Chapter 16 - Stormy Weather

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As Jonathon crossed the small living room to go to Helen, he was dismayed by what he saw. She was even more pale than she'd been the last time he'd seen her, and there were dark circles under her eyes, as if she wasn't able to sleep. She was wearing the same black dress she wore to the funeral, and he thought it was probably the only one she owned.

"How are you?" he asked, taking her hand.

"I'm okay," she said quietly, but he could see in her eyes she wasn't, and he mentally kicked himself for asking such a stupid question. Helen's aunt appeared, and he dropped Helen's hand.

"I'll make a pot of coffee and we have a nice lemon meringue pie the neighbors brought over," Mrs. Moore said cheerfully.

Helen winced with her eyes closed, but because Mrs. Moore was standing behind her, she didn't notice.

"Please don't go to any bother for me," Jonathon said quickly, and then said more gently, "Helen, do you want coffee?"

"No, but thank you, Aunt Irene," Helen said, turning towards her.

Mrs. Moore's face fell. "Oh, well – alright," she said, clearly disappointed.

"Thank you," Jonathon said, and waited. Thankfully, Mrs. Moore took the hint and left them alone.

"Come, let's sit," he said, taking Helen's hand again. He kept hold of it as he led her to the couch, not wanting to take a chance she'd sit in another chair. "I wanted to see how you were getting along."

"That was nice of you, but – you shouldn't have," she said, not meeting his eyes while she sat beside him.

"Yes, I should," he said forcefully. "You need someone to look out for you." He was tempted to say her relatives didn't care enough about her to do it, but held his tongue.

"I can look out for myself, Johnny," she said, but based on how badly she looked, he wasn't sure she was managing very well.

"I know this has to be hard for you."

"I can't believe he's gone," she said, almost in a whisper as she pulled a wadded handkerchief out of the pocket of her dress. "Every time there's a knock on the door, or the phone rings..." She shook her head. "I keep thinking they made a mistake. Maybe one of the boys who survived is him, but he got hit on the head and has amnesia."

"Helen–"

"I know! I know it's stupid!" she muttered. "They wouldn't make a mistake like that, but all these crazy thoughts keep running through my head. I can't make them stop."

She wiped her eyes, and watching her, his heart ached for her. "When my father died, I had a hard time believing it too," he said.  "For days I kept expecting him to walk in the door and take over like he always would. I guess it's the shock when you lose someone unexpectedly."

"I guess," she said miserably to the rumpled handkerchief in her hands.

"If there's anything I can get for you, or anything I can do, just tell me."

She shook her head while she kept her attention on the handkerchief in her hand. "No." Then her shoulder's drooped. "Well..."

When she didn't continue, he prodded, "Anything at all, Helen. I mean it."

"Maybe – you could give a message to Billy for me?"

"Billy?" he said with surprise. It was the last thing he'd expected her to say.

She kept her head down as she began pulling and tugging on the handkerchief. "I was going to write you and Billy, but since you're here... Would you tell him how grateful I am he was so friendly, and I'm grateful for your friendship too, Johnny. Thanks for all the times you invited me to your home. I had a lot of fun back then. I'll never forget it."

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