“The ribs are great here!”
We entered the noisy and dim-lit restaurant. The hum of chatter enveloped us as the server showed us to our table. I was not keen on meeting with the others, the ‘friends’ from high school. I recalled hurtful comments and intentional slights that had battered my self-esteem. Ethan and the others had seen it as fun, gentle teasing but many of their comments had cut to the bone. Ten years later, I still could not believe that I was with Ethan. Back then, he had been my crush and I had been a source for his amusement. Now we spent every moment that we could together.
The group welcomed my boyfriend to the table with cheers and plenty of backslapping. The girls ignored our linked hands and draped themselves over the alpha male. As the moments passed, I felt myself shrinking back into my high school persona. Ethan did not notice the moment my hand slipped away to reside in my jacket pocket. Hunched over at the end of the group, I tried to make myself as small as possible in order to avoid notice and the malicious ribbing that will surely follow.
Once the enthusiastic greetings were over, Ethan’s hand found mine and linked our fingers. He pulled me in to sit next to him, dislodging the ex-cheerleader who had always clung to him in the corridors of our high school. I noticed her disgruntled look and braced myself for the acerbic comment that would follow.
“You all remember Mayah?” Ethan put his arm around my shoulders and tucked me in closer. “Can you believe this beautiful creature has forgiven me and has agreed to be my wife?”
Silence greeted Ethan’s announcement. Years may have passed, but certain facts do not change. I am still of a different race and culture. I am still an oddity with my lisping accent and my dreams of a united world. But some things do change. I am now a well-known figure in the fight for the rights of immigrants. My name is bandied about in courtrooms and on social media. And I am now the love of the alpha male of our teenage group.
I look at Ethan and he winks at me. I realise then that he knew how hard this meeting was for me and, in his own way, he has tried to set things right. As the evening continues, I notice the ‘team’ treating me with a deference that they had not before; especially when Ethan proudly tells them of my work. I see a different side to my love, a side that makes me adore him even more.
Ethan was right. The ribs were good. And as I left the restaurant with my fiance, I knew we would never see our old high school friends again.
© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019
(This post is linked to Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday challenge)