Today I’m opening up my home (because this place is very much like my home) and inviting someone very special in. This is one of those guests you make a of fuss over. You break out the good wine and the best glasses. You light the candles and put on some funky new music because you really want to impress her. You play it cool while trying not to jump up and down and squeal. So in my best casual voice, I’ll invite you to join us. Sit down, pull your feet up and get cozy because our favorite Dilettante, Helena Hann-Basquiat is here. And she has a story that will entertain and delight you. It will leave you wanting more, which is good since the next chapter is only a few days away and will be appearing on Samara’s blog. This is the second chapter so if you haven’t read the first, you must go over to Lizzie’s place and read the beginning. Enjoy my sweet friends and be sure to comment and tell Helena how much you adored her story…

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“Do you think he could be the one?” the Countess Penelope of Arcadia (which would appear to be a quiet little town where people frequently break into song) asked.

“What?” I laughed. I’d been hearing the name Spenser in association with pretty much everything for the entire week after my brief encounter with the bartender who had been nice enough to find me ruby red grapefruit juice so that I could have a proper greyhound. (I actually had three, darlings, and loosened up nicely).

“You know,” Penny said. “The one to break the curse so that you don’t have to remain a beast the rest of your days and I don’t have to be, um… hey Helena, if I were part of an enchanted castle, what kind of furniture do you think I’d be?”

“A toilet,” I said, rolling my eyes at her. “Now eat your pancakes, Lady Flushington, we’re going to be late for the train.”

“You know, I’m going to let that slide, Helena, because I love you so much,” Penny said, frowning.  “After all, it’s a castle, right, and as all of the humans have been enchanted, the only person who would need a toilet would be the beast – that’d be you, by the way – and so I’m sure you’d have your own toilet. I would be a toilet in one of the guest bathrooms that never get used anyway. So if you want to shit on me, you’ll have to find some other way.”

I resisted the urge to change the subject into the dangerous messages for girls in that movie, or to suggest that the whole thing is akin to Stockholm Syndrome, and should have starred Patty Hearst as Belle.

Instead, I changed tactics.

“You let him call you Penelope,” I said.

“Oh, I didn’t let him do anything,” she replied with an eye roll of her own.

“Yet,” I winked, and Penny had no words. She just gaped at me, her mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water. Finally she laughed at me.

“Whatever,” she said, and downed the rest of her coffee. “Let’s go.”

Penny knew already what I hadn’t even considered. Penny is far more attuned to what’s going on than I am – I quite frequently have my head up my ass, and not in a good way.

Is there a good way to have your head up your ass, Helena?

I think there is in France, darlings.

But as for me, I thought that Penny had fallen for the handsome bartender – the way she was going on about him, I’m sure you would have thought that, too.

So when Penny showed up with him that night, I was sure that my suspicions were confirmed.

Here’s where I confess to some of that bad behaviour I alluded to before, darlings. I don’t know whether I was jealous (and in retrospect, isn’t that a laugh and a half) or if I was just feeling maudlin and bitter, but rather than be my charming and entertaining self, I spent the evening complaining about men. In fact, I pulled out my stories, some of which you’ve already heard, as case studies as to why men cannot be trusted, why men are dogs, and why the only good thing about a man is between his legs, and how thanks to modern technology, I could buy one of those at the store.

I got caught up in heartbreak, self-absorbed and full of poison, and talked all about old boyfriends, but most especially Robert, who I’d left my home for and moved all the way to California to be with. I reminisced about a time we’d found ourselves drunk and naked on the private beach of some music producer in Malibu, and how we, as I so charmingly put it, re-enacted the zodiac symbol for Cancer in the moonlight, with the surf crashing on the beach behind us.

A hint for you, darlings – it looks very much like the number that can be expressed by the mathematical equation 70 – 1 = X.

Solve for X.

I got drunk, and railed about love. I was a complete and utter mess. I talked about wonderful things, and I talked about horrible things, and the underlying theme began to slowly come into focus, and that was:

“Why am I alone? What’s wrong with me?”

Spenser looked shell-shocked, but then he did something that made me feel both silly and at the same time a little better.

He shrugged, and then crossed his legs in the Lotus position, and lowered his hands, palms up, onto his knees.

“Om, llama llama llama,” he deadpanned, and I confess I broke out laughing, and then excused myself. I locked myself in my room and cried into my pillow. I was embarrassed and angry with myself. I felt like I’d just vomited all over Spenser, and as, at that point, I was still pretty sure Penny was interested in him, I felt terrible. If I ruined it for her, I’d never forgive myself.

When I re-emerged, Spenser had left, which was the plan all along, and Penny was waiting for me on the couch, watching Sherlock and no doubt fantasizing about her beloved Cummerbund Bandersnatch.

“Well, that could have gone better,” she said, and the fact that she hadn’t slipped into her trademark Dickensian street urchin voice told me that she was serious.

