By: ~*Silver Kitten*~
This is my shortest story ever…and my first one-shot. Even though I was tempted to leave a cliffhanger…I had to remind myself I wrote this because I wanted at least one…uh, one-shot. So, here it goes. I hope you like it.
Oh, and it's entirely Helga's point of view.
A terrible gust of wind whipped past me as the bus' doors swung open to let me off.
"Oh! Helga!" I heard my name called and turned around to see an excited Rhonda waving her hands at me. "Don't forget about my Christmas party tonight at six!"
"I wouldn't miss it for the world," I called back with an unenthusiastic tone, not that she'd pick up on it anyways. I proceeded off the bus and stepped onto the snow-encrusted walkway before my house. The bus doors slammed shut and it sped off while leaving my jacket splashed with a grey mesh of slush. "Great," I muttered to myself.
It was Hillwood's first snow and it arrived barely in time for Christmas. Rhonda's Christmas party was just as easily anticipated as Christmas itself. I expected to show up about as much as I expected some oversized red giant to slide down my chimney. What could I say, though? Phoebe talked me into going with her and even I'd never pass up a chance to see Arnold. Besides, it was another excuse not to spend time with my family. They wouldn't need me there tonight on Christmas Eve, especially since Olga is flying in from Alaska. I had my plans and they had their rituals.
I walked into my house and marched steadily upstairs as I normally did once I got home from school. Never once was my name called, nor was I ever welcomed home…until this moment.
"Olga, that you?"
"It's Helga, Bob," I grinded my teeth.
"Right, right. Say, didn't you mention some kind of a Christmas party with your little school friends tonight?" Bob questioned with unexplainable ignorance.
"Only five times, along with two notes on the refrigerator. Why?"
"Just needed to double-check you'd be out of the house. You know your sister is coming home tonight and your mother and I decided to throw a party of our own. We're inviting half the neighborhood,"
"And…I had to be out of the house for that…why?"
"Well, we need a coat room, of course!" Bob answered. Miriam walked in from the kitchen.
"Bob, would you run to the store? We need more Tabasco sauce. Oh, Helga, honey, your coat is dripping all over the stairs. Be sure to clean it up before you leave somewhere tonight. You are leaving somewhere, aren't you?" She said.
I sighed, nodded, and finished my trek upstairs to my room.
I threw off my coat, tossed my book bag in front of my closet and jumped onto my bed. Nothing could be worse than being here tonight, not even Rhonda's party. Although her party is "formal attire" only, I'd rather dress up for one night of the year than have the precious seconds of my youth rot away beneath piles of coats and purses.
I rolled over and reached for my curtains, pulling them back to reveal the finishing touches of this perfectly timed snowfall. Finally, the snow was beginning to stop. I stood up and walked to my closet, kicking my book bag out of the way to open it up. I looked at the disorganized arrangement of my clothes and wondered why I'd ever thought I could find something decent to wear tonight in here. I practically slammed the door. I'd have to find something to wear…in Olga's closet. I shuddered. Well it's not like I have to actually ask her. I'd just borrow something and have it back in there before she could ever notice. She'll be too preoccupied anyways tonight with all the commotion of the party to notice anything was missing from her closet.
I opened her closet door; unable to brace myself for the amount of clothes my eyes had never seen at one time. Finding a good enough dress to wear should be easy.
"Lucky for me she has a hard time throwing away clothes she's outgrown," I said to myself. It didn't take me long to find one that'd fit me. And then I saw one that particularly caught my attention. It was a simple red velour dress, short enough that I wouldn't trip over it when trying to walk, and long enough that I wouldn't be embarrassed to wear in public—ending right around my knees. It had long sleeves so I wouldn't freeze too much. I wonder what Arnold would think about it…
"Helga? Is that you?"
"Why, yes. Couldn't you recognize me, Arnold?"
"Forgive me! I've never seen you look this ravishing before! That dress is simply astounding on you,"
"This old thing? Oh, Arnold, you're too kind,"
"And you're too beautiful, Helga,"
Okay…I suppose I'll wear this one.
I heard a horn beep outside and threw my coat on. That would be Phoebe to pick me up. I didn't bother yelling goodbye and calmly shut the door. I nearly slipped on a patch of ice beside her dad's car.
"Helga, are you okay?" I heard Phoebe ask from an open window. She opened the door to let me in and scooted over to the other side of the car again.
"I'm fine, Pheebs, thanks. I'm just getting used to these high-heeled shoes again. I can't remember the last time I…" I paused as I got comfortable and shut the car door. I remembered well the last time I wore a pair of high-heels…I even lost one…
"Oh, sorry. I just lost my train of thought for a moment. You look nice," I told her.
