Post "Jungle Movie", only by about a day - this does sort of tie in with "Dear Arnold: Letters From Hillwood", but you do not have to read it to understand what's going on here.
The plane touched down into Hillwood airport, and most of the kids let out a cheer. The trip to San Lorenzo had been fun, but right now most of the kids were agreeing with Rhonda's loud declaration "Finally, indoor plumbing and clean showers!"
Helga grumbled and sunk deeper into her chair. "…Helga?" Phoebe started to ask what was wrong, but sensed the futility and aborted the question. "It's good to be back, right? No more bugs…" she let out a laugh, wincing at how high pitched it had come out. She really couldn't think of a proper way to cheer her best friend up, and she knew Helga didn't want to talk about it right now.
"Now, let's all have a moment to remember how very special Arnold was and still is to us," Mr. Simmons called, "He gave us quite an adventure, and here's hoping he'll have a wonderful time with his parents in San Lorenzo!"
Helga had sunk so far into her chair that her head was now even with the arm rest. There had been a few glances in Helga's direction at the mention of Arnold, and she was doing her best to ignore them. She didn't need or want their sympathy. She glared at the ceiling of the plane, mentally daring anyone other than Phoebe to even try to talk to her. She'd clean their clocks. Part of her hoped someone would give her the excuse. She felt lousy, and she thought giving "Old Betsy" and the "Five Avengers" some exercise might distract her long enough to let her stop hurting, even if it was only for a few minutes.
She waited until everyone else had loaded off the plane to grab her stuff from the over head carriage. She shouldered her pack and got off, trying to sneak past her classmates to go hail a cab (She knew Bob and Miriam would have forgotten to pick her up at the airport, she didn't feel like wasting her time even looking for them).
"Helga!" Rhonda grabbed her and spun her around.
"What do you want, Princess? I need to get home."
"Nadine and I were just talking about how awful this must have been for you,"
"Really awful," Nadine emphasized.
"And she and I agreed that if you wanted to come over and you know…talk about it, we'd be there for you. Girls have to stick together, Y'know."
"I'm busy," Helga pushed Rhonda's hand off her shoulder. "And next time you want to gossip, leave me out of it, got it?" She held up her fist to make her point all the more clear.
"She's just deflecting," Helga heard Rhonda tell Nadine as she walked away. "She's heartbroken, poor thing. Who could blame her?"
"Hey, Helga!" This time it was Eugene and Gerald. Eugene had been the one to call her name.
"Criminy, what now? Since when do all you people talk to me this much?" Helga groaned.
"Gerald and I were just thinking…we might all go play a game tonight, did you want to come, too?"
Helga rolled her eyes. "Listen, klutz, first off, I'd never team with you because I'd fear for my life, second, as I'm sure Tall Hairboy remembers, no one's ever invited me to play before, I just show up and I get to play because I'm good."
"Yeah," Eugene tugged at the bottom of his shirt, "It's just…after all you went through, Helga... I mean, none of us ever would have guessed that you weren't as mean as you acted, and that you really liked Arnold. It must have hurt, that he --"
"Not as much as this is going to," Helga muttered, pushing Eugene over. He rolled a bit until he hit a display outside a tourist shop, knocking the whole display over and onto himself.
"I get that you're upset, but that wasn't cool," Gerald shook his head. "We're all gonna miss Arnold. We were trying to be nice since it's what Arnold would want, but dang, you're making it hard."
"Whatever," Helga muttered, thankful that Gerald at least didn't seem to want to talk to her about her feelings. "Listen, to all of you. I do not want to talk about it. Get it?" She waited for her classmates to nod. "Good. Now, I am going home." She marched off, confident that this time she had made her point.
But following behind her, unnoticed, was Lila. It wasn't until Helga made it outside and started attempting to hail a cab that Lila made her presence known.
"Helga?" Helga jumped.
"Oh no. Not you. I don't want to talk to anyone about it, but especially not you."
"Helga, I'm ever-so-certain you'd feel better about it if you would just talk it out."
"And I'm ever-so-certain that I don't want to talk about it. See ya," she gave a half-wave as she made a break for the cab that had just stopped for her. Lila slid in next to her. "Geez, what do you want?!"
"I want to be friends with you. I know you need to talk about this. I'm not going to make fun of you. I just want to help. Really."
What had always bothered Helga the most about Lila (aside from the other girl gaining Arnold's affections when Helga had so desperately coveted them) was her sincerity. Her innocence and kindness weren't the least bit faked, she meant every word. And she'd kept her promise about not telling about Helga's feelings when Helga had bargained the truth to gain the part of Juliet when Arnold had played Romeo.
"I don't want to talk about it," Helga insisted again, her voice much weaker now. She was getting tired of arguing.
"But why not?"
"Because he chose someone else again!" Helga was practically screaming now. "I have been there for him since we were four…I've loved him since then…and I had to watch all the crushes he had, on Ruth, that teacher, with Summer…on you. And it hurt. Every single time, it hurt, but I kept telling myself one day he'd pick me, one day I'd be the one and that'd be the end of it. That it would stop hurting…"
She took a deep breath. She'd already launched into it. There was no stopping the words now. Lila gave an encouraging nod as Helga continued. "You don't know exactly how the whole thing happened over there…."
"Helga, can I …can I talk to you for a minute?" Arnold asked, his tone unreadable. "Please, it's important." He added when she had hesitated. She nodded, and followed him a little ways into the jungle, away from their classmates, out of sight of his parents.
