Hey guys! This is the final chapter of "The Sixth Grader," and I felt it was necessary to give a shout out to everyone who's reviewed so far and address any concerns. Don't worry…the story of Arnold and Helga continues after this in some of my later works, so you'll see what happens then. There might be another fic coming in between "How Long is Forever, Arnold?" but for now, that is the follow-up story.
Erm…okay, so the shout outs…first of all, thank you to everyone who read, and I was glad I was able to provide for you some type of entertainment.
SilverChocolate…hehe, so you see exactly what happened between Helga and Jeremy…and now, you will see how Arnold reacts. All-out jealousy is very Arnold-like, but…eh, you'll see the signs by the end of this chapter.
And to Briana…whether or not Jeremy is really evil or a victim of the system is left up to the reader, heh. But, he doesn't necessarily have to be evil…I leave his character really ambiguous on purpose. You'll see what I mean in this chapter.
And TADAH! Hey, long time no chat with, huh? Hehe. And no, this is not Brainy, as you have discovered. Brainy had his sole mention in the beginning…where he was the rest of the time…eh, let's just say Jeremy scared him off, heh.
Starlet…the money remains a mystery…but no! it's not a plot hole, hehe…just left up to the imagination of the readers. Arnold's jealousy…well, you can judge for yourself after you read this chapter. And Phoebe's virus…hehe. Imeant for it to be ambiguous like that…you decide.
Snow Lane…a Kim's Board Gal! Hi! I'm glad you liked the story, and I hope you like the ending.
And thanks to everyone else for reading and reviewing…Serena, Bunni, chello, fan fic reader, laura, kitkatkid, helgastwin and shadowkittie. Let me know, any readers, what you thought of the story ultimately. And I'll be back with another story in the near future. Peace!
Part IV: Resolution
As soon as he had come, Jeremy was gone from my house. Before I could catch my breath, that which he had taken from me in a wanton act, I heard the door slamming downstairs, and him loudly descending the porch steps and onto the sidewalk of our street. Once all sounds of him were gone, I slid down the hallway wall and sat in that position for a while, my head pounding, my mind reeling and my eyes searching as if an explanation could come from the walls opposite me. After a few moments, I crawled into my room, gently closed the door behind me, then crawled into my closet where I stayed for steady reflection.
And, indeed, I reflected. I reflected upon what Jeremy had just said, what he had implied, what he had done…what he knew about me. Not only that, but how much that which he knew meant to me. I don't know…lately, I didn't value much of anything that much, but his favor, his threat---his force---brought me back to the reality of my feelings. This was so much a part of my life, I couldn't let it go, at least not now, and at least not for Jeremy. And the closet was the best place to stay, and I put back together the pieces of my life that I forcefully shattered repeatedly since the beginning of this school year.
Mom probably wanted to know what was going on, and maybe I should have told. But, since Jeremy walked out of that door, I resolved to tell no one. And really, it was really not anyone else's business what had happened…I got myself into this mess, I was going to get myself out. And if it took me a couple of minutes, and hour…an entire day to get myself out, well by God that's what I was going to do. Everyone would have their own opinion about things, and I really couldn't tell anyone else. And as I came to minute after minute of indecision, it really took a toll on me.
I hid in my room for the rest of the night, not even coming down for dinner. Although Mom was worried to death about me, I had locked the door so no one could come in. While Mom and Dad stirred downstairs, I was busy writing drafts…drafts of what I was going to say to Jeremy, that I couldn't possibly do what he had asked me to. But all of the drafts were no good. And I had until sundown the next day to perfect them.
Holding back tears gave me a headache, but I couldn't bring myself to cry, not just yet. I had pretty much exhausted all of my other resources, and there was only one other place that I was halfway sure I could gain a little guidance. I emerged from my closet and returned to my bed, picked up my phone and dialed the all too familiar number that I had never dared to call.
"Hello?" the monotone voice said. Arnold himself answered the phone.
"Hey Arnold? Listen, it's me…Helga," I said hurriedly, for fear that my Dad would randomly pick up the phone line and hear something he wasn't supposed to hear.
I could sense Arnold's confusion over the phone. "Helga? You're actually calling me?"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's me all right," I affirmed. "Listen, I know this is kinda late, and kinda random, but I really need your advice on something serious."
Arnold paused for a moment before responding. "Okay, I'm listening."
I thought of how to put it in the mildest way possible, without hinting at anything. "Okay…it's about Jeremy…he's asking me to do something that, well…I just can't do it, Arnold, I can't. And I don't know what to say to him."
"Just tell him that you can't do it."
"Crimeny, are you listening? I said that I can't!"
"Why not? Is it because you like him or something?" Arnold said, his voice lowering by the end of the phrase.
