Cara, Liz, and Evonne headed out after work for happy hour. After all, they had something wonderful to celebrate – Cara’s promotion. Well, it really wasn’t a promotion. More like a temp being made permanent. Cara was happy that she didn’t have to job-hop anymore.
At The Bar & Grill, the ladies took advantage of the drink special which just happened to be Cara’s favorite – margaritas. After a couple of pitchers, they were all feeling liberated and free. But none were as spontaneous as Cara who decided to join in on karaoke.
She strolled to the front, skimmed the list of songs, and one jumped out at her. “One Week” by Barenaked Ladies. Cara smiled big with a slight giggle. She hadn’t heard that song since her junior high days. She still knew the lyrics by heart so she told the coordinator she didn’t need the screen.
She took her position on stage and began to sing. She did well at first. Spouting out words that were second nature. “How can I help it if I think you’re funny when you’re mad? Trying hard not to smile though I feel bad.”
Then Cara threw a blank. She couldn’t remember the next part, but a guy leaning against the bar did. He walked towards the stage and stood in front. “I’m the kind of guy who laughs at a funeral. Can’t understand what I mean? Well, you soon will.”
Cara picked the song back up after the courteous vocal nudge from the handsome man. As she continued to sing, she felt awkward. She tried to focus her attention on Liz and Evonne, but she could feel this man staring at her. She tried to avoid looking at him, but took a quick glance. He was singing right along with her.
In school, there was a guy that everyone called a nerd. He was really smart, but had a face full of pimples and the most ridiculous looking glasses. Cara couldn’t remember his name, but she did remember a particular incident.
It was one of the times when she and a few classmates sat on the school lawn listening to music. “One Week” played. Cara was the only one in the group who could sing the entire song all the way through – correctly. The nerd, whose name still escaped Cara, walked over and joined in with her. He knew the words just as well as she did – maybe better.
She smiled at him then, stood. She was shocked that someone else knew the song. They faced each other, dancing as they sang. The other classmates looked on with disgust. Not because of the song or even Cara. More so because she was singing along with the guy that no one else accepted.
When the song ended, Cara invited him to sit with the group. The others either gave a scowl or said something harsh to let him know his best bet was to move along. He looked hurt. The nerd, who Cara’s still trying to remember his name, turned and walked away. Cara looked on with sorrow, then at the others with anger. She grabbed her belongings and left.
When the song had ended, the man helped Cara descend the one-step stage. “You did great up there!”
“Well, I would have flopped if you didn’t help me out. Thanks for that.”
“Just history repeating itself.”
“Huh? Do I know you?”
“Cara, it’s me. Julian. From Maymont Junior High.”
Then it finally clicked. Jelly Jules – or so the others had nicknamed him. Boy, had he changed. Cara bet none of the folks from junior high would make fun of him now. Julian was truly an ugly duckling turned beautiful swan.
“Hi Julian! I didn’t recognize you. How have you been?”
“I’ve done pretty well for myself. I own this restaurant, “ he motioned with his hands.“ I’m not surprised you don’t recognize me. I was quite a sight back in those days.” Julian seemed to be upbeat, though Cara’s recollections of the past were anything but. “So what have you been up to?”
“Well, I just got hired by the Egleston and Myers law firm around the corner. I’m a paralegal.”
“Oh, well, congratulations! I’ll buy you a drink.”
“I’m here with someone. Well, actually, two someones.”
Julian looked puzzled.
“We’re celebrating, but it would be great if you joined us.”
For a split second, Julian’s façade faded. He had turned back into the pubescent boy from ole.
“That’s ok. It was really great to see you. Maybe we can get together some other time.”
As he was starting to turn to leave, Cara placed a hand on his arm, “Julian, it’s ok. You can join us.”
“Yes, I’m sure. “
Julian and Cara walked over to the table where Liz and Evonne sat. After the introductions, the group talked about Cara’s performance and how she and Julian knew each other and the song. At one point Julian and Cara took a selfie to further commemorate their reunion.
As the time drew nigh, Liz and Evonne decided to leave, but Cara and Julian were so caught up in conversation that they didn’t notice the co-workers had left. In fact, the restaurant staff had cleaned and left with Julian and Cara still rambling on at their table.
Finally Cara looked at the clock on her phone. It was after two in the morning. She had to be up at six. Julian ensured she was ok to drive and then walked her to her car. There was silence, but the look in their eyes spoke volumes. There was definitely an attraction.
“Cara, it was really great seeing you again. I hope we can do it again sometime.”
“I’d love it.” Cara tilted her head to the side and gave Julian a flirtatious smile. He returned the favor.
“Great! Would…it be ok if I called you?”
“Sure. What’s your number?”
“Five five five one eight seven two.”
Cara dialed to make sure Julian’s phone rang. It did. He locked her number in.
Cara gave him a hug, then entered her car. She quickly sent a text with an attachment, then drove off.
Julian looked back down at his phone. He opened the message.
“Here’s to new beginnings!” Below the text was the picture from earlier in the night of Julian and Cara, cheek to cheek, smiling.
Julian grinned, making a motion as if lifting a glass to toast, “To new beginnings!”