If you read this within the first few hours of it being posted, please scroll towards the end because at the last minute I ended up adding about 1500 words to the end--just a random idea I got after I posted the fic, lol ;) Sorry, about the inconvenience, but if you already read then I hope you like what I've added and if you haven't read yet then no worries about anything I'm saying in this A/N, lol!
So, I know that I said this would be up like forever ago, but then I got distracted with school and with my TA sequel (Learning to be Helga, guys—five chapters long and going strong, lol!) but I had some free time and I felt like I needed a little break from editing LTBH, and then I remembered this Epilogue and how I really liked what it does for the story, so, submitted for your approval, here's the real ending to "A Perfect Ten" :) I hope you guys enjoy it! Please read and review and give me a reason to continue to plow on with my HA! fanatic-ness!
A PERFECT TEN
A Perfect April Fool's Day…
"I knew something like this was going to happen…"
The football headed speaker of these words (and the near laugh that accompanied them) sighed as he concluded his observation to himself. He then glanced down into the shimmering aqua waters of the pool over which he was currently swinging his feet as he sat in the now empty gym of PS 118, still littered with the remains of decorations for the April Fools Dance that had just ended not too long ago.
"Of course you knew something like this was going to happen, Football Head…" began a familiar voice coming from behind him that instantly made Arnold sit up a little straighter and smile just a bit more. This second speaker continued as she sat down next to him, likewise allowing her legs to hang over the edge of the floor and dangle just above the pool water's surface. "You and tall hair boy were the ones who came up with the brilliant plan of opening the pool in the middle of the dance just to get back at me for my, if I do say so myself, awesome prank of turning you into my personal slave…" He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye and saw she was just looking at him and smiling. "I don't see how you couldn't have known that it would lead to the whole dance getting flooded out, paste for brains."
"Hi, Helga…" Arnold said quietly. He laughed and turned his eyes back to just gazing into the pool waters below. "Actually, I was talking about our whole prank war in general…" He sighed, the smile still on his face. "I thought last week when we decided to just have things go back to normal between us that it wouldn't be able to last for too long without something happening…but…" he laughed to himself again and raised an eyebrow at her, looking back in her direction, "I thought we'd at least be able to make it more than a week, though."
Helga scoffed at the comment and rolled her eyes. "Please—I was shocked and amazed when it all didn't collapse the second we saw each other Monday morning, all things considered…" She gave him a playful punch in the shoulder. "You're not half bad at keeping a secret, by the way, Arnoldo."
Arnold laughed again, rubbing the shoulder she had just nudged slightly. "Thanks, Helga."
"Eh, don't mention it…" She smiled. "I just hope this isn't a sign of things to come, though, or we'll end up blowing up this school just as much as Sheck would have if he'd gotten his way…"
Arnold laughed. "Yeah…" He let out a sigh. "We should probably prepare for things like this to keep happening…at least, until we talk about everything…" He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye once more, though this time around with an obvious touch of nervousness.
He noticed Helga blush slightly and swallow hard in response to the awkward topic he'd suddenly brought up. She proceeded to smile nervously as she spoke, glancing back toward the pool waters. "Well, I don't know about you but since I'm probably going to need to avoid that conversation like the plague for a little while longer…a few little moments of chaos between us to blow off steam until the 'big talk' are fine with me if they're fine with you..." She chuckled warmly. "I mean, as long as I still get to drive you nuts as the queen of pranks, I'm basically good." She glanced back at him again and winked.
Arnold laughed warmly and turned to look at her again as well. "Hey, if you're the queen of pranks, how come I'm the one staring at you in a wet dress courtesy of that last topper me and Gerald pulled?" He raised an eyebrow at her.
Helga crossed her arms over her chest and scoffed once more, an amused smile forming on her face. "Hey, the night's still young for pranks, Head Boy, and let's not forget that I'm also staring at you in a wet suit courtesy of the fact that I was able to pull you into this old pool right along with me since your chivalry has always outweighed your common sense, Football Head."
Helga and Arnold shared a small laugh at these memories of their evening together. Finally, Arnold stood and then offered a hand to Helga to help her up much like he'd done mere minutes ago when she'd asked innocently enough for assistance out of the pool only to prank him that one last time, or like all those times over the years when they'd crashed into each other coming around corners or walking down the street and he'd always wanted to be a gentleman and help her up. Without her usual resistance to his efforts (much to Arnold's interest and happiness), Helga took the palm of his extended arm in her own and was quickly standing beside him, wringing out her pigtails just a little bit more and still grinning quite a bit in his direction.
Arnold just smiled at her with his half lidded gaze. "Well, in the interest of not blowing up the school…at least not before our last day of fourth grade next month…maybe we should head home before either one of us gets another bright prank idea." He winked.
Helga couldn't help but feel herself blush slightly at the look in his eyes and then that wink, and she swallowed and put her hands behind her back before replying with an unintentionally nervous stutter to her voice, "Oh, uh…yeah…you're…you're probably right…"
Arnold, trying his best not to laugh at how flustered she suddenly seemed (and all because of him), began to head in the direction of the gym exit, but paused as he realized that Helga wasn't following alongside him. He turned his head to look back near the pool. "Helga? Are you coming?" And then he had to raise an eyebrow along with this question at the sight his eyes suddenly fell upon: Helga was just standing there, eyeing the pool with a hand to her chin like she was thinking of something…or plotting something. He did his best to hide the half smile starting to form on his face. 'I almost wouldn't put throwing in just one more prank tonight past her…'
The sound of Arnold saying her name finally processed with Helga after a second or two and caused her to suddenly blink and then turn to look at him on surprise. "Huh? Oh, uh…yeah, yeah, I'm coming, Football Head."
Then Arnold watched in curiosity (and just a but of amusement) as a mischievous smile came to the face of the girl before him…and then he continued to watch and try his best not to chuckle as Helga suddenly pulled out her 'blind' glasses and placed them over her eyes and then picked up the cane she'd been using for the better part of the night from the floor near her feet. "Yes, sir—ready to go…As soon as you escort your 'poor, blind friend; out of here, of course, Arnoldo."
Arnold took a deep breath to keep himself focused so that he wouldn't laugh. He turned to face her completely and crossed his arms over his chest. "Helga…"
"What?" She shrugged innocently, still smiling. "Oh, come on, Football Head…" She reached up and tilted her glasses down just slightly for a second, revealing her eyes to him. "You basically ruined my greatest prank ever before with your greatest prank ever. The least you could do is indulge me a little—seriously, don't be such a spoiled sport, Arnold." She put the glasses back on. "Now…" she reached out her arm dramatically, "Grab my hand and help guide me out of here like a good football headed date, and I promise I'll try and not hit your legs with my cane TOO much…" She laughed in triumph to herself at the joke.
Arnold just observed her closely for a second…as well as that cunning smile on her face that told him there was at least a slight chance that there might be an ulterior motive for this request to resume the slave/blind situation (and an ulterior motive besides the chance for her to have him hold her hand again for a little while longer). Trying as hard as he could to keep his grinning under control, Arnold sighed and began to approach her. "Alright, Helga. I guess you're right—it's the least I could do…"
"Darn tootin', head boy!" Her grin widened at his complacency. "Now, move it!"
Arnold finally had to at least chuckle quickly to himself at this exclamation of Helga's as he finally came back along side her. However, rather than taking her right hand in his left one to lead her as he had done for most of the time they'd spent together during his 'servitude', he hesitated for just a second and then suddenly slid behind her and took her right hand in his own, allowing their arms to press against the length of each other…and he finished by putting his left arm half around her hip.
His face was right beside Helga's and Arnold could see that her smug smile was already long gone, and he was certain that behind her glasses her eyes must have gone quite wide like they usually did whenever he got too close to her (as he'd come to notice more and more over the last week). The touch of pink he could see creeping into her cheeks made him smile just a bit more and told him that he must be right in his assumption about her eyes...
Arnold cleared his throat and spoke in a low voice near Helga's ear, grinning almost uncontrollably. "Well…there's the door…" He nodded in the direction in which he had formerly been walking and then turned all of his attention right back to the girl in his arms. "Shall we go then, Helga?" He began to press against her just slightly to guide her steps forward.
"Uh…uh…" She swallowed hard, almost going forward to follow his guiding but then resisting at the last second (though barely), and Arnold did his best once again not to laugh. "I…uh…" Helga was now breathing quite a bit more heavily than usual too, Arnold couldn't help but observe with interest. Finally, though, she cleared her throat and seemed to regain herself (though the blush was still in her cheeks, Arnold noted to himself). "Uh, sure thing, Football Head…" Helga managed in a much more confident sounding voice…And then it was Arnold's turn to feel his eyes go wide and a slight blush come to his cheeks as she took her arm grasping her cane and suddenly placed it over his arm that was around her, not only pulling his body closer to hers but pulling his arm more tightly and more fully across her waist. "Let's cut a rug!" she added with a very suspicious slight laugh.
Helga then shifted forward to actually pull Arnold along behind…and simultaneously managed to angle her cane back behind one of his ankles. Luckily, though her tactic of pulling him into even more intimate contact with her in order to distract him had definitely had an effect, Arnold hadn't entirely forgotten his initial suspicions with coming back over to assist his 'poor, blind friend'…and so, just as he felt Helga's weight go to slam back against him (which would have effectively caused him to trip backwards across her cane and into the pool once more that evening) he instead released his arms from around her and stepped to the side, causing her to reel backwards for a second in empty space before...
Arnold turned around to face Helga's floating form in the pool and finally just had to burst into warm laughter. As she finally came to the surface, sputtering water from her mouth, he couldn't help kneeling down over the edge of the pool and saying, with one of his half lidded gazes, "Got you again, Helga." He winked.
She just looked back at him with total shock on her face, blinking several times, obviously totally flabbergasted by the fact that he had not only pranked her twice in one night but that he had actually specifically managed to reverse one of her usually full-proof pranks onto herself yet again! Indeed, Helga's current surprise was so great that for a few more moments she just continued looking up blankly at Arnold who just continued smiling down at her floating there… Or, at least, that was the situation until a certain idea suddenly came to Helga's mind…and then a cunning smile quickly accompanied it… 'I am just too good at knowing how to mess with Arnold…'
And then finally, before Arnold could process the change in her features and what it might mean, Helga suddenly used the ledge in front of her to bob up quickly out of the pool, reach forward and grab her beloved's hat off of his head, bringing it back into the pool with her.
Arnold's eyes went wide as he realized what she'd just done and felt the sudden draft upon his head. "Hey, give that—WHOA!"
Arnold, not really thinking considering that someone had just removed his precious hat from his head, had reached forward to snatch it back from Helga's grasp on instinct, only to reel forward into the empty space between the ledge upon which he was perched and Helga…ultimately resulting in him toppling into the pool right alongside her…
As Arnold finally came to the surface, all he could hear was the sound of Helga laughing uncontrollably to herself. And indeed, seeing his drenched hair and slightly annoyed look (just like not too long ago when they'd ended up in the pool together the first time that evening), Helga couldn't help but grin at him between chuckles and say with more than a touch of smugness as she spun his hat in the air on one of her fingers, "You were saying, Football Head?"
Though she could tell he was still trying to seem annoyed with her for getting him wet again, it was obvious to both of them, as Arnold swam over to the ledge so that he could grab onto it and keep himself afloat like Helga was now doing, that he was starting to smile. "Very funny, Helga…"
"I thought so, you little sneak!" She shook a finger at him playfully. "Nice try, Arnold, but don't ever try and one up the one up queen! You should know better after all these years than to think there was any way you could ever stop me from having the last laugh!" She laughed warmly again, and the sound couldn't help but make Arnold smile just a bit more.
