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~*~

Broken and cold
Like a piece of crystal
Laid out in a mosaic
Of shattered pieces upon the ground

Ruby red
Like crimson teardrops
Dripping from my bleeding heart
Splashing on the floor

Intense green jade
Deep abiding envy fills me
Turning my heart to cold, green stone
Not able to let anything in

Deep sapphire blue
Like water frozen for years
Cold and iced over
Protecting deep hurt from years past

~*~

"Daddy!" the small six-year-old cried, reaching one hand out to her father as her mother pulled her away.

"Come on, Helen," Amanda Leighton, formerly Radke, said as she pulled her daughter to the car. After getting both Helen and herself into the vehicle, Amanda threw one last glare over her shoulder at her ex-husband and gunned the engine, peeling out of the driveway.

"Why do we have to leave?" a tearful Helen asked a few minutes later, when the two were well on their way out of the small town of Mistletoe.

"You know why, Helen," Amanda said.

Helen glared at her mother. "I wanted to stay with Daddy."

Amanda shot her daughter a look. "That's enough, Helen."

"No, it's not!" Helen shouted. "I hate you! I want Daddy!"

Amanda immediately slammed on the brakes, stopping dead in the middle of the road. "Helen Elena Radke, don't you ever say that to me again, do you understand? I am your mother and whether you like it or not, you will respect me! Understood?"

Helen glanced down at her lap and gritted her teeth. "Yes, Mother."

~*~

Twelve-year-old Helen Radke sighed as she leafed through the mail. Nothing from her father. Again. By now she had almost given up hope of hearing from him.

It never changed. A card on her birthday every year, sometimes even another for Christmas, but never anything else.

"Helen!!"

Rolling her eyes, Helen got up from her bed and poked her head out the door. "What?"

Helen could see Keith, her step-father, from where she stood, and he did not look happy. "I thought I told you that I get the mail. You need to spend more time on your homework if you want to pass."

Helen sighed. "Keith, I spend 4 hours every day on homework. I'm two grades ahead of everyone else my age, and I get straight A's. Getting the mail every now and then won't kill me. Or you."

Keith just glared more. "If you want to get into Harvard when you graduate high school, you can't afford to be frivolous."

"Oh God…" Helen muttered. "Fine." Going back into her room, Helen grabbed the pile of mail and dropped it over the railing. "Here you go!" Helen grinned as she heard Keith mutter something not very flattering, but decided to ignore it, opting instead to go back to her room to study for her math exam.

~*~

"Come on, Helen, it's not going to kill you."

Helen looked doubtfully at the young man in front of her. "I don't know… Justin, what if I get caught?"

Justin looked pleadingly at Helen. "You won't." He shrugged. "Helen, it'll be fun. Everybody'll be there."

Chewing on her lower lip slightly, Helen thought for a moment. "But what about the report that's due? If I go I won't have time to finish it."

Justin grinned. "I can get someone to finish it for you. Trust me, babe."

"All right," she whispered. "I'll go."

***

"Justin, I could kill you!!" Helen screamed, waving a paper madly in front of his face.

Laughing, Justin held up his hands. "Whoa, whoa, babe, calm down! What's going on?"

Helen slapped the paper down on the table in front of her boyfriend, glaring at him. "The person you got to finish my report? Ripped me off. She stole my thesis and replaced it with this piece of crap!"

Justin picked up the paper and scanned over it. "Whoa," he cringed. "That is pretty bad." He put the paper back down and shrugged. "What do you want me to do about it?"

"I want you to get my paper back!"

"No can do, babe." He shrugged again. "She's in a class. The one that she's handing the paper in to."

Helen let out a growl and stalked away, not bothering to take the report with her, surmising that she could rewrite her report that afternoon and hand it in the next day in class, although it wouldn't be nearly as good as the first.

***

Helen sighed as she walked past her class. Pausing, she debated going in to talk to her professor. Deciding to, she quietly opened the door.

"Justin, this paper you wrote is excellent! By far your best work. I can see this pushing you up to a 3.5 average this year. Now if you could only keep up this kind of work…"

"Don't worry, I have it all planned out."

Helen was about to leave when the professor caught sight of her. "Ah, Helen, come in!"

Hesitantly Helen entered, not noticing the deer-in-headlights look on Justin's face.

"Helen, you must read over this paper of Justin's! Is that all right with you, Justin?"

Justin's mouth dropped open. "Uh… well, um… I mean…"

Helen looked at Justin. "Are you okay?"

"Um, yeah, yeah, sure."

