(AN: First off, I'd like to thank everyone for the wonderful reception I got for my first HA fanfic, "Five Kisses". I'm so glad you all liked it! And your words of encouragement are a big part of what inspired me to go ahead and write this story.

To tell the truth, I've semi-wanted to write a teenage Helga/Arnold story for years now. But my ideas were always sketchy at best, I hadn't seen the show in a long time, and I also knew that everyone else was writing stories like that, and I like to write things that are different from what most everyone else is writing.

But I finally broke down and started writing this in July. It was the circumstances I was in more than anything else that made at least the initial writing of this so quick—I had just moved into an apartment and was for the first time in my life getting the hang of living by myself, but since I hadn't found a job yet and graduate school classes hadn't started yet I was left with little to do besides fool around on my new computer. At that time I didn't have internet access on it, so all I really did was play The Sims 3 and write this. It only took me a month to get up to 40,000 words (I know, holy SHIT), but by then two things happened that really cut into my free time: classes started, and I got a job (thank God, but still. It really does mess with your writing urges).

Unfortunately, by that time my muse for this story, as fickle as she always is, decided to pack up and leave. However, I had a good 40K+ words of story that had kind of poured out of my fingertips, and I didn't want to have done all that work for nothing. So for the past two months, I've forced myself to finish the story. Thus, all things considered, the end is kind of trite and pat, and I apologize for that.

However, I do like a lot of what I wrote in the beginning, even though this story is notably devoid of plot. It's mostly character exploration, which is what most of my stories tend to be, I suppose. Basically, I wanted to outline how I think Arnold and Helga will eventually get together (because they will, don't you know). I'm well aware that I'm not the first to write a story like this. ;) But I hope that I bring something new and fresh to the tale, even if that's solely my own writing voice.

This story is twelve chapters long, and I'll try to post a new chapter every week or so. I'll probably also push up the rating to M after a few chapters, although the only reason for this is the language—the violence and even sensuality in some PG-13 movies is greater than what's in this story, but Helga has to be such a potty-mouth… Without all the f-bombs, it's definitely a PG-13 or T story, but I have to rate it appropriately, I suppose.

Disclaimer: Hey Arnold ain't mine, it's Craig Bartlett's and Nickelodeon's. I am neither. Please don't sue me.

Sorry about the long author's note; sorry about writing the same-old, same-old; sorry about how fragmented and episodic the story is; and sorry for apologizing so much. Thanks so much for reading, and please leave me feedback—critique, praise, flames, I accept them all, along with all major credit cards. ;))

…………

Quite possibly the worst class to have for ninth period, the end of the day, was algebra. This would hold true even if your ex-girlfriend wasn't in the same class as you, seated just two rows away from you. But she was.

Arnold Short shifted uncomfortably in his desk.

Melissa Hopkins was ex-girlfriend number two, actually. She and Arnold had started dating last March and had lasted all the way through July twenty-fifth. That had been the day when Melissa had said, "You know, Arnold, we've been dating for awhile now, but you haven't once told me that you love me."

Arnold hadn't known what to say to that. His first impulse was to say, "That's because I don't," but that would have been way too much a slap in the face… even though it was true. Arnold hadn't really known her that well until they started going out. Their dates had consisted mostly of going to junior high dances and seeing movies at the theater, during which neither would say much to each other, just sit back and watch the movie. Arnold still hadn't felt he really knew her that well, and certainly didn't feel that she knew him, when she announced at the end of one such movie, "I think I'm in love with you."

His first thought was "You're kidding me, right?"—again, a totally inappropriate response. Belatedly, he had realized that the two times in his relatively young life a girl had told him she loved him, his response had been the wrong one both times. At least this time he hadn't said it out loud. He had only stared at her, confused.

Melissa giggled. It was an annoying sound. "You're cute. Well, see you later."

She had left with that, leaving Arnold to stare at her in shock. What on earth did this girl think that love was? Thinking someone was cute? Arnold certainly thought Melissa was a pretty girl, but that did not love make. He still hardly knew her enough to really consider her a close friend, let alone be in love with her! And as for her, she knew nothing about him!

And by July, he still hadn't really felt he knew her enough to tell her he loved her. "Melissa," he had said to her after her accusation, "love's a big word. I don't… I don't want to go throwing it around when I—"

"—don't love me," Melissa finished.

