all the animals in the zoo

nature never did betray/the heart that loved her.

-William Wordsworth

Part II

Rhonda felt her body drifting. She opened her eyes, and she was lying in an open field, surrounded by tall, green grass. She looked up and saw herself, a mirror image, staring down.

            " You stupid whore," her other self said. Rhonda frowned.

            " Excuse me?" she said, sitting up and rubbing her head. " Where the hell am I?"

            " Hell - ha!" her other self scoffed. " That's where you should be, for all the good you've done."

            " What?" Rhonda shouted, looking at her twin. Her twin – she realized it slowly. She was dead, and she was looking at Rachel.

            " Real smooth, sis," Rachel said, folding her arms over her chest. " Way to solve everyone's problems – take a bullet, sure! Leave the poor guy to fend for himself with the cops, with the love of his life stone dead because of him."

            " What was I supposed to do?" Rhonda snapped. " Let them kill him?"

            " Would'a been better off," Rachel said with a  shrug, " Then where he's headed."

            " What?" Rhonda shouted, panicking. " What's going to happen to him?"

            " What did you THINK would happen when you died, Rhonda?" Rachel asked. " Mom and Dad will press full charges – he'll be lucky to get off with only a mental ward sentence, now!

            " No, no!" Rhonda said, pressing her hand to her forehead. " I didn't think – I, I only wanted to save him!"

            " Man, Rhonda, you are a piece of work," Rachel said, shaking her head. " And you didn't even sleep with him! Die a virgin, AND miss out on what I can assure you would have been a GREAT lay."

            " God, you're vulgar!" Rhonda accused. " And how do you know that, anyway?"

            " Hello?" Rachel said. " Omniscient guardian angel much? Geez, Rhonda, you'd think you would have done more with the life I gave you."

            " The life you gave me?" Rhonda said.

            " That's right," Rachel said. " You're not the only one who can foolishly sacrifice their life for love. It was one of us or both of us, Rhond," Rachel said. " We were weak, we wouldn't have survived infancy. So I let you have my strength. I figured, better to let one of us live a real life than to screw both of us over. And what have you done with it? Thrown it all away!"

            " I'm sorry," Rhonda cried. " I've ruined everything. My life was a disaster, and now I've destroyed Curly's, too. It should have been you that lived!"

            Rachel went to her twin and put her arms around her.

            " Let me finish, okay?" she said.

            " What?" Rhonda cried. " You want to critique my wasted life some more?"

            " Well, that's only my opinion," Rachel said. " Up here, giving your life up for someone or something you love is a big deal. And you're in a unique situation. You see, that bullet that hit you? It pierced your heart. There is no way to survive that – your heart is ruined."

            Rhonda sobbed.

            " But," Rachel said, reaching into the pocket of the white robe she wore. " I happen to have one here that I never used, and – what do you know – it matches your old one exactly." She pulled her hand out, and a bright, red-tinted light shone in her palm.

            " What?" Rhonda said, wiping her tears, confused. " What are you telling me? That I can go back?"

            " Well, its that, or sainthood," Rachel said with a shrug. " S'up to you."

            " I want to go back!" Rhonda said, beaming.

            " A miracle it is, then," Rachel said, holding out her hand. " You know, you're going to have to do a bunch of really corn-ball, weepy interviews on talk shows before this is all over. So," she said. " Take it, Rhonda."

            Rhonda reached out and put her hand over her sister's heart.

            " Rachel," she said, as a strong wind began whipping up around her. " I'm sorry."

            " It wasn't your fault," Rachel said, and Rhonda knew what she meant. " I was giving you a hard time before. You surprised me, Rhonda. Pleasantly – you were completely selfless for the first time in your life. Its not just the big wigs around here who champion dying for love – I think its pretty cool, too. And that's a damn fine man, you've got there. Don't let him get away."

            " I won't," Rhonda whispered.

She heard the hum of machines, the drone of a voice on an intercom. She heard her mother talking in a low voice to her father. She heard the pages of a newspaper turning.

