Hey there, sorry for the long wait I've been going through some hard times.
This is it, the last chapter. I have to admit I'm kind of sad to see it end. I love this story and I loved writing it. But I'm aware that you there is something as too much of a good thing.
Once again I apologize for any spelling mistake or inconsistences in the American educational system.
I hope you enjoy the last chapter of Disease.
Disclaimer: Hey Arnold! does not belong to me.
Every cell in his boy was thrumming with life and adrenaline just waiting.
He saw her walking up the stairs and a clear voice rang out.
"Helga Geraldine Pataki"
He applauded and his face broke in a brilliant smile.
His eyes drank the image of her in her dark blue robe, her long golden hair was for once completely free from any form of restrain and cascaded down her back, playing with the lights of the gym.
"That's my girl!"
His stomach burned with anger as Big Bob's harsh ugly voice boomed over the cheering. He wasn't surprised to see the Pataki family take their place among all the others, even Big Bob and Miriam weren't neglectful enough to miss their daughter's graduation, but still to act that way, brimming with pride when most of the time he didn't even called her by the right name disgusted him.
This was the day he had been waiting for and this was the day he had dreaded.
A chapter of his life was about to end.
"Arnold Philip…" A loud high pitch sound from the microphone prevented the audience from learning his last name, Gerald laughed and whispered in his ear:
"It's a curse Arnold. A curse."
He sighed, it truly was… Ever since he was little something always happened that prevented the general public to learn his last name, even now it was considered one of Hillwood's closest guarded secretes despite his numerous attempts to change the situation.
He got up and walked to the stage, he smiled absent-mindedly as the principal shook his hand and handed him his diploma. He heard the cheering and what was strangely the sound of a band and looked at the audience to see his entire family, almost all of them holding some sort of musical instrument, except for Lola and Susie who had a banner saying Congratulations Arnold. There were a saxophone, a harmonica, a trumpet and a…
He staggered in shock.
How the hell did Grandma take the piano down from the roof?!
The people that were sitting around them were either staring in shock or covering their ears in a futile attempt to block the horrible sound. Gerald's family was also cheering and his friends, his dear friends were all smiling and clapping and Helga… his precious friend and beloved tormentor was there, clapping, smiling like she had that night in Gerald's Field her brilliant blue eyes caught his green ones and she smirked at him and her pink soft lips uttered the words Football Head.
And at that moment the world was perfect.
He felt such pride by being here for succeeding in this phase of this life, it was hard to believe it was over, that what had seemed to last forever was just gone just like that. He was happy to be surrounded by the people he loved, the people he had grown up with, all gathered around here in this happy occasion.
It was difficult to just go back to his seat and wait for the end of the ceremony but as soon as the principal said her last words there was an explosion of happiness and excitement he felt Gerald's arm going around his shoulder in a sort of man-hug before his family burst in the festivities, he was hugged, his cheeks pinched, back patted and hand shaken until his mind was spinning and he didn't know who was doing what.
He was so happy, so excited that he hugged anyone who was near him, at a certain point lifting a giggling Timberly off the ground and spinning her like she was a little girl again.
From the corner of his eye he saw a very different celebration Helga received a hug from her mother and an ever effervescent Olga and one from her father but although she accepted their praise and smiles with a smile she remained detached, cold and noticeably numb to their presence. As soon as she possibly could she made a quick apology and went to join Phoebe and her family receiving and giving a more sincere affection. The Pataki's were obviously confused and embarrassed by their youngest daughter's behavior, but quickly covered it up to avoid the scrutiny of the public eye.
You reap what you sow.
He turned back to his loving family and put the vengeful, angry thoughts out of his mind and basked in the love and affection he had for the people around him.
He wished this moment would never end.
It was time.
He got up from his bed, combed his hair and left his home, he had the vague memory of saying goodbye to his family and telling them to expect him for diner but he was too dazed to take any account of them.
It was like an out of body experience, he was watching as his body made his way along the mostly empty streets no matter how much he wished to stop.
He walked quickly to his destination, although every part of him wished he never reached it.
Finally he regarded the well-known street and the well-known group of people gathering beside a Hummer, and most of all he regarded the blond young woman that was the center of their attention.
His stomach dropped to his feet and his heart beat painfully n his chest, every second agony has the truth of the moment hit him like a high speed train.
You knew it was coming. You knew… You prepared for it, you imagined it, you knew…
But it did nothing to diminish the agony of reality.
