AN: The other day I heard that song from a few years back, "Just The Girl" by The Click Five, and it inspired me to tackle this concept. This is just an intro chapter - the next one will have more interaction, I swear.
Strange As It Seems
Arnold Shortman figured he must have the worst luck in the entire school. Yes, worse luck than Eugene, who had broken every bone in his body at least twice, worse luck than Rhonda, who was serenaded to by a lovesick Curly at least three times a week, and way worse luck than Brainy, who somehow managed to show up to class every day with a broken or bloody nose.
Arnold's bad luck happened to be bad luck in love. Not like Rhonda's Curly situation – Arnold's luck was more about who he happened to fall in love with, not who was in love with him. Arnold had been in love with girls who hadn't known he existed and girls who only liked him as a friend. He had been in love with teachers and girls who used him on sunny summer days. Obviously none of these had ever worked out, but Arnold felt like this love was worse than any other love he had ever had.
He tried to ignore the feelings that crept up on him, the way his stomach flip-flopped when he saw her walking down the hall, the way everything she said made him want to smile or laugh or hug her or just touch her somehow. He tried to pretend those feelings didn't exist but he soon discovered you just can't will your way out of feelings.
He tried to deny what the feelings meant. Maybe that was just the way you felt around someone whose company you really enjoyed, who you just wanted to be good friends with, who you thought was really funny and smart and just coincidentally also happened to be very pretty? He didn't think his heart had every beat so fast when he looked at Lila or Ruth, not the way it beat when he looked at her – so these couldn't possibly be the same feelings, right? This was something else…except he knew that it wasn't.
He tried to reason his way out love. He tried to think of all the bad things about her. But all the bad things just seemed so endearing…
No matter what he did, at the end of the day, he always ended up in love with her. There was absolutely no way around it. Arnold was in love, and, as it always was with him, his love was doomed to be unrequited.
Arnold Shortman was in love, and he was one hundred percent sure nothing would ever come of it.
Because there was no way in hell Helga G. Pataki could ever be in love with Arnold Shortman
He couldn't pinpoint the moment it happened. He was completely unsure of the moment he had gone from tolerating Helga's torments to being completely gone on her. It must have been the sneaky kind of love, the gradual kind that slowly, slowly worms its way into your heart, until one day you realize that it's completely taken over.
He thought it might have started back in elementary school, that day in fourth grade when she had kissed him on the roof of the FTi building. She had admitted to it being in the heat of the moment, and the more Arnold thought about it, the more it seemed like she had just made the whole "in love with him" thing up. After all, nothing in her behavior since then had shown that she felt anything more for him than hatred – maybe a sort of tolerant friendship on her best days.
But in the four years since then, somehow Arnold had managed to find himself head-over-heels in love with her. It must have been all the time they had to spend together after their best friends started dating – as much as you can date in middle school. All those lunch times spent together, rolling their eyes together as the couple played kissy-face; all those group outings together so Phoebe and Gerald's parents wouldn't suspect them of going on an actual date. That's when he began to realize all the really clever things Helga had to say, how funny her jokes were, how poetically she could speak, how good her hair smelled…
Though she didn't seem to care much for him, he loved watching her interact with other people. She was a really great friend. She was so protective of Phoebe; sometimes it seemed like Helga liked going on their "group dates", probably only to keep an eye on Gerald and make sure he didn't do anything out of line. She really cared about Phoebe's happiness, enough to make sure Gerald didn't do anything to hurt her, but also enough to look the other way when they were walking home from the movies so that Gerald could sneak in a polite kiss or two.
Sometimes they would all study together, and he'd be really shocked to find out that Helga was often on the same level as Phoebe when it came to knowing their material for class – and often way ahead of her when it came to English assignments. Sometimes they would edit each other's creative writing assignments, and he would be amazed – not only at the lack of grammatical errors in her writing, but at the depth, the intelligence, the beauty.
He had it bad. Real bad. And the worst part was, he could never tell her about it. If she caught wind that he, the little Football Headed twerp, was in love with her, he would never hear the end of it.
So he made a promise to himself: Arnold Shortman would never, ever confess his feelings to Helga G. Pataki, even if it killed him.
Because if she had any idea, she'd probably kill him…