Hi everyone. I know It's been awhile since I've updated, I'm on break so hopefully I can get some more work done on my writing and art before school starts up again. This is a piece I've been fiddling with in my head for a while.. a bit more of a serious tone.. I'm just gonna see how this one shot plays out and hopefully you all will enjoy. ( does have swearing so be mindful of that. )
Hillwood hadn't changed, not one bit. Which was odd. Being gone in the jungle for so many years it felt like he had never left, like walking into a photograph. Of course there were some changes Arnold noticed that were a bit jarring. First being the slew of new faces running around the neighbourhood. Kids that were just toddlers, or had yet to be born, were running around his old hang out spots, causing trouble. It was weird, like seeing someone else living in your home. The second was that being older now, at the age of 16, everything was seen at a different angle. And not just finally understanding some of the more adult graffiti, but literally his height made buildings and stop signs seem less daunting.
Arnold himself had grown several feet, and was at an average height for his age. His skin a slight tan from those years in the jungle, and now hidden under more layers then he had been used too, a deep indigo t-shirt and flannel red button down over it. Even late summer in Hillwood was a bit chilly compared to the ridiculous heat in San Lorenzo, but that was obvious. Even jeans were a bit strange, he had grown so much more used to shorts and sandals. He felt rather sheltered. But, Arnold knew he had to get used to this again, and with time he would.
The years spent with his mother and father after finding them in 5th grade had been anything but a disappointment. They had turned out to be the wonderful parents he had always dreamt of. Though there was, at first, the slight hesitation of leaving Hillwood to join his parents in their adventures; he was soon distracted by their company. He had written to Gerald, who would write back. Gerald reporting on all the happenings, and reporting to the others on Arnold, or so he says. Knowing Gerald these days he might have blown some things out of proportions but all he had of Gerald was his word.
He had been happy to see the borders and his grandparents again, and seeing his old room untouched for six years. And now here he was, casually walking down the street to meet up with Gerald for his first day of real high school.
" Hey Arnold!"
" Hey Gerald."
" Man that party was crazy. You being back put everyone into hyperdrive man."
" Haha.. No kidding, still, it was nice to see them; at least before the first day."
" If we didn't try to put off that little meet and greet, and instead tried to have it happen during classes? Man the school would have to be evacuated."
" It wouldn't be that bad."
" Arnold.. Curly and your grandmother started a fire on top of your roof while Rhonda raided your closet and Stinky Sid and Harold started a food fight."
" Yeah that was.. kinda strange.. it was nice to see they haven't changed much."
" Oh they have, I don't know what was with everyone last night.. like they were nine again. But most of us have at least grown up a little."
" Yeah I know, you kept me up to date. Harold and Stinky are on the football team, Sid is a bio nerd that keeps breaking the frogs out every year before dissection, Sheena and Eugene are in the musicals, Rhonda is a fashion queen still, Nadine designs bug inspired fashion.. and so on.. actually if you think about it.. they haven't grown up at all."
" Ok.. maybe it's wishful thinking." Gerald shrugged. Arnold just laughed. It was so good to be home and with his friends again, knowing how little they had changed, and how close they had all stayed. Most of them steering clear of alcohol and drugs, in what they blamed on was there inner 'Arnold'. But it was just good to be back. Back with friends and family, the only thing missing was..
Arnold looked up from his new place on the concert sidewalk, staring at the blue sky for a moment.
The one person who had not shown up to the party, the only other person besides his grandparents he had written and yet never received a reply. Arnold sat up and saw the girl, she looked similar indeed the air about her was Helga for sure. But she had grown. Her hair still in pigtails, but much more limp than before. The hung behind her shoulders now rather than shooting out from the sides of her head. And her clothing was no longer pink, a read faded t-shirt and blue jeans that seemed loose enough to be comfortable but still tight enough to hint at some growth; an old beanie sat in place of the pink bow. To many other eyes she would look like a normal teenager, but not to him, especially when he noticed her eyebrow had yet to be plucked. He felt his heart flutter.
" Hey! Watch where you're going buc-" she stopped dead, eyes widening at the site of him, her mouth slightly agape. Arnold could see just hardly her tongue flick and her jaw twitch, as a gentle whisper of his name escaped her. Arnold smiled in delight. To which she scowled.
" Fuck.. as if the menagerie of idiots wasn't bad enough, Football head makes a reappearance."
" Lay off Pataki, he's only been here like, a week."
" Calm down Geraldo I'm not feeling up to picking any fights." she pulled out packet of marlboro as she spoke, pulling out a fresh one and retrieving a lighter from under her hat, she lit the cigarette and blew a puff of smoke into Arnold's face. Arnold let the smoke hit him not wincing, avoiding or even coughing as she pulled away from his face.
" At least not yet." She twiddled with her cigarette, sizing Arnold up, who just stood there shocked. She rested the cigarette between her lips while she readjusted her bag on her sholder. When she had given Arnold a satisfying look over she pulled the cigarette out and turned on heel heading towards school, half heartening waving her hand while calling out " see you two dip shits at school."
Arnold felt crushed. Sure she hadn't kept in touch, despite his efforts. And when he had left her she had been pretty pissed. But it seemed as though Helga had taken a turn for the worst.
" ... She smokes?!" Gerald gave Arnold an apologetic look. Arnold thought back to all the letters they had exchanged, when he had asked about her and Gerald gave him vague answers or just avoided the question.
" .. Yeah."
Arnold felt a twinge of rage swell up.
" Why didn't you tell me."
" Look man, I needed to give you hope... and I knew stuff like that might just freak you out. Now you know though...so.. yeah Helga smokes. And she's still a bit of a bitch too."
Arnold let out a frustrated sigh " .. for how long?"
" She's always been a bitch man."
" NO I mean... ugh.. how long has she been smoking?!"
