Hi everyone! First of all, thank you all for your reviews to other updates I've been doing, I really appreciate them :) Second, why the heck am I updating this random songfic from like a million years ago? XD Well, as long as I have some free-ish time right now I'm trying to tie up as many loose ends/update as many things as possible, and this little sequel to it has been kicking around on my harddrive for years. It just always needed a lot of work every time I looked at it that I kept tabling it until later. But now I finally have something I like and I hope all of you will like it too :) It's just a little extra ending to April Fool's Dance night XD Also, this little sequel isn't really a song fic but if you really want something to listen to while reading it I could recommend the cover of "After Hours" by Rilo Kiley-doesn't entirely have anything to do with the situation here but it sort of fits and it has a nice beat :)
Anyway, thank you guys for reading and now on to the story!
After Hours (aka Some Other Beginning's End)
(A sort of song fic...sequel...thing)
"So, she needs a place to sleep, huh?" Phil smiled slyly at his young Grandson and the blond girl next to him. The three were now standing in the den of the boarding house, having just gotten back from Arnold's quick trip to P.S. 118 where he had found Helga alone and in need of a ride…and a place to spend the night.
"Yeah, Grandpa." Arnold glanced at Helga G. Pataki who, to his surprise, appeared very mellow as she listened to him make his request: her hands were clasped together in front of her body and her relaxed face made her seem almost shy. Arnold turned back to his grandfather and continued, clearing his throat, "So is it okay if she stays here for the night?"
Phil looked to Helga with a smile and nodded. "Of course. Any friend of Arnold's is always welcome to stay here. We'll just make you up a bed for the night."
"Uh, thanks Mr. ….uh…Mr. …" Helga raised part of her brow, looking up at the old man and very specifically waiting for an answer.
Phil just smiled more, however, and replied, "Call me 'Phil'."
Arnold raised an eyebrow at Helga as he noticed a brief look of frustration pass over her face at this response. Whatever had bothered her though she seemed to disregard as the straight face she had entered the room with quickly returned.
Phil he put a hand to his chin in thought and continued. "Yes sir, Gerald usually uses the couch in Arnold's room. We can set that up for you with some blankets in a few minutes if you don't mind waiting…" Phil's smile in Helga's direction became a touch more meaningful.
Helga's eyes instantly widened at the suggestion. "Really?!" she couldn't help exclaiming in a noticeably high pitched voice. When Arnold had mentioned back at the school that she could sleep here and actually sleep upstairs in his room if she wanted, she had tried not to get her hopes up for being that lucky…but now it was really happening and even Arnold's Grandpa was okay with it? Could fate really have started caring for her that much?
"Well," Arnold cleared his throat and interjected, always trying to be polite. He looked to Helga as he spoke. "You could stay with me unless you think you'd be more comfortable down here or in an empty room…"
Phil cut in, however, the grin on his face growing wider. "Oh I don't think that's a very good idea, Shortman—the boarders are always traipsing through here at night, making noise and getting food. And as for the vacant room," he laughed to himself, "let's just say that bum Kokoschka got trapped in there today with a Grade A stink bomb courtesy of yours truly!" Phil closed his eyes and smiled proudly, putting his hands on his suspender straps. "Yes, sir—one of the best April Fool's pranks I've ever played, heh heh!" He looked back to Arnold. "So it looks like it's gotta be your room, Shortman. Besides I'm sure you and…" He glanced at Helga, waiting for her to supply her name again.
"Helga…" Helga added quietly, still a little flustered.
Phil grinned even more slyly, "Right…" He looked back to his grandson. "I'm sure you and Helga will be fine together for just one night."
Phil finished with a wink and Arnold thought he was going to die from the humiliation of his grandfather's suggestive look. The ten-year-old blonde sighed and cleared his throat and tried to get his blush under control as he turned back to the girl beside him, "Are you sure my room's okay, Helga?" He wanted to ask just one more time, just to be sure.
Helga only gulped nodded and replied softly, "Uh, sure Arnold…Sounds great."
Phil chuckled to himself a little. "Well then, Helga, you just head upstairs to the first door on the right—Arnold's grandma should be in there. Just tell her that you're staying and she'll set you up with blankets and something to sleep in. Can't very well spend the night in that damp dress, now can you? Heh, heh, heh…"
Helga smiled. "Thanks, Phil." And then with a quick glance at Arnold she turned and departed upstairs.
After she left, Phil turned to his Grandson, still with a sly smile on his face.
Arnold stopped him with a dry look and a calm voice before he could say anything, "Grandpa, she's just a friend…" He glanced downward and tried hard not to blush.
Phil just continued smiling though, his grin only growing. "I didn't say a word, Shortman…"
Arnold sighed and rolled his eyes…but he couldn't help smiling slightly as well. "Um…I'm going to go upstairs to get out of my tuxedo." He loosened his tie a little and began to head up the flight of stairs. "Goodnight, Grandpa!" he called back over his shoulder.
"Heh, heh, goodnight, Shortman!" Phil called back up to his grandson. "Have a fun sleepover!"
Arnold just sighed and blushed and shook his head at those words and continued on upstairs and out of sight.
After Arnold left Phil couldn't help but chuckle to himself. "Oh boy, this should be good…" Suddenly his eyes brightened and he glanced around with an eager grin and scratched his head. "Now where did I put my binoculars…?"
About fifteen minutes later…
Arnold pushed open his door, unsure of whether Helga had finally come up here while he had been brushing his teeth in the bathroom, or if she was still with his Grandma finding something to sleep in and some blankets.
He glanced around and quickly received an answer to his question.
There, on his red flip out couch, was a white lump of blanket slowly moving up and down with the breaths of its sleeping occupant.
At the sight, Arnold couldn't help the warm smile that came to his face. He even had to try his best to control his desire to laugh so as not to disturb her. However, unfortunately, Arnold had already called out Helga's name twice upon entering the room and now as a result he saw the lump move and then turn and now he could see her sleeping face. He was worried at first that he had woken her up but then he half smiled to himself at the sight of her continuing to cuddle up against her pillow. Suddenly a snore came out of her and Helga shifted once again, this time sliding the top half of her body (which was covered in a long, white nightshirt) out of the blanket to grip the pillow she had her arms around even harder.
Arnold shook his head and, with a smile, began to walk over to his own bed. He hesitated though half way between his own cozy looking blue sheets and Helga's sleeping form. Suddenly, he changed direction and headed over to Helga instead.
He stood over her for a second, watching the rare sight of Helga Pataki with a calm face and even a slight smile on her lips. "I'm glad you had a good time tonight, Helga," he said quietly to himself. He then leaned over and grabbed an end of her blanket and pulled it up so that her shoulders were covered again.
Arnold found himself lingering for just one more moment over the face of the girl who had put him through the most stressful date of his life, bar none ('Even last Valentine's day when I had to run back and forth between those French restaurants to keep my date with Ruth and that Cecile girl wasn't as crazy as this…' Arnold couldn't help but add to himself with a mental laugh.)
He came out of his thoughts as Helga shifted again, turning onto her back and yawning a little. Arnold couldn't help a yawn escaping himself too now and after it was over he straightened up pushed back a piece of his hair that had fallen forward from the middle of his head from him leaning over Helga. Suddenly he blinked in surprise and tapped the top of his bare head twice just to confirm that there was indeed nothing there. "My hat!" he whispered to himself. 'Hmm…Helga must still have it somewhere.' Almost involuntarily he found himself leaning as far over her as possible as though he expected her to be sleeping curled up next to it.
RING RING! RING RING!
Arnold's phone, currently on the end table right near Helga's head, suddenly blared to life!
Arnold jumped at the sound and lost his balance, stumbling forward, just as Helga sat bolt upright, now officially wide awake!
"WHA—Hmm?!" Helga was cut off in her exclamation as her face slammed into something hard.
Helga's eyes flew wide open, and much to her surprise met with Arnold's eyes which had an equally stunned quality to them and were strangely an inch if not less from her face.
Both ten-year-olds remained locked on each other's eyes, breathing only through their noses for the second it took them to glance down and realize that the result of their heads slamming together was that their lips were now pressed against each other.
RING RING! RING RING!
The sound of the phone going off again startled Helga even more and in her shock she jerked back, separating her mouth from Arnold's.
"Ow!" Her sudden motion and the shock of the situation, meanwhile, caused Arnold to lose his balance and fall backward onto the floor, pulling half of Helga's blanket on top of him.
Helga just sat there on the red couch, looking down at Arnold as he struggled out of the other half of blanket, her breath coming heavily and her face a very bright red.
It took him a few seconds but then Arnold finally had the blanket off of his head and on the floor. He tried to stand up now but his nerves were so strained he tripped on the end of the blanket once or twice more before finally managing to right himself. "Helga, I'm sorry I—" he moved back from her a little and didn't even know where to begin, "…the phone started ringing and I tripped and—"
"What the heck were you doing standing THERE anyway, Football Head?!" Helga suddenly asked in a voice meant to sound sarcastic but that was obviously more flustered...and possibly a little genuinely curious…than anything else. She scowled defensively at him though her scarlet blush was as apparent as ever.
