Last chapter! This is so bittersweet. So, as a final farewell, a shout-out to everyone who replied to Chapter 12, goodbye all!
DarthRoden- Don't sweat the reviews, it takes me forever to actually review to a story I like. Thanks for the review anyway!
Athyna- Thank you so much! I feel better about writing kissing scenes now…and I can't wait to unveil my newest story. I actually had a separate idea for a story, but it's most likely going to be a continuation of this one. I smell a sequel…
InuYasha's Kagome- Thanks for the review. As for the kiss, it was essentially to show that she could trust him (I know a couple of guys I'd like to "trust"…sorry, I'm being crazy…). But no, they weren't sharing a bed…I reread that part and it does sound like that. Sorry for the confusion
RuffMaster/X Shin X- Wait! Where are you going? I'm not done yet! And did you change your name? I wasn't sure. Oh well. Thanks for your review!BellaMay76- Thank you for the review…I always look forward to yours. I would like to add a comment on how you should have smuggled me into a Clay Aiken concert, but I remember how he kinda looks like my ex, but then I remember how that's not really a bad thing…so feel free to mail me a ticket!Amelia Badelia- Wow. That was a really nice review…, which I kinda didn't expect…because some of your other ones were…less than nice. But I don't want people to hold grudges against me for my reviews, so I don't do so either. Thank you.
Eienvine- Awww, you liked my kissing scene…I'm so happy, cuz I kinda hated it…thank you all the same!
Michelle- I was ACTUALLY going for a "shock" effect, where it was supposed to come out of nowhere, glad it did! Thanks for reviewing!
Smoking Panda- I had to make them kiss…it couldn't be stopped…thank you for appreciating that.
LilL- It was wonderful? Really? You're too sweet (blushing) Thank You so much for the review!
TheBaldOneMpls- Thank you for your review. Having an apartment that close to the ground can be an advantage, seeing as my bedroom window is about 13 feet off the ground, and it's hard trying to climb through the window on top of an upside down trashcan in your mom's flower garden, because you forgot your keys inside (again) and you really have to go to the bathroom, and the middle schoolers are coming up the street and I'm talking too much, thanks for reviewing…
Starship Gazer- I'm trying REALLY hard to come up with a sequel, and I think I've got one cooked up, so look out! Thanks for the review!
Jae B- Yeah, I've never been drunk, so…I kinda went on what I saw from Family Guy, where Stewie dragged Brian into the bathroom, and poured cold water on him…he sobered up pretty quickly. But then he's a dog…and a cartoon dog at that. So don't listen to me, I don't know any better! Thanks for the review!
Demile- I know! I don't want it to end either! I'm so sad; I've been stalling this chapter for a while. No time but the present, I suppose…
Okay, the (sniff, sniff) last (sniff) chapter. Read on…
Chapter 13: Round Trip
Are we growing up?
Or just going down?
It's just a matter of time, until we're all found out
Take our tears and put them on ice
'Cause, I swear,
I'd burn this city down to show you the light…
-FallOut Boy "Sophomore Slump or Comeback of the Year"
"If F of X equals -2, then y is…uh…"
It was hard enough that a day before The Senior Trip commenced; she had a mound of homework to do. Most people had completed all of theirs a few days in advance, but being the procrastinator that she was, she couldn't quite get it. And to top it off, the phone across her bedroom was now ringing furiously. No doubt it was Phoebe, to properly distract her from her studies for the next hour or so.
"Yeah?" she said impatiently, always prepared to talk, but obviously lacking the time to. Cradling the phone between her shoulder and cheek, she tried to concentrate on her work and the voice on the other end of the line, which until now had said nothing.
"…Is that how we answer a phone?"
The voice was oddly familiar, only raspy and far-away sounding. It was almost like a horror film where the mass murderer asks you your favorite Scary Movie and proceeds to use it as a guide on how to end your life.
"Who is this?" Helga asked, trying to keep her composure. Phoebe had told her about the numerous times Gerald would call with an "unusual" voice, but she'd never done that to her. Not to mention Gerald didn't even know her number. Instead of just jumping to conclusions, Helga listened for a moment, and hoped whoever this was would reveal himself, without her help.
"So, why are you up to late? Isn't it passed your bedtime?"
His voice, if it happened to be a HIM, was surprisingly smooth beneath the hoarse blanket that seemed to surround it. Scary, nonetheless, but intriguing still.
"Just finishing something up…you?" Helga asked, making her voice sound equally as interested and alluring, even though she was neither. The overall thought of it was…fun, and a bit horrifying at the same time.
"Just wanted to call and tell you…that you look phenomenal in that outfit…"
Okay, the line that parted "Ha ha, I have a pretend stalker" and "Oh crap, I have a stalker" was officially crossed, and Helga now had reason to be scared. Her sleeping attire was never decent; mainly because she never felt the need to be. She was in her room, in her house, thus giving her whatever merit she needed to wear whatever she wanted.
"Okay, this is not funny anymore! Who are you!" Helga said, stern into the phone, her hand gripping the receiver so hard, it seemed as if it were about to crack slowly then shatter to pieces on the dimly lit computer table.
