a/n: A coming of age fic I wanted to do. canon!verse, from TJM to The Patakis to everything that's said to happen. These are Arnold and Helga's missing moments.
golden in the silver rain
They all have to grow up sometimes, even if the only route is the hard way.
And Helga's not so bad. Not really. There's more to her than meets the eye, that's for sure.
When he first sees her, he's four. He's in a yellow raincoat and matching rubber boots that his grandma had given him, and his Grandpa Phil takes him to school. He shares his umbrella with her, not sure what her name is, but she's blonde like him with dirtied clothes and a frown to match the weather. He lends her a smile, hoping it'll transfer to her face in return.
He thinks her bow is nice, and she gives him a questioning look.
"I like your bow," he repeats walking toward the entrance of his school with her. "It matches your pants."
He misses her wide smile when he enters and hangs his jacket, but it's alright, because he knows he'll see it another time. Whoever she is, he thinks she's alright—pretty, too—because her hair is golden in the silver rain, and that's a dainty sight on a dark morning.
In Kindergarten, he notices the way she struggles to tie the ribbon in her hair every morning before school starts in the reflection of the window at the front entrance. He thinks mothers are supposed to help their daughter with that kind of thing, but hers isn't with her and he doesn't know why.
So, he helps her. He doesn't do a great job making it look like a bow, but she thanks him anyway, and he smiles even if he's missing some of his front teeth.
During Arnold's sixth birthday party, his whole class in PS118 could be found in his very room, eating chocolate ice cream cake and watching him open his funny-looking wrapped presents. She doesn't give him a gift. He doesn't expect her too; he doesn't expect anyone to, but it was rather difficult to not note the only person who hadn't presented him with anything at his party. He doesn't ask her why, nor does he think about it. And by half an hour or so of games and fun, it slips his mind completely.
However, he is surprised when she shows up the next morning in her worn out white loafers, switching her balance back and forth on her toes and heels as she holds a paper gift bag behind her shyly.
"Hi," he says with a childish smile, the sun reflecting off a car window into his eyes, but he thinks it is okay and manages because at least the sun's shining and he can see a small curve on the ends of her lips.
She doesn't say a word, instead throwing the bag into his arms and hurrying off his porch. By the time the little, blonde girl turns the corner, he can hear her voice flying alongside the wind into the drums of his ears.
Happy birthday!, he hears from the corner.
She bullies Harold sometimes. She bullies everyone sometimes, actually.
She'll push Sid out of line, just so she can go out to recess before him. She'll rudely ask Gerald why his hair's taller than he is. And she'll also eat Eugene's snack before he's even got the time to try it.
But even then, Arnold's opinion doesn't change, even when she could be horrible to him, as well.
She'll always be that little girl in the rain with the mud on her clothes and her damp tresses with somewhat of a mystery behind her.
When Arnold is seven, he hears his grandma singing about love as she waltzes down the staircase and into the kitchen along with some flimsy somersaults that make him wonder about her flexibility. She says it's some hit from the sixties that none of his friends would jam to.
Ironically, that same day, he hears the one and only Helga Pataki humming the very same chorus on the bus to school.
It's the beginning of winter in their third year of elementary school when the rough-and-tough so called bully is absent for school—for the very first time. Her perfect attendance record has been faltered after years and years and years, and he doesn't know why and how he actually noticed such thing, but he couldn't help but wonder if something had happened.
Arnold mentions her vacancy to his best friend who eyes him carelessly and shrugs. She's probably just sick, Gerald drawls while Arnold catches him scribble a name off of his notebook. He can't exactly read it, but he knows it starts with a P. He decides not to question it, still (as much as he's confused, himself) worrying over Helga's leave. For some strange reason, he has a bad feeling about this.
After school, instead of taking his usual stop, he gets off at a different address, in front of a blue cobblestoned apartment and shuffles on the porch steps with a brief knock. He's abruptly greeted by a lazy womanly face with short blonde hair and thick-rimmed glasses. Her soupy voice melts through the air in the laziest way and his bottle-pea eyes try not to give off a weird look. He was taught to never judge others.
"Is Helga home?" he asks, with his light boyish voice, contrasting greatly beside hers.
Mrs. Pataki looks as if she's going to faint. She always does. "Look, kid, I don't really think it's a goo—"
"Sorry, ma'am, but our teacher, asked me to give her the homework since she wasn't here today and I was hoping to giv—"
He isn't used to lying. He's even bad at it, and he's certainly grateful she interrupts him with a yawn of the eyes and a crude mutter. "Yeah, yeah, fine, whatever, as long as you please stop yapping."
She cracks the door open for him to make his way through and he politely (slowly, too slowly) makes his way toward one of the bedroom doors up the carpeted stairs. Before he enters, he hears her mother say something about needing some medication, but he barely catches it.
