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AN: Hey y'all. Long time no see. I have no excuse for the absence. Inspiration hit...had to run with it! Hopefully the length of this chapter will kinda make up for the loooooong interruption. It felt a little disjointed but...it's here! I always appreciate reviews, so THANK YOU to those who have! :) Please enjoy and review!
"There's an old voice in my head that's holding me back. Well tell her that I miss our little talks." - "Little Talks" by Of Monsters and Men
Psych 101: Little Talks
The boarding house had experienced quite an evening. Everyone always says 'if walls could talk.' Well, if they could they would've ratted my ass out long ago, because I'd been sneaking around the rafters of this building for over a decade. But I digress.
Phoebe and Gerald had eagerly come over for a movie, pizza, and the promise of a night with old friends. Naturally, the boys had chosen an awful action flick that was loudly laughed at and talked over. Although the movie was popped in and 'Play' was pressed, catching up was first priority over watching some macho-man flex his muscles and blow buildings, cars, and other valuables to smithereens while dropping what were supposed to be witty one-liners at inappropriate moments.
When we first settled onto the couch, Arnold had chosen to put his arm around me and it was obviously causing Gerald great grief. I didn't know whether to laugh or be offended by the look on his face. Even though Phoebe and Gerald had been together since middle school, my friend had never leaked my secret. Not even to her fiance. 'Bully for me,' I thought as I shot a smug look his way, which only deepened his withering look.
I ignored Gerald and decided to focus on the present. I really couldn't believe I was sitting in Arnold's living room, watching a movie with our friends, with his ARM around me. What dimension had I crossed into? Surely this wasn't my life. I hadn't been crafty, or begged, or done any rituals that would've influenced his affection towards me. He had simply settled in next to me on the couch, shot me a quick smile and gingerly placed his arm around my shoulder. What do you know? Dreams really do come true. As I began to settle into his comfortable grasp I abused my peripheral powers to study his face as he laughed at the cheesy movie. His face had always been boyish and soft, but over the years it had acquired stronger lines. They complimented his striking green eyes and his soft blonde hair. He had a face that colorfully displayed all of the emotions he was feeling. I honestly loved and envied him for that. As my gaze strayed lower, I realized just how tall he'd grown and how well it suited him. He was lean and masculine in a way that made my face burn and my heart race. I felt little to no shame in my appreciative gaze and determinedly continued. In the midst of wondering what he might look like with that obtrusive t-shirt off, I briefly wondered why no one had snagged him. He was beautiful, smart, and caring; everything a girl typically looks for, and certainly all I'd ever looked at. I wondered if maybe he was the one who refused to be snagged. I typically don't feel inferior to others, what with my Pataki breeding and all. However, in that moment I was slightly awestruck by him. It was overwhelming, but certainly not in a bad way.
Exactly how long I was caught in his attractive web, I'll never know. But about halfway through the movie I decided to make a break for it. It was almost physically painful to slither out from under his arm but I leaned forward anyways, catching the attention of my petite friend.
"Grub-worm, Mighty Falcon wants to see you in the kitchen," I laughed out to Phoebe as quietly as I could. Although Phoebe laughed, Gerald had obviously overheard because he sent me a judgmental look that cast me straight back to the 4th grade. Well, I figured there's no reason to change his opinion of me and my craziness this late in life. So, I gave a goofy grin, grabbed Phoebe's arm and took my exit. As I was leaving I was sure I could hear Gerald saying something along the lines of "Seriously Arnold? Helga G. PATAKI? What are you thinking...Remember when..."
My ears failed me as we approached the kitchen, but I decided it was Gerald's right to interrogate his best friend. Shit, I would be interrogating him too if I were Gerald. I had put that kid through hell nearly for our entire childhood and adolescence. He probably suspected that I had some insidious, adult prank planned. The thought nearly made me giggle.
