Reposted with grammar updates 1/2/2010
Hey everybody. I know, I know…where the heck have I been? The answer to that question can be pretty much summed up in one word: college. I'm finally less than one year away from getting my lovely undergraduate degree so that I can move on to trying to actually get involved as a writer in the animation field for real :) (Though there's no way that would stop my fanfic writing, lol). Seriously, though, for all of you who have been waiting patiently for the conclusion to Tutoring Arnold, I'm sorry it's taking me so long. I was really stuck on a lot of things with the story for a while and I've had almost no time to write anything but essays for school. I've been taking notes and jotting down ideas though as they come to me over the past months and so basically I've got the ending written down in bits and pieces but I just have to get the chance to make it all flow together. I really hope you guys like it though—I don't want to give anything away but I will say that it ends up involving another poem, some familiar characters sneaking around in air vents, and Arnold doing something very stupid and very public ;) Please read the A/N when you're done with this story for further info.
Anyway, getting to what I'm posting here. I know TA is a priority, but there's been this other lengthy story knocking around in my head for a while that I've really been wanting to work on. I haven't really been able to figure out how to start it, but over the summer I couldn't sleep one night and ended up spending until three in the morning suddenly writing a random chapter of it. So, basically, what's below is a preview chapter of a story I'm planning to write after TA called (for now) Changes. This chapter would probably take place about two thirds of the way into the story. I know that when you read it you'll notice that there's a lot of ambiguity and things that get hinted at but not really explained and all that's intentional because I want to know if any of you are interested enough to really want to read the full story in the future. Let me know your opinions—do you love it? Hate it? Hate me for taking forever to write things?
All right, so without further ado here is a chapter from Changes.
(This story takes place after the full HA! series and the movie.)
Yeah, right--if I owned HA! I'd be making episodes not fanfics ;) All rights to Viacom, Nick and Craig Bartlett.
Black and White
Helga Pataki sighed casually and rubbed in between her eyes with her thumb and pointer finger. She tossed her backpack and then herself onto her bed, yawning. She then turned over and sat up, cracking her neck to one side. "Don't worry about me, Football Head—I'm just going to wear my grey dress from the April Fools Dace."
Arnold pulled the pink door shut behind him and placed his own backpack neatly on the floor. He blinked at her response. "But Helga, it's a 'Black and White' Ball. You have to wear something black and white."
Helga's sigh was noticeably more abrasive. The return of her scowl confirmed that Arnold had, yet again, managed to make her angry that week. "I know Arnold," she began in a sarcastically sweet tone. She pushed herself off the bed and walked toward him. "You see, that dress is actually made up of many, many black and white threads—they're all just so close together that they give the 'illusion' of being grey." At the word 'illusion', she had given him a false smile and waved her fingers back and forth to mockingly suggest something magical actually going on with the dress.
Arnold gave her one of his half-lidded gazes of annoyance and crossed his arms over his chest. "Helga…"
The ten-year-old girl merely shrugged with innocence. "Hey, what do you want me to do, Arnoldo? I can't go and buy a new dress with the 48 cents in my pocket, and I can't just pull one out of my butt." She unconsciously jerked her thumb in the direction of her closet and added, "I'm working with a limited supply here."
Arnold began to walk across the room. "Well, let me look and see if I can find somethi—"
Arnold blinked and almost fell backwards when he saw that Helga (whom he had been certain was at least five feet behind him when he had started reaching for the door handle of her closet) was suddenly plastered in front of her closet door, arms spread wide blocking his way. He noticed that her eyes were almost strangely wide and though she had seemed worn out when they had entered the room, she was breathing incredibly fast now.
Arnold stood up and observed her with some curiosity for a moment or two. He noticed that the instant his eyes met Helga's she swallowed hard, relaxed her stance a little, and glanced away.
Arnold shook his head, recalling what he had been trying to do before the strange instance. "Helga, you know Mr. Simmons said that it's tradition that if you're not wearing something black and white, you can't get into the—"
Helga's scowl returned and she rolled her eyes, actually moving a step or two away from the closet door. "Look, Arnold, I can personally guarantee you that there's nothing in there but that grey dress of my usual pink ones so drop it!"
Throughout her life Helga had always been used to everyone (especially Arnold) backing down whenever she challenged them. However, she had been noticing that, much to her annoyance, Arnold had been becoming less and less likely to react to her anger in that way ever since there brief adventure last summer that had involved the revealing of a certain secret on the rooftop of a certain building.
As a result, rather than leaving it at that, Arnold gave Helga a very scrutinizing look. She swallowed and could feel her steel scowl weakening…
"Hello, Baby Sister!!! Oh and hello, Arnold! Helga, I didn't realize you had one of your little friends over."
The sudden (and very cheerful) appearance of Olga's head peeking from behind the half-closed door into the incredibly tense room caused both Arnold and Helga to jump in surprise. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) for Helga, though, it not only caused her to jump up but also to land, as a force of habit, right in Arnold's arms.
