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Excerpt for Helen BackStory: Lisa, Cindy, and the Violin by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

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Helen Back Story:
LISA, CINDY, and the VIOLIN



Kay Hemlock Brown





Copyright © by Kay Hemlock Brown,



Published at Smashwords



Prologue

The President of the College which Helen attended was Dr. Robert Wallace. Helen had seldom met the President, but she had attended a concert of a Baroque original instruments consort, a group in which Mrs. Wallace had performed, and absolutely loved the music. Helen had begged Mr. Knowlden, a well-known instrument-maker who was establishing an instrument workshop at the college, to help her build a Viola da Gamba (the bass instrument of a family of viols, instruments that were just going out of fashion in Baroque times). Mr. Knowlden was an experienced performer, and Helen had been learning from him. At this point, all Helen knew about Pat Wallace was from having seen her with the consort, and having been briefly introduced to her as Knowlden’s assistant in the instrument workshop. Helen, a voice major, and a choir scholar, had already gotten interested in Baroque vocal music.

One evening in late Fall, one of Janet’s students was waiting outside the classroom in which Helen had just finished a final exam.

“Hi, Sarah!” exclaimed Helen. “What’re you doing here?”

“Oh . . . I just wanted to see you!”

Janet taught at the local high school, and this was a twelfth-grader. They had gotten to know each other when Janet and some of her students had caught Chickenpox, which had caused a sensation in the Fall, but Helen had nursed them to health, and everyone was fine. For various reasons, Janet had been encouraged to stay at home rather than at the hospital, and Helen and Janet had accommodated two of the infected students as well, at the request of their parents. Sarah was not one of them; she had begun to visit once the invalids had been certified virus-free, and now it was beginning to appear that Sarah was finding Helen attractive.

At this time, early in Helen’s Junior year, Helen’s relationship with Janet was beginning to deteriorate. Janet was getting tired of Helen’s affairs with several other girls, some from as far away as Argentina and Florida, others from the college itself, and they alternated between white-hot passion some weeks, and almost indifference in other weeks. Janet was studying for her M.A. in mathematics, and mathematics secondary certification, and she was very busy finishing up her degrees, which left Helen looking after the baby. Sarah’s infatuation with Helen was not unwelcome, but it would have been crude to conduct it right under Janet’s nose.

They walked to the cottage where Helen lived with Janet, unofficially called The Little House, just about a mile from the college, while Sarah gradually made it clear that she wanted to be intimate with Helen.



For the entire week, Sarah sneaked out of school and into the college at times at which Helen would be just out of classes, or finishing up a review session, and they gradually began to become more intensely involved.

“Are you and Mrs. Kolb still . . . ?”

Helen’s face burned. She couldn’t still adjust to the fact that she had promised to be a second parent to Janet’s baby daughter, Elly, when they had heard that the baby’s father had died while on military service in Europe, and Helen and Janet had been fully committed lovers. (They had been lovers even before Janet’s husband Jason had been deployed, and Jason had unhappily accepted their relationship. It had been due to Helen’s amazing power of persuasion that Jason didn’t throw Helen out of the house, or do something even more extreme.) “Yes . . . actually, yes. Sarah . . . we can’t get too involved, OK? I have responsibilities.”

“I know, I know; Baby Elly, huh?”

“Yes. I can’t play around too much.” They were walking home along a seldom-used alley, and Sarah was trying not to stare at Helen’s legs. Helen was tall, now, and her tiny skirts weren’t covering her very well. She still wore the denim skirts she wore when she was in high-school and just about five foot and a half tall. She was taller now, and her legs were bigger. She tugged her skirt down.

“Can we get together on the weekend, one last time? I’ll leave you alone after that! Please?”

“Just get together?” Helen asked. Sarah nodded. Helen was unhappy. “You should get back. What about your folks?”

Sarah said that she had told them she would be very late. (In fact, she had told them that Helen was helping her with extra tutoring.)

Helen stopped walking, and said that they should sneak off right then; things would get complicated on the weekend. “Right now?”

Helen nodded. It was getting cold.



They approached the Little House, and in the alley at the back, Helen’s ancient van was parked carefully, as far off the alley as possible. She opened it up, and pulled on a coat. Sarah had only a sweatshirt on over her T-shirt. She was built like a rock, about Helen’s height, but a lot heavier, and Helen fantasized having Sarah’s weight pressed against Helen. She moistened her lips. She checked her wallet, and saw a couple of twenty-dollar bills. “Get in, quick,” she said, and pulled out, looking apprehensively at the second-floor windows, to see if she had been noticed.

There was a sleazy motel located on a remote mountain road just outside the town. Sarah walked boldly up to the desk, and asked for a room. The clerk did not even look at them. She slapped a key down on the counter, pushed the form at them, and went back to her TV.

Presently they were in their room. Sarah stripped completely, and in seconds they were at each other. But Helen could not get up the enthusiasm she had felt before; there was Janet, there was Leila, a sweet girl she loved to bits, but who was becoming disillusioned with Helen. Leila had started as a freshman the previous Spring, but transferred to a community college in Florida just so she wouldn’t be in Helen’s face. There were others, and the very fact that Helen was getting turned on by Sarah was making Helen slightly sick. But Helen quickly got herself together; she couldn’t blame Sarah; after all, it takes two, she said to herself. She took over, turned Sarah on her back, and inserting a couple of fingers into her, got her off satisfactorily. Sarah wanted to kiss her, and Helen allowed a few minutes of that, after which they lay side by side, looking at the ceiling, and began to realize that a huge storm had blown up.

Dressing hurriedly, they looked out the window, and gasped.

“Forget it; I can’t get the van up that hill in this weather,” Helen said. Sarah shook her head, agreeing. The van had rear wheel drive, and bald tires.

Helen heaved a big sigh, and turned to Sarah, and touched her face tenderly. “I’m sorry; I was kind of a jerk just now,” she said softly. “It’s not your fault; I mean . . . I shouldn’t have encouraged you.”

Sarah kept her lips tightly closed. Helen looked into her eyes, and could see the words waiting to come out, but they never did. After a while, Sarah said, “I could make out with you forever. You’re the queen of love!” She blushed bright red, and then was quiet.

