Disclaimer: I absolutely, positively, without a shadow of a doubt, do not own Hey Arnold! (Though I wish I do!)
Chapter One - The Bitter Taste of Regret
Rhonda Wellington Lloyd couldn't wait until tomorrow. In 24 hours, her worries of Curly pestering her would be gone for good. She skipped up the stoop leading to her front door. Before she could open it, it swung open.
"Ciao, Rhonda darling!" said Brooke Lloyd.
"Welcome home, dear!" said Buckley Lloyd.
Rhonda grinned and waved "hello". "Ciao, mummy! Ciao, daddy!"
Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd returned Rhonda's bright, cheery smile, appreciative of their heir's return from public school. Rhonda felt eager to reciprocate customary air kisses to her parents over each cheek. The sting of Curly's amorous kiss that lingered on her lips since lunch time finally disappeared. She feared even a deep cleansing would not rid her of the stains from his touch that soaked into her clothing and her skin. However, the fact Curly would soon become less of a threat overshadowed her pessimistic thoughts.
That evening at the dinner table after she finished her food, she announced to be excused to her room and gave her compliments to the head chef who cooked their meal. Rhonda maintained her normal composure as she journeyed into her room and found her school bag on her bed. Her excitement exploded as she rummaged through her bag until she found her object of desire: a purple bottle full of a special potion recommended to her by Big Patty. She mentioned she should see some strange lady at her "Potion Shop" who went by the name "Madame Sophia".
During recess, Rhonda asked Patty if Sophia was an authentic gypsy unlike Madame Blanche who gave Helga a hokey "love potion". Patty nodded and gave an assured "yes". That's all Rhonda needed to hear to make a quick stop at Sophia's shop and fork over ten dollars (which to an average kid was like spending a penny: it was nothing) to purchase the potion. Rhonda was relieved it had easy instructions: take the potion before bedtime and the following morning, make a wish and it would be granted that evening.
She laughed as she unscrewed the top off of the bottle and immediately gulped down the concoction. Neglecting her manners she learned in finishing school, she didn't care when a few drops of potion splashed on her chin and neck. She put the bottle down on her dresser and wiped her mouth with a silk handkerchief she kept in her pocket.
"Not bad. Tastes like grape juice," said Rhonda, smiling.
After changing into her pajamas, reflecting her "princess" status, she slipped into bed with a smirk. "At last, I finally have a plan to get Curly to stop bothering me and finally end his unrealistic plans to win my love and affection," she said before her eyelids grew heavy and closed shut.
Rhonda shrieked at the top of her lungs the instant Curly Gammelthorpe's arm wrapped around her waist. He lowered his head so it was level with hers and puckered his lips that were aimed and ready to land on hers. She swore she saw his eyes twinkle evilly behind his bright cherry rimmed glasses.
He laughed. "Give Daddy some sugar!"
Her face contorted into a hard grimace. "Ugh! Get away from me!"
Rhonda sprang out of her seat next to Nadine in the cafeteria, scurrying through the exit and down the hallway with Curly in hot pursuit. She scrambled into the girl's bathroom, happy to be in holy ground from the crazy, maniacal lunatic known as Curly.
He cackled, his laughter clearly audible even from behind the thick metal door. That sinister sound always gave her chills. Her waist still scalded from his acidic embrace. She leapt and gasped from his loud voice that abruptly ended the brief silence.
"You can't stay in there forever!" he said.
"Errrrrrrgh! Go away, you creep!"
"Not until I win your heart and cease this unrequited love!"
A few minutes later after hearing no one in the hall, Rhonda left the bathroom. She shuddered at the sight of Curly, his annoying smile making Rhonda's stomach churn. He ran toward her and leaped towards his object of affection. Their limbs flailed as they slammed into the entryway and dropped to the ground. Curly stayed on top, pinning Rhonda by her arms to the floor. She grimaced at the purple "Rhonda's hunk" shirt he wore proudly over his green and orange top.
Curly poked out his lips, making kissing sounds. "Now, Daddy's gonna get his sugar!"
Rhonda almost chopped off her tongue the way her teeth haphazardly chomped down on it. "Noooooooo!"
He descended closer…closer…closer until his lips contacted hers.