Between her words, she couldn't help but hear the faint sounds of what sounded like either crying or laughter.
"Answer me! I swear, I'll have the police on you're a-"
More laughter. Or crying. Her words weren't fazing anyone, not even herself. She'd either have to learn how to tap a phone line on five seconds or just…
Helga held the phone a few inches from her face, but close enough to hear the voice on the other end that was more than likely laughing at her, and thinking of ways to prepare her body for ingestion.
(A/N: Yes, I saw Hannibal, and I think I'd notice if some guy was eating my brain…)
Pressing a random number, but staying clear of the OFF button. Silently placing her hand over the mouthpiece, Helga waited for whomever she was talking to, to reveal himself. After another few seconds, the voice on the other end began to quiet down and notice that Helga (and her demanding tone) was absent.
Helga kept her hand still, trying to avoid friction from her hand to the mouthpiece.
Helga inwardly laughed at her simplistic cunning and her decision to switch to a cordless phone.
"C'mon Helga, I was just kidding!"
"Arnold! I'm gonna kill you!" Helga yelled into the phone, laughing loud and long. Abandoning her seat in front of her desk, she laid face-up on her bed, and listen to Arnold's laughter blend with hers. It was times like this that having her own phone line was a definite advantage.
Her parents never really cared who called exactly. If it were someone for her, they'd just call up the stairs and wait for her to pick it up. The exclusion of that factor prevented a lot of the misnaming Bob had done to her friends. And in the case of Arnold, he was the only guy she could properly and truly laugh (and on occasion cry) in front of and not feel emotionally overexposed.
"Glad to hear from you too. Ready for tomorrow?" he asked, after calming down.
"Not quite. Got a little packing to do. And some homework. You?" Helga said, now physically occupied by flipping the pages of the hard bound Thesaurus that sat next to her bed, should any inspiration arrive in the middle of the night.
"All done. Ya need a ride? For tomorrow I mean…"
"Aww, how sweet" Helga said, mocking innocence. "No thanks. Olga's giving me a ride tomorrow morning." Helga replied.
"Leaving my baby out there…all alone. I think I'm having a moment." he said, his melodramatic sobs and short breaths only making Helga narrow her eyes and roll them. Everyone knew that Arnold's "Baby" was anything but. It was a 1999 Toyota Avalon. Despite being a few years older than the brand new models, he waxed and washed and cared for it like it was a Rolls Royce.
"So, just to make sure…you're at home, right?" Helga asked.
"Yeah" Arnold replied, quizzically.
"Four and half blocks away, right?" she asked again.
"Yes, why?" Arnold asked. All these questions about his locations made him think he was being stalked now.
"Nothing, just as long as you stay that far away when we get to New York, everything will be fine." she answered, sarcastically. She had no ill will towards Arnold of course; it was just funnier to pretend that she despised him. Neither of them had changed much, other than physically. Helga was still able to wrestle any guy into submission, but saved her energy for sarcasm and whatever sport she felt like playing that week. Arnold on the other hand grew a thicker skin, put up with Helga and her oftentimes hilarious cynicism and even counter attack it sometimes.
"Who says I won't steal into your room and watch you sleep?"
"Who says I'll let you?"
Who says you won't?"
Helga rolled her eyes again. "Goodnight, Arnold."
"Can I have a key to Room…313? I left mine in there when I went out for breakfast…the name's Helga Pataki…"
After having the spare key handed to her, she made her way back to the elevator. A small grin found its way to her face, knowing well that she had lied, and managed to keep a straight face about it. Her companion, however, was not aware of her intentions for obtaining the key, and proceeded to question her, until she caved in.
"Tell me! Why do you need a key to their room?" Gerald asked, still slightly peeved because his breakfast (the only part of the conversation with the concierge that may have been the truth) was cut short, just so Phoebe could steal a key to her best friends hotel room.
"I just need to see if she's okay. No one answered the phone this morning." Phoebe said, conclusively, knowing already that she was right.
"So? That doesn't mean anything except that she slept in today." Gerald replied, still not catching the drift that had eluded him for the duration of the vacation.
"Helga never sleeps in…" Phoebe said, once more grinding Gerald's so-called opinion straight into the ground. "And there's no guarantee that Arnold was even in the room." Phoebe added, as the elevator doors split, revealing the two hallways that made up the 3rd floor.
"Hello? Anyone there…?" Phoebe said, tapping on the door lightly. She waited for a response before attempting to knock again. Gerald on the other hand, wasn't feeling quite as serene.
"Why are you knocking when you have a key!"
"I don't wanna just go in there, uninvited."
"Then why did you steal the key?" Gerald replied, growing more and more impulsive the longer that they stood out side.
