You know that one girl?
Everyone knows a girl like her. It seems like she’s unfair, like everything about her is just… perfect. All of the words that describe a pretty girl apply to her. She’s cute and adorable and beautiful and sexy. Her nose scrunches when she laughs and her eyes go wide when she’s shocked or scared. Her smile could end wars. Everyone knows that girl who is just unfairly beautiful.
On top of that, she’s the kindest, sweetest, most genuine person you’ll ever meet. She’s hopeful and optimistic. Everyone wants to be around her because she makes them feel like the most important person in the world, even if thirty people are surrounding her. Even if you’re in a line-up of people vying for her attention, you feel like you matter around her. And she’s wholesome and perfect and anyone who hurts her is showing what a piece of trash they are because it’s like kicking a puppy or murdering a baby unicorn.
You know that girl, right? That perfect girl? That beautiful and kind and amazing girl?
In my world, that girl was Shay Brady. She was the sweetest person anyone had ever met, she was my roommate, and that Thursday night, she was polishing off her third glass of red wine with tears streaming down her cheeks.
“What’s wrong with me, Austin?” she asked tearfully.
“Nothing’s wrong with you,” I said. “Landon was just…”
If anyone who hurt Shay was a piece of trash, Landon Boyko was King of Trash Mountain. Landon Boyko was the entire fucking overflowing landfill and all of the garbage trucks full of garbage that was spilling out because the landfill was overflowing.
Landon Boyko was a motherfucking stinking, flaming, burning trash pile, and I didn’t just say that because I was in love with Shay or something. He was a pile of trash because he was dating Shay and fucking every woman he could get his dick into on the side.
“...he was trash,” I finished. “Smelly, rotting garbage.”
Shay giggled thickly, sniffing as she wiped her face. “I really thought he was different.”
I bit back my instinctive response, but she was too observant.
“What?” she asked, reaching for the bottle of wine.
“Nothing,” I said.
“Please, Austin? You want to say something. I can tell.”
I looked across the table at Shay, her eyes rimmed with red and her cheeks shiny with tears. Crumpled Kleenex dotted the table around her as she studied me back. It wasn’t in my nature to hide things from Shay—she was my best friend, after all—but what I wanted to say would be more hurtful than helpful.
She found out about Landon’s extracurricular activities while she was working her shift at the animal shelter. Shay loved animals and had volunteered there as a teenager, then went to one of the nearby community colleges to get her vet tech diploma. She came back to Minwack Falls just before Alice McGrady retired, and Mrs. McGrady had demanded that they hire Shay, going so far as to say she’d never retire if they didn’t bring Shay on as her replacement.
I heard through the grapevine that they were planning on hiring Shay anyway, but Mrs. McGrady liked to feel important and involved, so no one told her it wasn’t her doing that got Shay the job.
Anyway, Shay had been at work when a girl we’d gone to school with, Orianne Forrest, burst into the shelter, bawling her eyes out. Shay, being Shay, immediately thought she’d lost her pet or maybe had a sick animal or something and ran to her.
“No!” sobbed Orianne as Shay wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “I’m here to apologize.”
“Apologize for what?” Shay asked, handing Orianne a Kleenex.
“I didn’t know he was… I’m so sorry,” she sniffled. “I swear, Shay, I had no idea he was your boyfriend. I feel awful.”
Shay, still being Shay, comforted Orianne as she told her all about how she’d ended up sleeping with Landon, not realizing he and Shay had been dating for six months, and how they’d been hooking up for at least three months at that point. Shay held her hand as Orianne sobbed that she’d thought Landon was cheating on her, and he was: not only with Shay, but with Kayla Voychka, the nineteen-year-old redhead who lived in the townhouses on Park Road, and some girl named Patricia who lived in the next town over.
“And those are just the ones I could find,” Orianne blubbered as Shay held her hand. “You have to believe me. I feel so bad, Shay, I can’t believe I did this and to you, of all people!”
Orianne seemed shocked that any guy would treat Shay like that, and Shay seemed pretty surprised by the revelation that her trashbag boyfriend was acting like trash. It wasn’t surprising, though. Not if you knew Shay.
I’d known her since we were kids who lived next-door to each other. In a perfect world, we would have been best friends who were inseparable since birth or something, but that wasn’t the case.
Shay was a year younger than me, and I only lived next-door to her part of the time, since I spent the weekends with my dad. So, growing up, it wasn’t like we ever played together or anything. It wasn’t until we were in high school that we even spoke, and that was only because my mom was throwing all my stuff onto the lawn and screaming at me. I don’t remember what that particular fight was about, but it was the first time she’d done it so publicly.
Clothes and books and other stupid things were flying out the door faster than I could collect them as my mom yelled. I remember Mrs. Roth, the Homeowners Association lady, watching from down the street, and I remember seeing Mrs. McGrady walk by and thinking that everyone in town would know I’d been kicked out by the end of the day. I remember the final slam of the door and the sudden silence in the middle of the afternoon as I stared at the house I’d grown up in, my face red as I held an armful of clothes in the front yard.
That’s when Shay came over.
“Are you okay?” she’d asked.
“Uh…” I said.
“That was a dumb question,” she said, biting her lip. “Austin, right?”
“Let’s pick all this up and you can come over to my house while we figure things out.”