A/N: The final chapter, of the final installment of the Back Home Sequel: It's Only Life. This chapter will be (short, for one thing…sorry!) started by your's truly, in an airport in Atlanta, and (hopefully) finished by the time I get to Florida…I've got 2 ½ hours till my flight boards, and then an hour and a half on the flight there. Four hours…let's make it happen.
Disclaimer: I do not own the following: Hey Arnold, The Brincess and The Frog (I wish), Avatar (I wish), or Kate Voegele's song, "It's Only Life".
It's Only Life
Chapter Six: It's Only Life
"Tears are forming in your eyes,
A storm is warning in the skies.
The end of the world, it seems,
You bend down and you fall on your knees,
Well get back on your feet..."
"Did you hear what I said?"
Helga snapped her head to her right, and smiled to let Arnold know that it was by no fault of his own that she was so tremendously distracted. An otherwise routine subway ride was made more intense, simply by the destination, their first trip of many.
"I said, we can meet up on 4th for lunch if you want." he said, repeating himself.
Helga nodded, attempting to smile, but momentarily allowing her nervousness to overtake her. She bit her lip until it stung, and she mentally scolded herself. She had more than one reason to be nervous, on that day, but worrying over them unnecessarily would do nothing but make her more upset, and possibly cause some bleeding.
"Don't worry…" Arnold told her for the third time that day, squeezing her hand.
"I'm not worrying." she replied, looking as though Arnold suggested something impossible. She settled into her seat, even though the voice over the subway car told her that she (and the thirty or so other people her age) were nearing the campus and would need to proceed to the nearest exit soon. Using her free hand, she gripped the strap of the bag over her shoulder and followed Arnold out of the crowded subway car into the terminal, and eventually, out in the busy street. She tried to pay attention to the school buildings they passed, remembering certain ones from her tour a few days back, while others looked unfamiliar and the names were foreign to her. She found herself looking to the grey morning sky, and biting her lip again.
It had been two weeks since she last spoke to Bob and Miriam. She was at work one day, when they came in, fresh from a midday outing. Helga was caught off guard; she was mentally preparing herself to see them, even with the foreknowledge that they would very soon be leaving her again. Where relief once would have stayed, planted, apprehension took it's place, and it scared her. She was no Olga; she had no intention of ever becoming such. She wondered why, then, the thought of Bob and Miriam leaving again, would make her upset.
Regardless. When they came in, looking perfectly composed, she suspected that relaying to Bob that she worked at "a coffee shop sent the two of them in search of every coffee shop in the tri-county area. She used her fifteen-minute break to chat with them, somewhat awkwardly. Miriam surprised her with a hug, one that she probably would have rejected in any other instance, but for the sake of mending bridges, she accepted it, and in return offered her a napkin to wipe her eyes. In those short fifteen minutes, they informed Helga that they would be leaving for Arizona sooner than expected…two days. Helga feigned indifference, but the two promised to keep in touch, as discreetly and as soon as they could. Nodding, she watched them walk away, no less effected than the time before, but stronger, nonetheless, and with a glimmer of hope.
In front of the stone building that read the university's school name in blue, Helga stood, still hand in hand with Arnold, who was talking to her. She looked at him apologetically and smiled, while he continued on.
"…the café on 4th, okay?"
"Yes, Captain." she said, rolling her eyes. Helga noticed that Arnold was particularly fragile with her, since he came back, and especially since her parents left. She tried gently letting him know that she was fine; that it was nothing that she hadn't been through before. The statement made fear flash across Arnold's face, something she did not expect. Unsuccessfully, she attempted to explain that she really was fine, but, after an evening out, Helga realized that Arnold always did respond to physical assertions then verbal, anyway.
"Don't look away, don't run away,
Baby, it's only life,
Don't lose your faith, don't run away,
It's only life."
"That was good."
Yeah, it was…" Helga said, quieter, adjusting to the wind of the late evening and pulling her thin jacket closer to her. The summer sun was still red in the sky, but the breeze had a chill to it that she did not expect. "It was better than I expected, anyway." she said, without thinking.
"What do you mean?" Arnold asked.
"I thought it would be kind of…I don't know, boring science fictiony, with a badly written and distracting love story thrown in. It was a lot better than I thought. That's all." she said, feeling her eyebrows coming together.
"Did you…not want to see Avatar?"
"No, I wanted to see it." she lied.
"No, you didn't."
Helga wrinkled her brow, fully, upset that he could see through her ruse. "It doesn't matter now. We saw it. It was good. Another score for James Cameron." she replied, trying to lighten the mood.
"We agreed that you were going to pick the movie." Arnold said, stopping on the sidewalk.
