Don't get too excited, this is a transition chapter. I actually like it, a lot. It lets you see Helga and the gang before all the crap I put them through :). It's a nice Looking into her world, type chapter. And in my humble opinion (considering I think everything I write is never up to par) it came out pretty good, for a transition chapter at least. So, ok, I have no idea where I'm actually taking the story, but hopefully it won't take very long. And thank you for all the reviews:) You guys are simply the best :). Me and the happy faces, jeez, haha. Enjoy!
(Sometimes it seems completely forbidden, to discover those feelings we kept so well hidden.)
I walked down the stairs rubbing the sleep from my eyes. I couldn't believe it was Saturday, nor could I believe that it was already early November. It seemed like the months were flying by. Which is good, I guess, welcoming almost.
Nothing major had happened in the span of a month and a half (if not more). I was still Helga, quiet to all but a few. Brainy still took me out, hung out with me, acted like a true friend. You need at least one true friend in the course of thewar that is high school. I had become closer to Eugene and Curly, and had even hung out with Patty. I was becoming a person. How clichéd.
I walked through the living room to get to the kitchen, when I noticed my mother sitting on the couch. She was smiling as she stared, glued to the television screen. My eyes followed hers as they landed on a small blonde child, waving excitedly to the camera.
"Look at me Grandpa!" My jaw hit the floor.
"Is that...?" I couldn't even finish the sentence.
"Yeah, the summer before you started preschool. We had gone up to Grandpa's ranch." Miriam smiled as the blonde child rushed around the yard.
Suddenly, a skinny girl, long blonde hair that was swept into a ponytail, came riding towards the camera. She looked about fourteen. She had a pretty complexion and a brilliant smile.
I felt my eyes stay on her every movement as the camera followed her.
"How am I doing Grandpa?" She asked, her voice sugary and confident.
"Brilliant my lovely Olga, brilliant." Her smile widened as she began trotting around the yard.
"Can I go on a pony?" The camera focused on the smaller child once again.
"You are much too young my little firefly." And elderly woman came and swooped the little girl into her arms. "But soon you'll be riding the trails as well, if not better, then your sister."
"Really, really!" And then there was a laugh as the camera faded into static.
Miriamstopped the tape and began rewinding it.
"He died two weeks after we left." She said slowly, sadly.
"I remember." In truth I really didn't, this was fourteen odd years ago. I was three or four at the time. I remembered the ranch, and Olga racing through the trails that wove in and out of the ranch. I remembered Bob didn't come with us and Miriam was mainly in bed, sometimes drunk, sometimes with a hang over. I don't remember Grandpa dying. And I don't remember him even seeming the slightest bit sick.
"He was such a good man. I'm happy you two got to spend time with him in his last few weeks of life." This is a bit morbid.
"Where did you find that tape?" I asked, coming around the couch and sitting next to her.
"We have a cabinet filled with family tapes and photo albums." She said, sounding surprised that I didn't know. Or worst, I had forgotten. "I'm going to go put up some coffee. Go look through the cabinet, pick out a few good ones." She smiled and stood up, heading towards the kitchen.
A few good ones? Ok then. In all honestly, we had a bastard for a father and a drunk for a mother. I could only imagine what the hell these tapes were going to be like.
I walked over to the cabinet and knelt down. Row by row was tape after tape. Birthdays, holidays, vacations, all lined up and labeled. Once you got to the bottom there were about five or six thick photo albums, a baby book for both me and Olga, and then random family albums. I was to say the least shocked. Parents like mine, did not know how to do things like this.
I skimmed the labels of the tapes and pulled out a couple of birthdays, some vacations, and one of the family albums. As I was closing the cabinet door my eyes caught a tape called 'second wedding'. I know for a fact my parents never got remarried, so I was confused.
I pulled the tape out and popped it into the VCR. I wanted to see who was getting remarried.
There was a little static as the tape began but soon standing in front of the camera was the gang of P.S. 118; Phoebe, Gerald, Arnold, Rhonda, Nadine, Sid, Harold, Stinky, Lila, Brainy, Curly, Sheena, Eugene, and me. We were in front of a large church, all in our best dressed. Phoebe was smiling widely, brighter then everyone else. I was on her right, while everyone simply surround around us. Slowly I began to remember the day.
It was Phoebe's parent's second wedding, we had all been invited. Phoebe was simply glowing that day. You don't get better parents then Phoebe's parents. You just don't.