"Helga, I'm so glad we got to do this. I mean, gosh, I'm just so happy for you. Tell me everything." She beamed at me. Her eyes begged for details, and I didn't want to disappoint. She'd already heard about the initial meltdown turned confession on the street corner, so I told her about the couple of dates we'd been on. As I leaned my elbows onto the center island in the warmly lit kitchen I must've looked and sounded like a thirteen year old talking about her favorite boy band member. I currently felt like the fan that finally got her hand signed with a permanent marker. A hand that would never be washed again. I finished pathetically, but proudly, by telling her that we were officially dating. As a little squeal escaped her it helped to fuel on my own excitement.
"I mean, I feel like I'm dreaming right now. I fully expect to wake up in a padded cell any minute," I laughed to her. But, my laughter was cut short as she quickly dove into my chest and wrapped her arms around my waist. I was caught off guard; something that had been happening an alarming amount lately. "Pheebs?..."
Her voice was muffled by my chest as she said, "...lga, you deserve this. I'm so happy."
I placed my arms around her too as tears sprang to my eyes unwillingly. Crying was also something that had been happening an alarming amount lately. As I gripped her knitted blue sweater I thought about how much I cherished and loved this girl. She had grown into a beautiful woman, while easily maintaining her brains. And her compassion had always known no bounds. I knew personally that Gerald was blessed to have such a dedicated, loyal, loving person at his side.
"Is everything okay?" The sudden appearance of Gerald and Arnold into the kitchen and onto our intimate moment made me flail back. Now at an arm's distance, Phoebe and I sheepishly looked to one another. The silence in the room made me wish that walls could talk. Maybe, break the awkward still that had enveloped the room. 'Hey guys, knock knock!'
"Helga? Is everything okay?"
I realized I'd never answered Arnold, and the concern laced throughout his voice made me answer, "Oh yeah, we're fine. Just top secret uh...stuff." I'll admit, it was a dumb answer, and it was received with a dumb look from Gerald. Arnold still looked mildly concerned, bordering on confused.
"Well Pheebs, it's getting late and the movie is over. Time to go, yeah?"
The thought of already having to let my friend go home gave me two urges. One was to violently spring onto Gerald. The other was grip onto Phoebe and make an emotional scene. Fortunately, the reaction that came out was to give Phoebe one last hug and tell her goodnight. However, it didn't stop me from shooting Geraldo a death glare over the small girls shoulder. It was a glare filled with ugly promises to which he rolled his eyes.
As they approached the door to head home for the evening, we all chorused loudly on how fun the night had been and promised that we'd be seeing each other soon. And I really meant it. The hallway felt warm and full of laughter. Gerald shot Arnold one last look full of advice before settling his eyes on me. Despite differences and past wrongdoings, a grin was plastered on my face as I told him goodnight. To my surprise, he smiled lightly and they left with the soft sound of the shutting door.
A moment passed before, "Do you have to go too?"
I was so entranced by the couple's exit that Arnold's voice sounding from behind me nearly made me jump. I thought for a brief moment before answering, "No, I'm free. But, don't you have work tomorrow?"
"Actually, I don't have a client until 2 in the afternoon." His feet shuffled slightly before he quickly added, "I bought a bottle of red wine. I wasn't sure what you liked, but I thought we could have a glass?"
The unforeseen invitation broke my speech. Hell, it broke my brain. I knew it was within an hour of midnight. I knew I was with Arnold at the boarding house. I also knew that the alcohol would come in and destroy me because loose lips sink ships. I floundered slightly.
"You don't have to. I'm sorry, I didn't even know if you drank. I just,"
"Arnold, of course I drink. I'm a writer. And besides, I know this is just your master plan to seduce me," I laughed, or maybe choked, out. God, I hope I sounded as casual and calm as I wanted to. I'm sure I didn't because as soon as it left my lips I could feel my palms sweating and my face turning interesting shades of red. All those appreciative glances earlier had suddenly seized control of my brain and forced me to say something exceedingly awkward. But, I stood my ground. This opportunity was not going to slip away from Helga G. Pataki.
He turned pink, but chuckled and said, "Well, since you've figured me out, I guess I should go grab some glasses."
