Hello again HA! Fandom!!! Once again, I know I should be working on Tutoring Arnold (and believe me, I've got a lot of how it's going to end worked out—I got the greatest idea last week for the epilogue and I'm so excited about writing it!), but in the meantime there's been a few other stories (like the Changes one) that I've worked on in my spare time that I'd like to start sharing. This is one I've been wanting to write for a while that focuses a bit more on Harold and Patty's relationship—however, please be aware that there is also a ton of Arnold and Helga stuff in this one ;) It's more like Patty and Harold getting involved with Arnold and Helga's relationship and learning about their own than a straight HXP fic. This story really shouldn't be that long (as long as I don't get carried away) so I'll try to update as frequently as possible. Also, thank you to everyone who's reviewed the Changes preview so far—I really appreciate your opinions and I'm really excited to work on that story more.
Story takes place after the HA! Movie, but before The Journal (since right after The Journal, Arnold would probably want to go off and look for his parents).
No, I do not own HA!, but if anyone would like to give it to me since Viacom and Nick don't seem to be doing much with their rights to it, I would not complain...
Dinner AND a Show!
The dull bell trilled throughout the hallways of P.S. 118, alerting its young students that yet another lunch period had finally arrived on yet another typical Friday afternoon.
Typical, that was, except for an exchange now going on between two students that would have attracted the curiosity of any of their fellow elementary-schoolers. However, the two young ladies in question had carefully chosen the privacy of the girls bathroom to have their conversation, which was now vacant as all of its inhabitants had abandoned its stalls, sinks and mirrors for the plastic tables and chairs of the cafeteria.
Helga G. Pataki leaned against the far wall of the bathroom. Part of her weight rested against her palms which were currently pressed against the sill of the window behind her. Patty Smith stood with one arm leaning against the edge of a sink, glancing over a few pieces of paper in her free hand. Though Patty's expression as she read silently to herself went quickly from scrutinizing to satisfied, Helga didn't seem to be aware of this fact and her face remained blasé as she glanced down and to the left, seeming to be in thought. A person who knew Helga well though would have realized, after a close observation of the slight line of sweat forming at her hairline and the fact that her knuckles were turning white as she dug her nails into the wooden windowsill, that she was actually quite nervous. As if to confirm this theory, the ten-year-old girl swallowed hard, though quietly, as the silence in the room continued. Patty did not notice.
Finally, Patty looked up from the papers in her hand with a big smile. "Hey, Mr. Frank gave me a B+!"
Helga looked to Patty and internally breathed a huge sigh of relief. A grin came to her face and she moved away from the window. "Really?! That's great!" Helga was happy for Patty, but also just a little proud that something she, a fourth grader, had helped with had gotten such a decent grade from a sixth grade teacher.
What Patty had just finished looking over was her most recent report for English class (a poetry analysis to be specific), and her excitement came from the fact that with Helga's help the thirteen-year-old had managed to maintain her class average.
Patty walked over to Helga and used her free arm to give her a quick, very tight hug that actually pulled the blonde off the ground.
Helga coughed, "Uh, Patty? Patty!" She coughed once more with the force of Patty's arms around her.
Patty blinked and smiled sheepishly, letting Helga free. "Oh, sorry."
Helga straightened her dress and gave a half smile. "Uh, no problem." Helga knew the hug had just been a show of gratitude and she was truly happy that things had worked out for Patty with the paper, but she still couldn't help the twinge of discomfort at being made suddenly aware again that she was alone with one of the few kids at P.S. 118 with enough physical strength to take her down. Helga G. Pataki always used her words and her fists to keep herself safe, and being in a situation where the latter was gone was the teensiest bit unnerving. She swallowed though and brushed the feeling aside, turning to Patty again.
Patty took one more smiling glance at the paper before folding it up and putting it in her pocket. "You know, it's pretty cool how you know all that stuff about poetry and writing? If you don't mind my asking, how'd you learn it all anyway?"
Helga did her best to control a blush coming to her cheeks. She folded her arms behind her back and glanced up, trying to seem casual in her response. "Uh, you know—just a hobby of mine, heh heh." She looked at Patty now, smiling sincerely as she tried to move the focus of the conversation from herself to the sixth grader, "I'm glad I could help you out, Patty.
