Freedom Lane: Helen’s Cellmate
“It sounds pretty racist to me,” Da’Quarius said.
“All I’m saying is that there shouldn’t be any black characters in Star Wars,” Tony said. “Think about it. Where are black people from? Africa! The beginning of Star Wars states that this takes place a long time ago in a galaxy far away. The humans didn’t come from earth. Africa and America are on Earth. Therefore, there can’t be any African Americans in a story where there is no Earth.”
“You ever hear of suspension of disbelief?” Da’Quarius asked.
“Don’t try and confuse me with your big words,” Tony said.
“The kid’s just trying to say that you shouldn’t be worried about race,” Paulie said. “Just enjoy the movie without worrying about who’s black and who’s not.”
“The race isn’t what bothers me!” Tony said. “Look, it was never established that there was a planet where humans evolved into separate races like on Earth. Are blacks in Star Wars from a completely different planet than the whites? Is there a planet where whites and black were both conceived like on our planet? Are there Mexicans too? What about the chinks? If George Lucas explained this, then I wouldn’t have an issue.”
“I don’t think Lucas needs to explain any of dat,” Da’Quarius said. “He needs to figure out why there are so many humans and only one or two of every other species in da universe.”
“And blacks in space don’t both you one bit?” Tony asked. “Because it’s bothering me.”
“See!” Paulie said, throwing his own hand in the air and letting it fall. “This is where you sound racist!”
“When’s Pimple Puss coming in?” Tony asked. “He’ll back me up on this.”
“Deliveries start at five,” Paulie said. “And you’re not wasting dinner rush time with this nonsense!”
“What about that chick on the enterprise?” Da’Quarius asked. “Uhura?”
“That’s Star Trek,” Tony replied. “And that’s different. They’re from Earth, so they’re allowed to have blacks in space.”
“I think you’re out of line,” Paulie said. “So blacks aren’t allowed in space in Star Wars? Where do you get off telling blacks when they are and aren’t allowed in outer space.”
Tony started to get flustered. “That’s not…”
“Yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “Should dey be ploughin’ at da space plantations on asteroids in your racist version of Star Wars?”
“Nuts to you both,” Tony said, waving the pair off with both of his hands. “You got a customer anyway, boss.”
“Hi,” an old woman said, walking towards Paulie. She looked as though she was in her seventies, but she was built like she was all muscle. She had a head of gray, spiked hair. “Are you the owner here? Paulie Ventriglio?”
“I am,” Paulie said. “Unless you’re a solicitor or a lawyer.”
“I’m neither,” the woman said, smiling. “My name is Bea, and I’m looking for your sister, Helen.”
“What do you need Helen for?” Paulie asked. “If you don’t mind my asking.”
“I don’t mind,” Bea said. “I was Helen’s cellmate up in Havenville Pen, and we agreed to meet up once we both made it to the outside. It only took me a little longer than her.”
“It’s happenin’,” Da’Quarius said with wide smile and glee in his eyes. “I’ve been waitin’ a long time fo dis day. Da biddy prison gang ’bout to get back together!”
Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness
Season 6, Episode 1: Helen’s Cellmate
“Your teacher from school called,” Rose said, sitting across from Da’Quarius at the dining room table. “He says that you’ve had trouble seeing the board at school. I think we should get you to an optometrist. You might need glasses.”
“I can see fine,” Da’Quarius said. “Mr. Hessman is just tryin’ to start trouble again.”
“I don’t think so,” Rose said. “I’ve noticed it too. I’ve seen you squinting when you read or try and watch TV.”
“You’re just tryin’ to distract me,” Da’Quarius said. “You don’t want me findin’ out what kind of things Helen and her cellmate are plannin’ now that she’s broken out of da joint.”
“Nobody has broken out of anything,” Rose said, sighing. “Bea did her time, and she just wants to catch up with Helen. That’s all.”
“Den why you sound so worried?” Da’Quarius asked, losing his smile. “You know you have nothin’ to worry about, right?”
