Maybe I'm not beautiful,
And maybe I can't smile,
Sometimes I'm not dainty,
Often I'm not careful,
Perhaps I'm not so funny,
And, no, I'm not sweet,
Maybe I could be honest,
Or maybe I could show more,
But I still cry and hurt,
And I still need people sometimes,
I get sad when it rains,
And I get mad at myself,
I bruise when I fall down,
But I pick myself back up,
If only you could see that I'm almost
Then maybe you would like me, the way you
by Helga G. Pataki
"This is my soul, Arnold!" she cried, brandishing the paper at him. "This is who I am!"
"Lila, please, calm down," Arnold begged, approaching the hysterical girl with caution. "You're getting worked up over nothing."
"Nothing?" Lila screamed, tearing the paper to pieces before Arnold's eyes. "This is me, Arnold! She's talking about me!"
"So what?" Arnold said, with a shrug. Lila threw her hands up at him, sending pieces of paper down like confetti.
"You don't get it, do you?" she asked in a voice that was far too calm.
"No! I don't!" Arnold shouted. The wind was picking up now, and it was cold on the roof of the gym. "So please, Lila, tell me what I'm missing!" Lila looked at him through tear-filled eyes.
"Heart, Arnold. You're missing heart."
"What? I-" Arnold spluttered, utterly flabbergasted.
"I'm not the girl in this poem, Arnold, I'm the girl who wrote it!" Arnold felt utterly confused.
"You're Helga?" he said stupidly. Lila rolled her eyes at him.
"No, I just get how she feels. It's hard to be in love with a boy whose eyes are always on someone better than you. Someone prettier, someone smarter, someone sweeter. It's just awful loving someone who wants so bad to be with someone else! It's killing me, Arnold!" Arnold shook his head, now completely lost in his confusion.
"I don't get what you mean, Lila, I'm not in love with someone else!" he cried.
"I wasn't talking about you," Lila said, looking to the ground. It took a few moments for Arnold to understand what she meant.
"You... you love someone else?" he asked, his voice shaking with rage and despair.
"Yes," Lila said meekly.
"Who?" Arnold demanded.
"It doesn't matter," Lila replied.
"It damn well does!" Arnold roared, grabbing Lila's arms firmly in his hands. She tried to free herself from his grip.
"Arnold, please," she said, trembling. "Let go, you're hurting me."
"Who do you love, Lila?" Arnold pleaded with the red head. "Who is it?" Lila felt his grip loosen as his arms fell to his sides. The tears came then, flowing from his eyes like terrible streams. Lila had to look away.
"I didn't mean for it to be like this," she said, turning towards the fire escape. "I'm sorry Arnold."
Arnold still sat on the roof of the gym long after Lila had left. He didn't feel as though he could move. He didn't feel much at all. All he knew was that where his heart had been mere hours ago there was now a large black hole, sucking all of his feelings in and taking them somewhere he couldn't reach them. He just wanted to crawl up into a ball and die. He'd stopped crying now, he was too numb for that. He just sat and stared at the setting sun, wondering what he had done so wrong to lose her.
He didn't hear the footsteps crunching on the gravel.
Behind him, a blonde girl looked down at the few fragments of paper that the wind hadn't been able to blow away entirely. She sighed and gathered up her petticoats, kneeling down to pick them up with gloved fingers.
"...I could show..." she muttered, reading the words from the little scrap of paper. Arnold looked around to the girl. "One of mine?" she asked.
"Like Her," he replied. Helga smiled and shook her head.
"I should really know that, shouldn't I?"
"You tell me," Arnold said, getting to his feet. The wind continued to howl through the cloudless sky, making Helga's eyes water as she tried to look at the stars.
"Prom's starting soon," she said offhandedly. Despite all the money she had spent on the dress, now she was on the roof Helga could tell that she wasn't going to set a foot in the gym tonight.
"Yeah," Arnold murmured by way of reply. Helga stepped up to him and straightened his bow tie. Silence passed between the two, but neither teen seemed uncomfortable. Helga just kept smiling at Arnold while he kept his eyes fixed on the ground.
