THANK YOU! 2 Days Left

THANK YOU, readers and friends, for helping us cross the $15K baseline goal. We’ll get funded after all, and there WILL be a fourth series of The Prospectives.

That being said, there’s still time to donate to the series, and to help us make it even more affordable. Our budget is $20K, so we are trying to close the gap between the baseline goal and this 20K stretch goal before the campaign ends.

You have until 4pm EST on Sunday, April 16 to donate. Thanks again!

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Series 4 Campaign: One week to go!

Hi reader! We’ve got one more week on the Series 4 Kickstarter, and are still $3000 shy of the our baseline funding goal.

Please help us reach that goal—and help us get as close to our $20K budget as possible. Visit this link to learn more about the new series, why it costs so much, and how you can help! Any support—$10, $25, $100…— it all helps immensely. Please note, however, that your pledges will only be charged on April 16, at the end of the campaign; you can pledge now but won’t see the charge on your card yet.

It’s an all-or-nothing endeavor, too. If we don’t get $15K, we don’t get any funding whatsoever. So please, if you’ve been following along and enjoying the series, support the team behind the project. It’s taken thousands of hours to make this anthology, all self-funded through now. The next series is the most ambitious yet, and we need your support to bring it to life.

Thank you!

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Series 4 Announcement

With series 3 wrapped, we’re excited to announce the next installment of our Insta-anthology:

The Prospectives Podcast 

Click here to learn more, and to help bring the series to life. We need your support!

It will still live on Instagram, though (seriously, click the link to learn more), and will feature artwork by Paul Tuller.

Thanks for reading, and for your donations!

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Chapter 32

32.1

Helene, limping a bit, makes her way down the Eastern Parkway boulevard. The Brooklyn Museum is illuminated to the south, as are all the pre-wars to the north. Cars whirrrrrr past at a quick clip. Helene seems calm. At peace. She is focused on each step, poised and content. She stops, turns around, locates her apartment—the home she shared with Alina—and confirms that, yes, she’s back in the exact spot where Alina was struck. She takes a deep breath, and her composure cracks. A tear crawls down her cheek.

32.2

Helene inches her way towards the curb. A couple walks by, and the woman shouts “Be careful, lady!” Helene turns, as if she’s just there to jaywalk or something, and smiles to the couple. “Yes yes, thank you,” she says. A truck barrels past, the force of which pushes her backwards a couple steps. She recovers and tiptoes again to the curb, then waits for the next car to come. She counts down from 5 as it approaches, but as she hits 2, the car changes lanes, one away from her, and honks its warning. “Motherfucker,” she curses, as more tears pour down her face. She stands there, waiting for traffic to pick up again. She can see a light turn green in the distance, and the cars build steam towards her. She steps back a bit, so that they don’t swerve again, but plants her foot, ready to leap. Then, suddenly: “Helene?” She whips her head around. Ward is there.

32.3

“What are you doing here?” Helene asks Ward. “Well, I live in the neighborhood, as you know,” he says. “More importantly… what are YOU doing here? Can you please step back from there?” She shakes her head confidently: “This is it, Ward. There’s nothing ahead of me. Nothing for me.” // “We both know that’s bullshit, Helene.” He steps towards her, and she shouts “No! Stop. I’ve readied for death before. I’ve been as good as dead for years.” // “Helene.” // “Can’t you see? I want this.” // “You THINK you want this. You’re going to disappoint a lot of people. Alina included. And…the 80-year-old Helene who is happy and IS capable of looking forward, no matter how short-sighted it seems. Why would you let her down?” Helene diverts the conversation: “How did you ever get over Amanda?” It’s terse, her delivery. “I didn’t,” Ward replies. “I won’t, ever. But anyone who comes into my life will know that she remains with me. There’s room for more people and experiences in there, but I won’t be moving her out.” // “Then why did you leave your home, when she was still there?” // “She wasn’t there, Helene. She was never there again. Just like Alina was never with me after she died. Nor with Tracey.” Now he’s got Helene’s attention. Her neck is still craned back, her gaze upon Ward is desperate. It craves every word he has to say.

