A/N: Wrote this drunk. Decided to publish sober. Whoops.
Also, I couldn't resist breaking my hiatus. But have no fear, I'll be back to chapter updates next week!
XL Twin Bed
Her sheets don't fit.
It's stupid. She knows it. Her roommate knows it. Their RA knows it too.
Beds in the freshman dormitory are twin extra long, but no one felt the need to tell her that. So her mattress pad, sheets, and foam support are designed for a regular twin bed.
During move in, she tried to align everything at the top and leave the end of her bed with a weird decaying slope and no sheets. But the damn bed disagreed with her. It still does. Her memory foam shifts to the side every time she sits down. It rolls over to the left in the night, the sheets pulling off the top right corner. There's a gap between her headboard and the mattress pad, her white sheets curling in and exposing the horrible school-provided mattress. It's dark blue and the springs creak if you sit on the bottom.
And it sucks because her bed is up against the wall, the bedframe bolted to the floor. She can't get behind there enough to tuck it all under the mattress.
She can hear the fitted sheets coming off in the middle of the night too, the elastic snapping up into her face.
It pisses her off.
So, she resigns to spend as much time away from her temperamental bed as possible. She sits in the dining hall until it closes. She does her homework at her desk or out in the common room. She even starts sleeping upside down in her bed, feet pointed at the headboard. It works for a few nights, until her roommate stumbles in drunk and knees her in the head.
And Saturday night just gets even worse when she receives the dreaded drunk text: CLEAR OUT ROOM. HAVE BOY.
So now she finds herself knocking on room 401C. Four flights of stairs up and through two confusing unmarked hallways. God, she hates freshman dorms, can't wait to get out of them. Next year.
She knocks one more time. The whiteboard on the door has drawings and notes from the other hall-mates, everyone writing nice things and drawing hearts and smiley faces.
She glances nervously at her watch. 10:23 p.m. Is it too early, are parties just starting?
The wooden door swings open.
"Took you long enough, geeze," Helga scowls and nudges the room owner aside.
The room is designed as a double, but there's only one bed pressed against the wall. The closet is closed and decorated with band and movie posters. Picture frames are hung on the wall, displaying friends and family at high school functions. A calendar hangs next to the bed while a small clock blinks the time. The room is organized and smells clean and not like her disgusting roommate. A desk is piled with thick textbooks and an open laptop. A big yellow and blue banner saying 'GO BOBCATS!' hangs above the bed.
It's so cold and open in the room without a roommate. Lucky bastard, she thinks before dropping onto the edge of the bed, which is perfectly made and ten times more comfortable than hers. She kicks off her flip-flops and sits cross-legged, waiting.
"Can I help you?" Arnold finally asks.
"I need to sleep here tonight."
His first reaction is to smirk and chuckle. This entire scenario is just so typical. Only coming to him when it's convenient for her. "There's a rule about this stuff."
"Oh, that's right," Helga taps her chin, "you're like an RA in training or something."
"I'm-" He sighs, realizing that it was pointless. Helga would have a comeback or a taunt ready. "Yeah."
His actual job in the dorm is referred to as Constible, or Hall Advisor. He was required to undergo training with the new sophomore Resident Assistants the week before school started. He learned about what to do in case of an emergency: drinking, fights, hospital visits, allergies, sexual assault, partying in the room, etc. It had been quiet a shock to learn about the horrible things that happened on campus.
As Constible, he's required to sit in an office and answer a phone in case of an emergency, or talk to students in his dorm room if they don't want to talk to their RA. He doesn't get paid to do it, but it doesn't matter. He likes helping people. Kids say he's easy to talk to.
And since he's on his way to becoming an RA - he'd get paid $20 a week next year for doing it- he has to abide by their rules. No drinking with hall-mates or incoming freshman, no sleepovers in dorms, no dispersing of illegal substances, etc. The rules are easy to follow, especially since Arnold didn't have a fake ID or friends old enough to buy him alcohol.
Helga rolls her eyes and leans back. "No one saw me come in. And no one will see me leave. Besides, we're not doing anything except sleeping."
Arnold leans against the door, shaking his head, "What's wrong with your room?"
"Besides the fact that my bed is the worst, my roommate is bringing a guy over tonight. I just got the text ten minutes ago."
Damn. He couldn't kick her out. He could have if she was just bored or something, but roommate + date = no. He sighs. "The doors lock at 10, how did you get in?"
"Drunk guy. And let's be honest, Arnold, if I really wanted to get into the building I could have."
"There's someone clearly smoking weed in the room above the banister. I'd hop up on the cement garden barrier, swing on the metal pole, lift myself up and climb in through the second story window. No sweat."
Arnold laughs. "Do you always find other ways in?"
"Only if I have no where else to go."
She would have more options if she spoke to anyone beside her roommate and professors. It's easy to make friends in college, there are kids all around all the time. Always looking to share their life story or comment on some party that they heard about when crossing the quad. It's easy to make friends. But she really doesn't want any. She doesn't mind being anti-social, not really. No one at this campus is really worth wasting her breath on.
