Okay before everyone burns me at the stake here's the deal on 'The Fire": The next part was written and hell even most of it was typed up. But I had to change it all because....um....well...I did. I made a big mistake and....er...so, that is the reason why I haven't posted it yet. It should be up soon. I promise.

I'm sorry it took so long with this chapter, but exams just ended etc. etc. This chapter goes off in a different direction that some will think is weird and does not relate to anything...oh well cause it will eventually....

Anyway thanks for all the reviews! I love reading them all and the constructive criticisms are very helpful. It's really encouraging after you write a story that someone appreciates your work. Thanks again!

Okay I am shutting up right about now....sorry about that little spiel.

Disclaimer: I'd love to say that I do work on the show, but alas I can not. Oh well....

The Final Part of Our 8th Grade Christmas*


I studied the boy before me, or I guess more accurately the young man. He was 15 and towered over me. He had wavy blond hair cut in a mushroom style with a few freckles sprinkled across his nose left over from spending a lot of the summer outside (my guess from playing soccer). His hazel eyes gazed at me and
from up close I could depict his long eyelashes. To sum it up he looked like he had just stepped out of a teen fashion magazine.

"Hello." His voice was deep and smooth, but I heard an iciness to it that baffled me.

"Sorry," I apologized.

"It's okay," he replied. When he spoke his breath misted out in front of him, showing how cold the bitter air was.

"Um I guess I'll see ya around," I added, growing uncomfortable. I was about to walk past him, but his hand caught my shoulder.

"I need to talk to you," he said solemnly with a graveness that chilled the bones in my body.

"Oh?" I looked at him curiously. What did he want with me?

"Yes, about Helga."

"What about her? Is something the matter?" He gave me a strange look with his keen, hazel eyes.

"Yes, I think there is." He paused. His lips were formed into a frown, and his arms were folded over his chest. "I really like her, but you are coming between us, I can tell." I started to laugh, my laughter rung in the biting air as I began to shake my head. I doubted the guy had any idea of how Helga really treated me.

"I don't think so. Helga hates me!" I had to grin at the thought of Helga ditching this high-school dream boy for me.

"No she doesn't," replied Andrew with a drop dead serious tone that startled me. "I've seen the way she looks at you-"

I scoffed. "Have you seen the way she treats me? She'll yell at me, insult me, and threaten me whenever she gets half an opportunity to. She always has and always will despise me." My voice was firm, but at the same time I knew that it was not completely true. Andrew either did not notice my doubts or pretended
not to.

"There is something you're missing." He paused to turn his head away to watch a few young children joyfully playing across the street. "I saw you guys kiss the other night." I could feel my face flush a deep, dark, crimson red, and I was grateful for the distraction of the children playing in the snow. "Neither of you can see it, but I can."

"See what?" His serious tone was continuing to puzzle me, and impatience was beginning to win me over.

"That spark, you two have it. You don't realize it though. It's almost like you two were made for each other." My eyes widened at his statement. He turned towards me and grinned slightly on seeing the bewildered expression on my face.

"Made for each other?! I don't think so. We can barely stand each other!" I cried.

"I seriously doubt that's the case. I imagine Helga might actually like you." His hazel eyes sparkled with an almost hypocritical laughter.

"What's with everyone thinking that Helga likes me? She hates me!" I snapped feeling very annoyed. He had not been the first person to make that assumption, but what bothered me more was that he was acting like he knew us (meaning Helga and myself) better than we knew ourselves. I did not appreciate it.

"She treats me like I'm scum between her toes." To my great surprise the boy nodded as if he had anticipated my response.

"Of course she does. I haven't known her for very long, but there is one thing I do understand about her."

"And what's that?" I asked almost bitterly.

"She'll never admit anything. She is not that kind of person. And the last thing in the world she would do if she did like you was show it and tell you how she felt." I shook my head in frustration.

"That doesn't make any sense whatsoever!" Andrew smiled at me patiently and paused to run his hand through his blonde hair.

