One Day (On the Vineyard)
The beach wind was furious, whipping the water towards the shore with an impressive amount of force. The shore itself was more grounded, few grains of sand smacked bare legs. The water was freezing, which was expected at nine in the morning. The early morning sun stayed hidden behind thick gray clouds.
It wasn't a good beach day.
Helga curled up in her sweatshirt, shaking her salty and sandy blond hair out. She quickly stripped out of her wet bikini top before returning to her beach chair. She looked around, the far end of South Beach was empty, only two other cars were visible. She could hear the laughs of children coming from her right, the three young kids were running in the surf with their parents.
The other car was a white Jeep. Helga hadn't seen the occupants, she was out in the water when they pulled up. The sun peeked out from behind the clouds, warming her legs. She turned to look at the Jeep, only to see a familiar tuft of blond hair. She watched a tanned, tall, toned body walk towards the waves, then she saw him quickly fall to the rocky ocean floor.
A petite, equally tanned, brunette had jumped on his back and knocked him over. The boy laughed before shoving her off and letting her get smacked by the surf. Feeling guilty, the boy offered the girl her hand and pulled her to her feet. The girl returned to the Jeep to search for a towel. Helga's eyes remained glued to the boy.
What the-? She shook her head out again, figuring she was dreaming. Or she was suffering from sun stroke. Or she hit her head on the rocks when she crash landed on shore. She took a deep breath, inhaling the salty beach air, before slowly exhaling and rising out of her chair. His eyes met with hers.
It just wasn't possible. . .
He could pick her out of a crowd of millions. It was second nature for him to scan crowded areas for her. Even though the beach wasn't crowded, he still looked. He had become paranoid about running into her, but he woke up this morning knowing he'd see her. It had been in the back of his mind since he got off the phone with Gerald, his best friend, and Phoebe, Gerald's girlfriend, after arriving a week ago. Phoebe had mentioned that Helga had taken a trip to Martha's Vineyard, at her sister's request, and was staying on School House Road, just off Edgartown. It was less than a mile away from Arnold's house on Katama North Road.
He couldn't quite explain why he was excited to see her. Probably because they hadn't talked since high school began and recently he'd began to feel distant from Hillwood. He'd been at Brown for a year now, unable to visit home due to lack of sufficient funds.
The only reason he was in the Vineyard was because his college roommate's sister's boyfriend's father owned The Seafood Shanty, a local restaurant and bar. Arnold knew it was a stretch of relation, but somehow it worked. The owner gave Arnold a job he couldn't refuse, working for the entire summer, earning much more than minimum wage and working flexible hours. Arnold had come "highly recommended" from his connections and he thanked them all almost a thousand times. He'd be able to earn enough money to go home and back for Christmas and the following summer.
But Hillwood had become distant. Everyone grew up and moved on. Arnold missed his home and friends like crazy, but he still talked to them. Gerald called him almost daily. But Arnold knew deep down he was craving something even Gerald couldn't give him: the no-longer-threatening-wrath of Helga G. Pataki. Her bully attitude stopped being scary during and after they dated. He never saw her the same way after their six month relationship in eighth grade.
Arnold waved once he'd made eye contact-a sign that there was no way he'd let Helga walk away. She half-waved back, taking a step away from the water. Arnold jogged over to her, trying to warm up his shaking body.
"Hi," Arnold smiled.
"Small world, eh, Football Head?" Helga smirked, trying to ignore the knot in her stomach.
Arnold laughed at the mention of his childhood nickname, two words he had missed at Brown, "Definitely."
Helga smiled before making her way to her pick-up truck. She slid in the front seat, "Well, I don't want to keep you from your girlfriend or anything. So, I'll see you later."
Arnold laughed. "Woah," he grabbed onto her door before it shut. He opened it and waited for Helga to step out. She didn't move. "Lindsey's not my girlfriend. She's like my little sister. She's actually my boss' daughter."
Helga still remained sitting, trying to avoid looking into those beautiful emerald green eyes and forgetting her promise.
After a middle school relationship ending in disaster, Arnold and Helga agreed to just be friends. Helga had been extremely upset about it, she could recall crying for almost two days straight. After she realized how utterly stupid she was being, she swore to herself she'd never get involved with Arnold again, romantic or otherwise. So their friendship fizzled out to a casual chat in the hallway about a homework assignment or a few random texts when there was a party. In high school, Arnold joined the jocks by playing baseball and running track, while Helga stayed to herself. She had made a few more girl friends, but they didn't belong to a definite clique. They just did what they wanted and didn't care about what everyone thought.
Of course she was still crazy about Arnold. She'd loved him since she was three and sometimes she'd worry if she'd ever get over him. She didn't really want to, but their relationship had failed. Helga took it as a sign that they'd never be together.
