a Hey Arnold fanfic by Pyrex Shards
A/N: I made a huge correction due to the watchful eye of an anonymous reviewer. I thank him or her profusely for correcting me on the date that Arnold's parents disappear. It is a little embarrassing to admit I made a mistake like that but it sure beats the alternative. So thank you anon, whoever you are.
H A H A H A H A H A
Hillwood is silent at three in the morning of October fifth. It is the witching hour. Cats prowl the alleys with the ghosts and the specters. The haunters roam the streets and the shadows while the haunted sleep. The highway is silent and the streets are bare. It is the darkest of nights, with clouds covering the moon, and light blue flashes to the eastern horizon from a lightning storm that passed through but brought with it no rain.
One can hear the air conditioners and the hum from the street lamps. Even the sweet sounds of twenties swing that barely push through the hidden viscous ether in the air, the thick silence of the sleeping town, from the third story window of a man in a building who left the window open.
She walks silent with the ghosts through that night, and to the familiar fire escape. She pays the shadows no heed, but uses them for cover. No one will notice her, even the police are asleep in their cars, but she prefers the cover to the naked streets. Fortunately for her the ladder is down. That has never changed; so safe is this neighborhood. It is so innocent at this hour. Even the stalkers are asleep.
Off go her battered white shoes, to lie against the red brick beneath the ladder as she makes her assent. Cold dull ache shoots up her legs from her foot touching the bar. The thin, hole-ridden, and dirty socks do nothing to cushion the pressure, but she grits her teeth like a wounded soldier biting a bullet. She has waited a year for this.
It has been year ever sense she saw him the day after this night, with his melancholy green eyes. She will never forget his forlorn brow, as he looked at his desk in his first period class. Every October fifth of every year saw the same Arnold. She had finally formulated a plan, and this was her plan being put to action. Dull aches were minor compared to the fluttering butterflies in her stomach.
Chilled air wafts through the alley and hits her bare knees, exposed through her frayed and baggy blue jeans. They're his of course, she was lucky to have found them. But that's another story.
After silent grunts and stilled breath, she reaches the top of Sunset Arms. Before her is the skylight to his room, and beneath those clean panes of glass lies the sanctum of her angel. She takes a moment to look around at the other buildings, looking for any movement. Somewhere she hears the quiet sound of a mourning dove, and it startles her for a moment. But the quiet descends upon them again, and an air conditioner kicks on somewhere.
She glides silently to the skylight door, slow and steady. Her eyes focus on the sleeping form below the glass and her heart skips a beat.
She straightens her pink sweater and the black beret on her head, then wastes no time in opening the glass, slowly, very carefully, so that the weathered hinges can't squeak in protest and alert the occupant of the most holiest of place on earth; Arnold's room.
Like a mouse, she descends the small inset steps and lets the door drop quietly into place as she goes. Step after step bring with them more urgent silence. The big toe of her left foot, bare from a hole in the sock, is the first to touch the ground. She can feel his carpet through that toe, and it feels so good.
But she can't let that feeling detract from her mission…
Once both feet are on the ground she looks around the space, at its unique angles and corners and shadows, before her blue eyes settle upon the bed. Her gaze stays there while she walks around to the side of the bed, and looks down lovingly at its occupant. His hair is ruffled against the pillow and the sheet is up against his chin and bunched into his hands. The comforter is lying down across his midsection and she can already tell it has started.
He twitches and inhales sharply and furrows his brow into a tight line, and Helga stills her breath in a moment that lasts forever. He's dreaming of something that is haunting him, and it makes her heart hurt.
She gently removes her black beret from her head, and her shoulder length blonde hair spills out in an unruly and frazzled mess, kept a little sane by the smashed pink bow that rests atop her head.
There is enough room for her to lie down beside him, so she drops slowly to sit against the edge of the bed while she clutches the beret to her chest. The bed shifts slightly while Helga brings her legs up to rest beside his, and she rests on her side, inches away from his body. Her head rests on bare mattress but she doesn't care.
Just laying there with him, even uninvited, is enough to still her nerves into a serene feeling of bliss. She can feel the warm air from his slightly opened mouth bathe her face with warmth. She wants to swoon and bring her arms around him. She wants to hug him close and kiss his forehead and let him wrap his arms around her.
But she knows that's fantasy. He wouldn't like to wake up and see her sleeping next to him. He hates her, she knows it. He never talks to her let alone feels any want to be in the same room with her. She knows that too. Why would he, she's ugly, and an asshole, and everything he doesn't need in his life. So sad are those thoughts. They won't stop her from this however.
She whispers in silence with barely a breath from her words. "What is going on in that football head of yours? Huh?"
She gets no answer of course. Arnold is a deep sleeper. Yet she knows she is taking a risk. She just can't stand the dejected looks in his green eyes, the way he sways as if his heart is an iron black and rusted anvil. Even if it is only one day at its worse, it takes weeks for him to recover. Perhaps there is something she can do for him. Hence the reason she is here, to find out what is bothering him, to understand this secret he has.
…And to spend some time in his presence with his slumbering breath washing her sorrows from her soul and filling her lungs with salvation.
Arnold mumbles something unintelligible in a plea and Helga can see his eyes move from beneath his eyelids. She studies their movements. Fright invades her senses and a small pang of adrenaline rushes through her head. He's having a nightmare?! What if he wakes up!?
Her free arm twitches and she holds her breath. The tension she sees on Arnold's face. Oh if she could just hold him and kiss him and take it all away! She is so close to him physically at that very moment, yet she is so far away from his reality.
This must be the dream that causes his mood every year after the fifth of the tenth month. She's watched him dream before from the rooftop above, but he's never had a nightmare. But she's never watched him this night, out of coincidence.
