Cindy looked around at the room before her as she plopped down on her almost bare bed, electing to take a short break. How on earth did I fit so much stuff in here? She silently asked herself, noting with a small smile the boxes waiting by the door, already filled with her belongings.
As she was taking her break, she made a mental list of things she still needed to do, her eyes sweeping across the floor and into corners that hadn't been visible for years. She sighed, long and heavily. She had a lot to do and practically no time at all to do it in. She glanced at a poster on the wall. It was old, a relic from the days of her childhood, but its worn form was such a familiar part of the room, Cindy didn't know how she'd fall asleep without it.
She was just about to get up and start stuffing more of her life away into neat little cardboard boxes when a childish voice stopped her. Out of nowhere, a small girl with two bouncing blonde pigtails ran in the room from the hallway. "Mommy, Mommy! I want this room! Come see, come see!" the little girl exclaimed happily, twirling about in delight in front of the window. In the sunlight of early afternoon, the little girl continued to dance and spin until Cindy could see her no more, and she smiled.
She remembered the day they had moved in. If she remembered correctly, that summer had been amazingly hot, and she was so excited to finally be getting her own room, it didn't matter that the large window let in so much sun that the room was at least 10 degrees hotter than the rest of the house.
As she glanced around the room again, more memories sprang up. She saw herself grow from that little girl, who was no more than three, to a five year old starting Kindergarten, to a seven year old with her new best friend Libby and her very own room.
Memories came pouring out of the walls, filling the room with almost-there images and sounds, and it was almost as if Cindy were watching a movie about her life.
There she was, sitting at her brand new vanity, trying on some of her mom's makeup.
There she was, ten years old, talking with a very young looking Libby and reading a magazine.
At eleven, still with Libby, staring at the boys in the house across the street.
At thirteen, twirling a phone cord around her finger and giggling at something that same boy from across the street said.
At fourteen, having Jimmy, Sheen, Carl, and her best friend Libby over to celebrate her birthday.
At sixteen, enjoying the newfound freedom of a driver's license and the sweet taste of a boy with blue eyes and brown hair.
At seventeen, experiencing true loss for the first time with the death of her grandmother and the moving away of the only boy she'd truly loved.
Cindy paused at this memory and frowned, slightly aggravated that it had been over a year and it still hurt to think about him, about her genius and what she thought they had.
She sighed, playing with the fringe on the bottoms of her jeans, as the memory of that day came back to her, as clear as if two people were acting it out in front of her.
A knock sounded from her door, and she grinned, knowing exactly who it was on the other side. She got up from the chair at her computer almost giddily and practically skipped over to open it. Her happy expression changed, however, when she saw the look on Jimmy's face.
He cleared his throat, and she noticed he had a hard time looking directly at her. "Hey, Cindy. Can I, um, can I talk to you? For a minute?"
As Cindy knew, "talking" rarely, if ever, led to something good, and a strong and sudden sense of foreboding settled over her. She forced herself to smile; after all, there was a possibility it wasn't something terrible, like…like…
"I'm moving," he said simply, looking down at the pink carpet he'd come to know as well as his own.
Cindy froze, the smile dropping from her face. "Wh-what? I don't, I don't understand. Moving?" She looked up at him, disbelieving.
He shrugged, and if Cindy didn't know better, she'd say he was trying not to cry. He took a deep, shaky breath. "I don't understand it either. Something about Dad, and his job, and a promotion. I don't see why… I don't see why he can't just stay where he is, why I can't stay right here, this is home…" He was floundering now, his eyes darting around the room in a desperate attempt to not break down, and Cindy was overcome with the urge to hug him and try to make his worries and fears disappear.
He gasped a little at the sudden touch, but instinctively and instantly wrapped his arms around her, clutching onto her like she was the answer to a difficult equation he'd been working on. "I don't want to go, Cindy, I don't want to go," he spoke into her hair, where his face was buried.
"Isn't there some way- anyway- that you can stay in Retroville? Like…like…with Sheen, or Carl? I mean, it's not very long until your birthday and you'll be eighteen, so you could get an apartment and then…and then… I don't know; it's not very long until we graduate, and you can move into a dorm then and…and…" Cindy trailed off, aware that she was grasping at straws.
"I tried that, but Mom and Dad are insistent. They won't let me stay here by myself, and they said it was too big a favor to ask Carl and Sheen."
Cindy held on tighter, afraid that with every word they spoke he would somehow get farther and farther away. She had to swallow hard before she could speak again. "Where are you moving to?"
His voice was rough when he answered. "Does it matter? You won't be there, so I don't care."
