Truth or dare
They all sat in Rhonda's apartment the first night after final exams. Most other students had packed up and left to spend summer at home with their families. These six had remained at Hillwood University for their own reasons. Arnold and Gerald had finished finals the night before and needed to stay a couple of extra days to pack and move out of their dorm. Helga had finished finals two days earlier, but stayed on campus to attend the graduation of an older friend. Pheobe didn't go to Hillwood University, but had decided to make a stop there before heading back home. Rhonda needed to find a sublet for her apartment and had a meeting with a potential candidate in two days. And Brainy was just…Brainy. No one was really sure why he was still there, but they were also used to his peculiar behavior and didn't bother asking him to explain.
It was that odd time right after final exams when it seemed as if there were suddenly too many hours in the day. They were all still getting used to the feeling of being liberated from long obligatory nights at the library, large doses of coffee and lack of sleep. It seemed unreal to them that they actually had some free time to do whatever they pleased. And so, despite their exhaustion, which was a result of the sleep deprivation they experienced during finals week, they remained at Rhonda's apartment, ignoring the fact that it was almost 4 in the morning.
They were all piled onto Rhonda's two beige couches, drinking milkshakes from the local drive through when the game Truth or Dare had been suggested. It was now 3 hours into the game and some very strange dares had been committed. So strange that the friends had decided that the events of the game would remain a secret between only those who were present.
It was now Rhonda's turn to ask some one truth or dare. She wiped the mustard off her face (an accessory needed for the last dare) and looked at her friends pensively. She knew she would probably get a lot of attitude for what she was about to do, but she figured it would be worth it. Although Rhonda was no longer the obnoxious girl with the elitist mentality, her interest in the lives of others had remained just the same. Rhonda had become very impatient with a one sided love affair that she had been observing for years. The cluelessness of the receiving party irritated her to no end, and she wished to blow the secret out in the open, if only to satisfy her own curiosity on what would happen next. "Helga, Truth or dare."
Helga was somewhat sprawled on the couch, her long legs stretched onto the ground, with her head resting on the palm of her hand. "hmmm. I'll go with Truth."
Rhonda thought about how to word her question. She wanted to corner Helga into uttering something very specific. Perhaps, in a way, it was evil, but in all seriousness Rhonda's intentions weren't bad. If anything Rhonda felt it would help the girl move forward, while also proving Rhonda's suspicions to be correct. "Alright, but you HAVE to tell the truth. I can almost guarantee that I'll be able to tell if you are lying. So don't even try it." Helga lifted her head to give Rhonda a surprised look. Feeling a bit unsure of how to respond to the unnecessarily intense statement, she replied a slow and hesitant "sure," phrasing it as it were a question.
Rhonda took another minute to think. She knew she was probably getting a little too old to be prying into the business of others, and she was definitely too old to be concerning herself with who liked who, but this was a different case. She couldn't bear the thought of being 50 and still being aware of Helga's repressed feelings. As immature as it may have sounded coming from a sophomore in college, she asked the question the only way she knew how.
"Who have you had a crush on since the fourth grade?" Rhonda couldn't keep herself from smiling as she asked.
Helga hoped her uneasiness hadn't become apparent to everyone in the room. The question was so specific. It was obvious that Rhonda knew. Albeit, she was still a little off the mark- it hadn't been since the fourth grade, but rather since preschool, and it wasn't just a crush. She tried to keep herself from looking at the boy sitting on the couch across from her. Yet, her eyes flashed in his direction uncontrollably. Unfortunately he was looking at her, as if waiting to hear her answer.
"Helga?" Rhonda asked. Still smiling. Helga's eyes snapped back to Rhonda's face. She refrained from giving her a fierce glare. Cool it Helga, old girl, anger is NOT the best way to handle this.
Attempting to keep her facial expression composed, Helga responded, "That's easy," and then trying to sound non- chalant "No one." At this she heard a muffled laugh from Brainy, which caused Arnold and Gerald to eye him curiously.