Arnold glanced away from her, his cheeks flushing as well, arms stiff down at his sides. "I was just looking fo—" Arnold hesitated, then swallowed and went on instead, "I-I mean, you moved and the blanket fell off and I-I was just fixing it. But then the phone started ringing and you sat up and…" He looked at her with genuine terror in his eyes as her scowl only darkened at his words, "It was an accident, I swear!"
RING RING! RING RING!
At this final comment from Arnold Helga's eyes seemed to narrow just a little more. He waited for some kind of further reaction from her, but Helga just sat there, staring darkly at him. As the seconds passed her blush slowly subsided and finally she closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and dragged one of her hands down her face.
"Just," she seemed to be struggling to keep her voice level, "…just don't worry about it Arnold. It's fine."
"R-Really?" Arnold asked skeptically, taking another step or two back toward her.
Helga sighed again, her face genuinely relaxing at this time. "Yes, Arnold—I think we've both had enough excitement for tonight, you're tired, I'm tired, so instead of me threatening to beat the stuffing out of you, and you apologizing for hours, yada-yada-yada, I just want to go back to sleep so that I'm not completely dead in the morning when we have to finish our little clean-up of the gym at 8 am." She scowled at him again and finished, "Is that okay with you, Head Boy?"
RING RING! RING RING!
"Uh, s-sure." replied Arnold, still feeling beyond embarrassed and flustered although now at least there was a touch of relief mixed in with it all.
"Good," Helga smiled at him, though it was strained to say the least. She then grabbed her pillow and wrapped it around the back of her head and grumbled loudly, "And for Pete's sake ANSWER THAT PHONE ALREADY! Sheesh, who the heck calls at midnight anyway?"
"O-Oh, right! Sorry, Helga," Arnold replied with a nervous nod. He then picked up the end of the blanket and put it on the edge of the couch for her before walking over to his phone and finally picking up the receiver.
"Hello?" he asked, really curious, now that he thought about it, about who really would call here at midnight.
A familiar voice met his ears.
"Hey man, sorry to call so late. Just wanted to make sure Phil ended up picking you up from the school."
"Oh…hi Gerald!" Arnold glanced at Helga, who had come up from underneath her pillow and was now pounding it with her fists a little harshly to fluff it. He turned his attention back to the phone. "Uh…yeah, Grandpa got me a few minutes after you left."
"Cool, man," Gerald replied with a laugh. "You know, I was a little scared leaving you alone with Helga after that prank. I'll bet she's still wringing pool water out of her hair, ha ha."
Arnold swallowed and glanced over his shoulder again, hoping Helga couldn't hear where the conversation was going. His query was answered by the sound of a low growl coming from Helga, who was currently lying down on her side with the blanket wrapped around her again, her eyes narrowing and a deep scowl on her face.
"What was that?" asked Gerald, obviously hearing her in return.
Arnold turned back to the phone and sighed. "Uh, Gerald, can I call you back in ten seconds?"
"Uh…sure man, no problem. Is something wrong?"
"No, no…I'll talk to you in a few seconds. Bye, Gerald."
"Okay, Arnold. Bye."
Arnold hung up the phone in his room and turned to Helga. "Um, I'm just going to call Gerald back downstairs…so you can get some sleep. Okay?"
Helga gave a heavy sigh and turned away from Arnold. "Whatever, Football Head. You and tall hair boy stay up all night giggling and swapping secrets—just so long as I can get back to bed already."
Arnold couldn't help rolling his eyes at the comment as he made his way to his room door and down his ladder to reach the hallway phone.
Meanwhile, Helga now lay in the silence following his departure. A second passed and she remained perfectly still, seemingly going to sleep in her makeshift bed.
Then, slowly, she opened one eye and then the other, and then sat up and looked around, affirming that she was indeed finally alone.
Suddenly a huge grin formed on her face and a high pitched squeal of delight came from Helga G. Pataki's mouth. She flopped back onto the cough and let out a loud, girlish sigh. Then she sat up, grabbed her pillow, pushed it against her face, and screamed into it, "HE KISSED ME!"
She separated from the pillow and let out a satisfied sigh, a happy smile still on her face, and began to whisper to herself (just in case Arnold suddenly came back or something). "Oh Arnold, not only did I get to spend the whole day with you AND have you as my date at the dance AND dance with you AND spend the night in your wonderful room, but we actually kissed! I mean, okay, I know it was just an accident…but still our lips touched and you hesitated before pulling away! And you weren't even grossed out! You were just scared that I'd pound you or something! Oh my beloved, my angel, my darling, I wish this night could never end!" She sighed again, an ecstatic smile etched upon her features. Her eyes lit up again, and she pulled out her Arnold locket, staring at it, "And then we get to spend tomorrow morning together as well. I mean, of course, we'll be cleaning up spilled punch and decorations at the school and it's with Phoebe and that jerk Gerald, but still, it's more time together!" She swooned once more and placed the locket under her shirt.
Helga then let out a deep, happy breath and lay back on the couch, putting her hands behind her head. She contented herself now with just smiling and glancing around at Arnold's room for however long she might have it all to herself until he returned.
The seconds passed though, and soon Helga started drumming her fingers…A few more seconds passed and she started fidgeting in her blankets. Then it wasn't long before Helga started noticing how incredibly loud the ticking of Arnold's alarm clock could be when the room was totally silent.
Then suddenly her eyes flew wide open and she sat bolt upright once again tonight. "Sheesh, what the heck's wrong with me?! A few free, no consequence, minutes in Arnold's room and I'm just waiting for him to come back?" She pulled the blanket off of her body and swung her feet off of the couch and rubbed her hands together in anticipation. "Come on Helga old girl, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity!"
Helga got up and walked out into the center of Arnold's room and folded her arms over her chest, smiling mischievously. "Now, where do I begin…"
Arnold was sitting on the bottom step of the boarding house staircase. He sighed into the phone receiver in his hand. He was trying to be very quiet so that he wouldn't wake anyone up (everyone appeared to have gone to sleep, including his grandparents now), and patient with his best friend since he knew this was kind of a strange thing to present to him, but it really was late and Arnold really was tired. Still though he at least managed to keep his voice level and understanding sounding. "Yes, Gerald, I know, but—"
A tinny sound like the person on the other end of the line was speaking in a high-pitched, panicky voice caused Arnold to pull the phone away from his head (for about the third time now).
Arnold sighed and pulled the phone to his mouth again, shaking his head and trying not to smile at his friend's over-the-top reaction. "Gerald, just calm down. I can't even understand what you're saying anymore!"
A deep breath being taken was heard on the other end of the line. "Okay, look, man—I know you always wanna help everyone when they need it, no matter what, but are you INSANE letting Helga Pataki spend the night in your house! On April Fool's Day!"
Arnold sighed again. "Gerald," he began, still patient as could be (and smiling more), "…you and half the other people in our class have spent the night over here dozens of times. Don't worry about it. It'll be okay."
"Arnold, we just finished pulling possibly the most ultimate prank on her ever, and you don't think that coupled with the fact that she hates your guts means that there's a really good chance that she's planning to torture you this entire night!" Gerald shot back skeptically.
Arnold shook his head, amused at his friend's colorful imagination. "Gerald, she just wants to get some sleep. She already was asleep actually until, uh…" Arnold felt his face warm considerably and he blushed and hesitated.
It was already too late though of course. "Until…?" Gerald prompted with interest.
Arnold swallowed, but maintained his casual voice as he explained (leaving out at least one key detail of the whole thing), "Until…Until you called. The phone ringing woke her up. That's why I decided to call you from the living room phone, so I wouldn't keep her awake, heh…"
There was a moment of silence on the other end of the line.
"…Wait a minute," Gerald protested suspiciously (and almost with disbelief). "You came down to the living room so you wouldn't wake her up? Arnold, if she's not on the couch in the living room right now then where's she sleeping exactly?"
Arnold sighed deeply to himself and closed his eyes. 'Uh oh...'
Arnold's hesitation only seemed to make Gerald more curious. "Man, there's definitely something going on that you're not telling me. Spill!"
Arnold opened his eyes and lay back against the steps in exasperation, both upset with himself for letting so much slip and a little annoyed with Gerald's prying. 'Why do I have the feeling that Helga could get out of this much better than I can?'
"Well…?" Gerald prompted.
Arnold swallowed. "Well…it's a long story…You see…"
And Arnold proceeded to tell his 'long story' (once again, minus any juicy and private details).
A few minutes later a distinct and undeniable creak sounded on the ladder leading to Arnold's room, followed by the sounds of our familiar ten-year-old hero whispering behind the door, "No, Abner, go back to the kitchen. You can't come up right now."
At this sound a very 'occupied' Helga G. Pataki swallowed very hard and a distinct squeak escaped her mouth. She popped out of Arnold's closet with a jerk and stood silently, listening to confirm the sound of Arnold's footsteps on the ladder.
Another few creaks sounded.
"Oh my…" and Helga began, her eyes very wide.
