The Argument

a Hey Arnold fanfic by Pyrex Shards

pre-read by Lord Malachite

A/N: This story contains a few explicit words of the French variety. I feel that they are appropriate to the tone of the dialogue.

July 6th, 1987

Twelve year old Olga Pataki lay on top of the soft comforter of her pink bed. She tried desperately to drown out the argument between her parents in the kitchen downstairs by focusing on objects around her, concentrating on them to muffle the sound. Her horse themed calendar read July Sixth, Nineteen-Eighty-Seven. That didn't help much. The pink polka-dot clock read eight-thirty-six in the evening. That didn't help either.

The orchestra all around me,

I sit upright and ready,

with my violin against my neck,

my bow in hand,

crisscrossing the strings,

the air crisp with anticipation,

but the orchestra wont play.

The sun was just under the horizon and she had breezed through her homework only hours before, leaving her with much needed "personal time" before bed. Through her window, the stars were out above the din of the city's light pollution. This didn't help her mood at all. The unexplainable arguing had continued for the entire week previously, all the way through the July Fourth weekend, each time right after dinner. She couldn't even listen to her stereo with headphones on because they were so loud. Her parents were masters at quarreling, she surmised.

It was the same strange argument at the beginning of the new week. After dinner, while her mother was in the kitchen trying to wash dishes, her father would walk in from the hall. Their conversation would start civil enough, but then their voices would rise. Olga would take that as a cue to bow out silently and retreat to her room.

Monday night turned out to be exactly the same, a repeat of last Friday. "You're being completely unreasonable Bee!" Her mother, Miriam Pataki, exclaimed to her father amid the footsteps climbing the stairs. Her declaration was loud enough for Olga to hear through the door of her room.

"I'm being unreasonable?!" Her father, Robert "Big Bob" Pataki, tried to keep his naturally booming voice low level as he expressed shock at her mother's words.

"It's okay though, you're just stressed from all that stuff you do at work." Miriam's dismissive voice as they walked passed her door, trying to smooth things over.

She heard her father groan at Miriam's dismissal. "My business has nothing to do with this Miriam!"

"It has a lot to do with this! You've been so gung-ho about your new business. I figured I would have a little quality time with my girlfriends. So we had a few drinks last night, so what!?"

"You came home at three!" Her father's voice rose to a pitch.

"I only had a few virgin sodas." Miriam said as they walked past her door. "Besides, I haven't had a smoothie since the doctor visit." Olga could imagine Miriam waving her hand again at her father, trying to dissuade him from continuing.

"What about Olga? She woke up this morning asking me why you were still asleep. That's not a good role model to set for our precious little girl!"

Olga blinked as she realized this was a new part of the argument. She had woken up promptly at six, expecting her mother to be up preparing another scrumptious breakfast. It didn't happen that morning, leaving Olga to wonder why her Mother was still asleep. The sound of her parents' door opening urged Olga to get off her bed. She scrambled to the floor vent and, getting down on hands and knees, pressed her ear to the cold metal grating. She silently thanked the mild July night in conjunction with her penny-pinching father for sparing the use of the air conditioner as the argument continued into her parents' master bedroom.

Their words echoed through the still air of the vents.

"I was worried sick about you Miriam. You didn't call me and let me know you were okay. And your narcolepsy has been completely out of whack since, well, you know." Bob's voice seemed to run out of steam as Olga imagined him pacing around their huge bed while Miriam sat on the edge. On the other side of the long connecting duct between the two vents, in the master bedroom, Bob was doing just that.

"I'm pregnant, Bee, and nothing's going to change that. End of discussion." Miriam stated while watching her husband pace around.

All those words fell out of Olga's mind amid the echo of that one word. "Mummy's pregnant?" She whispered to herself. A grin formed on her face as pleasant images floated through her head. "I'm going to be a big sister."

Across the way I see you,

sitting in your chair,

no instrument in your hand,

no sheet music before you,

staring.

Waiting,

"I think you should have an abortion." Bobs reply was devoid of emotion as he stopped in front of Miriam and looked down at her.

"Bee?" a quiet whisper from her mother as she lingered on his eyes for a moment and then broke eye contact.

"We cannot afford another mouth to feed. What with Olga's piano and violin lessons with that Kirkland woman," Bob brought up his hands and started counting "Olga's Violin has a crack in it, and do you know how much that costs to fix? Her dance instructor called earlier today and said she would like us to consider sending Olga to a summer dance camp. These things cost money Miriam." Bob brought his right hand up rubbed his thumb back and forth across his fingers.