Finally he just sighed, unable and no longer wanting to continue feigning annoyance with her anymore. "Okay, Helga, you win—you're the best!"
"Ah, music to my ears…" she laughed slightly to herself again, moving the small blue cap to her opposite hand to try twirling it on a new set of fingers this time around.
Arnold just rolled his eyes at the comment and the action, and then shifted a bit closer to her. He spoke sincerely. "So, can I have my hat back now, Helga? Please…" He reached forward for the small blue item she was still holding just slightly away from him.
Quickly, though, upon seeing his arm extend forward, Helga swam backwards several feet. "Uh, uh, uh!" She shook her head back and forth playfully. "You want, you work for it, Football Head!" And suddenly she began to kick under the water, causing herself to move away from her beloved at full speed.
"Helga!" Arnold called out playfully, swimming/sliding himself along the ledge of the pool after her. He was reaching forward with his free hand the whole time. "Come on, I mean it! It's my hat!"
"You'll get it back as soon as you're quick enough to get it back from me, Football Face!" she called after him playfully as he continued to pursue her with a smile.
"Oh yeah?" He laughed, letting go of the ledge and now full-on swimming after her…and gaining…
"Oh, just a hair too slow, Arnoldo!" Helga announced with a proud chuckle as he used the pool wall to push himself forward for a second in his swim, almost managing to reach her. "Nice lunge, though!"
"Helga…" starting to get tired, Arnold resumed moving after her using the ledge of the pool as a guide, "You know, you can't keep this up forever—this pool's only so big and you're bound to get tired soon!"
She just rolled her eyes at the warning. "Yeah, well, until then this is hysterical, so, come on, Arnold—keep going for the carrot!"
"Helga, this isn't fair!" He was almost all out laughing as he spoke, his smile a mile wide as he continued moving after her, though she was always managing to be just a foot or so away from him. "I mean, how would you like it if I stole your hair ribbon?"
" 'Hair ribbon'?" She almost stopped in her swimming, but then settled for just blinking and then asking in an amused voice as she continued to swim backwards and avoid her beloved. "What is this—the 1930s? It's a 'bow', Einstein! And as for stealing it, I'd just like to see you try!" Her grin grew. "And even if you did manage to get it from me, I could catch you MUCH more quickly than it's taking you right no—OOF!" Helga, too concerned with delivering quality sarcastic quips to every plea Arnold had made for his hat, had failed to realize just how close the wall of the other side of the pool was…which was why, now, she suddenly found herself slamming backwards into it, much to Arnold's amusement.
He quickly swam up right in front of her, effectively cornering her. "You were, saying Helga?" He asked ironically, raising an eyebrow, the amused smile still on his face.
He watched as Helga blinked several times at the sight of his proximity and at the shock of suddenly having nowhere to go, but then quickly shook her head to clear it and did her best to resume a weak scowl. She held up his hat high in the air and as far behind herself as she could. "Hey, you still have to reach for it with those shrimpy Football Head arms of yours, paste for brains!"
Arnold just chuckled at the challenge and then reached up and over her as far as he could, though he still couldn't make it as far back as she was holding his hat. "Helga!
She just kept laughing at his efforts and all the while stretching her arm with his hat as far away from them as she could. "Oh man, I wish I had a camera! You, looking like a drowned rat and practically jumping all over me all because I took your precious hat! Come on Arnoldo, face facts…You couldn't manage to get this hat back from me in a million years, no matter how hard you tried!" 'Couldn't even get it back yourself the FIRST time—I had to hand deliver it to you from the dump!' she couldn't help but mentally add to herself with a smug grin.
"Oh yeah…?" Arnold began with a smile, and suddenly he lunged forward as far as he could.
Unfortunately, despite this quality effort, rather than finding himself the possessor of his hat once more, the only result a naturally-shorter-than-Helga Arnold got was missing his small blue goal by several inches, and then falling forward and below the surface of the pool. He came back up a second later, sputtering water and having to flip back his freshly drenched hair once again that evening.
Helga couldn't contain herself at the sight of what had just happened, and instantly burst into uncontrollable laughter. "N-not even c-close, Football Head!" she managed to stutter out in between chuckles.
Arnold, despite her laughter at his expense and his failure to get the hat thus leading up to his latest soakage, couldn't help but suddenly smile and even laugh a bit to himself at the warm, happy, 'nice' sound coming out of the girl before him...just like so many times that night and so many times last weekend during her birthday. And then finally he just sighed to himself and considered his situation for a second. 'Well…okay, so just diving for it didn't work… Maybe carefully trying to grab it from her now that she's so distracted with laughing would help. At least I wouldn't have to worry about missing it or slipping and accidentally ending up under water again…' And with these thoughts Arnold then proceeded to slowly move forward the rest of the distance between himself and Helga, and to place one hand on the ledge behind her body to steady himself and to use his other hand to lean over her and reach (much more methodologically) towards the hat again…all the while still looking at her and grinning…and finding himself, much to his interest (especially since he hadn't really realized it until just now), drawn more and more into her eyes…
"Ah, going for the 'slow and steady' approach, I see, Football Head…" Helga just smiled into his face and felt her eyes go a bit half lidded at the warm gaze she found meeting her own. "Well, unless you can add a few inches of length to that shrimpy body of yours, I think you'll still be out of luck…"
"I'll take my chances, Helga…" Arnold replied with another small chuckle as he continued to move forward just a bit and then just a bit more, still trying to balance himself with the hand on the pool ledge behind Helga as he reached for his hat…though his eyes were still focused more on her face and eyes than his supposed goal… 'I'm glad we're getting to be alone again…we always seem to have more…more fun when we're alone…' he thought to himself with a contented mental sigh.
And Helga, much to his continued happiness and delight, just continued bending back as far as she could away from him, laughing occasionally in that warm, happy way that he couldn't help but like…and looking right into his eyes as well as he continued to fail in retrieving the item of his she'd so cleverly snatched…
And it was then, after a few more seconds of this playful struggle and as Arnold reached the last bit forward that he possibly could over Helga's body (effectively finally securing a grip on his hat…and also managing to place himself practically nose to nose with the girl in question), that they both finally fully realized just how far back Helga was leaning…and just how much Arnold, for all of his leaning forward to compensate for it, was all but on top of her…and how close their faces were…and how wonderful a time they'd just been having…and how they were both still very much locked onto each other's eyes…
Their breathings became slower and slower…and Arnold, with some surprise, suddenly found himself becoming aware of how warm it felt to by laying against Helga, even despite the cool pool water around them…
…And then he was surprised (and yet…just a little excited) to find his eyes starting to close and her eyes starting to close, and to feel his heart pounding as he began to lean forward and…
And then suddenly there was nothing there—no warm, living presence in his arms. He opened his eyes to see Helga gone and felt, strangely enough, disappointment wash over him…and not just at her absence but also at the absence of whatever might have been about to happen between them—
"Uh…I think that's enough games for tonight, Football Head."
Arnold blinked at the statement, his thoughts on the feeling he was having suddenly broken, and turned his head toward the source of the voice only to see Helga floating near a ledge quite a few feet away... blushing noticeably and avoiding looking at him. It took Arnold a second, but then he realized that she must have slipped out of his arms while his eyes had been closed and then swam away and over there. He blinked as this understanding of the situation sunk in, and then just continued to look at her, his face a mixture of confusion and disappointment…just like those emotions he'd just realized he was feeling and all because Helga had been there and then she hadn't been there… And it wasn't helping him feel any less surprised by this whole situation that his heart was still pounding in his chest…just like it had been from the moment he'd first realized how close they were and how strangely right it felt to lean in just a bit…and maybe get lost in the heat of the moment once more that week…
Helga, meanwhile, had continued not making eye contact with Arnold and still just looking to the side shyly for a few more seconds. Finally, though, she quickly tossed her beloved's hat over to him and did her best to diffuse the awkward moment with a joke and a nervous laugh. "Heh, heh…I mean if you wanted it so bad you should have just told me…" Then her eyes went wide and her face all but turned scarlet. "Wanted the HAT I mean, heh, heh…" And then with a swallow she turned around and used the pool ledge to push herself out of the water. 'He almost… Oh, I can't do this! It…what the…I mean…I'm not prepared for THIS! I love Arnold and Arnold's supposed to be blissfully unaware of that and I'm supposed to torture him to express my feelings—that is the situation I know how to handle! Not all of this random teasing and private conversations and then him…him leaning to…to KISS…to KISS me! What am I supposed to do with THAT? Do I kiss him back? Do I just let him do it? And how do I know if it's just in the heat of the moment or if it's…it's…' She took a very slow deep breath and then let it out, shaking her head to clear it. 'Ugh, I swear this whole post-confession lifestyle is going to give me a heart attack!'
As Helga had returned the hat and then proceeded to have these panicked thoughts, Arnold had just continued looking after her for several more seconds, his attention torn between her strange actions and also figuring out just what exactly the feelings he was having right now meant. Especially that disappointment, which, of everything he was experiencing courtesy of the last minute or so, kept lingering the most strongly…
In fact, Arnold hadn't been able to help but realize that he had been left just a little disappointed inside (to say the least) every time he'd gotten even a little close to Helga over the course of the last week only to not have her open up to him like she had during her birthday... Not that it wasn't fun to watch her trying to keep up the act despite how he knew she really felt about him, and not that it wasn't what they'd both agreed was best for now…but, still, when weighed against how he knew it would make him feel to see her smiling and laughing with him and getting all nervous around him again… The very idea of this second option actually made a warm, strange spark twist through his stomach.
In short, needless to say, Helga had been on Arnold's mind quite a bit lately, and it made him wonder, now that they were having some more alone time, if he was still on hers as much. 'I wonder if she's had any more dreams about me ever since—'
"Arnold , for Pete's sake, before your hat gets waterlogged and sinks like a stone, pick it up and put it back on your head!" Arnold blinked and then felt his daydreamy eyes come back into focus upon the form of the owner of that sarcastic voice he knew all too well. Helga was out of the pool now, and he noticed, with interest, that her blush was long gone and now she was just staring him down and scowling slightly at him as she wrung out her hair, obviously trying to bring back her usual Helga G. Pataki attitude. "Any day now, Mr. Head-in-the-clouds!" she added with an eye roll at the fact that Arnold still wasn't making any motion to grab his cap.
Arnold blinked once more at the sarcastic reminder of the object he'd been pursuing, and then turned to his side and realized that his hat was indeed half sunk/half floating on the water's surface, and looking seriously drenched to boot. He grabbed it up quickly and then turned and used the ledge to push himself back up to the gym/dance floor. He started wringing out the blue hat just as Helga was currently still doing to her pigtails. "Uh…sorry, Helga…"
Helga just sighed, her hair now as dry as she could get it, and picked up her cane and glasses, which had both clattered to the floor when she'd fallen in, putting the latter item back inside of her dress pocket. "You should be…" She responded in typical Helga G. Pataki sarcastic fashion. Then she just sighed and Arnold watched her glance around casually for a second, trying to seem indifferent as she crossed her arms over her chest. "Well, I think we really have done enough damage to this place, Arnoldo. Besides, I don't know about you, but once again this week I am exhausted and could just use a serious nap to clear my head."