Helga's worry stemmed from the fact that after rolling around on Arnold's bed several times, searching the drawers around his computer to confirm that he had no more pictures of Lila other than the one she had torn up a few months ago when trying to get her locket back, and looking through his bookcase to see if he had any good reads she could skim through before going to sleep ('Ugh! Could he HAVE any more Purdy Boy books?!'), she had decided to explore Arnold's closet. As a result she was now standing in the middle of Arnold's room, holding the closet door open, and wearing one of his plaid shirts and a pair of his jeans almost fully pulled up over her night shirt, and of course Arnold's signature blue hat on her head (which she had managed to snatch from her pocket and keep with her before Arnold's Grandma's had taken Helga's dress to wash overnight.)
Helga swallowed hard, her shock giving way to panic. "Oh Crimeny, oh crimeny!" she whispered loudly to herself as she struggled to get out of Arnold's clothes before he could enter his room. 'Stupid, stupid! What was I thinking doing something like this?! I mean, I know I've always thought that shirt of his looked really cozy and it looks like I'm right, but still! If he catches me I'm DEAD! Dead in the water, that's it, game over! I'm going to look like the biggest freak in front of him if I don't—'
Finally though, Helga had managed to struggle the plaid shirt over her head and to toss it onto the closet floor (it would have been easier, of course, to just unbutton the shirt and slip it off but these were desperate times and she wasn't exactly calm enough at the moment to be able to work buttons). She kicked the jeans off too now and slammed the closet door shut as quietly as she could just as she heard the door handle to Arnold's room slowly turning.
Without a moment to lose, a nearly panic-stricken Helga then made a mad dive for Arnold's couch just as the bedroom door opened!
"Helga?" Arnold asked (this time whispering just in case she might have fallen asleep already again) as he entered his room for the second time that night. He glanced at the couch, and low and behold caught sight of Helga just as she crashed right onto the pillow and sheets of her little makeshift bed.
"Oof!" Helga called out, rubbing the side of her head and squinting her eyes as she tried to sit up.
Arnold just raised an eyebrow at her, slowly pushing the bedroom door shut and taking a few steps closer to her. "Helga?"
Helga blinked and instantly straightened herself up at the sound of Arnold's voice. "Arnold?!" Her eyes were wide and she held her breath. 'H-How much did he see? Oh forget it, just deny, Helga, deny EVERYTHING!' Okay, that was the plan—deny everything and hope it would all work out and that he would just let it go.
Arnold, meanwhile, started to approach her bedside now, a curious smile on his face. "Helga…are you okay?" He really didn't want to laugh but it kind of was almost funny—what had he just walked in on anyway?
"Uh…" Helga tried to slip into a more natural position, relaxing a bit and pulling the covers over her body again. "F-Fine, fine Arnold," she replied in a rather high-pitched voice, after which she cleared her throat and continued on in a more usual tone, "Just, um…just doing some calisthenics before hitting the sack." She tried to smile and stood up for a moment, bending over and touching her toes and then stretching to the side a little. She straightened back up and stretched back a little. "Whoo! That feels good." She then sat down again on the couch. "Well, I'm definitely tuckered out for tonight." She gave a dramatic yawn and then pulled the blanket over her body and plopped her head down on the pillow. "Looks like bedtime for me, heh heh." Oh she hoped that was convincing.
Still standing before her, Arnold raised an eyebrow, "Uh…right…okay." Yeah, this was going from funny to suspicious now, and suddenly Gerald's words rang in his head, 'There's a really good chance that she's planning to torture you this entire night!' Arnold slowly took a few steps toward his bed, and then a few more, glancing at Helga occasionally. He reached his bed finally and then turned to it and pushed down on it hesitantly with his free hand, like he was testing it.
Helga, meanwhile, was just watching him in confusion and now she raised part of her brow. 'What's up with him?'
A few more presses on different parts of the bed as well as his pillow, and then Arnold sighed and turned back around to his companion for the evening, sounding hesitant but genuinely concerned. "Helga…I know this is gonna sound stupid but…you didn't plan some prank that's going to spring out at me or hit me in the face or something while I'm sleeping, did you?"
At the suggestion Helga blinked and scoffed! "Oh now who's being paranoid, Football Head?" Helga asked, referring to Arnold's comment to her back at the school when she had suspected that he had ulterior, April Fool's related motives for his offer to give her a ride home.
Arnold crossed his arms in front of his chest and frowned at her a little. "Helga, I'm serious! It's obvious you were doing SOMETHING in here before I came in!"
Helga scowled and rolled her eyes, sitting up a little. "Oh come on, Arnold, I know I don't exactly have the best track record but I'm not going to jerry rig some lame April Fool's finale prank in the five minutes you're out of the room! Especially after you gave me a ride home AND let me sleep over here! Sheesh Arnold, I do have SOME small shred of a conscience, after all!"
Arnold blinked surprised by how personally she was taking his accusation. She just sat there scowling and looking genuinely offended, awaiting his response. He glanced down then looked back up at her. "I know that, Helga…I just meant…with everything that happened tonight—"
"What about everything that happened tonight?!" Helga shot back darkly, pulling her knees up to her chest, continuing to scowl.
Arnold took a breath, not wanting to fuel her desire for an argument any further. "Never mind—forget it, Helga." He got into his bed finally.
"Fine!" Helga yelled from across the room, lying back down on the couch and pulling up the blankets all around her stubbornly. The scowl was still plastered on her face.
Arnold couldn't help but scowl slightly back at her continued animosity. "Fine!" he called firmly over his shoulder as he got settled in too.
"Fine!" Helga shot back once more as loudly as she could, and with that she pulled the blanket around her and turned away from Arnold.
Arnold just sighed and grabbed his room remote from one of the shelves near his bed and turned down the lights.
In the darkness there was perfect silence for a few moments. Then Arnold opened his eyes. He sighed softly and turned on his back to look up at the stars through is skylight ceiling, thinking to himself a little. 'I don't know…I guess I understand why she's upset that I'd accuse her of trying to pull one more prank, but it's not like she hasn't stooped lower in the past or anything. I mean, she acts like we're even now but how am I supposed to know when she's acting funny that she isn't up to something?' Arnold ruminated on these thoughts to himself for a few seconds. He sighed once more, this time with a touch of understanding. 'Still, I guess…considering the 'situation', maybe she's just nervous about being here. I shouldn't have yelled back at her like that—knowing her she'll probably find some way to sneak out before the morning so that we don't have to talk about it. Way to go, Arnold.' He glanced over at Helga—from the movement of the lump of blanket it didn't look like her breathing had slowed down too much; she was probably still awake.
Arnold took a deep breath, "Helga?"
No response from her.
Still no response from her.
Arnold sighed to himself again. He turned onto his side, facing toward his wall and closed his eyes. "Goodnight, Helga."
A few seconds of silence passed in the dark room.
"Goodnight, Arnold," came Helga's voice, level and sincere, back to him.
The sound made Arnold open his eyes in surprise.
He lay there in the darkness for a few moments considering. Then he sighed and sat up and pressed the button on his room remote to turn on his bedroom light again. "Helga…um, sorry, I think I'm going to get myself a glass of water before bed. Do you want anything?"
From across the room, Helga, turned toward him a little. "You sure you're not afraid of leaving me in here alone again?" she asked a touch dryly.
Arnold almost felt like getting angry again but he just smiled at her and shook his head. "No. I trust you, Helga."
Hugging her pillow underneath her, Helga just sighed and nodded replied in a mumble, "Okay…Water's fine." She yawned. "Thanks, Arnold…" was added quickly, though she closed her eyes again right after saying it.
Arnold smiled a little at that and at how they seemed to be made up now as he got out of bed and headed over to his door. "Okay, Helga. Be right back." And with that he exited his room yet again that evening.
This time Helga just waited patiently for his return, not moving from her couch bed. Though she had found his suspicions annoying and maybe even a little hurtful, she also knew deep down that they weren't entirely unfounded. Her reputation for torturing him (especially on April Fool's Day) aside, he had caught her nervously jumping back into her bed when he had walked back in here before and even he couldn't be expected to be dense enough to ignore that strange occurrence. So this time when he would enter again she figured he deserved to find her right where she was supposed to be—she would stay put in her 'bed' until that door opened again. Besides which, 'Okay, I had my fill of looking all over his room and playing with his stuff—now I've gotta rope it in a little and just be grateful for what I've had…Plus I still have his hat with me to sleep with and that's more than enough to satisfy me!' Helga had hidden the little blue hat under her pillow and now she took it out for a moment to cuddle close with it. She would leave it in here for him to find tomorrow of course but for tonight it could be hers, just for tonight… She closed her eyes and inhaled near it and sighed dreamily.
And besides, who knew if this would be the last night of closeness that she would be able to have with Arnold? After all, he had ignored her quite a bit ever since her confession except for tonight…Who was to say he wouldn't go back to ignoring her now that this whole 'blind' thing wasn't over? Helga was happy that she had finally told him the truth but still the consequences could really hurt. She held the hat a little closer, squeezing her eyes shut tight and just trying to savor every precious thing about the final moments of this evening of theirs together.
The familiar creak of Arnold's foot upon the attic ladder sounded to her ears soon enough and she quickly slipped the hat back under her pillow and resumed her position of repose (her face much more softened now and her eyes wider at the thoughts she had been having).
