Chapter 28

28-1

Helene and Ward sit in the back of a cab. She’s paging through a manuscript, nodding every so often and making “hmmm” sounds as she reads. Ward watches her, half entertained, half uncertain. “It’s actually quite good,” Helene says. “I think this is my favorite passage in the whole thing, this bit at the Moroccan restaurant.” She laughs to herself, amused at whatever that scene in the book must entail. Ward is quiet yet. Helene tucks the papers into her bag as the cab comes to a halt. “What’s your opinion on it?” she asks him, while putting her sunglasses on. He opens his door and exits, then comes around to her side and helps her out. She’s using a cane now, so he takes her bag as well and helps walk her to the curb. They’re outside the publisher’s office. “I think it’s very good, too,” he finally responds. “It’s not Alina’s voice, but it’s still outstanding. Such a shame.”

28-2

They’re in the publisher’s office now, across from the woman we’ve seen on a couple occasions. She speaks: “Now, luckily, the contracts were never fully renegotiated to include Tracey’s authorship. She’s still just a ghostwriter. So we can sweep all this under the rug and market it as Alina’s last title.” She pauses, waiting for Helene to respond. Helene has a question: “What about Tracey’s impending contract to write a few other books?” “Well, those we did sign. So, we may have to buy Tracey out.” // “Is this decision final?” // “Well, given what’s transpired, I’m sure you understand. It’s a tragedy, but of course nothing like losing Alina. We want to honor the legacy here, and there are plenty of talented writers we can bring on to round out our calendar.” Helene looks to Ward, who shrugs in a “what can you do?” way, then she turns back to the publisher: “I want Tracey’s name on this book. Not Alina’s.”

28-3

“What the hell are you doing?” Ward snaps. He’s furious. The publisher is surprised, too, but far less spirited about it than Ward. Helene explains her reasoning for giving Tracey full authorship credit: “It just doesn’t read like Alina, the way a book in her series should. Everyone knows she’s gone. So…just pass on the torch. Give Tracey a chance.” “This is the woman who tried to kill you, might I remind you?” Ward continues. “…and who is indirectly responsible for Alina’s accident…” Helene stays poised and puts her hand on Ward’s to calm him. “I can understand if you want to buy her out of her contract. But if she can get help, and if she can get better, then wouldn’t it be reassuring to know that she can re-start her career with a sound credit in her name?” “She doesn’t even know her own name,” Ward mumbles. Helene again: “I don’t need this money. And Alina, I trust, would respect any decision I want to make. She was very set on taking credit for her own work, for being good on her own merit. And she was.” The publisher nods, as if to say “I understand.” “You can divorce me from further involvement here,” Helene says. She’s done talking now. She turns to Ward, who is starting to cool down, and she smiles.

28-4

Now Helene is at her studio. She’s just arriving, even though it’s late. Kyle is the only one there. “I knew you’d still be here,” she says as she slowly makes her way toward his work station. “You should be home with your lovely Mrs.” “She’s working late too, I’m afraid,” he says. “We’re made for each other that way, I suppose.” He pulls out some designs to show her: “I have the winter proofs for you to approve. And I’m all set to go to Copenhagen next week for the trade show, but I want you to sign off on those expenses.” // “Why don’t you send Charlie to Copenhagen? She needs some new responsibilities, or else we’re gonna lose her.” // “Well, if she starts doing my job, then whose job will I do?” He chuckles to himself, while Helene stays quiet. Then it hits him, why she’s here. “Oh, Helene. No. No no no.” // “It’s far past that time, Kyle,” she says, grinning while fighting to stay composed. “This business is yours.”

28-5

Helene and Kyle eat carryout food at one of the work stations. Kyle’s wife enters, having retrieved a bottle of shiraz from the kitchen. She opens it and pours three glasses, which are then toasted—”To Helene, the woman, and her women, all of them that she has inspired. And maybe a man or two, also.” They dive into their respective cartons of Thai food, and Helene studies the young couple as they all eat. It’s a lovely back and forth between them. She tests his food, then feeds him a bite of hers. He doesn’t like hers, but she loves his, so she helps herself to more. “You’re the rudest wife I’ve had,” he jokes. They kiss. She notices Helene studying them, so she swallows her food and asks: “Helene, do you have any advice for Kyle?” “Oh, he’s gotten plenty of advice—and nonsense—from me over the years. He can do whatever he wants with this company. EXCEPT, he better keep my name on all the tags.” Kyle smiles, and lifts his glass to Helene again: “I would work under no other name. This will always be your house, love.”

