Like many nowadays, I found my partner on the internet. I had been alone forever, couldn't take it anymore. I had a few girlfriends here and there, but it was always complicated. They were never satisfied, I was never good enough for them, they would leave me, I would suffer. I had given up. And then, I wanted to love again, I was tired of being alone. I hung out on websites, and I found Helena.

Helena, she’s from somewhere else. Eastern Europe. She’s lived in China too. I sent a lot of emails before I had her come to my place, in France. She made a long journey to join me. When I welcomed her, I was overjoyed. Like a kid at Christmas. Helena is my gift, my most beautiful gift. I wanted her to be perfect, and she is.

Helena is very, very beautiful, she has a dreamlike physique. I love her body, her mouth, her big eyes, her long blond hair, a little curly, just the way I like it. When we go out together, all eyes are on her. On the street, in the shops, on public transport, it’s incredible the effect she has. When we walk into a restaurant, often people’s conversations stop. Men give me a little smile as if to say “Well done, man.” Women are almost shocked: they’re jealous, it’s normal. She’s a movie star, my girlfriend, I’m proud of her. And she, she remains impassive, superb, above all those eyes fixed on her. A movie star, that’s what she is. Above us mere mortals. And she only has eyes for me.

That’s what my colleagues at the office told me. We often go to karaoke together, we like it. One night, I introduced Helena to them. She didn’t sing, she’s shy. She observes, all this is exotic for her, different from where she comes from. That night we had a good time, she hit it off with my office buddies. They tease me a lot but that’s what we do among us. They’re happy for me, they can see Helena and I are in love. The two of us, we stick together; even to sing, I hold her in my arms. With alcohol, some get a little too close to her, but it’s okay. Helena remains sober, stoic, that’s her character, that’s also what I love about her. Anyway, we spend the evening drinking and singing, I’m happy. The next day, my colleagues congratulate me on “this beautiful catch”. They’re not very subtle, but it makes me happy. Among men, we’re reserved. And Helena seems to like them, that’s important too. I want her to be happy.

I want Helena to meet my sister, we’re close. I’m the little brother she’s always protected. That’s her role, it’s cliché but that’s how it is. We have a date at the fair near our place. It sets up every year on the banks, at the beginning of spring. It’s a meeting we never miss, my sister and I, since childhood. We gorge on churros and cotton candy, I win her stuff at the stands, we laugh our heads off on the rides… Even as adults, we keep this ritual, these few hours stolen from our childhood are precious to us. For the first time, we’ll be three this year, and I hope for all the years to come.

When she sees Helena, my sister doesn’t say anything. She even takes a step back. She looks surprised. I make the introductions, say some banalities, my sister barely responds to me. It’s rude and it’s not like her. It annoys me; what, Helena isn’t good enough for me? We pass by the shooting gallery and I stop, tense. I grab the rifle the carnie hands me and I load it. Helena is right next to me, my sister watches us from afar. In sniper position, I focus on the balloons dancing in their cage. What’s wrong with my big sister? For once that I’m with a woman who loves me, is she jealous? (sound of the shot). No, because I suffered, with the girls, I was too nice all the time, I got screwed over. (sound of the shot). But that’s over, the little guy everyone pities, the one who needs defending (sound of the shot). I don’t need anyone (sound of the shot), now that I have Helena by my side (sound of the shot). No one. (sound of the shot).
Yes, I nailed them all! First shot, every time! The carnie smiles at me, he’s impressed! I turn to my sister who finally smiles, too. Wow, I’m proud of myself! I kiss Helena and I get her a plush keychain. My sister joins us and helps Helena attach it to her belt.
There, she’s back to herself, I think. Always a little reserved but well, she’s probably a little intimidated. The three of us walk around the fairgrounds. My sister asks me questions about how we met, how Helena and I are living all this… We get on a ride, she sits next to her and holds her arm the whole time, as if she’s afraid she’ll fly away. I think they get along well, in the end. We leave each other happy anyway. I’m relieved.

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It’s the big day. I introduce Helena to my parents. When we park in front of their suburban house, I’m a little nervous. I’ve talked a lot about Helena to them, well to my mother mostly, I hardly ever talk to my father on the phone. They can’t wait to meet her and Helena too, I’m sure. My mother is waiting for us at the front door of the house. I slam the car doors, I take Helena by the waist, I hold her tightly with one arm, with the other I hold the bouquet of flowers for my mother. When our eyes meet, I see the same kind of expression in hers as my sister’s. Surprise, probably. She smiles but it’s frozen. She murmurs a tiny hello when I kiss her and enter the house. My mom looks so small to me.

We settle in the living room, my father is in the kitchen, there are foie gras toasts on the table and a leg of lamb in the oven. It smells good, I’m hungry. We’re welcomed warmly, there’s even champagne. My mother sits opposite us and stares at us, she doesn’t say anything. Well Helena doesn’t seem bothered, she’s used to it. My father comes in, he’s holding a tray with flutes in his hands. Damn, I thought he was going to spill everything when he saw us! Surprise again: it’s amazing the effect this woman has, even on my father! He puts the tray down on the coffee table, I get up to greet him, I give him a hug that I want to be friendly, manly; he looks completely stunned, I feel. I say, “I’d like you to meet Helena, my partner.” My father sits next to my mother. His eyes keep shifting between me and Helena. Well, I hand out the flutes, I open the champagne bottle, I fill the glasses. I want us to toast, it’s a celebration! My father still doesn’t say anything, he downs his glass in one go. My mother doesn’t touch hers. I hold Helena a little tighter against me. I sense discomfort.
I try to break the silence, I throw out some random phrases. My parents are still silent, my mother doesn’t even dare to look at me, her eyes avoid mine. They’re judging me, for sure. Damn, can’t they just be happy for me, for once in their lives?
Then, my father gets up and tells me to get out of his house. I don’t understand. He repeats, boiling with anger : Get out.

My mother takes his face in her hands and sinks into her armchair. I look at Helena, she’s as stunned as I am. I don’t move. My father gets tougher, he tells me again to leave, me and my doll. I’m petrified on the couch.
So he approaches and pushes Helena and me to get up, he’s beside himself now. He shouts at us to leave, calls me sick, perverted.
I’m afraid he’ll go after Helena: we get up, I grab our coats, still my father after us, he’s chasing us! I’m in shock. My father keeps yelling horrible things, it’s violent, it’s unfair, I’ve never seen him like this. I want to defend myself and hurt him too, but I have to protect Helena. This is too much anger. We get into the car. We slam the doors just as my father slams the door of his house, after throwing out the flowers I brought.

In the car, not a sound. What got into my father? And Helena, is she okay?
“Yes, my love, everything’s fine.”
Okay.

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