" uh.. three years?" Gerald squeaked, cringing as his best friends hand proceeded to smack himself in the face and then drag his hand down in frustration.
" THREE.. YEARS?!"
" Look Arnold, I'm sorry I didn't tell you but...yeah, three years of smoking. You should be happy she hasn't turned down a more criminal street."
Arnold felt frustration twist with sadness in his heart, sure ok smoking wasn't the worst thing in the world but... deep down he still loved her, nine year old Helga G. Pataki had stolen his heart, and though he thought he had stolen hers in return but the fear of her having changed, of him having changed her, made him fear that this was lost.
" Ok.. I'm going to ask you, please, tell me what you know about Helga." Arnold said as they continued walking.
" Alright man. Basically four years back Big Bob's Beepers went under, so Big Bob started all these weird odd jobs, and schemes. Sometimes Helga won't be seen at school for a week. Rumors always break out that she's with her dad in court or jail but Phoebe tells me she's usually just picking up some extra slack on whatever Big Bob is doing. And after this D.A.R.E thing at school in 8th grade Helga started smoking. Which is ironic cause the whole point was about the dangers of smoking and drugs and junk like that. Helga is pretty lucky though cause apparently she steals the packs from her mom or something like that, and the teachers don't even care when she fiddles with them in class. Most are just too afraid cause that would mean calling Big Bob in, or they just fear her."
" And... thats everything?"
" Yeup, Not much has changed other then that. She's still mean, but less aggressive about it. She kinda blends in these days. Occasionally she'll fight but she doesn't really seem to be the one starting them."
"... but what about.." Arnold stopped himself. No one else had known about the poetry. It felt jarring. After coming back and so much being the same. But then again what was he expecting? Helga to still be tromping around the halls in a pink dress, pushing nerds into lockers only to approach her own and, uncharacteristically, with the utmost care, placing a pink moleskine in her locker before slamming it and making her way to class?
Arnold did his best to keep it out of his mind, to focus on classes. It had been a while since he had been in a conventional school. His parents had home schooled him for the past few years. But despite his best efforts he couldn't get Helga out of his mind. The part of him that always wanted to help others was worried about her smoking habits, that she was starting at such a young age; and there was another part of him that was just generally focused on her. Before he left she had begun to act meaner to him in public, but it was easier to break down those walls when they were alone. His nine year old self found ways to alter his root home to walk a little further with her. And his years away from home hardly another girl caught his eye, and when they did, even if they were pretty, Arnold found himself comparing them to Helga's wit or passion. Truly weather she had intended to or not, she had left a mark.
So now In class instead of learning about America's role in WWI, he watched as she fidgeted with an unlit cigarette, rolling it over her fingers like a coin. Spinning it mindlessly between her fingers, staring out the window. He watched her skilled hands, marveling as she handled her vice, and wondering why the teacher hadn't asked her to put it away. But from the look of the teacher, there had been moments where he too had glanced at the ever present fag in her fingers, her blatant violation against school rules, and Arnold watched him turn away. Hm... Spineless he guessed.
They shared a few classes together. And in the classes Helga was not present he could manage to tear his mind away. Yet seeing her would resurface thoughts and questions that he could not answer yet stayed there in his thoughts like oil sitting on water. Hours of thinking past, and though it left him exhausted, the day seemed ended quickly.
Arnold existed the school, seeing Gerald waiting for him. He raised his hand to wave but out of the corner of his eye he caught Helga fidgeting with a lighter.
" Hey.. Gerald... I'll catch up later." As he spoke he was looking slightly behind Gerald trying to keep an eye fixed on Helga in the distance.
" You sure man? Evil twin 7 is in theaters, I thought we could put off homework and movie marathon the ones you've missed."
" Yeah.. I just.. Gotta get home." Arnold waved at a confused Gerald and followed after Helga.
He didn't really have a plan per say. Just talk to her, see if he could convince her to quit... Find out why she started... Anything. He watched as she turned a corner, running he caught up to her and was now only about 15 steps behind her, staying hidden just around the corner. He was about to follow when he noticed she had stopped, catching himself he retreated to peeking around the brick wall.
He watched as she shifted her weight, pulling the lit cigarette out of her mouth, and tossing it to the ground. Wait what. But she just lit it. Arnold didn't know much about smoking but surely that was too quick, or a cigarette waisted. She followed it up by kicking it into the alleyway and with a well aimed spit, managed to put out the embers left over. She then preceded to retrieve a new cigarette. Maybe that old one was the one she had been playing with and now it was all bent up? But he watched and instead of relighting she simply begun twiddling it between her fingers and placing it behind her ear, before she continued walking.
She... wasn't smoking it. Wait, does she even smoke. Sure she took a few puffs this morning but Arnold had never seen her finish; he had been in too much shock. And this time it couldn't have been lit for a few moments before she tossed it aside. He watched as she continued down the street and when she got far enough he ran over towards the alley. In it were dozens of put out cigarettes which was not new to the city, but these were hardly smoked.
True enough Arnold followed her the rest of the way home, and unless she was smoking in her house, the cigarettes she had pulled out stayed unlit.
Feeling slightly awkward after following her home Arnold quickly made his way back to Sunset Arms. Slightly confused at what he had just seen. He opened the door and a stream of cats and dogs being chased out by a slightly older Abner flowed out. Well at least some things didn't change. He closed the door and headed straight for the kitchen. He filled a glass with water, downing it immediately before refilling and downing it again. Running water, something he had missed greatly. After filling his 3rd cup he sat down, slinging his bag under the kitchen table, before flopping down face first into his arms. He tried to quiet his mind.