So after a month long fight with Olga, she came to the Vineyard for hopes of isolation and inspiration. Neither of which she found at South Beach. Instead, she found her ex.
"Well, I don't wanna interrupt anything," Helga grabbed the door again, only to realize Arnold was standing in between her and the door handle. Her hands brushed up and down his abs. She quickly turned her face away to hide her blushing cheeks.
"Come on and swim. It may be cold, but it's nice."
"I saw you take a dive earlier. And your side is all cut up and bleeding. I'd rather not attract sharks, thank you very much." Arnold hadn't even noticed his injury. He quickly checked out his left hip and, sure enough, there was a trail of blood running down his body with the water droplets. Helga handed him a towel. "Clean yourself up. You're a mess, you can't even handle some rocks."
"Well I don't see you out there getting tackled," he laughed again, realizing that he'd given her a reason to stay and prove herself. He had learned at an early age to never test Miss Pataki's strength. She'd do anything for her pride.
"Alright, fine, I'll stand in the waves. But just to shut you up and get me out of here faster," she quickly reached over and grabbed her bikini top. She shoved Arnold back a few steps. He stumbled in the sand, unable to make his footing balanced, and fell onto his back. Sand clung to his wet body as he stared up at Helga in confusion.
Arnold watched as Helga quickly stripped out of her sweatshirt to reveal her bare back. He stared as she slipped the jacket off and tied her bikini top back on. He knew he was staring at her, but he couldn't look away. He was surprised, stunned almost. Growing up, Helga had never admitted to being self conscious, but Arnold could tell that she didn't like her body. Probably because of her older sister, but Arnold was never quite sure. And here she was, a few years later, stripping half naked on a public beach just to put a bikini top on.
He watched her struggle to tie the lower half of her top. He quickly rose to his feet, "I got it."
Helga held her breath as Arnold retied her suit. Despite the fact that he was still soaking wet, his hands warmed her skin. They felt soft against her back as they rested on her shoulders, letting her know he had tied it. She'd forgotten what his touch did to her. No! Stop! her mind screamed as Arnold stepped back. Forget about him. Forget about him!
She quickly made her way towards the ice cold water, holding in her scream as it touched her bare legs. The hardest part was walking into the ocean from the sand to hard, jagged rocks. They were no bigger than her fist, but they were still sharp and dug deep into her heels. Helga heard Arnold laugh as a large wave rose towards her. Acting on instinct, Helga dove in. As the white break slammed above her head, she felt the strong current push her up towards the rocks. She quickly adjusted her suit before rising to her feet. Before she could make it up, another wave crashed down on her. Finally, she made it to her feet, hair in her face hiding a scowl.
The brunette was laughing, shaking her head. "Hi, I'm Lindsey!" she screamed from her chair. Helga watched as she turned to Arnold, whispered something, then tossed Helga a towel. "Oh, wow, look at your back. It's all cut up," Lindsey twirled her finger in the air, signaling for Helga to turn around. Lindsey smiled as she applied pressure to the small wounds, "Arnold told me you're an old friend. It's nice to finally meet someone from Hillwood. I was beginning to think he'd made the place up. It sounded too perfect."
"Oh, no, Hillwood's real," Helga replied, deadpan. She shook her hair out again, sighing. "I feel like I have ten pounds of sand on me."
"Oh, yeah. Today was a rough day to go to the beach, but it's nice because no one else is around. . . .But we have the greatest outdoor shower! Oh, you should totally use it!" Lindsey continued to flash a smile at Helga.
"I agree! We should leave," a deep voice called. Helga heard a few more calls of agreement. She quickly walked towards the Jeep, only to see five guys crammed in the four and a half seats.
"Alright, I can take a hint," Arnold tossed one of the boys his keys.
Helga offered before she could stop herself, "If you guys need a ride, you can get in the bed of my truck." Helga had seen other people doing it. It was roomier than cramming into the back of a Jeep and the cops on the Vineyard didn't care.
"Alright!" they cheered and quickly fled to the truck.
"I'll follow you," Helga smiled as Arnold loaded into the Jeep.
Lindsey shut the Jeeps' windows and squealed. "Finally! I got to meet the infamous Helga!"
"I told you, we had a thing back in eighth grade," Arnold laughed as he reached to change radio stations. Lindsey slapped his hand away just before they drove over a small dune, bouncing with the car shocks.
"I've never seen you look at any of the thousands of island girls like you stare at Helga. Deny all you want, but you still like her!"
Arnold didn't reply as he refilled the tires with air. To drive on the beach, tires had to be deflated so they could ride across the sand. Tires couldn't handle the twisting dips of the sand when they were full.
