April 6, 2008
By Faith Brown, Mount Shasta, CA

“Why? That’s such a stupid thing to do,” Sarah muttered, while simultaneously rolling her eyes.

I had just revealed to Sarah, my most bold and life changing decision yet. I had officially, that day, become a vegetarian. I had been avoiding telling her all day in fear of her reaction. Sarah always made fun of my eating habits and frequently accused me of being anorexic. I’m not anorexic; I’m just a light eater. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to eat bigger portions, but I couldn’t. If I eat any more than I’m hungry for, I instantly get sick. The only other thing that instantly makes me sick is eating most meat. I stare at it on my plate, and can almost see the face that used to be on it. I know that sounds incredibly sad and at the same time, gross, but that’s what happens every time I eat meat. I wanted to become a vegetarian when I was eleven years old, but my parents wouldn’t let me because they were concerned for my health. I guess I can understand that now, but back then I would cry every night at the dinner table because I didn’t want to eat the steak, chicken, pork chops or meatloaf that we were having that night. I know what you’re thinking. What a messed up little kid, right? Well, yes, you are right. I was pretty messed up back then. And I still am, I guess.

I’ve been friends with Sarah and Randi for six years, easy. I’ve just kind of blended in with them and went along with whatever they were doing for basically all of my life. I was okay with that when I was little, for the most part. But as soon as we started high school, I could tell that something had changed. They were more of friends with each other than I was with either of them. It was kind of sad, really. We used to be an equal friendship that was divided into three parts. Now, it was more of just them being best friends and me kind of tagging along behind. It was like that all throughout freshman and sophomore year.

At the beginning of junior year, I sensed an even bigger change. I was a junior now; an upper classman. As the first hint of confidence started to make its appearance, it immediately got shot down as soon as I saw my friends. They just looked at me like I had crawled out of a dumpster. At that moment, I shrunk down from my 5’ 9” self down to about five foot.

“Helena, don’t tell me you got those pants from Urban Outfitters,” Randi rudely demanded the moment Helena had sulked over.

“And what if I did?” I sighed, my last bit of confidence quickly draining out of me.

“Only grunge and hippie people shop there,” Sarah smirked.

“You’re stereotyping me,” I let out in a short breathe.

“Well, I guess it fits because you are a vegetarian,” Randi declared.

“Stop it,” I whispered.

“Stop what? We’re just telling you the truth,” Sarah said.

“And we can’t help it if the truth hurts, hun,” Randi added.

I had let these merciless put downs go on too long. I had dealt with it for over six years and every time, I would tell myself that next time I would put an end to all of it and stop them from hurting me so much. They make me feel like dirt whenever I’m around them and I cry in bed almost every night. I hate being this unhappy all the time. Something needs to be done and soon. This time, I just let their comments go and walked sullenly to my next class.

“Hey Helena, how are you?” Aurelia said, serene, as she walked into English. Aurelia is probably one of the nicest people I know. She is also one of the most individual, stylish and ‘I don’t care what anybody else thinks’ kind of people. As soon as the words left Aurelia’s mouth, I was in complete shock. Ever since I had been hanging out with Sarah and Randi (pretty much my whole life) nobody had ever really talked to me much. Why bother? I was just a face. Just a follower.

“I’m okay. Yourself?” I slowly said, slightly unsure of myself.

“Great, actually. Hey, I never really see you anymore. We should hang out sometime,” Aurelia said, casually. I was, again, in complete and utter shock.

“Um, I guess. Yeah, I guess that might be okay,” I said.

“Well, actually I’m having a party on Friday at my house if you want to go,” she said hopefully.

“I’m actually not much of a partier. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a party.” I said suddenly self conscious of my frequent anti-socialness.

“Oh, don’t worry. There’ll be no alcohol or anything like that; just a bunch of fantastic people having a great time together.” She said, her face sincere.

“Um, I don’t know what I’m doing Friday. I might have something planned. I should probably ask Sarah and Randi first. Are they going?” I asked, a little panicked at the thought.

“Well, I hadn’t invited them because they’re not exactly friends with me. It’s not that I haven’t tried, but I guess if you want them there I could probably invite them,” Aurelia said smoothly.

“No!” I practically shouted in her face, “I mean, that’s okay. I don’t do everything with them,” I said, realizing that a complete and utter lie had just escaped my lips.

“Oh, okay. Well, I just assumed. You know what? It doesn’t even matter. So, are you going to come? It’ll be a lot of fun,” Aurelia replied hopefully.

“Um,” This was my chance to make a small change that would set a new course for my life. If I didn’t take action now, I probably never would, “Okay. Yeah, I’ll see you there. Thanks a lot Aurelia,” I answered, my confidence slowly making reappearance.

“I was hoping that you’d come. You won’t regret it, I promise,” she said smiling, as she walked over to her desk.

Wow. I had never, in my entire life been invited to anything, let alone a party. I was a little scared. Not only of Sarah and Randi discovering that I was going without them, but of the party itself. I didn’t know most of the people that were going to be there. Actually the only person that I would probably know would be Aurelia. Whatever. I’d cross that bridge when I was in dire need to cross the river. Right now I have to figure out what to do about Sarah and Randi. You know what? I’m not even going to worry about that right now either. I’m actually kind of excited for this party. I had never realized that with most of the people there being people I don’t know, I can actually be myself. I can be Helena. Not ‘that girl that hangs around Sarah and Randi’ Helena, but the real Helena. The real me. I wasn’t exactly sure how to be the real me, for I had almost never done it before in my life, but I was certainly going to try my best. All I have to worry about right now is figuring out what I’m going to wear. I don’t have to filter my clothing options, now that I won’t be surrounded by my judgmental peers. I will be encircled with complete strangers and I don’t care if they don’t like my clothes. At least I like them. I guess that’s what matters most.