Ok so if Helga isn't smoking other than those fake lights then what should he tell her.. To quit faking? But what was the point of faking to begin with. Cigarettes are expensive and to waste them just to keep up with this dumb act. Or what if she was and was trying to quit, and confronting her would only send her back into it. And why did he care this much. I mean sure Helga was a friend, but she had her own choices to make, even if they were extremely unhealthy, or strange in the case she was faking. And it sounds like, according to Gerald, she's got a lot worse on her plate to worry about. What with Big Bob, although thats nothing too new. And the fights... but... Helga could usually hold her own, her fighting was nothing new, and she seemed to cut back on the looking for them. But... his heart wrenched... he still loved her... right?
" Hey there short man hows kicks?" Arnold brought his eyes up slightly, sighing.
" Hey Grandpa."
" How was your first day of regular school."
" Alright I guess, I... Kinda found out Helga might be a smoker."
" Helga? You mean that blond girl with the one eyebrow that used to pick on ya all the time."
" Yes Grandpa... that Helga."
" Well thats a shame, though I think I've seen her buying them at the market, always figured they were for big bob or her mom. Who would have thought, her smoking?"
" Who's smoking?" Miles asked entering the room. " Arnold's friend with the pink bow that used to pick on him? Who help us in San Lorenzo?"
" Thats the one. Arnold's girlfriends ey short man?" Phil said nudging him.
" Grandpa.." Arnold moaned ready to protest.
" Who's Arnold's girlfriend?" added Stella now walking in as well joining the chat.
" Helga dear." Answered MIles.
" Oh good! And how is she?"
" Apparently she's a smoker." answered Miles again
" Oh thats no good! Arnold would you like me to talk to her, I am a doctor after all."
" GUYS She is not my girlfriend! I've only seen her just today. And besides I don't even know if she actually smokes. I mean everyone else thinks that... and I did see her light one, or two.. but I think its all an act."
" Still its a shame.. even if its an act those small intakes when she lights up count, and after a while of doing it she might get addicted and finish the whole thing. Soon then she will be on a pack a day." Stella continued
"Ah fooye! Back when I was a kid everyone smoked, even the kids. And when you kids were born they were being prescribed as medicine from actual doctors."
" Dad it's not 1950 anymore, they've done more research."
" Really Phil thats hardly the point. And today they make those damn things even more addicting. Arnold my offer to talk to her still stands."
" Ah.. no thanks mom.. I think I'll just talk to her. Gerald gave me everyones number for my phone.. And I can... text her?" Arnold flipped open the phone staring at the screen. Now he knew about cell phones but they were hardly as popular or widely used back in 5th grade. And after spending nearly 5 years with the most advanced way of communication being an old morse code outlet at a nearby army base or traditional snail mail he was a little in awe at the technology, well more confused by it.
" Here I'll do it for ya." Grandpa said snatching the phone. " I'm hip with the kids today. 'Yo what up Helga Gurl, hows about you and I rendezvous later at mighty pete, shoot the shit Lol. Be there at 7. -A' Sent!"
"GRANDPA! Half of that didn't even make sense."
"Nonsense! Now I've got you your first big teenage date. How about you give me some skin my dog!" Arnold proceeded to smack himself in the forehead.
" No Arnold, you're suppose to smack my hand... oh well. Here's your phone back. Go get em tiger."
Arnold retrieved the phone giving a defeated look to his parents who gave him a sympathetic yet amused look.
Seven came faster than expected, and Arnold now stood at the trunk of old mighty Pete. It seemed as though it had been kept up, though the would was old it hardly had the vibe of 'rotting' or 'damaged'. Heck it had lasted better than some of the buildings. Arnold fidgeted slightly with his shirt; though he had been able to escape the clutches of more of Grandpas 'date' advice in dressing him up in a three piece suit, he still felt over dressed as usual, the usually feeling now with the added nerves of confronting Helga. He couldn't even imagine how she reacted to that text. Maybe she wouldn't even show up? He was soon proved wrong as he heard footsteps coming up the street.
" Hey you! What do you.. Arnold?!"
Arnold spun round to see Helga clenching a mini bat in one hand, one lit cigarette burning in her other. She had looked as though she was about to start attacking but her shoulders slumped. She stood with a confused shocked face for a few moments processing everything. She then pointed at arnold with the cigarette hand.
" YOU SENT THAT WEIRD TEXT?!"
" Well Kinda.. I mean.. not me per say.. my Grandpa texted for me.. wait you didn't know it was me?"
" Of course not. I didn't even knew you had a phone."
" But doesn't it just... know? The phone I mean."
" Oh man Arnold, are you ever out of the technology loop. No it gave me your number but it doesn't say who it belongs to. Just like normal phones, I've gotta save that info.. speaking of which." Helga pulled out her phone, the light glowing on her face. She began typing on it. " ' F. o. o. t. B. a. l. l. H. e. a. d. Saved... prepare for prank calls. Wait.. how did you get my number?"
"Gerald.. he's got everyones."
" Ugh.. tall hair boy probably grabbed it from Phoebes phone. Great. Just what I need."
Arnold stood silently and watched her hold the cigarette to her lips, taking a breath and spitting it back out nearly instantly.
" So what you wanna talk about. Since I'm already out here."
" Ah... how bout we go up and talk." Arnold said gesturing to the tree. Helga shrugged and started walking towards the ladder when Arnold put his hand up to stop her. She gave him a questioning look, he simply took the cigarette that now hung from her lips loosely and tossed it aside, crushing it into the ground with his foot.
" Wouldn't want an incident... would we?"
" Arnold... I'm not gonna lie, I don't like where this is going."
" Give me a break Helga.. for old time sake."
"... fine." though her face twisted into a slightly passive pout.
Helga climbed the tree and took a spot near the ledge as to look out over Hillwood. Arnold joined her, but not before looking around. The furniture that they had brought in after throwing everything out to stop big bobs bulldozer was still there, warn, with some visible patch jobs and scorch marks. Arnold could only look on with a sense of amusement and nostalgia as he tried to imagine all the shenanigans they group had gone through in his absence.
