Promise of Tomorrow

 By: Silver Kitten

A/N: Hi everyone!  Well, this is my second fic for Hey Arnold! And I don't think I'm out of line by saying it's better than my last one.  At least that's what I think.  I've been planning this one for months now and finally I got it to the point where I'm ready to submit.  I have to say though I almost didn't post this for two reasons: 1) Phoebe is one of my favorite characters and I didn't really want to do this to her, but without that there wouldn't be a story line.  2) Since one of my very close friends was diagnosed with cancer I didn't know how to deal with it.  It isn't terminal, but the thought is very scary.  So then I decided this should be written in kind of a dedication/tribute to anyone who ever lost a friend, or had such an ordeal, to prove that true friendship lasts through any hardship. 

Dedication: To my good friend, whom shall remain nameless, who in part inspired this story.  And to another good friend, Rachel, because I promised her the next fic I wrote would be dedicated to her lol. 

Disclaimer: Hey Arnold! And all its components do in fact belong to me; Craig just doesn't know it yet…haha just kidding.  (Or do I kid you not???) ^_~

2nd A/N: hehe sorry, I thought I'd mention that most of this is written in retrospect as seen in Helga's point of view.  Ok, lastly, I hope you like it.  I won't make you review but it would be nice to know how I did. 

~*~ I will remember you

Will you remember me?

Don't let your life pass you by

Weep not for the memories ~*~

"I Will Remember You" – Sarah McLaughlin

We were throwing rocks in the river.  It was a common thing we did, something we often did for the sole company of each other, sort of a friendly bonding.  You had that gleam in your eyes and it wasn't from your glasses but from a distant place in your eyes.  Every time you looked at the water you'd sigh.  Every time you threw a rock and watched it sink pitifully to the bottom you seemed mesmerized by the ripples like taking every single one in.  Why didn't you tell me then?

We were at Slausens eating extra large triple fudge sundaes, laughing at timid stories and making jokes about them; talking about the latest homework assignments.  You had that same gleam in your eye with every spoonful you took.  It was there when you'd daze off looking out the window at nothing particular. You weren't being yourself.  Why didn't you tell me then?

We were on the bus going home after school and you stared at Gerald the whole way.  That wasn't out of the ordinary, but what was had been that same curious gleam in your eyes.  I knew you had something bothering you or some kind of problem etched in your mind you wanted to talk about, but you ignored that issue every time I inquired, like I would brush it a way eventually.  Now, I feel even worse that I did for that brief second. 

I should have seen it earlier, or noticed quicker, or asked sooner, but I knew what that gleam was.  There was a moistness that clouded your eyes and it wasn't anything having to do with the light and its refraction, it was tears. You're tears, creeping from behind your eyes you tried so desperately to fight.  I shouldn't ask why you didn't tell me then, I should have known, but then again I had no idea.  No idea what was going on with you.  It isn't fair to ask why you didn't tell me previously, were it me I would have waited too. 

Then, when you finally came to me to talk, I found it funny, inwardly.  I was suspecting maybe you were feeling down because you got an A- over an A+.  Or maybe you made one error in a five thousand-word essay.  I mean, heaven forbid you're ever one second late to class before the bell rings.  Then all humor in the possible situation diminished like a flame in a windstorm.  Because when you told me I wasn't laughing, I was crying.

"Helga, there's something I've been meaning to tell you…something serious." You said to me, head hung down and something disclosed in your voice, I think it was lament. 

"What is it?" I asked.  A simple question too simple for the complicated answer returned. 

"I…I'm sick." You said.  I let out a hefty sigh of relief.

"Oh Phoebes, you had me scared for a moment.  You're only sick…you don't sound sick though." I laughed a little.  "So what is it, a cold?  Flu?  Were you worried you wouldn't be in school?  Because I little cold never hurt-"

"Cancer." You said.  I choked on my words after you interjected the mere concept.  I tried closing my mouth, but the sudden dryness interfered.  I then tried swallowing but I could barely breathe.  When I finally took a breath reality caused a calamity in my head. 

"Cancer?" my voice shriveled up repeating it.  "No…not you Phoebe."

"I'm afraid so…the tests I took indicated it clearly." You told me.

"Yeah well maybe they were wrong…maybe someone dropped the papers and your paper was switched.  Remember the aptitude test we took?  My paper was switched with Harold's!  The same thing could have happened!" I tried to excuse the idea this was possible.