Both children just remained in shocked silence for another second or two, giving their heartbeats a moment to slow down. Suddenly, Arnold became very aware of the fact that he was holding Helga. He glanced at her automatically. At the same time, of course, Helga realized that not only did she have her arms wrapped around her beloved but that the situation must look a little strange to Olga who, Helga noticed, was smiling just a little smugly at the sight of the two children holding each other. 'Perfect,' Helga thought to herself, 'Her telling Bob and Miriam all about my new 'boyfriend' is all I need.'
Meanwhile, Arnold couldn't help but feel like he should respond to Olga's entrance in someway. He cleared his throat. "Um, hi, Olga. It's nice to see you again." He smiled.
Olga's smile became even wider. "It's nice to see you too, Arnold."
At the sound this little exchange between Arnold and her sister, Helga snapped out of her thoughts and back to the reality of the situation. She quickly resumed her scowl and removed herself from Arnold's grasp. She crossed her arms in front of her chest and turned away from him with a slight, "Hmph."
Olga giggled. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you, Baby Sister." She cupped one of her hands around the outside of one of her cheeks and whispered rather loudly across the room, "Should I come back later?"
Helga sighed and rolled her eyes, trying her best to keep her temper. "Olga, we're busy. What do you want?"
Olga smiled and walked into the room, taking the question that Helga had tacked onto her response as an invitation to enter. "Oh, Helga, I just wanted to offer again to let you use my dress from my 5th grade Black and White dance for tomorrow night. Please, Baby Sister, I think you'd look just adorable in it and I—"
Olga's gushing was interrupted by a gruff yell from downstairs. "Hey, Olga! I can't figure out how to play back my beeper commercial with this new recording tv box thing you bought. Do I press the button with one blue arrow or two green arrows or—Hey! Now I'm watching The Wheel backwards!!!"
Olga sighed and shook her head with a smile. "Coming, Daddy!" she called downstairs. She paused, though, half way out of Helga's door and turned back to her younger sister, adding with a hopeful smile, "Please think about it, Helga! I got the dress out of the basement and it's on my bed in my room. Oh, and maybe before the dance we can try doing something with your hair and some makeup and—"
"Olga! Now I'm in some kind of menu and I can't figure out how the heck to make it go back to the regular TV station!"
"Coming, Daddy!" Olga yelled down the hall. And with that she exited entirely.
There was a moment of heavy silence in the room.
Arnold turned to Helga, one eyebrow raised and a very slight grin on his face that he was trying hide. He started to open his mouth.
Helga's head was shaking before he could even begin. "Oh no—no way, Arnold! Absolutely not! I don't care if that dress gives me super powers and is made of solid gold—I am NOT wearing 'Olga's dress.' Ever." She turned away from him to show that she considered to conversation over.
Arnold's smile had taken over a bit and he walked around so that he was in front of her again. "But, Helga, that's just it—it's not made of 'gold.' It's black and white. I'm going to go get it and—" He was already halfway to Helga's door.
"No, Arnold!" Helga yelled at him with a commanding tone. This new, slightly defiant Arnold had been getting harder and harder for her to handle over the months.
Arnold sighed patiently and turned around, heading back toward her. "Okay, Helga. Then let's look through your closet to make sure that you didn't miss somethi—"
"NO!!!" This 'no' from Helga was much more panicked, and ended with her lunging forward to grab one of Arnold's wrists and stop him from reaching her closet.
Arnold turned around to face her. Before continuing the discussion he couldn't help but glance from the panicked look on her face to the seemingly normal closet door and back again. 'I probably don't want to know…' He sighed, and spoke calmly to the girl before him. "Helga, listen…I know I'm asking you to do me a huge favor with all of this. And even though I know I'm not your favorite person to be around," Arnold couldn't help but glance away for a moment, as though he couldn't look her in the eye and say that part of the sentence, "you've been helping me with everything and I'm really thankful for that, Helga. Really." He noticed the panic on her face soften as she listened intently, a bit surprised by his sudden speech. Arnold grabbed her arm that was still gripping one of his hands and carefully removed it. He continued speaking. "But you know that if you can't get into the dance, there's no way anything we've been working on can happen. If you don't want to do this anymore, I understand, Helga. But if you want to, you need a dress."
The expression on Helga's face didn't change but her pupils darted downward for a moment. A few seconds of silence passed. 'I actually couldn't blame her if she decided to stop all of this. I mean, it might disappoint Arnie and Lila a bit, but that's my fault, really. I should've just been honest with everyone. I just wish that…'
Arnold paused in this thought, took a breath and smiled at Helga. "It's okay, Helga," he assured her. "I'm sorry I've been bothering you with all of this. I should probably get going."
Arnold went to walk past Helga toward the door of her room. Suddenly, though, he felt his arm grabbed from behind and he found himself in front of Helga again. He blinked.
Helga sighed and scowled again, though she spoke in a level voice. "Hey I didn't say 'no', bucko. And a Pataki doesn't go back on a promise." She jabbed an index finger at his face, causing Arnold to blink in surprise.