Arnold finally crosses his room and shuts off his laptop. He hands Helga the remote to the nineteen inch tv on one of his desks. He lifts up his shower caddy and towel, saying, "I'll be back in ten minutes. If anyone calls, do. Not. Answer."
"Alright, I got it, it's your job, you're trained for it. Criminy, no need. To be. An ass."
Arnold turns back to look at her. She just stares back. "I didn't-"
"Go shower before someone pukes in it." She narrows her eyes at him, scowl tugging her lips back. Arnold leaves.
Helga is curled up on the mattress, ready to fall into a seriously wonderful sleep, but the door opens. Florescent lights flood the room for a second as Arnold slips inside. He quietly sets his things down and hovers near the door, unsure on what to do next.
Helga sits up. "Sorry, I'll. . .uh, I'll get on the floor, or go to-"
"The common room is full of campus secutiry. Drake was so drunk that when he locked himself in the bathroom, he passed out and couldn't open the door." Besides, the couch in there is questionable. No one cleans the furniture. And he's seen Helga's common room couch. It's worse than his.
Helga laughs quietly, imagining the football player go down like a pin hit by a bowling ball. "That's what took so long?"
"Yeah. I had to make sure he was okay. No one's in trouble, they just don't want to take him to the hospital."
"Okay. So," Helga gets to her feet quickly, stumbling back against the mattress. Head rush. It's quiet for a minute as she regains motor control, "I'll just crash on the floor, then."
"You can take my bed. I need to go check on Drake. I'll be quiet when I come back." He shuts the lights off this time.
Helga waits until he's out of the room to fall back completely on his pillow. She was honestly impressed with herself that she lasted this long without giving in.
She was fully intoxicated by his scent now, probably in worse shape than Drake. Helga's legs twitched in anticipation. She wants to get under the covers, to feel the same comfort he feels every night, to know he had slept many nights here already, dreaming about wonderful things. She stops, fearing Arnold will think it's weird. Which it is. But she's done weirder in her lifetime.
Helga sighs and opens hers eyes to the ceiling, only to gasp.
It's covered in Glow-in-the-Dark Stars.
There's one large star in the center, then off to the right a formation. . .the Big Dipper.
A smile teases her lips as she wonders why Arnold put the constellations on his ceiling.
She starts to grin, because it's nerdy and adorable and so Arnold, but she finds herself imagining what it would be like to really see them. With him. Snuggled close under a blanket on a cold night in the mountains, the desire to kiss becoming stronger. . .
Her heart jumps into her throat as the mattress dips with an added weight.
Arnold tenses when he feels her shift.
"Sorry," he whispers, body pressing tight against the wall. There's a significant gap between them, despite the limited mattress space.
Helga doesn't verbally respond. Maybe she is really sleeping?
He lays his head against the very edge of his pillow, wishing he could relax. He feels too wound up, so full of nerves from the alcohol fiasco that sleep is the only cure. He doesn't want to startle her, but he really wants to get more comfortable. And there's only one sure way to do that in a college bed.
He normally would sleep on his back, but his shoulders are way too broad to do that with Helga here. So he stays on his side, arm hesitantly reaching out like she was a fire just starting to heat up.
"Helga?" His voice is lower when he whispers.
Nerves and heat swirl in her stomach. She feels every breath of his, every twitch of his hand as he tries to reach out. She can't respond, even if she wants to. Words are failing her.
His eyes trace her outline in the dark, the glow of the streetlamp outside peeking in between the shades. It casts her body in a low shadow. Her hair is pulled back into a ponytail and he fears he might accidentally lay on it.
Her shoulders are slender compared to the strength he knows she has. Her small waist is hidden under a baggy t-shirt. Hips just out from the top of her shorts, a slice of fair skin on display, toned legs curved under herself.
Helga can feel the heat of his gaze burning against her back. It's knotting up her spine, electrifying every vertebrae. She's pretty sure she hasn't breathed in a long time.
"Helga?" he tries again.
This time there's contact. She almost jumps when his hand presses against her shoulder. Her t-shirt is thin and she feels heat permeate her skin.
Suddenly his voice is in her ear, "Are you awake?"
Her eyes open wide, breath coming out in a ragged gasp. "Now I am," she bites back quickly, personally amazed she can even force an angry tone now.
"Sorry. It's just. . ." he shifts back a little against the mattress, "I'm cold and uncomfortable."
"I want to get under the covers." Helga gives a relenting sigh and sits up, pulling her legs to the floor and stumbling over to the desk. Arnold's under the covers when she turns back around. "Where are you going?"
"The common room. I'm sure it's done-"
"Drake's on the couch."
Why is he lying?
Helga groans and mutters something under her breath, returning to the end of the bed. She slowly crawls forward, keeping her body hovering on the edge of the mattress. She doesn't want to get too close. It wouldn't end well. She doesn't want to lay down either, knowing her heart beat would reverberate against the springs.
Arnold is sitting up, head propped on his arm, waiting for her to finally settle down. He suddenly gestures his arm out to the gap between them. "Do you mind if I-"
She just shrugs, not really caring about what he was planning on asking.
