note: Just another random oneshot. As per my headcanon, Ralphie and Phoebe are step-siblings, his mother married her father.
Don't own MSB.
red-headed lefties with nut allergies
by the ultimateSora
Phoebe had to admit she liked having the house to herself. Her father was out of town, visiting his family in Louisiana; her step-mother, Suzette, was working her hospital shift, and Ralphie was still at football practice. She decided to do her homework in the breakfast nook so she could have a snack and hear the TV. She liked having background noise while she worked.
First, she'd make her afterschool snack: A soy nut butter and strawberry jam sandwich with a Hi-C juice box because she and Ralphie refused to believe that sixteen was "too old" for juice boxes. Before she could make her sandwich, the doorbell rang.
She cut through the dining room and front den to the door, and she tried not to gasp when she opened the door. Arnold Perlstein was standing on the other side of the storm door. As many times as Arnold came over to hang out with Ralphie, she still wasn't used to seeing him in her house. After all, she was going on eight years of having a very huge crush on him.
Ugh, how dare he stand there with that amazing smile and head full of soft orange curls that just screamed for her fingers to run through. Of course he was dressed nice: Ironed blue button-down with fitted jeans and bright white boat shoes. He was always dressed nice. His glasses looked smudge-free. Ugh, even his glasses were perfect.
"Hey, Phoebe," he said, still smiling. "Ralphie around?"
She opened the storm door, Arnold stepping in the house. "No," she said, hating that her throat was drying up. The fact she could smell his nice cologne didn't help. "Football."
He reached in his messenger bag and pulled out a textbook. "Well, I have his history book he left behind in class."
She cleared her throat. "You can- can leave it upstairs or- or you can wait...if you'd like."
"I'd prefer the latter, if you don't mind. It's kind of lonely at my house right now." He shrugged. "Only child with working parents."
"I used to be one of those." She realized how stupid that sounded and added, "Only child, I mean."
He grinned. "Now you have a step-twin."
The rest of the gang liked to call them "the Ternelli step-twins."
Phoebe led the way back to the kitchen, and she heard him set his bag down. She felt her heart race when she realized Arnold joined her at the counter.
"What're you making?" he asked.
She held up the soy nut butter jar. "Soy nut butter and strawberry jam sandwich."
He took the jar from her and studied it. "Interesting."
"I'm- I developed a peanut allergy in fourth grade," she said. "I have a whole shelf of the pantry for my peanut-free foods."
Arnold handed the jar back to her. "I feel you. I have a tree nut allergy, but mine started in junior high. I can eat peanuts, though."
She cracked a small smile as she started to make her sandwich. "I can eat tree nuts."
"Just the legumes for you, huh?"
Was she just having a conversation with Arnold over nut allergies? Whatever, I'll take it.
"I've gotten used to watching what I eat," she added, "but it was harder when I decided to become vegetarian, as a lot of meat substitutes have peanuts in them."
"Well, I know how to fix that," he said. With a straight face, he said, "Just eat red meat."
She was a little shocked he'd say that, but his follow-up grin and chuckle told her he was kidding. She laughed, too.
"Ralphie's suggested that, only he wasn't joking."
"Sounds like Ralphie."
She nodded to the pantry. "Feel free to raid it."
"Considering Dr. T buys enough food to keep your football-hockey-baseball-playing hulk of a step-brother fed, I won't feel too bad eating a lot."
"Well, if you're concerned about your allergy, a lot of my foods are nut-free altogether."
"Nah, I'd feel bad taking from the 'Phoebe Shelf.'"
"Well, in that case, thank you, but just so you know, I'm a growing boy, so I apologize in advance if I eat everything."
"'Growing boy'? How much taller can you get?"
Ralphie was towering at six-three, and Arnold was only a couple of inches shorter than him. The one thing Phoebe liked about being tall herself was that Arnold had a couple of inches on her. She had to look up at him sometimes, depending on how much she was slouching.
Arnold took out her nut-free Oreo-like cookies. "Hey, I'm an athlete. I burn calories."
She didn't know what compelled her to say, "Swimming isn't a real sport, as Ralphie would say."
To her relief, he laughed. "It is when you can't throw a ball to save your life."