Arnold, despite that touch of disappointment inside of him growing just a bit at the sound of her seeming to retreat back into her sarcasm and the way there relationship had been before FTi and the last week (along with her suggestion that they're date come to an end), couldn't help but approach Helga with a smile, hoping for maybe just a few more minutes of openness and fun together tonight even if she had been a little uncomfortable with what had just almost happened between them in the pool. "Hey, at least you didn't have to carry someone on your back all day as part of being their slave…"
The comment actually made Helga crack a smile again, much to Arnold's happiness. "Yeah, uh, sorry about that, Football Head…" She rubbed the back of her neck sheepishly for a moment, and then her eyes went just a little half lidded…the effect of which was to make Arnold's eyes do the same. "You're just such a ripe target though, you know?" She chuckled and winked at him.
Arnold laughed as well at the observation, and then suddenly, to Helga's surprise, took a step closer to her (leaving them within only about a foot of each other). "Well, I guess we should get going then for real this time, Helga. Come on, I'll…" he swallowed nervously…and the action wasn't lost on a suddenly very wide eyed and blank faced Helga, "I'll walk you home…if that's okay with you, I mean…." he tacked on shyly.
Helga just blinked as he finished this request and she instantly felt her face go a bit rosy again that evening. "Really…Arnold? I mean…" She cleared her throat and did her best to ignore the fluttering of her heart, "You don't have to if you don't want to…I know I've probably bothered you enough today with all of my insanity, and I—"
She instantly stopped talking and felt her breath catch in her throat and her heart skip a beat as Arnold's face suddenly came very close to hers with his half lidded gaze. "I want to, Helga. Really…" She just looked at him in awe and confusion, her mouth agape, and Arnold couldn't help but chuckle slightly at this reaction. 'How can she spend everyday acting like she's the most selfish person in the world, and then not understand that someone could want to walk home with her….?' Arnold just sighed to himself at the idea and shook his head, a great deal of his nervousness leaving him. He smiled warmly at her and continued. "Now, come on, Helga…" He gestured forward toward the door with his arm. "Like you said, I think we're both a little tired and could use some sleep after a day like today… and maybe some time to just walk and talk together first would be nice too..." He took a breath and finished, "That's why I asked to walk with you—because I…I like spending time with you, Helga…" Arnold felt a touch of a blush creep up into his cheeks.
And then he just watched in amused interest for several seconds as Helga continued to have that shocked look on her face at what he'd just admitted…though it was accompanied now by a growing blush and a very small, shocked-sounding squeak that came out of her mouth. 'He…he actually…he really likes spending time with…with…with me?' "Oh…" she managed to get out, blinking a couple of times, "Uh…well, then…thanks, Arnold…I….I…" She took a deep breath and swallowed hard, and then out of habit glanced from side to side just to make sure that they were indeed alone. "I…" a half smile came to her face, "I like spending time with you, too…" She instantly cleared her throat and glanced away nervously. "You know…however much someone can actually like spending time with a Football Head…Heh, heh…" And with this transparent disclaimer she quickly began to head in the direction of the door which Arnold was still gesturing towards with his arm.
Arnold felt his smile grow just a bit and the last traces of disappointment suddenly leave him, not only at the fact that her moving forward meant that they would indeed get the chance for another walk together, but at what she'd just said to him…or, more specifically, how she'd just admitted out loud for the first time in a good seven days that she liked being around him and having him around. Arnold quickly raced forward to catch up with Helga's retreating form. As he got up alongside her a few steps later, he turned his half lidded gaze to look on her still nervous and slightly blushing face. "Thanks, Helga…for letting me walk you home, I mean, now that all the pranking's over…"
Suddenly, to his surprise, Arnold felt a yawn catch at the back of his throat, and he noticed that the action made Helga yawn slightly as well. He smiled to himself at the sight and continued in an amused voice. "Besides, I think we both really are about ready to collapse after the week we've had, so we can keep each other awake until we get to our houses by walking together…"
He heard Helga laugh slightly to herself at the observation and then fight back another yawn. "Yeah…last thing I need is to wake up tomorrow and hear that you passed out somewhere randomly in the streets so that I have to spend the rest of my weekend tailing your movements in the trench coat again…"
Arnold chuckled at the reference to her 'Deep Voice' disguise. "Yeah…and besides I…I think we're better at being a little more honest and a little more…I don't know…relaxed around each other when we're just a little worn out…" Another laugh escaped him as more memories of their last weekend together came forward in his mind. "I mean the last time we talked when we were tired you got a surprise party out of it, and I got a—" Arnold felt his eyes go wide and instantly he cut himself off at what he'd been about to unconsciously conclude his sentence with…namely, 'a kiss.' He cleared his throat and did his best to save the situation. "I got a…I…got…to spend some time with you, and it was…" he had to smile at the only words to come to his mind as they reached the doors and he pushed and held one open for her to leave by, "It was interesting…and nice…"
Arnold had started looking down with his eyes glazed over in a daydreamy haze as he had concluded his assessment of his post-saving the neighborhood time with Helga G. Pataki. He realized after a second, though, what he was doing and how it must look, and his eyes instantly went back into focus and snapped back up to meet Helga's face…the sight of which made his stomach twist uncomfortably and his breath catch in his throat for a second. She was just standing there and watching him with part of her brow raised and a finger in the air and her mouth half open—almost as though observing something about him…or trying to figure something out… 'He didn't mean to say…' Helga almost smiled at the very notion. 'I mean, he isn't really such a sap for all things romantic when it comes to girls that he was actually about to say that as a 'reward' last weekend he got a…'
Arnold just swallowed at that look on her face. 'She…she doesn't know that I was about to say…to say….' He felt himself blush slightly at the word, 'a Kiss…' In truth, though, even though that second kiss at the ice cream parlor had been the most nerve-wracking part of his post confession time with Helga, it had also been the thing that kept popping back into Arnold's mind when he least expected it over the last week…and making his heart start beating faster, especially when Helga was nearby. It had been an experience he would never forget, to say the least, and one, despite the seemingly solid logic that said he should have been disgusted by it because she was his personal tormentor, that kept making him smile….a lot…
Suddenly, to his great nervousness, a half smile came to Helga's face and she gave him a look, finally speaking...and in a tone that said right off the bat (much to Arnold's growing dismay) that she was about to take no prisoners. "Really, Arnold?" She began, her sly grin growing. "You got 'to spend time with me'…That's the nonspecific thing that stuck with you from that day?" She leaned in closer to him and he felt himself swallow hard once more...and his heartbeat start to pick up once again that evening. She continued. "As opposed to—oh, I don't know—something you asked me for that day…and something you seemed to think was about to happen just now…?" And then suddenly, and much to Arnold's surprise, she reached up with her hand and rested it gently behind his head, her fingertips in his hair, just as she'd done during those kisses in the back room at Slausen's.
In truth, Helga knew she was being a little bold right now but, still, she wasn't about to let Arnold get off that easily. He may have left her surprised there for a few seconds with all of his sweet talk and that near 'heat of the moment' kiss in the pool, but now that she'd had a few seconds to regain herself there was no denying that there was definitely something going on with him when it came to her…and as long as they had a little time alone again finally she wanted to do her best to get to the bottom of it once and for all. And anyway, even if the conversation got too awkward, there was always the blanket excuse of it just being another April Fools joke, right? 'But the best part is that Arnold's so gullible he'll try and answer even the most ridiculous or embarrassing question truthfully before he realizes it might just be part of a prank…' She couldn't help but smile just a little more at the idea…
Arnold, meanwhile, the second her hand had met his head and her fingertips had met his hair, had felt his breathing begin to come shallowly and the warmth in his face grow. His hand that had been holding the door open instantly and involuntarily dropped down away from it, causing the gym exit to swing shut once more. He didn't blink, all the while just staring wide eyed into her mischievous gaze, and finally did his best to say something despite all of the feelings that were suddenly, almost paralyzingly jumbled inside of him. "Uh…I…W-well…" he swallowed hard, his breathing still strange, "M-maybe the k-kissing was pretty m-memorable too…" he finally managed to stutter out.
"Hmm…" Rather than being satisfied with this reply, though, Helga instead leaned in just a bit closer to her beloved, that sly smile still on her face (though she was doing her best to fight back a blush herself at this point)...and as she spoke she gently traced the tip of one of her fingers along part of the edge of his hairline and then down the side of his neck and finally, slowly along and off the edge of his shoulder. "You know…when we were dancing before and you told me you had something to tell me…I have to admit I half thought you were finally just going to come out and say that you 'don't hate me' too..." She was feeling unbelievably nervous but did her best not to betray the existence of the backflips her stomach was currently doing inside of her, and finally just went for it. "So…are you any closer to realizing you couldn't help but love me even if you tried, or do you and that dense head of yours still need some time, Football Head?" Helga felt like her heart was about to burst from her chest, she was so anxious about what his reply might be…
Arnold felt his jaw drop slightly at this final question from her...and likewise at processing that feeling of her finger moving along his neck and collar…and how similar it felt to something he'd imagined Helga doing to him in his dream back at Slausen's last weekend… "I…" 'Like Helga back…? Love Helga back…? I…well that's not…I mean…But I kind of…I guess…I…' And, indeed, Arnold was just a bit torn: he'd refused to even think of that possibility every time it'd come into his mind over the past week (which had been happening more and more frequently as the days had proceeded) and yet…the evidence was overwhelming. He wanted to spend time with her, their time together made him happy, they seemed to get along so well when she let her guard down a little like when they were alone, and he kind of sort of…liked the kissing. "I…" he started again… "I'm not…I don't...I mean..." He felt himself about to say the truth—that he wasn't sure anymore...that he didn't know...
Luckily for Arnold, though, whether he was going to say 'I don't love you', 'I don't know', or 'I don't think I can live without you,' Helga didn't have the courage to really find out just yet…and so she cut him off with her Plan B for this evening. "Oh just relax, Football Head—April Fools." She winked at her beloved and then shifted a few inches away from him to give him some space. 'Besides,' she couldn't help but add to herself mentally, 'I just confessed last week…Don't want to rock his world TOO much by suddenly shoving the proverbial microphone in his face and saying 'Okay, now it's your turn, Football Head—dazzle me!' She almost laughed at the idea. 'And anyway…' she tacked on as a truthful afterthought, 'I really…I mean, what we've got going right now is a little strange but I can handle it if I take a second and breathe…but suddenly putting that official 'yes' or 'no' from him on it… I mean, at least right now there's still 'hope' so I can still get through but if he took it away because the truth is he doesn't want to be anything but my friend…' She almost shuddered at the thought, though she did her best to hide it from her beloved by continuing her smile.
While Helga had been having these thoughts after suddenly letting him off of the hook, Arnold had actually had to blink several times and take several breaths before what she'd said to end the joke had managed to process with him fully. Her physically backing off of him slightly, though, helped considerably. "Oh uh…right… Uh…Good one, Helga…" came his nervous response to her 'April Fools.'
"Although…" she put a hand on one of her hips and glanced away, her sly smile momentarily returning, "I will say this, though—for someone who just wants to be my friend you don't seem to object to the possibility of 'the kissing' all that much." She had to laugh to herself and even made air quotes around the phrase Arnold had used.
Arnold felt his heart drop into his stomach again and he swallowed hard, blushing slightly and looking away from her with wide eyes once more. 'Oh boy…' "Well…I—"
Helga just sighed at the flustered response and rolled her eyes. "Relax, relax, April Fools again, Casanova!" She laughed and crossed her arms over her chest. "You should have seen the look on your face though—both times! Priceless!" She resumed chuckling to herself at the reactions she'd managed to get from him. Despite her laughter, though, on the inside Helga couldn't help but observe to herself, 'Still, maybe I should have a little more confidence in myself—at the very least, I might actually be more than half way there with getting him to like me back! I mean, sheesh, he's getting even more nervous around me than I get around him!'