Rose looked towards the kitchen door. Helen and Bea were outside, catching up on old times in Havenville Penitentiary. “I know,” she said, sounding like she wasn’t sure if she believed her own statement. “Hey! Don’t try to change the subject. You’re going to the eye doctor and getting checked out, mister!”
“Damn,” Da’Quarius said. “It almost worked too.”
“We sure had some good times,” Bea said. “I can’t believe you’re out here, living the suburban life. The Helen I remember passed the time by writing, bartering bitches for cigarettes, or making custom dildos out of whatever we could find around the prison.”
“Ha!” Helen cackled. “I nearly forgot about those fake ding dongs. I wish I still had the prototypes I made when I got out. I’d be a rich old bitch right about now.”
“So this is what you do now?” Bea asked. “You sit around and hang out with your partner and that kid?”
“We do stuff,” Helen said. “Just the other day we went to three different tag sales. I haggled this guy good. I bought a lamp for a dollar. Jackass wanted fifteen for it!”
“This is what I’m talking about, Helen,” Bea said. “All the stuff we talked about never happened. Remember the dreams we had as we sat in each other’s arms and watched the moonlight through the cell window? The heists and the assassinations and the revolutions. It’s like you got out and let it all go to hell.”
“That was a long time ago, Bea,” Helen said, turning away from Bea. “Those things lost their luster when you realize the price that has to be paid for your freedom.”
“But you got out early, Helen,” Bea. “You made it our earlier than me and the others.”
“But a price had to be paid for that,” Helen said. “Like I said, Bea, that was a long time ago.”
“That’s my point,” Bea said. “You’ve been out a long time, and you’ve done none of what you wanted to do with your life.”
Helen took a sip of her iced tea and looked towards the fence.
Rose was looking for Da’Quarius to tell him that she made him an appointment to see the eye doctor that afternoon. She walked into his room to find him doing homework at his computer while wearing an old pair of Helen’s octagonal reading glasses.
“That’s it,” Rose said. “I caught you red-handed, mister. Let’s go. Get in my car.”
“Come on,” Da’Quarius said, hiding the glasses under his opened notebook as if Rose hadn’t already seen him wearing them. “I was just takin’ a goofy picture as a joke. I’m gonna send it to Flounder in a minute.”
“Oh no you weren’t!” Rose said, standing by the door. She started walking down the stairs and towards the front door. “The eye doctor was nice enough to give us an appointment today. I just want to see how bad your eyes are.”
“No,” Da’Quarius said, following Rose down the hall and into the den. “Black guys don’t wear glasses.”
“Yes they do!” Rose said. “I see them all the time. I just caught you in an old pair of Helen’s glasses, disproving your own point.”
“Go with Rose,” Helen said, coming in the den from the kitchen with Bea behind her. “I’ve seen you staring at that phone of yours. You probably burned your damn pupils out with the radiation that comes off that thing.”
“I’m not going,” Da’Quarius said, crossing his arms and standing his ground. “I’m not going to be some four-eyes in dreadlocks.”
“You can pick out whatever stupid glasses you think look cool,” Helen said. “Just Shutup and get the hell out of here already.”
“Really?” Da’Quarius said, turning to Rose.
Rose sighed again. “Sure,” she said. “Whichever pair of frames you’d like.”
Da’Quarius left the house. Rose took one look behind to see Helen laughing with Bea on the couch, recounting the time Helen knocked out some other inmate in the prison showers.
“I won!” Tony said, running out of Paulie’s office with his arms in the air. Paulie walked out of the mens room with the newspaper under his arm.
“Calm down,” Paulie said. “What the hell were you doing in my office?”
“I was on the phone with the radio station!” Tony said, unable to calm himself down. “I won. I was the eleventh caller. I can’t believe it. I won!”
“What the hell did you win?” Paulie asked. “Dinner with a super model?”
“Better,” Tony said. “I won tickets and backstage passes to see Taylor Swift next Saturday night in Hartford!”
