The Disappearance of the Heiress: Part Six
Helene and Myra walked out of the Arts Centre. Helene felt light-headed about killing two Lennies with one stone: she could find both her father and her ex-governess at the address she held in her hand.
“Are we going to get hot dogs now, Mama?” Myra asked, bouncing up and down.
“Wouldn’t you rather find Grandfather first?”
Myra appeared to have forgotten all about the purpose of their mission. “Oh, right – Grandfather. Sorry, Mama. I forgot. But can we?”
They stopped briefly at Hubert’s Hot Dogs to buy a jacket potato for Helene and a spinach hot dog for Myra. The little Draik had, oddly enough, acquired a taste for spinach. “Like your namesake,” Helene said.
“The person for whom you were named,” Helene said. “I named you after my governess. Now, Myra – I know this is exciting, but I have to concentrate on looking for the street name, because” – she took a bite of jacket potato – “all the avenues are very alike. We’re looking for this address, see?”
Myra read it. “We just passed it, Mama.”
“Oh,” said Helene. She had never been very good at navigating. The two Draiks retraced their steps until they found the right street sign. Myra counted aloud as they passed the houses: “Number 12, Number 14, Number 16...”
“18, 20 – 22,” Helene finished. The house they stood in front of was not much bigger than the flat above Fruits of Brightvale, but someone – probably her governess – had grown Bluebells in a window box, which made it look somewhat more homelike than the AstroVilla ever had. Helene suddenly felt a sense of homecoming, even though she had never seen the house before in her life.
Myra stood beside her, rocking on her feet. “Is this where Grandfather lives, Mama?”
Helene nodded. She was a little bit nervous about confronting the family she had been away from for so long and she wasn’t sure of the right way to go about this. Her daughter didn’t give her a chance to decide, but reached up to the doorbell and pressed it. “What are you waiting for, then?”
Myra watched as her mother stood before the doorway, looking slightly ashen. She jumped as she heard a voice coming from the house. “If that’s the Breadmaster, I told you and told you not to ring the bell during the afternoon!”
The door opened and a blue Zafara stepped out. Myra liked her immediately because she was almost as old as Aunt Loren and she had a nice flowery smell. “Haven’t you heard –” She stopped and looked at them questioningly.
Her mother didn’t seem to be able to say anything. Myra guessed who the Zafara was, and said, “Hello! Are you Myra?”
The older Myra stared down at the younger Myra. “Are you here from the Breadmaster?”
The younger Myra looked at her mother. She still wasn’t saying anything, so Myra said, “No. This is my mama. Her name is Helene. We’ve come from Brightvale to look for my grandfather, and I think the Draik at the Arts Centre said he lived here. Didn’t he, Mama?”
The Zafara looked from the older Draik to the younger one. She cocked her head as if remembering something that had stayed in her memory for years and years. Her mouth opened but no words came out.
“Myra,” croaked Helene. “I’m so sorry I never came back. I should have known better.”
“Helene,” the Zafara whispered. “It can’t be you. You – you vanished – all those years ago. Oh, hon, I never forgave myself. Your father was so kind to me – he even rehired me – but I knew it was all my fault. I almost gave up – hoping – that you’d ever come back –” She burst into tears.
“Myra,” Helene said, alarmed.
“I’m sorry!” cried the Zafara hysterically. “It is you, isn’t it? You’ve no idea of how many Draiks came forward claiming to be you, though we haven’t had anyone for five years. Oh, Helene – I never thought I’d see you again – and you’re so old – and grownup – and you’ve got a daughter. She’s so beautiful – what’s her name?”
“Myra,” Myra announced, “like you.”
This made the older of the two Myras sob harder. “Myra, calm down,” the Faerie Draik said sternly. “I didn’t come all this way to make you cry.”
The Zafara wiped her large eyes. “I’m sorry,” she said again pathetically. “I’m hopeless, aren’t I? I cry at anything these days – even at a billboard advertising the Beauty Parlour, because the blue eyeshadow on the Usul made her look sad. Where have you been all these years, Helene? Who was it who took you? They ought to be punished for what they’ve done. Helene – you haven’t seen your father for years – he’s not the same as he used to be –”
Helene was crying now too, despite what she had said to her ex-governess. “Come on,” her daughter said optimistically, having decided it was time to take control. “We live in Brightvale with my Aunt Loren above the Fruits of Brightvale shop. Does my grandfather live here?”
