The old place still smelt the same, like over-boiled vegetables sealed in varnish, and the zigzag of the parquet was like an old friend, but there were different, newer, more golden names on the Honours Board now. Hers was still there, if you looked hard enough...'1995--Head Girl--Elyssa Bradshaw'. The names that accompanied hers still gave her that little thump-thump of the heart when she didn't look away quickly enough. 'Head Boy--Jay Marriott'. Oh dear, what a blow that had been to 'Captain of Sports--Patrick Robertson'. At the time, she'd thought their strange friendship would never recover. And in a way, it hadn't.
"Do you think Jay and Patrick will come?" asked her old friend Juliet, helping her lug the punch bowl across the hall to a white-clothed table. "Do you still hear from them?"
"Oh, no. I haven't heard from them since, um, I think it must be at least ten years. I used to see Jay a bit, what with going to the same university, but we kind of drifted. You know how it is. Life gets in the way."
"It sure does. Let's not let it get in the way again, eh?"
Elyssa smiled. She would not have guessed that Juliet, the raver of her year, would be an interior designer and mother of four at the age of thirty-three. Juliet, though, would probably have accurately predicted Elyssa's path in life, she realised with an odd jolt of depression. Single, career-focused, travelling the globe from conference to conference, unable to commit to even a cat--it had been exactly what she'd wanted at twenty-one, but now...no point getting despondent. Life had got in the way of...life. That was what it did.
"No. I mean, everyone has email now. Facebook. No excuse to lose touch again."
"I'm holding you to that."
"Do you remember our first day?" Elyssa looked around at the handsome, spacious hall, taking herself back to the shy eleven-year-old hiding behind her fringe in the welcome assembly. "I thought this place was so huge. So scary."
"I remember old Vickers asking that question about how many pupils there were in the whole school. And Jay and Patrick's hands going up like a shot. Then Patrick got sent out for elbowing Jay in the ribs when he got chosen to answer."
Elyssa laughed, but there was a wistful pang behind the laughter, closing up her throat. "And they were like that for the next seven years."
"You were just as bad."
"Oh, come on! You tore up that history essay you wrote when Patrick got a better mark."
"I didn't! Did I? Oh, actually, I think I did. God, we were donkeys, weren't we?"
"Asses! But clever ones."
"That's an oxymoron. I'm more of an Oxford moron."
"Morons don't get into Oxford."
"I don't know. I did. Anyway, let's change the subject! Did you or did you not snog Robbie Whitman at the Year Eleven disco? You never did confess."