Helga moved away from him and sat down on the edge of her bed. She sighed and glanced away from him. "I'll wear Olga's dress under TWO conditions."
"Really?" Arnold couldn't help but smile. "Great!" He felt himself step forward and hug her.
It took about a second of having his arms wrapped around the young girl before he realized what he had just done and remembered the situation between them.
He swallowed hard and moved away from Helga, blushing. He cleared his throat. "I mean, thanks, Helga…Um, what are they?"
"Huh?" Her voice had none of its usual harshness—just this light airy quality. And Arnold noticed her eyes seemed to be looking far off.
"Um, the conditions, Helga. What are they?" Arnold asked, glancing away again.
Helga blinked a few times. "Oh, um, right." Her voice had returned to normal. She resumed a weak scowl. "Uh…number one," she hopped off the bed counted on her fingers, "I get Olga's permission to make some alterations to the dress. And number two, I find TIME to make them in the middle of all the stuff we're doing."
"Is there something wrong with it?" Arnold couldn't help but ask with a raised eyebrow.
Helga crossed her arms in front of her chest, her scowl deepening. "Olga likes it—that usually means that there's something wrong with it."
Arnold couldn't help but give a small laugh at the statement. Even if her humor was sometimes a bit harsh, Helga was always funny—Arnold couldn't deny that to himself. Arnold felt his smile drop just slightly as the thought he had been trying to avoid before resurfaced in his mind.
Helga whipped around. "Something funny, Football Face?"
"No, Helga," he replied, resuming his full smile as he let the thought go. He took a step toward her. "Are you really sure you still want to do this, though?"
She rolled her eyes. "Yes, Arnold, I'm sure. Quit trying to give me ways out though or I might take one just to break the monotony."
Arnold laughed again. "Okay."
"Good. Now, come on—we were just supposed to stop here for five minutes so I could grab my sewing stuff. We have to get back to your house so I can finish everything before Arnie—"
"Helga?" Arnold interrupted her.
She turned around, sighing. "What is it now, Arnold? Want to make it clear yet again that I don't have to do this?"
"No…" Arnold replied, "But before we go shouldn't we let Olga know about you using dress? So she knows not to put it away again. Maybe she can even help you with the changes so that it won't be as much work for you."
Helga rolled her eyes. "Olga? Actually help me? And I mean, in a way that actually helps me as opposed to making twice as much work for me?"
Arnold shrugged, still smiling. "She seems like she wants to be involved. Olga's a nice person, Helga."
Helga scowled. "Arnold, Olga—"
"Oh, Baby Sister, did you call me?" Helga's door hadn't been shut all the way and, upon hearing her name, Olga (who had been prancing back upstairs after helping Bob) had stuck her head in to see what was the matter.
Helga gave an incredibly exasperated sigh. "Olga, have you ever head of KNOCKING!?"
Olga giggled and pushed her head a little more into the room, though she still left most of her body suspiciously in the hall. "Sorry, Helga." She glanced to the left and smiled. "Oh, Arnold, you're still here—wonderful!!! Then you can help me convince Helga about using the dress!" Olga stepped fully into the room and pulled from behind her back a very…'interesting' article of clothing, indeed.
Arnold, seeing that Olga seemed very proud of the dress, did his best to keep the slight chuckle trying to get out of him at only a polite smile. It wasn't that it wasn't a nice dress…but he could see instantly why it wasn't Helga's style. The upper part, which had bell sleeves and cinched high near the chest, was indeed white and the lower part, which was long and flared downward, was indeed black. However, all over the seams, the collar and the edges of the dress were dozens of alternating little black and white bows. In fact it was almost impossible to tell the exact cut of the dress because of all these bulky ribbons.
"Don't you think she would look just wonderful in it, Arnold?" Olga asked enthusiastically.
Arnold cleared his throat. "Actually," he began, still smiling, "Helga just agreed to wear it. But she'd like to make some alterations to it, if that's okay with you, Olga?"
Olga was practically beaming. "Oh Helga, that's wonderful!" She suddenly tossed the dress into Arnold's stunned arms and ran over to Helga, squeezing her in a tight hug.
"Oh Arnold," Helga managed to choke out in a falsely sweet voice as Olga's vice grip continued to crush her, "how can I EVER repay you for telling her?"
Arnold did his best not to laugh.
The intake of a large breath was heard as Olga finally released her little sister. Her smile was replaced by a look of slight concern. "But Helga, are you sure you want to change it?" Olga walked back over to Arnold and took the dress in her hands again. "I just think it would look so cute on you just the way it—"
Helga stopped her with a firm voice her before she could continue. "Olga, either I get to change it or it's no deal."
Olga sighed, used to how stubborn her Baby Sister could be. "Oh, well, alright, Helga. But at least just try it on for me once the way it is now. Maybe you could tell me what you want changed and we could take care of it right here."
