Helena's chest swelled as she gathered the now-found breath to scream. The mime jabbed the bat in the general direction of her stomach. "Scream and your kid gets it first."
Helena's breath wheezed out and she snapped her mouth shut. Her main goal, now, was to keep Eliza safe, safe from this psychopath. Her eyes wide and her mouth a thin line, she nodded mutely, ironically enough, at the mime.
"Good," he said soothingly. "What's her name, again? Lisa?" He sat down in the corner armchair and crossed his legs, laying the bat over the right knee. The Donald Duck nightlight that Helena had had since she was 17 cast a mellow sheen across his countenance. They could have been discussing taxes over lattes, for how oddly peaceful he was. His eyes had lost their wide glare and now they stood at half-mast.
Helena scrabbled her legs underneath her and pushed against the far side of the bed. "N-never mind what her name is. What're you doing here? Wh-who are you?"
He plucked at a piece of lint on his striped shirt and he chuckled softly. "Helena," he said slowly, flicking the lint in the direction of the bed, "don't worry about me and who I am and why I'm here. I know about you, and that's all that matters.
"How do you know my name, you...." She trailed off as he raised the bat off his knee. His eyes had widened again and she thought it best to keep the name-calling to an absolute minimum. "How do you know my name?" she asked.
The mime relaxed back against the chair and smiled. "That's better, Helena...do you mind if I call you Hennie? It's easier on the tongue, truth be told. I find that the less syllables in the name, the happier I am. Maybe I could even call you Hen? Like Mother Hen?" He barked silent laughter and slapped at his knee. It was the goddamned funniest thing he had ever uttered, it seemed. And, then, like a switch had been flipped, he was all business again, his eyes wide and yellow against the white of the greasepaint, his left hand clutching the handle of the bat tight enough to raise his knuckles into the gloom of the room.
Tears formed at Helena's eyes and she hugged her arms tight across her breasts. "Wh-whatever you want to call me is fine," she said softly. Her options had been severly limited, she saw now; there would be no talking herself through this and, even though she was a well-formed woman, with new muscles from running and weight training, he was a big man--6'3"--and he was crazy. Absolutely nuts. It would be over before it had even begun. And one mustn't forget that little fact.
"Good Hen. What a good Hen," he said. He smiled beatifically at her. The Donald Duck nightlight softened his features, made him almost handsome, in a way, rotten teeth notwithstanding.
"Mommy?" came the call from just outside the door. The mime's eyes shot in the direction of the door and his lips pulled up off his teeth in an unconscious snarl. He looked back at Helena and, across his neck, he slashed his right forefinger, his eyebrows raised. Helena got the point: Send her away, or else.
"What is it, honey?" she managed. She talked to the door but her eyes never left the mime's; they were locked in a deathgrip. If he made one move towards the door, Helena would attack, size difference be damned. He was not going to get to her daughter and she would fight to the death over that very salient point. She reckoned it would be quick, but she would be damned if he were going to touch a fucking hair on her Eliza's head.
"Mommy, I gotta go wee," her daughter said.
"Honey, you're going to have to do it yourself, this time," she said. "Mommy is busy right now."
The mime laughed silently and rubbed his belly. He snaked his tongue through his yellow teeth and flicked at the air. Helena felt a wave of revulsion pushing against the backs of her teeth and she struggled to keep from gagging.
"Do it, Eliza!" she snapped, and immediately regretted it. The mime's eyes had widened at the mention of her daughter's name and he had shifted forward in the armchair, his fingertips dancing, drumming, along the side of the splintered bat.
There was silence from the other side of the door. Just do it, baby, she thought. Just be a big girl and do it yourself, this one time. If you do it yourself, and we get through this, I promise you I'll be there for you until you're seventy-two, if you need me to be.
The silence spun into awkward pregnancy and finally Eliza spoke. "Okay, Mommy. I can do it. I'm a big girl. But I don't know if I'll be that good at it."
Helena realized that she'd been holding her breath and now she let it out, staccato-like. "You'll be fine baby-girl. Mommy just has a headache."
