Lol, okay, do you guys know how wonderful it was to go away for the weekend and suddenly come back and find like 15 or 16 new TA reviews screaming happily for more to the story :) Seriously, I love you guys so much, you're aware of that, right, lol? Okay, so, anyway, since I have three weeks of school left, I was going to be responsible and do work and not start posting this story until May, but like I said the draft's all worked out so it really just needed some editing, and you're all always so patient with my obscenely long delays in everything so here's chapter one submitted for your approval ;) Now, for anyone looking for Arnold's closet shrine reaction, sorry but it's not coming until chapter 3 (*ducks severe amounts of rotten food being thrown*) but I promise you it's a doozy, and on the way we get to find out why Arnold's acting a little, well…unusual…in this chapter, and at least one amusing thing happens in chapter two that Helga doesn't expect so I hope that's enough to tide you all over. And for anyone who thinks Arnold and Helga's evening together could possibly be over after confronting the closet shrine (please, like I would actually write a non-one shot story that's only three chapters!)…unfortunately for our favorite couple, you would be wrong, because after Helga finishes having her little personal crisis, it's Arnold's turn and he's got his own ridiculously awkward situation to deal with ;)
Okay, okay, I'm going to stop being cruel and hinting at things to come! At least in this chapter, though, you get to find out what the heck he's doing trying to break into her house ;) I really hope you guys like how this turns out and I can't wait for your reviews :D
Oh, and for anyone who's interested, okay so basically like I said the idea for this continuation came from reading a lot of your reviews. Basically, I got back to school after a ten hour drive at like midnight, decided to unwind reading some TA reviews, and saw Aimi-chan's comment about how it would be interesting to have seen Arnold's reaction to the closet shrine, and then in my near complete exhaustion I was like 'Yeah, that actually would be interesting…' Anyway, I ended up writing until five in the morning (because I am way too obsessed with this show, lol!) and then just kept adding to it with even more random late nights and that's how we got this monstrous thing we have now ;)
Okay, I'll shut up, I swear! ;)
Learning to be Helga
Trying to be Romantic…
My eternal Light giving Life to Love,
Set against the inferior stars and moon above,
Outdoing all others and leaving me undone,
Now and forever, my Arnold, my only, my one…"
Helga G. Pataki, resting comfortably against some pillows on her bed, mulled this potential stanza of poetry around in her head for a few seconds. Finally, she put pen to paper (or rather, pen to pink book) and smiled with satisfaction to herself. "Oh yeah—that's a keeper!"
Helga immediately commenced to recording these few lines…However, as she neared the last few words of the final line she had just composed, she finally had to admit to herself with a defeated sigh that she could no longer deny the fact that the glow of the twilight outside was officially so dim that even squinting at the page before her was no longer helping in her efforts to see what she was writing. Helga sighed with a touch of frustration this time as she just managed to conclude the last word of the quatrain and then dropped the pen into the crease of the book before her in brief defeat. She reached over to finally turn on the lamp next to her bed but, to her surprise considering the early hour (she glanced at the alarm clock on her nightstand and noted that it was only 7pm), her reach quickly turned into a stretch and her sigh finished out as a full-blown yawn.
Helga blinked a few times, rubbing her eyes. "Crimeny, I finally get an evening to myself away from Bob and Olga and Miriam to just write without a bunch of random interruptions and interference and annoying side comments…" This last item referred specifically to Olga Pataki, who was now all but officially in the Arnold and Helga loop. "But instead of getting work done, I feel like I can barely keep my eyes open…" Helga sighed once more (though she could feel the pull of another yawn at the back of her throat as she did so.) "Oh well…So much for something productive coming from me actually convincing Bob and Miriam to leave me here while they drove Olga to the airport…" Helga blinked a few times and rubbed her slowly drooping eyelids. "Maybe I'll just hit the hay now and spend the last day of the weekend tomorrow actually sleeping-in now that someone's not here to get me up at the crack of dawn!"
Despite the negative sounding comments about her sister, though, Helga couldn't help smiling as she said them. In fact, ever since all of the stuff with Arnold (especially the date that had taken place last Saturday—an exact week ago, actually, Helga noted to herself at the back of her mind), she hadn't been able to help but feel just a little closer to Olga…and a little more grateful for her, too. Not that Olga's constant reminders to her 'baby sister' during the remaining week of her visit about how she and Arnold were absolutely 'the most adorable, most precious, most scrumptious thing in the world' hadn't been SEVERLY ANNOYING, but still…it was kind of nice, in a way, to have someone from her family be a part of that part of her life. Not that Helga wanted Olga to get too close to the reality of the situation between herself and Arnold ( 'If she knew about what happened in the living room before Phoebe came downstairs she'd never let Football Head come around here again without a million escorts, including herself…), but she didn't entirely mind the gentle natured ribbing about having a little 'boyfriend' or yesterday, for example, when she'd come home from her second 'date' with Arnold in such a good mood that she'd even been able to tolerate going to some girly movie with Olga that night and then out to dinner…and she'd actually had a pretty okay time.
Helga had to laugh to herself as she reclined her head back against her arms and added, "Heck, she's even made living with Bob and Miriam bearable…well, at least for the last few days…"
This interesting comment referred to the fact that over the last week of her visit, Olga Pataki seemed to have been on a mission to not only continue improving her relationship with her baby sister but also to fix some of the disconnection between their parents and Helga now that the whole matchmaking/Arnold situation was squared away.
A few particular memories of some of Olga's actions over the week surfaced in Helga's mind, causing her to chuckle just a bit harder to herself. "Oh man, when she got Bob into the suit and tie to do the family portrait I thought I was going to bust a gut!" Helga continued laughing to herself. "And I still can't believe she made Miriam buy those matching mother-daughter dresses for the three of us…" Helga's chuckling continued for a few seconds and then finally stopped with a sigh and a smile. "I really am going to hate to see the look on Olga's face though when she comes back for the summer only to find that my dress suffered a 'horrible accident'…" Helga made air quotes around the phrase. Hey, family bonding was one thing but three identical tacky chiffon dresses in varying sizes was quite another. And with free access to a blowtorch among other power tools, how could Helga resist? Still, it was the thought that counted, and for that reason Helga's sincere smile to herself about her sister's recent (slightly over the top) behavior continued.
Helga had to let out another slight sigh and said smile faltered for just a second, though, as it hit her that all of the random (and actually kind of fun) family memories from the last week really were just that: memories. "Guess we'll just be going back to the same old routine though come tomorrow morning: Olga made some efforts (even though her efforts WERE a lot better this time), Bob and Miriam went along with it while she was here because she's the golden child, and now she leaves and they come crashing back down to reality and Miriam goes and gets a smoothie and Bob starts watching the wheel and asking me to get him Yahoo sodas." A bit of a frustrated scowl came to Helga's face and she crossed her arms over her chest at the thought. She closed her eyes for a second and took a deep breath to calm herself down, trying not to focus on the inevitable return back to her normal invisibility in the Pataki household. Unlike usual, though, it didn't take much for her to come up with a source of happiness great enough to crush the impending fulfillment of her disappointment in her parents….