Meanwhile, it took Arnold a second or two of continuing to stand there with a blush on his face and his eyes unblinking, but finally he managed to process Helga's 'April Fools' and then he took a deep breath and just let out a sigh and glanced down, obviously smiling quite a bit. "Very funny, Helga… Come on, let's just walk you home, okay?" He pushed the door open once more for her.
Helga just sighed dramatically and smiled as she exited into the hallway of PS 118. "If you insist…"
Arnold grinned just a bit more at the reply, feeling his nervousness starting to slip away again. "If I insist…?" He exited the gym as well and the two began to walk up the hallway toward the school exit. "If I remember right, you're the one who just asked for me to personally guide you all the way to your house, Helga…"
Helga just shrugged as casually as she could at the observation, matching her stride with Arnold's. "Hey I just didn't want you to feel ditched by your date or anything, Football Head."
"Mmm hmm…" he responded, his grin growing a bit and his eyes going half lidded. He leaned a bit closer to her as they walked. "And us spending a few more minutes together alone on a dark night after what just happened in the pool isn't a factor at all?"
Instantly a bright blush came to Helga's cheeks, much to Arnold's amusement. He heard her breathing pick up strength a bit and her usually confident voice began to stutter nervously once more that night. "Uh, I…I…" 'How does he… Crimeny, how does he keep figuring out the truth about EVERYTHING?' Helga couldn't help but recall that first post-confession morning and afternoon together during her birthday when Arnold had suddenly gone from clueless to being able to read her like an open book. And she still didn't like it…however much he seemed to be enjoying it all, himself.
Arnold, meanwhile, just laughed to himself at Helga's reaction that must have been so similar to his own when she'd caught him off guard before with an awkward question. He finally took a deep breath and just winked at her. "April Fools, Helga."
Helga blinked a couple of times at this statement and then finally felt herself starting to breathe normally again. It took her a couple more seconds to get all of the feelings she was currently experiencing inside of herself under control, and then finally she managed to address Arnold, her eyes still pretty wide with shock, though, to say the least. "Okay, you know what—no more double meaning comments with the excuse of it being 'April Fools' because it's all fun and games until one of us gives the other one a heart attack, Football Head."
Arnold had to laugh at the comment as they finally came to the school exit. "Okay, Helga…But it's going to be a little hard for me…." He stopped and looked to her, putting his hands behind his back. "You know, you're a lot easier to trick now that I know you a little better…"
Helga just sighed with a smile and pushed open the front school doors, heading out into the cool night air and letting Arnold do the same. "Oh, just shut up and let's get out of this school already, Arnoldo! Sheesh, I do have other things to do besides babysit you all the time, you know!" She winked at him.
Arnold laughed in response and Helga joined him, and then the two proceeded down the front steps of the elementary school. As they reached the sidewalk and their laughter began to subside, Arnold took a breath and glanced down and seemed to be considering something. Finally, he took another breath for encouragement and then took a step closer to a still smiling Helga. He put his hands behind his back and cleared his throat just a bit before hesitantly addressing her. "Hey…Helga?"
Helga got the last bits of her chuckling under control and crossed her arms over her chest. She smiled at her beloved and at how shy his demeanor all of a sudden seemed. 'Why the heck does he have to look so cute all the time?' "Yeah?"
She watched with interest and more than a bit of curiosity as Arnold then swallowed hard and commenced to rubbing the back of his neck with one of his hands, all the while not looking at her...and starting to…blush a bit? "Well…um….And feel free to say no to this if it makes you uncomfortable but…I mean, since no one would see us this time of night and, well, since it's dark and since I am still technically your date this evening—"
Helga just smirked and sighed and rolled her eyes, putting her hands on her hips and cutting him off right there while they were 'still young.' "Enough disclaimers, Head Boy—what's on your mind?"
Arnold blinked at the blunt question and felt himself blush a bit more, though he hoped Helga wouldn't notice between the streetlights and the twilight. And then he finally did his best to just take a deep breath and finish asking her what he wanted to know…or, rather, wanted to do… "Oh, well…would it be okay if I…if I held your hand on the way back to your house, Helga?"
It took Helga a second to process the question but when she did the smug smile instantly dropped from her face, and she swallowed and her eyes went wide. "Uh…" a few seconds passed and then suddenly, and to Arnold's interest, her eyes went a bit half lidded and a shy smile came to her lips and her voice suddenly sounded…nice. There was that word again. "Well, sure, Arnold…" And for a second he just couldn't help smiling at the pretty smile on her face. Suddenly, Arnold lost the shy look and his eyes went wide with surprise. 'Did I just think that Helga G. Pataki was…pretty?'
Arnold was interrupted from his thought by the sight of Helga suddenly losing that look and raising part of her brow (due to the change in expression that had just come to his own face, he guessed). Then Helga lost that 'shy look' herself, and suddenly seemed to be eyeing him suspiciously, her normal tone of voice returning. "Wait a minute…this isn't another stupid 'April Fools' moment, is it, Football Head?" She looked at him sternly.
Arnold had to blink at the question. But then he couldn't help but smile again and laugh slightly to himself at the very idea. He stepped a bit closer to Helga and took her hand in his own, lifting it up and speaking in a sincere tone. "No, I promise, Helga. No April Fools. I…I want to. Just like with the walking you home and the spending time with you. Really." And before he could stop himself, Arnold took a breath and summed up his courage…and then gently kissed the back of Helga's hand to prove his sincerity.
Helga felt herself practically melt inside the second his lips hit her skin, and she knew she must have gotten the dreamiest smile imaginable on her face at the action but she just didn't feel like trying to cover it up at the moment… "Oh…" she managed to get out in an obviously dazed tone in response to his assurances, "Uh…okay then, Arnold…Holding hands it is…No problem…"
Arnold pulled back and had to chuckle just laughed slightly at the return of her warm smile and voice, and the sound made Helga giggle in return...as did the fact that though the kiss was over he was still so delicately holding her hand…and she could still feel the place where his lips had just been thanks to the cool night air moving over the slightly moist spot. And then, finally, hand in hand and smiling like crazy, the pair began to head up the street together.
A few seconds of silence passed with Arnold and Helga just walking up the block holding hands in perfect contentment…
Then, eventually, Helga cleared her throat and spoke quietly. "Hey…Arnold?"
Arnold turned to her, still smiling. "Yes, Helga?"
Helga took a deep breath and he noticed she wasn't making eye contact, though a small smile was still on her face. "You know…off the record…since we're kind of having another one of those 'truce' moments…I was always afraid that after I finally told you everything about, you know, 'not hating you' that, well…I don't know, that my whole world would fall apart or something. But..." she swallowed again, "But you've made everything just…well, just…" She was looking at the ground as opposed to Arnold so she couldn't see the warm smile on his face or the fact that it was specifically directed in her direction as he turned his head to watch her delivering this little admission. Finally, Helga took one more breath and finished her sentence. "Well, you've made everything just…perfect!" And with that Helga Pataki closed her eyes and, before she could lose the courage, quickly turned her head toward her beloved and went to kiss him on the cheek…or rather where she thought his cheek would be since she'd been imagining him facing forward shyly and glancing away from her while she had been speaking just now…
However, Helga's eyes flew open and she was a little surprised, to say the least, upon feeling her lips suddenly crush into something much softer and moister than a cheek…and much more desirable. Her eyes were still open and Helga could now see that Arnold's eyes were currently open as well, and actually quite wide in surprise, looking into her own as she kissed his mouth for the third time that week. However…despite the seconds passing, Arnold didn't move away, and, of course, Helga didn't… And then she watched as, to her total amazement, on top of not moving away, her beloved slowly closed his eyes…
Helga glanced around nervously for a second, really not sure what to make of this entire situation…but then the fact that she was kissing Arnold started to get to her and she couldn't help closing her own eyes and hearing her cane clatter to the sidewalk as it fell out of her free hand as she became absorbed in the kiss as well. They were already holding hands…and then Helga felt Arnold put his free arm around her waist just like that last time back at Slausen's…and she instantly melted against him and brought her free hand up to his shoulder…and then slowly up to his neck and head…
Meanwhile, Arnold wasn't sure what was going on with him, but he just…well he had to admit that he'd kind of been hoping something like this would happen… Actually, he had to admit to himself, now that they were indeed kissing, every time he'd seen her this past week he'd kind of been hoping something like this would suddenly happen and let them break back into that level of a relationship where they could talk about the confession again. And, also, kissing Helga was kind of…well… Arnold considered 'nice' again but upon feeling her hand suddenly start to grip and pull his head in closer contact with her own (again, an action eerily...and yet intriguingly...similar to some of the stuff that the Helga from his dreams had done last weekend), he dismissed the word entirely. 'It's kind of…' He hesitated and then (just as Helga moaned slightly) suddenly recalled the word she'd just used to describe things between them. 'Perfect. It's…it just feels…right…perfect…Like this is how we're supposed to be or something…'
At how perfect that word and that notion sounded in regards to kissing Helga G. Pataki, though, Arnold's eyes instantly flew open in surprise at his own feelings, and he blinked and pulled away from Helga, ending the kiss…and realizing suddenly that his heart was beating like crazy in his chest…
Helga and Arnold just stood there for several seconds, looking at each other nervously and blushing…and their breaths coming a bit heavily, to say the least.
Helga quickly took a step back from her beloved and looked down shyly, putting her arms behind her back. "I…uh…" she swallowed, "Sorry, Arnold…I was…I mean, I thought your cheek was…and then your…your lips…" she had to swallow, "were…"
"No!" He blinked, stopping her apology. "I mean…" he swallowed as well, "It's okay, Helga…" He smiled at her shyly. "It…it's not like it was the first time, or anything, right?" He chuckled slightly to himself, recalling once again some of the kissing related memories he now had with Helga G. Pataki courtesy of the past week (and actually the past year of his life if you counted some of the more 'unofficial' moments during which their lips had touched).
At this unexpected response from her beloved to her explanations and apologies, Helga's eyes went wide and she instantly looked up and at him in surprise.
Arnold, noticing out of the corner of his eye the somewhat confused and uncertain look now on her face, took a breath and, despite his currently almost unbearable nervousness, did his best to continue his explanations for her to not feel strange about what had just happened. "And, well…you shouldn't apologize for kissing your date…especially when he, you know…kissed you back…" He felt himself blush even more…He managed to glance up at Helga, the dreamy grin involuntarily returning to his face as he finished… "That's…that's what a date's supposed to do…right?"
Helga felt warmth flood her face at everything he'd just said. Her heart fluttered madly.
And Arnold, done speaking, now just watched her face, seeming so nervous and unsure with eyes so wide and that tinge of pink in her cheeks, and just looking at him like every word he was saying meant so much to her… And this unusual sight of Helga G. Pataki looking flustered and shy that he'd only gotten to glimpse a few times since her confession last week couldn't help but make him smile warmly. Indeed, he almost shook his head to himself in a mixture of disbelief and amusement, still getting used to this new side of his former personal tormentor…who only made his life miserable, it seemed, because she actually cared about him and seemed to still think that there was no way in the world he could care about her too despite the fact that, regardless of some of the rougher times between them, they'd been friends since before he could remember. 'Hmm…I wonder if she realizes that if she wanted me to be her date for this dance, she didn't have to trick me into it…She just…had to ask…' And indeed Arnold knew that if she had come up to him with her eyes wide and that rosy blush in her face and had asked him to go with her, he would have said yes in an instant. He felt his smile grow a little bit as he continued watching Helga looking so nervous here and now, and the thought completed itself in his mind: If there was one thing Helga never needed to do it was trick him into spending time with her…In fact, he'd been actively trying to come up with a way to spend time with her for the last seven days, though school hadn't exactly afforded much non-public opportunity to do so.