“I’m sorry, Penny, I don’t know what came over me,” I hung my head. “I hope I didn’t screw things up for the two of you.”

“The two of us?” Penny laughed. “Are you blind. Excuse me – are you fucking blind? It’s not me that he’s taken with. God, Helena, you really are rusty. You’re all he talks about – where’s Helena? When are you going to bring Helena back around? Take me to your Helena… and so on.”

“Oh, please,” I said, waving her away with the back of my hand.

“Oh, please yourself,” she snapped back, and then put a hand over her mouth. “Oh, wait, is that what you were doing in your bedroom all this time?”

“Not amused,” I said.

“That’s my line,” the Countess said, slipping gently into a posh, Windsor Castle-esque accent. “Cheerio. Tut tut. Yes. Quite. Off with her head.”

“He’s a child,” I said, not meaning to be cruel, but Penny nonetheless was not amused.

“We are not amused,” she said. See – I told you she wasn’t amused. “Besides, my good woman, he’s not a child. He’s actually…”

She mentioned an age that was almost, but not quite ten years younger than I. He was about mid-way between Penny and I, and to me, the logical choice would have been Penny. Penny’s pretty awesome, and don’t ever tell her I said so, but damn that girl is beautiful. Like, traffic stopping gorgeous. She doesn’t see it, and certainly, hers is an unconventional beauty (you may recall her black, sometimes pink, sometimes blue, sometimes green, sometimes orange hair, and her penchant for dressing like a gothic version of Alice in Wonderland) but for those with eyes to see, Penny is something to fantasize about.

“But what does he want with me?” I asked. At some point – perhaps it was earlier in the evening when I’d spilled all my messy past all over the floor – I seemed to have lost my self-esteem.

“Well, with the way he was looking at you, I’d say he wants…”

Penny mentioned a few things that I wouldn’t find objectionable, and a few I’d never heard of.

“Do people really do that?” I asked her, intrigued.

“Well, I may have made that last one up,” she admitted. “But doesn’t it kind of sound fun?”

“I’d be worried about getting toothpaste in sensitive areas,” I said.

“Yeah, but his breath would be minty fresh afterward.”

“You’ve given this quite a bit of thought, haven’t you?”

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I don’t exactly have a boyfriend,” Penny explained.

“And I don’t know if I’m ready for one,” I said, giving Penny an awkward grin.

“And yet, you’re curious,” Penny said, brightening. “Admit it. You’re like that monkey that goes on an ether bender and bites the man in the yellow hat.”

“I don’t think George ever bit the Man in the Yellow Hat, Penny.”

“Well, not in the actual books, no. It was in one of the deleted scenes.”

“I see,” I indulged her. “Well, sure, I’m curious. Curious enough, I suppose.”

“Great,” she said. “Then tomorrow night, you and I will be going out. There’s this ‘80s cover band called Duckie’s Pompadour playing at a club downtown, and Spenser will be there.”

“Duckie’s Pompadour?” I laughed. “John Hughes is spinning in his grave.”

“Not at all,” Penny said. “You’ll love it. They play pretty much every song from Pretty in Pink, Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller, Sixteen Candles, you name it.”

“Oh, but Penny – I made a fool of myself tonight,” I said, shaking my head. “Don’t you think I scared him off?”

Penny laughed. “I don’t think you get it – he’s positively enamoured with you. It’d take more than a little maudlin misandry to frighten him away. Just wait until he sees you in the midst of a depressive episode, or – hey, you want to get some Chinese food? Huh? Get that all-important MSG headache experience out of the way for the poor guy?”

“Gee thanks, Penny. I don’t know about this. I don’t know if I can face him again after tonight.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t know. You had no idea he was here to see you.”

“I don’t know,” I repeated.

“And you won’t know until you give it a chance,” she said, staring at me with her big brown eyes. “Please Helena? Say you’ll come.”

I didn’t want to, darlings. I tried to say no.

“I am disinclined to acquiesce…”

“Great, it’s settled!” Penny interrupted. “Tomorrow night at nine!”

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The enigmatic Helena Hann-Basquiat dabbles in whatever she can get her hands into just to say that she has. She’s written cookbooks, ten volumes of horrible poetry that she then bound herself in leather she tanned poorly from cows she raised herself and then slaughtered because she was bored with farming. She has an entire portfolio of macaroni art that she’s never shown anyone, because she doesn’t think that the general populous or, “the great unwashed masses” as she calls them, would understand the statement she was trying to make with them. Some people attribute her with inventing the Ampersand, but she has never made that claim herself.

Earlier this year, she published Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One, and has finished Volume Two and is in the editing process.

Volume One is available HERE in e-book for Kindle or HERE in paperback.

