Through the Compact Disc

Harpiebird: Yeah, thanks for liking it. I didn't think I did such a hot job on it. I think you'll like this chapter, too, since I really enjoyed writing it.

King Cheetah: What an idea… lol, that's all anyone has to do, right?

Well, here it is: the FINAL chapter of Through the Compact Disc. Oh, I'm so excited, it's my first story ever written. I'm really happy that it's over. I'll miss it, but now I can focus on perfecting it: the first two or three chapters I just absolutely hate, they're not a good introduction to the story. Also, now that it's all down on paper, I consider this my first draft. Be looking out for the original version on Be prepared: I wrote a nice long one for ya'll.

Disclaimer: The characters under copyright by Craig Bartlett, Viacom, and Nickelodeon do not belong to me in part or in whole. Francesca and Deana Tiller, "Unrealized" and "Forget It", as well as this story's plot, are all my creation. Thank you and begin!


I took a deep breath and looked down at the ground. I had my guitar in my hands, and people were racing about all around me checking if anything wasn't set up the way it was supposed to be.

No one even cared that I was feeling broken inside of myself. Who was going to fix that? God? Me? Arnold? It wasn't anyone's responsibility but mine; that much I've learned over the years and the past few days.

Whether or not I'm able to do it was beyond me.

I heard someone walk up behind me. I turned around slowly, almost in a trance, and saw the faces of Arnold and his daughter. That must have been one of her friends with her. It was a young girl who looked torn between excitement and wondering if she should be sad for Deana.

"Hello, Helga," said Arnold, trying to look happy to be there. I knew better than that. He was wishing that he could have given his wife the ticket instead of Deana's friend. "Are you ready?"

Was I ready? I wasn't very sure. But then I remembered what I was supposed to do. I nodded and turned forward. A stage tech walked up to me and told me that as soon as the band started playing I was to walk out and start the first song. I knew the schedule, but I didn't feel like telling him off. Come on, Helga; get your game face on!

"Break a leg," said Deana, smiling weakly at me. I smiled back, and then the music started playing.


Annie squealed when Helga started singing, and I couldn't help but be excited as well. Whether it was the rush of the concert, Annie's own excitement, or maybe even the fact that I still adored Helga's music, was lost to me. But I listened and applauded with Annie while my dad just watched.

It had taken me a while to get over it. Well, I wasn't exactly over Mom's death, but what I had finished was my anger with Helga. Dad didn't even have to talk to me about it. I just had to think very, very hard about it. I was being childish, blaming her death on Helga. I just needed someone to blame, but now I knew I didn't have to anymore.

I'd never stop feeling sad about Mom. But at least I was slowly healing, I guess.

In the meantime, I had a concert to enjoy.


I had to admit, Helga sounded pretty good live. It was almost better than on the CD. Especially the songs with pain in them.

I knew why Helga could but so much pain in them, especially now.

I'm not entirely sure what went on with Helga and Frannie while she was in the hospital bed, but it seemed like something healthy occurred. All I could hope for was that Frannie passed on without any anger with me. I guess I won't know that until I pass on, as well.

I wasn't in a hurry for that. Deana needed me, and I hoped even more that I wouldn't have to leave her as well.

The end of the first hour came, and an intermission followed. Helga came up to us, sweating and out of breath, but in a much better mood than she had been. "Hey, guys," she breathed. She grabbed two bottled waters from a crate nearby and dumped one on her face, and took gulps of it down from the other. "How do you like it so far?"

"It's awesome!" cried the two girls.

"Oh my gosh, Helga Pataki, I absolutely love you!" cried Annie. "Can you sign my arm with this, please?" She held a permanent marker up to Helga's face and pulled back the sleeve of her jacket. Helga glanced up at me with a stumped expression, but then shrugged and quickly signed in her scrawled yet artistic handwriting. Annie squealed and looked at Deana happily. "You are so lucky! Uh, I mean…" Annie stumbled around, her sounds not forming words.

"Don't worry, Annie," said Deana excitedly. "I am pretty lucky." I took one look at her smile and knew it was only half genuine. But she was having fun. That was good.

