Andddddd here we go with part two of the twoshot!
R&R and let me know what you guys think! I'm really excited!
Oh and HEY! I don't own Hey Arnold! Story was inspired by Criminyy! :)
I was never a huge fan of Hamburger Helper. When Grandma would make it, she'd add a lot of really weird (but tasty) things in it so when others made it, it never quite lived up to what I had always been accustomed to. I wasn't going to complain, though. The Johanssens were kind enough to invite me to stay with them as much as I needed, which included free meals and not dry sandwiches that I had been making for the past week. Granted, Susie had always offered to make me a sandwich when she was in the kitchen making Oskar's, but I would always politely decline and go upstairs to hide in my room. The house had seemed so quiet without Grandma's laughing and Grandpa's 'scolding' after her, so the Johanssen's house was a nice change in pace, even if it meant that I was the object of Timberly's constant attention.
"So Arnold," Mrs. Johanssen started as she passed around the bowl of cheeseburger hamburger helper, Gerald's favorite of the options they sold, "I figured you could stay in Gerald's room for the next few nights, seeing as we don't really have a guest room."
"What about Jamie-O's room?" Timberly asked while taking a bite of food from her spoon.
"Timberly, nobody would ever willingly go into that room, even if it meant having somewhere to stay."
"Why is Arnold staying with us anyways?"
I swallowed my food a bit too fast and found myself gasping for air for a moment while Gerald mumbled in between chews, "Unless maybe they were being tortured by you."
"Timberly," Martin scolded.
"It's fine, Mr. Johanssen." I tried to swallow my food and without much success, started to take a sip of water from my glass to try and wash down whatever was stuck in my throat. "I uh- can I just be excused?"
Exchanging a look with each other, both Mr. and Mrs. Johanssen nodded their heads and I picked up my plate to dump the remaining food in the trashcan and carefully place the plate into the sink. I figured that they would explain exactly what happened with Grandpa to Timberly once I was gone, so I quickly made my way to Gerald's room; a place I had spent so much of my childhood growing up besides at the boarding house.
For the most part, Gerald's room had changed entirely. His walls were filled with weird posters of sports related things and pictures of him and Phoebe from as early as when they first started dating (even though it had been on and off at the time) their freshmen year. One wall, however; had been what it seemed like devoted to the weird adventures Gerald and I had encountered. There was a foam finger tacked to the wall, there was a bag of peanuts that had only three peanuts in it and was sealed from the time we got it out of a vending machine as is. There were numerous pictures from us and the gang taking pictures in photo-booths, but mainly there were just a lot of memories.
Despite Gerald's attitude around the world, he was a bit of a sap. Phoebe found it amusing and sweet all at the same time, which is probably why the 'ladies man' himself had been with her for so long: they were so right for each other. Out of all the stupid pairings our grade had developed, theirs was the only one I saw that I could see making it.
I moved to sat on his bed, the covers still mussed up against his mother's wishes.
I glanced over to my messenger bag that I had brought with me from the hospital. It felt so heavy on my walk here in the snow. Then again, every step I took felt heavy. In the bag I had my Senior Social and Governmental Studies homework and in that same folder, I had the College Psychology packet I should probably study from for my test next week. But when Gerald came strolling through the door, I did something I'd never willingly done before.
I lied about my homework.
"Hey man, sorry about Timberly. You know how she can be."
"It's not a big deal, Gerald. I understand."
He sat down on the floor and reached over for his backpack to pull out some of his textbooks.
"You doing okay, Arnold?"
I nodded wanting more than anything to drop the subject, and Gerald was quick to catch on. Focusing on the books in his hand, he continued his small talk.
"Phoebe's got me studying like crazy. I mean, if it wasn't for her, I don't think I'd even have a CLUE as to where I was going to college or NOTHING." he chuckled. "Girl's got me whipped."
"What kind of homework you have?"
"Just some english, some science, some of that weird 'health and you' shit. What about you? I'm sure your college classes are whipping your ass with assignments."
I shrugged carelessly and lay back to stare at his ceiling.
"Nah. Not really."
"You mean to tell me that you don't have any homework in your four college and AP classes and I have four assignments due in the span of three days? Mmm mm MM, Arnold. I tell you man, that is not fair. That is just not fair."
"A lot of things in life aren't fair, Gerald."
The room fell silent.
"I think I'm gonna take a shower. Y'know. So we don't have to fight Timberly for it in the morning."
I felt Gerald's eyes watch me leave the room and I heard pages flip once I closed the door behind me.
