I must say, this concept TRULY turned into something even greater than I imagined. I'm SO PROUD of what it turned into, even though it's in 3rd person which is something I usually don't do.
Anyways, this is rated M for it's language and the plot line between Arnold and Helga that can get 'graphic' and just yeah. Not sexual, so none of that.
As I've said before, I don't own Hey Arnold!
R&R and lemme know what you think!
"You realize that Olga isn't coming home this weekend, right B?"
"Hmm? Oh yeah, Miriam. I know."
"Helga? Helga, honey? Are you upstairs?"
She dragged down the stairs, stopping at the bottom and crossing her arms.
"Olga isn't coming home this weekend." Bob said.
"I know. Criminy, I'm the one who writes all that crap on the calendar that nobody in this house believes in using."
"Your sister coming home isn't crap, little lady. You should be happy that she comes home to see us, even you."
"Even me? What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means you aren't grateful of all this family does for you."
"DOES for me? You're joking, right?"
Miriam perked up slightly and looked vaguely in her direction. Her head was dipping slightly and Helga rolled her eyes.
It was Tuesday. Of course she was still at home. Miriam hadn't gone to her AA meetings since the month before. Helga had expected it. Made sick bets about it even to herself, knowing that once again, her mother would let her down.
"Olga, why would I joke?"
"I'M NOT YOUR PRECIOUS OLGA, got it dad? CRIMINY!"
"To hell you're not. Wouldn't be this ungrateful towards us."
"Fine then, I'll just move out."
"Helga..." Miriam said suddenly, slurring her words together slightly, "you're only fourteen, you can't move out."
"I'm 17 Miriam. And if anyone knew the kind of shit I put up with in this house, I would have been out a long time ago."
With that, she made a dash for her keys that were hanging on the hook and checked for her phone and wallet as they lay in her pants pockets.
"Just where do you think you're going, missy?"
"Getting away from YOU, Bob."
"What the hell did I do?"
"You never notice!"
She sat in her car and stared ahead as the engine slowly roared to life. Her hands were shaking as they rest on the top of the steering wheel, and the fair-haired teenager tried hard to get both her breathing and her emotions back in her control.
It had always been like this. Ever since she was born, she knew that she wasn't meant to be here. And by here, she meant with her 'family.' Helga knew why she had been here; with one perfect daughter, the Patakis hadn't planned for another bouncing baby girl. Bob had been waiting for a young man to proudly take on his name, but when Helga showed up instead of the boy they had planned their life for, things went downhill.
And living up to Olga wasn't a stroll in the park either. Living in Olga Pataki's shadow was, well, dark. It was a place Helga wished no other the pain of being in.
Well, except Lila that is.
But other than that, Helga knew how hard it was to be second best; to feel as though you don't matter to anybody. To most anybody, that is.
There had been him: the boy she had first lay eyes upon as a young toddler and fawned over so heavily it had gotten her into some pretty sticky situations- sometimes literally even. But it had all been worth it, for the most part.
The hot air blew hard on her and she closed her eyes to let the warmth soak into her skin.
Droplets of rain danced above her on the roof of her car, their footsteps tip-toeing across the metal to slide down across her windshield in hopes that the wipers wouldn't swiftly become their demise.
"Seven thirty seven. Not too late at least."
And it wasn't, not for a car ride to no where on a Tuesday night.
"It's not so bad, Shortman. They'll come back soon-"
"But you always say that, Grandpa. You always have. And it's been 16 years, I was one when they left and I'm 17 now. They still aren't here. Maybe it's time to give up thinking they're trying to get back."
"I don't know, Arnold. Last time you said that you-"
"Went upstairs and put my hat away, found the journal and found hope." He cut in, his Grandfather's eyes losing the glimmer of hope they once held.
"Why don't we read the journal again, hmm? Grandma can make us some of those weird sandwiches or we can order chinese food or-"
"No Grandpa. It won't work this time."
"Well why not?"
"They're gone, Grandpa." He paused, his grandfather's argument now fizzled to nothing as they stood amongst the growing silence. "And I don't know WHERE, if they're even ALIVE, but... but they're gone."
"Grandpa. Maybe they'll come back. I'm not saying that they never will... but I can't keep sitting here waiting for them to knock on that door. Even if they did... who says things would go back to normal?"