            She opened her eyes.

            Through the hospital room window she could see the sun shining outside. What had happened? She was waking from a dream about her sister, that much she knew. Her parents were on the other side of the room, shifting uncomfortably in stiff hospital chairs.

            " Oh, honey!" her mother suddenly gushed, jumping up and running over to her. " You're awake!" She lightly embraced Rhonda's shoulders and gave her the ghost of a kiss on each cheek.

            " Bravo, Rhond," her father said, standing and walking to the bed, folding his newspaper in his hands. " You made it through your surgery just fine, despite the fact that most of the doctors here appear to be morons!"

            " I mean, really," her mother said, rolling her eyes. " I've never seen such unprofessionalism."

            The events of the night before came back to Rhonda in a flash, and tears welled in her eyes and when thought of Curly.

            " The boy I was with," she said, trying to get her ragged throat clear. " Where is he?"

            " Don't worry, doll," her father said, patting her knee. " We had him locked up."

            " Poor baby!" her mother said, leaning in to touch her face. " I can't believe that horrible school let that little maniac put you through such an ordeal! We'll be suing them for all they're worth, of course."

            A tear slid down Rhonda's cheek.

            " Where is he?" she pleaded. " I want to see him, he's my friend. He's my friend – it was – it was all a joke! We arranged it to scare everyone but it got out of hand," she rambled, trying to come with a way to get Curly off scot-free. She prayed he hadn't told the police anything that would refute her story.

            " You've got to be kidding!" her mother said with an annoyed laugh. " For a joke, Rhond? You nearly died! They told us it was a miracle that the bullet stopped before it punctured your heart – at such close range – a miracle!"

            " I have to see him," Rhonda cried. " Mother, I love him, I want to see him now."

            " Oh, dear," her father mumbled, " She's going a bit crazy from shock, isn't she? Maybe we should give Dr. Bliss a call . . ."

            " Its not shock!" Rhonda snapped. " I'm perfectly conscious and aware. And if that boy spends one more MOMENT in jail because of this gross misunderstanding I'll – I'll –" she racked her brain, searching for something that a recovering girl could do from her hospital bed.

            But there was nothing. Her parents didn't believe her, and she had to wait until the doctors would allow the police into the room to question her. She gave her statement, sticking to the story that she and Curly had planned the whole thing as a prank, and that it had gone horribly wrong.

            " If it was a prank," the skeptical police officer said, " Why did you run from us?"

            " We were scared," Rhonda said. " You were pointing guns at us – firing at our car! We didn't know what to do – we were in way over our heads - we panicked."

            " Then why didn't the boy tell us this when we locked him up?" the officer asked.

            " I don't know," Rhonda said, her heart pounding, praying that Curly hadn't said anything in his rage and sorrow that might incriminate him. " I guess he was too terrified to speak. I mean, he thought I was dead."

            The cop stared back at her.

            " Yeah, he hasn't said a word since it happened," he told her. " His aunt and uncle told us he has mental problems."

            " That a lot of bull!" Rhonda shouted. " This was all my idea, you see? I – I paid him to do it, I wanted the attention!"

            " Giving false information to the police is a felony, young lady," the officer said, angry.

            " Excuse me, good sir," Rhonda's father piped up from the other side of the room. " Perhaps this would be a good time to talk about the fact that A POLICEMAN SHOT MY DAUGHTER!"

            Rhonda was impressed – she had never seen her father get so emotional. He was seething, and the policeman, silenced by this little reminder, closed his notepad in the face of a very angry rich man.

            " Alright, alright," he said. " Based on your statement, I could charge both of you kids with a few hundred misdemeanors, namely running from the cops –" he broke off to look at the still foaming at the mouth Mr. Lloyd. " But," he said, " In light of all that happened, we're willing to let you both off the hook with community service and a fine, if, that is," he said, looking again to Rhonda's parents. " Your folks don't want to press charges against the kid, Thaddeus."

