All That Matters

By ~*Silver Kitten*~

A/N: Yes, I know…it's another one shot!  I'm surprised I wrote it, but this is one I especially like…I don't think I've ever written a story quite like this…I nearly cried while writing it.  Well, by some chance of fate I've gotten you this far, as to click the link to my story.  I really hope you enjoy it.  The POV will be revealed near the end…although it might just be obvious.  Oh, and I won't forget a disclaimer this time, hehehe…*sweatdrop*

Disclaimer: I don't own Hey Arnold!…

On with the story…

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It was tragic.  It was abrupt.  It was unfair.  It happened, and there was no denying its powerful impact…

I sat watching her as she watched him.  She threw her sixteenth spitball at him and, unlike the previous fifteen times, he didn't turn around and acknowledge it.   Instead his attention was taken by another source.  A young woman stepped into the classroom.  Her eyes were watery and a few small black lines of mascara ran down her cheeks, which she quickly wiped away.  Mr. Simmons stopped talking and immediately asked what the problem was.

Her eyes scanned the room, searching for someone. 

Helga now took notice of her as well as an immediate scowl took hold of her. 

The woman's eyes met with Helga's.  She had found who she was looking for.

"Helga…you need to come home," she said meekly. 

Helga was almost appalled at her interruption of the class. 

"Criminey, Olga, can't you see I'm in the middle of class?"  Her bitter tongue matched the distinct glare she shot at her menacing older sister. 

"There's been an accident…"

Those few words were all it took for Helga's scowl to diminish.  The entire class adjusted their eyes on Helga now, even Arnold's. 

Helga got up and walked out of the class into the hall.  Her sister mumbled a quick apology that was quickly accepted by Mr. Simmons, and she shut the door.  The class was silent, listening to the aggravated questions from Helga echo through the halls.  It was silence at its best until we heard it.  All of us heard it.  Her unforgettable scream…

The next day Helga wasn't at school.  It was then, on Friday morning, when Mr. Simmons made the announcement.  By the expression of his face, he had to pry the words from his throat. 

"Class, as you well know, Helga is not in class today.  I've just recently been informed that…" he paused to take a breath.  His hands clasped together and his head bowed down to the floor.  Our entire class sat on the edge of our seats, waiting for the news.  Finally, Mr. Simmons continued.  "Helga's mother, Miriam Pataki, passed away in a car accident,"

As the class made their comments of disbelief and sorrow, I simply looked at the empty desk that was Helga's…as was he.  Arnold had turned around to see where Helga would be sitting; where countless spitballs of hers had spun from.  His face was struck with grief.  He turned back around and slumped down in his chair. 

"Now, class, this news as you can imagine is terribly heartbreaking to bear, so I think it'd be best if we all signed a card for her," Mr. Simmons continued.  He picked up a rather oversized pink card that showed a bouquet of flowers on it. 

I couldn't focus on the card or the rest of the class…I could only think of her, and her pain…I wanted to just get up and walk right out of this class.  I'd march right over to her house and…who was I kidding?  I'm probably the person she wants to see the least right now. 

When the card came to me I didn't know what to write.  My pen shook in my hand.  I opened the card that revealed the words "Sorry for you loss," and signatures and little messages scribbled all over.  I looked over to Arnold.  He was with Gerald as they were comforting Phoebe.  Everyone knew Phoebe was Helga's best friend, and the news must be as devastating to hear for her as it was for Helga.  I wondered what he had written.  My eyes scanned the card for his message.  Surely, he'd have written her a novel of hopeful insights—perhaps lies even that everything would be okay—anything to cheer her up.  But when I came across his name, all it said was "Don't be afraid to forgive yourself…"  No more and no less. 

This…was how the Master of Compassion shed light on this dark situation? 

As Mr. Simmons began to give a speech about how precious life was, I was deciding what to write in her card.  What does someone say at a time like this?  I swallowed and figured nothing I'd say would ever change how she was feeling.  Why bother trying?  I signed my name in barely readable handwriting and passed the card on. 

I had to see her…with or without her knowing.  I had to see that she was going to be okay…

After school I didn't go home.  Instead, I walked the well-known walk towards her house.  There wasn't a single cloud in the sky.  The whole city seemed to have slowed in a dull carelessness.  Few cars passed me as I walked, and even fewer people were walking along the always-busy sidewalks.  The shops were still open but received little business.  It was as if life was put on hold.  At least, that's the way it seems…when your spirits are down. 