Finally, though, realizing that he was getting just a little lost in gazing at her and that it was getting a little late, Arnold just sighed to himself and put his thoughts aside for now, and then smiled and reached forward and lifted up his date's hand once more. "Well…Now that that's done…" still grinning with his half lidded gaze, he glanced to the side and felt just a bit of warmth creep into his face at the memory of his and Helga's latest kiss, "I guess I should get back to walking you home..."
It took Helga a couple more seconds to find her voice but when she did, even though she wanted to ask him a million questions about what had just happened and what he had just said and how he was acting and had been acting around her (ever since her confession, come to think of it), and just what it all meant…somehow she knew that it would all be a little too much too soon right here and right now. Better to let them have this one small moment during this date than to start trying to analyze it and pick it apart right away…And besides, Helga couldn't help but still have her doubts in the form of her paralyzing and conditioned fear of rejection that had kept her public admission of her true feelings for Arnold at bay for most of her life. 'He…he could just as easily be being nice right now as anything else… He's Arnold—he likes to make people happy, he knows how much he means to me now, we're kind of friends…and if ANYTHING would count as 'heat of the moment' I'd say a date after a day of dramatic prank war build up, an intimate tango together, nearly accidentally kissing in the pool before and just being alone here and now might actually come close to beating out the situation on that rooftop… Besides I just…' Helga felt a touch of fear make her stomach flip and she swallowed, 'I just can't…ask yet…I mean, I'm surprised I was able to ask him jokinginly before but to ask him for…for real…'
Helga couldn't help but mentally sigh to herself in a little frustration. 'I just wish he'd give me some piece of evidence that wasn't circumstantial…Something that would let me know that half this stuff lately really isn't just him getting carried away or wanting to 'see something'…' She briefly recalled the reasoning behind his request from her for a kiss during her party last week, 'Something that would show me that he actually maybe even thinks about it all as much in advance as I do… Then at least I'd know that everything between us isn't all just 'heat of the moment', and that would at least be something to go on: Arnold feeling kind of romantic toward me on a regular basis as opposed to just spontaneously whenever we're alone and things get a little intense…' She almost scoffed at the thought. 'Yeah, I've just been on his mind morning noon and night…That would explain me having to trick him into this date just like I've had to trick him into practically everything involving spending time with me over the yea—' Helga's thoughts stopped and she blinked as an interesting notion occurred to her just then, and one that she couldn't help but mentally kick herself for not considering and trying earlier. 'I could have just…asked him to the dance, I guess… like a real date. If he'd said yes to something like that, with time to think about it and the understandable option of saying no, then that would have at least been proof of something…' Still, Helga felt herself swallow hard and another one of those sick lurches happen in her stomach. 'But if he'd said no…' She let out a sigh and knew that even if the crazy idea had occurred to her earlier she probably would have just gone with tricking him regardless—much smaller risk of rejection, after all… She couldn't help but feel a half smile come to her face, though, as she mentally added, 'And also it was just a little fun, like always, to get under Arnold's skin with a good old-fashioned Helga G. Pataki scheme… Just like the old days…or, at least, just like two weeks ago…'
"Helga…? Are you…ready to finish walking home…my 'poor blind friend'?"
Helga instantly blinked at the sound of Arnold's voice (and at the feeling of him squeezing her hand, which he was still holding up, just a bit more firmly), and came out of her thoughts…which she suddenly realized, courtesy of the very amused grin on her beloved's face, had probably made her face take on more than a bit of that daydreamy look she had a habit of getting when thinking about him. Her near minute or two of dazed silence probably hadn't helped much either. Helga quickly just swallowed and picked up her cane from the ground, and then did her best to smile and joke with a quick nudge to Arnold, "Oh…quit being such a flirt, Arnoldo…" A little bold but, in her defense, he had just reciprocated a kiss out of the blue and she wasn't exactly on her game enough right now to come up with any retort that wasn't somehow romantically based considering the explosion of emotions and feelings she was still trying to keep at bay.
She watched in a bit of amusement and couldn't help but raise part of her brow as, at the comment, the playful smile instantly dropped from Arnold's face and his eyes suddenly went wide once more that evening. A distinct streak of scarlet could be seen entering his cheeks, as well.
And, indeed, though considering how in light of half the awkward exchanges that had taken place between them between last weekend and this weekend what Helga had just said seemed only mildly embarrassing at best…the thing was, it had never occurred to Arnold until those words had left her mouth that what he was doing with her—laughing with her and teasing her and holding her hand and telling her he liked being with her all just to get her to smile happily and laugh warmly and tease him back and agree to talk with him alone just a bit more (and on a date no less)—that it was all… that it could all be him actually…actually 'flirting' with her. He swallowed hard, unable to deny that something about applying that term to everything between them couldn't help but feel incredibly accurate. 'But if…if I'm actually…fl-flirting with her…' he couldn't help but stammer at the word, 'then…then does that mean that I really do l—'
The sound of Helga laughing quickly pulled him from the thought, and he blinked and his eyes refocused on the girl standing beside him. She smiled at him and let out a sigh. 'He just goes from confident to zero in half a second if I say the right thing, doesn't he? Sheesh, you'd think he'd realize that I'm the only one who should be collapsing into an embarrassed puddle with half the stuff we've talked about lately.' "April Fools, Arnoldo…Got you again!" She gave him a playful wink.
And with that and a small giggle she dropped their still clasped hands back to normal, hip level and then, firming up her grip a bit more (and doing her best not to sigh girlishly at the full return of the realization that she indeed had Arnold's hand in her own once more just like she'd always wanted to ever since the day she'd met him…and just like he'd seemed more than happy to let happen, lately), began to lead him up the street, laughing to herself… And after a second or two (during which the boy in question processed both the surprise of getting suddenly lurched forward as well as the familiar disclaimer she'd just tacked onto her comment), Arnold suddenly found himself bursting into warm chuckles right along with her.
Finally matching his stride with hers and feeling the blushing in his face starting to recede, Arnold just let out a deep breath to get his laughter under control and then sighed with a small grin still on his face, and finally managed to reply, "Whatever you say, Helga…"
"Ah, quit sucking up!" she replied with a mixture of sarcasm and humor, and then nudged him a little with her shoulder. And Arnold couldn't help but smile just a bit more at the gesture and then look at her with even more amusement as she added to her exclamation, suddenly whipping out her 'blind' glasses with her free hand once more and putting them on dramatically, "Now, get on to finishing up taking me home, slave!"
Arnold chuckled warmly and just shook his head to himself, and then felt himself grip her hand just a little bit more strongly. "Of course, Helga… Should I carry you on my back again or—Ow!" He couldn't help but wince in a touch of pain at the sudden feeling of Helga's cane that she was still carrying in her free hand whacking him in the shins as she had managed to make it do for the better part of their date together earlier that evening.
He just heard her laugh triumphantly as she moved the cane back to the other side of herself. "Okay, okay—that's enough suggestive and ironic comments out of you for one evening, Football Head. Heck, I can already practically feel you mentally forming a way to end up calling me 'Deep Voice' before we actually get to my house, and then you already out pranked me in public on this date—So, to make up for all of that, at the very least I think that we should end the night on one of my jokes that makes you blush and glance away awkwardly, and not the other way around! Got it, Football Head?"
Arnold let out a slightly miffed sounding sigh, still feeling a bit of a sting in his lower legs, but then finally just shook his head and considered for a second…and then let out a much more understanding sigh and turned to his date with a small smile once again that evening. "Okay, Helga, that seems fair—we'll end on one of your jokes…"
"Thank you—I'm glad you see my point, Football He—A-A-Uh…Arnold…" Helga's stuttering and sudden transition to her beloved's actual name was the result of Arnold suddenly shifting even closer beside her as they were walking…and suddenly (and very VERY unexpectedly) pressing the full length of his warm arm up against the full length of hers… The sensation was like electricity was darting throughout her entire body, and she felt herself almost collapse under the ecstatic feeling.
Arnold, meanwhile, his arm as against hers as possible now, just sighed to himself and didn't even glance at her, a pleasant half smile upon his face. 'Well, she said she wanted to be the last one to make a joke…she didn't say anything about doing anything else to each other… And…well...as long as it looks like I've actually already been flirting with her a little bit…might as well go the rest of the way, right? She doesn't seem to be minding it too much, and, anyway, it's not like this is to trick her or part of some prank or something…it feels nice and warm and I actually…really do like it.' Arnold almost laughed to himself at this strange yet very intriguing thought, and then he let out a sigh and glanced at Helga. "Everything okay, Helga? You…" he knew he was pushing it but still…it was a little hard to resist, especially considering half the circumstances of this evening and of their current relationship in general, "You feel a little tense…or at least your arm does…" He really had to do his best not to chuckle.
At her beloved's inquiry about and sudden acknowledgement of just how much contact they were currently in with each other sunk in, Helga felt her heart flutter like mad and heat rush to her face. As they rounded the corner to her block, though, rather than going into embarrassment mode as she'd already done more than enough times that evening, she just let out a slightly exasperated sigh and used her free hand to reach up and rub her eyes under her glasses, mumbling to herself with a slight grin. "Oh for the love of…great—another confirmation for you that you touching me turns me into twice as big of a grinning sap as when you just say romantic stuff to me." She pulled off the glasses and gave him a bit of a chastising look, though it was obvious she was trying to fight back a serious smile. "You know, a little warning next time before you try and use 'getting physical' to completely take me out of commission would be nice, Football Head…"
Arnold had to just chuckle at this unexpected and yet humorous reaction from the girl beside him. He let out a sigh and glanced down with a small grin still on his face. "Sorry, Helga…just doing whatever else I could think of to do since you wanted to be the only one telling the jokes for the rest of the night… I'll stop though…" He couldn't help a touch of guilt entering his voice as he added, "I didn't mean to make you feel too uncomfortable or anyth—" His words stopped and his eyes went a little wide as, upon beginning to shift back slightly away from her to separate their arms, he felt Helga suddenly grip his hand hard once again and lean all of her weight against his shoulder.
"No, no, no—you finish what you started, Football Head…" she whispered to him with a grin, not looking at him. "If you're gonna be on a date with me, that's the rule…" She laughed to herself and didn't wait for his response as she suddenly moved forward, pulling him along with her and doing her best to keep their arms as entwined with each other as possible. 'Well, if this night really does turn out to just be another fluke, I might as well get everything out of it that I possibly can…' Helga smiled at the thought and continued forward with her beloved.
Arnold, meanwhile, just did his best to get his legs back underneath himself at the feeling of being jerked forward by her yet again, though the sudden weakness he was feeling in his knees at what she'd just whispered to him and that light, amused voice in which she'd whispered it—accompanied by a giggle of all things—wasn't helping. Finally, though, with a calming sigh and the smile returning to his face, he managed to match stride with Helga once again and to even slow them down a little: her house (unfortunately) was already in their sights…and he knew he'd only have a few more minutes left with her—the real her—and then who knew when another time like this would happen between them? He glanced to the side and saw Helga just smiling contentedly and glancing down and forward like she was thinking or daydreaming about something, and he felt a contented smile come to his face as well at the sight... He turned to look forward and to get lost in some of his own thoughts as well… "Whatever you say, Helga…" he whispered with amusement about her final decision for them to remain as close to each other as they were right now.