Suddenly there was an enormous crash outside, and the girls jerked in shock, and stared at each other.

When Helen and Sarah looked out of their room, they saw that a station wagon had hit a tree on the road across from their window. Helen wanted to ignore the accident, but Sarah insisted that Helen should go out and investigate. Helen dressed hurriedly, and having quickly pulled on her heavy parka, struggled to climb up the embankment to the street.

It was a scene of horror. The car was upright, but had been completely smashed, the windscreen was shattered, and the doors blown open. There was a young girl in the driver’s seat, her face cut everywhere from the glass, and bleeding profusely; Helen was not sure she was alive. The temperature was dropping very fast.

The girl briefly became conscious, and said, “It’s freezing in here . . .” and after she saw Helen, she lost consciousness again. Helen quickly removed her heavy coat and used it to cover the girl, and then her brain seemed to freeze. She gathered her wits just enough to realize she needed to call for help, but she didn’t want to leave the girl all alone. (Cell phones were very rare indeed.) But others from the motel had called already, and were coming out to help.

Presently the girl was loaded into an ambulance and taken to hospital, while the police came looking for Helen, to ask her what she had seen. She got her blood-stained coat back, and had to give her name and address as a witness. She begged to be left out of the report, and the policeman nodded. A few hours later, as soon as the weather permitted, Helen and her friend got home.



In the beginning of the Fall semester, the local opera company had called for auditions for Mozart’s The Magic Flute, (Die Zauberflote) and Helen’s advisor, a tall, dignified British lady, Norma Major, had signed her up. Miss Major had advised Helen to sign up for mostly music courses that semester, to take a break from the highly demanding science and computer courses she had kept up with her last two years. Helen had won the minor role of Papagena, so she had opera rehearsals to attend, in addition to the twice-a-week choir practices, and the once-a-week Chamber Ensemble practices, which went on for an hour.

A few days later, the phone rang in the Little House, and Janet picked it up. It was the Dean of the College, and he wanted to speak to Helen. “This is Helen,” she said, when Janet had handed her the receiver.

“Helen, do you have a few minutes? There’s a—project I want to propose to you, if you’re interested.”

Oh Lord, thought Helen, that’s all I need. Already, her classes were taking a huge amount of time, and the opera rehearsals for Magic Flute were time-consuming as well, and finally, looking after Little Elly did take a lot of her energy. The Dean kept talking, and wanted to see her face to face. Helen reluctantly said he could come right over, and hung up. Janet asked what it was all about, and Helen shrugged and mumbled: some project.

Shortly there was knocking at the door, and to Helen’s surprise there was, in addition to the Dean, the President as well. Janet left them to Helen with a smile, and went upstairs.

After they had all got seated, the Dean explained that the President’s daughter had been in a terrible accident, had lost her sight, and gone into depression. “We talked it over, and decided that she needed a positive relationship, a friend who would keep her in contact with the world, someone with lots of interests, who would help Lisa to re-connect with life! I couldn’t think of anyone better suited to the job than you, Helen.”

Helen’s pulse was racing, realizing who the girl in the wrecked car had been. She thought hard whether to reveal that she, Helen, had been the first one to see Lisa after the crash. She decided not to mention that; it seemed the best thing to do. The President seemed to like the look of Helen, who was wearing a sweat suit that morning. He added his pleas to those of the Dean, and Helen consented to go see the girl with them. The girl was blind, after all, and unlikely to recognize Helen.

Soon the President and Helen were at his official Presidential residence. They went up an outside stair, and into a hallway, and knocked on a door, and an indistinct voice asked who it was, and asked them in.

“Lisa, this is Helen, a junior at the College! Helen, tell Lisa about yourself, and take as long as you want; I’ll drop you off back home once you’re ready.”



“Hi, I’m Lisa,” said the girl, not too enthusiastically. Helen’s first impression of her was that she was pretty; not least because of the pretty, bright blue eyes, that were quite sightless, of course, but which kept trying to look at Helen, at the spot where her voice seemed to come from. It was certainly the girl in the wreck, as far as Helen could judge, except that her face was no longer covered in blood, a sight which had made Helen almost gag with nausea that night.

“Hi! I’m Helen!”

“Is the door open?” Helen said it was. “Go close and lock it. I think they spy on me. I want it closed, but they don’t let me. With you here, they won’t make a fuss . . .”

Helen locked the door, and came back, and Lisa offered her a chair.

“Do I look horrible?”

“No! Actually, you look really nice; the eyes, especially: you have really pretty eyes!”

Lisa blushed, and Helen realized that there was a network of white scar tissue that was most noticeable when she blushed. Then she paled, and now the scars were a pink network over her paleness. Helen tried to describe that, quite awkwardly.

“Tell me about yourself,” invited Lisa, her voice becoming less abrasive, as Helen’s voice disarmed her suspicions. “What do you look like?”

Helen described herself reluctantly: “A blonde braid, green eyes . . . I guess my ears stick out just a little . . .”

“Oh my god—you’re her! You’re her!” Miraculously, she had identified Helen just from her description. “I knew I’d seen her somewhere . . . You’re the girl from the Early Music show! You’re Helen!”

[In the Summer before her Sophomore Year, Helen had got the idea of organizing a sort of festival of Early Music, since the small Renaissance group based at the College was rehearsing for a performance anyhow, and groups from colleges nearby were interested in performing with them. Soon it escalated into a major event, and by offering to keep the local PBS station informed about the progress of the plans for the event, Helen was seen all over the place on public TV stations.]

It was too late to obfuscate. Helen admitted that she was the one who had lent her coat to Lisa after the accident.



Once they had learned that Helen had been instrumental in saving their daughter’s life, the Wallaces were utterly grateful. Pat Wallace hugged Helen and cried, and kissed her. Dr. Wallace asked Helen how they could reward her for going out of her way to look after Lisa, and Helen initially refused everything. But later, as she was being driven home he continued to press her, and she consented to have him help her get an Internet connection, something that was just beginning to be a part of everyday life, and in fact he set Helen up with a very fast connection and an e-mail account, at a time when few people had those services.

