Whatever You Say (Or: Here In Hillwood)
(Couldn't decide on a title)
Composed By Silver Kitten
Disclaimer: I do not own Hey Arnold!
A/N: Hi fellow fanfictioners! I know it's been about 6 months since I've posted a story…please forgive me :-S This idea came to me while listening to the song "One Sweet Day"…and if you've heard that song, then throughout this story, and especially the middle, you'll know why. However! I did not write this intending it to be a sob fest…I know, I know, it will seem that way…but I have a happy ending in store…you'll just have to trust me till the end. Hope that's not asking too much. By the way, as for character ages…at first they were going to be their 9-year-old selves…but then I thought, and maybe they should be a little older? I guess its up to you how you picture them. The whole story is in Arnold's POV.
Brief Summary: Helga seems to be leaving Hillwood, for good. Arnold can't quite grasp his strong opposition to her decision until he finally accepts the truth of his feelings. But it seems his realization was a little late, as a terrible incident occurs and all hope is lost. Then again, doesn't the old saying go "It is never too late"?
"Sorry I never told you
All I wanted to say
And now it's too late to hold you
'Cause you've flown away
So far away"
--One Sweet Day (Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men)
"It looks like it might rain today," I said, peering up at the grim clouds tightening in the dreary sky. "What a burden that would be for our baseball game,"
"Yeah, looks like we'll have to reschedule. No problem," Gerald said, casually tossing a baseball from one hand to another. "Besides, it looks like we're missing some people," he leaned over the end rail of the tree house.
"Everyone is here except," I quickly scouted the ground below, "Phoebe and Helga."
"I wonder where they are? Phoebe's never late and I don't think Helga's ever missed a game,"
"She hasn't. Maybe we should call? Or at least walk over to her house to make sure everything is all right?"
"Whoa, Romeo, chill. Take into consideration that the sky looks like it's about to bust. Maybe they just decided to have some girl time, or stay at home or something." Gerald suggested.
"I guess you're right…" I sighed. A brief flash of lightening blinked in the mesh of incoming storm clouds. The rest of the gang was hanging out below the tree house, waiting for everyone to show up. Finally, someone else appeared, but still one was missing…
"Hey, there's Phoebe," I said, pointing across the street.
"See, I told you, everything is fine," Gerald reassured himself.
"Then why does she look so…down?"
"Uh…maybe we should head on down now, and see what's goin' on."
By the time we climbed down the tree house Phoebe was there, in the middle of a curious crowd of questioning eyes. Gerald cut his way to the front and stood next to Phoebe.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"Nothing, I just, um…I got caught up in something, that's all," she answered meekly, sniffling. Everyone could tell she'd been crying, so no one bothered to ask the obvious question.
"Have you seen Helga?" I inquired, trying not to sound brash, although it probably turned out that way. I knew Phoebe and Helga were best friends, and if Phoebe were having a problem, surely Helga would have known or been with her. So to see them apart…it didn't make sense.
Upon my asking, new tears fell from Phoebe's reddened eyes.
"Yes," she choked out of her broken voice. "I'm afraid to report that she's…leaving,"
The crowd snapped into a moment of hushed whispers. I felt my heart freeze instantly and I was left breathless.
"Leaving where? And when?"
"She is relocating in Alaska. Her plane departs in…an hour's time. She said she's sorry she had to miss the game, but she didn't want to have to say goodbye…it'd be too…too difficult," she used her last dry breath and then her normally composed body shook with sobs.
I didn't believe it. Helga was leaving? For how long, I wanted to ask, and why, I wanted to know. I couldn't pry any more information out of Phoebe.
"Hey, um, I'm going to walk Phoebe home," Gerald said, putting an arm around Phoebe. The rest of the group stayed primarily quite, kind of shocked in an awkward moment of not knowing what to say or do.
"Maybe I'll go home too…" Harold said in a humble tone.
"Me too," said Rhonda and Nadine in unison.
It wasn't much longer until only Brainy and I remained, standing in the same worn spot of grass, as it seems we were waiting to be struck down by lightening or drowned in a flood of water. Any such fate as that seemed better than whatever it was we were supposed to do next.
"You should go see her," Brainy's low, nearly inaudible voice spoke. "I…I think she'd really like to see you." He wheezed.
"Oh, um, I'm pretty sure she doesn't want to see me," I protested, looking down at the ground.
"But you want to see her, don't you?"
I didn't answer for a minute, but rather admired the perfectly trimmed grass crumpled beneath my shoes. And if I took a step back, how each bent blade would return to its rightful position, aiming for the sky no matter how fierce it looked down on it.