Out of the corner of his eye he noticed her blink at the address but then just laugh slightly to herself and resume her happy smile. "Thanks, Arnold…" he heard her whisper back.
For several more seconds the two kids just continued to walk forward leisurely with their arms all but wrapped around one other and small but meaningful smiles on their faces…just enjoying the warm spring air and the end to another stressful if not fun adventure together…and the fact that somehow, despite all of the awkwardness, things really did seem to be turning out perfectly…
Finally, as they passed the halfway point of the block (Arnold could already distinctly make out Helga's stoop in the glow of the streetlight above it), Arnold took a breath and cleared his throat. 'If I don't say it tonight I'm never going to have the courage to say it, am I? And who knows when we'll be able to talk like this again…?' "Helga…" he swallowed…but then finally went for it, "About the kiss…or…the kissing, I guess…"
He heard her swallow and felt a bit of a shake go through her courtesy of her arm. He looked to her out of the corner of his eye again and saw that despite these reactions she was trying to just glance casually at him as she replied in as calm of a tone a possible, "Uh…yeah…Football Head?"
Arnold continued to be silent for a second or two longer as he did his best to muster the courage to say what he wanted to let her know, and in that time the two of them covered the last several feet left until Helga's stoop. As they reached the sidewalk before her first step, though, Arnold finally just took one more deep breath and turned to face her…and then lifted up her hand once more that evening and (also once more) gently kissed the back of it. Feeling the warmth already starting to flood his face, Arnold did his best to disregard it as well as the butterflies in his stomach, and finally just removed his lips from her skin and smiled up at her with one of his half lidded gazes…and then spoke in a sincere voice in regards to this very new (and very unexpected) aspect—physical aspect—of his relationship with Helga G. Pataki, "Well…I know I've had a week, but I think I'm still a little confused about how I feel about this whole 'not hati'—uh, 'love' thing…" 'It's kind of pointless to not just call it what it is at this point…' "But if we want to speed up the process of me figuring it out…" he felt even more heat flood his face, but just swallowed and did his best to ignore it as he finally admitted to the still confused looking girl before him, "I've been thinking that maybe an occasional one of those…of the kisses, I mean…wouldn't hurt…" He glanced away from her, too embarrassed to continue eye contact. He felt himself squeeze her hand a bit more firmly to steady himself as he finally concluded. "So…please don't feel bad or apologize if it happens again, okay? Because I really do think it's helping me figure more and more stuff out every time we do it…and also I…I kind of like it, even…I think…" Arnold almost had to blink as the fact that he had just said aloud this last part (this part that he had actually come to realize almost immediately after his and Helga's final moments together at Slausen's after her birthday party, though he'd felt so strange about it that he hadn't even admitted it out loud to himself yet!) sunk in and made him swallow hard.
As Arnold's words had concluded, meanwhile, Helga's eyes had just been going wider and wider and then finally a full blush had come strongly into her face at his closing statement. 'Did he just…did he just admit that he's been thinking about kissing me even when we're not together…that he's been wanting to kiss me completely outside of any heat of the moment situation… And…?' And then she was pretty sure her heart had stopped altogether at that last line of his. 'Arnold…likes…kissing…me. He likes kissing me—he doesn't just like making me feel better by kissing me or sorting out his feelings by kissing me…He actually likes just the act itself… And he wants it to happen again…I think I'm going to die…!'
Helga instantly felt a girlish sigh and a fainting spell coming on, though the feeling of Arnold releasing her hand and taking a small step back…only to reach up and gently touch the side of her face for a moment quickly put her heartbeat back into overdrive and brought her in full force back to the situation at hand. She watched, in shock and awe, as Arnold, with a small smile and obviously trying to hold back a small laugh (probably at the feeling of how warm she was certain her face had just gotten under his touch), quickly glanced down and cleared his throat, and then announced in a sincere voice as he looked back up into her eyes again, "Well, goodnight, Helga…and Happy April Fools Day…"
And then he hesitated…
And then she felt her jaw drop as he quickly pulled his hand away only to move his face forward and give her a small kiss on the cheek (much as she'd done to him last weekend during their goodbyes at Slausen's). He then pulled away, a strange smile on his face and a distinct reddish tinge on his cheeks. "See you on Monday!" And with that he instantly (and very quickly) began to back down her block in the direction of the boarding house.
Helga waited until Arnold had rounded the corner of her street and disappeared from sight before dropping her cane and letting the legs she couldn't feel anymore anyway give out from under her, causing her to collapse into a blissful puddle on her stoop. She felt a dreamy smile overtake her former surprised stare and quickly removed her Arnold locket from inside of her dress. "Oh, Arnold!" she began to coo, "You actually kissed me again and you LIKE it and you think that maybe it means that you…oh, that you might like me!" She gave a girlish sigh. "And you admitted you've been thinking about this all week so not all of it has just been in the heat of the moment! No, what you just said was entirely because you wanted to and it was entirely the truth and entirely wonderful, and not even one of those silly but sweet ambiguous things we kept saying to each other before and calling part of April Foo—" Helga instantly froze in mid monologue…and then mentally recalled Arnold's parting words to her just now. 'Goodnight Helga…and Happy April Fools Day!' "Wait a minute…" She put the locket away, her eyes wide. "He said 'April Fools' technically, which technically means that he might have meant it in reference to what he said about liking the kissing and thinking that it might make him realize that he likes me one day… But even if that's true the other stuff we were saying 'April Fools' about was awkward stuff that was still kind of true so it doesn't really negate it….Unless he actually meant it that time as a full on April Fools prank…although then again he did keep going with the kiss before and he was the first one to shut his eyes so it's obvious there's something going on there… Still, though, what if he was just wishing me a 'Happy April Fools' and it had nothing whatsoever to do with what he said about possibly liking me a little, which would mean that he was really, really serious about maybe returning my feelings? But then again…" She suddenly closed her eyes and rested back against one of the steps of her stoop, her head in one of her hands. "Oh Crimeny—why am I SUCH a basket case!"
And then like a shot she was suddenly standing up and running back in the direction Arnold had gone. "Arnold, wait! What did you mean by all of that? Come on, Football Head—you can't be ambiguous with me! If you know anything about me you should know that I'm so liable to read anything I want to into things you say that I'm never sure what's going on with you half the time! Especially NOW! Arnold!"
And with that she pursued Arnold to get a straight answer out of him…and whatever else between them a straight answer might entail…
She was a little surprised, to say the least, when she rounded her corner and suddenly felt herself slam into something hard…and warm…and familiar…
"Helga, are you okay?"
Her eyes flew open and she instantly sat up, her breaths coming quickly. "Arnold?"
She watched as he blinked in surprise at seeing her again and then stood up and offered her his hand. She instantly took it and stood as well, still just looking at him with wide, surprised eyes, her breaths slowly starting to grow more and more shallow as the seconds passed
Arnold's eyes, meanwhile, just continued to stay wide at the sight of hers just continuing to stare like that into his own…and he swallowed and put his hands behind his back. "Um…sorry I knocked you down, Helga, but I was walking and then I thought I heard you calling me back and I started running back and I went to turn the corner and there you were and I…" He cleared his throat, realizing he was starting to ramble a bit with the explanation, and started to rub the back of his neck. "Um, anyway…did…did you need something, Helga?"
Helga took a few more shallow breaths to regain herself, and then managed to open her mouth and begin to reply, "I…I…" And then she paused once more and let out a deep sigh, still just looking hesitantly into his eyes…and finally said what was on her mind. "I…think we should…um…talk…Arnold…" She swallowed and felt a blush creep into her cheeks. "You know…maybe like… 'talk' talk…"
Arnold blinked as the response and its full implications as they processed with him. "Oh…oh. Um…" He swallowed hard himself. "Okay...Are…are you sure, Helga…?" He looked at her hesitantly. Certainly, he'd told her last weekend that whenever she would need to talk he'd be there for her, and of course he'd meant the offer sincerely… But, still, suddenly thinking about the entire concept of it—and of doing it right now—couldn't help but make him feel just a little nauseous and a little scared (especially considering some of the new feelings he'd been having lately about the girl before him…and some of the things he'd done with her over the last two weekends…all of which he'd liked considerably despite how confusing they could be sometimes, just like he'd just admitted to her.)
As he had these thoughts, Arnold just watched as Helga continued to give him that wide eyed look for just a second more and then instantly let out another deep sigh and rubbed her temples with one of her hands. "Pretty sure that if I have to walk away from one more ambiguous situation with you that I'm going to explode, at least...." She put a hand on her hip and had to half smile as she added, "Really—I usually try and avoid big truths like the plague, Arnoldo, but anything's got to be better than this stress…"
Arnold almost felt a smile come to his face as well at the comment, and then with a deep breath he felt some of his initial surprise and nervousness at her sudden pursuit of him (and the purpose of said pursuit) start to fade. "Okay, Helga…" he did his best to say supportively, and then he put his arms behind his back as he continued. "Do you maybe want to…get some ice cream together or something, and then…you know… 'talk'…?"
Helga couldn't help but blink at the sound of his suggestion…and at how surprisingly okay Arnold seemed to now be with her sudden request. She knew, of course, from some of the stuff he'd said to her during their walk last weekend, that he probably wouldn't have turned her away in this situation regardless of how it might make him feel to actually go through with it, but she'd figured he would have at least been a little more hesitant about diving into such an obviously awkward and intimate conversation… Yet, here they were…and he actually seemed strangely and randomly (and yet, sincerely) happy about the idea…?
Wanting to still keep the mood a bit light, though, despite what might be to come, Helga decided a small joke was in order and so she rolled her eyes and just smiled at her beloved. "Yeah, I'm sure Slausen's is just booming at almost 10 o'clock at night, Football Head." She had to laugh slightly to herself and just shake her head at him and his always well-intentioned if not always well-thought-out caring nature.
She watched as Arnold blinked at the comment, but then, rather than looking annoyed, suddenly just smiled a bit more at her and glanced down like he was considering something for a second…and then looked back up at her and reached forward, taking her hand in his once more. "I guess you're right, Helga… Um…in that case, though, would you maybe want to…come back to the boarding house for some ice cream or a soda or something? I mean…if you're really sure about being ready to, you know… 'talk'…" He looked up at her unsurely.
Helga felt a quick blush come to her face both at the return of his contact and at what he'd just asked her—to go to his house and eat with him and talk with him and… She did her best to push aside that faint feeling that she could feel coming over her again, and just smiled and replied to her beloved in a light voice, "Uh…sure, Arnold…" She swallowed. "I mean…whatever floats your boat, Football Head." She did her best to finish with this last little bit of playful sarcasm as she began to lead them up the street.
Arnold just laughed at the familiar response from Helga, and then proceeded to follow happily alongside her…this time heading in the direction of his house, though.
As the couple disappeared around the corner at which they'd crashed mere minutes ago, the first bits of whatever new amusing conversation they were bound to have on the way to Arnold's in preparation for their 'big talk' could faintly be heard…due, in part, to Helga suddenly stopping and swallowing hard just out of sight of the corner before asking in a shy voice…
"Hey, Football Head?"
"Yes, Helga?" came Arnold's content sounding reply.