Helga opened her eyes and smiled to herself, glancing at the pink book upon her nightstand. "Well, I guess finally winning Arnold's heart is a pretty decent consolation prize for having a lame Mom and a blowhard Dad…" Helga couldn't help but giggle and sigh girlishly to herself as she let the wonderful fact hit her yet again that week that Arnold liked her back. After seven long years of pining and hoping and crazy romantic schemes ARNOLD actually LIKED HER BACK!!! With a suddenly delighted smile and her eyes lit up, Helga sat up once more and quickly pulled her Arnold locket out of her jumper. "Oh, my football headed little love god, you've actually started to care for me as I care for you! You hold my hand (although, not in public of course, because I couldn't bear the idea of my feelings being in anyway a source of ridicule toward you or myself), you go out on dates with me (once again, though, in secret since I just can't yet bear the thought of publically divulging the passion I have for you) and you even KISS me!!! KISS ME!!!" She practically squealed in delight! "Oh Arno—Ahhh…." Her last exclamation of her beloved's name, to her surprise, suddenly ended in a rather large yawn, bringing Helga out of monologue-mode and reminding her that she was indeed pretty tired and that it was almost nighttime.
With a final stretch she leaned over and put the locket on her nightstand along with her pink book. She shrugged in its direction, smiling. "Eh, I guess praising your glory can wait until the morning, my dearest…" Helga then turned on her stomach and laid her head on her arms, gazing at the image of Arnold's half-lidded gaze looking back at her in its little heart-shaped frame. "Still…" she lowered her voice just a little, "Maybe instead of a monologue I'll just call you up tomorrow and let you know once again just how happy you've made me… You'd like that, wouldn't you, my love?" She gently tapped the glass surface of the locket with one of her fingers and giggled in delight once more.
With a sigh, Helga turned away from the locket onto her back again, placed her hands behind her head and closed her eyes, just to rest for a few moments and to fully allow the good fortune of having Arnold in her life wash over her. 'Hmm…it's funny but I don't think I've done a full length Arnold monologue ever since last weekend when the little shrimp dropped by to plant one on me and let me know that he kinda likes me too…' Helga smiled to herself at the memory of the night. 'But I guess it makes sense that I'm not going into secret epic conversations with myself about Arnold much anymore…especially when I can just tell him whatever I want to say about him in a poem or own my own.'
Yet, despite the happy thought, Helga had to let out a slightly regretful sigh, her eyes opening to gaze in the almost nonexistent light from outside at the ceiling above her. Certainly it was wonderful that she could now talk to Arnold about her feelings instead of just to herself…yet there was one small downfall. Namely, Brainy had less of an excuse to be in her life. Not that Helga wanted to lead him on or anything, of course (she'd tried to be as explicit as possible about the whole 'I love Arnold and I don't love you' thing during his confession) but she couldn't help but feel some small affection for the geeky, asthmatic kid all things considered: he was like some kind of old friend that she hadn't realized she'd been taking for granted until she'd found out that he wouldn't have minded being more than just friends. Anyway, as a result of these sympathetic feelings, Helga had at least tried to throw in one or two brief Arnold rants in secret places over the course of the last five days at school and, even though it seemed to her that he might be aware that her efforts were a little forced (there had to be a noticeable difference, after all, between suddenly making a speech in a fit of passion, and randomly moving away from the crowd to say a couple of preplanned sentences about Arnold all the while glancing over your back in nervous anticipation), Brainy had seemed to appreciate the gesture… In fact, during Helga's final 'monologue' on Thursday he'd actually caught her fist as it was flying back (very slowly, since, of course, Helga didn't want to hurt him regardless of the fact that he had assured her two weeks ago that the act was okay) and just sighed and smiled and said, "Uh…thanks…Helga," and then gone off on his way.
Helga just sighed and shook her head at the memory with a smile. "Oh well…even if things have to change between me and Brainy I think it might actually be a good thing. Maybe we could even try having a normal friendship instead of the whole stalker/stalkee relationship..." And then Helga had to smile and laugh as another interesting idea occurred to her considering some of the circumstances of the last week. "Heck, maybe I could even try using my matchmaking skills to set the little geek up with someone who isn't suddenly dating their true love… I mean, he's a decent guy and besides I'm on a bit of a roll in that department considering Gerald and Phoebe…" And indeed Helga couldn't help feeling a touch of pride as she recalled just how well her handiwork in that area had turned out. "I just wish me and Pheebs had a little more time to talk about everything that's happened, but I guess the time management with Arnold and Gerald is going to take a little while to get used to…" Not that the whole girly gossiping about boys appealed to Helga too much but, well, she'd had to admit to herself lately that, considering the opportunities afforded by her sister and (when possible) by Phoebe and even to an extent by Lila, 'A quick gush every once in a while can be helpful…and like I said it's nice to say things to another person for once instead of just to a picture or a pink book or a shrine…' Helga's wandering (and drowsy) thoughts briefly went to the Arnold shrine in the attic space above her closet, which seemed to be getting less and less attention from her (over the last week, at least). Granted, it wasn't like she was spending every second of her time with the actual Arnold (there was still the façade to keep up at school, as per Helga's request), but the nice amount of time she had spent with him over the week and yesterday just talking about their days and their lives and (to an extent) their feelings seemed to relieve the formerly almost unbearable internal presence of her love which had been such a huge factor in her life for so many years…
Helga shook her head, realizing she was getting lost in her thoughts again, and glanced over at her nightstand (or more specifically, at the phone next to her lamp upon her nightstand). "Maybe I'll just take the rest of the time I have alone tonight to give Phoebe a quick ca—Ahhh…" Helga had to stop in mid-reach for the phone as another yawn overtook her. She hesitated a second put then pulled her arm back and sat up, stretching up once more. "Or, maybe I'll just call her tomorrow and get to bed for now…" She smiled to herself. "Sheesh, having your life actually go decently for a change can really take a lot out of a girl!"
Still not having turned on her nightstand lamp, Helga shrugged and decided to just leave it off (there was still enough light to change clothes by and to make it to the bathroom), change into her pajamas and crawl into her warm and inviting bed.