            " Please," Rhonda said before her mother and father could speak. " Please, don't. This is all my fault. He did nothing but do what I asked him to."

            " Fine, I suppose," her father said. " Only if you agree never to see this maniac again."

            Rhonda's heart cracked at hearing this – the idea of never being able to see the one person who had made her feel truly loved for the first time in her life made her want to die all over again. But if it was the only way he could be free . . .  She knew her father's lawyers could easily build a case against him if they wanted to. It was her only choice.

            " Alright," she said, weakly, tears leaking from her eyes.

            " No charges pressed, officer," Rhonda's father said, taking the man by the arm and leading him out of the room. " Now, if we could have a few words outside about this fine you're asking for, and about police negligence –"

            " Wait!" Rhonda called. " Does he – Thaddeus - even know I'm alive?" The police officer frowned.

            " I don't know," he said. " I guess not. Because it was – er, an officer that shot you, you living or dying wouldn't effect his charges directly, so we wouldn't be obligated to notify him of your condition." He shrugged. " I guess he doesn't know."

            " Please," Rhonda cried. " Tell him I'm alive, that I'm fine. And – and if you could grant a girl who almost died at the hands of one of your officers a small request, I would like to see him one last time." She looked to her father.

            " Rhonda," he said, frowning. " Why on earth do we need to do that?"

            " Because I love him, Daddy," she croaked.

            " I still say you're having hysterical delusions," he muttered. " But, fine. Say your good-byes. And I do mean GOOD-byes, as in for good. I'm not going to have my daughter gallivanting about town with a miserable piece of riff-raff who lets her put her life on the line for a stupid stunt."

            With that, he and the officer left the room. Rhonda turned to her mother.

            " Mom," she said. " I had a dream while I was unconscious. I dreamed about . . . Rachel."

            Rhonda's mother looked away, out of the window.

            " I dream about her every night," she said. Rhonda pinched her eyes shut, more tears falling past her cheeks.

            " I'm sorry, Mommy," she said. " I'm sorry."

            Her mother turned and went to her, hugged her tightly and smoothed her hair.

            " There, there, princess," she cooed. " It wasn't your fault."

            It wasn't your fault. Rachel had said the same words in her dream. But Rhonda couldn't help but think that the whole mess of her life was her own doing. Why hadn't she just noticed Curly before all of this happened? They could have been a normal couple, going to movies and necking in parked cars instead of running from and lying to the police.

            But would she have fallen in love with him under normal circumstances? Rhonda doubted it. It had taken his act of throwing everything out the window for her: logic, sanity, reputation. What had won her over in the end was what he had insisted about himself all along: he would do anything in the name of what he thought was right.

            " It will be alright, darling," her mother told her as she cried. " Your life is going to go back to normal now, and everything will be just fine."

            Rhonda cried harder as she remembered the last time this had been promised to her in vain.

Rhonda fell asleep while waiting for Curly to be brought into the hospital for their final meeting. She was exhausted from crying, from all that had happened, from the weight of the change that was running through her. All day long her friends from school had been showing up at the hospital's front desk, bearing flowers and asking to see her. She made sure that no one got through.

            Except one person.

            " Rhonda?"

            She opened her eyes, slowly coming out of her pain-killer induced doze, and saw him. Curly, standing over her bed, looking down at her, his hands timidly on the edge of her bed. He looked like hell – he hadn't shaved, his eyes were red-rimmed and bloodshot, and his black hair was a mess. He was still wearing the same clothes he had abducted her in. When he saw her open her eyes, he managed a smile.

            " Your little friend is here," Rhonda's mother, who was still in the room, said, not without a little coldness.

            " Could you please leave us alone, Mom?" Rhonda asked, not taking her eyes away from Curly's. Her mother made a disapproving sound.

            " Alright," she agreed, reluctantly. " But I'll be right outside the door with your father if you need anything." With that she walked out, leaving the two of them alone.

