Leda
Jack Swenson
Break
Don't blame me for what happened. I warned her about that Turk. Watch out, I told her. He'll turn your head. He'll sweet talk you into leaving your husband, and that's what he did. Now her husband is on the warpath. He'll kill them both if he catches them, he says. I don't think he'd kill Helen; he's gaga about her. But he'd kill the handsome foreigner, oh yes indeed. He'd tear him to pieces with his bare hands.
You can't say I didn't teach her about that kind of man. And I know. I fell for a trifler once myself. Yes, yes, I did. I'll tell you about it if you promise not to tell anybody else. Don't tell my husband for Gods' sake! He'd kill me, I know he would. Oh, he wouldn't do it himself. He'd get the Chief of Security to get one of his boys to do it. A bigshot like him wouldn't do it himself. That's not how things work.
Anyway, let me tell you about my lover. He was the most beautiful man I ever saw. He had the whitest skin! And he was so graceful; I just loved to dance with him. It's odd that a man that ungainly was such a good dancer. The dance floor was his milieu. He was rather odd looking, I suppose, so pale, with such fair hair, and his neck was unusually long and his head small. But he was magic, that man! I would have done anything he asked me to do. And I did. I'll let you in on another secret. Helen's not Bigshot's daughter. His little darling. Now wouldn't that give him fits if he found out? Ha! And if he found out who the father was, that would be even worse, because there wouldn't be a thing that he could do about it! Oh, it would be almost worth it to tell him my little secret just to see his face.
Let me tell you something, dearie. Don't marry for money; marry someone you love.
What? Does Helen love the cub? Maybe. I know she doesn't love her hubby. The only reason she stays with him is because of the child. And speak of the devil, here she comes now. Hermione, come here and sit on Granny's lap! I'll tell you a story. (She loves it when I tell her stories. Her favorite is the one about the soldiers who hide in the wooden horse and then come out at night and kill everyone.) That's a girl. What's that, Darling? When's Mommy coming back? Soon, my little princess, soon. My goodness, you want to get down already? All right. There. Walk, my precious, don't run.
Yes, indeed. Helen will be back soon. Sooner than she'd like, perhaps. If I know what's what—and I do—once he has his way with her, he'll send her packing. Men! Men are beasts, if you want to know the truth.
Jack Swenson has never had a story published in The New Yorker. He is very proud of this accomplishment. Many of his stories have been published online, most recently in Pindeldyboz, Underground Voices, augang, ken*again, and Flash Forward.