Helga almost screams when he pulls on her waist, but manages to keep herself silent. He pulls the comforter and his sheets up over her legs before returning his hand to her waist.
They're back-to-chest now. Snuggling. Spooning.
"Is this okay?" he asks.
Yes. Yes. Dear God, it's wonderful and warm and amazing and she can smell his recently used shampoo and oh, my God, he's not wearing a shirt and his hands are still around her stomach and - no, don't swoon. "I guess, Football Head. Just as long as you don't wake me up again."
He laughs and she can feel it, the rise and fall of his strong chest. He hums a little as his head hits the pillow.
"Yeah." She can feel his eyes close, still amazed she even managed two more words. Her heart is trembling now, almost as much as her body. "It's always stressful on the weekends. Seems like kids go to the hospital more than class."
Helga just makes a noise as a response, hoping it sounded like an amused agreement instead of a shocked gasp.
He feels her muscles quaking underneath her skin. "Are you cold? I can turn the AC-"
She tenses. "I'm fine, Arnoldo."
The shaking doesn't stop.
Helga counts her breaths, tries to ignore the fact that his fingers are moving against her. It's supposed to be comforting. Because that's all Arnold does.
"Are you sure you're okay?"
"Yes, goddamn it, Arnold, I'm fine." She stays quiet despite the harsh tone, "I just want to sleep, okay?"
She knows she would never be able to fall asleep with him so close.
Arnold counts to two hundred 'mississippi' in his head before finding the courage to ask, "Do I make you nervous?"
The laughter isn't genuine, it's silly, and Helga's grateful she perfected her fake laugh in middle school.
There's a thrumming silence this time, her blood rushing to her ears. "Why would you make me nervous? You're just Arnold."
His voice dips with his chin as it presses against her shoulder, "Exactly."
Helga squirms uncomfortably against the mattress. Adrenaline is making her desire to run stronger, but she can't bring herself to escape. She's in his arms, and she knows that after tonight it will never happen again.
Blue eyes squeeze tight as her tongue presse against the roof of her mouth. She needs a good, believable lie to get her out of here. "No, uh, no guy has ever. . ." Or the truth works fine too, she hisses in her mind.
Arnold tells himself to let go, to let her leave. He knows he's making her uncomfortable. But his hands feel detached, with a mind of their own, still moving against her stomach, pulling her even closer.
He laughs a little, hoping maybe his hands will let go. Now even his mind won't listen to him. "First time for everything, right?"
Helga wants to laugh. She wants to roll over and look into his eyes and tell him how wonderful she thinks he is and how much she still loves him.
Instead she counts five long inhales, five short exhales.
What could she say to get him to let go? No matter what she did, honestly, he'd just hold her tigher. It's not a bad thing, but this conversation could get out of hand.
She doesn't answer.
His eyes are closed, hands slack but still around her, breathing steady. He's asleep.
Helga wants to stand up. Wants to run the hell out of there and avoid the men's dorm for the next two years. But her heart is anchoring her to the bed.
No movement from her partner.
"I'm sorry," she whispers.
Suddenly, his breathing stalls. . .but resumes its relaxed pace shortly after.
Helga bites her lip. What if he wakes up mid-escape?
This is her only chance.
She slowly rolls over to look at him with the glow from the street. It lights up his hair, the unruly golden locks sticking in every direction against his pillow.
He had grown up so much so fast so well that it almost hurt to think about him being younger. Adonis himself would be embarrassed to be in the same room as Arnold. Despite growing into his head, literally - it was hard to tell sometimes if you saw him at a distance - her nickname still stuck. He never complains about it though.
She's lucky he's asleep otherwise he'd probably feel violated with the way she was staring at him.
Arnold's not totally jock buff, but he has muscle tone. Definitely in the arms and stomach.
Helga closes her eyes, trying to make sure she has this vision in her head for the rest of her life. It burns bright in her mind, the sensation of his breaths running against her back make her smile. Just a few minutes ago he was holding her close.
It still feels like a dream.
Arnold's hand suddenly pulls her into his chest, her chin meeting his shoulder. Her eyes open in shock and he smiles down at her, eyes glowing like his grin. Her vision is blurring in the darkness as she tries to back away. His lips move against her forehead, "Don't leave."
She pushes back again. "I-I have to."
"You don't want to, I know you don't." He sighs, "And I. . .I need someone to be here with me. I need you to be here with me."
Her ears are burning now, blush spreading fast, "Why?"
"I need someone familiar. . .I'm homesick. This is a huge campus and I'm feeling insignificant and stressed and lonely."
"Thanksgiving Break is only a month away."
"I can't afford to go home until Christmas," he replies quickly. He hugs her tighter, his right hand moving up to undo Helga's ponytail. It falls below her shoulders. "I came here because I knew it was going to be a good education. I never factored in distance or time zones or how much I'd miss Grandma's cooking." He's stroking her hair now, running his fingers down through the ends, hands moving to rub Helga's back. She arches away from the touch, tighter into their embrace. "I had no idea how much I missed home until I saw you."