"Yeah," Patty leaned back against the sink, crossing her arms in front of her chest and smiling at Helga, "I was really surprised when Mr. Frank told me that Mr. Simmons mentioned that there was a fourth grader who he thought could help me, and even more surprised when it I found out it was you."
Helga blinked at the last part of the statement, unsure whether to be flattered or insulted. Under normal circumstances when given a choice between the two Helga always chose insulted but since she was dealing with Patty Smith who could transform into 'Big Patty' with a punch of a fist, she just looked at her unsurely.
Patty noticed the slight confusion on Helga's face and quickly explained, "I mean, I just didn't realize that poetry and stuff was part of who you are. Kind of like how sewing and cooking are kind of part of who I am, even though most people don't know it." Helga couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at this statement. She'd come to learn every since their near fight on the playground a couple of months ago that Patty was actually a really decent person but she hadn't been aware of these specifics
Patty was reflective for a moment before continuing, "You know, I'm glad I didn't pound you a few months back—we're actually a lot alike."
Helga smiled: she was starting to relax a bit more and she copied Patty's stance of leaning back against a sink. "Really?"
Patty shrugged. "Yeah, if you think about it. I mean we're both cool and smart, we both rule our grades," she smiled a little smugly and Helga reciprocated with a similar grin, "and we're both tough to everyone around us." Patty smiled thoughtfully to herself. "Well, except I usually let Harold off the hook, and sometimes Rhonda ever since that whole charm school thing…" Patty rolled her eyes and laughed to herself. Helga raised an eyebrow in curiosity, wondering briefly about what incident Patty was referring to. Patty came out of her reverie and continued, "And you usually let Phoebe slide a little…and Arnold."
Helga nodded absentmindedly for a second and then her eyes widened as she realized just what Patty had said. "Huh?!?!" The blonde girl's hands suddenly slipped forward off of the sink and her legs gave out, leaving her on the floor. Helga sat, her breath stopped and her eyes far too riveted on Patty to pay much attention to picking herself up.
Patty raised an eyebrow and stepped toward Helga. She offered her hand. "You okay?"
Helga managed to reach out and clasp Patty's palm, pulling herself up. "Uh, yeah— yeah, of course!" Helga took a breath and put on one of her signature scowls. "But I don't know WHAT you're talking about with the little Football Headed twerp! I-I mean," she lost her scowl for a moment and seemed to consider, then continued, "just this morning I shot thirty eight spitballs at him and pushed him into a puddle near a water fountain. And don't even get me started on what I've got planned for the rest of the day—"
Patty smiled and held up her hands defensively. "Okay, okay—I just meant I don't see you grabbing him by the collar and holding a fist in his face as often as most of the other kids."
"Yeah, well…" Helga scowled and looked away, arms crossed in front of her chest, "that's just because he's so short, it'd break my arm if I tried to lift him high enough to sock."
Patty laughed hard. She smiled. "You know, you two are kind of a cute couple. Like me and Harold, only you don't hang out together as much."
Helga choked on nothing. She coughed a few times and pounded her chest with her fist to clear it up. Her eyes bugged out and her face went pale. 'WHAT DID SHE JUST SAY?!?!?!"
"WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?!?!" It was the first thought in her head and the first thing out of her mouth (in a broken and rather high pitched voice) to the amusement thirteen-year-old before her.
Patty blinked. "What?" she asked genuinely confused.
Helga almost couldn't speak—she didn't even know where to begin. "Arnold and I are NOT—I mean, I can't stand that Football Headed little—uh, look I don't know what you're talking about but, uh, but…" She took a breath and composed herself. "Look, Patty I'm glad I could help you with your paper but like I told you weeks ago there's nothing going on with me and Arnold. We're just, just friends!" She glanced away. "Uh, not even friends really, more like acquaintances. I mean the only reason he even stood up for me to you that one time was because he's a do-gooder little shrimp who does stuff like that for everyone!"
"Okay, okay I believe you!" Patty said with a smile, rolling her eyes. "If things ever change though and you wanna talk about it, feel free to come to me."
