I swear I didn’t do it

I pushed open the front door and found Helen inside, sitting cross-legged on the couch.  She’d been staring at the door so that when I entered she was staring at me.

‘What did Mitchell say,’ Helen said.  I saw that her eyes were red.

‘He says I’m the primary suspect.’

‘And what did you say to that?’  She stood up and advanced toward me.  She stopped in front of me with her arms crossed.

‘I told him to fuck off, what else.’

‘I wish you wouldn’t act so immature.’  Helen shook her head.  ‘This is real, you know.  Your father is missing.’

‘Yeah so I heard.  Don’t worry about it.  I’ll find out what happened.’

When Helen spoke it was in her god-dammit-Jackson voice.

‘I wish you’d be more serious.’  Her eyes wavered with anger and…something else.

‘It just doesn’t seem real,’ I said.  I flopped back on the couch.  ‘I saw my dad last week.  He was fine.  Oh sure: he was pissed off, but he was fine.  He’ll be fine.’

‘Well now he’s missing.’

‘I’ll tell you the same thing I told Mitchell.  Knowing my dad he probably wandered off somewhere and forgot how to get home.’

‘You shouldn’t talk about him that way.’  Helen was no longer looking at me.  She stood with her body angled away from the rest of the room.

‘He’s a Calvert,’ I said by way of explanation.

‘So are you.’

‘I know.  I lump myself in there with the rest of them.  Car thief, drug user, and a convicted felon before it’s all over, if that’s the way we’re going to play it.’

‘That’s not funny.’

‘Oh I think it’s hilarious.’  Outside the day had begun to gray.  I wondered where the rest of the Calverts had gone off to.

‘I wish you weren’t so cynical.’  I could only see Helen’s profile, her black hair cascading down her cheek.

‘So do I.  What I really wish, though, is that I was never born.  Then we could all have avoided this whole mess and we wouldn’t have to fuck around with all this shit.’

‘Don’t talk like that.’  Helen rushed toward me and collapsed onto the couch at my side.

‘C’mon, Helen.  Admit it: your life would be better if you’d never met me.  You could have a normal relationship.’  Now I was trying to get a rise out of her.

‘Stop that.’

‘No I won’t stop it.  Admit it.  The best thing for all involved would be for the Calvert seed to get wiped off the face of the earth.’

‘Don’t say that!’

When I saw her crying I tried to offer some support.  I sat down beside her on the couch.

‘I’m sorry,’ I said, now feeling guilty.  ‘I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have said that.’  I rubbed her back with my hand.  ‘I’m just kind of confused.’

Helen shook hysterically and hid her face from me and I realized something was wrong.

‘C’mon, baby.  It’s ok.’  I stepped up my efforts to comfort her, running my hand through her thick black hair.  ‘I’m sorry I’m being such an ass.  I don’t know how to be.  I’m sorry.  It’s gonna be ok.’

Helen opened her mouth to speak but the sobs were heavy and she couldn’t get anything out.  Her face was red and her eyes were red.

‘What?’ I said.  I put my arm over her shoulder and pulled her toward me.  She struggled again to speak but her mouth didn’t work.  ‘C’mon,’ I said.  ‘Say what you’re going to say.’  Helen took two deep breaths and this seemed to ease the sobbing.  When she spoke it was squeezed, rushed, buried beneath more sobs.

‘I didn’t want to tell you because there’s already so much going on….’  She drifted toward sobbing and I realized we’d had this conversation before.  She collapsed into me and I could feel her tears on my neck.

‘You’re not…’  Now I couldn’t bring myself to speak.  I stroked her hair with dead hands.  This is not happening to me.  Not now.

‘I’m pregnant.’  My stomach knotted and turned.  Helen broke down, her face in her hands.  I couldn’t hear her sobs over the screaming in my head.

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