"Anything's possible, Arnold..." His normally zany grandmother quietly said from the doorway of the kitchen. "I've lived long enough to know that."
"You've lived long enough to know everything, Pookie."
She smiled slightly before shuffling her way over to where Arnold sat on the steps that led up to his room, his chin resting on the heels of each of his hands.
"Arnold," she said, her voice unusually earnest and full of warmth, "you'll see your parents. No matter the timing, you'll be with them. There's no doubt in my mind. And that's coming from a crazy old coot like me who just wants to see her son and daughter-in-law again before she rides off into the sunset."
"Don't talk like that, Grandma."
"It's true!" Her smile widening to that familiar grin Arnold had grown up with. "We all get that moment tex, and when that moment comes... you just have to smile and make your way down the next road. I'm ready. I know your Grandpa's ready-"
"Hey... who says I'm ready?" He interjected, making his way over to sit beside his football-headed grandson he had raised as he had raised his own son.
"-and I know that you're not. And your parents aren't."
"Not all people are ready though, Grandma."
She moved to sit on his other side and rested her arm around his shoulders, smiling to herself.
"That, you're right about. But... I just know."
"How? How do you 'just know?'"
"I'm an old woman! You have to believe me!"
He smiled and chuckled quietly, resting his head on her shoulder.
"I'll try Grandma."
"You'll do more than THAT, Arnold! You'll believe, darnit, you'll believe it and then... you can fly!"
"That's a Disney song, Pookie."
"It can be advice, can't it?"
"We already had to deal with one attempt to fly by you, Pookie. We don't need you helping someone else into doing it you crazy old woman!"
With a loud familiar laugh, she got up as quickly as possible and shuffled away, her laugh fading into the distance as Grandpa followed her all the way.
Moments after, Arnold went to sit in his car, old, but running fine and had been fixed up quite a bit by a few friends from school who knew what to do to make cars the best they can be for cheap.
Arnold had always wanted to believe that one day, his parents would find a way back to him. They had to, after all. As a kid, you don't think about the possibilities, you only think about the way things would work out according to your wishes. This is what he had found himself doing last Tuesday, and it urked him that he had allowed it to proceed this long. It was time Arnold started to be realistic instead of optimistic. He wasn't Eugene after all. There were so many possibilities that could have happened, and in his passed 16 years since they had never returned, he had thought of every single one. They could be captured. Their plane could have broken down. They could be sick, or crippled, or hurt and being nursed back to health. They could be running from a crazy criminal, or they could be trying to save yet another tribe who had helped them along the way. They could have somehow developed amnesia and are trying to piece back their lives together in their heads.
And then, there was that last possibility.
They... they could have died.
Arnold shuddered at the thought every time it entered his brain, and each time, he tried to push it aside to dwell in some dark corner where his other problems lay. All his life, Arnold had never once asked his grandparents outright if they believed his parents to be dead. To Arnold, that would be an insensitive gesture on his part to ask a question he knew they considered every day since their departure. In the end, they were their son and their daughter-in-law, and that had to hurt to think they'd never see them again before they too... died.
Death was something Arnold was so terribly afraid of. And not in a way like most people feared death, in an almost unhealthy way. He refused to admit anyone's absence to that horrible word that insinuated what came next beyond our universe, wherever we went. He believed in heaven, and frequently said that is where his lost ones had flown away to, but deep in his heart, he was afraid. Afraid of closing his eyes and falling asleep to nothing. Nobody knew, and he certainly hoped his parents weren't an exception.
Arnold sat in his car with the key resting in the ignition.
"Where am I supposed to even go?" He mumbled to himself, perplexed as to where would bring him any sort of comfort to the questions that haunted him every day since he realized his parents weren't just on a week-long trip.
Arnold glanced to the blue digital clock that shone, 7:37 and shrugged.
"At least it isn't too late." He said to himself as he pulled the stick shift into drive.
And it wasn't, not for a car ride to no where on a Tuesday night.
Up above her, Helga watched as big black birds flew high in the stormy sky. Despite the rain, she found it funny that they could find in themselves such strength to get to their destinations no matter the weather.
"Crazy birds..." She muttered to herself, her eyes dodging between the sky and what was in front of her as she drove.
