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Never Thought I'd Live Past Twenty

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‘Backstreet’s Back’ blasted over the speakers. Dennis shoved his hand into his pocket and rolled around the pill of OxyContin between his fingers. Boy bands. There wasn’t enough liquor in the world to keep their banal harmonies from worming their way under his skin. He took the pill out of his pocket, and rolled it against the table with his index finger. OxyContin made him too fucked up to hold a proper conversation so in general it was a last resort, desperate measures drug. It was too early in the night to take it yet. Best to wait until other people were fucked up too.

In his haze of stolen crème de menthe and self-pity, he almost missed a girl saying to him, quietly, “Can I sit here?”

Dennis turned his head, and gazed at the girl with unfocused eyes. She wasn’t very pretty – too thin with an average face and long, limp hair. Her unsteady gait betrayed how intoxicated she was. Had anyone else been sitting with him, he would have told her to get lost. However, sitting with a loser was probably better than sitting alone.

“Sure, whatever,” he mumbled. She slid into the chair across from him, and hung her head. Her curtain of black hair swished over her face, obscuring it.

“This dance sucks, huh?” she slurred in her low, raspy voice.

“I’m having the time of my life,” replied Dennis, sarcastically. He covertly scooped up the OxyContin with his index finger and put it up his sleeve.

“Is that oxy?” asked the girl. Fuck.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. The girl parted her hair with one hand and tucked half of it behind her ear.

“I’m not a narc.”

“And I’m not a drug dealer,” he said irritably. “If you want pills, steal them from your deadbeat parents or go buy them from Ronnie the Rat.”

She sighed, and allowed her hair to fall back in her face. “I already have pills. I just don’t want to get fucked up alone like a loser.”

“No friends, huh? Can’t say I relate but that’s too bad.” He pushed the oxy further up his sleeve by pretending to fuss with his cufflinks.

“Yeah. My brother said he’d hook me up with some people but then ditched me when we got in the door,” she said glumly. “That’s him over there, being a dick.” She pointed to the back of a hot guy surrounded by a large assortment of gorgeous women. Something clicked into place in Dennis’s mind.

“Wait, your brother is Bill Ponderosa?”


“He’s one of the most popular guys in tenth grade.”

“So I hear,” she deadpanned. The flock of girls around Bill moved closer until they swallowed him up. The girl stared moodily at her own fingers as she pointedly watched their rhythmic tapping on the table. “I’m just an annoying freshman to him.”

“I wouldn’t take it personally. I think my sister is irritating too. It’s a brother thing.”

Maureen nodded, meditating on the words as well as her drunk mind would allow. “Who’s your sister?”

Dee was currently crying her eyes out at home, chafed and pathetic in her ugly back brace. They were less than two months into high school and she already had a nickname – the Aluminum Monster. Only a few people knew they were siblings; it would be social suicide for the information to reach Bill Ponderosa.

“She’s a lot younger than me. You don’t know her.”

The girl nodded, but her attention was clearly elsewhere. Small groups of people were leaving the gymnasium, stopping before they left to shake Ronnie the Rat’s hand or clap him on the back. The girl checked her watch and breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh, thank God. It’s already ten-thirty. I can get high soon.”

The girl looked at his cuffs, turned her head away to look at Ronnie, and stood up from the table.

“See you around, Dennis,” she said.

It wasn't until he was suffering through a hangover the next day that he realized he never learned the girl’s name.