Her eyes became the widest they had ever been. She hollered as she grabbed his shoulders, shoving him away. "Ugggggggggh! Disgusting!"
Rhonda flung him to the side and got up on one knee. She used her other leg to leap upward and land squarely on both feet. She discovered Curly lying face down in the middle of the vacant hallway. Thankful she was still taller and presumably stronger than Curly, Rhonda pulled him up by his shirt collar and thrust him against the locker, shocked his face still had that sickening grin as if nothing could distract him from going after her.
Rhonda felt herself frothing at the mouth. "Curly, I can't take it anymore! You're driving me utterly mad I tell you, mad!"
"Say it isn't so, my love!"
"It is so, Curly!"
She felt her face burn with antipathy and fury. She inhaled and exhaled sharply, sounding as if she had finished a mile run at top speed. The heat dissolved from her face as she noticed other students passing by in the hall. Rhonda's mouth fell open.
Curly's smile disappeared. He blinked twice. "But Rhonda-"
"Since you surely don't understand, I say this for the last time in plain, simple English that is so simple, even Harold or the lowest form of caveman could understand," Rhonda said. She poked him harshly in the chest, his back hitting the locker as a result. "Stop stalking me, stop spying on me, stop writing those icky love letters about me, stop hugging and kissing me, stop wearing those tacky shirts claiming I'm your girl or you're my hunk, stop leaving gifts in my locker, and most of all, stop trying to, as you say it, win my heart! It's not going to happen, Curly! Not in this universe, not in our lifetime, not ever! Got it?" she said through gritted teeth.
Rhonda shook him by the collar. "Jesus, Curly, don't you get it? I don't love you, okay? I never have, and I never will! Now leave me alone! Ugh!"
She marched away toward the bathroom, launching up both her hands as Curly stood behind her, eyebrows raised, and no sign of a smile visible on his face. "God! I wish you'd just do me and everyone else a favor and die or something so I can live in peace, once and for all!"
Rhonda leaned against the entrance she slammed shut, breathing massively, ignoring the fact that a few bangs of her hair were out of place, and the fact she spilled kiwi strawberry gelatin dessert on her pants. She clamored, rubbing her face as she walked toward the mirror, her footsteps echoing throughout the bathroom occupied by no one but her. For once she felt happy to be around the various toilets and sinks, even if they were grimy with hardened soap scum, used, wrinkled paper towels and whatever else was causing the place to smell like urine. At least she was away from Curly.
Rhonda despised lunch time. Everyday before lunch period, she had a confrontation with Curly. He would somehow find her and she would hide in the girl's bathroom until he disappeared. It was like Groundhog's Day, only worse; much worse.
God, I hate him! He's like a cockroach. He just won't go away! thought Rhonda. She growled, boiling with anger. She hastily became aware of the green blotches on her left leg. She raced over to the paper towel dispenser to take some out, darted over to the sink and moistened a few towels with warm water.
"Thank God I didn't wear my best clothes today," she said.
She sighed vehemently while she scrubbed at the stain with the towels. Of course, Curly had to be the one to ruin her dress. Her body began to loosen up, become less tense. She threw her towels away and stepped to the mirror, looking herself in the eyes. Suddenly she remembered.
The wish. She still had to make the wish.
"I wish Curly would leave me alone."
Despite the craziness, the constant harassment and the fact he must have an immediate fashion overhaul, he's an okay guy, thought Rhonda. And that's all he was, is and ever will be: an okay guy.
The following day, Rhonda entered the classroom, followed by her student peers. She favored a seat in the middle of the back row and sat up straight, her hands clasped in the middle of the desk. She cringed instinctively, ready for one of Curly's rambunctious hugs or unnecessary begging sessions for a kiss. Rhonda felt her body repose after she acknowledged Curly was absent from class, but kept her guard up throughout the day.
The next day, Rhonda chose the same seat as the day before. Her eyes continually scanned the room in search of Curly while her classmates entered and took their seats. She rubbed her hands as she stared at the doorway, apprehensive for Curly to appear.
"Hey Gerald. You notice something missing around here?"
"What? Oh, you talkin' about how they got rid of the mystery meat?"
