Links: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4.
Part 5: Meeting "Dad".
After meeting Helen properly for the first time, from then on I went out to the forest pretty much every weekend to meet up with Her. I told my parents I was just going for a walk or going to the library to read up on something, both were pretty in-character for me so they didn't think much of it. Helen and I would sit and talk about things -- I'd tell her about my week mainly and she'd listen, she didn't say much in return though, even when I tried to prompt her she'd still not say much. Sometimes I'd bring her a book to borrow, or we'd look for bits of branch that were good enough to make things from -- she said that she liked to make things but whenever I asked her if I could see the stuff she made she'd just say "maybe" though. Still, over the following few weeks she began to hold herself a lot more confidently around me, and smile when she saw me, rather than getting ready to slam me into the dirt.
I was getting more and more curious as to her human father and where she went home to though. One Sunday afternoon, in late November about a month after we'd first met, I went out to the forest again but this time with the intention of asking her straight. As usual I sat by the big oak tree, waiting for her to show.
I looked up. There was Helen, sitting between the branches of the tree again.
"How long have you been there?"
"I was here when you arrived." she said, grinning a toothy grin.
"If you're so good at hiding how come I found you in the first place?"
"I... tripped over?"
"If you say so."
She climbed down and sat next to me. She was going for a bedsheet dress again that day, a different sheet though, this one more of a floral pattern.
"So, erm... how have you been?" I asked
"Okay, I suppose. It's only been a day." Helen replied.
"Yeah, I know," I was feeling kind of awkward again, not sure what to say. Eventually I ended up asking something like "So, what do you want to do today?"
"Erm, I don't really know." Helen replied, looking thoughtful, "I've never really done anything... with anyone... what kind of thing do you normally do?"
I racked my brain for things that didn't involve public places or going indoors...
I decided maybe this was the right moment to ask the question that had been nagging at me.
"Can I ask you something?"
"Okay, I guess so."
"Is Doctor Troy the human that raised you?"
Helen looked surprised. I could see she was trying to think of some way of denying it, but in the end she just answered "Yes. What made you guess?"
"Well, when you said you were going to get your father the next thing I saw was the Doc leaning over me checking me for concussion, but I think "Helen of Troy" was the biggest clue."
"Yeah, that was kind of a giveaway, wasn't it."
"Pretty big giveaway." I agreed. "So, does he know you've been meeting me."
"D'you think we ought to tell him?"
Helen thought for a moment. "Probably." she eventually said.
"Want to tell him now?" I asked.
"Yeah, come on." Helen sighed. She stood up. Her full height was quite impressive, probably about ten feet tall, and she stood upright like a human, just with those big wings and tail. Altogether she was quite attractive. Very attractive in fact. I'd been thinking that a lot and I was starting to wonder if it was okay to fancy a dragoness. Back then I was just happy to be her friend though, so I would shrug it off whenever I had the thought.
We walked through the forest... well, I walked, Helen took to the brush and skitted between trees. If I saw anyone coming I'd give a quick cough and she'd hide until they'd gone past, but eventually we reached the field behind Dr. Troy's house.
Helen snuck around the back while I went around to the front and rang the doorbell.
The Doc was a little surprised to see me. "Oh, hello. Medical emergency or are you just handing something out for school?"
"Erm, actually Doctor, I followed Helen here." I said. A little bluntly but it got it out of the way.
"Helen?" he asked, raising an eyebrow, "Helen who?"
"Dad, let him in." Helen's voice called from the back room.
"Oh." Troy sighed. "I suppose you'd better come in." He didn't look too pleased.
I followed him to the back room. Now I knew why he had such tall hedges, and lived in this old cottage out here near the forest. Dragon-girl for an adopted daughter isn't an easy secret to keep in the suburbs.
There were some French doors at the back of the living room that lead out into the garden, Helen was sitting on the lawn just outside, looking a bit sheepish.
"Sorry, Dad, I should have told you sooner." she said, looking down at her knobbly dragon-feet.
"How long have you known about Helen?" Troy asked me.
"Erm, about a month now. I came back after Helen pounced me, because, well, I guess I just wanted to check I wasn't mad..." I said. "I haven't told anyone about her." I quickly added.
