This is my first Hey Arnold fan fiction, hope anyone who decides to read this, enjoys it (wonders if now people are now looking at the screen thinking I'm crazy, because they are reading this which means they'll probably be reading the fic). I've made a few proof reading alterations, but apart from that I hope you enjoy.
Arnold sighed and looked over the room in front of him that was piled high with his Grandma's things. It had been three years since her death and it was only now that he had been able to walk into her room. There was no dust or clutter, Lila had taken care of that. The room was practically spotless; accept for the boxes pilled high with all the possessions that his grandma had collected throughout her life. He felt a pang of anger directed mentally towards Lila, he'd wanted his grandma's room to be the same as he left it, but now the walls, bed and shelves were empty, making it even more obvious that nobody lived there any more.
He paused at a box containing all the decorations for the wacky festivals his grandmother seemed to always be celebrating. He remembered his fifteenth birthday and how his grandma had decorated the roof with wedding decorations. It made a smile stretch across his frost bitten lips. He looked out of the window and noticed that it was still snowing. The snow matched how he felt on the inside. The boarding house used to be so full of love and laughed, yet over the years it had slowly faded, just like the boarders.
'Arnold, do you want me to bring you up some tea?' Lila's silky voice echoed up the stairs.
'No thank you.' For once in his life he didn't want her company, the thought completely revolted him. He wanted to be just left alone up here for five more minutes, lost in his childhood memories. He reached into the decoration box and felt an overwhelming madness take over him. He picked up a long string of tinsel and threw it across his grandma's now empty bed. His movements got faster as he threw and scattered all around the room the remnants of decorations that never did quite matched the season they were meant for. The box was now empty, he breathed deeply, feeling a pain pierce his heart and lungs. Now there were five boxes left. He looked at the labels and paused at a small cardboard box that had become damp and weak over the years. His grandmother's spiky handwriting was smudged, but he could make out that the first word said 'To'.
He paused, wondering if his grandmother had left him something to remember him by. He was about to rip the box opened, but paused and looked at it again. What ever was inside could be private, could be meant for someone else who wasn't him. He groaned and sat down heavily on the bed; he was tiered and wasn't thinking straight.
The box was still in his hands and felt oddly light. He started to tug at the old and worn tape that kept the box together. It didn't take long for the box to come apart. He looked inside eagerly, but almost dropped what was left of the box with disappointment, when he noticed that it was only a small velvet black square jewellery box. He gently pulled it out and held it in his hands; he knew his expression was blank.
'Arnold, dinner's ready!'
He groaned and quickly forced the box into his jean pocket. Arnold felt a guilty pang as pleasure as he walked into the kitchen, feeling the knowledge of the small velvet box almost burn through his jeans.
He sat down at the table as Lila's green eyes looked at him in an almost understanding way. He wanted to laugh.
'Are you okay honey? You're looking awfully tired and ill.'
Arnold forced himself to smile. 'I'm just tired from the journey back, that's all.'
Lila bit her lip and looked as if she was searching for the right words for what she was thinking. 'Gertie would have been proud of you.'
Arnold flinched with the feeling as if he had been slapped. He picked up his fork and scoped a pile of mash potato into his mouth so he didn't have to reply. The potato tasted bitter, just like Lila's bitter sweet personality.
'I was wondering how long you were in town this time Arnold? I mean it's not that I have a problem with running the boarding house. But it feels ever so lonely without you here and I need to start thinking about the baby.' She looked down towards her stomach, where a slight bump was starting to grow.
He cringed, not wanting to think about the baby that would be part of the world in less than seven months. He wondered slightly if it would look like him in any way, but he made himself push those thoughts out of his mind.
'I never know when you're going to be here or in South America. I think it's ever so wonderful that you may be close to tracking down your parents; But what about your responsibilities here?'
He quickly stood up and pushed his chair to the table. 'Thank you for the meal.' He said in a mechanical way. 'I will think about what you've said.'