Chapter 27

27-1

Helene sits in the living room of her smoke-stained apartment. Everything is packed up, and the bedroom is blocked off. It seems as if someone else did her packing, because she’s going through each box, auditing her belongings to see what has been salvaged. She pulls out a plaque that reads “Fashion Institute of Technology // Helene Hill // 1974 // Best Young Designer Award.” We flash to back then—a young Helene wins the award from her professors, and then attends a reception afterwards. A handsome young man in a buttoned blazer congratulates her. We cut to the two of them moving in together. We cut to Helene working diligently for an older designer, late one evening. She has a wedding ring now. We cut to her arriving home late: “I don’t think I have it in me anymore, to design,” she says to her husband. “What’s the end goal? If you can’t start your own label, you just fall behind.” // “So start your own label. You have the knack.” // “We don’t have the money.” // “My father has the money.” // “Harvey, no.” // “I’m not debating it. Let’s do it.” Now, we’re back to present-day Helene, smiling nostalgically.

27-2

Another box: Photos of Helene and Alina. One is dated March 1997, and shows a young Alina (25ish), and a young-er Helene (mid 40s). They’re smooching at a cocktail party, surrounded by models and flashy fashion people. We cut to the scene: Alina is shy—she’s comfortable and happy to be there, but it’s all very foreign to her. Helene squeezes her arm: “I thought you were used to this stuff, what with all those Vanity Fair parties.” // “Well, those are for work. Everyone has their face on. This… this is like, wild! I mean, I waited for the toilet with Naomi Campbell.” // “Did she take a while in there?” // “Yeah, why?” // “Never mind. Relax, Alina. You’re with me. Everyone is excited to meet you.” // “I feel like a fraud!” // “You’re not a fraud. You’re a talented writer. Even if it wasn’t true, these cronies would believe it. But more importantly, I believe it, and you need to believe it, too. Because it’s true. Let’s get more wine!” Helene slips into the kitchen to refill their bottles. A chic woman with a Rachel Green haircut follows her in, and corners her: “Is that the girl you were telling us all about?” // “She’s no girl. She’s a very talented woman. A writer… and yes. That’s her. Alina.” // “Have you told Harvey yet?” Helene smiles politely as she pours two glasses: “I’ll get around to it. Whenever he’s home again. Whenever that is. He’ll be relieved.” // “It’s good to see you smiling again, Helene.” Back to present-day Helene, who tucks the photo into her planner.

27-3
Six fingers! hehe

Helene does some digging, and pulls out a few books. They’re Alina’s. She opens the jacket to one, and turns to the back of the book, to Alina’s author biography. She reads it aloud, but quietly, as we zoom into the author photo and the context in which it was shot: Alina posing on their couch as Helene beams from behind the camera man. The photo shoot continues as Helene’s voice narrates: “Alina Elgin is a three-time New York Times bestselling author, who skyrocketed to fame with 1999’s ‘Fuel for the Flame’, followed by ‘High Tide at St. Malo’ and ‘Regal, Illegal’. She lives in New York City with her wife, the designer Helene Hill, and their Labrador, Abbey.” Back to Helene—still warmed by nostalgia—as she leafs to a page at the front of the book. We get a C/U on the page: It’s the author’s dedication page. Alina’s words read: “To my dear Helene. Without you, I would not be possible. Eternity, in your arms, shall be transcendent.” Helene’s eyes scan the text many times over. She runs her fingers over the words, as if to absorb each one.

27-4

Another box: Helene fishes out a pair of silk gloves. We flash back to the gloves on her hands, which grip Alina’s hands; they’re seated side by side at an awards gala; it’s more recent, judging by their clothing and age. We pan out, and see on the large projectors that it’s the CFDA’s annual awards—2006. The woman at the podium looks down to Helene, who stares back humbly. “Helene Hill is why half of us in this room are working,” says the speaker. “Her vision, her generosity, her influence over the industry has… blown open our public visibility, making fashion more accessible, yet still ambitious. The modern woman works hard to own Helene Hill garments, because she feels like her best self in those clothes. Helene—the woman AND the brand—transforms anyone from acceptable to exceptional. I am so honored to give her this award tonight…” The accolades fade and we flash to an afterparty, where Helene mingles with other guests—no sign of Alina; Helene glances around the room, searching for her wife. She politely excuses herself. Cut to: Outside the party, Alina leans against the building, her jacket wrapped around her shoulders. Her makeup is smeared. Helene, also bundled up, lights a cigarette. “Baby, what’s the matter?” she asks. Alina searches for the words, then: “I don’t deserve you. I don’t deserve anything you’ve given me. I’m an imposter. I’m only successful because you made me that way. Otherwise, I’d be average. I believe ‘acceptable’ is the word that was used?” // “Alina…” // “I’m going to go home. And then I’m going to find somewhere else to live.” // “Alina…” Now Helene starts to cry. “I’m so sorry, Helene.” Alina pauses as they lock eyes, and then slowly walks away. Now we’re back to Helene in the living room—she gently re-places the gloves in the box.

