24: “Anyway, I feel terrible about myself now”

Helen was feeling particularly sorry for herself at High School Tim’s coming out party. She’d had a terrible time in high school. She had no idea how she’d let herself be convinced that attending the party would be anything other than horrendous. Iggy had promised that nothing would be the same as it was in high school, but that had turned out not to be the case. Even though she had finally developed breasts and a faintly feminine shape, Andrew Teegan had still eyed her like she was months away from her own Bar Mitzvah when he’d walked past her earlier in the evening. Since that point, she’d taken pity on herself and also consumed a high quantity of alcohol. It was a bad combination for numerous reasons. It also led to further, poorer decisions.

In grade twelve, just before prom, Helen had begun dating her very first boyfriend. Iggy and Priscilla referred to him as the beginning of her Ugly Boy Phase. His name was Josh, he wasn’t actually ugly, and he had dreams of becoming an accountant. Josh’s father was an accountant for an impressive accounting firm in the financial district so Helen assumed that was why Josh wanted to be an accountant. It seemed an odd thing for a teenager to dream about, but that was Josh. He wore chinos and polos and flat-bottomed Adidas sneakers. He listened to Weezer, but also Kanye, and he really enjoyed the Fast and Furious movie Franchise. Helen had only seen two of those movies and only because she’d been dating Josh at the time.

Helen and Josh had lasted a grand three months. They’d gone to prom together (his blue satin tie had matched her dress perfectly) and then they’d spent the entire summer before university together, lolling about each other’s houses and going to their friend’s parties. In Helen’s mind, and also her stupidly dramatic diary, it was the greatest romance of not only her own life, but in all of history. This was undoubtedly not the case. For one thing, they were both seventeen and dumb. For another, unbeknownst to Helen, Josh had spent the entirety of their brief romance secretly in love with Iggy. Iggy, meanwhile, thought Josh was average-looking at best and also irritating, so their grand romance was not to be, especially after he dated one of her best friends. Iggy was both incredibly loyal and easily enraged.

The whole debacle came to light at Kristy Oliver’s farewell to summer barbeque blowout. At seventeen, Helen had thought Kristy’s parents were the coolest parents in the world. In retrospect at twenty-seven, Kristy’s parents were irresponsible and idiotic. If Helen had a teenage daughter, she would not allow her to invite over her entire graduating class to get drunk in the backyard and then also barbeque for them. Drunk teenagers were like animals. In any case, Josh got drunk and confessed his love for Iggy to both Iggy and Helen, which had been quite a slap in the face for Helen. And then, of course, Iggy really did slap him in the face and somehow he ended up in the pool, though that seemed to be largely a result of him drunkenly tripping over his own Adidas. Kristy’s father had to fish him out, but he didn’t even get in the pool himself. He held out a pool noodle for Josh to grab onto and then hauled him toward the pool edge. Kristy’s father was an irresponsible moron.

Helen ran into Josh at High School Tim’s coming out party while she was waiting in line to use the bathroom. By this point, she was probably as drunk as Josh had been when he’d ended up in Kristy’s pool. Josh, who was wearing a dress shirt and chinos, held his arms out to hug Helen. Had she been sober, she would’ve given him her very best stank eye until he walked away in shame. Regrettably, she was very drunk so she hugged him. Twenty minutes later, she was making out with him in a darkened corner of the bar, bathroom forgotten. It was not her proudest moment, but it also wasn’t her worst. She had thrown up in a gym that one time. That certainly hadn’t been great.

It took her another twenty minutes to realize that she was making a mistake. At that point, she shoved Josh in the chest and bolted, only catching one very startled look from him before turning away. She hurried through the crowds until she managed to find Priscilla, who was sitting in the far back corner by coat check on a ripped vinyl couch. Anya With The Braid was sitting about three feet away, too far for them to speak to one another and also too close for them not to be talking to one another. Neither of them was speaking. Helen sat down between them and Priscilla shot her an incredibly relieved look.

“Oh thank God,” she said to Helen in a low voice. “I tried to talk to her about her life, but she just stared at me until I stopped talking. She would make a terrific spy. Maybe that’s what she’s doing with her life now. Although, let’s be honest, the braid is far too distinctive.”

“I just made out with Josh,” Helen interjected frantically.

“Ewww,” Priscilla wrinkled her nose. “Why?”

It was a difficult question to answer.

“Well, I’m very drunk,” Helen admitted. Although she wasn’t quite sure that was the real reason. Priscilla shook her head, still looking repulsed.

“Is he an accountant? Did he manage to achieve that goal?” Priscilla asked.

“I don’t know,” Helen shrugged. “It’s not like we were talking.”

“Right,” Priscilla nodded.

“Anyway, I feel terrible about myself now,” Helen continued candidly.

“I guess so,” Priscilla agreed, which wasn’t especially comforting.

“I’m going to hide out over here,” Helen concluded.

“Yeah, alright,” Priscilla put an arm around her shoulders, which was more comforting. “You can hang out with Anya and me.”

The last part was accompanied by a dark look in Anya With The Braid’s direction. Anya With The Braid didn’t respond.

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