Helen visited Lisa the following day. Lisa was paranoid about her privacy, since she felt uncomfortable not knowing whether she was alone. After a while, Helen could see that Lisa showed signs of being almost painfully tense. She was at the point when privacy was important to her, and the urgency with which she insisted that the door should be closed and locked confirmed Helen’s suspicion. Lisa had been so tight, Helen had offered to give her a massage. (Helen had learned massage from an expert.) It gave Lisa such great relief that she immediately had an intense orgasm, her very first. Naturally, she began to relate to Helen sexually. Helen was reluctant to become romantically involved with the teenager, but the patient told Helen that it was Helen’s face that had been the last thing she had seen before she had to have surgery, and the bandages had covered her eyes.

Helen and Lisa were also given a pair of matched cellular phones, a new technology to both of them. The very next day, Lisa called to tell Helen that her sight was coming back. However, whenever she had a relapse of her depression, her sight also went dim. Over the next several weeks, despite Helen’s anxiety about a new relationship, Lisa and Helen found themselves in a—from Helen’s point of view, unwelcome—intense new relationship. In addition to the fact of Lisa being just fifteen, and an emotionally troubled young woman, Helen already had two lovers, and was reluctant to give up either of them. Still, Lisa’s case seemed so desperate that Helen simply could not refuse to give comfort to the girl, just a couple of years younger than Helen herself. Meanwhile, Lisa’s suddenly improved condition was ascribed by her parents to Helen.



Cindy

Helen got on the Internet, and by some stroke of fortune, stumbled on a Chat Room, a phenomenon of the 1990’s and earlier, where members could chat to each other via computer.

Helen had set up an e-mail account under the name of Tiffany. Under that name, she began to correspond with a female called Cindy. Cindy, interestingly, mostly communicated in verse. Cindy had decided to call Helen by the name Erda, because, she said, Helen was an Earth Goddess to her. One day, Lisa had discovered Helen’s communication with Cindy, and asked to be introduced as Audrey. (This may be confusing, but at that time, net names were common, especially in Chat rooms, where the members wanted to preserve their anonymity.)

Our story begins with “Tiffany” replying to a verse of Cindy’s. Cindy had just written a tense message that was a little more fearful than her messages usually were.

Half in jest, Helen replied:

“Cindy,

Your words burn me like fire

They cut me like knives,

They soak me like tears

Why do you show me your soul?

I am helpless, and no help to you,

But I accept your heart.

Erda”



The reply was immediate

“Erda,

Tender spirit, guardian

my spirit soars

It is enough that you hear,

You do not need to understand

It is easy to love the broken-hearted,

for they are satisfied with very little.

Rest now, sweet one,

Cindy is at peace.”



Helen replied:

“What are you?

Why are you so unhappy?

Why are you so afraid?

How can I help?”



The startling reply was

“A prostitute.

Because I am prisoner,

separated from love, and the things I love.

I am not afraid

You do not frighten me

by being yourself.”



Helen was becoming alarmed.

“Let me bring you here. You can escape! I helped spring a woman from her abusive husband. I could spring you, too! Help me!”



“You sing sweet songs, but I fear them!

I have destroyed them; I am safe now.

While I work, I live,

While I write, I live,

Between, I die.

A miserable death, not a sweet release.”



“What are you like? What color is your hair? What color are your eyes?”



“Brown, long and straight and brown.

The other, I don’t remember; there is no mirror here.

Were they gray once?”



Helen shared a little cottage (the Little House, as they called it) with her friend Janet, a woman of about 28, and her daughter, Little Elly, a bright little girl of one year. Janet was certifying to teach mathematics, and was at classes a lot of the time, and Helen and Janet took turns watching the baby. In the evenings, Lisa Wallace visited, and kept up her pressure to make Helen more than just a friend, but Helen was stubborn.

One day, after Janet had been fetched from classes, Helen went to visit Lisa. But Lisa tugged Helen into her bedroom, initially to show her that all her scars had healed. But then she completely undressed herself, and undressed Helen, and pushed her onto her bed, and lay on top of her.

“Please don’t, darling.”

“I must!”

“I don’t want to do it!”

“You will!”

Lisa was what we call a goth chick. She was tattooed in several places, and had multiple piercings on her body, and all this was difficult for Helen to resist; in addition, Helen had also got into the habit of letting Lisa call the shots in her own house, since Helen felt a little intimidated by the family. So Helen, already aroused by Lisa’s nudity and her body jewelry and lascivious behavior, gradually succumbed to the seduction, and soon Helen begged Lisa to give her release. Lisa was only too ready to help Helen out, and Helen was soon suppressing crying out aloud with great difficulty, her heart beating as if it was about to burst. Afterwards, Helen picked up her clothes and put them on silently. Then she looked at Lisa reproachfully.

“What?”

“You raped me.”

Lisa stared. “Are you nuts? How do you figure that was rape?”

“I said no, and I resisted, but you went ahead and had your way.”

“But . . . I’m a girl; Helen, we’re both girls!”

“Makes no difference.” Helen was beginning to cry silently.

“But you asked me to get you off!”

“I wouldn’t have, if you hadn’t started it. Think about it!”

“But Helen, . . . I’m your friend, I love you desperately, and you love me! We’ve had sex before! You can’t turn around now and cry rape?”

Helen opened her arms, and Lisa reluctantly went into Helen’s embrace. “I love you still. I’m not saying I’m going to do anything. But you need to know. You mustn’t force sex on people. I felt really hurt. I know you needed sex, but . . . that’s no excuse. We could have masturbated, or something.”

Lisa was angry. “You should have fought me off! Great, now I’m a rapist.”

“All right. You’re not. I withdraw the accusation. I didn’t think before I spoke. Forgive me; I don’t think I helped at all by saying that. Perhaps you’re right, a rapist has to be a guy.” Helen sighed and looked at Lisa contritely. “You’ve been so good to me, I don’t have a right to complain. I love you, ok? All right.” She sat down. “What do we do? Let’s read our e-mail.”

