, this reunion wasn’t about you getting Chris. And for the record, Chris has had a crush on Celeste because he watches her TV show. He just didn’t recognize she was a classmate.”
“You never had a chance with him,” Tara chimed in, “Besides, you’re married. Or did you forget that little detail?”
“I’d have left Doug for him,” she slurred out the words, “I hate being married to a guy with no real career. I had plans and expectations and Doug’s got none of that.”
“Well, you can’t relive your high school regrets, Liz,” Erik as moved away with Tara and Jason, leaving Liz standing alone to contemplate her next move.
~ * ~
Chris walked out into the summer night, looking for Celeste. She was sitting on the retaining wall, gazing up at the stars. Seems only fitting. He said nothing as he approached her, taking a seat next to her. They sat in silence fo a few moments, and when Chris decided to speak, he figured he would ignore the situation with Liz. “So, I have, to be honest with you. I had to call a friend of mine tonight to rub it in that the NASA hottie was at my high school reunion. I may, or may not, have been a fanboy when I walked in the door and saw you.” Chris smiled and turned his head to look at Celeste.
She had turned to look at him, a smile on her face as well. “NASA hottie?” She was confused, however in her question. “I’m not familiar with that term. So, do you want to explain?”
Chris took a deep breath, “Ok, so a few of us watch your show on the NASA channel and we, um, think you are, um” Chris was finding it harder to say than he anticipated. He started to laugh, his entire face lit up, and Celeste wanted to kiss him at that moment, “We all find you very attractive. We refer to you as the NASA hottie.”
“Holy shit, are you kidding me right now?”
“No, seriously, we do. And so I called one of my friends and told him you were here. Celeste, I honestly didn’t recognize you as CeCe from high school.”
“Or as cupcake,” she said, dropping her head and staring at her lap.
“Liz was horrible to do those things to you. I had no idea, please know that if I had known, I would have stood up for you. I always thought you were sweet and I said hi to you because I liked you. Do you actually date astronauts?”
Celeste let out a hearty laugh, “Yeah, my last boyfriend was an astronaut. One of our last dates before our break up was to the White House after he got back from the International Space Station. They are getting ready to transfer me from Cape Canaveral to the Jet Propulsion Lab. So, my time on the show might be coming to an end.”
“Oh, I’ll need to tell Seb. He’ll be sorry to hear that,” Chris reached out and took her hand, “Celeste if you are going to move to California, is there a chance I might be able to see you from time to time? Would it be a possibility?”
She smiled shyly and looked up at him, “Yeah, I mean, is that what you want?”
Chris reached out, putting his hand on her cheek and turning her face towards his. He moved toward her, his lips gently brushing against hers. His eyes closing and enjoying the sweet kiss. He wasn’t pushing for anything more, and he didn’t want to push her past her comfort zone. As he broke the kiss and pulled away from her, he spoke softly, “I realize I’m not an astronaut, but I’m kinda hoping that a kid you knew from high school would be okay to go out with.”
Celeste started laughing, “Well, you are a Captain, so I guess you’ll do in a pinch.”
“Gee, thanks. So, I heard this rumor,” he started to say, and she put her finger to his lips.
“No, no rumors, please,” she was on the verge of tears.
“I don’t want to make you cry, sweetie. But I heard this rumor that you had a crush on me in high school. And I want to know if that is true because that didn’t come from Liz.”
Celeste dropped her head, “Damn it, Erik,” she muttered.
“No, Erik didn’t tell me, either. Tara and Jason spilled that one. So, it’s true?” He crouched his head down to look her in the eyes, and she reluctantly nodded in agreement. “Ok, good, so I can admit that I have a crush on you. So, this will work out well. Celeste, will you go steady with me and be my girlfriend?”
She began laughing hysterically, “What are you doing, Chris?”
“Well, that’s what you’re supposed to do in high school. Since we are at a reunion, we didn’t date each other in high school, we might as well do it the old fashioned way now. Besides, I can now give you a happy high school memory.”
“Yeah, I’ll be your girlfriend,” she said as she put her head on his shoulder and snuggled up to him. He wrapped his arm around her and spent the rest of the evening under the stars instead of inside the ballroom with the remainder of the alumni.