I decided to cut through the park.  It wasn't cold until a gust of wind flew by and its chill attached to every part of my body.  Or was it shock from seeing Helga was sitting on a park bench.  The park was quiet and empty as to beckon forlorn company such as hers.  Before she saw me I hid behind some bushes and a tree.  My eyes fixated on her and my body ached at the sight.

Her face was too beautiful to be stained with tears; her body too frail to handle such agony.  Yet there she was—this horrid spectacle of a daughter lost in a cruel world of sadness will remain forever in my mind.  If only I could extend a hand to her and pull her into a hug.  If only I could hold her in my arms and let her know she's not alone.  If only I could whisper words of comfort in her ears that made her forget about all the outrageous things that have happened to her. 

Perhaps…I could?  Maybe I could be the one to cheer her up, to make her feel a little better.  Maybe, for once, I'll be the one she so loves and gives attention to, who makes her feel welcome in this lonely world. 

If only I could reach her…but I'll never reach her…not where she is now and not where she'll ever be…there's only one person in this world, in her life, who can reach her…that was Arnold, and he was already on his way.  Her knight has arrived, rushing to her rescue and ready to whisk her away to a fantastical reality.  His timing was impeccable, as usual. 

He held the card with a number of condolences in his hands.  Every step he took nearer to her his eyes grew heavier with that familiar gleam of genuine concern.  I ducked lower so he wouldn't see me.  How would he work his magic this time, I wonder?

"Helga," his voice calmly approached her sullen figure.  She looked up towards him and already I could see the burden of pain lift from her shoulders, at least for the moment.  His magic spell had been cast.  Could he pull the trick off and make her pain disappear?

"I know that you probably don't want company, least of all mine.  I know you probably just want to be alone, and that's…that's okay.  But whenever you change your mind, I just want you to know you can talk to me…I'll listen.  I'm here for you even if you tell me to go away a thousand times…I guess I just...well I…just wanted you to know that," his words stumbled out but were all the more meaningful for her to hear.  He carefully set the card down and proceeded to walk away.  Helga took one look at it and fresh tears rolled down her red cheeks. 

"Arnold," her voice collapsed within her throat, shrouded no doubt with sore throbs from crying so much.  "Would you stay with me?  I don't want to be alone…" she said somberly, looking back down at the card.  Her fingers traced the edge of it.  He sat down next to her, leaving her some space.  He arched forward and tilted his head in her direction. 

"Of course," he said.  He stared intently at her, suddenly and probably for the first time in his life at loss for words.  Without a second look I could see the questions brimming in his eyes, inquiring about what happened, how she was holding up, what was going through that elusive but fascinating mind of hers…but he was too polite to ask.  Fortunately for him and his innocent curiosity, he didn't have to. 

"It was quick," she began.  "She didn't know what hit her…they say she might have dropped something, her purse or something…she was always losing that thing…I don't remember how many times I yelled at her to keep better track of it…and, anyways…she ran a red light.  The semi couldn't stop in time…" her voice revealed another layer of Helga often masked; her vulnerable tone was embraced by her tears. 

Arnold sat in quiet remorse.  The images flashed in my head as she spoke. 

"But you know," suddenly her voice was angry, "It was probably for the best.  All she had in this world was an insensitive family and an overused blender…" her bitter tone returned once again to corrupt her.  She was a puppet played indignantly by her own fears and reputation. 

"She must have known you cared," Arnold cut in soothingly. 

"Did she?  Tell me, do you know when the last time I hugged her was?  Do you know the last time I said goodbye to her before either of us walked out the door?  Do you know the last time I said 'I love you' to her?  Because I don't!" she stammered to shout out.  Arnold was not intimidated by her anger. 

"…Do you love her?" he asked, unfazed.  Helga huffed in astonishment at his question.

"What kind of a question is that?"

"Do you?"

"…Yes,"

"Then she knows,"

"How do you know that?  You're just a Football Head!"

"You just have to believe me," he stated.  She looked away for a minute and up at the sky.  Her lips quivered and she looked back at him. 

"I want to believe you…I miss her so much," she sobbed now.  Arnold wasn't hesitant to fill the gap between them and put an arm around her. 

"I've been where you are.  I'm still there, in fact.  The same place I've been for the past eight years, ever since my parents walked out the door and never came back.  I've been through the pain, the guilt, the anger, the denial…I've been through it all.  I miss them still terribly, and I always will.  You've just got to remember that you're never alone; in a sense, she'll always be with you just like my parents are with me," he said. 

