"So, you lived through the experience, is what you're saying?" Jennifer retorted. Helga snorted, trying to find her other slipper.
"If that's what you can call it. My logical and emotional side were in a perpetual argument all evening and then we were flirting and I think he almost kissed me."
"Hold on. You almost kissed him?"
"No. He almost kissed me. At least I think he was going to. It's been a while."
"Helga. I think you would know if a man was going to kiss you. Especially if that man was Arnold." Jennifer stated. "So, you didn't get closure."
"No. I think I did. It just proved we weren't meant to be."
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah. I'm going to get a soda, sleep until the alarm goes off and go back home to my nice, safe, Arnold free life."
"Well, call me when you get bored. And lay off the soda. Drink some tea instead."
"Yes Doctor." She teased, and then hung up the phone. Yawning, she grabbed her other slipper, her key card and some change and opened the door to her hotel room. Peeking around, she set out towards the vending area. It wouldn't be good if someone spotted her in her jammie pants and tank top. She slipped into the vending area, and even though logically she knew it was late, she was kind of disappointed there wasn't a blonde ten-year-old boy waiting for his nightly fix of chocolate.
Taking Dr. Bliss' advice, she skipped the soda machine and blearily looked at the coffee machine, trying to find out how to make tea. Finally, she gave up and settled on decaf coffee.
She heard footsteps behind her and grumbled under her breath. The last thing she wanted was to deal with idiots who might make a comment about her sleeping attire.
"Why am I not surprised you're the person who keeps plying my son with chocolate." A deep familiar voice said behind her. Gasping, she whirled around to see Arnold leaning against the wall of the vending room clad in well-worn jeans and a tee shirt.
"Arnold!" She gasped. "What are you…"
"Oh come on, you knew I was staying here." He teased, straightening and walking towards her.
"Okay I did," she said, recovering her composure. "But how did you know I was here."
He grinned. "Phillip." He said, still approaching her. "Only three people know that goobers are my favorite candy, so imagine my surprise when my son, who I'm not even sure would know how to work the candy machine comes back with goobers and M&M's. That's when he told me about the lady who helped him and spoke with him for a bit. He's very impressed with you, did you know that?"
"I kind of figured when he knocked on my door the next evening." She said. "But how did you really know?"
He smiled. "You introduced yourself to him. He never forgets names. Especially of people he likes."
"Damn, busted." She groused playfully. She picked up her coffee and blew on it before taking a sip.
"Your son is a great kid. Very intelligent. Reminds me of you at that age."
His smile softened. "Thanks."
"Although, it annoys the hell out of him when people apologize about his mother."
He rolled his eyes. "It annoys me too. She's never even seen him for cryin out loud."
Helga frowned, taking another sip and grimacing at the taste. "Okay, I'm guessing she had to at least see him once."
He shrugged. "Don't know. She didn't care, and I never felt that Phillip needed to know about her. In my opinion, she only did one good thing in her life and that was having Phillip and giving him to me."
"Okay. She had to have had something that attracted you to her. You weren't one of those people who just slept with people because you were bored."
He nudged her shoulder and gestured towards the floor of the room. "Let me tell you a story." He said as they sat down on the floor against the wall.
I spent years in San Lorenzo getting my Masters and interning with the anthropologists my father worked with. I met Angela five years into my stay there. She was across the campus, bullying her way through a group of people. She was loud, brash, and arrogant. She was also very opinionated. I was attracted to her immediately. It took me two years to finally be able to carry on a civil conversation with her, another year and a half before we ever went past the "just friends" stage. I thought I loved her, but there was always something missing. Some small part I could never put my finger on. I was finishing my internship and was a couple months from going out with the others to my first dig when she told me she had a problem. She was still in school working towards her Masters in government and ancient history. I persuaded her to stay in school and whatever it was; I would work with her to help her out. A week later she gives me a letter stating that we couldn't see each other again. No explanation, nothing. She was going to work as an aid in the government offices and we just couldn't be together anymore. I was devastated. A couple of weeks later, I went on my first dig and had my first experience with the green eyed people my parents always talked about."
He sighed, and rubbed the back of his head, lost in the memory.
"Almost a year later, I get a call from her, out of the blue. She says she's leaving San Lorenzo and she left something for me at the hospital. If I don't want it, she's left instructions with the Sisters there on what to do with it. Then she hangs up. Immediately, I get this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I cajoled the nearest anthropologist into borrowing a jeep and rushed to the main hospital in the city. Luckily, I knew the Sisters there from both my mother and helping out on my free time during my studies. I got to the hospital and Sister Luisa ushered me in. There, in a small basket, lay Phillip. He was sleeping, and the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen." He smiled. "Sister Luisa and another nun had been guarding the baby since that morning. There'd been people who heard the rumor of the blond haired baby boy and were willing to pay top dollar for him. I picked him up and he opened his eyes. He had the greenest eyes I've ever seen. I thanked the Sisters, took him from the hospital and never looked back since."
