Author Notes: I did say the next part wouldn't be long. I feel bad for making people wait so long! Plus editing this is a welcome distraction from my English Lit essays and Japanese revision, so it was finished sooner than I planned. Thank you for all of your reviews. They totally spur me to write more! I hope you enjoy this chapter!


Masquerade

~Part Two~


She collapsed in the parking lot behind the gym, her feet no longer able to run in heels. The tears streaked down her face in hot, wet trails. Her eyes stung in the cool outside air. The music of the prom began a faster beat, throbbing in the background and blending with the memory of Arnold's anguished cry.

She had messed it up.

As usual she had ruined it for herself. Arnold now thought she hated him. He had confessed to her, hadn't he?

But he hadn't. A nagging voice in her head said so. She reminded herself that what he said was open to interpretation. Though his eyes betrayed some great deal of affection for her, she couldn't be entirely sure she wasn't imagining it. Something about wanting Cécile to be a certain girl – she had no confirmation that Helga was in fact the girl he had hoped for. As Cécile hadn't she admitted her feelings? He could have been referring to that. She punched the tarmac of the parking lot with her gloved fist, angry that she had run away. She knew she should have stayed to face the music, but now she was sure there would be no reconciliation.

"You're going to get your pretty dress dirty if you stay on the floor like that." She heard a familiar voice say behind her.

Arnold walked up and put his hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry if I upset you, Helga."

She looked up at him, confused. He offered his hand to help her up.

"Le-let me explain, okay?" He said, a blush rising to his cheeks. She put her hand in his and got to her feet, tripping up over the hem of her dress and falling into Arnold's arms. Now she joined him in blushing and the two jumped apart in surprise.

He cleared his throat and rubbed the back of his head nervously.

"I-I was hoping it was you, Helga. When I recognised you as Cécile, it was like everything fell into place. I was torn when I first saw you - I was looking for the Helga I knew and in walked a mysterious angel, you had me mesmerised. I did think I may end up missing my chance with Helga, but then I saw you looked like Cécile and things began to fit together a bit. Memories of that Valentine's Day and why you were so familiar started me thinking. But I wasn't sure, at least not until you almost called me 'Football Head'." He looked up and smiled at her, "Then it all made sense – you were Cécile all those years ago, you were here, looking stunning and I finally had my chance to respond to your confession."

"You mean the one on the FTi Building? The one back in 4th grade? Boy, you sure are prompt Arnoldo." She rolled her eyes, despite herself. He laughed.

She wrapped her arms around herself, hoping that this was leading into a positive confession. Though she could see no reason why it wouldn't be all she dreamed of, doubt still lingered.

"You told me back then that you loved me." He said, his gaze fixed on her eyes. Pleading. "Do you still feel that way?"

"Why should it matter? This is not my confession, Arnold. This is yours, so stop asking me the questions and just tell me how you feel. Stop messing me around!" She cried.

"I like you, Helga. I like you- like you." He gave her a half-lidded gaze. "I've been gradually seeing more of the real you during the past year and realising how blind I have been until now. You were always there for me, so I want to be here for you. I want you to be my girlfriend, Helga. Tell me I am not too late. Please?"

She was dumbstruck. It seemed so farfetched that she should come to her prom and the very thing she had always dreamed of would come true. The boy she had been crushing on for practically her whole life had sworn his undying love for her.

Hey, hey, hey, Helga! She reprimanded herself, don't get carried away! He just likes-you-likes you. He said nothing of love.

But still, the implication was that he could love her. One day in the future he could love her as she loved him. It all depended on how she answered him right now.

She swallowed her courage, which was all the more difficult given that nerves had left her mouth like cotton-wool. Her gaze locked on his increasingly worried eyes. Fear swarmed her suddenly and she averted her gaze, plastering a scowl on her face as her defence. Mask back up.

"Well Football-Head… I guess since you asked so nicely I could do you a favour and go out with you." She said in a nonchalant way, despite her heart fluttering. His confusion at her transformed demeanour became understanding and his eyes lit up. He rushed forward and pulled Helga close to him and into a hug. At first she stood stock straight, caught by surprise. Then she melted into the embrace, her scowl becoming a goofy grin and a dreamy sigh escaping her. He chuckled and brought her back down to Earth. Pulling away from him she reverted back into her defence-mode and warned him of getting too "touchy-feely".