There's a lingering ache in Arnold's chest as he leans his head on hers, lips meeting her crown.
This was more than homesickness. He knew it. She knew it too. Helga didn't want to believe it.
It had been a coincidence that they chose the same liberal arts college out in the North East. Helga planned to go for writing, Arnold for humanities and the school's outstanding pre-med program.
Only a couple months in and he's ready to fall apart.
College isn't supposed to be like this. It's supposed to be fun and laughter and full of pick up soccer games in the quad.
"Are you happy here?"
Helga's question makes him frown.
He is happy. He loves his classes, his professors, friends. He likes his Constible position and hanging out with the older RAs during the night. Drinking isn't something that interests him, but he's tagged along to dorm and frat parties. He enjoys the campus, the fall leaves look beautiful, and everyone is friendly.
"I don't think you're that homesick," Helga's eyes are closed, voice turning cold against his chest. "You're just sad and lonely. You just want someone to cheer you up, tell you that you'll find love and be happy. You're just having a bad week."
"I just want you to stay here with me. Just for tonight."
Helga gives him another sigh, rolls onto her back and mumbles, "Tonight."
It happens again on Sunday.
Same excuse - roommate's busy hooking up with a frat brother.
On Monday, Helga knocks after dinner with her backpack in tow. Arnold is on his way back to the office to work.
He feels himself blush a little as she brushes her arm against his chest, shoving him aside. She looks exasperated and frustrated.
"I need a quiet place to study." She dumps her textbooks onto the floor. Papers, pens, pennies and garbage rain down on his carpet. "I'll clean it up," she mumbles while scouring through a stack of crumpled papers.
"See you tonight," he replies, shutting the door.
At midnight, Arnold returns. Helga's still on the floor, the disaster of her backpack cleared. She has a psychology textbook, workbook and notebook open, eyes darting from one page to the next. She kept her promise, the floor was bare.
Helga finally tears her eyes away, glaring down at the book. She's mad at her professor. Of course now the class would be studying the chapters on Family, Love & Relationships for the exam.
"You okay?" Arnold asks. Helga nods, standing up to crack her back. She'd been working so hard she didn't even notice her discomfort. "You should've taken my desk," Arnold replies, pulling out pajama pants from his middle drawer.
"Never occured to me. I just wanted to study."
Arnold has an early class tomorrow, eight a.m., but he doesn't want to just kick Helga out. The library closed at eleven, and if her roomate was around. . ."I'm gonna get into bed, I don't mind if you stay."
Helga turns back to her books, nodding. Arnold strips and gets under the covers. He lays on his side, facing Helga. She's too wrapped up in writing to notice he's watching.
An hour of silence broken by wrinkling paper and frustrated sighs passes.
Helga finally groans and closes her books. She cracks her neck and stretches, quietly walking over to the bed. Arnold's focused on the ceiling, his constellations. He hears her movements and slides over in bed, one arm stretched out around his pillow.
"I missed my roof, missed looking at the sky and seeing clouds, moon, stars. I put this up after my fifth night here. Called in an astronomy major to help me."
Helga just stays on her side, with her back to him, far away from his arm. He rolls over to pull her in. He can feel her stress and exhaustion just steaming out of her. "You've been studying for hours. I know you'll do fine."
She just grumbles.
"What are you studying?"
"Why do you care?"
"Explaining what you learned to someone always helps solidify it in your memory."
Helga shakes her head against the mattress, "Just relationships and love and stuff. Nothing I didn't already know."
"You're in Jefferson's class, right?"
"Yeah." Helga smiles, remembering her first introduction to her professor. Dr. Andrea Jefferson flew into the room, spilling ice coffee on herself and shouting at the top of her lungs. Students rose out of their seats, but she waved them down. She then dropped everything at her desk and marched out of the room. She returned a moment later, calm and collected. It was to demonstrate a point that Helga forgot now.
"She's very passionate about psych. Jack was telling me-"
"Junior, small guy, big mop of hair?"
"He's my lab partner. Anything he said was probably about me." She heard him today talking to a classmate about how mean she is.
Arnold sighs and resumes running his hand up and down her body, tracing her hips and stomach. Comforting. Relaxing. Helga feels good, her stress melting away as he continues to just draw circles against her skin. Arnold moves in closer, legs curling against hers.
"Are you really going to sleep in jeans?"
"Didn't except to spend six hours studying. Figured I'd go back to my room sometime earlier."
Their campus is very strict about keeping dorms safe. Students' electronic keys only work on outside doors until eleven on weeknights and midnight on weekends. There is an emergency release button for every door, but only the campus security and RAs know about it.
Arnold sits up abruptly and walks through the dark, careful not to step on her backpack or text books. Helga almost whines at the loss of contact, but bites her lip instead.
Arnold drops a pair of sweatpants on her side and sits on the end of the bed, back to her. "I won't look."
Helga makes no movements towards the clothes. Instead, she rubs the fabric through her fingers. They're sweatpants from the school store, but fairly comfortable cotton.
