Chapter One

Burn

"Helga, I can't deal with this right now."

"I'm not trying to pressure you," Helga hissed. "I just need to tell you this before we go off to school."

"So the fact that Lila broke up with me last week has nothing to do with your confession?"

"I didn't say that," Helga rubbed her face. "I didn't want to tell you while you were dating her."

"I still love her."

"I know."

"And I can't tell you what you want to hear."

"I know."

"Then why tell me?"

"Because it's time I did," Helga blinked back the tears. "I never thought there could be a chance between us. I only dreamed but I figure there had to be a time where I couldn't be a coward and tell you how I feel."

"I don't know how to respond without hurting you," Arnold sighed, leaning against the door of his home. "And this isn't exactly expected."

"Yeah, I hid everything behind our friendship."

"Why?"

"Because when Lila called, you came calling," Helga spat. "How could I compete against perfect Lila? You've been pining for her since we were kids."

"Well, maybe if you said something-"

"Bullshit."

"Helga, I don't want to hurt you," Arnold glanced at his watch. "And I have to pack for school."

"Listen, I only came here to tell you," Helga rubbed her arm. "Did I expect my heart be put into a blender and have it turned to frappe? Absolutely. I never hoped you felt the same."

"I'm sorry."

"You can't be sorry," Helga felt her fingernails bite into her skin. "Only annoyed."

"How do we deal with us being friends?"

"I'll let you figure that out," she shrugged. "I have my own shit to deal with."

"That's not fair."

"How do you think I feel," Helga countered. His argument wilted on his lips. "Exactly."

"Helga," Arnold struggled to find words. "You have terrible timing."

"Like I said, football-head," Helga turned on her heel. "I never expected more."

"That's a pretty awful way to think of me," Arnold wanted to run after her, to confess his feelings. But he didn't have any feelings for her that met what she wanted.

"Do you love me?"

"... as a friend."

"See? I wasn't wrong," Helga bit her lip. "Give me some space, okay?"

"Sure."

With that, Helga walked home in the brisk dusk of the day. Her phone beeped incessantly as she made her way back to the house. The weather was turning colder with every passing day, warning everyone that school was going to start soon. Phoebe and Gerald were going to the ever prestigious UCLA. Phoebe was going on a full scholarship based on her grades, scholastic achievement and essay; Gerald had been accepted on the Football team and it came with a full four year grant/scholarship combination. Helga was accepted to the University of Seattle two hours away from Hillwood. Arnold was going to Humboldt for Anthropology.

In high school, they had all become close and formed a group that managed to get through exams, rumors and dating, not that Helga had done much of it. Gerald and Phoebe had two break ups; one in 10th grade and one before Senior Prom. And all of them managed to get through it as friends. Phoebe knew about Helga's feelings towards Arnold but there was never a proper time to confess. Besides, Lila made that almost impossible. It wasn't that Miss Perfect was intimidated by Helga, but she knew about her feelings. And so Lila tried her hardest to keep Arnold to herself just to make sure that nothing happened. Helga wasn't a threat in that way. Or in anyway, really.

Helga picked up her phone.

"Hey Phoebes," Helga sighed. "I told him." Pause. Then, a hollow laugh. "I can't compete against Lila." Pause. "Sure. Come over. No ice cream."

OxOxOxO

Helga shoved the last box into her car, making sure that everything was packed away that she needed. Her computer and a few snacks were in the front alongside a large folder of paperwork for her dorm and whatnot. Helga wiped her forehead and jammed the trunk of her trusty little Camry closed before patting her pockets for the keys. With a start, she remembered that they were upstairs along with her purse. Helga went back in the empty house and took a last look around before she locked the door and smiled, getting ready to leave. She didn't expect Arnold leaning against her car, looking upset.

"You've got to be kidding me," Helga groaned.

"You're really planning on leaving without saying goodbye," he asked, frowning.

"I'm just going for a ride," she muttered evasively.

"I watched you pack your car."

"What does it matter," Helga placed her hands on her hips.

"We're friends, Helga. Doesn't that mean anything to you?"

"I asked for space," she snapped.

"So you can run away?"

"Call it what you want, Arnold. I just don't want to be here anymore. I can't take it."

"Why," Arnold took her hand gently. "Because I rejected you?"

"Why do you always have to make things about yourself," Helga yanked it back. "I already got you out of my system. I have to get to school early anyway."

"That's a lie."

"I don't care what you think, Arnold."

"I can't believe you would leave without saying good-bye," he sighed. Helga rubbed the bridge between her eyes and pressed hard to get rid of the tears. Still, they fell on her cheeks. "Helga?"

"You're so selfish, football-head," she gasped, struggling to hide her face. "I wanted to leave in peace. I didn't want my heart broken again just by seeing you."

"I-"

"NO," Helga yelled, looking furious. "You don't get to say anything! Just let me go."

"But you're my friend," Arnold tried to take a hold of her shoulders but she visibly shirked away from his touch as if it burned.

"Not right now," she snarled. Helga jammed the key into her door and opened the car. Jumping in, it took only a moment for her to turn on the car and put it on drive.

"Helga," Arnold rapped on her window sharply. She rolled it down reluctantly after she had cleaned up her face. "Why are you doing this?"

"I hate you."

"No you don't."

"I'm going to try," Helga spat. "Just go away, football-head."

"Helga, you're being immature."

"So fucking what," Helga turned off her car stepped outside. "Who gave you the fucking authority to tell me how to feel?"

"I'm not trying to do that,"Arnold raised his hands up. "I'm just-"

"Arnold, you're an asshole and you are clueless," Helga shrieked, shoving him against another car.

"Helga, calm down!"

"Stop telling me what to do," Helga paused before punching him in the stomach. "I'm leaving."

Helga was gone before he had any time to recover. She had peeled out with the fury of a thousand stray cats. Arnold coughed a few times, looking rather upset and unsure of what to do. His phone rang, startling him from his thoughts. Swiping his finger over the touch screen, he answered it hollowly.

"Hey. Um, no... Helga's not going to be joining us for lunch..."