A/N: Hey y'all, new story year. Now, before you say anything, I can promise you that it won't affect my other story, Cannonball! It was just an idea I have had for a long time that I wanted to write down before it was lost completely in the garbage can of my mind. Anyway! This is a little more on the serious side, but not gravely angsty. And I'm sorry this chapter is short, but hey! What else do you expect? It's just a prologue ! Anyway, enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own Hey Arnold! and I don't own the title (Kissing the Lipless belongs to The Shins, I used it because the lyrics fit)
-- "Kissing the lipless, who bleed all the sweetness away" --
Helga G. Patacki was sitting in front of the TV, legs wide and propped on the coffee table, when the phone rang. She felt her eyes droop a little more as she stared at the phone, wishing that it would dislodge from its charger and float over to the couch. She was exhausted; she had stayed up all of the night before working on her newest novel. All she wanted to do was relax for a little bit.
But the phone had other plans. After it went to voicemail, the culprit on the other line began calling once again. Helga closed her eyes briefly, and then hauled herself off of the couch, with a little trouble. She muttered to herself about how she never got some peace and quiet.
"Hello?" she answered impolitely, hoping that it was someone she wouldn't mind hanging up on.
"Helga?" came her mother's shaky, frail voice. Helga sighed.
"I have some bad news, honey," her mother replied, sounding more vulnerable than usual.
"What is it?" Helga demanded, still impatient. Bad news seemed to be the only thing that came from her mother these days, but it was usually never something that concerned Helga.
"Grandpa Robert died," she whispered. Helga could practically envision her mother's tears dripping onto the phone as she struggled to gain composure. She gasped and sputtered for a moment before continuing. "Last night, he went into cardiac arrest, but by the time they found him, it was too late."
Sure, Helga would have liked to feel sentimental about this. It would have even been nice if she could choke up a few sappy words about the guy, but truth was, he was kind of a dick. A jerk, an ass, a loser, whatever the terminology, Helga just didn't like him. Like her father, he was loud and boisterous and cared only for his money and his power. But for some reason, he took a liking to Helga's sass.
"Oh," she said. She felt awkward. What do you say when a grandparent you don't particularly care for dies? She thought for a few moments, and finally came up with: "I'm sorry?"
Her mother didn't say anything for a while, although Helga heard her shaky breathing on the other side. Such a sap, her mother. For the record, Helga was positive that Miriam hated grandpa Robert as much as the rest of the family did.
"Anyway, I have some other news as well," her mother continued, sounding more confident. "He left you his house here in Hilwood."
"What?" Helga asked incredulously. She was positive that her ears deceived her; why would he leave her anything? "Miriam, don't joke with me."
"What makes you think I am?" she asked in a grave tone.
"Why wouldn't he give you that house? Why me?" she asked, not sure why she was complaining. From what she remembered as a kid, that house was gorgeous. Three stories, right in the middle of a "Stepford Wives" sort of neighborhood. It wasn't exactly Helga's style, but neither was this shitty, rundown apartment in the middle of Ghetto Town USA.
"He gave Bob the remainder of his money," her mother said in a guilty-pleasure sort of tone. "And figured that it was only fair to give you the house. Bob was his only child, and it would have gone to Olga but, well… you know how he feels about her."
Helga snorted. There was no doubt about grandpa Robert's feelings towards Olga. He thought she was a nutcase.
"Heh," Helga replied, still not sure what to say. Hilwood? She hadn't returned since she moved to the west coast at eighteen for college. She could just picture it now, with its picture perfect families and just-right atmosphere. The trees and grass were always so green that they looked fake, and the sun never stopped shining, even when it rained. She frowned. Her childhood shrouded her mind as her mother continued talking.
"I know it's a big decision but just think about it for now, okay?" her mother persisted.
"Yeah, yeah, okay. I have to go now, bye," she said hastily before hanging up the phone.
She tossed herself back onto the couch, but this time she had no intention on finishing her TV show. She thought of her first day of preschool, her first bike ride down the stretch of endless road, and the day she graduated. Sure, she hated it all when she was there, but now…? It was a nice place to raise a family, she supposed.
And then she snorted to herself. A family? She didn't even have a boyfriend, or anything close to it. She sighed. Too many thoughts raced through her mind, and it caused her head to spin. So instead of making a decision, she got up and went to raid the fridge.