Arnold checked on Helga's car before returning to the Jeep. "Lindsey, you're fifteen, right? So, what could you possibly know about two twenty year old's relationship?"
"I know more than you think."
Suddenly, Arnold's phone started ringing. He handed it to Lindsey, not even looking at the Caller ID, and turned onto Katama North Road. He looked back to see Helga driving the rowdy group of boys he shared the house with. Three of the five boys worked at a different diner, but all five had become friends at The Pub two years ago.
"Hey, Daddy. . . No, we're driving to the boy's house to shower. . . Change shifts?. . . Tourists?. . ." Lindsey's face fell as she looked towards Arnold. He shut his eyes and nodded. Of course, on his day off he'd have to go into work. Lindsey hung up the phone. "Daddy said that the crowds growing since is isn't beach weather. He needs you and one more from the team."
"No one's going to want to," Arnold growled. The two boys were impossible unless they were speaking to Mr. Henderson, their boss.
"I'll tell them." Lindsey hopped out of the car and made her way to the bed of the truck. Arnold could hear their cries of protests.
"I'll do it."
Arnold turned his head up from smacking into his steering wheel to see Helga getting out of her truck.
"Helga, I can't ask you to do that. This is your vacation," Arnold protested.
"I don't mind. It's still early, and I don't have anything to do today."
"Are you sure?"
Helga smiled, "Positive." She was lying. She didn't want to work, but she'd get to see Arnold for a few more hours before forcing herself to never see him again.
Arnold hesitated. "If you're sure then. Come on, you can shower before we go." Arnold pointed to the side of the house, showing a wooden square built into the side. Helga followed the stone path and grabbed a towel off the clothing line. She quickly stepped into the shower. Helga turned on the faucet, surprised to see that it had decent pressure and stripped while she waited for it to warm.
Helga turned her neck up to see the sky. It was an odd thing for her to see, the dark gray clouds mixed up with the blue sky while in the shower. She felt a quick breeze and hurriedly stepped under the scalding water.
Helga almost released a squeal of joy. Sitting on the small shelf attached to the shower head was a bottle of Arnold's infamous shampoo. She quickly applied it to her sandy scalp and looked back towards the sky.
It was relaxing, the outdoor shower. It was an odd sense off relaxation: a connection to nature mixed with vulnerability. The water was also extremely hot for an outdoor shower, which was perfect because it was cold outside.
"Hey, have you died in there?" Lindsey called out. Helga quickly shut the water off.
"No, just really, really sandy," she yelled back before stepping out into the cold air.
"Hi, welcome to The Seafood Shanty. My name is Helga and I'll be your server for the day. Do you know what you'd like to drink?" The three teenage boys stared at Helga, surprised and unable to speak. "Okay, I'll give you boys a minute."
It was eleven in the morning. Helga showed up around ten, cleaned and dressed in Arnold's uniform. She tried to keep her heart from racing thinking about the fact she was in his clothes. . .Focus! "Alright, boys, do you know what you'd like to drink?"
"Can you just stand here for a minute? I'd like to drink you in," one of the boys winked.
Helga smiled. "I'll stand here until you guys order."
"Alright, so we won't order," the teens closed their menus.
"Then I'll kick you out," Helga smiled wider, even though she wasn't joking. She could definitely pick them up by their shirts and throw them down the ramp if she wanted.
"Alright. We'll all have Sprite."
"I'll be right back with them," Helga released a sigh of relief as she slipped under the bar and in a matter of seconds had three glasses filled. She had a feeling it was only the beginning of a very long day of getting hit on.
Arnold watched in amazement as Helga weaved her way through the crowd, effortlessly carrying a tray of drinks to a table. The room was packed with families who wanted an early lunch or a late breakfast. It was a mad rush and wouldn't let up until two in the afternoon.
"She's a damn good waitress," the chef laughed as he handed over a plate of food for Arnold.
Arnold didn't reply. Instead he took the food to his table, smiling at the customers as his eyes wandered back to Helga. She laughed as she handed out a large array of food, resting the plates on her shoulders and forearms. Her laugh sounded genuine, like she was actually enjoying herself. Arnold continued to watch her, recalling the thousands of times he'd made her laugh like that. His heart seemed to dip in his chest for a second, realizing he missed making her laugh. We're just friends now, he told himself, even if I've missed her more than anything.
Even though their relationship was in eighth grade, at the time Arnold thought it could work for the rest of their lives. Helga had shown her true self to him, less anger and more love. And he loved Helga. But there were trust issues, constant fights and relentless tension during the end of their relationship. Arnold never knew what went wrong. Things had been perfect until one day she just snapped and reverted back to her old angry, bullying ways. They fought for hours and ended up breaking up. Arnold was trying to find out what was wrong. He never got an answer.