Lisa was even angrier now. “Just like that?”

Helen nodded slowly, her eyes downcast.

“I can’t. The day is shot. Call me. Or I’ll call you. I need to think.”

Helen nodded, got up, and slunk away. Had she done wrong? What harm would have come of it if she had just submitted to Lisa’s demands? After all, Helen had been gang-raped by a bunch of boys (a story that is a little too bizarre to publish); this was a pleasure in comparison. I’m playing with fire, she thought, as she slowly drove home.

Helen checked her e-mail. Cindy had written some more, but Lisa had written most recently.

“Nothing has ever hurt me as much as your words tonight. My heart is bleeding. And I deserved them. I don’t know whether you did right to say them, but they were true.

“I know we still love each other, but I despise myself, and I am angry at you for making me feel that way. You are clever and wise. Help me to stop seeing myself as a monster.

Lisa, who loves only you.”



This brought Helen to tears. (Recall that Helen was young at this time, barely seventeen.) Hearing Helen’s sobbing, Janet came downstairs with Baby Elly to find out what was wrong. Helen wrenched out a halting account of what had happened in Lisa’s room, thinking all the while that she had been too harsh, far too harsh. But Janet thought she could understand Helen’s feelings. They agreed that Helen had to write something back. “What about something like, I love you, I forgave you the minute it happened, you can have your way with me anytime, but everyone else, you must ask first.”

Helen smiled and nodded. It had just the right tone; acceptance, but not endorsement. The idea was to share the consequences, but not the responsibility. Helen paraphrased that, and sent it off.

The phone rang; it was Lisa. The voice was rough with emotion. “Did Janet say to write that?”

“Yes! I thought that explained it well.”

“It still hurts, Helen, but you were right.”

“Yes.” Helen cleared her throat. “I want you to be perfect.”

“Why me? What did I do to be put on your high-achievement list? I’m comfortable being an asshole.”

“I don’t know; it’s like . . . someday you’ll be great and wise. I think I got it from your parents, it sort of rubs off!”

There was a long silence, and then, unexpectedly, Lisa said, “You’ve made me love my parents!”

This was a big step; Lisa had come a long way. Her relationship with her parents had been awkward and uncomfortable.

“I’m glad. They’re really neat.”



“Already used, I follow him to some obscure destination

I run my fingers over my lips—

are they clean?

Kind brown eyes look me over

I refuse a drink; there’s time later for that

It is soon over, my brief pleasure; my daily death

Is at hand


Oh to run!

Swiftly, like a deer!

Erda, you give me strength!

But not enough

O escape, My spirit longs for you!

But my body is weak.”



[Helen / ‘Erda’:]

“How I long to find you

To gather you in my arms,

To sing soft songs to you,

and make you my child

For I have planned great things for you.

This circle of pain is not your destiny!

I can wait forever

If you can survive, I can wait.

How I long for that reunion with you

Whom I have never met!”

Helen waited, hardly breathing.



“You give me new life, my friend!

My eyes are wet with tears

My knees are hurt

There will be no pleasure tonight

But I long for you, gentle Earth Mother

I must watch for you

If you are close, but I do not see you

I could not bear that knowledge.”



“Where do you live, silly girl?” asked Helen.

“I don’t know, and I don’t know why.”

“Tell me some streets you pass by!”

“St. Mary’s, St. Catherine’s, Bernard, Oakes, Dalton . . . ?

“Don’t sound familiar . . . I’ll look them up; it’s a good clue, anyway. I love you!”

“Oh God, you make me so happy! Truly you are blest, that you can love without seeing. It’s easy for me, since I’m a prisoner.”

“Why prose today?”

“I hurt too much. I hurt my knees when I tripped and fell.”

“What do you look like?”

“Short; long straight brown hair, short gray dress, showing a lot of leg, or a red dress, showing even more leg; thin, and probably spacey-looking. Pills; it’s the only way I can sleep.”

“Where are you from?”

“Great Falls, Montana. I think that’s right. I have a memory problem.”

“Why don’t you write like this on other days?”

“I’m too spaced out. Then I can only think in . . . images. Someone’s coming.”



Helen was writing to a friend.

“I’ve made friends with a poetry-writing prostitute over the Internet. She’s got amnesia, and she doesn’t know where she is, in what city. It’s heartbreaking. I’ll keep you informed.”



The days crawled by, as Helen attended classes, looked after baby Elly and Janet, and kept in touch with her friends by e-mail. At this time Helen was addicted to e-mail, which was the only thing that was exciting on the Internet, as far as she knew, and the Chat Rooms, of course.

When Helen had set up the Chat Room account, she had provided an altered photograph of herself, courtesy of the girlie magazine for which Helen had worked briefly the previous fall. Lisa, too, had got on the Chat Room, as Audrey, and Helen had created a picture based on Lisa, but a flaming redhead.

One day, after Helen had been downtown with Sara (who was, you will remember, a student of Janet’s) who had visited the Little House, Cindy wrote:

“Erda:

I saw you! Unaware of me, you walked right by my window with the pretty brown-haired woman!

Oh God, tell me it was you! You are even more beautiful than your image on which I feast my eyes. No image can compare to the breathtaking reality!

Your motion—so fluid, your eyes, so bright,

So clean,

So confident!

So far away.

Have pity on me, love.”



“Yes, yes; I was out with a friend this morning! We went out for lunch near the hospital. You must live near the hospital, then!”



“Yes, every night the

siren’s wail greets me

as I stumble to bed

for my last labor.

It is a duty

masquerading

as a privilege.

I would rather

clean toilets

in a million hospitals.

There is no pleasure

in this duty,

it symbolizes

my captivity.

Kill me swiftly,

and release me.”



“OK, so you’re near a hospital. I’m going to retrace my steps, to see if you can spot me again! I must get help.”

“He suspects something. But he’s in some kind of trouble . . . Bye.”

Nothing more ever came from Cindy, to Helen’s great regret and worry.