"No Helga…I wish it did happen that way…but it didn't.  What's worse is…my case is terminal.  I was given a few months…"

"A few months?  That can't be.  You have your whole life ahead of you!  You're supposed to graduate high school as valedictorian and be voted most likely to succeed.  You're supposed to go to the best college there is and major in whatever you want just because you're that smart.  You're supposed to find the guy of your dreams and get married and have 2.5 kids and raise them to be perfect, just like you!"  By the time I finished my eyes were misting over, but through the watery vision I could tell you were crying. 

I just pulled you into a hug, and I didn't care any longer about hiding tears.  We cried together, we hugged; we shared a moment I'd never let myself forget. 

After the few weeks that dropped like petals on a wilting flower, you and I tried focusing on today instead of tomorrow.  It was nice, actually.  There were few, brief, moments I could be released from the torment your illness was causing me.  I hated seeing you in so much pain, so much turmoil.  There were nights I'd cry myself to sleep for you because I knew you wouldn't be sleeping any better. 

When some of the kids started asking why you weren't at school as often, which turned into not at all, I would stumble over words on what to say to them.  It wasn't my place to say you were…expiring. 

You know, sometimes I would laugh quietly to myself.  I remembered when I thought I was dying because of that monkey… you rushed into the room and said it wasn't so.  You gave a reason for me to believe that I wasn't going to expire.  I was fine.  But any laugher resolved from that is of mockery.  Because as much as I want to, I can't waltz up to you and tell you you're not going to expire, that you were fine. 

More days passed on.  I think I succeeded in making you believe I was convinced this was just a part of life.  This was what destiny had in store for you, and somewhere down the road a reason would be for it.  Because you told me that God has a plan for us all, and he allows good to come from all bad.  I still don't understand…why you?  Why do you have to leave? 

When your condition worsened I felt a part of me slowly distinguish.  I stayed with you every night in the hospital with your parents, and when they fell asleep I was awake.  I know its silly, but I kept on thinking that I was sleeping and this was a bad dream and tomorrow I'd wake up and everything would be back to the way it was.  You wouldn't have to wear hats to make up for lost hair.  You wouldn't have tubes stuck in you.  You wouldn't have to sleep on uncomfortable starchy sheets and eat hospital food. 

One day I came to see you.  You weren't doing well at all.  I instantly thought of something that would cheer you up, something that would make you feel a little better, if you saw him.  I used the payphone and called.  He was surprised to hear from me of all people, but when I told him why I was calling he didn't hesitate for a second to get here.  I met him outside the entrance, told him your room number and we ran.  I watched your eyes light up when Gerald came in.  I said I'd give you some time to talk and closed the door and sat outside the door waiting. 

Then he came out, shut the door stiffly and stood there.  At first he looked at the floor but then when I stood up he looked at me.  We just stared at each other, feeling the mutual sorrow for you.  Then something unlikely occurred.  It didn't strike me until during it, but he came towards me and hugged me, his head on my shoulder and he was crying.  He was breaking down and for once it didn't matter about our past, the differences between us were left to only recall. 

"She's only nine," he whispered.  

I hugged him back and cried with him offering my empathy and for the first time…my friendship which surprisingly enough he accepted.

He cares for you a lot Phoebe, more than you'd ever imagine.  He brought you a bright yellow daffodil everyday because he knew it was your favorite.  He told me that you said it reminded you of the sun, something you haven't seen or felt for a while now.  Which gave us the idea to have a picnic on a warm, sunny day with all your favorite foods and no I.V.'s or nurses around.  Arnold came too…and I could tell you were happy to see him and me not arguing…or at least me arguing with him. 

We even had a picture taken of all of us that I take with me everywhere I go.  It's now in a gold heart-shaped locket placed over a certain picture that's been there for a long time.  I even had a new inscription made that said "No matter where they are, true friends stay in our hearts forever." 

            At one point in time, you beckoned me; you had a favor to ask.  You had some sheepish smile, constantly reconfigured due to pain. 

"I need you to promise me something." You began.  "As…a final request…my dying wish, not to place any guilt on you, but I want you to promise me to tell Arnold how you feel."

The thought jumped through every corner of my mind.  How could I possibly come to terms with telling the love of my life my true feelings, knowing that it's my friend's last request?  Sure, it would be one thing to want to tell him for personal gain, but I could always hold back and keep it to myself if something caused me to be too afraid, or fate should choose another direction.  But to know it is relied upon a closing aspiration of one I truly care about, and have it sworn to my conscience is…unbearable. 