Helena writes strange, dark fiction under the name Jessica B. Bell Find more of her writing at http://www.helenahb.com or connect with her via Twitter @HHBasquiat

“And you can tell everybody this is your song, it may be quite simple but now that it’s done, I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind, that I put down in words…  How wonderful life is when you’re in the world”

-Elton John, Your Song

I occasionally get to participate in a blog-hop with some funny, talented writers. They pick the subject and the rest of us get to write about it. This week the subject is our imaginary friend. I recently wrote about Billy Monkey and all the trouble he and I got in to. I don’t think we need to re-hash his short stint as my partner in crime. Selena was an imaginary friend of a different kind. She wasn’t my creation…. she was inflicted on me.

My sister is 3 years older than me.  And she spent most of our childhood leveraging those three years for all they were worth.  She was older, smarter, cooler, prettier.  I looked up to her, I wanted to be her.  I must have driven her crazy following her around, trying to copy her mannerisms, trying to hang with her friends.  Where she was cool, I was awkward.  Where she had boys of all ages fawning all over her, I was getting into fist fights with the boys on my street.  Where she had perfectly feathered blonde hair, I had mousy brown hair that wouldn’t be tamed, that she “affectionately” called “Greg Brady hair”.

Her.
Her
Me.
Me.

Even though we were very close, we fought often and we fought viscously.  It didn’t take much to set us off.  A simple disagreement would escalate into a scuffle in a matter of minutes.  Some of this was due to the fact that we were constantly in each other’s way.  We shared a small bedroom and a tiny closet and a half broken dresser.  It was tight quarters and her 80’s glam leg warmers and glittery hairspray didn’t mesh well with my dirty socks and endless piles of junk.  But the living arrangement also made us closer.  We would stay up late at night talking in the dark, long after we were supposed to be asleep.  In those moments we were each other’s confidants, supporters, therapists, best friends.  But in the light of day, it would fluctuate from camaraderie to down right brawls.  We would be covered in bloody scratches, pulled hair, bruised limbs, sometimes bloody noses.  I usually held my own in these physical match ups, but in the messy minefield of psychological warfare I was outmatched and outplayed.

She took joy in finding small ways to torture me.  She would wake me up for school in the morning by spraying me in the face with a squirt from a water bottle.  To be fair, I have never been a morning person and the job of waking me up every morning probably wasn’t a pleasure.  The worst was when she would wait until I was walking out the door to the bus stop in the morning and say “Aren’t you going to fix your hair today?”, or “You’re wearing that?” or sometimes she would just look at me and snicker, implying that I looked ridiculous.  I eventually started getting ready at my best friend’s house so I wouldn’t have to go to school with her words echoing in my head all day.

One night she just started talking to someone in our room and carried on a one-sided conversation.  Of course I played right in to her hand and asked who she was talking to.  After pretending to not want to tell me, she finally revealed to me that there was a spirit who lived in our closet named Selena.  It became pretty clear that Selena was on team Kristen and didn’t care much for me.  Selena only communicated with my sister.  My sister would often ask me to do things for her.  “Go get me a glass of water”, “Get up and change the channel”, you get the idea.  I think this is part of the older sibling DNA, they are inherently bossy and demanding.  If I refused, she would just have a little conversation with Selena that would always end in some kind of implied danger to befall me or veiled threat from our closet dweller.

Of course, I kind of knew that Selena wasn’t real.  But after years of looking up to my sister, the power she had over me, coupled with the occasional abuse, it was like a sibling’s version of Stockholm Syndrome.  I bought in to it.  I usually gave in to Selena’s requests because what if?  Selena had an evil streak and I didn’t want to piss her off.  And my sister was incredibly convincing.

Selena didn’t last for too long.  I don’t remember if my sister got bored with the whole thing or if my mom caught wind of it, but eventually she just stopped appearing in our lives.  She is just one part of the timeline of our childhood that all seemed to center around that tiny little bedroom with the broken dresser.

My sister got married after high school and moved out and I had my own room for a few years before I left for college.  She only lived a few miles away, and I loved having a room all to myself.  But I missed her.  In spite of the teasing, the fighting, the manipulating, she was my friend.  No one knows me like my sister knows me.  We can speak volumes with a look, with one word, with a hug.  No one else has shared the experiences we have shared together.  I don’t know if anyone can understand you better than the person you shared your childhood with.  These are the years that form you, that make you who you are.  And your sibling goes through all of it with you.  There’s nothing I can’t talk to her about.  I know that I can go to her, call her, show up on her door step- and she is there for me.  And I can do it with little explanation because she knows me that well.

I still look up to my sister.  We are both married.  We both have three kids.  We still tease each other.  Scars from bloody scratches have healed.  Bloody noses have dried up.  Name calling has been forgiven.  And what remains is the two of us.  I call her on the phone and it’s just the two of us and I’m back in that little bedroom, laying in my bed in the dark speaking to the night.  Revealing my thoughts, my feelings, my insecurities or frustrations or joys – and she is there.  She is still that little girl in the bed next to mine listening and confiding.  She is still the one who understands, she is still the one who is there for me.  She is still my best friend.

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