She grew even more concerned as the sky, perhaps motivated by all the crying that was going on beneath it, opened up and started raining heavily. Helene and the Zafara continued to sob. “Isn’t that just perfect?” the Zafara said, laughing in between her tears. “I guess you’d better come inside. We’re going to get wet.” The two Faerie Draiks and the blue Zafara entered the house and closed the door behind them.
The corridor they entered was small and narrow with a few bad watercolour pictures on the wall. The older Myra led the Draiks into a small sitting-room. Helene could not get over the change in her father’s lifestyle. Even though time had passed in Brightvale, she was finding it hard to believe so much had happened everywhere else. The fact that she hadn’t seen a newspaper for years probably didn’t help either.
The Zafara made a pot of Blairnut Tea and carried it into the sitting-room. “I’m just overwhelmed by it all,” she sighed. “But you were in the middle of telling me about Brightvale. So you and little Myra were living with the Acara when – what was his name?”
“Mr. Regwensop,” put in the younger Myra.
“That’s what he told Loren,” Helene said, “but his real name was Ymer, and his comrade was Zoltan. He told me that – that Papa had actually paid twice as much, and yet –”
“That’s what really makes me cross,” the older Myra with feeling. “They didn’t even have the decency to let you go. They resorted to scaring you into escaping. What drives a Neopet to that will always mystify me.”
Helene was just as eager to hear about what she’d missed as her ex-governess was. “The Draik at the Archives told me that Papa was – was very unwell –”
“He is,” said Myra sadly. “Oh, hon – it’s not that bad – it could be worse. He’s as blind as a Korbat and he’s lost the use of his right wing and he limps, but his mind’s still fresh. Everyone thought it was damaged too, when he sold off the business, but he just didn’t have the passion for it anymore.”
“What’s going on here?” A large brown Draik entered the sitting room. His blank eyes roved the room. “Myra, who are you talking to? Are they selling something? Send them away.”
“He can’t see you,” the Zafara reminded Helene quickly as her face fell. “I’m not sure how he even got out of bed.”
Helene nodded slowly.
“You fuss too much, Myra,” Helene’s father growled. His right wing was scarred and torn and hung limply by his side, and his left leg was shorter than the other. She was taken aback by the change in him. “I know this house like the back of my hand. I’ve been able to walk for the past two days. I don’t need to be in bed.”
“Hello, grandfather!” Myra called out cheerfully.
The Draik followed the sound of her voice. “Who’s that, Myra?”
“Papa,” Helene said softly. “It’s me. I’m sorry I never came back before.”
“Helene?” the Draik said uncertainly. “Myra – who’s that? Is it Helene?”
Helene nodded again, and then realised he couldn’t see. “I’m back,” she said. “I went to the Beauty Parlour to buy some more sunscreen, and it’s taken me a while to find my way home again.”
Her father laughed hoarsely. “I don’t believe you,” he said. “It can’t be. I hear Helene’s voice everywhere, but it’s never her.”
Myra went up to her grandfather and touched his injured wing. “Grandfather,” she said importantly. “My name is Myra, and Helene is my mama. We’ve come all the way from Brightvale to see you and to take you back with us. Aunt Loren said Neopia Central is no place for an invalid, and although I don’t know what that word means I think you should come and live in Brightvale with us. It’s very clean there and –”
“I have a granddaughter?” Helene’s father interrupted. “Helene, you have a daughter? Who is Loren?”
Helene gave a weak smile. “I’m sorry, Papa, but she’s determined to have her way.”
“It is Helene,” said the old Draik, with the air of having fought a very hard battle. He smiled, and his tired face cracked like a Blairnut. The scars on his face disappeared into each other. His eyes travelled blankly down to his granddaughter, who was staring at him very hard. “Helene’s come back,” he said to no one in particular.
“Yes,” said Myra loudly. The little Faerie Draik couldn’t understand why the reunion was taking so long. “But are you coming to Brightvale or not? Aunt Loren will be missing me. Have you ever tried a Shishkafruit, Grandfather?”
“I always liked Brightvale,” murmured Helene’s father. He smiled again, his glassy eyes staring straight ahead of him to where Helene stood. “Oh, Helene – I’m so glad you’re here.”