"Bee." her mother repeated, though louder

"And what about my business? Big Bob's Beepers is just getting off the ground. I can't start a business empire and care for a newborn!"

Her father's voice echoed through the vent as Olga pushed herself up and leaned back against her bed, moving her arms around her legs and hugging them to her chest, trying to mentally shut out the sound of her father's voice scolding her mother's decision. She was not dumb for she knew full well what the word 'abortion' meant. She could still recall the word being gossiped about by her school friends, about some popular girl in junior high who had gotten herself 'knocked up' and had found a way to end her unwanted pregnancy.

Your face is blank space,

as the conductor waves her hands,

in anger,

at the arguing players,

the men and women of the symphony,

disturbed by their own needs,

wants,

but you don't see this.

Unknowing,

It didn't take long for Olga to make up her mind. When Miriam finally shouted "now you listen to me!" causing an awkward silence between the pair, Olga slowly stood up, straightened her green plaid vest and pulled the creases out of her white shirt. She approached her bed.

They refuse you a solo,

oblivious to your mystery,

as I slowly lower my Stradivarius,

my bow falls to my side,

I realize what must be done,

what the conductor will not do.

"I want this child." Miriam said in retort and finality, her voice cracking as she looked up once again at her husband, who was standing stock still in the center of the room.

Bob stared Miriam down and started his slow pace. "We can have more children later, when Olga's old enough."

Miriam stood to full height, walked forward and grabbed Bob's hands in hers, forcing him to turn and face her. He watched as she pushed his hands gently though sternly against her stomach. "No Bee! This child. I want *this* child. I'm not having an abortion."

Bob looked into Miriam's eyes once again and sighed. He stepped over to the bed and sat down, folding his arms. "Be reasonable. Just because you want a child doesn't mean we can afford one right now."

"What happened to all that precious reason when you fucked me?! You knew what might happen if we didn't protect ourselves!" Miriam stared down at her husband, straight in the eyes. "Do you remember what you told me afterwards? Remember?"

Bob looked at the floor quickly and mumbled "Heat of the moment, we were drunk."

"You told me that *someday* you wanted another child. You even picked out names." Miriam walked to stand in front of Bob, so close that their lower legs were touching, invading his space and forcing him to balance against the bed with his arms.

"Please don't do this." Bob said quietly. He chanced a look once again at Miriam's stomach, covered by a simple pink shirt.

"If it was a boy, and you said you wanted a boy, we'd name him Patrick. Remember? Your father's middle name?"

"Yes. I remember."

"And if it was a girl," tears were coming to Miriam's eyes, "if it was a girl we'd name her Helga."

Bob shook his head and looked up at Miriam. "It's too early Miri. We can't do this. What about Olga?"

"I'm sure she'd love to have a little brother or sister."

In her room, Olga slowly pulled a violin case out from under her bed. It was an old leather case, well worn, and a doting gift from her instructor. She left the leathered antique on the floor, released the lock with a click, and then opened it to reveal the custom made violin resting

The symphony stays a blur,

of flourished chaos and sheet music,

as I raise up my dear instrument,

high above my head,

I pray you see me,

I hope you know of my plan.

My intentions,

"When'll we be ready dear?" Miriam laughed and put her hands on her hips. She continued to push her lower legs against her Husband's, pinning him in his seat on the bed. "When will Big Bob's Beepers take off and go national? When will we know? Will the stork come and say 'now go and have a baby!?'"

"I don't know what damn time would be right. Okay. Maybe a year from now. Maybe years from now. But not right now. It'll ruin us!" Bob tried once again to gently pry himself from between Miriam's legs and the bed, but the former Olympic-class swimmer held him there with ease.

"This?" Miriam gestured to her then flat stomach and chuckled, smiling seductively. "How could this child ruin us? We'll use Olga's old baby stuff. I'll provide the milk." She ran her hands up and over her breasts, punctuating her point, and eliciting a stare from Bob.

Bob looked away from Miriam's chest and focused on nothing, steeling his resolve. "You're an alcoholic and a narcoleptic. How do you expect to last nine months? What if you fall asleep somewhere and injure yourself. What if the baby is born retarded? What will we do then? Face it Miri, the only way through this is to end it now, before it's too late."

