All right, this sprung from the short I posted called Once.

As the summary makes clear, it'll eventually be about an 'odd couple' their oddness being that Helen is underaged. If you have any problems with this... don't read. I will not be writing sex scenes, but I'll try to throw in as many steamy bits of citrus as I can to satisfy you romance fans. Before you go screaming statutory rape, go check my profile for my rant on it, because I won't be repeating myself.


The house was an impressive, two story structure set near the water, separated from the beach by a short, stone wall. It was turned so that it faced the water and across the bay the harbor and the town, which was built up the side of a hill, were visible. Other houses could be seen up and down the beach, but there were acres and trees between all of them, allowing for some privacy.

The house's siding was painted a deep, royal blue while the wooden trim around all of the windows and doorways was white and the roof was slate gray. In the front, a tower of windows projected from the face of the house, positioned between two, second story balconies. Inside, the first floor was an opened floor plan. From the front door, one stepped immediately into the living room. To the left, positioned in front of the tower of windows with ceilings opened the second floor above, was the dining table and chairs and farther to the left was a small table set and then the kitchen. To the right of the front door, just beyond the fireplace, was a doorway that led into the master bedroom.

To the rear of the house was the staircase and upstairs, to the right was an opened, loft room lined with windows on both outside walls, and then a door leading into a smaller bedroom. At the other end of the hallway was another, larger bedroom.

"Well, girls? What do you think?"

Six-year-old Penelope and twelve-year-old Cass looked immediately to seventeen-year-old Helen. The oldest girl faked a smile as she lifted a hand to push her bangs out of her eyes. "It's great, mom," she said plainly.

"Yeah, really great," the other two echoed in resignation.

Their mother smiled broadly, clearly pleased by their answers. "I'm so glad! I think if the movers really get crackin' on this we can be moved in before tonight!" she chirped. "Now, Pen, Cass, I was thinking you two could set up over here in the smaller bedroom and Helen, you can have the larger one over there."

"Why does she get the bigger room? Penelope demanded.

"Yeah, there's two of us!" Cassandra snapped.

"But I'm the oldest," Helen replied.

She ignored her sisters when they blew raspberries at her back as she crossed the hall to the bedroom to the left of the stairs.

Inside, the walls were painted pale lavender while the floors were the same blond ash paneling that could be found throughout the rest of the house. Opposite of the entrance was a pair of French doors that led out onto the balcony and as she stepped outside she realized that a metal staircase connected her balcony to the fenced-in verandah at the back of the house.

She turned around and headed back inside and then back into the hallway. She peeked into the bathroom and sighed as she gauged its size. She'd be sharing with Penelope and Cassandra, neither of whom knew who to respect private space and would go through her things at every given opportunity.

Helen glanced at the mirror and paused to push her hair back from her face, realizing to dismay that she'd need another haircut soon. The wavy, blond locks would need to be tamed or they'd get out of hand. She combed her fingers through her bangs, pushing them across her forehead, trying to fix them to look decent and then running her fingers under each of her eyes to wipe away mascara flakes. Her eyes were the same bluish gray and her skin the same pale porcelain as her sisters' and she had a thin, athletic frame from years of after school activities, from track to soccer.

"Why did you tell mom that?"

Cass was behind her, just visible in the mirror. At twelve, she had taken advantage of her blond hair and, in their mother's eyes, raped the precious fairness with the brightest shade of purple Helen was willing to buy for her. The story, as far as their mother still knew it, was that one of Cass' friends had bought it for her instead.

"Tell her what?" Helen asked as she pushed by her sister and made her way towards the stairs.

"That this place was great!" Cass hissed. "You want to go home as much as I do."

"This is home, Cass," Helen muttered, pausing at the foot of the stairs and unlatching the French doors that led out onto the back patio. "Her and dad are separated."

"Yeah and this isn't exactly the way to get back together!"

The older girl let out a long sigh and turned on her sister, crossing her arms. "Cass, separation isn't really about 'taking a breather' like the counselor said. Separation is basically just another step before divorce. Mom and Dad aren't getting back together."

Cass' expression fell and Helen felt a pang of regret. She knew she didn't have to be harsh, but this was hard for her too. She had had a life once. Now that was gone just like everything else.

"Look," she began, reaching out an arm and pulling Cass into her side, "This is probably good for all of us. It's not going to seem like it right away… but I'm sure we'll see it eventually. Maybe."

***

It was well into the afternoon and the moving guys, who, as a bonus, were fit, young men in muscle tees and cargo shorts, were still helping to arrange furniture and unload the truck.

Helen was in the kitchen, unpacking their meticulously bubble-wrapped and newspaper-padded dishes. They weren't all from the same set. Some were toile patterned, some were solid, some were square, and some were round. They were all unique. The forks, the mugs, the glasses, and the stemware were all the same. It fit their chaotic mix of personalities, Helen thought. That each piece was separate from the others, but somehow still part of the same collection.