He stopped and looked over at her. "That's what Angela did right. She gave me Phillip."
Helga frowned. "You know, I see all kinds of neglect in my profession, so it doesn't surprise me, but for people to be willing to sell a baby, that's kind of sick. You're a better person than I, Arnold."
He shrugged. "Angela was a learning experience for me. It made me reflect on why I was attracted to her in the first place and what she was missing. And I finally figured it out."
She raised an eyebrow. "So? What was wrong with her? I mean, other than the fact she's a soulless human being."
He smiled, leaning towards her.
"She wasn't you."
Holy crackers! Her brain screamed. He's going to…
His mouth came down against hers and she froze momentarily. He adjusted his body, his mouth urging against hers. Instinct kicked out the two shocked parts of her brain and she kissed him back, her hands putting down the coffee and wrapping around his neck.
When she'd left the reunion after the almost kiss, she told Phoebe it wasn't meant to be. If this wasn't meant to be, she mused, thenI didn't want what was meant for me.
He broke the kiss, gasping for breath, but his face didn't move far from hers. She watched him, trying to catch her own breath and restart her heart, which had gone into shock the moment his lips touched hers.
"Did you feel that?" He whispered, still breathing hard.
"I'm not sure what I felt." She answered him, just as breathlessly. His eyes flicked open and upwards catching her in his gaze.
"I do. And you do too." He lifted his head slightly, his gaze resting a moment on her lips. Helga felt her breath quicken again.
"That spark. We've always had that. I was just too stupid to realize it until it was too late." He said, his voice low. His eyes left her mouth to catch her gaze again. A small smile graced his lips.
"You've always known haven't you?"
She nodded hesitantly, unable to speak. His head came down again, kissing her fiercely. She responded in kind, her emotions on overdrive and her instinct firmly in the driver's seat.
Hold it! The logical side screamed, finally pushing its way to the surface. This is all fine and…really good, but he's going back to San Lorenzo. There are long distance relationships, and then there are long distance relationships.
This time she broke the kiss, trying to catch her breath. "Wait." She gasped.
He watched her, waiting.
"We can't do this."
He frowned. "Why not?"
"You live in San Lorenzo. It's completely different country, and not one to get to easily if memory serves."
A small smile crept onto his face. "You read up on San Lorenzo?"
"That's not the point. This isn't going to go anywhere. I'm going back to my home in about" she looked at her watch. "Eleven hours or so, and you're going back to your home sometime this week. Both of which are way too many miles away to continue anything that may start here."
She stood up. "Look, Arnold for the first time in my life, I'm going to willingly tell you something personal. I came to this reunion for closure. The reason I left so suddenly after high school is because I needed a fresh start. I wasn't going to get anywhere in Hillwood because everyone knew me as Big Bob Pataki's insane younger daughter. And there were other reasons I need to leave. Almost all of them involving you." She began pacing, not bearing to look at him. "You were right. We've always had something. And I've always known. It tore me up inside that you didn't too. So that's why I left. When I received the invitation, Jennifer talked me into going. I never had closure with you so that's why I came. To get some kind of closure for myself, so I could go back home and finally end that part of my life." She sighed, rubbing her arms. "That closure never included kissing you in the vending area of the hotel. I'm not getting any closure this way. A couple of other things, yeah, but not closure."
She felt hands slide up her arms, and gently turn her. Arnold looked down at her.
"You…felt something for me in high school?" He asked.
She just stared open mouth at him. "You really were that dense in high school, weren't you? I…had a thing for you as far back as grade school."
"Really?" He inquired. He shook his head. "Wait, that's in the past. We need to talk about now."
"What about it? I've already told you…"
"But what I didn't tell you is that I'm thinking of leaving San Lorenzo."
Helga was stunned. "What? But that's been your dream since…what about Phillip? That's the only life he's known."
"I can't do anything else there. And it's time for Phillip to live like every other ten-year-old boy. He's given up enough for me for long enough. He and I have already spoken about it at length. That was one of the other reasons I came to the reunion. I'd spoken to Gerald about it for a while and I wanted to make absolutely sure that he and Phoebe didn't have any problems putting us up for a while until we get on our feet."
"So, you'll be in Hillwood…"
"By the middle of next year at the latest." He smiled. "Is that closer than San Lorenzo?"
"Well, I guess we could work around it." She agreed.
He grinned, and then kissed her again. She couldn't believe she was agreeing to this. There were a million and a half things that could go wrong with this.
He broke the kiss and urged her to sit back down. "Come on. Let's talk."