Helga sighed deeply as she silently envied those birds. She resented them for being able to fly so carelessly to any place they want while she struggled to stay on the ground; struggled to survive when her parents clearly didn't want her there. At this point, she wasn't even sure that anybody wanted her here. The blond girl had tried all her life to get her parents to look at her with half the adoration they looked at her older sister Olga with. She noticed the glimmer that danced in her parents' eyes whenever her name came up in casual conversation and it hurt her. It ripped at that small part of her that still childishly longed for a meaningful hug, a loving look or an encouraging word from those who made her and brought her into this sometimes unfair world.
Sometimes? Hmph. Helga thought to herself, turning left onto a random street that seemed to drive deep into Hillwood, maybe even out of the city.
To Helga, anywhere was better than where she came from. Maybe driving far away from Hillwood would do her some good. Maybe she could drive so far away, she would run out of gas and find a hotel and use some of the money she had saved from her job last summer at the local music store. She smirked to herself remembering how empty the job was. Almost nobody visited 'High End Records,' which is probably why the place closed down, but it was somewhere to go and something to do when so many of her friends had changed so completely that Helga no longer wished to be in their company.
She rolled her eyes as she turned on her signal to pass a slow moving car ahead of her.
Helga recalled exactly why she had taken the job, and she had to admit that it wasn't a reason she was too proud of. Sure, it was something to do and sure it was somewhere to go, but it was also the place Arnold frequently visited to buy his off-the-wall Jazz music nobody had ever heard of. Countless times she had ordered in special albums knowing he'd be looking for them, just to watch him get that smile he hadn't worn for ages it felt like.
Their Junior year wasn't the best of years for Arnold, she had noticed. His face seemed so worn, and his familiar laugh didn't fill up the room as often as it used to in the classes they shared together. Nowadays, Helga tried to do all she could to make the oddly-shaped headed boy laugh or even roll his eyes, but the once simple task seemed an impossible challenge lately.
Maybe it was Lila. Maybe it was because she said no to going to Junior Prom with him, and instead went with Stinky.
"Arnold, I'm just so honored that you would ask me to go to Prom with you, just ever so much. But to be perfectly honest, I had kind of hoped to go with Stinky. I hope you won't hold it against me." the freckled girl had sugar-coated her no to a 't' and Arnold nodded his head trying to be as sympathetic as possible.
"Never Lila. I understand. I hope you have fun."
"Oh, I'm sure I will. Not to worry, Arnold. I'm just oh too sure that you'll find a date too."
But he hadn't. He went alone and seemed to have a fairly decent time. The dance wasn't overly exciting, mostly just everyone in their class grinding up on anything with a heartbeat and Rhonda looking even sluttier than she typically did. Arnold wasn't one of them, though. The football-headed boy stood on the sidelines drinking punch and joining in on the dances most weddings took advantage of, songs like the cha-cha slide, the macarena, the YMCA and the hokey pokey. He smiled and laughed and even slow-danced with that auburn haired girl Helga despised so much. However, while Helga stood in the corner watching him enjoy himself, she didn't dare walk up to him in her fancy pink dress that made her look like the princess she never felt worthy enough to be. Arnold hadn't seen her, she thought, and once again only proved to her that she wasn't noticed by anyone, not even the boy she had pined after her entire life.
The 17 year old's green eyes focused up on the sky as it rumbled and roared in protest. Up above, he watched as a series of birds soared across the dark clouds. This had Arnold's mind wandering to think about whether or not one could fly through such clouds. He imagined they could, after all, plane departures hadn't been canceled because of a little storm like the one Hillwood was encountering tonight. He wondered if the birds had to dodge the large water drops that fell from the heavens and he fought the urge to close his eyes and imagine what it would feel like to be so free like they must feel up above him as he drove on the bumpy road beneath him.
I wonder what it feels like to fly in those clouds, he thought, glancing up at the sky before returning his gaze on the road ahead of him. If they feel like smoke, feel like fog. Maybe they smell different, or even taste different.
The thoughts and ideas seemed trivial and unimportant, almost silly, but it didn't stop him from wondering just what it would feel like to fly amongst the clouds. Maybe the birds wondered what it felt like to drive on the ground.
Maybe they know; maybe my parents know what it's like. He found himself thinking, chewing on his lip to fight tears that had been threatening him all day; all week even.
"Where are you?" He asked aloud to the sky that held no more answers than he did and he frowned for a moment, turning on his blinker to make a right-hand turn onto what seemed to be an abandoned road he imagined led to no where.