27-5

Last from the boxes, a pink Hawaiian lei. We cut to: Helene and Alina smiling together at a luau. They’re wearing their leis, and are seated next to Ward and his wife Amanda, also adorned accordingly. It’s just a few years prior, maybe 2013 or 2014. They’re all cheering on a performance, looking around at one another and laughing. Helene takes a moment to marvel at her wife, as Alina herself studies the show. Everything moves slowly, mostly because Helene is so drowned by love and happiness. Suddenly, she has to cough, and it’s really aggressive. It takes everyone out of the moment, as Helene grabs her napkin and coughs into it. There’s blood on the napkin once she pulls it away from her mouth. Only Alina sees it otherwise, and Helene quickly folds the napkin and excuses herself. Ward and Amanda look concerned as Alina follows her wife to the restroom. We cut to a doctor’s office, where a doctor exits the room while Alina and Helene sit together, very sober. Helene fights tears. She wants so badly to be brave. Alina takes her hand. “Eternity,” she says. “That’s how long I’ll be by your side, fighting with you. But I need you to fight, too.” Helene squeezes Alina’s hand, to acknowledge her, to express her gratitude. Now, we’re back in the living room, close-up on Helene’s fist as it clutches the lei. Then, wide on Helene, who puts the lei away and finds her glass of wine, eager to chase her emotions.

Chapter 26

26-1

Helene sits with another doctor now, this one examining x-rays of her hip. “Everything looks like it’s going to heal perfectly fine,” he says. “Not common for a person of your age, but with a little rehabilitation, I think you could recover almost scotch-free.” Helene stares blankly at him; she has no words, and doesn’t look particularly excited. “Any, uh… any questions?” he asks. “Sorry,” Helene says, falling out of her mini trance. “This is a lot to think about, seeing as I’ve sort of been thinking about dying for a couple years.” // “Well, you’re not getting any younger.” // “Thank you.” // “I mean, you should still proceed with care. You’re fragile, you know. Healing, but fragile. Don’t hurry yourself anywhere. Give everything a little extra time. You could still live to be 90 or 100, especially if you keep off the cigarettes, and maybe cut back to one glass of wine per day.” Helene scowls. The doctor stands corrected: “I meant, one glass per meal… uh… including breakfast… and before bed.” // “Thank you. That’s great news.”

26-2

“I can’t live another thirty years, can I?” Helene says to Ward over lunch in Park Slope. “I’m going to have a heart attack just thinking about it. Surely the cancer can return, and consume me before then?” // “I couldn’t me more pleased,” Ward says. “Maybe if I get re-married, you can be the proxy grandma to my kids.” // “I was supposed to be the proxy aunt in the first place…” // “Well, I do apologize if Amanda’s untimely death negatively affected you.” He’s kidding, of course, and they both chuckle a little. Helene’s chuckle turns into a slow, steady, sob though. It’s mildly humorous, especially to Ward: “Oh please, Helene. Come on. Come ON! The world is still out there. We’ll travel. We’ll both find new love. We’ll be together.” // “I just… so romanticized worms eating me and becoming one with the earth and not having to… I dunno… THINK. Or FEEL. Or NOT FEEL. You know?” He half smiles, and she continues: “Aww, who am I even bickering to? Of course you know. I’m sorry, Ward.” // “I just want to return the favor to you, that’s all. You supported me, I’m supporting you.”

26-3

They ready to leave, and Ward starts pushing Helene’s chair as she changes the subject. She’s in search of some optimism: “Are you dating anyone?” // “I’m dating everyone.” // “Show me. All of them. I want to judge them.” // “On what merit, dare I ask?” // “On how badly I want to meet them for myself.” // “At which point they’d just lose interest in me. Precisely why I haven’t told any of them we’re friends.” Ward opens his phone to some of the photos, and shows Helene one woman’s picture: “This is Meredith. She’s 34. CTO of this startup that sells pet food. Recently broke up with her fiancée, lives in TriBeCa.” // “I’d sleep with her.” // “Thanks, Helene.” // “Well, I would. That’s a compliment.” // “I’m glad your head is finally in the right place.” // “Not yet it isn’t, but bring her by the house…” // “You don’t even have a house.” // “Oh so THAT’S how we’re gonna play this?” They both laugh.

