Chocolate Pudding and Oreos

The streets of Hillwood were busy with rush hour traffic, honking horns and shouts could be heard in the open apartments just above the streets. A sixteen-year-old blonde girl walked the streets, ignoring the fact that she didn't have a car, trying to get to the grocery store. The sky above her was darker than usual, steel gray clouds were an omen of a terrible rain storm.

The blonde, Helga G. Pataki, felt a few light drops of rain hit her cheeks. She flipped the hood of her black jacket onto her head, trying to avoid getting her freshly dyed hair wet. She decided to put hot pink streaks on a few of the under layers of her hair.

Why can't Miram do the shopping? Helga thought to herself as she stepped into the store. Her father, "Big Bob" Pataki, had given her a hundred dollars to go shopping for the week. Helga knew her father well. All he wanted was a few steaks, some sodas and beer, and potatoes. Typically, Bob worked late nights and ate out with his employees. Tonight was the one night he didn't work late.

Miram, her mother, worked with Bob at their electronics store downtown. She only worked part time, during the day, when Helga was at Hillwood High School.

Helga quickly scanned the aisles, putting only a few miscellaneous things into her cart. She wasn't really thinking about shopping at the moment. She was focused on what had happened at school today. . .

It was second period, Helga's 3D Art class, and the senior boys were acting like immature freshman. The boys used to be "threatening bullies" when Helga was in fourth grade. Their names were Wolfgang and Edmund. The two were throwing clay at each other, hitting Helga in the process.

"Hey! Watch it!"

"Sorry, did we hit Little Miss Princess?" Wolfgang laughed and threw more clay at her. Their art teacher was older than most and didn't really watch the class. She'd let them run wild, so long as they turned their projects in on time. Helga smacked her hand onto the table, shaking it. A few other students yelled at her, but she pushed her vase away and turned to Wolfgang.

Wolfgang once seemed to be like a giant, but now he was only six-foot five. He still had big muscles and wild blonde hair, his voice got deeper and his ego grew. Helga crossed the room and stepped into his personal space. She was only five foot six and one hundred twenty pounds, but she wasn't intimidated by Wolfgang.

"Back off!" she barked.

He laughed and threw more clay at her. Helga ducked out of the way then threw more clay at him. It smacked him in the face.

"You're going to regret that, girl!"

"The name's Helga, Wolfgang. Next time I kick your ass, you'll remember who to avoid." Wolfgang laughed as Helga threw more clay at him. He was angry now, and picked Helga a few inches off the floor by her shirt.

"Hey, man, let her go," Edmund tried to reason with him.

"She threatened me and threw clay at me!"

"You did the same," another voice interrupted.

Wolfgang dropped Helga and she fell to the floor, unable to land on her feet. "Jerk," she mumbled from the ground.

"Leave her alone, Wolfgang. She's a girl. Although she's tough, she's still a girl. Wouldn't want your popular reputation ruined because you beat up an innocent girl."

Wolfgang threw clay at the guy then walked away, Edmund following close behind. Her savior quickly ran over to her, "Are you okay?"

"You just had to stop me, didn't you, Football Head?" Helga flipped her hair off her face to stare at her long time love interest: Arnold. Ever since she was younger, he was the boy who cared about her, talked to her, listened to her, and made sure she was okay. He was the only one who believed she was actually nice, besides her best friend Phoebe, of course.

His green eyes brightened with amusement as a smile flashed across his face. "I'd rather take your insults than see you in pieces," he offered her his hand. Helga normally would've pushed it out of the way and stood up herself, but today she accepted it. She tried to ignore the slight spark she felt when their hands touched. 'Try to stay out of trouble, okay? I can't just happen to walk in at the right moment all the time." He waved to her before thanking the art teacher and leaving.

A smile crept onto Helga's face as she stood in line at the grocery store. Always Mr. Nice Guy, she thought as she handed the cashier her hundred dollar bill. She quickly accepted the change, grabbed her three bags, and fled the store. The faster she got home, the longer she'd have to unwind before being forced to sit at another silent family dinner.

Helga quickly turned the corner onto her street, when she felt a familiar body crash into hers. She kept her back to the ground, unwilling to face him. She heard him quickly jump to his feet and gather her bags.

"A-A-Arnold?" she choked out. Even though this was the millionth time they'd ran into each other, she still acted surprised.

Arnold flipped his blonde hair off his face and smiled, "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, great," she snapped as she jumped to her feet. She took one of her bags from him in a huff. "Why wouldn't I be?"

"I over heard Wolfgang saying he was gonna get you back. I wanted to check on you, make sure he didn't, but no one was home." Helga's heart beat picked up. He wanted to check on me! her mind squealed.

"I'm fine."