"…So I ended up dumping the entire contents of the bucket on my head and telling the assistant Dean it was a sorority pledge and I was really sorry and totally didn't mean for anyone to get hurt. He bought it, and let me off with a stern warning to watch who I was pledging to."
Arnold was laughing out loud, holding his sides. Helga took a sip of the fresh hot coffee, smiling at his laughter.
"Oh that's better than the time Sid, Gerald, and Stinky almost got caught trying to reinvent that locker room scene from Porky's."
"Wait, that was you?"
"Hey, I never said I did it. But Gerald was my friend, of course I knew about it."
"Rhonda was in that class."
"Why do you think they did it?"
She chuckled as he sipped his coffee. "So. How did they get caught?"
"You don't know? It had to do with you and Phoebe."
"Nope, must have missed this story."
"Well, the way Gerald tells it, the guys were in the space and…"
"Dad?" A sleepy voice down the hall interrupted the story. They frowned at each other, as Arnold put down his coffee and got up to peek around the corner. Moments later, a pajama clad ten-year-old boy walked into the vending room, still rubbing his eyes. He spied Helga sitting on the floor and stopped.
"Hi Phillip. What are you doing up so late?"
The boy frowned. "Late? It's morning." He looked up at his dad, then back down to Helga who was checking her watch.
"Do you two know each other?"
"Yep. We're old friends. This was the other person that didn't show for the picnic."
"Holy…" Helga exclaimed. She scrambled up, looking at Arnold. "It's six-thirty in the morning!"
"What?" He walked over, grabbing her wrist to look at her watch. "We've been out here all evening?"
The two looked at each other amused. Phillip's attention kept going from one to the other.
"This is the friend you kept talking about?" He asked. Arnold turned his attention to his son.
"What? Oh yes, this is the friend."
Helga smirked. "So, you're talking about me to your son?" She teased. He shrugged.
"I may have mentioned you once or twice." He admitted.
"Did dad tell you we were moving to the States?" Phillip asked. Helga nodded, turning her attention to him.
"He did. After this weekend, what do you think?"
Phillips looked thoughtful. "It could be interesting."
"It's much more different than the life you're used to in San Lorenzo." She told him.
"I'll get to see you again though, won't I?"
Helga smiled. "You can come see me any time you want. Or better yet, I gave your dad my phone number earlier this evening. You can call anytime you like."
Phillip smiled. "Great. Dad says we'll be back in about a year."
"That's what he told me as well."
"We'd better end this." Arnold said, taking his son by the shoulders. "We have to get ready to go to Phoebe and Gerald's for breakfast and Helga has a plane to catch."
Phillip frowned. "You aren't going to breakfast?"
"I didn't know. If I'd known, I would have gotten a later flight. But I promised next time."
Phillip smiled brightly. "Okay. It was very nice meeting you."
"You also, Phillip."
"See you later."
Arnold handed him the key card. "Here. Go back to the room and get your stuff ready. You need a bath. I'll be there in a minute."
Phillip gave his father a dubious look, and then glanced over at Helga who was trying her best to appear innocent. "Okay."
He waited until he heard footsteps go down the hall, and then turned his attention back to the blond.
"Walk you back to your room?"
They left the vending area and walked the short walk down the hall to her room.
"I told you he'd be okay with moving."
He isn't fully in the States yet." She said. "There's a huge difference between visiting and staying."
"He'll like it. No matter where we live."
"You aren't moving back to Hillwood?"
"We're staying there after we move back to the States." He said. "But I'm not sure if that's were we'll be permanently. You see, there's this girl. And I kind of want to see how things go with her first before I make any decisions."
"You're being pretty optimistic, basing where you're going to live on reciprocations of a girl." Helga teased.
"Well, I have this nasty problem of being a perpetual optimist." He said, leaning in closer. "And I think she's worth it."
Her emotions were doing a happy dance while her logical side stood there mouth agape. He took that opportunity to kiss her.
"So, can I call you later tonight?" He asked after breaking the kiss. Since her emotional and logical sides were still occupied, instinct took over again.
"Yes." She said, snapping out of her trance. "You can definitely call me tonight."
"Great. Because you know, Phoebe is going to have some long term questions for you."
"Oh crimany!" She exclaimed, remembering her best friend's observations the night before.
"Have a safe trip." He said, stepping away from her. She mentally slapped herself to keep from following.
"Thanks. I'll talk to you tonight."
He nodded, then turned and walked off down the hall. Helga opened the door and leaned against the frame, watching him walk off.
Damn, her emotion side observed giddily, That's ours? We got lucky.
Her logical side agreed. She waited until he walked into his room, watching him blush when he realized what she was doing, before walking into her own room, a thousand watt grin on her face.
She'd finally gotten her closure. Although sometimes closure meant a new door was opened. She began packing; she could always sleep on the plane. Something told her once she got home, there would be a whole set of new changes in her life. And she would face them happily.