1: “Don’t let him steal your sparkle!”

Helen had moved back to Roehampton with her boyfriend of four years. She and Evan had been living in Winnipeg since graduating from university because he had gotten a job there and she had gone with him because, at age twenty-two, there hadn’t been many reasons for her to stay in Roehampton. It ended up being a positive change because she got a job at a public library that she loved, made some great friends, and the townhouse they had been renting had an immense kitchen. The only hard parts had been leaving behind her family and her close friends, all of whom had stayed in Roehampton to begin their adult lives. It had been hard to find the time and the money to get back home. She had very nearly missed Melly and David’s wedding because of that.

But then Evan got transferred to the Roehampton branch of his company. Once again, Helen followed him, leaving behind her own job, her friends, and her beautiful kitchen. They moved into an incredibly expensive one-bedroom apartment with a small kitchen and a miniscule bathroom. The sink was legitimately in the shower. Helen took to brushing her teeth while she conditioned her hair. She spent days looking for a new job while Evan went to work, pleased as punch. At least she had her old friends from high school, her parents, and him.

And then she found out he was cheating on her with his secretary. It wasn’t even a new development. She had moved from the Winnipeg office as well. Helen was left with almost nothing in a city that she didn’t really want to live in on her own, miserable and poor. She moved in with her grandfather because he had a lovely two-bedroom apartment that he’d been living in since the 1990s. He was renting it at a laughably low price because the landlord had never negotiated raising his rent when the lease had come up for renewal after the first year. Helen thought this was at least partially because the landlord had assumed he would die soon. Unfortunately for him, Helen’s grandfather had the constitution of a hearty bull.

Three days after she had moved in with her grandfather, Helen went to visit her high school friends to tell them what had happened. She had been in the city for three weeks and hadn’t seen any of them yet. At first, she was getting settled in her shared apartment with Evan. Then she was trying to find a job and trying to make herself truly believe that she was back in Roehampton for good. And then she was settling herself into her grandfather’s apartment.

She met her friends at Priscilla’s apartment. Iggy and Jacklyn were already there when she arrived, along with their friend Jemima, who apparently lived across the hall. Jemima was excited to meet her. Helen was finding it difficult not to cry.

“Where’s Melly and Jana?” She asked, mostly because she only wanted to have to tell her sob story once.

“Melly’s running late, something about her daughter pooing in the bathtub,” Iggy answered, wrinkling her nose in disgust. “And Jana’s on her extended honeymoon. They’ve gone to Hawaii for three weeks because apparently Dan makes a lot more money than any of us realized.”

Helen sighed dejectedly and flopped down on the couch between Priscilla and Jacklyn.

“How was the move?” Jacklyn asked. “How’s Evan?”

Helen thought about how to answer. She could tell them right then what had happened with Evan or wait for Melly. But then what would she say in the meantime? She started to cry.

“Helen?” Priscilla asked gently. Helen turned to her, bottom lip quivering and Priscilla pulled her into a hug. She ended up with her head in Priscilla’s lap as Priscilla stroked her hair while everybody else listened to her tell them what had happened.

“I can’t believe I gave up everything to come back here,” Helen moaned, face squished into Priscilla’s thigh. Priscilla kept stroking her hair. “And for what? To follow some guy who was cheating on me with his secretary. I was happier before this, you know. Not that I don’t love you guys, but I was alright. I had a good job and my boyfriend wasn’t cheating on me.”

“You know that’s not true, right?” Iggy asked delicately. “You just weren’t aware that he was cheating on you yet.”

“Also, you were living in Winnipeg,” Priscilla added, wrinkling her nose. Jemima nodded her head sagely in agreement.

“Winnipeg’s not so bad,” Helen relied morosely, but her face was still pressed into Priscilla’s leg so it came out more along the lines of “Whinny pig snot hoe bag”.

“I don’t believe you,” was Iggy’s response to that.