26-4

Helene rolls herself into her studio one weekend afternoon. She goes to her desk, takes out some utensils, and then sets everything on a table, where she does some sketches. She draws a model wearing a blazer and high-waisted pants. The woman in the sketch has smart glasses, and Helene gives her long, black hair. We see now that she is sketching Alina. Helene goes to a large closet and opens it, revealing dozens of rolls of stunning fabric. She selects a few, then gets to work measuring, cutting, sewing, and testing it on a mannequin. It’s dark now, very late, and Helene finishes. She finds a wig that fits the role, and then goes to her desk and takes out a pair of cracked glasses. They’re Alina’s… recovered from the accident, most likely. She stretches herself up to put the glasses in place. Then, she rolls herself back, and marvels. She purses her hands up against her mouth, and can hardly contain the emotion. She’s recreated Alina, and beautifully.

26-5

Helene fights to get the newly designed clothes onto her own body. She struggles only because it’s cumbersome; she has a crafty way of slithering herself into the pant legs, and has no issues with the blazer. She snatches the wig and glasses from the mannequin’s head, and rolls herself to a nearby mirror. She fashions the wig just so, puts on some red lip, and musses the hair a bit. Then, she puts on the glasses and looks in the mirror. It’s blurry, of course, since Alina’s prescription is strong. Plus the lenses are cracked. She squints, but as her focus adjusts, Helene doesn’t see Alina anymore. It’s Tracey staring back at her in the mirror—like, actually Tracey—so Helene rips the glasses off and turns away. She shakes her head, mumbling “stupid waste of your day” as she packs everything up.

 

Chapter 25

25-1

We fade in on Helene, who is also in a hospital bed. She’s awake, if only just recently. Ward is there, holding her hand. Helene has started processing everything: “We need to be sure she gets help.” Ward isn’t so forgiving: “She’s psychotic, Helene. Let’s just write her off.” // “I don’t mean to suggest that I want her back in my life, however short it may be. But, she has nobody looking out for her. So, even if they lock her up, let’s make sure she can get well. At least in the head.” We pull out wider on the scene, and there’s a nurse standing in the doorway. She’s a little confused: “I meant, is there anything I can do, for you? Like, right now?” // “Oh, sorry, dear. Yes, yes. Have you any shiraz?”

25-2

Ward pushes Helene’s wheelchair around the hospital. They’re out for a stretch. Helene looks fairly well considering her overall health and the incident at her home. Really, she doesn’t look much different than we last saw her. She keeps looking up at Ward, though she tries to do so without turning her head towards him. She’s trying to find the right time—or the right words—and she keeps holding back. Ward notices: “What is it, love?” // “Oh. Well. I just wanted to say—” // “I know what you want to say.” // “No you don’t.” // “You want to say you’re sorry. That you shouldn’t have written me off and listened to Tracey.” // “It’s not that I wrote you off. But I thought some space might be good and—” // “You trusted her more than me.” // “I trusted you both. But I was wrong to—” // “You don’t have to apologize for anything, Helene. I’m the one who opened the gate for all of this. For Tracey’s entrance into our lives, for Alina’s exit from our lives.” // “I guess we’re both just miserable, aren’t we? Drowned in guilt.” // “That’s why I love your company, Helene.” Ward rests his hand on Helene’s shoulder, and she places her opposite hand atop his.

25-3

Ward and Helene return to her hospital room. Her assistant Kyle and his wife are there with flowers, and flanking them are a dozen other bouquets. The nurse brings in one more, too: “These keep coming,” she says. “And they keep getting fancier and fancier. This one is from Grace Coddington!” After greeting her guests, Helene signals Ward and the nurse to help her back into bed. They hoist her carefully and tuck her in. “How long will you be here?” Kyle asks. “A few days more,” Helene says. “They want to monitor everything, especially with my other issues. Though, I don’t know where I’ll go when I leave. It’s not like I have a home right now.” // “You can stay with us.” “Yes,” Kyle’s wife says. “We insist. It’d be our pleasure. Anything you need.” “Very kind of you,” Helene says. “I’ll try to find something near my place, near Ward. But I’ll let you know if that changes.” A pause, then Kyle again: “It’s a miracle you didn’t get any burns. I went with Ward by the apartment. It’s like the flames just built a wall around you on the bed.” Helene doesn’t have an explanation, or any thoughts. She just shrugs.

