It’s November. Nice Girl has flown out to L.A. to visit her cousin, who’s just had a new baby. They’re walking along Santa Monica pier when her cousin—who, as it happens, is also named Monica—says, “Oh, you look so beautiful in this light. Let me take a photo?” Nice Girl beams and faces her cousin, her body slightly turned to the side, revealing the gentle curve of her breast. “What are you doing?” says Monica, lowering her Samsung Galaxy. “Oh!” exclaims Nice Girl, as she quickly repositions herself, turning around to look at the camera from over her shoulder. Her smile is wide, her white teeth show, but if you view the photo in full screen on Facebook, you can see a shard of glimmering panic in her brown eyes.
It’s Naughty Girl’s 92nd birthday, and the home is making a big deal about it. Happy Birthday Naughty Girl You’ve Still Got It, reads the bakery-ordered cake. She’s wearing a shimmery lip gloss that Eugenie helped her put on before wheeling her out to the Activities Room. Eugenie, and Trisha, another nurse, help her to blow out her candles. Everyone sings and Naughty Girl closes her eyes, navigating the abruptly visiting memory of one particular birthday. 32? 34? The cool bathroom floor, the exhausted relief of being post-puke, moments after wholeheartedly wishing she was dead. The feeling of complete aloneness. The calmly accepted fact that she would be, forever, because she was just that sort of girl. But two birthdays later, she becomes a mother to Justine. Justine’s father is Naughty Girl’s boss, and he is also married to a sad woman named Lynne. 18 months later, gives birth again, to Lucy. By this time, Naughty Girl is married to the father of her girls, and Lynne is dead, having driven off a bridge upon being informed of the second pregnancy. She opens her eyes and the candles are out. Smiling, Eugenie hands her a stack of 3 magazines, tied with a red ribbon. At the top is a Cosmo. She wonders if Justine, now a busy and difficult woman, will manage to visit today. Lucy was a Nice Girl, but she was gone—killed in an electrical fire at a soup kitchen, one terrible day in Seattle. There are also two stepchildren, but they hate her.
It’s early on a Friday evening and Nice Girl is in the ladies’ room at her work, with her colleague Mandy, who works in the next cubicle. They like to IM each other funny fail videos and Downton Abbey GIFs when they’re not busy working. They’re putting on some makeup before meeting a few friends downtown for dinner and drinks. Mandy stands with her face right at the mirror, adding a second layer of mascara, as Nice Girl adds a smudge of black eyeliner to her lids. “Hey, check this out,” she says, quickly lining the entire inner rim of her eyes with the black pencil. She looks at Mandy, her mouth closed and slightly puckered. “Shit,” says Mandy.
“Oh, I loved this record,” muses Naughty Girl, in her husky voice, flipping through old compact discs at the used record store. It’s Blur, the Blur record. “Ha, wow,” says Nice Girl, who is standing nearby, already holding her purchase of the day, Oasis’ (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? “Blast from the past.” She’s suddenly visited by a vivid memory; baking muffins with her best friend, “Song 2″ playing loudly as they danced around the kitchen, singing woo hoo into wooden spoons. She reaches for the record in Naughty Girl’s hand, her wet eyes full of silent apology. At exactly the same time, Naughty Girl is visited by an equally vivid memory; watching music videos alone at her boyfriend’s rich stepfather’s house, and Oasis on the television. The memory of Noel Gallagher’s heavy, bored gaze slaps her in the face. She gasps, and her hand reaches out. Nothing makes sense, and an actual alarm sounds.
It’s 7 p.m. on a work night and Nice Girl is at the drug store picking up some basics. She strolls down Aisle 6, heading towards her preferred brand of sanitary napkins. But something sitting a few shelves away catches her eye. A small box of tampons, printed in a hot pink and black leopard pattern. With a hand on her hip, the Nice Girl cocks her head to the side and reaches for the box. As she holds it gingerly and scans the text, a young man with spiky hair walks past. She catches his narrowed eye, and he gives her a lusty look. “No!” she cries, shaking her head. “No! I’m… I’m a Nice Girl! I’m a… ” but it’s too late. He’s already reached the end of the aisle, and now he’s out of sight. Her small, Twin Peaks Police Department Receptionist voice trails off. She puts the box back and locates her usual pads, then some Pepsi Max, before heading to the checkout. While she waits in line, she checks the time in Seoul, where her boyfriend Jeff teaches English. She can call him at 8, when he has recess for 15 minutes.
For no good reason, Naughty Girl decides to ditch school one
day. She hitches a ride home on the back of some man’s motorbike.
She lets herself into her family’s quiet house, goes upstairs to
her room, and finds a pile of folded laundry at the edge of her
bed. Atop the pile is a white tank top, screenprinted with a faded
floral design. She holds it tightly, and inhales deeply through her
nose. “THIS,” she starts, clenching her first, “IS NOT,” she
continues, raising her arm over her head, “MIIIINE!” she screams,
hurling the tank top out her bedroom door, across the hallway, into
the clean and breezy room of her younger sister, Nice Girl.
Infuriatingly, it lands without a sound, at the foot of a large,
framed Breakfast At Tiffany’s poster, like an offering. Like
a lot of people, Nice Girl easily forgets that Holly Golightly was
a prostitute. And that Breakfast At Tiffany’s was a terrible
film. Although this final detail is only relevant to Alternative
Girl, who prefers the Diva Cup, and whose room is further down the
Previously in Story Time: Brad And Angie Go To Meet The African Pee Generator Girls
Esther Werdiger moves to New York next week, and usually writes comics at The Hairpin.