"That's not what I was going to say," Arnold said hastily. "I'm trying to say that I want to make sure—"

"I think we should see other people," Melissa interrupted.

Arnold felt a strange feeling settle in his stomach. He knew that he should have felt crushed, betrayed, heck, even mildly disappointed. But all he could feel with those words was relief. This time he hadn't been the one to end the relationship.

"I think we should too," said Arnold. "I think you need to find a guy who really loves you, and who you really love. Because, forgive me for saying so… but I don't think you ever really loved me."

Melissa sighed. It wasn't particularly sad or angry. Arnold got the feeling that the end of their relationship was a relief to her too. "As if you would know about… Have you ever been in love? Have you ever cried over a girl?"

"No," said Arnold slowly. "Wait—except—once. Once I cried over a girl. But I wasn't in love with her." I think that was why I cried, he mentally added.

"You're frustrating," Melissa said. "You're one of the nicest, most caring boys at school, but your feelings, just, they don't go any deeper than that. It's like, I don't know, you can't love romantically. Don't think I'm mad at you, I'm not. I'm just… frustrated." She sighed again. "See ya this fall, Arnold. Good luck."

Having her with her in algebra class, then, was awkward, and not because Arnold felt any lingering feelings for her, because he didn't. It was awkward because every time he saw her, he had to evaluate her wrongness, about two things especially. About one thing he was certain she had been wrong, and about the other he certainly hoped she had been. The first one that he was certain about was her being in love with him. The second was his lack of romantic capacity.

No, that was wrong too, and if Melissa had ever actually gotten to know him well she would have discovered how wrong that was. He couldn't count the number of crushes he had had throughout basically his entire life! How many times had he become googly-eyed over a pretty girl—well, okay, yes they had all been pretty, but Arnold had liked other things about their personalities too, like their…prettiness…

Maybe she was right.

No, she wasn't. He knew he at least had a capacity in him to love. His expectations were just ridiculously high, that's all. That's what happens when you get a strange urge to read romantic books in the second grade—odd for anyone of that age, especially a boy. That's what happens when you have a secret love for gentle romantic movies that you know are stupid and unrealistic but you love watching them anyway. That's what happens when the first girl to declare her love for you does so in such a passionate and powerful manner that she indirectly raises your expectations so that any prospective love interest has to at least equal her intensity, which was quite frankly impossible.

Algebra was awkward, then, because he didn't like having to think of these things whenever he caught a glimpse of Melissa Hopkins out of the corner of his eye.

The final bell of the day rang, happily releasing Arnold from his thoughts. A new album by the band Sex Drugs and Muffins had just been released, and while Arnold normally wasn't very big into metal music, he had to admit that he liked their sound and was anxious to hear what new songs they had to offer. Besides, school had only been in session for about a week and a half, and his brain was still in summer mode.

"Arnold, wait a minute, I'd like to talk to you," his teacher, Mr. Quincy, suddenly said.

Arnold did his best to stifle his sigh of irritation.

"Don't worry, it won't take long." Mr. Quincy straightened up a pile of papers on his desk. "How would you like to be a peer tutor?"

"A… peer tutor?" Arnold repeated. He didn't know what to think about that.

"For a couple of days a week you'd stay after school, just for a half an hour or so, and help a student in one of my other classes. She's quite intelligent but she's been struggling with the material, and I think she could use a little extra one-on-one attention."

"I'm definitely happy to help, but… why are you asking me? I'm no math whiz." Arnold was not speaking from false modesty, either. True, he was intelligent and did well at math, but he couldn't compare to the lightning-fast minds of Lance Barrett, a boy who was a bit of a know-it-all, or Phoebe Hyerdahl, an old friend of his from elementary school.

"You definitely have math skills, but what you also have are people skills, which I think are more necessary in this case," Mr. Quincy said.

Uh-oh. That sure didn't sound promising.

Noting Arnold's apprehension, Mr. Quincy added, "Please, Arnold, this is why I'm asking you. If there was one person in the world who could get along with anyone, it would be you."

Arnold sighed in resignation. He had never had any intention of turning him down, although he was wishing at that moment that he could someday actually say "no" to someone. "Who is it?"

"Helga Pataki—you know, the girl with the weird hair—"

"Helga Pataki?!" Arnold yelped. Yes, yelped. He hadn't been expecting to hear that name.

"You know her?"

