click here for previous chapter, here to begin at the beginning
special thanks to Prof. Dan Leo for his editing efforts
sabine sat on the bed, looking over the complete rules.
"can you answer them?"
"i can try. my name is helga, by the way."
"i am sure i am pleased to meet you, helga. i am sabine."
"yes, i know."
"are we going to be seeing a lot of each other?"
"oh, yes. read the rules and you will see just how much." helga sat down on the edge of the bed. sabine didn't move away.
sabine glanced back down at the rules. "it says we are to have guards at all times. it doesn't say you - you, personally - are to be my guard. it doesn't mention names."
"i will spend most of my time on duty guarding you."
" who decides that?"
"i do. i am in charge of the guards. sort of." helga looked down. "not officially, officially prue is in charge of everything. but she will let me handle things day by day."
"yes. i can read and write, for one thing. most of the other girls can't. but who knows why - she just likes me. anyway i can pretty much do as i wish."
"and you wish to guard me."
"yes i do."
"and why is that, pray tell?"
"because the first time i saw you i knew you were the one for me."
"oh, a passionate type, my dear." sabine laughed up and looked up but helga wasn't smiling.
"yes, a very passionate type."
sabine smiled. "i hope your passion doesn't run amok and cause you to mistreat me."
"pooh. nobody is going to mistreat you. any of you. think about it. in a year's time one of you will be empress - empress! and twelve others will be very nicely off too - powers behind the throne, maybe. and we will still be guards - or who knows what? ignorant little villagers who can't spell their names. so why would we mistreat you?"
sabine got up and looked out the window. "that is one way to look at it. another way is that maybe none of us really knows what is going on, do we?"
"what's going on is what's going on. you have to accept that. what else are you going to do?"
"i don't know - how about escape?"
"oh, i am disappointed in you! you haven't even been here twenty-four hours."
"what better time?"
helga ignored this. " i thought some of the other girls might talk of escape - some of those airhead looking blondes, but not you."
sabine turned away from the window. "are you going to report me - for talking of escape?"
"no, dummy! we were told you all probably would ask about it and to just ignore it for now."
"dummy! that's a nice way to start our beautiful friendship - by calling me names."
"i'm sorry. it's just that you disappointed me."
"so you are not going to call me names again?"
"no. not unless you really deserve it." they both laughed.
"i thought you might have questions about the contest."
"not tonight." sabine sat back down on the bed and tossed the rules to the side. "i have a year to worry about the contest - that's if i stay here and don't escape."
"why don't we talk about you, helga. what are you doing here, anyway?"
helga lowered her eyes. "it's a job. why do you think i am here?"
"are you from this region?"
"oh, yes. most of the girls - the guards and maids - are from the valley. when we heard about the school reopening - we all thought it would mean a lot of new jobs. for teachers - for the shops. it didn't turn out quite the way we expected."
"oh?" sabine moved closer to helga on the bed.
"we didn't realize there were only a few pupils - and they wouldn't be let out to buy things in the shops. it's not really a school at all - it's a -"
"it is what it is. like a reform school, maybe."
"but only for a year! and then one of you will be empress!"
"yes, you already pointed that out. tell me, would you like to be one of us - one of the contestants?"
"i am not a princess - i could not write a book."
"of course you could - you said you can read and write."
helga looked away. "i don't think so."
"well - tell me, where do you stay when you are not guarding me? in the village?"
"we all have our own quarters - some upstairs, some down."
"but you can go out - down in the valley if you want? you are not held here?"
"no. we can go out if we want. some of the girls are living outside and will just show up for work - at least that is what they plan to do, at the start."
"huh. but not you?"
"no. i like the room i have here - much nicer than what i have outside. besides, prue wouldn't let me be the leader if i lived off post."
" off post. you know, helga, you seem like you are kind of familiar with all this. what did you do during the war, if you don't mind my asking?"
"why do you want to know?"
"just asking. but you were 'in the war' as they say?"
"well, you don't have to talk about it."
"you were a princess - you were probably safe."
"safe enough. until now."
"i think it is very nice that you ask about me instead of just talking about yourself. i was expecting just the opposite."
"that is the way i am. i am really a very easygoing individual, when you get to know me."
"i am a very passionate individual."
"you mentioned that."
"are you tired? after your long day?"
"anything but. i am all wound up."
"i could give you a nice massage. or we could make passionate love."
"if you like."
"uh - don't you have anything else you have to do?"
helga sighed. "yes. you are right, i suppose prue might want me for something. but i can come back later."
"you are very persistent."
"yes, i am. very persistent." helga stood up. "i will come back later, see if you are still awake."
sabine waited until a few minutes after helga left. she got up and opened the door, which was unlocked. the other guard who had accompanied her to her room was seated outside about six feet from the door. she turned and smiled at sabine.