“Oh!” Paulie said. “You think I’m going to give you the night off to see some painted-up tart prance around stage like she doesn’t care what her parents think of what she’s doing?”
“DON’T YOU TALK ABOUT TAY-TAY THAT WAY!” Tony said, turning on Paulie and shoving a finger in his face. “She’s been through enough without enduring your judgement!”
“You better tone that attitude down if you want me to give you a Saturday night off, you stunad,” Paulie said, sitting in one of the booths.
“Please,” Tony said, getting on his knees and folding his hands. “You know how much this would mean to me.”
“I actually don’t know,” Paulie said. “This is this first I’m hearing about your obsession with this broad. Get Pedro to work the kitchen for your, and you can go. Cover for me tonight, though. I’m going to head over to my sister’s for dinner. I need to make sure this business with her old cellmate is going to be alright.”
“You got it, boss,” Tony said. “I got you covered. Thank you so much.”
“Don’t mention it,” Paulie said.
“Madon!” Paulie said, walking through the door of his sister’s house and hanging his jacket on their coat tree. “What’s with those specs, kid?”
“I needed glasses,” Da’Quarius said. He was wearing large, bright yellow frames. “Rose and Helen said I could get any pair I wanted.”
“I would have gotten something more inconspicuous,” Paulie said.
“You just jealous cuz I look cool as fuck,” Da’Quarius said. “Is Tony serious, by the way? He’s been blowin’ up my phone about winning Taylor Swift tickets all day.”
“That gagootz,” Paulie said. “He won tickets to this concert, and now I’ll never hear the end of it.”
“He knows this concert is for girls my age, right?” Da’Quarius said. “Why’s he think I wanna go with him anyway? He knows I’m not into this pop shit.”
“He wants you to go with him?” Paulie asked. “You know what? You better go. Keep him out of trouble, you dig?”
“Do I have to?” Da’Quarius asked.
“I’d consider it a personal favor to me,” Paulie said.
“Fine,” Da’Quarius said. “I’ll do it, but you owe me.”
“Paulie!” Rose exclaimed. “Thanks for coming over!”
“You kidding me?” Paulie asked. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”
“Paulie!” Helen said, coming out of the kitchen with a casserole dish full of lazy lasagna. “You met Bea already, right?” Bea took the seat next to Helen.
“Sure did,” Paulie said, sitting across from Helen. “I’m glad I can help you find your way around. Any friend of my big sis is a friend of mine.”
“Likewise,” Bea said, smiling.
Rose stood in the den, watching the exchange of pleasantries, but not joining in.
“Rose,” Da’Quarius whispered, standing next to her. “You alright?”
“I’m fine,” Rose said as if she were coming out of a trance. “Let’s go eat.”
Rose sat in her living room after the dishes from dinner were cleaned up and Paulie had gone back to his pizzeria to help Tony close up for the night. She was about to turn on some TV when Helen and Bea joined her.
“Rose,” Helen said, sitting on the couch next to her. “Bea has something she wants to ask us.”
“It can wait if it’s awkward,” Bea said.
“It’s alright,” Rose said. “You can ask anything you want.”
“I’ll be blunt,” Bea said. “I’m staying at the halfway house since I got out of the slammer a couple of months ago. it’s hard for an old woman like me, as tough as I am. Most of the girls there are little punks who didn’t seem to learn their lessons in prison. They have no respect for their elders. What I’m trying to ask is: Can I stay here for a bit until I’m back on me feet?”
“Helen?” Rose asked, turning to her wife and life partner. “Did you already agree to this?”
“No,” Helen said. “It’s both of our home, so I thought you should be part of decision.”
“I won’t take up much room,’ Bea said. “I’m used to a cell an eighth of the size of this den. I can sleep on the couch with no problem.”
Rose thought for a moment. It would have been easy and convenient to let Bea go back to the halfway house, but she knew in her heart it wasn’t the right thing to do. “OK,” Rose said. “Just for a little while. Until you can find your own place.”