Janet’s classes came to an end, and Janet decided to take Baby Elly to stay with friends in North Carolina; she had met a pastor of a church while vacationing in the Carolinas, and Janet’s relationship with this wonderful man was getting more intense. Janet and Helen had been partners ever since they had met, but Janet was finding the complex undercurrents between Helen and her numerous girlfriends too much for her. However, as soon as she arrived in North Carolina, she immediately wanted to turn around and come back, but Helen, with unusual good sense, insisted that Janet stay where she was for at least a while.



Escape!

Helen was desperately lonely and utterly miserable for a few days. Once Lisa learned that Helen was alone, her visits, too, became a nuisance, and it took all of Helen’s ingenuity and self-control to keep Lisa at a safe distance.

Suddenly, one very lonely day an idea came to Helen. She would find Cindy! She thought long about it, and the idea became an obsession. She put on warm clothing, a heavy parka, a heavy scarf, and set out on foot.

She walked downtown to the hospital quarter, and plodded up and down, peering at street signs, until she saw St. Mary’s Street. She walked up and down St. Mary’s, looking up at second floor windows, until she came to Catherine Street. But nobody looked out of the windows. Then she exclaimed “Dalton!” There it was, and she walked up and down, and along the main streets, looking at the second floor windows for a face that might be Cindy.

It was almost six in the evening, and very dark. Helen was quite cold.

Helen walked up to a big black man, and asked “Sir, where could I find a hooker?”

“A bit young, aren’t you?”

“No, I’m looking for someone.”

“Try over there,” he gestured with his chin towards the bus station.

A distant gunshot rang out, and Helen’s blood froze. But she plodded on. She began to pass couples, girls dressed provocatively, with fishnet stockings and platform shoes, and the guys looking sly and scowling at her. She made eye contact with as many girls as she could. Then suddenly, time stood still.

A girl in a red dress was running towards her. The red dress was a flimsy, brief thing. She wore high platform shoes, and ran with difficulty. Far behind her, a crowd gathered round a figure lying on the street, and a police cruiser screamed past Helen towards the body, and someone pointed further up the road, and the squad car took off.

The girl in red was tiny, just about five feet tall. Suddenly she stopped, and looked at Helen and said, “You came! Oh God, Erda, I’m going to die!”

It was Cindy. She came towards Helen, slowed down and stopped, and began to shiver.

“You came!” There was such incredible triumph on Cindy’s face, for indeed it was she.

“You’re freezing,” Helen observed. The girl was quite blue with cold.

Apparently, a car had pulled up across their path, and a single shot had killed the man, and Cindy had hurried away. She had not taken the tranquillizer he gave her that morning, and had already devised a complicated plan to drag out the time she spent on the street, hoping against hope that Helen would happen along, and create some disturbance to enable Cindy to hide. But here, the obstruction to her freedom was shot and probably dead, and Cindy was totally off-balance, and freezing in the cold.

Helen pulled off her parka coat—Helen had a sweater on, but Cindy was in a flimsy red dress—and put it on Cindy, despite her protests. You came, you came, she kept saying, as if it were some miracle! Her voice was gentle and light, with a slight lilt that was very attractive.

“What happened?”

“They shot him!”

“Whom?”

Cindy shrugged. Evidently she didn’t know his name.

“He made you walk out like that, in this cold?”

Cindy raised her face to look at Helen and nodded. She had beautiful grey eyes, large and luminous but at present a little red.

“You have a warm voice!” she said, smiling.



Helen urged her into the emergency room of the hospital, and they sat down in the waiting room.

“Are you feeling sick?” she asked Helen in a puzzled whisper, while she sat and shivered.

“No, I’m trying to get warm! Pretend we’re waiting for someone,” Helen replied, impatiently. Then she hauled Cindy into the ladies’ room, and held her hands under the warm water faucet to warm them up.

They headed out once more, first to a coffee shop, where Helen said they ought to get something to warm themselves up inside.

“Oh, I’m so useless,” said Cindy, looking upset. “I don’t have any money.” She looked at Helen, as if to say, This is going to be the pattern; I have nothing. I hope you realize what you’re getting into.

“I’ve got money. What do you want?”

“No, something warm for you.

“Maybe a hot chocolate? Share?”

“OK.”

Cindy was a very affectionate girl, and it clearly meant a lot to her to share Helen’s hot chocolate.

Fortified with the sugar, they walked along until they came to a large discount store, and Helen bought a lightweight winter coat for Cindy, and a pair of pink-and-purple leg-warmers at which Cindy looked longingly. Cindy put her platform shoes in a bag, and wore the boots Helen had just bought her, and delightedly put on her new clothes, giving Helen a look of gratitude. An full hour later, they were at the Little House, shaking off the snow.

Cindy’s eyes glowed as she looked around the house from just inside the front door. “Whose house is this?” she asked softly.

“It belongs to my friend Janet. She’s away for a month,” Helen said.

“Shall I be staying with you for a while?”

“As long as you want. You’re free now, Cindy! You can go wherever you want!”

Cindy looked blankly at Helen.

“Where can I go? I don’t know who I am!”

“Of course you do! You’re Cindy!”

Cindy shook her head. “I can’t remember anything except my name. And even that, he might have just told me that my name was Cindy. I don’t know.”

“Well, stay here, then! I’m happy to have you. I’m all alone by myself now.”

“OK.” Cindy smiled at Helen, then she looked about, and began to look uncomfortable.

“Would you like to wash up and change?”

“Maybe you could lend me something to wear?”

Helen got her a simple shift and a towel, and sent her in.



She took a while, and Helen figured that she was washing carefully after a long time, judging from the state of her hair. Cindy shortly emerged wearing the towel around her waist, her hair dripping water, and Helen hurried to give her a second towel for the long hair.

Helen told her to make herself at home, and she said that she already felt at home.



She spoke very precisely, with a slight lisp; her eyes widened a bit when she wanted to emphasize a word every once in a while.

“Come on, I’ll fix us some dinner,” Helen said, leading the way downstairs. She threw together a simple meal, while Cindy watched anxiously. Her whole manner said that she would like to help, but was baffled by Helen’s cooking. A little questioning revealed that she had eaten for two years out of cans, principally, and fast food that her ‘friend’ had brought. Even slicing an onion was a new idea.