"Well neither does she." I was not exactly sure what to say to that response.

"If Helga did like me she would at least treat me better," I retorted. I could not accept that explanation for the way Helga was. It did not make sense: not one ounce of truth or reality was there.

"She doesn't treat you all that bad. Not from what I've seen," he remarked slyly.

"Oh, and what by chance have you seen?" Had he been following Helga and me around? Maybe I was right about this guy: perhaps he was bad news.

"I saw what she just did for you." He had been following us around! "You know she wouldn't do that for just anyone." I shrugged finding the fluffy white flakes on the ground remarkably interesting. Our shadows from the streetlight were outlined on the powdery snow. "But I guess you coming between us is
only for the best." I looked up. What was he getting at?

"What do you mean?" I asked curiously. He straightened his strong shoulders built from being a star athlete.

"I have to break up with her sooner or later. I guess it might as well be sooner. I can't run the risk of staying with her, not with my reputation on the line." My eyes met his and I had a feeling I must have been subconsciously glaring at him.

"You mean you are going to dump Helga just because you think we have a thing for each other?!" I snapped, much to my surprise. I had never been the type of person to snap or get angry about anything. I've always been Mr. Calm.

"Of course not." He shook his head at my misunderstanding. "I just want to make sure she does not dump me. The 10th grader who gets disposed of by an 8th grader would surely get laughed out of high school."

He stopped for a brief moment to try and brush some snow out of his hair for it was beginning to snow again. "You two can go out, but only after I break up with her."

I stood there startled and angry. I glared at Andrew. "Don't you even like Helga? Don't you know she has feelings too? Why are you so worked up with your stupid reputation?" My questions were hurried from my frustration. How could someone be so low?

"I do like Helga, I like her a lot in fact, but I can tell she doesn't feel the same way about me. She's playing along. Anyway there's something about her that I don't like, sometimes she almost...." He looked away and muttered something inaudible under his breath. I had stirred up some emotion that hurt him incredibly. He began to walk away and would have left without so much as a goodbye if I had not stepped in.

I watched him with the snow beginning to fall harder in the background. I studied his back and the red jacket he was wearing as he passed under a streetlight. He was getting farther away, but I called out to him before the distance was too great.

"Almost frightens you?" He stopped dead in his tracks. For a moment he just stood there without moving a muscle until he slowly turned to face me. Since he was no longer under a streetlight I could not observe his face, but I knew there was a strange look plastered on it.

"She does frighten you, doesn't she?" I prodded. All of sudden things were becoming clear. "She scares you." Andrew stood still, protected by the darkness of the evening. I could hear his steady breathing. No one spoke for quite some time. The children had gone inside to get away from the chilly December air to warm themselves. This left the two of us in a dreadfully eerie silence. He finally shattered it.

"How did you-?" His voice was trembling and the unsteadiness erased any single lingering doubt I had.

"It's hard to hide those things. I know that from my own experiences. But denying everything isn't going to solve anything, right?"

More silence.

"But accepting it isn't going to solve anything now is it?" His bitter voice stung the cold air after a minute of a tense peace. He did not wait for me to respond. "That's what you don't get. I'm not denying anything...I'm just refusing to accept it, I won't let that happen."

"But it has already happened."

"No, it hasn't," he answered stubbornly, staring down at the fluffy whiteness refusing to meet my eyes. He did not want me to the see truth, but I could see it anyway.

"You're denying it," I said firmly. Before my eyes it stood crystal clear, and I wondered if Helga herself was aware of what was going and what had been going on.

"I am not!" he replied, refusing to give in. I rolled my eyes. I guess what I had heard about high school was true...people there don't get any maturer. I could not help but wonder when they ever do.

"Forget I said anything," I mumbled. "Go and dump her if you think that's the right thing to do. It has nothing to do with me. Helga and me ...we're just friends if that." He glanced up for a brief moment and stepped into the brimming rays of the streetlight. With the shadow over his face gone I could see how bright his hazel eyes were as the light illuminated them.