"Good. Because if you do I will be prescribing you something with a lot of side effects, preferably in a suppository. It might be against good medical practice but when it comes to Helen I can be ruthless, I assure you young man. Now tell me why you are so interested in my daughter."
I gave him a blank look.
"Erm... she's nice... and she seemed like she could use a friend?" I said, in a kind of a half-question way you do when you're not sure if you've answered the question right.
Dr. Troy looked at my worried expression and gave a kind of half-frown half-smile, shaking his head as if to say "well I don't know". He turned to Helen.
"Right," he said, "Helen, go and... show him your room or something, I'm going to make some tea while I think about this."
"Okay, Dad." Helen replied, getting up. "Come on." she said to me. I followed her out into the garden.
The garage at the side of the house had some big doors at the back that could be opened from the garden, big enough for Helen to get through, so she could get in and out without having to go around the front of the house, and inside was painted and furnished quite nicely. There were carpets and the walls were painted a pale blue, lights hung down from the high ceiling, a large dresser stood in the corner, there was a small TV set on a table, and there were two thick king-size duvets spread across the floor with pillows and cushions around them to make a sort of bed, but there was also a sofa too small for Helen to sit on.
"Why the sofa?" I asked.
"That's for Dad when we want to watch a film together or something," she said, "you can sit there if you want."
There were bookshelves too. I had a look at some of the titles. "'Origin of Species', 'Life of Reptiles', 'Chinese Mythology' and 'The Complete Guide to Dragons'? Interesting selection." I commented.
"I wanted to know where I came from." Helen said, watching me from her duvet nest.
Over in the corner a sheet was spread out and under construction was what appeared to be a long Asian dragon made up of woven twigs and branches tied together.
"Is this what you were making from all those bits we collected?"
"Yes," Helen said, "it's not good, I know, just something to do with my time, you know?"
"I think it's great," I said and it was, she'd done a lot with what she had, she'd obviously put a lot of time into it, picking out thicker pieces for the legs, twisted more flexible pieces for the face and used dead mistletoe for the mane. "Have you made anything else?"
"Not really..." she said, shyly, "I paint a bit though, nothing much."
"Can I see your work?" I asked.
"I don't know..." she began
"I promise not to be to critical", I joked.
Helen's face brightened up a bit, she leapt over to a cupboard at the back of the room, she strode over to me carrying a pile of paper and canvases and spread them out of the floor in front of me.
I looked at them, there were a lot of birds and clouds, and flying dragons in the sunset, the forest through the seasons. Some were more detailed and others more impressionist but she obviously had an eye for paining.
"These are amazing," I told her, "you're really talented."
"I'm really not," Helen replied, meekly, "it's just that I've had a lot of time to practice. I mean, what else do you do when you spend so much time alone?"
"I know what you mean." I said. "I draw a bit. Only cartoons really though, nothing like yours."
"You really think they're good?" she asked.
I looked up to tell her 'yes' but as I did I felt a little speechless. Helen was smiling sincerely, her eyes shining a little and her whole posture was more relaxed and loose somehow, and I realised that, even with the face of a dragon, she was actually very pretty.
Eventually I managed to compose myself enough to say "Yes, you're, that is, they're really amazing", snapping my attention back to the paintings.
I leafed through some of Helen's sketches too, thinking that she must have to use one of those big thick pencils that fits in the second hole of a double pencil sharpener, when I came across a pic that surprised me.
It was a sketch of some quite familiar looking spaceships. "What's this?" I asked.
"Oh, erm, I'm kind of a trekie..." Helen said, looking at her feet.
"Yeah, I mean, not for the sci-fi bit, I used to watch it with my Dad, he liked that bit of it, but I like more... how they live in a world where there are all kinds of different alien people and everyone lives together without, you know, judging eachother." Helen said, almost wistfully.
"Exploring space is pretty cool too." I added.
"Yeah," she laughed, "Yeah, you're right." She sat down, cross legged with me as I continued to look at her artwork.
"Seriously? Star Trek?" I said, still not quite grasping the idea "What about Star Wars?"
"Meh, Exciting, but kind of childish, I'm not really into other sci-fi generally... and to be honest I haven't watched Trek in a while either, I used to enjoy it more when I was younger."