What was Helen to do with her? She was very sweet, but so helpless, that she would be a prisoner in the house once Helen had to resume classes, as much a prisoner as she had been for two years. Helen watched her eat ravenously, exclaiming “This is delicious!” from time to time. She finished her meal and drank a glass of milk, and then turned her eyes on Helen, clearly wanting to help.

She helped wash the dishes, and to tidy up. She seemed very simple, almost as if she were from another planet.

Helen led the way to the living room, they sat on opposite ends of the couch, and bundled up in two blankets that were usually left there. The big grey eyes did not leave Helen’s face for long; they always came back, and she studied Helen’s face with intense interest.

“What would you like to do, Cindy?” Helen asked gently.

Cindy’s face glowed with a gentle smile, and she asked softly, “What would you like to do, Tiffany?”

“My name is really Helen,” she said. “And I meant, would you like to call your family or friends? Anyone you know?”

Cindy’s smile died, and her eyes filled with sorrow. “I don’t know anybody.” There was a silence, and then Cindy said:

“I know no one but you,

you waited for me when I fled the violence,

your arms opened, and sheltered me,

To whom shall I go?

For I have no one but you.

My past, my life, all is gone,

I know nothing but my routine, and now that too is gone.

But I have clothes, and heat, and food,

and a kind face, and gentle hands.

I am all gratitude. I am yours. What shall I do?”

Helen was taken aback. “No one?”

“Only you!”

“What’s your real name? Try and remember!”

Cindy closed her eyes in concentration. “Cindy . . . Cynthia . . . Jennifer, Alice, Jane, Penelope, Susan, Chloë, Margaret, Elizabeth . . . no. I don’t know. Susan . . . Ann . . . Joan . . . No. Nothing like that. It was something long and elaborate . . .”

Helen watched her in amazement. Her eyebrows were arched beautifully, her forehead was both broad and high, her nose delicate and well-formed, her lashes long, her teeth tiny and perfect. She would be perfect for a long, elaborate name.

“I don’t know. I’m sure it wasn’t Cindy.”

“How about your last name?”

She shook her head, and Helen could see that this was making her upset.

“And you’re not sure what town, or city, or state? You said Great Falls, Montana.”

“I don’t think that was true; I think he made that up. There’s nothing. There’s a blank. I can’t remember. I’m sorry!” She wiped her nose on her sleeve. “I can’t even remember being young, or how old I am!”

“It’s all right; we’ll find out; the police may know.”

Cindy’s eyes brightened. “Yes.” Helen reached out to pat Cindy’s arm gently. Cindy blotted her face, and composed herself.



“Tiffany . . .”

“Helen.”

“Oh, yes, I mean Helen . . . do you live here all alone?”

“Uh-huh. For the moment.”

“You sure I won’t be a nuisance? I feel so useless, I can’t cook, but I could clean . . .”

“Don’t worry; we’ll be fine. School will start soon for me, and you’ll be bored. We must keep you occupied.”

“Yes . . .”

“What kinds of things do you like to do?”

“Things I like to do . . .”

And then, to Helen’s embarrassment, Cindy said what she liked most was sex, with men, and she went on to elaborate all the various sex acts that she enjoyed, which were pretty much everything. “It is all I know. For two years, these were my joys. All men were good to me, except one. I hated him.”

Helen listened in amazement. “Don’t you like art, or music or dance, or movies, or reading?”

“Poetry! I love poetry. I love to read poetry, and to write it. And to have someone read my poetry. It’s almost like sex!” She was rocking herself in excitement, and it made an intensely erotic sight for Helen. Afraid that she would find herself unable to resist this woman who called to Helen so strongly, Helen began to say over and over in her own mind that she would not, under any circumstances, make a move on her. I didn’t rescue her, she thought to herself, only to get her into bed with me.

“Tell me about yourself,” asked Cindy, softly.

Helen began to recount the more ordinary aspects of her life, hoping to trigger some memory. Cindy was an excellent listener, her face showing intent, relaxed attention, only occasionally prompting Helen with a gentle question. Helen ended with Janet’s departure.

“Don’t feel lonely; I am here,” said Cindy.

“Oh, I have friends,” Helen added quickly. She mentioned a few of them. “And when school starts . . .”

“Of course; but tonight, I am here,” she said.

“And it’s good to have you here,” Helen said.

“Helen?”

“Yes?”

“What if I never recover my memory, and . . . I can’t find my folks?”

Helen said, with more confidence than she felt: “You can stay with me!”

“For a long time?”

“Yes. Forever.”

“Will you take me for a lover?”

Helen held her breath. Cindy knew of Helen’s preference for girls, and the question was not an idle one. She carefully thought out her answer.

“That wasn’t the reason why I took you in, Cindy. You know I have . . . other friends. I couldn’t live with myself if we took up together; I’d be no better than him.

Cindy smiled, and it was like the sun coming out. They argued about how Cindy could be useful, and whether she needed to be useful at all. Cindy was certain there was information locked in her head, which she simply could not get at.

“You can do anything. I believed that you would save me, and you did.”

“No dear. Someone shot your man, and you walked free.”

“You’re wrong! When you set out to look for me, it all came together. We left the room, got in the car, they blocked our way, he got out, and they shot him. By some magic you made it happen.”

“It was a coincidence!”

“Fate has given you to me, and me to you.”

“Oh lord, Cindy, you mean you want to stay with me?”

“No; I mean that if you want me, I could never escape!”

“I want you to be free! To be happy! Free, do you understand?”

“Yes, a thousand times yes!” Cindy looked at Helen intently. Quietly she whispered: “What you see is the happiest girl on the earth. You can never understand happiness until you experience imprisonment. I’m happy! Only one thing could make me happier . . .”

“To get back your memory!”

“No! To repay you for your kindness.”

Helen was exasperated. “I didn’t do anything!”

Cindy shook her head firmly. “It’s hard to explain. The moment I saw your picture, things began to . . . work out. I know. I sense things. I can sense rightness. You have the . . . feel of someone who can put things right.” Cindy came to Helen, and gave her a gentle embrace. She smelled of flowers, and soap, and a subtle fragrance all her own, and then she stood back, smiling.