Helga sighed in exasperation again. "No, Olga. Arnold and I have to go right n—"
"Actually Helga," Arnold interrupted with a smile, "this is perfect. You have her permission to change the dress, and now you two can do it together in no time." Arnold knew Helga was probably going to be pretty mad at him for doing this, but it seemed like Olga really wanted to chance to spend some quality time with Helga. 'After all, I don't think they've seen each other since Olga did that week of student teaching at PS 118 last year. Just because Helga's all wrapped up with helping me doesn't mean she should miss out on the few days her sister's home.'
As these thoughts went through Arnold's head, Helga shot him a deathly glare.
Olga beamed again. "Oh, that's a perfect idea, Arnold!"
"Yes Arnold. Perfect," Helga said through gritted teeth. "Again, how can I EVER repay you for all the help you're giving me today?" She ground her right fist into her left palm.
Arnold knew that a few months ago he would have been seriously afraid of a Helga who was this angry. Right now, though, (and he had been noticing this fact about himself in situations like this one lately) he felt more amused at than afraid of her gesture. With a smile he walked toward the door, grabbing his backpack. "I'll just go home and you can meet me at the boarding house when you're done, Helga."
He was about to reach for the door handle when suddenly the door pushed in and Miriam Pataki entered the room.
"Huh, oh, hi, Arthur. I didn't know that you were over here," said Miriam in an airy voice with a smile.
Arnold smiled at Helga's mother. "Hi, Mrs. Pataki. It's Arnold. I was actually just about to leave. It was nice to see you, though."
"Mmm hmm," replied Miriam. Arnold went to step out into the hallway. Suddenly, though, Miriam put a hand on his shoulder to stop him. "Oh, wait, Archie. I almost forgot," she turned to her daughters, "I came up here because I think that man is outside again—the one from the bulldozers and the overpass blowing up. Uh, Shtick, Shrek…"
"SCHECK!!!" Arnold and Helga exclaimed at the same time, glancing at each other with surprise in their eyes and then turning back to Miriam.
Miriam smiled, her tone still dazed. "Yes! He's…he's on the front steps. Olga, I tried to get your father to do something but he's still trying to figure out the TV box. But, I thought you kids should know." She yawned, "Well, I'll see you all later." And with that Miriam headed for the hallway. She paused before exiting the room. "Oh, uh, can I make anyone a smoothie?"
Helga scowled at her mother and sighed. "No, Miriam. We're all good."
"Oh…good." As she exited the room, the phrase 'I need a smoothie' made it to the ears of Olga, Helga and Arnold.
Alone again with Olga, Arnold and Helga exchanged a look. Helga sighed sarcastically. "Your turn."
Arnold shrugged his shoulders and walked over to Helga's window. He let out a tremendous sigh upon seeing the sight below on Helga's front stoop.
Helga rolled her eyes and sat on the edge of her bed. "What's he up to THIS time?"
Arnold just shook his head. "I don't think you'd believe me if I told you."
Helga smiled, and leaned back on her elbows. "Oh, come on, Football Head, it can't be as pathetic as when he bribed the 6th graders to spray paint that huge Tomato on the side of the boarding house dumpster."
Arnold turned back to her. With one of his half lidded gazes of annoyance he replied, "He just set up a bucket of water to fall on the next person who opens your front door…" He quickly glanced out of the window again and then turned back to Helga. "And it looks like he also bribed some 4th graders to shoot at the person with plastic water pistols."
Helga stood up and approached the window, a huge grin on her face. "You're kidding me." She looked out the window to confirm what Arnold had reported and sure enough that was the scene in front of the Pataki stoop.
Olga had been silent during the exchange between the two fifth graders but the look of concern on her face had been deepening and deepening. Finally, she spoke up. "Helga, should I call the police?"
Helga sighed and turned away from the window toward her sister. "No, don't bother, Olga. He'd be gone again by the time they got here, anyway. Besides, it's not like he's dangerous—he's just annoying! He'll wear himself out eventually." She rubbed her eyes and turned back to the window. "I just have to make sure to go down there and kick open the door to trip the bucket trap before anyone actually gets wet." She considered the scene for a few seconds more. "Still, those third graders could be a problem….and it would be good to teach Scheck a lesson…" A very mischievous smile suddenly crept to Helga's lips. She turned to Arnold. "Hey Arnold, wanna see something hilarious?"
Arnold raised a curious eyebrow, unsure of what she meant or how to respond.
Helga patted him on the shoulder. "I'll take that as a 'yes, but I'm just concerned that it won't be the 'right thing' to do.' " She laughed to herself and walked to her door. "Be back in five, Olga—and Arnold, just keep watching the stoop." And with that she left the room.
Curious and very concerned, Arnold turned back to the sight below, this time accompanied by Olga. For thirty seconds nothing happened except Scheck continuing to talk to the third graders. Suddenly, the front door burst open.
"AHHH!!! What the—?!" Yelled a now soaking wet and FURIOUS Big Bob Pataki.
