Chapter 20


Tracey lets herself into Helene’s apartment. Her hair is straight, pulled back. She’s dressed different from usual—she looks more mature, like Alina. She has glasses exactly like Alina’s now, too. Helene is home alone—she’s sitting upright in bed, and smiles to Tracey. Still radiant, despite her ailing. “Darling, how’s your head?” she asks. Tracey chuckles as she pulls an armchair to the bedside. “I forgot all about that,” Tracey replies. We see the stitches—but did we see them in the previous few scenes? “Sorry I haven’t been by, Helene. Ward forbade it.” // “Forbade is a strong word. You’re welcome here anytime, if you can spare the dramatics,” Helene says. “I’ve missed your company, in fact.” This triggers something in Tracey’s brain; she corrects her posture, taking Helene’s hands. “I’m here now, baby. I’m here now.” Helene can see that something unusual is happening behind Tracey’s eyes, but she nevertheless squeezes Tracey’s hand in gratitude.


Tracey serves Helene soup and wine in bed. “Should you still be drinking?” she asks Helene as she pours herself a glass. “I don’t drink enough,” Helene says. “Besides, it’s how I want to go. Drowned in Shiraz. Wearing cashmere and lace.” There’s an awkward pause… “Sorry, I’ve had a lot of time to think about how I want to die. But it seems like fate is going to make it cancer, or, hell, maybe septic shock if I’m lucky. It’s just so unromantic. Not dramatic. A shame.” They both laugh at this. Helene tastes the soup, then stops: “This tastes just like Alina’s recipe. You made this?” // “I made this. You said it tastes exactly like Alina’s?” // “Yes, that’s what I said.” // “That’s exactly what I thought you said.” Tracey slurps her soup, ever pleased.


Helene is taking a bubble bath, sipping wine. It’s reminiscent of the earlier scene involving Alina and Helene, only now Tracey sits beside the bath. She readies a wash cloth and then begins washing Helene’s back. “This is much more sensual than when I ask Ward to do it,” Helene laughs. “Bless him. And bless you. This is quite nice.” // “Do you miss taking bubble baths with Alina?” Tracey asks. It’s very weird, her delivery. “Oh, well, yes. Though we could never take them together. She likes the water very cold. Said it was good for her skin. But… I miss everything about her. You understand.” // “Do you miss making love to her?” // “I miss everything,” Helene repeats. “I had a good life. We had a good life.” A tear runs down Tracey’s cheek—she’s smiling though—as she splashes water over Helene’s back.


Tracey tucks Helene into bed. Helene is wearing silk pajamas; it’s rather precious, even though she looks so tiny in these clothes that once fit. “I’m going to stay the night,” Tracey announces. “I’m in no condition to cuddle,” Helene says. “But you are welcome to stay on the couch. I enjoy the company.” Tracey ignores all that: “I want to make love. Like we used to.” // “Was that lovemaking? I think it requires more history.” // “Helene, I’m Alina. I’m Alina, inside.” // “And outside, too,” Helene says. “You look like a black Alina, like maybe if she and I had a baby. It’s a little unoriginal, darling. You have so much potential as yourself. You don’t need to feel like Alina.” // “It’s not a feeling. Let me praise you. I’m Alina, OK? Treat me like your wife tonight.” // “OK, but the safe word is ‘More Shiraz.'” // “Do you need more Shiraz?” // “Yes, to be safe.”



The two women lie in bed. The lights are out. “Uncanny,” Helene says, fighting sleep. “You really are Alina, when you want to be. No wonder you write just like her. Such… embodiment.” She laughs as she repeats the word “embodiment” while drawing her finger along Tracey’s thigh. “Thank you for seeing past my ailings,” Helene says. “I feel quite undesirable. It’s good to know I’m not broken, at least not entirely.” That last line falls out in a whisper, as Helene dozes off at last. Tracey, gently stroking Helene’s shoulder, smirks, and we see the twitching behind her eyes as she looks ever proud of herself. “I love you, and thank you,” she says quietly. A brief pause, and then, Tracey replies to herself: “I love you, too. And you’re welcome.”


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