"Goodbye, and Merry Christmas," I said simply and turned to leave. I knew my grandparents would probably be getting worried over my long absence.

I did not look over shoulder to glance back at Andrew. I could only imagine he was staring after my retreating body, trying to brush the freshly fallen snow off his hair all the while wondering what he should do.

I stepped into the boardinghouse and was thankful that Grandpa had recently fixed the furnace. The warm air was a comfort to my half-frozen body. I dusted off the snow and took off my jacket before proceeding in walking into the kitchen.

"Hi Grandma, hi Grandpa," I greeted. My Grandma glanced up from the stove while my Grandpa looked up from the paper he had been reading.

"Oh good you're back, Shortman. Me and Pookie were beginning to get worried." He paused to place the paper down. "How are you feeling?"

I shrugged. "I've been better." He ruffled my hair and grinned.

"That's understandable." I looked at what was set on the kitchen table. My eyes enlarged at the sight of the two objects my grandparents had been holding earlier in the day. I cautiously took a step forward and reached out to touch the two charred black objects.

"Is that...?" Somehow despite the objects having been burned beyond recognition I knew what they were. My grandpa nodded. I took them in my hands feeling the black soot on my skin. I turned to go to my room. I needed to be alone.

"I'll call you when dinner's ready," my grandpa called after me. As if I was in a dream, I made way up to my room and sat down the two objects still in my hands. Pressing my cheek against them, knowing that my own parents had once held them, I closed my eyes.

*"That part of our lives is over, Edwardo. We have a little boy now."

"We won't be gone for long. Be good for Grandma and Grandpa."

"Next week when we get back I'll take you to the park.

" Mommy loves you."

"Daddy loves you."*

For a long time I just held the charred objects close to my skin, wanting so much to bring my parents back to me. I tried to remember the sound of their laughter, their smile, their quirks, or simply just the sound of their voice and what they looked like. Only little glimpses could come to my mind. I wondered how you could know someone for such a short amount of time and how their leaving could still hurt you so much.

But I did not cry. I never cried. I could not remember the last time I had let tears shed from my eyes, and I was not about to start no matter what pain was brought on me. Someone had to be strong.

I placed their hats on top of my bookshelf before returning to my bed. Lying down, I turned to gaze up at the skylight, although all I could see was a white blanket, there were other images dancing in my mind. I let out a deep sigh. Some Christmas this had turned out to be.


I looked out my bedroom window. From the streetlights I could see that powdery snow was once again beginning to fall on the ground. If I ever had to move to a warmer place I decided that I would miss the snow greatly. Nothing compares to the first snow day of the year when instead of sitting in a stuffy classroom you get to battle in a snowball fight to the bitter end. Not to mention the feeling you get when there's a white, picture perfect Christmas.

Of course it's freezing. Your nose turns a bright pink while your cheeks become rosy: full of life and color. And the roads are covered with hard ice that could shatter your delicate bones. In addition, there's the chaos that comes with a freak blizzard: the mad rush to the stores to stock up on bread and water. But despite the drawbacks of winter I could not help but feel that in the end the snow was worth it. People who had never seen its fluffy whiteness blanketing a city, or tasted its coldness upon their tongue, do not understand and unless they experience it for themselves never do.

But I guess it's still Christmas even without snow forming the perfect background for the holiday. There's so much more to Christmas than the scenery. There's your family.

I closed my eyes and could feel the pain that throbbed in my bones from that seemingly harmless word. Family. I wondered if other families were like mine. Perhaps I was the only girl who had ever felt like I did not belong, that I was not good enough for my family's approval, or that I was simply a mistake, something that should have never happened.

But then again I often think I got off with a good life. I had a family didn't I? They cared about me. I guess inside I knew they did, but it was so hard to see it and it was hard for them to show it. I guess in a way I was like the rest of my family. I didn't show my feelings, maybe because I felt that my strong passions and emotions were my greatest weaknesses, but it might be fear. Fear of what everyone would see if they knew me. Knew me? I laughed bitterly. I hardly even knew myself...