“Thank you,” Bea said.
“See,” Helen said, putting her arm around Rose and giving her a kiss on the cheek. “I told you my woman was a good one.”
“She really did,” Bea said. “She’s been talking about you all day.”
Rose blushed. “Stop it, you two,” she said. “You’ll embarrass me.”
“Nonsense,” Helen said. “Have you seen these shows about Bigfoot, Bea?”
“No,” Bea replied. “What are they about?”
“It’s about these fatties and dummies that think Bigfoot is real,” Helen said. “They go plopping around the woods, claiming they can find him. The one guy who’s both a fatty and a dummy is my favorite. I call him Fatty-Dummy.”
Da’Quarius sat at the kitchen table, eating a bowl of cereal with his dog, Dutchie, laying on his doggie bed in the corner when Rose came in. “I’ll be right back,” she called into the den. “I just need a glass of water and an aspirin.”
“Wha’chu doin’ up so late?” Da’Quarius asked.
“I should be asking you what you’re doing up, eating cereal at eleven at night,” Rose said.
“I always eat cereal before bed,” Da’Quarius replied. “I’m havin’ Trix tonight. You wanna bowl?”
Rose picked up the box and looked at the cartoon rabbit on the front. “It’s been ages since I’ve had a bowl of this stuff,” she said, sitting down. “Why not.”
“Alright,” Da’Quarius said. He took a bowl from the cabinet and put it on the table. He poured the cereal in the bowl for Rose and passed her the milk.
“How do the glasses feel on you now that you’ve had them for a whole day?” Rose asked.
“Good,” Da’Quarius replied. “I never knew how shitty my eyes were until you made me get glasses. You sure nothin’s botherin’ you?”
“I don’t know,” Rose sad, pushing the cereal around the bowl with her spoon. “It’s something that happened earlier with Helen and Bea, but I don’t know if I’m making mountains out of mole hills here.”
“What is it?” Da’Quarius said. “I bet you’ll think it’s silly once you say it.”
“Helen asked if Bea could stay with us,” Rose said.
“That’s all?” Da’Quarius asked, nearly choking on his Trix. “I coulda told you she’d ask.”
“That’s not the problem,” Rose said. “Remember when Helen had Moan Rivers stay with us?”
“I don’t forget the clap dat dirty old whore gave me,” Da’Quarius said. “Dat’s fo damn sure.”
“Well Helen didn’t ask me if Moan could stay here,” Rose said. “She just invited her and insisted that I shouldn’t mind. With Bea, she asked my opinion.”
“Maybe she’s learning not to just ask people to stay here without talkin’ to you first,” Da’Quarius said. “It certainly blows up when one of you guys does that to da other.”
“I guess it does sound silly when I say it out loud,” Rose said, looking back towards the den where Helen and Bea were still watching what seemed like an never-ending marathon of Bigfoot shows.
“I known what you’re worried about,” Da’Quarius said. “Bea isn’t some porn star or runaway teenage lesbian or some relative of mine.”
“That’s true,” Rose said. “This is someone Helen was intimate with, and how can I compete with her? I can’t empathize with that part of Helen’s life. I never could. Those two spent eight years in a cell together under the duress of the prison system. Helen makes it sound like fun sometimes, but I know it couldn’t have been.”
“You know Helen loves you,” Da’Quarius said. “You’ve been together since she found you. Did she even visit Bea in prison since she met you?”
“No,” Rose replied.
“See,” Da’Quarius said. “You got nothin’ to worry ’bout. I’d bet any amount of money on it.”
“You’re right,” Rose said, taking a bite of her Trix. “Oh. I don’t remember this being this sugary. I’ll be up all night if I ate this whole bowl.”
“I’ll clean it up,” Da’Quarius.
“Thank you,” Rose said. “I’m going to head up now.”
“Goodnight, Rose,” Da’Quarius said. “Remember: You have nothin’ to worry ’bout. Am I ever wrong?”
