Reposted with grammar updates 1/3/2010.
Thanks for the reviews guys (its nice to know I still have some skill at this)! I'm glad you all liked the story so far :) Here's chapter 2, (from Arnold's perspective, as promised), and I hope it's just as enjoyable as its predecessor (I always found it easier to write from Helga's point of view than Arnold's, but I think I managed alright). I tried to keep everyone in character and to keep the action realistic, though I think I might have pushed it a little towards the end (but I really couldn't help myself when I got the idea—trust me, you'll see what I'm talking about ;) ) Anyway, let me know what you guys think, and stay tuned because I have a few more ideas for fics that I'm really excited about : ) Alright, that's all for now—again, R & R please! Thanx!
A Walk to…Imagine?
You know, life can be funny sometimes. I mean, just yesterday I felt so guilty having to tell the nicest girl in our class that I just wanted to be her friend, then only minutes ago I confess that I actually 'like her like her' only to feel the worst I've ever felt after she dumps me, and now I'm walking home with the most unexpected person in the world…And the weird part is, I'm actually having a good time. I mean, if I had walked home by myself I probably would have just spent the whole time feeling sad, and even if I had bumped into Gerald or Harold or one of the other guys they probably would've just given me a hard time about this whole Lila fiasco (they're my friends and everything, but even I have to admit what just happened is a little…embarrassing). That's what's so strange—Helga's the last person I would think to go to with a problem (in fact, now that I think about it, she's more often the source of my troubles) but here we are. Actually, I suppose that technically she's the one who came to me. Hmm…I guess I'm just lucky that she was climbing the tree right by Lila and me.
Now we're half way to Helga's house. I hope I didn't pry too much with my last question…it was a little personal, now that I think about it…but I couldn't help myself. I only brought up the idea of her having a problem similar to mine because I want her to know that she really can come to me if she ever needs to, just like she's been there for me today. The other kids in our class come to me for advice all the time but with Helga it's like you have to dig past all of her sarcasm and bullying to figure out what's really bothering her, and even then she still resists having anyone 'tell her what to do.' Sometimes I wonder if she even listens to anything I say at all.
I continue waiting for her to answer.
"Well, I…um…I…I guess I'm just used to…Olga—yeah, that's it, Olga! Uh…she always had a lot of boyfriends around the house when she was in high school and, well, you don't spend the first six years of your life living with a boy crazy older sister without learning a few things about broken hearts! Heh, heh, heh…"
"Oh." Hmm, that makes sense. But somehow I'm a little disappointed. It's strange, but I guess I was just hoping that maybe she'd had some personal experience with love. Even though I know I'm not the first kid in the world to get dumped, I still can't help but feel sort of alone in all this. It'd be nice to talk to someone who's gone through the same thing. Oh well, I can still ask Grandpa when I get back to the Boarding House.
Still, maybe for now Helga can tell me something about what Olga did when she was dumped? It'd be nice to have a backup strategy for what I should do next if all that Grandpa really does give me is 'Never Eat Raspberries.' It's worth a shot. "Hey, Helga?"
"Huh!?" She looks up at me quickly like I've just interrupted her thoughts on something, and for a moment her voice sounds a little tenser than usual. "Oh, what is it, Arnoldo?"
"Well, I was just wondering if you could tell me what Olga would do when someone broke up with her? You said that stuff like…what happened to me…" I clear my throat and feel myself blush slightly, "happened to her a lot, and honestly I'm a little confused about what I'm supposed to do next—"
"I mean, I still 'like like' Lila even though she doesn't 'like like' me. I'm not sure if I should try to make her care about me again, or if I should act like I just want to be her friend, or even if I should avoid her for a few days." Helga starts grinning; I guess all this must sound a little ridiculous—I should probably wrap it up. "Anyway…I don't want to hurt her feelings, but if there's any kind of chance that she might start caring about me again—"
"I'm just…confused!" I sigh and face forward, crossing my arms in front of my chest in frustration. I didn't realize how much this whole thing was bothering me, but now that I think about it no one's ever really rejected me before. I mean, I try to be a decent person and help people whenever I can, and I guess I just always assumed that that would be enough to get them to like me…but I guess it's not enough to get someone to 'like like' me. What surprises me more, though, is that I just vented the way I did, and to 'Helga Pataki' of all people. I've never even opened up to Gerald like this. I sigh mentally; she'll probably just call me 'Football Head' and tell me to 'suck it up' or something.