Phoebe took her sandwich and juice box to the table while Arnold headed towards the living room. A half-wall divided the living room from the kitchen and breakfast nook, and after sitting down on the loveseat that was against the half-wall, Arnold turned back towards Phoebe.
"Starting homework already?" he asked.
She nodded. "I thought I would before I started dinner."
He grinned. "But you have a guest. Come watch a little TV."
She felt her face grow hot, and she hoped the smile she was making didn't look weird or awkward. "I really should start my homework. It's physics. I'm not doing too well in it."
Arnold got up and joined her at the table. "Let me take a look. I'm in AP physics."
AP...Arnold Phoebe...shut up, brain.
"I thought geology was your thing," she said, trying not to let her mind wander again.
"It is, but I'm pretty decent in physics." He smiled and added, "Anything else you're bad at?"
Aside from confessing how crazy I am for you?
"Pre-calculus," she said. "But I'm great at US history and English and decent at French and health."
"Put off health until junior year, huh? I'm putting it off until next year."
They both laughed. While part of her felt awkward beyond hell with him, the other part was actually comfortable. That was Arnold's effect on her: Being comfortable while feeling the crippling awkwardness. He was close enough for her to touch his hair, but she fought the temptation. His hair just looked so soft and fluffy, but she knew he styled it to get it to look just right. She didn't want to mess it up- or have him think she was creepy.
Arnold helped her through her physics homework, and he helped her get started on her pre-calculus. Every time he leaned closer to look at her work, his hair would brush her cheek or their arms touched or he was in kissing distance. She wanted so desperately to swallow her anxiety and just kiss him. But, again, she refrained.
"I like helping you with your homework," Arnold said. "You're more fun than Ralphie. You learn while he throws things when he gets frustrated."
"He throws things when he's happy."
Arnold shook his head. "Jocks, eh?"
She laughed. "You don't have to live with him."
"I can only imagine. Also, you don't make fun of me for being a left-handed ginger."
She shrugged. "How can I, when I'm also a left-handed ginger?"
"We don't have souls, according to Ralphie and Carlos."
They both laughed. Suddenly, Arnold did something she didn't expect. He took a section of her hair and sniffed it. "That's what I was smelling!" Oh, God! I stink! He could smell my stink! "What shampoo do you use? It smells nice."
She knew Arnold tended to be touchy-feely with his gal pals. She'd see him braid Dorothy Ann's hair during class a few times. He and Keesha had the habit of slapping one another on the butt as a form of saying "hello" to each other, and there was Wanda, who would sit on his lap during lunch and eat his lunch until he'd pinch her hip. Despite being like that with those three, he had never really been like that with her.
"Oh, uhm, I- I use Suave or- or something. It's- it's vanilla- something."
Arnold smiled and gently tugged on her hair. "Don't tell Ralphie I was smelling your hair. He'd kill any guy touching his step-sister, even me."
Oh. That was why: Because she was Ralphie's step-sister. Not because he was secretly crazy for her, too, thus too shy to be touchy-feely with her. It was because her dad married Ralphie's mom.
"What do you use- use in your hair, I mean." She cleared her throat, her mouth dry. "It always looks so perfect." Dammit! Word vomit!
He sat back and ran his hand over his hair. "I use some expensive salon stuff." He winked. "So you think my hair's perfect?"
Her face felt on fire. "I-"
"Ah! I've made her blush!"
"No!" Her eyes were wide, heart pounding so hard she felt it from head to toe. "No, no, I'm just- I'm naturally red!" She got to her feet. "I need to start dinner."
She rushed to the island counter and took Suzette's recipe card box from the drawer. She tried her hardest to focus on finding something to make for dinner, but she kept thinking about the fact she was so close to Arnold, close enough to kiss him, but she didn't make her move.
That was when his cologne and natural scent filled her nose. That was when she knew he was standing right beside her. He leaned close and was probably going to ask what she was going to make, but he never got the chance. Phoebe made her move. Having had no prior experience with kissing, she went with what she had seen on TV (or when she'd walk in Ralphie's room without knocking and he had a girl visiting). She grabbed Arnold's face and pulled him towards her. Her lips were puckered hard as she pressed them against his.