"Whatever you say, Helga." He said, with his half-lidded gaze. It seemed to see through her defensive mask and left her feeling all exposed. The idea of him realising this wasn't the real her didn't worry Helga too much though. She realised that it would take time to get out of the habit of reverting to this bully persona around him in intimate moments. He seemed to understand this too. She allowed herself to smile at him.

"Shall we go back into the dance?" He asked, offering her his arm. It was tempting. She really did want to dance with him again – their first dance as an official couple. Then she thought about her slightly over-dramatic exit and her cheeks flamed.

"NO!" Arnold's eyes widened as she squealed her answer. "I-I mean… er… dancing is so lame. I'd much rather stay out here." She covered.

He smiled knowingly.

"Well, that suits me too, Helga. I get to spend more time alone with you…"

She blushed. How she had always longed to hear him say that, to stare at her as he was currently… she was wondering if this could possibly be a dream.

"I don't want to wake up."

"What do you mean?"

She froze. Had she said that aloud?

"I mean- I don't want to wait up… too long." She bluffed, glancing at an invisible watch on her wrist. "Boy, look at the time! Big Bob is gonna kill me." She began walking off, cursing herself for not being more creative.

"Helga wait!" Arnold called, catching up to her and spinning her round to face him.

"Don't go yet! It's still early. Or… or at least let me take you home." His eyes were sincere in their concern.

She hated herself for her inability to just be honest. Why couldn't she be herself around him? Guilt welled up inside her, and she averted her eyes.

"Fine, Football-Head."

He grinned, and held out his hand to her. Timidly she held out her gloved hand and he grabbed hold of it, giving her a reassuring squeeze as their eyes met. She flushed as pink as her dress.

Arnold led her over to his car – the old Packard he'd borrowed from his grandfather. Helga was secretly quite grateful that she'd accepted a lift from Olga so that she could take advantage of the offer from Arnold without worrying about her own car.

It was yet again something she'd have to thank Olga for, as well as the makeover and dress. And the forcing her to actually turn up at the prom. How very Olga-like for her to be right again.

Gentlemanly as always, Arnold opened the passenger door and helped her into the front seat. He placed a kiss on her gloved hand which made her head spin and then closed to door just before her face went all goofy and she practically melted in her seat. By the time he'd ran round to the driver's side she'd recovered.

As soon as he sat in the car he looked over at Helga.

"What?" She asked, a little harsher than she was hoping to sound. There was something about the way his green eyes looked at her that made her nervous.

"Nothing." He looked down at his lap, embarrassed. "It's just- I can't believe you actually said yes." He smiled back up at her again. "I'm really glad you did."

Seeing his smile aimed all at her, she felt her heart skip a beat. She could feel her face heating up. She began twiddle with her gloves.

Arnold turned on the ignition, and switched on the radio, filling the car with the smooth jazz music she'd always associated with her beloved.

"I hope you don't mind." He asked, "It's stuck on this station."

She shook her head.

"No. I learned a long time ago to appreciate jazz music. It always reminds me of…" She refused to say anymore. That would be revealing too much, too soon. But she could tell by the brightening of his eyes that he understood her.

He pulled out and they began the short drive to Helga's house. They let the jazz tunes fill the awkward silence between them, neither sure of what to say.

Helga found it hard to believe what had happened, and half expected to wake up from a dream and be forced to relive the prom all over again, with a less favourable outcome. She kept glancing over at Arnold, who seemed unnaturally focused on the road ahead.

She wondered if perhaps he was having regrets. She opened her mouth to say something, but no words would come out. What if anything she said made him decide he had been wrong about her?

Before she realised, the car pulled up outside the purple-bricked front of her house.

Arnold turned to her.

"Well, we're here." He announced. They simultaneously sighed, then looked up at each other in surprise. Then, seeing how funny it was that they both sighed at exactly the same time, they laughed.

Arnold was the first to leave the car, getting up to open her door for her.

"I can open the door for myself, you know, Football-Head."

He smiled.

"I see you are going to keep calling me names."

Helga froze. She couldn't help it – she was so used to it! What if she hurt him and he broke up with her? She bit her lip in worry.

"Don't sweat it, Helga." He taking her hand and helping her out of the car, "I've long since thought of it as… well, your nickname for me." He blushed a little, "I mean, you're the only one who calls me that."

Helga thought about it and it dawned on her that it was true. Even Wolfgang called Arnold something different. Similar, but different. And totally stupid. 'Football-Face' made a lot less sense than 'Football-Head'. She allowed herself to smile reassuringly at Arnold, as for a while now she'd considered it to be her own nickname for him. They were on the same page.

