The Grieving Lady

Helena sat in the corner of a large, brightly lit room, pretending to sip tea from a cup (which hadn't actually even been used). She was dressed in black silk – she had never worn any other color for a long, long time.

Three years. It's been three years. Daisy would have been six now – going to primary school – learning to read – maybe beginning to study violin, like Sonia… And little Frank would have been three – poor baby Frank, who hadn't even a chance to live… Sonia and John would have called Helena a hundred times a day to look at their sweet kids playing – and she would be mockingly annoyed "Dear, I'm trying to study right now!"

Helena took out her handkerchief and covered her face with it, pretending to sneeze. While in fact she attempted to dry the tears that sprang from her eyes. It's been three years since her sister's family and poor young Susanne were all dead – and she couldn't get over it.

Mom, Mary and Mr. Hardman were planning something about a revenge on Cassetti, that horrible man who kidnapped and killed Daisy and caused the rest of the deaths. She would be glad if the plan succeeded. Still, even if Cassetti was dead, that wouldn't bring his victims back.

The girl felt her life was meaningless. Even though dear Mom, Aunt Natalia and everyone else tried their best to revive her will to live – they barely succeeded.

And now Megan, her friend, dragged her to this party. Mom insisted Helena would go. So she went… and was sorry she hadn't feigned a headache or something in time. She felt more out of place than ever – the only grieving person among the cheering crowd.

Suddenly, Helena came back to reality, as a foreign man's voice asked her:

"Do you dance, miss?"

She quickly wiped her face and raised her head. A handsome fair-haired European of thirty years old or perhaps a bit less was looking at her.

"N-no, sir, I'm afraid not," she murmured hastily. He didn't leave.

"You're… Miss Goldenberg, aren't you?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Oh, then, I'm sorry for disturbing you!" the man exclaimed genuinely. "I've read about your tragedy, Miss Goldenberg. My condolences."

"Thank you, sir!" Helena whispered. "No one else, besides my family, thinks I should still be affected… still be mourning… Sometimes I feel I don't belong to this life anymore…"

"I understand it, Miss Goldenberg – my father, mother, and two uncles were killed during the war," he spoke softly. "But pray do not sink too much into the grief. I know the feeling that life is meaningless, but it is not. I believe that the souls of your poor family are praying for your happiness, not for you to give up your own life."

"You 're most kind, sir," Helena said. "I-I'm sorry to spoil everyone's mood now."

"Perhaps you'd like to go outside to the garden for a moment? The sight of people cheering and laughing naturally pains you. I think you'd feel better outdoors. There is almost no one there, the air is fresh and quiet, and the landscape is magnificent."

"I believe you're right," the girl stood up. "I'm sorry, sir – I don't remember your name…"

"Count Rudolph Andrenyi, from the Hungarian Embassy."

"Pleased to meet you, Count."

"So, may I escort you to the garden?"

And Count Andrenyi took Helena Goldenberg by her elbow and gently walked her from the noisy room to the quiet, dimly lit terrace.

She was very lovely, he thought. If only he was the one who could restore her shattered world…