Helena looked so much better but there was a darkness in the room when I came back in.
We’d all been in here laughing and joking a few minutes ago, then the doctor asked us all to leave so he could talk with Helena and Valarie alone, now things were tense. I wasn’t good with tense.
Al had buggered off and left me to go interrogate Steve, although I’d already answered all the bitches questions, in detail! How much more could she want to know?
Standing off to the side Valarie wasn’t talking and neither was Helena, everyone just sat I quiet.
“I’m sorry babe, I’ve got to get back to work. My classes start tonight but I’ll pop back in the morning?” Helena’s friend Rayna had become something of a permanent fixture here lately. At first she found it hard, Helena didn’t remember her at all and she didn’t know how to talk to her, but now you couldn’t shut the pair up.
Helena’s condition had really hit Rayna hard, not to mention she was amongst those that actually saw her jump. It had left her with obvious emotional scars that coated her psyche but she couldn’t share them with Helena. We all still called it ‘the accident.’
Rayna had decided she wanted to help and she needed something to focus on, so she was going to start night classes at the school on the other side of town to become a nurse practitioner. She knew Helena was going to need long term care and she wanted to be the one to provide it. It was sweet and I could see why Helena liked the girl so much, I just wish she could remember her.
I nodded as Rayna stood up to leave and I slid into her seat, wrapping myself up in the shirt I’d stolen from Steve to keep warm. It was taking everything in me not to breathe in the scent of him at any given moment.
The tension was thick and I couldn’t take it anymore.
“Okay guys, what the fuck is going on?”
Valerie’s head shot up at my bluntness and I could now see she’d definitely been crying and was probably about to do some more. Helena looked over at her mother.
“Mama, I said I’m sorry. The doctor said it must have stopped a while ago, please, you have to try to understand.”
I’m not sure what Helena was hoping to achieve with her words but they only caused Valarie to burst into hysterical tears. I could see Helena was desperate to comfort her but so much of her body was still in plaster she could hardly move, so I got up and gave her a hug.
Valarie sobbed into Steve’s shirt. “I-I’m okay, I just... I need a m-minute... C-can you stay with Helena until I-I get b-back?”
I hold her head against me as she tries to regulate her breathing. “Of course, I’ve got all day. Why don’t you go get some food? Have a coffee too and sit down in the gardens? Fresh air might do you good.”
I didn’t really believe in the whole ‘fresh air’ fix but it seemed to work wonders with a certain generation.
She nods against my chest, not saying another word before getting up and leaving. I saw her squeeze Helena’s hand gently but she didn’t look her in the eye when she did it.
I moved into the seat next to Helena and took her hand in mine, wiping away the tear that fell from her eye and rolled down her cheek.
“Babe, what’s going on? Are you okay? Do you need more surgery or something?”
Helena attempts to shake her head but it’s weak. “No, well yes I’m going to need loads more surgery but that’s not what this is about....” She paused, taking a breath before continuing. “The doctors had to check how my legs were healing this morning so they had to take everything off and redo it. The doctor said when they did the surgery I was in a bad state so they had to focus on getting me put back together and couldn’t really focus on anything else. This time they got a proper look and noticed my scars...”
Scars? “Like from the surgery?”
She shook her head. “After Elle... went away... I found it hard to keep going, I just had all this stuff inside me and I had to get it out. I tried loads of stuff but nothing made me feel better, then one day I was sitting in the bath and I cut my leg shaving. I watched the blood just trickle from my leg into the water and float around in waves, it was beautiful, and for the first time I felt... better.”
“It wasn’t like it was a thing I did all the time, just when I needed the release. I’d do these tiny little cuts then I’d be able to hold the fake smile again for a few hours, it was just a way to keep it together.... I don’t know when it stopped or why, the doctor says it looks like I haven’t done it for a long time, all the scars have faded.”
I know why... I know who got you to stop. Fucking hell Christopher, it should be you here telling her why right now. She needs you.
“Mum’s blaming herself, thinks she’s failed me as a mother by not knowing what was happening with me. It’s not her fault, I’ve tried to tell her but she won’t listen. It was me, I failed not her. I failed Ellen and now I’m failing her too!”