Arnold stood still. He didn't kiss her back or put his hands on her. When Phoebe realized this, she slowly pulled back and let go of him.
"Sorry! It's just- I really, really li-"
"I have a girlfriend."
Her heart stopped- or so it felt. She stepped back. "Oh."
He looked down, his face drawn. "Tiffany and I are gonna give it another go."
Phoebe turned on her heel and hurried towards the stairs. She ran up to her room, locking the door after she shut it. She slid down, her back against the door. It would have been one thing if Arnold flat out rejected her, but kissing him while he had a girlfriend? Somehow that made it worse.
She wiped her tears and hoped he hadn't heard her sniffle. "Go home, Arnold."
"Not until we talk." His voice was soft but clear, being right on the other side of the door. She assumed he was sitting. "I would have told you, but I had no idea you- that, well, you know..."
She already made a fool of herself, so she didn't bother to hold anything back. "All our friends knew."
"I'm sorry if I've been oblivious, but I suppose it's not like you and I get a lot of alone time."
"You've been oblivious for eight years."
"Oh...oh. Phoebe, if I had known-"
She sniffled again, not caring now if he heard. "Then what? You would have found a way to gently let me down before I did a stupid thing?"
There was a slight pause, and she heard him get up.
"Right feelings, wrong time."
Whether he left then or when Ralphie got home, she didn't know. She stayed in her room until Ralphie knocked and said his mother brought a pizza home (she assumed he called her when he saw Phoebe hadn't cooked). She wasn't hungry. She kept thinking about what Arnold said about the right feelings and wrong time.
Did that mean he felt the same? Did he just never ask her out because he didn't know her feelings? If he and Tiffany weren't trying again, would he have kissed her back?
Shut up, brain. Let's got have pizza.
Phoebe managed to get herself downstairs to eat. She moved her books from the table before serving herself, and something fell from her physics book. She picked up the folded note and opened it:
We red-headed lefties with nut allergies need to stick together. Still friends, at least? I'll be by tomorrow at 3:00 for your answer. I shall bring a bag of nut-free Oreo substitutes to replace what I ate. Also, I'll finish your physics homework, destroy all peanuts, give my trust fund money to the animal shelter, sell my rock collection to use that money to give to another charity of your choice*
*Offers are subject to change
Sincerely yours, Arnold Matthew Perlstein. Signed on this day, the eighteenth day of the ninth month in 2003, in the Township of Fort Walker, the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
PS: Did that sound fancy? I hope it sounded fancy.
She tried not to laugh, but she smiled anyway. She needed to have Arnold in her life in some way, and if all he could offer was friendship, she'd take it. Plus, he seemed to care; if he didn't, he wouldn't have put this much effort into a silly but sincere note that did make her feel better.
Suddenly, Ralphie snatched the note from her. "What is this?" He read over the paper. "Whoa, what's this about?"
"What's what about?" Suzette asked as she set the table.
"Nothing," Phoebe said again.
"Arnold wrote Pheebs a silly note," Ralphie said. He turned to Phoebe. "Look, Pheebs, I can't have you doing things to my friends when you have them alone here."
"Phoebe and Arnold were alone here?"
Phoebe knew Ralphie was messing with her (surely Arnold didn't tell him what had happened), so she turned her focus to Suzette. "Briefly. He brought one of Ralphie's books back."
"I'm messing with her, Ma," Ralphie said. "This is Phoebe."
Suzette chuckled. "Well, I do trust her more than I trust you, but you know how Mark is about his little girl."
"You won't tell Daddy, will you?" Phoebe asked. She knew her father would try to kill Arnold. "Nothing happened, I swear, but still."
Suzette smiled and winked. "I know, and I won't tell him. He has enough stress over the fact you're teenager."
Ralphie gave Phoebe the note back and sat down. "All right, well, that's settled, so let's eat."
Phoebe put her books in the living room, and she pocketed the note. She knew she'd always keep that note in her pocket, even if nothing ever happened between her and Arnold. She just prayed to every higher power out there that no one ever found out she carried the note with her all the time.
note: That's it. No more. Do they eventually get together? I have no idea since I haven't planned more chapters or a sequel ;D