Disclaimer: I own nothing. Nothing.
The crowd was bustling, filled with lively conversation and free-flowing champagne. Murmurs of congratulations and well wishes were heard as she breezed through the room, self-consciously tugging at the hem of her mid-thigh length black dress. All of the appreciate glances and moments in the spotlight were making her anxious. Still very much the 9-year-old angry girl who preferred to remain anonymous, she shied away from the attention she was getting, unsure of how to act when all eyes were on her. She learned a long time ago that the cloak of anonymity helped to decipher others' intentions. People were always their true selves when no one was watching. But when everyone was watching her she felt like her actions were under a microscope.
Staggering away from a large crowd of publishing well-wishers, she bumped into her editor.
"Honey this book is going to be huge." The woman in her 40's grabbed Helga and hugged her fiercely. Helga could still smell the traces of the cigarette she smoked on her breath, "You're going to be on everyone's bestseller's list."
"And this is just the beginning. You could do interviews, movie deals. Trust me toots, the sky's the limit."
Helga nodded, secretly dreading any potential attention she would get because of the book.
Annette held her hands to her chest. "The whole thing is just so tragic and beautiful. Where did you find the inspiration?"
Sixteen-year-old Helga Pataki stood pacing by the beach. This was it. She was finally going to tell Arnold how she felt—no pretenses or easy-outs. She was going to bare her soul and pray he didn't reject her.
Over the years their relationship had changed from victim and bully to reluctant friends and bitter enemies. After going through a period of not speaking, they now settled on polite acquaintances since they both ran in the same circles. The only constant in their relationship was her feelings for the not-so football headed boy. She still loved him, ridiculously so. He still controlled her every thought and emotion. After her father told her about his promotion and job relocation to Philadelphia, she knew she couldn't leave without him knowing. It was a coward move but she had to know, for her own sanity.
She saw him run up and her heart involuntarily skipped a beat. He was still the most beautiful thing she had ever seen—all tall with rippled arms and a chiseled chest. A split second passed and more than anything she wanted to run away but she had to face him.
He saw the worry on her face and grew concerned. "Helga, are you okay?"
Oh God. He was touching her arm. Helga short-circuited. She swallowed as she felt her mouth grow inconceivably drier. She would never be able to tell him if he touched her.
Before her mind could process it she felt her feet beginning to back away from him, ready to flee. She quickly blurted out: "I'm leaving."
She shrugged. "Old memories." She excused herself politely, hoping to be enveloped by the mass of people. The last time he walked away from her was the final rejection. She couldn't get his image out of her mind. The way he looked at her wasn't love it was pity. She watched him walk away and she felt like the biggest loser in the world. She hated to admit that a piece of her died that day. He would forever own a portion of her soul and he didn't even want to. This pain would swallow her whole if she allowed it to. She decided she wouldn't. She needed to be in control of her life and what better time to start than in a new place? She purged and poured every last unrequited feeling into her novel, drowning in its catharsis. It was something she learned in her writing classes: the writer is the victor in every scenario. They get to fill virgin pages with their adaptations of events. Readers hear only their happiness, their anger, their sorrow, and their heartbreak reflected back on the pages. It was the writer, the creator, who knew every hidden meaning behind every confusing action. But that didn't matter, it was finally over. Now that it was written she honestly never wanted to see it again.
So she smiled polite smiles and engaged in polite conversation all the while trying to ignore feeling like a fraud. Needing a break she rushed over to the balcony as gracefully as possible and breathed a sigh of relief once the crisp autumn night greeted her.
Her spine stiffened when she heard his deep voice fill the once-silent October air. Helga didn't bother asking who it was—she'd know his voice anywhere. She closed her eyes as she heard him slide the door that led to the balcony shut and step outside, the din of various conversations muted behind him. She heard the pages rustle in his hand and knew exactly what he was going to do.
"Every last vestige of innocence left her body in that moment and she finally realized that prince charmings and white knights were only in fairy tales and legends. In real life ugly ducklings never win; sometimes people don't love you back and no matter how hard you wish for something, it may never come true. She stood on the banks of the ocean and watched him disappear as the rain rolled in. 'Fitting,' she thought as she crossed her arms and wished to be washed away with the storm."
She kept her back to him, as she heard him close the book and step closer. She hated the physical reactions her body had to his voice. She hated that power he still wielded over her.
"You were wrong."
"What?" All the pain and anger that lay dormant for years was roiling to the surface. She wanted to get far away from him; every bone in her body was begging her to run.
"I said, you were wrong." His voice, which was hesitant at first, became clearer and surer.
Him standing in front of her, reading her feelings and telling her they were wrong, was too much. It was all too much. Feeling a little sensitive and a lot defensive, she uttered the words she'd wanted to say to him since that day on the beach. "Fuck you Shortman." She turned to walk past him but he held her wrist and spun her around so he could look into her eyes for the first time in 8 years.
Those normally placid celadon eyes were now fiery and full of anger. "Fuck me? No, Fuck you Pataki. Fuck you for jumping to conclusions, fuck you for running away like some scared little fucking girl!"
Helga's eyes widened at his response. She never knew sweet, mild-mannered Arnold to ever lose his cool let alone curse. But she wasn't going down without a fight. Poking an accusatory finger at his chest she spoke. "How dare you say that to me? You ripped my heart out! I survived any way I knew how. I dulled my pain and let my tears spill from my pen. I didn't bother you with it, you should be happy. Who do you think you are to judge me?"
"You have no clue what you're talking about. Do you have any idea what you did to me when you left?"
Sixteen-year-old Arnold Shortman stood shocked by Helga's news. She was leaving and he couldn't help but fell she was taking a part of him with her. He exhaled slowly.
He watched her fidget and twiddle her thumbs, averting her gaze. "I wanted you to know that I enjoyed being your friend and I'll miss you."
Involuntarily he winced at her words. So she thought they were just friends. The feelings and thoughts he had of her were some of the un-friendliest he ever had. He couldn't help but think they just missed each other, that they always just missed each other. He wanted to tell her how he felt but the only thing that came out was "keep in touch."
He went to give her a hug and felt her stiffen in the embrace. He knew he messed up and he hated that it never was the right time to tell her.
She looked at her phone, backing away from him and blinking away the tears from her eyes. "Arnold its getting late."
He looked up into the sky and watched the sun dip away into the horizon. "Yeah. Hey Helga?"
She looked up into his eyes for the last time. "Yes?"
"I'll miss you." He gave her a slow sad smile and walked away.
He watched as she placed her hand on the lock to slide the balcony door open. Grabbing her wrist again he felt her shudder at his touch, his breath catching in his throat at their proximity. His lustful gaze drifted down her body, pausing at the rise and fall of her chest. "Arnold," she asked in a soft voice. "What are you doing?"
"What I should have done eight years ago." He moved closer to her, crashing his lips on hers and drowning out the world.
Pulling back, he smirked as her eyes fluttered open, her lips slightly swollen from his ministrations. "Let's work on a sequel."
She smiled brightly and nodded before grabbing his face and kissing him passionately.