"All right then!" the professor handed the paper to Helen, who noticed first the red 98% on the cover. She flipped open the report and scanned over it.

"Oh my God…" Helen whispered. She threw down the paper and without saying another word, ran from the room.

~*~

"Hey, Helen, wait up!!"

Helen kept walking, even though she had heard Michelle calling after her. She refrained from rolling her eyes as she heard Michelle running to catch up.

"Hey, didn't you hear me calling you?"

Helen slowing turned her head. "Hm? Oh. Michelle. Hi."

Michelle's face fell at Helen's flat tone. "Um, I was wondering if we could study together this evening. I'm having trouble with some things, and I know you're getting really good grades."

"Michelle, come on," Helen said, shaking her head. "I'm not going to let you cheat off me or steal any of my ideas."

"What? Helen, no, I don't want to cheat. I want to study!"

Helen laughed slightly. "Yeah, right. Set your sights on a different victim, it won't be me." Helen kept walking, leaving Michelle standing in the hallway, confusion written all over her face.

~*~

"Miss Radke?"

Helen looked up from her desk as her secretary poked her head in the door. "Yes?"

"You have a call on line one."

"Thank you," Helen said, waiting until the door was closed again before picking up the phone. "Helen Radke."

"Keeping busy?"

Helen smiled slightly. "Hello, Keith. Yes, I'm pretty busy."

"You like your office?"

Helen glanced around the room. "It's nice, thank you."

"You owe me big for this, Helen," Keith's voice was low.

Helen blushed and lowered her head slightly. "I know," she said softly.

Keith sighed. "You're lucky I'm president of this company. Nobody else would have hired you for this position right out of university."

"I know, Keith," Helen muttered, quickly becoming annoyed.

"You don't sound too happy about it, Helen."

Helen nibbled on her lower lip. "I'm just busy," she mumbled.

"Stay that way. Busy and good work get you far."

Helen was about to say I know again, when Keith hung up. She sighed.

~*~

Helen's office door opened. "Miss Radke?"

"What?!"

Selena, Helen's new secretary, jumped. "Um… You - you have a call."

Helen waited a moment, but when Selena said nothing more, she prompted, "Line…?"

"Oh! Um… Line two… He says it's urgent."

"Everything is," Helen muttered. She had been given a promotion two weeks ago, and was barely keeping up to her work. "All right. I'll take it." Selena didn't move. "You can leave now," Helen growled.

Selena blushed and left the office, nearly forgetting to close the door behind her.

Helen picked up the phone, punching the button for line two. "Helen Radke."

"Miss Radke, as next to kin to Keith and Amanda Evans…"

Helen heard nothing more that the man said, as the realization that her mother and step-father were dead hit her with the force of a two ton truck.

~*~

Helen sat, motionless, in the front row of the funeral home. The service was over and most of the guests had left for the reception.

"Helen?" a gentle hand rested against Helen's shoulder. "Helen, honey, come on."

Slowly turning her head, Helen looked up at her aunt. "They're gone," she whispered.

"Yes, Helen," Andrea said in a choked sounding voice. "They are."

"I never said goodbye."

Andrea knelt down in front of Helen. "Say goodbye now. They'll hear you in heaven."

Helen shook her head, but knew it was pointless to argue her aunt's beliefs. Instead, she stood and walked to the double casket. Gently resting her hand against the top, she sighed. "Bastard," she mumbled. Immediately feeling bad, she shook her head and quietly corrected herself. "No, you're not a bastard, Keith. Well, okay, you are, but it's not right for me to say that to you now…"

Andrea watched silently from Helen's seat.

"I guess… I guess I feel bad… you did so much for me… and I never got to repay you. I never really got to thank you. And Mom… God, I don't even know what to say to you! I guess I'm kind of angry. You were never there for me. But at the same time, I never wanted you there." Helen sighed again. "I'll miss you both." Feeling a lump rising in her throat, she whispered, "Goodbye," and turned back around.

Andrea stood as Helen walked back to the row of chairs. As Helen sat, Andrea sat beside her. "No!" Helen exclaimed. "That's Kei… Keith's seat," she finished in a broken whisper, before starting to cry.

~*~

"Helen? Honey…"

Helen looked up at Andrea. "Yes?"

"Honey, you know I love you, and you know I loved your mother and Keith, but darling, it's been a year… you don't have to wear black all the time still."

Helen tilted her head, looking up at her aunt. "I don't. Only at work."

Andrea frowned slightly. "Why?"

"Keith was the one who got me into business. He pushed me to get straight A's in school, and get into Harvard… he got me where I am. And he's gone now. So, when I'm at work I wear black. Because of him."