Maybe Grandpa is right. Maybe they still are out there. Anything IS possible. Maybe they're trying to get back to us, to me. Maybe they've even TRIED to contact us. His parents were clever after all, he had been told all of his life. They could be stuck, even. The green eyes are probably helping them the way my parents had helped them; even helped me. Or maybe they have tried to talk to me, maybe they wrote a message on the sky and the clouds blocked it, even. Maybe that's what they're doing right now.
The thoughts were unfiltered, he allowed every silly idea to pass through his mind without so much of a 'that's unlikely' to ruin each possible answer to the question he had so desperately longed for an answer to.
He looked up again to the gray sky and continued to watch the birds so easily fly across the open space above in the exact direction they wish to be. No hesitation, they continued to fly, maybe going home to their bird families to reunite at last after a long time being apart.
Arnold smirked sarcastically to himself, the rain falling much harder now for him to turn his wipers to the highest setting.
Silently, Arnold wished to whatever could hear his somewhat crazy thoughts that humans had been the ones born with wings. Maybe if they had, his parents could come back to him.
"It isn't fair," Helga shouted in her car, the rain loudly agreeing with her as it picked up speed falling to the Earth, "Why can't she just go to her stupid meetings? One month and she quits. One MONTH and she just gives up, but Bob of course says nothing about it because he's only concerned with his new damn cellphone company. No time for his wife, though wife isn't something I'd really refer to Miriam as, and no time for the daughter sitting here getting 4.0s. It's like he doesn't get it, he doesn't SEE. Criminy!" she smacked her hand against the steering wheel and scowled deeply.
The AA meetings had really helped her mom the first month she attended them. For the whole month, Miriam had really taken a turn for the better, going out and doing things with Helga and even sitting in her room with her to talk about school with her. It only took one fight from Bob for the whole thing to get ruined, however. All he had to say was that it was a waste of time and that she should be ashamed to have to go to some 'nancy little thing like that' for help to something she could quit any time she wanted to.
The next week, she didn't go, much to Helga's protesting. The week after, she instead got so plastered, she passed out on the stairs.
That was when Helga knew it was hopeless. Somewhere inside her mother there was a woman who had been so destroyed that she didn't know how to get out.
Deep inside Bob was just... more Bob. It hadn't taken long for Helga to give up on him completely. He was far beyond hopeless, as far as Helga was concerned, he was a waste. All he had done was make everyone else feel bad about what they were or what they needed help with, and as the 17 year old had watched her entire life, it had only made things much worse.
She had to hand it to Olga, she thought as she pushed on the gas pedal a little harder while driving on the seemingly open road, at least when she was here Bob was kept at bay. He didn't say many hurtful things as if he were trying to put on some dog show for Olga. Helga wasn't blind, she knew that he tried to impress her the way a kindergarten student tried to suck up to his teacher. And Olga, oblivious as she was, took it all in stride; probably bragging to her friends even of her perfect family and her perfect daddy, her perfect mommy and her less-than perfect baby sister.
That was what Helga felt like to her parents, which was maybe why she spoke so lowly of them to anybody who would listen. They treated her less-than human, and as far as she was concerned, that made them about as much of parents to her as the wallpaper curling on her wall was.
Arnold swallowed the lump growing in his throat.
How could they just leave? How could they not even try to get back to me? His thoughts were taking a turn for the worst as he pressed on the gas pedal while making another turn onto a curvy country road. He had no idea where he was, but he had a full tank of gas, so the blonde boy wasn't too concerned about not being able to get home the way his parents never had.
Arnold had waited a little over 16 years for his parents' return to the boarding house to claim what they had left so long ago. It felt to him that he had waited his entire life to meet his parents for what would feel like the first time. And he had, essentially. All the memories he had of them weren't his own, but stories told to him to get him to sleep all the way up until his thirteenth birthday.
"Memories only last so long, there are only so many of them we can recall, Shortman." His Grandpa told him as he sat on the edge of his grandson's bed. "Is there one you'd like to hear again maybe? Or I could embellish one like I used to when you were a little boy..."
"It's fine, Grandpa."
"Are you sure, Arnold? Maybe I could go and get your Grandma and see if she has any stories I've missed, though I wouldn't entirely trust those memories of hers nowadays-"
"Grandpa. Really. It's okay."