"You seem to forget that Helga is suffering from a possible-"
Hangover. Hangover, hangover, hangover. It was bad enough that she had "technically" engaged in an illegal activity the night before (although it seemed like years ago) and without much deliberation inadvertently partook in "physical contact" with her best male friend. Underneath her covers, she nearly screamed with humiliation, and realization of the night before. And needless to say, Arnold wasn't quite helping at the moment…
"Seven hours, fifty-six minutes…"
Helga popped her eyes open for the one, two…fourth time that morning, but refused to turn her head or make any motions that would indicate that he had actually woken her up,…again. But when she really thought about it, it was relatively…sweet. At least he didn't scream her awake.
"Seven minutes, fifty-"
"Arnold?" she said, meekly from underneath the covers.
"Yes, Helga?" he asked, knowing she had given in and woken up. After all, he had been at this since nine o' clock that morning. It was about time for some results.
"Do you know what a hangover is?" she asked, pushing the covers off of herself, giving up on sleep altogether. "Lemme tell you what it's-"
"I know what a hangover is, Helga." Arnold interrupted. "I have been drunk too before, ya know…" he continued, as though every soul on the face of the planet had been drunk at least once in their lives.
Helga calmed down at his inadvertent confession. Arnold? Drunk?
"When did this happen?" Helga asked, trying not to sound too eager to hear about his ordeal.
"Remember last year? At what's his face's party?" he asked, hoping she'd have some clue where he was coming from.
Helga was, needless to say…clueless. She'd attended countless parties hosted by people she barely knew, or didn't at all. Such are the luxuries of high school.
Arnold unfortunately had no relationship with the host that night (or ever) either, and was dragged to the get-together by Gerald. "The party where…" he began, trying to search his mind for something that happened that night that would spark her memory. He was almost certain she was there, and had witnessed it as well. "…the party where Rhonda was dancing on the guy's dinner table and got her hair caught in his mother's chandelier!" he said.
"Oh, yeah! That one!" Helga said, trying to resist laughing at the reminiscence. Even to this day, people would walk behind Rhonda and pretend to pull out tiny bits of crystal from her now long hair.
"Well, I had some drinks and that's it. Gerald took me to his house."
'Why on earth is everybody else's drunken bouts so less excruciating than mine?' Helga wondered. Evidently, he'd learned from his mistakes; he'd only been drunk once. She, on the other hand, had lived with one for all of her life, and still hadn't managed to avoid it.
"Hey, I know what your thinking and I don't think you should beat your self up about it." he said, sitting on the opposite side of her bed.
"Will do…" she replied, flopping back down on the bed, and attempted to snatch her covers back over her head.
"No, you have to wake up now." Arnold said, grabbing the opposite end of the blankets, and swiftly pulling it towards him. Helga mumbled something from her fetal position in the center of the bed. "It is my last day in New York, for who knows how long, and I don't plan on spending it watching you sleep."
Helga flipped onto her back, which ached slightly from her sleeping position, and propped her self up, by her arms. "You were watching me sleep?"
"You know what I mean…" he said, taking a seat on the edge of her bed and resting his chin in the palm of his hand.
"If you let me sleep for…ten more minutes, and I'll buy you lunch." Helga requested. Any rest that she could get would be well appreciated, even if it was only ten minutes.
"Sure, whatever…" he said, just before gnawing at the nail on his index finger.
Sighing deeply, Helga lay back down, and resumed her position, only with her legs stretched, and began to doze comfortably, even without the covers. Not long after, Arnold decided to get some extra shut ye as well.
"Why are we sneaking into their room? I pretty sure this is a felony in New York." Gerald said, attempting to whisper, and emphasize the word "their".
"Because," Phoebe began. "In there is my best friend with an obvious hangover, and yours who is probably still angry."
"See now, why you gotta make my friend look like the bad guy? Your friend's the one who got drunk…" Gerald said crossing his arms outside the hotel room labeled 313.
"Shhhh…" Phoebe said, sliding the card into the device on the door, and slowly opening it. She wasn't sure if the door was creaky, and opened it as slowly as possible so as not to make a sound.
Behind her, Gerald grew impatient. It'd felt like hours that Phoebe had been opening the door, and still her head could barely fit in the crack. He took it upon himself to push the door open slightly, which sent Phoebe stumbling forward.
Phoebe whirled around as best she could with her injured foot, and fiercely held her finger to her pursed lips and peeked around the corner. Gerald, on the other hand, walked into the room like it was his own.
On the bed closest to the door, Helga and Arnold dozed almost identically, save for the fact that they faced opposing directions. Each slept on top of the covers, and was overall motionless except for a twitch here or there.
"They look fine to me." Gerald said, turning back to Phoebe.
Phoebe's exasperated look soon dimmed the non-chalant one that was painted on Gerald's face. "You think this is 'Fine'?" she asked. "They're in a bed together!"
"I realize that. But they were also in a bed together the first night we were here, and apparently, nothing happened." Gerald pointed out matter-of-factly.
"But please remember, sweetheart that in that instance there was only one bed in this room. Now there are two, and they're sharing it." Phoebe replied, still trying to whisper between her clenched teeth.
"I know that, but-"
Gerald was abruptly cut off by the movement on the bed. Helga had sat up, and begun running her fingers through her hair, all without opening her eyes. Gerald and Phoebe decided that during her long, loud yawn was the best time to make their escape, with Gerald carrying a limping Phoebe 1/3 of the way.