Helga thanked the three teen boys as they dropped a large tip on the table before leaving. "Idiots," she muttered as she walked over to Arnold. "Here."
Arnold looked up from the bar to see Helga holding thirty dollars. "What?"
She pushed it into his face. "Take it."
"It's your money."
"I don't need it. You do. At least, that's what Mr. Henderson said. He said he'd never seen anyone work so hard."
"Well, I want to be able to actually visit home this year," Arnold slipped out from behind the bar and handed a table their drinks.
"So take the money."
"Helga, that's sweet of you, but I'm not taking-" Helga shoved the bills into Arnold's mouth. He laughed as she walked away to seat more guests.
The rest of the afternoon was a stressful blur for Arnold. He had to deal with complaints and crying children and obnoxious college kids. It was already one in the afternoon and Arnold was ready to call it quits. He hated rainy days on the island.
On his five minute break, Arnold hid in the kitchen, watching the chaos of the late lunch time rush. Helga still smiled at everyone as she walked through the tables. She made it look easy.
He couldn't stop watching her. Her hair hung loose around her face, framing her beautiful blue eyes that lit up when she smiled. He liked the way his shirt fell around her hips, flowing as she dodged moving people in the restaurant.
He was shocked at how she handled the customers. He expected some sort of fight out of her due to the way the guys were watching her, but she accepted their stares and smiled politely at them. She didn't keep anyone waiting for longer than five minutes for a drink, refill or food. It was incredible to see this hard working, determined side of her.
"Alright, you've earned your break," the chef called to Helga.
"No, I'm fine," she lied. Her feet and arms were killing her. She just wanted to sleep, but she wouldn't stop until the job was done.
"Whatever you say," the chef replied before handing her a plate of food. Helga quickly brought it to the table, smiling even though her jaw was killing her.
Finally, it was time to leave. Helga quickly kicked out of her flip flops, the worst shoes to wear for waiting tables, and tore off her apron. She handed Arnold her wad of tips, forcing them into his pocket, and made her way to the streets. Arnold was right beside her, walking towards the parking lot.
"I can't believe I did that," she laughed.
"What? Forcing your hands into my pocket?" Arnold laughed.
"No," she laughed again. "That I offered to play waitress for the day. I swore I'd never wait tables again."
"Again?" Arnold asked as he opened Helga's car door. She smiled before jumping in. Helga tried not to swoon at his manners.
"Yeah, again. I worked at a few restaurants to earn money for a car."
"So that explains why you were so amazing today."
"I'm always amazing, Arnoldo!" she shot back.
"Of course, how could I forget the amazing ego of Helga G. Pataki?" Helga laughed before playfully punching Arnold's arm. "Ow!" he cried.
"You also forgot I still have a pretty mean swing."
Arnold rubbed his arm, "Seriously, geeze, you got stronger."
"Of course I did. I had to in order to break up bar fights back at school. I was a bartender just off campus and tons of fights happened."
Arnold kept his eyes focused on the road before speaking,"You've worked a lot since middle school, huh?"
"Yeah. I didn't want to just take handouts from Big Bob like Olga did. They just pay my tuition and I handle everything else."
"Wow, you must work a lot."
"This is the first vacation I've gone on since I was sixteen."
"Why did you come into work then?"
"Because you needed help and no one would help you."
"Well, thanks. It really saved my ass today. I would've had twice as much work."
"It wasn't a problem. Even the helpful need help sometimes," Helga smiled.
Arnold was thinking of a way to show his gratitude. "It really means a lot to me and I want to thank you properly. Since it's Thursday, it means less people will be out. So tonight, it'll be just you and me on the town, okay?"
Arnold pulled up into his driveway. Helga quickly stepped out and made her way over to her truck. Arnold was on her heels, still waiting for an answer.
Helga smiled as her heart skipped a beat. Was this a date? Stop it!. . .Oh, screw it! "Okay, sounds great."
Arnold closed her door and tapped the roof, "Great. It's a date. I'll pick you up at seven."
Helga laughed before reversing out of the driveway. Once she was far enough away from the house, she screamed. After almost sixmore years of waiting, she finally had a second chance with him.
Her mind screamed again, Stop trying to fool yourself. Don't you remember the break up? The tears? The yelling?
Helga's heart sank as she pulled into her driveway. She could remember the day like it was yesterday. . . .
It hadn't been a good week. Big Bob had been fighting with a CEO of another company and took his anger out on Helga. Miram tried to get Helga out of the house for the afternoon.