I turn to look at her again. She faces me and I see a smirk come to her face, like she's really looking forward to what she'll say next. Here come the insults. Maybe before she can start I should just tell her that I forgot about something I have do and head back to the Boarding House—normally I can handle the stuff Helga does to me but I'm really not in the mood for it right now, all things considered.
"Well, Arnold, I think…I think…" Suddenly, though, her expression changes; she looks almost…sad. She turns her head forward so I can't see her face, takes a deep breath like it's hard for her to say what comes next, and then continues. "Arnold…I…I'm not sure that I…er, that Olga…is the best person to help you with this. Only you'll know what you should do; just do what makes you happy. I…I know that it'll be the right thing." She gives me a half smile and lightly punches my shoulder. "Heh, isn't that what you're always telling us to do Football Head—'the right thing'?" We both stop walking and I can't help but laugh a little. She's right—I couldn't have said it better myself.
"Thanks Helga." Her smile brightens and I'm happy to see her real self again.
We're both quiet for a moment, but then she clears her throat and her voice regains some of its usual sarcasm. "Yeah, well…just don't say I never did ya' any favors, Football Head."
I shake my head, still smiling; same old Helga. "Whatever you say, Helga."
"Now you're catching on, Head Boy!" She starts walking again and I follow behind her. We're almost at her house and, even though I know I need to spend some time alone sorting out this Lila thing, I'll be kind of sorry to see this walk end. I don't spend too much time alone with Helga…Actually, come to think of it, I almost never spend any time alone with her. Usually when we're together we're playing baseball, or in class, or doing something else with the other kids. Somehow, it's different when it's just the two of us; more comfortable. It's times like these when I stop seeing her as 'Helga, the bully' and start remembering that she's also 'Helga, my friend.'
Anyway, since she doesn't say anything else I decide to mention something that's been bugging me for the past few days.
"Helga, why do you think someone wrote that I loved Lila on that brick wall next to the school?"
"HUH?!" Her eyes widen and she sounds surprised; I guess she must not have heard about it yet.
"On a wall next to the school someone wrote 'Arnold loves Lila' and put a heart around it. Didn't you hear about it from Rhonda? That's kind of how this whole thing got started; Lila saw it and figured that I wrote it because I had a crush on her and that's why she started 'like liking' me in the first place. It wasn't until after I told her that it wasn't me that I realized that I do actually have feelings for her, but when I went to confess…well, you were there…and now here we are. I just wish I knew who wrote it."
"Why do you care?" It's funny—I'd expect that question from Helga G. Pataki…but not the way she just said it. I mean, I would have expected her to ask it in a sarcastic tone with a scowl on her face and her arms crossed in front of her, glaring at me like I was the most annoying person on the planet. But, instead, it's like she's genuinely curious about the answer—I don't think I've ever heard her sound so sincere since I've known her.
I pause a moment and think for a few seconds before answering. "Well, it just seems like such a strange thing to happen. I guess it doesn't matter if I ever know or not…Maybe it was just fate, or someone who wants me and Lila to be together—" I notice Helga's fists clench briefly and I swallow hard, hoping I haven't said anything to make her angry again. "But, um, I suppose what I want to know most is why they randomly paired me and Lila. I mean, if someone took the time to write a message like that, then there must be some truth to it…something I couldn't see until now. Maybe they know somehow that Lila and I are meant to be?"
I don't know if it's something I said, or something she's thinking about but the scowl is back on Helga's face. I blush slightly—I guess I am going on a little too much about Lila again; maybe Helga still thinks I'm not having a good time with her? I decide to try and say something that will cheer her up. "What do you think, Helga? I mean, from a girl's perspective. I'd like to know."
She faces me and raises an eyebrow like she's surprised by the question. I smile at her and add, "Well, you gave me such good advice about how I should handle things with Lila that I'd really value anything you might have to say about this…It's all been a little confusing to me, especially since everything's happened so fast."
