“Nothing ever changes,” Portia thought to herself, brushing the dirt off her black denim-clad bottom half. After ten years, the gap between the toilet block wall and the school’s main fence was still unknown to administration – even if she found as she climbed over the wall that she wasn’t as spry as she used to be. The tight space looked exactly the same as it used to – the brick wall blackened with grime, the wire fence overgrown with decaying ivy vines, and the ground littered with generations of discarded cigarette butts. And after ten years, Portia found herself hiding away from her former classmates, sneaking a cigarette in her former secret smoking spot.
Portia had spent only ten minutes here – blazing through her packet of smokes and regretting ever returning to the dump she had so actively, desperately loathed throughout her adolescence – when she heard a sudden scratching on the other side of the wall. She scuttled back just as a muscled man with sandy-coloured hair dropped down effortlessly into the crevasse. He flipped his head up in surprise when he realised he wasn’t alone.
“Goddamn,” Portia sighed, leaning her head back against the dirty brick in relief. “You scared the shit outta me.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, standing up. “I didn’t realise anybody else knew about this spot.”
“Me neither,” Portia replied, raising a fresh cigarette to her mouth. Before she could dig into her leather jacket pocket, the man moved close to her with a burning lighter.
“Are you here for the Class of 2003 reunion?” the man asked politely as he lit Portia’s cigarette. Portia narrowed her eyes and a dry laugh escaped her lips.
“Why else would either of us be back in this hellhole, Tom?”
“Oh, you remember me?” Tom said, still wearing a vague but polite expression. Portia realised that despite a few lines around his eyes, this boy had not changed at all.
“School captain, sports captain, teachers’ favourite, popular girls’ favourite. Who could forget the great Thomas Wright?”
Tom switched off his lighter and stepped back. “I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I just don’t remember you.”
“You wouldn’t,” Portia replied, taking a long drag of her cigarette. “You were popular and I…” She exhaled, starting at him through the trapped cloud of smoke. “Was not.”
Tom gave an uncomfortable grin. “Still, it was a pretty big graduating class. Coming back here and talking to all these strangers… seems like even the people I do remember, aren’t the people I remember them to be. Y’know?”
Portia lowered her cigarette, caught in her thoughts. “Ten years is a long time,” she finally said, musing that maybe some things change.
. . .