The bedroom door opened. "I've got the water, Helga," Arnold announced with a smile as he managed to enter the room despite the fact that he had each hand occupied with a full glass. He closed the door behind him with his hip and then walked across the room and presented Helga with the glass…though his smile fell as he saw an almost melancholy look on her face.
"Oh, thanks, Arnold," Helga replied in that quiet, sincere tone she rarely used but which she right now couldn't help but falling into. She sat up a little and took the glass, took an obligatory sip and then put it down on the end table near her head.
Arnold supposed he should have copied her example and gone over to his own bedside and put his own water down but he didn't. Instead he put his glass down next to hers on the end table, a concerned look on his face. "Helga, are you okay?" He didn't care if she got angry or defensive with him again, he just wanted to ask. Was she perhaps still upset about the little tiff they had had just now? He really hoped it wasn't about that silly thing.
Helga blinked at his question. There was a small instinct on her part to respond sarcastically to him but it died almost before it came forth. She merely sighed and looked down. "Arnold…it's late and…you deserve some sleep. I've put you through a lot today. You don't have to worry about me. I'll be okay." She shrugged.
"Of course I have to worry about you, Helga," Arnold replied, almost automatically. He blinked at his words and then added, clearing his throat, "I-I mean, you're my friend so of course if something's bothering you I want to help if I can." He frowned a little and added, "Is it about the fight we had just now? I really am sorry, Helga, I didn't mean to accuse you of anything. I'm just tired and I wasn't thinking straight, that's all."
Helga sighed and rolled her eyes. "Arnold, it's not that! And don't apologize—I was the one acting really weird and suspicious. I'm just…tired. It's been a long…it's been…I'm just tired."
"Oh," Arnold nodded understandingly, "Yeah, it is kind of late isn't it…a-and we did do a lot of dancing and everything."
Helga sighed in a touch of frustration, rubbing one of her temples, "That's not what I—I mean…never mind. Dancing, yeah, just tired from dancing…" She opened her eyes and looked down again and just couldn't help the melancholy expression she knew must be there.
Arnold remained where he was and looked confused as ever. "Do you want to talk about it?" he offered sincerely.
Once again a faint instinct to say something sarcastic in reply came over Helga but it passed as quickly as it came on. Instead Helga just sighed and half smiled and shook her head. "Arnold, why do you always want to talk about everything?"
Arnold seemed surprised by the question at first but then he just smiled and shrugged. "Well…talking usually helps…especially if you're having a problem. And I like listening to people and helping them."
"I think I'm beyond your help, Arnold," Helga had to respond dryly. "And I think you and I both know that."
"I don't think you're beyond help, Helga," Arnold replied truthfully with a smile. "Why would you say that?"
"Arnold!" Helga looked at him intently. "You know exactly why I would say that."
Arnold just sighed and smiled more to himself. He sat down on the couch next to her. He was blushing a little but still seemed calm nonetheless. "Maybe…But I don't see why that would make you think you're beyond help. After all, you…and you and I…seem to be doing okay now—we might have gotten a little carried away today and tonight but we're doing okay again." He looked down in a touch of shyness though he couldn't stop the little smile remaining on his lips. This was an awkward topic they were indirectly referring to, yes, but it wasn't a bad topic necessarily or a hopeless topic or an awful topic…It interested him more than anything else, he had to admit to himself.
Helga blinked and then threw out her arms in a gesticulation. "Okay? You think we're doing okay? Arnold, you almost blinded me and then we ruined an entire school function and made all of our friends end up waterlogged in a swimming pool! And that was all in less than twenty four hours! We've been through a lot Football head but that degree of insanity is definitely not status quo for us!"
Arnold just looked at her in surprise for a moment at her sudden exclamation but then smiled again. "Well, it's close enough to status quo…and nobody got hurt…and in the end you and I are still friends. Sure, things may have gotten a little extra intense today but it is April Fool's Day and also you and I are getting a little older…"
"Arnold, how do you not see the escalation here?" Helga interrupted him, crossing her arms over her chest and giving him a touch of a scowl.
Arnold shook his head. "I do see the escalation, Helga. I just don't think it's that strange."
"It is a symptom of something, Arnold!" Helga shot back firmly. There was no way she was going to side with him that their experiences today hadn't been just a little unusual and a little more meaningful than what they might have appeared to be.
Arnold just raised an eyebrow at her though, still smiling in amusement and interest. "A symptom of what, Helga?"
Helga sighed deeply. She just couldn't handle only implying things about her secret right now anymore and even though as a rule she had been preferring to stay away from anything related to the topic of her 'secret' when alone with Arnold…she couldn't live for weeks waiting for the ax to fall, in this conversation or in general. She had to say something already! "A symptom of the fact that this isn't gonna work for much longer, is it, Arnold?" she finally blurted out, pointing a finger down tight between them.
Arnold just raised an eyebrow at the question, unsure of how to respond. In point of fact, he was puzzled about what she was referring to exactly, specifically. He knew it had something to do with her secret, of course, but he wasn't sure of the exact nature of the 'this' she had mentioned. Hoping to help, he tried to bring some levity to the situation and smiled and suggested with a shrug as he looked at her finger pointing right down to the area of the couch between them, "Well…this couch has flipped back once or twice without me pressing the remote, but that was a few years ago when it was installed." He smiled at Helga, "I'm sure it'll be fine for the rest of the night."
Helga blinked in confusion at first and then she got it and a smile won out on her face at this lame joke and she sighed and rolled her eyes, though something still seemed to be amiss in her voice. "Well that makes me feel better to know!" She gave him a playful punch in the shoulder and a chuckle even escaped her.
Arnold rubbed the spot and smiled at her with a half-lidded gaze. Seeing that look she knew so well though, Helga was reminded of her original purpose with the question and paused. Her eyes withdrew from Arnold's again.
Arnold felt a touch of nerves as he eased himself a bit closer to her, sensing that she really did want to get back to talking about the problem at hand. "But…the couch isn't what you were talking about though, was it, Helga?"
Helga sighed and shook her head, resting back against the back of the couch a little. "No…Doi."
Arnold could see that her face was expressionless and her eyelids half closed, as though she was trying not to betray how she was really feeling inside…though she obviously wanted to talk about things right now and to explain what she meant by 'this' of course.
"Arnold," Helga started once again, looking to him now, "…what I mean is…this isn't really going to work, is it?" She used her right index finger to motion from herself and Arnold this time, being more specific, "This whole, 'you knowing' thing and us trying to still have some kind of friendship…Not for long, at least…" She blushed so furiously. Yes, she realized now, she could manage to bring up her confession directly to him but not without feeling completely embarrassed—not quite mortified but embarrassed, yes, without a doubt.
Arnold was a little embarrassed too. This was the first time they had tried to talk about…Still, though, he felt she might be getting a little too dramatic about the whole thing. Why couldn't they work like this? Her confession really wasn't such an awful thing. And it was nice to hear her admit (albeit indirectly) that she had been telling the truth and not just saying a bunch of made up things in the heat of the moment. "Well, I don't know, Helga…" he leaned back a little on the couch, copying her position, "I mean, at the very least I don't think I'll get too bored with it as long as I have to keep figuring out how to get my hat back from you." He smiled with interest at her. He didn't want to not take this seriously but he really wanted her to lighten up and stop seeming like this was the end of an era or something.
At his words Helga went red, having not expected him to recall his hat tonight at all or at the very least having not expected him to bring it up! With a swallow she reached underneath her pillow and pulled out the small blue object, handing it over to Arnold with a cringe of embarrassment.
Arnold blinked and automatically took the hat from her hand, placing it on the end table near his side of the couch. 'Maybe I shouldn't have brought it up,' he thought to himself, 'I thought she'd laugh though, not just give it back to me.' He decided to table thinking about how she had been obviously planning to go to sleep with it under her pillow as something to think about later.
And so now Arnold faced forward and Helga was looking down and the two sat in silence side by side for a few seconds. Arnold swallowed and broke the silence with one more attempt at softening the mood, "Maybe I should try to steal that pink ribbon you always wear one of these days…"
Helga betrayed an emotion for only a second before just returning to that melancholy, blank stare of hers again. Arnold couldn't tell exactly what the slight twitch of her mouth and the shifting in her seat meant, but inside Helga her heart had exploded at the idea of her beloved seeking out something of hers just as ardently as she was always seeking things of his. To cover up the slight break in her exterior, she sighed at the joke and closed her eyes, dragging her hand down her face. She opened her eyes and glanced at the boy beside her, deciding to come at him point blank, "Arnold, why the heck are you taking this all so well?"
Arnold continued looking forward and answered honestly after a moment's thought, his smile returning. "I don't know…probably the same reason you're taking it so well, Helga...I know you said before that you think everything's starting to not work but I think if you think about it you'll realize nothing much has really changed for either of us ever since you…you 'told me.' " He glanced at her.