She does this kind of scream, sauntering back into her bed alarmed before she shakes it off and glares.
"What in the name of Jesus are you even doing in my house, Arnoldo?" She doesn't bother to turn, after a quick glance at him.
He notices the ice pack on her desk and makes his way in front of her bed to view her directly. She tries avoiding his gaze by pivoting her neck, but he makes it just in time to see the dark, dark, dark violet transcending to lavender-blue.
It surrounds her left eye, and her usual blue orb is wet, pinched, even. She covers it in a reflex, but she knows he's already seen. He can tell she's been crying.
He doesn't want to.
(not at all)
Arnold wants to ask why and how and when and what, but there's just something about her riveting voice that made it seem like it was wrapped in so much venom and hatred and utter disgrace that he becomes (somewhat) scared. He jumps on his heel and scrambles out, the door slamming behind him, and by the time he recollects himself, he's outside of the building and panting on the sidewalk.
Next week, Helga Pataki is back in her regular seat in their regular class with a normal eye, acting like nothing had ever happened. Their teacher asks her where she's been the past couple of days and she nonchalantly mutters: I caught a cold.
Arnold is the only one who continuously catches glimpses of her every five minutes of class that day.
There is so much about Helga he doesn't quite understand, and so much he has yet to find out.
Multiple things happen in fourth grade and there are various things Arnold finds out.
One: Lila has the prettiest auburn hair.
Two: Gerald likes Phoebe.
Three: Curly is very, very, very strange indeed.
Four: Helga Geraldine Pataki is in love with him.
And there are a couple of things he still isn't sure about.
Like why his grandpa always calls him by his last name, and why his other guardian refers to him as Kimba.
And how he, Arnold Shortman, might be in love with her, too.
He's eleven, and his parents are at his fifth grade ceremonial graduation. It's his last day in PS118. It's also his last day in Hillwood. His parents had finally come to the decision of moving back to San Lorenzo, their son with them.
The first day they had told him, he keeps his room door locked and doesn't talk to them. Instead, he spends his day listening to bits and pieces of jazz off a tape he works on and falls asleep listening to. He ignores his grandparents' calls, and he also forgets to eat dinner.
He doesn't want to think about it.
Arnold spends more time with Gerald before his time is up, and during their ceremony, he almost cries. Almost. He doesn't know it'll hit him even harder later. Afterward, he goes over to his now-empty locker and grabs the small and neatly wrapped cassette with its metallic red bow and the name Helga written on the side.
Before he travels with his parents, he persuades them to drive him to the blue condominiums, where he slips the cassette and a letter in her mail slot.
He remembers all of his friends' faces, and he remembers what they're wearing and every inch of feeling written on them when they wave good bye. He doesn't notice the inevitable droplets leaking from his palely suffocated eyes.
He won't know Helga will cry during the first sentence of his note and will listen to the mixed tape every day, and while she does, she'll write him a letter—a new one, every night at seven o'clock, that she'll end up never mailing. He'll have no clue.
It reaches his fifteenth birthday, and he's surprised to have received a letter from Hillwood. It's from Gerald, whom he misses terribly.
His old pal tells him how life's been, how he's gotten a golden retriever who he named after his best friend, and how slowly, ever so slowly, the gang breaks apart in high school. He informs Arnold of Mr. Green, who's been in the hospital for months with kidney cancer, and how Harold's running the butchery while the owner's out. Gerald mentions Phoebe with extra smiley faces (oh boy what could this mean) and Helga, and how she hasn't worn her regular slim pink bow for four years.
This creates a tiny knot in his stomach that he can't seem to brush off, and he tries convincing himself that he has no idea why she would do that.
(when he knows exactly why)
There are some comments about how Sid was the first one in the group to try marijuana and suggest it for all of them to try in freshman year, how Stinky's become incredibly cocky ever since he's started varsity basketball, and how Rhonda's been—let's say—on many, many rendezvous. Arnold notes how all the things they promised they'd never do, they ended up doing.
He wonders when the innocence decided to leave them.
The Shortman boy is sixteen and a half when he gets the phone call.
On the morning of the service, Stella, Miles, and Arnold don't speak a word as they drive back to Hillwood. Even the air is dead—solemnity at it's very finest—right down to the weather. It rains that day, with a surrounding haze of ashen clouds and a downfall of water he can't control. But he assumes it's better this way. It wouldn't be fair if the sun was bright and happy and shining the day everyone felt entirely gutless.
"We invite the family and friends of Phillip Shortman in honor of his very death to this ceremonial burial."
This is the very first day he sees his grandmother crying as she stares at the smooth, velvety coffin.
His vision becomes wet, and it's like he's looking into a crystalline fog before he catches the view of a gold so, so familiar.