Suddenly, the sky opened up and threw cold, almost-summer rain onto the streets of Hillwood. Lighting flashed in the sky, causing her to jump slightly at the sound of thunder. Helga quickly glanced at Arnold before running down the street towards her house. He was on her tail, laughing as they ran.

Helga quickly threw her front door open, happy to see that Miram and Bob returned to work after all. There was a note on the counter: "Work emergency. Back later."

Arnold shook his head out before laughing and shutting the door. "Man, that was cold."

Be nice, Helga. Be nice to him and maybe he'll stay longer, she thought. "Come on, I'll make you something to warm up since you obviously can't handle a little bit of water," Helga teased as she stepped into her kitchen. Arnold gently placed the two grocery bags besides the one Helga had thrown onto the counter.

Helga quickly began cooking Olga's famous 'Rainy Day Stew'. Helga never really cared for it, but she figured it was better than grilling one of Bob's steaks.

Arnold stood awkwardly in the kitchen. Now that he was inside, he wasn't really sure what he should do. "Do you need help?"

"No, but you look freezing," Helga looked up from the cabinet and walked towards him. She was surprised that she wasn't snapping at him. Was she actually listening to herself for once? "Do you want to take a hot shower?"

Arnold took a step back. He had always known Helga had a nice side, but he was surprised to see it come out so easily. Maybe she's changed, you know, matured, he thought. "Sure, I guess?" Arnold laughed as Helga pushed him up the stairs.

Helga realized she was acting differently. "I think that fall really screwed up my head. I wouldn't question it, unless you want me to suddenly attack you in a fit of rage."

Arnold zipped his lip as Helga pushed him into the bathroom. "I'll dry your clothes. Towels are under the sink. The shower is pretty easy to figure out."

Helga's heart was racing. Arnold was in her house. Arnold was going to have dinner with her. Arnold was in her shower. She was about to turn away from the door, but it opened. Standing in the doorway, clad only in a white towel around his hips, was Arnold. Helga tried to concentrate on his eyes, not his well built body. She could see the goosebumps rise on his muscular arms.

His cheeks flushed when he realized Helga was staring at him. "Here," he handed over his clothes. "I'll be down in a minute."

Arnold shut the door and rested his back against it. It's just a shower, he thought as he turned it on, nothing to freak out about.

The closing door seemed to wake Helga's senses. She quickly ran down the stairs and threw his clothes into the dryer. She tried to calm herself down, her hands were shaking slightly. Helga returned to the kitchen, cooking and listening for the dryer to buzz, when she heard the phone ring.

"Hello?" she answered.

"Helga? It's Mom."

Helga's annoyed tone was back, "Hi, Miram. Anything wrong?"

"Are you going to be okay by yourself tonight? You see, the storm is pretty bad and your father and I don't want to drive home until it lets up. . . if it ever does."

"Well, one of my classmates is actually over. We have a project to do, and he came over before it started to rain."

"Oh, that's okay. Just tell him to call his parents and we can drop him home later, if we get home."

"Alright. Bye Miram" Helga hung up the phone quickly. The dryer beeped and Helga quickly folded Arnold's clothes. She held the hot fabric to her chest as she climbed the stairs and knocked on the door. On the inside, she was screaming like a girl seeing a boy band in concert, but outside she seemed calm and collected. She had gotten good at hiding her real feelings after almost thirteen years of practice.

She saw a hand slide through the small crack and reach out for the clothes. A bit of steam wafted into the air from the top of the opening in the door. Helga laughed as she slowly pulled the clothes closer to her. "You gotta work for them Football Head," she teased.

Arnold rolled his eyes, "Seriously, Helga, you're gonna make me suffer, aren't you?"

"Of course. I told you my good mood wouldn't last."

"Please, Helga. I'm wet, naked, cold and I would just like my clothes." Helga sighed before handing him his clothes. Arnold quickly dressed himself.

"You really are a wet blanket today," she crossed her arms over her chest before walking away.

"Wet blanket, you say?" Arnold laughed before wrapping his wet towel around Helga and locking her in his arms.

She laughed. "I don't want your wet towel on me," she shrieked and finally wriggled out of his grip. She playfully smacked his arm, "You got me wet."

Arnold handed her the towel before flipping his wet hair back, "Just a little more than you already were," he smiled. More thunder roared and the sound of rain hitting the roof filled the silence.

"I'm going to change. Dinner is on the counter, Football Head." Helga quickly ran to her room and changed into her exercise shorts and a new t-shirt. She dropped Arnold's towel to the floor and stared at herself in the mirror. "Relax, Helga ol' girl. This is the chance you've been begging for," she reminded herself quietly before heading downstairs.

Arnold was leaning against the counter with a bowl of stew, staring off into space. He was trying to figure out how he ended up at Helga's house. . . in Helga's shower. . .eating her , he'd feel awkward and slightly embarrassed around her, since she always picked on him. But today felt different. She seemed to be in an extremely good mood, he figured it was because her parents or sister weren't around. He could clearly remember a lot of stories about how awful her family was.