"And thus revenge continues to be gained for the du von Scheck family. I, Alphonse Pierre du von Scheck, swore that I would pursue those who have persecuted me and—" Scheck was this far into the standard speech he had been trying to recite every time he pulled some small prank on Arnold or Helga when he suddenly realized that a very large, very angry, very wet, and very violent man (instead of a ten-year-old girl) was standing before him.
"Oh!" Olga gasped, putting a hand to her mouth. Arnold just stared, wide eyed.
"Uh oh…" was the only thing that came out of Scheck's mouth.
"WHY YOU—I'M GONNA TEAR YOU APART!!!" The third graders screamed and scattered as Big Bob began to chase a terrified Scheck down the street.
A minute later, Helga reentered her room, laughing hysterically. She plopped herself on her bed, doubled over. "Did you guys SEE that? I think Scheck might have wet his pants!"
"Helga, why did Daddy go out there if he knew that he was going to get wet? He should have tripped the bucket first!" asked a very worried Olga.
Helga managed to get her laughter under control, though her grin was a mile wide. "Because he DIDN'T know he was going to get wet. Letting him get pranked was the only way he was going to get angry enough to scare off Scheck. I just walked downstairs and told him it looked like the mailman was heading up the street with that package of beeper samples he's been waiting all week for, and he ran outside like that!" Helga snapped her fingers.
Olga frowned and crossed her arms over her chest. "Helga!"
Helga's smile weakened a bit and she looked to Arnold for support. He just looked at her with an eyebrow raised. He knew Helga had a strange sense of humor and, while this wasn't the worst trick she'd ever played on someone, it was still a little underhanded.
Helga rolled her eyes. 'Crimeny, no one in this town has a sense of humor but me.' "Oh come on you two." She stood up. "It was water, not hydrochloric acid! Bob's fine and Scheck's finally gone." She walked over to Arnold and put a hand on his shoulder. "So now Arnold can go home safely and, in the end, isn't that what really matters?" she finished in a slightly sarcastic tone.
Olga's face and tone still seemed skeptical. "Well…okay, Helga. But I still wish you would have let me call the police."
Helga crossed her arms over her chest and rolled her eyes. "I told you it doesn't help, Olga."
Olga was about to protest her sister's claim when Arnold interrupted. "Actually, she's right, Olga. I tried calling them a few times when Scheck was near my house but he's never there when they finally come so they can't ever prove anything. Besides, I think some members of his family are in the local precinct and they're helping him not get in trouble. I don't like to admit it, but at least what Helga just did might help keep him away for a little while."
"Thank you, Arnold. See I'm not the bad guy," Helga added with a touch of pride.
"You're welcome, Helga." He smiled at her sincerely.
Helga felt a slight blush threaten to come to her face. 'Why does he have to do that—why does he have to do and say little things like that when he talks to me?' She glanced to the side and couldn't help but notice that Arnold was still looking at her. She swallowed hard.
A slight giggle from Olga at the sight of the two kids brought Helga back to reality. She turned away from Arnold and did her best to resume her usual scowl. Arnold blinked as well, realizing the awkward moment he had just caused. He cleared his throat and turned back to Olga. "Anyway, Helga's right—I should get over to the Boarding House now since he's gone. Besides, you two need time to work on the dress." Arnold grabbed his backpack again and headed toward the door.
"You know, Arnold," Olga began, causing him to hesitate and turn back, "it shouldn't take TOO long for us to fix the dress. In fact, like I said, I'd like Helga to try it on as it is first," Olga saw Helga about to protest and cut her off, "just so he can compare it with the changes you're going to make to it, Helga." She turned back to Arnold. "Besides, I still don't feel comfortable with you going out there when that mean Scheck person might be somewhere nearby. Why don't you just wait downstairs for a little while and then I'll call you to come up when we're done so you can have a look and tell us what you think?"
Arnold blinked. He opened his mouth to respond when Helga suddenly answered for him. "Olga, I don't think that's a…a very good idea." At Olga's suggestion, an image had flashed into Helga's mind of Arnold seeing her in that nightmare vortex of black and white ribbons—like a hot fudge vanilla ice cream sundae gone horribly wrong. Her and Arnold's friendship was already a fragile enough thing as it was all things considered—the fewer awkward and embarrassing bumps in the road, the better.
Arnold raised an eyebrow at Helga's response and he couldn't help feeling slightly hurt. 'Why does she always do that? We'll do something together and it'll be fine, but then she'll tell me to go away. I just wish I could figure out why before—'
Olga interrupted his thoughts. "Oh, but why not, Baby Sister? I think it would be interesting to have someone who could give an honest opinion of how the dress looks on you before and then after you change it. Unless you'd rather wait until the dance to see your date's reaction to how your dress looks on you?" Olga smiled.
There was a very tense pause in the room. Olga's smile fell and she noticed that the eyes of both her sister and Arnold suddenly dropped to the floor.
"He's not my date," Helga finally mumbled.
Olga raised an eyebrow.