But to Arnold, it really hadn't been.
He had graduated P.S 118 as a mighty sixth grader, he smiled to his Grandparents in the crowd as they sat beside the boarders who gave Arnold a thumbs up as his class took the stage for the elementary school graduation ceremony. Arnold remembered imagining that the two empty seats beside them had been filled; his parents too smiling and flashing him a thumbs up in congratulations. But he couldn't fool himself forever.
While his parents were gone, he had experienced his first kiss, or rather kissES. They had missed his first school play of Romeo and Juliet in which he had the lead. They had missed the Parent's Day games he would have loved to experience with them and they had missed hearing about the crazy experience of saving the neighborhood, and the even crazier kiss atop of the F.T.i building that he cared not to think too deeply about. While he'd go to bed each night and look up at the stars that stared down at him, he'd quietly tell them about his every day, even the monotonous aspects each day held. He wanted them to know it all, because they had missed so much already.
He had made it through middle school, even. He had survived through the acne, the hormones, the heartbreaks, the cliques and the rough changes that everyone, including himself, went through. He'd grown so much taller from his small stature he had become accustomed to being teased about, even though Helga still didn't let him live it down that he was an inch shorter than her still. And through every rough change, every voice crack and every painful inch grown, he closed his eyes at night imagined his parents sitting beside him on his bed and telling him that in the end it would all be worth it, and he would be the most handsome man the world had ever seen; even if he knew they were only saying it because they were his parents.
Without their presence, he had gone on his first 'official' date with a girl in his Algebra class named Becky, even though he would have rather shared it with Lila. As he walked to pick her up, his Grandpa patted his shoulder and wished him luck, and while he smiled and took in his advice, he silently wished that it had been his Grandpa's son, Arnold's own father who had given him such advice before going off to the rather disastrous date.
They had missed his first few girlfriends, even if they weren't very serious and didn't lead to much of anything. Just them not being there to meet any of them, or hear about any of them, his parents being gone had left a hole in the things he wished he could share with them the way all of his friends were able to share with their parents. It didn't seem fair to him, but he had tried to keep going; making mental note of the things he'd have to tell them when they DID return, if they ever did.
Just this year they had missed him getting dressed up for his first formal dance, for his Junior Prom. And while he didn't go with anyone, even though he had asked, the night was fairly fun, and he only wished he could have had that picture standing beside his parents with a big smile on his face. Instead, he stood awkwardly while his grandparents struggled to figure out how their new camera worked and by the time they got a picture of him alone, he was already late.
As he drove on the road he frowned at the knowledge that what felt like half of his life had slipped so quickly through the spaces between his fingers and his parents hadn't even been there to see any of it. And it hurt him to know that nobody else knew how he felt. Everyone in his class had parents. They all had the support of the ones who made them and they didn't appreciate it. They instead complained about how sometimes they were busy or how sometimes they grounded them for doing something wrong or foolish. Arnold didn't find it fair one bit.
He hated himself for being so jealous of Gerald. Gerald had a whole FAMILY. He had a brother, a little sister who looked up to him more than she looked up to anybody else in the entire world. He had a mother who loved and a father who was strict, but would give the world for his happiness. They attended every basketball game he played in, sometimes traveling long distances just to watch him run around on the court without even making one basket in some rare games. They had taken ALBUMS full of pictures together, pictures from vacations and from birthdays. They had countless pictures from when Gerald and Phoebe went to Prom together and even more pictures from their first date together the year before. They had laughed and clapped and scolded and grounded Gerald countless times, but through it all, they loved him so much and were there for him as much as they possibly could be. Gerald found it to be normal, something he took for granted, and Arnold found it hard to listen to him complain on those rare occasions because he wished HE could complain.
But he couldn't. Not about his parents. Nothing more than complain about how they just weren't there.
Arnold scrunched his eyebrows together realizing that maybe there was SOMEONE who understood, at least understood more than anybody else.
He knew that Helga essentially didn't have parents. They never attended her poetry readings, or her high school plays she often starred as leading roles in. In fact, the only appearances they tend to make were the ones they were expected to be at, although elementary graduation was one that hurt Helga quite a bit as they had chosen to pick up Olga at the airport instead of gone to her graduation.