"Helen?"

She glanced back over her shoulder, towards her mother, who was standing near the row of cupboards that extended out and formed a wall between the dining room and the kitchen. "What's up, Mom?"

The woman hesitated and then made a move around the counter, letting her fingers glide over the marble of the countertop. The heels of her boots clicked on the glossy, wood floors. She was a statuesque woman with shoulder-length dirty blond hair. "Do you think… can we really do this?"

Helen laughed as she looked back to the dishes and unrolled another newspaper wrap of forks. "It's kind of too late to ask that now, you've already signed the papers for the house," she said. When her mother didn't answer her, she looked up at the woman and added, "We have to."

"Do you think I made the right choice?"

Helen knew that her mother was asking her because she's say yes. Helen would always say yes. "You had every right to."

Mom nodded. "How are the girls handling it?"

"Penelope's six," Helen said with a shrug. "She'll probably spend the next few days arranging and rearranging her stuffed animal collection."

"And Cass?"

The girl spared her mother a sideways look. "You know Cass. She'll brood for a while, but she'll get over it. I'll find the library and leave her there tomorrow. If she can bury herself in a corner somewhere, she'll be fine."

Mom nodded, but she didn't look any more relieved. "It'll be weird, you know," she whispered. "Not having your father around. You get used to a person after twenty years."

Helen looked to her mom again and reached out to rub her arm. "We'll all adjust."

The woman looked gratefully to her daughter and held her arms out, offering a hug, which was accepted quickly.

"And don't you dare ask one of those moving guys to be a bed warmer tonight," Helen murmured. Her mother squeezed her tighter as she laughed, but the girl could tell that it was half-hearted at best.

***

Helen had showered and changed into a navy blue, strapless babydoll top with a pair of denim cut offs. She strapped Penelope into her booster seat in the back of her bright yellow Jeep and headed into town. Cass had stubbornly locked herself in her room with the complete works of Shakespeare and refused to come out. Her loss really.

Linwood was as much of a coastal vacation spot as it was a small town full of old money and old families that had deep roots and tight holds on the community at large. They had come here because it was her mother's hometown and most of her family still lived there, although thus far they had yet to hear anything from them and that was for the better, Helen thought. A visit from Blair and Becky always went hand-in-hand with family gatherings and the longer Helen could avoid her cousins, the better.

Penelope was singing "Kookaburra" in the backseat as the Jeep pulled into town. The palatial residents in town located along the small side streets and looming up over everything else were enormous, Tudor and Victorian-like homes with turrets and spires, all of them painted an array of colors. In contrast, the bank, the grocery stores, and the multitude of little shops were all built from wood and stone, all of them possessing a variety of characteristics from Grecian-like to Colonial.

Helen slowed when she saw a farmer's market set up in a parking lot between a small bakery and a flower shop and she hesitated for a moment before pulling over into an empty spot on the street and parking.

When she slid out of the front seat she earned a few long looks from a group of passing boys. Helen ignored them as she opened the rear door and pulled Penelope out of her booster seat.

"All right, get up," she said as she lifted Penelope up and the little girl wrapped arms around her sister's neck and her legs around her waist.

Helen slid one arm under the backs of the girl's knees to support her as she climbed the curb and started towards the rows of tents and tables.

The locals were fairly easy to pick out as they were giving her long, odd looks as she passed the tables. It probably had something to do with the six-year-old hanging from her neck. They probably thought that Penelope was hers, which seemed appropriate. Mom had warned her that Linwood was still very old-fashioned and wary of "outsiders".

The farmers were nice enough though as she moved from stand-to-stand. They smiled politely and made small talk with her as she paid and then moved on. It was everyone else, the other customers who kept leering at her. It was a problem easily and maturely solved… by making faces right back at them.

"When's dad coming?"

Helen nearly dropped the tomato she was inspecting. "What?"

Penelope leaned back a little to look her in the eye. "When's Daddy coming?"

"Honey, we kind of already talked about this," Helen murmured. "Dad's not coming… I mean, probably not right away."

"Doesn't he love us anymore?"

"Of course he does," the older girl said, trying to focus on the tomatoes again. "But… it's just that he and Mom... you know what? Don't worry about it. He'll be around soon."

Penelope didn't seem entirely convinced by this, but said nothing more. For that, Helen was grateful.


A few notes: There is a bit of a naming theme, at least among the sister. Cassandra was the prophet in Greek myth doomed to never be believed. Penelope was the name of Odysseus' ever-faithful wife. Helen, of course, was Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the world (I chose this more based on her somewhat tragic love for Paris).

All right, I'm begging you guys: REVIEW. I'm really shaky about this story and I want to know what you guys think of the idea. I realize that there's not a lot to go on with the chapter as it is like many first chapters; it's a set up. But please, I'm looking for a fair amount of reviews here.