Arnold explained in a heavy voice. "No. Actually, my cousin is."
"Really?" Olga looked from Helga to Arnold. "But you two seem like such a cute couple."
Helga felt like her stomach was just going to completely drop out of her at this comment—there was such a mix of elation and embarrassment and frustration inside that she could barely stand it. Arnold, meanwhile, just swallowed hard and felt himself blush darkly.
Olga began to examine a sleeve of Helga's dress, not noticing the reactions of the kids. "But Arnold's cousin must be a very nice and wonderful boy for you to be going out with him, Baby Sister."
A dark scowl crossed Helga's face. "Oh, words cannot begin to describe the symphony of feelings I have about ARNIE."
Arnold did his best not to smirk at the sarcasm dripping from her response. The touch of guilt he was feeling helped with that.
Olga, still examining the dress, smiled. "Well, then, since Arnold's not your date, it should be no problem for him to see you in the dress and give us his opinion."
Helga just rolled her eyes and sighed. 'It's like I'm talking to a brick wall.' At this point, though, she just didn't feel like arguing the point with her big sister. "Whatever."
Olga threw the dress on the bed again and turned to Arnold. "Okay, Arnold. Now you just wait downstairs for few minutes—"
Helga scoffed. "Yeah, with a wet, angry Big Bob Pataki who's probably back by now and watching The Wheel."
Olga frowned, then turned back to Arnold. "Maybe it would be better if you waited in the hall, Arnold. Changing into the dress should only take a minute. It's the alterations that will take a little while longer." Her smile returned.
"Okay. See you in a little while Helga." Arnold smiled and waved to her as he walked out of her door and into the hall.
Helga felt her heart skip at beat. She did her best to cover it up. "Oh…just leave already so we can get this over with, Football Head!"
These were the last words from Helga that Arnold heard as he shut the door behind him and he couldn't help but laugh to himself as he waited out in the hallway. Some of the changes in his life from the last few months may have been difficult, but the increased amount of enjoyable time he'd been spending with Helga was one of the few really good things. Again, his smile fell just slightly as a thought he had been trying to avoid for a while now came to mind again...
Suddenly, the sounds of Helga and Olga in Helga's room broke his thoughts.
"No, Olga, not THERE!"
"Helga, just…hold still, Baby Sister!"
"Oh, Olga, just let me do it. I'm ten years old—I can dress myself for crying out loud!"
"I know, Baby Sister, but this dress has ties in the back that you have to have someone do for you."
Arnold smiled to himself. He sighed. 'Well, I guess I might have a few minutes to wait instead of just one…' He grabbed his backpack which he'd brought out into the hall and opened it up. He pulled out a worn book and began to flip through the pages, and his thoughts went elsewhere.
A minute or two later, Olga stepped out into the hallway, beaming. "Well Arnold," she pushed open Helga's door, "what do you think?"
Arnold stepped into the room to see a very angry Helga in a very ridiculous dress. All of the ribbons made it look like Helga was lying under a field of them. He chuckled.
"Doesn't it look so cute on her? I really wish she wouldn't change it!"
"Well…" Arnold took a few steps forward to observe the dress a little better, "It's really nice Olga…."
He heard Helga growl again. "Arnold, I SWEAR—" she mumbled to him under her breath.
He smiled and continued. "But I think Helga should have a chance to express herself with it. She's going to be wearing it to the dance after all so it should really say something about who she is."
Helga gave a sigh of relief.
Olga smiled. "You know, you're right Arnold. I can't believe I didn't think of that—we learned all about the need for personal expression among younger siblings in my advanced Child Psychology class—"
"Yes Olga, we get it—you go to college." Helga cut her off. "Now, come on—get it off me so we can try and fix this nightmare!"
Olga sighed. "Oh, okay, Baby Sister. You're always so impatient!" She turned to Arnold. "I don't thing this will take more than ten or fifteen minutes Arnold, especially with both of us working on it. Are you sure you don't need to get home, though?"
Arnold smiled. "It's okay. Helga and I were planning to spend the afternoon together, anyway."
Olga smiled back at him and then turned to Helga again. "Okay, Helga, let's see what you want to do, exactly…"
Arnold stepped out into the hall again.
"Okay Olga—lose all of these!" He heard Helga's voice through the door.
"Oh but Helga!" came Olga's desperate voice.
"ALL of them!"
Arnold smiled to himself again.
Twenty minutes later, Olga stepped out into the hallway again. "Okay Arnold, you can come in now."
Arnold put his book away and stood up. He couldn't help but notice that Olga looked a little haggard after doing the actual alterations to the dress with Helga. Her outfit seemed a little crooked and her hair was a bit disheveled.
"Alright," Olga said, still blocking the door, "Now, she removed more of the bows and frills than I wanted but I think it came out okay."
Olga opened the door fully. "What do you think?"