"Where is that?"  She whimpered.  He took her hand and squeezed it, then placed it over her chest. 

"In your heart," he told her, with an encouraging smile.  He then pulled her towards him and held her and she wept in his arms. I realized it would never be me holding her like he is now.  But I must admit…he really does care about her. 

I watched him wipe a tear away before she noticed.  His empathy was incorrigible as he held her, crying with her.  There was a sudden pang in my chest.  My heart tore a little.  I couldn't bear looking at them together.  It was…inevitable. 

The day was growing late and the sun began to sink into a pool of orange light just above the horizon.  The warmth of daylight was rapidly overturning to cool winds giving no mercy to the two tormented souls sitting together.  

"I need to get you home," I heard him say.  "It's getting cold out and I don't want you to get sick,"

"I don't want to go home," she burst out.  She stood up and crossed her arms to keep from shivering.  Arnold calmly stood beside her. 

"Why not?  Your family needs you,"

"Do they?  Shows how much you know," she spat.  "My so-called dad didn't…" all emotion inside of her was hushed for a moment.  Her eyes went vacant and even seemed to dry themselves of tears. 

"…Didn't what?"

She bit her lip and shut her eyes. 

"He didn't even…cry…when he found out.  She was his wife…and he didn't even cry," she said. 

"Helga," Arnold interjected softly.  "Come with me,"

"…What?" she faced him with a perplexed look. 

"Please?  I want to show you something," he exclaimed.  He held out his hand for hers.  His stance was ignoring any chance of her refusal.  Reluctantly, she took his hand and they walked past me.  I ducked down.  They were making their way out of the park.  I made a half-hearted decision to follow them. 

Their walk was quiet and uninterrupted by any passersby. 

"Where are we going?" she questioned, fairly enough.  Where were they going?

"You'll see," he said.  After a few more minutes of walking, they (with me not too far behind) had trudged all the way to the Sunset Arms.  He finally stopped and cleared his throat. "We're here,"

"But…this is your house,"

"You haven't been at the park all day," Arnold changed the subject.  Helga tensed up. 

"Doi," she snapped. 

"You haven't been at home all day, either.  You've been hiding, haven't you?"

"What are you getting at?"

"This city isn't that small, Helga.  There are only so many places you can hide until someone finds you; only so far you can run before someone catches you.  And I've caught you and I won't let go…I care way too much about you to see you hurt, and so do a lot of other people…believe it or not, your dad is one of them," he explained. 

"Yeah, right," she said bitterly. 

"He came to my house today.  You want to know why?"

She didn't say anything.

"He came looking for you.  He was frantic, worried sick, scattering all over the city trying to find you.  When Olga came in your room this morning and saw you weren't there, she was afraid you had run away.  She told your dad and he's searched all over.  He called Phoebe, Gerald, Mr. Simmons, everyone, and Madame Blanch even, to see if you talked to them or they saw you.  That's when he knocked on my door and fell apart on my doorstep," Arnold told her. 

"…He did?"

Arnold took her hand again and walked closer to the boarding house.  He then proceeded to point in the window.  I squinted to see what they saw.  From what I could tell, Bob Pataki was pacing back and forth their kitchen floor.  Helga sunk down in her stance. 

"He told me it was his fault you left.  He said he didn't know how to handle the pain of your mother's death…so he tried ignoring it by fixating on the television.  He tried ignoring you and Olga…and he forced himself not to cry.  He didn't cry because…he was trying to be strong for you," Arnold explained to her. 

"He told you all of that?" she said, disbelievingly. 

"I have no reason to lie to you," he added. 

He then walked up his front steps and placed his hands on the doorknob, looking at her. 

"There's someone in here that needs you, and he's suffering just as Olga is.  They're waiting for you, Helga.  Are you ready?" 

She took a few steps backward from the window.  She then walked up the steps beside him.  He opened the door and she walked in slowly as he followed close behind her.  The door was shut and I took the opportunity to run towards the alleyway beside the house and peek through one of the windows.  Luckily I made it there with no one seeing me.  I stepped on a box filled with papers to peer through a side kitchen window that was left open a bit, where I saw Arnold's grandparents sitting at the kitchen table, looking steadily at a desperate father waiting for his other daughter's return.  Helga's sister was there too, staring sadly at the floor. 