I looked at Helga, who had already been looking at me. "So are you feeling good?"

"Pretty good, yeah," she said. "Football head," she added at the end. I smiled at the old joke. I guess maybe I should be having fun, too, but it still felt strange to smile. I had cried for a long time the night before. I needed to make up for that with some fun.

"Arnold…" Helga started to say, but then she hesitated. I an inquisitive look from me, she continued. "The next halves… Listen carefully, okay? I have some new songs."

I lifted an eyebrow at her, but at that point she was being taken by techs back to the side of the stage, briefing her on what to do the next half of the show.


In what seemed like no time I was rushed back to the center of the stage while the lights were out, trying to be very careful not to trip over anything. Well, this was it. The moment of truth had arrived. Any second now I'd be saying and singing what I'd been practicing nonstop for the past day.

I just hoped it was all really worth doing.

The lights came back on and the entire stadium full of people cheered loudly. I could barely see them with all of the lights pointed at me, but I knew who was out there. And I knew that now was my time.

"You ready for another song yet? Maybe we should keep you all waiting, you're not screaming loud enough!" Actually, they had been screaming pretty loud, about as loud as I'd ever heard crowds cheer. It picked up volume after I said that, though, and I was almost about to yell at them all to shut up before I went tone deaf. Jeez, fans would kill me one day.

"Anyway," I said, after the noise had quieted, "I have something to say."

I looked to my left and saw the Arnold's confusion written all over his face. He had the half-closed eyelid thing going on, and I had to fight hard to control it. Deana, however, looked anxious to hear me, as if she knew exactly what I was going to say. That Annie girl looked hypnotized, completely unaware of her friend. Sigh.

"I'm sure you all have seen it all over the TV, heard it on the radio, or read in a newspaper about what happened very recently to a friend of mine," I said. "I'm sure a lot of you probably didn't believe it when I said that another friend, who happens to be the widow of the late Francesca Tiller, were not having an affair." I gazed coldly across the crowd. "You all had better believe me when I say that Anonymous is not, and most likely never will be, anything more than a friend from now on. Not many people say this kind of thing in a concert, I know," I continued, "but I feel it fit to say right before this next song. It was put together recently, and this is the first time ever it's been performed for an audience. I didn't write the words, though. A friend of mine did, and it was her wish for me to sing them." I gripped the microphone tightly. "I hope you all enjoy it."

The stadium was dead silent as I counted of the band and the music started playing. Inside my head, I said, 'He'll know, Fran, he'll know."

And I began to sing.

"I'm inside these flames, circling around me, I can't move from my spot on the ground

In front of me I see you, just standing there like there's something to be found

It speaks to me

I hear it; it's to hard to believe your words

Protect me, I'm pulling back, I can't believe I agree with what I've heard

This is the first time I ever knew

I'm such a good actress even I was fooled

How can it be a lie if you thought it was right?

How can it be so wrong to know what you cannot fight?

Only one way to escape

Gotta walk through those flames

So sorry we ended up being an unrealized lie

Can't stand the thought of seeing your face after it's out in the open

I swore I loved you more than life, more than any of them

Is it too late?

Can I convince my innocence upon you now that you know?

See your face, wish I'd another fate, no denying the now open door

This is the first time I ever knew

So much lost to the wind now that I have to leave you

How can it be a lie if you thought it was right?

How can I feel so wrong when really I never tried to fight

I wish that there was some other way

Gotta walk through those flames

So sorry I ended up being an unrealized lie!

Nothing else left to say, No one else left to blame

I've got to confess while it's not yet Judgment Day

Only one way to escape, Only one thing left to say

So ashamed, forgive me when I say: I never loved you!

This is the first time I ever knew

I needed someone to keep me away, how could I be such a fool?

How could it be a lie when everything was right?

How can this be so wrong, I blinded everyone from the sight!

Wish I'd found some other way

I don't want to walk through those flames!

So sorry I ended up telling an unrealized lie!

Nothing else left to say! No one else left to blame!"

I leaned over, catching my breath from jumping around and singing so loud. I could hear the audience screaming in pure amazement at the song. I had to admit, it was one of the best performances I've ever had.