"She's left me."
The thud of music began under the pair's feet. Arnold shuffled slightly and then sat down. Helga followed suit.
"You'll ruin your dress," he said, looking up at her.
"Too late," she said with a grin.
"Your bow's gone crooked too," he said, reaching up to fix it.
"It's the wind," Helga said, thinking of a time when anyone who tried to touch her bow would be looking at a stump where their hand used to be. Of course, that was still true, but now it only applied to people who weren't Arnold.
"You look nice," Arnold said suddenly, blurting the words out in a stream and mentally cursing himself for not saying it sooner. Helga smiled.
"Thanks Football Head," she said, knocking him playfully on the chin. The pair stared out to the horizon for a while, and the way in which Arnold rested his head on Helga's shoulder made her feel as though he didn't even realise he was doing it. She reached up to smooth her hair down, wishing she had thought to tie it up. But then, she hadn't bet on being stuck on the roof of the gym while everyone else enjoyed the prom beneath her.
"Aren't you going to say I told you so?" Arnold said after a while. Helga wrinkled her nose.
"Nah," she said after a few moments thought. Arnold lifted his head up.
"Perhaps you should," he said morosely.
"And what would that achieve?" Helga asked.
"Nothing, I guess, but it would be nice to feel annoyed at you. Just to feel something... else."
"That bad, huh?" Helga asked, rubbing her nose.
"You couldn't possibly imagine how bad."
"She told me she's in love with someone else."
Helga sighed and held her arm out. Arnold took the invitation gratefully and put his head back on her shoulder. "I feel so... bad, you know?"
"I really do," Helga said with a sigh. Arnold's head snapped up again, making Helga roll her eyes.
"Oh, God, Helga, I'm so sorry, I wasn't thinking," he said hurriedly, getting to his feet. Helga grabbed his shirt sleeve and yanked him back down to the ground again.
"Don't be," she said quietly. "I'm not."
"But you..." Arnold began before trailing off.
"I know I do, but you don't have to feel bad for it. It's not your fault."
"But still, Helga..." Helga took his had firmly in hers and looked deep into Arnold's eyes.
"You can't help the way I feel about you. Lord knows I wish you could, but I don't want you feeling guilty about it, ever. Right now you've got enough on your plate without having to worry about me." She dropped his hand and looked away, indicating that the matter was closed. Arnold didn't seem ready to let it go, though.
"Do you know what she said? About your poem, I mean?"
"Do tell," Helga said, with a hint of anger in her voice. She still didn't look back to Arnold.
"She said that she was the teller, not the told about. She doesn't know that she's the 'her' in 'Like Her'." Helga rubbed her eyes, smudging her mascara.
"Yes she does," she said, sighing.
"She does?" Arnold repeated. "How?"
"I told her how I felt about you... a long time ago."
"Oh, jeez, Arnold, not now, yeah?"
"Sorry." Arnold settled his head back on Helga's shoulder and slow music drifted up from the gym. He half expected her to shake him off, but she didn't. She just held her arm around him and watched the horizon.
It felt like hours had passed before either of them made a sound. Arnold, who was on the verge of falling asleep, stayed where he was but paid attention to Helga's voice. She was whispering along to the song that was playing loudly in the gym below.
"In the Spring, when I wanted to stay and you wanted to go, how did you know? How could you know? In the fall, when I wanted to rest and you wanted to move, how did you leave? How could you leave? In the cold, when I wanted to cry and you wanted to laugh, how did you not? How could you not?"
Arnold smiled. He knew this song.
Two children, a boy and a girl, sat alone in a classroom, while the sounds of recess poured in through the open window. It was not either of their preference to be cooped up inside like this, but they had no choice. In their hands they held two identical copies of the same script. In the corner, a radio crackled just on the edge of their hearing. They paid it no mind and tried to focus on the work at hand.