Her green eyes filled with an emotion that Arnold recognised as relief. 'Thank you Arnold' she whispered. 'You know I'm only doing this because I love you.'
He nodded and left the room quickly, finding that his feet were leading him to his grandma's room again. This time he picked up the box that was labelled 'Photos' and opened it. The first thing he pulled out was a picture of his grandfather as a young boy; he smiled again, touching the picture, almost in a hope that it may come alive through his fingers. The next was a picture he'd never seen, a picture of his grandfather, with his arm around the girl who used to, Arnold almost dropped the picture in shock as he realised that the girl was his grandma, the very same girl who used to pick of Phil as a child.
He closed the box, but kept a firm grip on the picture and the new information he had discovered. It made him think of Helga, he closed his eyes, trying to block the image of the blonde-haired woman that he had been in love with since the age of eleven. He couldn't be with her; she'd moved on and he had responsibilities. The memory of his grandma's funeral was forcing its way to the front of his memory, but he would not let it surface.
Lila didn't realise that for the least three years he wasn't running from the ghost of his grandparents, he was running from his feelings for Helga G Pataki. The girl who had kissed him on the FTI building, the woman who he'd kissed in front of his grandmother's grave, knowing that she was meant to be getting married two months later. Surprisingly he hadn't received an invite to the wedding. Even more surprisingly was that she had kissed him back with even more passion.
He looked again at the photo and tears started to swell up in his eyes as he wished that the figures could come alive again in all their youthfulness. He realised now what a mess his life had become. He hadn't ever mourned for the death of his grandparents or the death of the piece of himself that disappeared the day his grandma had taken her last breath.
A tear gently rolled down his eye and landed on the image of his grandfather. Maybe he should talk to Lila, he cringed realising how little the woman had tried to understand him. As a boy he'd always had a crush on women he had viewed as perfect; Lila, Ruth, Summer, but as a man he'd realised he didn't want perfect, he wanted Helga. Lila was still as beautiful as she had been in their youth, but he hadn't wanted her since the age of eleven. That was why it was ironic, Lila was the only woman in his life, but she wasn't his.
Arnold stood up quickly, wanting to shake himself away from his memories. He looked at the image of his grandmother. 'What would you do?' he whispered, he felt a movement as the velvet box slipped out of his pocket and fell to the floor. He looked at it in shock, as he'd almost forgotten that it was there in the first place. He picked it up and again had the little black box in his hand.
A number of conflicting thoughts passed through Arnold's mind in those few seconds and before he could stop himself, he had reached out and opened the box. He looked in astonishment as his eyes caught sight of his grandma's wedding ring; she hadn't been buried with it. The ring was simple and held two emeralds and a ruby in the shape of a red heart. It must have taken his grandfather years to afford it. He touched it in wonder, but his finger met a small piece of paper that was sticking out from the side of the ring. He gently tugged it noticing it only had two words on 'For Eleanor'. There was no mistaking his grandma's handwriting, but why had she taken the ring off for a mysterious person who Arnold had never met.
He closed the box quickly, and pushed it back into his pocket. He needed to talk to Lila; maybe she would know who Eleanor was. He found her in the lounge watching television with a childish looked etched across her face. She forced herself to smile as Arnold walked into the room.
'Lila do you know who Eleanor is?'
She looked at him with a confused expression. 'What are you talking about?'
'When you used to sit in with Grandma every Thursday, did she ever mention who Eleanor was?'
A guilty expression passed through Lila's eyes. 'Arnold, I-'
'You never sat with her, did you?' a cold feeling washed through him, he'd been desperate to keep his job as a doctor and he'd only needed someone to take care of his grandmother on a Thursday. Lila had been the first to volunteer and as far as he was aware she'd been there all the time.
Lila swallowed, guilty tears starting to form at the side of her eyes. 'Oh Arnold, I'm ever so sorry! I never sat with her, I asked Helga to do it instead. Gertie always seemed so much happier when Helga was round and she never really did like me in the way I ever so wanted.'