Without much thought on his question, just instinct, I answered "Of course,"
"So go see her. And…tell her, before it's too late." he wheezed again.
I inwardly laughed to myself briefly and shook my head, acknowledging this as the longest conversation I'd had with Brainy since who knows when. When I looked up to question his statement, he was already crossing the street. Tell her…what?
It didn't take too long for me to gather enough courage to walk the few blocks to Helga's house, in hopes to seeing her…and perhaps finding out what was going on.
Each step I took, every nerve that braced itself for impact upon the turning of each corner, treaded onward lonely and…for nothing. I almost wished I could turn the corner and run into her. It always happened when least expected, so why not now?
There was a rumbling drone of thunder and another menacing spark of lightening. I saw her house, and her bedroom light had just switched off. I figured she'd be leaving any minute now to the airport. I knew I had to hurry so I quickly ran across the street and up to her doorstep. Trying to catch my breath still I rang the doorbell. Gruff, heavy steps grew closer until the door whipped open. Big Bob sneered straight ahead at his eye level until he looked down and saw me. He let out a smug sigh.
"Hi, um, Mr. Pataki. May I please speak with Helga?" I gulped.
"Yeah, yeah, sure, but make it quick. The wife and I are dropping her off at the airport in ten minutes," he griped, practically shoving the door open. "She's upstairs in her room,"
"Thanks, Mr. Pataki," I said, trying to avoid eye contact.
"Please, you can call me the Beeper King," he guffawed, walking into his kitchen area.
I stood in front of Helga's door carefully studying the very detailed grain of the wood, wondering how such a simple object could be so complex. It reminded me of Helga, who seemed like such a simple girl, with hopes and needs like anyone else. But close up, she was a web of complexities, and she had more knots in her life to struggle with than the average, simple girl. I then remembered she was in her room, right behind this very door. I knocked gently, not wanting her to mistake me for her father by a hard pound.
"Come in," I heard a voice say not too loudly.
I opened the door slowly until the murky light coming from her window revealed the scene of the room. There she sat on her fully made bed, amid a landscape of heart-decorated wallpaper and toy dolls. She was hugging her pillow until her head lifted up and recognized that it was me and not Miriam.
"Arnold! I mean, what are you doing here Hair Boy?" Her usual bitter tone clashed with her misleading surroundings. Or perhaps it was her tone that was misleading? I'd go for the latter.
"Sorry, Helga. Your dad let me in. I wanted to…well, I just stopped by to say…"
"Spit it out, Arnoldo, I'm not gonna be here all day…this time, I mean it…" her voice trailed off someplace different than normal.
"Were you going to say goodbye before you got on the plane?" I shot out at her. She didn't expect it, and by the appearance of her expression, were she not already sitting down she would have probably fell.
"Who told you?"
"Phoebe…and your dad mentioned it,"
It became quiet now and her surly façade had been shaken but not broken. I wish, like the door, I could open her heart to trust me, to have faith enough to be herself.
"I wanted to…but it was just too hard. I guess it's a good thing you stopped by then. It's been nice knowin' ya," she spat out hastily.
"Why are you leaving? Are your parents forcing you to go to Alaska?"
She looked outside her window longingly, as if to hope she could be outside, anywhere but stuck in here answering my questions.
"Nobody is forcing me to do anything. This is…my choice. Got that?"
"Sure…so then why are you choosing to leave? Will you come back?"
"Probably not. And what's it to you? Maybe…I realized somehow I don't belong here. I don't fit in here in Hillwood and…maybe I figure I can learn something in Alaska…" she said meditatively, as if she had rehearsed the very words.
"Learn about what?" I asked.
"Who I am,"
"You can't do that here?"
"Come on, Football Head, I thought you'd be out celebrating like everyone else because I'm leaving. Yes, Helga G. Pataki, Old Betsy and the Five Avengers, the biggest bully in Hillwood is leaving! Never to be heard from again!" she yelled angrily.
"Maybe I don't want you to go!" I shouted before I could control myself.
"You don't know what you want," she hissed rashly.
"I could say the same thing about you," I told her, not caring if she raised her voice to intimidate my concern, or barked insults.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"How do you know the answers you're looking for are even in Alaska? How do you know they aren't here in Hillwood, all around you if you just looked?"
"Because I have looked! And everywhere I look I see the same thing, day in and day out, and not one bit of it is worth a second glance,"
"You're wrong. Second glances can show you what you missed, what you didn't see before," I exclaimed.