She got up from her pink sheets and blankets and approached her dresser, the thoughts about how much better things seemed in her life still mulling around in her head. 'Well, one thing's for sure—Arnold's definitely having a good effect on my life…and on me…' She couldn't help but sigh to herself though and add with just a touch of concern, 'I just hope all of my insanity isn't messing up my precious little love god TOO badly…'
And Helga could have just gone to bed with that thought on her mind, completing it in whatever way she desired to ultimately convince herself that, despite her fears about changing him, her presence in Arnold's life couldn't be nearly as significant as his presence in hers. Indeed, she could have slipped into her pajamas and crawled between the sheets and fallen asleep and never been the wiser about what happened next.
Unfortunately, Helga was too observant—and someone was too inept (just yet) at being sneaky—for her NOT to notice the sudden scratch of several branches of the tree just outside against her window.
Helga turned to the window, a twist of fear coming into her stomach. After all, she was alone in the house, it was almost completely dark out now, and the amount of fading sunlight in her room was only growing dimmer and dimmer. 'It…it's just the wind. I need to stop being paranoid and go to bed already! Crimeny, what am I—Three?' She was trying to rally some of her usual Helga G. Pataki toughness and courage as she had these thoughts. Nonetheless, she felt herself swallow hard with nerves.
"Ah!" A very small yelp escaped her mouth as she swore she saw some slight but very deliberate and constant motion among the dark branches now pressed against her window. Like, in some way, something or someone was indeed managing to use them to reach the second floor of the Pataki household.
Helga took a couple of deep breaths and glanced around her room. Her eyes fell on her baseball bat leaning against her dresser and she grabbed it, a scowl instantly besetting her face. "Alright," she whispered to herself in the darkness, taking a couple of practice swings, "If someone thinks they're robbing the Pataki's blind, they've got another thing coming!" Helga almost couldn't help the slight wish at the very back of her mind that she was the one with dangerous lumber and not her beloved…or that he was here to help her. After all, she'd probably only have one shot at this if there was indeed a prowler lurking around in her yard and trying to get upstairs via her window, and anything (or anyone) that would contribute to the likelihood of her knocking the creep out with one swing would be more than welcome.
Slowly (and very nervously, though the scowl was still firmly on her face), Helga crept over to her bed (avoiding the line of sight from outside the window, of course) and crawled onto the covers. On her knees now upon the blankets, she shifted to the side of the window, getting as close as she could to it. She swallowed hard and, shakily, raised the bat high in one hand, and in her other hand reached as far back as she could to just touch the switch of the lamp on her nightstand. 'I'm gonna need to be able to see what I'm doing if I'm actually going to try and take this loser out… Besides, the lights suddenly coming on in a supposedly empty house should surprise the heck out of anybody.' She grinned proudly to herself, confident in her plan of action. The strange movement of the branches continued and then she noticed some steady creaking sounds coming from the wood, not like someone was climbing and occasionally stepping on one limb after another so much as like they were putting constant pressure on one limb in particular—maybe finding a way to pull themselves up using a cord or a rope or something…
Suddenly, and to Helga's great terror (though she was trying to ignore this feeling and focus on putting up a good defensive of the Pataki homestead), she could make out a dark shadow coming through the foliage of the tree. She watched it move closer to the house... Whoever or whatever it was seemed to have some trouble with the window initially (it was unlocked, of course, but there was no real way to grip it from the outside to pull it up), but after enough pushing up against the outside frame, they managed to get it open just a little. The amount was just enough for them to slip their hands underneath the window frame…and then they pushed it up as hard as they could, finally opening it wide and letting a blast of cool night air into the room.
That was Helga's cue. She instantly flicked on the lamp switch. "NICE TRY BUCKO BUT YOU HAVE TO WAKE UP PRETTY EARLY IN THE MORNING TO TRY ROBBING A PATAKI!!!" Helga instantly moved herself fully in front of the window and raised the bat high.
She blinked and lost her scowl, though, as she saw nothing there. No scary prowler or robber…just the tree as it usually was.
"HELGA…??!?!" Suddenly, she jumped back a bit as she heard some coughing and the rustling of a few more leaves. WHOA!!!"
Helga felt her eyes widen considerably as the most unexpected voice on the planet met her ears. She looked closer at the foliage of the tree and suddenly noticed a hand coming out of it, gripping a rope. Arnold's football shaped head then emerged as well, though full of twigs and leaves. His exclamation of Helga's name had come from the fact that, as she had turned on her light and dove in front of the window, he had gotten a clear view of her…and the bat she was holding. His, WHOA , however, was the result of nervously trying to free himself from his current position of being tangled amongst the tree branches and the rope he had been using to hoist himself up to the top one so that he could make it to her window without having to climb in the darkness… Now, finally, he felt himself fall forward and out of the bundle of leafy branches, the rope still holding him securely around his waist on one end, though the other end was almost hopelessly tangled in the treetop. The end result was that he was now currently hanging down suspended from one of the branches, dangling just below Helga's open window.
"A-Arnold…?" Her mouth hung open and she had an eyebrow raised. Her voice was at a whole new level of incredulity. "Wh-what the—I mean how in the—and how did you—and what are you—and where in the…" She blinked several times in shock, actually speechless for possibly the first time in her life.
For a second she just knelt there, taking in the sight of a still totally shocked looking Arnold actually trying to…to break into her room! 'This cannot be happening…It's just too crazy for it to actually be happening…' Finally, Helga lowered the bat to her bed and managed to speak a complete sentence, the flabbergasted look still on her face though of course. "So, is this a dream I'm having after one too many tainted Mr. Fudgie bars, or did the whole cosmos of the universe actually just invert?"
"Um…" Arnold took several deep breaths, trying to subside his panic as he felt himself finally accepting Helga's sudden (and TOTALLY unexpected) presence at the window. "Okay…I…can explain…" Helga couldn't help but notice the absolute look of mortification on his still surprised face as he said these words. He seemed to be trying to smile to help with the situation a bit…but it was obvious that even he recognized that there was no hope for escaping mounds of awkward embarrassment with this one. "Actually…" he glanced away and she noticed a blush come to his cheeks, "I kind of can't, in a way…"
As the shock of her beloved's unexpected arrival began to ebb, Helga felt herself scowl and she reached out of the window and grabbed the free end of the rope that was just sticking out of the top of the leaves and branches in which its body was tangled. "Oh yes, Arnold, you are going to explain to me what the heck you are doing right now or I swear I'm going to toss this rope as far away from you as possible into the tree, lock my window, shut out all the lights and let you figure out how to get down all on your own. And my parents are going to be home soon…and that means my Dad…who's going to remember your face from only two weeks ago. Now, give me a reason to even begin thinking of helping you…"
Arnold took a breath and seemed to be trying to conceal something behind his back in one of his hands as he spoke. "Helga, it…I…I really don't want to tell you because—"
"Wrong answer, Football Head!" Helga gave the rope a sudden jerk, causing Arnold to fly up against the fan of branches from which he was hanging, and then to sink back to his former position, though with even more leaves and twigs sprinkling his hair. She knew she shouldn't be torturing him like this but, in her defense, he'd practically scared her to death just now and the adrenaline had to go into something: and bugging Arnold always had been a fun channel for her emotions.