Miriam looked down at the floor and turned away from Bob, the seductive smile draining from her face. "What happened to the Robert Pataki that I married?"

"That's not fair Miriam and you know it."

"Me? Not fair!? You've already picked names for our baby! This..." Miriam raised her voice, turned around and stepped in front of Bob, then forcibly grabbed his hands again. This time she pushed his palms up underneath her shirt, against the smooth skin of her stomach. "This is either Patrick or Helga growing inside of me. The son you wanted or another daughter like Olga. We should be so lucky. We hadn't fucked in ages, and after our first time in years this happens. And now you're telling me that you want me to end this!? You want me to abort this little miracle because it's inconvenient!?" Fresh tears welled up in Miriam's eyes.

Miriam's diatribe echoed into Olga's room as she looked down at her violin, still resting in its open case. A breath to still herself and purge all the thoughts of the trouble she would get in to, and she slowly brought up her foot. She furrowed her brow in determination and gently brought her foot down to press on the strings of the violin. There was one last moment of hesitation as she felt the texture of the strings along her feet before bringing down crushing pressure against the instrument. The strings flexed downward and seemed to resist her push, as if to protect the instrument from its master's betrayal. But soon enough the sound of strained and splintering wood filled her room.

I strike at the ground with a yell,

the sheet music stills,

the orchestra quiets at the sound,

of cracking wood,

the final varnished sound,

of a beautiful sacrifice.

Olga finally put all her petite weight down on the hapless violin. The strings gave way, snapping off of the tailpiece and slacking on the neck. Wooden bridge, sound post, and bout cracked. Thin pieces of wood splintered up with enough force to launch into the air. She shut her eyes in reflex as a piece flew past her ear, and then came to rest after falling into the air vent behind her with a hollow ting.

The strings vibrate and curl,

the neck snaps in two,

as shrapnel flies to omnipotence,

I release the soul of the instrument,

I see you catch,

a piece with your hand,

Curious,

The sound from the splinter of wood coming to rest in the vent fell silent upon the ears of the couple arguing in the master bedroom. Miriam had taken a seat on the bed while Bob was kneeling before her looking into her eyes. "We can try again later." Bob soothed as he gently let his hands fall to rest in Miriam's lap.

"What if there is no 'later?' What if we become sterile or our clocks run out? What if whatever the doctor gives me makes me impotent? What will we do then?"

Bob dropped his stare to Miriam's stomach and let his face curl into a scowl. "I should have used a damn condom." He grumbled.

"Robert Pataki you answer my question this instant. What if I don't have this child and there is no later?"

"We can adopt?"

Miriam shook her head and closed her eyes. "It's not the same."

"But we have Olga." Bob fought to keep himself from shouting back in frustration. "She, She's all we could have hoped for!" He forced a smile.

Miriam looked at her husband darkly. "You have Olga. I gave you Olga, I got a dyssomnia in return for those nine months, and just enough college credit to know what that word means."

Bob pushed his arms forward and clasped his hands over Miriam's "Is that what this is all about? Dropping out of college to have Olga? If my business picks up, why, you can go back to college, but can you do that with another kid?"

Still inside her room, Olga reached for the door handle and exhaled slowly. Behind her back, hanging by the few remaining strings that she clutched in her left hand, was the smashed violin. The pieces twisted around with her body movement as they hung there against her green vest, like an ornament on a Christmas tree. She pushed the handle down and then gently pressed the door open. The door squeaked and Olga walked out to the hallway.

She approached the closed door to the master bedroom and stopped. Wagering that this was not the time to barge in and show them her sacrifice. Beyond the door she could tell her Mother was waging her own battle with her Father.

"Olga could use a younger sibling." Miriam countered. "She's so awfully lonely most of the time. She tells me that most of the kids in her class stay away from her and she doesn't know why. When was the last time she had a girlfriend over to spend the night?"

"She had that Tammy girl over a little while back." Bob mumbled.

"That was two years ago! Then the Hitch family moved to Oklahoma."

But Bob simply shrugged. "She's just having a dry spell honey. Wait until her grades for this semester come in. She'll have more friends in no time. I can even put her in my advertisements. Kids these days love to be in the spotlight, and Olga being in my advertisements would make her popular. People would be lining up outside our door for a slumber party. And we can buy her a puppy in the mean time."

