Arnold's phone rang. He had just walked in the door carrying a brown paper bag. He had stopped by the bakery to buy Helga a treat. "Hey, Helga!"
An older man's voice answered. "Hello, is this the father I am speaking to?"
Arnold's heart jolted. "Who is this?"
"This is the Kings County Hospital. Miss Pataki has been admitted to the ER." Arnold dropped his phone. His mind reeled. Miss Pataki has been admitted to the ER...to the ER...
Stella came out of the kitchen. "Arnold, what is it?" She saw the phone on the floor and picked it up, and put it to her ear. "Hello?" Her face paled as she listened to the voice on the other end. She hung up. "Get in the car, I'll get your father...Miles!" She screamed up the stairs. "Miles!"
Arnold felt his ears ringing. His body was numb as they piled into the car. Miles weaved through the streets, arguing with Stella about the best route to the hospital. Arnold sat in the backseat, screaming at himself.
You leave her alone and this is what happens! What were you thinking?
Arnold barely waited for the car to stop moving when they pulled up to the hospital. He flew through the doors and slammed his palms onto the receptionist desk. "Where's Helga? Helga Pataki!"
The receptionist was frightened, but pointed down a hall. "In the ER, to your left."
He didn't wait for his parents, he dashed down the hall, nearly mowing down a woman walking back toward the desk. When he reached the emergency waiting room he pounced on the nearest nurse. "Where is Helga? Where is she?"
The nurse flipped through the sign in sheet. "Miss Pataki?" She looked back at Arnold. "Your relation?"
"I'm the father! Please! I need to see her!" He wanted to shake the nurse.
She nodded. "Right this way. Please keep your voice down."
Arnold followed her, wringing his hands. She opened a door and gestured inside. Arnold passed her into the room. On a hospital bed Helga was lying unconscious. Her face was bruised. She looked like she had been in a fight. She had an IV hooked up to her, as well as several beeping machines.
"An emergency team picked her up from the park." The nurse read Helga's clipboard. "Police arrested a man for battery and assault. It caused the patient to go into labor."
Arnold took Helga's hand in his and kissed her knuckles. He was too scared to be angry, even though he knew exactly who had beat up Helga. Tears stung his eyes. "Did she...did she lose the baby?"
The nurse shook her head. "No. The patient is still in the beginning stages of labor. She's currently resting, she regained consciousness a little before you got here."
Arnold sat down in a chair next to the bed. The nurse checked Helga's vitals, causing her to wake up.
"Easy!" The nurse crooned. "There we go..."
Helga squinted at Arnold, her mind felt fuzzy.
Arnold smiled at her. "You're awake!"
The nurse switched the IV bag. "I think you're fine for now, honey. We'll give you more for the pain later." The nurse left the room.
"Arnold?" Helga turned her head, her mouth hurt.
"I'm right here." He leaned over the bed and kissed her forehead.
Helga's eyes widened and she sat up, clutching her stomach. "It hurts!"
Arnold cringed, remembering how she had crushed his fingers when they took the amniotic fluid. He sighed and took her hand, it clamped around his like a vice. He jumped when the door opened again and his parents ran in.
"Oh my God!" Stella ran over. "Helga! Honey, what did that monster do to you?" She leaned over the bed and smoothed Helga's bangs out of her face.
Miles went over to the other side of the bed. "Is the baby hurt?"
The cramp released and Helga leaned back into the bed. "I think I'm dying!" She moaned.
"You must be the family." The nurse had returned.
Stella turned to the nurse. "Is she all right? What did that brute do to her?"
"Both mother and child are fine. The assailant caused her to go into labor, but she's only ten days early, so there shouldn't be any complications."
"So, Helga's just in labor?" Miles asked, the relief in his voice was clear.
Helga glared at him. "Oh yeah! Just in labor over here!" She growled.
Arnold patted her hand, he had already accepted that she was going to break his fingers. "Just breathe, remember, like in class?"
Helga sat up. "If you make me relive that stupid class I will...Ow!" She screamed, squeezing his hand.
"Is it normal for her to be this angry?" Arnold asked the nurse. He was terrified that Helga might murder someone if she was in labor for much longer.
The nurse nodded. "It's common for women to yell and scream. Giving birth is a very painful processes."
Oh great! Arnold sighed. He was used to Helga yelling, screaming, and making death threats, but combined with extreme pain he was worried she might make good on it.
"From the spacing between contractions, I would say that the patient still has a a few more hours. Walking around helps." She exited the room.