And it really was true, however much Helga's dramatic nature was trying to avoid it—Helga's world hadn't exploded as she had thought it would upon confessing to Arnold; she continued to get up in the morning as usual, go to school as usual, to treat Arnold with particular disdain as usual, and return home regularly. She had even played some stupid prank on him in a secret attempt to get to spend time with him as usual (even if today's shenanigans had gone a little over the top). In a way it was a relief that her life hadn't completely changed because of Arnold's knowing everything…at the same time though it also made her a little sad that after nearly seven years the one thing she had been waiting for had finally happened and she seemed to have nothing to show for it. 'Still, I guess no change in our relationship is better than him telling me to go away…Who am I kidding, though? That's bound to happen eventually. After all, what ten-year-old in his right mind wants someone who's in love with them hanging around all the time anyway…?'
Helga rolled her eyes and finally replied to Arnold dully, unable to think of anything else. "And what makes you think I'm taking it so well, Football Head?"
Arnold crossed his arms over his chest and replied with a touch of exasperation to the rhetorical question, "Well, you're still getting on the bus and coming to school and throwing spitballs at me and tripping me in the hallway and making the water fountain squirt me and calling me names like Football Head, and Geek Bait, and Head Boy, and Shrimp, and—" he had started to count on his fingers.
"Oh—what's your point?!" She turned to him, hands on her hips and scowling. Really though, she just didn't want him to keep naming the tortures that she continued to enact upon him—it just reminded her of all the reasons he really did have to shut her out of his life forever.
The sudden outburst made Arnold stop in mid-sentence and turn toward her, eyes wide. However, seeing her looking so angry and knowing now that underneath it all she liked him more than anybody else was too much of an irony for him…Arnold suddenly found a grin forming at the corners of his mouth. Something about her just made him want to smile, something about her had made him want to smile all night ever since he had come back to the school gymnasium and found her sitting there all alone with his hat.
Helga blinked, meanwhile, caught off guard by Arnold's unusual reaction. Disbelief replaced surprise though as it occurred to her for the first time since her confession that Arnold might not be intimidated by her anymore, or at least not nearly as much as he had used to be…in fact, it seemed like he found her more amusing than anything else! No wonder he was acting all smiling and casual around her now!
Arnold noticed her now scrutinizing gaze as she tried to figure out what she should do about this new reaction of his, and the smile on his lips suddenly faded. His eyes went a little wide, and he felt just a touch of nerves as he awaited her response to his almost involuntary grin.
Luckily, this change in Arnold's face served to satisfy Helga that despite everything, she still retained at least some of her normal degree of control over her relationship with the ten-year-old boy in front of her. Helga sighed then and resumed facing forward now. She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms in front of chest, looking downward. "Whatever. Anyway, Arnold, I already told you—it's not going to work!" Helga couldn't help but entertain the idea that it might actually be better for her to break things off between them right now—no dangling for weeks while she waited for Arnold to get sick of her, and if she was the one to do it at least she could retain some of her pride.
"Okay…why not?" Arnold asked in a hesitant voice, any slight fear leaving him as he now took interest in why she might feel this way.
Helga paused for a second and looked to him again, a hopeful look in her eye at his encouraging response to her doubt. She let it drop though for a moment. "Arnold…just so I can make sure we're both referring to the same thing here…do you even know what I'm talking about exactly?"
"Me knowing that you like me-like me?" Arnold guessed with a sheepish smile, a slight blush to his cheeks at being so frank.
Helga rubbed her temples, and appeared to be trying not to lose her temper as she corrected him. "First, never use that phrase around me ever again," Arnold blinked at the strange request. "Second," she continued, her voice slipping from the imperative to a bit more emotional, "I'm talking about…you know, this. About us being friends like this. Hanging out like this," she turned forward, losing eye contact with him, "a-and me blushing and you getting that ridiculous grin on your face and…" She was getting worked up. "I mean, it's working now but that's just because I'm in denial and you're having fun with the attention and finally having the ultimate one up on me." She threw her arms up in the air. "Pretty soon though I'm going to realize what a stupid thing I did and probably go crawl under a rock and die, and you'll get bored and realize how completely weird I am and avoid me like you probably should be doing right now!" She let her arms fall back to the couch with a thud as she concluded her statement.
Arnold studied her for a few seconds, considering how he could respond to her statement. He faced forward as well and put his hand to his chin, looking downward in deep thought. Finally he spoke, saying exactly what came to his mind at the moment. "I don't think that I think you're weird, Helga."
Helga G. Pataki froze…and then she glanced at him, part of her brow raised, "E-excuse me?" she asked in a hesitant voice.
Arnold took a breath, still looking forward and still seeming a little in thought. "I think that I think that you're…well, that you make a lot more sense now, actually." He turned his head back toward her, resting the side of his face against his arm against the top of the couch and smiling at her.
Helga rolled her eyes, trying to take the defensive again, though it seemed shaky at best. "I treat you like the bane of my existence because I love you, and you think that makes me make more sense? Yeah, that's logical, Football Head. Arnold, don't just say things because you think they're gonna make me happy or something—"
"I'm not!" Arnold scowled slightly at the accusation of lying. "I just mean…" he glanced downward again and scratched his head, "It seemed strange to me before when you were just mean to me for no reason because I knew that there was really a nice person inside of you and I couldn't figure out why you didn't want to show that to me." He looked up at her again, smiling once more. "But now I understand that you never wanted to show how good of a person you really are because you just didn't want me to see how much you really care." He hoped that made sense—it was the best wording of what he was trying to say that he had been able to come up with.
Helga was surprised by his explanation—she had genuinely thought that he had just been trying to be nice by saying she wasn't weird. Automatically something defensive came out of her mouth again, but it wasn't said with sarcasm or disdain, just as a general statement, "You know, not all of this is an act, Arnold. I really am a bossy kid with a short fuse who enjoys directing those fourth grade chuckleheads we go to school with…I really do like yelling and being respected and being a leader."
Arnold smiled more, giving her a half-lidded gaze. "I figured that…But you're not a mean person, Helga—you're really caring when you want to be, and creative and smart too." He added as an afterthought, "I mean, take today for example—you fooled me completely into thinking you were blind, and until Gerald told me that you were just faking it I was completely buying the joke."
Helga almost scoffed to herself. She didn't have the heart to tell Arnold how easy it was to trick him all the time. Besides, she didn't want to make him upset…and she was liking the compliments.
Arnold continued, just assuming her slight scoff was some continuing part of her eternal stubbornness. "Anyway, I don't think you're weird, Helga…And, actually, this might make me sound kind of strange but, also…I think I like knowing." He looked at her to see what her reaction would be.
Helga swallowed hard at hearing this information. 'He likes knowing that I love him…He likes it…' She sighed internally and mustered a shaky, "Really?" aloud to him.
Arnold nodded. He felt nervous now that he had admitted this fact to her. But it was the truth—somehow 'knowing' made his friendship with her completely different. It involved a secret that no one else knew about that they were both a part of…and he did really enjoy that fact now that he thought about it.
Arnold was lost in his thoughts a little now so Helga broke the silence with her own weak attempt at a joke this evening. "W-Well, uh…you're right, Arnold, that does make you seem a little off, heh heh…"
Arnold glanced up at her for a second almost looking genuinely hurt by her agreement with him about the strangeness of his feelings. However, knowing the truth about her feelings for him was somehow starting to make it easier and easier for him to read her true emotions and motivations behind everything: that half-second of doubt in his eyes was followed by him smiling and chuckling. Helga managed a laugh or two as well, even though she was still somewhat of a bundle of nerves at this point.
As their brief laughter subsided, Arnold cleared his throat. "Helga?"
She took a breath, trying to still seem confident. "Yeah, Arnold?"
He pushed himself a little closer to her on the couch again. "I'll make you a deal—you don't crawl under a rock and die because I know, and I won't get bored and avoid you."
"We…well, I, I mean, uh…I guess…it's…uh…" The proximity and the half-lidded gaze and the miraculously good thing he had just said to her were all making Helga completely tongue-tied and a little lightheaded at the moment. In fact, right now she would have given anything for a ten minute break from all of this to relax in her Arnold shrine and write poem upon poem expressing all of the emotions she was feeling right now.
Arnold blushed, feeling slightly embarrassed at her embarrassment and fluster, but he couldn't help smiling more and more at the usually completely confident girl beside him who was suddenly as nervous as a little child all because of him.
"I-I mean, it's a deal Football Head!" Helga was finally able to spit out the rest of her sentence. She took a deep breath and crossed her arms over her chest. Glancing away from him, Helga made vain attempt to make it seem like nothing out of the ordinary had happened, though the remnants of the blush still clinging to her face of course gave her away.
Arnold cleared his throat, trying not to laugh so that he wouldn't hurt her feelings. "Good…" He turned forward, still grinning.
"Great!" Helga added overly enthusiastically and in a slightly high pitched voice, trying to compose herself.
A few seconds of silence passed and then Arnold cleared his throat, "Well, we should probably get back to bed…" He blushed, making eye contact with her, "I-I mean, you know, you should get back to bed here and I'll get back to bed over there." He gestured awkwardly toward his bed, suddenly feeling rather nervous himself.
"Uh, yeah," Helga agreed with a swallow, looking down and playing with her hands. "O-Oh and don't forget to take your hat back, heh…" She gestured with her head to the far end table.