"Yeah…whatever…" Helga managed to control her temper but she still kept the response distant, trying to communicate that she didn't want to pursue this topic further.
Patty stretched and checked the wristwatch on her hand, "Well, I better get to lunch. Harold's waiting for me."
Helga grinned and couldn't help herself, "It's been lunchtime for fifteen minutes and we're talking about Harold Berman—believe me, he's not waiting."
"Helga." Patty couldn't help but grin very slightly at the joke but she still felt the need to stand up for her friend.
Helga shrugged and rubbed the back of her neck sheepishly. "Sorry—habit."
Patty sighed and walked towards the bathroom exit. Before pushing open the door though she turned back to Helga. "Thanks again for the help, Helga. If you ever need a favor or anything—"
The scowl on Helga's face weakened. "Don't worry about it, Patty. But uh, can you still…"
"Not tell anybody you helped me?" Patty finished. Helga had made this request almost every day that the two had worked on Patty's paper. "Sure, no problem."
Helga sighed in relief, "Thanks."
"You know, I don't think anybody would care if they knew you were smart about writing and stuff. I think they might even be impressed." Patty smiled at her.
"Yeah…maybe…" Helga genuinely considered Patty's words for a second. Quickly though she shook her head to clear it and continued in a pleading voice, "But—"
"Don't worry—your secret's safe with me." Patty winked and Helga got an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach at the way Patty had phrased the response. "See you in the cafeteria!" And with that Patty walked out.
Helga hesitated for a minute before leaving as well. She turned on a sink and splashed some cold water on her face, taking a deep breath or two. Then she looked at herself in the mirror and the monologuing began. "Why is it that one of the only people on the planet who thinks my love for Arnold is obvious just happens to go to this school and wants to be friends with me?!" She grabbed a paper towel, wiped off her face and tossed it violently into the trash bin. "And to make it even more of a nightmare she's practically engaged to one of the biggest blabbermouth's in the entire fourth grade!" Helga began to pace and gesticulate as she got carried away. "I mean, suppose she sits down to have lunch with him right now and as they move on to Mr. Fudgie bars she casually says, 'Nice weather we're having, Harold; man, that baseball game was a close one last week; oh by the way isn't it adorably obvious how much Helga actually likes Arnold!?'"
Helga shivered at the thought. She bent over the sink and scowled at her reflection in the mirror. "That's it—I need to talk to her as soon as school's over and make it clear that she CANNOT go around joking about me having a thing for Arnold, or me and Arnold having a thing for each other or whatever crazy conclusion she came to just because Arnold bailed me out of getting beaten up by her last month. If she slips about the writing thing, then the worst I'll have to do is some damage control (it's not like she has a book of my Arnold poems or anything), but if she does go around with something about us being together I'll be dead! And Arnold…"
A look of fear came into her eyes. Ever since she had confessed to Arnold during the FTi incident, he had been tiptoeing around her at school to say the least. She'd yell at him or trip him or knock him into something and instead of his usual exasperated sigh and a mild comment, he would just look at her for a second like he suddenly had a pair of x-ray glasses that were showing him the inner workings of her emotions. Then he'd just nod or say a quick apology and be off. At baseball games he would nod to her instructions and take her insults without question, but otherwise they barely communicated at all. It had been driving her insane. However, she would have gladly taken this behavior over what he had been doing over the past few days. It seemed Arnold had gotten it into his head that he needed to 'talk to Helga' about something and as a result he had been approaching her at the most random times with a nervous look on his face, clearing his throat, and almost scaring her to death since half the time they had been out somewhere in public. In short, the last thing Helga wanted was something Patty was saying to the other kids to make Arnold start acting any weirder towards her.
Helga groaned to herself as these thoughts entered her mind. Suddenly though her stomach grumbled loudly and she sighed to herself, "That's right Helga old girl—just take care of it after school. For now I need some grub."
Helga walked across the bathroom and pushed open the door and walked out, a scowl appearing on her face as she entered the hallway and prepared to put on the show she always did for the kids of P.S. 118.
While Helga had been having one of her mini meltdowns in the bathroom, Patty had been making her way to the PS 118 lunchroom. In fact, she had just finished paying for her food and was about to walk to the table where Harold was waiting for her when suddenly she turned around bumped into something rather solid…and tall.