"Then tell me, Arnoldo, what haven't I seen yet that would make me want to stay?" she questioned authoritatively. I panicked to say the perfect answer; something to convince her…at this point my mind went blank with terror. What if I would say the wrong thing, and she'd be gone forever?
"I…well," I began, clearing my throat.
Mr. Pataki barged in. "It's time to go, Olga,"
"It's Helga, dad,"
"Right, well go and wait by the car and I'll be right there," he huffed, and returned downstairs, leaving the door wide open.
Without saying another word, Helga grabbed her suitcase and lightly brushed past me.
"Helga, wait," I stammered. She stood in the doorway timidly. I swallowed my pride and gently grabbed the suitcase out of her hand. "After you,"
She rubbed her left arm now free from the hefty burden and nodded what could be considered as a thank you and then began walking downstairs.
We got outside and I put her suitcase in her dad's trunk. A loud growl of thunder came from the gray sky that was so cloud-cluttered it appeared as hard as stone.
"Will you be back anytime soon?" I asked her. We both pretended as if the previous conversation ceased to have happened, she sighed.
"I don't know…"
It began drizzling lightly. The airy mist of water was chilling to the touch.
"The ticket is non-refundable…so…you know, even if I wanted to stay…which I don't,"
"Yeah, I understand…" I lied.
Several small lightening flashes flickered above us, followed by another musty roll of thunder.
"Thanks for coming by," she said, almost hesitantly. I just nodded. Suddenly I remembered Brainy's elusive advice.
"But you want to see her, don't you?""Of course,"
"So go see her. And…tell her, before it's too late."
Still yet, I couldn't understand what it was Brainy was referring to. What should I tell her? What do I have to say besides…that I hated the idea of her leaving, and the thought of never seeing her again made me feel sick to my stomach? "Before it's too late"? Before what is too late?
"All right, I hope you two are finished chatting. Go on and get in the car and we'll be on our merry way," Mr. Pataki said in a careless manner. Mrs. Pataki was right behind him. She got in the passenger seat and Mr. Pataki walked around to the driver seat.
Helga and I stood, a couple feet apart, staring at nothing particular.
The rain was getting slightly heavier and colder by the minute.
"I guess I'll be leaving then, Football Head," she barely whispered. "Bye..."
Maybe…Brainy wanted me to tell her that…I'd miss her…
"Bye…" my tongue clamped inside my throat.
She walked to the car.
Or to tell her that…I'd never met anyone like her…
She opened the car door.
Or to tell her that…I'd always be here for her…that I'd help her in any way I could, even if I didn't understand what she was going through…just because…she means that much to me…
She sat down and slammed the door shut. The wind yowled and the rain bit the ground in jagged drops of frigid water.
She hadn't looked back…and the car was pulling away…I stood waiting for her to look back, waiting for the car to stop and her to come back…waiting…for nothing.
Right before the car turned the corner, at long last, I saw her glimpse over her shoulder and our eyes locked. And in that brief moment of sight, my eyes yearned to see her but a second longer, my heart could have beat right out of my chest to chase after her…but then she was gone. And I, in a long overdue instant, understood what Brainy meant when he said, "Before it's too late"…
As the rain swooped down in harsh torrents, I sat on Helga's doorsteps and watched muddy puddles form. In each muddy puddle fell new crystal droplets that splashed and rippled their way through the gutters of Hillwood.
Five minutes must have passed…then ten minutes…and a few more…
The sky was darkening by each second's passing. I sat huddled in the corner of her doorstep, my mind clawing itself on the thought that I let her leave with a measly "bye"…
I had lost track of time. The storm raged on, more furiously now, but I didn't care. Thunder and lightening argued in the sky, constantly bickering in the cold wind to be louder or to be brighter. I was soaking wet, drenched in idiocy, and wanting not a towel or warm shower, but just to see Helga one last time…
Whoever said "You don't know what you have until its gone"…they were wrong. I knew what I had…I was just too stupid to see it.
"Arnold!" I heard the familiar voice of Gerald, struggling to be heard through the bellowing wind and thunder.
"Gerald?" he ran towards me, nearly slipping and falling a couple times. He got to the front steps with me and stood, trying to catch his breath.
"I've looked everywhere for you," he gasped.
"I've been here for a while…Gerald, I've been such an idiot. I was saying goodbye to Helga…and I realized something important…I…I know! I could buy a ticket to Alaska and meet her there, you know? Surprise her or something! That might be too…weird. I could always find her sister's number and call…and…she could get me in touch with Helga, and"—
"Arnold…you haven't heard…" he moped, placing his hands on his knees and breathing heftily.
