A Flaw in Perfection
Disclaimer: Hey Arnold! is about as much as mine as it is still a thriving series on television. (Why, oh why, are we being deprived of The Jungle Movie!)
Author's Note: To whomever might actually be reading this, lol…let me be the first to stay that yes, I tend to be full of crap. After re-reading this story and all my authors notes, I seriously just started laughing. But, I am still glad I pulled through and finished this story because it's another thing I can count as finally completed. You have Cool Steve to thank for that, who kept heckling me about this thing :D Haha. Plus, his latest story was a motivation for me. Now that this is done, I only have the satisfaction that it is finished. I'm not as proud of this story as I wish I could be. In terms of writing quality I think its lacking (but given it was started two years ago, I like to imagine my writing has improved since then). However, I gave the ending my all…or what all I could give at one in the morning. And…now I'm going to shut up, and say here is the final end piece to this story and I'm quit literally jumping into it.
It had been quiet, almost peaceful. Until the thud of footsteps pounded in my ears, I lay motionless, almost numb, on the ground. Once I opened my eyes, I saw him, amid blurred vision and lack of focus. It took me a moment to catch my breath, so any word I sputtered must have been nothing more than incoherent whimpers.
"Helga! I'm so sorry, are you all right? Are you hurt? Can you stand? How many fingers am I holding up?"
I shook my head, ironically helping my vision focus, and stared up into Arnold's worried eyes.
"Could you...maybe stop asking questions for a second?" was the first thing I found easiest to say. He seemed to give a smile of relief, and took my hand to help me up. After holding hands with Arnold for a bit longer than necessary, I heard another boy force a cough. Gerald was standing nearby, looking a tad worried himself.
"Gerald and I were tossing a football around, and by the time I saw you over there, it was too late,"
"The ball hit you in the head," Gerald added.
"Thanks...I probably wouldn't have guessed that myself," I said, rubbing the back of my head and giving a slight smile.
"Yeah, so...you're okay?" Arnold asked again.
"Um, well...no...yes...uh, I mean, could I talk to you?"
"Hey, I'll give you two some time to talk. I need to get home for dinner anyways. Glad you're okay, Helga," Gerald spoke, as he seemed almost in a hurry to leave.
After a few moments of hesitation, and waiting to make sure Gerald wasn't in hearing distance, I finally spoke.
"I don't know how to...I...there's something I have to..." just say it, Helga...why can't I just say it?
Arnold looked curiously at me, and then down at the ground, just to the side of me, where a crumpled piece of paper was. I quickly snatched it up.
"Something you dropped?"
"Yes...I, well, it's for you. It's not from me...it's not a gift or anything...I just...here, take it," I practically shoved it in his hand.
"Um, thanks, Helga..."
"And...also..." before finishing, I took one last, longing look into his bright, glistening eyes. It would probably be the last time I could ever look at him without him turning away in humiliation. It may just be the last time I could ever stand near him, without him promptly leaving to escape the turmoil of knowing the harsh reality of things. "I'm usually more...eloquent, when it comes to this subject. But sometimes it takes blunt words to portray exactly what I feel, instead of dressing them up so they sound better. I want you to know that...I've lied to myself, to my friends, and most importantly I've lied to you. I...like you, Arnold. I really, really like you. I almost could say that- I've probably- been falling in...love with you..."
He stood there. I stood there. The light wind hovering around us stood still. Time, quite literally, in my opinion, stood still. At first he looked at me, then quickly down, away. And for what seemed like forever, he'd glance at me, then somewhere else, as if he was getting a visual on all the chaotic thoughts swirling around within him. I began shaking, losing balance, be it from his cryptic silence, or the fall to the ground from the football attacking my head. I could hardly look at him. There was nothing else I could say. Any thought of furthering the discussion, of explaining myself, was utterly nauseating.
I had ruined things forever. I saved him from wasting his energy on leaving, and I did the running for him. I ran right past him, as fast as I had ever run. I didn't look back.