"Thank you, Helga, so do you! You even wore your hair down. You know, I don't think I've ever seen you in that dress before," Phoebe mentioned. I suddenly remembered that it wasn't mine.
"Oh. Yeah, it's Olga's dress. I just borrowed it," perfect…now any compliments I receive are going to be for this dress, just because its Olga's…what was I thinking?
"Are you looking forward to seeing…you know,"
"Yeah, I am. And this time…I've decided I won't try and ruin things for him and Lila if anything happens. And…I'm going to treat him like an actual person, rather than putting him down…at least, I'm going to try," I explained, half-informing myself.
"I believe you can do it, Helga," Phoebe said reassuringly.
"Thanks, Pheebs," I replied. Maybe I could do it this time…just be nice to the poor guy for a change.
"All right, girls, we're here. Just call me when you want to be picked up, okay?" Mr. Hyderdahl said.
"Thank you," Phoebe and I said in unison. We then walked up to Rhonda's front door. I rang the doorbell as Phoebe waved goodbye to her dad. The door opened and the smell of eggnog and pine radiated through the air; the sound of "Jingle Bell Rock" bellowed from her living room.
"Phoebe! Helga! So glad that you could join us. Come in, come in," Rhonda was as chipper as ever. Any excuse for a party—she'd take it. Phoebe and I hung our coats up on one of the several coat racks available to us and commuted to the living room. It seemed as though every kid from our school was there, and I figured every adult would be at my house some time soon for Big Bob's Christmas extravaganza.
After being there for ten minutes I was ready to leave. Then I finally saw Arnold talking with Gerald near the couch. His hair the same spiky blonde, soft and sweet-smelling no doubt. He wore the tux that he wore to Coach Wittenberg's wedding, still looking as cute in it as ever. I couldn't help but stare at him…his gracious attitude imparted throughout the room, surrounding even me, filling my discontented heart with tranquility.
I thought about walking up to him and saying hello. What would his reaction be? He's probably going to ignore me the whole night, and why shouldn't he? I'd ignore me and all of my complaining and insulting remarks. Then again, it was Christmas and a time for forgiveness. Maybe he'd look past our differences. Just as I was about to swallow my fears and talk to him, she came over.
Lila. She somehow always turned up at the right moment to ruin things. Or…I've forgotten that I'm the one who does the ruining…
I watched her flaunt herself to Arnold willingly. She was just toying with him. Why couldn't he see that? Surely, he'd ask her to dance, and she'd ever so politely decline and ever so gently remind him that she just liked him, not liked him liked him—but there was still hope. They were talking for a minute or two, and I almost wished I could have overheard what they said. Finally, Arnold appeared to ask her something, probably for that dance. And, as I expected, she must have turned him down. She tilted her head, nodded, and wandered off, leaving Arnold with his head down. Gerald placed his hand on Arnold's shoulder to offer his support. Arnold lifted his head up and suddenly his eyes caught mine. I froze for an instant.
My trance was broken.
"You've been staring out into space for the past five minutes. Is everything all right?" Rhonda inquired.
"Sorry, yes, everything's great,"
"Good. We're going to play a game now, would you like to join?" She asked, almost demandingly.
"Um, well, sure," I answered.
The music was turned down and a group of us sat together, comprised mostly of the kids from our class: Stinky, Nadine, Sid, Harold, Brainy, Lorenzo, Curly, Sheena, Eugene, and a few other people. Even Arnold and Gerald were playing, who sat on the opposite side of the circle from Phoebe and I. Of course Lila had to be there, but she sat between Harold and Stinky.
"Before we play our game, we have to select who will go first. I think a fun way to go about that, is to have each person here answer the same question. Whoever has the best answer will go first. Doesn't that sound fair?" Rhonda said. Everyone mumbled a quick "sure", some more enthusiastic than others.
"What's the question?" Stinky asked.
"The question will be: what is the nicest thing each person here has done on Christmas for another person? Obviously, whoever has done the nicest thing will be first to start our game. Okay, so, I'll begin, and then call on someone else to answer. Then, they will call on the next person, and so on. Once everyone has been asked, we can determine who has done the nicest thing. So, the nicest thing I've done for someone else on Christmas…I once gave my teacher a card, and risked having my reputation destroyed by the label of being a Teacher's Pet. Lucky for me no such thing happened. So, Nadine, why don't you go next?"
I couldn't believe it…
The nicest thing I've ever done for someone else on Christmas…
That was for Arnold…
The Nancy Spumoni boots…
What would I say when it got to my turn? I can't say what I did for Arnold! He can't know…no one can know. They'll start asking questions, and insinuating things, which may or may not be true. I've got to get out of this…but how?
"How about you, Helga?"
I jolted in my seat.