She pulled out a coke, along with a takeout container filled with Chinese food. But before she could sit back down on the couch and chow down, she took a look around her apartment.
It was disgusting, to say the least. There were articles of clothing everywhere; it almost looked like the couch cushioning was meant to look like a bunch of plaid shirts and denim jeans. Her coffee table had numerous circular stains on it from the lack of coasters, and her carpet was multicolored due to all of the spilled liquids.
Her room was a different story. The desk was practically falling apart due to over-aggressive writer's block (she liked to hit things when she couldn't think), and the bed looked as uncomfortable as a prison cell cot.
It's not that the apartment was unpleasant, though. If Helga had the time and interest to embellish it, it would look rather nice. But it wasn't like she ever had guests over to marvel at her interior decorating.
Setting down her cold noodles, she walked to her room and sat down at the desk, hoping that maybe this sudden stress would give her a spark of genius.
It didn't. Instead, she sat at her computer and imagined her old house in Hilwood. Her room had been pink with dolls and unicorns adorning every wall, even when she so desperately hated all of those things. And then she laughed as she remembered her closet with the shrine. What was his name again? Adam? She didn't care.
Aimlessly, she opened up her documents and sifted through some old short stories she had forgotten about. There was one about a summer vineyard, another about a failing marriage. She laughed at these. Helga had always been what she liked to call an "impulsive writer". If something came to mind, she typed it up, but when she looked at it later it was usually garbage.
Another one about a firefighter, and then one about a farmer. And there was one that was only a sentence long that said, "I wish I understood the logic behind rejecting those who love us."
She snorted. Maybe she did need a change of scenery.
Instead of calling her mother back right away, she decided to sleep on it. After all, she was pretty delirious after the many restless nights on her computer, suffering from a writer's block that couldn't be quenched. Sleep found her within minutes.
Unfortunately, she was still undecided the next morning. She woke with a headache; a throbbing in her temple as if her mind knew that she had a choice to make. She cursed her endless thoughts.
Without thinking, she picked up her cell phone. She was about to do something she knew she would probably regret, but she didn't care. Her thoughts were eating away at her by this time, and all she wanted to do was make up her mind.
She decided to call Phoebe.
They hadn't talked since Helga's first book was published. Needless to say, by the looks of her apartment, it wasn't a hit (and neither was the second, or third). But Phoebe found her new number and called excitedly; they recounted the years that they lost in between high school and then. Since then, they hadn't spoken.
"Hello?" Phoebe answered.
"Hey Phoebe, how have you been? It's Helga," she greeted, trying her best to sound casual. There was silence, and then a disgruntled murmur.
"I've been fine," she replied simply. Helga waited a few moments to see if she would say anything else. When she didn't, Helga said,
"Well, that's good. Hey, listen, do you still live in Hilwood?"
"Yes, why?" Phoebe asked, clearly a little annoyed. Helga resisted the urge to sigh.
"Do you remember my grandpa Robert's house? The one we went to for that one weekend when both our parents were out of town?"
Silence again. It was like pulling teeth trying to get Phoebe to say more than three words.
"Vaguely," she stated, as if she was bored.
"Well, he died yesterday, and apparently he left me with his house," Helga said all too quickly. The way she worded it sounded so insensitive, but she didn't really care. It didn't seem like Phoebe was interested, anyway.
"Yeah. And I'm trying to decide whether or not I should."
The air was still. Then, there was more hushed murmuring, before Phoebe cleared her throat obnoxiously.
"What would you like me to say?" she asked rather rudely.
"I, well, I don't know. You remember how it was in the old days; I had a problem and you'd help me out… I know we haven't talked in a while, but I'm desperate," Helga muttered, feeling wholly pathetic. It was obvious that her old best friend didn't understand, nor did she care.
"Well, Helga, I don't really know how to help you. Think for yourself… I'll see you when I see you. Maybe that will be soon."
And then she hung up. And Helga threw her cell phone to the ground. Running her hands through her frazzled, blonde hair, she gave out a grunt of exasperation. Think for yourself… the words echoed in her crammed mind.
"Screw it," she whispered to herself. And then she picked up her cracked cell phone to call her mom, and tell her that she was coming home.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed! I know it's a slow start. Let me know what you think!