Arnold didn't notice Helga had come in. She simply watched him watching nothing. He looked deep in thought, his eyes were slightly glazed over and his smile was relaxed, lazy almost.

Helga bit her lip. She didn't want to interrupt whatever he was thinking about, but his family didn't know where he was. "Uh, Arnold, you might want to call your grandparents, so they don't worry."

He snapped out of his zone and smiled. "Oh, right. I'll be back in a second," he rested his almost empty bowl on the counter and stepped into the hallway.

Helga felt a contented sigh escape from her smile as she brought her attention to her kitchen window. The storm had picked up, it looked like a torrential storm. Lightning continued to flash before the roars of thunder as rain continued to pound the Earth below.

"My grandpa said if the streets flood, he'll send his boat," he laughed.

"Oh, yeah," Helga suddenly remembered when the fourth grade had been trapped in the school due to a flood, but in the end Arnold's grandpa managed to save the students with an inflatable raft.

An awkward silence settled between the two as they watched each other from opposite ends of the kitchen. Arnold stared at the floor, but in the process his eyes wandered upwards. He found himself admiring Helga's strong, tanned legs. Since when did she look so fit? he wondered before bringing his eyes back to his stew.

Arnold wasn't sure what to talk about with her. He had always tried to be her friend, and she'd always push him away, but in the end she'd need his help, or his advice, or just someone to yell at. He never held a grudge against her. She was a really nice person when she wanted to be, actually. She managed to find his little blue hat, a gift from his missing parents, after it mysteriously disappeared. He didn't wear the hat anymore, but he still kept it in his room. But she did always pick on him, tease him, and push him around.

And she admitted to being hopelessly in love with him. It was the biggest shock and most unexpected turn of events Arnold had ever experienced in his short life.

Arnold and his best friend Gerald were trying to save their neighborhood from being bought out by Future Tech Industries, Inc. The two received anonymous help from "Deep Voice", who turned out to be Helga. Arnold cornered her on the roof top of the FTi building and she confessed it all. He could vaguely recall something about poetry, shrines and something about gum. It was all a blur to him now. It was seven years ago. Once she spilled her heart out to him, she kissed him. Arnold was taken aback, but not totally surprised. He and Helga had kissed a few times before that, but they were all scripted.

Arnold knew she was lying when she claimed it was all in the "heat of the moment" after they rescued the neighborhood. Things quickly went back to normal and she's been picking on him ever since. But Arnold never doubted her feelings for him. He had figured they had faded with time since she still picked on him relentlessly. She's a mystery, Arnold thought as he put his empty bowl in the dishwasher.

Helga was amazed that she was able to keep her dinner down. Her stomach was churning with excitement. Every time thunder roared above her head, she'd smile because it meant Arnold would stay longer. Oh, my love, this is my chance! I won't screw it up!

"So," Arnold smiled.

Think fast, Helga. "Do you want to watch TV?"

"Sure," he followed behind Helga as the crossed from the kitchen into her living room. Bob had replaced their old TV with an obnoxiously large, high- definition flat screen. "Nice television."

Helga rolled her eyes as she collapsed on the couch. "Oh, yeah, Bob just has to show it off to everyone. It's like having a sports car, people will always admire it, but after a while it gets to be hard to drive."

Arnold slowly sat on the opposite end of the couch, resting his arm against the side. Helga quickly turned on the TV, trying to keep her mind off the rising anticipation of conversation. Why couldn't she talk to Arnold? Was she really afraid of spilling her guts again?

She quickly pressed the guide button, "Tell me if you see anything interesting," she mused as she pressed the down arrow on the remote.

A few more minutes of silence passed. Helga wasn't even reading what was on the TV guide. She was mindlessly flipping channels, her imagination taking her somewhere else.

The power went out, causing Helga to jolt forwards slightly. "You okay, Helga?"

"Oh, yeah," she stammered. "Just surprised, I guess. Stay here, I'll go get candles or something."

"You need any help?"

Helga slowly rose to her feet, anxiously crossing the room, hoping not to hit anything. "No. You'll probably just end up hitting something."

Arnold laughed as he heard Helga curse under her breath. She began stumbling backwards. "You okay?"

"Stupid lamp," she muttered as she rested against the side of the couch. She tried to bring her foot up to examine it for any sight of blood, but ended up falling over the edge of the couch.

Helga forced a laugh as she landed in Arnold's lap. Her pulse doubled as his hand rested on the small of her back. "I think I have a better chance of finding light than you do, Helga."

She sat up as Arnold's hands wrapped around her. "Shut up, Arnoldo! I know my house. Now let go of me so I can go find us light."