A pause. "Not to jump the gun here since we should probably wait until we've got some place to sit down before he hit the big stuff, but…I was just curious…" Another pause. And then… "Did you mean all that stuff you said before about…you know… kissing me?"
"Oh…" It was obviously Arnold's turn to hesitate before speaking now. "Well, yes, Helga, I mean…it's nice and like I said every time so far that it's happened I keep realizing new things about you or me or the both of us, and its all been a little confusing but at the same time kind of helpful too…you know?"
Helga Pataki gave a very slight giggle at this reply. "Oh…uh…okay, well…then…" The sound of her swallowing hard could be heard...
…And then there were several seconds of silence…broken only by an occasional faint moan…and then the light sound of lips separating…
Some heavy breathing could be heard followed by a very familiar and dazed sounding voice suddenly asking, "So, um…what was that one for?"
Another giggle courtesy of Helga. "Well…I just figured…I mean, if we actually are going to try and be completely honest and open about our feelings in about ten minutes, and as long as my kisses really do keep helping clear things up for you…that doing it one more time before we reached the boarding house wouldn't hurt." She laughed again as she added, "And, you know, it's not like they have to be 'budgeted and accounted for' or anything, Football Head—I'll double check but I'm pretty sure there's an unlimited supply of these things from me…and honestly the look on your face right now is more than enough motivation for me to keep giving them to you, Arnoldo…" She chuckled one more time to herself.
Their voices began to grow fainter as the couple started walking once more that evening, moving even farther away from the corner leading to Helga's block.
"Oh…" came Arnold's no longer dazed but nonetheless still very content sounding voice in reply, "Well, then, um…thanks, Helga. I'll…do my best to let it sink in before we hit Vine Street."
Helga giggled again. "That's all I'm asking, Football Head… And like I said…" a slight hesitation, "An unlimited supply, right here."
"Wh-whatever you say, Helga…"
And then Arnold laughed warmly and then Helga laughed warmly along with him. And then the sound of their footsteps stopped for a moment longer, courtesy of something one of the speaker's suddenly felt he had to say…or, rather, ask…
"Not to 'jump the gun' either but…well, where did you learn to do that? Kiss like that, I mean…? If you don't mind me asking…" The amount of nervousness Arnold must have been feeling at asking this question was more than apparent in the shaky tone of his voice.
Helga just giggled in reply. "Well, actually, that's mostly 'dream Arnold's' handiwork…You remember, Football Head—the guy I thought you were last weekend when you stopped by my room to wake me up for that surprise party." She laughed slightly to herself at the memory. "Oh, in fact…" There was another pause and then… "Ouch!"
"Helga…why did you just pinch yourself?" came Arnold's very confused voice.
Helga let out a sigh. "Sorry, Football Head—new policy of mine whenever things with you start to go okay so I can make sure of whether or not I'm dreaming..." She laughed slightly to herself and then added in an amused voice, "And, what do you know—this looks like it's real life! Hmm—wonders never cease…" She sighed once more and then continued with her response to Arnold's question about her kissing. "Anyway, like I said, a big part of it's probably been a lot of mental practice… I mean, if I'd just started randomly planting one on the actual you whenever I got the urge all these years, I think you might have figured me out, eventually, so…what better place to practice then in my dreams, right?
"Oh…" Arnold's voice sounded almost intrigued as she concluded her response. "Okay…Well…." And then he swallowed hard and that touch of nervousness was back…though there was something playful in his tone as well as he added, "Thank him for me sometime, Helga…the Arnold from your dreams, I mean…"
She just giggled at this strange yet adorable request (and simultaneous compliment of her kissing ability), and then responded in a slightly airy voice, "Uh…will do, 'real life' Arnold!"
Both kids shared a warm laugh at this exchange…and then the sound of their footsteps heading up the street resumed.
"So…" Arnold's voice, growing fainter by the second, finally interrupted the moment, "Should we just hold hands on the way there or did you want to try the arm thing again…? Or…" a touch of playfulness came to his tone again that evening, "I guess I can always try carrying you on my back again, He-Hel…Helga…"
This strange slight stutter on Arnold's part was due to the sudden feeling of a smiling Helga G. Pataki unexpectedly reaching up and using the tip of one of her fingers to quickly trace up his neck and behind his head…and then gently twirling a bit of his hair in her fingers.
"Why don't we just…see where the night takes us, okay, Football Head?" she asked in an amused voice.
"Uh…okay…" came Arnold's freshly dazed voice in reply. A second passed, though, and he managed to quickly clear his throat and reply with an obvious amount of nervousness and embarrassment, "Uh, I mean…whatever you say, Helga…"
She laughed slightly to herself and the sound couldn't help but make Arnold laugh slightly to himself as well… And eventually the happy voices and sounds of both children faded away into the warm night…
This takes place...oh, why don't we say, between when Arnold was preparing to have Helga's prank of tripping him into the pool backfire on her and when they finally walked out of the gym together preparing to see Helga home…
Gerald Johanssen, straightening his tie, walked up the hallways of PS 118, smiling to himself…Phoebe Heyerdahl by his side.
The young girl smiled up at him. "So, you and Arnold executed the entire pool prank all by yourselves? That was very impressive, Gerald." She giggled at him.
"Aw, it wasn't all that great…" Gerald replied modestly, rubbing the back of his neck with a sheepish smile. He glanced at Phoebe. "But…thanks, though, Phoebe."
She glanced away shyly, a slight blush coming to her face. "You're quite welcome, Gerald."
Gerald sighed slightly and did his best not to blush himself at the pleasant exchange he had been managing to carry on for some time now with the girl beside him. "Anyway…thanks for understanding even though it was a prank on your best friend…Sorry you got a little wet too, babe."
Phoebe just sighed and smiled at the sweet apology. "Oh, don't worry about it, Gerald. Helga's joke was amusing but retaliation is half of what April Fool's Day is all about…And besides everyone diving into the pool at the end was actually quite fun!"
Gerald smiled happily at her acceptance and approval of his actions. "Well, I'm glad you liked it, Phoebe." He cleared his throat and couldn't help but glance away as he added, "And…I'm glad you're willing to let Jamie O give you a ride home again along with me." He rolled his eyes and added playfully, "I promise, he'll be less of a pain this time."
Phoebe just laughed slightly to herself and continued looking with a smile to the boy beside her. "Oh, I'm certain it will be very nice to see him again. And thank you for offering the ride…" She blushed and glanced away smiling. "I…appreciate it."
Gerald chuckled and put his arms behind his back, "Ah, anything for you babe…" And then he winked before he could stop himself…and to his delight the action made Phoebe giggle once more.
Anyway, the happy 'couple' was just passing by some restrooms at this point in the conversation when Phoebe suddenly paused in their walk through the hall. "Oh, Gerald, if we still have time before your brother arrives would you mind if I went to the ladies room for a minute to try and dry out my dress a little more using the hand dryer. I don't want to get the seats of Jamie O's car wet."
Gerald smiled and stopped in the hallway as well (which was conveniently by the gym doors). "Sure thing, Phoebe. I'll just wait out here for you."
She smiled. "Arigatoo Gozaimasu, Gerald. I'll be out very shortly." And with that she entered the Girls room.
Finding himself with a moment alone, Gerald leaned back against the wall near the gym doors, smiling to himself (specifically, about how he had managed to end up talking alone with Phoebe after all of the chaos at the dance not too long ago). And, indeed, he was just going to continue waiting there casually and getting lost in bits of happy daydreams at his good romantic fortune when suddenly the sound of one loud splash…followed shortly by another one…caught his ears. He blinked. "That sounds like it's coming from the gym…" He raised an eyebrow, eyeing the gym doors. "But who in the heck would still be in there…AND taking another swim?" He scratched his head, then glanced back in the direction of the Girls room door, figured that he probably had enough time and opportunity to just peek in the gym before Phoebe came out, and finally with a sigh he slowly and quietly opened the gym door just a bit…
The sight of Arnold and Helga all but playing in the pool together…follow by Arnold practically climbing on top of Helga and then pausing with his face inches from her own and just gazing into her eyes made his jaw drop, to say the least…
"Ah!" came his high-pitched yelp (luckily, though, he had allowed the gym door to close before yelling).
He turned to see Phoebe behind him, an eyebrow raised. "What are you doing?" she couldn't help but ask with a touch of curiosity.
Gerald took a second to take a breath or two to calm himself from his sudden shock (both at what he'd seen and at Phoebe's unexpected return), and then cleared his throat and looked at Phoebe, crossing his arms over his chest. "Hey Phoebe…listen…remember that secret about Arnold and Helga that we were kind of talking about last weekend after the whole saving the neighborhood thing, and that I said I wouldn't press any of you guys on until someone was ready to fill me in on their own?"
Phoebe blinked, more than a little surprised by this random topic of conversation. "Oh, um…of course, Gerald. Why do you ask?" She couldn't help but add the last question with just a touch of nervousness at the uneasy feeling of having her best friend's most intimate guarded secret suddenly brought up once more between herself and the boy before her.
Gerald just sighed in response to her question and rubbed his temples. "Well, does it count if I happen to just figure it out on my own?"
Phoebe couldn't help but blink again. "Gerald, I'm not sure wha—"
He sighed once more and then grabbed Phoebe's hand and gave her a light 'shush'…and then he opened the gym door just slightly and gestured for her to look inside with him…
And, instantly, Phoebe had to blink a third time that evening at the sight of Arnold and Helga still in the pool and still almost on top of each other…though this time seeming to be leaning in for a kiss.
Gerald shut the door quickly, not wanting to interrupt their friends, and raised an eyebrow, smiling at Phoebe.
Phoebe cleared her throat and glanced down a bit hesitantly, though she was smiling as well. "And um…what have you 'figured out', exactly, Gerald?" Phoebe knew there was no covering this one up, but she was still technically sworn to secrecy as Helga's best friend…
Gerald just sighed once again and shook his head in amusement, and then glanced down and replied, "That Jamie O was right, and Arnold's got a girl…which means I really do have to start looking, don't I?" He couldn't help but smile a bit more to himself…and not really process just yet, for how intriguing the idea was to him all of a sudden, that he had indeed just said it out loud. And in front of Phoebe, no less.
It took a second for Phoebe, meanwhile, to process that last observation but when she did she felt a quick blush come to her cheeks. Still glancing downward she took a deep breath…and then replied in a careful voice, a bit more of a smile coming to her face along with the blushing, "Oh… Well, not to reveal too much of Helga's personal life but that…sounds like a fair assessment of Arnold and Helga's current situation…and of what yours should maybe…be…" she managed to add shyly.
Gerald's eyes lit up for a second as he took in the last half of her last sentence in reply to that last thing he'd let slip…and then he felt himself blush considerably as well. He swallowed hard and looked at her nervously. "Oh… uh…yeah…maybe…" And then before the situation could get any more awkward, he quickly cleared his throat and did his best to move things along. "Um, well…anyway…uh…Arnold and Helga are bound to come out of there pretty soon… I mean, the janitors are getting ready to close up the school and everything in a little while…So…so we should probably get going outside to meet Jamie O, and not interrupt them..." Gerald then took a deep breath and summed up all of his courage (which took a lot considering how nerve-wracking these last few seconds had been) and, finally, and held out his arm to Phoebe…and did his best to keep his tone cool and smooth (and yet, of course, casual) sounding as he asked, "Shall we, babe?"
