“Apple! Are you insane?” Happy demanded, viciously tearing Apple’s fourth-favorite pair of jeans from her. “Please tell me you’re not thinking of wearing those,” Happy continued, dismay dripping from her tongue. “ I know you’re obsessed with jeans. But please, not today! Today, you can’t be yourself!”
Happy tossed the jeans into a corner, a revolted look on her face, as if she were tossing out a baby’s dirty diaper. Her perfect ski-slope nose crinkled as if there was also a foul stench in the air. She ran her fingers through her shiny, long black hair and shot Apple a glance. Happy’s green eyes said it all: “What am I going to do with you?”
“Hey, be nice to the jeans!” Apple huffed, picking up the pants, folding them, and placing them gingerly on her bed. “What did they ever do to you?”
There were already dozens upon dozens of items of clothing in the Absolutely Not pile in the corner of Apple’s bedroom, including jeans in every wash, shade, and style imaginable.
The heap was getting higher by the second. Apple hadn’t known how much she owned until most of her clothes had been ripped from hangers and emptied from dresser drawers and she could see them in the one mammoth heap. Some of the clothes, much to Apple’s shock and shame, still had price tags. This made her feel supremely guilty. Apple loved to shop, especially with Happy. Happy always managed to convince Apple she “should” buy something when they shopped together. But most of the time, no matter what was in her closet, no matter the occasion, Apple ended up in jeans and a tank top.
All that money gone to waste, thought Apple, looking at all the unused clothes, wondering if she could return any of the items, or if—genius idea!—she should actually start to wear them.
Happy hadn’t approved of any of the outfits Apple had so far held up as possibilities to wear today. Every outfit Apple suggested had ended up in Happy’s Absolutely Not pile, mostly because Apple kept holding up variations on jeans and a tank top.
“Didn’t you hear what I said?” asked Happy. “You can’t be yourself today.”
Apple had heard her—she had simply pretended not to the first time.
“Oh, I heard you. So what exactly do you mean by that?” she asked, watching Happy pick up another pair of jeans, looking unimpressed. “Hey!” Apple cried. “I love those jeans. What’s wrong with them? They’re such a dark wash they could pass for a really funky pair of pants. And you said you loved them on me! And you said my butt looks fabulous in them. And you’re the one who gave them to me, in case you forgot,” she said, hoping to convince Happy before the jeans ended up in the Absolutely Not pile.
Apple suddenly wished Lyon was there, though she knew he would probably rather cover himself naked in honey and lie on an ant pile. But at least he would tell her that no matter what she wore, she looked fantastic. Thinking about her boyfriend, Apple couldn’t help but smile. He had come by first thing in the morning only to drop off her favorite strawberry-banana smoothie.
“I just wanted your day to get off to the perfect start,” he had told her. And though she was dressed in one of her dad’s T-shirts and an old pair of sweatpants, he had also told her she looked adorable. Thanks to Lyon and his surprise visit, it had been the perfect start to a day.
As Happy sighed, with exaggerated tolerance, Apple was brought back to the present. Happy was speaking to Apple as if she were a very patient teacher explaining to a six-year-old how to add single-digit numbers.
“How many ways am I going to have to explain the situation to you so you’ll actually understand, Apple? I do love the jeans. And they do make your butt look great. I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings. I’m sorry if I hurt the jeans’ feelings,” she said, rolling her eyes. “I do love all your jeans. But you just can’t wear jeans today! Today is too important, even for designer hand-me-down jeans from yours truly. Even if they make your butt look delicious.” Apple tried to interrupt, but it was impossible. “And I know how you always say that Lyon loves you in jeans, but today is not about impressing your boyfriend, who would find you attractive in a garbage bag. Deal with it,” Happy said, finishing her rant.
“But that’s me,” Apple argued. “Jeans are me! That’s who I am! I’m a jeans-and-T-shirt type of gal. I’m at my most comfortable casual.”
“I know that. We all know that,” Happy said, glancing to the far end of Apple’s bedroom, where their other best friend, Brooklyn, was sitting silently, eyes closed, hands resting on her knees, palms facing up.
Brooklyn was meditating, something she had recently taken up as an add-on to her regular yoga practice. Brooklyn was as obsessed with yoga as Happy was with fashion and Apple was with jeans.
If Happy had been looking to Brooklyn, whom they called “the Noodle” because she was so lean and flexible, for backup it wasn’t happening. Not only did Brooklyn live in yoga pants, but ever since she took up meditation, she had also acquired the amazing capacity to tune out everything that was going on around her. You could dance in front of Brooklyn, making ridiculous faces and gestures, while she meditated and she still wouldn’t budge.
“So what you’re really saying is that they won’t like ME if I wear jeans, even though that’s who I am?” asked Apple. It bothered her that there could be people out there who thought like that, who would judge her based on what she was wearing. Apple liked to believe that people weren’t that superficial or judgmental, even though she knew that was kind of naive.
Apple never judged people by the way they looked or dressed. Though she would admit she sometimes laughed along with Happy’s biting criticisms of someone else’s outfit, Apple was not the type to actively start those conversations, or even have those thoughts.
“No, what I’m trying to say is that, today, you just have to be a better version of yourself. At least you have to dress like a better version of yourself,” Happy said gently, taking Apple’s hand as if she were breaking bad news. “Listen, how are people supposed to take you seriously if they aren’t a little envious of what you’re wearing? They want people to look up to you, don’t they? And people won’t look up to you if you don’t look like you’re a person to aspire to! If you were going to be interviewed to be a counselor at a day camp or a salesperson at a clothing store, I’d tell you to wear jeans. But this is so, so different. This is so much bigger and more important. You have to impress these people. Please, please, please just let me pick out what you should wear. You’re going to be working at Angst magazine! This is, like, the most important day of your life! It’s Angst magazine!”
From the Trade Paperback edition.