"Yeah, I—uh—I went to elementary school with her—you're going to need to find a different tutor."

"What's this? I've found the one person on earth you can't stand?"

"It's not me," Arnold quickly explained, "it's her. She…" She what? Hates me? That was true and yet it wasn't. And even so he didn't even know what she felt for him anymore, seeing as they had hardly spoken to each other in the past three years. "She won't want me for her tutor," he finally said, managing to find a way of explaining the situation. "Trust me. You tell her my name and she'll break something."

"I'll take that challenge."

"What challenge?"

"I'll ask her if she's okay with you being her tutor. Trust me, Arnold, I really think you're the only one who can both handle her and help her. If you're both okay with it, then I really think it's the best possible solution. Are you okay with tutoring her?"

"Uh… yes, if she is," he answered truthfully. "I just really think that when you tell her you want me to tutor her, she'll flip."

"You've piqued my curiosity, Arnold—I'm rather looking forward to seeing her reaction. Anyway, that's all I wanted to talk to you about. Have a good day."

"Yeah, see you tomorrow," said Arnold, trying to refocus his thoughts back on SD&M's new album, but it wasn't happening. Too many unresolved issues from his childhood had suddenly been brought back to light.

…………

Helga Pataki had been the one girl that Arnold Short had cried over.

It had been in the fifth grade, early in the school year. Arnold wasn't having the best day. He had forgotten to read for history and there was a pop quiz that he was sure he completely bombed, he tore a hole in his shirt when the sleeve had gotten snagged on the stair railing, he had spilled milk on himself at lunch… and that wasn't even the worst of it. At recess, the sixth grade bullies, led by Wolfgang, had ganged up on Arnold and tossed him in a dumpster. Arnold had hoped, foolishly, that they might have grown out of their bully stage by their age, but clearly that was a pie-in-the-sky wish.

The dumpster had fortunately recently been cleaned out, but this left little in the way for things to help him climb out on. It was a large dumpster and Arnold was small, and while he could peer out of the top he couldn't climb his way out, the walls having no traction to help him. And unfortunately, there seemed to be no fellow fifth graders who had seen what had happened. A few third graders had witnessed his humiliation, but they were too in fear of the sixth graders to dare undo their dastardly deed.

In fact, there was only one fifth grader who was within sight, leaning against the flagpole by herself, scowling as usual.

"Helga!" Arnold called. "Could you help me out of here?"

Without thinking, she looked at him, destroying any excuse she could have made of not hearing him. At first she didn't move from her spot, only staring at him as if to say, "You have got to be kidding me," but then her eyes flashed to the left, then to the right, presumably to make sure no one would see her actually performing a good deed—for Arnold, of all people. Finally she made her way over to the dumpster, still scowling. "Criminy, football head, how do you manage to get yourself into these situations?" she snapped at him.

"Just help me out, okay?" Arnold sighed, reaching out a hand.

Helga extended her hand, too, and clasped his in her own. But she made no move to pull him up, instead looking intently at their hands. Arnold wasn't sure what to make of this, although he figured it was either one of two things. One, she was having second thoughts of helping him. Two, she was enjoying touching him. Just about six months previous had been the FTI incident, during which many things had happened, one of the most shocking being Helga telling Arnold that she was in love with him. And kissing him. Arnold had not only not known what to make of that development, he didn't want to try to make anything of it. So, in his desperation, in his search for something that could bring things back to normal, he had suggested to Helga that she had simply been caught up in the heat of the moment. Helga took the suggestion gladly, which had led Arnold to believe that maybe the heat of the moment thing was true.

But, and what frustrated him and confused him the most, was that the more he thought about it (and he couldn't not think about it), the more Helga being in love with him made sense. He found that it could feasibly explain all those weird little things about her. Almost every memory he had of Helga acting utterly bizarre—even for her—all he had to do was think, "She was doing that because she was trying to hide that she was in love with me," and click. Suddenly it—she—made sense.

She continued holding his hand, just staring at it, and Arnold stared at their hands too, wishing he could think of something—anything—to say. For the first time, he found that he did want to know the truth of Helga's feelings, even if that meant something more intense than what he was ready for. He wanted more than anything to ask her, in the quietest voice possible, in the privacy of the dumpster, "Are you really in love with me?" In fact, he almost did. But he stopped himself just in time. These were her emotions, not his, and she had been the one to bring it up in the first place. If she wanted to talk about it with him, she'd tell him. It wasn't his place to bring up something that she seemed to want to keep at the back of her mind. She was the one who was in love—presumably. He had no business trying to drag feelings out of her.