" Been awhile eh foot ball head."
" Yeah just a bit."
" So uh.. how was the jungle? Still as hellish as I remember?" Arnold looked over to her, she seemed nervous, though she probably knew what was coming and was trying to avoid the topic."
" Probably. Couldn't tell after the first few months. Now being back is weird. Its cold and I feel like I'm wearing too much clothing."
" Haha I bet. I bet you will feel better win summer comes around again. It went kinda quick this year, though we had one hell of a winter. "
" You know... I did send letters."
".. I- I know."
" How come you didn't reply?"
" What did I have to say that you would care about that Gerald didn't already tell you? Seriously.. also. I guess I just.. kept forgetting." With that she looked away
" If that had been the case I wouldn't have thought to sent letters. I wanted to hear from you.
" Yeah...right." She mumbled.. but not sarcastically, rather sadly, as if she didn't believe him.
The two held the silence for a bit longer.
" So how bout an update now? Hows lif-"
" Look Arnold just cut to it, why did you ask me to come here?"
Arnold had been caught off guard. He had assumed since she was trying to make polite talk that he was free to ponder how to approach the subject a bit better. But apparently her life was not an open topic.
" R- Right. Look Helga I noticed you picked up a little... habit-"
" Oh geez this?! Couldn't even wait a week before jumping in and melding.. Though knowing you, you've probably been holding back for 5 years. Ok lets hear it so I can get to the 'back off's' and ' I can quit anytime's and I'll add you to the list of preaching chuckle heads.
" Actually.." Arnold thought, boldly going with his gut. " I was referring to the fact that you're faking it." Arnold winced with his words; they were hardly spoken with any backbone, but at least they were said. Helga was frozen in shock.
" W-what are you talking about.. You've seen me smoking. I had one in my goddamn mouth not 2 minutes ago.
Arnold seeing her nerves boosting his confidence. Though he was hardly the liar he felt he could bluff his way to get the truth.
" Oh.. well then, could you lend me one and a light?"
" I smoke too. Lend me one?"
" ... What?! No way you smoke."
" Its a free country. Come on, I bet I'm the only other kid from our class that smokes, we can swap stories and smoke without worrying about being caught by our parents. Lend me one."
" I- If you were a smoker you would have your own."
" Haven't bought any to be honest. Usually the locals would make there own and share em. If you're a smoker it shouldn't be an issue Helga. I'll even buy your next pack."
Helga wide eyed reached into her pocket, mindlessly handing Arnold the packet and the lighter.
" What.. about 'incident'? We don't want the tree burning down right?" Helga just watched as Arnold placed two cigarettes in his mouth. Lighting them both and handing one to Helga, though he himself was not a smoker, some of the villagers did smoke so he was used to the smell, and the lighting trick he had got from an old movie. He was thankful he didn't choke though. He had taken his first inhale as he lit those two.. all to get the truth out of Helga. The smoke escaped his mouth and he rested his hands over the railing, one holding the cigarette as he calmly looked at Helga who was in aw, good the bluff was holding strong.
" Its gonna go out if you leave it."
"... R-right." Helga stared at at the cigarette, and then at him. Arnold just turned away. He was kinda proud he had gotten his first inhale without choking, this smoking thing wasn't too bad. He hardly even tasted it. He tempted another inhale, not part of the original plan. He could feel the smoky tasted fill his mouth. As he let go of his breath, watching it fade into the air, he didn't really get the point. He hardly felt relaxed or anything at all. No burning. Just weird air. The smell was a bit over powering being that close to the source but even still. Not bad. Kinda sweet smelling. Not that he would think of doing it again after this. He just wanted to see if Helga could finish one. Arnold studied the filter already starting to yellow slightly. He tempted another breath, but before it could reach his lips Helga had snatched it out of his hand snubbing it on the railing, smoke and charred tobacco leaves spilling out of the end of it. He looked at Helga who had put hers out as well while he wasn't looking. He smiled.
" What's wrong Helga?"
" YOU'RE WRONG! WHERE DO YOU GET OFF SMOKING!? YOU OF ALL PEOPLE!? YOUR MOMS A DOCTOR FOR PETE SAKE!"
" So.. you smoke..."
"FINE OK I FAKE IT! ARE YOU HAPPY NOW!? NOW QUIT SMOKING YOU STUPID URCHIN BEFORE I BEAT THE BLACK LUNG OUT OF YA!"
" Haha.. got cha."
Helga's shoulders lowered again, but they were still quite defensive.
" W... wha?!" she whimpered out.
" Helga did you actually think I would smoke? I was just bluffing."
" But... but that trick.. and you didn't gag.. have you done it before?"
" No.. first time."
Helga raised her fist to hit him.. but let it drop her head falling in her hands in frustration. Arnold mused, he was just happy he was right. Now he could properly figure out how this got started.
"... you.. didn't gag." She mumbled
" No... why? Did you?"
" I NEARLY DIED! I hate these stupid things! I can maybe do two inhales before I start coughing up bits of lung. How on earth... never mind. Ok you got me. I don't actually smoke. Problem solved. I can't believe you just smoked for the first time to prove a point. But whatever you're weird. I'm going home now." Helga said heading towards the exit.
" Wait Helga. I'm not done. I wanna know why."
" Why what? Why don't I smoke when my life is such crap or why do I just pretend."
" Look Football head. You have been gone for the past few years so I'll cut you a little slack. While the rest of the world was progressing to a bright new future Hillwood didn't change at all; and my life got worse! All this Cell Phone stuff put Big Bobs Beepers in the trash so now my dads pretty much a bigger sleaze than ever, and he feels it necessary to pull me it on it every now and again. Miriam got a job too now which is great for her but shit for me. And Olga is around everyday now! There are plenty of reasons I should smoke. But I just don't want to, I don't need to! I'm better than that to rely on some expensive 'over the counter' fix."