'Lila I'm not angry,' Arnold whispered. 'I just wish you or Helga had told me.'
She stared at him and he suddenly noticed a flash of anger briefly pass through her eyes. 'Always about Helga, isn't it Arnold?'
He looked away from her, not wanting to look at green eyes which he always wished were blue.
'I liked you liked you all the way through High School Arnold and your attention was always on Helga. I used to watch you two, both of you too afraid to admit your feelings. Then you moved away to find your parents and I thought both of you would move on and maybe one day you'd come back for me.' She breathed out finding that her anger was causing her to shake. 'Then you came back when your grandma got sick and decided to complete your studies to become a doctor here. I was getting married when you came back Arnold,'
'I know' he whispered in reply.
'All those years of waiting and you only came back for your Grandma and Helga.' She suddenly smiled. 'But now Helga's unavailable and I'm the only woman in your life-' she stood up and walked towards Arnold and filled the gap between them 'we could-' she gently stroked his shoulder 'start from the beginning.' She closed her eyes and leaned towards his lips. The front door suddenly slammed and Arnold pushed her away feeling completely repulsed.
'The only girl I've ever let kiss me is Helga,' he hissed at her. 'Only two of those times did I responded and kissed her back. Even if it means I'm alone for the rest of my life, I'd rather Helga's lips be the only ones I touch from now on.'
The Lounge door opened and both Arnold and Lila forced themselves to smile.
'Arnie!' squealed Lila as his cousin pulled her into his arms and kissed her passionately.
'How are my beautiful wife and baby?'
'Oh Arnie, we're ever so fine and happy now you're back.'
Arnold quickly walked out the room and away from Lila's accusing stare. He had reached a low point of his life, but never would he give into the demands of the woman who had become so selfish as she grew into a woman. He grabbed his coat and headed towards the door. He felt completely repulsed that Lila had tried to kiss him, he felt dirty. His feelings were a sharp contrast to those of when he kissed Helga. He always felt free and fresh, even when he knew she was getting married he'd never let himself feel any guilt. He had changed over the years.
He paused as he reached the park, it was completely empty, but had footprints of the children who had played there during the day. He sighed as he sat down on an icy bench, if he hadn't ran away he could have had a family of his own. He smiled thinking of a warm Christmas, instead of the one he was probably going to end up spending with Lila. He was twenty seven years old, no life, no friends, no wife, and no children. He looked up the sky and noticed that it was snowing again.
He stood up, realising that thinking wasn't helping him to achieve anything, maybe it was time for him to find someone and settle down, even if it wasn't-
Pain. Pain was what he felt as a woman flew right into him and they both fell into snow.
'Hey buddy! Why don't you just watch where you're going! I mean anyone could have seen that I was-' she suddenly paused and Arnold opened his eyes realising that the woman was sprawled on top of him. 'Arnold?'
Blue eyes met green and a mixture of emotions ran across both of their faces.
The blonde woman quickly stood up and offered Arnold her hand; he gladly grabbed it and allowed himself to take in each detail of Helga G Pataki's face.
'What are you doing here football head? I thought you were too busy swinging through the trees with your parents to ever come back here.'
'I still haven't found them Helga.'
She ignored his comment and picked up her books that she had dropped in the snow. 'I didn't think you would come back.' She said quickly.
'I come back quite often Helga; I have to make sure that Lila is running the boarding house properly.'
Helga pulled a face. 'I bet little Miss Perfect is doing a swell job at it, let me guess the two of you are married? Ten kids all on the way.'
'Actually she's still with Arnie and they're expecting their first child.'
She pulled her books closer to her body. 'Oh.' She paused for second, 'Why don't you ever visit Gerald and Phoebe? They've got two children now,'
Arnold wanted to turn away and ignore her comments about an old life that he had given up for a reason that he now could not quite figure out. 'Do you have any children Helga?' the question had slipped through his lips before he could stop it.