Arnold's insides went cold. A few more hours of this? He turned back to Helga. She was leaning back again, panting. He cleared his throat. "Do you want to walk around, Helga?"
"No!" She moaned.
Stella patted Helga's hand. "I'll go get you a cold washcloth, that'll help." She disappeared into the bathroom.
Helga released Arnold's hand and rubbed her eyes. "I think cutting this baby out with a grapefruit spoon would help."
Miles cringed and looked at Arnold. He rubbed the back of his neck. "I'm gunna go call the boarding house..." He disappeared out the door.
Arnold felt a twinge of jealousy as his father escaped. Stella emerged from the bathroom with a folded, wet, washcloth. She looked around. "Where did your father go?"
He sighed. "He went to go call Grandma and Grandpa."
"Oh," Stella gently wiped Helga's face with the washcloth, it was cold. "There now..." She crooned. "Does that feel better?"
Helga nodded. Her brief respite was broken when Arnold's phone rang. He answered it.
"Hello, Arnold! I just heard the news! Mummy and I are on our way, you can tell my baby sister that we'll be there soon!"
Arnold ran his hand through his hair. Because Helga isn't already angry enough... "Okay...I'll tell her...bye." He hung up and looked at Helga. She was yelling again, clenching the bedsheets as she had another contraction. He waited for her to relax again.
"Um...Helga..." She's going to rip my head off... "Olga and your mom are on their way here..."
"What?!" Helga flung herself at him, grabbing his shirt collar. "You tell them to turn around right now!"
Stella gently pried Helga off Arnold and coaxed her to lay down again. "Now, sweetie, it'll be all right. We can have them stay in the waiting room if that will make you feel better."
Arnold nodded, hoping to encourage her. He was certain that if Olga was in the room, Helga would beat her to a pulp with her IV stand. "Yeah, they just want to be here for you, but they don't have to actually be in here with you."
Helga screamed again, shaking her head. Arnold's phone rang and he answered it again. He stuffed a finger into his ear to try to hear the phone better.
"We're in the hospital parking garage!" Olga's cheery voice announced. "What room are you in?"
Arnold cringed as Helga continued screaming. "Um...actually...Helga would prefer it if you guys stayed in the waiting room..."
"What?" Olga's voice fell. "But I need to be there for my baby sister!" Her voice was cracking, on the verge of tears.
"Arnullld!" Helga bellowed. "Get off the phone!"
He jumped and looked over at Helga, she was hunched over, shaking. "Look, I really gotta go!" He hung up the phone and grabbed Helga's hand. "Breathe, Helga! Stop holding your breath, you're making it worse."
Helga clenched her hand, crushing his fingers. "Shut up!"
Arnold's hand was really starting to hurt. The nurse came in again.
She pulled up the bed sheets. "I'm going to check to see how dilated you are." The nurse pressed her hand on Helga's shoulder. "Please lay back and spread your legs for me."
Arnold had to hold Helga down to keep her from lunging at the nurse. "What do I look like? A hooker?!"
Stella took Helga's hand. "It's okay, sweetie." She petted Helga's hair. "I know this is scary, but you can do it."
Helga was bristling with pain and rage. She clenched her teeth when the nurse inserted her fingers.
"You still have a few more centimeters to go." The nurse removed her gloves and threw them in the trash. "Like I said, walking around should help. I'll be back to check on you in an hour."
Helga yelled again, pain shot through Arnold's hand and arm as she squeezed it. Her face was red. Stella wiped her face again with the washcloth and then went back into the bathroom to rinse it and make it cold again. Helga rolled over to face Arnold.
"I want to go home." She whined.
Arnold petted her cheek with his free hand. "We'll go home soon."
Stella came back with the washcloth and wiped Helga's face. "You are doing so well. Do you want to get up and walk some?"
Helga nodded. Stella set the washcloth down on the end table and helped Arnold hoist Helga out of bed. Helga leaned heavily on Arnold. Stella followed them around the room with the IV stand. Arnold's phone rang again, it was sitting on the bed.
"Answer that phone and I will make you eat it!" Helga growled at him.
Arnold sighed. "Do you want me to turn it off?"
Helga's knees buckled and Arnold caught her. The contraction took her breath away. He held her, waiting for her to relax.
It went on for three more hours, Arnold helping Helga slowly walk around the room. The more time that passed, the angrier she became. When the nurse proclaimed that Helga was finally dilated enough to start pushing, Arnold could have jumped for joy. His fingers were crushed from Helga clinging to him. She had already told him that when the baby came out she would hang him with the umbilical cord as punishment for the pain she was in.