Helga peered around at the sudden noise and closing of the door. Jumping up, she walked to the door and opened it just enough to see if anyone was walking down the hallway. Seeing no one, Helga closed the door, and walked back to the bed and pulled her suitcase from underneath it. The sound of its zipper whizzing from one side of the suitcase to the other made Arnold stir atop the bed.
"Shower's free if you want it." Helga said, not looking up from her scrambled clothes. She was currently inspecting each article of clothing, which included, unfolding it, holding it away from herself, sniffing it, and throwing it in one of two piles behind her.
There she was. Doing that thing again. Going about her day like she's the only one in it. Sitting on a hotel floor, sniffing clothes, and being perfectly content.
Seeing as he wasn't making any recognizable motions towards the bathroom, Helga went on talking. "What's the plan for today?"
"I…really have no idea. Call Phoebe or something…" he replied, turning over to resume sleep.
"And do what? Baby-sit her and Geraldo on their strolls around who knows where? Sorry, I'll have to pass on that one." she said, turning around to see Arnold's head back on her pillow. Sitting up straighter, she reached over the side of the bed. "No way, buddy. If I gotta wake up, so do you…c'mon…"
Arnold muffled something from his face buried in the pillow, before lazily moving off of the bed and trudged into the bathroom. As soon as he'd closed the door, the phone rang.
"Hello?" Helga said into the phone and sitting where Arnold was just lying. "Yes…okay…okay…thank you. See you in a few hours." Helga hung up the phone, and made her way back to the other side of the room.
"Who was that?" Arnold called from the bathroom. He'd obviously already started the shower and could barely be heard over it.
"Mr. Willis needs everyone to bring their bags downstairs by noon. The train takes us home at six, but he needs our stuff first." Helga replied before turning sharply towards the bathroom. Midway in her sentence, she'd heard the evident moving of shower curtains and a nervous moan, if not shriek from the bathroom.
Knocking on the door first, Helga was worried that in his exhausted state, Arnold had fallen asleep in the shower and gotten a concussion.
"You alright in there?" she said, her brow furrowed. "I'm coming in…" she called into the bathroom. She could only hope that he was…decent.
Upon opening the door, Helga saw the bathroom unchanged from the night before…for the most part. Except for Arnold standing next to the sink without a shirt on and the clothes he was most likely going to change into on the seat of the toilet, Helga couldn't see anything that would have caused the disturbance she imagined. The uneasy look on Arnold's face and his apparent need for a distraction made her think otherwise.
"What's going on in here?" Helga asked, once she distracted herself from Arnold's chest.
"There's something in the shower…" Arnold said, managing to avoid looking at it.
"What? A cadaver?" Helga asked, not immediately realizing that something in the shower caused him to get unusually quiet.
Pulling aside the portion of the shower curtain that was still attached to the rings, Helga eyed the shower for anything remotely frightening. Seeing nothing, she turned back around to find Arnold in virtually the same position as before.
"I don't see anything." she said, wondering if this was all just a joke.
"It's…" he said, motioning to the ceiling.
Helga first looked directly above her head, and followed an invisible line to the ceiling over the shower. Squinting to properly identify the object that sent Arnold into a frightened daze, Helga couldn't help but smile a little. Standing on the side of the tub, Helga drew an invisible circle around the tiny creature until it was off of the wall. As she pointed her finger straight ahead, she watched as the little being squirmed.
"Do you need me to lift the toilet seat up?" Arnold asked.
Helga turned at the entrance of the bathroom and smiled again. "I'm not going to flush it!"
"Arnold….I'm shocked. You want me to actually destroy another living thing? I'm appalled." Helga said, dramatically placing a hand over her heart and sighing.
"It might be poisonous…" he said, his voice starting to quiver. He was trying with all his might to keep his eyes off her finger.
"Arnold, have you seen someone about this spider phobia?"
"Arachnophobia. And no, I don't think I have to." he replied, matter-of-factly. "Besides…" he began. "I happen to know a blonde with a very distinct and irrational fear of rats. What is that, ratophobia?"
"It's musiphobia, and it's a serious medical condition." Helga retorted, watching as the spider crawled off of her finger and onto the windowsill, leaving a shred of gossamer thread on her extended appendage.
"Either way, I'd rather not think about that right now…" Arnold said, leaning upon the doorpost of the bathroom door, defiantly.
"I'm leaving in a minute…so, um…try and…put a shirt on or something…" Helga said, turning back to her suitcase.
"Where are we going?" he asked, after finally turning back to the bathroom.
The sound of shower rings against the rod that suspended them made a slow hum, and Helga knew he was checking for more eight legged beasts. "I really don't know; I was hoping to get some laundry done…"
"Laundry? Your last day in this amazing city, and you want to do laundry?" Arnold said, raising his voice with the whirr of the now running shower water.
"Fine, I won't do any laundry today…what do you suggest then?" Helga asked, refilling her suitcase as the blush silently disappeared from her face.