Miriam came in and leaned against the back of the couch, watching in silence as the ceremony proceeded, flawlessly. My eyes were glued to the screen. They were so happy. Both her parents were smiling brightly. Eyes slightly watered, hands clasped tightly together. Phoebe was even tearing up a bit.
The reception was much more enjoyable. We, the gang, were playing, laughing, talking, we were being kids. There was a shot of Rhonda; she was flashing the camera a brilliant smile as she flipped her hair. Nadine soon came into the shot and they hugged and performed for the camera. Sid came up behind them and put two little bunny ears behind their heads. He then rushed over to high-five me. I assume I had been the brains of the bunny ears.
It was the summer after sixth grade. Before everything began happening. It was almost the calm before the storm I suppose.
The camera focused on Arnold as he said how happy he was for Phoebe and here parents. How he couldn't imagine a more beautiful ceremony. The camera then focused on Gerald, Phoebe, and me who were sitting and leaning against a small bleacher that was in the gardens. Phoebe was clapping slightly and Gerald was rolling his eyes. I watched carefully as he looked over to me, behind Phoebe's head and shook his head, rolling his eyes. I watched as I began laughing and nodding. Phoebe turned and looked at me, I saw myself shrug and then smirk to Gerald.
During the cake cutting/eating portion of the afternoon, Sid came over and stuffed a piece into my mouth. I began yelling at him and began chasing him around the tables and the thin tents. The camera focused on Harold and Stinky who were laughing hysterically. While the camera was still in focus on them, two pieces of cake went flying across the screen, landing on Stinky's jacket, and Harold's face. I could hear my own laughter in the back round as the camera focused on me sitting on Sid.
There were shots of everyone (the adults) laughing, dancing, talking, and complimenting. Shots of the happy groom and bride. But the major focus of the reception was on us, the gang. I watched with open eyes and a steady heart as we laughed and socialized. How I interacted and behaved like them. How we were friends. How before the sickness, the late night coughing fits, the guilt, the pain, the unbearable wall I created so I could survive, I had been one of them.
The summer before we entered junior high, before we had to grow up, before hard classes, big parties, fashion dos and don'ts, before our circles began opening, we were the bratty group of P.S. 118. I wasn't just Helga; I was Helga the bully, Helga the jokester, Helga the Queen of pranks and pulls. They were all my friends.
The camera soon focused on Arnold smiling pleasantly at the camera. And in a heartbeat I was suddenly running at him and then onto his back. By sixth grade the boys had all shot up and was taller then the majority of the girls. Granted, once we all hit high school we were all different shapes and sizes.
I watched as Arnold began laughing as I held on to his neck tightly. His arms went around his back to support me as I began to shout how I was Helga, the magnificent. The camera panned to Phoebe who was laughing hysterically as Gerald grabbed her around the waist and began tickling her. They both ended up falling over. Which in turn, as the camera panned back to Arnold and me, made us laugh and fall over. Sid quickly rushed to my side and helped me up, declaring himself my hero. I promptly hugged his neck and threw my hand over my forehead and exclaimed "Thank goodness for my knight in shining armor!"
As the camera panned around I watched as we laughed at the whole thing. How our laughter blended together. How it wasn't the boys on one side and the girls on the others. How we all just meshed into another, laughing and joking and being ourselves. Which if you think about it, was being with each other.
I had begun to enter their world, on a higher level then being their bully, the summer after fourth grade, after we had "saved the world". I had two years of feeble fun and exciting games. We didn't care about anything other then each other and ourselves. But that's how it works when you stay with the same group of kids since you were three. Junior high made us divide, but not as much, because there were only three public schools joining in each of the junior highs. High school was where we all collided. High school was the breaking point. Strong bonds don't always last when interests change from baseball and pranks to girls/boys, sports, fashion, and simply being the most popular. And when you're like me, a wall between you and the world, its no big surprise this is how you end up.
The last shot, before the static came, was of us leaving. Waving, laughing, saying how that was the best wedding we had ever been too. The camera panned on each of us, with a friend, or a few friends. The last few out were Phoebe, Sid, Arnold, and me; Gerald had been talking to Harold and Stinky. My arm was link with Sid; I smiled at the camera and then blew an over dramatic kiss.
"This is where we part ways!" I smiled slightly as my eleven-year-old counterpart dramatized the situation. "But it's not good bye! How can I say good bye to such an amazing audience?"