Life had been better than in the past, but it still wasn't perfect. After Olga had a serious heart-to-heart with her parents, they changed their ways. Bob was less angry, but still had a fight in him. Miram sobered up and actually joined the real world with a steady job.
The Pataki girls went to the mall and Helga bumped into Arnold.
"Are you okay?" he asked, slinging his arm around her waist and pulling her close. Helga normally melted under his touch, but today she didn't want to talk about it.
"Perfect," she lied and avoided eye contact.
"Helga," Arnold picked her chin up and looked into her eyes. Helga kept avoiding eye contact. "Please, tell me what's wrong. I want to help."
"It's nothing, Football Head!" She shoved Arnold's arms off and started to walk away. Arnold immediately reached out, locked onto her wrist and pulled her back. Helga was surprised, Arnold never used force. "Let me go," she barked through gritted teeth.
"Please, just tell me what's wrong. You've been blowing me off for two days. Did I do something?"
Helga kept her face turned away from his. She could picture his face, green eyes shining with concern and his lips pouted ever so slightly. It was that dreaded face that made her confess whatever she was thinking.
"Just let me go," she repeated.
"I'm sorry for whatever I did to upset you-"
"You didn't do anything!" She finally forced her way out of his grip and began searching the crowd for her mom. Arnold remained on her heels. Finally, he had enough chasing. He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her into the hallway leading towards the restrooms.
"Hey!" she screamed, trying to squirm out of his embrace.
"Helga," Arnold's voice was commanding, "tell me what's wrong."
"I don't want to talk about it," her voice shook.
"You've said that two days in a row. I'm not letting it go this time. What's wrong?"
Helga just wanted to collapse in his arms, say "Everything!" and bawl on his shoulder. She wanted to let everything out, the toll of the the constant fighting Big Bob was doing on the phone and to her and with Miram, the new pressure to excel in high school like Olga, the constant talk of regret of not forcing more school work on her. . . It was building up. The list of issues went on, but this week had been the worst of it. She was intentionally blowing Arnold off, knowing he'd try to talk to her.
"I know you better than that."
"Will you just let me go? I have to find my mom!" Helga tried to pry herself out of Arnold's grasp. He was holding her back against the wall with nowhere to look except at him.
"We're just going in circles. Just tell me what's wrong and I'll let you go. I know you'll feel better."
Helga didn't respond. Instead she looked at her feet. She didn't know why she was being so stubborn, she just didn't want to completely break down. So suffering in silence was what she'd have to do.
"Helga, you're freaking me out. Seriously, what's wrong? Did someone hurt you?"
"I told you, it's nothing! I'm fine, okay? Perfect! Everything is just fucking rainbows and sunshine today!"
Arnold stepped back, watching in silence as Helga slid down the wall, eyes brimming with tears. Arnold fell down beside her and rested her head on his shoulder.
It was the perfect moment to tell him everything, Helga had thought. Instead she shoved him back, blinked away the tears and rose to her feet.
Arnold remained on the floor, looking up at her. Helga turned and walked away. . . .
Helga collapsed onto her bed and screamed, staring out at the Vineyard's endless blue sky wasn't helping her feel any better.
She glanced at the clock: 2:30. She had four and a half hours until her second chance. And she wasn't going to screw it up this time.
Arnold walked into the house, completely exhausted yet wide awake. He couldn't believe those words had actually left his lips. Or that she actually agreed to go on a date with him. It was like the world wanted them together.
Arnold's feelings for Helga had always lingered. They had been light, only a slight interest compared to what they were seven years ago, until now. Now it felt like eighth grade again, their love had been strong.
A quick flash of screams invaded his ears. Their breakup fight was the worst few hours of his life. . . .
Arnold showed up at her house a few hours later after the mall incident, feeling slightly hurt that she wouldn't talk to him. He was also extremely worried.
Arnold knew Helga was stubborn, and sometimes it was one of the things he loved about her. Now wasn't one of those times. Getting her to talk about her problems was like pulling teeth, but he'd always break her down eventually. She had been easier to open up these past few weeks, until now.
He had never been more confused in his life. Why was she suddenly so guarded? He tried to think to the past week and couldn't recall any fights or anything he'd said that set her off. It had been a normal week. Apparently not, he thought as he knocked on her window. He always found it easier to avoid Mr. and Mrs. Pataki and go directly to Helga's room.
He knocked on the window again, only to have it quietly slip open. Arnold carefully slid inside and smiled.
Helga still didn't talk. She simply looked at him, blue eyes piercing with anger.
Nothing made sense to him.
"Are you ever going to tell me what's wro-" Arnold was cut off by a deep yell. Helga remained impassive to the noise while Arnold flinched. It clicked for him then: her parents were fighting again. "Do you want to get out of here?"
