Chapter One

*please forgive formatting issues. ugh!*

Part One: The Invite

On average, a graduating class of 330 seniors can expect three classmates to die by their ten-year reunion.

“I think it was a mistake to have come here,” Maggie mumbled.

She pulled the car into the far back corner of the parking lot next to the dumpsters as she was instructed. The same graffiti from ten years ago still lingered on the side of the large blue metal trash bin like a forgotten phone number scribbled in a bathroom stall. It looked like someone tried to paint over it, but Maggie could still see it.

“Outsiders not welcome,” was scrawled in typical teenage angst, visible for anyone who knew it was there.

Maggie shifted the car into park and dug her sweaty palms into her pockets searching for the confidence she had when she’d agreed to come back for this. It was never in the plan for her to come along, but at the last minute she changed her mind when Blaine said they needed her.

The parking lot was empty, but when she closed her eyes Maggie could see the cars she parked next to every school day for three years, sophomore year through senior year, driven by the same people she’d known since middle school. Every spot was occupied with teenage cars embellished with teenage décor. Pom-poms spread out across a back dash, puff paint scribbled on a side window, a football helmet sitting in a passenger seat— all items emblemizing the strong teenage search for identity. Maggie wondered if they had ever stopped searching, even now as they crept toward their thirties. 

She opened her eyes and watched from afar as her former classmates gathered across the street, meeting in front of the bronze panther statue in the school’s “Sanctuary Garden.” It was where they’d held pep rallies, lined up for fire drills, and even had a memorial only one week after their graduation when their first classmate died after rolling her car on a country road.

You never forget your first dead classmate, Maggie thought, remembering how much that death had shaken her at eighteen. Ten years later, those same memories were washed with a thin layer of envy. The girl who got out early.

She watched strangers with familiar faces hug and shake hands, occasionally throwing their heads back in over exaggeration to laugh as they engaged in what had to be painfully tedious small talk with each other.

When Blaine sneezed, she jumped.

“It’s weird,” she said.

“What?”

“Seeing someone you once knew as a teenager wear the look of a thirty year old on their face.”

“People don’t look as good without their filters on.” Blaine stared at her for a second then said, “You got a toothpick?”

 But Maggie couldn’t shake the feeling they were all playing house and today the theme was “high school reunion.” The game was to act like they were real adults who didn’t mind that they’d just let an entire decade slip through their fingers. As if after all of the milestones publicly celebrated, and disappointments purposely hidden, they were still happy to be back here today. Even jovial, it seemed, to revisit the person they once were.

Her breath caught in her throat when she saw Logan. She actually came back for this! The two of them always swore they’d never be caught dead at their reunion, yet here they both were. A part of Maggie wanted to jump out and hug her, but an even bigger part wanted to slam Logan’s lying face into the panther statue.

Blaine held out his hand and Maggie grasped it and forced a smile.

“Toothpick?” He pushed again.

“Oh, no sorry, I don’t,” she pulled her hand back. She wondered who carries toothpicks in their car, but didn’t dare say it out loud.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw George with a beautiful blonde woman on his arm. He looked happy. As happy as she’d ever seen her husband look before. Had he ever told anyone about what she did? The police never came looking for her, so Maggie assumed he hadn’t.

When the rusty conversion van pulled into the spot next to them, Maggie knew her time for reminiscing was over. There was a job to be done. A plan to be executed. She took a deep breath and opened her car door.

At the same moment, less than a block away, a man with homemade explosives got out of his car and made his descent toward the bronze panther statue, as well.

It wouldn’t be long before the town’s warning sirens would start to scream.