Brian and Dottie were the first to arrive at the restaurant, but the rest of the crew wasn’t far behind. Andy and Allison arrived with Claire in tow and the group were quick to exchange hellos and hugs. Claire rarely came back, and the last few years had only really been for this quick meetup with the old crew. Her parents had moved away during her senior year, but she had kept in touch with Bender and Allison. The yearly get-together had been sparked with that and only seemed right to be on the anniversary of the day they all actually had sat down and got to know each other.
Brian gripped Dottie’s hand and looked at her smiling. She looked back at him smiling then returned to chatting with Allison. Claire had laid her jacket over the back of her chair, then sat down shifting herself slightly away from the empty chair next to her. Her eyes met Brian’s and she smiled.
“How have you been?” she asked leaning forward.
“Can’t complain. The school year is almost over so that will be a good break.”
“I bet. Kids today seem to be such a handful. Tiff hasn’t been doing good in school.”
“Uh-oh, what is going on?”
“Who knows? She hardly talks to me these days, and Allen isn’t really communicating much. Trish said she would try poking around, but we will see.”
Brian nodded, giving her a concerned look. “Things still not going smoothly for you and Allen?”
“No. I wish it had been more amicable, but things got so nasty toward the end of the sepearation. I am thankful if I can get a cordial text message at this point.”
“That has to be rough, and I am sorry about you and Tiff.”
“Divorce is never clean. It is always a messy affair, and at this point the only consistent thing is they all resent me.”
Brian found himself squeezing Dottie’s hand in gratitude. Thankful, they never had as many issues Claire and Allen had in their marriage, and their divorce.
“I am sure the girls don’t resent her,” Dottie chimed in, and Allison nodded in agreeance. Claire just chuckled and looked away. At that moment, a waiter came to the table. They quickly ordered drinks and appetizers, and the waiter left.
“Hey Claire, did Brian tell you the news?” Andy asked. Brian felt a lump form in his throat and he paled. He hadn’t wanted to discuss the news this early in the night, and he could only guess how Claire would react; let alone Andy and Allison.
“No, what is going on?” Claire asked eyeing Brian, and he felt Dottie squeeze his hand for support.
“They are closing the old high school down,’ interrupted Andy. At that moment, the waiter had returned with the drinks and baskets of bread. Andy had snatched a piece of bread and started buttering it. Brian looked dumbfounded and Claire looked shocked. She looked back and forth at Andy and Brian.
“They are closing Shermer High down!”
“Yeah,” replied Allison.
“What?” Claire asked. “Why? How?”
Andy and Allison stayed quiet and Brian took that as he cue to explain.
“It is several factors,” Brian began, grabbing a piece a bread. He gripped it nervously and avoided making eye contact with Claire. “Funding, student numbers and the conditions of the building…”
“But you are the Principal…”
“Vice Principal,” corrected Dottie. Claire just glared at Dottie and Dottie shrank down in her chair.
“You are the VICE Principal, how can you let this happen?”
“Well, one, this wasn’t my decision. This was the school board, the Superintendent, the city, pretty much the voters agreed to a levy and to consolidate some of the schools if they got newer schools that were more up to date and more efficient,” Brian said calmly. He set down the bread to pat Dottie on the leg, and he looked over at her and winked.
“So what is going to happen to the building?”
“We don’t know,” started Andy.
“Actually, they plan to demo it and it is getting parceled out to a hotel and a mini strip mall.”
Andy, Allison and Claire sat there not blinking with mouths open. Brian calmly buttered his piece of bread and started to eat it.
“Are you serious?” Allison asked, and Brian nodded.
“Sadly, yes,” Dottie said. “After the voters agreed to the levy, there were several organizations scouting the land.”