"How many times must I say that, no, I do not like him!" I exclaimed, exasperated for having to explain this again.
"Well, what is it then?" Arnold finally asked, a little bit of persistence in his voice. "The Helga Pataki I knew wouldn't have let this carry on for so long…she would have told Jeremy straight up that she didn't like him, and this thing would have been over with by now. That's because that Helga Pataki knew exactly what she wanted from life and how she was going to go about getting it."
I sighed. "I tried in the beginning, Arnold, but this guy's persistent…"
Arnold's voice quickened as we continued talking. "That wouldn't have stopped you before, Helga," Arnold said.
"I know, Arnold, but…you're so sure about things all of the time, right? Are you sure I'm the same Helga?"
"If you are the same Helga that refused to listen to me the other day, yeah, that's you."
"Arnold seriously, if you knew what he was asking, and how much it apparently means to me…"
"What can be that hard to answer, Helga?" he finally shouted. We were both going in circles at this point, so Arnold ended the cycle. "Look, here's what you should do. You should tell Jeremy the truth, that you never really liked him, and that you can't do whatever he asked you to do. If you really don't like him, and if you would rather not continue with whatever relationship you two have, that shouldn't be hard to do…"
"Is that it?" I asked, expecting Arnold to come up with some elaborate plan.
"Yeah, pretty much. You can add your own flourish to dress it up with you want to."
"But what if it really doesn't work, Arnold, what then?"
"Honesty is the best policy, Helga…it should work," Arnold said quietly.
I forgot how we ended that conversation…how I said goodbye, how he did, which one of us hung up first, or how we hung up. All I remember is waking up in my clothes from the previous day, to bright sunlight. Bright sunlight with a cloudless sky, something that perhaps offered me hope for what the new day would bring.
I waited for Jeremy in the alley behind the back lot of my house that day at sundown. I'd told him the day before to meet me here, in the same place we'd met, so I could answer his question. And in the process of making my final decision, I did a lot of thinking.
As I left my house, I stared up at the clear blue sky with the wispy clouds…stratus or something like that, as Phoebe always corrected me. As I walked to the alley, several visions flooded back into my mind. I saw Jeremy's eyes the first day we had spotted each other. I saw the concern in Phoebe's eyes after the money exchange deal, and again the same concern and anguish that filled her eyes after I dismissed her. Then there was Miriam, sitting stiffly at the dinner table as she waited impatiently for dinner with Jeremy to end. Harold, hanging his head after I passed him, Gerald making a sincere attempt to reason with me although we both knew we weren't necessarily fond of each other. And of course there was Arnold…the remembrance of him was indescribable. Then there was me, staring at myself in the mirror when I was finally able to bring myself out of the closet after Jeremy left. My own reflection scared me that day, but in my eyes I read something that I hadn't seen in almost a year, and that made me smile and shed tears of happiness, at least inside.
I tripped in a hole in the weedy lot behind my house, which brought me out of the flashback, and I discovered I was not headed towards the alley, but into a fence. I snapped out of it and walked to the alley and continued to ponder everything.
I of course factored everything Miriam said, about me just turning eleven and everything, and him being too immature and all. But, I also thought about myself. I thought about the time before this had all happened, with Phoebe and I walking home, how I felt a lonely tinge whenever she would talk about Gerald, or when I would see couples in the hall. I thought about how that tinge would possibly never be there again, if I kept up this charade. I thought about all of my experiences with boys, and however displeasing this one had been, it compared to no other. Jeremy really cared about me, in his own absent, perverted way, and if he hadn't been the first to care, he had been the first to express interest. And that made me feel special, in an odd way. It gave me an strange confidence in myself, that someone could acutally want me, for exactly who I was…
"Hey, Kid, before you tell me what you've decided, I have something to say," Jeremy's voice suddenly broke through my thoughts. I looked up to see him standing there, sheepishly, with his hands behind his back. There was a short pause between his phrases, and I leaned against the wall and waited for what he had to say. "I'm sorry about yesterday…I was off, I know, I should have never done that, you know, breaking into your house and slapping you around like that. That was my bad, and I'll make sure it won't happen again…"
I nodded solemnly, and looked straight into Jeremy's eyes. "Yeah, it won't happen again…because there will be no next time, or even tomorrow for that matter," I said flatly, folding my arms.
Jeremy shrugged. "So, I'm guessin' the answer is no, huh?"
I walked away from the wall I was leaning against, and walked towards Jeremy. "Jeremy, when you asked me to forget about Arnold and go out with you, you were asking me something that I could truly never do," I explained to him calmly. "I'll never forget Arnold, because his was such a big part of my life. And even though you claim to know all this stuff about me, I know you can never know the half of it."
"But this Arnold guy avoids you all the time now, didn't you say that for yourself?" Jeremy asked.