“You’re a sweetheart,” Rose said, smiling. “Goodnight.”
Rose walked back into the den to let Helen know she was too tired to sit through another episode, but she stopped when she heard Helen talking to Bea.
“But your plan worked perfect,” Bea said. “I need to know how you pulled it off.”
Helen sighed. “Remember the woman’s photos I had in prison?” she asked. “She sent me the naughty letters too.”
“I remember you had them,” Bea replied. “Although, you were pretty damn sneaky about it.”
“That was Rose,” Helen said. “It took me a while when I got out, but I tracked her down. We bought this house together, we had a life ceremony, and I took her last name. That’s how I’ve been able to hide out without anyone from the joint finding me until you tracked down my brother. I haven’t been Helen Ventriglio in decades.”
“This is a real long con, Helen,” Bea said. “It seems a little far fetched. I know you were good, but you’re almost eighty. Was it really worth it?”
“Shutup,” Helen said. “I’ve answered enough of your questions. We’ll talk more tomorrow when we can.”
“What about our promises to each other on the cold cell floor?” Bea asked. “You said we’d be together once we both got out. I know it’s been a long time…”
“I said we’ll talk tomorrow!” Helen snapped. “And nix the talk about being together real quick. Rose will hear if you’re not careful. I got a good thing going here. Don’t fuck this up for me, Bea.”
The two stopped talking, and Rose took a minute to compose herself before coming back into the room. “Hey guys,” she said, putting on a smile. “I’m bushed. I’m going to head up to bed for the night.”
“Holy shit,” Helen said, squinting to look at the clock above the TV. “Is it really eleven?! I better head up too.”
“You don’t have to,” Rose said.
“Nonsense,” Helen said. She got up and gave Rose a kiss. “I’ll be up in a minute. I’m just going to help Bea get the couch ready, and I’ll meet you up there.”
“OK,” Rose said. “I’ll see you upstairs.”
“I love you,” Helen said.
“I love you too,” Rose said, fighting her emotions back. She turned and went upstairs as Helen showed Bea how to fold out the couch-bed. She went into her bedroom, put on her nightgown, and threw the blankets over herself so Helen would think she was asleep as she cried into the night.
“A player’s gonna play! PLAY PLAY PLAY PLAY!” Tony sung as he came into Paulie’s Pizza from the apartment above it. “A hater’s gonna hate! HATE HATE HATE HATE!” A week passed since he won the tickets and backstage passes to the Taylor Swift concert, making this the night he was finally going to go.
“Will you shaddup!” Paulie shouted from the bathroom. “I’m trying to concentrate in here!”
“I’m just gonna shake!” Tony sung, ignoring Paulie’s pleas from the bathroom. “SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE! Shake it off! Shake it off!”
“I’ll shake you by the friggin neck if you don’t cut that out!” Paulie shouted, flushing the toilet. He washed his hands and left the bathroom with the newspaper under his arm. “What the hell is with you?”
“I’m getting pumped!” Tony said. He was already wearing his Taylor Swift tee shift with her face on it. He had it airbrushed special at the mall.
“Do you even feel embarrassment like any normal human being would at this point?” Paulie asked. “You know what people are going to say when a fifty five year old man shows up for a concert meant for fifteen year old girls right? They say he’s a little foo-foo if you know what I mean. You’ll be lucky if you’re not arrested on the spot.”
“Taylor has plenty of adult fans,” Tony said. “When’s the kid getting here?”
“The concert isn’t until tonight,” Paulie said. “It’s not even eleven in the morning. I told the kid to sleep late so he could babysit you tonight, ya mook.”
“That’s not why he’s coming,” Tony said. “I need him there.”
“For what?” Paulie asked. “I’m still a little fuzzy on why you invited him. He doesn’t exactly look like a fan of this type of music. I think he listens to something a little more…. diverse.”