Arnold still hasn't turned around, so Helga sighs and sits up. She quickly unzips her jeans and tugs them off her legs, kicking them across the room. The fabric makes contact with his fake wood dresser, buttons clanging against it. She pulls the sweatpants up quickly, ignoring her racing heart and sits back down.
Arnold still hasn't looked.
Helga wasn't surprised, really, but did he really need a verbal confirmation? She shakes her head and smirks. Maybe she could just leave him like that. . .
She laughs quietly before pulling the covers back, jerking Arnold forwards. He laughs and catches himself before his knee meets a desk. He turns around to see Helga already snuggled under the covers, eyes shut tight.
Arnold lies down beside her.
He's thinking about how he would have reacted if someone told him eight or ten years ago that he'd be spending nights with Helga snuggling in his college dorm bed. He'd probably laugh, or just stare at the person like he/she were crazy.
Up until the end of junior year, he hadn't seen Helga's nice side again. Besides the fact that middle and high school had torn them in two different directions, Helga always made herself scarce. She never seemed to eat lunch on campus or stay after school. She'd be home often, only seeing her best friend Phoebe on weekends.
He'd always wanted to reach out to her, ask her how she was doing, but their conversations were kept short and quick.
Until the Key Incident.
That day had been particularly horrible.
. . .No, make that the entire year.
Nothing had been going his way for a while. He knew his Standardized Test scores were terrible, knew his grades were slipping, he wasn't sleeping well, his grandparents were getting older, the boarders were being obnoxious.
And that day had been particularly awful because he lost his car keys. He searched the entire school but could not find them. So he was slumped against his grandfather's Packard, head in hands. There was no one around, everyone cleared out as soon as the bell rang. He didn't even want to drive to school today, but Grandma was getting restless again, meaning she'd definitely take another joy ride and crash into a fire hydrant. And that couldn't happen or else the police would really be mad.
He heard feet kicking against the pavement but didn't look up when pink sneakers stopped in front of his. Helga sighed and cocked her hip, backpack slung over one shoulder, car keys dangling in her right hand.
"I think you lost these," she tossed them at him before he could even look up.
Arnold managed to catch them before they flopped to the ground. He grinned, finally feeling some stress lift off his chest.
He was relieved and giddy now, hurriedly leaning forwards to hug her. Helga tensed in his arms, but he didn't notice it. She shoved him off after a few seconds, glaring.
"Where did you find these?"
"Under the water fountain near the girl's locker room. I don't know what you were doing over there, but-" her voice trailed off while she shrugged.
"Do you want a ride?" Arnold unlocked the passenger door and opened it for her. He remembers seeing that hidden smile on her face, the one trying to break through her scowl.
Helga rolled her eyes though, "Whatever floats your boat, bucko." She tossed her bag into the backseat and buckled up, waiting for Arnold to go.
The drive off campus was spent in silence. Arnold hadn't seen Helga around much since classes started. She'd been busy with working an after school job at the mall and taking college credit classes.
Helga suddenly shifts in the bed and it draws him out of his memory. He remembers the scent of pomegranates filling his car after she rolled the window down, letting her hair get whipped in all directions.
The scent is comforting now, a reminder of the wonderful person that's deep inside. Buried under her anger and past neglect. She's just a child looking for love and acceptance.
How could he forget that? He really shouldn't have. Remembering that fact had always made it easier to deal with her defenses.
After driving around for a few minutes, Arnold turned to her and asked if she was hungry. She laughed and shook her head yes. So he drove over to Slausen's and together they walked inside. Helga had been sure to stand quite a distance away.
They even ate in silence, the tense awkward air making Arnold uncomfortable. He'd always been able to talk to Helga about a lot of things. Classmates, school work, weekend plans. They were all trivial things.
"So how are you doing?"
Helga just continued to suck down her chocolate milkshake and shrugged. "Fine. Working on college apps and stuff. Nothing too exciting."
"Where are you looking?"
She gave him a list, spanning the entire United States. Big schools, small schools, schools that loved football, ones that sucked at it, some with performance-based classes, others with only lecture halls and monotone professors. She mentioned their college briefly. "It's a shit-ton of money," she added, "and unless I get some serious financial aid I won't be going there." Like her father would ever pay for a school that wasn't Harvard, like Olga.
Turns out, their school was feeling very generous with her aid application.
"Any schools close to home?" he asked.
She shook her head violently. "Never. I want to get the hell out of here."
She twirled her milkshake around with her straw, focused on it, "What about you?"
He rattled off his list. Theirs was the farthest one away. "I'm applying for scholarships at every school. I'm not sure I'll get any since my grades suck."
Helga tilted her head to the side, surprised to hear that he wasn't doing well. "What are you struggling with?"
Helga nodded again. "I. . .well, I volunteer as a tutor at P.S. 118, and I could help you too if you want."
"You tutor kids?" he couldn't keep himself from sounding shocked.
"Yeah. Mr. Jarvis thinks it'll look better on my apps to have some community serivce. Make me appear 'well rounded' or some bullshit like that."
"Well, I'd love some tutoring. I've really been struggling with our poetry analysis."