"I did. And I picked…to see a movie I knew you wanted to see. That's how relationships work. Sometimes you have fun, and sometimes I have fun, and sometimes both of us have fun. But, sometimes, one of us is having fun, simply because the other is having fun, even though the activity isn't, in essence, fun. Get it?"
He looked at her seriously. "I know, I just wanted you to…"
"…to not feel so stinky about having my parents leave, by getting my way and seeing 'The Princess and The Frog' again?" she inquired.
Arnold attempted to maintain the stern look that Helga usually reserved for him when he used "good" in place of "well", but, knowing that he didn't have nearly as much practice as she and, declared defeat, smiling at her. "Kind of."
Helga took a breath, and tried to calm down. A rant was brewing inside of her, and Arnold did not deserve it. "Look, Paste-For-Brains…I'm…well, I'm weird. When I say 'I'm fine', most of the time, I'm lying. But, sometimes, I really am fine. Did I want Bob and Miriam to leave? Maybe. A little. Did I want them to stay? Probably not. Do I think they'll contact me? Maybe not. That's not something I'm prepared to lose hair over, just yet.
"But, rest assured, what we see at the movies is going to do little to sway my mind one way or the other. So, there's no need to tip toe around me, or sit through another 90 minutes of singing frogs."
"The singing frogs weren't so bad." he commented, as they continued walking.
"Better than giant blue people with tails?"
"Helga, I'm a guy. Nothing's better than giant blue people with tails."
"Take your hesitance, and your self defense,
Leave them behind, it's only life.
Don't be so afraid of facing every day,
Just take your time, it's only life,
I'll be your stepping stone, don't feel so alone,
Just hold on tight, it's only life..."
Helga shifted the packet of stapled papers back and forth over her lab table. Her first class was destined to be the most daunting, and as a result, her least favorite. Her Human Biology and Anatomy professor was going on about a 32 page paper that was due at the end of the semester, and Helga allowed her mind to leave her momentarily.
When she and Arnold parted, he assured her that she'd be fine, and "they" would call. Although he was just seeking to further comfort her, she didn't think that she'd necessarily be receiving a "call" from Bob or Miriam. They said that their contact with her would have to remain as discreet as possible, and in that summer alone, Helga learned how paranoid her parents truly were. No, she doubted they'd call her anytime soon.
While she pondered how, and if, her parents would choose to contact her, the class was dismissed, the first assignments given out and books designated. Helga left the room, fishing her phone out of her back pocket. Lila was, every hour, on the hour, sending her photos of herself in Hawaii. Lila claimed that she always wanted to go to the University of Hawaii at Manoa, but Helga only heard of the aspiration rather recently. Opening the email on her phone, she entered her password and email account. Smiling at the Lila's photos of herself in a pretty violet sundress and her "esteemed classmates" (in reality, just the first ten or so attractive guys she happened to run into on the campus), she scrolled up to her most recent messages. Sorting through the junk mail and advertisements, the last one Helga came across was from an email address made entirely of random numbers and letters. There was nothing in the subject line, and Helga's first inclination was to delete it; thinking it to be a scam, or a virus. Against her better judgment, she opened it, and moved the screen down, cautiously. The picture at the bottom of the page brought a wide grin to her face.
Lila's had nothing on this one.
In the photo, against a bright orange and red-turned violet sky, stood her parents, as she was finally 'okay' with calling, smiling back at the camera. Under the photo, the brief message read:
'hi! arizona is beautiful. wish you were here. how was your first day of school?'
Helga smiled at the picture, and turned her phone off, tucking it back in her pocket, set on replying when she could devote her time and words to coming across as happy as she was, without seeming as giddy and excited as she knew she would be.
"Don't look away, don't run away,
Baby it's only life,
Don't lose your faith,don't run away,
It's only life."
That was even shorter than I thought it'd be. BUt, I think I've said everything I need to with this story. A very small part of me wanted to end this with helga getting married, and even though Bob and Miriam are in attendance, Olga still gives her away. Oh well. I've got about 45 minutes before I have to board…and there's a brightly lit magazine store about 50 feet away. I might distract myself with that, and once I get on the plane, write a bit of my 'Roses' prequel. It's really, good; you should check it out while I…chill at the airport, and hope that the rambunctious little girls across the gate are not seated behind me. I sat in front of a girl on my way here, and she kicked my chair so hard, I think my tailbone is broken. Bye!
In Florida...kind of bored...doing a lot of writing. Oh, and yes, I did see both of the movies referenced in this, and the perpetual 10 year-old in me thinks 'The Princess and The Frog' is better, but the huge nerd in me...still kind of thinks 'The Princess and The Frog' is better. But as far as aliens go, 'Avatar' definitely tops 'The Princess and The Frog'. Have a good New Years, everyone! Stay safe! I'll be here...in Florida...chillin' with my grandma. "Ain't no party like my Nana's tea party..."