Arnold blinked for a second. He'd been out in the dimness of the hallway for a while this time and it took a second for his eyes to get used to the brightness of Helga's room. Finally, though, his eyes adjusted and he saw Helga. Well, almost…
"Oh, come on, now, Helga!" Olga walked past Arnold to her sister. "He can't get the full effect if you're standing with your back to him like that!" She grabbed Helga's shoulders and suddenly turned her around, much to Helga's surprise. "Okay, now, Arnold, what do you think? Honestly!"
Arnold had never even been very good at not saying the full truth, let alone at lying. So he just said what he felt. "You—um, it's beautiful."
Without all of the ribbons the dress looked simpler but more elegant and truly beautiful, in Arnold's opinion. The black skirt cinching around the chest reached down to Helga's feet and flowered out in lovely folds. The upper section, entirely white, had a scoop neckline that could now be seen, and the wide white bell sleeves were like the skirt in miniature—flaring out elegantly. He noticed with a smile that Helga had left one small black bow at the center of the neckline.
While Arnold was observing these things, Helga had completely stopped breathing. Her stomach had twisted tight at his words and she glanced away from him, not wanting to make eye contact.
Olga smiled proudly. "Oh, thank you, Arnold!" She came up behind Helga. "But we really will have to do something with that hair before the dance…"
Helga, still stunned by Arnold's comment, didn't realize that Olga's hands were suddenly styling her hair until the older girl already had complete control over her head. Suddenly, Helga saw her pink bow thrown onto her bed out of the corner of her eye and felt a brush moving in multiple directions through her blonde hair.
Her eyes went wide. "Olga!" Helga tried to reach behind her but she couldn't get enough of a grip on her sister's arms.
"Oh, Helga, don't worry--I'm just trying to fix it up a little. We can try a few different things before the actual dance—I just want to experiment a little." Helga could feel her hair twist in a few different ways. "Though to be honest," continued Olga, stopping the movement of the brush, "I think it might just look nice down." She suddenly let the bunch of Helga's soft hair drop.
Helga was in shock for a second as she realized what Olga had just done. Along with all of the rules that Helga had always had for keeping her love for Arnold a secret, there was one that she had made over a year ago after a certain Valentine's evening gone horribly chaotic: never let Arnold see you with your hair down. Ever.
"Oh, it's beautiful, baby sister! I wish my hair was as thick as yours. Look it even falls over your face a bit. Oh how pretty!"
"I DON'T CARE, OLGA!" Helga suddenly shouted. She snatched the bow from her bed now that Olga's hands weren't keeping her head captive and started doing her best to restore her pigtails.
"Yeah…pretty…" The very quiet, very confused sounding voice that said these words caused Helga to freeze in the middle of creating her second pigtail. She didn't breathe and glanced wide-eyed at Arnold. 'I'm dead. That's it. I'm completely dead. And the ridiculously unlikely, almost always malfunctioning relationship that I've managed to maintain with Arnold is about to explode. Fourteen months of making sure he only sees me in pigtails and Olga ruins it all in four seconds. There's no way he didn't see the girl from that Valentine's Day when he just looked at me. I mean, look at him!' Indeed, Arnold was studying her face frighteningly closely and it took all of Helga's will to finish her final pigtail.
Something in Arnold's face changed suddenly, and he spoke again, slowly. "She's right, Helga…I feel like I haven't seen your hair like that too often but it really is pretty…" The scrutiny in his voice killed the last of Helga's hope that there was even a chance his memory from last year hadn't been jogged by what had just happened.
Helga swallowed and did her best to summon a sarcastic voice. "Yeah, well…don't get used to it pal." She tossed the brush onto her bed and turned away from him with a scowl.
Arnold blinked a couple of times, finally coming out of his daze, though out of the corner of her eye Helga could see to her dismay that it still looked like he was thinking hard about something.
Helga sighed and turned to Olga, trying her hardest to escape the ridiculously awkward moment. "Anyway, Olga, the dress is done and I'm sure Scheck's long gone so can me and Arnold GO now?!"
Olga smiled. "Of course, Helga. Just change out of the dress and I'll put it in your closet for tomorrow."
Helga got a nervous look again at the mention of entering her closet and again Arnold noticed. "Uh…maybe you should just put it in your closet for now, Olga. Mine has um…moths—yeah, that's it—moths. Big moths, big holes in everything. Yes, we should definitely keep it in your closet so that it doesn't get ruined."
Olga hesitated for just a second. 'Oh come on Olga, buy it!' Helga thought to herself. 'You once bought that I couldn't hang out with you for a week because I was organizing my Wrestlemania trading cards! Buy this!!!'
Much to Helga's relief, Olga smiled and replied, "Okay Baby sister..." A concerned look came to her face. "Would you like me to call an exterminator for your closet so your other clothes don't get ruined?"
Helga's eyes went wide for a second. "No!" She considered, trying to make her voice sound calmer. "Uh, I mean…don't worry about it, Olga, I'm taking care of it. I…uh…set some traps…"
Arnold just looked at Helga in disbelief, and then couldn't help but turn his gaze again to her closet door.