Just one day of homework. Nobody will even notice.
Mr. Hyunh had called Thursday night to let me know that him and Mr. Potts had taken care of the funeral arrangements, or rather the lack there of (Grandpa had specifically said he didn't want any sort of funeral which I thought to be very unlike him) seeing as they didn't want me to have to deal with such a thing at my age. They had simply collected the ashes and left them in my room to do with what I pleased. He had also called to inform me that Arnie had showed up without his parents due to some "hay incident" to which they couldn't attend because of it's occurrence.
"Arnold," he had said in slight dismay, "your cousin, he creepy. Very creepy."
"I know, Mr. Hyunh. But I really, I just don't want to come back right now."
"I understand, Arnold. We understand. Ernie and I take good care of the boarding house."
"I'm sure you're doing a great job."
I heard a rustle on his end of the phone.
"Oskar! You get out of the kitchen! You just ate!" Mr. Hyunh called out in the distance.
"Kokoshka I swear to God if you use ANY of my salami, I will hunt you down and-"
"Ernie! Be nice!"
"Hyunh, the man has been on a food binge since Phil...well, the point IS if he keeps it up, he's gonna gain a hundred pounds!"
"So what? Why does it matter to you if I gain a hundred pounds?"
"You'll break the stairs for Christ's sake! Then what are we gonna do, Kokoshka? You tell me."
"We'll build new steps. Or we could all live in the living room like a big happy family."
"I'm not so sure I'd use that as a description of this mash-up of people under this one roof."
"GUYS!" I yelled from the receiver.
"Oh! Arnold! I so sorry!"
"Just... just be smart guys, okay? I'll be home soon."
It was hard not to feel like the parent when it came to those three men.
I hadn't intended on staying the full four days that I had been at Gerald's house for. But day after day came and instead of going home to face the future of owning my very own boarding house and all of it's crazy patrons, Gerald's family's offers sounded appealing and comforting and I always ended up sitting at their dinner table eating their casseroles and fried chicken.
Every night and day had become a sick routine, a rut you could even call it. I woke up, stared at Gerald's ceiling for a good five minutes as Gerald fought his own alarm clock for a few extra minutes of rest. After that, I got dressed in his room while Gerald took a shower. When he was done, I fought him and Timberly for access to the sink and once we were done preparing ourselves for the outside world, we worked our way downstairs for some instant oatmeal and toast that Gerald's mom had thoughtfully prepared after getting ready for her job. Mr. Johanssen was already gone for his day of work by the time we woke up, so the breakfast table was fairly quiet with the exception of Timberly who was insistent on making conversation with anyone who would so much as look in her direction. After we scarfed food down our throats, we'd pack ourselves into Mrs. Johanssen's car and drove off to Timberly's school first, followed by Hillwood High to drop Gerald and I off at the front doors. With much work, Gerald dragged me in the doors and we parted our separate ways for our classes and the day officially began.
First there was English. I sat in my desk while everyone turned in their papers and I listened as the whispers around me swelled into one big question of, "Arnold didn't do his homework again... Did you see that? He didn't turn in the paper AGAIN!"
Next I went to my College Psychology class where I doodled in my notebook and zoned out while we were supposed to be taking notes about the anatomy of the brain.
Following that, I would make my way to my AP Philosophy class where I vaguely listened to the things about life they would chew over and offer no input whatsoever. Instead, I focused on the patterns on Mr. Flodling's tie.
I'd then travel to Senior Social and Governmental Studies which I had noticed was a long name for a really boring class. It wasn't hard for me to lose interest in what Ms. Arenberns was rattling on about so I chose not to pay as much attention as usual.
Then there was lunch which I usually didn't participate in any of the conversations and when asked questions, I'd give my penny for thought and leave for the locker room where I'd travel to my Economics class with Helga. I'd, again, not turn in my worksheet about the stock market and how it affects our daily lives and stare at the whiteboard blindly while Helga whispered incoherent things about me to Phoebe.
Finally, there was my AP Astronomy class which I typically enjoyed on a good day. Mr. Smithens never really assigned a lot of homework, so I still had a fairly decent grade in his class. However, he was very well aware of my less than attentive behaviors and instead of questioning it, just let it slide.
By then, my day was over and I could go back to Gerald's place and neglect my homework and eat whatever they offered and sleep off all my frustrations at the world.
Then I'd wake up the next morning and do it all over again.
By Friday, our lunch table had decided I need an intervention.
"Arnold, we're really worried about you man."