Helga turns her head away from me and looks forward again with her eyes wide, like she's thinking about what she should say next. I don't mind waiting though—the streetlights are starting to come on and, even though we're in the city, the neighborhood's really peaceful right now except for the sound of an occasional car passing by. Suddenly, she says quietly, "You know, Arnold, just because you write something down doesn't make it true."
What does that mean? I raise an eyebrow and look at Helga questioningly, but she's still facing forward. Then she comes to a stop, sighs deeply and starts searching the ground for something. Near the base of a streetlight she picks up a small sharp rock, then walks over to the side of a nearby building and starts to scrape something on the bricks. After a few seconds Helga finishes and steps back, letting the rock fall back to the ground. I notice she's scowling a little again and, nervously, I wait for her to say something.
She folds her arms in front of her chest and looks at me. "Well?"
I blink, still not understanding what she means. She taps her foot on the ground impatiently and says in an annoyed voice, "READ IT, Arnoldo! Sheesh!"
"Oh." I walk toward the wall. Whatever's there, it only covers about four of the bricks so I get up close and squint in the late evening shadows to see what she's written. It looks like there's a heart with an arrow through it and inside it says…
"I meant read it OUT LOUD, Football Head! Crimeny, do I have to write out instructions for it too!"
I swallow hard and feel myself blush a little. Why would she write that?! Is she trying to get back at me for something I did? Are the other kids hiding around the corner waiting to laugh hysterically as soon as I say it? Somehow, I know that's ridiculous, but still…
I clear my throat. "Um…Helga, are you sure tha—"
She shakes her head. "Just say it, Arnold—trust me, there's a point!"
I move away from the wall and take a deep breath. " 'Arnold loves Helga.' "
She smirks at me and I rub the back of my neck with one of my hands, trying not to meet her eyes. I have a really bad feeling about this…
Her grin widens and in a sarcastic voice she says, "Gee, really? Wow, Arnold, first Lila then me….you sure do move fast."
I feel myself turn completely red. "But, Helga," I point to the heart drawing and stammer excitedly, "that's not…I mean…I don't…"
Helga narrows her eyes for a moment, but then she stares at me slyly and says in a mocking voice, "But, Arnold, 'if someone took the time to write a message like that, then there must be some truth to it.'"
At first I'm a little confused but, suddenly, I remember that that's exactly what I said to Helga just a moment ago. "Helga, you know what I meant! Besides, this is a totally different situation. You just wrote…that," I quickly motion toward the heart, "to prove a point. I have no idea why someone wrote 'Arnold loves Lila' on the wall."
"Arnold, do you love me?" I don't answer for moment; is that supposed to be a trick question? Is she going to hit me if I say the wrong thing? "Just answer yes or no, Football head."
Before I can think I blurt out, "No."
Helga briefly closes her eyes and for an instant I see her face soften. I'm about to ask if she's okay—I've never seen her attitude change so quickly—but then she sighs and just as fast the scowl returns. Another sly smile comes to her lips and she says as innocently as possible, "But it says so on the wall."
"But, what's on the wall isn't true."
Her eyes widen and she holds her arms out in front of her. "Well, then, why are you so intent on believing it?!"
"I…I don't know…" I sigh as what she's getting at slowly starts to sink in.
She shakes her head. "Arnold, the point is that people write things all the time that have absolutely no basis in reality. Take me and the school newspaper, for example; when I still had my own version of it most of the stories I ran were complete lies! Heck, I basically made up whatever I wanted and people not only liked it, they believed it!" Helga smirks. "Heh, all things considered, if you hadn't been editor of the other paper I bet you would've been my best customer!"
Helga grabs the little rock again, takes a moment to completely scribble out the heart, and then we both continue walking. I think I get it now. "So, what you're saying is that anyone could have written 'Arnold loves Lila' for any reason…and that I shouldn't let it get to me just because I don't know exactly why?"
I look at her hopefully, and she winks. "You got it, Football Head!"
Finally, we reach the stoop of Helga's house and stop. "But, even so," I sigh, remembering everything that's happened today, "I still think I care about Lila."
Helga sighs, climbs up the few steps to her door, and faces me with a slight grin while shaking her head. "Well, Arnoldo, that's a problem even I can't fix." She turns the doorknob.