"Yes, but the difference is that I like Arnold in a way that I don't like you, Jeremy, and that is the second reason that I can't," I retorted, unfolding my arms. "I've being hanging out with you, letting you take me places, taking your money…letting you barge into my house and disrupt my family basically because I didn't know what else to say. For one, you're fairly forceful. But second of all, I guess I just liked the idea of someone falling for me---instead of the other way around. But Jeremy, you were like a packaged deal that came with a life I don't want to live…that of infamy, mystery and lawlessness. I don't like that, and I can't keep this up anymore," I finally concluded, looking back at Jeremy for a response.
Jeremy was a little struck by this, but once again, had little to say. "Whoa…un-cool," he said, scratching the back of his head. "Well, I guess I can accept that, and I guess I should have expected this, from you," he said, glancing at me before staring at the ground. I didn't say anything else, as I watched him walk out of the alley to the street that would take him home. "But, all those things I said about you, I still think are true, Helga," he said finally, walking off in the distance. I watched as only a silhouette of his figure sulked into the distance, after passing a dying street lamp, and rounding a corner. I would see Jeremy at school until the end of the year, but from then on, never again.
I went home promptly after the whole Jeremy deal was settled and had dinner with my parents…a rare occasion in which we were without the company of Jeremy. Once again, our dinner conversations had been reduced to a minimum to nothing, and all that could be heard was our chewing. Well, everything was back to normal…almost.
"Hey Helga, what happened to that Jeremy kid? He was becoming a regular around here, and I haven't seen him around in a while," Bob suddenly asks, quite loudly and upsetting the delicate balance of the dinner table. With this, both Miriam and I perked up, me joining her in looking around the table as if we hadn't noticed.
I shrugged as I cleaned my plate and got up from the table to put my plate in the sink. "I don't know, Dad, but somehow I think he's not going to be showing up for dinner anymore," I hinted, returning to the dinner table and standing in my spot. With that comment, Mom's eyes widened and she looked at me, asking the question that everyone else would probably ask tomorrow.
Bob slumped a little. "Oh, well, that's a shame. I was just getting to like the boy," Bob said sighing, before shrugging it off and continuing to eat. I looked back at Mom, answering her question, and she then smiled at me, her eyes softening simultaneously. I smiled back, and immediately there was a silent understanding between us.
"Dad, Mom, is it alright if I go outside to sit on the porch a little bit? It's kinda warm outside, and the night is so nice…"
Miriam answered my question before Bob could say anything. "Well, sure, Helga, I don't see why not," she answered, giving me the go-ahead. I then grinned and rushed out of the door, hearing Bob ask Miriam what that was all about and what would be for tomorrow's dinner in the same breath.
That night, I wasn't at ease, so after a few moments on the porch I went for a walk. There was so much I needed to do, so much I needed to say to patch up all that had been flung into disarray during the Jeremy era. Although it was quite impossible for me to care less, I had to restore relations with Rhonda, because I never knew when her connections would come in handy. I would have to apologize to Harold, and soon, because the next Wrestle Mania match was the next weekend, and I had no tickets. Of course, there was Phoebe…and before I thought about it any longer, I headed to the nearest payphone, pulled a couple of quarters out of my pocket, and dialed up her number.
I tapped my finger impatiently on the glass in the payphone booth as I waited for someone to pick up. I knew Phoebe wouldn't be out this late, and that she didn't have caller ID, so she should have answered the phone. So, finally, when the message recording of her own personal line came in, I left my message after the beep.
"Hey Phoebe, it's me, Helga. But, then again you probably know that from all of the messages I've left at your place throughout the years, all of the emergencies and secret operations and…" I stopped abruptly, hoping that she would pick up now, no one did. "Anyway, I'll just cut to the chase here. Look Phoebs, I know I was in the wrong when I lashed out on you for telling and for refusing to speak with you for all that time. Me, of all people, should have known better than to get myself into such a situation like with that Jeremy character. But listen, Phoebs…it's okay if you don't want to talk to me immediately or anything, because I understand. Not that you would pull a stunt like this, but I would have probably done the same thing to you. Hell, I probably would have squealed a lot louder than you did."
Again, I waited for someone to pick up, but I heard nothing. "It's just my hope, Phoebe, that someday you will forgive me, and when that day comes, believe me, I'll have to thank you more than I'm going to do know, seriously. If only I had realized your concern then…maybe none of this would have happened. I dunno. If you're listening now, just letting you know that I would talk longer, but I'm on a payphone a few blocks from my house, and I don't want to stay here too much longer before another weirdo pounces on me and stalks me for the rest of my life," I chuckled, before hanging up the phone.