As he left for the kitchen I silently begged to anyone that would listen. 'Please DO NOT let this be the awkward, awful situation I'm imagining it will be.' I swallowed loudly and stiffly followed into the kitchen that had held so much warmth for me and Phoebe, but now was suddenly filled with anxiety.
Three glasses later, all anxiety had flown out the window. Who knew what time it was? Who cared? The only things that mattered were these: I was sitting on the couch again with Arnold. We'd been sharing stories and chuckling for awhile. And I was actually comfortable. I was rarely comfortable.
We talked about Bob Pataki, whom apparently Arnold thought was an asshole. I laughed and agreed, continuing to tell him ridiculous stories about the inner workings of the Pataki residence. In high school it'd been difficult to talk about some of the hurtful exchanges between my parents and I, but as time passed I became less bothered by them. It was now easy to tell many of the stories in a self-deprecating manner that made Arnold still for a moment before erupting into laughter.
In that moment I thought I was so funny. But judging by the redness of Arnold's face and the slight slurring of my own speech, I would later have to re-examine and say that rather than being a knockout comedian, we were just a little drunk.
I suddenly realized that I was out of stories to tell, and apparently Arnold was too, because there was a brief pause in the stream of conversation.
"I really liked this little talk. I've really liked all of our little talks. I wish we would've done this sooner Helga." He said it so quietly and with such conviction that it sobered me briefly.
I risked looking up at his face and was immediately met with his intense green gaze, which had been softened slightly by the alcohol.
"Me too, Arnold," I replied gently with a smile.
He suddenly leaned forward and pressed his lips to mine. I slowly closed my eyes in disbelief as my head spun, and not from the alcohol. His lips were soft on mine and his kiss was gentle despite it's suddenness. As I leaned into him I felt his hand ghost to my face to further the embrace. He tasted just like the wine we'd enjoyed and I knew I'd just found my new favorite drink. After what seemed like only moments, but I'm sure was much longer, he pulled back slightly and smiled at me.
Oh yeah, air. Oxygen. I'd forgotten how vital that was.
"Since it's so late, you can just sleep up in my room for the night." The way he'd managed to say it a little breathlessly and with a heavy gaze had made my stomach suddenly fill with butterflies in response, but instead I said,
"Wow. You know, I was joking about the seduction thing."
Seeing him squirm was worth the joke, even if it did lose me the serious moment I'd been entangled in and had dreamt about for years.
"That is not what I meant. I mean, I was thinking you could take the bed. Not with me! Obviously, I mean I'd sleep on the floor, or even in a different room or..."
I silenced him. I figured that he'd suffered enough for one night.
"Why don't I take the couch down here? I am not taking your bed." He seemed to ponder it for a moment. I fully expected his chivalrous ways to rear up and insist that I take the bed, but to my surprise he accepted my offer.
He ran to grab some blankets. I was suddenly very tired, as I realized that the alcohol was wearing off and tempting me to sleep. He quickly returned and went about making a nest of sorts on the couch. I turned to ease myself down onto the soft looking space but was stopped by Arnold's hands. He turned me around and bent down to meet my lips and kiss me goodnight. It was chaste but sweet and made me question if I was really tired anymore or not. As he pulled away, forehead still tilted down and connected to mine, he quietly said, "Night Helga."
"Night," I whispered, afraid that if I spoke too loud I really would awake in that padded cell I'd mentioned to Pheebs.
I laid down as he tucked me. We exchanged one last small smile before he quietly turned on his heels and made his way to his bedroom. I drifted straight to sleep.
As the sunlight filtered through the windows the next morning, I opened my eyes to see Arnold's living room. Not a padded cell...Thank God.
Looking at the clock I noted that it was still rather early being only a little after 8am. I picked myself up, folded the blankets I'd snuggled in for the night and wrote out a quick note to Arnold.
Thanks for the pizza, wine, and little talks. Call me tonight?
As I quietly shut the front door to the boarding house, I grinned and bounded down the front steps. I was completely ready for the day after having the best nights sleep I'd had in years. Possibly ever.