" Ok but why do you fake it."
" Because I'm a mean bad tough person and they smoke."
" Helga you're not mean and bad! They're good in you, I know there is!"
Helga just let out a sigh.
" Ok I'll give you that Arnold.. I'm not all bad. But its not as if you can crack away at this outer me and once its gone its gone. People are as much as their outer persona as their inner self. A mask hiding something is your choice, and the mask of your creation, something that had to come from within. Thats why I spend probably hundreds of dollars on cigarettes that I never smoke. I like the idea.. they're addictive.. a crutch in the corner for life struggles waiting to be used. And life has no doubt giving me a metaphorical broken leg of a life of which a crutch may be needed. But I won't. Even if people see me as this nasty person, that stereotypical bad girl, then that's their choice to believe what I show; and maybe I don't want them to know that other side of me. And maybe that other side of me doesn't want to know them. The romantic optimistic side that has yet to be exposed to how horrible life really is. The side that has yet to be let down, or hurt. My mask is me, it isn't my prison that hardly keeps the real me locked in, but rather my armor that keeps my innocents safe."
Arnold was taken back by how insightful and wise she sounded. This explanation he had been waiting years for.
" Then why do you open up to me?"
" Arnold.. have you met you? What is there to protect from. Sometimes I think you're my last hope for humanity.. besides Phoebe and Lila. And even then.. you probably make the top of the list. But you can't pick and chose. If I'm exposed to one person the everyones gonna see. And besides like I said... I'm not really hiding."
" That aside, is there anything else maybe slightly safer the cigarettes that can filled that void?"
" Why do you care so much. Even for you this is above your normal meddling. This is where you give me vague advice that seems oddly straight forward and step back to watch the fireworks."
As she spoke Arnold realized how comfortable he had become so quickly. It was so easy to talk to her. But he was caught off guard when she asked the same question he had been wondering.
" ... L-look I'm just concerned. Even if its three inhales max it still adds up. You're hurting yourself."
" So do you not trust me to make the right decision?"
" Its more like I don't want to leave it to chance."
Helga stared at him for a moment. Arnold sat down swinging his legs through the rails on the bannister. Patting a spot next to him for Helga to join. Of which she took.
" I gotta say part of me likes this new more open you.. and part of me misses the fact you used to be harder to crack." Arnold continued.
" Yeah well. It might have been building put to tell someone, not even phoebe knows. She even got me a new lighter cause I pretend to have issues lighting it. So.. just.. don't get used to it."
Arnold just laughed and the two sat in a moment of silence, gazing over at the city glowing, casting an orange onto the clouds above. Arnold found himself sneaking glances at her. This weird girl that never stopped amazing him. He had thought he would be faced with denial and several death threats, but once again she had the upper hand. She had grown so much, and he had missed her. He wondered...
" Did you miss me?" He whispered, barely audible. She probably couldn't even here, but Arnold decided to take an extra hard listen in, waiting for a response. Faster than his brain could process his ears caught something.
His head whipped around, a shocked expression that soon started to fade to a smile stretching across his face. He felt butterflies swell in his stomach.
" WAIT.. I meant I m-mean! I.. uh.. noticed... your... lack of presents.. on... occasions... aw geese."
Arnold just let out a laugh.
" Haha Well I too noticed your lack of presents on occasions Helga."
"Really?" she sounded happy, and Arnold mused, like a kid about to get a gift. " You.. you mean everyone right?"
" Well yeah, but you kinda hit the top ten of things slash people I missed."
" Wow.. top ten. Above running water I hope."
" Yeup.. you're more along the lines of the top five."
" Well... top three."
Helga didn't respond, she just watched Arnold wide eyed. Arnold could feel a blush rising on his cheeks.
" Top three huh... Mind if I find out how I placed?"
" Uh.. sure I guess. Obviously my Grandparents were first..."
" Obviously..." Helga said scooting closer.
" And you.. you are kinda at a tie."
" A tie?" She got even closer.
" With Gerald."
" Odd that I would tie with Gerald your best bud. Especially seeing how this is probably our best interaction."
Odd indeed. And why was she getting closer. Suddenly Arnold's face felt too hot, like he had just decided to stick his head in an oven for a moment. Here was the girl he had admired and missed so dearly over the past five years, grown into a young lady, so close. Her eyes studied him intently. They seemed unsure of something.
" Uh.. yeah.. odd." He studdered.
" Arnold." He noticed a blush fighting its way onto her cheek.
" You don't happen to... ya know.. like like me or anything, right?"
Arnold was frozen.. A million questions flooded his mind. Did he still? It made some amount of sense in his actions, and missing her as much as he did, and the fact that he hadn't had a crush sense he left. It was still a weird idea, and the term 'Like Like' didn't quite fit. He no doubt was also fearful of this idea, surely it would be better to fall in love with someone that returned the feelings again. He could feel the heartbreak coming, but he couldn't lie, from the shock of the idea and her asking the question.
Helga on the other hand had taken the silence as her answer.
" Haha what a silly question! Of course you don't right!? Sorry for asking fo-"
" Maybe?" he squeaked. He had expected Helga to freeze again. But instead she fainted.
Arnold rushed to her side, lightly tapping her cheek to get her to wake up. He hovered over her face, which was a bad idea. Her eyes shot open and she shot up, budding heads with Arnold in the process. Arnold took a moment to nurse his head but Helga hardly noticed it.
" WHAT DO YOU MEAN MAYBE?!" she sounded more confused than her usual anger.
" I- uhh... I don't know. 'Like like' doesn't really fit."
" Well then what does." Helga spoke through gritted teeth. Arnold had no idea what she was so worked up about, as far as he could see this was turning into his confession. Then again she probably didn't get this a lot, not that she wasn't pretty, just intimidating.