He kept hold of her hand, and she was too wrapped up in his gaze to shake him off. Arnold led her up the steps and the two stood for a few minutes at the top of the stoop, just holding hands.

Helga blushed when she became aware of it.

"I-I guess I'd better go inside." Helga finally said, breaking their awkward silence. Suddenly Arnold began to look very nervous. She raised an eyebrow at him. "What's up, Football-Head?"

He mumbled something, but she couldn't quite catch it.

"You'll have to speak up, Arnold. I can't hear you."

"Can I kiss you?"

Her eyes widened. A kiss? He wanted to kiss her? She felt like she was about to faint. Her first kiss with Arnold! No, she reminded herself, her fourth kiss with Arnold. Or third; fake CPR on the set of Babewatch didn't count. Still, this was the first time Arnold will have kissed her of his own free will. That meant more than any of the other kisses. Words failed her though, so all she could do was nod. Arnold relaxed a little, and smiled at her, looking into her nervous blue eyes with a determination that almost frightened her. He'd never looked at her like that before.

He lifted his hand and brushed a wave of blonde hair from her face, cupping her blushing cheek. He leaned closer and she could smell his aftershave, his shampoo, the scent that sent longing to her very core. Then, with the softest of brushes, she felt his lips touch hers. Soft and warm, and as gentle as the touch of a butterfly. Her insides melted and she almost fell over. When her knees buckled slightly, Arnold's free hand held her waist. Finding her footing once more, Helga pressed back into the kiss, impatient at his softly, softly approach. She wanted him to feel the passionate fire of her love. His eyes widened when she pushed back, and even nipped his lip with her teeth playfully. He smirked back into the kiss and then parted. Helga pouted, disappointed that it had ended so soon. She was used to far longer kisses with him.

"Goodnight, Helga. I'll call you tomorrow."

Helga could only nod. He reached his car and she saw him touching his lips. He then turned his head back to look at her with a smile and a half-lidded gaze.

She smiled back, before pushing her front door open and slipping inside. She watched through the crack in the door as he got in his car and cheered, his fist pumping the air. She laughed as he drove off.

Then it hit her. She was Arnold's girlfriend. After all these years of longing for him, he actually liked her back. She mimicked Arnold and touched her lips. It was all real.

"Baby Sister?"

Helga jumped out of her skin, as Olga appeared at the top of the stairs. Olga rushed down the stairs, worry bringing a shimmer to her eyes. "Is everything okay, Helga?"

Helga noticed the clock. Damn, she'd hardly even been out an hour. No wonder Olga was so freaked out.

"Everything's fine, Olga."

"Are you sure? Did you not have fun at the prom?"

Helga smiled.

"Actually… the prom sucked. It was what happened when I left that made tonight the best night of my life."

"Are you being sarcastic, Baby Sister?" Olga frowned, assuming she was being mocked.

"No. For once, Olga, I am being perfectly serious. I had a blast." She bridged the gap between herself and her older sister. "I actually want to thank you. If you hadn't convinced me to go, I never would have…" she stopped. She felt closer to her sister, but not close enough to reveal her big news just yet. She wanted to protect her eardrums. Instead she wrapped her arms around Olga's neck and hugged her.

Olga was surprised.

"Y-you're very welcome, Helga." Then her voice cracked and Helga heard the sniffing. She jumped away.

"Hey, hey, hey, hey! Not on the new dress, Olga! I don't want to get my lucky dress covered in mascara, tears and snot, okay."

Olga pulled out a handkerchief and dabbed at her eyes, giving Helga an apologetic look.

"Ah. What the hell. It's all thanks to you. I owe you another hug." And the two sisters hugged once more.

Helga didn't even mind. Olga had been so right about Helga's life for once. Her meddling hadn't ended in disaster, but in a miracle. It wasn't very often a member of her family looked out for her, and after the night she'd had, she owed it mostly to Olga's expert manipulation, make-up skills and that empire line gown that somehow was exactly the right size.

"Baby sister?"

"Yes, Olga?"

"Whatever happened to your mask?"

Helga laughed. She'd totally forgotten about it. Smiling she looked at her sister.

"I just don't need it anymore."

Fin.


AN: Yes, that is the end. It does seem like it could continue, but I'm so bad at updates that it would never get finished. I might come back in the future though. I have a vague sort of idea for an 'epilogue'-type thing, but no concrete plans as of yet. If you are interested in any possible future updates then please do add this story to your Story Alert, and if I do post more you will find out. But yes, for now, this is all.

If you liked this, please let me know by reviewing. Thank you for reading!