"I stop to catch my breath
And I stop to catch your eye
No need to second-guess
That you've been on my mind
I dream days away, but that's okay."
The mind is a funny thing. Especially when it "drifts" as people say. One minute your thinking about something important, and the next, your head is cocked to the side, and your eyes are blank and you've been staring a the same thing for ages. That's a funny thing too! You could be staring at a small child or another person, and you wouldn't even know it! Yes, the mind is a very funny thing.
Except for right now. Right now, the mind (mine, in particular) is a very blank thing.
"Who to the what, now?" I said, shaking my head to snap myself back into the present. My statement made little to no sense, and I sought to rectify it, especially considering to whom I was speaking. "Yes?"
"Did it ever occur to you that maybe your classmates behind you would like to have their homework passed up?" Mr. Leigh asked, sarcastically. He was a relatively young teacher, compared to most, anyway, and probably thought that it was okay to talk to his students as if he were one of them. His khaki-colored socks, however, suggested otherwise.
"Sorry." I mumbled, before turning and quickly snatching the bundle of papers from the person behind me, and passing them to the person in front of me. I did this so quickly that I barely got to admire the face behind me, the one thing I always did when I go the opportunity. Stupid teacher, taking away the little bit of joy I got in my day.
It took me a total of fourteen seconds to realize what I did. Turning around, just as quickly before, I tried to apologize, but my words came out as a jumble of incoherent thoughts. "I didn't mean to…you know, snatch your paper. I mean, I know they weren't all yours, but I didn't mean to snatch them. I was just, you know…" No, Helga I don't think he knows, maybe you should just turn around and quit making a fool of yourself.
"It's okay." Arnold replied, and I found myself smiling. Maybe it was because he was smiling. He always seemed to be smiling. Not that goofy across the face grin he used to get back when we were kids, but a more content sort of smile. Like he was hearing his favorite song over and over in his head. I wonder what his favorite song is…
Crimeny, I did it again! Breaking the stare from Arnold's face, I blinked my eyes a few times before turning around, clearly embarrassed. If I knew anything at all (I'm seriously doubting it), it'll be another four hundred years before I'm able to talk to Arnold again. Wonderful.
"It's like I want to hear a silent sound
And then hold it in my hand,
But a rose won't blossom from a ground
Of desert sand, but I like to pretend that..."
Okay, so four hundred years was an exaggeration. More like, twelve days. It was the day that our Civil War reports were due. Everyone was assigned a battle, and had to research it. Mine was the battle at Antietam. It was, apparently the bloodiest day in American military history. Anyway, I was being much more cautious these days about how I "received" papers from the demigod...student behind me, but this time he actually initiated the conversation. This is especially rare.
Arnold was, much to my delight very much like the person that I grew up with, and, in turn, grew to be infatuated with. He still looked on the bright side, like when he told Rachel, the girl across the room that, although her hamster was dead, at least he lived a long, happy life (he forgot to mention that he lived a long, happy life in a cage next to her computer). He still helped people, like when Charles, the socially incompetent class moron spilled organic celery juice all over himself.
He was still Arnold.
The only thing that disheartened me about this was that he was like this with everyone. I'd be an idiot to think that after so many years, he'd be able to keep up with everyone from elementary school. Maybe be did. But I felt like I was just another person to him. Not "Helga Pataki Who Needed to Be Figured Out" or "Helga Pataki Who Acts Like a Mean Person, But Really Has a Heart of Gold". These days I was just Helga. I got a passing "hello" in the hallway, or got asked what page we had to read for homework. I tried to tell myself that beggars couldn't be choosers, but that did little to help. I was still infatuated with him, but above all else, I admired him. And I kind of wanted him to amire me a little too...
So, of course, I was surprised when Arnold addressed me for a request. And this was no simple request. He was asking for something big. To me, anyway.
"Can I borrow a pen?"
I was half turned in my seat, paying as little attention to Mr. Leigh as I could get away with, seeing as class was ending in less than five minutes. In my hand was none other than my most precious writing utensil: my purple pen. Of course, it wasn't the same purple pen from years ago, but it was my purple pen. I wrote nearly everything with this pen. Even if a teacher couldn't recognize my handwriting, they could look at a test and see purple ink, and know it was mine. It was my signature…literally.
Being caught red (or, in this case, purple) handed, made it impossible for me to deny his request. But he wanted to borrow my pen. What if the second that he used it, he felt the energy that I put behind keeping it perfect? What if he touched it and instantly knew all that I had written with it; observations about my teachers, criticizing remarks about my peers…everything about him? Would he think me mad? Would he laugh and jeer and taunt me?
I shook my head, and consequently, the ridiculous thoughts from my brain. Arnold couldn't feel what I wrote with a pen just by using it. There was no reason for me to think that anything bad would happen if I lent it to him.
Handing the pen to him over my shoulder, I watched it disappear from my eye shot to the sound of a hurried thanks. I waited until he would hand it back to say that he was welcome. I closed my eyes, hoping that my delusions would be just that, listening to the pen scratch the paper on which he wrote. He was pressing so hard! He was going to break it!
"I'm sorry, " I began, turning around, and putting my hand on his desk. "Could you…could not press so hard? On the pen? It's just that it's very…sensitive." I said.
Arnold smiled. I melted. "Okay." he said, calming my fears. Even if he thought I was crazy, hopefully he knew better than to cross me. He continued writing. I could tell that he was at least trying to write softer, but my curiosity got the best of me. I peered over my shoulder to peek at his writing.
I'm not sure what happened between the fourth grade and now, but my powers of stealth have severely waned.
"Are you going to watch me use your pen?" he asked playfully. I was almost too nervous to notice how cute he was when he joked.
