Long Distance

by Stephen Reid

[Author's note: this scene takes place after events in upcoming issues of HELP. If you know the series, you'll recognise the characters; if not, all you need to know is that both of the people herein are just normal. This scene acts more as an advert for my writing on HELP than as a complete story. If you're anxious not to read about events before they occur in HELP, don't read any further.]

The phone purred in her ear, then picked up. The noise felt artificial, like it had been plucked from the soundtrack of an old movie.

"Hello...." The voice was muffled by sleep.

"Jack? Jack it's me, Helen. Did I wake you? Oh, God, I'm sorry. I forgot about the time difference."

"Huh? Helen? Jesus, what time is it...." There was a muffled thump.


"Sorry, sorry... I dropped the phone. God, it's five in the morning. Why in God's name are you calling me now?"

"Jack... I'm in England. Britain. Remember? I left, last night."

"Helen. Oh Christ, Helen. I'm sorry. Man, it's early. I'm totally wiped out. Spent most of the night up with the others. God, I'm sorry. What.. what time is it there?"

"It's just before eleven. I'm in the hotel. Thanks a lot for the car."

"The car? Oh, yeah. It was nothing. I didn't want you to have to rely on that awful transport, that underground thing. It stinks, honest. Take cabs everywhere you go. The black ones."

"And the room."

"You like it? The Lanesborough's my favourite hotel in London. Just great. Did you see the dining room yet? With the arches, and the glass domes? Oh, you'll love it. I recommend the fish and chips."

"Chips.. I love that. I haven't had a chance to look around, actually. I just came in here and sacked out. I can't sleep, though. That's why I called. Just didn't think before I did."

"That's okay," he answered, muffling a yawn. "I'm just glad to hear you're okay. I'm sorry I couldn't come to the airport." A howling, high pitched whine crossed the line for a second. "Helen, you there?"

"Yeah, I'm here. I guess that we should expect some interference - I mean, you are two and a half thousand miles away."

"Yeah, I guess so. Pretty good reception though, considering."

"Mmm. It's almost like I'm in the bed next to you."

"Helen, that's almost indecent, coming from you."

She smiled to herself. "I think I can safely say I wouldn't mind being there. At least, someday."

A warm silence hung between them. The line crackled and popped. "I don't know what to say now," Jack said simply.

"Just say you miss me already."

"I miss you a lot more now you said that to me. Why did you leave if that's the way you felt? I thought you said we needed to wait and see what happened."

"I.. I don't know. Maybe I'm just feeling a little homesick already. Or maybe it's just that absence really does make the heart grow fonder. Besides, I said someday. I'll be back, eventually."

"Any idea when that's going to be? I could save a place between the sheets."

She laughed quietly. "No, I don't know just yet. I got a round trip ticket, but I hope I'm not going to have to use it. I'm going to look for a job, after I finish sightseeing."

"A job? Why? I mean, what's London got we haven't got?"

"Distance. Isolation. A lot less of that superhero craziness. In fact, practically none, the last time I checked."

"But what about your friends, your family... what about me?"

"Don't pull the broken-hearted boyfriend thing with me already, Jack. I only said I was interested in pursuing things with you, I didn't say we were engaged."

"I know, I'm sorry. Just trying to come up with reasons for you to come back, that's all."

"Oh, I'll be back. I just need to sort my head out for a while, and this seemed like a good place to do it. I mean, they speak English, it's a city... what more do I need, huh?"

"Excitement. Bars that don't close before the talk shows. Hell, talk shows - you do know they only have four TV channels."

"I should watch less TV, anyway."

"A decent police system. Clean - hell, straight streets. Big buildings."

"Ah, who needs 'em. If I get a real allergic reaction, I can be back on the next flight outta here, right?"

"Right. And this time, I'll be waiting for you at the gate."

"Aww, you care. That's sweet."

"If I wasn't on the other side of the Atlantic, you'd get a pillow in the kisser for that one, Downey."

She giggled to herself. "All this talking's made me sleepy, you know. It must be infectious. I'd better let you get some shut-eye, anyway."

"That'd be nice. Unlike some, I have to get up and do some work in a few hours. You, on the other hand, will be riding around in a red open top bus with a camera in your hand."

"That's the plan."

"Helen, can I ask you something? What are you really going to do out there? Are you really going to stay?"

She sighed. "I think so, Jack. I've been thinking about going back to college recently. The hard nosed journalism career didn't work out, so I thought I might go back to doing science. I was always a little better at that, anyway."

"I'm sure you're great at whatever you turn your hand to."

"You're just saying that to try and get on my good side."

"Is it working?"

"Like a charm. Consider yourself on the right side of me."

It was his turn to laugh. "Well, whatever happens, you know you're always welcome here. Either at the HQ or my apartment."

"I have both the addresses written down. Don't worry. I'll be back, sooner or later."

"I hope so. Okay, you'd better go - the hotel'll charge you a fortune for a long distance call."

"I thought this room was on you, Mr Eustace."

"Damn. I knew you were too smart for me."

"Take care, Jack. I'll send you a postcard."

"You do that. Bye for now, Helen." He hung up, and then she did too.

Copyright © 1997 Stephen Reid, all rights reserved.
Stephen Reid's Email Address: stephen@mountview.demon.co.uk
Stephen Reid's Homepage: http://members.aol.com/sreidruk/
New Troy Chronicles Homepage: http://members.aol.com/writeruk/newtroy/
New Troy Chronicles FTP Archives: ftp://ftp.eyrie.org/pub/racc/ntc/

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