"And do what? I can't just run away from all of my problems," she finally responded. He crossed the room, slowly taking her hand. She retracted it immediately.
"I know you don't want to sit through this." Arnold knew parents weren't to fight like this. Even though he didn't have parents, he could only imagine how much this tore Helga apart.
"If you don't then you can leave," she turned her back to him. Arnold sighed before collapsing on her bed.
"I don't want to."
Helga spun on her heels, anger rising, "Of course you do! You don't want to sit here and listen to your girlfriend parents fight about how much of a failure she is!"
"You're not a failure, Helga."
"Oh, sure tell them that."
The room fell silent.
"You know what? Just forget it! Get out!" Helga shoved Arnold's shoulders and he fell back onto the bed. Helga turned away from him again.
"Please, talk to me."
"Helga, you know I love you. You can tell me anything. I mean, you even told me about the shrine you built to me in fourth grade. And I still love you. Nothing-"
Arnold's words were broken up by a slap to the face. It wasn't hard, but it made him snap inside. "Why did you just hit me?"
Helga stepped back, realizing what she did. Arnold watched a flash of regret flash in her eyes before the anger returned, "Because you've been driving me crazy!"
"That's still not an excuse to hit someone!"
"Oh, man up!" she spat.
Arnold rose from the bed. "Do you want me to be mad at you?"
"You are mad, aren't you? You're mad because I won't tell you anything!"
"I'm mad because you hit me!"
"I only hit you because you annoyed me!"
And the afternoon continued like that. While Big Bob and Miram yelled downstairs, Helga and Arnold fought upstairs.
It was all a blur to him now, six years later. They went in circles for most of the time, simply yelling nonsense, until finally it happened.
"I want you out of my life forever!" Helga screamed.
Arnold was still heated from yelling with Helga he wasn't thinking clearly. "You want me gone? Fine, then I won't keep you waiting! I'll be out of your life forever," he shouted back as he walked towards the window.
"You can't say forever without over! We're over, Football Head!"
The window slammed shut and Arnold quickly made his way home, still fuming. He slammed the front door of the boarding house, slammed his bedroom door, and collapsed onto his bed, screaming out in anger. Never in his life had he ever been so angry or upset or hurt before.
Helga always knew how to drive him crazy. Typically it was in a good way, but for that one brief day, it was in a bad way.
Arnold glanced at his clock, surprised to see that it was 6:15. He only had forty-five minutes until his second first date with Helga.
Oh, dear God, Arnold thought as he watched Helga walk down the stairs. She had called him in from outside, even though her front door was left open and the screen was his only obstacle.
Since Martha's Vineyard was basically a tourist place, crime wasn't a big deal. People left windows open, cars and homes unlocked due to the good nature of the town.
Arnold's eyes traveled up Helga's body as she descended the stairs. His eyes first met with her black heels that twisted around her feet and tied in a large bow on her ankles. His eyes immediately traveled upwards, admiring her strong, tanned legs and the curves of her petite, yet strong, body in a stunning, sparkling black dress. Finally, his eyes met with hers. She smiled brightly before brushing a fallen curl off her face.
Helga was taken aback by his silence, "Is this too much?"
"No," Arnold cleared his throat, "it's perfect. Everyone dresses up to go into town, anyways." Even Arnold dressed up, although he was in the stereotypical Martha's Vineyard Boy attire. He was wearing khaki pants, Sperry Top Siders, a pastel blue Vineyard Vines polo and a Vineyard Vines belt, covered in it's signature white whale insignia. He also wore a typical tourist jacket with the words 'Martha's Vineyard' spelled out in navy blue in the collegiate style across the chest.
"Alright, so what are we going to do?"
Arnold held out two tickets for The Vineyard Sound, a local a cappella group of college students. Arnold met the boys while working at the beginning of the summer and always made it to every concert. The boys sang in churches and on large open stages, always bringing the crowd to their feet at the end. They did great covers of classic songs from singers before their time.
"I'm not usually one for singing groups, but they're good. And nice guys, too."
Helga made her way towards Arnold's car, only to stop when he walked in front of her and opened the door. A blush came to her cheeks this time as she slid inside and rested against the seat. She took the two seconds alone to release a sigh of happiness.
Arnold parked the car outside St. Andrews Church in Edgartown and took Helga's hand before crossing the unlit street to the church. The ticket seller at the door smiled wide at the sight of Arnold with a girl and let him inside.
The inside of the church was hot and crowded. Helga was surprised to see that the singers were popular. The ten boys ran down the aisles and onto the stage, causing the crowd to applaud.
