Summary: It’s been a while since the Lakewood gang got together again, and many of them have changed. When tries Muffy brings together the group for a Lakewood reunion, the changes become apparent, and not all are for the best. First in a two-shot series. See Redemption Party for sequel. Rated T.
Can also be found here.
Francine sipped at her coffee, her fingers wrapped around the warm mug as she watched a morning news show. It was a rare off day for her, and she was using it to follow her routine…minus going to work and joining the hordes of other cube dwellers at menial tasks. Today she’d do a yoga routine with a friend at nine, go shopping for a winter dress and boots at ten, and at noon, she’d pick up Arthur from work so they could have a nice lunch together.
The two had been dating for a few months now. They saw each other at a dinner party thrown by their respective bosses’ head boss, a vice president so-and-so whose name neither could pronounce. The two laughed, went out for a late night snack afterwards, and after seeing how much they’d changed, they started dating. A few weeks later, Arthur proposed they be exclusive, and Francine accepted: She hadn’t had a love interest in two years or more, and Arthur was a welcome member of her life.
As Francine smiled, remembering their first official date as a couple to a park where they’d grown up, her phone buzzed on the table, making ripples in her coffee. Francine’s smile faded as she looked at the number: Unknown name, but it was a local number.
“Hello?” Francine said, deciding to answer in case one of the unknown bosses was calling her back into work.
Instead, a cheerful voice exclaimed in her ear: “Oh, Francine, I was hoping I’d get in touch with you!”
“Muffy?” Francine asked. The two hadn’t seen each other since the sixth grade, when Muffy yelled at Jenna in the middle of the cafeteria and got herself expelled for intense bullying and extensive damage to the emotional quality of a peer. Muffy was off to private school anyway with her father’s new money, and any time she saw her friends after that, she stuck her nose up at them.
“The one and only,” Muffy giggled in response, breaking Francine’s memory away in a poof of haziness. “I’ve been trying to get in touch with everyone. I’m in charge of the reunion.”
“But you didn’t go to Elwood City High,” Francine protested, highly confused.
“No, silly goose, the Lakewood Elementary reunion. Um, you’re aware that Mr. Ratburn just retired, right?” Muffy asked. Francine nodded: He retired after over thirty years of service, a botched knee replacement forcing him to spend his final days in front of the chalkboard in a wheelchair. “Well, Principal Haney retired with him, and the two have decided to have reunions. This keeps them active in the community, and we can all get back together again.
“So, what are you doing Saturday?”
“I have plans, a date actually,” Francine replied, glancing around the room for an escape from this conversation. She didn’t really want to see her old classmates. It had been as long as it had for a reason as far as she was concerned.
“I’ve already spoken with Arthur,” Muffy grinned. “In fact, I invited him to bring his date to dinner Friday night so we could catch up. He said he’d have to speak with you first, so I’m doing it for him,” she smiled. “So, is it a date?”
“I-I have to call Arthur,” Francine hesitated, biting her lip and quickly stopping. That was something she did as a child, more specifically a teenager. She couldn’t go back to those ways, not now, not ever.
“You two are no fun!” Muffy chuckled heartily. “Well when you make a decision, you both have my number now. If a man answers, that’s just Binky. He-”
“Binky Barnes?!” Francine exclaimed.
“Yeah, he interned at Daddy’s office a few years ago, we started dating, and now we’re married!” Muffy squealed, quickly pausing, “Well, we’re almost married. We’re engaged and we have a date planned. Maybe you could come to the wedding next summer. Wait!” Muffy gasped loudly, causing Francine to pull the phone away from her ear slightly, “We could put our plans into action! Do you remember those?!” Muffy cried.
“Not really,” Francine lied. She and Muffy planned out their weddings in fourth grade along with Jenna. Catherine ruined the scrapbook her ideas were in, but Francine remembered them all…and she gave up on them when she realized the princes in movies were nothing like the boys of real life, making her wedding and “perfect marriage” impossible. And there were plenty of divorced Elwood City couples to remind her of this fact.
“Oh, don’t be such a spoil sport, Frankie!” Muffy laughed. “We’ll talk about it when you come to dinner. You’re going to come, right? Oh please, you and Arthur have to come. It’ll be perfect, and then the reunion on Saturday? They’re cleaning up the old gym just for us!”