"Hey, what's the big idea?" She scowled and looked down at the contents of her lunch tray to make sure nothing had fallen off. Everything remained in tact though noticeably jostled, and some of her peas were now in her lime gelatin.
"Hey, I was walking here—Oh, uh, sorry Patty."
Patty blinked and then looked up at the person she had slammed into. Suddenly, the look on her face changed from annoyance to a smile. "Oh, hey, Torvald. How's it going?"
Torvald hesitated for a second, gave a quick glance to his left and right like he wanted to make sure no one was paying too much attention to their conversation, and then pulled out a piece of paper from one of his pockets. He smiled at Patty and said in a slightly hushed voice, "Actually, pretty good." He held up the paper in front of her face. "I just got back the grade of that practice test I took for getting into the sixth grade and look—I got a C!"
Patty's face lit up. "That's great Torvald!"
"Yeah, I know," he shoved the paper back into his jacket, "I've got those text books you loaned me to study from in my locker. After the real test next week I'll get them back to you."
"So those study sessions we've been doing have really been helping you? I never tutored anyone before so I wasn't sure if I was doing it right." Patty was mentally thankful for the fact that she had needed school help from Helga around the same time that Mr. Simmons had asked her to tutor Torvald, who was trying to finally move up to the sixth grade. She had been able to watch what Helga did that worked for her and try some of it with Torvald, and it was a really good feeling having it pay off.
Torvald leaned against the cafeteria wall. "Are you kidding—I couldn't even pass the fifth grade one two weeks ago and now I think I'll finally be able to get back to my normal grade level and go to junior high with the rest of you guys next year." He held out his hand and smiled wide. "I can't thank you enough, Patty."
Patty shifted the full weight of the tray to her left arm and shook Torvald's hand with her right hand. "Don't worry about it. Good luck on Monday. Maybe when you get your grades back we can celebrate somehow. Invite a few people to a party?"
Torvald released her hand. "Thanks, Patty. But, uh," a look of hesitation came to his face and he glanced from side to side again, "can we still not tell anyone I'm trying to do this until I get the grades back from the real placement test? Just in case." He rubbed the back of his neck, "I mean, I haven't even mentioned anything to my mom because I don't wanna get her hopes up, you know."
He glanced at the floor. A look of concern came to Patty's face. She reached her free hand up and put it on one of his shoulders. "Sure, Torvald. But I know you'll do great."
Torvald smiled and looked up again. "Thanks, Patty."
Patty removed her hand and smiled again. "Hey, why don't we meet one more time to study on Sunday? At my house?"
Torvald crossed his arms in front of his chest and nodded. "Yeah, sure. I could go for that. Same time?"
"Hey Torvald? What in the heck are ya doin'?"
"Yeah! Boy howdy, are you getting a whole 'nother lunch or something?"
Torvald glanced back to the table where he had been sitting. Stinky and Sid were waving at him to come back over. He raised his hand to the two boys and gave a quick shout, "Just a sec." He turned back to Patty. "See you Sunday."
She waved and began to walk off in the direction of her and Harold's usual table. "See you, Torvald."
"Oh hey, say hi to Harold for me," he called over his shoulder as he turned back to his friends, "Me and the guys don't see him as much at lunch ever since you two started hangin' out."
"Sure, Torvald!" And with that, Patty went to finally go eat lunch with Harold Berman.
Patty sat down and placed her tray on the table. "Hey Harold. Sorry I'm late. My, uh…appointment with the guidance counselor was a little longer than I thought it would be." Patty hated lying to Harold, but Helga HAD taken the time to help her out on that poetry thing and not telling anyone about it WAS the ten-year-old blonde's only request in exchange for doing so.
"Uh huh," Harold replied, a slightly miffed look on his face which Patty ignored.
Patty took a bite of the burger on her tray and a sip of milk from her carton. "Hey, the cheeseburgers aren't that bad today. What do you think?"
Harold pushed some of the food around on his tray and had a preoccupied look on his face. "Yeah, they're okay I guess…"
Patty stopped chewing for a second and eyed Harold suspiciously. Something was definitely bothering him. "Harold, is there something you want to tell me?"