32.4

Cars continue to blaze by, honking their horns. Ward tries to talk Helene off the curb: “Sometimes we see what we need to see. We manifest what we desperately need to believe,” he says. “I needed Amanda around, until I didn’t need her around. I felt some sort of responsibility for the failed transplant. So I carried her with me until I was ready to move past it. Same with Alina, with making sure her book would be complete, with looking after you, and seeing that you were content in her wake. And for a while, you were. Tracey made you that way. But Helene, Tracey and I didn’t see the real Alina. That was our guilty conscience trying to atone for something. For me, it was for introducing Alina to Tracey, and feeling responsible for the thing that killed her.” They stare at each other intensely, and we see in the distance a large truck coming our way. Helene looks at it, then she looks back to Ward. Her eyes tell him that this is it. He has one last plea: “Helene. Helene! You can’t always believe what you see. But—you CAN see what you need to believe. You can convince yourself of anything. You can convince yourself that you can get past this.” // “Goodbye, Ward.” She turns towards the truck, which is 15 seconds away. We hear Ward, but our focus is with Helene: “Helene! Helene! I’m not here. I’m not here right now. I’m home with Meredith, watching a movie.” She turns back, and Ward’s not there. But we hear his voice still: “Sometimes we see what we need to see. We manifest desperately what we need to believe. … You don’t want to do this.” Then, as the truck is a few seconds away, Helene’s voice cracks: “I don’t want to do this!” But her foot slips off the curb, and she stumbles into the truck’s path.

32.5

The driver reacts fast, and swerves out of the way. The truck practically flies off its right-side wheels as he does. Helene struggles to the curb, to a nearby bench, and sits herself up. The truck screeches to a halt and the driver gets out, sprinting to Helene to see that she’s OK. She assures him: “I am fine. I am fine. I…am fine.” He offers her a ride home. Then, we cut to Helene’s bathroom, where she is climbing carefully into a bubble bath. The room is dimly lit by two large candles. She submerges herself into the hot water for 10 seconds, then sits up with a deep breath. She wipes the bubbles from her face, and looks around—studying the bathroom, still searching for Alina, perhaps. There’s a glass of wine on the bath ledge, and she takes a sip. Helene savors it, sets the glass down, and sinks into the water. She is up to her chin, while the bubbles gather at either side of her head. She swallows the wine, and finds it in herself to smile. “Thirty more years,” she whispers into the water. “Thirty goddamn more years.” She smiles again, and sinks underwater. Both candles’ flames flicker furiously, the shorter one vanishing to smoke as we cut to black.

THE END

You can read the entire series here: Download PDF

Chapter 31

31.1

Helene directs two furniture delivery guys as they bring a couch into her new apartment. Ward and his girlfriend Meredith are there, sorting through a couple boxes and unpacking kitchenware. The movers depart; the living room furniture is mostly there, but it all needs rearranging. Ward walks over to Helene as she examines the room. “It’s a good forced turnover,” she says to him. “I’m shocked to be renting again. I thought I had escaped that money pit.” // “Only, what, six months on the fixing-up?” // “At least. But you know, I think I’ll sell it.” // “No kidding? Wow. Hell, I’ll buy it from you.” // “I won’t offer you a discount.” // “So sweet of you. What will you do with the money you get from me?” // “Travel more, maybe live nowhere, and everywhere.” // “Where shall we go first?” // “You two should plan a trip. I’ll do something alone.” // “That’s acceptable now, but not forever. Where will you go?” // “I really don’t care. Somewhere new. I’m tired of nostalgia.”

31.2

Meredith is still unpacking things in the next room, which leaves Ward and Helene alone. They’ve done some furniture rearranging. Ward stops to catch his breath; the reorganizing was all on him, physically. “Have a seat, dearie,” Helene says. He obliges, and she cozies up across from him. “I went to visit Tracey,” she says. He’s not at all surprised: “Of course you did. Why, exactly?” // “Never mind why. She’s not coming back around. But, Ward… why didn’t you ever tell me about her and Alina?” He smirks like “Oh, you know about that?”—not guilty, not ashamed. “Because it was a mess, and it never should have happened. Because Alina was reacting to your breaking up with her. She wanted you; remember that, Helene! She wanted you.” // “But what about after she passed? You knew, even after Tracey came around and started meddling.” // “I chose the better of two bad options, I think. She distracted you in a way that was good, for a while.” // “Because she reminded me of Alina.” // “I know. Plus, I knew she was the ticket to getting that book finished, which was a favor to Alina.” // “What do you think would have happened if you had told me?” // “You might have questioned Alina’s loyalty.” // “I might have.” // “And I hate to think your feelings or memories would have been compromised. So I made the right… or rather, the less wrong, decision.” // “I suppose you did.”