The real Lakewood Elementary was abandoned by Elwood City five years before due to growing health concerns. The school was old, but they remodeled it with state money over the course of one school year, hoping Lakewood would move back in when they were finished. After a few setbacks, a new policy entered the playing field: Elwood City Public Schools was downsizing and Lakewood would not be used again. Lakewood’s current students moved to a second wing of Grebe Middle School. And in another year, both would be called Grebe; there would be no more Lakewood anything.
“Francine? Hello?” Muffy called.
“Listen, I have an appointment right now,” Francine said, moving to answer the door. Her yoga partner entered with a friend of her own, laughing loudly as they moved into the living room to set up their mats. “Arthur and I will discuss the matter, okay? We’ll call you back with our decision. Goodbye, Muffy.”
Before Muffy could respond, Francine hung up the phone, turned it on silent, and stuck it in her bedroom. When her yoga buddies asked who was on the other end of the line, Francine replied, “No one important,” flipping the television to a yoga program and joining the ladies on the floor to begin her regimen. The apartment was silent, but Francine’s mind was roaring with memories, ideas, and other thoughts. She didn’t want to do this, and she hoped Arthur felt the same way.
“What do you mean you were thinking of going? I was hoping you’d be on my side for this, Arthur. I don’t want to see those people again, okay? Most of them probably think I’m the same old Francine, Miss Bossy Boots, and I don’t want to mess up and confirm their thoughts,” Francine exclaimed.
“My mom wanted me to go to every reunion. She can’t ever go to hers, so she hoped I’d go to mine so she could live vicariously through me,” Arthur smirked. He sighed, seeing Francine wasn’t amused by his fake voice and false impression of his mother, “Well aren’t you at least curious about how everyone’s doing? I mean Muffy and Binky, really? How did that come about?”
“No, I’m really not that curious,” Francine replied defiantly, crossing her arms. “They’re both rough around the edges personality wise, from what I remember, so as far as I’m concerned, good for them.”
“Oh, and Fern has a magazine deal. Aren’t you curious about her?”
“We’re friends online, Arthur. I have a selfie of her using the bathroom on my wall somewhere if you want to see,” Francine groaned. “Arthur, I’m just not as curious as you are, and if we go Saturday, Muffy will insist on dinner. I don’t want to have dinner with her! I was happy when she left, always putting people down. If her and her harpies would’ve left Jenna alone, maybe she would’ve been our other star athlete. Instead we lost every game that year, every single game, even the practice ones! She started that, Arthur, and I don’t really care about how much everyone else has changed or not changed. Oh wow, so Mr. Alan Powers helps NASA with experiments now? Yea for him,” Francine sighed, sipping her drink. She almost forgot she and Arthur were in a restaurant because of how tense their conversation was.
Arthur hadn’t forgotten; his food was almost gone when he looked up from his plate, “Well, I’m going. If you don’t want to go, I respect that, but they already know we’re an item. I hope you can disappear for a few days. Then you can come back and fix any damage, okay?”
“So you want to go that badly?” Francine asked. Arthur nodded firmly, taking a final bite of his steak. Francine sighed heavily, “If I go, there are going to be some ground rules, okay? If I want to leave, you’ll leave with me. Can you do that much for me?”
“If you go, you can’t leave. If something bad happens, we can leave then. Otherwise, you stick it out. It’s just two nights, Francine,” Arthur replied.
“Fine, fine,” Francine sighed, finally starting on her meal.
“Well, I have to get back to the office,” Arthur said, dabbing his lips after finishing off his drink. He kissed her on the cheek and disappeared, paying the check before he left like a perfect gentleman.
Francine sighed. She was stuck, but she’d have to go along with it, for Arthur’s sake. If they continued getting on so well, she’d need to impress his family anyway, and if his mother liked reunions so much, this would be her perfect chance
~End of Part One
Link to Part Two: Redemption Party
Theme 026: Biased
(Explanation: Francine doesn’t want to go to a reunion because she’s afraid everyone will be their same ol’ Lakewood selves when she herself is completely different. Biased by the past? Yep)
Theme from a one-shot theme list I did a while back. For more info, contact me.