"Helga!" He glared up at her in annoyance, trying his best to pull some of the foliage from his hair.
"Nope, sorry!" She gave the rope another firm jerk, causing a repetition of what had just happened to Arnold with the tree and the branches above. " 'My name' is ALSO not a correct response as to why the heck you're in my tree and trying to use a rope to break into my room!"
Arnold just sighed as he found himself full of leaves and hanging below her window this time. He looked up at her again, speaking in a bit of a pleading voice. "Helga, I just…" He rubbed the back of his neck anxiously. "Okay, look, I obviously messed up what I was trying to do—"
"OH, yeah!" Helga gave another firm jerk to the rope, rolling her eyes. "Just a little!" she finished, sarcastically.
Arnold coughed a few times and shook his head to get rid of some of the twigs littering his wide head before looking up at her again, this time with a slight scowl as his patience was starting to wane. "I obviously messed up what I was trying to do…" he repeated firmly, suddenly managing to grab a bit at the sill and pull himself a little closer to the open window and the girl currently looking out at him from it. "But it was for you," he continued, the weak scowl instantly softening as quickly as it had come as he finished, "So, could you maybe just…let me go and pretend this didn't happen? So that I can try it again later and do it right when you're really not home?"
Helga felt her resolve to get the truth out of him through sheer stubborn bullying waver for just a second. However, her personal curiosity and her enjoyment of the situation she was finding herself in right now were both more than enough to outweigh her guilt about annoying her beloved. As a result, rather than cutting him a break, she leaned out of the window just a bit more and looked at him with a mischievous smile. "Actually, Arnold," she began in a mocking voice, recalling certain things that had been said the last time the two of them were at her house together (last Saturday evening during their first date, to be specific). "I think I'd like to try it again!" And suddenly she jerked the rope once more, even a bit harder this time than the previous two pulls.
"WHOA!" Arnold felt himself jerked away from the sill he had been clinging to and back into the branches.
It took him a couple of seconds, considering how much strength Helga had put into it this time, but finally Arnold managed to come out of the tree again…though this time with several twigs and leaves not just in his hair but sticking out of his sweater and shirt collar, as well as a very firm scowl on his face. Arnold let out a frustrated sigh and did his best to pull the offending bits of tree off of his body, though it was difficult considering his precarious position still hanging above Helga's yard and the fact that he still seemed intent on keeping one hand behind his back for some reason... "Okay, okay! I'll tell you. Just STOP doing that!"
Helga smiled in triumph to herself. She put her elbows on the sill and rested her head in her hands, leaning out once more in Arnold's direction. "Okay, let's hear it, Football Head, because I feel like this is going to be unimaginably hysterical. I mean, even more so than it already is."
Arnold, rolling his eyes and doing his best to ignore how much she seemed to be enjoying this obviously embarrassing situation he had gotten himself into, took a couple of seconds to clean off his hair and clothes. Finally, he closed his eyes for a second and took a deep breath…and then managed to open them and look back up at Helga, his scowl long gone. He spoke softly and hesitantly. "I was just…trying to surprise you…and…" He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly, glancing away, the last traces of his annoyance giving way completely to embarrassment as a light blush came to his face. "…And trying to…be romantic…I guess."
"Romantic…" Helga blinked at the word, losing her smug smile, "When you thought I wasn't here? Arnold, what are you talking about?" she asked with genuine curiosity.
Arnold swallowed hard, still not looking at her, and put his free hand behind his back with the one that seemed to be holding the something that he was trying to conceal… "Well…I figured that since our first 'date' was on Saturday that….well, that today's technically our one week anniversary…" He tried to smile up at her, though he could feel his heart pounding at how ridiculous he was sure he must sound.
To his surprise, though, the blank look of curiosity just remained on Helga's face…though a distinct red blush began to creep up into it. Arnold couldn't help but smile at the sight. He cleared his throat and continued. "Anyway, I was thinking about what you might like…you know, for a present… And then I was thinking about some of the stuff that's been going on over the last two weeks…and about yesterday and the shrines thing, and about how much courage that took for you to share with me and about how happy I was that you'd done it even though it embarrassed you a little… And, I guess I…" he sighed and shrugged, "I guess I kind of came up with a crazy scheme of my own…" He laughed slightly to himself at the idea, looking at her a bit sheepishly again.
Helga just continued to not react as he spoke, the blank look dominating her face…though, Arnold noticed, her blush seemed to be growing stronger in the soft light of the lamp glowing warmly behind her.
Arnold swallowed nervously, and couldn't help but give into the need to glance down again as he could feel his own face growing warmer and warmer. "See, I was thinking yesterday during our date that you might feel a little better about the math book if you knew that I might have saved something of yours at one point to remind me of you…well, of 'Cecile,' technically, I guess…" Slowly, he brought forward the red shoe that he had been concealing in his hands behind his back, moving it forward so that Helga could see it in the light streaming out of her room window. "I was going to bring it up yesterday if we'd gone back to my house after Slausens, but I forgot about it and then you went home right after the ice cream because you had to meet Olga…" He swallowed and managed to look up at her still blank and blushing face again as he continued. "And I just thought that, maybe, the fact that I saved it for all these months to remind me of a person I'd thought I'd only met once would kind of show you that it's not so strange to keep a reminder around of a person you've known for almost your whole life."
Arnold swallowed after this little explanation and glanced down again, and next removed a folded up piece of paper from one of his pockets. "And, then, I was thinking about the way you brought me the poetry book that Friday, and I thought it might be nice—since you were out taking your sister to the airport like you said your parents were probably going to make you do today…and since it's our anniversary like I said before—to maybe…" He managed to look up at her again, "…To maybe drop off the shoe on your bed and then write a note about it and about you to go with it...and maybe another poem for you." He almost chuckled to himself as he added as an afterthought, "Maybe an acronym of my name but about you." He smiled at the memory of the clever way in which she'd signed her letter she'd left when she'd broken into his room to leave the pink book behind, and couldn't help glancing down shyly again. "Anyway, I know I'm new at this whole 'love' thing, but I just thought it seemed kind of…well, like I said, romantic." He smiled at her once again, feeling a little less embarrassed now that he was finally done with his explanations and hoping for a reaction from Helga that would tell him that she liked his present for her.
Helga, however, continued to remain silent, still staring blankly down at him and still blushing (though it was even stronger now).