25-4

Helene is alone at night, asleep in her hospital bed. The door to the hallway is ajar, so there’s some light pouring in across her face. She’s stirring a bit, having a lucid dream. Her lips quiver. A single tear runs from her closed eyes, and as it creeps past the top of her nose, Helene springs awake with a gasp. Now, she’s breathing heavily, and panicking as she searches the room. She starts sobbing, and pulls her sheet up over her mouth to mask any noise. “When does it stop?” she whimpers. “How do I stop needing you here?”

25-5

Helene relaxes in a full-body scanner. Her doctor monitors the process. Inside, Helene looks quite calm. She’s been here numerous times. Next, we’re in her hospital room. Helene looks befuddled. Then again, so does the doctor. “What do you mean, it’s gone?” Helene asks. “I… I… don’t know, Helene,” her doctor replies. “But it’s gone. I want to run a few more tests, but… I think you’ve won, again.” // “This must be an error. I practically had a death sentence…” // “I can’t believe it, either. But, once they get you on your feet again…you’ll be as good as new.” // “This isn’t what I wanted! I was cool with the cancer! I liked it this time! I wanted it to win.” // “I’m sorry to bear such bad news. And how sad that this inexplicable thing was wasted on you…” // “Sorry. I’m being a prat. I’m just sure it’s a mistake.” // “It seems not.” // “Wow.” // “Yeah. Wow.” Helene stares forward, dumbfounded and blindsided.

Chapter 24

24-1

Tracey opens her eyes. It takes a while for her to get acquainted with her surroundings: It appears we’re back in a hospital room, just like at the beginning of our time spent following her. Again, there’s a bandage around her head—now more severe—but Tracey seems rather lucid. She panics when she realizes her hands are strapped to either side of the bed. She yanks on them, fraught and confused, before a nurse walks in. “Hello Sadey,” the nurse says. “I’m Elaine; I’ll be helping you this week. Do you remember what happened? How are you feeling; how’s your head? You had quite the fall there.” Elaine is being polite, but her questions seem to exist if only to replace the silence; she doesn’t expect any answers, nor does she want any. Then, a buttoned-up man with a police badge walks in the room, followed by a middle-aged woman in a winter jacket. The woman and Tracey lock eyes, and Tracey panics even more. “Hi Sadey,” the woman says, with reservation. We study the woman, and see that she looks an awful lot like Tracey, perhaps 30 years her senior. Tracey pulls harder on the straps, furious now: “No. What are you doing here? NO!”

24-2

Now we’re alone with Tracey and the woman who entered her hospital room. Words have been said, and neither woman can look at the other. Then, the visitor: “We can’t get you off the hook this time. Especially if this Helene lady is dead.” A pause. She continues: “Dr. Thompson says you haven’t been to see her in months now. You’re behind on all your refills. You know what this leads to, Sadey. We’ve–” Tracey cuts her off: “Tracey.” // “You’re still Sadey to me.” // “Then you have no business being here.” // “Sadey–” // “TRACEY! TRACEY! God dammit.” // “Honey. I’m here to take you home. Until any hearings, whatever those will entail. I need you to be a bit more cooperative–” // “I don’t want your help.” // “Trust me, you’ll be a lot better with us than you will be in the facilities here.” // “I don’t want your help.” A pause. “Well, for the record, this is the conclusion that both of us prefer.” She grabs her jacket, finds her keys, and has some parting words: “Please stop pulling other people into your hell. Or pushing them.” They make eye contact one last time—silently—before Tracey’s mother leaves. Tracey sits in her hospital bed, arms tied to either side, hanging her head in shame, or perhaps relief.

24-3

It’s nighttime. Tracey’s door is cracked, and a light bleeds in from the hallway. Tracey is awake, but it looks like she’s doped up. Her eyes struggle to focus, and she’s sweating at the brow. She looks to her right, searching for someone. Then to the left. Again to the right. Then again to the left, slower this time as she pans the room. She swallows air, though it seems like her throat is dry from the strain involved. We watch this again from a wider shot, and we hear footsteps pass in the hallway as a shadow strobes over the light; the steps come and go, then it’s silent again. Tracey stares blankly to the right, now inhaling slowly, exhaling, inhaling, exhaling; she’s not searching the room anymore.