A week after his grandpa's funeral, he sees her again. She's sitting on the snow in Gerald's Field, slowly breathing in the wintry air. Her eye is in another state of discoloration, drowning in blue and black. She's wearing this worn out beanie and a rather large coat.
At first they don't say much, nothing at all, really. He eyes her steadily and she ignores his gaze, mostly because it's electrifying. She doesn't want to feel the racing beneath her ribs.
(even when it's already poundingpoundingpounding)
(it's loud enough to hear)
She almost forgets why she's even here, and that she's bruised and swollen and disproportionate. She swallows and blows a cloud of smoke before her eyes become icy and cold, matching the white tea snow all around them.
"Sorry about Phil."
"What do you want, Football Head?" She asks bitterly. Her gaze is hard on something in front of her. Maybe the iron fence, or the lamp post—he thinks it's pointless to check. "Aren't cha supposed to be on your way to San Lorenzo?"
Arnold knows she isn't getting up any time soon, plopping himself on the cold floor of white in front of her, purposely blocking the view she had been originally staring at. He stutters. "Tonight—I'm going back tonight—we're driving back tonight."
She does this kind of nod that he isn't sure how to respond to. "Alright, well ya better get going, Arnoldo. Don't wanna make you late for whatever."
He ignores her. "Where did you get that?"
Her eyes are finally on his and they soften at the sight. Mentally shaking it off, she scowls. "None of your business."
It's his turn to scowl as their gaze remains unbreakable.
They don't notice the dimming sky, because when the ocean is against the forest, nothing else quite matters.
"Helga, where did you get that?"
"Why should I tell you?"
"Because I care," he mutters loudly. "Who did this to you?"
"Hey, you got taller. How 'bout that?"
He rolls his eyes and her orbs move elsewhere. It feels like hours before a name slips her lips: "Bob."
Helga's fingers envelope through his as their legs intertwine beneath the cotton sheets. She's snoozing away in his bed all the way in San Lorenzo, and he keeps quiet and steady careful to not wake her.
She's crazy for coming all the way here to see him.
Her father's even crazier for driving her into this insanity—to the point where she'd leave them without even a single note to find her way back to him.
At that instant, as their limbs are pathetically tangled within each others, he makes a vow to keep her safe, ignoring the effects of what he's getting himself into.
"Ah, enchilada," he sighs.
Arnold is eighteen when he shows up in a raven tuxedo at the Pataki residence to pick Helga up for A Night on the Moon. No one's at home. (good)
Helga had told him Bob and Miriam had gone to some sort of marriage counselor. She doesn't know the full details, nor does she care. He doesn't give a damn either, as long as the beating had stopped.
(and it had, after he anonymously made a few phone calls)
The past is behind them. Or well, kind of.
Arnold waits at the creak of the familiar Asian inspired carpets, looking around the entirety of the walls, disgusted by the pictures worthy of framing to the Pataki's. They're straight, neat, and they're happy in all of them. Funny thing is Helga's not in any of photographs. They all contain smiling faces of an inconsiderate family. He glares at them—all of them—before he finds his girlfriend carefully walking down the steps, holding the edge of her dress up so it wouldn't get caught. She's in silks of a pale white lavender that sinks deeper and darker in to a haze of violet black.
She calls it ombre, and he calls her beautiful.
On their way out, she's too stoked as she sees the limo that'll bring them to her first prom, (since she hadn't gone last year) that she doesn't notice all the crooked frames along the walls he proved his indignation over.
She'll see it later (if she even makes it back to her house that night) and this time, he won't miss the smile that creeps upon her face.
It takes him time to slowly, slowly, make sure his feelings are right, and that they could finally be labeled. When he's nineteen, he's sorry for making her wait this long. Even when they had rescued his parents in San Lorenzo, and he had initiated his first kiss upon her, he had never, ever said the words she's dreamed of ever since their first meeting.
He tells her he loves her.
He loves her, he loves her, he loves her.
Arnold Shortman is in love with Helga Pataki.
They're lying above the sun roof of his old home, her cracking snarky remarks about the world and occasionally the shape of his head. She's wearing that old silly little cherry blossom bow in her hair and a smirk on her lips. Her locks are juxtaposing against the night, and the fluorescence on his eyes is still as captivating. He feels like that awestruck little boy he was before his first day in Urban Tots.
He thinks that maybe growing up isn't all too bad, especially when he's with the girl who'll always be golden in the silver rain.
a/n: I actually was going to make this depressing. My original plan was for Helga to be diagnosed with leukemia, but I figured I already had Phil die and all that I didn't want to add any more. Added bits of Gerald/Phoebe from time to time. Sid being the first to try crack? I can so see that. Mentioned Rhonda as a slut hahaha. Hope you liked this!
reviews would be lovely xo