"Of course it matters!" she all but screamed at him. "If it's just a few minutes away, it'll be like you never moved at all, but if it's halfway across the country, then-then," she simply couldn't say it, because if she heard it out loud, it would mean it was real and true and it was happening- to him, to her, to them. His silence told her that, wherever he was moving to, it wasn't just a few miles down the road. It took everything in her to keep her from breaking down in a crying heap like she wanted to when she said, "I don't want you to go, Jimmy."
The couple stood in her doorway, silent and trying to express everything they needed to in the few moments they still had together before everything changed. They would gladly have stayed like that forever had Jimmy's phone not rung, interrupting their own, private world. He stepped back from her, leaving a few inches of space between them, and Cindy immediately felt the cold air hitting her where his body had been not ten seconds ago.
He still had a hold on her, however, with his hand on the small of her back, and Cindy realized this is how it would be from now on. He would always have a hold on her- her thoughts, her heart, her dreams- but there would also always be a distance between them.
The snap of his phone closing brought her somewhat out of her dismal thoughts. She looked up at him with wet eyes, and took a deep breath to steady herself for an answer she knew she wasn't going to like. "When are you moving?"
"Actually, that was Mom. She said, um," he seemed to be searching for a way to say this without inflicting more pain than he already had. He cleared his throat and started again. "She said the moving van was ready, and for me to hurry and move the last of my boxes. Dad wants to get on the road before rush hour."
She knew it was going to be bad, regardless of if he left in a few weeks or a few days, but she expected a little more coping time than that. "What? You're moving now? As in, right this second?" When he looked away from her face, she suddenly couldn't take it anymore.
"And you waited until now to tell me? Were you just not going to? What, were you thinking that I'd eventually get the hint when I didn't see you around anymore? 'Gee, I wonder why I haven't seen Jimmy, hmm. He must have moved away. Oh well.' That's not how it works, Neutron. I'm your girlfriend, and I love you, and you're supposed to tell me these things!" With every word, she was getting closer to losing it and losing him, for good.
"Cindy, I-" he tried, but she cut him off.
"Just forget it. If you have to leave, leave." She pulled away from him and turned to face her window, not wanting to see the hurt written all over his face like she knew it would be. She could see the moving van sitting in his driveway, and she felt like it was mocking her.
"I love you, Cindy, and I always will, regardless of how far apart we may be."
Cindy remained turned from him until she heard him sigh, and the soft click of her door closing told her he was gone.
They had tried to call each other several times those first few weeks, but eventually the calls became fewer and the time between them greater until, eventually and inevitably, they stopped coming at all. A year and a half is a long time, and things change… Cindy thought to herself as she got up reluctantly off her bed. She sighed, walked to her bookshelf, and began sorting through her dearly loved books, trying to decide which ones to pack and which she could live without.
She smiled as she finished organizing the things on her desk. Her dorm room was definitely smaller than what she was used to, especially considering she had to share it with another girl (who, by the looks of it, loved books even more than Cindy did, particularly books on poetry), but she really didn't mind. This was the start of a brand new part of her life, and, after a couple of weeks of acclimation, she was sure she'd come to love it as dearly as her old home town.
She flopped down on her bed, still smiling, and exclaimed to no one in particular, "I'm done!" She was startled when an out-of-breath reply came, seemingly out of nowhere.
"Yeah, well, I'm glad one of us is. Hey Football Head! You're moving slower than Big Bob after Thanksgiving dinner! What's taking so long?" Her roommate emerged from the hallway into their room, carrying a small box that looked like it was filled with books. Pink books this time, to be exact, and Cindy noticed the girl (who was also blonde) seemed overly fond of pink, as she had her hair up in a ponytail with a pink ribbon tied in and a pink t-shirt on.
Looking a little closer at her roommate's side of the room, she noticed a couple of pink books on her desk that looked like they matched the ones in the box, and a few other pink accessories adorning the desk, bed, and dresser. Raising an eyebrow, Cindy sat up and asked, "What's with all the pink?"
The blonde girl sat her box down on the floor and shrugged, turning to face her. "Eh, it's always sorta been my thing. Isn't that right, Football Head?"
"Football Head?" Cindy looked from the girl to a boy, also blonde, that had just stepped into the room, loaded down with a few large boxes and a duffel bag, also pink.
"Term of endearment, really. Kinda like goofwad, paste-for-brains, Hairboy… I could go on."
"Ah," Cindy replied knowingly.
The boy struggled to put his heavy load down without dropping anything, but apparently deciding it was an impossible task, mercilessly dropped everything to the floor with a thud.
"Arnold!" the girl shrieked, appalled. "There could have been very valuable, very breakable things in those boxes!"
Not appearing very concerned, he asked, "Were there?"
