What does one wear to a fifty year school reunion? Nicholas the introvert writer would have worn his usual boring clothes, while his wife would have agonised over what to wear. But Nicholas was going to the reunion as Nigel Palmer and his wife was not invited. Nigel was a fascinating character with decades of derring do behind him and he would certainly not have a homely classroom assistant wife in her sixties in tow.
Nicholas tactfully explained to his wife that Nigel Palmer had a string of broken relationships and liked to keep his personal life private.
‘I am glad you are keeping me out of this. Even if it is vital research for your new best selling novel it can’t be right to impersonate a real person.’
Nigel Palmer was the one person from their year at Clacket Lane Junior School who had not been traced. No one had seen or heard from him since the summer of 1972. Of course that did not mean he knew nothing about them. Nicholas’ writer’s imagination conjured up several scenarios in which Nigel followed the burst of Clacket Lane internet activity, but had too much to hide or far more interesting things to do than go to reunions. Or perhaps Nigel, who Nicholas remembered as a lively, entertaining often naughty boy, would enjoy surprising everyone. He rubbed his face as he wrote notes on Nigel’s imagined life, his new beard was itchy, but should ensure nobody recognised Nicholas, especially as nobody seemed to remember him anyway.
The evening was going well, Nigel Palmer was the centre of attention. it was easier being someone else than himself, he could have been a successful actor instead of an unsuccessful author. Thanks to David Attenborough and the internet, Nigel’s tales of discovering tribes in the South American rain forests and his time with Medicine sans Frontiers in Afghanistan felt real.
But Nicholas was getting tired, he was not used to socialising and drinking so much and he wondered if he should leave before he blew his cover. It was as he pondered how he could slip away quietly that attention was drawn away from him. There was a kerfuffle at the door and the authoritative voice of organiser Caroline Hepworth could be heard above the chatter and background music.
‘No, this is a private reunion for Clacket Lane, invited guests only.’
The others drew back to reveal a tall man standing in the doorway. Nicholas first noticed his red bandana and matching beard, then the tattoos on the huge biceps emerging from his tight black Tshirt. Everyone instinctively moved aside and politely quelled their gasps. Emerging from a pair of khaki combat shorts were two jointed sturdy steel robotic legs ending incongruously in heavy duty boots. The man laughed at the flustered gathering.
‘Caroline Burton, you haven’t changed a bit, you must remember me, Nigel Palmer, I used to pull your plaits. I guess I have changed a bit, a lot’s happened in fifty years.’