After that he saw her twice a week after school for an hour. She made poetry seem easy.
"Okay, look at this line again," Helga drew her purple pen underneath the second stanza of the poem 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' by John Keats.
They had gone through the entire poem three times already. Arnold had to really focus, really work his way from the top. Going through the 'concrete' images, which Helga explained to be the real, tactile things and ideas in the poem. The fact that the poem was about a picture on a Grecian urn made it a little bit easier to grasp the concept of imagery.
On this urn, there was a drawing of a lover pursuing his mate, but he cannot ever reach her.
"Bold Lover, never, never canst though kiss,
Though winning near the goal - yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt though love, and she be fair!"
"The pictures are frozen in time," Helga adds, "because they're painted on. So he can never get to her. Her beautiy will never fade because nothing changes. He'll always be surrounded by these trees-" Helga circled the third stanza of the poem. "And they'll never shed their leaves."
Arnold nodded in understanding. He never would've gotten this on his own.
"What about the melody?" He points his black pen at the second stanza.
"You tell me."
"The song is unheard. . .because. . .they're stuck. . .in time?"
Helga nodded again, "Go on."
"And. . .it's more 'endear'd' because," Arnold bit his lip. Why would a song sound more endearing if it's unheard? Theme of freezing, time stopping. Focus. "Because they don't change or fade with time."
Helga grinned broadly, nudging his shoulder to show her approval, "Exactly. Now, what can you tell me about the last lines?"
"'Beauty is truth, truth beauty, - that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'"
"It seems too simple," he muttered to himself. "Beauty shouldn't be all we have to know."
Click. His mind was whirring, an idea running off with light into the darkness of his mind. "Life is more complicated. There's lies."
"Lies about what? Beauty?"
He nodded. "Beauty hardly ever shows the truth."
Helga clearly lit up at his statement. It encouraged him even more. "How?"
"People are shallow. They regard looks so much they never bother to get to know someone, know who they truly are. Keats is wrong, I think. Maybe it's right about the urn, but not about earth."
Arnold's eyes open to the image of Helga, her body moving deeper under the covers. After he aced his next essay, Helga stopped tutoring him.
She just became a shadow moving through the hallways then. She hardly ever spoke to him.
"Beauty is truth," he whispers to her, "truth, beauty, that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."
Helga's eyes open at the quoting of Keats.
It seemed so long ago, almost two years. Her heart stops knowing that he remembers.
"Goodnight," he whispers again, his warm breath giving Helga a delightful chill. Her heart still races, but her shaking muscles have stopped. She's proud of herself for faking her relaxed demeanor.
Morning rolls in with a harsh alarm waking them both. 6:00 a.m.
Helga groans and opens her eyes. Arnold's hand is high around her waist, palm open on her right breast. Heat flashes in her cheeks as the alarm continues to blare. She chose a bad night to just wear a camisole instead of a t-shirt and bra. It's an accident. He wasn't trying to feel her up. His hand just moved in the middle of the night, it was just - Arnold pulls back so quickly, Helga hears his spine hit the cement wall. Should she face him?
Dead. Dead. Arnold is so dead, he knows it, he won't make it to his anthropology class and no one will notice and he'll just be here bleeding because holy shit.
Helga finds the courage to roll over. Arnold's pale, skin matching the painted walls. Her first reaction is to laugh. He's freaking out.
Arnold's still tense, tight against the wall, truly afraid to move. His alarm snoozes automatically, nine minutes until it goes off again. Helga breaks out into another grin, still laughing.
She finally stops giggling as the color returns to Arnold's cheeks, burning red now. She feels badly. Maybe she could make him feel better by acting like it didn't happen?
"What are you freaking out about?"
He knows her eyes were open. He knows she saw him.
There's no answer, so Helga stands up and picks up her backpack and books. She staggers back with the added weight, but runs to the door. "I'll wash your-"
"Helga, wait, I'm sorry-"
He looks at her. She's blushing, ears turning red as splotches appear on her neck. Her hair is frazzled around the top of her head and her eyes are slightly wide, adjusting to light and the gravity of their situation. Her shirt had ridden up with her backpack and exposed her hips and bellybutton.
Arnold gets to his feet and walks over to his phone, turning off his alarm. Helga opens the door, but he's fast and has pressed into her side, arm shutting the door.
He pushes her books out of her hands and grabs her hips, lifting her off the door so her backpack can get shoved off her small shoulders. In seconds he pulls her against him, listening to her pulse race as he holds her neck and lifts her face so he can look into her eyes and smile.
Helga takes one deep breath, scared and trembling as emerald eyes shine down at her. He's smiling bright despite the early hour and his lack of sleep and his hands are so warm against her skin.
She feels her eyes drift close, body working too fast for this. She gasps when she feels herself back against the door, lips pressed gently against hers.
"I'm sorry." He says again, leaning in close to whisper.
Helga just nods. She's not sure if he's talking about their compromising position or the kiss. "It was just an accident."
"This isn't." He gives her another kiss, harder, pulling at her body, trying to find a grip.