If ever there was a moment in life where it could be rewound and redone, I probably would have chosen that moment. How idiotic I must have sounded, how brash and insincere… How foolish am I to think this will have changed anything in a good way? Years of torture, years of unnecessary grief I provided for him and now I have the raw indecency to ask for an exchange of forgiveness and acceptance? Like he's just supposed to turn the other cheek…like he does incredibly too well…and tell me that it's all right, and we can be friends—or more than that?
Helga…what have you done to yourself? And worse…what have you done to Arnold?
It was the longest twenty minutes of my life, accelerated by the anxiousness of wondering what would happen to the world now. I stared down at the twinkling, inviting river below, over the railing of the bridge where I found it too easily to finally stop in my mad sprint. I can never run far enough, and where would I go anyway? Running was useless. Escape was futile to imagine.
I slumped over the rail, wishing I could just slip over the edge into the cold, watery oblivion and disappear forever…
I could see my reflection in the trembling water, or was I the one who was trembling? Tears I had not yet found the strength to cry were brimming my eyes with a warn tingle, and the longer I stared at myself the more my eyes burned. I thought I must be seeing things when a familiar yellow football shape entangled its form beside mine in the water. I blinked a few times and studied the wavering image until I realized Arnold was standing right beside me.
I quickly jumped back and twirled just enough to stand face to face with my personal angel who now too frighteningly resembled my greatest inner demon. As we maintained hesitant eye contact I briefly wondered if this is what the world looked like when it was going to end. Wasn't the sky supposed to go completely black, rain blood into crimson seas or something? Wasn't it supposed to be dark and scary, not beautiful and intimidating?
I wasn't left much time to contemplate as wild, green eyes cut into my apprehension and forced me to focus. And then the dark angel spoke, and the world did fall away but only into a haze of color and Arnold was the only thing I could see.
"My eyes are open, Helga," he said quietly, curiously. I felt myself gulp and knew he heard me swallow my all of my nerves as I dared to open my mouth and speak back to him.
"Excuse me?" I tried not to sound overbearing as I spoke, but I literally had no idea what he was getting at. A small smile flitted across his face and he extended to me a once-crumpled piece of paper. I was numb as I watched my hand reach for it unconsciously. I held the delicate paper as if it would disintegrate at any moment. It was Lila's letter to Arnold. And he wanted me to read it? God, what could it say?
Wordlessly, he coaxed me to read it instead of gawking at it with a heightened level of scrutiny. I could do nothing else but listen to his silent plea. So I began to read the letter.
It's Lila here. Please don't ask how I got this, it's a long story. What matters most now is that you read it, and hopefully you'll understand Helga and what she's told you a little clearer. It's a poem she wrote a little while ago. And trust me, you don't want to just read it…but believe it.
I am flawed, and I am perfect
At pretending everyone believes my act.
But I can't lie to myself, though I try,
I can't make believe I never cry,
Because the tears are too real to disappear,
And there's no running from who's in the mirror.
Still, I fight for my charade,
By building walls to barricade
All the pain I create in my wake,
Every stolen laugh, every mistake, all the heartache,
And if I could stop and take off my mask,
If I could obey when you would ask,
To see who I really am underneath...
I would, if I believed you'd like what you'd see.
But I know who I make myself out to be,
And I know it isn't pretty, isn't nice or kind,
I don't have the beauty you deserve to find,
I never know how to stay honest,
Because lying has always been easiest.
I never tell you how I feel,
Because who you see me as is unreal,
And the right words never seem to fit
The shape of my heart, so my dark truth remains unlit.
But if I could take of my mask, I would,
I'd change for you, if only I could,
I'm afraid I already painted my portrait for you,
I'm painfully stained with colors that aren't true.
But it's all I know how to be,
Because somewhere, I lost the real me,
And I'm hoping someday you'll find me here,
I'm hoping you'll see that I can be sincere,
I can be caring, I can be beautiful,
And if one day, you open your eyes ,
And open your heart to realize,
I'm more than a fist, more than a negative notion,
And I can be more than a flaw in your perfection.