" I don't... know?" Helga looked as if she was gonna strangle him. But she took a sigh and sat back down.
" Of course you don't." Helga muttered. Arnold feeling sad at her frustration desired to maybe try and explain it, for some reason he felt like he was ripping her off.
" Its like... When I was away a lot of things reminded me of you. And even when I had pretty girls kinda flirting with me. " Arnold noticed her fists tighten. " I- I kept comparing them to you without even thinking. And getting back home, finding out that you were a smoker, or at least thinking you were, scared me that I wasn't there to step in from the start, and that your life had gotten worse that you would do something so.. committal. I don't know, I guess I was looking forward to see the girl I fell in love with and now I'm worried I might have missed my chance."
Helga didn't move.
" Fell in what now?" Helga whispered.
" Huh?" Helga turned towards him.
" You said... .. the... girl you... fell in... You said.."
She was stuttering. Arnold thought back.. he said the girl he fell in lov- oh. Shit.
" I... I can explain Helga." Arnold started backing away, but Helga only followed.
" You said the L word."
" Helga its just... ok yeah but look.. I.."
" YOU said I was the girl you fell in love with!" Arnold suddenly felt the wood of the tree house wall against his back, dead end, and Helga incoming.
" Helga please don't hur- Mmph!"
Without a moments hesitation Her lips crashed against his, hands at the side of his face. She broke away hovering just above his lips, nearly touching. It was surprisingly short for a Helga kiss, but Arnold soon learned why.
" Say it again." She whispered, breath tickling his now tingling lips. Arnold was completely dazed out of his mind. All he wanted was to go back to that place were Helga's soft lips were on his own. He felt himself shiver though and headed her command.
" I- I love you Helga."
She kissed him again. Leaving enough time for him to respond by cupping her cheek. Feeling tears stream down it. She broke apart again leaving just enough room to speak.
" I love you."
She sat back slightly tears running down her face. Arnold was quick to wipe them and sat up for another kiss. He felt her kiss back strongly and yet at the same time turn to goo in his hands, the kiss got heated as Helga raked her hands through Arnold's hair, moving even closer till she was on his lap. Arnold holding her, one hand at the crook of her neck, the other at her waist. And soon, without thinking or exchanging any notice, both opened their mouths to deepen the kiss. They poured their passion into that kiss Arnold lost in a sea of everything that is Helga. Even the light smoke taste on her tongue pulled him in deeper, he could feel his heart throbbing in his ears. Heavy breaths filled the air. They pulled apart slowly and Arnold immediately sucked in a cold breath.
" Wow." He whispered, dazed, his eyes losing focus as his mind wandered. A moment after the words left his lips he looked at Helga who was staring at him wide eyed.
" What.." he questioned, why was she so shocked. That should be his reaction, after all he had just confessed and yet was the beginning kissie or whatever they would call it.
" This is a dream right?" her voice was broken, frantic, but quite.
" I... don't think so?" honestly it did seem like one, things just worked out almost too easy. The confrontation, the bluff, the confession; it all went way smoother than things usually went with Helga. Arnold noticed she was shaking.
" Eleven years..." she whispered.
" I waited Eleven years for those cruddy words.. and now I can't even accept the idea that you mean it."
" ELEVEN YEARS?" Arnold was extremely baffled. Sure he had his theories that there was a chance she liked him seeing how that whole ' Heat of the Moment thing that happened when they were nine from retrospect had to had some sort of spark to get any heat. But Eleven freaking years?! Helga ignored this outburst and continued.
" It's as if any moment now I'll wake up and you will be far away again and..." she reached up and touched his face, gently cupping his cheek she had held a moment earlier, her thumb stroking his skin softly. She continued...
" And if that happens again... I don't think I'll be able to carry on, not with this pain. I nearly died when you came home.. I wrote letters every day that I could never seem to send. Dreaming of you was my addiction, you kept me sane, my cure for the poison in the life around me. But... every day you were gone I felt your effect fade."
Arnold stayed silent, letting her hold his face as she poured her heart out.
" The day I was told you were back I swear you could hear my scream half way across the neighborhood," Helga gave a tired chuckle. " I had been so scared my plan had been to avoid you as best as I could, save my strength for those inevitable moments where we would run into each other and I would have to put up my best front, to keep me from pounding the ever living snot outta ya." she held up her fist taking in a deep harsh sigh, " or kissing you."
Her fist fell limply at her side.
" I was so close to starting smoking for real, but when I ran into you this morning... I..." she stayed silent for a moment, " lets just say I wasn't prepared for that wake up call."
She took her hand back from Arnolds face resting it upon her other that sat in her lap, she rested on her knees closing her eyes, Arnold watched as she took deep breaths trying desperately to calm herself, her face squinching slightly Arnold wondered what she was thinking. Her fists tightened, grabbing at the fabric of her baggy faded jeans, so tight she could tear a hole in them. She sucked in a deep breath..
" I love you too. Always have."
Arnold stared shocked for a moment, part of his mind had assumed this but hearing it caused the dumbest biggest grin to stretch across his face. Helga had looked him in the eye as she confessed but had turned her head away as soon as she was done, the look of guilty waiting for punishment took hold of her, but why?
Arnold sat up off the wall of the tree house and gently grasped her face, bringing her close.
" Again." He said diving in for a kiss.
" WHA..mpfh!" Helga yelped, Arnold silencing her with a quick kiss. He broke away..
"Again.." he demanded
" Arnold I can't if you keep kis-mph!" he got impatient and dove in again, he could hear his breath through his nose as poured everything he could into each small kiss, only lasting seconds. He pulled away again.
" Arnold! How can I tell you 'I love you' if you just keep kissing me!?"
" Say it with my name."
"... I love you Arnold."
" No my full name."
" I don't even know your full name!"