Friday morning, the morning of the party, I was so nervous that I was shaking while putting my hair up. I wasn’t even worried that Sarah and Randi would find out that I was going to a party without them. I was just so excited, that I was actually a little happy. I barely even paid any attention to any of my classes that day at school. I was so anxious for that evening that I couldn’t have paid attention, even if I tried. I didn’t even sit with Sarah and Randi at lunch. They watched me come down the hall toward them, expecting me to stop and eat with them, but I just walked on by. They even yelled after me.

“We’re over here, Helena,” Sarah yelled as she motioned for me to come over to them.
“Helena, where are you going?” Randi shouted after me.
“Does it matter? I honestly don’t think that either of you care,” I replied without even turning around. And man, did it feel good. I walked outside, sat on an empty bench outside and ate my peach-mango tofu. I was on my own little cloud nine, with the thought of companionship in the near future.

That night at exactly seven o’clock, I stood in front of my bathroom mirror with tears slowly making little trails of the rich black mascara, that I had applied perfectly just minutes before, down my once rosy cheeks. Other than my runny mascara, I looked exactly how I wanted to. I had ordered the perfect outfit consisting of a beautiful brown, knit wool skirt and auburn, fitted cotton blouse that I ordered from urban outfitters online, the night before. But right now, none of it really seemed to matter. Even though I desperately needed and wanted the change of friends and surroundings, somewhere, deep down, I was having trouble letting go of Sarah and Randi. They had been my only friends for so long and just like that, they were going to be gone. But then I realized that it wasn’t them I was having a hard time letting go of, for they had treated me terribly the entire time anyway. It was the change I was afraid of. What if the group at Aurelia’s party didn’t like me? I’d have no one to turn to if they didn’t. I was taking a big chance.

After fixing my face and taking a few yoga breaths before grabbing my trusty hemp clutch, I was ready. Before, when Aurelia gave me directions to her place, I had discovered that her house was within walking distance. I decided that the fresh air would do me good. As I was walking down the dimly lit street, the stars were sparkling above me through a thin sheet of wispy clouds. The air was balmy, light and slightly smelled of trees and autumn. While a light breeze was blowing through my hair, I felt anxious yet calm.

I slowly walked up the steep steps of the grand Victorian house that I hoped to be Aurelia’s. I was very bad at giving and following directions, but had made an honest effort this time. I rang the doorbell and Aurelia answered the door after only a few seconds.

“You came. I was hoping that you would,” she said, a genuine smile on her face.

“Yeah, you made it sound like so much fun so I had to come. Your temptations are hard to resist,” I said jokingly.

“I try my best,” she retorted playfully, “Come on in, I told everyone about you and they’ve been dying to meet you.”

“Really?” I asked, in fear that she had exaggerated and I wouldn’t be able to live up to her description. She gave me a nod and I followed her into the front room. It was very cozy looking with large couches, cherry wood armchairs and a big welcoming fireplace. About ten other people filled the chairs and couches and were looking up at me.

“Everyone, this is Helena. Helena, this is Jeremy,” she said as she pointed to the guy closest to me with shoulder length brown hair and a kind smile, “this is Roland and Jacquelyn,” she said when she motioned to a red haired beauty perched daintily on the lap of guy with jet black curls. She named off a few more people as I smiled and said my hellos, “And finally, this is Prudence and that’s Willem,” she said as a girl with deep raven hair and a guy with dirty blonde, messy hair and an angular chin waved friendlily my way.

“My mom was a little obsessed with ‘Dear Prudence’ by The Beatles when I was a baby,” Prudence explained.

“Well, who can blame her? That’s one of my favorite Beatles songs besides Eleanor Rigby and Blackbird,” I said.

“Same here. The first time I heard Eleanor Rigby, it changed my life,” Roland admitted.

“You say that about everything. But I guess everything does change your life in one way or another,” Jacquelyn said thoughtfully.

“Helena, make yourself at home and help yourself to the heaps of food in the kitchen,” Aurelia said.
“Thank you, but can you point me in the direction of the bathroom, because I think if I ventured off on my own in this house, I’d be lost for all eternity,” I said honestly.
“Ha. Your funny Helena, did you know that? Easy to get along with too,” She said, a little more seriously.
“Um, thanks. I’m really glad you invited me. Even though I just met your friends, I already kind of feel like I know them and feel at home around them,” I said truthfully.
“You know, that usually only means one thing,” she said, a small smile on her lips.
“What’s that?”
“You belong with us,” she said calmly, “And I mean that. Now, before you can’t make it to the bathroom, it’s down that hall, past the kitchen, last door on the right.”
I walked down the long hallway, lined with beautiful paintings that I had sworn I’d seen before somewhere in my art history book. As I entered the kitchen, the shiny Italian tiles clacked beneath my flats. The entire kitchen was covered in the bright, Italian tiles, including the walls and the island in the middle of the immense kitchen. Enormous platters of pasta, bread and desserts filled the counters. The island was littered with the favorite munchies of the guests. There were regular snacks such as chex mix and cheese-its, but there were also Swedish fish candies and moon pies. Yum. I snagged some Swedish fish on my way to the bathroom. On my way back, I could hear laughter from the front room. I felt empowered and confident around these people. I already loved hanging out with them and really felt myself around them. I finally getting to know who Helena was. I walked into the front room with a natural smile on my face.
“Wow Helena, you really look lovely tonight,” Jeremy said as he turned around to look at me.
“Yeah, you look happy. Glowing almost,” Prudence said, a slight twinkle in her eyes.
“Thank you,” I replied, almost positive that I was blushing.
And I really felt beautiful that night. I felt like I belonged. I felt loved. I talked and laughed the night away with my new friends. Look out world. Helena is here. And she brought friends.

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