"Ok Helga, from the top?" the boy asked. The girl just nodded determinedly, a set look on her face. "Right. Ok... er, What light from yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun."
"Romeo, Romeo, where for art thou-" she was cut short by a loud blast of static from the corner. Aggravated, the boy leapt from the desk he was sitting on and walked towards it. Suddenly, recognisable notes came from the speakers. The boy reached for the switch.
"No," the girl said behind him. "Leave it." The boy turned to her. He was not used to the girl addressing him in such civil tones.
"Ok," he said, and returned to his place beside her. A haunting, male voice sailed over the airwaves, accompanied by the gentle strumming of an acoustic guitar.
"In the Spring, when I wanted to stay and you wanted to go, how did you know? How could you know..."
"Why don't we just read over our lines one more time before reading them aloud, huh?" the boy said.
"Alright," said the girl, turning her eyes down to her script. After a while the boy noticed that she was humming along to the song. He smiled, and started to sing the words under his breath.
"In the cold, when I wanted to cry and you wanted to laugh, how did you not? How could you not?"
The girl looked up and smiled at him. She joined in with the words too, singing them slightly louder and with slightly more gusto than the boy.
"And while I watched you pack your bags, I packed my life away. I'm sure that you will come along, and unwrap me some day."
The boy grinned at the girl and threw his script to the floor, jumping to his feet. He struck a comical pose and sang along even louder, not caring that his out of tune voice was carrying down to the children below.
"I'll leave a note here just for you, to be opened on my death. It says that I've nothing to leave, for there is nothing left."
Not to be outdone, the girl leapt to her feet also, grabbing the boy by the hands and leading him around the classroom in a wild waltz. They continued to sing the whole time, and carried on, out of tune and out of breath until the song came to an end. Then they collapsed laughing in each other's arms just as the bell rang.
"May I have this dance?" Arnold asked as the girl continued to sing. Helga looked at him as he raised his head.
"Of course," she said, and both teens got to their feet and linked their bodies, ready to waltz.
"I'll let you do the singing," Arnold said, as he lead Helga over the rooftop. "You're so much better than me."
"Just listen," Helga said with a smile. "Then I won't have to sing at all."
As they danced, Arnold felt something wash over him. As he looked at Helga, who was a clumsy dancer and surreptitiously trying to watch her feet, he knew that everything would be fine. Better than fine, perhaps, just as long as they could finish this dance.
"Helga," Arnold said. "I wish-" Helga placed a finger on his lips.
"Don't," she said, still smiling as they waltzed. Arnold nodded as the song came to a close. Then the pair just stood, still holding each other as the wind blew down ferociously on them both.
"You look handsome tonight, Arnold," she said earnestly. Arnold blushed.
"You know," he said sheepishly, looking to the floor. "It's traditional that the woman gives the man a peck on the cheek after a waltz."
"Is it?" Helga asked, eyeing Arnold suspiciously.
"I hope so," Arnold replied, looking Helga full in the face. She gave him a coy smile and leant in with her eyes closed. Quick as a flash Arnold turned his head so that Helga's lips met with his own. She opened her eyes wide in shock, but she didn't pull away. Eventually she just gave in, and let Arnold embrace her.
"Arnold," she said in a breathless voice after they had pulled apart. "I don't want to be your rebound girl."
"You're not, you couldn't be," Arnold said, genuinely shocked at what he had just done. "I, er... I didn't mean to... I'm sorry."
"You are?" Helga asked in a weak voice. Arnold looked away.
"No, wait," he said in a hoarse whisper. "I'm not sorry at all." Helga smiled. He brought his lips in to meet with Helga's again, and this time she kissed him back, passionately, with the longing of so many years.
"You mean it?" she asked, tears in her eyes.
"I don't know what I mean," Arnold said, taking Helga's hands in his own. "I just know that this feels right." Helga threw her arms around him, breathing him as deeply as she could. "Just promise me one thing," he whispered through her long blonde hair.
"Promise me you'll never be like her?"
A slow dance blossomed up from beneath the couple's feet.
"I promise," she said.