Her face softened and she smiled gently. 'A little girl.'
Arnold felt a pain shoot through his chest 'Oh.'
'What did you expect Hair Boy? I'd wait around like some princess wanting to be rescued?'
'No, I-' He looked at the woman in front of him, her blond hair reached to about her shoulders and her Uni-brow was still sitting proud where it belong. To another man he guessed her appearance may have seemed average, but looked at her now with her eyes glowing and her cheeks flushed red with the cold, Arnold thought that he had never seen such a beautiful woman. 'I wanted to say thank you for looking after my Grandma every Thursday.'
'I didn't look after her Football head; I spent time with her because I wanted to. I mean not many of my friends grandparents make me laugh like she did. I mean she was the only one who ever called be Eleanor and told me about her and Phil. Arnold?'
Suddenly everything clicked in Arnold's mind and he felt the weight of the box pressing heavily down on his pocket. His grandma had left him some guidance, but he had only found the box when it was too late.
'Helga. I want to tell you something and I might make a mess of it, but please could you just listen and hear me out for a little while?'
Helga looked at him with almost an expression of concern and confusion. 'Arnold?'
'Helga' his eyes met hers and suddenly felt the strength that Helga most have felt on top of the roof of the FTI building. 'I'm in love with you; I have been ever since the summer of the FTI building. You were mean and horrible to me through most of school, but at the same time you were also loving and caring. I wanted to say sorry for the two times I kissed, you. I'm sorry I kissed you at the airport as I was leaving, when I really to say was that I was in love with you. I'm sorry that after the funeral I kissed you, when I should of asked you to leave him and I know now that you're married, and this all doesn't matter any more.'
'But I have not been able to stop thinking about you for a long time Helga. I went through the whole High School trying to find the right moment to tell you, but I was a coward as usual.'
'I'm sorry that-'
He was silenced as Helga pulled him towards her and kissed him with a lifetime worth of craving. Arnold stood there shocked for a second, before he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her back. Her books fell to the ground. He didn't care. She was married. He didn't care.
As they pulled apart Arnold noticed that both of them were crying.
'Helga,' he put his arm around her and tried to pull her close. 'I'm sorry, I-'
'Don't be sorry Arnold,' her eyes were shinning with strength, a strength that he'd never let himself lean on when he'd needed it. 'I've been waiting for you to say those words to me for so long Arnold.'
'What about your husband?'
Helga suddenly smiled fondly as if she was remembering something pleasant. 'We're separated, I caught him and Olga in bed together a few weeks after the wedding, let's just say he's too afraid to even step foot near my flat any more.'
Arnold suddenly smiled as though a part of him was finally being set free. 'Helga that's brilliant. I mean not him cheating on you but.'
Helga rolled her eyes and suddenly noticed that her books were fast becoming wet in the snow. Both her and Arnold bent down to pick them up.
'Helga.' He paused not quite knowing what to say. 'If you're single now, I was wondering if,' he paused trying to find the right words. 'I was wondering if maybe you'd like to go for a coffee with me?'
'You've been back ten minutes and already you're trying to fix a date with me. Do you do this often?'
'Only to a certain girl who still is wearing a pink ribbon in her hair.'
He stood up and wiped down his trousers with his hands. He sighed and held out a hand to Helga who gladly took it. They looked at each other with intensity, each trying to verify if the other felt the same.
'You dropped something.' Whispered Helga, pointing to the snow where a small black velvet box was lying.
'Oh.' He quickly snatched it from the snow. 'It's something my grandmother left for me, I think I might use it in the way she wanted me to one day.' A soft smile spread across his lips.
'I hope it's a cheque for a million dollars so that you can finally get that football head of yours fixed.'
He smiled and gently took her hand in his. Not a word was said between the two as they walked away from that spot in the park, but for a brief few moments in time both of them had found some inner peace.