Arnold couldn't help but raise an eyebrow in concern at her continued lack of speech. "Helga…?" he asked with a touch of confusion and worry.
Finally, at the sound of her name Helga Pataki swallowed hard and managed to speak in a quiet voice, still looking at Arnold with her blue eyes wide. "You…you really are okay with everything about me, aren't you, Football Head…? I mean…the loving and the dating and the stalking…everything. And…" she almost smiled, "You really do care about me, don't you…" These statements weren't said like questions to be answered but rather as recently discovered truths that the speaker felt like she had, for the first time, truly accepted.
Arnold took a second to absorb the questions, and then smiled at the continued (and still unnecessary) disbelief in her face. "Happy Anniversary, Helga."
Arnold realized, after about half a minute, that he was still just grinning dreamily at her as she just continued to blush and look at him with a mix of surprise and awe. He quickly cleared his throat and glanced away awkwardly. "So…is it okay for me to come in now? I mean, I know you're probably busy and that you're…alone and everything…" Helga couldn't help but notice that he hesitated when adding this last observation, a touch something suddenly in his voice…almost like…guilt? He continued, clearing his throat and interrupting her thoughts. "But…I really don't think I can get back down from this tree the way the rope's all tangled now without hurting myself, so…" He looked up at her sincerely, "Would it be okay for me to come in just for a second so that I can use the door to get down?"
Arnold watched as Helga, still with that disbelieving look and slight smile upon her face, suddenly blinked a few times and came out of whatever thoughts she'd been having, her eyes falling to the end of the rope in her hands as she recalled Arnold's request for help. She grabbed her end firmly and slowly pulled it back this time, allowing Arnold to rise not so much that he would hit the tree branches again, but just enough so that he could grab the window sill to steady himself as he had tried to do before. As he did so, she grabbed first the red shoe from his left hand (putting it to the side on her bed), and then one of Arnold's arms and quickly helped pull him through the window and inside of her house.
Finally clearing the windowsill, Arnold shook his head for a few seconds in hopes of causing any remaining twigs and leaves to fall out of his hair, and then undid the piece of rope from around his body, letting it hang in through the window. He glanced to his right where Helga sat taking a few breaths as well after the effort of getting him inside. He smiled at her. "Thanks, Helga." He put his right arm down and rested some weight on it so that he could lean a bit closer to her…and his open palm finally came in contact with the soft sheets upon which he was sitting…and he blinked, suddenly very much aware that he was indeed in Helga's room and on Helga's bed and alone with Helga.
"No problem, Football Head." She took one last breath and then turned to him with a smile. "Like I'd ever really leave you stuck in a tree." The funny way she'd said this line coupled with her slight smile and laugh…and how she could look…well, how her face could just suddenly look so warm when she was around him and being herself wasn't helping make Arnold any less nervous about the position in which he currently found himself.
Helga, noticing the nearby hand of the arm upon was Arnold was still leaning on toward her, made a quick personal decision and suddenly reached over to place her own hand on top of it…just as Arnold blinked and stood up and walked across her room, sitting himself in a chair off to the side.
"Ow!" With no Arnold to grab onto, the shift of Helga's weight in the former direction of her beloved caused her to fall on her side upon the surface of her bed rather unexpectedly. She shook her head for a second, and looked to Arnold, a slight scowl on her face. "Sheesh, Football Head, quick dating tip—when a girl who you supposedly like tries to hold your hand, you don't run away in terror and plant yourself as far away from her as possible! Especially, when it's your 'anniversary.'" Helga was trying to make the tone of her voice sound mostly sarcastic but inside there was a definite touch of insecurity and confusion running through her thoughts and feelings. 'Did I do something wrong? He was spouting all of that 'romantic Anniversary present' stuff, and then I pull him in and suddenly it's like I have the plague. Seriously, do I have something on my face or something…?' Helga couldn't help but glance across her room at the full length standing mirror located near the far wall. She touched her face and her hair for a second to confirm what the reflection showed: that, to her continued confusion, she looked just the same as ever.
Noticing the slight bit of hurt in her eyes at being suddenly rejected by him like that, Arnold couldn't help but feel a touch of guilt come to him. He swallowed hard, looking over at her. "Sorry, Helga…I guess I'm just a little…" He swallowed again and hesitated for a second, clearing his throat before continuing to speak. "I mean…well, like I said, I really didn't expect you to be here and then you caught me trying to do the whole present thing to be—" He felt the word catch in his throat, but he had already started the sentence and he knew it would seem strange to suddenly cut it off like that. "…Romantic…"
Helga couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at his verbal hesitations (especially that one before clearing his throat), the slightly guilty look on his face, and to top it all off the slight blush threatening to creep up in his cheeks. It was then that a very interesting thought occurred to her for the first time in her life. 'I…I'm making Arnold nervous. I'm actually making Arnold nervous.' Helga knew, at the back of her mind, that Arnold had probably been nervous around her before—they had technically been together for a week, after all, and of course there had been their first 'date' last weekend… 'Heck, I'm STILL blushing about that night…' she couldn't help but think to herself, recalling her and Arnold's technically three kisses (two of which had been initiated by him…the last one being a very interesting experience for Helga, in particular, to say the least…) But, coming back to the situation at hand, Helga had never been as actively aware of having this effect on him as she was right now. And it was the strangest thing in the world for her to be suddenly staring at the universe's biggest example of the shoe suddenly being on the other foot.
