There was an unfamiliar SUV in the driveway when I pulled in coming home from work. I quickly assessed the situation: There was nobody in the vehicle (no tinted windows), and nobody waiting at the front door. It was possible they had tried the back door, but I discarded the notion. The front door was unlocked, and didn't appear to have been forced.

I cautiously entered the house, one hand in my suit jacket's pocket, finger inside the trigger guard, ready to ventilate anybody who tried to attack me. I had taken the gun out of storage after my little girl was...attacked. I should have bought it the second she told me what that bastard Trent Lane had done to his own sister (not to mention her), but I had stupidly thought she was safe.

I heard low talking in the kitchen area, and lowered my guard (by just a hair), as I recognized Daria as one of the voices. She didn't sound frightened, so I walked into the kitchen to see who our guest was.

She looked up at me and, to my surprise, managed a cordial smile. She had hardly changed in the intervening fifteen years. "Hello, Jake," Helen greeted. "You'll never guess who I ran into today at the courthouse."

Daria's flair for sarcasm and understatement was genetic, you see.

I couldn't take my eyes off her. God, she had hardly changed. "Daria, could you excuse...your mother and I?" She nodded, unsurprised, and went upstairs. She had seen the picture of Helen and Quinn, so naturally she recognized the woman (though she hadn't guessed that the baby in the photo wasn't herself).

Helen and I remained quiet until we heard the door to her room upstairs close. "It's funny, Jake," she said to me, the cordial smile twisted into that razor-wire grin (as I thought of it) that she always wore whenever she was pissed at me, or whenever she grilled somebody on the witness stand. "It's funny that, within six months of my moving here to Lawndale, you and Daria show up in the exact same town. Isn't that funny?"

"Helen..." I trailed off.

She placed the palms of her hands flat against the kitchen table, in full-on lawyer mode. "I know, I know, Jake, 'I just want to be close to Quinn'. Doesn't it strike you as pathetic that you want to be close to her, even though she doesn't even know you exist? That, unless I allow it so, she will never know you exist?"

"Daria was never supposed to know you exist, either," I pointed out impotently.

"And yet, she seemed to recognize me today at the courthouse."

The courthouse. Today was Trent Lane's sentencing. I knew Daria would be there, but I had to wonder why Helen was there. I asked her as much.

"Oh, one of my bigger clients had a sentencing hearing today. It was the strangest thing, he burst into song...what?"

My fury was beginning to show, and I had to force it down, lest I allow something bad to happen. "Does this client have a name, Helen?"

"Jake, you know full well I can't divulge -"

"Did you know that Trent Lane put his hands on Daria?"

For once, I was graced with the sight of Helen's mouth hanging open with nothing able to come out. Finally, she managed a weak-sounding "What?"

"I'm guessing Daria didn't tell you that she was acquainted with Trent Lane, through his sister. You know, the one he pimped out and raped -"

"That was NEVER PROVEN!" Helen insisted vehemently.

"Yeah, because it never went to trial! How do you suppose THAT happened?" My voice, as they say, was going up to eleven.

"I was just doing my job!" Helen shouted with an equal amount of volume. Her hands were now pressing so hard against the kitchen table, I expected them to begin to sink in at any second.

"That's right, Helen, for you it wasn't personal! Even though that miserable fucking excuse for a human being TOUCHED OUR DAUGHTER!" I slammed my fists down on the table, and Helen recoiled as if she had been struck.

For the first time, the information seemed to get through to her. "...What do you mean, touched?"

"I mean he wrapped a hand around her throat as an insinuation of a threat of physical harm, and then proceeded to put his hand on her leg as an insinuation of sexual assault."

The color drained out of Helen's face. "You saw this?" she whispered.

I shook my head. "Daria told me. I believe her." I almost went on to tell her about Daria's rape, but closed my mouth instead, as I didn't want to 'beat' my ex-wife so much that I would use Daria's trauma as a weapon against Helen.

Helen looked like she wanted to challenge that statement, but backed off at the last second. "I'm sorry, then," she muttered, facing away from me.

"Sorry for what?"

"Sorry I went the extra mile and ensured that he wouldn't be put in with the general population."

I snorted. "Well, you can't do shit about it now," I philosophised.

We were silent. The digital clock on the microwave marked the passage of time...three minutes went by before I broke the silence.

"I want to see Quinn."

Helen looked me in the eye again and shook her head. "No."

"You got to see Daria, now I want to see Quinn."

"No, Jake."

I rushed around the kitchen table, faster, maybe, than she thought I was capable of. I grabbed her by the wrists and slammed her against the refrigerator door.

"Goddamnit, Helen, I want to see my little girl."

She looked me in the eye and pursed her lips. "No, Jake."

I quivered with anger for several heartbeats. She stared back at me, unafraid.

I lunged forward and smashed my lips against hers, my tongue rocketing forward into her mouth. Her tongue met mine, and together our tongues fought, a different kind of fight.

I let go of her with one hand and unzipped my trousers. Helen looked down at me, then back into my eyes. I could see the undisguised hatred and lust in equal quantities in them. She reached under her skirt, and I heard a tearing sound as she made her panties a non-issue, and then we were lost together.


Afterward, we lay curled together on the kitchen floor, the cool linoleum tiles a sharp contrast to the incredible heat our bodies gave off. She idly played with my chest hair (probably noting in her mind how it was grayer than she remembered) where I took to using my eyes to memorize ever square inch of her all over again.

We heard movement upstairs, and the illusion was broken. She was once again Helen Barksdale, divorcee lawyer, and I was once again Jake Morgendorffer, single dad. We dressed quickly; I used a paper towel to remove the smudged lipstick from my face and...other parts, and she used a compact mirror to help reapply the makeup that had been smudged.

Finally, as we heard the sound of boots coming down the stairs, I whispered to her, "If not for me, do it for Daria. Let her know she has a sister, so they can meet."

She looked thoughtful. "I'll think about it," she finally answered, before going forth and telling Daria how wonderful it was to meet her, she would love to talk with her some more the other time, oh and is this your friend, what's her name, Jane Lane, oh, well, it was nice to meet you too, goodbye.

After Helen's SUV was out of sight (I knew it was out of sight because that's when Daria left her post at the window), Daria and Jane approached me. "We'll be at the arcade until dinner," she informed me after hesitating briefly. She walked towards the front door, but Jane stayed a moment longer.

She pointed to my left ear. "You missed some lipstick," she informed me, before joining Daria and leaving the house together.

I heard a faint chuckle. "Shut up, Old Man," I growled.