"Arnold—" Her voice was uncharacteristically soft and gentle, and Arnold looked up at her. Her scowl was gone. She hesitated, then opened her mouth.

The laughter of Harold, Stinky, and Sid suddenly pierced the quiet.

And, just as suddenly, Helga let go of Arnold's hand, literally with a shove, pushing Arnold back against the back wall of the dumpster with a clang. "You loser!" she shouted maliciously. "If you're going to let yourself get pushed around by a couple of sixth graders maybe you deserve to stay in that dumpster, football head!" She laughed and left him in the far corner of the dumpster, unable to see her or anyone, as he trembled with… anger.

Harold, Sid, and Stinky helped Arnold out. He went to the nurse's office and got cleaned up. He sat through school the rest of the day unresponsive, seething, not able to pay attention. Gerald, of course, had noticed something was wrong, but Arnold insisted at the end of the day that he just needed to be alone. Arnold hadn't told anyone, even Gerald, of Helga's confession. Again, that was her secret, and he wasn't about to go and breach her trust. Although he wished now that he could talk to someone, anyone, about it. He lay in his bed, staring up at the sky through his skylight, breathing heavily with anger and confusion, wanting advice because for one of the first times in his life, he couldn't figure out how to solve a personal dilemma. Of course the unsolvable one had to be his.

Why can't you just tell me that you love me? he thought to himself, to Helga, his insides shaking. I know you do! Why do have to treat me like crap? Why do you need to hide it? Can't you see you're just making this worse?

Tears, both angry and helpless, blurred his vision. He pulled his pillow to his face and forced out the tears, not caring that he was ten years old and too old to cry by most accounts.

I don't know what to do until you do something. And even though we're both trying to keep things the way they were… they can't be anymore, because I know how you feel. They just can't… be… the same… so why are we both trying to keep them that way?

…………

But things had stayed the same. Helga harassed Arnold, and Arnold never let them get alone with each other again, not wanting to have to deal with her fluctuating outbursts. Fifth grade came and went, sixth grade came and went, and suddenly seventh grade and junior high came along, and with it came sharing classes with the alumni from the six other elementary schools in the district. Classes were suddenly filled with different people each period, often with students from other elementary schools. Arnold and Gerald were still best friends, but his other elementary school friends slowly began to get lost in the shuffle. As for Helga, Arnold took this opportunity to completely avoid her if at all possible, and she seemed to do the same. He sometimes did see her in the hallways, though—and she was hard to miss. Mr. Quincy had called her the girl with the weird hair, and that was an understatement. Long gone were the blonde pigtails and pink bow from elementary school. Now her hair was short, just past her ears, and she was constantly dying it every color of the rainbow. Sometimes she dyed it somewhat realistic colors like brown or black, but even those were often bright, glossy, and unnatural looking. But that was nothing compared to the bright greens, blues, purples, oranges, pinks, and reds that were usually sported on her head. Sometimes it was even two or three different colors at once. Her clothing was just as outrageous as her hair, with mismatched socks, blouses, vests, leggings, skirts, and sweaters becoming her norm.

Arnold had really only seen her in a more than "passing each other in the halls" way once since then, at a ninth grade dance the previous year.

At that time, he was still with girlfriend number one, Wendy Mancuso. He had started dating her around the beginning of ninth grade. A lot of people had assumed that he had broken up with Lila Sawyer to do this, but he and Lila had never actually dated. In seventh grade there had been a few awkward moments between them, but Arnold no longer had a crush on her—the awkwardness simply came from the fact that he did once. Finally, just to get over the awkwardness and not wanting an eternal standoff like what seemed to have happened between him and Helga, Arnold one day said to Lila, "Lila, I don't have a crush on you anymore."

Lila, a little confused, had laughed a bit after a second or so. "I don't have a crush on you either, Arnold."

"Good," said Arnold. "Can we please be friends now?"

Lila laughed more freely this time. "Certainly, Arnold, I would like that ever so much."