And as this realization of the effect she was having on Arnold concluded in her mind, Helga could already feel a multitude of humorous observations and random methods of teasing forming on the tip of her tongue to keep Arnold adorably squirming and blushing like he was right now. Yet, despite the undeniable temptation to have a bit of fun with her beloved, Helga hesitated. 'I don't know…maybe now's not the right time for me to have some fun with him. He does still seem a little freaked out about getting caught breaking into my room like this, after all, and the last thing I want to do is add insult to injury and turn tonight into some kind of permanent scar on his psyche or something. Besides this whole First Anniversary thing really is precious, after all. And it really does look like he went through a lot of trouble, even though it didn't really work out. And, anyway, I really shouldn't talk—I mean, I am the one who gave him the crazy idea to do this thing with that whole pink book special delivery last week. If he'd caught me doing that, no matter how tempting, he wouldn't have even thought twice about making fun of me for it.' Helga couldn't help but smile slightly at the idea of her noble and understanding beloved accepting her eccentricities rather than mocking her for them. And her grin only grew as she added to herself as an afterthought, 'And, besides, the last thing I want to do is discourage any more of these little efforts from happening in the future…I mean, the idea of showing up at Arnold's unannounced to see him sounded pretty fun…' Helga briefly recalled the little comment he had made to her yesterday during their date about leaving the window unlocked now that the fire escape was fixed, 'But the idea of him randomly coming to see me like that…looking all flustered and embarrassed just because he's around me…?' Helga did her best to stifle a giggle at the notion. 'Now, that sounds really nice…'
Arnold, meanwhile, noticing that Helga was being unusually quiet, glanced up in her direction…and he had to blink at the sight of her quietly almost laughing or…giggling…to herself (he raised an eyebrow at that idea). Arnold continued to observe her having whatever thoughts she was having for a second or two more, before his eyes caught sight of the red shoe still just beside her on the bed. He blinked and then looked from the shoe to Helga and then back to the shoe, and came to a decision now that he had a couple of seconds to think clearly and to let his embarrassment subside. 'Well, the surprise might have gotten a little ruined, but…she still deserves to be officially given her present.' He couldn't help but sigh mentally, though, at the fact that doing so would no longer include a special note written in the few minutes he would have taken to do so alone in her room…briefly admiring this quintessentially 'Helga' place that he couldn't help but feel like he'd taken for granted the very few other times he had ended up here in his life. 'Maybe I can explain to her what I wanted to say, though… She won't have a note to keep to remind her of it like I do, of course…but it'll still be something…' And then Arnold's thoughts briefly turned to Helga's note that she'd left with her pink book from last weekend….the funny, beautiful, poetic note he had been keeping safely hidden away for the last eight days, pressed in the middle of the notebook she'd use to tutor him in poetry two weeks ago (a notebook in which she'd absentmindedly doodle a lot of Football shaped objects he'd noticed with a chuckle after flipping through the remaining pages a few times).
With this conviction to try and salvage his originally intended plan for Helga's present in mind, Arnold stood up from his seat with a half smile and slowly approached Helga's bed again.
His sudden movement forward and the smile on his face caused Helga to come out of her thoughts and to blink, suddenly feeling a touch of nerves herself at the fact that her beloved was approaching her. She might have been making him nervous her and now, but, after all, he had been making butterflies explode in her stomach at the sight of him for over two thirds of her life...and whenever he actually got physically close to her, the effect had always gone into more than overdrive to say the least.
Arnold finally reached the edge of Helga's bed right in front of her and smiled down at her. "Helga?" he asked quietly and warmly.
"Huh?!" She blinked and couldn't help but reply in a voice just a bit more high-pitched than her usual one, suddenly coming out of a flood of memories of all of the times the mere sight of Arnold had practically made her melt inside. "Oh, uh…yeah, Football Head?" she did her best to ask as casually as possible.
He swallowed hard… "About our anniversary…" And then began to lean forward and down…
Helga closed her eyes and felt herself tense up. She couldn't help but pucker her lips just slightly as well in anticipation of whatever might come next… After all, as he'd just said, it was their anniversary…
She felt his warmth come near her and one of his arms even brush one of hers…but then just as quickly as it had come the warmth was gone… No touch, no kiss… Helga opened her eyes, unsure of what had just happened.
Arnold just stood before her, holding in his hands the red shoe he had, she realized, just reached past her to get. She looked from the shoe to the face of her beloved, watching both items unsurely.
Arnold smiled, looking almost tenderly at the item in his hand and then at Helga, still seated on her bed right in front of him. "I'm sorry that my present didn't quite turn out how I planned it…" He smiled sheepishly at her. "Guess I need more 'tutoring' in the crazy schemes department, huh?"
Helga blinked, that unsure look on her face for just a second more until she'd processed the question. Then she couldn't help but half smile to herself and actually reach up and give him a playful punch in the shoulder. "Yeah, just a bit—I even have half a mind to take you on a quick break-in run to your house after school next Friday just to show you the 'ropes'…" Helga jerked her thumb in the direction of the end of Arnold's rope which was still hanging into her room courtesy of the open window. She mentally sighed to herself. 'Great, he's already making tutoring jokes and I just pulled some lame wordplay with the whole rope thing… This evening's just going to be riddled with potential puns that I'm not going to be able to resist, isn't it?' Yet, she had to chuckle at the thought, as well as at the fact that Arnold seemed to be relaxing just a bit more in general now that they'd spent a few minutes together. 'So maybe Arnold isn't too upset about the idea of at least a few jokes tonight.'
As Helga's thoughts concluded, Arnold managed to get his warm laughter (which had started up the second the word 'ropes' had come out of her mouth) under control. He quickly recalled the shoe still in his hand, and then he cleared his throat and looked at Helga. "Anyway, Helga…" a few more chuckles escaped him, though he did his best to suppress them for now so that he could continue with what he wanted to say about the present, "Like I said, I'm sorry things didn't go as planned but I still want to at least officially give you your gift." He took a quick look down at the shoe still in his hands, and then looked back at Helga and slowly, delicately placed the object in her lap. "I'm just sorry it doesn't have some kind of beautiful note with it like your pink book had for me…" He blushed a bit, Helga noticed, as he tried his best to continue. "I mean, I don't think I could've ever written anything as…as perfect as what you wrote to me, but… since my first poem for you turned out okay in your 'professional opinion…' '
As he added this last phrase Helga had to crack another impressed smile. 'Touché, once again, Football Head.'
Arnold just smiled to himself at his joke and continued, "Well then, with the note and the poem tonight I thought I might be able to come up with something decent about you and me and…" He found himself swallowing hard and he could feel a blush creeping into his cheeks again at the fact that getting close to talking about his situation with Helga was reminding him once more that he was indeed alone with a girl he liked…a lot…a whole lot… "And, um…" he tried to pull himself out of the thoughts he was having about his feelings and to fish for something a little less awkward to add to his sentence, though it was a little hard for him to think about the other things he'd wanted to mention all of a sudden, to say the least… "And I—I also wanted to let you know again that I really did appreciate the fact that you let me know about the shrine yesterday, Helga."
As he spoke, Helga couldn't help blinking, her breaths coming a bit shallowly as she took in the considerate words he had said and his own flustered reaction: so much like she herself had acted around him in a million awkward situations throughout their lives (though much less obviously so prior to her confession, of course.) She quickly swallowed, trying not to blush, as she addressed Arnold's fuller explanation of his motives for being there. "Uh…don't worry about the note, Football Head…I mean, the shoe and the explanation and the whole idea behind it…it's more than enough for our, uh…Anniversary…"
She blushed at the word, and Arnold couldn't help but smile at the reaction. Finally, he took a deep breath and asked the question that had been on his mind all night ever since coming up with this plan and actually leaving the Boarding House to go through with it. "So…you liked it, then, Helga?"
Now Helga had to smile, though hers was the result of just how much hopeful anticipation there was in Arnold's question—like he was genuinely uncertain whether his efforts had pleased her, and like he was genuinely concerned about the answer.
