Of Pink Ribbons, Blue Hats, and White Lies
(Or: Umbrellas in the Rain…couldn't pick a title)
A/N: I know I have other stories that have been in the works for…um, like a year? Hehe, but sometimes a story just "gets" me and I have to write it. This is mainly fluff, but it has real substance I think. I hope you like it!
Disclaimer: Wouldn't we all be in for a treat if I owned Hey Arnold!…?
It was October 5th. The sun was just beginning to set and the horizon was washed with a hazy orange and yellow hue, feathering into the cerulean of the evening sky.
Helga Pataki arrived at Chez Paris and took her seat that had been reserved. She was waiting for him now, but tried to occupy her thoughts on other people, casually dining in the restaurant. However, she looked at the empty seat in front of her, and couldn't help but fall into a state of reminiscence.
"Arnold, there's something I've been meaning to tell you," she spoke in a passive tone, which came as a surprise to the unsuspecting Arnold who sat merely two feet in front of her. The boy nodded.
"Of course, you can tell me anything,"
"Well…it was about four years ago. Valentine's Day. And…"
"Oh," the boy started with a chuckle. "Did you want your red shoe back?"
Helga's mouth gaped open.
"Four years is a long time to wait to hear the truth from you. It wasn't too hard to figure it out myself. I'll admit, it took some time,"
"You already knew it was me pretending to be Cecile?" she said aggressively now.
"You did give some good evidence. And after I realized the Nancy Spumoni boots were the same size as that red shoe",--
"Arnold! You've known all this time? Why didn't you confront me?"
"Because," he began, and his nonchalant expression formed a subtle, hopeful grin. "I wanted to wait and see if I'd ever hear it from you,"
"Doesn't it bother you? That I lied?" her voice had a tinge of regret in it. He leaned in closer towards her.
"They were little white lies, and I'm understanding more and more each day why you did what you did," he took her hand and lifted it to his lips, kissing it. "And I'm glad,"
"Is this seat taken?" A welcomed voice called her back to the present. Her eyes lit up as she recognized that familiar, football shaped head.
"That all depends on who's asking," she toyed with him.
"Someone who likes that pink bow in your hair," he replied with a widening grin. She let out a small, sincere laugh.
"Well, I guess you can sit with me,"
"Thanks. Even though I could stand here and admire your beauty all day, I think I'd much rather enjoy sitting here and staring into those brilliant eyes of yours,"
"Aren't we romantic now, Romeo? What'd you do?" her voice carried a mock-reprimanding pitch to it. He took the empty seat and got comfortable.
"Oh, the usual. Just fell in love with you, again," he stated. Helga blushed, even though she was used to his complimenting her, she never grew tired of hearing it, as he never grew tired of expressing it.
"I'm sorry, I really must be going. I have to wake up soon so I can meet my boyfriend for dinner, but it was nice dreaming of you," she said cordially.
The two laughed to themselves.
"I missed you, Arnold," Helga began, leaning closer to him.
"And I missed you," he said, leaning towards her as well. They were about to kiss when Jacques the waiter appeared from nowhere.
"Is the happy couple ready to order?" He spoke in his heavy French accent; his words had been worn by his many years of working for Chez Paris.
"Just the usual," Arnold answered, slightly annoyed at his intervention, but nonetheless courteous.
"Very well, I will have it out to you in no time," Jacques said, and moved so quickly to the kitchen it was as if he vanished.
Suddenly, Arnold felt a little sick. His nerves were rattled by the constant knocking of one, solitary thought going through his mind. It was a happy thought, but it had consequences he wasn't sure he could handle if things did not go as planned.
"Is something wrong?" Helga asked him, feeling concerned for his abrupt confidence-lacking disposition.
"No!" He practically shouted. Helga gave him a look that could otherwise have substituted for the phrase 'Don't lie to me and tell me what's wrong'
"Nothing's wrong," he stated, "Honestly. I just…want tonight to be special," his voice drifted off. There wasn't anything he could say that Helga would doubt. If he said nothing was wrong, she believed nothing was wrong, although sometimes she just had…a feeling. Either way, she decided to let him win the battle before it started.
They chatted for a few minutes about the events of their day. They were both in their junior year at Hillwood University. She was studying the literary arts, and he was into a little of everything, primarily anthropology. Their food came and they ate, sometimes laughing, sometimes talking, and sometimes just looking at each other and feeling content they were together.
After dinner, they put their coats on, left a generous tip on the table, and headed outside where the sun had completely set. The nighttime blue coated the sky, spackled with a few stars shining like opalescent beads of light. Arnold and Helga held each other's hand and began walking. They didn't need a particular destination; they just rather enjoyed being near each other. On this evening, however, Arnold had a destination in mind: The future.
"Where are we going?" Helga asked him curiously.
"Someplace special to me," he answered, squeezing her hand.
It was dark, and shadows creased the gutters with decaying strings of light from several dim streetlamps. The allies were foreboding, with solidity to the darkness and uncertainty to what lurked within it. However, there was no fear in their walk, no disturbing thoughts. They felt no need for worry when they were together. Everything worked out, some way or another. They were living proof of that.
A few dry and wrinkled leaves wrestled on the cement with the pull of a faint wind. Rusty chains screeched with a swing's wind-drawn motion. Bits of trash and litter rustled on the parched asphalt of the seemingly abandoned lot. The two approached the old building now, with a splintered wood sign that barely visibly read Urban Tots Preschool in cracking chips of old paint.