"Most definitely, Arnold. I just can't bare to watch you continue your oh too sad expression every day for the rest of your life. I know when my mother died, it was very hard and I would go home and cry a lot and feel really bad about myself. But you know what? One day I just woke up and said to the world, I'm Lila Sawyer, and my mother wouldn't want me to feel this miserable about her not being around to be with me. So you know what I did? I took a long walk in the park and I came to the conclusion that life is just ever so wonderful and magical to just let it go to waste moping about things we can't control."
I saw Helga roll her eyes and she quickly cut in.
"Look, Arnoldo. We just want to help you."
"Helga's right, Arnold. Statistically speaking, when such a tragic event happens in ones life such as losing your guardians, many high school students have been shown to give up on school work and eventually even, fail out of school. We see you gradually heading down this path, Arnold. And..."
"We don't want you to screw up your life." Helga had her arms crossed and her face wore a very strict expression; not mean, but strict.
"Guys, I really appreciate this. But, I'm just trying to deal with this whole thing as best as I can. And if that means missing a few assignments in class, then I miss a few assignments in class."
"Arnold. That isn't like you, man. You're always the one telling everyone to-"
"I know Gerald. I know. But I just... I just want to be left alone is all. I'm sorry, guys. I didn't mean to let you all down." I stood up and left the table as usual and made my way for the locker room on the other end of the school.
This time, however; I didn't wait around to hear just what they said about me once I was out of their sight.
That night I decided I should go back to the boarding house and see how things were going for all the boarders... and Arnie. The moment I walked in, the typical chaos I was used to was evident and I knew in about three minutes I'd have to walk over and fix it all.
"I said one! Not seven! Learn how to count!"
"I can count! But Susie wouldn't listen when I said we needed some. So I borrowed yours."
As usual, Oskar had taken something that wasn't his and I shook my head.
Normally I'd walk right over there and talk it out with them. I'd get Oskar to apologize and Mr. Potts to stop screaming. Mr. Hyunh would usually thank me, and Susie would yell at Oskar the moment he got back in their room. Then the cycle would repeat a few hours later.
Today however, I walked upstairs to avoid the whole thing completely.
I turned around to see Arnie exiting the bathroom.
"Hey Arnie. How are you?"
"Fine. I was just reading the directions on the shampoo bottle."
"I see. Well that's...great, Arnie." I turned around to walk to my room.
"Where are you going?"
"Just to my room. I...have a lot of homework I have to do."
"Thought you didn't do homework."
I looked at him for a while and shook my head deciding not to question just how Arnie knew that when we didn't go to school together.
"I'll see you later, Arnie."
My room looked exactly how I had left it. The bed was unmade from the last night I had tossed and turned thinking about Grandpa in the hospital, and my desk was a mess of papers for things I didn't understand like taxes for the boarding house and other nonsense. I walked to my bed and sat down on it brushing my fingers over the cold blanket.
What was there really to be so sad about? There wasn't hope that he'd be coming back. Like Grandma, he was here one day and gone the next. So why keep thinking about it when I know he's gone?
Because it doesn't FEEL like he's gone. It doesn't FEEL like this is real.
"I just don't feel anymore." I muttered to myself, my eyes catching on a coffee container sitting on my shelf. I walked over to it and picked it up, passing it back and forth between my hands.
It was funny, or rather weird, to have Grandpa fit in a little container for coffee. Grandpa had always seemed so big to me, he'd always seemed larger than life in my mind with his tall stature and abundant personality. It just didn't seem real to have him fit in a little cylinder that I held so easily in my hand. I tried to wrap my mind around such a thought and found myself shaking my head.
A knock sounded on my door.
Arnie opened the door and remained just outside of it.
"I think I'll pass tonight, Arnie."
"Susie made meat loaf."
"Arnie, I just really want to stay up here if that's okay."
"She let me read off the ingredients for it to her. Ground beef-"
"I'll be down in a minute, okay Arnie?" I looked at him with a small smile.
I carefully set the coffee canister on the shelf where it had been in the first place and I took a seat on the floor.
I never really sat on the floor of my room before. I mean, I never really found the need to. Granted, there were those times when I would sit on the floor to spread out papers for an assignment or to read multiple books at once, but I had never just willingly plopped down on my floor to think.
I wasn't sure what I wanted to think about.
All I knew is I didn't want to think about who wouldn't be downstairs. I didn't want to think about the stories I wouldn't hear and the advice I wouldn't get to question.
Funny how the things you want to ignore are the only things you can focus on.