Harold dropped his fork and his eyes widened a bit. "Huh?!" He glanced to the left, "Uh…no, no…"
Patty waited another second for him to continue. However, he didn't and so she turned back to her sandwich and took another bite in silence.
Harold seemed to consider for a few more seconds. Finally he spoke up, trying to sound as casual as possible. "So…uh," he scratched his head and glanced at her, "what were you talking to Torvald about?"
Patty glanced up. "Hmm?" She swallowed.
Harold seemed frustrated as he spoke and he was still just playing with his food instead of eating it—not a good sign. "Well I mean…I don't know," he scratched his head, "You've been spending a lot of time with him and...I was just wonderin'—why?"
Patty put down her sandwich and took a sip of her milk. "I like him Harold. We're friends. Oh, and he said to say hi to you."
Harold went back to playing with his food, though much more harshly than before. A scowl was on his face. "Oh yeah, well, you're friends with Sid and Stinky and Arnold and everyone but you don't go spending everyday after school with any of them." Though, as Torvald had requested, Patty had not mentioned the fact that she was helping him move up to the sixth grade, see guessed some of the other fourth or sixth grade boys must have seen her and Torvald walking in the direction of the library or away from the school together over the last few weeks. In fact though, Patty had only been spending two days a week after school and Sundays tutoring Torvald. The other three school days for the last two weeks had been spent working with Helga on her paper. However, she couldn't explain this to Harold without betraying the trust of both friends (and besides, it was interesting seeing Harold acting so protective of her).
Patty couldn't help the small half grin that came to her face. "Harold, are you jealous?"
"No! Of course not!" Harold crossed his arms over his chest stubbornly and pushed the food tray away from his body in response to her question. "I'm just sayin' it looks like Torvald likes you and you like Torvald, and—"
"Harold," Patty put down her sandwich and addressed him calmly and with her usual smile, "I've just been really busy with some things lately. You spend time with the other fourth graders playing baseball every afternoon. Why should me spending time with Torvald be any different?"
"Well...it just IS, is all!" Harold allowed his fork to slam down onto his tray. He folded his arms and scowled, turning away from Patty. "I mean, what are you two doin' together that's so great, anyway?"
Patty closed her eyes and sighed to herself. She really wanted to explain everything to him but she had promised Torvald that she wouldn't say anything until after Monday's test (and she had promised Helga she wouldn't say anything at all.) "Harold, I know we haven't had a chance to do a lot of stuff together, but I promise next week we'll go play some games at the arcade or catch that new Evil Twin movie that's coming out, or something. Okay?"
Harold sighed and his scowl softened. Finally he picked up his fork again and took a bite of his food. "Okay, I guess. I'm sorry, Patty. I know that since we're in different classes and grades and everything it's hard to—"
Patty turned around only to see the most inconvenient person imaginable standing right behind her chair with a smile on his face.
She swallowed the bite of sandwich in her mouth and tried to put on a smile though she was practically cringing as she imagined the look that must be on Harold's face. She managed to reply politely as usual though, "Uh, hey Torvald. What's up?"
Torvald rubbed the back of his neck with one hand. In his other arm he had held against his chest a few small plastic dishes filled with a white, thick substance. "Uh, well, me and Stinky dared Sid to eat 17 tapioca puddings in a row without puking, and well, he only made it to 12. Do you want one of the extras?"
Patty cleared her throat and couldn't help blushing. "Uh yeah, sure, Torvald. Thanks."
Torvald tossed one of the plastic dishes toward her. Patty put it in front of her and saw Harold's face for the first time: He was scowling darkly and drumming his fingers on the table.
Torvald looked across the table at Harold, still smiling. "Hey Harold, you want one too?" He slid one across the table to Harold.
Harold didn't move as the dish stopped against the tray in front of him. "Yeah, thanks," he spat.
Torvald didn't seem to notice his attitude though and just glanced back at Patty, still smiling. "Well, see you later."
Patty gave him a quick smile. "Uh yeah. See you, Torvald."
The thirteen-year-old girl sighed to herself and turned back to Harold. She smiled innocently. "Uh, so anyway about next week—" Suddenly Patty noticed Harold tossing the plastic cup lightly up and down in one of his hands almost as though he was planning to throw it somewhere…or at someone.