"It's just some lame excuse. I even heard her offer to spend the night so they could go to the ceremony, but here I am," She said, her arms outstretched as they stood in line to make their way for their class graduation on the stage in the auditorium, "But I'm used to it." she said, shrugging her shoulders.
It made Arnold sad that she didn't have ANYONE. At least he had the boarders and his grandparents.
However, it still made him mad that she had parents and he didn't, even if they weren't much of parents to her.
Arnold pushed on the pedal as he drove around the curve, his frown deepening.
It wasn't fair. It just wasn't fair.
They both thought as they drove on the road that seemed so far away from the street they grew up on together, both battling very separate battles between them and the sometimes cruel world.
It's just not fair. They thought, their expressions morphing into ones of disappointment and resentment to the things they felt had let them down.
The rain hit their windshields hard. It seemed that life wasn't the only thing against them. As they drove fast and far away from their problems, it occurred to them that they had only run themselves into another problem.
But by the time they realized it, it was too late.
Sometimes, as they had learned their entire lives, life just wasn't fair.
They didn't realize they hadn't been alone, and the universe wasn't about to let them forget it.
The time hadn't really moved much. It's funny how minds move so fast; how our thoughts go faster than time on so many occasions.
Seven fourty two. It had taken but five minutes for their cars to smack one another right into the nearby ditch, Helga's beaten up old car flipping 180 degrees until she was upside down and trapped in the box of metal that soon over-heated and set on fire, despite the water falling near violently from the sky above.
"This isn't happening..." Helga shouted, trying to wiggle her way out of the crumpled car that was pushing so hard on her leg, she couldn't move it, or get over the overwhelming pain that was taking over the nerves in her appendage. "This isn't HAPPENING!" She started to scream for help once she noticed the growing flames she saw were sprouting from the hood of her car. She looked up at the ceiling of her car as it grazed the top of her head. "Somebody! Somebody please HELP ME!" She shouted, her lungs soon hurting as they began to inhale the smoke that was drifting in her direction.
While she hadn't worn her seat belt, as she typically didn't despite Phoebe's constant warnings, the airbag was pushing hard against her chest, and she found that air was quickly escaping her.
Arnold sat in his seat in shock. His head was falling to the side as his car was tilted on the passenger side and he quietly counted the his blessings that he hadn't been on that side of the car on this particular day.
"What am I supposed to do..." He asked himself, reaching up to rub the gash on his forehead.
Lucky for Arnold, his car hadn't flipped entirely over. Looking up, he saw his door hadn't been hurt in any way, and he quickly thought of a plan to get himself out of the car.
He smelled smoke.
Smoke meant fire.
"This isn't good."
"This isn't good..." Helga muttered as she tried yet again to get her leg freed from whatever was holding her in place. "This is it. It's over." She said, tears now falling from her eyes as she didn't bother to reach up and wipe them away. "Nobody can hear me... the other person is probably DEAD. I'm STUCK. Criminy... this WOULD happen to me." She was thinking back to why she left in the first place and found that it didn't matter anymore. Nothing mattered anymore, because this was the end.
Arnold knew this wasn't the end, however. He had heard enough stories about his parents to know that if his parents could survive the jungle, could survive saving countless peoples lives from a tram car, could survive a VOLCANO while his mother was pregnant with him, that he could survive a little car crash. Sure, it wasn't the best situation, but he could see a way out and he wasn't about to give up.
Besides, he thought, I hit someone because something is on fire, and it isn't me.
It was time for him to live up to his name for his parents. It was time to make them proud of their son.
Fighting against gravity, Arnold reached up and out for the door handle and pulled it to get the door to open. Although, he hadn't realized how hard it would be to push the door open. After unbuckling his seat belt, he twisted around as best as he could and aimed both of his feet for the door. Using all of his strength, he kicked the door up and open enough to grab hold of the side of the car and pull himself up and out of his now totaled car.
Taking a moment to breath and look himself over, realizing his arm was in pretty rough shape, along with the large gash on his forehead, he was perfectly fine.
He was fine.
Noticing his small blue hat just inside of the car, he reached in carefully and pulled it out to retrieve it, only to catch notice of the car in front of his, completely turned upside down.
After placing his hat back on, he fought the growing pain in his left arm and ran as fast as he could to the car, stopping just feet from the large flames threatening his entry.
JMS 437 the license plate read.