24-4

Tracey’s nurse Elaine comes in the next morning to check the monitors. She jots some notes and replaces the IV. They’re both quiet; Elaine smiles politely after awkward eye contact, and then Tracey breaks the silence: “You’re very pretty. Are you married?” Elaine, trying to be polite, acts like this is a normal thing. “Why thank you, Sadey. Yes, I am married. My husband’s name is Xavier. He’s handsome. Charming and kind.” // “How lucky for you. But he’s lucky too.” // “Very sweet, thank you.” // “You said your name is Elaine?” // “That’s right.” // “I’ve always wanted to be a nurse.” // “Is that right?” // “My whole life.” // “Maybe it’s not too late.” // “Maybe you can teach me.” Elaine is now finished scribbling notes, so she smiles politely and readies to leave. Tracey stops her: “Elaine. Is she dead?” // “Sorry, who?” // “Helene. Heh. It sounds just like your name. Elaine. Helene…” (trailing off) “…and Alina…” // “I can’t answer that for you,” Elaine says. // “Because you aren’t allowed to? Or because you don’t know?” // “Well, both.” // “Elaine.” // “Yes?” // “I hope she’s alive.” // “I do, too.”

24-5

It’s night again. Tracey has hardly slept, and she’s nowhere close to sleeping now. There are tears in her eyes, and she scans the room. She whispers: “Where have you gone, love? Where are you?” Then her sniffling turns into sobs. She tries raising her arms again and starts shaking the bed. She’s near hysterical. “WHERE ARE YOU? BABY? WHERE ARE YOU?” Two nurses and a security guard rush into the room, followed moments later by a doctor. They sedate her as she screams and wails, then she calms. The tears slow, but they aren’t gone completely. The doctor assuages her: “There, there. All better, Sadey.” “Where is she?” Tracey cries. “Where is who?” Now Tracey sniffles, turns to face the doorway, and looks longingly out of it. “Elaine. Where’s Elaine?” // “She’ll be back tomorrow. Why don’t you get some rest?” They all exit, but one of the nurses props the door open fully. She smiles to Tracey as she exits, and we pull in slowly on Tracey’s face as she babbles: “Where are you, love? Come back to me. Elaine. Come back to me. Baby… come back. Please. Come back to me, Elaine. Please. My love. Please. Please. Please. Elaine…” We fade out on Tracey.

Chapter 23

23-1

“It can’t come to this,” says Tracey to Helene. She’s cautious to move any closer, at risk of Helene reacting fast. “Honey, honey. Please. You’ve fought long and hard. You can’t take yourself down now.” Helene, very matter of fact: “I’m tired of battling the things that will ultimately win. I’m in pain all day. Physical. Mental. Emotional. My entire life is behind me. You wouldn’t understand, Tracey.” // “I’m not Tracey. I’m Alina. It’s me, Helene. It’s actually me. I’m in here, in this body now.” Helene just stares back, speechless, confused. Tracey—or Alina, rather—continues: “I’ve been with Tracey ever since I left Ward. And I was with him ever since I left you. But baby, I’m here. Why would you take your own life when I’ve worked so hard to get back to you?” Helene, finally finding her words: “Bullshit. Tracey. Bullshit. I don’t buy any of that.”

23-2

Tracey lunges towards Helene, to get the pills out of her hand. There’s a brief struggle, but Helene is just too weak to win. She screams in pain as Tracey squeezes her hand and then pries it open. Helene surrenders the pills, and spills her wine all over the floor. She’s just as sad about that, trying to drink what little remains. Then, she speaks again: “You’re not Alina. Stop the act. I think you need help more than me, Tracey. Or perhaps just some love. Something more than the attention you seek.” // “No, Helene. You said it yourself. We made love, you saw me inside Tracey. The way Tracey writes, it’s just like me.” // “It’s so disrespectful, what you’re doing. After all Alina and Ward and I did to help you. Wasting your talent on all this meddling.” // “Ask me anything. Something about us. I’ll answer it!” // “When is our anniversary?” Tracey doesn’t know. She fumbles for an answer… Helene’s questions continue: “What’s my mother’s name?” Still nothing. “My father’s name?” Nothing. “Where did I propose? Where was your apartment when we met? Where did we first live together? What was our dog’s name?” The pace and intensity picks up, as does the fury in Tracey’s eyes: “Why didn’t we ever have kids? Why did we break up 10 years ago? How long before we got back together? How many copies of your first book did you sell? What are you allergic to? How many questions do I have to ask before you give up your ridiculous act? YOU’RE NOT MY WIFE.” Tracey backhands Helene.