Helga just sighed and rolled her eyes, crossing her arms over her chest. "No, it's the worst thing anyone's ever done for me, Football Head. Seriously—thinking about my feelings, coming up with what I might really be needing even though I don't know what I need half the time myself, planning out this whole elaborate plan for giving it to me (after you remembered that I wouldn't be home since you actually listened to me when I was talking to you yesterday), actually risking breaking your neck using the tree to get up here at night all for the sake of the irony instead of just banking on the likelihood of a key being under the mat so you could use the front door to get to my room, planning a note, actually coming up with this whole First Anniversary thing in the first place when even me, the most hopeless romantic in existence, didn't pick up on that…" She shook her head at him, smiling quite a bit. "All absolutely horrible traits in a boyfriend, Arnold. Absolutely unforgiveable."
Arnold was smiling very much at his point as she concluded her rant, seriously trying not to laugh at her humorous response.
Helga, seeing that he seemed to be in a good mood from all of the laughing they'd been doing ever since he'd got here (and seeing an opportunity) swallowed hard and (smiling just a little more shyly, now) added to her initial comments, "I mean…really, Football Head, the only way you could make tonight even more of a nightmare is if you went and did something like kiss me…" She swallowed hard, not daring to glance at him and see his reaction to her suggestion.
Arnold, who had been enjoying standing before Helga and listening to her little joking diatribe about the incident that had just occurred between them, took a second to process this last thing. And his smile dropped away and his eyes widened considerably when he did. He felt his heart begin to pound as his gaze turned to Helga Pataki, sitting there now and wringing her hands nervously, and watching them with a great deal more interest than was necessary as she did so. A small smile was on her slightly blushing face, and Arnold couldn't help the smile that unconsciously came to his own at the thought of how pretty she looked like that: just sitting there loving him and waiting for him to confirm yet again that he loved her back. At the sight of her a dreamy smile couldn't help forming on his face. 'I really am glad I'm not trying to fight this anymore. I guess I just couldn't figure out how I felt about Helga until I really figured out everything about how she felt about me.' He mentally laughed to himself. 'I spent all that time practically fighting to be in denial, and for what—so that I could avoid the fact that this wonderful person who I love learning about cares about me? And that I…that I really do care about her too?' He felt his smile grow a bit more. 'She's right, as usual—I really am a little dense. Oh well…at least that's over now…'
And before he knew what he was doing, Arnold found himself leaning is face in closer to Helga's…slowly covering the small amount of space between where he was standing and where she was sitting before him.
Seeing the shadow of his body moving closer to her, Helga blinked and finally turned her eyes away from her lap and back to her beloved. She swallowed hard. Her eyes met Arnold's, which were so close and so overwhelming to her all of a sudden that she had to use her arms to push herself just slightly back on the bed so that she could buy herself at least a second more of taking in his beautiful face and mentally preparing herself for his impending kiss.
She was more than a little disappointed to say the least when, after breaking away from them for just a split second to readjust herself, she looked back into Arnold's eyes expecting to see the warmth and tenderness and even just a bit of shyness she had seen before, and instead was met with those green jellybeans of his looking wide with shock and surprise and almost…fear. She barely had time to register this unexpected sight and raise part of her brow just slightly when Arnold suddenly pulled back away from her and walked back over to his former chair, sitting down once more and not looking at her, his arms crossed over his chest. Much of that look that Helga had just seen come to his eyes remained over his entire face, though the way he glanced around a few times and appeared to swallow hard suggested the word 'guilt' to her as well (for the second time that night), though she couldn't figure out why he would be feeling that emotion around her and, of all times, right now.
Though Helga couldn't help a slight hurt suddenly appearing inside of her as she fully processed his second rejection of her this evening, she tried to smile and laugh it off with a joke again. "Hey, Football Head—didn't you hear me the first time? When your girlfriend tries to get you to get close to her on your anniversary, it's a little 'off-putting' for you to suddenly run away in panic. Heh, heh…"
Arnold blinked and turned to her at the sound of her voice. "I—I'm sorry, Helga." His voice sounded incredibly nervous, almost a little high-pitched, and Helga noted this fact. He cleared his throat and continued. "I just…" he rubbed the back of his neck, "I think it's getting a little late and I should probably get home before, um…before my Grandpa starts to worry." He did his best to smile innocently at her and then jerked his thumb in the direction of her bedroom door. "I mean, I told him I just had to go out and run a quick errand and I've already been here for a half hour so…so I should probably just go back to the Boarding House, like I said." He stood up, still not looking at her, still seeming incredibly frazzled about something, and briskly walked over to the bed again. Continuing to avoid Helga, he leaned as far over the bed as possible without actually climbing onto it, and tried to pull his rope inside the room and out of the tree. He spoke as he made this best effort…or rather the best effort shy of actually climbing up next to Helga, kneeling down on her pink covers and leaning out the window to carefully untangle the offending rope from the branches. "I'm sorry again about messing up your present a little, Helga, but I'm glad you liked it anyway…" Arnold gave the rope a few good pulls but it didn't seem willing to budge from the tree (and that nervous feeling taking him over again was doing little to help him focus his efforts better).
Helga just watched this little spectacle of him trying to leave with an eyebrow raised. 'Hey, I get a little giddy around him too, but there's a limit. What the heck is he so freaked out about?'
Finally, with a sigh, Arnold gave up on pulling the rope inside and just tossed the end back toward the tree. Rather than falling out of the window entirely, though, the end remained clinging to Helga's windowsill, just barely continuing to dangle over her bed.
Arnold stood up, hands behind his back, still not looking at Helga. "I'll just…um…come back early tomorrow morning or something and try to climb the tree to get that. Sorry again, Helga."
He took a step back, that slightly skittish look continuing to play upon his features, and ran a hand through his hair. "Um…goodnight and…"
Helga watched as he took a breath that seemed to actually calm him a bit. He finally looked at her, his familiar kind smile and warm eyes back again. He reached out his hand and gently grabbed one of hers, holding it tenderly. Helga watched with curiosity as his eyes left hers briefly and his wide head then proceeded to move a bit closer to the back of her hand. She felt goosebumps appear all up and down her arm as she awaited the familiar soft feeling of his lips against the skin of the back of her hand. Indeed, she was almost closing her eyes so that she could truly savor the sensation about to come…but they opened fully again as she suddenly noticed the motion of his head hesitating and then pulling slowly away. She just blinked several times and then looked to Arnold with absolute puzzlement on her face, her heart still pounding from the kiss she'd been expecting yet again that evening.
Arnold just took another breath and actually took a slight step back, suddenly bringing up his other arm to now hold Helga's hand in both of his own with a smile. "Happy Anniversary again, Helga." He moved her hand just slightly up and down, squeezing it firmly, and then allowed it to fall back to the bed. He smiled and took one more breath in and out, and then finally turned to head out of her room.
