Disclaimer: Don't own "Hey Arnold!" but I'm pretty sure if Craig Bartlett read some of my fanfics, he'd sign over complete control to me in a second. :)
Summary: While Helga recites her love for Arnold, someone unexpected overhears her. Oneshot.
By: Bunni Girl
It should have come to a shock to me given her treatment of me all these years. She was a pretty mean girl. I mean, really mean. Sometimes even I got really angry with her. But somehow, hearing her say why made it all fall into place like some complex puzzle finally solved. And in some strange way, that made it a little better to bear the pain and misery. Helga loved me, Arnold, the football-head. Don't get me wrong. All those years of anguish didn't just disappear... but it did make sense why some of her formerly weird behavior seemed so, well... weird back then.
Now, before I get ahead of myself, I should probably tell you she didn't really mean to tell me she loved me. It was sort of an accident, and I think if she covered it up, it would've just made it worse. I mean, I may be a lot of things -- but I'm certainly not stupid or gullible.
But she doesn't know that I know, and you know... I'll just keep it that way.
As for how it happened, well, that's actually an interesting story.
Helga and I... well, we've got a strange habit of always 'bumping' into each other. It was a really cold day in November, a few days before Thanksgiving. School had been let out earlier and I was sent out to do some last minute shopping for dinner. She was the last person I expected to 'bump' into.
"Watch where you're going, geekbait," she growled, dusting herself off. She was sprawled on the floor, barely dressed in any sort of winter attire. She had a thin coat, but that was it. I on the other hand was bundled up to my neck, gloves, coat, and all.
"Sorry, Helga," I said, rubbing the back of my head, embarrassed and also trying to feel for any lumps. I offer her a hand to help her up. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine." She glowered at me, giving me her best glare, but she still takes my hand. For a second her face is soft and her fingers, glove-less, tenderly almost rubbed my own in the brief embrace. She snatched her hand away quickly, as if it bit her. "No thanks to you." I sigh, rolling my eyes, waiting for the final insult before she stalks off. She doesn't disappoint.
"Criminey, as if my day can't get any worse without running into a loser like you, Arnoldo," she says as she passes me by, not giving me another glance as she heads down the cold street. I look at my gloved hands and rub the fingers together for warmth, worrying about her own hands getting frostbite. I knew she'd just go, "None of your concern, bucko," if I even brought it up. But still... I look down the street she left down, bending down to pick up the squash that dropped out of the bag.
Sometimes I felt like I saw the real Helga. You know... the big softie I know is underneath all of that wire and mesh she keeps up as an appearance. And then sometimes... I sigh again, picking up the bag of groceries and stood up. There are times when I feel like an idealist for thinking like that. Here I am, nine years old, thinking I know everything. I start to shiver, "Brr." The autumn wind chilled against my back, sending my scarf fluttering down the sidewalk, in the direction Helga walked away. "Great," I mumble, now chasing a piece of clothing with a heavy bag of food. With more luck, maybe I'd run into her, I thought sarcastically. I keep an eye on my dancing scarf as it weaved in and out of the air like a fun toy or a kite.
Then the wind gets bored and whipped it around before wrapping it around a pole. "Ha! I gotcha!" I smile at my small triumph, taking a hold of the scarf when I pause, my ears pricking up at a familiar sound. A familiar voice actually. Who, I think. At first I think better of eavesdropping, but then there's something tempting about it that I find myself unable to resist for some reason.
I walk towards it, going near the mouth of a dimly lit alleyway. My eyes widened when I see it's Helga in this alleyway, talking to someone. But there's no one there. Intrigued, I move a little closer, straining to hear more.
"Ah! Arnold! The buffoon, the weakling... how I hate him." Oh boy, one of her tirades about how much she hated me. I didn't want to hear this... somehow it stung to hear that she loathed me on some level, no matter what I do to make up for it. I was ready to pull out of there when her tone suddenly changed, "And yet... how I love him! Those compassionate green pools of his the world calls his eyes, his silky cornflower locks that my fingers beg to be tangled in! Oh!" She gives a sort of moany squeal.
My jaw is literally on the floor. Like, literally on the FLOOR. This can't be the same Helga... and if it is, it can't be ME, this Arnold, she was talking about.
"Oh Arnold! When will you see that you and I are meant to be? Why must I be so cruel to you? Oh, Arnold!" The way she said my name right then made me feel... funny. Almost uncomfortable but at the same time it felt really... nice? I blinked, leaning in, staring at the spectacle my, well what I had thought was my nemesis, was creating. How often did she do this? Was this the first time? But I had a feeling from the freeness of her words and actions that it was hardly her first time spouting off soliloquies in my name.
"Again, again! I had the perfect chance to be kind to him, only to toss it back in his face like week old garbage. Just once, just once I'd like to reveal my tender love I feel for him." She seemed to be bent down over something in her hands but I couldn't see what*. "One day, my flaxen-haired angel, we shall overcome life's obstacles and be together. One day, my love," and then she gave that really weird moan again.
I knew it was my cue to step away before she saw me and I went back to the pole, trying to concentrate on untangling the scarf without much luck. Even the word "untangle" made me shiver despite myself when I remembered her recent words. My mind was going into shock.
Helga Pataki was in love with me.
The guy she had been making fun of since preschool. I mean, she even coined the term "Football-head."
I rubbed my head again, wondering if I didn't have a concussion after that minor collision earlier.
It couldn't be. It wasn't possible. But the more I thought about it, and the way she acted around me, the more it clicked. It'd explain the breathy, almost startled she said my name when we ran into each other. Even the brief looks of tenderness and affection I KNOW I've seen on her face before she pushes me to the ground.
I blush. She's in love with me. Of all people, she's in love with me. And those names she called me. I turn an even deeper red and hope that it can be explained by the bitter cold.
