Author's Note: This story is also something newer, just a thought that needed to be put into words. Sort of a mini-epilogue to "April Fools Day," an essential "How Haley Would Have Ended The Episode" sorta thing. Enjoy.
When Fools Rush In
by Haley (PeteyGal13@aol.com)
Chlorinated water dripped from the ends of Helga Pataki's sopping pigtails, running down the inside of her sack-like dress that clung mercilessly to her skinny legs and allowed the chill of the April wind to travel up and down her spine. She felt, as her sneakers squelched with water down the crumbling sidewalk, like utter crap.
How could she have used him again like that, after all she had said? And how could Arnold have done...
Helga bit her lip: what she had seen that night, amid cheering and jeering classmates, had not been the Arnold she had so long adored. Instead, a sick and twisted copy of the original, hell bent on revenge. She still had sore spots around her waist and inbetween her fingers where the blonde boy had gripped too hard, and originally that had excited the girl. Enticed her, even. But when she had seen his eyes...
It was something demented and frightening: just not her Arnold.
Surprising herself, as she continued to walk at a reduced pace, hot water (a refreshing change from the icy water she was covered in) ran in rivets down her cheeks. For somewhere, somehow, she was responsible for who Arnold had become that night. After all of the teasing and torture, he had retaliated, which would have been completely acceptable had it not been...well, him.
Arnold. The little, naive football-headed boy who couldn't bear to harm a soul, who stuck his neck out for others in need, who would give you the shirt off his back, if you only asked. He had been stepped on his whole life, but could it have been that her little prank, something that seemed so juvenile in Helga's mind at the moment, that truly pushed him over the edge?
Had Helga, in her selfish childhood mischeif, created some sort of monster?
Her feelings consumed her, and the girl took two uneven steps before throwing herself against the closest brick wall and letting all of her emotions pour out. She was angry at him, but felt guilty, and oddly happy at the same time. He had cared enough about her to do all this, but that "care" could have just been focused rage. Yet, the places where he had touched her still throbbed. Bruises that she wished would fade, but almost wanted forever.
It wasn't fair, none of it. True, she never thought their first real dance, something of that magnitude, would be filled with such passion. But it was almost misguided passion, passion felt only through revenge, and what had originially been seen as a harmless prank had turned into something that was so much more. His words still rang in her head, where he knew she'd been scared, and had proceeded to take advantage of her fallen state: "It's okay, my poor *blind* friend, you're in good hands."
It had been almost the most sensual and frightening thing Helga had ever heard, because for the first time ever in her life someone else had complete control over her. Arnold had heard her confession, and although they both continued to deny it, knew that he remembered it clear as day. He held the winning card: Arnold was her puppet master. He knew that, no matter what he said, she would obey.
It was a terrifying position to be in, and Helga wept for that too, until a disturbingly familliar hand touched upon her shoulder.
She jumped at his voice, whirling about and pressing her back hard up against the wall. His hair was limp, curled foward with water dripping in his eyes, and this...this Arnold was the same she had known for more than half of her 10 year existance. This Arnold was looking upon her with the concerned eyes of a friend, rather than the vengeful eyes of an enemy.
However, Helga was still shocked and wary when she managed to bite out darkly: "What do you want?"
And she almost watched it slide over his eyes: a realization that he had hurt her, more than ever intended. Arnold fell into himself, lost and a bit confused. He had been almost proud of his actions that night, until now. When he realized that he had almost inadvertantly hurt someone who truly believed she was pulling an innocent prank.
She hurt me too, a little voice in his head quickly noted, but that was no excuse. Helga was tough to understand, and in some way, he had realized that all of her torture and trickery were mearly signs of misguided affection, as bizarre as it sounded. She loved him, trusted him, and had gotten hurt for it.
Now, she was staring him down coldly, tears still running openly down her cheeks: "What do you want, Arnold?"
"I-" his breath caught in his throat, when he realized how much he had been hurt. Helga, whom he was just beginning to trust and even care for, had just taken out the ultimate betrayl. She had scared him so much, and he had indeed shed tears for her. Not even out of feeling bad that he had pulled, but for that simple expression of horror that had initially been scrawled across her stark white features and for the girl herself. "Helga, I'm-"
"Don't be sorry, Football Head," her eyes, so lit with passion and feeling, immediately dropped to the ground. "Just get out of here."
"Helga, I'm sorry!" he finally managed to cry out, and her head snapped up to finally meet his gaze. It was caring and compassionate: all Arnold. As well as the visible guilt: his face seemed so long that it stretched for a country mile, "So sorry."
But that didn't mean he was about to get away with anything. "You don't know what it's like to be me, loving you. You're so damn innocent and naive! I could've sworn, before tonight, that you were a complete invertebrate...what happened?"
Hearing her again utter those words still made the boy slightly uncomfortable, but at least Helga was trying to sort out her feelings. That, in itself, was incredibly reassuring. "We hurt each other, I think." And then he added, letting his eyes fall as well, "You just didn't do it on purpose."
Then she laughed, actually laughed, as their cool gazes met once again. "You could never be malicious, even if you tried," Helga smiled softly, "I don't think you'd even know how."
"But I did try," he confirmed sadly, then reached out a hand to gently encircle her wrist, "And I'm sorry I hurt you."
Initially, she shyed away from his touch, but with his hand being in hers, she fell forward, only to have him catch her soundly. Arnold's breath lodged in his chest at the ferocity of her hug, but he almost understood it now, and returned it with all the force he could muster.
"I'm sorry, too," Helga whispered gently, into his damp shoulder, as he held her and the whole world was silent.
-May 14, 2002