Helga's blank face and confused eyes just fell to the unkissed hand he'd just released (after SHAKING IT of all things), and then to the red shoe still in her lap. Still having trouble processing whatever it was that had just happened with Arnold, and definitely feeling like something more needed to be said before he just left, ending the night, Helga found herself looking at his receding form and voicing the first question that came to her mind. "Arnold?"
He stopped, his hand on her door handle, and turned back to her with a kind smile. "Yes, Helga?"
She glanced down at the shoe again and then back up at her beloved. She stood up, taking a few steps closer to him with the small red object cupped gently in both of her hands. "Don't…don't you want the shoe back?"
He raised an eyebrow at the strange question.
Helga glanced away shyly and explained. "I mean…you said it reminded you of me, and I'm…I'm really, really happy you told me about it but…don't you want to keep it?" Helga felt a knot in her stomach as she awaited his reply, though she tried not to betray in her voice and demeanor how much his response meant to her. Sure, he'd been acting on his love for her by putting together this whole anniversary thing…but now he was suddenly acting as though he could barely stand to be near her. And she wasn't sure what this all meant…but it was freaking her out a little, to say the least. She looked at Arnold hesitantly.
Arnold blinked and slight blush came to his cheeks for a second, but then he smiled warmly and looked at Helga with that half lidded gaze she knew so well…and she felt a bit of relief wash over her just from these simple reactions to her question. His verbal response, though, was what took away any doubt from her mind that somehow his actions tonight were a reflection of a change in his newfound feelings for her. "I'd like to keep it, Helga, but…I don't really need it any more." He glanced down with a smile for a brief second as though recalling something and then looked back to Helga again. "I mean…I have the person it belongs to…and the poems she shows me, and all the things she shares with me, and all the memories we have, and all the time we spend together… A shoe just kind of…pales in comparison." He shrugged.
Helga's eyes lit up and a large smile came to her face. She felt a warmth surge through her heart.
Arnold cleared his throat, putting his hands behind his back and smiling a little sheepishly. "And also…" he took a step or two back toward Helga, "Well, also, it's a really pretty shoe and…I thought that you'd like the other one back so that you could wear them again…maybe…sometime...if we go somewhere nice together or something." He glanced at her. "You really did look great that night, Helga… I still don't understand how I didn't recognize you…" He laughed to himself. "I mean, you did look really special but it wasn't all that different from how you usually look…" He swallowed and seemed to hesitate for a second, but then finally laughed to himself just a little and took the remaining few steps back to Helga.
To Helga's complete and utter surprise, upon finding himself in front of her again, a smiling Arnold reached up and gently touched the end of one of her pigtails for a second, glancing at it. "But, I guess the hair had a lot to do with it…" She watched out of the corner of her eye, her heart pounding madly, as a slightly dreamy look came to Arnold's eyes. "You should wear it down more often, Helga… It looks…" Suddenly, Arnold became very aware of that fluttery feeling growing exponentially in his stomach and of just how quickly his heart was beating… and of the fact that he was currently touching the obviously flustered girl before him (if the blush in her face and how wide her eyes were were any indications of how much his proximity was affecting her). He blinked and quickly pulled his hand away from her pigtail. He knew he had to finish the sentence he'd just started about her hair, though, and so he quickly added (with an obvious amount of unintended stuttering), "It… nice…it looks really nice." Arnold swallowed hard and took a few steps past Helga, something obviously on his mind from the pensive look on his face.
It took Helga a second to come enough out of the near cardiac arrest he'd almost sent her into just now with touching her hair like that, but she finally managed to turn around to watch him walk away from her yet again that evening. Reaching the edge of her bed, she observed as Arnold turned back in her direction and, on instinct (and because he really did need to sit down for a second), begin to sit upon pink covers. As his hands met the sheets as he went to lower himself down, though, Helga watched with her brow half raised as he blushed and quickly stood up again, taking a few steps away from that side of her room and back in the direction of the door.
He stopped in the middle of this second attempt at leaving Helga's room, though, at the sound of her voice addressing him once more. "Uh…Thanks, Arnold. I'll…I'll think about it...The hair, I mean…"
He turned around to her again, and noticed with a blink that she was gently touching the end of the pigtail that he had just touched, blushing considerably.
"You're…welcome, Helga." Arnold replied, glancing away from the reminder in front of him that he had actually started caressing her hair before he had stopped himself.
There were a few seconds of silence between the two ten year olds. Finally, Helga swallowed hard and broke it once more. "So uh…" she tried to fish for something to change the topic which was obviously making both children a little uncomfortable. Honestly, though, Helga was still so on cloud nine inside not only from Arnold's compliment about her appearance but from the fact that he'd actually almost started running his fingers through her hair, that she couldn't really recall how the whole conversation leading to said hair had begun. "Uh…what were we talking about before again, Football Head?"
At the sound of her voice returning (and at the answer that suddenly came to mind) Arnold couldn't help but blush. "Uh…my Anniversary Present to you…"
Helga shook her head to clear it and blinked. She glanced down at the red shoe still in her hands and then back to her beloved. "Oh…yeah…" ' Oh Yeah, that's a less romantically awkward topic. Smooth, Helga, really smooth. '
Helga was about to resume looking at her beloved, but for some reason she felt her gaze continue to be pulled to the small shoe in her hand… And then, to her surprise, some new thoughts start to enter her mind as she recalled Arnold's explanations about the gift in question…and how much trouble he'd taken to get it to her…and what it meant about their relationship… And the eventual guilt that this line of thinking started to produce in her was even enough to briefly take her mind off of his strange behavior for now, especially in light of the heretofore unimaginable thing that that guilt was actually making her think of doing…
Arnold, meanwhile, just observed Helga curiously as she took a breath after his reminder that they'd been talking about his anniversary present for her, and then seemed to be considering something very seriously. He wanted to take the opportunity to try and excuse himself once more from her room but…whatever it was she was thinking of, it seemed from the look in her eyes, Arnold noted with a raised eyebrow, that a serious internal debate was taking place.
And he was right….
And then her obviously significant (and seemingly quite lengthy) train of thoughts couldn't help but elicit a few silent reflections from Arnold as he considered whether or not his probably quite obviously strange behavior this evening wasn't the cause (or at least part of it) for whatever was currently going on inside of the girl before him…
Okay, so I think it's pretty obvious what Helga's thinking about at this point, but what's the deal with Arnold? Why is he taking being nervous around a girl he likes to a whole new level? And why the heck won't he just kiss her already?! I'll try and get chapter 2 up over the next few weeks so stay tuned, and I really hope you guys like where this is going :)
~Azure129 aka Jenna