He tightened his grip, "Not until you ask nicely."

Helga resisted the urge to swoon and replaced it with a snappy remark, "Will you please stop being an idiot and let me go?"

He laughed but didn't take his hands away. He was surprised at just how little Helga was. She felt so breakable in his arms.

Helga liked the feeling of his large, warm hands pressed against her body. They were burning through her skin, sending jolts to her heart. "Let me go!" she demanded. Arnold slowly removed his hands off of her and stood up behind her. She rolled her eyes, "What you don't trust me?"

"No, I just figured it'd be easier to catch you when you hit something again." Helga pushed him back a few steps as she reached the kitchen. She quickly searched the cabinets and found a flashlight and two candles. She quickly lit a match and handed the vanilla scented candle off to Arnold. He held it carefully, avoiding the dripping hot wax.

Helga opened another cabinet and grabbed a package of Oreos. Arnold watched her in silence as she grabbed a small cup of chocolate pudding from the fridge.

"You like chocolate?"

"I'm a teenaged girl. Of course I do," she almost added her typical 'doi'. "But I'm no Chocolate Boy," she laughed.

The two returned to the living room, lit candles set on the table. The two candles provided enough light to see each other, but nothing else in the room. The flashlight was used to guide their way back to the couch.

Helga sat on the floor, legs crossed as she opened her pudding and the cookies. Of course it sounded disgusting to mix cookies and pudding, but Helga thought it was delicious.

Arnold watched in fascination, wondering what she was going to do. He was shocked to see her dunk the cookie into the pudding. "Isn't that disgusting?"

Helga laughed as she licked the pudding off her lips. Her cheeks were burning, but she thanked God that the lights were out. "No, it's really good. It tastes best with the Oreo icing," she split a cookie in half and dunked the iced side in. She handed it over the table. "Try it."

Arnold sat on the floor across from her and hesitantly ate the cookie. "Huh, not bad."

"Told ya," she smirked.

The candle light between them was just enough to light up their faces. Arnold found himself staring at Helga as she looked around the room, avoiding eye contact with him. Her blue eyes were sparkling as she smiled. She looks really pretty. Arnold tried to keep his face solid as his mind screamed in response, WHAT? Since. . . since when is Helga G. Pataki pretty?

And that was all he could think about. He answered his own question, Since always, I guess?

He watched her in the darkness of the storm, smiling as she ate the weirdest combination of desserts he'd heard of. He suddenly felt his heart slamming against his rib cage.

All Helga wanted to do was stare at Arnold, look deep into his emerald green eyes and enjoy his sunny smile, but he was watching her. She wanted to avoid any more awkward situations, so she kept her focus on everything but him. She continued to eat her dessert, staring at the black room. But it was killing her inside. Her stomach flipped as she finally met his half-lidded gaze.

"I never got to thank you, for earlier," she mumbled.

"It was nothing. Just finally getting back at Wolfgang was fun."

"Look at you, getting revenge. You're evil, Arnold."

"Totally," he replied before taking the last cookie out of Helga's hands.

"Hey! I was kidding, you idiot!"

Arnold held the cookie in his open palm, "Sounds to me like someone's angry."

"Arnold, please give me back my cookie." Helga laughed inside her head. It sounded like Kindergarden all over again.

Arnold knew his next move. He was slightly excited about his little flirtatious moment with Helga. He couldn't quiet explain why he was enjoying this, but he was enjoying it very much. Maybe too much for his own good.

He slowly dunked it in the pudding and brought it close to his mouth. "You gotta get it," he smiled before placing the pudding-free end between his teeth. He didn't bite down, he just kept his jaw tight so it wouldn't fall.

Helga froze. Was this a joke? What game is he playing? Oh, my God. She wasn't sure what to do. Laugh? Accept the weird offer? But her heart had suddenly taken over her body. She inched her way around the table, and made it next to Arnold. Her hands were shaking and her breathing was shallow.

Arnold didn't know what had come over him. He figured when he hit the pavement earlier, he must've lost a few hundred brain cells. He'd never done anything like this before. It's just hormones, he tried to rationalize in his mind. But it didn't completely explain the fact that he was flirting and tempting Helga Pataki for a kiss. Did he suddenly feel something for her?

Helga was about to lose her nerve, so she quickly met his lips while biting off half of the cookie. She pulled back quickly, afraid that he was actually joking. She remained frozen until she swallowed the cookie. Her stomach was tighter than a pretzel while her hands remained shaking. She was ecstatic, but tried not to show it.

Arnold smiled. It was the shortest kiss he'd ever received from Helga. But he knew wanted more.

"Helga?" he whispered. She turned her head up, looking surprised to see him still sitting there. He laughed before leaning in slightly, "You have some pudding right..." and kissed her deeply.