22: “I once saw him look sad while eating liquorice”

High school had been a pretty alright time for Priscilla. It hadn’t been the best years of her life like it had been for Jake, who brought up his time playing high school football literally every time Priscilla saw him, but it also certainly wasn’t the worst time of her life, like it had been for Helen, who, to be fair, had gone through most of it with a mouthful of really intense braces and the body of a prepubescent boy.

“Being here with all of these people is traumatic for me,” Helen complained to Priscilla. “I spent all of high school looking like I was on the cusp of manhood. Andrew Teegan was mortified that I asked him to the Halloween dance in grade ten because he’d previously spent all of our math class under the impression that I was a boy.”

“Named Helen?” Priscilla retorted skeptically.

“I don’t think he was very smart,” Helen explained.

“Well, you’ve shown them now, haven’t you?” Priscilla said, clapping Helen on the shoulder. “You definitely look like a woman now.”

Helen narrowed her eyes at her so it was possible Priscilla hadn’t been as comforting as she’d meant to be.

“And also, clearly Andrew Teegan was a homophobic ass,” Priscilla added. “So you were better off without him.”

Helen didn’t look especially moved by that as well either.

Despite having had a fairly decent time in high school, Priscilla wasn’t looking forward to seeing some people. Unfortunately, High School Tim was incredibly well-liked by his peers and so most of them turned up to celebrate him and his newfound happiness, including the few people Priscilla had been hoping to avoid, specifically that night, but also forever if possible. There were three. The first was Trevor Minsman, David’s cabbie cousin who talked endlessly about his wedding, honeymoon cruise, and subsequent divorce if given the chance. Feeling as though she’d already spent too much time listening to Trevor tell her about how his ex-wife had cheated on him with the cruise ship captain during their magical honeymoon cruise to the Bahamas, Priscilla was aiming to avoid speaking to him for the entire evening.

The other two people Priscilla was hoping to avoid were named Anya. They weren’t friends; they were very different people. One was a girl that had been in Priscilla’s French class every single year of high school. She was snobby and pretentious and liked to pretend that she was so much better than everyone else because she liked to listen to Radiohead. She consistently called Priscilla the wrong name, even though they’d been in the same class for years. Anya always called her Laura because there was another girl in their class with black hair and her name was Laura. Other than their hair colour and the fact that they were both white women, Priscilla and Laura didn’t look or act remotely similarly. Besides which, Priscilla’s name was Priscilla, which, as far as Priscilla was concerned, was a definitively unique name.

In any case, that Anya’s last name was Kilmodo and, in a double effort to distinguish her from the other Anya and to exact revenge for constantly calling her Laura, Priscilla had taken to referring to Anya Kilmodo as Anya Kilimanjaro. She did this to the point that other people began to genuinely think her last name was Kilimanjaro. Helen and Jana were two of those people. Clearly neither of them were very knowledgeable about African mountains.

The other Anya had been nicknamed Anya With The Braid by literally everyone in Priscilla’s inner and extended friend circle. She was fairly certain Miles had been the one to come up with it initially and, while it lacked originality, it definitely was accurate. Anya With The Braid had worn a singular tiny braid at the front right side of her face for four years. Priscilla supposed it was some sort of statement, but she never knew what that was because talking to Anya With The Braid was always something of a grab bag. Iggy had become accidental friends with Anya With The Braid during grade ten art class. They shared such interests as art and sushi. And that was the end of their common interests. Priscilla was surprised Anya With The Braid had come to High School Tim’s coming out party because she had generally avoided most people throughout high school. Priscilla and Helen had once run into her at a midnight book premiere for one of the Harry Potter novels at the bookstore closest to their high school and Anya With The Braid had asked her friend Cassie if they were muggles. At the time, Priscilla had been rather alarmed to find that Anya With The Braid was genuinely inquiring. Cassie had struggled to answer.

Of course, in the ever-elegant words of Tallulah, fate was a cold-hearted skank and the very first person Priscilla bumped into at the bar was Anya Kilimanjaro.

“Oh hey, Laura,” Anya Kilimanjaro greeted her and Priscilla fought the urge to smack her in the face.

“Hi,” Priscilla said in return, but she wasn’t happy about it. “How are you?”

“I’m good, you?”

Priscilla wondered how long she would be expected to stand there and continue the conversation. She hadn’t bothered telling Anya Kilimanjaro her real name because she figured she would never learn it at this point. Also, it no longer mattered. Quite frankly, Priscilla hoped never to see Anya Kilimanjaro ever again after this point.

“Fine, thanks,” Priscilla answered flatly. Anya Kilimanjaro then proceeded to tell her all about her job at a non-profit that spoon-fed orphaned lepers in war-torn countries or something in a stupidly lofty tone of voice.

“That can’t be right,” Helen said when Priscilla told her about the conversation she’d had with Anya Kilimanjaro.

“I don’t know,” Priscilla shrugged dismissively. “I stopped listening because I hate her.”

“Very direct,” Helen remarked. “But I respect it. You know who I hate?”

“Andrew Teegan?” Priscilla guessed.

“Andrew fucking Teegan,” Helen confirmed. “Look at him, so smug with his short wife.”

“She is remarkably short,” Priscilla agreed, looking over to where Helen was already glaring. Andrew Teegan and his wife were canoodling in the middle of the dance floor, intermittently chatting to Andrew’s sad friend Jamie, who did not appear to be enjoying his time at High School Tim’s coming out party at all.

“Child-sized,” Helen replied aggressively.

“Why do you suppose they would’ve put Jamie in that position?” Priscilla asked, moving on from Andrew Teegan’s miniature spouse. “He looks so sad. Actually, I don’t ever think I’ve seen him look happy. That’s not very good, is it? I once saw him look sad while eating licorice. Who looks sad eating licorice?”

“Jamie,” Helen answered. “Maybe he’s sad because he has terrible fucking friends.”

“Very direct,” Priscilla remarked as Helen had earlier. Helen nodded. It was then that Priscilla noticed a quiet presence at her left shoulder. She glanced over to find Anya With The Braid standing remarkably close to her, picking at a paper plate of mixed snacks. She was glaring at a mini Dorito like it had personally offended her. It probably had. There was no making sense of Anya With The Braid.

“Uh, hey, Anya,” Priscilla greeted her, loathing the fact that she had been forced to interact with both Anyas despite having prayed to avoid both. Anya With The Braid looked over at her for a long moment and Priscilla got the impression that she hadn’t intended to stand so close to Priscilla and Helen. And then, without saying a word, Anya With The Braid took her Dorito and left. Priscilla and Helen watched her go until she disappeared into the crowd.

“Such a spectacular weirdo,” Priscilla remarked, but she found herself somewhat impressed.

“Fucking Andrew Teegan,” Helen said darkly, having returned her attention to Andrew Teegan and his wee wife.

“Ah well, at least he’s bald now,” Priscilla replied. “That’s very premature. It’s karmic retribution.”

“Good,” Helen said forcefully. Priscilla admired both her anger and her dedication.

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