“Come,” said Helen, leading the way to the room she had given Cindy. “I’ll give you some stuff for your own.” There were some clothes—Helen had been a lot shorter when she had fallen in with Janet and her husband Jason, but she had also been very thin; Cindy had a mature figure, and most of Helen’s clothes would not fit her, only a few did. She also gave her several books, a clock radio, and a vase for flowers, and a few trinkets, for fun. Cindy was touched and cried, and kissed Helen, and Helen smiled, and fearfully hurried out.





The Violin

Early the next morning, Lisa called, and was told that Cindy had been found, and was now settled in the Little House. “I’m on my way, Helen! Dad’s dropping me off. I’m dying to see you and Cindy! Is she nice?”

“Very nice,” said Helen.

“Well, get decent. Dad will probably want to visit a bit.”

Hearing the noise, Cindy came over, decently dressed. “That was Audrey . . . you know?” Helen told her.

“Oh, yes. Did you say she was really Lisa, or something?”

“Yup, that’s her. She’s on her way, with her Dad. He doesn’t know anything. You can hide, or just be a friend of mine, visiting. Where are you visiting from?”

“I don’t know!”

“Well, just pretend!”

“I can’t even pretend, Helen! I’ll just stay upstairs . . . pretend I’m not here!”

“OK. I’d better get dressed.”

Cindy had something on her mind. “If you hadn’t got there last evening . . . I don’t know what I would be doing . . .”

“You’d have gone home, and e-mailed me!”

Cindy shook her head. “He took away the computer. He found out I was writing to somebody.”

“Oh heavens!”

“He punished me.” Cindy went on to describe a particularly painful but invisible way she had been punished, and Helen paled at the description. She comforted Cindy, whose face was ashen at the memory.

“You’re going to get a lot of tender, loving care for a long, long time! And then we’re going shopping for you!” Cindy protested strongly that no one was to spend money on her, but Helen refused to listen. Then the doorbell rang, and Cindy disappeared upstairs.



Dr. Wallace and Lisa were at the door, looking very bright.

“Hello! Come in; you look very happy today!” said Helen.

“I don’t know; your friend here seems in a good mood, and she’s got me all cheered up! So how is everything, Helen? Are you here all by yourself?”

“Yes, Janet graduated last week, and has gone down to North Carolina. She’s looking for work teaching, and her friend Scott Forrester is looking for a job in Social Work.”

“I’m happy for her. She deserves a nice break like that.”



They talked about many things, and Dr. Wallace wanted to know whether Helen needed help finding a used car for herself? Helen said no. Could she manage the rent by herself? Yes, she’d look for a part-time job soon. What did she used to do? Work at the Institute Workshop, and as a part-time custodian for the school. A custodian! Dr. Wallace couldn’t believe it. Oh sure, Helen said, she worked an 8-hour shift four nights a week! Even Lisa looked a trifle pale at the thought that Helen had worked as a janitor.

They were organizing a professional orchestra from the Early Music Ensemble; why didn’t Helen audition? Helen was interested. I don’t have an instrument, she said, or I’d definitely do it. It pays quite well, he said; a number of alumni from the conservatory were endowing it, and there was even a recording contract with a small label. Helen said that only the fact that she had no instrument would hold her back.

“Would you let Lisa, and Pat and me give you a gift of a violin? You have been so good to Lisa, and so kind, so helpful. You refuse money; that’s fine, but we do have a lovely 17th century violin. Let me ask Pat; I know she’ll want you to have it. Someday, it will go to Lisa, our only child! But I’m sure Lisa would want you to have the use of it!” Lisa nodded solemnly.

Helen couldn’t believe her ears!

“An authentic instrument? You have one?”

“Yes!”

“Oh, Dr. Wallace, I’d love to just look at it!”

Take it! I’ll go and get it right now, you can start playing it today!”

“No, no. It must be worth thousands. I refuse. Tell you what, though; if you could help me get the materials to have one made at the Workshop, that would be fantastic! I couldn’t afford it all this time; I spent all my extra money on a viola da gamba for Janet’s father.”

“Just the materials? That’s nothing. Is that what you want?”

“Yes!”

“Done! You’ll have your violin by Easter. Until then, will you borrow our violin?”

“Sure! Is that the one Mrs. Wallace plays?”

“No, she has two; she plays the older one. She has a Guanerius, and that’s what she plays. This is another one.”

“Oh Lord; I never knew she had a Guanerius!” [Guanerius was a legendary violin maker of the 1600s, not as well known as Stradivarius, but some violinists actually preferred Guanerius violins.]

“We don’t tell everyone; it’s an unmodified Guanerius, very rare. Come over and see them tonight. Come to dinner!”



Dr. Wallace left in good spirits. Like Lisa, the Wallaces ascribed to Helen the amazing recovery of Lisa from her terrible crash. Helen had, of course, only been there by accident, and in her mind, barely done what had been needed. Most of what she had done was help Lisa out of her almost fatal depression.

Lisa sighed relief. “I thought he’d talk forever!” she said. “Where’s our guest?”

“Cindy! Come on down, the coast is clear!”

Cindy and Lisa looked at each other with great interest on both sides. They had to explain that Helen had altered her and Lisa’s photographs before they had been uploaded; Lisa was not as red, or Helen as dark, as the photos had showed them. Unfortunately they got into a discussion of how beautiful Lisa was, a topic that Lisa was sensitive about; after the crash, Lisa had had to have extensive surgery, and for a long time there had been a network of fine scars all crisscrossing her face.

“I’m a silly girl, don’t listen to me. I think you’re beautiful. I shall make a poem for you. I’ll try to make it so that it doesn’t hurt your feelings . . . but it probably will! Oh well.”

“That would be neat! Go ahead, I’m not as sensitive as I seem.”

“Words.

You are beautiful.

I offer you flowers, but they wither.

I offer you love, but you do not know me.

I offer you thanks, but you refuse them.

I offer you apology, but you have forgiven already.

But my words, spoken carelessly

cut your face again.