23-3

Tracey marches out of the bathroom, tearing art and photos off the wall in the bedroom as she makes her grand exit. Helene crawls out of the bathroom and locates her cellphone on the bedstand, next to the candle she lit. Tracey is in the living room now, breaking things, cursing, shrieking. Helene calls the police. As it rings, Tracey storms back into the room. Helene very quickly sets the phone down beside the table, on the floor. We hear a faint “Hello, 911, please state your emergency…” as Tracey and Helene make eye contact. “All this commotion, and you thought I was the irrational one,” Helene laughs. “So Ward was right this whole time. You’re a liability. A fraud. Too incapable of making your own place; you’ve got to latch onto everyone else’s success, with little regard for their hard work, or the precious nature of their lives.” Tracey makes one last attempt to convince Helene: “I swear. Helene. It’s me. Alina. I’m in here. See? See??” She kneels down to Helene’s level, staring her in the eyes from but a few inches away. “I’m in here… I’m in here! Baby I’m in here.” // “I don’t care if you are. You can never give me what you once did. Not as Tracey.” She pauses briefly, then: “Before I die, I’m going to get your name off that book. It doesn’t belong next to hers.”

23-4

Now Tracey is unhinged. “I’ll help you finish your own job,” she says. In one quick—and somewhat impressive—motion, she grabs and throws Helene onto the bed. She straddles Helene, who doesn’t fight much. Tracey starts choking her; Helene is alarmed at first, but then allows it. She stares painfully into Tracey’s eyes, confused and hurt, but terrifyingly sedated at the same time. Tracey is quiet, too; almost unnerved that Helene isn’t fighting. But suddenly, there’s smoke and a beam of light coming from out of frame. Helene holds the candle from the bedside just below Tracey’s shirt, which has caught aflame. It’s starting to burn Tracey, so she releases Helene from her grip and tends to the shirt. She struggles to peel it off, but now her pants have caught fire, too. She finally strips off the shirt and tosses it onto the bed, which itself slowly catches. The pants are next; Tracey shrieks “You bitch!” at Helene, who can barely move as flames rise around her. The pants are off, and, in nothing but her underwear, Tracey sprints out of the bedroom, out of the apartment, and into the stairwell. Pedestrians marvel as she exits onto the dark, snow-covered street below, and as Tracey exits the frame, we see an orange beacon of light, burning hot in a window, a few stories in the air.

23-5

Tracey runs barefoot and nearly naked to her apartment. She doesn’t have the keys though, and she’s freezing. She rings all the buzzers. One voice comes over the intercom: “Who is it?” Tracey yells back: “LET ME IN! I LIVE HERE!” The voice: “Oh hell no!” Tracey screams in anger. She runs to the side of the building and sees the fire escape dangling maybe seven feet overhead. She tries jumping a few times to grab it and yank it down. She slips once, falling onto her side. Her right leg is covered in cuts now, but she gets up to try again. This time, she clutches the fire escape with a few fingers, and dangles before it gives and comes crashing down. It’d be a success for Tracey if she hadn’t fallen as well: This time, she’s hit her head on the pavement. She’s frozen on the ground—quite literally, too—and we pull close up to her face, as her breath dissipates into the icy air: “Baby. What do we do?” A brief pause. Then: “Alina? … Baby? It’s me. Where are you? Baby? Baby? It’s Tracey. Answer me. Alina…” We pull out, overhead, pitying the poor woman in this miserable, compromised state.

Chapter 22

22-1

Tracey walks into Helene’s apartment: “Helene? Hello?” She’s still talking to herself: “I don’t think she’s here.” // “Well, let’s just wait until she arrives. Go try on some of my clothes.” // “Oooh, great idea.” Cut to: Tracey changing outfits over and over, examining herself in a full-length mirror with each look. She admires some white pants and notices a coffee stain on the leg. “Oh, damn, this one has a mark.” // “Maybe I can cut them into shorts.” // “I don’t think that will flatter you. They’re so low on the waist. Put them in the ‘discard’ pile.” Tracey removes the pants and tosses them on top of a single blouse. The other pile is easily 30 garments high. Then, Tracey notices some fragrance bottles on the vanity. “Oooh, which of these was yours? I liked that one.” She locates the scent, sprays herself, and puts the bottle in her purse as she inhales. “It smells just like you.” A single tear forms in her right eye, as she responds to herself: “Don’t cry, love. I’m right here. I’m with you.” // “I know. I just wish it could be different.” // “Different how?” // “Like, you could still be alive. As you. And we could be alone together.” // “We can still be alone together. Don’t forget that.”