Helga watched in appreciation, and slight awe, as the boys performed wonderful songs like "Mexico" by James Taylor or "I'll Be" by Edwin McCain. She also enjoyed the fact that her leg was pressed tightly against Arnold's. The room was jammed packed with people, so the couple was crushed in the process.
After the second encore, the boys waited outside to thank and greet their fans. Arnold and Helga waited off on the side, staring at each other in the darkness.
Helga couldn't believe how perfect this day had been so far. Tons of smiles, laughs and blissful moments of body contact. . .it reminded her of the better part of her relationship. They had worked well together, always laughing at their playful teasing and innocent flirting through the years.
"Ah, it's our boy!" Danny, the tallest and largest member, smiled as he clapped his hand on Arnold's shoulder. The rest of the group was busy hugging and thanking fans.
"Hey, Danny. I'd like to introduce you to my friend, Helga." Arnold stepped aside and let Helga step forwards.
"Nice to meet you, Danny," Helga smiled as they shook hands. "You were incredible."
"Thank you. And it's amazing to finally meet you, too. Poor Mr. Workaholic over here never failed to mention you whenever we teased him about his oddly shaped head!" Danny wrapped Arnold into a headlock as Helga laughed at the scene.
He talks about me! her heart danced inside her chest. This date was just getting better and better.
"Well, I'll leave you two alone for the evening. I'll send the boys your love, Arnold! And I hope to see you again Helga," Danny quickly returned to the crowd of people by the door.
"You will!" Arnold called back. Helga smiled again, feeling a blush rise to her cheeks. "And now, it's dinner time."
Helga laughed as the two walked into town, a quick turn right and two blocks away. Helga asked Arnold about his life on the island, what he did when he wasn't working, which wasn't much besides seeing concerts or the beach. Arnold asked Helga about life at UCLA and how her writing was going. Helga kept her responses short at first, but eventually she wore down and the two never stopped talking.
Their conversations flowed effortlessly. To the people on the street the two looked like best friends or a married couple, easily talking about anything and everything.
The date was going so well that Arnold didn't realize it was almost midnight. The two were sitting on the upper deck of The Atlantic, the first restaurant before the docks, and could see the clear sky above them.
"It's never a good sign when the sky clears for night," Arnold mused as he kept his eyes on the sky. The midnight navy blue was dotted with thousands of stars, some brighter than others. Most of the constellations were visible.
"It means that it'll most likely rain that night or in the early morning. But for now it's the perfect star gazing weather." There wasn't a cloud in sight.
Helga turned her attention to the sky for a brief moment, smiling as she saw the stars twinkle in the clear sky. Her stomach knotted when she felt Arnold's hand wrap around hers and guide her down towards the streets. He didn't let go.
Most of Edgartown was shutting down for the night. The bars (The Pub and The Seafood Shanty) would be open for another hour, then town would become silent as cops patrolled the area for drunks or "lost" teenagers.
Arnold guided Helga to a small strip of beach. He loved it because the Katama Bay was significantly warmer than the ocean. Arnold was surprised to feel Helga let go of his hand. He stopped walking, about to protest, until he saw her trying to slip out of her heels.
"You having trouble?" He smirked. Helga dropped to the ground before nodding. It was a subtle nod, but Arnold saw it. "Here."
Helga smiled as Arnold untied the bows and gently slid the shoes off. It was a two second moment, but it felt like eternity of her. His hands were burning against her skin and it was driving her mad. All she wanted to do was kiss him until she couldn't breathe.
Arnold noticed the smile on her face and quickly brought her back to her bare feet. Helga held the heels in her right hand as Arnold held her left. The two walked along the beach in silence, enjoying the sky, the bay, and each other.
"Do you ever miss Hillwood?" Arnold asked.
Helga hesitated. Of course she missed Phoebe and her other friends, and Arnold, but she couldn't think of any reason to miss her parents. "Sort of. I miss my friends, not so much my family."
"Things haven't gotten any better?"
"Now that Olga's married and has kids, it's just another reason to avoid going back. Seeing their perfect family is almost like a slap to the face."
Arnold tried not to laugh, thinking back to their break up. "No one's perfect. I'm sure that they have issues too."
"Not that I've seen so far," Helga sighed. She knew she'd regret saying it later, but now she just wanted to get it of her chest. She didn't want another fight to ensue because she wouldn't talk. "I know I'm still young, but I can't help but think I'll never have what everyone else does. I don't think I'll get a happy ending."
"You'll have your happy ending," Arnold almost said 'with me', but stopped himself. This day with Helga was an. . .experience for him. He saw sides of her he'd never expected, like her hard-working, determined attitude, and he realized just how much he really missed her. He missed holding her and kissing her and making her smile. She was still the feisty, taking-on-the-entire-world-by-herself girl that she always had been, but now she was more mature. "It may not be a fairy tale, but life isn't always magical."