“Still,” Tony said. “It’s a good thing he’s coming. I told the guy on the radio that I was bringing an underprivileged boy who was a huge fan. Taylor’s going to flip over this! She’ll think it’s a great photo op, and she’ll see what a great guy I am for using my backstage passes to bring this young, under-privileged youth to her concert. Then she’ll fall in love with me, and she’ll fly me to Hawaii, and we’ll get married under the palm trees, and I’ll be a kept man, and…”
“Whoa!” Paulie interrupted. “Does the kid know about any of this?”
“No,” Tony answered. “Should he?”
“No,” Paulie said, smiling. “I don’t think you should mention it at all.”
“I’m off to the concert with Tony!” Da’Quarius called as he walked towards the door, putting his black VSTL hat on his dreadlocked head. “I walked Dutchie. I’ll probably be back before midnight, but he’ll need to go out again before bedtime.”
“Have fun,” Rose said, walking to the door as Da’Quarius put on his sneakers. Da’Quarius looked at her. Her eyes were still red from crying again. Things have gone from bad to worse over the last week, especially for Rose. Helen seemed like she was having a blast hanging out with Bea, and Rose kept her distance.
“I know you don’t wanna hear it from me,” Da’Quarius said. “But you gotta end dis thing with You, Helen, and Bea. If somethin’s botherin’ you, you gotta say it.”
“I can’t,” Rose said, fresh tears forming. “What if it ends with Helen leaving me for Bea?”
“You and Helen have been together forever,” Da’Quarius said. “Helen won’t leave you.”
“And what if she does?” Rose said. “What if I say something that I shouldn’t, and then it’s over?”
“Den it’s over,” Da’Quarius said. “But you can’t just let yourself suffer through not knowin’. Trust me. You need to have this out with dem.”
“OK,” Rose said. “I’ll try to bring it up tonight. You better go. Tony will scalp you if you make him late for his concert.”
“That guy has problems,” Da’Quarius said. He hugged Rose fiercely with the open door behind him. “No matter what, you’ll be alright.”
“I know,” Rose said, letting Da’Quarius go. Helen and Bea came into the den from the kitchen, and Da’Quarius nodded to Rose once before leaving and closing the door behind him. Rose turned around and readied her resolved.
“We need to talk,” Rose said. Helen and Bea turned to her, giving Rose their undivided attention.
“I can’t believe it!” Tony said, walking the backstage area with a bored-looking Da’Quarius walking behind him. Being the winner of the radio contest definitely had its perks. “This is it! I’m going to meet her! I’ve dreamt about this for so long!”
“Calm down,” Da’Quaruis said. “You should see the looks you’ve been gettin’. You’re gonna end up on the sex offender registry before da night’s out.”
“Wait in here,” the representative from the radio station said, opening the door to a sitting room. “Miss Swift will be here in a moment.”
“Aw shit!” Da’Quarius said, lighting up. “Look at all da food in here!” He grabbed a plate and started loading it up with shrimp.
“Don’t eat all of that!” Tony snapped. “She’ll be here soon.”
“What’s up with you and this chick anyway?” Da’Quarius asked through a mouth of sliced cheddar and pepperoni. “I won’t lie; I’ve heard her music on da radio. It sucks, even for pop music. Da lyrics sound like dey were written by people with massive head injuries.”
“Don’t talk like that about her, kid,” Tony said. “I’ll give you a massive head injury.”
“Dis shit is weird, Tony,” Da’Quarius said. “Even for you.”
“You don’t understand her music,” Tony said. “It’s magical. It puts happiness in my mind and makes the darkness go away. I feel like our souls are connected. I’ve known for weeks what I’ve wanted to say to Taylor. My heart is her heart, and my hand is her…”
“Hey hey hey,” Taylor Swift said, walking into the sitting room. “You must be the winner of the contest. I think it’s so cool that you brought this underprivileged fan to see my show.”
“Da fuck you just call me?” Da’Quarius asked.
“I’m sorry,” Taylor said. “I didn’t mean to offend you. I just think it’s awesome that you’re here.”