"What is it? What's wrong?" I asked him. His voice was frantic and his expression was struck with obvious pain.
"She's gone…Helga's gone, man,"
"I know, she just left to the airport, you were there when Phoebe told us,"
"It's not that…I knew that…she was going to go to Alaska,"
"What do you mean…was?"
"There was…a huge accident…I mean, accident doesn't even begin to…" he stopped. "It's all over the news…Helga told Phoebe her flight number…"
"What's all over the news? What about Helga's flight number?" I asked, wanting more than fragments for an answer.
"They say there was an engine malfunction. Her plane crashed shortly after take off…Arnold, there were no survivors. Helga…is gone,"
"I'm sorry, man,"
As rain shattered like broken glass on the cement, and each yell of thunder seemed to hurdle directly towards me, everything around me blurred in a solid web of disorder. Nothing made sense, not the water falling from the sky, or feeling the rapid throb of blood racing through my numbing body. I didn't know how to speak, or concentrate, I could barely move and for a moment I wasn't sure if I even breathed.
"Come on, we have to get out of this storm, it's raining pretty bad and it might get worse," Gerald coaxed me.
I couldn't tell if it was raining…I didn't feel it…I didn't feel anything. Somehow I managed to stand.
"Thanks, but I rather walk by myself…you should go be with Phoebe. I'm pretty sure she needs you now," I explained. I started walking off without him.
"Arnold…when you want to talk, I'll be here for you," he said. I nodded and continued walking.
Most of the thunder and lightening subsided to a heavy rainfall. The rain subdued the wind, so the gutters were seemingly still, the air void of pressure, and Hillwood had never been so empty, so quiet…
After walking a bit I just wanted to run away from this place and this pain…but no where could I go to flee such agonizing heartache…still I ran, and I ran, and I ran…even when my legs felt they might give out from one more step, I ran. When breath was scarce in my weak lungs, I ran. When my heartbeat was so fast and I was overtaken with my pulse pounding in my body, nearly knocking me down, I ran. I ran, until at least I collapsed on my doorstep in a puddle of water. Breaths were replaced with short, rasping coughs.
I couldn't fight it any longer. I couldn't avoid the thoughts any longer that cut through my mind like unending stabs from a rigid dagger. I lost it…I stayed there in my pitiful puddle and burning tears overwhelmed my sore eyes.
It really was too late…Helga was gone…
Suddenly, the door swung open, and a gush of warm air came forward.
"Arnold!" I heard my grandpa say, he grabbed my arm to help me out. My grandma was there and she threw a towel around me. The door was shut and they walked me to the family room and sat me down. Grandma walked into the kitchen.
"We were worried for you, short man," my grandpa commented.
"I'm fine. I'm sorry to have worried you," I said, shivering in the towel.
The television was on, and a breaking news bulletin interrupted the weather forecast.
"Good evening. We bring you this breaking news report update. The flight 206 to Alaska, which crashed shortly after its departure from the Hillwood Airport due to an engine mishap, has left no surviving passengers. We will not list the names of the fatalities yet until we're sure all the families have been notified. If you have any questions or concerns, you can call us at"—I quickly clicked the television off.
"Can we fix you anything to eat?" grandma came in from the kitchen, a concerned look in her eye.
"I'm not very hungry, thanks. I think I'd just like to go up to my room and be by myself for a while." I stated. After silently looking at each other, they agreed without debate. I got up, leaving the towel on the couch, and sulked up to my room. I wanted to tell them what I was going through, but I was already selfish enough to stay out in a rainstorm and keeping them worried…
This pain…I'd have to handle on my own.
I watched in a blind daze as slivers of raindrops ran down the slope of my watery skylight. The falling rain held its own melody; what once could have been a soothing song has now abandoned all comfort, and left me withering away in dull thumps of the sky's tears.
Why did it take so long for me to realize my true feelings? Was I that shallow as to not want others to know? It makes a rude kind of sense…Helga and I were different people with different reputations, a clashing compatibility in any sort…
And yet, I'd gladly stand before the world and declare my…affection for her…
Had I been brave enough to do so…maybe she wouldn't have gotten on that plane?
I shut my eyes although tears still found a way out. All I saw were images of Helga and the look on her face in the car, right before she was out of sight, played over and over.