At the question, Phoebe just giggled once more, feeling her nervousness start to wane in the wake of that sudden warm happiness she'd been noticing come over her even more frequently than usual over the last week she'd spent more-than-occasionally talking with Gerald and doing things after school with him...and then, of course, getting the chance to dance with him a few times at the dance this evening… "Of course, Gerald…" she began to reply in a happy sounding voice, "I'd be delighted." And with that, she hooked her arm around his and the two of them proceeded to head down the hall.
Gerald just sighed to himself in amusement as they continued to walk in this fashion, and before his thoughts became absorbed with not embarrassing himself in front of Phoebe and with making sure she had a good ride home, he couldn't help but wonder to himself with a half smile, 'Mmm, mmm, mmm—Arnold and Helga…That boy does like a challenge, doesn't he?'
Phoebe, likewise, was having a few private mental observations of her own before turning her attentions to keeping her blushing under control and trying her best not to let her usual shyness keep her from enjoying the rest of her evening with Gerald. Indeed, her happiness for her friend was so great that she couldn't help but glance once more back in the direction of the gym and her best friend before she heard Gerald push the door open for her and the two of them exited the school. 'Happy April Fools Day, Helga…and Happy Birthday…Arnold was right this morning…' Phoebe briefly recalled the incident in the cafeteria when Arnold had pranked Helga with that small box that he had claimed was to make up for not having gotten her anything for her birthday the weekend prior, '…He really was just a little late giving you your present…'
And with these concluding respective thoughts, the two kids headed finally exited the school and found themselves in the warm night air.
"Hey, Gerald!" Jamie O honked twice, suddenly bringing both kids back to reality. "Hey Phoebe! Nice job having a pretty intense April Fools day, guys!" He laughed to himself as the kids entered the car. "It was even on the news—man, I have never seen Wartz look that steamed!" He continued laughing to himself.
Gerald had to smile at the memories of the evening. "Yeah, it was a pretty crazy night!"
Phoebe smiled as well. "Indeed."
Jamie O finally got his laughter under control and was now just grinning ear to ear as he prepared to pull away from the curb. "Well, I can't wait to hear all about it! Man, you guys actually got the entire dance shut down early—classic!" Some of his laughter resumed as he proceeded to start driving away from the school and in the direction of the Heyerdahl house.
"Yeah, but, for what there was of it, it was a pretty good dance, right Phoebe?" asked Gerald, turning to her with a smile and his eyes just slightly half lidded though he didn't realize it.
Phoebe just smiled back and did her best not to giggle at the slightly daydreamy expression on his face. "I concur, Gerald—in regards to both the dance as well as your final prank…Indeed, a perfect April Fool's Day."
Suddenly, both kids heard Jamie O give an impressed laugh from the front seat. "Oh man, Gerald—was that whole pool thing seriously YOUR prank! Aw, you have officially moved up in coolness level! Let's hear all about it!"
Gerald chuckled slightly at his brother's enthusiasm, and then couldn't help but look to the girl beside him and whisper "Thanks, Phoebe" and wink at her before proceeding to start his explanation. He cleared his throat and began, "Well, it all started with that crazy Helga girl and her random need to drive Arnold nuts…"
And as Phoebe laughed and prepared to here once again that evening Gerald's account of his and Arnold's prank with the pool, she couldn't help but laugh at just how accurate his opening statement was…about a lot of things, actually.
"Hey, Shortman, do you need anyth—"
Phil instantly paused at the sight before him…and then had to really fight not to burst into laughter, especially since doing so would probably end the unexpected and yet amusing sight before him.
"General, do the troops want any more ice cr—"
"Shh, Pookie!" Phil instantly whispered to his wife who had just started to open the door to the boarding house den and enter with a smile on her face. He quickly approached the door she'd been about to enter by and made sure both of them exited into the hallway as quietly as possible.
"What is it, General? Trouble in the trenches?" asked Gertie with an eyebrow raised and currently wearing an army camouflage hat and holding a fresh gallon or two of ice cream under one of her arms.
Phil just shook his head…a very large grin forming on his face. He spoke in a whisper. "No, no…but tell me we have a camera, Pookie, because I want to have a picture of this to show that boy every day for the rest of his life! Heh, heh, heh!" And with a laugh and this statement he took his wife by the hand and carefully and quietly opened the door to the den… And the sight there made Gertie smile just as much as it had done to Phil…
A few low lights gave the room a warm orange/yellow atmosphere and the television set was on low, glowing softly and playing some kind of old movie or television show…and there was a gallon of half eaten ice cream with a spoon in it and a bowl next to it on one end of the coffee table….and another gallon of half eaten ice cream with a spoon also in it and a bowl also nearby it on the other end of the coffee table…
And on the couch, still in a suit and a dress respectively, were a sleeping Arnold and Helga…and Arnold was laying on his side with his head propped up by some pillows…and Helga was laying on her side half on top of him, her head on his chest…and the two of them were wrapped in a large blanket…and smiling as they slept…
Once again doing his best not to laugh, Phil just shook his head with a smile and slowly closed the door once more, he and his wife exiting as quietly as possible into the hall.
Gertie practically beamed once the door had finally shut fully. "Aw, isn't that sweet—looks like Kimba's found a new little lady friend to play with while he's on safari…"
"Heh, heh, heh!" Phil couldn't help but suddenly burst into laughter. He actually had to wipe a tear from his eye as he looked to his wife. "Oh, boy, I cannot wait until those two wake up tomorrow! I plan to start camping out right in front of this door at 5 am with a bowl of popcorn and that old camcorder Arnold's got up in his room! Heh, heh, heh!"
Gertie just sighed and rolled her eyes. "Oh, now, Phil, leave the poor boy alone! I'm sure tomorrow morning's going to be awkward enough for him and that sweet little girl without you getting video evidence of it all!"
Phil just sighed in a bit of frustration, still doing his best not to burst into laughter, though, of course, at the very idea of the sight in that den. "Oh, come on, Pookie—the boy's such a wet blanket sometimes that I hardly ever get to have any fun with him…At least give me a sporting chance for some great one liners at breakfast!"
"Well…" Gertie suddenly couldn't help but feel the laughter she'd been trying to resist at her grandson's current adorable position force her to crack a serious smile as well, "Alright, General, but only if the Private's friend has gone home before then—otherwise you wait until lunch like a good platoon leader!"
Phil rolled his eyes and scoffed. "Oh, but, come on, Pookie! Having her there while I give the boy a good post-April Fool's razzing is half the fun!"
Gertie just sighed and shrugged and then proceeded to turn back in the direction of the kitchen to put the ice cream gallons still under her arms away. "You can make two mild remarks at breakfast if she's here and then I think it would be better if you take pity on the children and save the heavy stuff for when it's just Arnold—but that also means, as part of the deal for getting to say anything while she's still here, that it's raspberry turnovers and toast with raspberry jam for breakfast, General!"
Phil let out an exasperated sigh but finally replied in a bit of defeat, "Oh, alright, Pookie—sheesh, you drive a hard bargain!" His smile returned though as he followed after her into the kitchen. "Hey, as long as we're up, though, and the kids don't want any, let's dig into some of that ice cream ourselves! Any of that Chocolate Ripple or Vanilla Swirl left?"
Gertie stopped walking and pushed open the kitchen door, a slightly smug smile on her face. "No…Just Black Raspberry…"
Instantly Phil's smile fell…and his stomach must have sensed the change in emotion because it suddenly let out a loud grumble. "Oh…why do you torture me like that, Pookie?"
Gertie just giggled to herself and announced, "April Fools, General!" She gestured to the two gallons in her arms with her head, "I've got the vanilla and chocolate right here. I gave the raspberry and that gallon of Peanut Butter swirl to the kids."
Phil rolled his eyes though he couldn't help but smile, and then resumed his approach to the kitchen door. "Oh ha ha very funny, Pookie—you almost gave my stomach a heart attack!"
Gertie just chuckled to herself at the comment as Phil walked past her into the kitchen. Smiling, she followed behind him, allowing the door to swing shut a bit in their wake.
"General, I know we don't want to wake them but do you think I should go in there and try and get them a little cleaned up? Poor things have purple and white and peanut butter all over their mouths…It must be a little sticky…" came the question from Gertie behind the now closed kitchen door.
Phil just laughed once more and then replied happily, "Eh, I'm sure they'll be fine until morning, Pookie. Really is better to let the kids sleep—they've had a long week, after al—" And then Phil paused for a second. "Say, Pookie…did you say that they had both flavors all over their faces?"
"You got it, General!" came Gertie's cheerful reply.
"Ugh…" Phil suddenly shuddered.
"Something wrong?" asked Gertie with a touch of curiosity at the strange exclamation from her husband.
"Well..." Phil began, still sounding a little creeped out, "I know kids'll eat anything but who in their right mind mixes Black Raspberry and Peanut Butter Swirl ice cream and then goes and eats the equivalent of half a gallon of it each? Sheesh, when I trained young Arnold for that eating contest, I taught him to eat through the pain not to eat through the disgusting!" Phil made a dramatic sound of disgust again
Gertie just let out a happy chuckled at his dramatics and replied casually, "Oh I'm sure they were just bored and trying something new…or maybe it was even some part of a prank or something…Anyway, it doesn't really matter so long as Arnold's back home and had a good time at his dance, right?"
Phil was silent for another second but then yawned and replied in a tone suggesting acceptance of this hypothesis, "Yeah, I guess you're right, Pookie…But…ugh…" Phil made a sound of disgust again, "Remind me to ask that boy what the heck he was thinking about that ice cream in the morning after I'm done giving him a hard time. I mean, raspberry's bad enough but with something as wonderful as Peanut Butter Swirl? No way, Pookie…"
Gertie just laughed once again at her husband and then let out a content sigh and replied, "Well, I'm sure it's nothing, General... For now though…" there was the sound of rummaging for silverware and then a triumphant cry of, "Let's dig in!"
"Heh, heh!" Phil replied, and then the next thing he said came out slightly muffled as though the speaker was eating something all of a sudden, "You still got it, Pookie!"
And with that the older couple commenced to eating their ice cream and talking about the little situation currently going on in the den and some things about their own courtship that it reminded them of…and Phil did his best to prepare the idea for a joke or two for the morning…
Back in the den, the ice cream continued to melt a bit and Arnold and Helga continued to sleep curled up on top of each other, still smiling and indeed with lips covered in swirls of purplish and tanish… And it would have interested Phil or Gertie in the morning to note that despite the distinct mix of flavors on the mouths of the two kids, that the spoons and bowls upon the coffee table, which were just as stained with ice cream, seemed notably dedicated to only one flavor respectively…
"Mmm…Arnold…" Helga whispered in her sleep, smiling just a bit more and pressing her lips together and snuggling against her beloved.
And a second later the sound made a slight laugh come out of Arnold's sleeping mouth…and then the word "Helga…" whispered with a grin… And in his obviously dream filled sleep he moved one of his arms around the sleeping girl upon him…
It was definitely going to be an interesting April 2nd, to say the least…
Okay, I hope you guys liked that! I just thought it was a really cute way to wrap up this random story of mine, lol :) And for anyone looking for news about Chapter 6 of LTBH, I'm thinking another week or two since I just got done with my graduation and I am exhausted, lol, but I tend to get cravings for writing at the most random times so hopefully I can get it done sooner than that. If it's any consolation, though, along with all of the AXH goodness that it will be starting out with, awkward conversations also manage to abound in the next installment that have absolutely nothing to do with our favorite couple, if that gets anyone excited for what's next ;) Okay, enough of me rambling, lol! Please review, lovely readers!
~Azure129 aka Jenna