The original ending to the Kookaburra Trilogy by Nick Lachmund.
PETER (Kookaburra College 15 Year Reunion, 201_)
By Nick Lachmund
Peter had no intention of attending his 15 year reunion. But then, out of the blue he got a message from an old mate named Dean. Peter had always idolised Dean. He was taller, cooler, better at footy and more handsome than Peter. He was everything Peter wanted to be. As was the case back in high school, what Dean said he should do, Peter did.
After leaving school, Peter became a qualified electrician, working for his father before moving to the ‘big city’. By 24 he had had two failed business ventures, his hair was falling out rapidly and he came crawling back to his home town. His father let him buy a stake in his business and for a while things went well. He met a girl named Stacey and after a whirlwind relationship they moved in together and married. By 28 Peter was the co-owner of a business and he had a loving bride. Life was good.
Despite their attempts, Peter and Stacey couldn’t make a baby. They tried everything. Peter knew that Stacey blamed him, but he wouldn’t accept that, irrespective of what the doctors said. A baby-shaped void grew between them and soon their relationship was filled with resentment and anger. After eighteen months of marriage, Stacey walked out one day and never returned. Peter was devastated. Then his business started to fail. By 30 Peter was heartbroken, unemployed, bald and living with his parents. Life was bad. Three years later, with the reunion scheduled, things hadn’t improved much.
Peter arrived early at the pub for the reunion. He figured a couple of looseners would help him relax and he managed to down three pints before most of the people got there. As the night went on, Peter dutifully followed Dean around like he did in high school. For a little bit, Peter forgot all about his shitty life. He began to feel mindless, stress-free happiness like he had as a teenager. He began to genuinely smile and laugh with his old buddies. Peter was glad that Dean had talked him into coming.
Late in the night Peter took a seat at the bar and surveyed the room. People laughed and danced around him. But Peter noticed one person not dancing or smiling. It was a familiar face at the other end of the bar that he couldn’t place. Whoever the man was, he was staring intensely at Peter and Peter couldn’t help but squirm under his glare. Peter felt an urge to turn and leave the venue. Then it hit him. The last time he saw that face was a long time ago. The face scared him then, and it scared him now. Patrick, the worst bully Peter had ever known was staring at him.
Peter had heard some rumours about Patrick being in prison over the years but he hadn’t actually seen him since the end of Year 11 party. Patrick had interrupted Peter as he was trying to have it off with his girlfriend. Peter hadn’t thought of that night for a long time. When he heard Evelyn had killed herself during her first year of university, he wondered why she did it. As much as he told himself that it was ridiculous, he couldn’t help but feel guilty for some reason. Under the stare of Patrick, the sense of guilt reappeared. Did Patrick blame him for Evelyn?
Peter decided that he’d had enough of the reunion and quickly left. As he walked down the dark streets near the venue he constantly checked over his shoulder, feeling like Patrick was following him. Evelyn’s face flashed in his mind as he walked. Why did she do it? Did she want Peter to feel guilty about that night? Peter told himself that it couldn’t be the case. An irrational fear befell Peter as he walked towards a taxi rank. A flood of thoughts entered his mind; Evelyn lying in a bath filled with red, Patrick’s stare across the bar, the three of them on the night by the river. Was Patrick there to avenge Evelyn? Peter’s thoughts made less and less sense as he got in the taxi.
The next time Peter got an invite out he declined. Something about the reunion stayed with him. He began to have dreams about Evelyn’s suicide and about being chased by Patrick. He told himself everything was okay but it didn’t help. A sense of dread stayed with him whenever he was out and about. Peter experienced anxiety and debilitating fear unlike anything he’d felt before. His life would never be the same following the reunion. For the first time in his life, Peter experienced something that resembled what Evelyn felt because of him.