Arnold nodded and took up his hat and then stood up. "Well…" he rubbed the back of his neck with his free hand, "Goodnight again, Helga." He took a step or two backward in the direction of his bed, but then hesitated. There was an awkward moment of silence between the two ten-year-olds. As though both realized that, considering that this evening had technically been a date and that they had both just said goodnight officially now, there remained something more to do before departing, though they could not put their fingers on it.
Or at least, one of them couldn't. One of them, however, (the one much more in tune with her romantic feelings) had only been stymied by the strange hesitation for a second before realizing what that missing thing was. 'I guess if this were a real date and we were really together because we wanted to be and not because I pulled some stupid prank, Arnold would probably 'kiss me goodnight' before actually going to bed. And I mean actually kiss me as opposed to just falling on top of me so that our faces are mushed together. Heh, yeah right. Why is he just standing there though? He's just making things even more awkward! Go on, Football Head, get the heck over to your side of the room already!' She all but beseeched him with her eyes to do just that and end this crazy night for them already!
As Helga had been lost in these thoughts, she had remained staring at Arnold with a look torn between curiosity and embarrassment. Arnold meanwhile seemed frozen in thought, which in fact he was. Despite knowing that April Fool's Day was over and that he should probably get to bed already considering the time it must be, he could not shake the feeling that something was missing. Some final piece the evening. In fact, strangely enough he could feel the oddest sense of déjà vous about this whole situation though he had no idea where it could be coming from ('…déjà vous from going out, then being alone with and having a close conversation Helga G. Pataki?')
Arnold was seriously about to just turn and go to bed regardless of his qualms, but he knew that if he didn't figure it out now he would never be able to fall asleep with this unknown yet familiar feeling nagging at him.
Carefully, he took one step and then another closer to Helga.
Meanwhile, as she watched him not only continue to deliberate but actually approach her again, Helga's breathing had all but stopped. It officially terminated though as she saw a strange look on his face—one of scrutiny, like he was trying to put something together in his mind. 'Where have I seen that look before? Come on, Helga, think, where?! Maybe it'll help you figure out what the heck he's doing!'
Helga's thoughts were interrupted though as her eyes locked on Arnold's arm which was now moving up and forward, almost as though he was about to reach out and grab her hand…
'OH FOR PETE'S SAKE, THAT'S IT!' Instantly, a flood of memories crashed through Helga's mind. An evening together, a brief conversation alone, an awkward goodbye, and a confused football head doing his best to figure her out with a calculating stare and then settling on saying good night and taking her hand and…All of it, all of it! Just like last Valentine's Day after that whole stupid Cecile fiasco!
Helga's heart beat wildly at the memory. 'I knew this was all going to blow up in my face, I just knew it! I knew I couldn't be lucky enough to just have us come up here and maybe talk for a little bit and then fall asleep and stay that way until morning without any other crazy things happening. It's all been too similar to that night and he's going to remember and then how are you even going to begin to try and explain that one to him, Helga old girl?! I mean, you're lucky enough that Arnold seems like he's really accepted that you love him (at least, for now), but there's no way in heck he's gonna be okay with you lying to him and tricking him into dating you another time besides tonight too!'
In the second it took for all of this to run through Helga's mind, Arnold had pulled his extended arm back just slightly, as though the initial reach forward had just been a test to see if it would assist in getting rid of this strange sense of familiarity he couldn't shake. Slowly though, his hand extended forward a bit again. 'It's like I've done something like this before but I can't…I don't get it, why do I feel like this is something I'm supposed to do, or, or something I di—'
"Arnold!" Arnold blinked, his thoughts broken at the sound of Helga almost desperately calling out his name. Helga grabbed his slowly extending hand and with a jerk used it to help herself up so she was standing right in front of him, a frantic look in her eyes.
Arnold took a sharp breath, "Uh, s-sorry Helga. Do…Do you need something?" he asked, finally coming completely back to reality.
"Uh…I…." Helga's eyes darted back and forth as she tried to think fast. Then she cleared her throat. "Uh, I just wanted to ask you to remind me not to forget my dress tomorrow. Yeah! Uh, y-your Grandma put it in the laundry downstairs and she said it would be done drying by the morning, so…so don't let me forget, okay?"
Arnold raised an eyebrow at the urgent sound in her voice despite the fact that her request was so simple. "Oh. Sure, Helga. No problem."
A touch of relief came to Helga's features and she smiled and nodded. "Okay so, goodnight again then, Arnold."
"Uh, yeah. Goodnight again, Helga." Arnold smiled, happy that that strange moment of hesitation and strange déjà vous was done with. He could think about it more later anyway.
There was at least one more awkward moment between the two children though, of course, as Helga forgot that her hand was still firmly holding onto Arnold's right now. Arnold realized it of course, though, and he glanced down at their two hands and cleared his throat to bring attention to the situation. Instantly, Helga blushed furiously and let him go, her eyes wide. She rubbed the back of her neck. "Yeah, okay…" And with that Helga turned around, laid back down on the couch, and settled in.
Arnold looked down at his hand she had been holding with a soft smile for a moment. Then he just shrugged his shoulders, turned around, and headed toward his own bed. At the sound of his footsteps on the carpet, Helga opened one eye to glance at him and breathed a sigh of relief to herself that the potential crisis had been truly avoided.
Arnold laid back down in his bed for a second and Helga was expecting him to turn the lights out…when instead he just turned a little so that he was facing her, his head on the pillow…and he spoke…almost like the thought he was expressing was something new to him but also…not very bad. "Helga, you wouldn't want to, I don't know, do something tomorrow, would you? I mean, before you go home?"
Helga blinked and her defensiveness automatically went for a semi-sarcastic response, unable to help it. "Uh, you mean like grabbing Phoebe and completely avoiding the school until around ten or so, so that Gerald takes care of the rest of the cleaning like he should since opening up the pool was his stupid idea in the first place?" Helga guessed, refusing to entertain even for a minute the idea that he was asking what she thought he might be asking.
Arnold just laughed a little from his bed, enjoying her humor. "Well, actually I was thinking more like ice cream at Slausen's…But I'm not paying this time!" he joked, referencing the trip Helga had made him make to the ice cream parlor earlier that day to get her sundaes out of guilt for 'blinding' her.
"Arnold," Helga instantly sighed, closing her eyes and almost shaking her head into her pillow, "I told you already, you don't have to be nice to me…It's okay, I'm fine, really!"
Arnold watched her curiously, sitting up a bit, but then just smiled a little and shook his head. He looked over at her kindly, his signature half lidded gaze making her melt inside. "I'm not trying to be nice to you Helga…I actually do like spending time with you." He crossed both arms in front of his chest, now fully sitting up in his bed. "I just don't want to have to carry you on my back across streets with you waving a cane in my face as a pretense," he added jokingly.
Arnold continued smiling, and Helga couldn't help the slight upturning of one of the corners of her mouth as well. She was just amazed—how could he take everything so well…the confession, the bullying, the prank? It was almost too good to be true…it was like a—
The corner of her mouth dropped again. 'Oh so help me, if this is a dream I am going to beat the stuffing out of the first person who even dares to look at me the wrong way when I wake up in the morning.' She quickly sat up reached over and gave her right arm a big pinch. "OW!" She rubbed the sore spot now forming near her elbow.
Arnold raised an eyebrow at her action. "Helga? Are you, okay?"
Helga blinked at the sound of his voice, took a quick look around the room that was still there despite the pinch to 'wake herself up', shrugged her shoulders, and looked at Arnold "Uh, yeah, actually, I'm great." Arnold couldn't help but notice the grin coming to her face and the distraction in her voice as she looked with amusement around his room. He waited patiently for her to say something more. Finally he cleared his throat to get her attention,
"Hmm?" Helga blinked and suddenly seemed to remember his presence. "Oh, right, right." He raised an eyebrow at the strange response. Helga rubbed one of her temples. "Sorry, Arnold, uh, what were we talking about again?"
Helga blinked at this response and Arnold couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at the shot of scarlet that came to her face for a second. She shook her head though and coughed once into her hand and answered slightly nervously, "Oh—y-you mean ice cream tomorrow. Sure, Arnold…Th-That could be cool, I guess…" Despite the casual ending she was smiling to herself very happily.
Arnold just smiled to himself as well. Then he let out a sigh and prepared to snuggle back under his blankets. "Alright, Helga. We'll go tomorrow then..." he called over his shoulder, turning away from her a little to prepare to shut off the light again.
"Arnold!" That was until he heard his name called out firmly, almost desperately really, and turned in his bed in surprise to see Helga stand up suddenly from the couch. She rubbed the back of her neck and Arnold had to raise an eyebrow has he mentally tried to pinpoint just what the emotion on her face was. It was definitely a rare look for her to have he suddenly realized…She looked…guilty?
Helga took a deep breath and her eyes met his as she explained, while she still had the nerve on this night, "Look, I…I just wanted to say officially that I'm sorry about this whole April Fool's thing. I mean, the prank and everything—I…I shouldn't have put you through that. I mean," she couldn't help but smile at herself, "It was a good prank if I do say so myself and you deserved something after that thing with the box…" She noticed a blush come to Arnold's face at the mention of his prank and continued, "But I probably took it a little too far with some stuff this time…all things considered…and so I'm sorry."