I felt my smile increase as Sid and Arnold shook their heads and Sid ruffled my hair. I turned sharply and had begun to chase him. Arnold began laughing as he put his arm out for Phoebe. She laughed and took his arm as we began to walk home.
"She'll never change." Arnold said, smirking to the camera.
"All's well that ends well." They laughed. And the static came on.
"That must have been some party."
"Yeah." I smiled slightly. "It was a different time."
(It's almost like a different decade, almost like a different life. How could we have been like that? When now, we barely know each other.)
"We were friends. I was happy! We were laughing, and joking, and just having fun!" I ranted as Dr. Bliss sat there, hergrin plastered on to her face. Her eyes watching my livid performance. I believe this is the most constructive form of emotion I have had in several months. "How could it all change? How could we lose that?"
"Helga," I paused in my rant and turned to her. "You all grew up. You didn't expect it to stay like that, forever, did you?"
I looked at her, her cat like eyes, her cat like grin, her rose colored cheeks, and brown hair, all mocking me. "I guess not."
"I wish it had." I said, sitting on the sofa, leaning my head back to stare at the ceiling. "If… had Olga not gotten sick, I might have stayed friends with some of them. It wouldn't be like this."
"Like I'm a social outcast. I'm unhappy. I can't have one single, decent relationship."
"You are not a social outcast, you have friendships, you have ties, you have everything you had then, only now, it's not as…" She paused, looking for the right word. "Up front."
"Up front?" The woman has degrees from Harvard, Yale, Rutgers, and the best she can do is up front.
"You are not as aggressive as you once where. This is the first time, in the many years I have seen you, that you have shown the same passion, the same aggressiveness, and the same ofamph that you once were. This is the first time since you came in here, a month before you found out about Olga, that your eyes were livid and sparkling."
"Just because of some tape?" I looked at her.
"No, because of some memory, some emotion, some feeling that you forgot while you were trying to close yourself from the world. You've always been sarcastic, tough, and unhappy. Only now, it seems you don't have the passion, the character, to go behind it. You haven't lived in close to five years, Helga. And once you saw yourself, and how, at one point, you were living, you wanted it back. You're allowed to have it back."
"We were so… carefree." I said, staring into space. My mind lulling over her words. "I mean, we were the kids of P.S. 118."
"You still are, all of you, it's just now you have other things to worry about." I looked at her. Her grim was still plastered on her face, her hands folded over her chest.
"So, how do I begin living, from this point? How do I get back to that, to the tape, with those people?" I focused on her face, her eyes. And for the first time, since I started seeing her, her grin slowly diminished.
"I don't know."
(If I had a time machine, I'd travel back to where the world was at my fingers. When I could be happy and carefree, and be really happy and carefree. I would go back to when I was a child. When we were all children. And I'd laugh and I'd play. And let the grown up things stay far away.)
I slowly swung on the empty swing at P.S. 118. After finishing up with Dr. Bliss I found myself, on a perfectly good Sunday afternoon, sitting in the empty playground of my old elementary school. I smiled as I leaned my head against the chain of the swing and slowly swung, letting my feet push the sand around. I looked at the playground. The monkey bars, the black top, the picnic tables, the seesaw, the plastic tube thing, and I took everything in.
I allowed myself to slowly get lost in memories of laughter and gossip. Sid, Harold, and Stinky sitting on the monkey bars, planning their next prank. Arnold and Gerald leaning against the plastic tube thing, talking about something stupid. Rhonda, Nadine, Sheena, and Lila, sitting at a picnic table looking over fashion magazines. Eugene and Curly trying to figure out who could swing higher. Brainy next to the swing set, wheezing for air. Phoebe sitting at another picnic table reading over a book, a journal, sometimes doing next week's homework. Eventually we would all just mesh together, once again, and then play baseball, kickball, go down to the junk yard and hang out, go on wild and crazy adventures that meant everything and nothing at the same time. And we were all happy.
I felt my chest boil up and my smile become wider. I closed my eyes and began pushing myself higher on the swing. I felt the wind hit my face in a fury, as my hair crashed back and forth against my head. And the first time, for what seemed like forever, I didn't care where I was suppose to go, who I was suppose to be, who I'm suppose to be with, and how long this was going to last. As far as I'm concerned it was going to last long into the night.
I don't know how to go back to that time. But I do know that it still exists. That maybe I'm not so broken.
Maybe I'm capable of being happy.
I guess that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.