"Sight-seeing or something. Anything but laundry." he said, repeating the word as if it were something sour.
"Sight-seeing…how utterly exciting…" Helga replied sarcastically.
"Well, unless you have a better idea…"
"We'll find something to do."
"Do you think you could try and help me with m bags, like a gentleman?" Helga said, trying to stack her bags on top of the only one with wheels, and pull it down the empty hallway. Unfortunately, one of them would occasionally fall off, causing her to stop and pick it up, making the other bag fall off as well. After a few attempts, she eventually gave into frustration and asked for help.
"I don't see why we have to take our bags down now…we're not leaving for a few hours." Arnold complained, snatching the smallest (and lightest) bag from the top of Helga's pile.
"Simple. Mr. Willis doesn't want to get blamed if someone leaves something here."
"We need a cab!" Helga yelled over the sounds of the New York evening, already hailing a taxi. It was dark outside, but Helga knew that every taxi passing them wasn't turning off their lights by accident. She was still shocked that they were so careless in watching the clock to begin with.
"That'll take forever, we can just walk…" Arnold said, stepping on the curb.
"No, walking will take forever. Especially with Phoebe's bum leg. We have to get to the train station in less than ten minutes, and a cab is the only way to get there."
"This is taking forever…" Gerald sighed, wiping his brow.
"Hold on…" Arnold said, removing himself from the curb. Stepping out from behind the black Saturn that was parked on the curb next to him, Arnold began hailing a cab in the worst and possibly most dangerous way.
"Arnold, what are you doing!" Helga said, from the side of the curb.
Gerald, Phoebe and Helga uniformly jumped backwards as a bright, yellow cab pulled up a few inches in front of Arnold, before stopping abruptly. All breathed a sigh of relief as Arnold moved to the driver's side of the cab and the window edged its way down.
"Whadda you want?" the cabbie asked, a cigarette hanging from one side of his mouth, and a cup of coffee in his right hand.
"We need a ride to the train station up on 34th. How soon can you get there?" Arnold asked.
"I'm a'right, I mean, this traffic ain't nothing' serious." the cabbie replied, before inhaling deeply through his nostrils.
Arnold retreated back to the curb, motioning for everyone to get in. "Phoebe, you get in the front. The three of us will have to sit in the back."
As Arnold and Gerald helped Phoebe off of the curb, Helga made sure it was clear for them to open the door. The cabbie leaned over his clutch, attempting to open the passenger door from the inside of the cab. Helga got to the handle first and the cabbie drew back. His elbow knocked against the clutch, and his fingers spread, releasing the coffee cup on the already dirty seat of his cab.
Phoebe looked back at her friends in slight desperation. There was no way she could fit comfortably with everyone in the backseat of that stuff cab, and it was too late to try and hail another one.
"Alright then. Plan B: We're gonna have to all squeeze in the back." Helga said, shutting the front door and opening the back door on the right side of the cab.
"What?" Gerald asked. Of course, the idea had crossed his mind as well, but the thought of actually doing it seemed unlikely.
"Gerald, you'll get in first, then me, then Arnold, and Phoebe will just have to sit on top of all of us…" Helga stated, a hint of doubt in her voice.
Gerald climbed in first, then Phoebe. She held up her legs so that Helga could slip in, then Arnold. After everyone had gotten into the cab as comfortably as possible, Arnold shut the door, and the cabbie resumed driving. Arnold leaned forward and reminded the driver where they were headed.
After a few brief minutes, the cab driver pulled into (rather quickly) the parking lot of the train station, which was mysteriously empty, minus a few cars. As Gerald slid out and slowly pulled Phoebe with him, Arnold handed the driver twenty dollars, even though the charge was just over half.
"Ya wantcha change?" the cabbie asked, through Arnold's open door. Everyone replied in perfect unison: "NO!"
Between the parking lot and the actual train was the train station, a small building with nothing but a service desk, two rows of chairs and a very bored looking station manager inside. Out side of the train station, Helga stopped the group, coming to a slightly nervous halt.
"What's the deal?" Gerald asked, getting frustrated. Not only was the train that was to take him home about to leave, but Phoebe wasn't getting any lighter.
"Mr. Willis has our tickets."
"So?" Gerald asked, not grasping the relevancy of Helga's statement.
"So, how are we supposed to get on the train?"
Before Helga, Gerald, or Phoebe could conger up a plan, Arnold spoke. "I know what we can do."
"What?" Helga asked.
"Just follow my lead, okay?" he said to Helga. "You", he began to Gerald. "and Phoebe head towards the door."
Helga was unsure about Arnold's "plan". She was used to not trusting him, since all (or most) of his motives were lead by his heart. In this case, however, she found it an advantage. Leaving Gerald and Phoebe outside momentarily, Arnold and Helga proceeded inside. As soon as they'd stepped inside, Arnold seized Helga's hand in his own, and walked her over to the front service desk.
Helga wasn't sure why exactly he'd done that, until he began to speak.
"Sir." Arnold started, attempting to get the attention of the station manager. "Excuse me, please."
