Author's note: Sorry this took so long. Full time job, 1 year old kid and trying to get my social life back meant updates had to go on pause for a bit, but here we are with the final chapter!
"I'm not saying that it won't work," Gerald stirred his cup of hot cocoa and shrugged his shoulder up so high that the phone was pressed firmly against his ear, "I'm just saying that it's crazy."
"I've gotta do something, Gerald. She's not going to talk to me if things stay the way they are."
"Would that really be a bad thing?" Gerald asked, taking a sip of his cocoa. He could hear the frown in Arnold's voice.
"Yes, it would be a bad thing. I'm going for it, Gerald. It's only fair, right?"
"Or you'll embarrass her so badly she'll forget she ever liked you and kill you. I mean, this is Helga Pataki we're talking about.
"This'll work. Trust me."
"You are one bold kid, Arnold. One very bold, possibly dead soon, kid. …Can I have your stereo? You know, if she does kill you."
"So I hope you kids all had fun with your poetry assignment. I'm sure they were all just so extra special!" Mr. Simmons said cheerfully, bouncing on his heels as he spoke. "Do we have any volunteers to read their poetry?" No one had ever come forward on his request before, so he'd already turned around to collect the papers and didn't notice Arnold's hand shoot up.
"Mr. Simmons?" Arnold let out a small cough to alert the teacher.
"Yes, Arnold? Do you need to go to the bathroom?"
"No. I'd like to read my poem."
"Oh…wonderful! Class, let's everyone be quiet so Arnold can read his poem. I'm sure it's just great, Arnold," Mr. Simmons scrambled back for his desk, plopping down in his chair with the excitement etched onto his face. He was always thrilled when his students enjoyed an assignment.
Arnold got up and stood in front of the blackboard, trying not to feel nervous. He glanced at Helga, but suddenly felt too embarrassed to keep looking at her. Her one eyebrow shot up when he looked away. "He's up to something," she thought aloud, but she leaned forward to listen anyways.
"My poem is for someone I know who uh…well…" Arnold tugged at his shirt sleeve nervously, "It's just a poem I wrote for someone I know."
This is something I may have known along -
Forgive me if this is late,
Please don't blame me for taking so long.
I know now what it is that I want,
I believe what you want is the same.
I was scared of how certain you were,
Yet I realize you were right to be.
You've always been there for me,
And sometimes without so much as a thank you.
You try to hide your true self away,
But you've failed, and I've seen her -
Seen past the front you put on,
And now I've only one last thing to say:
Arnold paused and looked up from the paper. Gerald had accused him time and time again of being a bold kid, and he was about to prove him right. He met Helga's gaze and held it there for a moment. "Helga…I like you like you."
Helga fell out of her desk and Arnold felt the color rise to his cheeks. There were a couple of snickers about the room, but several more of the kids were leaned forward in their desks, eyes focused on Helga, waiting for her to answer Arnold. When she felt their gaze on her, she picked herself off the floor and gave a nervous laugh.
"Yeah, yeah, real funny, Football Head," she said sarcastically, rolling her eyes.
"Oh puh-lease," Rhonda crossed her arms. "We all know you like him." Helga stared at her.
"You…know?" she repeated blankly.
"Well, yeah," Eugene seconded. "That's why you're always so mean to him, right?"
"You're always managing to get partnered with him for projects," Sheena pointed out.
"Yeah, even I knew you like him," Harold pointed out.
"Right, and Harold's dumb as a rock!" Rhonda said.
"Hey!" he snapped at her.
"Point is, Helga, I'm ever so certain the only one who didn't realize it was Arnold himself," Lila shrugged. "So there's really no point in hiding it anymore."
"So, wait, I was the only one who didn't know?" Arnold repeated.
"Class, perhaps we should let Arnold and Helga talk this out in their own time?" Mr. Simmons suggested. "After all, we do have a lesson to finish, and I'm certain they don't want to talk about this in front of all of us…"
"I reckon this is more interesting than the lesson, Mr. Simmons," Stinky pointed out.
"Helga, Arnold…it would seem the class is out of paper towels. Would you mind grabbing us some more?" Mr. Simmons asked.
"But we have plenty," Arnold said, pointing towards the table in the back.
"We may do an art project later. Please, just go grab the paper towels," Mr. Simmons made eye contact with Arnold, and he suddenly realized the teacher's intentions. He was giving the kids a chance to talk it over without having to worry about their classmates butting in. Helga got up from her desk, her arms folded as she huffed her way out of the room. Arnold followed her and muttered a thank you in Mr. Simmons' direction.
Once they were out of ear shot of the classroom, Helga pushed Arnold against a locker. "What was that? Did you really think it was a good idea to embarrass me like this?"
"Sorry, guess I didn't think it through all the way," Arnold apologized. "I just wanted you to know how I feel and that …that I really want to be with you. I'm sorry it took as long as it did."
Helga sighed, fighting off the instinct to slap herself. Why can't I ever stay mad at this football-headed doofus? she silently lamented. "I guess it's all right. The poem was kind of mushy, though."
"So…what do we do from here?" Arnold asked.
It was another twenty minutes before the pair made it back to class. Between talking, a kiss Helga had managed to sneak from him seconds before Principal Wartz rounded the corner and nearly caught them, and hand holding they hadn't realized how much time it had been.
After class that day, right after the students exited, Principal Wartz entered the classroom. "Mr. Simmons, I noticed Miss Pataki and Arnold holding hands in the hallway…and I think I may have caught them kissing earlier, but she insisted that she thought he was choking and was administering mouth-to-mouth," He left out the part where she'd threatened to reveal his love of flamenco dancing if she got in any trouble for this, "Are the increased PDAs a sign of something?"
"I know public displays of affection are against school policy, Principal Wartz, but it's they're such special kids and it seems they're dating now and --"
"Those two are dating?"
"So it would seem -"
"It's about time." With no further comment, the elderly man left Mr. Simmons alone. He contemplated for a short moment, before nodding his agreement.
Once Arnold had come to terms with his feelings, the last puzzle piece had easily slid into place. Something about those two being together made Mr. Simmons feel like things had worked out exactly as they were supposed to. "Well…I'm looking forward to what type of poetry Helga writes now that she has what she's always wanted," he said, glancing fondly at the stack of poems she'd written that still occupied his desk. With that, he turned the light off to his class room. "To think, I thought those two might never get together," he commented, before closing the door.