Her eyes widened and she reached across the table, grabbing the cup from him. "Harold, no! You know what Principal Wartz said—one more problem in the lunchroom this year and you'll have detention every Saturday until June."
"Oh, Whatever!" He scowled to himself again and sighed in frustration. Patty looked at him with concern, hoping he would be able to control his temper. Finally though, he settled on expressing his anger by just chugging the last of his milk carton and crushing the empty cardboard in his hand. Patty breathed a mental sigh of relief.
Harold sighed and looked to Patty again. "You said we could do the arcade and everything all next week right?"
"And he's not coming along too or anything is he?"
Patty shook her head.
"Good." Harold seemed to be fine now that he had been reassured of Patty's promise. He even took his spoon and took a small bite of the pudding Torvald had brought over.
Patty smiled to herself and sighed mentally, happy any disaster had been averted. She finished her hamburger.
"And at least there's Sunday, too," Harold suddenly added absentmindedly.
Patty's eyes widened. She dropped a spoon containing some of her peas onto her tray and looked at Harold. "What?"
Harold was eating some more of the pudding. "You know—Sunday after my cousin's Bat Mitzvah she's having a big party in her backyard and she invited us. There's gonna be a magician and horse rides and a band. Remember, I told you about it at lunch a few weeks ago."
Patty swallowed hard. "Harold uh…I…" Patty could have kicked herself—'How could I forget about that and makes plans with Torvald to study!' She glanced away from Harold. "I don't think I can go."
"Aw come on!" He stood up suddenly from the table. "I've been lookin' forward to this for weeks. There's gonna be a fountain that spews chocolate for cryin' out loud! You promised we'd go together."
Patty blinked. "Harold, I'm sorry, I—"
"Why can't you go?!"
Patty couldn't help the scowl that came to her face. Jealousy was flattering to an extent and she knew she was being a bit secretive but she wasn't appreciating the third degree. She stood up as well. "Look Harold, I just have something I have to do, okay? I'm sorry I forgot about the party."
"And I bet it has something to do with Torvald, doesn't it?!"
Patty blinked again. She didn't want to just directly lie to Harold by saying 'no,' and also if she told him 'no' and anyone else from PS 118 saw her with Torvald and word got back to Harold about it, he'd never trust her again. "Well—" she started with a guilty voice.
"I knew it!" He pointed an accusing finger at her.
Patty sighed deeply and did her best to get her temper under control. She wasn't in the mood to have a shouting match with Harold attract the attention of the entire cafeteria, inevitably leading to a mob of elementary-schoolers circling around the both of them and screaming 'Fight! Fight!' Instinctually, Patty glanced around before continuing the argument to see if they had indeed attracted any attention.
To Patty's surprise and confusion though, the cafeteria's attention seemed to be specifically focused on something happening on the opposite end of the room. "What's going on over there?"
"What are you talkin' about?" Harold turned from the argument for a second as well and looked in the direction Patty was pointing. There seemed to be a group of kids in a semi-circle around one of the tables talking and laughing. Both thirteen-year-olds finally focused their attentions away from each other and onto whatever the commotion was.
"UGH, I'm going to KILL you, you Football Headed little JERK!"
Helga G. Pataki stood towering over SOMEBODY at one of the lunch tables…and she appeared to be covered in milk which was now pooling into a white film at her feet.
"Helga, I'm sorry I—" Arnold stood up instantly and grabbed a napkin from the table. Instinctively, he began to dry and blot some of the milk from her dress.
The second she felt the pressure of his hand against her stomach she jerked away. "OOOH! Just get away from me, Arnold!!! I've been telling you that for the last ten minutes—leave me ALONE already!!!"
Patty couldn't help but raise an eyebrow in concern as she saw the look of pure distress on Arnold's face. He pulled his hand with the napkin away, stared at it for a second, seemed to blush, then threw the napkin back onto the table. He rubbed the back of his neck, then cleared his throat and said calmly (trying to ignore the stares of the people around them) "Helga, I was just trying to talk to you—"
"Well don't!!!" The blonde cut him off, a very emphatic look on her face. "Don't talk to me about ANYTHING Arnold! Don't sit next to me and DON'T knock a whole carton of milk into my lap! What's wrong with you?!" The snickering of the other kids began to increase.