But you’re still beautiful,

despite my words.”

Lisa stared at Cindy in amazement, full of emotion. They were hearing Cindy recite her poems for the first time, and it sounded strange, but strangely appropriate. “Did you make that up just now?”

Cindy nodded solemnly.

Lisa walked slowly to the half-bath under the stairs, and stared at herself in the mirror. She turned to Cindy. “I don’t really look ugly, but I look pretty plain.”

Cindy smiled and shrugged. Helen’s blouse hung a little loose on her, and Lisa’s eye was drawn to the white skin of Cindy’s breast, so delicate and blue-veined. Cindy blushed and said, touching her hand to her breast in a graceful gesture, “I don’t have any proper clothes; I just came as I was. That’s my dress, near the door!” The red dress had reminded her too much of her loss of freedom, and she had put it in a grocery bag and hung it on the coat rack.

“Oh yeah? Let’s go shopping! Well get you a complete wardrobe!”

Cindy’s smile vanished. “Oh no; I can’t afford anything.

“I’ll lend you $100 interest-free for a year! $200!”

“Okay!”



Cindy had barely enough clothes to wear on the shopping trip. The clothes she had borrowed were too hopelessly big for her, but her winter coat covered her up. Cindy bought some basic clothes and underwear, and then they took her to a used clothing store, and after shopping some more, they headed back home in a taxi, Cindy quite pleased with her ‘new’ clothes.

Lisa hauled Helen off to Helen’s room, and shut the door, as she had done for weeks. Cindy had been told that Lisa and Helen were in a relationship, but Helen had insisted that it mostly pretense. Lisa was upset, and claimed that they had had sex, and Helen had to reluctantly admit it. No more could be explained without embarrassing one or the other of them.

Cindy went into her room to put away her purchases, trying to firmly ignore the noises coming out of Helen’s room. But they got so noisy, Cindy just had to check in on them, and luckily the younger girls were not too upset. Helen and Lisa had been quite naked, but had quickly covered themselves with sheets. “Cindy! Are you all right?” Helen asked.

Cindy nodded.

“I’ve never seen two girls . . . together!”

“Well . . . there’s not a lot to see! We were just kissing.”

Normally they would have been embarrassed, but Cindy had such charm that they could forgive her anything.

They had tickled Cindy mercilessly for a minute or so, and she had just said that she had never been in a tickle-fight before.

“How would you know? You can’t remember!”

“I think I would, though; I remember having sex before. I remember never having eaten a hot dog.”

“What, someone bought you a hot dog, and it was, like, your first one ever?”

Cindy nodded. “I liked it, but it was definitely my first one. I eat them all the time, now.”

“Oh god, you know what? You’re probably Jewish!”

“What’s ‘Jewish’?”

“It’s a religion!”

“Well, what’s a religion?”

“Have you ever been to church?”

“I don’t know, not in the last two years, anyway.”

“Let’s take you, and you’ll know if you’ve been in one before.”

Before long, they had taken Cindy the rounds of churches of various denominations, and a synagogue, and none of them struck a chord in Cindy. It was very puzzling.



Right after lunch, Mrs. Pat Wallace called. She wanted Helen to come early for dinner, and then they were going to take Helen to the audition for the new orchestra that was being formed, with a nucleus of players from the Early Music Ensemble. Helen meekly agreed, and hung up.

“Where shall we stash Cindy?” Helen did not want to leave her alone for too long.

Lisa said, “Oh, bring her! Mom would love her!”

“But how do we explain? Where’s she supposed to live? What’s her name?”

Cindy looked very frightened. “I’ll stay put right here . . . I’ll eat a hot dog, and I’ll hide out.”

“No darling, you never have to hide again. I won’t have you skulking here like some . . .”

“Fugitive,” supplied Cindy.

“Yes!”



In the end, Cindy stayed home with her hot dog, and they planned to pick Cindy up after dinner at the Wallaces’, and go to the auditions, which were being conducted at a large recital hall in the music department of the College.

“What did you do when you were by yourself?”

“I would get on my computer, and send poems to people.”

It was then that Helen realized that there were two perfectly good computers in the house, and before long Lisa had set them up so that Cindy could get on the Internet without any trouble.



Dinner at the Wallaces

Dr. and Mrs. Wallace had dressed for dinner, and Helen was treated as guest of honor. It was a wonderful meal, and afterwards, Mrs. Wallace led the way to the music room, and after Helen was made comfortable, she brought out two violins.

Helen recognized the violin that Pat Wallace usually played; a dark, nondescript violin, from which she drew wonderful sounds. Now she asked Helen to try it out.

It had a sound like thin butter. The Baroque bow was beautiful, and Helen played some unaccompanied Bach; she had never sounded so good. Mrs. Wallace looked at her husband, and then at her daughter. Lisa smiled at her mother, and said, “Say it, Mom!”

“What do you mean, dear?”

After much talk among themselves that made Helen acutely embarrassed, they clarified that Pat Wallace had wanted a child who would carry on the family’s musical tradition. Lisa had fought against this expectation all through her younger years, but now she was getting a little more interested in music because of Helen’s influence. But she was not anywhere close to being a performer as good as Helen.

Despite Helen’s protestations, Dr. and Mrs. Wallace had made up their minds that their daughter, Lisa, and Helen were lovers. Helen stubbornly denied it, but Mrs. Wallace wanted to think that the next best thing to having a musical child, was to have that child choose a lover who was a musical talent. Helen was red with embarrassment; she could easily see that Lisa was too young, at just about 15, for them to speak of her having a lover. (Helen and Janet had become lovers when Helen was that young, but Helen had come to realize that she had narrowly escaped ruining her life permanently; in fact her very promiscuousness was a result, Helen thought, of having become sexually active in her mid-teens. She did not want this for Lisa, even if she and Lisa did not settle into anything even approaching a committed relationship.)

“If I were you,” Helen had just said to Pat Wallace, when handing the violin back, “I’d never give this away!”

Mrs. Wallace had taken it back carefully and twinkled at Helen. “I don’t have a choice; I sound awful playing anything else!”


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