Rhonda rolled her eyes "Helga come on! I told you I would know if you lied."
"I'm…not lying." Another chuckle from Brainy.
Arnold looked at Brainy with amused eyes, "What's so funny Brainy?"
Brainy looked at Helga, who shot him a glare. Realizing this reaction might make her secret even more obvious Helga tried to wipe the anger off her face, switching to what she hoped was a more apathetic expression.
"Uhh, nothing" Brainy breathed.
Arnold looked at Helga, a slight smile on his face, one eyebrow raised. Helga looked away.
Phoebe cleared her throat, "Ok who's next?"
Rhonda sighed loudly, ignoring Phoebe's attempt at changing the subject, "Helga I had hoped that by now you would have gathered the guts to admit it. It's pretty obvious." Now Rhonda was just crossing the line. Helga simply gave her a stone cold look. Who did she think she was bringing this up here, NOW, in front of an audience. Even if Helga had planned on confessing she would never do it in front of five other people.
She noticed Arnold's gaze moving back and forth between her and Rhonda, his face a mixture of interest and confusion. He obviously hadn't been able to figure anything out from this, but that would probably change soon if Rhonda didn't shut her trap.
Rhonda pushed on, "You know Helga, I'm sure I can help you out with this." "Rhonda-" Helga began to protest, her calm façade diminishing as she began to wonder if Rhonda was actually dumb enough to reveal her secret. Rhonda continued laughingly, "Seriously Helga, it's like ripping off a band aide –"
"Rhonda, I'm not afraid to physically hurt you if you don't shut up –" Helga's words overlapped with Rhonda's as she began to rise up off her seat, as if preparing herself to tackle Rhonda if the need presented itself.
"It'll hurt for the first millisecond and then it'll be over!" Rhonda finished laughing, also standing up slowly to avoid any kind of physical attack from Helga. Then quickly she began to blurt "Helga loves A-."
The end of the sentence came out muffled as Helga grabbed Rhonda and clasped a hand over her mouth. "Criminey! Aren't we getting a little too old to be acting like this!" Rhonda nearly keeled over with laughter, Helga's hand still gripping her face.
"Alright, Alright I'll stop" Rhonda chirped. Helga loosened her grip and made her way back to the couch, avoiding Arnold's gaze. Had she looked she would have seen him stifling a smile, trying to hide the fact that he had found the events to be quite entertaining. Gerald looked stunned, but the emotion didn't last very long. He didn't care to know anything about Helga's love life. His focus was now on his empty stomach.
Rhonda fixed her shirt and ran a hand through her hair, "Alright, NOW who's next."
Helga spoke up at this, "How about we just call it a night"
"I am DOWN. I've been running on three hours of sleep… And I STILL didn't seem to know anything on the econ final," Gerald said in between a yawn "I'm a little hungry though," Arnold laughed at this. Gerald's apatite was unbelievable at times. "You guys wanna grab something to eat from someplace, I could go for some Robertos right now."
Brainy nodded in agreement. Gerald looked at Phoebe and gave her a light punch on her cheek, "You wanna go?" Phoebe gave him a tired but bright smile and softly replied "ok".
Arnold was comfortable on Rhonda's couch, not wanting to move.
Rhonda stayed put, "It's way too late to be eating anything from Robertos. I'm just going to go to bed," She began to get up before eyeing Arnold and Helga, "If you guys don't feel like going anywhere you can just crash on my floor, I'm alone tonight anyways, it'll make me feel safer."
Helga looked at Arnold nervously. Arnold simply smiled back, finding her uncharacteristic behavior surprisingly enjoyable.