            Curly opened his mouth to talk, but then shut it, pinching his eyes shut and fighting away a sob. He fell to his knees beside her bed and leaned facedown onto the mattress.

            " I thought you were dead," he said, his voice shaking. " And it was my fault. I thought I had killed you." He looked up at her, his face tight against the threat of tears. Rhonda reached for him.

            " I'm fine," she said. " I don't regret what I did. If it had been you – if it had been you –" She didn't know how to say it, exactly – of course her meeting with Rachel had only been a dream – but she had a feeling that if Curly had been shot he would not have miraculously come back as she had.

            Curly hesitated.

            " I shouldn't even be allowed to touch you," he said. " I don't blame your parents for giving me such dirty looks. All of this is my fault."

            " Ugh, enough!" Rhonda said, tired of hearing that. " What's the point of placing blame? What's done is done, and I don't blame you at all. You saved my life last night. If you hadn't taken me from the prom, I would have never known – that is – I'd be safe, but half as real."

            He let himself fall into her arms, then. She kissed his neck, his cheeks, his nose, allowing herself to forget for a moment that it would the last time.

            " I love you," she said, her heart sinking when she remembered her father's ultimatum. Curly pulled back and looked at her, a real smile spreading across his face.

            " You do?" he said. " You love me?"

            " I love you so much, Thaddeus Gamelthrope," she said, collapsing into sobs again. He took her up in his arms.

            " I'll never let anyone hurt you again," he promised.

            " Curly," Rhonda said, deciding that she had to pull the band-aid off quickly rather than prolong the pain, " My – my father . . ." she began, not knowing how to tell him.

            " I knew it would be okay," he was saying, smiling at her and wiping away her tears. " I didn't know how, and when you were shot, of course I thought I was wrong. This isn't how I envisioned the beginning of things for us – but, its really going to be alright, isn't it?"

            Rhonda shook her head.

            " No," she said in a choked whisper. " Its not." He frowned.

            " What are you talking about?" he asked, stroking her cheek. " There weren't any complications during the surgery were there –"

            " Nothing like that," Rhonda said. " I'm fine. Except for the fact that my father forbids me to see you ever again."

            Curly was silent for a moment.

            " I can understand how he feels," he finally said, his face falling.

            " Don't say that!" Rhonda said.

            " What if we ran away together?" Curly proposed.

            " Oh, Curly," Rhonda said, managing a shaky smile. " I would love nothing more. But we would be running from the law, too. He'll press kidnapping charges against you if I try anything."

            Curly's eyes dropped away from hers. She waited for him to speak – he took her hand carefully in his and placed the ghost of a kiss against her palm. Rhonda thought of Rachel in her dream, offering her heart in her open palms. Don't let him get away she had said.

            " I dreamed about my sister while I was out," Rhonda told him when he was silent. " We spoke to each other. I – I know it was a dream, but it felt so real."

            " What did she say?" Curly asked, looking up at her, his voice small.

            " She said you were good in bed, actually," Rhonda remembered. He laughed.

            " I don't know if I can live without you," he said. " Now that – now that I know you love me, too."

            " We'll figure something out," Rhonda whispered. " We'll meet in secret if we have to."

            " It might not be that easy," Curly told her. " I've been expelled from school, and my mandate at the loony bin still stands. The police are escorting me there after this little visit."

            " What?" Rhonda shouted. " No! They can't!"

            " They can," Curly said. " I didn't want to tell you – I thought we could figure something out together – but now that I'm here, I'm realizing that this whole thing was impossible from the start. Its my fault, Rhonda. I've ruined us."

            " No!" Rhonda said, looking around the room frantically for some way for Curly to escape. " You haven't – we're going to be okay, remember? We're going to be okay!"

            " That's just idle talk from a crazy person, I'm afraid," Curly said sadly. The door to the room opened, and in walked Rhonda's parents and the police officer who had brought Curly from the jail.

