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Was it Thomas?
Facing the past in a parking lot

October 6, 2004

She was getting out of the mall with her big shopping bags and trying to stay balanced on those sexy - yet uncomfortable - high heels and wondering why the heck she hadn't kept a pair of running shoes in her car to change after work.

That's when she spotted him. Moving around an old Toyota pickup truck as if searching for something. He was some distance away but she was almost sure it was Thomas. With the fiery red hair and short, small frame. It was Thomas who sat behind her in third grade and was always somewhere in the classroom for the next few years.

It was Thomas she disliked because he was tough and foulmouthed and didn't know how to treat a girl. Thomas would try to push her off the swing. He was as hard and cold as she remembered him that day long ago when she went back to school to an empty yard and got hit on by that Italian.

And there he was, frantically looking around in his car obviously looking for something he'd lost. Or trying to replace his car mats.

She was having a hard time walking in the stupid shoes, which go by the name "Jimmy Choo" with a $430 price tag. And she wondering why the hell after all these years, of all people, she had come to see this short little redhead that went by the name, Thomas.

Thomas was the one with the hard, blue eyes that were much older than his years; the only student without anyone to claim him on parents night. It was Thomas, they said, who had an alcoholic father and no mother, apparently. It was Thomas who beat up the new kids, mostly from Iran and Spain and the Philippines. She was surprised that he would beat up outsiders until their mouths bled or their bones ached, when he was an outsider himself.

It was Thomas who always made her turn her head in disagreement when her mother would tell their new emigre friends how nice Canadians were in accepting newcomers.

It was Thomas who broke the writing trophy she had received for the best essay in class. It was Thomas who was a lot brighter than he let on but only used his brain to make up new swear words to throw at people - especially the new kids who didn't know how to answer back. She hated him for it, but in her heart she was also grateful for not being one of "them". Grateful that her parents had packed and left a whole lot earlier for her to be considered a "new" kid.

When she was new back in kindergarten, kids were much nicer. It was Thomas who swore more often than he took in air and would always serve as an example of what was wrong with the world, she thought. It was Thomas who would pull her soft, long hair until she wanted to scream. And he was the reason why she cut her hair that summer - even though she told her mother otherwise.

It's actually Thomas. As she puts her things in the back of the car, she wonders whether now, after all these years, she should give a damn. He probably wouldn't recognize who she was.

Anyway, she had done enough walking in those frigging high heels. He'd probably just give her a blank stare or spit out a rude word and have her walk back angrier then he had ever made her feel when they were kids.

She hated him - and he hated her. Even if he did sound different that last day when she was moving. Even though she was the only girl he spoke to in class - offering mostly swear words. He even emailed her on her sixteenth birthday when she was in love for the first time and tasting its sweetness. She never thought twice about writing back, although she did wonder for a long time about how he had gotten her email address, or remembered her birthday.

And it was Thomas who would always get detention in Madelle's class. Madelle was the teacher she still remembered, like the sound of a river flowing in early spring.

It was him she was approaching now, her feet aching and her mind warm with all the memories of those years past and people gone - and yet quite alive and vividly dancing in her mind.

Yes, it was Thomas.

She walks by slowly - aware of the sound her heels are making - and reluctantly stoops down to say hello only to have him turn back and try to win - as always.

"Hello there! I saw that hair and knew it was you right away. It was getting fucking hard to look busy. Why did it take you so long to come over?!"

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