:: Article

You and Helena

By Chris Killen.

The first thing Helena will do is ask if you have a spare fag. Then she’ll ask for a light. Then she’ll ask if she can sit down, placing her glass on the table and lowering herself into the chair before you can answer.

She has blonde hair with dark roots, you’ll notice. She has a laugh which goes hah-hah-hah. It is husky, possibly false.

She’ll ask what you do.

Right, she’ll say, as if interested.

She’ll tell you about her best friend, Jared, how he’s like this pro skateboarder now, and he gets all these endorsements, and travels all over the place, and would you believe it? That’s him calling.

Rooting around in her handbag, Helena will look up to catch your eye.

Sorry. She’ll just be a sec.

You’ll watch her arse as she gets up to take the call over by the fag machine – the swell of her buttocks against the denim, bigger than you would’ve guessed.

Is she coming back, or was that it? She’s left her fag burning in the ashtray, a bit of wet glistening on the filter.

Helena will be back. She’ll sit down, pick up her drink, and smile at you.

Something will flutter.

Ah fuck it, she’ll say when she notices the fag’s burnt out.

So you’ll offer her another.

And another.

And another.

On the first proper date she’ll tell you about the fifty five blokes she’s slept with: the one she went home with at a bus stop; the best mate of the one she was seeing; the one who only ever wanted to do it in his car; etc., etc. She will attempt to wow you with her sexual bravado, as if fucking people is this great cosmic competition and she is the winner.

Right, you’ll say, a bit impressed, a bit scared, and wondering if it will be you tonight, what kind of story that might be.

Helen will wank off her Corona bottle, bright blue eyes drifting around the bar, and not even know she’s doing it.

It’s late, she’ll say. I’m cold. Come closer. You’re standing in line at the taxi rank, chivalrously waiting to send her off in a cab.

She’ll taste of lime and Marlboros.

Well, are you coming or what?

The taxi door is hanging open and a bruise in the shape of Italy is on her leg and the driver is looking out at you over his shoulder.

Helena will have a cat. It will wind and mew around her legs in the vodka-and-perfume-smelling clutter of her kitchen as she drunkenly fumbles with a can opener, going: Fucking cat food. So you’ll take the tin off her and get it open, but slice open your finger on the lip of the tin and have to hide it away in your pocket.

Later you’ll listen to her piss with the bathroom door open, as you lie on her bed, still in your shoes, a big glass of vodka and lemonade in your hand, feeling unwieldy, a bit sick.

I want it, she’ll say. I want it.

You’ll lie in the dark after, smoking fags and looking at all her draped clothes hanging off the chair and the dresser. She’ll be speaking in a stage whisper about nothing in particular and it will be nice, like you’re in a film.

Then Helena will freak out for the first time. Good lord. You’ll be having drinks at the bar she works in, after hours, and she’ll run screaming out in tears, suddenly, as you sit with all the regulars and the bar staff who you’ve only just met and you’ll wonder what happened.

What just happened? you’ll ask.

You don’t give a shit about me! she’ll scream in the car park, flecks of spittle gathering on her lower lip. You were eyeing up Sophie.

Which one’s Sophie? you’ll say. The one with the wobbly mole, or the one with the wonky eye? and she’ll smile.

Helena will keep mentioning Jared (that skateboarding friend of hers). She’ll be on the phone with him, just before you came round, and he’ll have given her all this advice about stuff.

Jared says I deserve to be looked after.

Great.

Jared says you sound like a nice guy.

Fantastic.

You’ll ask what Jared’s last name is.

When you get home, you’ll type Jared Smith professional skateboarder into Google.

Nothing will come up.

This will be after about a month.

Then you’ll find out she wears contact lenses. A bottle of solution stands in her bathroom cabinet.

Didn’t I tell you? she’ll say. My real eyes are brown.

Helena will ask you to make her a cup of tea and – suddenly – it will not feel like something you want to do. You’ll be about to do it anyway, then she’ll say, Get me a cup of tea, in that voice of hers, and she’ll be in a mood about work or whatever, and you’ll come off as insensitive if you say: No, get your own fucking cup of tea.

Helena will lock herself in the bathroom half an hour after you come round, telling you she’s phoning Jared. Only he knows how to calm her down. So you’ll sit in the living room and turn up the telly and let Chairman Meow whine all he bloody wants from the kitchen.

One day, you’ll hear her on the phone to her parents and her voice will be different. It will be higher, posher, clearer – like someone else is speaking.

Strange.

You’ll think about it for a bit.

Nothing will become clear.

*

She will be tired all the time.

You will try to think up a way of finishing with her, yet still coming off as the good guy.

Then she’ll say, I’m sorry, and you’ll both be on the sofa, Helena with her legs draped over yours, and the news on in the background.

She’ll tell you about when she was at school, how she had to move here cuz everyone knew her and she’s different now. She’s changed. She’ll say it’s why she felt she had to change names, too.

How do you mean?

Didn’t I tell you?

No…

Helena isn’t actually my name.

Oh?

It’s Clair. Helena is my middle name. Well, Helen, really. I added the ‘a’ to make it sound better — more exotic.

When she gets up to go for a wee you’ll take her phone off the arm of the chair and go through the numbers, looking for a Jared, for anything remotely resembling a Jared. You’ll look through her messages and incoming and outgoing calls and there’ll be nothing, just the ringing of blood in your ears.

You won’t think it then, as you walk down the street with the door of her house hanging open behind you and her probably just coming out of the toilet, but later you’ll wonder how much of the rest of Helena, if any of her, was true.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Killen
was born in 1981. He is currently living in Manchester and working on a novel.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, March 8th, 2007.