Author's Notes: I am well aware that this site is flooded with stories of this kind. I'm doing this for my own gratification more than anything. I'm just stretching my legs, easing back into writing because it's been so long. If you're bored with the concept, just ignore that for now and critique my writing style.
This rather short story takes place post-confession, and everybody has finally graduated to the fifth grade. The April Fool's Day episode does not exist in this universe, because in my opinion the writers passed out and forgot who the characters were. Yes, the tango scene was fantastic. However, I did not like that Helga was enjoying torturing Arnold so much. Usually, she's conflicted about her actions, which is what made her so loveable in the first place. It's awesome to see Arnold finally gain a backbone, but I don't like how he was toying with the girl's emotions. Anyway, another rant, another story, another day...
Call it closure if you like. ;-)
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Hey Arnold and unfortunately neither does Craig Bartlett. If he did, we'd have a Jungle Movie. No...Unfortunately that privilege belongs to the unworthy Nickelodeon.
"Why don't you take a picture Arnoldo? It'll last longer!"
Arnold blinked and shook his head. He had seen it this time. He couldn't believe he'd never noticed before. As soon as he had caught Helga's eye, her face softened into a smile. But just as soon as he had time to recognize it, the smile had contorted into her usual scowl.
"Sorry Helga. I guess…I-I'm just a little out of my head. You know…it being the first day of fifth grade an all…" The lie tumbled out of his mouth as quickly as he thought of it.
"So what? We're still in the same school, and I'm still stuck in the same class with you. It's not like anything has changed, football head!"
But it has, thought Arnold. It has and you and I both know it.
The truth was Arnold had been watching Helga. It had been two whole months since the FTi incident and they had successfully avoided each other the entire time. Arnold needed time to think and he supposed Helga was holding back from saying things she might later regret.
Arnold had always expressed his confidence that Helga was more than she claimed to be. He realized he should be pleased that he was right, but the truth was much more than he'd bargained for. He didn't think either of them were ready to acknowledge what had happened, which was why he had given her an option, a way out, a get out of jail free card: "You actually hate me, don't you?" She could continue taunting him while he tried to wrap his 10-year-old brain around the concept of "love". Because that was what she had expressed. She hadn't said she liked him or even that she "liked him liked him". She had explicitly said "love".
Arnold recalled what he had said shortly after he watched Helga stomp off after professing her undying hatred towards him: "Everything's back to normal." That was the way he wanted it all along as he was trying so hard to save the neighborhood. That was the way he wanted it to be between Helga and him, at least for now.
Then why did he feel so disappointed? Why had he entered the halls of PS118 once more with the naïve hope that Helga G. Pataki would finally start allowing the rest of the world to get the briefest glimpse of who she really was? Yes, Arnold had been watching Helga as she stormed the halls with a scowl plastered on her face. He had been watching when she huffily took her seat two desks diagonally behind him and as she began crumpling paper he was certain was intended for him. And he had been watching just now as she turned toward him to stare at him like she usually did. What did he honestly expect? That she would scowl less? That she would give up childish pranks of tossing paper balls and blowing spit wads? That she would quit throwing sarcastic quips his way? That she would gradually start behaving like the human being he knew her to be?
Yes he told himself. But some things just don't change. He sighed as the bell signaled the beginning of class. Suddenly he felt a ball of paper smack the back of his head.
He automatically whipped around to see Helga grinning wickedly at him. Before he could glare at her, she quickly mouthed the words "Open it." Puzzled, he uncrumpled the paper and was astonished to find a note (a note which he suddenly realized contained the same handwriting as the little pink book he still kept in a shoebox in his room).
Hey football head,
What's your deal? You look like I just murdered your best friend. I was just following your lead, hair boy! You're the one that suggested that I actually hate you. So I'm playin the part. You and I both know what happened but that doesn't mean everybody else does or should or would even understand. I know you want me to change...and I want that too. Just don't expect it happen all at once, bucko. You know I don't mean most of the things I say, and well, old habits die hard. Just be as wonderfully patient and as optimistic as you've always been about me and we'll see how things go.
Arnold grinned and smacked his forehead. How could he have been so dense? He turned once more to steal a glance at Helga. He even chuckled as she growled at him. It felt like they had just exchanged a private joke.
The rest of the day passed as it usually did when they were in fourth grade. This time though, Arnold amused himself by plucking the spitballs out of his hair and counting them. This time around he smirked whenever he heard the usual names: football head, hair boy, etc. And this time he actually looked forward to the inevitable moment when they literally crashed into each other. Now he knew that every little torment she threw his way was just her own little twisted way of showing how much she cared. He still wasn't quite sure how he felt about her. He figured he'd have to spend more time around her to find out. But it was more than a little difficult to do that when they so brilliantly played the roles of the bully and the confused victim for all to see.
After school, he made an excuse to walk home instead of taking the bus with everyone else. He looked around and caught sight of her. "Helga!" he called out.
She froze, every muscle in her body involuntarily twitching before she turned around to face him with a lop-sided smile. Her tone even changed; it was more amused than sarcastic. "What do you want Arnoldo?"
"Mind if I walk home with you?" he offered.
"What do you think?" she quipped still with a smile on her face. He said nothing but fell into step beside her. For a while they walked in silence, each lost in their own whirlwind of thoughts. Arnold was the first to shatter the awkward quiet.
"Sixty-eight?" he said with an eyes-half-lidded-smile.
"Sixty-eight what?" Helga asked raising a portion of her eyebrow.
"Sixty-eight spitballs. Did you have to do so many?"
"Geez, football head, you counted?" she chuckled. He turned away quickly and began nervously rubbing his arm. "And yes, sixty-eight. Do you have a problem with that?" she added. He was pleased to note that the tone of her voice was still light and pleasant even if her words weren't.
"Not at all. I was just wondering if maybe you overdid it a bit."
"Hmm…" She sighed as if exasperated. "Well MAYBE I could go easy on you tomorrow and pull it back to thirty," she said with a grin. Arnold rolled his eyes.
"Whatever you say, Helga."
"Yup, whatever I say…"
Arnold walked on in silence, pleased that this conversation had not been punctuated with her usual sarcastic tongue lashings. They both had managed to be civil, even friendly towards one another. Not wanting to break the spell, he vowed not to say another word until they arrived at Helga's house.
"See you tomorrow Helga!" Arnold called after her as she walked up the steps to the door. She turned before going in and flashed him a genuine smile. He could have sworn he heard her sigh and whisper softly, almost lovingly, "Thanks Arnold." His stomach suddenly did a somersault, but he had no idea why.
Arnold turned to walk home feeling happier than he had ever felt after an exchange with Helga. Things definitely weren't back to normal, but that was just fine with him.
A/N (addendum): I know some of you have requested future chapters of this story. I won't lie to you and give you false hope: it was never my intention to write any future chapters…hence why I called it a one-shot. I can't think anything creative or new to add on to this while still staying true to the characters. I imagine that they continue to stay friends, Helga eases up on the bullying persona around middle school, then in high school the finally start dating and have the relationship that isn't exactly cute or fluffy. If you've ever seen a teenage couple bicker over trivial things in jest and playfully hit each other, then that's them.
That's as much closure as I'm going to allow. I have an idea for a song-fic but it could be quite a while before I get it all sorted out. I need more inspiration, plus college life has got me BUSY. It might be easier for me to just make a music video of it (it's halfway finished). But…if I ever do finish it, keep a look out for that if you enjoyed my writing. The title will be "Someday".