"I guess," she shrugged.
The silence was quickly broken by a sound of thunder. Lightning flashed on the water, lighting the night in a quick daze of purple before rain poured onto the streets.
Helga laughed as she stood on the sand, stunned and unsure what to do. She was soaking wet. Arnold pulled her along, off the beach and under a covering.
Helga smiled, "I'll race you to the car!" They were only a few blocks away from the church. Helga took off running, laughing as the rain struck her face. She glanced back to see Arnold only steps behind her. She turned back around, dodged a few drunken adults, and made it to the parking lot seconds before Arnold.
"Nice job," he panted.
Helga smiled as Arnold handed her a clean towel from the back of his car. He also handed over his dry jacket, smiling as she slid it over her shoulders.
"So, what do you miss about Hillwood?" she asked.
Arnold kept his eyes focused on the road as his mind reeled with answers. He could name almost a hundred things in a matter of minutes.
"Everything, I guess. Mostly the people. Rhode Island isn't as kind as Hillwood."
Helga nodded. She felt slightly disappointed that he didn't say outright that he missed her, but she also wasn't expecting it. He probably hadn't thought about her too much since his time at Brown. Her heart sank slightly as she continued to drown in upsetting thoughts about she broken her promise to not get involved.
Arnold knew something was on Helga's mind. She was thinking deeply about something, she never stayed quiet for so long. Arnold pulled up to Helga's house, fighting the urge to ask her what was on her mind.
He tried to slowly bring it out of her, "You okay?"
"Huh?" Helga looked up, realizing she was home. "Oh. Yeah." Helga slid off his jacket, put on her heels, and hopped out of the car. Arnold followed, walking her to the door.
The silence was killing him. Arnold tried to remember what his grandma would say, "A penny for your thoughts."
Helga smiled as she saw Arnold's face light up. He was thinking of home, she could tell. "It's nothing important."
"Everything's important. Come on, don't make me beg."
"I'm okay, really."
Arnold raised his eyebrows. He knew Helga was fighting to tell him whatever she was thinking about. After a few more seconds of staring at her, Helga collapsed onto her deck chair and looked up to the dark, stormy sky. "I'm not okay."
"Because. . ." she sighed, "because I swore to myself I'd never get involved with you again."
Helga's voice broke as she spoke, "Our break up was the worst thing I'd ever experienced. It made me realize how together we were like my parents, and I didn't want that in my life. I was heartbroken when we ended, completely shattered. I always swore I'd never let you hurt me like that again. And the only way to do that was to ignore you and forget about you." She put her head in her hands, trying to force the tears to stay in. It wasn't working. "But I can't forget about you. You've been torturing me for almost my entire life by being the one thing I love too much. And those six months we dated was the best time of my life, I had never been happier. Then it all came crashing down. I didn't want to be disappointed like that again."
Arnold felt his stomach drop. He was the reason she was hurting and crying. He felt like an asshole.
"Helga," he knelt down beside her. She turned to look at him, a thin line of makeup tracing the tracks of her tears. He hesitantly wiped them away with his thumb, cracking a half-smile in efforts to get her to stop. He wrapped her in his arms and held her.
She muttered to his chest, "You make it impossible to hate you."
he surprised himself with a response, "And you make it impossible to stop loving you."
Helga pulled back, staring at him, shocked. She opened her mouth to question him, but her response was cut short by the feeling of his lips pressed against hers. The kiss was short and sweet. Arnold slowly pulled back, "I don't think I've ever stopped loving you."
Helga kissed him again, greedily attacking his lips. She had missed him so much it drove her insane. Helga slowly rose to her feet, lips still locked with his, and lead him inside. The sound of the rain was drowned out with cries of passion and declarations of love.
Arnold watched Helga sleep. It was late the following morning, almost noon. The sun beat hot through the window beside the bed, causing light to fall onto Helga. Her blond hair lit up in the sunshine, the flattened curls framing her serene face. She was lying on her side, one hand outstretched. Arnold gently clasped his hand over hers.
He felt his heart surge with joy. He could tell that this time their relationship would work. He knew it would. Arnold had made it through the walls around Helga G. Pataki's guarded heart and soul, accepting her vulnerability and helping to make her feel strong again.
Helga's sapphire eyes opened and she smiled. Arnold immediately wrapped Helga up in his arms, pulling her bare chest to his, and kissed her. Helga continued to smile as she slid out of bed and turned on the shower.
A smile returned to Arnold's face as the idea came to his head: he wanted to see Helga's face beside his every morning for the rest of his life.
He was in love with her. And he always would be.