"What about fantasy stuff?" I asked.
"Oh no, Fantasy writers are way too prejudiced especially against dragons."
"Oh," I said. I guess she wasn't all nerd then. I was a bit disappointed at that, actually, I was hoping to finally get to play D&D with someone.
At that moment Dr. Troy came into the room with some tea a cup for himself, one of me and a large bowl for Helen. Helen picked hers up and cupped it in her huge hands, daintily taking a sip. I laughed.
"What?" she said.
"Oh, it's just... tea in a bowl... Chinese dragons..."
She gave me a look.
"Never mind." I said.
Dr. Troy sat down on a sofa, taking a drink of his tea.
"Right," he said, "now... I guess you've probably got some questions." He looked at me standing sheepishly next to the bookshelves. "Well, sit down then."
"Okay..." I began.
I gestured vaguely, making a few vocal indications that I'd like to know how Helen came into Doctor Troy's life and what possessed him to raise a dragon as his daughter and how he was keeping all this a secret for so long.
Eventually I managed "How? I mean... Where did she come from?"
Troy looked at Helen, she nodded. "It's a long story," he said, "but I can probably manage an abridged version."
And so, Doctor Troy told me of how a tree had fallen and smashed through his roof in the storms of 1987, and he'd found Helen hiding in the attic, a tiny dragon chick, cold and alone, she must have been blown this way by the storm. Back then she looked like a storybook dragon a lizard with wings, not human at all. Troy had considered taking her to someone, a zoo, a biology lab, but he knew she'd just become a curiosity and what's more he felt a kind of connection with her he knew he had to take care of her and nurse her back to health. He fed her chicken soup at first, since she was too weak to handle solids, and kept her warm with a heated blanket; gradually the little dragon got stronger... and then she started to grow up.
Troy was most shocked when the dragon first spoke. He thought it must be parrot-fashion at first, but she quickly picked up English, and learned to walk on two legs, to feed herself, and even to use the toilet and wash her hands afterwards, in other words she began acting like a human child, leading Troy to give her a human name that seemed fitting Helen. What's more, as she grew she grew to look more and more human in the way she stood and acted and in the way her body developed, which lead Troy to start buying clothes for her, and then making clothes for her when her size and shape made it impossible for her to wear shop-bought clothes. Troy didn't know why Helen was growing to look more human, but he knew that before long Helen would be too big to stay in the house all the time, so he started looking for a house more suited to having a dragon for a daughter; in the end he moved out here nearer to the forest so that she'd be able to have a bit of space to roam. Also, the garage of the cottage used to be a stable, so it was high enough for Helen to stand up and gave her some more space to sleep and live generally. They've always been careful not to let anyone see Helen and to keep her a secret, just in case anyone might mean her harm for what she is this was especially difficult during the move, but after the move their reclusive location made it a lot easier.
"So now you know." Troy said, as he finished telling me and drained the last of his tea.
"Wow." was all I could manage to say. Then: "It must have been hard for both of you."
"It was." Troy said, nodding, "There was always the chance someone would find out about Helen. Now someone has and I just hope that someone is trustworthy enough to keep our little secret."
"Oh, definitely. Yes." I said, standing up. "I'd really like to keep seeing Helen though. Please." I added.
"Please, Dad," Helen added, "I've been on my own all this time, I'd really like to finally have a friend."
Doctor Troy looked at Helen, then me, then Helen again, then sighed and slumped back in his seat.
"Alright," he said, "just try not to be too obvious about it, or something. And you, young man, had better keep to your word."
Helen and I both looked at eachother and grinned.
From then on I'd pop down to the forest on the bus and walk to Dr. Troy's house, as it was easier to meet Helen there than in the forest, and we could sit in relative comfort in her den in the garage. Sometimes we talked, sometimes we'd watch a rented video, sometimes we'd just sit and read sitting huddled in her duvet nest and reading whatever book or comic we were into at the time, and that was how it went from then on, finally we'd each found someone we could call a friend, and neither of us had to feel lonely anymore.
But still, there was something a little... surreal to me about the whole thing, and I kept wondering: How long is this going to last?