"What's this all about, Football Head?" She snarked. "Because you've been avoiding me most of this trip and I'm getting sick of this crapola."
"You're right, and I'm sorry. I've just been …sorting things out."
"Sorting things out?" Helga repeated. "Sorting what things out, Arnold-o? There's nothing to sort. You haven't been talking to me so we haven't had anything that needs to be sorted."
"Yes, there is. …Was. I figured it out now."
"Figured what out now?"
Arnold coughed awkwardly, then rubbed the back of his neck with one hand. "How I feel about you." Helga felt her heart jump into her throat. It suddenly felt very hard to breath, and she was both scared and excited to hear what he would say next.
"And?" She asked, just barely managing to keep her expression calm, her voice nonchalant. "How do you feel?"
"I…I like you. A lot, Helga. I've been watching you this whole time, even though I wasn't talking to you. You really are a nice person, and…and I'm sorry I took so long to tell you this…"
"You…just like me," Helga muttered. "Yeah, whatever. That's fine."
"I don't think you're understanding me, Helga. I really like you."
"Yeah yeah, you like me," she repeated again. She felt her heart sink. Arnold, realizing he wasn't going to get through to her any other way, grabbed onto the sides of her shirt and pulled her in, going on tip toe to press his lips against hers. Helga felt herself melt into him, her eyes instinctively closing as her arms started to reach for him …
"Hey, Arnold, your parents --" The two broke apart to see Gerald standing there, gawking at them.
"Umm…we were just…I mean, he had something in his hair…" Helga started.
"Yeah, and then our…lips…fell…together…it wasn't what it looked like!" Arnold added on.
"Whatever you say," Gerald smirked.
"That was the happiest moment of my life," Helga admitted.
"I can see why," Lila sympathized, setting a hand on her shoulder.
"Which is why it's such crap that it has to be followed by this…I get that he hadn't seen his parents in so long, I know I'm being selfish…but I only had him for an hour. He told me that when he already knew he was going to be staying there with his parents, and he didn't tell me…" Helga was trying to hold back tears now. "He gets to stay there with his perfect parents having little adventures, and I go back home with nothing. I still love him and it hurts."
"Let it out," Lila insisted. "You'll feel a lot better."
"I think I'd feel better if I hit Brainy around for a bit," Helga muttered, putting her elbows on her knees and then putting her head in her hands. She sniffled a bit. "I go back to the same way things always were…Bob and Miriam doting on perfect Olga," she said her sister's name with the usual imitation of her parents, "Bob not remembering who I am and Miriam not remembering where she is…Olga completely oblivious to everything that's not her problem, and you know what really tears it? Why this sucks so much?" She paused for only a moment, but Lila sensed that she didn't really want to be interrupted. "What always got me through the day was Arnold. Knowing he was there, that I'd get to see him…and now not even that's true."
"He said he'd come back…"
"Yeah? So did his parents, back when he was little. So I guess I only have to wait as long as he di -- oh wait!" she faked surprise, "That's right. They never made it back to the states after they left him. They're still there."
"That's a little harsh, Helga. Their plane had broken down and they didn't have a mechanic, and typically they don't get commercial flights…"
"I know that," Helga snapped, "But that's still another reason why he won't be coming back. Ever."
"Well, I…" Lila searched for something to say, anything to make Helga feel better. She couldn't come up with anything. "Umm…Driver? My place is at the end of this street, if you could just let me off here?" The cab slowed and then stopped. Lila handed the cabbie a few dollars. "Helga…I'm sorry. I know this didn't go how you planned, and I know you're mad that everyone found out your secret…but I'm ever-so-certain that at least the last part is a good thing. People want to get to know the real you. None of us is Arnold, but…at least we could take some of the loneliness away. Friends can be just as good."
"Whatever. Pack it up and take your advice with you, I don't feel like listening to it," Helga considered for a moment. "But uh…thanks. For listening."
"You're welcome. And of course I won't tell anyone what you said to me…"
"Good. I'd pound you flat," Helga only managed about half-enthusiasm for the threat. Lila smiled and shut the cab door behind her, leaving Helga alone with the driver. She sighed and flopped back into her seat, closing her eyes, letting a poem come to mind there.
The rain drops as it did before,
the world goes quiet
The rain stops, the sun shines -
but now the world is roaring
Some little slip, some little mistake,
has caused nature herself to riot.
First day's done, gone by so achingly slow
I feel my body age years in a minute,
My heart knows only woe
The missing piece changes the whole puzzle
A life lead in solitude, dreaming of you
A mind that can not be rid of you
If I close my eyes, only you I see
If I open them, the illusion shatters
You disappear, and all that's left is me
"This is where you wanted, right?" The cab stopping forced Helga from her thoughts.
"Yeah. Yeah, this is my place," she said, pulling her fare from her pocket and handing it over. She walked inside and slammed her bag down on the floor, listening to it echo. "So…first day without Arnold…" she said softly, sitting down at her desk to transcribe the poem she'd thought up in the cab. "This is going to be hard…" She laid her head down on the desk. Moments later, the ink on her poem was starting to run, the tears she'd been holding back flooding out all at once. She attempted to sniff them back when the phone rang. "Hello?"
"I'll be fine, Pheebs. …Could you come over?"
Author's Note: Umm…I was in the mood for a sad story. …Don't hurt me, it has a resolution…just…not in this one shot, it's actually in the full length story (where it won't be resolved until the last chapter or so. …Wow, I'm mean…)