The station manager turned around, rather slowly, and revealed a plain, white nametag with the name Hugh etched into it, pinned onto a navy blue uniform. His wide face wore a bored and listless expression, accompanied by a straight line of a mouth hidden by a bristly mustache. His facial gestures underwent no changes upon seeing Arnold and Helga, which neither of them anticipated. Either way, Arnold adjusted to fit the situation.
"What can I do for ya?" Hugh asked, leaning on the counter that separated himself from Arnold and Helga.
"Hi. My name is Wally, and this…" he said, motioning to Helga. "is Cookie. My girlfriend."
Helga's eyes immediately darted from Arnold to the station manager, which went unnoticed by both. Finally remembering to "go along" with Arnold's plan, Helga decided to just smile like she knew what was going on.
"Anyway, we were here a while ago and left a very important bag here. WE were hoping we could get it back." Arnold stated, still smiling.
"Folks leave bag here everyday. Mind describing it to me?' Hugh said, motioning farther away from the desk to look under it.
"Well, it's about so long," Arnold said, separating his hands, while still holding one of Helga's. "Dark brown, sort of a leathery material-"
"Leather substitute. Because we love Mother Earth." Helga remarked, adding her two cents in, rather abruptly. She nodded at the station manager, then at Arnold so he could continue.
The station manager's eyes shot around under the service desk, before returning to Arnold and Helga. "Well, I can check if there' something like that in the back. Y'all hold on for a minute, okay?"
Arnold and Helga nodded in reply, while gesturing behind their backs. Quietly, Gerald crept into the train station, carrying Phoebe over his shoulder, and closed he door silently behind him. Advancing to the door that led to the platform of the train, Gerald stopped unexpectedly when the station manager's voice boomed from the back room.
"I don't see anything like that back here…"
Arnold and Helga looked from their friends to the doorway where the voice was getting closer and closer.
"Wait!" Helga said, not quite sure who she was talking to. "I…uh, I think…"
"What's that?" the station manager said, still occupied in the back room.
"I think…I think it was a black bag…" Helga called towards the back.
"What?" Arnold and the station manager said in perfect unison.
"Yes! It was a black bag…with, uh…a zipper, right honey?" She said, rather loudly, tugging at Arnold's arm, trying to prod him towards the door, while signaling to Gerald to keep going. Slowly backing up, she attempted to keep the station manager in the back room.
"A black bag, you say?"
"Yes, very, very small and uh…covered in…rabbit fur."
"Rabbit fur? I thought y'all was…hello?" the station manager asked, poking his head around the doorway back closet, noticing no one in the lobby.
"That was insane!"
"I cannot believe you said that! Rabbit fur? Where'd that come from?"
"Hey, you're one to talk, Ms. Nature-Lover. Where'd that come from?"
"Well, you were telling this whole big lie without me. I wanted to be included." Helga replied, still laughing.
Across from them, Gerald and Phoebe were looking relatively, if not completely confused. Before either of them could ask for an explanation, a portly figure was making its way in the direction of their car.
"We've got company, you guys…" Gerald said, not so much fearing for he and Phoebe, knowing the station manager had not seen him, but for Arnold and Helga, who he could easily identify. But then again, none of them had tickets anyway.
Helga stood up immediately, reaching upwards into the overhead compartment, which, unfortunately, could barely hold anything but a medium-sized handbag.
"What? You're gonna hide up there? Thanks for abandoning the rest of us…" Gerald said.
"Here. Hurry." Helga said, tossing a plastic covered package onto the laps of Phoebe, Gerald and Arnold, and taking one for herself. Tearing the plastic off, Helga spread the contents over herself and waited for everyone else to follow.
"Hey Hugh, what are you doing here? You're supposed to be manning the service desk…"
"Some kids snuck on the train. We need to get them before we shove off." The station manager said, eyeing every teen on the train.
"Is there a problem?" Mr. Willis asked, standing up from his seat that was nearby his current conversation. The station manager eyed him as well, before speaking.
"I'm afraid some kids have snuck onto the train. I suspect they're on this car."
"Well, all the kids on this car are students of mine. But feel free to look…" Mr. Willis said, reluctantly stepping aside.
Helga turned away, squeezing her eyes shut as the footsteps approached where she, Arnold, Phoebe and Gerald were seated. The less than strategic idea she had by letting her hair out of its ponytail was only part of the "plan".
"There! Those two!" the station manager said rather loudly.
"What?" Mr. Willis said, walking over to inspect the station manager's culprits.
"Those two, the blondes! They were at my desk not ten minutes ago!"
Mr. Willis was growing frustrated. The station manager, in a feeble attempt to belittle Mr. Willis, felt the need to hold up all ten of his fingers for emphasis. "I can assure you that these are indeed my students, and furthermore, I watched them enter this train almost 20 minutes ago. So, Mr.…" he peered at the nametag. "Hugh, I would appreciate it if you would kindly leave my students alone."
The station manager walked away, muttering obscenities, and off of the train.