Patty glanced at Helga and couldn't help but raise an eyebrow in curiosity. She knew Helga had a temper but usually the ten-year-old would let something like this go with a few minor threats and insults. Instead, she sounded desperate, almost panicked about whatever had been taking place between her and Arnold.
Patty's stare became even more surprised when she saw Arnold's reaction to Helga's exclamation. She knew Arnold to be a pretty levelheaded kid and just about the most non-confrontational person in existence, especially when it came to Helga. But instead of apologizing to Helga again, he suddenly gave her a brief but hard look…like he had a response to her question but for some reason wasn't saying it.
Helga's mouth instantly closed at the look, her eyes still wide and her hands still stretched out in mid-gesticulation. There was a thick tension in the room suddenly as a strangely taken aback Helga seemed to be calculating her next move. Patty couldn't help but empathize with Helga's situation—being a tough girl suddenly caught in a conflict with everybody looking to see what you would do next and knowing that whatever you decided might affect your reputation for the rest of your life wasn't easy.
Suddenly (and much to Patty's surprise) Helga gave a quick glance left before turning back to the situation at hand, slowly reached out a hand toward Arnold and (obviously reluctantly, in Patty's opinion) grabbed his shirt collar and gave a weak effort at jerking it upward. Arnold just kept looking at her, his eyes wide now though and betraying the fact that the tiniest bit of the confidence he had had seemed to be waning.
Helga swallowed hard. She took a breath, then began slowly, "I, I ought to deck you right now, Football Head." A hesitation, "Yup, right now, I ought to..." Another hesitation, "And, and that's what I'm going to do…" she glanced to the left again, and her voice sounded almost impatient.
At the sight of the fight in the making, Patty stood up from the table without thinking and began to approach the two fourth graders.
Harold came out of the trance of watching Arnold and Helga as he noticed Patty's movement. "Hey, where are you goin'?" he asked with genuine confusion, "It's starting to get good."
Patty walked swiftly across the lunchroom, right through the circle of onlookers (who started whispering even more at this new development), and right up to Arnold and Helga. She looked at both kids but eyed Helga in particular with a slight scowl. "Is there a problem here?" She put her hands on her hips.
A touch of fear came to Helga's eyes. Patty watched as the fourth grader seemed to be struggling with what she should do next. Suddenly, Helga's eyes lit up like she'd just gotten an idea or realized something. She gently released Arnold and put both of her hands behind her back, replying innocently, "Uh no...there's no problem, Patty. We were just—"
At that moment the bell went off signaling the end of the lunch period. At the sound, all of the kids looked instinctually to the pulsating bell and then started to pull away reluctantly from the circle to gather their empty trays and obey its command to return to class. All of the kids that was except Patty who had jerked her head around left and up toward the bell (and the clock which was right next to it) and then back around instantly. She was now eyeing Helga very suspiciously. She watched as the young blonde gave an almost imperceptible sigh of relief at the sound of the bell and rolled her eyes. Suddenly Patty blinked and glanced back at the clock again. 'That was where Helga was looking before she grabbed him…'
The bell finished but just as the crowd was about to grab their stuff and head out the cafeteria doors, they hesitantly glanced back at Arnold, Helga and Patty as though waiting for some grander conclusion to the fight.
Helga looked around her and scowled. "Alright you bunch of chuckleheads, show's over!!! Football Head may deserve a good punch in the face but I'm not about to get detention for being late to class AND pounded by Big Patty all for the sake of teaching him a lesson. Now get your butts out into that hallway!"
And so with a few shrugs and some disappointed murmurs the kids began to clear out of the cafeteria. Helga crossed her arms over her chest and glared at Arnold for a second before turning away and joining them.
Patty watched as Arnold walked back to his friend Gerald, who said a few words that Patty couldn't make out to the young boy. Arnold only sighed and shook his head in response to his friend. Gerald put a hand on his shoulder and smiled, said one final thing, and departed along with the rest of the kids with a hesitant and concerned look on his face.