The car was an old dying brown Cadillac that looked more like a boat than a car, and Arnold's eyes grew wide as he noticed the familiar shade of pink that was sitting motionless in the driver's seat.
"Helga? Helga?" He called out as loudly as he could, trying to make his way to the car blocking him with flames taller than him.
"Helga! Helga can you hear me?"
"Go away. I'm going to die here." a muffled voice called out from the crushed car.
"Helga, it's me! Arnold!"
There was a pause as he stood in the rain that soaked him to the bone.
"Yes, yes Helga it's me. Can you get out?"
"Does it LOOK like I can get out, bucko? The whole damn car is on FIRE."
"I'm going to try and come to your side of the car, okay? Just stay put."
"Like I have a CHOICE." She groaned, her voice irritated, but breaking as she hadn't stopped crying since it all happened.
Helga sat broken and bleeding in the car, her body shaking wildly from fear as the flames spread quickly from the front of the car to where she was seated. The world morphed from it's heat as she watched the flames devour everything in it's path. She looked to her window and saw an upside-down football-headed boy looking at her with a terrified pair of perfect green eyes.
"What a good way to die."
"What are you talking about, Helga? You're going to make it."
"I'm not, Arnold. I'm stuck. My leg is caught by something and I can't move it."
"Maybe if I help you-"
"I don't want your HELP, Arnold. Just... just stand here and talk to me."
His eyebrows scrunched together in confusion. It was such an odd request, even for Helga, and he shook his head determined to get them both safely away from the site.
"Helga, we don't have much time-"
"JUST STAND HERE AND TALK TO ME." She yelled in his face and he felt his eyes well with tears, not wanting to watch Helga... to watch his... friend, die.
"What... what do you want to talk about?" He asked quietly, surveying the situation of the car trying to find an escape the way he had with his own car.
Her 'boat' was pretty damaged. It must have rolled over a few times, as it looked more like a raisin than a vehicle, and the only way of possible escape looked to be the very window he was looking at her through, it's glass having shattered out of it from the crash.
"Are... are..." She coughed some smoke from her lungs and blinked back a few more tears. "Are you okay?"
He couldn't believe she was so casual about what was happening. Why would anyone want to die? Like this?
We all get that moment tex, and when that moment comes... you just have to smile and make your way down the next road. I'm ready.
Could Helga really be ready too?
"Helga, why are you doing this?"
"I just want to help you out. Please." He offered his hand and she turned away from him as best she could.
"Why do you care? Nobody cares, Arnold. Everyone... they'll be fine. They don't notice me anyways."
"What are you TALKING about, Helga? I'm standing here right now trying to help you because I NOTICE you and I don't want to stand here and watch you die!"
"Because I care! Now give me your hand and lets get out of here before we BOTH die when your car explodes!" His hand was outstretched far, and both of the teenagers were sweating profusely from the extreme heat brought on by the flames. With much effort, Helga reached out, taking hold of his hand and gripping it tightly.
"I'm telling you Arnold... I'm stuck. My leg won't move."
"You can't move it?"
She shook her head, her eyes full of worry, overpowered by the look of sheer terror.
It was odd for Arnold to see the same look in her that he had seen at Junior Prom a few weekends ago. While trapped in the car she looked so scared and so dirty, but more than that she looked hurt and broken. Even as she was dressed in that beautiful pink dress that made her blue eyes shine so bright under the disco lights, and her hair was curled and pinned atop of her head to look like a cascading waterfall over her perfectly made-up face he found behind her arms crossed so stubbornly the same look as she held in the tragic event that had just happened.
What was it about Helga G. Pataki that could make her so strong, so tough and so in-your-face on the outside, but make her so broken, lost, and scared on the inside?
He pulled as hard as he could, and Helga groaned, and yelped from the pain it was causing on her trapped leg.
"Arnold! Arnold! HEY FOOTBALL-HEAD stop pulling for a second!"
"What? What's wrong?"
"This isn't going to work, is what's wrong. We need to think of something else."
"But what? We don't have much time-"
"I KNOW we don't have much time, dope, but what we're doing now is just WASTING the time we DO have because it ISN'T WORKING!"
"You don't have to yell, Helga..."
"I DO! I'm... I'm... we just have to think of something else."
She hesitated for a moment, searching her brain for any sort of information she may have previously learned throughout her life.
She remembered the guy who had cut his arm off, but she neither had the time or the means to do such a thing, so she scratched that option off her mental list.