Lila became Arnold's second best friend after Gerald. They spent a lot of time together and many people erroneously thought they were dating since they were with each other so often. But they were not romantically involved at all. In fact, it had been Lila who had pushed Arnold to ask Wendy out. Wendy was a sweet, gentle girl with light brown hair, who was actually a couple of inches shorter than Arnold (who unfortunately lived up, or rather down, to his last name). She was very nice, and Arnold enjoyed spending time with her, but after about a month of dating her he began to realize that she was… smothering him. She wanted to talk to him on the phone at least twice a day, she wanted him to spend all his free time with her, she wanted his complete attention. She was never demanding about this, nor did she actually berate Arnold when he failed to live up to her expectations, but she was always giving him a look of complete disappointment. The guilt-trip look. Arnold, who had trouble saying no and did genuinely like Wendy despite her passively demanding nature, fell for it every time.

At that certain ninth grade dance, however, Wendy was keeping such a short leash on Arnold, hardly even letting him talk to Gerald and Lila, that in desperation he told her he needed to use the restroom and, when she wasn't looking, bolted out of the gymnasium and into the cool autumn night to get a breath of fresh air. There were a number of other couples who had snuck out to make out where none of the chaperones could see them, so Arnold moved past them and to a bench to sit down. Only too late did he realize who was the sole other person at that bench: Marcus Rowe. Marcus was a complete trouble-maker, constantly bad-mouthing everyone, students and teachers alike.

Marcus didn't seem to mind Arnold joining him, however. "Skipping out on your girlfriend too, Short?"

"I'm not skipping out on my girlfriend," Arnold insisted. "I'm just getting a breath of fresh air."

Marcus laughed. "Yeah, that's what I told her, too. Well, you've gotten your fresh air, and your girl's waiting…" He motioned back towards the doors.

Arnold flinched. "Not yet."

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Wonderful himself."

"Can't a guy get any time to himself anymore?" Arnold muttered.

"Apparently not. You've barged into my alone time, anyway. So who are you dating? That redheaded chick?"

"No, Lila's just a friend," said Arnold with a sigh. He'd lost track of how many times he'd had to say that. "I'm dating Wendy Mancuso."

"Yeesh," Marcus said with a shudder. "Don't take this the wrong way or anything, and don't beat me up for saying anything against your girl and all, but that girl gives me the creeps. It's always the nice ones you have to look out for. I swear she has a basement full of dead bodies or something. Heck, you probably supply them to her."

Arnold laughed good-naturedly. "No dead bodies, but what she does have are the dreaded puppy-dog eyes. The eyes that can make you feel guilty and like the biggest jerk in the world for not returning her third phone call of the day."

"I knew she had a vile weapon of some sort," said Marcus, also with a laugh. "So what's yours? It's like I said, it's always the nice ones, and you're about as nice as they come."

Arnold smiled. "I guess my weapon is just my crushing niceness."

"You got that right. Just sitting next to you makes me suddenly want to get up and donate to charity or something."

Arnold laughed again. "You know, Marcus, you're alright."

"Of course I am! I'm not one of you nice guys who has to hide their dirty deeds. With me, what you see is what you get. Unfortunately, there isn't a girl in the world, nice or not, who's like that. They're always hiding something."

Arnold thought about Wendy. Before he had started dating her he had never known how skilled she was at booking guilt-trips, nor would he ever have expected such a thing from her. "Maybe you're right… I mean, I don't want to stereotype all females, I'm sure there's plenty of completely wonderful ones out there, but it's like they expect you to understand them completely before you even know them. At least, from my experience."

"And experience is the best teacher," said Marcus. "I'm still looking for that perfect girl, although I don't think I'll find her. All of us guys are just going to have to learn how to read their minds, I guess."

"Let me know when you figure out how to do that," said Arnold. "I could use some pointers."

"There you are!"

Arnold and Marcus both turned towards the voice. Standing in front of them were two girls, one shorter with long, light brown hair and wearing an ordinary dress; the other taller, wearing a dress that looked like it was from the 1950's with a plaid sweater vest worn over it and pink and purple leggings worn under it, her green hair cropped short against her head: Wendy Mancuso and Helga Pataki.

"I can't believe it! You lied to me!" Wendy screeched. "You said you were just going to the restroom—that you'd be right back!"

"I was just getting a breath of fresh air," Arnold quickly said. "I was coming right back—"

"You sure looked like you were getting pretty comfortable and—and chummy—right here! How could you do this to me, Arnold? How could you let me down?"

