* cheri (sheh-ree) : adj. 1. Beloved. 2. Darling; favorite. --French.
It's nice to be back.
Arnold whistled a little tune to himself as he strolled down the sidewalk. I'm glad to see the old neighborhood hasn't changed much, he thought. He was headed over to the Johanssen house to see Gerald and was still several blocks away. But it was such a beautiful day that he chose to walk slowly and casually, taking in all the familiar sights and sounds. I can hardly believe how long it's been, he thought, nearing the corner at the end of the block. Sure, college is great and all...but I guess I didn't realize how much I missed this place.
He smiled happily as he turned the corner.
It seems like only yesterday I was playing baseball with the guys, over there in Ge...
They were both knocked flat from the sudden crash. He sat up slowly, blinking his eyes and trying to clear his thoughts. "Urrghhhh..." he groaned; then he looked over to see what--or who had been coming around the other side of the building at the exact same time and run smack into him
It was a girl, he realized...about his age, blonde, wearing pink and white. She might have been fairly pretty, he thought, if she hadn't been scowling, her face all twisted up into a pained frown.
"Man!" the girl said as she rubbed her shoulder. "I feel like I've been hit by a truck!"
"I'm really sorry. Are you okay?" said Arnold as he stood and offered his hand to help her up. "I wasn't paying attention..."
"Oh, no, that's all right," she said quickly. She took his hand and got to her feet. "It wasn't entirely your fault--you couldn't have known I was there."
Arnold watched as she dusted herself off. There was something about her...
"...Anyway, I guess we both ought to watch where we're going, huh?" she continued. The girl looked up at him--and their eyes met. In that brief instant, something, almost a sense of...recognition?...passed between them.
"Don't I...know you from someplace?" they asked each other all at once.
There was a moment of uncomfortable silence--then the two of them laughed, slightly embarrassed.
"Sorry," said Arnold. "For a second there, you almost reminded me of someone." (It can't be; what are the chances of that happening again?)
The girl smiled a little. "As a matter of fact, I thought you--seemed kind of familiar for a minute, too." (Of course not, she told herself. You're imagining things.)
"It...it's probably just all in our minds, though"
"Yeah, I suppose..." she agreed.
Arnold was beginning to feel a little awkward--after all, there are only so many things you can say to a complete stranger when you actually run into them--so he turned to go. "Well...I guess I'll...see you around," he said politely.
"Sure," said the girl, also heading away. "See ya, Football-head..."
She clapped a hand over her mouth, shocked at the words which had slipped out so naturally.
The two of them froze in their tracks as the sudden realization hit them like a lightning bolt.
Well, it was pretty obvious to the rest of us, wasn't it?
They turned slowly toward each other, expressions of surprise, almost disbelief, on their faces. At exactly the same time, they said what they had probably known all along:
"What are you doing here?" Arnold asked.
"What am I doing here? What are you doing here?!" she retorted. "You're the one who moved away, remember?" She put her hands on her hips and shrugged. "But since you asked...I'm away at college now, and I came back for some goofy class reunion tonight. Then I'm going to stay in town a few days."
"Same here. Gerald arranged for me to get an invitation to the reunion, so I could see some of the old gang again." He laughed. "Funny running into you like this, though. Kind of reminds me of when we were kids."
"Yeah. What a weird coincidence...," said Helga. She smirked. ".....Say, you've grown--you're a little taller than me now! I guess that means I can't call you a 'yellow-haired shrimp' anymore."
"Sure you can--my grandpa still calls me 'Short Man' half the time. ...But I'd rather you didn't."
"Hmph! I think I'll call you a 'yellow-haired shrimp' anyhow."
"Well, it's nice to know someone still cares," he said jokingly.
She hesitated, glancing away for a brief moment. When she spoke again, it was in an unexpectedly soft voice.
"You know, Arnold, it was never the same without you around," she said slowly. "There wasn't anyone to butt in with do-goody advice and annoying, optimistic ideas. That, and the other kids weren't as fun to shoot spitballs at." She smiled at him. "...It's good to see you."
Really? Arnold smiled back.
Even though she had called him 'Football-head', she still seemed very different from the Helga he had grown up with.....almost as if...
"Well gee...I--I hate to go, but it's about time for me to...to...floss--my teeth!" Helga said suddenly, turning a bit red and checking her watch. "Yep...plaque's a killer--gotta go fight those cavities!.....Bye, Arnold," she shouted, running off.
"Um...sure. See you later," he called after her, slightly confused at her strange excuse. (Who flosses at three in the afternoon? That's some dedication.)
A peculiar, unidentifiable feeling crossed over him for a brief second. He brushed it aside, however, and walked on toward Gerald's--whistling a little slower this time.