I turned my face towards where Arnold was. He wasn't there anymore. Deana shook her head disbelieving at me and ran off with Annie to, I'm sure, wherever her father was.

It had to be done, Helga old girl. It had to be done.


"Stay here," I told Deana. I walked away briskly as Deana looked after me.

"Dad where are you-"

"Stay here!" I repeated in the most fatherly voice I could muster. Deana stepped back and looked at me in a strange way. I'd deal with it later. I ran to the backstage bathrooms and shut myself in a stall. I felt like a kid, running to the restrooms in school when he was upset.

I felt like a little kid. At least one who's innocence had finally been broken.

I couldn't breathe. I couldn't even think straight. I sat on the toilet seat and ran my fingers through my hair.

Francesca wrote that song. She wrote it about me. She said she never loved me… what was worse was that she had obviously written it while at the hospital.

She knew she was going to die when she wrote it. She told Helga to sing it. It was the only way it'd get to me, and Francesca had always wanted to write something anyway that'd be famous even after her death. I remembered her saying that. I remember her saying that not long after we got married, and not long before she became pregnant with my child.

And that whole time she didn't love me like we thought she did.

I didn't need the subtlety explained. As I said before, I'm not so childishly dense anymore. She only married me because she knew I wouldn't treat her like a dog. She married me because I was so nice to her.

We both, obviously, knew that wasn't enough to marry someone.

Why the hell did she have to tell me this way, though? I kicked the wall of the stall in distress. Couldn't she have told Helga to just give me whatever it was she'd written it on? Couldn't Helga just tell me herself? Why at a concert, where I was trying to have even a little fun? It was stupid. So stupid…

But this was how Helga feels, wasn't it? No, it wasn't. Maybe we were both in love with someone who didn't love them back, but she never had me give back the emotion for about fifteen years and then give the truth.

According to the song, she never even knew. How could she not know something that colossal? Duh, Arnold. You're a psychiatrist. After everything Francesca had been through, I'm sure she was willing to do anything to have her fairy tale.

It was just at her family's expense.


I lifted my head up quickly. "Deana?"


I had had to convince Annie to follow me into the men's restroom. It was incredibly gross inside, the sickly yellow walls probably once being white.

I knew the song had upset Dad. After asking Annie about it, I had a pretty good idea as to why.

It just couldn't possibly be true, though.

Dad opened the stall door he was in and walked out. Annie backed away into the background while he kneeled down and grabbed me tightly.

"Dad…" I asked weakly. "Was that about…"

He didn't answer, and in his silence, it was obvious. I hugged him, something the two of us had been doing a lot, and the pain in my wound was intensified as my mom's words poured salt in it.

He stood up slowly and gripped my shoulder tightly. "Don't worry," he whispered. "She loved you more than anything in the world. Don't let anything else keep you from knowing that, Dee. She loves you."

I nodded, choking back the lump that seemed to always form when I was trying not to cry.

"Go back to where we were. Enjoy the concert while you can."

I looked up at him in astonishment. "Dad, you can't expect me to-"

"Go. We'll talk about this later."


It took a long time for me to see Arnold and Deana back at their spots on stage left. I kept looking over there, skipping the other song he had to hear and singing the following two instead. This one, however, was different. This one was mine.

When I saw them back in their places, I pretended I hadn't seen them get there and that I hadn't even realized they'd left. I lifted a hand to the band behind me, the signal for when we'd finally do the dong I'd been working on, writing since before the car accident.

"Here's another new one for you guys," I said into the microphone. "Both this song and "Unrealized Lie" are going to be on the album I've started working on. Progress is going fast so expect it to be out in the not too distant future."

I took a deep, encouraging breath as the music began to play. It wasn't as heavy as "Unrealized Lie" had been, but it had a much edgier tone than most of my other songs. I liked that about them, as art at least. Then, I began to sing my own conclusion.