            " No!" Rhonda shouted at them. " Please," she said, looking to the policeman. " You can't take him away – he didn't do anything wrong."

            " C'mon," the cop said to Curly. " Time's up!"

            " Stop!" Rhonda said, tightening her grip on Curly's arm. " This is wrong – he's a good person!"

            " Alright, kid," the cop said, taking Curly's arm. " Let's make this easy, huh?" Curly nodded. He looked back to Rhonda.

            " Its over," he said. " I'm sorry."

            " What?" she screamed. " You're giving up? After everything?"

            " Rhonda," he said, " What do you want me to do? I love you. I thought that was enough, but its not. They're never going to let us be together." He glanced at Rhonda's father, who was giving the cop a look that said: Get him the hell out of here and FAST.

            " Let's go," the cop said, giving Curly's arm a yank. Rhonda, in a stunned daze, let his hand slide through hers.

            He kept his eyes on hers as he was dragged from the room. Rhonda thought she saw a flicker of hope there, a secret sign that she was supposed to read, but she couldn't imagine what more they could do. They had lost.

Helga sat impatiently waiting at the coffee shop, watching the door. That afternoon she had done it – she had left a note in Arnold's locker that explained her feelings for him, and that had asked him to meet her here after school.

            Just when she was beginning to worry, she saw a blonde blur rush up to the front door, and heard the jingle of the bells that hung over it. Sure enough, there he was: her football head. She suppressed a gleeful smile as he walked toward her table. She couldn't read his expression: concerned? Curious? Disgusted?

            " Helga," he said, his deep voice slaying her as it always did. " I got your note." He sat down at the table, watching her face as she tried to avoid his gaze, embarrassed. " What's this all about?"

            Helga fumed. " What's this all about?? What do you think its about, you maroon? I love you, okay! I'm head over heels, madly, passionately –"

            Helga's usual spiel was interrupted by the bell on the coffee house door ringing again as another couple walked in. Hand in hand, they walked to the counter. The girl wrapped her arms around her boyfriend's middle as he ordered, pressing her face to his back, smiling in secret against it. He paid for his coffee and they sat down on one of the couches against the wall, cuddling up against each other and kissing in between sips.

            " Hey," Arnold said, watching them. " Its Curly and Rhonda." 

            " I'll be damned," Helga said. " I was wondering whatever happened to them, after all of the rumors. I heard that his parents put him in a mental hospital and hers packed her off to France for college."

            " Guess not," Arnold said, catching Curly's eye and giving him a friendly wave. " Looks like they worked everything out."

            " Its so weird," Helga said, watching them. " Everybody says it was some scheme Rhonda fixed up to get on the local news. I heard she even sabotaged the prom queen vote to set the whole thing in motion. But I figured after her fifteen minutes of fame was up she would dump Curly like last week's fashion fad."

            " I'm glad she didn't," Arnold said. " I think they make a cute couple, and Rhonda's been much more friendly since they got together."

            " Friendly?" Helga said with a scoff. " She'll still breathe fire on you if you look at her the wrong way!"

            " Yeah, but for Rhonda," Arnold said, grinning. " That's a big improvement."

            " Look at them," Helga sneered. " They look so happy. I could puke." Arnold laughed.

            " So, you love me then?" he said. She looked at him, melting.

            " You know I do," she said.

            " Helga," he said, his voice smoky, reaching across the table to place his hand over hers.

            " Arnold," she whimpered dreamily.

            " Helga!"

            " Arnold!"

            " Helga!"

Rhonda looked up from the newspaper and cup of coffee she and Curly were sharing and glanced again at Arnold and Helga, who were clutching each other at their table and staring intensely into each other's eyes.

            " What's the deal with those two, anyway?" she asked, leaning over to rest her head on Curly's shoulder. He looked over at them.

            " Don't know," he said. " Don't really care." He returned his eyes to the paper. " You?"