I could feel myself slipping into a deep abyss of depression and numbness. I had never felt so hopeless and lost and it was a scary feeling to encounter. I had always been so hopeful. I'd always been so sure of where I was going and how I was going to get there. Suddenly without Grandpa and Grandma around to cheer me on (sometimes literally) I wasn't sure what it was I could do and what it was I thought I could do, but realistically wouldn't.
I spent most of the night thinking about this. Throughout dinner, I questioned why it was I missed them so much; what it was that I missed the most. My brain dissected and probed every possible reason why I was too afraid to talk about Grandpa being gone and until that tap on my window, I wasn't even sure what it was that I was asking myself in the first place.
"Helga?" She was standing on my fire escape and I stared at her in complete shock.
"Hey football-head how's it going?"
"Wh-what are you doing on my fire escape?"
She looked around as if she hadn't planned that far ahead and shrugged slightly.
"Just, wanting to see what my favorite football-headed yutz was up to on this fine evening."
I raised my eyebrow and shook my head somewhat.
"You want to come in or something?"
"Sure, Arnoldo. Nice place you got here."
"Helga, you've been here before."
"Well you've changed it."
"No, I really haven't."
"So my memory is slippin'. Listen, you got something to drink here?"
I racked my brain for a moment as I stood dumbfounded before her as she took a seat on my bed.
"Helga, is there something you came here for? Because if not, I kind of just wanted to be-"
"Alone? Yeah. I caught on a while ago. Geraldo did too."
I looked at her blankly.
"Did Gerald tell you to come here and talk to me? Helga, that's really nice of you but I'm fine. Really."
"He didn't tell me to come here, sheesh Arnold. Like I'd ever do anything for HIM."
Nodding a little, I walked over to sit next to her on my bed without saying a word. I couldn't possibly imagine why Helga was here in my room but I didn't care enough to push the issue. Knowing Helga, if there was something she wanted to do, she'd do it and it was only a matter of time.
"So...um, things okay at home?"
"Things are fine. Miriam is off at her second AA meeting so I'm crossing my fingers she'll stick with it this time. Lord knows the last time was a bust."
"Yeah, I remember you talking about that."
"It is what it is. I've stopped trying to control things." she shrugged and lay back on the heels of her hands to support her weight. "Not like I ever could before."
"I know how that is." She glanced over at me with a mildly confused look. "Controlling things."
"Gotchya. So, do any of your homework yet?"
"Why?" I sounded suddenly defensive and I swallowed hard to offer a smile of some sort.
"I was just wondering, Hair Boy. Don't have to get your panties twisted in a knot."
I scoffed and looked over to the canister that seemed to stare at me from across the room. I knew Grandpa would be teasing me about having a girl in my room alone, and I had to fight the lump that started to form when his voice would pop into my head. Helga seemed to take notice of this, and her voice softened.
"You okay, Arnold?"
"Hmm?Oh, I'm fine, Helga."
"Cause if you aren't, I know I may, well, pick on you a lot and throw spitwads at you and call you names like yutz and stuff, but I can be a pretty decent listener. If you...well...need someone to listen."
I could feel Susie's meat loaf start to rise from my stomach at the idea of talking to someone about Grandpa and my room started to spin around me.
If you...well...need someone to listen.
"I uh... Helga...I..." I sighed in defeat and looked to her. Her eyes were focused on me with a truly compassionate look on her face. Her brow was furrowed in concern and the gum she had been chewing had stopped for a moment as I tried to form words. I couldn't talk about it, but I couldn't tell Helga that. "Thanks, Helga..." I told my brain to make some form of a smile; the most convincing I could manage, and while it felt awkward and clearly faked, I knew Helga could tell I was trying as hard as I could, and I couldn't figure out if that was a good thing or a bad thing. "Helga... Do you maybe... want to go outside? I mean, on top of the roof..." I looked over to her with an almost ashamed look on my face and she nodded a few times before standing up and gesturing to the way up to my window.
"Lead the way, Arnoldo."
As we climbed up and out of my window to stand awkwardly on the roof, I sighed and rubbed my right arm.
"Well... here we are..." I made my way to sit on one of the cots that was left over up there from bonfires and holiday celebrations from what seemed like long ago. It wasn't long before Helga came up to sit beside me on the cot while gently resting her hands on her knees and rubbing them back and forth over the holes in her jeans.