" Oh really well its-" at that moment a louder then normal street cleaner rolled by.
" Huh.. wow.. ok I love you Arnol-" Impatient for another kiss he dove down again. Helga broke away first.
" Arnold!" she was trying desperately not to smile. " Do you want me to say the full thing or not."
" I don't care anymore. I love you."
" I love you too." she said, something in her eyes resonated so strongly, it was all he needed.
"There it is!" he dove down again satisfied for the moment; he held the kiss as long as he could, his hands moving, taking hold and bringing her even closer. His grin still plastered on his face.
He reached in with his tongue again, he could feel her returning the kiss, her hands tangling in his hair. They fell back onto her where his hands began to discover each curve along her side, her legs, arms, neck, back... he couldn't get enough! He had been away waay too long and during puberty which... wasn't ideal. It took all his strength to keep from... going further...
He broke away looking down at her, still smiling, only inches from touching her as he supported his weight above her. Her lips had curled into a cute smile, her eyes half lidded. As she took a deep breath he could feel her chest briefly touch his own. As she sighed her cute smile turned into a smirk as she focused on the boy above her.
" This has got to be a dream. No way you're that assertive."
Arnolds smirk broke and was replaced by a blush.. oh god she was right! He hadn't seen this girl for years and then he justs... !
Arnold awkwardly got off her, taking a set next to her, his face turned, trying to hide his ever growing blush. He could hear her giggle softly, making him even more flustered. How did a reaching out about smoking habits become... so... … nice? Well yes that but more embarrassing for him right now. That was the question. He chanced a small glance, moving as slow as he could hoping to steal a quick look. But she caught him, good too because it was hardly the short glance he had planned, their eyes met and Helga put on an amused grin as tears rolled down her face. Arnold awkwardly scooched closer, shifting to face her again, still bushing. He started to wipe the tears as they fell. Helga closed her eyes enjoying the touch before taking his hand and pulling it away.
" We should get going."
"..." Arnold didn't want to, but Helga was right. "I- I'll walk you home."
" Thanks." she smiled before her eyes caught something, Arnold turned and noticed she was gazing at the now smooshed cigarette packet and lighter a few feet from Arnold. She stood up, walking over to pick it up. She yanked out one of her hair ties and used it to tie the lighter to the pack. Tossing it lightly to test the weight before picking up her mini bat. She tossed the cigarette packet high letting it fall and with a strong swing of her bat sent it flying out of the tree house, the noise of a stray cat crying out followed by bottles crashing followed a few seconds after. She took a long stretch sighing happily. Offering her free hand to Arnold.
The two quickly climbed down and begun walking home.
" So Helga, I've been meaning to ask..."
" What's with the bat?"
" Oh. Got it at the stadium last season, mini batts are good for just carrying around if you don't intend to play an actual game, like a sporty nightstick."
" Ok.. but.. why did you bring one here?"
" OH! I uh. Thought you were someone else.."
" This.. guy.. Antony.. hes.. uh.. its work related.. to my dad ya know."
"... and? " Helga let out a frustrated sigh.
" Hes like seven Years older than me but he keeps hitting on me and trying to get my number. I thought he had finally got it."
".. Hitting on you!?"
" It happens bucko.. I'm not completely unattractive just because you seem to be missing a few brain cells for liking me."
" Of course you're attractive Helga! I'm more concerned to the idea that he's seven years Older than you, and works with your dad!"
" Pff.. you jealous there football head?" Arnold puffed out his cheeks, a small blush rising.
" W- what if I am!?" he grasped her hand. " A little." He blushed and looked away, she squeezed his hand affectionately, but he refused to turn around until the heat had gone down in his face.
The walk home was filled mostly with a comfortable silence. Arnold would occasionally bring up a change he had yet to notice and the two would talk about it for a few minutes before falling on silence again. In Arnolds opinion the had reached the Pataki house far too soon.
" Thanks for the walk home, and the mental slap on the back of the head. Ya know... for the whole.. smoking thing." Helga winced.
" My pleasure.. I think." Arnold was fine with the walk home but to be honest he didn't really feel he did much, she had pretty much solved her own problems.. her problems just happened to involve kissing him.. mmm.. Arnold's thoughts strayed for a moment to that kiss. When he noticed Helga fidgeting he realised he had been awkwardly quiet for at least 30 seconds.
" Uh.. Goodnight. I'll see you at school?" He tried to recover.
" Yeah.. sure.. see you at school." Another moment of silence held. Arnold fidgeting, looked away, not seeing Helga as she leaned in giving one last peck on his cheek before whispering ' Goodnight' Lovingly in his ears and skipping up the steps before he could react. The door shut lightly and a muffled squeal came from behind it, soon followed by a yell from her dad about noise, and an equally loud voice, Helga replied in a tone that reminded him of his childhood.
As Arnold walked home he felt as if he was walking on air. There is no way, in his crazy upside down life, that went as well. But to be honest he was too happy to care. It probably meant drama ahead, and he was sure there would be. After all she had convinced the whole student body she a smoker; Arnold would no doubt be seen as some sort of figure of heavenly light, guiding the lost and damned souls towards salvation, a haven of advice.. just like the old days. But knowing Helga she would never fork over the truth so this would indeed increase his street cred.
" I'm home."
" Well.. Hey there short man. How'd it go?"
" Helga's not gonna smoke anymore."
" I thought ya said she was faking."
" Well.. she was.. but shes not gonna fake anymore."
" Oh oh! Well I'm proud of ya short man, ya got yer girlfriend to quit fake smoking." There was a silence where Phil looked amused, as if waiting for the denial to start, but when it didn't come, coupled with the bush on Arnolds cheeks...
" OH BOY yah finally did it! Ya finally got yerself a girl, I'm proud of ya Arnold." Phil proceeded to ruffly pat Arnold on the back.