Half an hour later when Rhonda had had shut her door and the other three had left for Robertos, Helga attempted at getting comfortable on Rhonda's couch. It hadn't occurred to her how small the couch was until now. She regretted taking up Rhonda's offer, but she had been too tired to walk back to her dorm from Rhonda's apartment. The buses weren't running at that time, and Rhonda's apartment was not exactly walking distance to campus. The couch didn't seem like such a bad idea compared to the alternative, but now she wasn't so sure. Arnold was lying on his back still dressed in his slim fitting dark jeans and blue polo, his legs hanging over the edge of Rhonda's other couch. After turning for maybe the fourth time in the last two minutes Helga heard him chuckle.
"Got a problem, football head?"
"No." He turned to his side, propped his body on his elbow and rested his head on his palm, "Just noticed that you were having some trouble."
Helga sighed, "Go to sleep," as she continued to turn on one side, then the other, before giving up and assuming her original position on her back.
Arnold chuckled quietly, still facing her. After staying still for a small amount of time Helga grabbed one of the smaller pillows on the couch and threw it at him forcefully.
Arnold laughed, "Hey! What was that for?"
"Why aren't you sleeping? And stop looking at me."
Arnold seemed to think for a minute, pursing his lips slightly. "So what was that all about today?"
Helga felt nervous again, "Arnold, it's four in the morning," She attempted at sounding irritated rather than anxious.
"It's actually 4:50. And you're avoiding the question."
Helga groaned. "What do you want?" She said as she turned on her side to face him.
He gave her a lop sided grin, "I didn't know you liked someone in the fourth grade."
"I didn't-" Helga began.
"Who was it?" Arnold continued.
Helga was quiet.
"See, you're lying!" Arnold laughed. "Man, you acted like you HATED everyone back then. Who'd you have a crush on?"
Helga hid her face behind a pillow "Why can't we just drop it."
"Was it…Sid? Nah, it couldn't have been Sid. Maybe it was Harold. But you were really mean to him."
"I was mean to everyone."
Arnold laughed quietly, "True. Glad that phase is over." He eyed her, "You're still far from normal, though."
"Thanks, Football head." Helga snorted.
"Stinky! Didn't you go out with him for a while?"
Helga recalled the short period of time in the fourth grade when she had Stinky pose as her boyfriend. It was ironic that Arnold was asking her about it. After all, it was him who Helga had hoped to make jealous. Given the current conversation, however, it was painfully apparent that Arnold never felt even a tinge of jealousy.
"I also broke up with him."
"Yea, but he was the only one you went out with." Arnold turned to lay on his back again, placing his arm on his forehead. "So, was it him?"
Helga thought to herself for a moment. "Yes. It was him."
Arnold lifted his head to look at her, trying to study her expression. He laid back down before stating, "It wasn't him."
Helga exhaled loudly. She reconsidered the idea of sleeping over at Rhonda's. Buses started running at 5 am. If she left now she could catch the first bus. As it was, she was wide awake now. She sat up straight and swung her feet off the couch, trying to think of where she left her keys. Arnold noticed her movement and glanced over at her, "Are you leaving?"
"Yea," She responded, as she lifted herself off the couch.
"Seriously?" Arnold continued to watch as she stood in place looking around for her stuff. "Alright I'll stop. I'll let you sleep. I'll go to sleep."
Helga was already plowing through the pillows on the couch in search of her keys as Arnold made this diplomatic proposal. Coming up empty handed, she absentmindedly wandered into the kitchen, wishing there was a way to get back into her dorm without her keys. There was none, unfortunately, as her roommate had already left for home, and the college dorms had locks on the windows for added security. Unable to find them in the kitchen, Helga began to realize there was only one other place to look. Once again unfortunate for her, Arnold was planted on the second couch, staring at her intently. She hesitantly walked over to where he was sitting, hoping that he would somehow let her dig through the couch in peace. He stood up as she approached the couch. She took a side step, and he did too. She stepped to her right, and he mimicked. "Move it football head, or old betsy might have to come out of retirement!"