And it all makes sense now. But what is he dreaming about?
She whispers again. "Arnold? What is it?"
His eyes don't flutter and his breathing is natural again. Whatever it was, it is gone for now. Helga rests her palm down between them and feels the fabric of the comforter. The adrenaline drains from her blood despite the risk she is taking. She does feel safe here. It lets her be concerned for him above everything else, including her own situation.
Minutes pass and she watches him with wide blue eyes. She studies every movement, every breath. She studies the edge of his features and the strands of his unruly cornflower hair. A smile creeps over her lips. Perhaps this time whatever it is went away. Perhaps this year will be different, and she can resume their relationship of tormentor and tormented without Helga having to back off while Arnold sulks.
He really is pathetic after this night. She almost wants to knock him upside the head and yell at him to get over it. Arnold fidgets under his sheets and his head presses into the pillow. Helga chuckles under her breath. He is so handsome when he's like this. She feels privileged to see this, to see her angel slumber, bad dream or no.
"n-no" Arnold grunts and shifts in bed. His breathing sharpens. "No."
She stares wide eyed at his eyelashes and she can tell the dream is back. If she could just enter his dream and fight it away. If such a thing were possible… Distress clinches at her heart while she watches Arnold mouth twist.
"Mom… Dad…" He's crying in his dream. "Please don't leave."
Sharp breaths of moist air beat against Helga's nose from his whimpering. Damning her cover, she lifts her nervous hand and places it on his shoulder. "Arnold?" She whispers.
"No… Please…" More whimpers.
"Shhhhh. It's okay." Gentle slender fingers rest on Arnold's cheek. She brings her forehead dangerously close until it touches his. Her bangs entangle in his hair. She wants to wrap her arms around him. She wants to hold him close and nurture this dream away. "I'm here." Helga's breath catches into a cry of her own, but she holds it back. She must be strong.
She can see his tears. He twists away from her and lies against his back as he mumbles more incoherent words. But she can tell what they are.
This day… It must have been…
She can imagine him as a little child, looking up at his parents as they leave him with his grandparents on the night of October fifth. It is the last time he sees them alive. They are now his ghosts. They haunt him.
She rests her hand on his heart and her own hot tears soak into his pillow. "My prince." She whispers into his ear. "I'm here for you always. This heart of yours. It will never be alone. Oh my angel, my love, if I had known of this pain sooner, oh what I would do to soothe it away. You don't know how much I love you. I'm sorry I'm like this, you deserve so much more. Even though you're not awake, even though you won't remember this night, I…"
She trailed off. The thoughts of Arnold, her orphan Arnold, feeling abandoned and alone…
Helga decided to take the most dangerous course she could think of, but she was desperate. She leaned into his ear, kissed against it, and whispered lower. "I love you. One day you will know how much. But for now. Hush my angel. Be calmed. You are not alone." More tears splashed against the pillow and she screwed her eyes shut. She balled her hand up into a fist against Arnold's heart and pressed down gently. Perhaps he could feel it through the dream. "I love you."
She stays there like that, fist against his heart and curled up against him, watching as his fits subside. He begins to snore. The entire time, she studies him while he sleeps, committing everything to memory. Every little detail down to how the fabric of his nightshirt peaks out from under the covers that are still bunched up in his now relaxed fists.
She smiles. Everything about this moment she wouldn't trade in for the world, for he is her world. Minutes pass like this. Then hours pass and soon she sees the morning light. She wants to stay there, and have Arnold wake up next to her under the dawn of a new day. But she knows she can't have him like this. He isn't hers. All she can do is watch over him, bully him, scowl at him, and storm away.
She sits up and looks around the room. The shadows are subsiding. The ghosts are falling asleep and the specters are returning to their cracks in the walls. The alley cats are curling up to sleep the day away.
Helga stands and fixes the black beret atop her head, straightens her shirt and jeans, and walks towards the stairs. She must make haste before the alarm goes off and Arnold wakes up. But as she ascends the steps she looks over her shoulder at him, and then contemplates. She knows she is leaving him with a memory that only she will keep. There is one thing that she is so happy about that she swoons as she looks at his beautiful football head then continues her ascent out of his sanctum. Somehow, he will be alright this day, for there is a smile across his face.
Perhaps she'll do this again next year.
H A H A H A H A H A
Arnold sits up in bed and rubs the sleep out of his eyes as he looks up at the calendar. It reads October, and his eyes fall on the date. He knows he's had that nightmare again. It is a nightmare borne out of his most haunting memories.
But strangely, unlike all those other years previous on this day, he sees the birds chirping overhead and it makes him happy. The morning sunlight spills into his room and bathes the walls and little trinkets in radiance.
Arnold swings his legs over to touch the surprisingly warm floor. He sits there and wonders why he is smiling. Could it be the strange voice he heard that night in his dream, like some other presence telling him he will be okay? Could it be the odd feeling over his heart that causes it to jump like it knows it is loved.
He continues to think as he looks down at his pillow and something yellow catches his eyes. Could it be the strange but pleasant smell that seems to permeate his room? It is fading but still there.
The teenager picks the curiosity up from the pillow and studies it while thoughts of last night's visions fade, only to be replaced with the promise of a bright and surprisingly happy day ahead.
He realizes something new and exciting as he twirls the curious blonde strand of hair in his fingers. Even though it is October fifth, he doesn't feel alone.
H A H A H A H A H A
So I whipped this up in the course of an hour. It is what it is and nothing more. I've always had a fascination with the concept known as the witching hour; that strange time from three in the morning to four, where if you wake up it is very hard to get back to sleep. Finally I found a way to put this mundane little oddity into a plot for a fanfic! Thank you for reading and please review!
Now I must go rent a movie. :)