"So much time has gone by since I first started

Through the pain and the rain and the horrible stains

Disappointment is the next thing to disregarded

Jealousy, look at me, you used to always leave me

Oh, now that's over, don't look me that way in the eye anymore

Oh, don't feel sorry, I can move on now that it's out of my system

Everything I've ever said to you about me

Just forget it, that's all I want from you

Anything I've ever tried to convince you about me

Just forget it; you know that you want to

Love is such a short story, never with happy endings

Always scars secrets in jars and losing who we are

I know you want nothing to do with me, I'll stop defending

Just drop it, just forget it

I won't leave you thinking so much about it

Everything I've ever said to you about me

Just forget it, that's all you have to do

Anything I've ever tried to convince you about me

Just forget it, you know what you want to do

I've wasted enough time looking for what I could never find

Time for a new life, you don't have to worry, I'll be just fine…"

Soon the song was over, and the crowd cheered again. Not as loud as they had done before, or as enthusiastically, but it was obviously they loved it. But how many of them caught on to what I'd said?


After that song, Helga ran off stage right, causing the entire crowd to cheer "Encore! Encore!"

"She's supposed to do that," said Deana. "It riles the crowd up. She'll come back on."

"Yeah, she'd better," agreed Annie. "She hasn't even sung "Family Portrait" yet. (A/N: That song was actually NEW when I started… Jesus…)

"Don't get worked up about it, I will."

I turned around and saw Helga standing behind us, smiling nervously. She looked at me and said what she wanted to say without words, but I suppose she wanted to speak anyway. "Arnold… I'm sorry," she said.

I smiled sadly. "Don't worry about it," I said. "It's not the best way to find out, but I guess it's better than not knowing the truth."

"Well, yeah, I'm sorry for that," Helga said, "but what I meant to say was that I'm sorry there was anything for you to find out."

"Yeah…" I mumbled, sticking my hands in my pockets. "Me, too."

"She was very sorry, Arnold," she said. "She didn't want it like that, either. But don't blame her, Arnold. She didn't even realize. Don't think on it for so long."

At that moment, I was grateful to have Helga there. Her way with words was actually better than when we were kids… or maybe she'd just learned how to say them as well as write them. "Helga, I'm glad we're friends." I looked up at her with meaning. "And I'm sorry that that's all we are."

Helga laughed. "No, you're not," she said. "That's crazy. But I get what you mean. And don't worry about it… I'm fine."

So both of them understood they'd never be together. Everything was just fine. Or at least, it would be.

"I think you'd better go back on before someone gets hurt, Helga," said Deana, breaking the silence. Helga gasped and realized that there were people around them yelling at her to go back on. She ran back on stage to continue the concert, with one final look at me.

Deana turned around, her hair covering the side of her face, and looked at me with hollow eyes. I hated that look. I just wanted to make it go away. She'd had it so much lately.

"It's never going to be the same, is it?" she asked me.

"No," I said. "It isn't… but that doesn't mean it's not going to be okay."

And then the music played.

No one ever tries to hurt someone they love at the beginning. It usually starts with a mistake, a foul, or a misunderstanding. Things usually plummet downhill from there. But throughout all of the pain, unfinished stories come to a close. Untold truths are revealed. People are molded into something stronger. Cherished things are lost, scars are formed, and so many other terrible things may happen along the way, all started by such a petty little thing.

Then again, so much can be learned, even through something so mundane as a compact disc.

And that's it. That's all, that's the last thing. It took me exactly three hours and two minutes to complete, from about eleven to two in the morning. On a school night. Aren't you so happy? Yes, it's gone through time lapses I never hope to go through with anything ever again, it's gone through lost floppy discs and broken computers, but it's finally out of there. For those of you disappointed that Helga and Arnold never actually get together, sorry, but that's how it's got to be. Dude his wife just DIED! There's no kiss scene, nuh uh! Also, I totally made up the rest of "Unrealized Lie" (Which I think was named something else in the past) and all of "Forget It" On the spot. So this is the best I can do, I hope it's fitting.

And now I'm tired. So, review me with any questions, comments, critiques, or if you're wondering about the original version. I'll rewrite the first two chapters, to make them less rip-off-y and more attractive to pull you in to the story better.

You Gotta Love Me (because I finished a story finally!)