Doctor Mavin rushed into the room with two nurses. He smiled when he saw Helga bristling with rage. "Well, it looks like mommy has plenty of energy to push. Are we ready?"
"No, I thought we'd go for a freaking stroll first!" Helga snarled.
"Well alrighty then." He pulled out the stirrups from the bed and guided Helga's feet into them. "There we go. Nice and easy..."
Arnold felt overwhelmed, the room felt overcrowded with the two nurses and Doctor Mavin hovering around Helga. As the nurses unpacked several tools, Arnold watched Helga's face pale with terror. He was scared himself, wondering what on earth they were for.
"All right, Helga." Doctor Mavin looked down at her legs. "It's time to push."
"No! I don't wanna!" Helga yelled back.
Arnold put his arm around her shoulders. "You can do it!"
Tears rolled down her cheeks and she shook her head. "No! I'm scared!"
He wiped away her tears. "Don't you want to meet Angie? Don't you want to see our baby?"
Helga nodded. Arnold slid his hand into hers, even though it was already deeply bruised.
"Okay, Helga," Doctor Mavin patted her foot, "give me a big push."
This is for you my sweet baby girl... Helga screwed up her eyes and pushed, crushing Arnold's hand. She screamed as she felt something large and heavy lower, tearing her insides. "It hurts!" Helga yelled.
Stella took Helga's other hand. "Take a deep breath...that's it..."
"Push again!" Doctor Mavin ordered.
Helga felt like she was on fire, like her body was angry at her. Helga took a deep breath, as if she was diving under water. This is for those bitches who pushed me! She pushed again, the baby sliding down more, she could feel the blood oozing out from her tissues tearing. Helga screamed, she felt as if someone was carving her in half. "Make it stop!"
"I can see the head!" The doctor exclaimed. "We're almost there!"
Stella mopped Helga's face with a towel. "Just a little more, sweetie!"
Arnold watched as Helga's chest heaved, her eyes clenched shut. He could see a little vein in her temple throb as she pushed, her teeth grinding. He felt guilty. I did this to her...She's suffering because I fucked up... Her hand crushed his, he was sure his fingers were going to fall off. "I love you, Helga!"
She fell back against the pillows, sweat and tears made her red face shiny. Stella wiped her face with the towel again. Helga opened her eyes, they were glassy. One of the nurses handed Arnold one of the water bottles.
"Have her take a drink, we're starting to lose her."
Panic stabbed Arnold's heart. "What?"
The nurse pushed his hand, and Arnold held the water bottle up to Helga's lips. "Helga, can you take a sip for me?"
Stella put her hand behind Helga's head to help her sit up. She took a few messy gulps before she pushed it away and gasped for air. Stella wiped her face and neck, her hair was drenched with sweat.
Arnold closed both of his hands around Helga's hand. Please be okay! He watched her chest rise and fall. He could feel her hand shaking.
"Take another minute." Doctor Mavin said. "We need one last big push. You push when you're ready."
Arnold tried to smile at Helga to encourage her. "See? Just one more push. You can do it!"
Helga nodded, her eyes swam in their sockets. "More..." She groaned.
"Water? Oh!" Arnold picked up the water bottle again and helped her drink. When he set it down again, she took a long shaky breath.
"Okay..." She sighed. She narrowed her eyes. "Let's do this."
Helga mustered all her strength. She fueled herself with all her rage- all the times Miriam had forgotten to pack her lunch, all the times she had been left home alone while the rest of the family went on vacation, all the times her classmates had made fun of her...She bellowed at the top of her lungs as she pushed. She could feel the baby slide out and everyone started shouting. Helga collapsed back onto the bed, her vision was blurry. She gasped for air, everyone sounded far away. Then she heard it, a baby was crying. Helga smiled.Mommy loves you...
The nurses rushed around, cleaning the baby. Arnold froze, it had happened so fast. One minute Helga was yelling like a banshee from hell, and the next minute she was silent and a baby happened.
"Arnold!" He whipped his head back as his mother yelled at him. She was holding Helga's head up. "Get her some water! She passed out!"
He grabbed the water and poured it on the towel. He wiped Helga's face with it, she was burning up. Her eyes slowly opened and Arnold held the water bottle against her lips. "Drink for me, Helga."
She obeyed and swallowed a few mouthfuls. He pulled it away to let her breathe. Her eyes were bloodshot, they rolled and met his gaze. "Arnold?"
"I'm right here." He crooned. "Can you drink some more for me?"