A slight smile lifted the corners of Andrea's mouth. "You're a sweet girl," she whispered, laying a soft kiss on Helen's forehead. "Have a good day."

"Thanks, Andi."

~*~

Helen flipped through her mail as she walked into her suburban apartment. She frowned, seeing something addressed from her father.

"What the hell?" she muttered, setting her briefcase on the floor and walking to her desk, grabbing the letter opener and slitting open the envelope, pulling out the contents.

Her face drained of color as she read the letter.

My dear daughter,
If you're reading this, it means that I have passed on from this life. I have left all of my worldly possessions to you, Helen. I may not have been able to be there for you while I was alive, but in death, I wanted to give you everything I could. I hope and pray that you can find it in your heart to forgive me, but if you can't, please know that I love you, Helen. And you are always my daughter.
Your father,
Jason Radke

Helen stared at the letter for a long moment, mixed emotions filling her heart. She hadn't thought about her real father in years. All of a sudden, every feeling of betrayal, every angry thought, came tumbling back into her heart and mind.

"How dare he," Helen muttered, still staring at the letter. "How dare he!" she repeated the words in a scream. "How dare he call himself my father!" Anger burning in her eyes, Helen ripped the letter in half, then quarters, and finally eighths. That done, she rushed into the bathroom and flushed the pieces down the toilet.

Back in the living room, she picked up the envelope again and pulled out a copy of his will. Scanning over it, she put it down on her desk and picked up her phone to make arrangements for a flight to Mistletoe.

~*~

Slowing her car down, Helen entered the town of Mistletoe. "It looks the same," she whispered to herself. She pulled out the paper that had her father's address written on it. Thinking back to the road map she had studied before she left home, she decided to take the route that would bring her past her old home.

She slowed and stopped as she got there, sitting in her car across the street from the old house. It looked nothing like she remembered, but it was no wonder, with the sign out front proclaiming it the 'Mistletoe Home For Boys'. She sat there for half an hour, letting memories and pain wash over her before she realized the time and continued on her way to her father's house.

~*~

Helen groaned as she rolled out of bed. Glancing at the clock, she was surprised to see that it was already eleven o'clock, but she blamed her fatigue on the events of the night before. Smiling, she realized that it was now Christmas morning.

The doorbell rang again, and she quickly threw her robe on over her nightgown and ran downstairs. Swinging the door open, she saw the smiling faces of seven little boys and one big little boy.

"Merry Christmas, Miss Radke!"

Helen blinked a couple times to clear the sleep from her eyes and grinned back. "Merry Christmas! Come on in… Just let me get dressed…" Leaving the door open, Helen bolted upstairs to her room, slamming the door shut and quickly making herself presentable.

A few moments later, she came back downstairs to the smell of fresh coffee and eggs cooking. "I could get used to this," she whispered.

"Good," Jimmy said, walking up with a cup of coffee and handing it to her. "That'd be nice."

Helen smiled, thinking back to Wylie's ideas about the house. "Thank you."

"So, Helen… uh… have you ever thought about moving back to Mistletoe?"

Helen rolled her eyes as she took a seat on the couch. "Only for about 3 hours last night before I finally fell asleep!" She sighed. "But I can't."

"Why not?"

"When my step-father died, he left his company to me. I can't just up and leave."

"Couldn't you run the company by the Internet?"

Helen shook her head ruefully. "It won't exactly work that way. But I have a couple of ideas I have to check out." She smiled. "I might be able to work something."

Jimmy smiled. "I hope so."

***

Helen sighed as she walked into her apartment. A month ago she considered this home. Now… it was just an apartment that had her things in it. Placing her bags on the floor, she walked to her desk and sat down, opening a drawer and pulling out a file folder. Opening it, she picked up the phone and dialed a number.

~*~

Gently sliding her key into the lock, Helen slowly opened the door, careful not to make any noise. Creeping into the house, she couldn't help the grin that escaped when she saw the artwork and photos that had taken over the front hall.

She quietly made her way into the kitchen and pulled out a carton of eggs from the fridge, some green pepper, tomatoes and cheese, and a pan, and set about making a large omelet.

Five minutes later, she heard someone walk down the stairs. She smiled as Jimmy entered the kitchen.

"Helen?"

"Hi, Jimmy," Helen said quietly, walking over and wrapping her arms around him. "How are the boys doing?"

Jimmy tilted his head and grinned. "The same as they were yesterday when you called… what are you doing here?"

"I'll tell you when I tell the boys." Helen quickly kissed Jimmy, then went back to the omelet.

