Sarah is waiting outside of the police station when Gracie and Mark walk Helena out. She’s on her phone, gesturing wildly. Helena’s heart says oh, because it’s stupid. Mark’s hands are still on Helena’s shoulders, warm-solid-real. Sarah has her back turned. Helena watches her hand fly around her in the air, tethered bird.
“Helena,” Mark says.
“My sestra,” Helena says. Mark’s hands get tighter on her shoulders.
“Don’t you want to see your babies?” he says.
“Yes,” Helena says. “But I want to say goodbye.”
Gracie doesn’t say anything. Outside of the police station her hand is firmly back over her mouth, but her eyes say what Helena’s brain says: you are stupid, you are so stupid. She is never going to want to take you back.
I know, Helena says with her eyes. Her heart says oh.
She shrugs her shoulders back out of Felix’s jacket, drapes it over her arm and carefully steps towards Sarah. This close she can hear Sarah’s phone conversation: look, I know it’s not easy, but I – no, I will, just – Art I can’t—
Helena taps her on the shoulder, and Sarah spins around. Feelings bloom across her face, but Helena has always been bad at those – feelings – so she doesn’t notice them until they’re gone. “I’ll call you back,” she says, and hangs up.
“Helena,” she says, putting her hands on Helena’s shoulders. (Everybody wants to put their hands on Helena’s shoulders. Jesse had put his hand there, but his other hand had held Helena’s hand and that was nice. Sarah’s hands feel like Mark’s hands feel like nothing much, when Helena stops to think about it.) “God, I was worried about you. Had Art seeing if he could get you out, I’m so sorry I couldn’t go in there, was worried they’d recognize—”
“I am not going back,” Helena says, “with you.”
Sarah blinks at her. Helena doesn’t say anything else. “What?” Sarah says, the word very small.
“I am going to the farm,” Helena says, “and they are going to give me back my babies, because they took them from inside of me, and they are missing, and I want them back.
“And you,” she says, “are going to find Swan Man, and bring him home for your brother-sestra. We both have things to do. Sestra.”
Sarah hasn’t taken her hands over Helena’s shoulders, like she hasn’t realized it’s too late for that. She looks behind her. Helena doesn’t look, because she knows what Mark and Gracie look like: two foxes, waiting. She knows where she’s going. The only stupid thing she’s ever believed in was Sarah; besides that, she always knows.
“I don’t trust them,” Sarah says, voice low.
Helena reaches out and puts her hand on Sarah’s face. It means I know. It means I don’t either. It means I’ll miss you, but that doesn’t matter.
(Helena’s heart says oh, but that doesn’t matter.)
“I am good,” she says, “at getting out of trouble.”
“Helena,” Sarah says, sounding exhausted, “I left you alone for an hour and you got in a bar fight.”
“And then I got out,” Helena says. “And now I am here, with Grace and with Mark, having adventures.”
Sarah doesn’t say anything, just looks at Helena. Her eyes are wide and sad. Helena drops her hand from Sarah’s face, which hurts, but she does it.
“I just got you back,” Sarah says. Her voice is so small. Helena hates hurting Sarah, hates it more than anything.
“You have to protect your family,” Helena says. “I have to protect my family.”
She tilts her head to the side. “Sarah,” she says, “I don’t want to have a life that is just waiting in cars for you to be done.”
Sarah bites her lip, and looks away, and then she’s pulled Helena into a hug. This is only the second time this has ever happened. Sarah smells like leather, and someone who hasn’t taken as many showers as they should have. Helena hugs her tight, tight, so tight it’s like she never has to let go. She can feel Mark and Gracie tick-ticking away at the back of her neck, though, and so she loosens her arms until Sarah slips out of them.
She sniffles. There’s blood under her nose, she just realized. So now she just smells blood. Not Sarah. That’s fine, the smell would have gone away anyways.
She holds out Felix’s jacket. “Give this to Felix brother-sestra,” she says, “when you find Swan Man and bring him home safe from the jail.”
“Yeah,” Sarah says, “I’ll do that.” She takes the jacket, sweeps her hair out of her face. “Helena,” she says, “if you get in trouble, or if you don’t want to be there, you come home, you got it? You come straight home. Go to Felix’s, or Art’s. Alright?”
“Okay,” Helena says. She folds her hands behind her back so she does not touch. “Take care of them,” she says.
“Yeah,” Sarah says, and she looks away. Helena could take a step forward, and take that jacket back, and climb again into the passenger’s seat of Sarah’s life, but how long until Sarah locked the doors and left her there? How long until Sarah drove some place she did not want Helena to follow? How long would there be a place for her, really, in a world where Sarah wept for Helena and then the next day left her in the car alone?
“Goodbye, sestra,” she says.
“Bye, meathead,” Sarah says. Don’t call me this, Helena thinks, Helena wants to say, just to make it easy. But she doesn’t. She turns around and makes her way back to Mark and Gracie, tugging down the hem of her borrowed shirt as she goes.
She doesn’t say anything. Mark puts his hand on her back and steers her away, and she doesn’t turn around. She looks at Gracie. Gracie looks back, and doesn’t take her hand away from her mouth, and says: there is no choice you could have made that wasn’t a mistake.
I know, Helena tells her. Her heart just keeps on saying oh.