Because if he doesn't hold onto her he knows she'll fall.
His sweatpants don't fit.
It's stupid. She knows it. He knows it. She's pretty sure his neighbors know it too.
Because she definitely shrieked in surprise.
It's okay though, because they're so easy to slip off, easy access, and then she moans and nods into the kiss and it takes all of his strength to not hoist her around his waist and bite her neck. His sweatpants meet her jeans against the dresser and her body pushes them forwards, back into the bed, tumbling fast and laughing and still kissing.
He's not really thinking. There are no consequences, no regrets, no hesitation. Not now. Never with her.
He should have been showered and on his way to the dining hall to grab breakfast, waiting around until seven. Then he'd head back into his dorm and check his homework and read the news before heading off to class.
This should be absolutely disgusting, morning breath and whatnot, but Helga's actually kissed worse. It's all fast and passionate and Helga still hasn't pulled back because she doesn't want to and knows nothing is ever going to be the same.
Arnold slides back farther on the bed, accidentally pulling his pajama bottoms off. Helga lifts up a little to tugs them off more, letting him kick them off his feet.
Her lips move against his slowly now, drawing his breaths in long inhales and it's making him dizzy.
He remembers the first time he noticed her hips, the fact that she had curves and would keep getting them for years to come.
His hands grip her hips hard, the bones pressing tight into his palms as his fingers move along the elastic of her underwear. She gasps into their kiss as he moves them against his.
The summer before ninth grade.
He had been helping Mrs. Vitello at the flower shop, carrying bags of fertilizer off her delivery truck and lifting heavy pots. Heavy lifting he was still getting used to. His arms were incredibly sore and he couldn't wait to take a hot shower.
But then Helga ran into him.
Literally, she was jogging and looking at her MP3 player and hit him. They collapsed onto the sidewalk in an all too familiar pile. Helga was annoyed, staring hard at him as sweat dripped down her forehead. "Move, geekbait!" she shouted.
With the way they had fallen, she had her body across his stomach, bones digging into his skin. He had been stunned, taking in the fact that she was a woman now, fifteen and growing up.
She pushed him back down on her way up, taking off in her original direction and leaving him bruised and confused on the sidewalk.
His emergency-late-for-class alarm rings, his clock radio blaring some metal rock hit. It scares him off of Helga's lips. It's 7:45.
The radio slowly decreases it's volume as the minutes pass.
He needs to go to class. He can't miss it.
And yet. . .if he did skip he'd be able to keep making out with Helga. Did he really want to listen to his ancient professor blabber on about the importance of anthropology? Decisions, decisions.
Helga moves against his lap, struggling to feel her body. Her lungs are collapsing and her blood stopped flowing and she is so going to pass out. "Class," she squeaks out. "You need to go." Her toes are numb as she stands up, head rush making her blink back blurry black and white dots.
Arnold sighs and stands up, holding his head. Whoa, blood loss.
He grabs a t-shirt and jumps into his jeans, putting on his flip flops and opening the fridge at the same time. He pulls out a can of some super espresso shot energy drink and chugs half of it. Helga is just in her underwear, leaning against his desk, hands sliding against the tabletop, since she still can't support herself.
A quick spritz of body spray and Arnold deems himself presentable enough for class. He kisses Helga's cheek before taking off in a run down the stairs.
Helga stares at the carpet, her feet, the silence broken by her hyperventilating. Had it always been that easy?
Arnold's panting as he sits down, just sixty seconds before class is set to start. Thank God he's fast and able to run in flip flops.
His professor greets the class and takes roll, tapping his stack of papers against the podium. Arnold has this class for an hour and twenty minutes and he can tell Professor Keiper will be using every last one, "As I've said many times, anthropology is the study of humanity, and today our focus will be on humanity and language. We're at the beginnings of linguistic anthropology."
Arnold had already written it all down. He did the readings last night during work, they introducing the ideas of linguistic anthropology. It talked about Dell Hynes and a lot of other stuff Arnold can't remember now.
Kissing. Kissing. He was kissing her twenty minutes ago.
Arnold has not looked up from his notebook.
He downs the rest of his drink and the caffeine make his hands twitch. Too much adrenaline is running through him. Would she still be there? Would she go back to sleep?
"Communication is not just with language," Keiper continues, tapping his marker against the board. "There's also an entire language dedicated to movements. This, of course, is sign and body language."
This was long overdue. Inevitable, you could say. Fate, if you were teasing.
After starting high school he always felt a weird tension between himself and Helga. He ignored it, chalking it up as more of her anger towards him. Feelings of hate being projected outwards because she was upset with her home life.
It's obvious now, looking back. Awkwardness stinging the air at parties, dances, when they were alone in the hallway. He always thought it was just Helga being Helga.
But that wasn't it. It was. . .it was sexual tension.
Sometimes he'd catch her licking her lips, or blushing, avoiding eye contact after something he said.
Oh, my God, he's an idiot. A goddamn moron.