I can be more, because you deserve better,
Someone who'll let you see how much you matter,
Who won't be afraid to be herself, to be true,
Who won't abstain from saying she loves you,
Because, I really, truly do…
Helga G. Pataki
After reading the letter, reading the poem—my poem—that was never meant to be read, I could feel my pulse rattling about my entire body. Every nerve, every cell was quivering madly and I felt red heat flush over my face as I felt Arnold's eyes on me. I couldn't find my voice at that point and cautiously met his steady gaze.
"I see you, Helga. I've always seen you…I just didn't think you wanted me looking," he finally said. His voice was soft and easy, if not a bit weak as he took a step closer and reached for my hand to hold in his. His grip was gentle but firm, and I'm fairly certain if it was humanly possible to physically melt from another person's touch I would have. "I know you're not as tough as you try to be," he continued, a shadow of sadness crossing his features.
"But…all the things I've said to you, all the mean things I've done," I wanted to confess all over again but refrained only because it hurt to much to realize how much pain I caused him over the years.
"It wasn't really you, though, was it? You were just confused and scared to be yourself, and I don't want to blame you for anything because of that. Maybe…maybe we can just start over?" he asked, and the words were exactly what I needed to hear. I closed my eyes a moment to take everything in, to make sure that even with eyes closed I could still see Arnold and the way he looked, the way he was looking at me, so I could rest easy knowing that when I opened my eyes I'd never forget this and it'd be with me forever.
"I'd like that," were the simplest words I could muster up enough strength to speak before completely fainting. Arnold's smile widened and I couldn't help but return it, if not warily for fear that this was all a dream and if I accepted any reality of the moment it'd vanish like dust in the wind and I'd wake up to a real nightmare: forever alone, abandoned by Arnold.
"So would I," he concluded, his hand tightening on mine. "I would really like to get to know the real you, because I have a feeling whoever she is, I'm really going to like her a lot. Maybe we can see a movie or something later, and then eat or something and then maybe talk…or something."
I coughed out a small laugh. "Are you asking me out on a date?" the question left before I could stop myself. Arnold bashfully let go of my hand and looked down at his feet, shuffling them on the ground and he shrugged his shoulders.
"Um, yes?" it was the answer, the proverbial pinch, really- that only proved I was awake, but this was still a dream.
"Sure," the word stumbled out recklessly and his eyes lit up from the answer. "I mean, whatever floats your boat, Arnold," I smiled the most genuine smile I had. It was all entirely too surreal that we could have a normal conversation, that I wouldn't insult him or bully him. It would take some getting used to.
"Oh, and Helga?" Arnold began, a slight smirk etched on his lips. I indulged him inquisitively.
"I don't mind if you call me Football Head. It's kind of grown on me,"
I laughed and tried not to blush from what I took as a high compliment.
"No problem, Football Head," I told him.
The two of us started to walk, over the bridge and back through the park. We talked, we laughed, we playfully argued…and for the first time ever we were really friends.
Time would only tell now if we'd ever become more, if we'll truly get past our differences. And for the kind of love Arnold and I could share when we're older and our hearts are better capable to love completely, the kind that lasts forever—there's no say in how long I'd wait for something worth so much. And for Arnold, I will always wait…but maybe now I won't be waiting too much longer.
No matter how much I like or dislike a story of mine, I always get a little misty-eyed when I type the words "The End". I don't know why…Anyway, to everyone who ever read this, I give you my sincerest thanks. To anyone who might be kind enough to read through this whole thing now that it's done, wow, thank you. Your patience is the epitome of resilience. Feedback at any time is always appreciated, if not deserved. Sorry it took two years to complete. Life gets in the way, and obsession can get away from you as quickly as it gets you. It's a mad process of dedication, and I think I failed this fandom…but with what phantom dignity I have left I am leaving you with a smile, and another thank you for putting up with me.