She bit her lip, still holding Arnold's hand and shook her head.
"I'm going to have to suck it up."
"Listen to me, Arnold," she said, her eyes locking with his in the most sincere moment either blond could manage, "you're going to have to pull as hard as you can. Ignore my yelling, ignore my screaming, ignore EVERYTHING I'm about to say, but pull. Cause... cause... this is going to fucking hurt."
The flames grew closer, and they were starting to reach Helga's body as it tried to eat her flesh along with the car.
"Are you sure?"
"Arnold... I don't have a choice."
So he pulled, and Helga remained utterly silent. If anyone had been around the two within a mile radius, they wouldn't have heard a single painful yelp that should have been emitted from the car that had been set ablaze. The fire had made it's way to Helga, and amidst the pain of her leg being pulled from whatever had caught it so tightly, she was biting her lip from the fire as it burned at her skin.
But she never screamed. She never said a word. Everything she needed to say was being told as she looked into Arnold's eyes and never looked away, never even blinked.
When he finally extracted her from the car; her army crawling out as best as she could, they both avoided looking at whatever had happened to her leg, and remained looking at each other. He picked her up with all the strength he had and carried her through the pain in his broken left arm to get them both as far away from the car that was moments from exploding.
After he set her down, sitting behind her to hold her up and make sure that if they were going to go down, it'd be together, they watched as the car erupted into the largest light display either of them had ever seen in their lives. The colors of yellow, orange and red intertwined so perfectly it was hard to remember that what was happening, wasn't a beautiful work of nature.
Helga sat shivering as Arnold took off the red flannel that he had been wearing and draped it over her to keep her warm.
"I told you we'd get out."
"I didn't need your help, Arnold. I would have been fine."
"You would have died."
She continued to watch what was once her car, her attention locked on the fire as it danced before her eyes.
The rain had slowly come to a stop, and Helga carefully reached into her back pocket to grab her cellphone and hand it to Arnold.
"You need to call 911."
Nodding, he took her phone and dialed the number as told, reporting to them just what had happened and how they needed an ambulance right away, describing Helga's condition to the best of his ability. As they sat together, their thoughts in entirely different places, they thought back to just what it was that brought them where they were.
Helga swallowed some blood that had found it's way into her mouth and reached out for Arnold's hand, him squeezing hers tightly. She had been wrong. In that instant, Helga G. Pataki had been wrong about all she had thought about the football-headed savior that had saved her life. He had noticed her all along. Her whole life, she had clung to this boy in hopes that one day she would be noticed again the way he had noticed her those years ago at their pre-school. Arnold had been what kept her going, kept her getting through her home life and waking up every day to face whatever life would throw at her. And as they lay holding hands, the sounds of sirens filling the air around them, she smiled knowing that as long as Arnold was around, she didn't have to worry about not being noticed again.
The medics rushed to the two teenagers as they watched them in shock, completely silent as they helped them up from the wet grass beneath them.
Arnold was still holding Helga's hand as the medics pulled her onto the gurney and only let go for a moment as they hoisted her into the back of the ambulance.
"You doing okay, son?" One medic asked, as he took notice of Arnold's left arm and he nodded slowly. "How about we get you to come with us on the ambulance? We'll fix you up at the hospital, okay?"
As he sat beside Helga on the ride to the hospital, Arnold began to think about just how close he really was to his parents after all. All his life he had heard countless stories about his parents' unending courage, and their constant sacrifice to help those that couldn't help themselves, or thought they couldn't. He looked to Helga as she lay silent on the gurney staring up at the light that shone in the back of the ambulance and found himself proud the way his parents would be. Whether he'd ever see them or not, he knew that he had to make them as proud to have him as a son as he was to have them as his parents.
Maybe what they had been looking for wasn't as hard to find as they had thought.
"You guys want to call anyone? Is there anyone we should contact?"
Helga shook her head and Arnold reached for her hand once again.
"Could you call my grandparents? The Sunset Arms boarding house."
"And about you, miss?"
"She's with me."
Helga's eyes flashed to Arnold as he smiled to the man nodding his head and returning his attention to Helga.
"It's going to be okay, alright? We'll be at the hospital in no time. Can I ask just what it was you two were doing out there in the middle of no where in the first place?"
They smiled and replied in unison,
"Just getting away."