I wanted to tell her. In fact, I wanted to tell anyone. The time had gone and passed for me to tell someone and suddenly here I was with all of these emotions that I had displaced for weeks now. I guess I figured Grandpa would pop out and tell me he was kidding and we could laugh and go back to normal.
Maybe that was a dumb thought. Maybe it was a stupid thing to wish.
"Hmm?" she hummed; her attention clearly elsewhere.
I sat silent as if waiting for some kind of cue to go on, maybe a cue from myself. I seemed unsure of everything nowadays.
Helga turned slightly while lifting her left leg and hinging it to lay it on the cot and look at me with her full attention.
I took a deep breath and found myself shaking my head.
"Arnold. Spit it out already."
I rubbed the back of my neck and swallowed hard. The air around us had suddenly grown thick and my lungs were having a hard time adjusting to the change they thought they were encountering.
I turned away from her and stared out over Hillwood as the sky darkened.
"You know what's funny?" I started while trying to focus on the world around me instead of what it was I was saying. "When my Grandpa flat-lined I thought... It's probably just one of his practical jokes. After that, I was expecting a miracle to happen...and then nothing." I felt that pesky lump start to build up in my throat again and I stopped while I was ahead. Helga seemed to wait for me to continue and I could feel her eyes on the back of my head.
"Arnold..." She said softly and I imagined her reaching out to me and pulling herself back.
But I doubted Helga would do that kind of thing.
"...I dunno, it all feels so surreal, y'know? Sometimes, I'd think he'd come into my room to say, 'Rise and shine, Shortman!' on weekends..." I found the nasal in my voice growing stronger and I tried with all my might to make it go away, to make all the pain go away and to make this situation go away. But here I was, sitting on a cot on my roof with Helga fighting it. Fighting everything."
"It's okay...Arnold..." Helga tried and that was all I needed for me to break completely.
"I mean, it's one thing to... to not have... your p-parents your entire life... it's one thing to-to-to not be like all your f-friends and...and..." I buried my head in my hands. "I'm not prepared to hold down the boarding house and finish school and solve every one else's problems. Grandpa always solved mine, in some weird twisted way, but he was always there. He was at every school thing. He read every paper I wrote and he helped me with every analytical question I got in english even though his answers didn't help me any more than looking in a phone book for the answers would have helped me. But he was THERE and whether I saw that then when he embarrassed me with Grandma all the time or not is too late for me to tell. But... but I..." I was sobbing uncontrollably and spilling out almost every thought I'd had in the past week. I felt Helga's hand hesitantly rubbing my back and the gesture somehow calmed me enough to take a few deep breaths and sit up and talk fairly normally. "I just really thought he was joking. I thought he'd sit up and pick on me for weeks at believing the little stunt he pulled." I looked over to Helga who was watching me with the most painful expression I'd ever seen her give anyone or anything. "I'm just not ready to be all alone now..."
"You'll never be all alone, Arnold." Helga replied instantly and her expression soon changed to one of panic. "I-I mean... you have... you have your friends and the boarders and stuff so you'll never really be alone."
"I guess you're right. But it isn't the same."
"I don't think it ever will be, Arnold." She said while looking out to where I had been focused earlier. "But...but you're a strong kid, Arnold. You've always been there for everybody else and we aren't just going to leave you in the dust like some incredibly insensitive imbecile." Her face reflected true sincerity and I nodded my head; taking in every word she was saying.
"Thanks, Helga." I reached over to wrap my arms around her and while she was stunned for the first second, she eventually gave in and I felt her arms wrap tightly around me as she hugged me back.
"Don't mention it, Arnold." She mumbled into my shoulder.
Awkwardly pulling away, she stood up and made her way to the fire escape to get down and go back to her house.
She spun around to cross her arms and look at me with her brow raised.
"I...have to start going through some of my Grandpa's things and Gerald was going to come over this weekend and help but his parents are taking him to the cities to see Jamie-O at college. So if you aren't... busy or anything... would you, would you want to maybe help me? I understand if you don't want to, it's kind of a big job and it's really personal so I don't know if you would want-"
I looked up from my lap to her and smiled the first genuine smile I'd felt since before Grandpa had left.
Because he had left, and he wasn't coming back.
"I'll see you tomorrow at school, Helga."
"Sure will, Football-head."
But I knew that my friends would be here with me for a long time.
And lucky for me, that included Helga.
I know i left it all open-ended and whatnot, but i thought that left a lot of room for you guys to continue on what you think will happen. and who knows? If you like it enough, i might just continue it. But for now, it's a happy little twoshot. haha
Hope you liked it!