Helga nodded, he fed her the last of the water. The nurses came back over, they were smiling and holding a small bundle.
"Are we ready?" They asked sweetly.
The warm swaddling was placed in Arnold's arms.
The nurses giggled. "Say hello to your little girl."
Arnold felt his breath sucked out of his lungs. Two big blue eyes stared up at him. He touched her tiny cheek with his finger. She smiled. His heart jumped. "She's beautiful!"
He looked up at Helga, she was starting to gather her wits. He leaned over the bed and kissed her forehead. "There's someone you need to meet." He held the baby out to Helga. Arnold helped wrap Helga's arms around the bundle.
Her heart flew up into her throat. "My baby!" Helga sobbed. She kissed the infant's head. "Our baby!"
Arnold sat on the bed and wrapped his arm around Helga's shoulder's, helping support the baby with his other arm. "She's perfect."
Tears streamed down Helga's face. "She's really here..." She stroked the baby's cheek.
Stella was grinning from ear to ear. "Helga...she's such a beautiful baby..." She sighed.
Doctor Mavin was hovering nearby. "The nurses have informed your party that the baby is here. We'll let them in when you're ready. For now, you need to feed the baby."
Helga looked up at him. "What?"
Stella giggled. "Here, I'll help you."
The doctor left the room to address the huge party that was waiting for Helga. Arnold leaned back in his chair for the first time in hours. He looked away when Stella helped Helga pull down the hospital gown and position the baby. He glanced back over and saw Angie had latched on and was sucking contentedly. Helga was looking down at the baby, her face the perfect image of a mother's love. Arnold smiled. I knew she could do it.
"Well, it's almost nine o'clock..." Stella sighed as she checked her phone. "I'm sure there are still some places we can order take out from."
Arnold nodded. "I'm sure Helga is starving."
Helga ignored them, she was completely absorbed with watching her baby.
"I'll find a place and get some food." Stella sat down in one of the chairs and started fiddling with her phone.
Angie pulled away and looked up at Helga, Helga smiled and put the baby to her shoulder to burp. Arnold couldn't decide if it was instinct, or the classes he had dragged her to. Helga sighed and turned to him.
"All right, let the masses in." She rolled her eyes.
Arnold stood up and walked to the door, his legs were cramped. He groaned as he stretched them. When he exited the hall and went through the glass doors to the waiting room, he saw that quite a crowd had gathered. There was Miles, Miriam, Olga, Phil, Pookie, the boarders, Gerald, and Phoebe. They swarmed Arnold on sight.
They clustered around him, slapping his back and yelling their congratulations. Phoebe handed him a thick embossed envelope.
He turned it over and opened it. "What's this?"
"It's from Rhonda." Phoebe explained.
Arnold unfolded the letter and saw that Rhonda had written her congratulations and apologies for not being present since she was with her parents vacationing in Bermuda. He rolled his eyes and handed it back to Phoebe. "Can you hold onto it for me?"
Phoebe put it back in her purse. "Certainly."
Phil put his hand on Arnold's shoulder. "I want to see the baby first! I'm the grandpa!"
Arnold groaned as everyone fought over who got to see the baby first. "Okay! You can all come in, but you have to be quiet!" Everyone shut up and Arnold sighed. "Helga is actually happy right now, so please don't ruin it."
They followed Arnold through the glass doors and down the hall. They squeezed into the little room where Helga was talking to Stella. Their eyes widened when they saw the crowd.
"Arnold!" Stella gasped. "You weren't supposed to let them all in at the same time!"
He shook his head as he was shoved out of the way so everyone could paw at Helga and Angie. Miles bullied his way to the front. Helga handed the baby to him, watching him like a hawk.
"Oh, Helga..." He cuddled the baby. "She is so beautiful!"
Phil looked over Miles' shoulder. "Aw...reminds me of when Arnold came home to us..." he looked at Helga. "So what did you kids decide to call her?"
Arnold had fought his way back through and was standing by the bed with Helga. He took her hand. "We named her Angelina. Remember, Grandpa?"
Phil shrugged as Suzie took a turn looking at the baby. "Well I don't know! Sometimes people have a name all picked out and then they change it at the last minute!"
Helga started to get antsy, she didn't like so many people passing her baby around. Stella noticed Helga's change in mood.
"Okay, everyone. I think it's Helga's turn now."
Miles took the baby from Pookie and set Angie down in Helga's arms. She sighed and cuddled the baby close to her face. I love you, my dear little Angel!
Arnold scooted closer and put his arm around Helga, smiling down at the baby. We did it, we're finally a family.