31.3

It’s late now. Helene is alone in her apartment. She’s standing near one wall, wine in hand. She studies the furniture, unsatisfied again with its current order. She sets down her wine on the coffee table and starts pushing the heavy loveseat, struggling to get any traction. After slipping, she falls to the side and catches herself on the coffee table, but accidentally spills the wine. It splashes large red stains across the new white couch. “Oh, piss!” she says. She stands up, slightly pained, and limps into the kitchen to get anything that might clean the spill. All she has are paper towels, soap, and water. Cut to her scrubbing the large stain, except she’s aggravated it; the spot is lighter, but it’s much bigger now, having bled with the water. Helene can’t handle it; she throws the paper towels to the floor in a fit, and tries to hold back a breakdown. She scans the room, this foreign place. “Thirty more years?!” she huffs. “How?”

31.4

Helene sits across from a lawyer in his office. “Is ‘Ward’ short for anything?” the lawyer asks. “Eduardo,” Helene replies. “And Alvaro is spelled A-L-V-A-R-O?” // “Yes.” // “Got it. … Alright, this is fairly simple, then, isn’t it?” // “As it should be. He’s all I’ve got.” // “Just give me a day or two to prepare everything for you, and this should be finalized. Does he know he’s the sole heir and beneficiary?” // “No.” // “Will you be telling…” // “No.” // “OK.” Cut to: Helene walking down Eastern Parkway from the subway. She’s smiling, studying everything intently. Bikers passing. Two mothers pushing strollers. The trees. The Brooklyn Museum. Her old apartment. Quintessential Prospect Heights. She looks up at the building, and realizes she is standing right where the accident—Alina’s accident—occurred. She measures the distance with her eyes, then hears the sirens in her head as she examines the surrounding area. Her expression has melted from sheer appreciation to one of…contemplation. She takes a deep breath, looks up at the apartment again, then goes on her way.

31.5

A candle glows on Helene’s coffee table, next to an empty wine glass. She studies the flame, and as it dances we see the faint memory of Tracey wrestling her on the bed, just as things boiled over. We hear the echo of Tracey’s pleas (or was it really Alina?): “I’m not Tracey. I’m Alina. It’s me, Helene. It’s actually me. I’m in here, in this body now.” Then, a cigarette enters the shot, as Helene lights it in the flame. She pulls the cig to her lips and sucks the smoke like it’s her last breath. She exhales and looks around the room. Everything is foreign. It’s not her home. We hear a woman’s voice—it’s faint—and Helene jerks her head toward the sound. Oh…it’s just a neighbor woman, from the outside hallway. Helene, however, is looking for someone. Searching for her. She takes another huff from the cigarette, watching the paper burn rapidly as she draws it in for 10 seconds. She tilts her head back, closes her eyes, exhales, and gently rocks her head. Then, she floats the cigarette butt into the melted candle wax, and lets it burn on as she grabs a jacket and scarf, puts on her shoes, and hurries out the apartment. She’s limping a bit; she doesn’t take her cane. It rests lonely by the door as she exits.

Chapter 30

30-1

Tracey sits in a dorm-style room, atop a twin bed. The walls are bare, colorless. She’s wrapped in a blanket, reading a book. A knock at her door, which is already propped open. It’s Helene: “Can I come in?” Tracey closes her book and sheepishly looks to the floor; it’s an indirect and ashamed “yes”. Helene enters. She’s still walking with a cane, and has a tote bag. “I brought you something else to read,” she says. She takes out the manuscript that she had been studying for the publisher, and hands it to Tracey. “You did a terrific job with this. You should keep it, so you have your final draft. Alina would never read the publisher’s last edits; she would only read her own final copy.” Tracey takes it and sets it at her side. “Well, this is probably my first and last book,” she says. “So thanks. It’ll be nice to remember the career I almost had. I’m sure they’ll be taking my name off it altogether.” Helene is tight-lipped about her kind deed: “Just get back on your feet. Stay healthy, stay medicated. You should be fine.” // “I hope it’s that simple…Why exactly did you come to see me?” Tracey asks. Helene crosses her hands, ready to dive in with questions.

