As soon as I shouted that, a cute little girl jumped out in front of us like a little rabbit.
She has silky blond hair and hollow eyes that look nothing like mine. The beautiful girl who looks like a small animal with a somewhat weak impression is my beloved stepsister, Helen.
“Sir Neil. My stepsister takes good care of me and understands me better than anyone else. She would never mistreat me. Please listen to my stepsister!”
Neil looks at Helen with a fervent look in his eyes… Oh, that’s right. I felt chilled, but Helen was unaware of this and appealed desperately to Neil.
“Cleaning is something I like to do! I mean, I have to do it because it makes me feel better! So it’s not that my stepsister is abusing me! In fact, my stepsister is a very kind and wonderful person!”
Helen is more lovely that way. She really is a cute stepsister. Yeah, I can see why you’d want to choose her over the villainess. If I were a man, I’d want someone like Helen as a wife too. You’d love her so much and make a warm and happy home for her.
—But that doesn’t mean I’m going to forgive him for calling off our engagement!
Faced with my boiling rage, which I am struggling to keep under control, Neil gets down on one knee and extends his right hand to Helen, like a knight rescuing a princess.
“Oh, poor Helen. You don’t have to be so frightened. I’m sure it’s been hard on you, being tortured by your stepsister and stepmother. But you’re safe with me now. I’ll protect you.”
Neil held out his arm to Helen, but she said,
Helen, startled, quickly backs away from his hand. Helen, her face pale, begins to plead her case to Sir Neil, who has a look of obvious consternation on his face.
“I’m sorry! I don’t like being touched by strangers! It’s not that I don’t like the person, but if they touch me, I have to disinfect it properly, and, well, it’s not that I think they’re dirty, it’s just that…”
Helen’s eyes move busily as she speaks, slurring. She doesn’t know how to say what she wants to say; she’s just impatient. Helen is in such a state that Sir Neil looks puzzled. To help them, I spoke to him in a calm tone.
“Sir Neil. In fact, Helen is an extreme clean freak… or rather, a germaphobe. Once she feels that her hands or her belongings are dirty, she has to wash them thoroughly until she is satisfied. That’s why she doesn’t like to wear dresses that are hard to dry, and only wears clothes that are easy to wash and cheap enough to throw away.”
As if to affirm my words, Helen looks down. As I stare at her, I can’t help but feel sorry for her.
Helen knows that people laugh at her behind her back. But Helen still can’t stop washing. She is afraid of anything dirty and filthy, and even her own hands must be washed properly to make her feel better. It’s not that he doesn’t trust his maids and servants, but she doesn’t feel comfortable unless their hands are “clean.” And because she washes her hands so often, they become rough and ragged. Needless to say, the gloves I gave her to hide them and to reduce the number of times she has to wash her hands are also changed frequently.
Helen froze as if ashamed of herself, and I stood over her as if to protect her. Sir Neil still has a look of disbelief on his face, and I open my mouth to appease him.
“Helen thinks she’s crazy for wanting to be clean. But that’s because of her mental illness, not because of her own fault. Even though she is my stepsister, Helen is my dearest stepsister. There’s a reason why Helen is like this. Please forgive her with all your heart.”
Sir Neil looked at me suspiciously, and I explained further.
“Helen is my stepsister, but she is also my father’s niece. So we are cousins. However, Helen’s parents died early of an epidemic. After that, she was temporarily placed in the care of a charity where she was taught to wash her hands very strictly. The experience distorted Helen, and as a result, she became more afraid of filth than she should have been.”
I have heard about Helen’s situation from her own mouth, as she gradually opened up to me as we became a family.
The disease that took Helen’s parents was highly contagious, so it was necessary to block out the germs thoroughly. Hand-washing and gargling were recommended, but the charity that protected Helen was not so good at it. They shouted at her in front of many people, forced her to wash her hands in cold water even in the middle of winter, and sometimes used violence against her. It is unlikely that anyone would not suffer from mental illness under such circumstances.
When Helen first came to our house, she was very frightened when she saw me with my villainess face, and she looked at me with trepidation, like a newborn deer. Helen began to talk behind me as I recalled these things.
“My stepsister is a very kind person. She understands that I am ridiculed by everyone as the ‘lady washing bear’ and generously provides me with portable soap, handkerchiefs and cleaning products to keep me as calm as possible. My stepsister loves me very much, even though everyone says I’m crazy and abnormal.”
After saying this, Helen stepped in front of me and proudly told Sir Neil.