Just then Helga appeared in the doorway, Arnold standing boldly at her side.  Her dad dropped a cell phone he was gripping waiting for a ring, and his arms fell loosely to his side as he gawked in grateful surprise. 

"…Dad," she whispered.  For a moment all of time suspended, heeding only to Helga and her father.  New tears skimmed her wondrous eyes and without a second's passing she sprinted forth into his welcoming arms, and they cried together.  Tears fled from his eyes freely, like once-captured wild emotions of a splintered heart. 

"I'm so glad you came back," Bob stated through a wavering voice that was a bit weak for a man of his stature, but nonetheless understandable.  "I was afraid I'd lost you, and I couldn't bear to lose someone else I loved,"

"Oh, dad I love you, I really do," Helga cried. 

"And I love you…I haven't told you that enough," he choked.  Olga stepped forth now and Helga ran into her open arms. 

"I'm so sorry, I shouldn't have tried to run away," Helga said shamefully. 

"We understand, Helga…but we can face this now together, as a family, and we'll be all the more stronger," Olga said.  Bob came and put his arms around the two sisters. 

Arnold stood still in the hallway, a smile playing across his face.  His grandparents looked at him with a knowing glance that said he'd done yet another great thing. 

After a few moments of tears, the sadness and any sense of shame faded away to new found hope and restored happiness.   Helga approached Arnold and threw her arms around him—something he didn't seem to expect but still approved.  He tightly hugged her back. 

"Thank you," she told him earnestly. 

"Anytime, Helga, anytime," he said back to her.  She then smiled that gorgeous smile of hers.  Her smile cut through the darkest corners of the room, lighting them up no matter the stifled sniffles or thoughts once smothered with tears that seemed to resound.  And I knew then that it was finished…with time, she'd be okay…she'd return to school, her family would be more of a family than ever before, and Arnold and Helga would be closer…than I could ever dread…

I stepped off the box and began walking home.  The night was settling in with the chilly wind as its blanket, but I was not cold nor was I warm.  I couldn't really feel anything. 

How selfish was I in my pining for her underserved attention, in my painstaking envy of Arnold, and all the while Helga was suffering the loss of her mother…

Could you blame me, though?  All I could do is think of her.  Maybe I am too young to know of love, but as far as love goes it has no right age…and as far as I was concerned I did love her…just not the way she is deserved to be loved.  No, it was over now.  His magic worked most wonderfully again.  Or perhaps there was no magic involved, and it was just…destiny…

I came to realize something…something I've tried looking over, I've tried denying…I may want to be the one to make her happy, to make her feel safe and secure, to take away her pain in a single sound of my voice…but I'd never be that for her.  I'd never be her hero, her rescuer, her angel…not like Arnold.  I will never be like Arnold…so I suppose I'm stuck being me…the infamous Brainy, forever wheezing in Helga's footsteps.  But no longer…

It was time to let go, and let fate ensue…

Arnold brings that divine smile to her face; he convicts the laughter of her soul and consummates her heart to be whole.  Perhaps he didn't know it just yet, but I knew with all my heart that he'd soon realize it: that he and Helga are meant to be.  He's the only one besides me who knows the person she truly is behind her façade.  He knows the lovely person who feels emotions so sensually, who is so sensitive beneath her well practiced skill of coming off as strong—and she was strong though.  I admire her strength, her beauty, her persistence in constantly struggling to be who she is, who I know she is, who Arnold knows she is…and one day soon he'll realize…

Yes, Arnold, the oblivious, lucky fool that you are…you will wake up and see what is right in front of you, what's always been there and what will always be there: the enigma that remains Helga G. Pataki. 

I have lost something to you that I never quite had, though it hurts just the same…but I wouldn't have wanted to lose her to anyone else but you.  I know you'll take care of her.  Always make her happy…because her happiness is all that matters…

~*~*~*~Fin

Aww…I hope this made sense and you liked it….I know I liked writing it…I was originally going to just try writing this story with the idea of Helga losing her mom and coping with Arnold…..but then I couldn't figure out how to start it…and the idea of Brainy came to mind, and I got this whole other idea to sort of intertwine a story within a story….too bad it was a sad story within a sad story…but I tried keeping a bit of optimism, or at least hinting that everything would work out….anyways, wow, someone could have stopped me from rambling on…lol well one last thing I have to ask is that if you liked it, would you leave a review to let me know what you thought?  Even if you didn't like it, I'd love to know what I could improve on.  And I appreciate any constructive criticism as well.  As always, take care!

~*Silver Kitten*~