“It’s OK, Miley,” Da’Quarius said.
“Damn those glasses are cool,” Taylor said.
“Tony has somethin’ to tell you,” Da’Quarius said, noticing Tony’s facial tick.
“Oh yeah?” Taylor said, turning towards Tony. “What?”
Tony just stared, unblinking at Taylor. Beads of sweat broke out on his forehead. His mouth opened slightly, but no sound came out.
“Are you alright?” Taylor asked. “Do you need a water or something?”
“Say somethin’,” Da’Quarius whispered, nudging Tony. “You gonna miss yo moment.”
“Well…” Taylor said, giving Tony one last chance to speak. “My concert starts soon, so I have to get ready. I’ll see you from…”
“I want to cut off your skin and use it like a condom!” Tony suddenly blurted out.
Taylor backed way. “Oh my God,” she said with tears coming out of her eyes. “You fuckin psychopath! Get away from me!”
“Let’s go, Miss Swift,” her body guard said, moving her out of the room. “This guy is probably dangerous.”
“Don’t go!” Tony said, trying to run after her but being held by another security guard. “Our souls are connected! My heart is your heart! My hand is your vagina, Taylor! MY HAND IS YOUR VAGINA!”
“That went well,” Da’Quarius said, ending the video he was taking on his phone with Tony being dragged out of the room by security.
“What is it that you wanted to talk about?” Helen asked, waiting for Rose to speak. “You can just say it, Rose. There’s no point in pussy-footing about it.”
“It’s Bea,” Rose said, forcing the words to come out. “I want to know what’s going on between you two, and I deserve to know the truth.”
“What?” Helen said. “Did you hit your head or something?”
“I heard you last week, Helen,” Rose said.
“You heard nothing,” Bea said, crossing her arms.
“Let her talk,” Helen said. “Go on, dear.”
“I don’t want to play this game anymore,” Rose said. “If there’s some con revolving around you and I being together, I want to know. If you want to leave me for Bea, then I want know that too. If that’s what you want, then I’ll leave.”
Bea stood up. “Better pack your bags, red,” she said.
“Stop it, Bea,” Helen said. “Rose is right. I’ve been playing a game here, and I think it’s time we end it.”
Rose looked down. “Thank you,” she said. “I’ll go.”
“No,” Helen said. “I’ve been trying to figure out how to let Bea down gently, but I don’t think I can afford to be gentle any more. This has gone on long enough.”
“Helen,” Bea said. “What are you trying to say?”
Helen sighed. “Look,” she said. “We shared something in that cell in block A. A love of convenience maybe. The fact is that I fell in love, but I fell in love with the woman in the pictures and letters. I didn’t change my name to hide. I changed it because my father made it hard for me to see any of our family friends when he turned snitch. If I wanted to move on, I needed to change my name. It pained me to do it, but I had to.”
“So our life ceremony…” Rose said. “Was for your name change?”
“No,” Helen replied. “It was because I love you, Rose. I always have. The name change was just a perk. Do you think you were the first one to find me here, Bea? All the others have. Betty, Estelle, and Rue were all here at some point when they got out, and I told them the same thing; I’m happy now, and I don’t want to go back to that life.”
“Oh Helen,” Rose said.
“What about our promise?” Bea asked. “That was…”
“A long time ago,” Helen finished. “I’m sorry I never visited or wrote you a letter to tell you how I felt. I really am, Bea. Please understand that I wanted that part of me in the past. I’m not proud of how I was before I went to jail, and I wasn’t proud of what I did that landed me in there. I’m not proud of what my father had to do to get me out either. I had a new life when I left, and never looked back on the old one.”
“So that’s it?” Bea said. “You’re staying with her?”
“I am,” Helen said, stepping towards Rose and putting her arm around her waist. “And I think it’s time you leave.”
“Fine,” Bea said, throwing up her hands and letting them fall once more. “I miss the days when I can just shiv whatever bitch you had a moist clam for and make you mine again.”
