Authors Note: Wow. How many years has it been since I've written for Hey Arnold? At least two. I've been having a little too much fun in the South Park section. But I could never, ever forget this show. I used to be BratChild2... Long story. If anyone remembers me, I wrote "Dark At Heart". Unfortunately, that's been lost. I'm trying my hand at another. Please let me know how you like it. :)
Disclaimer: I do not own Hey Arnold! Property of the amazing, wonderful Craig Bartlett.
Warning: The Rating may or may not move up to M. I'm pretty sure most HA! fans are near my age. (21) and would appreciate a more adult story if it's written tastefully. Like I said, we'll see how it goes.
Away with the Day.
I hate it when I do this to him. Arnold, I mean. I've always made it a point to publicly humiliate him whenever the opportunity arises. Ever since preschool. You'd think by now it'd have gotten old, but I can never help it. The joke is like a fine wine; better with age. And yet it's bittersweet. Addictive, alluring, and too tempting to ignore when it's staring me in the face. It brings me happiness and misery all at the same time.
I wish I could quit.
"Helga, what is your problem?" He growls, wiping the goop from his face.
Even through the irritation, his gentleness shines through. I want to slap him for that, and I don't know why. Inside, I tell him I'm sorry, that I don't mean to hurt him. That I don't want to hurt him. But on the outside, my body takes up a mind of its own.
"My problem?" I scoff. "I'm not the one with tapioca all over my football-headed face, hair boy."
Crossing my arms, I point my nose in the air and close my eyes, looking every bit as smug as I feel. The high is only temporary.
"Take a look around, Helga." I open my eyes, taking in his fed up expression and the grim line his lips are pursed into. Gerald stands beside him. "No one is laughing anymore. It wore thin in the fourth grade."
The point is valid, but I don't have to admit that, to him or anyone else.
"I think it's funny."
His eyebrows furrow, the action narrowing his deep green eyes. "And everyone else thinks you need to grow up. So I guess the jokes on you."
My heart is plummeting painfully inside my chest, something I constantly feel while he's around me. It's always worse when I know he's about to leave, bitter, all because of me.
He grabs a fresh pudding cup, shielding it with his hand so I can't smash down the bottom of the spoon with my fist and shower him in it again, then sidesteps me and disappears into the swarm of high-school kids making their way to the table they sit at every single day. Conforming to society and peer pressure. It makes me sick.
But not as sick as it makes me to watch him leave.
"What are you looking at?" I sneer at a group of Freshmen that had been in the lunch line behind us. They pull their eyes away, awkwardly looking about in random directions. I'm glad they're embarrassed. It takes their attention off my own embarrassment. They saw everything, and I hate them for being around to witness one of my weakest moments.
There's three cups of pudding left. With one swipe, I push them all onto my tray. I'm not going to eat them. I just want to see the look of disappointment on their too cheerful faces. They glance at each other, expressions satisfying my sick craving to hurt, then quietly take their trays and leave the line.
I'm alone now. Everyone's gotten their lunch for this period and is now sitting amongst friends, talking about teachers and assignments, boyfriends and girlfriends, dates and parties that I'll never get to go to because no one ever invites me. I turn from the semi-appealing, semi-gross array of school foods displayed in a row like a salad bar to the over filled cluster of lunch tables.
Arnold sits at table seven. Every single day. Along with the unbreakable group of P.S 118. It's the only table I'm allowed to sit at. Although none of them have ever really liked me, and even though they aren't glad about it, they still never chase me away. I've been a part of the group since preschool. They're too used of me being around to cast me out, no matter how much they all hate me.
Out of everyone, Phoebe is the only not included anymore. Not because she had decided she was too good for us, or because no one wanted her around, but because she had moved to Chicago, Illinois three years ago.
"You've lived in one major city, you've lived in them all", She had wrote, claiming the only difference between Hillwood and there was the people she would miss.
Watching the gang now, I can see that none of them notice that I'm not there. No one is looking around to see where I am. My chair sits, empty, at the corner of the table unnoticed. Just like me. A pang of jealousy nips at my stomach as I gaze at Lila. Her chair is a special chair, the chair just to the right side of Arnolds. She leans over, and his lips connect with her pale, freckled cheek. My fingers curl and crunch into my unopened milk carton. She's had that privilege for two years.
Two years, one month, and eight days. But who's counting anyway? Certainly not Arnold, who's such a sweet and caring boyfriend that he buys, makes, or does something special for her on the 9th of every fricken month because it's the day they became "official". How has he come up with twenty three ideas and two huge idea's for the "yearly" anniversaries?
Sighing, I turn away and toward a garbage can. I dump the untouched contents of my lunch into the putrid smelling waste container and set the tray on top. My hands are shaking.
Spinning on my heel, I come face to face (or more like chin to eyes) with Lila. She's so short she literally has to gaze up at me. Around her I feel like a monster. A towering, ugly monster.
"Aren't you going to eat?" She asks, mouth curving into a frown and her brow wrinkling in concern. Irish green eyes shift from the swinging trash can flap to mine.
"I, um… had a big breakfast!"