Helga snorted. "Wanna trade?" she asked sarcastically. She turned to Marcus. "Come on, asshole, if you're going to take me to a dance, then take me to a dance, don't completely ignore me. I didn't pay five bucks for a ticket to this thing just to stand around and watch all the other couples have fun." She grabbed Marcus by the wrist and forcibly pulled him off the bench, dragging him back to the door. "Criminy, you men are pieces of work!" In an instant they were back in the gym and out of sight.

"That goes for me too, Arnold," said Wendy, sounding the most forceful Arnold had ever heard her sound. "I didn't come here to spend time with my friends, I came here to spend time with you. Now—"

"Wendy, I don't want to date you anymore," Arnold suddenly said.

Wendy stared at him, not quite comprehending just yet. "What?"

Even Arnold had been surprised to hear that come out of his mouth, but he wasn't surprised that he meant it. "You never give me any time to myself. I've barely spoken to my best friends Gerald and Lila since we've started dating. I leave the dance for five minutes and you have a cow. I can't do this anymore, Wendy. I'm tired of your guilt-trips, and I'm tired of trying to live up to your expectations. I just want to be your friend."

"Are you breaking up with me?"

Despite how annoyed he was with her, Arnold still felt a twang of sorrow and guilt. "Yes," he said softly. "I think we'll both be better off as just friends."

"I don't know if we can be friends," Wendy muttered, turning around and running off before Arnold could say another word.

It did take awhile for the wounds to heal, but now Wendy and Arnold were at least able to talk to each other in a friendly way. Maybe they weren't friends, but they certainly weren't angry at each other. Because Arnold wasn't angry at either Wendy or Melissa. True, they had their faults, but so did everyone else. And he knew that he wasn't guiltless in the failures of their relationships. He had his faults, too. Like Marcus had said, it's the nice ones you've got to watch out for.

"Wanna trade?"

Throughout the months Arnold kept going back to those two words Helga had said. That she had said in a clearly sarcastic tone of voice, showing her annoyance with Marcus rather than her preference for Arnold. But Arnold still couldn't help going back to those words and wondering—had she wanted to trade? That had been one of the first times she had ever somewhat positively acknowledged him since that day in the dumpster in the fifth grade, that day where she had almost told him something—what, he didn't know. Perhaps she hadn't known, either. But as far as he knew, she was still in love with him. Maybe she had grown out of it. Maybe not. He didn't know. And thus he didn't know just how serious she had been with her "Wanna trade?" offer.

But that had been the last time he had really even made eye contact with Helga. It had been nearly a year ago. And while she hadn't completely belittled him like she used to do, Arnold still had no clue what to make of Helga's feelings for him.

He walked into Algebra the next day, tired from a long day of classes and having had very little sleep that night.

"Arnold, can you stay after school today and work with Helga, just for a little bit?" asked Mr. Quincy. "We have a quiz tomorrow and I'd like to start the tutoring as soon as possible."

"She's okay with it?" Arnold asked, incredulously.

"She's okay with it."

"You told her my name, right?"

"I did indeed."

"My full name?"

"I told her, and I quote, 'Helga, I'd like Arnold Short to tutor you. I talked to him about it and he said he was okay with it if you were, but he told me that he knows you from elementary school and wasn't sure if you'd want him as a tutor. Are you okay with Arnold Short as a tutor, or do you want me to find you a different one?' And she said, again I quote, 'No, Arnold will be fine with me.'"

"She said that?" Arnold couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"Yes, she did. I was kind of disappointed, actually. You built up a lot of hype, and she turned out to be perfectly okay about it." He laughed. "Anyway, meet her in the tutoring room after school—you know where that is? Room 101, inside the library."

"I know where it is," said Arnold. "I'll be there."

"Just twenty to thirty minutes is all. Go over the homework for today—it's a worksheet over everything that will be on the quiz. You'll do fine."

"I hope so," said Arnold, trying to smile. He sat down at his desk just as the bell rang, and Mr. Quincy immediately went to the board and began the day's lesson on dividing fractions. Arnold only half-listened, feeling more and more nervous. He turned and looked at Melissa Hopkins, taking notes dutifully, not sparing a thought to Arnold. The awkwardness of having her in the room was nothing compared to what was coming up after school.

It would be a daunting enough task to tutor the weird girl with the bizarre hair and bizarre fashion sense even if you had never actually met her. It was downright scary to tutor that girl and know that, at least once, she had been in love with you.