If I could see her right now, I'd tell her that I…
There was a tapping on the glass above me. I opened my eyes and glanced up at the skylight. I wasn't sure what I was seeing…
Standing, bent over the skylight, in the pouring rain, with her hand extended over the glass in a fragile fist…it looked like Helga. I wiped my eyes dry of tears and looked up again. I didn't see her…but still I had to make sure she wasn't still up there.
I climbed up the steps to the skylight's opening and peeked out, seeing a figure blurred by the sheet of rain across the window. I was determined now. I pushed open the window and welcomed the freezing rain. I stepped out on the roof that was saturated with nearly an inch of rainwater. My mouth swelled with anticipation to speak, though I couldn't find the words.
"It's nice to see you cried for me," she spoke thoughtfully, her lips almost curving to a smile.
"I must be dreaming. It can't be you…you're…"
"Still here…and not going anywhere. Well, for a while," she said.
"But Gerald said, and…the plane…it crashed…it was on the news…" words stumbled from my mouth, half confused beyond repair and half overjoyed with relief. "What does it matter? You're alive!" I ran up to her and pulled her into my arms. "How can it be?" I whispered into her ear.
"I…didn't get on the plane. We drove to the airport…and I was just about to board the plane…but I couldn't," she sighed, and put her arms around me. I pulled away, still holding her but far back enough to see her. Her bright blue eyes glistened with remorse.
"Why?" I asked. It seemed to be the only word I could say.
"I looked back…I gave Hillwood a second glance…and I realized I'd be missing you," as a solitary tear slipped from her eyes, she forced a shy smile.
I stared at her in amazement. I watched in awe at her perfect beauty, as drops of rain dripped from her golden strands of hair. Afraid I was dreaming, in fear I might soon awaken, I took the chance I thought I once lost, and I kissed her. Her lips were soft and cold but warmed against mine. Everything made sense, the water falling from the sky, and feeling the rapid throb of blood racing through my numbing body—the sensation of happiness.
When we parted, words weren't needed, but I had too much to tell her.
"Helga, I want to tell you something I should have told you a long time ago…I love the way your eyes glow after receiving a compliment. I love the way you can laugh just because you can, even when something wasn't that funny. I love when you tried to be one in the crowd, because it showed how much more valuable you were when you stood out as yourself. I love seeing you in sunlight, because it captures the radiance of your personality. I love seeing you in the rain, because…you're beautiful in the rain. It seems to me when it rains is when I see you most clearly. Most importantly, I love…you for who you really are, not who you pretend to be. I love you, Helga…"
She seemed to stand before me, almost not believing a single word I said. Then she smiled widely, and laughed a little to herself.
"I had something to tell you, too, but I guess you beat me to it. But if you must know, I love the way your eyes glow after helping someone in need. I love the way you can smile, and with or without knowing it, make someone else feel better. I love when you tried to talk to me, or give me advice, even when you thought I didn't listen, but I always did. I've loved you ever since I can remember. Mostly, I love you…because you see who I really am, regardless of who I pretend to be, and love me still…" she said softly. Then she and I both laughed a light laugh, and no words could define the amount of bliss I felt.
"I'm so glad you didn't get on that plane…"
"Did you really think Hillwood would get rid of me that easily? Come on, Football head," she giggled freely, admiring the gentle mist of rain, and the slice of night sky emerging from the break of clouds.
"It wouldn't have been the same without you here in Hillwood. We should share the good news with Gerald and Phoebe that you're here, safe and sound,"
"Oh, I called a rather…elated Phoebe and told her. Then I came here…and waited for you," she explained.
"Well…do you…want to come in? Dry off? Get some hot coffee or something?"
"What's that smirk for?" she asked, smiling vivaciously at me. I laughed.
"It's not like we're friends or anything now," she said, placing her hands on her hips.
"Of course not…it's more like…best friends,"
"All right. Just don't get too cozy with me, bucko. I mean…maybe a little," she asserted coyly.
I took her hand in mind and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Whatever you say, Helga, whatever you say,"
Well, that was another story…all completed. I apologize for the…apparent rush in the flow of the story line. I was going to draw this out to be a chaptered story, but I thought it might be easier for me and better for the readers (if there are any) to do a quick one shot. Hopefully I included enough character endurance …whatever I mean by that. Thank you, as always, for reading. I'd really appreciate any comments or questions, and definitely some critique so I may write better future stories. I already know I ramble a lot…heehee…that's more of a personality problem than a writing one…but I suppose it affects both worlds. Here I go again, rambling. Oh, real quick. I just wanted to ask if the ellipses (…) annoyed anyone? I tend to overuse them and I was wondering if I should cut back…or something. Point proven, I think. Anyways, take care!