"It's just…that's my favorite pen." I admitted.
"You have a favorite pen?" I nodded at him, but he just shrugged his shoulders, and smiled again. "That's interesting."
"Really?" I asked. I'm almost completely certain that my face looked like I smelled a really rotten egg. Arnold thought I (or something about me, at least) was interesting? I thought I was just another person to him…
"Yeah…I don't think I've ever had a favorite writing utensil." he said. "Maybe it's because my handwriting is so bad."
"It's not so bad." I said, nervously. 'Nice save, Pataki…'
Arnold shook his head and raised his paper. 'The Battle of Chantilly', it read. Okay, so maybe he had a point. It definitely wasn't great. "Your words of assurance are overwhelming."
I shrugged, and looked again at the paper. "If it's any consolation, you got a really good battle."
"Yeah…Chantilly. It's like…a two weeks from my battle. I had Antietam. It was the bloodiest battle of the war." Why am I talking about battles of the Civil War?! No one cares, Helga! Shut up! Talk about something else! "That's a really funny name...Chantilly, I mean. Do you think the people in Chantilly know that it's a funny name?"
By, now, I was definitely kicking myself. Maybe I should just slink off into a corner. This class could not end sooner.
"Maybe. Maybe they think Hillwood is a funny name." he answered.
"Maybe." I replied. I had nothing more to say (obviously, my brain used up it's Stupid Quota for the day), so I turned around and planned my escape. I was somewhat surprised that I forgot all about my pen until it appeared on the side of my head.
"Thanks for the pen." Arnold said from behind me.
The next twenty-six seconds passed in extra, painfully-slow motion.
The pen was in Arnold's hand when the school bell rang. The class began moving toward the door, when Marvin, the bookworm from the last row stood up too quickly. His books flew forward, and I watched as one, a heavy biology book, knocked the pen from Arnold's hand.
The pen clattered onto the floor and slid. One foot, two feet, three feet, right up to the teachers desk. I watched in horror as Mr. Leigh stood, staring at the handful of papers in his hand. Arnold and I called out his name in unison, but it was too late.
His foot came down and a sickening crack followed.
I clenched my jaw and looked away.
Exactly a week later, I sat in Mr. Leigh's class, staring forward at the pale purple stain by his desk. Mr. Leigh apologized once before calling for a janitor to come up with a bottle of extra-strength all purpose cleaner. Arnold however, was still apologizing, especially because, just a few minutes prior, I was expressing that my recently deceased pen was my favorite pen. If only he knew.
I balanced the blue-ink pen on my nose and waited for class to end. When the bell rang, I gathered my books and headed toward the entrance of the classroom. Arnold followed behind, probably trying to apologize again, but I didn't want to hear it. It wasn't his fault, for one thing, and I didn't like the fact that my favorite pen had to be destroyed for him to talk to me on a regular basis. It almost made me mad at him, but I knew better. It wasn't as though he planned for it to happen.
The bus ride home was short, which I was thankful for, and when I stepped out in front of my house, I bounded up the steps, ready to start my weekend. Before I could slip my key in the door, I noticed a manila envelope leaned against the door, bearing no return address, just mine, with my name over it. Finally unlocking the door, I turned the envelope over, inspecting it, before I even considered opening it.
"Miriam…" I called, knowing I wouldn't get an answer. Maybe someone else knew something about this, but I was sure that they didn't. Instead of waiting to get to my room, I perched myself on the staircase and began opening the package. The padding on the inside kept me from identifying it by shaking, and after ripping away about a ton of wrapping paper, I pulled out a slim, black box with gold trim. Immediately assuming it was some trinket from Olga's latest travels, I halfheartedly opened the box, but was blown away by it's contents.
Nestled in the velvet casing was a deep purple, ballpoint pen, the shell accented with swirls of lighter shades of purple. It was accented with gold, and after carefully removing it, I turned it over to find the letters "HGP" inscribed in the gold casing.
By this time I was smiling like a fool and reaching into the envelope for a piece of tissue paper to test the pen on. The paper that I retrieved from the envelope was much thicker than the wrapping paper, and was written on by a hurried and sloppy hand. I smiled at the handwriting, but even more so at the words.
You're probably tired of hearing me say this, but I really am sorry about what happened to your pen. I could tell that it was important to you, and I know it was my fault that it's gone. I know this won't replace it, but maybe you can use this one for now. Do you still write poetry? I was just wondering. I know you were always writing when we were younger. Anyway, I'm sorry again. Enjoy the pen.
P.S. The battle of Chantilly was 16 days before the battle of Antietam, not two weeks. See you in History class.
Somehow the hand that held my new favorite pen found it's way to my chest and I heaved a sigh after reading the words of the letter. He remembered that I like to write. And that my pen was purple. And he got me a pen.
Turning and running up the stairs, I headed for my room.
I was suddenly in the mood to write.
"One day I'll turn around, I'll
see your hand reach out;
I'm only fooling myself.
But maybe when you smile,
It means you'd stay awhile.
Just maybe you'd save me now..."
So…to be honest…I'm not in love with this, but I really needed to release some words from my brain. It's not really how I imagined it when I first thought it up. The song is called "Only Fooling Myself" by Kate Voegele. It reminded me of Helga, because there are a lot of instances where it seems like she doesn't think Arnold will ever like her (like at the end of Masquerade Party), but she never entirely gives up hope. But, the way it was before, Helga was so weepy and Arnold was so cold, that I just didn't like it. I still don't think their characters are perfect, but, oh well. I try. The Compromise is currently kicking my butt, My Back Home Sequel is begging to be posted, even though I'm, very scared to right now (the first three chapters are already written) and I have a massive headache. Time for sleep.
Hope you enjoyed. Thanks for reading.