By, Kim Hoppy
Helga drove past the church ten times, trying to force the courage she knew she had to park the damn car and enter the building. But she didn't want to park the car, she didn't want to go in the church, she didn't want to sit through the service. The whole reason she left this stupid city was to get away from all of them, and now she'd have to sit with them, listen to them, tolerate them as they cried (she wouldn't cry, because it'd ruin her make-up), as probably the worst thing that happened in her hardly long—but seemingly longer than the dinosaurs had roamed the Earth—life.
Helga gritted her teeth and finally grew so sick of herself—she was acting as bad as them—that she parked the car with one jerk to the wheel. Slowly she turned the car off, talking a deep breath to calm herself, hands having a death-grip on the wheel. Through the corner of eye she looked at herself in the mirror. Her blond hair was tied in a professional-looking bun, a small tendrils curling down the side of her face. She hated them. They made her look soft, which she wasn't. Helga G. Pataki was tough and could get through anything.
Except maybe this.
"Let's get this over with, Helga," she growled, opening the door and stomping out.
The city hadn't changed that much, but Helga looked at her childhood home in distaste. She'd take New York over this any day. New York, that was her kind of town. Much better than this seaside shit hole, anyway.
Part of her knew she should visit her parents while she was in town, but that thought made Helga sick to her stomach. She hadn't visited them in what was it again, five years? Something like that. Well, no sense in ruining that record. Let them fawn over Olga and her kid Johnny. Actually, Helga kinda liked "the brat", as she called the kid. He liked her too, when he visited (and stayed three weeks while Mummy and Daddy when on some posh trip), because Auntie Helga treated him as a big boy and didn't attempt to cloud the real world from him. She let him watch the goriest films in the world and deal with the nightmares. (Oh, didn't get Helga wrong, she comforted the kid, but she let him come to her.) Aunt Helga taught him important stuff like about life.
Helga sighed, tapping her foot as she looked at the church. It was small and humble, just like the regulars that went every Sunday. Today would be a special service, though, and it looked like half the town showed up. It probably did. Nothing better to do.
(Oh, she tried to fool herself so much . . .)
People were already filing into the church, and Helga followed them, arms crossed over her chest and back straight as a board. She walked a good distance down the aisle and slid into a pew on the left side, sitting on the end closest to the aisle.
Some very pathetic music was filling the church, and people had that solemn look on, the one they reserved for churches and serious conditions. Her eyes looked over the people, trying to find familiar faces. But, after so many years gone, none of the faces looked familiar to her. She turned her attention to the front of the church, the priest talking to some guys dressed in suits.
After several minutes, in which time Helga decided she would forever be late to these things, the music changed into the much more stereotypical start. Helga stiffened her shoulders and prepared to listen to the worst thing in her life.
She leaned against the counter with her small drink in her hands, watching the people dance with quiet distaste. Over in the corner she spied the happy couple, Thomasina and Arnold. She almost broke the glass in her hand.
Helga hadn't known Gerald—the best man—had gotten married a few years back, now having a two-year-old girl, the flower girl, Jenna. She hadn't been invited to that wedding.
She didn't know Phoebe, her once best friend, was engaged to Jordan. Helga cursed herself slightly. It was her own fault she didn't know that important event in Phoebe's life, that her and Phoebe weren't close anymore. Helga accepted that.
God, even Harold was "going with" someone.
She swallowed her drink in one gulp and set the glass down heavily.
How many of her childhood friends had gotten married and never invited her to wedding?
It didn't matter.
It had greatly surprised Helga when she had grabbed her mail on the fly to work and read it while stuck in traffic. When she had seen the fancy stationary, opening it with piqued interest, bearing the names, it was a damn good thing she was stuck in traffic. Oh, she could almost imagine the accident she would have caused.
She almost pitied anyone who ran into her that day, that week, that month.
There was an R.S.V.P, and it had taken Helga almost a full week to mail the return. Then she had almost mugged the mail cart to get the letter back, but held her back at the last second. That was not professional, which she was. Very professional. Very damn professional.
And she really wanted to meet this Thomasina. And use Old Betsy again.
It had been pathetic when she had dragged out her old poem books and read every stupid—but good, she had to admit—poem in there, falling in love with Football Head all over again. Of course, she never actually fell out of love, but that wasn't the point.
Helga shook her head, pushing back a strand of hair. She wanted out of here. She didn't belong here anymore, and she wanted out. But it wasn't good manners to leave with wishing the Bride and Groom happy years ahead, even if the wish was false.
She forced a smile on her face and steeled herself as she walked over. Their backs were to her, talking with Gerald and—what was her name again?—Julie? Jessie? Whatever.
"Congratulations, Football Head."
Arnold turned with a smile and small chuckle. "Hey, Helga. Thanks."
"Don't mention it," she said airily, almost turning to leave right then.
"Helga?" Gerald asked incredulously. "What happened to y—?" Julie-Jessie-Whomever elbowed him in the gut.