Arnold bites his cheek and taps his pen against his notebook. Instead of writing notes or even listening to Keiper he's scribbled out bits and pieces of poems he studied with her, things she'd said to him, and the initials of one big ass corporation.
He circles the three letters with his pen, clicking it up and down against the middle.
There's forty-five minutes left.
Helga doesn't know if she'll ever stop shaking, if she'll find the strength within herself not to cry. Tears of joy or sadness or overwhelming regret she's not too sure.
If his alarm didn't go off. . .
Helga shakes her head. This was like every monologue she'd ever given, plus her confession, overflowing with ten times as much passion, except now he'd actually heard her. Better yet, he felt her. He held her close and took off her pants and kissed her and kissed her until she couldn't breathe.
He doesn't love her. She knows that. No matter how well he kisses.
She opens her eyes and runs towards the discarded pants. She dresses herself and picks up her books. Out! Out! her mind is screaming. Helga has two hours until her exam.
It took getting out of Hillwood to realize it. . . re-realize it.
Helga's in love with him. Still.
Arnold sprints from class as soon as the projector is turned off. He needs to see her. Please still be there, he's chanting in his head, please, please, please. He dodges a collision with some of his hallmates, not stopping to apologize.
He shoves his key into the lock, turning it so fast he thinks he breaks it.
The room is empty, bed is made, shades are opened. And she's gone.
Psych exam, he remembers. Depositing his backpack and grabbing his phone and keys, Arnold takes off towards the Science and Philosophy building, hoping that she's studying there. It's a small campus. He'll find her sooner or later.
Psychology 112: Chapter 11 Exam - Love, Family & Relationships
Define the four types of love -
Unconditional: Loving someone no matter what they act like or say. You love everything about them, good and bad, and
Helga rips her pen across the page, blacking out her definition. No one notices how hard she'd clutching her pen.
Affection without limitations. That'll do.
Friendship, affection and romance are the three other types of love. So why did her suddenly-confusing relationship with Arnold hit all four types of love?
He's waiting outside the classroom for her. He texted Jack and asked what room they were in and he was happy to oblige. Helga makes eye contact with him before turning on her heel, walking back through the classroom, and exiting the other door.
He follows behind, finally grabbing her wrist outside the dining hall.
"We need to talk."
Head shaking she replies, "We were just. . .in the heat of the moment."
Ding, a lightbulb sparked above Arnold's mind. Love. She loves you, man - you belong together - your little girlfriend with the one eyebrow always hangs around outside - she makes you laugh why don't you tell her that - what do you mean she loves you - well don't you love her too? His mind was overloaded with voices, his grandfather's, his best friend's, old classmates, his own consciousness. He only knew one way to silence them.
With his hand still around her wrist, he tugs her backwards, backpack colliding into his chest. He notices the ends of her jeans are tangled in her zipper. His hands pull against her shoulders and wrap around her neck in a backward hug. Chin against her shoulder, he whispers, "Please. Ten minutes."
She's still in his sweatpants.
She's putty in his hands as his lips meet her shoulder, her neck, behind her ear.
The pair walk back to his room holding hands, the clang of flip flops on concrete filling the silence. Helga's trying not to keep it together. Upon entering the dark room, Helga collapses into him and pulls at his neck and kisses him. It reminds him of a certain rooftop incident but he can't say that, she needs to, and she mumbles something about staying quiet and he replies with one word when it should have been two.
It's a coherent thought considering their mouths are occupied and Helga nods.
Her sheets fit.
It's Arnold's Christmas gift to her. A pair of sheets that fit her bed and can hold her small mattress pad in place.
He even goes so far as it make the bed for her.
"You're such a dork," she shakes her head as he just runs his hands over the bed. He taps the end of it, smirking. Helga shakes her head again. Arnold leans back, making sure to stretch as high as his arms can go, pulling his shirt up. Helga rolls her eyes but smiles.
"I was thinking we wear in your new sheets," he winks.
Another eye roll. "Can we go get dinner now?"
"Wait, wait, I have one more surprise."
Arnold pulls an envelope out of the back pocket of his jeans. She arches her eyebrow in suspicion and tears it open.
SONG AIRLINES BOARDING PASS
PASSENGER: HELGA G. PATAKI FLIGHT #: 290
DATE: 12/22/12 DEPARTS: 0235P SEAT #: 23D
FROM: JFK / NEW YORK TO: HIA / HILLWOOD
"You got me a ticket home?"
"Yeah," he pulls her hips, but she remains standing, boarding pass tight in her grip. He leans over it, looking up at her, "I couldn't leave my girlfriend at school for Christmas Break."
The ticket shakes in her hands. Girlfriend.
"Do I still make you nervous?"
She doesn't know why she's nodding, why she's scared, why she can't stop imaging his grandparents' shocked reactions when he comes home after almost five months at college with a girlfriend. And one from the ol' neighborhood no less.
"I told Olga I was staying here to work."
"There's a room at the boarding house for you. Grandpa insisted, said he missed seeing you around."
She falls into him now, arms wrapping tight around his neck, whispering "Thank you" over and over until it stop sounding like words and becomes noise.
He kisses her to shut her up.