Helena’s eyes start to leak but I don’t stop her, I think she needs to let it out.
“You didn’t fail Ellen babe, you couldn’t have stopped what happened to her. You weren’t even there, were you?”
Her eyes start to leak profusely, her head nodding. Poor thing was there? Where? She was too young to be in our formal and too old to be in the junior one, I always assumed she wasn’t near the school that night. Not that we’ve really ever spoken about it...
“The night of the shooting my sister was supposed to come home early. My mum wasn't keen on her going there with a boy older than her anyway so she was supposed to meet us outside after they announced the king and queen. She'd clearly got to distracted enjoying her night and was late, so my mum sent me in to go get her. I didn’t want all the older kids seeing me so I cut through the junior hall, I was staring at the little kids dancing and all the pretty decorations, that's when the shots started."
A small sob escapes her lips but she doesn't take her eyes off me. "I was so scared. I’ve never been that scared. Shot after shot after shot I just became more frozen. The kids were screaming and people were trying to calm them but there was just so much noise I couldn't cope. I shut down. I wanted to help, I could see people rushing to get the kids out of there but I just couldn't move. Then someone grabbed me."
She gives a gentle smile but it quickly fades away. "He pulled me out of the room and even carried me when my legs still refused to move. He was so calming, he kept telling me I was going to be okay. When we got outside I could see my mum so I jumped down from his arms and ran to her. We stood there, scanning the crowd for Ellen but she never came out. We found out about my sister not long afterwards and everything else didn't seem important... I know if I’d just moved, if I’d gotten to her then I would’ve got her out. I was so scared but she must have been terrified. She didn’t die instantly the autopsy said, she bled out. There was time for me to save her, I just didn’t. It’s my fault she’s dead, I failed her."
Oh my poor baby girl. I can’t hold back anymore, slipping my hand under her hair and cuddling her head as best I can. She isn’t to blame for that, no-one could’ve saved Ellen, I know people would’ve tried.
“Helena, it wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t Ellen’s either. Neither of you pulled that trigger babe. One person packed a gun and walked into that school that night, his name was the fucking devil and he took your sister. You getting there sooner would’ve just resulted in one thing, another name on the memorial plaque outside the door. Nothing more. Babe, did you get therapy? Go to counselling? We all had too, it sucks but it fucking helps.”
She shakes her head. “I don’t think so, not before my memories end. Something must have changed for me though Brie, talking about it now... it doesn’t feel so heavy.”
Yeah, you found the love of a good man who helped heal every single wound. I wish he’d do that for you again now.
“Brie... If I ask you a question, do you promise to answer me honestly? No matter how much it might hurt me to hear it.”
She leans back, averting her eyes from me towards the ceiling.
“Mama, the way she reacted, there was more to it. Brie, the accident... Did I do this to myself?”
This beautiful angel, she never deserved to carry this burden. I can’t lie to her, it’s her life and if she’s strong enough to be asking the question then she’s strong enough to hear the answer.
“Yes babe, you did. I’m so sorry.”
She doesn’t cry, there’s no break down. In fact she looks relieved, like the pieces that just wouldn’t fit are finally coming together. We sit quietly after that, her mind racing with all this new information until finally I have to say something.
“I’ll talk to Al, she’s a counsellor. It wouldn’t really be appropriate for her to talk to you hun but I bet she knows someone amazing that would be perfect. I don’t want you ending up here again, you have to work through this, you were never to blame and you need to realise that.”
She nods but I can see how defeated she still looks, this isn’t something that is going to be fixed over night.
“Is there anything else I can get for you babe? Want me to run out and get you something decent to eat?”
She shakes her head before suddenly her eyes light up and she stares at me. “What’s the time? Is it before eleven?”
I look down at my phone, it’s ten too. “Just about, why?”
She smirks. “I want the breakfast sandwich from Sheila’s.”
Oh fuck. “You know they sell out straight away! I’ll never make it over there... wait.” I grab my phone and pull up Kallie’s number. “Kal lives right opposite, she can get it and I’ll get it from her.”
Helena tries to protest but I ignore her, if the girl wants the sandwich then she’s getting the fucking sandwich.