            " No," Rhonda said, " Not really." She looked back down at the ads they were perusing for apartments in upstate New York, where Rhonda would be starting college at Vassar in the fall.

            Rhonda's life hadn't changed completely since the night that she and Curly now referred to, jokingly, as their 'first date.' She was still stuck up, she was still a bitch, and where she had before cared about only one person in the entire world – herself – she now cared for two. She loved the universe that only she and Curly inhabited – they had found in each other a world big enough to permanently reside in.  

            " Here's one," Curly said. " Two bedrooms – we could make the second one into a study – or a library!" he said, grinning. Rhonda giggled at his adorable excitement and kissed his nose.

            She couldn't believe they were apartment hunting, when two months ago they had both felt sure that they would never see each other again. But when Curly had been dragged off to Cedar Oaks, the mental hospital in the northern part of the state, they had evaluated him and decided he was not a candidate for treatment.

            " Just a stupid, lovesick kid," had been the doctor's exact words. " Throw him in juvenile for a few days and teach him a lesson, but don't waste my time with him here."

            So, Curly had spent three weeks in a detention hall for bringing an unloaded gun to a school function. Meanwhile, Rhonda, still healing at home from her gunshot wound but otherwise enjoying a week off of school due to her suspension for her own 'involvement' with the prom night incident, not knowing his fate, applied to Vassar and let her mother know that she didn't want to move to France. Agreeing that it wasn't the best time for her to be out of the country on her own, her parents decided that Vassar was a fine alternative, and, when she found out about her acceptance, agreed to pay for it.

            Of course, that had all gone out of the window when Curly showed up on her doorstep one night, with an armload of bags and the news that he had left home and was fresh out of the slammer. Rhonda's parents were furious and threatened to call the police, and, standing on the stairwell outside their uptown brownstone, Rhonda realized that this was the moment when she had to make the decision that would effect the rest of her life: should she step off and run away with Curly - who was looking up at her, pleading with those gray eyes of his – and forgo her fully financed education at Vassar, her trip to Egypt in August, her fall wardrobe – all of the things her parent's money could give her? Or did she step back inside, back into a life of safety and comfort, but away from the kind of love that Curly was offering her, a love that could save her from herself?

            She had fallen into his arms and literally run away with him, through the streets, her arms empty, her parents shouting from the doorstep as she went. A whole two days after her eighteenth birthday, she was legal and free.

            They spent their first night together in one of the rattiest motels in town, but Rhonda hardly noticed. She couldn't believe that Curly was free, when it had seemed impossible that he could escape the talons of an aunt and uncle who wanted him committed and a pissed off police force that wanted him arrested.

            Curly used his life savings – not a huge amount, but enough – to rent an apartment south of the train tracks, and got a job at a lumberyard, working all day and taking classes to finish up high school at night. Rhonda worked in a nail salon during the day and waitressed at night, and somehow the two were able to make ends meet.

            It wasn't easy for Rhonda, the transition from a cushy upper-crust life to working almost fifteen hours a day, and she wasn't exactly enjoying the sort of romance she would have liked with Curly, since they were both gone all day and exhausted when they got home. But she liked the feeling of working toward something, of having a goal. Everything in her life had always been handed to her, and though she sometimes wished for it after a day of painting bitchy upper east-side women's nails and then running back and forth all night to the tune of their barked orders at the restaurant, her life had begun to feel meaningful and real.

            And she was in love with Curly. Coming home from work to find him sitting on their crappy twin bed studying his Chemistry was worth every moment of menial labor.

            " Someday," he would promise her guiltily when they laid in bed together at night, " I'll be able to provide for you, and you won't have to work like this –"

            " Hey," Rhonda would say with a grin. " Maybe I'll provide for you. I'm the one going to college, after all."

            Rhonda's plan was to get as many scholarships and loans as she could – she wasn't going to give up Vassar just because her snooty parents hated her boyfriend. But as it happened, they were more concerned about their daughter going miles into debt before her twentieth birthday than her choice in men, and they asked her to move back home.

