His place was in a better neighborhood. He buzzed in Helene. She laid her guitar case and backpack in the elevator as it slowly rose. Noticing her reflection in the clean steel, she bent down and took out some concealer from her bag and dabbed over the circles under her tired, green eyes.. The door opened to the apartment, which was reconstructed into a studio. He stood in the middle of the floor with his hands on his hips staring at her. Two women and a man, all holding guitars turned to look. Embarrassed, she cooly put the makeup away.

“Hey, I’m Helene Troy. “

Everyone smiled. He strolled over and put his large right hand in the middle of her back. She hoped he wouldn’t feel the sweat and grime of her night .

“Join us Helene. I told everyone about you. We hope you can help. This songwriting session is going nowhere.”

She put her backpack and guitar case down next to a set of old cameras. There were three of them. She removed her acoustic guitar and dug a pick from her jeans pocket and put it in her mouth while she tuned. The pick smelled like stale beer. Nausea overwhelmed her. Her knees buckled and she fell. The thud of the guitar matched the bump her head made on the hardwood floor.

“Helene, are you alright? Should we get you some ice?”

She looked up and saw one of the women.

“I’m sorry. I’m not that drunk or high or anything like that. I just haven’t eaten or slept. I guess you want to me to get the hell out of here.”

Helene recognized the woman’s face and voice.

“Oh my god! You’re Ramona Gallery! I have, like 3 or 4, 3, I only have 3 of your Cds, but I’ll get more!”

Ramona Gallery grinned. The lines around her 42 year old hazel eyes expanded. She lifted Helene up with her arms then bent down to pick up the guitar.

“I’m not that drunk either and I never eat enough. But I’m not worth fainting over. I saw your band, Slipper Socks Medium, at The Duke night before last. You guys are major.”

Helene was starstruck. She wanted to tell this nice woman how she made her love music when Helene was 10 year old, but refrained. She followed Ramona to the other musicians and began strumming with her idol.

This is a 400 word fiction challenge response to my blogging friends Angela and Galit Breen of . This piece is part of a side story Im working on. You can find the rest here:

 The prompt was this picture:

Today’s song is about where the main character, Helene Troy’s, head and heart are in this moment. She’s regretting the choices she’s made and seeing a chance to change for the better. Pearl Jam’s Black is about regret. Maybe the guitar circle played this song while they warmed to the songwriting process. Here’s Black.