But for you, Phoebe…I was cornered in my own will to oblige.  You were always there for me, 24/7 from day one.  To know I treated you like the floor I walked on, ordered you around, never respected you like you deserved to be…it hurt.  How could I have been so stubborn, so absent minded as to not even think about how selfless you were to me?  Oh, the heartlessness…

"Of course," you began again.  "I wouldn't make you do anything, and I'm much willing to strike a compromise.  Lets say this…upon attempting to become an author, hypothetically speaking you do, a rather famous one.  Then it is my ultimatum to you to confess, but until that time comes you must be nicer to him, regardless of your occupation.  Is that a deal?" You always knew how to jump through the loop but end up pulling me through with you. That's how you saved me so many times, seeing things I should have seen earlier, like when I was sleepwalking.  Still though it was awkward your sense of security in our little bargain.  

"It's a deal…quite an ultimatum, but a deal." I said, lightening up. 

"By the way, Phoebe…I need to, and I want to sincerely apologize…I was never the appreciative friend I should have been…you always…put yourself on the line for me.  I want to thank you."

"Oh Helga, you act like I won't be here tomorrow." I stared at the floor and you giggled.

"Tomorrow's aren't always promised, I've learned that much…" I told you.  

"True…but there is a promise for tomorrow.  I may not be here tomorrow…or maybe the next day…physically.  But I believe that I'll be here with you, in your heart and by your side, because true friends are the promise of tomorrow." you smiled at me, and with your eyes pleaded for my accepting of it.  

"You know," you started after a second or so.  "It's sort of humorous.  You say it's so bad to have a sister, and I never had one…except you.  Till this day I don't know what's so horrible about them."

I tried to hide it from you, the tears that were forming in my eyes, but I think you saw them because you watered up too.  So many years I tried being strong for myself, and now I'm trying to be strong for you and myself.  I finally made the right decision and put you first, something I should have done the first day of preschool.  

"Phoebe…How can you refer to me as a sister?  Most of your lifetime was spent being some kind of slave for me.  Answering my every call, picking up something from the store, you were always 'getting', 'coming', 'calling', and 'doing' everything I asked for.  You were never defeated by anything I did that would possibly hurt you.  And this cancer does definitely not defeat you.  I need to ask you, what keeps you going?  Where do you have that light inside of you that glows even at the darkest hour?" I questioned. 

"It's hard to explain, even for me, really.  I was never your slave and deep down you know that.  I know I was your friend, and I want you to know that you were always and will always be mine.  Like best friends we will stay together, and like sister we will love each other.  The sister I never had…that's what you are.  It's that knowledge, that feeling that keeps me going.  There's a light in us all, especially in you.  Yours is corrupted, however, because of lack of will to show it.  You have it in you; you just need to find it.   It's like knowing I can never be alone.  I want you to feel that too, because you are never alone.  I'm not just saying this because I'm dying,"

"Don't say that!" I cut in.

"Please, Helga, let me finish.  I'm dying.  There is no way around it.  I've accepted it and I need you too also.  Because I know at one point we were completely dependent upon each other, as individual as we were.  Soon I won't be here, sooner than anyone could think.  I can't leave you with you feeling like I've truly left you.  If not accepting this for me, then accept it for yourself."

It had been the first time you referred to your illness's termination.  I guess I didn't want to hear it anymore than you wanted to say it. 

"Okay…I'll try and…accept this…"

"Thank you.  It means so much to me.  I care about you a lot, Helga, my friend, and my sister."  I came over and gave you a hug, squeezing tightly, and we laughed softly.  One of the lasts laughs we would ever have.

The following morning, I got a call at 4:56 a.m.  My hand froze to the phone, my limbs numbed and my eyes had an uncontrollable taste for tears.  All at once I had wanted to cry, to scream, to yell.  But I couldn't.  I was paralyzed by shock.  I was trying to prepare myself long before, but I had no idea how to prepare.  Now I realize, you can't prepare for this.  I was a fool for trying.

I knew you were gone.  Left this world, free from pain, from apprehension, from fear.  That alone was enough to make my heart beat again, but still I was left with this extreme emptiness.  Like your death shackled me to a frozen prison of guilt, sadness, and aggravation, I needed to break free.   I stayed in my room for two days, fighting the truth, knowing I'd never win.  It was Gerald who called and told me about the funeral.  You would have been disappointed to hear me complain that there shouldn't have to be a funeral, you shouldn't have died to begin with.  Then, you would have been proud to hear me apologize and say I'll be there.

Now I'm here.  Staring at your grave.  It's engraved with "Flew to the sun when everyone else was flying to the clouds."  You were such the overachiever, but always got exactly what you deserved, and that was the best there was. I tried swallowing my sadness but took too much effort to get it down; the tears were swelling. 

I hadn't realized I was crying.  I was looking at the sky, now a scarlet shade brought from the redness of my eyes, I had to squint just to keep my eyes from burning.  My thoughts were broken up quickly when a light touch was felt on my shoulder.  I turned to see Arnold, looking as sympathetic as usual. 