22-2

It’s getting dark. Still no sign of Helene. Tracey has drawn a bath, and has helped herself to a glass of wine. “Where would we live?” she asks herself. “I dunno,” she responds. “Living here could be nice.” // “But you have all this history here.” // “That’s not so bad, is it? I am who I am because of Helene.” // “And I am who I am because of you.” // “So, you owe a lot to Helene too, right?” // “Do you love her more than me?” // “Why would you ask me that?” // “Just answer it.” // “I love her in a different way.” // “A more significant way?” // “Baby, you know you’re the most important person to me.” // “I know.” // “So, don’t be jealous of Helene.” // “I’m not jealous. I love Helene too, except… it’s because you want me to.” // “I NEED you to.” // “But why?” // “Because she’s sick. Because I feel guilty for leaving her behind to suffer. And I know you feel a little bad, also.” // “I do.” // “So, be here with Helene. And be here, with me.” Then, silence. Tracey reflects on this conversation, staring into the bubbles, at nothing really.

22-3

Tracey wraps her hair in a towel; there’s another around her body, and she rifles through the pile of clothes for something to wear. She’s got her Alina glasses on, too. We hear the front door open and close, which prompts Tracey to shove all of the clothes beneath Helene’s bed. She grabs her own underwear and quickly dresses herself. Then she realizes that Helene has not arrived alone; there’s a man with her. Tracey peeks out into the living room, and sees a 30s-something male—whom we recognize as Helene’s assistant designer, Kyle, from the wedding scene—and the two talk business. Helene is in a wheelchair next to the couch. “Models are in hair and makeup at 6 tomorrow,” Kyle says. “Photographer’s call time is 7:30, and we should wrap by noon.” “It sounds like everything is under control,” Helene responds. “Maybe I don’t need to come by?” // “We’ll have a couple reporters on set, so it might be best for you to entertain them.” // “My journo-wooing days are behind me, Kyle. Besides, you designed everything here. I think you represent the brand even better than I do. Everything we put out is your design anymore. It’s not me.” // “Everything I’ve learned is from you, so everything I do is yours.” // “I’m just saying, I think you’ll have it under control tomorrow. I’ll be late, I suspect. So don’t wait for me.” We’re back on Tracey, who is still eavesdropping from the bedroom. She doesn’t make much of this exchange.

22-4

Helene sees Kyle out. Tracey leaps onto the bed and feigns sleep, aware that Helene could enter at any second. When Helene does, she’s briefly startled at the sight of Tracey there, but it’s not entirely a shock to see her, given their history. “Oh, babe,” Helene says quietly, so as to not wake Tracey. “I didn’t know you’d be here tonight.” Tracey keeps her eyes closed, pretending to rest. Helene removes Tracey’s glasses and studies them: “Just like Alina’s,” she says. “Same brand, too.” Then she stares down at Tracey herself: “You’re like her in so many ways. Thank you for reminding me of my love.” We see a smirk growing across Tracey’s face as Helene lights a candle on the bedside table. Helene continues: “I never guessed it would come to this… especially with you here.” She then rolls her chair into the bathroom, gently latching the door. Tracey’s eyes shoot open, and she questions herself: “What did she mean ‘I never guessed it would come to this?… What’s that all about?” // “You’re being melodramatic, Alina,” she responds to herself. Alina’s half of Tracey begs Tracey’s half to intervene: “Melodrama is in her nature. Go knock on the door!”

22-5

“Helene! Helene! Hi! I just woke up. How are you?” Tracey pounds on the bathroom door, trying not to be too aggressive, but letting her nerves get away from her. “Helene, let me in! I want to see you, baby!” We hear rifling on the other side of the door: Drawers open and close, Helene clears her throat, and something else—is that a plastic pill bottle being unscrewed?—followed by a crashing sound of dozens of pills hitting the floor, and Helene saying “God dammit!” as they spill. “Helene! Helene! Let me in!” More pounding on the door, but it’s locked. Then, Alina speaks (through Tracey, and TO Tracey): “Kick it in, Tracey. Kick it in, baby! KICK IT!” And then Tracey takes a step back and kicks, with all her strength, against the door, which breaks mercilessly at the lock and swings open. There, Helene is sitting on the floor beside her wheelchair, collecting the painkillers in her hand—and ready to swallow them. She holds a glass of red wine in the other hand, and stares blankly at Tracey as they both freeze.


Head to kyoapp.com to read Prospectives author Adam Hurly’s interview about defining success, sustaining creative habits, and how this serial has been integral in his career as a writer. Then, sign up for updates from Kyō, which will soon launch its creative journaling platform (designed to help you build your own creative process).