Chapter Ten: An Awkward Morning

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Gerald woke up the next morning after what was a less than restful night's sleep. He'd dreamt that Helga bullied him into having a relationship with her, making him buy things for her and take her places, then forcing him into closets and then kissing him aggressively as she had the day before. It caused him to wake up on at least two occasions and made going back to sleep next to impossible.

He dressed slowly and then went and ate breakfast barely tasting it. He also tried to ignore Timberly and Jamie-o, both of whom kept smirking at him and teasing him about having some girl crushing on him. Gerald could not have left the house any sooner and quickly made his way to Arnold's house.

Arnold was already waiting for him outside of the boarding house on his stoop when Gerald walked up. "Morning, Gerald," the football-headed boy said and then looked at him a little surprised and asked, "What happened to you? You look terrible."

"Oh, uh . . . I didn't sleep very well last night, man. My mom made some beef stroganoff that didn't turn out very well, kept me up half the night with stomachaches, you know?"

Arnold just nodded and seemed to be thinking as they walked toward school. He kept looking ahead at the corner of the block as if waiting for someone. Gerald, being to intent on forgetting his nightmares and "the kissing incident" was far to distracted to notice—at least not until they reached the corner and came face to face with Phoebe and Helga.

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Helga's night had not been any easier than the one Gerald had. She also had a nightmare that caused her to sleep restlessly. Her dreams were worse; because in them she was caught being kissed by Gerald in the closet by Arnold who looked totally betrayed and said that he never wanted to see either of them again. The dream version of Gerald didn't seem to care and wanted to drag Helga back into the closet for more of their one-way make out session. The last part had her screaming Arnold's name and watching tearfully as he walked away, the whole time being dragged into the closet by a laughing Gerald.

Helga couldn't sleep anymore after that, so she again tried to write more in her notebooks before her shrine to Arnold, only to end up drawing a blank, and ending up with a small pile of paper balls that she'd tossed into the corner. She threw the notebook away in anger and then fell asleep on the floor of her closet before her shrine, determined to start out clean tomorrow—if she ever felt that she could feel clean again.

She wasted no time getting dressed and then leaving the house the next morning. Helga only munched on a little breakfast to keep her going since she did not have much of an appetite and still felt sleepy somewhat.

Helga left her house and Phoebe waited for her at the bottom of her stoop. The small girl blinked seeing her friend. "Helga, what happened to you? You look terrible."

"Oh um I didn't sleep very well last night," Helga said evasively. "Insomnia, I ate something that didn't agree with me."

"You didn't eat pork rinds before bed again did you?" Phoebe asked, half concerned and half amused.

Helga actually smiled a little at the rare inside joke from Phoebe, not least of which because it reminded her of Arnold and briefly took her thoughts away from kissing Tall-Hair-Boy. "No I didn't. Miriam decided to cook liver last night."

That explanation led to a lengthy discussion from Phoebe about the nutritional attributes of beef livers and chicken livers, which Helga let go in one ear and out the other. Her minds was firmly stuck on the dream that she was trying so hard to forget about.

In fact she was so focused on forgetting about it that she didn't notice that Phoebe was leading her in the opposite direction. When they turned a corner they ran into Arnold and the absolute last person that she wanted to see right then.

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Arnold smiled and nodded to Phoebe and Helga. "Hey Helga, hey Phoebe." Phoebe nodded back, "Good morning, Arnold and Gerald." She shared a small grin with Arnold, who winked back. Their plan was now in motion.

Gerald and Helga, on the other hand, were both suddenly wide awake and their hearts were beating hard inside their chests. They stared at the other and both of them suddenly went red-faced. The all-too-vivid memories of the day before came bubbling to the surface as they faced the object of their anxieties.

Both of them pointed an accusing finger to the other and shouted, "What the heck are you doing here?!"

Arnold answered, "Were walking to school together, would you girls like to join us?"

Gerald looked at Arnold alarmed, "Hey man, that's not really–"

Helga started to say something to avoid that particular torture, but never got a chance to because Phoebe cut in before she could do more than open her mouth.

"That would be quite nice," Phoebe answered with a grin. "Wouldn't that be nice, Gerald?"

Gerald looked at Phoebe and a great wave of guilt went through him. He felt as if he were somehow cheating on her with her best friend. In her presence, and seeing the look of trust on her face made it even worse. He blinked and said, "Oh . . . uh, s-sure, I guess so." Phoebe blinked at his reaction, but smiled that he agreed anyhow.

Arnold looked at Helga and said, "Um, may I carry your books for you, Helga?"

Helga blinked and looked over remembering that Arnold was there. Again that knot of guilt in her stomach came to her, stronger now seeing her beloved looking at her so innocently, with no idea of what happened. The feeling that she'd cheated on him was almost unbearable and she did her best to shove it down. Without thinking about even trying to cover her usual feelings for him, she said, "Uh, s-sure Arnold, you can."

Arnold blinked at her for not calling him "football-head" or "hair-boy" or something else like she normally would but smiled at her acceptance and took her books from her hands.

Together they walked to school, though Arnold and Phoebe walked a little bit ahead of Gerald and Helga, who kept glancing at one another and then looking away when the other noticed. Both of them did their best not to look the other way, uncomfortable every step of the way. Arnold and Phoebe tried to engage them in conversation, however they were so distracted with their racing thoughts neither of them could follow anything their best friends said. Arnold looked at Phoebe concerned that their efforts were not working and that Gerald and Helga were just being stubborn. Neither of them noticed how their best friends made it a point not to look at the other, or the flushed looks on their faces.

To be Continue...

Next chapter we find out what happened with Curly. Gerald and Helga's looooong day has just begun. Stay tuned! ~DR