I see her coming out of the alleyway, rubbing her hand**, looking annoyed and she spots me, surprised. "A-Arnold!"
I look over my shoulder, unable to smile normally at her, going red at just the sight of her. "Oh hey, Helga." Her words continue to echo in my ears: flaxen haired angel, silky cornflower locks, green pools of compassion... I wonder what other names she's given me, and I find myself anxious to find out.
"What are you doing here?" She looks nervous, looking around. I give a little half-smile, unable to really control my amusement totally. So, she's afraid I overheard her, huh?
"Just unwrapping my scarf. Why are you here?"
"Uhh... I had to chase... my..." She paused. "My..."
"My-my cat! That's it. My cat. I was looking for it."
"Oh, sorry to hear that, Helga. Want me to help you find it?" I knew there wasn't a cat. Phoebe mentioned Helga's dad was allergic to them a few weeks ago after she slept over***. I smirk, liking her all flustered and... cute? Yeah. I guess she did look sort of cute when she was nervous.
"Nah, I'm happy to get rid of the mangy thing anyway. Clashed with the decor." She turned to walk away before pausing again, rolling on her heels as she looked at me with narrowed eyes. "You... didn't happen to hear anything strange? Just before I came out, did you?"
Strange? No. Unexpected? Yes. I wanted to tease her more, liking this power, but I saw her eyes very clearly. She wasn't just nervous; Helga was terrified that I knew. Why was it so bad that I knew that she liked me... that she LOVED me? I didn't think it was bad, and then did a mental double take. It felt like I was expecting this after all, because it was all so easy to... take in and absorb. I was accepting the fact that Helga G. Pataki secretly loved me.
"Strange? No." She looked relieved, like a sack of potatoes dropped to the ground. I didn't know what was more endearing: her trying to cover her tracks with a really bad lie, or her almost relaxing in front of me. Both seemed really adorable.
"Oh, okay. Forget I asked," her confident tone came back and she looked haughty as ever. There she was, ready to kick some ass again.
I rolled my eyes, keeping a small smile to myself, pretending to work with the scarf. "Whatever you say, Helga."
She scowled at me, as if she almost knew what had happened. But she was satisfied with the excuse and slunk away, ready to start shoving people and creating destruction in her wake. I was suddenly struck by an impulse I couldn't control, like when I eavesdropped on her. "Wait!"
She stopped, looking annoyed but all the more breathless as she anticipated my next move. I move closer to her, so close that this time she's the uncomfortable one and trying to find a way to put more space between us. I take her hand and her eyes widen in shock. I take off my gloves and put them on her, surprised that she was letting me without trying to slap me off of her. "I don't want you to get frostbite. You shouldn't walk around without gloves on days like these." I rubbed her now-gloved hands with my own, trying to inspire heat. I didn't know what I was doing. It was like I was asking her to kill me. No, it was like I was begging her to the way I rubbed her fingers like she had rubbed mine earlier. I saw a blush creeping up on her cheeks and anticipated a smart reply to ruin the moment.
But then she surprised me again. "Thanks, Arnold," she said softly, her hands hovering over mine before giving it a hesitant squeeze. She said my name again that way, so lightly with such heavy meaning, so earnestly... like it was laced with love. My chest felt light and jumpy, and I felt so confused at the sensation that I loosened the grip on her hands. It was like this for two seconds more, and then she bolted from me down the street like I had cooties or something. I instantly felt a sense of... loss? Her hands gone from mine made me feel colder and I shrugged it off with the reasoning that I was now the glove-less one. But still... it made me feel happy for some reason. I put my hands in my pockets, unable to wipe this silly grin off my face. Why was I so pleased with myself just now?
I look at my scarf and almost slapped my forehead out of frustration. I ended up tangling (I shivered at the word again) it worse than actually unwrapping it. I almost gave up, sitting down on the very cold sidewalk. A few people pass me by, a little confused at the sight of me on the dirty ground, but I didn't care. So, Helga Pataki loved little old me, huh? I gave a satisfied smile, not even knowing why that had pleased me the way it did just then. I decided to leave the scarf there as a memento, a sort of marker of the place where I discovered Helga Pataki's deepest, darkest secret.
Even now, I could just tell her I know. I could just pop her self-inflated bubble without a care. But... looking at the girl stomping away from me with such determination, it's obvious she wants it to be a secret for a reason. So to keep things less complicated, let's just say... my lips are sealed at the moment. Until she's ready.
I've always thought to myself, with Helga practically spewing out declarations of her love in almost every episode, the chances of Arnold overhearing them are marginally high. Especially since he's so near her every time she says them! :) So I wrote a little oneshot drabble on it. Hope you guys liked it. Oh, yes, the title refers to Helga calling her love for Arnold her "deepest, darkest secret." I hardly think so! ;)
Oh, and I utterly detest referring to the movie confession so like a lot of my other stories about Hey Arnold! I prefer to just not use it in this story for background. ^^ sorry FTI confession lovers.
Some people wanted more of this, but I just don't see it working as a multi-chapter story idea. It felt too complicated and I've got other stories to worry about for now. For others sure, but I feel like it explains why he tolerates her behavior all of the time: cuz he knows she loves him deep down. :)
Happy new year!
*=Arnold can't see from the angle he's at, and the distance, but she's holding her little locket of him.
**=She's rubbing her hand because she just punched Brainy, as always, and annoyed because he seems to harsh her buzz whenever she Arnold-rants to herself. Arnold just didn't witness/hear it happening so it was more of an off-screen incident.
***=I'm under the opinion Phoebe has a cat even though I've never seen one. They don't look like dog people to me. Also, I refuse to believe Helga would even want a pet the way she acts towards all animals in the series. ^^ she's just not a pet person.