Lie. In truth I had grabbed an apple out of the fruit bowl on my way out the door this morning, but when I bit into it, it was mealy and brown inside. I spit out the juiceless wedge in my mouth and tossed the rest on the ground.
"Well, alright then. I do hope you don't get too hungry before schools out. It's not normal for you to skip lunch."
What does this girl take me for, a huge cow that can't go a few hours without food? It's not like I haven't managed before. Suddenly, I feel even more enormous next to her petite figure.
"Just because I'm tall doesn't mean I'm fat, Lila."
"I never said-"
"In fact, you probably eat more than I have in my life. I just don't throw up afterward."
"Gosh, Helga, I-"
"Save it for someone who cares, sister." I hiss, then make my trademark exit by stomping out
In the library, I sit in the corner with my back toward everyone, huddling into the book I'm suppose to be using for research on my literature report. I can't focus. I'm so hungry. I'm so angry at what Lila said to me.
Lifting my shirt just slightly, I jiggle my stomach to see if it wobbles like Harold's. Moving my hand up my skirt, I pinch my inner thigh.
Am I fat?
I snap my hand away from my leg, dropping the book onto my shoe.
"Arnold!" I exclaim, gaining an angry and loud "Shhhhh!" from the haggy, old librarian. "I- I mean, watch it, football head! You scared the living crimony outta me."
I lean forward to collect the book, and take the opportunity to expel a love-sick sigh.
"About earlier," He starts.
"What about it?" I snap the book closed in my lap, then re-open it and start thumbing through like I'm trying to find my place, just so I have something, anything to do besides just sit here and stare like a big, dopey geek.
"Lila told me what happened."
I tense at the simple sound of her name. Squeezing the book, I watch my fingers go white.
"She didn't mean you were fat."
"Like I really care." I point out.
"Right." He agrees. "I just wanted you to know… well, you don't have anything to worry about. You look good. In fact, it wouldn't hurt if you gained a few pounds."
Secretly I smile, my toes curling in pleasure of the compliment.
He said I look good.
"But that's not the reason I'm here. I wanted to apologize for getting so angry with you."
It's been little over an hour, and the boy can't stand the tension of an unresolved fight. It's annoying, in the cutest, most precious way.
A disinterested grunt escapes my throat. I burry my face in the thick backed book. But I'm listening. Hanging on every word.
"I just wish you'd stop doing all those things." He drapes his arms across his knees. The sleeves of his sweater fall over his hands, which are still slightly tan from last summer. "I mean, we're fifteen now, right?" I feel his eyes fall on me, taking me in. It makes me feel itchy.
"Doi!" I snort a remark.
He sighs, blatantly exasperated with my never ending attitude problem. "All I'm saying is that we should have put aside our differences with our childhood. Years ago. Why are we still doing this?"
Lila is standing in the doorway, watching and waiting for her boyfriend to come back to her.
"Doing what?" I play stupid, proud of myself for having the genius to keep him away from her for only that much longer.
"You know what, Helga. This constant teasing. Since the day I've met you, all I've ever done is try to be nice to you, and all you've ever done is throw it back in my face."
Again, I feel my hands shake. He makes me more nervous then he'll ever know. What he thinks of me matters more than anything else in the world matters to me. I need to be nice. I need to apologize.
"You really wanna know why, Arnold?"
He blinks, surprised at how gentle it sounds. I can't say I blame him. I'm shocked myself. It's how I always mean to sound. It's always what I hear in my head. It just never comes out that way. Closing the book again, I look at him, swallowing hard. He nods, eyes intensely glued to mine. I'm drowning in them, being drawn in deeper. My pulse escalated in my wrists. My blood pumps loudly in my ears. My heart starts to flutter like butterfly wings. Then suddenly…
…It all stops.
"Cause you're a weird-headed freak!" I shout, not caring who hears me. He sits there, stiff and wide-eyed as I continue. "You're so nice and polite all the time, and it makes me sick! No matter how many years go by, you just don't get that I hate you!"
"But why? Why do you hate me so much?"
Throwing my head back, I laugh. It's dry and mirthless.
"Why?" I shriek. "Because you're the type of person that would follow someone into the library to ask them nicely why they hate you!"
"You know something, Helga?" He shouts, startling me to the bone with his harsh tone and a slap of his hand against the cold tabletop. Standing, he points his index straight at my nose. "Its taken eleven whole years for me to get to this point, but now I can honestly say that I hate you, too. You're nothing but a stuck-up, ungrateful brat. I thought I saw something in you. Something good." His expression is torn between anger and disappointment. Shaking his head, he whispers venomously, "I've never been more wrong."
My whole body's gone numb. I stare after him, dumbstruck, unable to breathe or think or feel anything. Grabbing his book bag off the table, he tosses me one final glare over his shoulder and snatches the shocked Lila's hand to pull her with him on the way out.
Later I'll be glad everyone but the librarian had already left. For now, I'm stuck staring into the empty room, hearing the hollow echo of his words over and over. Slowly the world comes back into focus. The numbness dissipates, and in its place is the most intense feeling of alone I've ever felt in my life.
The worst part is he sounded like he actually meant it.