            " Please, Rhonda," her father begged. " We can't bear the thought of you living in those slums – what if something was to happen to you? Move back home, and we'll pay for your school, reinstate your credit cards – anything you want!"

            Rhonda had smiled. " Anything?" she challenged.

            And so, this was how she and Curly had come to be living back in the Lloyd's brownstone on the wealthy side of town – Rhonda, they had regulated, in her bedroom, and Curly in the guestroom. Rhonda missed feeling self-sufficient, and more so missed going to bed with Curly every night and falling asleep in his arms, but she was happy to do without the cockroaches, street corner drug deals and endless hours of thankless work.

            Though her parents strongly resented him at first, Curly began to grow on them when they saw how devoted he was to Rhonda. He continued working at the lumberyard and proudly paid rent each month for living with the Lloyds, which impressed them. They were further impressed, and, honestly, downright shocked, when the boy completed his equivalency diploma and was excepted with full scholarships to Marist College.

            " Who knew you were a genius?" Rhonda said when he got his acceptance letter, throwing her arms around him.

            " Most of us maniacs are, believe it or not," Curly said, grinning, trying hard to hide his excitement. " I'm not a big fan of institutionalized education," he claimed, " But I thought I should have something to do up there while you're in class."

            Rhonda still couldn't believe it, but Curly had been right along – everything was going to be okay. She reached up to tuck his dark hair behind his ear as he read another ad.

            " Two bedrooms, one bath," he read. " Hardwood floors, and open kitchen." He looked up at her. " What do you think?" he asked.

            Rhonda looked at the boy who loved her and smiled.

            " I was just wondering, actually," she said. " How you knew all along that waving a gun in my face at prom would land us here. You really knew, didn't you? You knew I was going to fall in love with you – cocky bastard – and you knew you were going to get away with your little stunt – hell, I even think you knew our money problems would evaporate."

            " Yeah," Curly said with a shrug. " I told you that all along, didn't I? You're finally believing me now?" he asked with a grin.

            " Well, yes," she said. " But, HOW?"

            He set the paper down and put an arm around her, sitting back.

            " Rhonda," he said. " Don't you ever just get a feeling? A feeling like everything is going to work out?"

            " Yeah," she said, quietly. " I have one right now."

            He smiled, leaned forward, and kissed her.

            " Well," he said. " I've got the rest of the day off from work. What do you want to do?"

            Rhonda thought for a moment, then smiled, and leaned over to whisper in his ear:

            " Lets free all of the animals in the zoo."

Helga and Arnold looked up from their table when they heard the bell on the door ring again – Curly and Rhonda were walking out, both laughing, with devious looks on their faces.

            " Hmm," Arnold said, pulling Helga to him, letting her head rest on his shoulder. " On second thought, I don't know if its such a good idea, the two of them together."

            " Why not?" Helga asked, sated now. " Let 'em have their fun, the crazy bastards."

            " Think about it, Helga," Arnold said. " Curly Gamelthrope – administration storming, test-throwing, gun wielding Curly, and a girl like Rhonda who will scream and stomp and take herself hostage until she gets what she wants – together?"

            " I see what you mean," Helga muttered, watching them walk off down the street.

            " Its great to finally see the two of them happy," Arnold said. " But I fear for the rest of the world."

A/N: This is something I found on my computer, half-finished, and it gave me a laugh so I decided to write the rest just for a bit of fun. I really love the beginning of this, and the comic pacing of it. The second half, I'm not so sure about. Obviously this was meant as sort of an over-the-top, almost surrealist little departure, but I don't know well the second half maintains that mood. I also feel like the breaks or 'scene changes' were really awkward. Any comments would be greatly appreciated.

The line, "I'd be safe, but half as real," is taken from 'If I Never Knew You,' a song from the Disney soundtrack to 'Pocahontas.' Yah. I know.

Its obvious TO ME that there is no where to go with a sequel here, but just in case: DON'T ASK