Arnold smirked as he looked down at her, "Alright let's see what old betsy's got." Knowing, rather regrettably at this point, that she no longer had the ability to actually pound him, Helga gave out a sigh and began walking away. Arnold grabbed her wrist and pulled her back, "Helga, I'm sorry. No more teasing, I promise."
Helga kept her gaze on the ground as she felt his hand come across her waist. He was standing directly in front of her, his arm keeping her from escaping. "You really bugged me when we were nine." Helga wasn't sure of what to make of that statement. "I had to pick out so many spitballs from my hair every day."
"I had good aim," She said quietly without lifting her head.
He chuckled, "Yea, well you got a lot of practice too. You never made anyone else a target."
"Well, you're head was the easiest to hit….what with it being all big and football shaped," Helga tried to say with some bite.
Arnold snorted, "Yea, I'm sure that's why you did it." Helga managed to come up with an unconvincing response, "Doi, Why else would I do it. And let me go." She made a feeble attempt at shoving him away, but he didn't budge.
Arnold looked thoughtful for a moment, "I think I might know why." Helga cursed her inability to control her increasing heart rate, which she was sure he could sense. He lifted her head gently and slowly began to lean in, causing Helga to feel a wave of dizziness in anticipation of what was to follow.
The moment was ruined, however, as a loud knock occurred on the door, making Arnold and Helga jump slightly. Arnold let out a soft, frustrated sigh before answering, "who is it," continuing to hold Helga in place. "Uhhh, it's Brainy," A rather breathy reply came. Arnold gave Helga a confused look, in response to which Helga just shrugged. Helga reluctantly broke out of Arnold's grasp to open the door. "Uhh, Hi." Brainy gave her his trademark spacy smile, "I forgot my keys."
Helga and Arnold exchanged looks, "It took you that long to realize you forgot your keys?" Helga asked.
"I, Uhh, had to walk over here from campus, Gerald refused to give me a ride. He wanted to sleep," Brainy replied as he stepped past Helga to get inside the apartment.
After dedicating a rather small amount of time to searching for his keys Brainy sat down on the couch with a plop. "I can't find them."
The statement was followed by silence.
"Would it be ok if I just….slept here?"
Helga said nothing. Instead she thought to herself about how normal her relationship with Brainy could have been if it weren't for the fact that Brainy always managed to show up at the worst possible time. His impeccable timing earned him a beating almost everyday. It was almost as if he had a sixth sense which lead him to her location exactly as she was experiencing something Arnold related. If that was the case, however, it was a miserably useless sixth sense. She wasn't quite sure of how Arnold was feeling, but she wanted to be alone with him again.
Arnold, on the other hand couldn't help but feel bad for the guy and spoke, "Yea, sure Brainy." He then looked at Helga, an idea occurring to him. "You can take the couch I was on, Helga and I were just leaving." Helga looked at him, confused.
Arnold grabbed Helga by the shoulders and began leading her towards the door, "We're going for a walk."
Before Helga could protest Arnold had dragged her out of the Apartment and shut the door behind him. "Geez, you could have at least let me put my shoes on –" Helga's complaint was cut off by Arnold's finger, "Helga Shhh." Helga surprisingly quieted down, suddenly noticing that the distance between them had decreased once again.
Arnold gave her a small smile, "First," He gently took her face in his hands and gave her a kiss. Helga was swept into a wave of emotions, not entirely comprehending what was happening. Although it was generous in intensity, it lacked in duration and ended quickly. Arnold pulled away half heartedly, but with reason, as he still had one more important matter to delve into.
"Second," Arnold continued, "Let's hear some more about this crush of yours." Arnold let his hand slide down her arm, his fingers falling into place with hers. Helga took a moment to register the events that had preceded the question. He gently tugged her hand and they began walking down the hallway, barefoot. "So, was it Eugene?" Arnold asked, playfully. Helga smacked him on the arm, and continued to walk with him, hand in hand, down the hall.