Helga frowned. "What?"
"He means it's been a long time since we've seen you," Arnold said quickly, always the peacekeeper. "I don't think you've met Thomasina," he introduced quickly to change the subject.
"Nope. Pleasure to meet ya," Helga lied, extending a hand. Surprisingly, Thomasina took it and shook heartily.
"So you're the infamous Helga," she smiled, violet eyes dancing. "You really don't look like the tales Gerald has spoken of." Gerald slightly hid behind his wife.
Helga raised an eyebrow. "Well, that was a long time ago, Thomasina. I'm sure I'll have to re-educate Gerald in how I really am."
She laughed. "Call me Tommy. Everyone does."
"I don't," Gerald argued. "You won't let me."
Both Thomasina and Helga rolled their eyes. "Well, I wish you many happy years," Helga smiled forcefully.
"You're leaving already?" Arnold asked, seeing her turn. Somehow he knew she was going to leave.
"I have a long trip ahead of me. New York is not just around the block, Football Head," she said coldly, walking away. Suddenly, she just wanted to get away, to get away from this suddenly cramp hall and people she didn't even know anymore. "Good-bye."
The parking lot was full of cars, but Helga knew exactly where she parked her car. Near the back, so she could leave easily. It was warm night, stars twinkling down, and Helga walked slowly to her car, arms crossed tightly. She wrenched open the door.
"Thank you for coming, Helga."
Helga jerked around to see Thomasina standing there in her white dress. Damn it, she was beautiful. Cascading brown curls, rose petal lips, tan skin, lashed eyes, rose cheeks. Helga bet she'd even looked beautiful in sweats. No wonder Football Head married her. Helga couldn't ever pull looking that beautiful.
"Your welcome," Helga said curtly. There, Thomasina probably said her piece. Now let her be gone.
She didn't leave, studying Helga intently.
"What?" Helga demanded.
Thomasina shrugged. "Nothing." Then she bit her lip. "Is something wrong?"
"No, nothing is wrong, except that I want to leave and you won't let me."
"I'm not stopping you."
"Rule of etiquette, Tommy," Helga snarled. "You don't just leave someone who's talking to you."
"That didn't matter when we were in the dance hall."
Helga shrugged. "I'm fickle." She smiled cruelly. "Have a nice life, Tommy. You and Football Head."
"He does have a football-shaped head, doesn't he?" Thomasina smiled.
"So you've noticed."
"Look, Helga, thank you for coming. I know this wasn't a cheap trip for you."
Helga glared at her. "My finical matters aren't any of your concern, Thomasina." I'm probably making more than you and Arnold put together.
She had the grace to look abashed. "I meant compared to the others. Arnold's really touched that you came."
Helga smiled slightly to herself. "Let him."
It wasn't the reaction Thomasina excepted. "Well, good-bye, Helga. Thank you for coming."
She climbed into her car. "You're welcome, Tommy. If you're in New York, check me up." She started the engine.
"Maybe I will. Girls' night out?" Thomasina sounded like she was trying to get a better handle on the situation.
"We'll see," Helga said curtly, driving off. She walked Thomasina in her pretty white dress grow smaller and smaller in her mirror. "Stupid."
Once she was on the highway back to New York, Helga allowed herself to relax. Well, not relax, but to think.
He was gone, forever. Before Helga could always pretend he'd come and carry her away. Part of her said she still could, but then she remembered Thomasina. He wasn't going to walk away from that any time soon. Not for her anyway.
Arnold . . .
She cried slightly, in the privacy of her car where no one could see her be so weak.
Helga knew it was her own fault, her own fault for the way her life turned out. She should have told Arnold she loved him. Maybe then she would have had a chance—a chance for him to love her, or for her to discover that he was a bastard.
She had always lived in her own dream world, tossing away reality. Of course, never so far that she lost slight of the truth. She didn't want to be her sister, thinking she had to be perfect, or her father, the power-trip ego who was trying to make up for lost time, or her mother, the flake.
She whipped her eyes, drifting back into her dream world for a moment.
"If anyone has any reason why these two should not be married, speak now or forever hold your peace."
How Helga wanted to say she did, that she loved Arnold. She wanted to say that he was making a terrible mistake, that she would be making a terrible mistake if she didn't talk.
Helga mentally shook herself.
She wasn't stupid.
Oh yes, Helga knew she had made the mistake. She hadn't talked. Not at the wedding, but all those years ago.
She would have made an even bigger mistake if she had stopped the wedding. His happiness was more important that her happiness.
She wiped her eyes, knowing she'd better get a room somewhere or drive the rest of the night.
Helga took a deep breath. She'd drive some more . . . alone.
Characters © whomever they belong to.
All right, I know that wasn't the greatest, but my other writings are going just a tad faster than nowhere and I need something that I could actually finish. And I suddenly just had a Hey Arnold! kick. Have had it the past few days, don't ask me why. Oh well.