Fifteen minutes later, the kitchen was full of young boys, all talking over each other as they tried to eat and wrangle it out of Helen why she was there at the same time. When breakfast was finally finished, Helen led the group into the living room and sat everyone down.

A large smile on her face, Helen said, "I'm moving back to Mistletoe." Cheers erupted from the boys, and Helen waited for them to quiet.

"What about your business?" Jimmy asked once the boys were calm.

"I'm merging my company with another… so I can work online from anywhere. Namely here."

With an excited whoop of joy, Jimmy grabbed Helen around the waist and picked her up, kissing her hard, ignoring the 'ew's from the boys.

"So are you here for good now?" Wylie asked.

"Almost. I still have to go back to close the deal. And I have to go through my parents' house. I never did that when they died."

~*~

As Helen stepped into the house, she smiled, smelling the sweet scent of her Mother's perfume and Keith's cologne.

"Are you sure you want to do this, honey? I can do it if you want."

Helen turned to Andrea. "I'm okay. I want to do this."

Andrea looked Helen up and down. "You're going to have to introduce me to this Jimmy you keep talking about - he's had a good effect on you!"

Helen laughed and with a "Someday!" thrown over her shoulder, started going through the house.

***

"Helen, honey, I gotta take a break. These old bones just aren't holding up like they used to!"

"Andi, you're not old!"

Andrea laughed. "Older than you!"

Helen rolled her eyes. "Not by much!" she exclaimed, referring to the 6 year age difference between them.

"Oh well. I'm still taking a break. Besides, I think you should be the one to go through Amanda and Keith's room."

Helen looked toward the door. "All right. Thanks."

***

Helen sat cross-legged on the floor in the large closet, going through boxes. She frowned when she saw one in the back, labeled 'Helen's Letters'. Pulling out the box, she saw that it was taped shut. "Andi, can you grab me a knife, please? This box is taped shut," she called.

A minute later Andrea appeared with a pair of scissors. "What is it?" she asked, sitting down next to Helen.

"I don't know…" Helen quickly sliced the tape and opened the box, seeing at least fifty envelopes, all addressed to her, and all from her father. Her eyes widened. "That bastard," she whispered.

"Helen? Honey, what is it?"

Helen looked at Andrea with teary eyes. "My father did write to me. Keith took the letters." She laughed slightly. "No wonder he never wanted me to get the mail!"

Andrea wrapped an arm around Helen's shoulders. "Oh, honey, I'm sorry. Why don't you go home for today, I'll finish up here, okay?"

Helen nodded and stood, picking up the box and taking it with her.

~*~

The door opened and Helen stared miserably at Jimmy.

"Helen? What's wrong?"

"Can we talk?" Helen asked quietly, knowing that the boys were in school at that time of day.

"Yeah, sure." Jimmy grabbed his coat and walked out the door. "What's wrong?" he asked again as they started walking.

Helen chewed on her lower lip for a moment. "He did write to me," she whispered. "Twice a year, every year, until he died."

Jimmy frowned. "Who? Your dad?"

"Yeah. But Keith, my step-father, took the letters. He kept them in a box in the back of the closet. I only just found them." A few tears made their way down Helen's cheeks. "I know what he was like, Jimmy," she said, stopping and looking up at him. "He was… wonderful. Loving. Everything I didn't have."

Jimmy wiped the tears away. "Maybe Keith had a reason to keep the letters from you."

Helen shrugged helplessly. "The only thing I can think of was that he was jealous!"

"What about school?" Jimmy asked, remembering what Helen had told him before about her family. "Maybe he thought that if you were preoccupied with your real dad that you would forget about school."

"Maybe," Helen sighed. "But he still had no right."

"No, he didn't. But he had a reason. And there's no going back. So why not forget about what he did, and focus on what you have now? You have the letters. You have me and the boys."

Helen smiled. "You're right. Thank you."

Jimmy grinned back. "My pleasure."

They started walking again, arms around each other. Five minutes of silence later, Helen looked up at him. "Jimmy?"

"Yeah?"

She smiled. "I love you."

~*~

Crimson blood dries, fades
Turning to the rose pink of new love
Where once the darkness of distrust resided
The light of faith now lives

Hard green jade softens, warms
Turning to the yellow sunshine of contentment
Where once the pain of envy stayed
The comfort of fulfillment dwells

Icy sapphire blue melts, flows
Turning to the pale blue of raining joy
Where once the ache of past hurt lingered
The pleasure of certainty remains

Restored, my heart
A crystal picture of my love
A single piece, held in delicate balance
By one who will never drop it

~*~