"Oh, okay, Helga!" Olga responded, satisfied.
Arnold grabbed his backpack again and opened Helga's door. "I'll see you downstairs when you're done changing, Helga."
"Goodbye, Arnold!" Olga waved cheerily.
Helga whipped around, trying to catch a glimpse of Arnold's reaction to the lines she'd just been feeding Olga, but his back was already to her by the time she looked.
Five minutes later, Helga met Arnold on the Pataki stoop in her usual pink jumper.
She swung her backpack over her shoulder. "Well, Football Head, let's blow this pop stand and get to your house. The sooner this week and this dance are over, the better." She started walking down the street.
Arnold followed after her, not making eye contact. A slight smile was on his face. "Traps for moths?"
Helga almost tripped but did her best to maintain her composure. "Um…yeah," she responded nervously, rubbing the back of her neck.
Arnold couldn't help his grin widening. "So…how do those work, exactly?"
Helga sighed and rubbed her temples for a second. "Look, Arnold, we could analyze what's in my closet all day or we could go to your house and get on to the next part of this 'brilliant plan' of yours, already. Besides, I have to meet Lila after dinner so it's not like I can stay late if we don't get everything done."
Arnold chuckled. "Whatever you say, Helga." For a few seconds, the two fifth graders walked in a silence that Helga couldn't help but find suspicious.
Arnold quickly confirmed her feeling. "You know, Helga," he suddenly began. She did her best to maintain her cool as he spoke. "You're really…" he paused and she glanced at him. Arnold was smiling and his brow was furrowed like he couldn't find the right word for what he wanted to say about her.
Nervously, Helga raised an eyebrow and tentatively asked, "Really 'what'…?"
Arnold looked at her. "Really…interesting." He turned his still smiling face away from hers and continued walking down the street. His words made Helga stop, though, and almost drop her bag in surprise. 'He figured it out. I'm so dead. He's just waiting for the right time to come in for the kill. I KNEW dressing up as his French pen pal was a stupid idea. I should've dyed my hair, that's what I should have done!!!'
'Still,' Helga tried to reassure herself, 'Maybe he just means you're being weird about the whole closet thing. Which you ARE! But it's not your fault your in the middle of putting together a new shrine. Sheesh, and I thought moving everything to the attic would make things easier, but now I've gotta find time to bring things down and up whenever I want to try something new.'
Arnold had stopped at this point and had walked the few steps back to Helga. "Helga?" he asked curiously. She seemed lost in thought.
"Huh?!" She blinked and suddenly realized he was standing right in front of her. Helga came out of her panicked thoughts and did her best to muster a weak scowl. "Oh just…just shut up, Arnold." Not only did Helga's voice have none of her usual strength, but it was obvious from the slight smile that the girl was trying to hide that she couldn't help but feel a little flattered at what the boy beside her had just said. Arnold couldn't help but laugh.
Rather than responding with anger to Arnold's chuckle, though, Helga suddenly found herself smirking too.
The two ten-year-olds continued walking up the street sharing the brief moment of laughter.
After a few minutes of walking in total silence Helga swallowed hard and mustered all of her courage to break it. Something was on her mind and now seemed like a pretty good time to mention it. "Hey, Arnold?"
Arnold turned to her, smiling with his half lidded gaze. "Yeah?"
Helga glanced away. "Um…thanks, for back there. I mean, for telling Olga that I—that the dress looked, uh…" She hesitated.
"Beautiful?" Arnold supplied.
"Uh, yeah, that." Helga continued. "I think it really helped keep her from making me change it back.
Another moment of silence passed. "You know it really does look nice on you, Helga…and you really look nice in it." Arnold felt himself blush, and looked away from her. His stomach twisted as he added dully, "Arnie's going to love it."
Arnold noticed Helga shudder out of the corner of his eye. "Ugh, I told you NOT to say his name around me anymore. No offense, Arnold, he just creeps me out. It's like he's your exact opposite and my body just keeps completely rejecting him or something."
Arnold couldn't help but smile at the observation. "Yeah, I guess we really are different."
Helga didn't understand his reaction for a second but then blushed furiously as she realized what she had just implied about Arnold with her statement about hating his opposite.
Helga swallowed hard. Suddenly, she walked a few steps in front of Arnold. "Hey, come on—let's race!"
"Helga, we can't race." Arnold crossed her arms in front of his chest and smiled.
Helga grinned back and gave him a friendly punch in the shoulder. "Give me one good reason other than that you know I'll beat you!"
Arnold smiled. "Well, for one thing this isn't Gerald Field—there are people walking around and we could bump into them. The sun's starting to set too, so we might trip over something if it gets dark. Also—"
"Hey, no fair!" Helga yelled to Arnold as took a head start. He just laughed and continued taking the lead.
The two kids ran as fast as they could to Arnold's boarding house.
So that's it for now everyone!!! I hope you liked the preview and that you're looking forward to reading more. And I promise I'll try to get the end of TA up in a few months.