When Melly finally turned up, Iggy told her what had happened in a hushed whisper by the door. Helen had sat back up and wasn’t crying any longer. Jemima had dashed across the hall to her own apartment to bring back wine and some cheesy popcorn, which Helen had begun shoving in her face unceremoniously. She was feeling very fond of Jemima. She felt like they were going to become very good friends.

“This is so disappointing,” Melly said after she’d heard the full story, coming to join the others in the living room with Iggy.

“What?” Jacklyn retorted incredulously, turning to Melly with one eyebrow raised.

“I said it was disappointing,” Melly repeated herself.

“Yes, we heard you,” Jacklyn replied. “Who is that helping? Of course it’s disappointing. It’s also a lot of other things too.”

She turned her fierce gaze abruptly on Helen, who sat up straighter in her seat, feeling like a complete slob for having cheese dust on her fingertips.

“Evan sucks,” Jacklyn told her firmly. “He’s human garbage. He doesn’t deserve you. You are better than this, you are better than him. Don’t let him steal your sparkle.”

Everybody stayed silent for a moment, mulling over Jacklyn’s strong words of encouragement. It was very encouraging. Helen already felt better about everything. It wasn’t her fault. She was still sorry she had moved, but there was nothing she could do about that now. Now she just needed to start moving on. Besides, her grandfather’s apartment was actually very nice.

“I’m sorry, did you just say the words ‘don’t let him steal your sparkle’?” Iggy cut in dubiously. “Isn’t that from a season of The Bachelor?”

“I think the sentiment behind it still stands,” Jacklyn said defensively.

“Good Christ,” Iggy rolled her eyes.

A week later, Helen let herself into Priscilla’s apartment yet again. This time, she was hanging out with her friend Sybil and Sybil’s friend Chris. Since she’d been back in Roehampton, Helen had determined that Priscilla spent very little time alone. There was always someone at her apartment. And even if, by some miracle, she happened not to have any guests, she was always with her sister and their other roommate. Just thinking about her social calendar made Helen exhausted.

Helen had come over to share some exciting news. In an effort to move on with her life, she had joined Tinder and was in the process of trying to find a nice rebound to help her get over her four-year relationship with Evan, scumbag extraordinaire. One of her first and most interesting matches was a man named Walt.

“I met him on Tinder,” Helen explained, showing her phone to the group. Priscilla and Sybil peered at the screen while Chris generally ignored them all, which seemed typical of Chris.

“You chose to date this man based solely on his face?” Sybil returned incredulously. It was perhaps a bit blunt considering she and Helen had only known each other for what worked out to be about a week and a half in combined time.

“Well that and his bio says he plays rugby,” Helen added. “He’s British.”

“Well yes,” Priscilla agreed. “Everything about this man’s face screams British. I mean, putting aside his astoundingly crap teeth, there’s his fair complexion, his incredibly long nose, and his weak chin.”

“Do we think there’s a chance we’re being a little unfair to Walt?” Chris cut in, evidently experiencing a rare moment of sympathy. Priscilla took the phone from Helen and showed him Walt’s photo.

“Never mind,” he said immediately.

“As a whole, the population of truly attractive British people is actually quite a small percentage,” Sybil mused. “It’s essentially just Jude Law, Emma Watson, the Middleton sisters, and Idris Elba.”

“What about Tom Hardy?” Priscilla asked.

“Yes, true, good point,” Sybil agreed, nodding.

“Helen Mirren?” Chris offered.

“Oh, I will absolutely give you Helen Mirren,” Sybil said vehemently. “But, again, that’s still only like seven people.”

“It’s slim for sure, yeah,” Chris replied, nodding. Helen let them discuss it, thinking over what Walt would be like in real life. She still regretted following Evan to Roehampton, but she was beginning to find some excitement in the new possibilities the city provided. In that moment, her only real regret was that Jemima hadn’t come over with more of that cheesy popcorn.

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