Chapter 31


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.”


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.”


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?”


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.


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.

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