"Okay." Little footsteps retreated from the door and, in the distance, Helena could hear the sound of the bathroom door opening and snicking shut. Keep going, hon. Keep going. She turned her attention back to the mime. He was pantomiming sleeping on a pillow, his hands folded under his cheek. The bat leaned against the edge of the chair, within easy reach. He saw that he had her full attention and he affected a great wide yawn and stood up. From her position on the bed, Helena followed his ascent.
"Okay, honey," he said, "this is all well and good--very touching--but maybe you'd like to get down to brass tacks, now?" He flexed his shoulders and picked up the baseball bat and glared down at her. Smacking the barrel of the bat into his right palm, he said, "You owe me."
She was befuddled. "I owe you? I owe you what?!"
He feinted with the bat and Helena cringed. "Watch your tone with me," he said. "I don't need some made-up rich snob talkin' down to me. I'm not gonna have it."
Made-up rich snob? "Sorry," she said meekly. "What, sir, do I owe you?"
He smiled his awful smile and, like a lizard, flicked the tip of his tongue through his lips. Quick and gone. Helena swallowed some bile. "That's better," he said. "I like the 'sir' reference. Makes me feel all big-time and stuff." He sat on the edge of the bed and touched Helena's foot. With a grimace, she pulled it back, like a turtle's head into its shell, and the smile vanished from the mime's face. "You owe me big-time," he said again, his eyes wide and unseeing.
"I don't even know you," she said, her voice raising.
"Night, Mommy," came the call from the other side of the door. "Mommy? Who're you talking to?"
"Honey, I'm just talking to myself. We old people do that, sometimes. You'll know do it, too, when you get older. Night-night."
There was a pause and Eliza giggled. "Mommy's talking to herself," she laughed. "Night."
They listened as Eliza got into her bed and flicked off the lamp.
"I don't even know you," Helena whispered. "What do you want from me?"
The mime shrugged and began absently caressing Helena's foot and calf. "'What do you want from me?'" he mimicked. His voice got rough. "How about a little fucking respect, to start? I am a mime. I am an actor. I'm not Sir Lawrence of fucking Arabia or Peter O'Toole but I am an actor. I've got my SAG card...." He trailed off and looked at the ceiling. "They should do something about that stain," he said and Helena blinked. "...And so I've been having some rough times. So what? We all have rough times. I do what I need to do to survive. What I don't need is some Madison Avenue high-box belittling me in front of my fucking fans."
"I only said one thing!" she said, pleading. "It was an off-the-cuff comment and I just said it because you were messing with me first, all the time!"
"No matter," he said, gripping the bat tighter. "No matter. Once was enough, Helena. Once was more than enough." He raised the bat over his shoulder, the barrel pointing towards her head, for a moment looking like the Japanese baseball great, Sadahura Oh.
"What fans?!" she cried. "What fans?! You were always there by yourself when I ran past! Doing that box thing!"
With pity, he looked down at her and smiled. "You didn't see the pigeons?" he asked gently.
Uncomprehension flooded her face. "Pigeo--"
"Mommy?!" came the cry from outside the bedroom door. And, with that, the mime, Thomas Allen Redruth, 42 and unemployed, brought the bat down and across her temple in a vicious backhanded swipe, drawing blood, bursting stars before her eyes. The pain was instantaneous and thunderous. She was dimly reminded of falling off her bike as a child and banging her head against the concrete. Teeth-rattling pain. This can't be happening to me, she thought. This can't be happening. I'm the good girl. I'm in the white hat. I'm supposed to win. Who else can star in the "Helena Show" but me? This is not happening.
It was happening and the second swipe of the bat caught her full on the mouth, splintering teeth and mashing her lips. The mime raised the bat high over his head. His eyes were wide and his lips were drawn up off his mouth, displaying his corn kernal teeth. All reason--if there had ever been any--had left him. "In front of my fans!" He brought the bat down with all the force that his plus-six foot frame could muster and Helena felt explosive pain...and then knew no more.
A home run, for sure.