Seeing most of the kids had already gone, Patty considered for a second and then walked over to Arnold. "Uh, hey, Arnold. Are you okay?"
"Huh?" Arnold was surprised to see Patty standing before him. It seemed to her that he had been in deep thought about something before she'd interrupted him. He shook his head to clear it and continued, "Oh, yeah, I'm fine. Thanks for trying to help, Patty."
She smiled. "No problem." There was a moment of silence. Patty cleared her throat, "So uh, problems with Helga?"
Arnold gave a small sigh and grabbed his empty tray from the table. "Something like that…" he replied in a listless voice.
Patty hesitated for another second. She wanted to help Arnold, but she knew she wasn't nearly as good as he was at this whole 'listening and giving advice thing.' She figured she'd just try her best though. "Anything you wanna talk about?"
The two kids started walking toward the cafeteria exit. Arnold did his best to give her a smile. "Thanks, Patty, but uh, I promised…I just think someone might be uncomfortable if I went into details with another person about it. Okay?"
Patty smiled and nodded. 'I'm having the same problem myself, Arnold,' she couldn't help but add mentally as she recalled the current Harold/Torvald situation. "I understand."
Arnold gave her an appreciative smile back.
"Just remember what you told me," Patty continued, "Helga's not so bad, deep down."
Arnold glanced off at Helga who was just exiting the cafeteria and the frustrated look came back to his eyes. "I know. I just…I wish she would let me—" His eyes opened wide as he remembered that he wasn't alone with his thoughts anymore but in the presence of another person. He cleared his throat and glanced down.
Patty smiled to herself again. "You really care about her, don't you?"
Arnold blinked and a slight blush came to his face. His mouth opened, but before he could say anything…
Patty turned around to see Harold running toward her. "Hey, what happened?" he asked confused. "I was about to bet Chocolate Boy six Mr. Fudgies that Helga would take Arnold out with one punch. No offense, Arnold," he added with a smile to his friend.
Arnold rolled his eyes and gave a slight smile. "Don't worry about it, Harold." The three students were all at the trashcans by this point and Arnold threw out his tray. He turned to Harold and Patty. "I'll see you guys later. Thanks again, Patty." And with that he finally exited the cafeteria as well.
Patty stared for a few moments in the direction Arnold had gone, seeming to be in deep thought about something.
She was brought out of her thoughts by the feeling of someone tapping her on the shoulder. "Patty? Hey, Patty!"
She blinked and turned around to see Harold with both of their trays in one of his hands. "Come on, were gonna be late to class."
Patty shook her head to clear it. "Oh, sorry, Harold. I was just thinking about something. Thanks for getting my tray."
"Aw, don't worry about it." He waved her off and tossed both trays into the trash. She smiled again.
There was a brief moment of silence and then Harold cleared his throat. "So um, listen Patty I'm—I'm sorry about the whole Torvald thing. I know I shouldn't get mad or anything, it's just…" a small blush crept into his face and he started to speak more quickly, "you're one of my best friends and the coolest girl I know and, you know, I like spending time with you and everything and—"
"I know, Harold," Patty said with a smile, saving him from the feeling of embarrassment at continuing his explanation, "and I'm sorry about Sunday. I should have remembered—I mean you did tell me about it two weeks ago."
Harold smiled and rubbed the back of his neck. "Ah, don't worry about it. It's not that big of a deal anyway."
The two pushed open the cafeteria doors and walked out into the hallway. "No, it's important," Patty stated firmly. "I've been neglecting our friendship a little, I guess. If you're free, would you like to do something on Saturday instead?"
Harold beamed. "Well, sure. That'd be great, Patty." She noticed him blush slightly as he realized the over-enthusiasm of his reaction. He toned his voice down a bit and continued, "Uh, so, what do you wanna do?"
Patty shrugged. "I don't know. We'll think of something after school, okay?"
"Sure." Harold smiled. "So…um," he shuffled his feet a bit then asked shyly, "could I maybe walk you to class?"
Patty smiled. "Of course, Harold. Thank you."
And with that the two thirteen-year-olds headed down the hallway to resume of the rest of their school day.
Thanks for reading chapter 1—I hope you all liked it! Please check out chapter 2 for more hilarious antics!