notes1: i don't think you understand the explosive feels i get for arnold/helga. i just finished the HA!movie and omfg when they were awkward at the end. tooqt.
notes2: this is postHA!M, anteTJM.
give it a little more heart
He knows her inside out, seen her through thick and thin, her so-called flaws and all her silly, little habits. He knows it all, and so does she, but ironically, they knew nothing more.
They pick up the little pieces they find, and quizzically place the things together, hoping to discover the depth of one another. They aren't good at it, though. Arnold can observe her father and her alcoholic mother, but it wasn't as if Helga had ever brought them up in a problematic way in any conversation he could recall. And Helga could secretly eye him on the playground and know that every Tuesday he'll eat a peanut butter and jelly that he'll trade off with Eugene, but it isn't enough. They both want to reach out, to know their true selves and their biggest fears, and their feelings—and yet, they had no clue how to do it and (frankly) they were both unaware their minds are tied.
His heart caves in when she smiles, and there's a pounding in his ribcage that he's afraid she might hear.
Stay cool, stay cool, stay cool, he'll breathe. He's going crazy. It's Helga. You know, Helga Geraldine Pataki. The one that's hated you ever since kindergarten! Or had it even been pre-school? Arnold's thoughts aren't doing anything justice.
He doesn't know it's the same for her, and he thinks the fiddling with the end of her pink skirt is just for kicks, when she's really preoccupying herself from thinking how utterly tempting it is to rake her fingers through his attractive, messy hair.
It's the spring before their last year in PS118, and life is still the same as it was since fourth grade. He'll play ball with the gang on weekends and cards on Thursday nights. Nothing is different, not really. His grandma's still a loon, Grandpa Phil is still wise and silly as always, and Gerald's still his best friend. If things had remained this constant and calm all these years, why is he beginning to feel like his whole life is changing. Was this the puberty Stinky had mentioned a couple of times?
Arnold's voice had been changing a rather lot—deeper, scratch, crack, deeper, crack, then deep again.
He thinks he's too young to be going through this metamorphosis—Gerald likes to call it. But then again, his grandma had even mentioned some signs back then in third grade or so, those he hadn't actually understood.
"You and your hooligan pals're gonna get hit first, Kimba! I can feel it in my bones!"
And that was that.
Maybe that's why he's been thinking of Helga this much. It's more than usual. Ever since the incident with Future Tech Industries and Deep Voice, he couldn't seem to stop thinking about her. Well, back then it was easier to restrict himself. He was boyish, without a care in the world, and now—now it's just… odd?
Because he can't restrain his thoughts and he can't get their kiss on the tower out of his mind and he can't believe they were that caught in the moment.
They haven't talked about it at all, not once, since they saved the town. And he remembers how he felt when they both wanted the dilemma to be sorted out. He implies that she might still hate him, and he takes it a little too gratefully, but it relieves the both of them, and he was thankful that it was done—but he's not stupid.
They both just needed something to conclude that confession, and with each other's help, it was never brought up again, and it's back to normal; the way it's supposed to be.
He wonders why he still thinks about it, why it even has the nerve to make its way to his dreams and whenever he sees her at school. But for some strange—no, very, very peculiar reason—he kind of regrets—
Those anonymous English poems stop. The ones Mr. Simmons would read out to their class about that blonde boy with the cornfields for hair. It makes him feel guilty, just a bit. Guilty because deep down, he knows he cut her short, even if she had been happy about it, skipping away after they settled that silly agreement about being caught in the midst of action.
He glances at her in class, and sees that she isn't doing anything particularly Helga-y. It's an abnormal sight. She's picking at the tips of her golden hair, which is loose because oddly enough she isn't wearing her regular pink bow, her face calm, even pleasant. Arnold ponders. What could she be thinking?
Her skylit eyes flicker to his and suddenly her voice booms in annoyance. "What're you looking at, Football Head?"
She still loves him, and she's convinced she always will. She can't let him know that, though. Nope, not after that stupid boy-like rejection. Criminy, she's had enough of her lovesick ways, but even then, when their eyes connect, even in just the smallest possible time, it feels like eternity on the edge of her fingertips—and it's good that Helga stopped submitting her literature to their teacher, or it'd have gotten awkward enough having Arnold think she still had that batcrazy obsession over him.
"Hey Helga," his voice is unsettled, awkward. "What happened to your bow?"
"What's it to you?" Her eyes narrow. The rude, pissy switch ignites.
He fidgets a little, placing his hand on the back of his neck. It isn't the first time he's mentioned it. Helga recalls why she always wore her bow in the first place. "Just wondering."
She blinks a couple times. For a mere second, he catches that look in her oceanic orbs—the tingling look of vulnerability and softness—identical to the way she looked at him when she stated she loved him. But the truth that slips out of her lips hardens his hopes. "I just decided to let go of past things. Who needs them, anyways?"
He knows she isn't just talking about the ribbon. She doesn't notice the change of expression on his face as she trudges away to Phoebe down the hall.
The next morning, before class starts, he decides to sit behind her, for a reason she does not know nor have the courage to ask.
"Helga, don't pull a fit and keep still," he tells her as she feels her blonde tresses being tugged on.
"What in the name of—!?" Criminy, the butterflies!
"Calm down," he reassures as he finishes a loop and hands her a mirror he managed to borrow from Rhonda.
Arnold had tied a ribbon through her hair; a new one, a fresh pink and red silk. Helga could feel her jaw drop.
"There are some things not worth letting go," he says to her with his piercing emerald eyes and slight smile, and she knows exactly what he's talking about. It was the least he could do—for now. Puberty really was eating away at him, and the worst part was, he was allowing it to.
Maybe in the future, things may be a bit more obvious for the both of them; but he'll stick with what they have in the present, two smiles, tied minds, and racing hearts—and she's (secretly) positively fine with that.