30-2

“Did you really see Alina?” Helene asks Tracey. It’s calm, but it’s pointed. It’s vulnerable. It needs answering. Tracey stares back, uncertain how to answer. “I think so,” she says cautiously. “My doctors tell me otherwise.” She pauses, thinks, and turns away: “Yes.” Helene didn’t have any expectations here; she just needed to know. “Why do you think she came to you?” // “Unfinished business, maybe. The book?” // “She went to Ward for that, didn’t she?” // “But she left him.” // “So why you?” // “Maybe she didn’t need Ward’s help with the book. … Maybe he was her eyes and ears on something else.” A pause as Helene lets it soak in. “How would you know that?” // “I’m not sure what you’re really asking me.” // “I’m asking you to tell me what Alina really meant to you.” // “And why I could see her, but you couldn’t?” // “Your explanation might help with that too, yes.” // “OK. Well…” And Tracey tells Helene everything.

30-3

“To say all of that out loud, I realize how crazy it sounds,” Tracey says to Helene, having just finished all the details of her and Alina’s affair. “She wanted to be with you. I was the consolation prize. Not even a prize really. Just consolation.” Helene knows she has to be stoic here, and she maintains a pensive stare as she processes everything. “Please say something,” Tracey whimpers. “None of that matters now,” Helene says. “I’m glad you got to feel for her what I felt for her. I am.” // “Can you forgive me?” // “There’s nothing to forgive, at least in regards to Alina.” // “I’m so sorry, Helene. For hurting you.” // “I know.” // “Forgive me, please.” // “No.”

30-4

Tracey cracks. Helene’s stern ‘no’ seems cruel since Tracey is clearly so weak. Nevertheless, Helene remains unforgiving—at least on the surface. Tracey, desperate to defend herself, breaks into a far-reaching explanation for her behavior: “I killed a girl in high school. On accident. It was supposed to be a joke. Everyone thought I did it to…take her spot as editor of the yearbook. How stupid would that be? I gave her a pill. It was just supposed to make her fall asleep. To look drunk. She fell in the pool. They said I pushed her, because nobody was out there to see her fall in. I was in the bathroom when it happened. Everyone thinks I did it, out of ambition. Opportunity.” She’s still waiting anxiously for Helene to say something; it feels so desperate now. Painful. Helene, at last: “You’ll understand why I believe them and not you. Unwell or not, you’re lucky I’m still alive. And that I’m not pressing charges.” Tracey starts to say ‘thank you’ but Helene interrupts with “You’re welcome. Now get better. And don’t ever contact me again.” This does nothing to assuage Tracey.

30-5

Helene readies herself to leave. This is goodbye for the two of them. Tracey, on the verge of sobbing, has one thing to add: “I really loved you too. For you. For Alina, yes, but also for you. I understand why she was so enraptured. I so want that one day. What you two had. I loved you both for that.” Helene stares coldly at Tracey, and has some pointed parting words: “Then go earn it for yourself. For once in your life, earn something yourself.” She leaves Tracey, who looks defeated by this ending. We’re proud of Helene, but as soon as she’s around the corner and away from Tracey’s view, her confident, poised face dissolves into tears. She can barely catch her breath for 20, maybe 30 seconds; this was all bottled up when she was face to face with Tracey. Then, quite suddenly, Helene stands upright, wipes her eyes with a kerchief, and lets the moment pass. All better.

Chapter 29

29-1

Helene sits in the lobby of a large office. She’s surrounded by news tickers, and studies one intently as a young office page retrieves her: “Ms. Hill, Mr. Kleinhaus is ready for you. Helene hoists herself up and steadies her cane, just as an old, sharply dressed man in a trench coat appears behind the page. “Helene. I thought we’d go to Stousser’s. You love their lunch.” // “YOU love their lunch. I haven’t been there in 20 years.” // “Even better.” Cut to the two of them studying menus at a white tablecloth establishment. “It’s exactly the same,” Helene remarks. “Even the typeface on the menu is the same.” “It’s hard to find any reliable consistencies in life,” the man remarks. “So, this is sort of my rock.” Helene rolls her eyes. “Are you blaming your ADD on others?” // “Certainly not.” // “Because that, Harvey, is something that will not have changed.” He shrugs like “so sue me” and smiles. She huffs and shakes her head as she returns to the menu.