Arnold smiled, and the look on his face bespoke not only forgiveness but even some pride in Helga's acknowledgment of her own conscience. He sat up completely once more, this time even swinging his legs over the edge of the bed so that he could face her fully…He figured that the apology she'd just given was important to her…and he wanted to be sure that she knew that his forgiveness was sincere. "Aw, it wasn't that bad. To tell you the truth I think I deserved it…No more pranks from me, especially not ones from my Grandpa." The two children shared a laugh. Arnold looked to Helga, his half lidded gaze returning, "Besides, it wasn't all bad—tonight was actually kind of fun. You're a pretty good dancer, you know."
Helga blushed and folded her hands behind her back, "Uh, thanks. You too."
He smiled at her with one of his signature half lidded gazes. She returned the smile and the two shared a tender moment.
Finally, Helga cleared her throat and did her best to resume her usual scowl and gruff voice. "Okay, okay enough 'tender moments' Football Head. You know, I think I'm gonna start getting soft or something if I keep spending so much time with you, Arnoldo."
Arnold gave a small chuckle and continued smiling to himself. "Right. Sorry Helga."
"Whatever." She folded her arms over her chest. The smile hadn't left her lips either though.
Arnold swung his legs back onto his bed and grabbed his blanket. "I'll see you in the morning, Helga. Happy April Fool's Day."
He was about to lay back down when he hesitated. He noticed that Helga's usual scowl had slipped just a little and seemed to be wavering back and forth with some other emotion…and also she wasn't lying back down yet. 'Come on Helga, come on…' she thought to herself, coaxing herself onward.
And then suddenly, like she had come to some sort of internal decision, Helga walked right over to the edge of Arnold's bed and cleared her throat and continued speaking…It sounded a little forced but very sincere…like it was how she was really feeling but she was just having trouble admitting to it. "Arnold…listen, between us…I'm really, really glad you came back to the dance." And with that she leaned down and gave him a very firm quick hug, emerging from the physical contact blushing furiously. Arnold just blinked several times in surprise at the action…but then…smiled. Helga glanced away, feeling so very shy and unsure about such a bold move on her part. She cleared her throat and brought a touch of seriousness to her eyes. "And, what I just did never happened, got it?"
Arnold's smile only grew though and he practically chuckled at the disclaimer. He just…nodded…feeling warm all over. "Uh…Whatever you say, Helga."
Helga blushed at his enjoyment, turned directly around and was about to march directly toward the couch when she felt her hand pulled back. She turned around and her eyes went wide as she saw her hand firmly clasped by Arnold's. Not letting go, he stood up with a very determined look on his face, took a deep breath, lifted Helga's hand up…came to his own personal decision…and gave it a quick kiss.
Helga's jaw dropped open in shock.
Arnold cleared his throat and did his best to get his blushing under control. "And, um, also just between us, I'm really, really glad that I came back to the dance too…and also, I have no idea why I just did that." He rubbed the back of his neck and looked at her nervously. "Weird, huh?"
A small squeak came from Helga's throat. Suddenly she couldn't control herself. She dove at him and wrapped her arms around his body in a bone crushing hug! The force of her lunge was so strong that it knocked both of them back onto Arnold's bed.
"Hey!" Arnold yelled, stifling a laugh at the reaction. Meanwhile, Helga just smiled wide as she lay pressed against him. Arnold smiled too. "If this is some kind of attempt at outdoing what I just did, I think you win, Helga."
Helga couldn't help a small giggle escaping her at the comment. She let out a sigh, tilting her head up now to look down into Arnold's face with a smile. "Sorry, you, uh…caught me a little off guard there…It's been a…a crazy night Football Head…"
Arnold chuckled a little bit, just smiling, looking up into her eyes…kind of…aware of the fact that she was lying on top of him. "Yeah, I…guess it has…" he agreed.
They both let out a breath, still looking at one another.
"You know, Helga," Arnold suddenly began, "I think you're wrong…about what you said before, I mean."
Helga raised part of her brow at him, unsure of what he was referring to exactly…and then she suddenly recalled that she was still on top of him and with a blush shifted off and to the side of him on his bed. 'Please don't let it be anything bad, please don't let it be anything bad!'
Arnold just smiled even more at that little curious, nervous look and movement of hers, though, ready to put her at ease. He turned on his side a little and looked into her eyes. "I think this," he mimicked the gesture she had made before of pointing back and forth between himself and her, "can work…fine. I…think we make good…friends, Helga…don't you?"
Helga's heart skipped a beat. "Really?"
And then Helga's blank expression changed back to a smile. She shook her head back and forth a little. "Always the optimist, aren't you, Football Head?"
The two of them shared a small laugh at all of the memories…just together and alone and kind of…happy, of all things, and both very thankful they had bumped into each other at the end of the night tonight…
And still not moving away from each other, strangely enough…
"Arnold?" Helga eventually whispered with a smile
He gave a small nod. "Yes, Helga…?"
She let out a breath…blushed a little…He had almost never seen her blush in her entire life…or at least certainly not when he was this close to her. "Uh…" she barely whispered… "I know we've said it a million times already so far but…goodnight…" Her head shifted involuntarily forward at the action of speaking.
Arnold just…nodded… "Yeah…goodnight, Helga…" There was a slight head shift on his part as well due to the movement of his mouth.
Their noses touched, foreheads nearly together.
And then her lips just barely puckered toward his…
Helga just stayed like that…and so did Arnold…right in between what would have been a kiss and what was just them laying side by side like before….tips of lips barely touching.
They were still looking into one another's eyes.
Did this count as something between them?
Arnold just…Technically their lips were touching, almost, sort of, albeit faintly, barely really…So did that make this a kiss? Certainly it wasn't like her confession kiss or that strange, accidental one before but…his lips and Helga G. Pataki's lips were sort of together…after a date…He didn't move. He couldn't. He knew that any attempt at doing so would result in more contact before it resulted in less…But that really was the only way out, wasn't it…
"Goodnight…" he whispered once again, not blinking, letting their lips touch as they would during the speaking of the word. He couldn't think of anything else to say.
"Goodnight…" she whispered back again before he could pull away, letting their lips brush as she spoke just as he had…but then he felt her lips lingered in a slightly-more-pressed-against-his-own kind of way.
Arnold's eyes went wide and everything inside of him seemed to hold its breath.
He felt her shift to leave him…and instantly before he really knew what he was doing he pushed forward just a little and gave the smallest, faintest, quickest, barely real peck imaginable back to her lips. "S-See you in the morning, Helga …." Was all he could come up with in his surprise as he quickly slipped away from her thanks to the bit of space her shift had created. He swallowed and cleared his throat and then crawled over to the head of the bed and quickly got under the covers, pulling them close and turned away from her…He still blushed like mad… He had a lot to think about.
Helga, meanwhile, was just… 'Did he just…?' She blinked many times. 'No, it…I was just…it was just him sitting up and moving and…an accident like before…y-yeah….' Heating pumping into her face the young girl quickly removed herself from the bed and put her arms behind her back shyly. "Uh…yeah, see you in the morning…" she added awkwardly and barely glanced at Arnold in bed.
He was just still hidden under the covers and hidden away from her…She thought, from her angel, that she could still see the edges of a blush on his cheeks. His only reply to her was to nod a little and pull the blankets more around him.
Helga gulped at this and quickly turned and dashed back over to the couch and slipped back into her makeshift bed.
Eventually the lights were turned out
A moment of quiet in the darkness passed. Then the sound of Helga's voice caused Arnold to open his eyes.
He shifted a little to look at her in the dark, "Uh huh?" he replied in a nervous, loud whisper.
"This…whatever all this was...er, is…it…isn't some bad April Fool's joke, is it?" A tone of suspicion…and also disbelief…was in her still slightly flustered voice.
The question actually made Arnold crack a small smile. "Now who's being paranoid?" He managed to ask ironically.
"Arnold," came Helga's firm voice from across the room. She was obviously smiling and feeling a little more comfortable again too…but still wanting a confirmation of some sorts.
Despite his nerves and fears and doubts he had to smile just a little more and feel his normal state return a little. "Well," Arnold sighed as he turned to glance his alarm clock to read the hour. "It's after midnight, so probably not." He replied in a playful voice.
Helga scoffed, "Jerk," she replied playfully.
Silence and then a swallow from Helga in the darkness. "Thanks for the…the date, Arnold…"
Silence again…and then a shy whisper from Arnold. "Um…you're welcome, Helga…A-Anytime…"
Helga's eyes went open wide as she tried to sort out in her head how seriously to take that 'anytime'… Was it 'anytime' as in he'd love to date her and marry her and let her have his children? Or was it anytime as in he was just being his usual super polite self?
Finally she just sighed and smiled and nestled into his couch even more, closing her eyes. 'Eh, today's been so crazy I can't think straight anyway—heck, I just imagined Arnold giving me a goodnight kiss BACK before….I'll sleep on it, things'll make more sense in the morning…' (It would take until sometime the next morning for her to really recall that she did technically have another 'date' with him tomorrow…which gave that 'anytime' of his a LOT more weight…and almost made her practically pass out when she realized as such).