"Well, um…goodnight." I'm about to turn to leave but then stop, still unsure about one last thing. I swallow and look downward again, grinning sheepishly. "Helga, um…what you wrote on the wall…that was for—I mean…it wasn't…"
"Oh, don't flatter yourself, Romeo; it was just an example to knock some sense into that Football Head of yours!" She snickers at me and opens her door.
Instead of leaving, though, for some reason I walk up her stoop and stand next to her. "Um, Helga?"
She turns toward me and waits for me to continue. Her face seems much softer now. There's none of that 'Helga G. Pataki' anger that I usually see—just her own attitude waiting for whatever might come next.
"I just wanted to say…well…thank you." I don't know why, but suddenly I find myself hugging Helga. Even though it's a spring evening, the air is cool now that the sun has almost set and it feels nice to be so close to another person. Hmm…I guess that's a strange thing for me to be thinking of right now…All I know is that without Helga, I couldn't have made it through today.
She stiffens for moment and then pushes me away, like usual. "Yeah, yeah, whatever, bucko! Just remember…" she thrusts her finger in my face and looks at me angrily, "you owe me one!" I smile a little and head back to the sidewalk. I get a few feet away from her house, but then pause when I hear Helga call from the doorway, "Hey, Arnold!" Surprised, I turn around and squint to see her in the early night.
Helga stands facing the light coming from the inside of her house. Suddenly, she stammers "Um…G—G—Goodnight…and—"she takes a deep breath, "you're welcome!" Instantly, she disappears inside, quickly slamming the door behind her.
I stare at the now vacant stoop for a minute, and then with a smile I begin walking back to the Boarding House.
"Grandpa, I'm home!" I call as I walk inside the Boarding House and shut the door behind me. "Grandpa?" I pass by the kitchen, and the dining room, and finally find him in his den watching a movie and eating a plate of cookies with milk.
I walk in and he shuts off the TV. "Oh, hey, Shortman! How did things go with your little friend with the freckles and red pigtails?"
I sigh and sit down on the couch next to him. "Not so good."
He puts aside the plate of cookies. "But I thought she liked you too. She's the one who spent the last two days practically living here, right?"
"Yeah…it's a long story."
He's silent for a moment, then looks at me with concern and asks, "Is there anything you wanna talk about?"
I yawn (it's not that late, but somehow today's taken a lot out of me). "Maybe tomorrow, but, thanks, Grandpa. I think I'll just go to bed now."
I get up and head toward the hallway again, looking forward to a good night's sleep.
Grandpa smiles at me as I pass him. "Well, for it to have taken you this long that must have been one doozy of a break up, Shortman."
I stop and turn to face him. "Well, actually, after Lila left me in the park I bumped into Helga—"
He interrupts me, grinning even more. "You mean your little friend with the pink bow and the one eyebrow?"
"Yeah, that's her. Anyway I was feeling a little down and I needed someone to talk to, so I offered to walk her home and, well, she gave me some really good advice."
I think back on everything that's just happened on our walk together and I can't help but start smiling. "Yeah. She told me to take things one day at a time—to do whatever feels right. I think I'll just try and be Helga's friend first…and hopefully someday we'll end up together."
Grandpa raises an eyebrow at me. "Wait, now, I'm confused. Arnold, I thought the one you like is the red haired one?"
What's he talking about? I look at him with confusion. "That's what I said; I'll 'try and be Lila's friend first and hopefully someday we'll end up together."
"But you said 'Helga' instead of 'Lila' the first time, Shortman." He grabs a cookie off of the nearby plate and begins eating it, still grinning.
Did I? Boy, I must be tired. I shake my head to clear it and yawn again. "Really? Hmm, I must be more tired than I thought." I reach the doorway and turn back to him before heading to my room. "Goodnight, Grandpa!"
"Goodnight, Arnold, and just make sure you figure out the names thing by the time you propose!" I hear him laugh a little and he turns the TV back on. I blush slightly and head for the stairs. I can't believe I messed up the names like that…I mean, me and Helga? I sigh mentally; it's a good thing I didn't make a mistake like that when I was with her…I can't imagine what she would've done!
Well, that about wraps it up! I hope you guys liked the ending and that nothing got too out of character…but really when the idea of him having to say 'Arnold loves Helga' came to me I just couldn't resist putting it in :) Thanks to everyone who has reviewed and who will review, I appreciate all of your input!
Stay tuned for more stories!