"What?" I turned to Lila who had just called my name. How dare she…
"I believe since Nadine just called on me, and I then called on you, that it is now your turn to answer the question. Weren't you listening?" She added with a conniving laugh that probably came off as sweet and naive to everyone else in the room except for me.
"Oh, yes…you startled me, that's all. But um, I think I forgot something, so, I'll be right back," I quickly lied. I felt everyone's eyes on me, even Arnold's.
"But you haven't answered the question yet," Lila spoke up.
"She'll be right back. Someone else can go in her turn," Phoebe protested in my defense.
"I just don't see the difficulty in answering a little question before she leaves," Lila went on.
I stood up to leave.
"How many nice things could she have done for someone else? It should be easy to answer, if she even has an answer," Harold laughed.
"It is Helga we're talking about. I bet she hasn't done a nice thing for anyone ever," Sid laugh now accompanied Harold's, and soon most of the room shot up with laughter and a hint of scorn.
"That's not true! I have done something nice, as a matter of fact!" I burst out above the laughter.
"Why don't you enlighten us, then?" Lila exclaimed. The crowd was now hushed.
"I…" my eyes wandered to Arnold for a moment. Before we made eye contact I looked away in shame.
"Well?" Rhonda hurried me.
"…I…I have to go," I said below a sigh. "I'm sorry Phoebe," I muttered.
The rest was a blur as I dashed out the door without even grabbing my coat. I didn't care. I'd prefer to freeze than spend another minute in that room.
I was hoping it'd be too cold for tears to form, but, as usual, I was wrong. I could feel the liquid warmth beneath my eyes, sweltering with the frigid wind as it brushed past me.
"Why did I even bother going?" I sighed to myself.
"I'm glad you left," I heard a voice from behind me. A quick shiver went up my spine. I stopped and turned around to see Arnold catching up to me with my coat in hand. "I wanted to talk to you and it was getting too cold in there,"
"I thought the temperature was fairly warm," I said frankly.
"I know. I'm talking about the people," he said.
"So, do you enjoy freezing half to death? Or do you do it to try and prove how tough you are?"
"What do you mean, Football head? I don't have to prove anything to anyone," I retorted bitterly.
He put my coat around me before I could protest.
"My point exactly," he said. "Mind if I walk with you?"
"If I said yes, you'd still follow me, wouldn't you?"
"Sure, you can walk with me then,"
After minutes of listening to our shoes crunch the fresh snow below us, the silence was broken.
"So, um…you look really nice, tonight," he blurted out.
"Relax, Arnoldo, its Olga's dress, not mine,"
"The dress? Oh, yeah, that's nice, too," he said casually.
I didn't know what to say…so I left it at that.
"I saw you talking to Lila tonight. How are things going with her?" I didn't want to know…but I did.
"Just fine. She asked me to dance, actually,"
"That's funny. I didn't see you out on the dance floor with her,"
"Because I wasn't. I told her 'no thanks," and she got a little upset. I told her I was sorry, but the dance was a couple's only, and I had to remind her we were just friends, you know?" hearing those words from him made my heart leap.
"I thought you wanted to be…ya know, more than friends with her," I put in, a little dejectedly upon the remembrance of it.
"I used to think that too," he replied calmly.
"Wow. I…didn't think you were over her,"
"Well, I didn't think you cared so much," he added with a small, friendly laugh.
"I don't care, Football head!" I snapped.
"Then…why did you ask?"
I kept silent. Why was I being so defensive? Why couldn't I hold just one normal conversation with him, without insulting him?
"You've cornered yourself again, haven't you?" he stated.
"I don't know what you're talking about,"
"Every time you're about to show your true self, you close yourself up. Back at the party, I know you had something to say, but you didn't. Just now, you were being considerate of what I had to say, until you realized you were being open with me. And here you are, closing yourself off with words I'm sure you don't mean. You keep forcing yourself into these little corners, Helga. Hoping if others think you're rude they'll leave you alone and won't get to know you—the real you. Hoping if you back away from others, that they'll back away from you," he paused, and took my hands. "But I'm not backing away, Helga. You don't have to hide,"
"I'm not…I'm not hiding,"
"Then what is it? What was that nice thing you did for somebody else on Christmas?"
"I can't tell you!"
"Why should I!" I snatched my hands out of his and turned away from him. For a moment nothing was said.
"Okay, Helga…if this is the way you want it to be," he said. I heard him start to walk away from me.
Don't do this…don't let him slip away this time…
"…It was last Christmas,"
The sound of his footsteps halted.
"…I had a pair of those Nancy Spumoni snow boots…"
His steps continued, but they were coming towards me.
"I gave them up…so…"
He walked all the way in front of me, facing me, staring eye to eye with me.