"Is-Is that all you see this as? An inconvenient and expensive pet for Olga's amusement!?" Miriam yelled at Bob and stood up, throwing his hands off of her and nearly causing him to tumble back onto the floor.

"I didn't mean it that way!" Bob gestured from his seat on the ground, palms forward.

"What did you mean by it then!?" Miriam leaned down until she was face to face with her husband. "We'll just buy a puppy for Olga if it means we don't have to have this child!?"

"What is this child to you then, Miriam!?" Bob countered, standing up and facing Miriam, though he stepped back, he was still close enough that the boom of his voice forced Miriam to step back. "You said I have Olga? Olga is our daughter, OUR daughter, you and me!" He stamped his foot then pointed at Miriam, then himself. "You want this child to yourself, isn't that selfish?"

Miriam noted Bob's shaking index finger. She blinked, stepped forward, then pleaded once more, arms extending out towards Bob. "Don't you want to hear little feet on the floorboards again?!"

"Not if it means sacrificing Olga's future!" Bob let his hand drop as he fought down his tantrum.

But Miriam walked forward and grabbed his arms. "That's all you think about! Olga's future!"

"We never finished college because of Olga and don't you ever forget that! Don't you want her to finish what we started!? We need to be good parents for Olga! So that Olga can go to college and make something of herself! Damnit!" Bob backed away from Miriam; her hands still clutched his arms, forcing her to follow him as he let himself fall to sit on the bed. Miriam could see rare tears forming in her husband's eyes. "I want a Pataki I can be proud of." His voice cracked.

Miriam lingered on Bob's eyes, then sighed and let go of his arms. She brought up her right hand and rested her forehead on the palm. "Just tell me Robert, you don't want this child, do you?"

"No." Bob replied simply as his arms shook nervously, the wind out of his emotion filled lungs. "I don't want this child."

Bob's wife let her gaze dwell on his pleading eyes, then turned to sit down beside him, hugging her stomach and lowering her head. An awkward silence passed over them, neither one dared to continue the conversation. Beyond the door to the hallway Olga had an ear to the door, along with her free palm.

Miriam brought her legs up to her chest and held them there with her arms. "I'll do it." She said, shaking her tired head in defeat, exhaling slowly into her kneecaps as Bob looked at her, stunned. She knew she was too tired to argue anymore. "I'll call the doctor tomorrow and tell him we decided against this."

"It'll be better this way Miriam, you'll see." Bob said as he embraced his wife, and encircled her in his arms, pulling her close. She let her legs fall to the floor as she leaned against her husband, the humanity drained from her face save for a stream of drying tears down her cheeks.

Their room filled with the sound of anxious knocking at the bedroom door.

Miriam quickly wiped the stray tears out of her eyes as Bob bellowed "Come in Olga," while still fighting the emotions out of his lungs.

The door knob turned slowly and as the door creaked open, Olga peered in. "Mummy, Daddy?"

"We're okay Sweetie. Your dad and I were just talking." Miriam finished wiping the remaining tears from her cheeks.

Olga pushed the door all the way open and walked in, a smile on her face, her hands behind her back. "I heard what you were arguing about, and I'm just so happy. I get to be a big sister."

Bob looked at Miriam in distress, Miriam returned the stare. They realized at the same moment that their daughter overheard everything. They were too loud.

Miriam looked at Olga with a slight frown, "I don't know what you heard. But I think it's just some indigestion. I don't think I'm pregnant, sweetie."

But Olga pulled her right hand from behind her back and waved it at them in dismissal. "Oh it's okay. I know you're trying to keep it a surprise but I couldn't contain my happiness at what I heard. In fact, I don't have to play the violin anymore, if it'll save money. It sounds like we'll all have to make some sacrifices around here." She looked at Bob as she ended her sentence. A bold feeling washed over her as she smiled proudly. She was setting things right and she knew it to be true.

Bob stood and walked towards Olga. "You put that out of your mind this instant little lady. There's no need to stop practicing anything." Bob's shaky breath caught in the back of his throat as Olga produced what she had been hiding behind her back.

The remains of her violin, hanging from a single string...

This is my offering,

the spirit of this stringed wonder,

to you the deserving one,

who's name I don't even know yet,

who's face I have yet to see.

End...

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A/N: The poem in this story, titled For You the Unborn, is available by itself via my fictionpress account. You can reach it from my profile.

Reviews are encouraged and much appreciated.

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Draft finished: 01/05/2009

Posted: 01/12/2009