29-2

“Are you seeing anyone?” Helene asks Harvey. He swallows a bite as he nods. “I suppose so,” he replies through his chewing. “For a month is all. She’s at the network, in development.” // “Another intern?” // “An associate, thank you.” // “You will go to your grave having always gotten what you wanted.” // “I worked hard, Helene. You saw it.” // “I did. I won’t discount you. But damn, if anybody ever told you ‘no’, I’d love to be there to see it.” // “You were there.” // “I was.” // “I remember it well,” Harvey says. Helene smiles: “You cried. I remember that well.” // “I didn’t cry.” He’s defensive. “Not really debatable, darling,” She sips her wine. “Where is Ginny, anyway?” “She remarried, twice I think. More recently to some oil hound in Texas.” Helene chuckles. Harvey only gets paranoid: “What? What’s so funny?” // “Listen to yourself.” // “What do you mean?” // “Everyone is just so disposable to you. You don’t even know what your ex-wife is up to? You had a child with her! Doesn’t Emily tell you anything?” // “Emily and I barely speak.” // “Because you’re fucking women her age, Harvey! You’re not exactly a role model.” // “Dammit Helene. I wanted to have a nice lunch.” // “Then you shouldn’t have invited me. You know better.” She sips her wine and stares coldly at him. Then: “Would you care to ask me anything, since you dragged me here?”

29-3

“I’m retiring,” Harvey says to Helene. “I’ll be done by May. I saw the announcements your team made, and thought we could celebrate together over lunch today. I haven’t told anyone else yet.” // “Not even your girlfriend?” // “Helene…” // “Sorry. But Harvey, this is great news. Congratulations. Are you happy?” // “Are you?” // “I– I’m relieved. I’m absolutely relieved. My life is almost 100 percent different now than it was a year ago. Suddenly I’m a free agent. Free of everything. My home. My wife. My career. And I’m not even gonna die now.” // “What?” // “The cancer came back, except in my spine, just before Alina died. Then I broke my hip. In case you were going to ask about my cane. But, I got better. Completely better.” // “Oh my God, I had no idea. I’m terrible, Helene, I’m so sorry–” // “I didn’t want you to know. That’s why you didn’t know. I wanted to die. I still do. Someone told me the other day that I could still have another great love. Like, another you or another Alina. Isn’t that just fucked up? After all this, I could start over, square one, learn the rules, and build a new life? What’s the point?” // “That is the point, darling.”

29-4

“Maybe you won’t get a third ‘great love’ as you say,” Harvey continues. “Sounds like you don’t want that to happen anyway, but what’s there to be afraid of? Why don’t you get out there, just to seek intimacy with new, also-vulnerable people? Or to have sex with anyone. Or everyone! Old people know how to do it best, but young people know how to do it most eagerly. It’s fantastic.” // “I haven’t exactly been shriveled up, I’ll have you know.” // “Congratulations. So go out and find somebody else. Or at least find another Helene, from someplace inside you. You don’t owe it to me or Alina to be miserable for the rest of your life. I’m miserable enough for the both of us.” // “You’re fucking a 26-year-old.” // “She is 31.” // “She’s 31 and she’s only an associate? Ha!” // “Lay off! I don’t even need the pills with her. She gets me there.” // “Gross, Harvey. I’m glad she’s so eager. Is she your next ‘great love’?” // “No. Absolutely not.” // “How many have there been, for you?” // “One.” // “Don’t say that, Harvey.” // “It’s true, Helene. One.” // “You broke your own damn heart.” // “Well, I got on living my life, even if I have hated myself for the last 20 years. So why don’t you give it a try?”

29-5

Harvey helps Helene into a cab. “Where to?” he asks her. “I’m renting a furnished apartment in Prospect Heights. Have to move into my own place next week. Still have to find that place.” // “That’ll be in the neighborhood, too?” // “I’ll never leave Prospect Heights, dear.” // “Maybe I should move back.” // “No, you stay in Manhattan. It suits you.” // “Let’s have our next meeting there.” // “So they’re called meetings? And… I’m to believe this is regular?” // “Would you prefer I call them ‘dates’?” // “I would not prefer that. I leave it to you to plan our recurring, ex-spousal, recent retiree committee meetings.” // “And I shall.” They kiss on the lips, like old friends, and he shuts the cab door for her. The car drives away, and we study Harvey’s face as he watches it go: He adores her, painfully.