As soon as the station manager was out of earshot, Mr. Willis smiled and turned back to his four faux-sleeping students, each covered with their own gray blanket. "You can wake up now…" he said.
"Thanks Mr. Willis…" Helga said, pulling the blanket from around her shoulders.
"I'll admit I was concerned when the four of you weren't one the bus earlier." he stated, before heading back to his seat.
Before long, the train began trudging forward and the station slowly disappeared behind them.
"Well, today was certainly eventful…" Gerald said, looking at each one of his friends.
"This entire vacation was "eventful"…" Helga said, leaning backwards, trying to get comfortable. Without thinking, she spread her fingers, forgetting for a moment that they were still wrapped around Arnolds. Thinking she was uncomfortable with him still holding her hand, Arnold pulled his away quickly.
Helga sensed his reaction, and wanted to apologize (for what she wasn't sure), but now wasn't the right time. The sun was setting, and she grew more and more tired until she drifted off to sleep.
"…I repeat, if you did not drive, and your guardians are not outside waiting for you, I have a cell phone you can use. Please remove any bags you may have brought onto the train with you. All luggage is outside on the platform…"
Arnold listened half-heartedly as Mr. Willis repeated himself. People were moving slowly off of the train, giving him a few minutes to ready himself for movement. Rotating his neck, he began stretching his muscles slowly. While attempting to pivot his shoulders, he found it particularly hard to move his left one. Despite the darkness, he was able to discern that the weight he felt on his shoulder was a result of Helga falling asleep in it. Moving his left shoulder as gently as possible, he tried to wake up Helga. She sat up for a moment, blinked rapidly for a few seconds and leaned her head onto the cold glass window of the train.
Directly across from them, Gerald was doing the same, only under different circumstances. Prodding Phoebe to wake up, while trying to keep her from further injuring her leg was a problem. After he'd properly lifted her leg out of his lap and onto the floor so that she wouldn't try to lift it onto the floor herself, he tried to wake her up. Her reaction was pretty much identical to Helga's, although she cooperated with Gerald and began moving.
"Hey, c'mon…wake up." Arnold said, in a raspy voice he hadn't used in a few hours. He cleared his voice again, which woke Helga up more effectively than did his voice.
Realizing where she was, both on a train that was no longer moving and Arnold's shoulder, Helga popped up, and removed her thin, gray blanket. Running her hands over her face, she was about to get up until she noticed Phoebe half way standing, making her take her seat again. Under her window, two train ushers were swiftly removing the luggage from the lower compartments of the train. She spotted her own bags being thrown atop the large pile, only to be covered by someone else's bags.
By the time she had snapped out of her daze, Phoebe was already out of her seat, and limping down the aisle (with Gerald's assistance). Helga shook the sleep off of her, and stood up, her back, shoulders and arms all cracking loudly.
"That's still disgusting." Arnold said, in front of her.
Helga shrugged it off, causing one final crack to escape from her shoulder. Out side, she dug in one spot for her largest duffle bag. After retrieving it, she sauntered over to the parking lot where Gerald, Phoebe and Arnold.
"What time is it?" Phoebe asked, looking at Gerald as he dug his cell phone from his back pocket.
"2:17 AM." He said, sleepily.
"We're almost an hour early…" Helga said, leaning on a nearby pole. "Well…I guess you guys could crash at my house" Helga remarked, not sure of the reaction it would receive from her friends. "I mean, my parents aren't home, Olga's probably asleep, and you guys can stay until morning.
After everyone agreed on their plan of action and piled into Arnold's car, Arnold drove out of the parking lot and towards Helga's house. Helga had volunteered to sit in the backseat with Phoebe, while Gerald occupied the front next to Arnold. In his rearview mirror, Arnold noticed Helga and Phoebe peering (and occasionally) laughing at something that sent off a dim blue light.
"What is that?" Gerald said, turning around in his seat.
"Pictures from today..." Phoebe said before passing the camera up to Gerald. Since the road was virtually empty, Arnold took a peek from the road to glance at the pictures. Unfortunately, Gerald was scrolling too fast for him to keep up with, so he gave up. Pulling up to Helga's house, everyone got out of the car relatively quickly (save for Phoebe), while Helga unlocked the front door to her home. Next to the front door, she flipped on the outside light and all of the ones downstairs.
Once everyone was inside and their luggage packed into the downstairs closet, Helga ran upstairs to retrieve blankets and pillows for everyone. Olga was nowhere in sight, so she took the pillows from her room, seeing as they were mostly unused and probably the cleanest in the house.
Back downstairs, Helga threw the pillows and blankets in assorted places of the room. She chose the floor, the humblest sleeping place in the room, and left the two couches and recliner to be divided amongst her friends.
Entering the kitchen, Helga caught the last few words of the conversation.
"So?" Arnold asked Gerald.
"So, I'm clearly three hours overdue for my midnight snack!" Gerald said, receiving a tired groan from Arnold and Phoebe. Helga rolled her eyes and opened the refrigerator, and pulled out a clear, plastic tupperware container. After closing the refrigerator and setting the container on the counter, she lifted the lid and sniffed its contents.