“Those days are over,” Helen said. “And if you talk about shivving my bitch again, you won’t make it to the door.”
Bea laughed. “You haven’t changed,” she said.
“I have,” Helen said. “In the ways that count anyway. All I have to offer is my friendship, Bea.”
“That might not be enough for me, Helen,” Bea said. “I guess I’m an all or nothing kind of gal.”
“Then I guess this is goodbye,” Helen said.
“I guess so,” Bea said. “I had a fun week catching up, though.”
“So did I,” Helen said. “Don’t be a stranger.”
Bea laughed again. “I am a stranger,” she said. She walked out the door and left.
“I’m sorry,” Helen said. “I shouldn’t have said those things, even if I thought you couldn’t hear. She’s been dreaming of this fantasy life we concocted in prison for so long, and I didn’t know how to tell her it wasn’t happening. Postponing it to have a few laughs with Bea probably wasn’t the best way.”
“No,” Rose said. “But I’m glad we hashed that all out. It’s been a rough week.”
“You’re telling me,” Helen said. “I got Spike McClingy hanging all over me, and I couldn’t even get any sugar from you. I’m jonesing, Rose.”
“Well, we seem to have the house to ourselves for now,” Rose said.
“Oh yeah,” Helen said. “What happened to Da’Quarius tonight anyway?”
Da’Quarius sat on the steps outside of the arena as the crowds all poured out. He heard the story over a hundred times from the girls that passed by. It turned out that something had spooked Taylor Swift bad enough to call off the show. She was shaken up pretty badly by some exchange with a crazed fan backstage. The whole event was even trending on twitter thanks to a YouTube video of the entire altercation.
Da’Quarius didn’t want to see the concert anyway, but he was sure it beat sitting on some stone steps in Hartford, waiting for Tony to come out. He was ready to grab a bus schedule when he finally walked through the doors.
“There you are, kid,” Tony said, walking down the steps. “Your uncle would kill me if I left you here.”
“Don’t act like you were lookin’ for me,” Da’Quarius said.
“My bad,” Tony said. “Those fucking security mooks were real thorough. Were you able to pass the time while you watied at least?”
“A YouTube video I just posted tonight got over a hundred thousand hits before dey pulled it,” Da’Quarius said. “So dat was fun for a bit.”
“That’s good,” Tony said. “I’m just glad to be out in the fresh air again.”
“You just happy those rent-a-cops didn’t call the real police on you,” Da’Quarius said. “What the fuck is wrong with you? Dat was some silence of da lambs shit up in there!”
“I don’t know where that came from,” Tony said. “I panicked I guess. I didn’t think I had anything even remotely that dark inside of me.”
“Well you ruined the night for a couple thousand little girls,” Da’Quarius said, getting up. “I guess that’s worth somethin’.”
“Sure is,” Tony said. “If I can’t see Taylor perform, then nobody can.”
“You real fucked up, Tony,” Da’Quarius said. “And you owe me dinner.”
“Only if you don’t repeat what I said to Paulie,” Tony said.
“Sure,” Da’Quarius said. “I won’t say a word.”
“Cool,” Tony said. “How about burgers and milkshakes?”
“Fuck yeah,” Da’Quarius said. “Lead da way, vagina hand.”
Taylor Swift wrote in her journal and doodled in the area on the bottom of the page. It had been a horrible night, but she met who she felt was her soul mate. She knew that every beat of her heart was also a beat of his heart. She knew she shouldn’t be in love this easily, but she couldn’t help it. She had never felt a feeling come on as strongly as this one had.
She didn’t know his name, but she wouldn’t forget the face. She drew her soulmate in her notebook. It was so wrong to be in love with this person, but she couldn’t help it. She drew the boy with the dreadlocks and yellow frames. She drew a heart under the picture too, writing her own name on the left in girly handwriting. She didn’t even know the name of this boy she had fallen in love with, but she would find him. She knew she would.
On the right side of the large heart she drew, she left a blank space.