For a moment neither of us could speak, for there were no words that could be said. Perhaps if we had a brief moment of silence, our thoughts could gather and some kind of conversation could be spoken during this mournful time.   At least that's what I had hoped for.  It seemed as though he had something to say, a coy trick of the tongue wouldn't grant him the voice.  So I decided to intercept this quiet. 

"This is the part where you say something to make me feel better, isn't it" I told him.  He looked up at me again and his expression urged me to elaborate.  "You always have something to say that makes people feel better.  If you do, I'd like to hear it right now.  If you don't, I can't blame you." I said to him.  To be honest I doubted he had neither the words nor the power to express anything that could condole me.  I was testing him.  

"I just want to say that…I think you're very admirable.  What I mean is…you try so hard to be someone you're not, and then when something like this happens, you show who you really are, that you really care.  You put all your fronts down and unlatch the chains of your reputation in sacrifice for the peace of your friend.  I'm not only saying this because I believe saying I'm sorry wouldn't be enough, but because it's true.  I admire that.  I only wish you wouldn't hide as often as you do." He said, with that peculiar warmth in his voice only he held. 

He had done it again, made my pain liquefy into a puddle of nothing; so much in fact I had almost forgot about Phoebe.  Sure, now would have been the perfect time to snap back at him with some smart-mouth comment that I didn't have to hide, this was who I was, and lie to him again.  With Phoebe gone I felt required to refrain from such common contributes and just try and be nice and honest.  Now would be a perfect time for that.

"I…thank you.  Thank you, so much, Arnold." I replied.  He was almost stunned, and I was stunned as well.  I felt freshness inside, probably because it's been so long since I've reacted with such kindness, an attribute of mine often lost and found since the age of three.  I pitied it took the loss of a friend to help it come through…

"Of course, Helga.  Phoebe was a great person." He said. 

"Yes, she…was.  You know, we taught each other so much, Arnold.  Even with her not here anymore I think she's teaching me something right now. 

"What's that?"

"It's never too late to be a friend." We smiled at each other.

"Hehe, you know I'll always be here for you.  If you ever want to talk…or hang out, or anything…you know where I live." He said, sort of bashfully.  I fought the tingle of happiness to stop myself from blushing and smiled.

"Thanks, I'll remember that." I said back.  I'm not sure if it was brought on from the joy we were actually getting along, or the sudden ease of mind even with Phoebe's passing, but for the first time I felt myself wrap my arms around him and pull him into a hug, and I wasn't ashamed.  I wasn't tricking him or fantasizing, I was actually hugging him, and he hugged back, laughing a little. 

"Wow, Helga, I think this is the first time you've hugged me." He said.  My face flushed and pulled away.

"Yeah I'm…I'm sorry, I guess I just feel a lot better now."

"That makes me happy.  And don't be sorry, hugs bring people closer together." He gave his genuine smile.  I laughed softly and smiled back.  The moment was as enjoyable as it was awkward. 

"Well…uh…um…I should be getting home now…" I told him.  His eyes widened with reality. 

"Oh yeah, want me to walk with you?" he inquired.  He offered to walk me home...I felt dizzy and once again tingly inside.  I could get used to being polite to him; I smiled inwardly.

"I'd like that." 

As we began to leave I looked back once more at Phoebe's grave.  Just a few moments ago I was breaking down at her loss.  Then I realized, after it being told to me time and time again, I didn't lose her.  She was here with me even in her absence.  I need not worry about forgetting her, because I will always remember her with every dawn and every evening, my friend, my sister, and my Angel.

I knew that as we walked away from her grave, we did not walk away from her, for she was walking with us. 

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~

I knew it when the sun rose to blue skies of harmony

Greater than any storm or thunder could draw near

Something wonderful would come to me

As vast as an ocean, as gentle as a gliding tear

In my darkest times and through every angry word

It shined in them and gave mercy to make it okay

Leading me to a new and better place, it seemed absurd

And then it revealed itself as the dark of night and light of day

God knew it larger and more detailed to understand

That for the falling Angel who sinned us all would give worth

He wanted to give us love purely and a friend to hold our hand

That's why he gave us you and put and Angel here on Earth

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Okay, the end!  Well of this part.  If you guys like it that much I can continue, the next parts plot was foreshadowed earlier if you caught it.  I'll give you a hint:  "Confession".  Hehe…oh yeah, the poem in the end was written by me too.  I wasn't going to add it but I figured it did go well with the story line and I found it appropriate to add in the end.  Anyways, review if you wish, and regardless of reviews, if you read this thanks for giving it a chance.  Until next time, take care! 

~*~ Silver Kitten ~*~