Arnold meanwhile just wrapped his blanket closely around himself…and did his best to ignore how quickly his heart was beating. He wished it would stop…even though it wasn't that bad…Actually, it…He shook his head into his pillow. 'Why did I do that…? I mean…okay, she…gave me kind of a small, little…' he gulped, 'kiss…She likes me! That makes sense! But…but almost trying to do it back? I'm surprised she didn't punch me or something! And why did I even…' he let out a sigh, 'this has been a very confusing night…' The accidental kiss in the beginning, kissing her hand, and then that softest lightest little peck…barely really a kiss when you got down to it…But in a way it only made even MORE confusing the fact that it had made this little jolt happen in his heart! And that his heart was still beating from it….so many little skips and bumps. He swallowed and took a deep breath and eventually it started to fade away a little and he felt normal again.
He sighed softly as he started to drift off to sleep. So that made, what, three real kisses with Helga now in his life? Four, of course, if you counted the one at his couch before too. Did he want to count that one? It had been an accident…but still it… Finally, Arnold just shook his head once more and did his best to put it out of his mind. 'I'll just…get a good night's sleep and things'll make more sense in the morning. Me and Helga kissing…enough kisses that we have to…count the number…' The notion both made an amused and disbelieving smile come to his face, and also a blush come to his cheeks. 'I just…want to spend time with her…like tonight…It's…nice. I like it. I like when we're together….' He yawned, finally drifting past the half-way point into slumber… '…Like…our date tonight….' Dreams began taking over. 'And we could…kiss too…I guess…' He would be too far gone to remember that last thought in the morning. But at least the realization was tucked somewhere safely within him…It would just take a little more coaxing to get it out.
A date at the ice cream parlour tomorrow would certainly help though.
And his somewhat slow awakening to all of the new things that were going on inside of him certainly didn't stop his subconscious from putting a smile upon his sleeping lips here and now this evening, which could be seen in the moonlight as he shifted his blankets a little in his sleep (it nicely matched Helga's sleeping smile, on a side note).
A peaceful silence wrapped around the two kids in their deep sleeps. They would not awake until bright and early tomorrow morning.
Meanwhile, on the roof of the boarding house, a certain group of people had managed to organize a little something by around the time Arnold had first entered his room to find Helga there…
"Heh, Heh, I told you they'd end up making out! Pay up Kokoschka!" Phil blew into his mitten-covered hands to keep them warm. Despite being April, the nights still had quite a chill to them.
"Aw, but, Grandpa," Oskar adjusted his ear muffs and looked longingly at the two crumpled tens in his hand, "That wasn't making out—that was just them accidentally kissing and then being really close and maybe kissing on the bed later."
"Doesn't matter!" Phil shook his head with a grin. "We all agreed that more than one lip-lock kiss was making out, so give me my money, ya bum!" He snatched the bills from Oskar, laughing to himself as he did so. He took a bite out of a sandwich on a nearby table, and a swig of hot coffee from a thermos that was beside it.
"Well, Ernie owes me five dollars because I was right that they would kiss before being alone for more than ten minutes!" Mr. Hyunh turned to Ernie Potts, his hand out for his money, a warm sweater on his body.
"Ah, here ya go, Hyunh," Ernie reluctantly handed Mr. Hyunh a five-dollar bill, then used his free hands to pull his snow hat over his ears. "It was accidental but it was a kiss I guess…"
"Yes, but you own me ten, Hyunh, because I bet that at least one of the kisses would happen on the boy's bed!" Phil held out his mitten for the money.
Mr. Hyunh sighed and pulled out five singles and handed them to Phil along with his five-dollar bill. "Okay, okay."
Phil laughed to himself and counted his money, "Heh heh, I'm such a wily old coot!"
Suzy, who was sitting on a lounge chair beside Gertie and keeping warm with some cocoa, looked at the men with disdain. "I can't believe you guys bet on how far those children would get—they're ten-years-old! And besides, it's none of your business, right, Grandma?" She turned to Gertie
Gertie, however, just looked at Phil and grinned slyly, "Well actually, a little wager never hurt anyone right, General?"
Phil blinked and then looked to the side, trying to ignore her. "Eh? I don't know what you're talking about. Ten, eleven, twelve…" He continued counting, nervously now though.
Gertie wasn't to be put off though and she stood up and walked over to him with a grin. "Don't start that with me, partner! Fifty bucks, on the table right now!" She stuck out her hand for the money.
"Oh Pookie, you must just be imaging things." Phil waved her off with a patient smile. "You didn't make any bet for fifty dollars…"
"Tex, I bet fifty smakeroons that that boy would finally realize tonight that he liked her back against you who thought he would kiss her and still be in the dark. I admit you had the odds on your side, but it looks like I won with that smile he went to bed with on his face AND the fact that from what we could hear he asked her out for another date tomorrow morning! Now pay up before I have to rope and hog tie ya'!" She touched the lasso in her belt.
There was a moment of tense silence between them. Sweat began to cover Phil's brow as he watched his wife's hand dance over the lasso.
"Oooh, fine here!" He threw her the money he had won and added a few bills more.
"Yee haw!" Gertie shouted. Alright now come on everyone—that new pizza parlor delivers 24 hours and I've got a hankering for some three cheese goodness!"
The boarders all spoke their approvals and headed down the fire escape with her to walk back into the house. However, all of their weight on stairway at once was a bit too much for the rickety structure and just as the last boarder, Oskar, was finally coming down, it broke off his hinges, causing him to fall a few feet to the ground.
"Ow, I hurt myself. Grandpa, I ought to sue you." He rubbed his backside.
Phil rolled his eyes, "Oh stifle it, Kokoschka! And stop calling me Grandpa!" He studied the broken stairs. "Hmm…I'll have to fix that tomorrow." He laid the broken ladder section beside the building.
The group headed toward the stoop to go inside by the front door instead.
Phil grabbed the front door handle first and pulled it…but it didn't budge, "Hmm, that's funny," he said to himself, rubbing his chin. "Darn door always locking by itself." He reached into his pockets looking for the key, and when he was unsuccessful he turned back to Gertie. "Pookie, do you have the key?"
"Sorry, Tex, just got my lasso, a canteen, and this ten gallon hat." She smiled brightly at him.
Phil rolled his eyes and looked to the rest of their companions. "What about any of you? One of you has your door key, right?"
The boarders all checked their pockets but shook their heads, coming up empty.
Phil scowled and turned back to the door. "Alright, now just hold on a second, let me think…I had the key when we all came out side before to climb up to the roof to spy on the kids, and before I walked to the side of the building I noticed my shoe was untied so I put it down on the railing and…That's it!" he snapped his fingers and began to look in the darkness at the rails of the boarding house stoop. "It's on the railing somewhere. Quick, everyone, look for it!"
The group began to look furiously for the key when suddenly Abner, who had obviously just come springing out of his little dog door by the back entrance, pranced up to the boarders at the sound of all of their commotion and hopped onto the rail.
"Ah, there it is!" Phil suddenly saw the key in the darkness and reached for it with a grin.
Unfortunately, Abner was faster and scooped up the shiny object in his mouth!
Phil blinked and looked at the animal. "Hey, give me that, Abner!" He tried to snatch the key back but Abner only squealed and ran around his feet twice and then back to the backyard and through his pig door into the house.
"No, Abner!" Phil turned back to the boarding house to see Abner now smiling in the front window, safe and warm inside, the key in his mouth.
"Oh no…" Phil looked at the pig with wide eyes for a moment…and then it happened. Yes, suddenly Abner swallowed the key, eliciting a pained sigh from the boarders and Phil and Gertie!
"Oh for the love of Pete, follow me, everyone!" Phil led them around the front of the house back to the side where the broken end of the fire escape still rested. "Arnold, Arnold! Wake up and let us in!" he called to the roof as loudly as he could.
"Yes, Arnold, please!" added Mr. Hyunh.
"Slumber easy, Kimba!" Gertie only called to her grandson, "These cowpokes could use a night outside to toughen them up! Ha ha ha ha ha!" She laughed wildly to herself
"Pookie, you're not helping!"
"Arnold, please—Suzy will give you five dollars!" Oskar suddenly attempted.
"Oskar!" Suzy elbowed her husband and then crossed her arms in front of her chest, scowling. "You all deserve this for spying on those poor kids, anyway!"
"Arnold, come on!" Mr. Potts added. "There could be stray, ravenous dogs and cats out here and they always take out the small, adorable one first!" He gulped nervously.
The boarders continued yelling up toward the attic but Arnold and Helga could not hear them, so content were they in their sound and happy sleeps, both with the person they had wanted (whether they had known it or not) to take them home.
Alright, well, that's it and I hoped you guys enjoyed this ^w^ I'm so happy to finally have it posted XD Thanks for reading! :) Oh and one more thing...I'm thinking "April 2nd" update sometime in January? I checked over the last stuff I had written for it and it didn't need quite as much work as I thought it might so hopefully I'll be able to have that to you guys soon :) After that though I'm gonna need a break again for a little bit to focus on school and work stuff. But I'll be back again in May :D
Love you guys! Happy New Year's!
And Happy Reading!
~Azure129 aka Jenna