She was the sexiest reindeer at the Memorial Day festival.
Cori wore a brown crop top, brown short shorts, and high-topped suede boots. This would have been sufficient to draw plenty of attention. But she also wore a green sash with sleigh-type bells sewn onto it every few inches that jingled when she walked. The end of her nose was painted black, and she wore a headband with felt antlers attached.
Many people stared at and after her, but not many spoke to her. When they did, it was to ask the obvious question: “Why are you dressed like a reindeer on Memorial Day?”
She would smile and say, “I’m looking for someone.”
Cori wasn’t sure the person she wanted to find would be at the festival, but it was her best chance. So she walked through the crowds of families and friends scouting for a face she hadn’t seen since February.
Then she got the break she needed.
“Uncle Tim! Look at the reindeer!”
Cori’s head snapped around in the direction of the child’s voice. The child in question was perched on Tim’s lap, pointing at Cori. Tim’s mouth opened briefly in surprise before closing tightly.
Cori walked over to him.
“Good with children, are you, Tim?”
Tim said nothing.
“Is this your family, Tim?” she asked, indicating the fifteen or so people on blankets and at the picnic table with Tim and the little boy.
“How nice.” She looked around at them. “This is how I was dressed when Tim and I met at a Christmas party. It was pretty cold getting to and from the party, but I was certainly warm enough afterward.” And she looked at Tim again. “I wore this again today because I haven’t seen Tim in ages, and I thought he might have forgotten what I looked like.”
“Tim?” a middle-aged woman prompted. “Aren’t you going to introduce us?”
“This is Cori,” Tim said quietly.
“Oh, I’m no one special. I’m just the woman who slept with Tim a few times. Who got pregnant. Who couldn’t get the time of day from him after I told him. Who made dozens of calls and and sent dozens of messages, all of which he ignored. Who asked friends to talk to him, not that it helped.”
Tim stared hard at the ground.
“Timothy?” his father said.
But Cori continued; her voice shook a little. “And who went through a miscarriage – alone.”
Tim closed his eyes and put his head in his one free hand. The little boy’s father quietly called to him, and the child left Tim’s lap.
Cori used the moment to collect herself. “So relax, Tim. You’re off the hook. No little reindeer baby for us. And no more calls, or messages, or intermediaries. No shotgun wedding or child support. You’re free of me … and you’re free of the baby we almost had.”
She took a quick look around at Tim’s parents and siblings and other relatives. On some faces she saw hard looks being aimed at Tim. Other faces were filling with pity, and she knew she couldn’t stand that.
“Please excuse the interruption,” she said, and she strode away.
As Cori lost herself in the crowd, she threw off the antler headband, tossed away the jingle bell sash, and, as best she could, wiped the blacking off her nose with her hand.
No more reindeer games for me, she thought.