"So the guy from the agency, Mr. Bailey, would help me find Mr. Huynh's daughter," Arnold finished. A few tears fell from my eyes and he quickly wiped them away.
"I wish I knew why you're so ashamed to have done one of the nicest things anyone could ever do," he said, then wrapping his arms around me, pulling me into the warmest hug I'd ever felt.
"There are a lot of things you don't know about me," I told him, hugging back.
"I'd like to find out some day," he said nonchalantly but sincerely.
"Yeah, so, you think you'll ever tell me?"
"Hmm," I thought to myself for a moment. "Some day,"
"That works for me," he said smiling.
"Good," I half-smiled back.
We continued walking together. It seemed a little awkward after the earlier conversation, but at the same time I felt relieved. It was one less secret I was keeping from him, and I was one step closer to being completely open with him.
We were near my house now, standing below a streetlight, and I cringed at the thought of returning home so early.
"Oh, before I forget, I have something for you," Arnold stopped and pulled an envelope out from his pocket. He handed it to me almost nervously.
I cautiously took it and opened it. The card was warm from being stuffed in his pocket. The cover had imprints of snowflakes on it: all of them different sizes and shapes, but all of them glittering.
"Aren't you going to read it?" he asked anxiously.
"Oh, right," I said nearly laughing.
I opened the card and began to read. The card itself said:
Just like freshly fallen snow blankets the ground with festive decoration, I hope your life is blanketed with the warmth and comfort to enjoy it.
Below that was a note in Arnold's writing.
Winter marks a time for change in the world. This winter, I hope that change will include us becoming better friends. Merry Christmas,
I didn't know what to say. My face began to hurt from the smile that was widening still.
"…Thanks…this really means a lot to me, believe it or not," I said.
"Really? I mean, I'm glad to hear that. I was also wondering if you wanted to go ice skating with me tomorrow,"
"I'd like that, yeah," I said, smiling still. He smiled as well.
"I guess you're expecting me to get you a gift," I told him half-jokingly.
"You already have," he said.
"And just what would that have been?"
"…You smiled," he stated. I laughed now. I felt my face blushing and looked up at the sky. A thin veil of clouds covered the stars. It was almost a perfect night.
Just then we heard some kind of a clatter. Some boards fell, and maybe a garbage can. The streetlamp above us flickered for a moment and we looked around. Finally the light steadied and both of us looked up.
"Mistletoe?" we said simultaneously, staring in disbelief at the light above us. Truly, and unbelievably, mistletoe hung from the streetlamp. Our eyes met yet again and I felt his gaze pulling me closer to him. I wanted to lean in and kiss him, but I didn't get a chance to…because he had leaned in to kiss me.
His lips were warm against mine, and soon a gentle warmth swept over me and the chill of the frosty air around us subsided. After we parted we stood staring at each other. I was in a state of perplexed bliss.
"Why did you do that?" I asked, afraid this was only a dream. Hearing some sort of logic from him would be the only thing to keep me from never waking up again.
A coy smile came across his face.
"Maybe it was because you didn't expect it, and I enjoy proving you wrong. Maybe it was because it's tradition to kiss beneath the mistletoe. Or, maybe it's just because…I wanted to." He answered. I fought myself to stay standing.
A pair of bright lights diverted our attention. Another car had pulled up. The couple got out and proceeded to my front door. I suddenly remembered I was still on earth and less than a block away from my house.
"Hey! Arnold, Helga," we heard two familiar voices calling us. They were Phoebe and Gerald.
"You guys left early, too?" Arnold asked.
"Yeah. Phoebe and I stopped at my place so I could get some money. What do you two say about getting some hot cocoa with us? It'll be my treat," Gerald offered.
Phoebe giggled and I smiled.
"Sounds good to me, how about you, Helga?" Arnold asked.
I looked back at my house and then back at the friendly faces of Arnold, Gerald and Phoebe. "Definitely," I said.
The four of us began walking when suddenly Phoebe took notice of something.
"Is that mistletoe up there?" She asked. Gerald looked at us and winked, and then gave Phoebe a quick kiss on the cheek. Phoebe blushed and all of us laughed.
"I don't know who put it up there, but I'm sure glad they did," Gerald said.
"So am I," Arnold remarked. I smiled again and we continued walking.
As we were walking onward, I heard another thud behind us and some rattling.
"Merry-Monkey-Christmas! Monkey Man!!" was shouted from the roof of one of the buildings. All of us exchanged glances with each other, and then at the mistletoe.
"Could it be…nahhh,"
Wow…it's hard to finish a story in one sitting…I feel strange, yet accomplished. I hope you liked it. And I was trying to achieve the surprise of having Monkey Man be the one to plant the mistletoe on the streetlamp without actually blatantly stating that…so, I just thought I'd clear that up. Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas!