Summary: Helen has lived her entire life lonely (despite her six siblings). The entire world seems to be rigged against her, or maybe she’s rigged against the world. Aline is the first person in years who simply exists and doesn’t demand anything of her. The first person who makes her feel less alone.
(Alternatively the angsty haline fic no one asked for)
Helen sighed and flicked the cigarette butt off the roof. It spiraled down, trailing a thin wisp of smoke, and landed on the concrete below. A breeze flew through the streets, blew into Helen’s hair and under her skin. She shivered. Maybe if she stayed out here long enough she’d freeze to death.
She leaned back, palms planted flat on the cold ledge of the building she sat on. The wall in front of her was red brick, moss growing out of the mortar like a skin infection. Helen wondered if anyone would ever find her used cigarette in the alley that smelled like what every big city smells like under the surface. She breathed in the rank garbage smell mixed with the fading acrid cigarette smoke. The wind blew again as if to whisper run.
What was Helen running from? The mother who lay shaking and vomiting and dying? The father who was like a ghost inhabiting a man’s corpse, wandering the path he used to know but can’t seem to find? The city where the smog blocked out the stars and Helen felt as if she were suffocating under responsibilities and the concrete was pressing down on her…slowly…slowly choking her?
Run. The wind whispered.
And then who would take care of Helen’s siblings? The ghost father? She wouldn’t leave. She couldn’t leave.
Run. The wind whispered again, but it was faint, diluted by the twisting alleys and exhaust filled intersections of the city.
Helen stood and stuck her hands into the pockets of her worn denim jacket. She’d had the jacket since she was sixteen, sometimes she wondered why she hadn’t gotten a new one, she was eighteen now.
She climbed down the fire escape. The rust peeled off and left smeared brown stains on her hands. The metal rattled like the bars of a prison.
Helen pulled the window to her room up. The window made a squeaking sound as it slid open. Everything in the apartment squeaked, the windows, the doors, the faucets.
She swung her legs into the room and then ducked in. Two bunk beds with maybe three feet of space between them took up most of the room. Her brother Mark was sitting on the bottom bunk to Helen’s right.
“Back so soon?” Mark’s voice was shaky, a wire stretched thin and about to snap.
Helen crossed to the dresser that was wedged beside the door and began to change into the faded cotton shorts and T-shirt that passed for her pajamas. She saw that Mark was reading a book, the pages rustling under his thin fingers. “What’re you reading?” She asked.
Mark groaned and ran his fingers through his curling golden blonde hair. It was the same hair as Helen’s. She remembered hating it when her mother screamed that she hadn’t asked for two kids that weren’t even hers, but the product of a seven year affair. Helen remembered holding Mark behind their bedroom door while their parents yelled, feeling isolated and very much other.
“Edgar Allan Poe.” Mark said, holding the cover up so she could see it. “It’s super depressing, listen to this-”
Helen crossed to his bunk and sat down on the faded blue comforter, curling her knees up to her chest, listening to what Tavvy called “Mark’s reading voice.”
“ From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring-” Mark broke off suddenly and glanced up at Helen, his eyes shining with unshed tears. He leaned back against his pillow and wedged the book into the gap between the bed and the wall. Helen knew what trying not to cry looked like, hell she’d been trying not to cry her entire life.
“Hey you didn’t finish the poem.” She murmured, tapping him playfully on the knee. She had the faint suspicion that the reason Mark was sitting on his bed in the dark while their five other siblings ate, was because of the ghost father.
Well maybe he was a poltergeist father. Made of red smoke, hurling heavy objects in the form of words towards the people he blamed in his twisted ghost brain.
“What’d he say this time?” Helen whispered.
Mark lifted his hand in the air and studied his fingers. “The usual.”
Words about him not being Andrew’s son. Words about Mark being one of the reasons Eleanor had started smoking and therefore the cause of her impending death. Words Helen had heard often enough herself.
She lay down beside Mark and tried to hug him. He pushed her away, almost laughing. “Nope you smell like cigarette smoke.”
Helen grinned at him and he wrinkled his nose in concern.
As she crossed to the door on the way to brush her teeth Mark asked in a quiet voice, “Why do you even smoke anyways?”
Helen turned, the carpet scratching her heels. “Hm?”
Mark sat up. “Well you know it can give you cancer right?” His eyebrows were furrowed. Helen felt a tiny knot twist in the pit of her stomach.
“That’s the idea.”
And away she went, stepping softly over carpet so as not to disturb the poltergeist father or the dying mother. Stepping away from the bedroom where her brother twisted his blankets in frustration. Away from the fire escape and the rooftop where the wind wailed at her to run. Away from the ledge where she felt completely and utterly alone.
This was pretty short, but I’ll update soon (hopefully).