"Well, no, but-"
"Then there's not a problem. If you wanted your stuff handled with care, you should have helped me pack it up the stairs."
While the couple squabbled, Cindy took a chance to look at the boy. Blonde, like every other occupant in this room, he did, in fact, have a head shaped somewhat like a football. Atop the oddly shaped head sat a blue cap that was way too small for his head, but it seemed to suit him.
The argument appeared to be getting rather heated, and Cindy decided an intervention was needed before someone got hurt. "Hey!" she yelled at the couple, who promptly stopped talking and turned to look at her, questioningly. "Before this gets ugly, I feel introductions are in order. That way, if I need to call 911 because one of you attacks the other, I can at least give them a name to go with the body."
Both the girl and the boy smiled, and the girl stretched out her hand and said, with just a hint of a smirk in her voice, "Helga. Helga G. Pataki, and this goofwad here's my boyfriend, Arnold."
Cindy took her hand and shook it, introducing herself. "I'm Cynthia Vortex, but please, call me Cindy. Everyone else does."
Letting her hand go, Helga put her hands on her hips and narrowed her eyes at Cindy as though studying her. Seeming to come to a decision about something, she said, "You know, I think I'm going to like you."
Cindy and Arnold just laughed, and Cindy was about to reply when she felt her pocket vibrate. She pulled her phone out and quickly read the message, a wide and completely happy grin breaking out across her face. "I'm sorry to leave you guys so soon, but I've got to take care of something." Cindy practically ran out of the room, leaving behind a bewildered couple.
"Wonder what she has to do that would make her so happy?" Arnold wondered out loud, and Helga smiled to herself. She may not know her roommate yet, but she did know the look that crossed Cindy's face very well.
"I'd say it's more of a who, not a what, Football Head." She winked at him. "Now, help me unpack all my junk."
Cindy practically flung herself down the three flights of stairs to get to the ground floor and then forced herself to stop, take a few breaths, and walk across the lobby to the front door. She calmly opened the door, took a deep breath, and walked out onto the porch of the residence hall.
Sitting on the steps, looking like he was going to get trampled on any minute by the multitude of college students walking by, trying to get to their dorm, with the same hair and same shirt and same familiar body, was the blue-eyed genius she'd fallen in love with so many years ago.
A year and a half is a long time… she thought to herself as she grinned and went to sit down beside him.
He turned, and when their eyes met she thought his smile was bright enough to light up New York. He said simply, "Hey."
"Hey," she said, and she couldn't stop her smile from widening to match his.
"You know, you could have called and told me you were moving into my town. I would have helped you move in, or something."
"Yeah, but it's more fun this way."
He grabbed her hand and shyly, almost, as if he were afraid of her reaction, interlaced their fingers. When she gave him a reassuring squeeze, he noticeably relaxed and said, "Cindy, if you'd told me you were coming, I would have organized a parade, with fireworks and a concert and…and…made it rain puppies."
She laughed, hard and loud and it felt wonderful to laugh like that again and to have his hand in hers like it used to be and she leaned against him, completely content for the first time in a long time.
"Yes, puppies. And cupcakes, because cupcakes are awesome and every parade with fireworks and a concert needs them."
They continued laughing and talking and catching up, and Cindy thought it was amazing that they could pick up where they left off so flawlessly, as if there had never been a break at all.
…but then again, some things never change.
Author's Note: Wow, I've not actually written something in a L-O-N-G time. Has anyone missed me? Haha. ;) Anyway, wow, again. I can't believe it, but I'm going to finally have another story out. That's an amazing feeling.
Just a few discussion points, nothing too long- it is practically 2 o'clock in the morning, after all. Anywho, I originally began this to alleviate some nerves and frustrations about moving out of my home of 18 years for the very first time. I started college this fall, and it's been an uplifting, infuriating, maddening, saddening, happy process. Like I said, I started in on this story around midnight the night before I was supposed to move in, and it's taken 6 weeks to finish it.
Also, hopefully a few (or all) of you will recognize Helga and Arnold from that great 90s nicktoon, Hey Arnold! It was my first love, and I always felt a crossover between the two shows would be epic. This isn't a full crossover, obviously, but I felt the opportunity to make Helga and Cindy roomies was too great to pass up. Originally, they were just supposed to make a small cameo, in the form of Helga appearing in the dorm talking on her cell to her dearly beloved Football Head.
Obviously, that didn't happen, and that whole scene sort of took on a life of its own. But, hey! That's what makes great stories, right? Hopefully, anyway. :)
Also (I know, I know! This author's note is getting as long as the actual story!) the last line is a continuation of Cindy's thoughts as she crosses the porch.
So, from the confines of my own dorm room (which I am extremely used to by now), I bid you all goodnight and a very happy Friday!