Myka could feel the sunlight behind her closed eyes. It was early. Far earlier than she’d been up in years. (Coming home at dawn didn’t count.) As the cool light crawled across the loft’s hardwood floors she sighed and opened her eyes, half expecting the head of dark hair to be next to hers at it had for so many years.
But those years were now over.
They’d met at an audition of all things. Neither one of them had much of an interest in acting but they needed an in. Access to those who could help them get where they wanted to go. Myka was just a girl from Jersey trying to get away from Hoboken an into the city full time. Helena had come from London on an education visa but after a semester she’d found a job in working on clothes and quit school.
It was clear that neither one of them was there for the role and they quickly struck up a conversation. That had lead to a late lunch and a date later that night at The Loft (the guy at the door had dated Myka’s sister).
And that night, when they collapsed onto Helena’s small pull out bed in the Village…
It had been a revelation.
Six weeks later they were sharing that pull out couch. Myka had a part time job at a restaurant and was going to night classes. Helena continued her work in the Garment District, weaving together fabrics for others while creating those of her own.
“There’s a showcase,” Helena had told her, “a chance to show some of my work. But I need a model and they’re expensive.”
“I’ll do it,” She’d volunteered. “I mean if that’s okay.”
“I’m not sure if I’m ready to share you with the world just yet.”
Myka had blushed and kissed her senseless. They’d been together for seven months and were head over heels in love.
Myka resisted the temptation to reach into the empty space next to her. The ghost of warm would be too much to take at this early hour. They had one last night together and it had brought back memories of the first.
It was too much.
Instead she rolled on her back, turning her head to look at the open closet door. It was dim but she could see that Helena had taken the last of her things. Well, the things that had mattered.
Two years after the small showcase Myka found herself standing backstage at Helena’s first Fashion Week show. When they had talked about the designer’s clothes changing the industry, Myka had pictured herself seated in the audience.
Not as one of the star models showing the incredible clothes that Helena had made.
The article in Vogue had dubbed them “Bering and Wells: The First Ladies of Fashion”. Helena the cutting edge designer that was giving the establishment push in a new and vibrant direction while Myka was her muse and the hottest model on the catwalk since Twiggy.
It was all a bit much at times but when her eyes found Helena’s across the dressing room it was worth it.
Myka closed her eyes, batting back the swell of memories and allowing the weight to settle on her chest. After a moment, she turned her watery gaze on the large black and white portrait than hung on the wall. It had been a candid moment at Studio 54 during one of Steve’s endless parties. They had been in the basement, laughing with Andy and Liza when someone had snapped a picture. Helena had loved it so much she’d given to Myka on their fourth anniversary.
“Care to explain?” Myka held up a copy of Page Six. She’d just returned from a Vogue shoot in Los Angeles and had missed Helena’s birthday.
“Whatever do you mean darling?” Helena continued to prepare their tea.
“And I quote,” she growled. “What’s this? Could there be a new muse in the making? Fashion’s first lady, Helena Wells was spotted with her top assistant Giselle (no last name) at a late night dinner at Sardi’s. Sources say that this isn’t the first time that these two lovely ladies have been spotted sharing an intimate dinner for two.”
Myka finished. Helena continued to focus on the tea.
“What is there to say,” Helena finished with their cups, setting one down in front of Myka. The designer continued to lean on the kitchen counter. “Yes, Giselle and I have made several trips about town, sometimes ending in a tryst. I daresay it is no different than your relationship with that photographer Sam Martino. If I am to believe what I’ve been told about what happened in Paris and Milan?”
She pushed off the counter. “I heard he was doing a shoot for Cosmo last weekend in Los Angeles as well.”
Myka shut her eyes again and took a deep breath. The sun continued to rise, lighting the first day in nearly seven years that she would be without Helena. The first day of her life alone.
The door slammed on the shouts and cheers as 1978 became 1979. Even though she knew better, Myka had agreed to attend Steve’s New Year’s Eve Party at 54. Many of their friends would be there and it would be nice for them to spend some time together. Ever since that day in the kitchen in September things had been strained. Both were working more. Helena on a new mass market line and Myka with small acting roles on TV. She had even started taking classes.
They were both familiar with the many temptations that night’s like these could offer and over the years they’d both resisted.
So when Myka walked in on Helena and one of their regular servers, a handsome man named Nate in the restroom it was too much.
When Helena didn’t come rushing out after Myka had slammed the door, she knew.
The ball hadn’t quite dropped but her night was over. It wasn’t a lie when she told her friends she felt ill.
The funny thing was that the infidelity wasn’t what bothered her the most. They both had been unfaithful over the years, having never truly declared themselves exclusive.
It was in that moment, when she’d seen Helena clutching the counter as Nate took her from behind, she felt nothing. Not anger. Not sadness. Not shame. Nothing really at all.
Just vaguely disappointed.
She began to walk down the back street behind the club in a stunned state. There had been a time where Helena was her world. There had been a time she would do anything for her great love. And Helena had felt the same, done the same.
So when did things change?
“Love,” Helena’s voice broke her train of thought. The echoes of the city counting down bounced off the brick around them.
“Let’s go home,” Myka held out her hand.
Helena took it and squeezed.
Myka opened her eyes and sat up on the bed. Sweeping the room she spotted an old and battered sketch book propped up on a chair at the kitchen table. It was the first one that Helena had shown her all those years ago. The one that had the designs that had launched their careers. It meant more to Helena than anything else she owned.
“The one thing that I ask,” Myka had said when Helena asked her to move in, “is that you give all you have to give to this relationship. For as long as you can.”
Helena had kissed her with so much passion she nearly forgot what she was going to say next.
“Okay,” Myka pulled her lover closer. “And that we’ll always be thankful for the time we have together.”
“I will. I am” Helena smiled brightly. “I love you Myka Bering.”