Gerald thought for a moment, then spoke. "Nope, can't think of anything."
Rhonda observed the two best confidants inhabit the desks one row before her, conversing with each other.
"It's Curly. He's been absent two days straight," said Arnold. More and more students showed up in class, including Mr. Simmons. "He's usually here every day."
She couldn't help but continue to eavesdrop when they mentioned Curly's name. She inclined forward, able to clearly hear the two boys' conversation without getting caught.
"You know what? Now that you mention it, it is a little strange. It's almost a little…too quiet around here."
"I hope he's all right."
Gerald put up a finger, shaking his head. "Don't get me wrong. I'm not worried about the guy, but he's usually here every day following Rhonda around like a shadow, chasing after her during lunch time or sitting next to her when we're in class. Maybe he's sick or something."
Arnold shrugged. "Maybe. Last time I saw him, he looked depressed. Like someone close to him died or something."
"Well, Phoebe told me Rhonda snapped and went off on him a few days ago. He's probably just depressed because she rejected him…again," Gerald said, rolling his eyes. "But you know Curly. He'll be back before we know it, begging Rhonda to be his girlfriend…again. Only to get rejected…again."
Arnold sighed. "I don't know, Gerald. This could be something serious."
Gerald waved it off. "Aw, don't worry about him, Arnold. He'll bounce back like he always does."
Arnold nodded. "You might be right. But I've got a bad feeling about this," Rhonda last heard Arnold say before everyone settled down after Mr. Simmons announced the beginning of class and to begin their history group projects.
Ten minutes before school let out, Rhonda watched Nadine finish her presentation at the front of the class while she took a sip of pure drinking water. Of course she made sure it was processed by ozonation, advanced filtration and reverse osmosis technologies.
Sheena may be a geek, but she definitely knows where to find good water, Rhonda thought. After putting her bottle away in her bag, she sighed in relief that the past few days thankfully had no Curly appearances whatsoever.
"Nadine, thank you. That was a wonderful presentation," said Mr. Simmons.
"Bravo, Nadine," said Rhonda. She clapped along with the other students in her class for Nadine, who went last in divulging information about her latest collection of bugs she found in the park. She carried a few jars of bugs with her as she sat down and placed them under her desk.
"Oh my gosh, class," said Mr. Simmons with a hand on his cheek, the other holding a note he finished reading that he received from a P.S. 118 faculty member who came in the room as quickly as they left. "I have some horrible, horrible news."
"Oh my God, the rumor's true! The school's stopped serving tapioca pudding!" said Harold, before taking the last bite of his Mr. Fudgie.
"Ah, put a sock in it, pink boy," said Helga, frowning at Harold, who glared back at her while chewing on his food.
Harold slammed his desktop with his fist. "I wasn't talking to you, Madam Fortress Mommy!"
Mr. Simmons shoved the note in his pants pocket. "No, it's not that, Harold. The tapioca pudding supply as far as I know is fine. However, onto more pressing matters and the reason for this announcement. It turns out Curly, sadly, is no longer with us."
"Wilikers," Stinky said. "You mean he moved to another school?"
"Criminy, it's about time! I guess P.S. 118 finally decided to ship out the little demented psycho," said Helga, cackling afterward.
"I reckon they put him in the nuthouse."
"Doi! You think?"
"No, Stinky…Helga," he bowed his head, a few tears gathering in his eyes. "It's much worse than that."
Helga sighed after Mr. Simmons was speechless for a few moments. "Well? What's the news? We don't have all day. Spill the beans already!" she said, the rest of the class murmuring to a neighbor or asking Mr. Simmons to tell them the news.
"Class, two days ago, Curly was taken to the hospital after feeling very ill, which explains why he was absent," said Mr. Simmons, right before the whole class became completely silent. "And, last night, he unfortunately fell ill to an unknown virus and passed away."
Rhonda gasped along with the rest of the class. Her pen dropped to the ground. She placed her hand on her chest, swearing that she felt it stop. At that point, it hit her.
"God! I wish you'd just do me and everyone else a favor and die or something so I can live in peace, once and for all!"
Rhonda felt her whole body turn cold. She realized she made her wish without thinking things through.
"Oh my God. I killed Curly."