The night begins quietly enough. Helen has one glass, then a second, to celebrate her impending early retirement. She is surrounded by co-workers whom she has known for almost thirty years, people who never really knew the staid and steady school teacher. She and her husband would come to the odd social function, but for the most part kept away save for a small circle of his high school buddies. No one is used to encountering such a chatty version of this unassuming woman, and no one is quite sure what to make of it.
A second glass turns to a third, then a fourth, and by the time she has finished her sixth glass of Pinot Grigio Helen is quite prepared to tell everyone what she thinks of them. Their work ethics could all be better, few of them put the time into the kids, and the younger teachers are obviously in it because they thought it would be easy work, though she lauds those who stuck it out when they learned otherwise. She makes none to veiled suggestions about the Vice Principal and the boys’ Gym Teacher, and though everyone assumed to begin with, all are made uncomfortable, even more so than the pair in question, when forced to acknowledge it.
For three decades Helen has bottled up her disapproval and tonight that bottle has been uncorked, along with the Riesling and the Shiraz. Her normally perfect diction slumps and she slides sloppily from word to word, though her meaning is perfectly clear. She lets loose a torrent of opinion, and while much of it is giddy, if incoherent, praise, most will only remember being dashed on the rocks of her wit. Their flaws laid bare by someone who has been forced to silently watch them stumble through life while somehow still landing on their feet causes them to shrink slowly away. They want to enjoy sending her off, but instead she is sending them away.
So be it, she thinks in a wine soaked stupor. They have never really been her friends. They sought her approval for all these years, and gave their subdued praise for her efforts. They claimed how much they wanted to live by her example, all while rushing out the door before four. In the morning she may regret it, but for now, she will enjoy finally being able to tell the truth.
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