The Way We Get By


Last time with Helene Troy:

A slight summer breeze accompanied Helene and Xander on their walk to her apartment. A few blocks away from her place, Helene realized she was looking more at Xander’s smile than the Jack Daniels bottle peering from her backpack. She texted Darcy several times with no answer. They walked inside her building. Helene fumbled for her keys. Xander opened the manually operated elevator. She saw him look around the dingy hallway and grimace as a roach crawled across faded blue carpet. They arrived on the second floor and opened the elevator together.

“Don’t hate on my place too much. It’s rent controlled and no one ever complains about the guitar playing.”

She walked to the door and put in the key. Xander muttered.

“That’s because your neighbors are probably hiding from the cops.”

Helene laughed to herself then turned around to shoot a glare that startled him.

“Helene, I was joking. I’m stupid. I’m so sorry.”

Unoffended by his remark, she didn’t say so. Helene preferred Xander being a little afraid of her. She placed the backpack and keys on the stained green sofa sitting in the middle of the living room. She took the Jack Daniels from the backpack and walked through the apartment. After failing to find signs of her roommate, she walked into her bedroom and put her guitar next to her bed then opened the bottle. The warm bourbon soothed her sore throat. Xander called from the other room.

“Helene, you want me to leave?”

She took another swig and closed the bottle. She placed it on the nightstand and fell into bed. Realizing how drunk she was, she played out a mischievious scenario in her head, to make him stay.

“Come in here with me.”

He appeared in the threshold of the bedroom. Helene got nauseous as she braced herself on her elbows. Her t-shirt crept up her torso revealing her stomach. She noticed Xander’s eyes looking over her lithe body arched on the queen sized mattress.

“Tell me why you paint, Xander.”

He smiled. Taking a couple of steps toward her, his face blushed through a three-day scruff. He straightened his posture and tossed long strands of black hair from his eyes and answered.

“Because painting makes me feel alive. It’s like having my soul defend me to the world.”

Helene thought it was the perfect response. Her smile was unstoppable. She saw the same passion in Xander that rolled through her.

“That’s what music does for me. I play, sing, and write because I have to. It’s how I fight through each day.”

They looked into each other eyes and exchanged broad smiles. Helene wanted to be sober. She glanced at the Jack Daniels and lost her desire to drink. She rolled her glossy green eyes back to Xander.

“My band’s opening for The Golden Apples around 9 tonight. Do you want to see me all plugged in and loud?”

Xander put his hands in his pockets and rocked in sneakers from side to side.

“Of course I do. I’ve seen you before. A couple of times, actually.”

Helene sat up in the bed and extended her crossed legs in front of her. She wondered if Xander was a fan or something else.

“So you knew me before Mickey’s the other night?”

Xander pursed his lips and looked away.

“Helene, I’m not a stalker, I swear. I was at The Greek last year when Slipper Socks Medium opened for Spoon. I’m a huge fan of theirs. You were amazing that night. I checked out your MySpace after that and admired you from afar. Mickey’s was an awesome coincidence.”

Helene liked his awkwardness. She decided to play with him, again.

“Well, I’ve shown you mine. You show me yours.”

He removed his hands from his jean pockets and struggled to respond. Helene stood, got through the dizziness, and pulled off her sweaty t-shirt.

“I’m going to take a shower. I want to remember this night. Next to the fridge is a cabinet with art supplies. My roommate, Darcy, and I used them to make flyers, posters, band logos, and t-shirts. Draw or paint something on the wall across from the bed. Whatever moves you.”

Helene caught his large brown eyes on her chest. Only a small white bra covered her breasts.

“Focus Xander.”

He blushed again, and turned around to leave the bedroom.

“Yeah, I’ll go get that stuff.”

She opened the nightstand to look for underwear and another shirt. Xander spoke from the door.

“Helene, you’re beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.”

She didn’t take compliments well, especially about her looks. She smiled and moved her hands over her body as she answered.

“Flattery will only get you a hard time from me.”

She bit her bottom lip and continued.

“But don’t stop, okay? Now, go in there for a a few minutes. Tickets for this show aren’t on sale yet.”

This is a new story episode of The Ballad of Helene Troy. You can read the rest of the story, so far, here:

Today’s song started playing in my head as I moved this episode from notebook to computer screen. It’s a simple song about simple pleasures. I think it how Helene and Xander would connect. Here’s Spoon’s The Way We Get By….


7 thoughts on “The Way We Get By

  1. Whiplash, I tell you. This girl just lives… it’s so rock and roll the way you think it must be, poverty and passion and coincidence and luck and talent and rage and sass all balled up in someone too young to contain it all safely.

  2. “Tickets for this show aren’t on sale yet.”


    This is seriously good stuff. She plays with him so wickedly and he takes it so easily. You so easily brought them to the same level here too with his explanation of why he paints. It’s kinda like why we write, and probably how my brother, an artist, feels.

    Great stuff here, Lance. More, please.

  3. I’m still waiting for Helene’s self-destructive other shoe to drop, but I’m pleasantly surprised that it hasn’t yet. I like that she’s struggling (successfully, at least for now) against her more “negative” tendencies. She’s so human. I’m not a bit like Helene (except for having a passion or two) but I can still relate because of her inner battles. I’m very interested to see what Xander paints!

  4. Nice playful interlude – the struggle Helene has with being completely honest with Xander is endearing.

    She’s tough, vulnerable, and in this piece, I feel her taking control.


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