Here's the second part of Helen's story. More's to come. I'm starting to get really into this story...and I have to admit, I'm quite pleased with myself about it. :P Enjoy! :)
As Helen and her siblings tromped through the door, she heard it--that tone of voice her mom used when she was upset, anxious, or worried. It had already been a really strange day. Mom hadn't gone to work, and had asked Eleanor to stay home from school. No answers had been given, no explanations. Mom had asked a neighbor to make sure the girls got to and from school safely and quickly.
And there Helen was, walking into the moment that would change her life, not really even realizing it. She slowed down at the sound of her mother's anxious voice, and looked down at her younger siblings, holding a finger to her lips to signal quiet. She walked, or rather crept, into the kitchen where her mother and older sister sat, gesturing for her brother and sister to follow behind her slowly. Mom looked up.
"Hello, Helen," she said, quickly wiping a tear from her red face. Eleanor stared down at her glass of water, not speaking, not looking, not moving. Helen stopped suddenly and waited for an explanation.
"Jamie, Katherine, why don't you two go play in your rooms for a few minutes?"
Jamie and Katherine looked at each other, then at their mom, then at Helen. Again they looked at their mom.
"Well...okay," replied Katherine slowly. And she led Jamie off to her room, quietly shutting the door, sensing something unsettling.
Helen stood stock still, numb.
"Sit down, Helen, dear."
Helen slid into the chair across from her mom.
"I need to tell you some things."
"Is it dad?" Helen was suddenly panicked and frenzied. Something was wrong, terribly wrong. "Why didn't you go to work? Why did you ask Eleanor to stay home? What's going on?"
Eleanor still stared at her water.
"Helen, honey, it's not dad," replied Diane. "At least, it's not only about him. But...there's going to be some changes around here...and they are connected to some choices your dad has made." She sighed. "Or rather been forced into," Helen heard her murmur.
"Yes? I'm listening! Tell me!" Helen was desperate.
Diane looked up. "Do you remember the last letter we got from your dad?"
"Yes," said Helen. She memorized all of her dad's letters word for word. They were so special, so dear.
"Do you remember, at the end, when he wrote the name, Sergeant Milo? And it was in a small, small print? And we were...confused?"
"Yes," Helen replied, puzzled. She had brushed it off as some sort of mistake he had made. She had guessed that he had meant to write it on a different piece of paper. He was, after all, on a tight schedule, and if she knew her dad, she knew he could get absent-minded sometimes when under pressure.
"I wasn't really confused," Diane continued. "I mean, for a moment I was. But you see, Helen, your father got wrapped up in a very serious, very secret matter in the army. It's the development of some new weapons. Very helpful, but very dangerous weapons. And, well, you now how your father is. He loves to be of help, and he's so patriotic, and he's good with any kind of machinery. A friend of his recommended him to the more secretive departments of the army and it flew from there."
Helen shook her head. What? Stories like this only existed in spy books and mystery books, didn't they? Or did they? Diane rested her hands in her lap and sighed again.
"And?" Helen knew there was more to the story.
"And now, he's in trouble because of those weapons. His whole division is. But especially him. And the enemies overseas will do anything to take him out."
"Take him out? Anything?"
"Yes, anything," said Diane. "Including tracking his family down."
Helen let out a deep breath. Now she understood. Partially. She was dazed.
"So? What does this mean for us, mom?"
Diane placed a hand on her daughter's back. "It means that we have to go into the protection of the army. We have to split up, hide, lay low...at least for a little while," she said quietly.
"What do you mean, split up? We're a family! And we're kids! We can't just split up!"
"Helen, it's the only way! I can barely keep the family afloat financially, anyway, and the army will house, feed, clothe, and educate you all if we go into hiding with them. It is," she sighed and said again, "the only way."
"Helen." Eleanor looked up for the first time and spoke now. "Mom is under pressure. We all are. But we need to be strong for each other."
Helen looked up at Eleanor. Eleanor gave her a pleading look. Helen sighed and looked at her mother.
"How can I help?"
"All of you will be split up in two pairs. Both pairs will travel out of state, and I'll be taken into hiding out of state, too. We will stay with different hosts wherever the army decides to send us."
Helen just stared. Pairs? Hosts? They were going out of state? Wherever the army decided to send them?
"Helen, are you okay?" She suddenly felt a tear slip down her cheek, then another, then another, as her mother's arms embraced her.