I knew the drill. Phoebe was probably sitting in her room by her message machine, listening to what I said and taking it into deep consideration. That's what she always did when we had little squabbles and misunderstandings. It was a rare occasion for me to apologize for anything…readily at least, so I know she must have enjoyed it. I smiled as I continued down the sidewalk away from the payphone.
As relieving as this message to Phoebe was, I had a goal more immediate in mind that night. Something more urgent, that had been waiting the whole year to be resolved.
As I walked, I stared up at the sky. Although I walked swiftly the stars remained stationary, what few stars were visible over the city lights. The sky was boundless, as there were no clouds. The lack of clouds made the night slightly brisk, which made me walk even faster. I was so absorbed in the height of the ceiling that I ran into something as I walked, and fell to the ground.
When I sat up, I looked up just in time to see Arnold, lying opposite me. He was already getting up, but I was still sitting on the ground, staring up at him. He extended his hand, and I grabbed it and returned to my feet. As soon as I was up on my feet, I fell into his expectant arms for a long embrace. I don't recall where we bumped into each other, or how long I hugged him, but I remember I did. It was our way of expressing our gratitude/appreciation wordlessly, while also making up for a one-year hiatus in our relationship.
But the hug ended too soon and too soon Arnold and I were separating again. We stood back from one another, looking at each other before either of us spoke. It was Arnold, who in the awkwardness of our confrontation finally said something.
"So, Helga, I assume everything went well?" he asked, averting his eyes shyly and kicking his foot against a small stone. I chuckled a little, and watched as the rock traveled across the sidewalk and into the street.
I nodded before answering. "Yeah, I guess you could say that," I answered, before leaving another awkward silence. "I let Jeremy go, Arnold. And," I said, trying to keep my stream of thoughts going before being interrupted by Arnold's enthusiastic smile, "I know that's what everyone, including you, has been telling me all along, but…I just had to decide for myself. And, that whole favor thing was really the straw that broke the camel's back, if you know what I'm saying?"
"Yeah," Arnold hesitated, rubbing the back of his neck as we spoke. I could tell there was something on his mind, but he didn't want to say it.
"Arnold?" I asked, before he volunteered the information.
"Helga, all that stuff about…you know, Jeremy asking you to do something you didn't want
to do. I'm just a little bit curious…if you don't mind…"
I should have known that was coming. And once he had asked the question, I began to turn the question over in my mind…to tell or not to tell. I finally decided that it would be safer for Arnold not to know the gravity that his counsel helped in our relationship. I decided not to tell him.
"Well, let's just say that, if I said yes, I would have to lose relationships with people that I cared for a great deal, and I wasn't willing to do that…for Jeremy or anyone for that matter," I explained, getting around the real thing he asked.
Arnold nodded as if he finally understood. "He asked you to be his girlfriend, didn't he?"
Relieved that he didn't know the entire story, I simply nodded. "Yeah, sure…" I nodded, giggling awkwardly. Both of us did, before entering another nervous silence.
"Well, I'm glad you did, Helga…I can't tell you how glad I am you did," Arnold finally said, looking up at me, his eyes twinkling in the bright moonlight. And I couldn't help but smile, because I knew that, at that instant, relations between Arnold and I were restored in much the same way that they had been nearly a year ago when they were broken…giggly and awkward. For once, I had made a decision I did not regret.
After departing from Arnold…somehow, I can never remember our goodbyes anymore, I walked slowly back to my house, because I knew it was getting late. And in my mind lingered thoughts about all I had just done, the mistakes I made and how I was able to fix them. In my mind were the genuine smiles of those I really cared for…my mother, really proud of me for getting myself out of the Jeremy situation. Phoebe, although I didn't see her or hear her, smiling in her room as she listened to her message. Arnold, smiling at me when he heard the news that I know set his soul free…and then, although I didn't expressly see it, there was mine.
I really cared about myself, though it was not necessarily expressed in words or anything, it was all there. And I resolved that, when I got home to my books of poetry, I would document this moment in time to remember forever. It was that special.
And by that time, I realized, as I said earlier, that this was an experience I would love for the rest of my life because I learned so much more about myself from the whole Jeremy experience. And I would hate it for the rest of my life because it was so stressful while it lasted, filled with anger, sadness and agony. Finally able to breathe on my own without someone there to catch my ever breath, I was free. And I realized that sharp tinge that I often felt was gone…there was Jeremy and there is Arnold, I realized. And no longer did I have that feeling that someone was following me. Yes, I was alone, but I wasn't, because…it was like a presence was now with me, inside of me, instead of lurking around on the outside. We didn't know it yet, but we were one step closer to destiny, but I could feel it from deep within me. It was a powerful feeling, that chilled an burned at the same time. Extreme elation and sorrow for what to come, combined into one emotion burst from my heart. In a need to relieve it, I began to cry.
And I cried joyously and bitterly all the way home.