But I did have a family and in the end that's all that matters isn't? You shouldn't get caught up with the particulars like the amount of attention you receive, the way they treat you, or anything along that sort, should you? I wondered what it would be like to have no family at all. You could never complain about the way your mother bothers you with her tendency to be forgetful, how inconsiderate your dad is, or how overbearing your older sister acts. I wondered what it was like for Arnold.

He had a family. Not a very ordinary one, but they cared about him nevertheless. They had made him into the wonderful, charming boy he was today. But at the same time I had to feel sorry for him for what he lacked. Parents. Real parents.

I sat upright on my bed, very startled. It was happening again, that strange sensation. I could feel the wet tears slip down my cheek. Why was I crying? I didn't even know them, but then why did the news of their death hurt me so much?

'Because it hurts him.' WHAM! Realization hit me straight on with the weight of ten tons of bricks. Maybe that voice spoke the truth, maybe it was speaking for my soul, what I wanted so much to deny.

I had always tried to protect him, to shield him for longer than I could remember. I treated him as if he were a delicate being full of morals and ideological values, and those virtues so greatly bestowed upon him, could be easily taken away. I had done so much for him, more than he would ever know in hopes that he could forever cling onto dreams and think that perhaps it is possible for them to come true. I wanted him to believe in miracles.

But I was only human and I knew I could not do battle for the reality of life forever. But at the same time I felt this deep pang of guilt that cut right at my heart. I had not been able to protect him and had caused his hopeless dream of one, fateful day being reunited with his parents to be shattered into millions of pieces.

I could not protect him from everything. I would not always be there for him. We would grow up and go our separate ways. I wanted to be his guardian angel, showing him that there was still good left in the world, and a reason to be a wonderful, virtuous person. I felt that sometimes you just needed a reason to be a righteous person, to know that it was worth it. I was afraid that the little boy I had spent most of my childhood obsessing over would suddenly change. *'Change? Change into what? Arnold will never change. You know it, I know it.'*

"Helga? Oh baby sister there you are!" My thoughts were suddenly interrupted by my sister swinging open my door in excitement and dashing to my bedside. I inwardly groaned. I was not in the mood for her endless prattle.

"I've been looking all over the city for you! I was getting really worried, you know you should not run off like that, baby sister."

My annoyance was growing. "I'm 13, Olga, I can take care of myself and-" She did not let me finish.

"Helga, there's one more Christmas present for you! I saved it for last." Her voice was rushed and high full of enthusiasm. She had been anxiously awaiting my arrival and I knew she was dying to see my reaction to the gift.

I stretched my arms out and stood up. "Where is it?" I let a yawn escape. I had to admit I was very tired. Christmas had not exactly turned out to be the most relaxing day this year.

She clapped her hands in excitement. "I'll show you." She dragged me downstairs and out the door and practically shoved me into her car. 'This must be some present.'

"Where are we going?" Olga turned the key in the car and pressed down hard on the acceleration. The engine zoomed into life.

"You'll see, baby sister." The car jerked forward. The automobile sped past familiar shops and streets to the outskirts of the city, a strange place, although not very far away, I had rarely visited the area before. I gave my older sister a quizzical look as she turned the car into a long driveway. I was blinded by the dark of the evening, unable to determine my location. The car came to an abrupt halt.

"This is it," she shrieked, unbuckling her seat-belt and jumping out the door before I could even open my mouth to utter, 'What's going on?' because there was no one to answer me. Muttering explicits under my breath, I got out of the car and stepped onto a dusty road, only to find that I was in the middle of nowhere.

A light from on top of strange building shone down brightly on some sort of fence. I glanced back at the building. It was such a strange structure: even its smell was unusual. I jumped at a startling noise. Feeling very nervous, I looked around only to find I was alone, Olga was gone.

"Olga?" I called out, my voice was shaky, and I felt the whole atmosphere of the strange place was unsettling. I heard the noise again. Distant yet distinct, but the noise caused my eyes to widen as I turned towards the fence, slowly approaching it. I stopped as I reached it and very cautiously spoke. "Is anyone there? Olga?"