" Who got a girl friend?" Miles said walking into the room.
" Arnold got one ya ninny! Who else would?!"
" Great going boy, its Helga right?"
" Yes of course its her! I set him up on the date before. How could she resist such a text, I told you I know what the kids like, and now Arnolds got himself a gall."
" Oh so things worked out with Helga then?" Stella entered the room. " Shes not still smoking is she?"
" She never was mom she was just-"
" OF COURSE NOT! Our boy Arnold set her straight! He walked over, pulled her into his arms..." at this point he pulled Pooki into his arms and begun to dip her. " and he said! ' Baby you're my forever girl, and my lovin is the only think you should be addicted to.' " He gave Pooki a small cute kiss.
" My stars Amneral... you always knew how to court a lady." Pookie giggled as Phil brought her back up, allowing her to adjust her hoop skirt and bonnet before she carried on back to the kitchen. Although the scene was quite cute Arnold couldn't help grone from embarrassment, not to mention his imagination immediately taking what he had just seen and placing himself and helga in their respective rolls... and then cause it popped into his head.. reversed as well. Getting addicted to Helga sounded pretty plausible too. Laughter broke out and the adults gave their congrats as Arnold headed up to his room.
It was still the same as it had always been. Very... him. It was hard to describe any other way. Same bed spread, weird nick knacks on the shelf, with some added ones from his adventures from san lorenzo. He picked up his remote and switched on the lights and playing one of his favorite jazz albums. Now that had to place 5th on his list of things he missed. His room and his jazz. Apparently not long after he left I-woods became popular, a tiny device that could hold thousands of songs. All he had had was his CD player and about 20 of his favorite CDs, which for him were hard to choose and sure enough upon arriving he wanted nothing more to listen to the ones he had left behind. He collapsed on his bed feeling the weight of everything that had just happened sink in. Not only had he been able to see her again, and get her to open up so fast but... he had had a huge burden he had carried with for the past few years lift off him, and gained a.. gained ah..
Wait... aren't you supposed to ask a girl out officially before you can call her.. your..
The next morning Arnold awoke feeling oddly pleasant. Gerald was of course waiting outside ready to walk to school.
" Ok so dude, last night I set you up with a 'my book face' its great! Social networking! We can keep tabs on each other all the time! We can check yours out after school today and update it and junk."
" Update how?"
" Well ok so you do these little status updates, lets people know how you are currently. Like mine this morning was ' looking forward to some quality time with ma main man.' " he nudged Arnold ruffly. " and then you can put in personal stuff like your birthday, where you go to school, likes and dislikes, relationships, pictures, video.. its great! And you get friends and you can see all there stuff on the news feed."
" Sounds cool... I think?"
" Trust me.. it's the future. Oh crap, Pataki incoming... huh that's weird.. shes not smoking, maybe shes all out?"
Arnold looked up, across the street heading towards them was indeed Helga. Her appearance had not shifted much besides the fact her hair was now down and her short sleeve displaying something pink on her wrist. Arnold couldn't help but smile.
" Hey Helga!" He said cheerfully. Gerald looked at him warningly, " You're wearing your hair down."
" Yeah I kinda only had the two hair ties left after I lost that one yesterday the other one broke under all the pressure of hair. So don't get used to it."
" Aww.. I like it down." he smirked, she smiled back.
" Well too bad. And you're buying me new ones."
" Can they be pink?" He glanced down at her bow now wrapped around her wrist, she covered it nervously. But tried to play it off.
"W-whatever floats your boat football head." Arnold gave her a warm smile, following it up with a peck on the cheek shocking both her and Gerald; Gerald more. He had a look of ' dude what were you thinking shes gonna kill you!'. Helga bushing, turned on heel and begun to walk away when Arnold called out again.
" Hey wanna go to slauson's tomorrow after class." Gerald looked at Arnold again, ' you just got out and your pulling her back in, nice knowing ya', his eyes seemed to scream. Helga stopped, turned, and walked back towards him. Keeping her head down to hid her red cheeks, but little did she notice the blush had spread to her ears as well which were poking out from under her long golden locks.
" You.. you mean like a date?"
" Yes that is the implied intention." she was silent for a moment before she returned the peck. And nodded fast before turning again and running away.
" ARE YOU NUTS? I know you're a bold kid but there are better, safer, ways to get her to stop smoking."
" She's not a smoker Gerald. Didn't you see? No cigarette. "
" What are you talking about? She probably just ran out. No one quits that fast."
Arnold shrugged and kept walking, maybe it would be best if they talked about how to deal with all that before he started going around saying she never smoked.
" So..." Gerald continued. " If shes not smoking, which I don't buy.. what's with the kisses and the ice cream dates." Arnold chuckled.
" I'll explain later."
" You're not trying to get her addicted to Ice cream are you?" Arnold laughed for a moment before seriously considering the idea, for some reason it sounded.. legit.. obsessed with.. 'Ice Cream'...
" No that would never work..." Arnold said as he kept walking... " Would it?"
WHEE JESUS TAPDANCING DINOSAURS! That was waaaaaaaaaaaaay longer than intended. I just kept adding stuff. Rarg... oh well hope you like the ruffly 25 pages of text.. dear lord I don't even want to know how many words... Reading over again I feel like this is one of my best but I may be biased. I'm just happy to finish this thing... I feel like if I spend too many days on it it starts to lose motion and there are these weird breaks I cant smooth out. OH WELL! Here is to hoping you don't notice them!
Also some notes in case you didn't notice or were unaware.. A 'FAG' is another word for Cigarette mostly used in the united kingdom. Mini bats are super cool and they are like sporty nightsticks ;P and the 'obsessed with ice cream"? come on that jokes easy XD
I checked this over once myself and couldn't wait to post it so I will post an Edited version as soon as I get it back from my Editor, let me know if you spot any mistakes that would help greatly.