"Spaghetti. You can warm it if you want." She said, handing the container to Gerald. After thanking her graciously, Gerald grabbed a fork from the drying tray on the counter and began eating.
After everyone (Gerald included) settled down, the four filed into the living room and decided where they were going to sleep. After it was straightened out that Gerald would take the recliner, Arnold the couch, leaving the largest couch for Phoebe, Helga turned off all the lights and everybody took their places. Everyone said "Goodnight" to one another, despite the fact that they'd all be waking up in a few hours. But that was overshadowed seeing as they were all asleep within ten minutes.
As the rays of early sunlight streamed into the living room, Helga awoke and instinctively headed towards the kitchen. Moving silently, so as not to wake up any of her friends, Helga turned on the small coffee maker on the kitchen counter and replaced the filter. Walking over to the fridge, she searched for something edible that may have been left over (seeing as Gerald had finished off all of the spaghetti), but settled with making frozen waffles. Sticking eight out of ten of them into the toaster oven, Helga took a seat at the dining table and waited for her coffee to finish. Half asleep, she was slightly startled by the sound of her front door closing. She lifted her head up to see Arnold focused on some hand-held object, about to walk right past the dining room.
"Up so early?" she said, getting his attention.
"I could say the same for you. What are you doing?" he said, resting what Helga found was the digital camera she and Phoebe were looking at on the car ride over last night on the table, and took a seat next to her.
"Making provisions for the troops." She said, letting her head fall on the tabletop. "Those pictures from yesterday?"
"Yeah. Too bad there aren't any from the entire trip."
"I think yesterday was pretty unforgettable all by itself." Helga said, laughing.
"I think certain events beforehand were pretty unforgettable." Arnold said, smirking in Helga's direction.
"You're never gonna let me live that down are you?" Helga said comically, after a long pause.
"I SMELL WAFFLES!" Gerald bellowed from the living room.
Helga turned towards the noise, her arms still crossed. She watched as Arnold stood up. Instead of heading out into the living room, or at least into the kitchen, he leaned in towards her so closely she could feel his breath on the nape of her neck. "Who said I wanted to?"
"Ugh. I'm stuffed…" Gerald said, leaning back from the dining table.
"That's a first."
"What time is it?" Phoebe said, collecting the plates around her until Helga stopped her and carried them to the sink.
"8:15." Helga said, peering at the clock in the kitchen. She decided to leave the dishes in the sink to do later.
"I have to get home. My parents have probably called the National Guard by now." Phoebe said, hugging Helga and hobbling towards the front door. "Do you mind giving me a ride Arnold?"
"Yeah, me too." Gerald piped in.
"Sure. Let's go." He said, getting up from the table. Helga noticed that all during breakfast, he'd glance at her momentarily and then distract himself somehow, but now, he was about to leave without so much as a goodbye.
"Bye you guys…" Helga called from the doorway as everyone exited. When they were at Arnold's car, Helga closed the door. Proper Etiquette or one of those books that Olga was always trying to get her to read said that seeing your guests to the door was polite; watching them drive off was just plain weird.
Just as Helga decided to give in and do the dishes, the doorbell rang. Opening the door, she saw Arnold facing the opposite direction. He noticed the creaking of the door after only a few seconds and whirled around.
"Oh hey, Phoebe wanted me to tell you to call her later."
"Okay." Helga replied quietly.
"See you later then…" he said, turning around.
As soon as Helga was about to close the door (again), she noticed Arnold rushing back towards the door. "Yes?" she asked, when he'd reached her.
"One more thing…"
Taking her chin in his hand, he tilted her head up until she was looking him right in the eyes. Seizing her lips in his momentarily, he backed away and smiled at the now dumbfounded Helga.
The kiss lasted for only a second, but Helga read the signs loud and clear. This senior trip was far from over.
"Call me later…" he said, backing away.
Helga merely nodded and closed the door slowly. Collapsing on the floor, she blushed furiously and got up to start the dishes.
I know this is really long, but I wanted to get it up, and there was no place at all that felt right to separate it, so there she is: the final chapter of Ruthless. And for the first time, it's on time! I wanted to get it up by August 10 (that was my last update…can you believe that? Practically a year!) then I changed it to July 25, because it's my friend's B-day, hence the Codename Kids Next Door reference. And it's officially July 22. So by the time you read this it should be…later.
I'm kinda sad to see this end, but at least now I don't have to worry about that annoying little voice waking me up saying "UPDATE RUTHIE!" So. That's all, folks. See ya on the flip side.
And a special note to SteJay (dude…can I call you that? Because it just came to me, just now…whoa…) a.k.a. BaldOneMpls, the main reason I posted this without your input wasn't because I changed my mind or anything. I still think you're an amazing writer and you should give yourself more credit. I'm not 100 sure, something made me think that I should at least try to finish this on my own, seeing as it's my first story. Call it a rite of passage, or something. But don't think that I wouldn't have whole-heartedly appreciated your help. And I'd still like to join forces with you someday. So thank for reading, and reviewing, and…everything! Peace!