Someone stuck his or her head into the brimming light, or more accurately something. Jumping back, I covered my mouth to keep myself from screaming aloud at the sight of the creature that stood before me, its powerful structure outlined in the darkness of the evening.

Fiery eyes met my own, and I heard a decisive snort. Blinking in disbelief, I reached out to touch the creature. At first it jerked its head away and I gasped, snapping my hand back to my side, which only frightened the animal more. It stared at me while I stood perfectly still.

Then slowly and cautiously it leaned its head towards me. I paled, fearing that its massive jaw would bite into my flesh, but instead it placed its forehead against my shoulder and slowly rubbed against my joint. Startled and shaken I could only stare at the creature while it used my shoulder as an itching post.

I could see it clearly now. A dark bay: a brown coat with a black mane wild from lack of proper grooming over the winter. Its face was strong and proud. A white stripe rested from between its fiery eyes to between its nostrils. Tentatively, I reached up to touch its delicate muzzle. This time the creature did not shy from me. The velvety muzzle was soft and the whiskers tickled my fingers.

"Helga? Oh there you are baby sister!" It jumped back in fright while I spun around to face Olga, angered by her intrusion with the bonding moment I had been sharing with the creature. My sister let a sly grin creep across her lips. She motioned to the animal who stood a few feet from the fence, watching us with keen eyes.

"What do you think?" Her eyes sparkled with amusement.

"Of what?" I was still confused by the whole situation, but the pieces were beginning to fit into my mind.

"Of him." I turned to face the creature, wanting to make sure that she was referring to it and nothing else.

"What about him?" I kept my voice passive and unexcited. I refused to get my hopes up...I did not want them to get struck down by reality.

"He's yours." Her voice was soft and sweet. The voice that I had spent so much of my life loathing and despising yet at that moment that overbearing voice sounded so beautiful, so wonderful that I regretted every horrible thing I had ever done to my older sister.

"No joke? No angle?" I did not want to believe it, but at the same time I felt my heart leap for joy. She approached me and put her arms around me in one of her typical bone-crushing embraces.

"Not at all. He needed a home, and I thought that maybe my baby sister could take care of him. He's awfully young, but the people who gave him to me showed me how much talent he has."

As if hearing the compliment the animal nickered softly. I slowly pulled away from my sister. He made his way toward me, walking steadily with his long legs striding in a quick pace.

"I was sure you'd love him, baby sister. He can be a bit shy, but if he's well taken care I'm sure he will get over it."

"What about Mom and Dad?" I asked refusing to turn away from the magnificent creature that stood before me.

"I got them to go along with it. Owning him will teach you responsibility, and the rewards of hard work."

I turned back to Olga, my eyes brimming with salty tears. I flung my arms around her, something I thought I would never do.

"Thank you." I was trying desperately to choke back my happy sobs. A loud neigh shattered the tender sisterly moment. We both looked up to see him, fiery yet gentle, tamed but still wild as he reared up hooves kicking the air. My very own horse.

Every young girl has at one time or another dreamed of owning a horse. I knew next to nothing about them. My sister was an expert as I was well aware of, but the thought of owning such an animal had hardly ever crossed my mind and despite that fact it still was the greatest gift I had ever received on Christmas Day.

Something inside of me told me that this horse might be the answer I had been looking for to the questions I dared not ask for fear of finally knowing what the answers might actually be. And something else told me that things were never going to be the same again.


*This whole story (if you don't know by now) is a flashback on various Christmases Helga and Arnold spent together. This is the end of their 8th grade Christmas (I really didn't mean for it to go on this long) and the next part is probably going to be about their 10th or 12th grade one. For those of you who are wondering why on earth I had a horse enter the story, trust me it'll be very important later on...

Oh and I didn't really know the exact lines from his parents...that was just from memory so its probably wrong...I haven't taped that ep yet.

I just replaced it...the spacing should be fixed.