Arnold led Helga closer to the building, and stood before a giant glass window, fractured in many places, but could still hold both of their reflections without being obtrusive. Helga let out a small gasp of a breath, taken back by the memories flooding in on her rapidly beating heart. She wanted to laugh, and to cry, but could barely breathe.
"Hi. Nice bow,"
"I like your bow, because it's pink like your pants,"
"This is…where we first met," Arnold spoke softly, putting an arm around her and pulling her closer to him. She sighed with happiness and warmth.
"It sure has changed a lot in twenty years," Arnold said in silent wonder.
"So have we," Helga mused aloud. They looked at each other and smiled.
Though there were not many clouds, it began to drizzle lightly. Cold drops of rain chilled the ground with misty dots, and the breeze made the air feel damper than it was. Quickly, Arnold pulled out a small, compact umbrella, which he was able to conceal in one of the deep pockets of his khaki leather trench coat. He opened it and swiftly held it over both Helga and himself. She leaned into his arms and looked up at him. A look of bliss flashed across her face.
"For the longest time, I never thought I'd see you holding that umbrella over me again," she said below a sigh. This made Arnold feel a bit detached for a moment, as he recalled some of the times in their childhood, that, given the circumstances, should have had them never speaking to one another. Then he cleared those bitter memories away, and looked down at what he had. He grinned.
"Some things just go well together,"
"Like having an umbrella in the rain?" She teased him lightly. He brushed a few strands of her hair to the side of her face.
"No, I just got lucky that time, on the first day of school. But you and I? To be together like we are now, despite all we've been through…that's more than luck,"
"It sure took you long enough to figure out we were made for each other," she said, laughing. Arnold blinked with incomprehension for a moment.
"We were nine! I hadn't even hit puberty yet when you first told me you loved me!" Arnold said in his defense, barely able to control a laugh himself.
"Oh, but you could goggle over Ruth, or Lila? No questions asked?"
"I was immature and confused! Not to mention stupid. And if memory serves me correct, you dated Stinky Peterson,"
"Yeah, to get your attention,"
"All right, All right, you win, I give up," he broke into a fit of laughter. "You're just too adorable to argue with,"
She playfully punched him in the stomach, and then hugged him, smiling. He led her into the old school's playground. The light drizzle was only shortly lived, and so he put the umbrella away. They walked to the swings and each sat in one, slowly gliding back and forth in unison. The swings hadn't been used in a long time, but were sturdy enough still.
After a couple minutes of sitting in peaceful silence, the sick feeling returned to Arnold. He found himself out of breath all of a sudden, his mouth dry, his throat tight. Helga picked up on his subdued behavior once again. Before she could question this, he spoke up.
"Do you know what today is?" he was mellow as he asked, and stopped swinging. She looked down at the ground and stopped swinging too. It was as if she realized something now, and his behavior made sense.
"The anniversary of the day your parents left," she replied remorsefully.
"And never came back," he finished. He let out a deep breath. She looked over towards him and winced, her eyes downcast. "October 5th comes around, year after year, and it always will. There's nothing I can do about that. And I've never had very…good memories for this day. There is…something I can do about that," he paused, and stood up, nearly falling back down with a dizzying worry he would make a mistake in what he wanted to say.
"I want this to be a day, a brand new October 5th, we can both remember," Arnold removed his hand from the swing's chain. "A new tomorrow I hopefully won't dread every October 4th. A new beginning, for both of us," he said, walking in front of her. She was readying herself to stand, but she found herself immobile. He took both her hands and knelt down on one knee in front of her on the damp ground.
"Helga, I love you, more than you could ever know," he quickly reached into his pocket, and pulled out a small, blue hat, one his head had outgrown over the years, but always stayed apart of him. Helga's eyes began to water. "Will you marry me?"
She clasped one of her hands to her mouth in disbelief, and tears of rapture swelled in her glossy blue eyes. She didn't know what to say and yet she knew exactly what she wanted to say. It was an answer to a question she'd been hoping to hear since she was three. Arnold looked up at her, the hat clenched in his hands, waiting for her answer.
"Yes," she finally said, and in case someone else around the world didn't hear her, she said it again, "Yes!" She jumped up now, and he stood again. He felt as if a million pounds of anguish had been lifted off him. His spirit was renewed, his confidence solaced, and his love for Helga burning stronger than ever before.
There was no way either of them could suppress the gigantic smiles that were spread across their faces. He quit squeezing the hat for a moment, and pulled out a ring snuggly kept safe within it, then placed the hat back in his pocket. The diamond radiated with a glistening shimmer in the moonlight, and Helga could hardly believe her eyes. Without hesitation, Arnold slid the dazzling ring onto her left hand's ring finger. She admired it for a second, and then realized she much rather look at Arnold now. She threw her arms around him and they embraced ecstatically.
"I love you, Football Head, I absolutely love you!" She told him. He rather enjoyed being called Football Head now, and he smirked at her.
"And I absolutely love you," He then cupped her face with his warm hands, and drew in for a long, overdue kiss. His lips and hers went well with together, he thought. Much like umbrellas in the rain.
Wow, I almost made this into an angsty romance…how so? My mind works in mysterious ways. Well, I really hope you liked this. Some feedback would be wonderful. Flames are accepted…not much I can do about them anyways. Except maybe say "please don't flame me???" Nah, just be honest.
Oh, and in my defense, I purposely lack detailed description of what "my version" of the young adult Helga and Arnold look like, so that you can use whatever image your mind creates.
And this is a one-shot….but….if people like it enough I may make a sequel with the actual wedding…anyways, thanks for reading! Take care :-)