It was time to say goodbye.
Helga's Hummer, which she had inherited from Bob, was filled with Helga's stuff and ready to go on its long ride to college. The only thing that was left was the goodbyes.
Bob and Miriam stood at one side, Miriam slightly supported by her husband, whether this was due to the emotional moment or the alcohol that was constantly running through her system he could no longer tell.
He watched those two people and for the first time thought of how little he knew about them. It was easy to hate them, what they had done to their own children was permanent and not easily forgivable, especially from the people who loved them.
It was easy to judge.
But there they were, Bob hugging Helga so tightly and kissing her forehead that it seemed he didn't want to ever let her go and Miriam stroking her daughter's golden hair in a sort of reverent manner, maybe they knew that this could be the last time Helga would be here. Maybe, deep down, they were aware of the pain they had caused and were sorry.
They loved her, he knew that, they loved her because she was their daughter.
But they were so caught up in their own pain, their own lies that they never gave themselves the time to love her because she was Helga.
And now time had run out and never again would they have the chance to undo what had been done.
He hated them for hurting her, hated them for not enjoying the time they had with her, the moment he realized how much Helga suffered because of them he had hated them.
But now that he had also unintentionally hurt her, the he had also, in his own way, neglected her all he could feel for these two pathetic beings was pity.
Pity and sorrow for what could have been.
Next came Olga's crushing hug, and he laughed on the inside when Helga´s beautiful face twisted into one of anger and frustration as her sister crushed her windpipe.
Some things would never change.
Brainy held her hand and kissed her several times softly on the lips, brimming with pride and happiness. He would accompany Helga on her journey but soon he would leave her to go to his own future in a different state.
A cold wave of jealousy washed over his body and he craved the happiness of being by her side and the softness that Brainy was tasting, he could still remember it from before, in the country club, in her bathroom, on Gerald's Field. He desired it, her warmth, her taste, her… just her.
In some twisted, diseased part of his mind he still thought of her as his, his to love, his to fight, his to possess.
As long as he loved her that dark side would always exist.
He accepted it but he would let it control him anymore.
Phoebe came next, and among the well-wishes of their friends, fist bumps from the guys and hugs from the girls (except Rhonda, Peapod and Lorenzo who had already left for their own colleges) Helga squeezed the hand of the one who was the best friend and the sister of her soul.
Helga's goodbye from Gerald had been awkward in the least. They crossed a strange uncertain look and their arms were slightly raised, but not much and neither of them was moving, they seemed stuck between a hug and a handshake. Finally Phoebe growing tired of her boyfriend's and best friend's stubbornness and with a slight push these two frenemies hugged for the first time in their lives.
Once the strange moment of tenderness was broken he took a step closer and waited with batted breath.
After a few long seconds she noticed his presence and there a moment of hesitation.
It was a different kind of hesitation than the one she had had with Gerald. This was less awkward but more intense.
He took advantage of the moment to drink her image and rejoice in her presence.
He did not knew when he would have the chance to do it again.
Then something broke, he did not know if it was within him, her or both as arms flew around each other and bodies pressed close together.
He could feel her fingernails slightly scratching his back, the warmth and strength of her arms as they wrapped around his torso, the fullness of her chest as it pressed against his and the fluttering of her heart deep inside her, so quick, so fragile and so very precious.
He felt all of that and held her as gently and firmly as he could, burying his face in her long slender neck and breathing in her scent.
The world melted around him until the only living beings that were left in the universe were them. To him all that existed was her and soon he would have to let go.
Desperately he attempted to memorize everything he could about her, her smell, her warmth, the feel of her against his body…
So many years…
So many adventures…
So many fights…
So many games…
And now they were over…
She was his bully…
She was his friend…
She was his first crush…
She was his first enemy…
She was his first kiss…
She was his first prank…
She was the bane of his existence…
And she was the love of his life.
And now he had to let her go.
It seemed to last an eternity, this last embrace, but when she whispered to him a quiet "write" and they pulled apart he realized that it had not been long enough and struggled with the beast not to wrap his arms around her again and keep her with him.
But he had no right to do that.
And just like that she had climbed into the Hummer turned on the engine and drove away.
As he watched her go he could feel it, something was happening inside him, a storm of epic proportions. Powerful, cruel, cold waves crashed and crashed inside him, torturing, breaking him leaving him a shadow of what he once was, the beast's mournful howls raged a cutting wind making his head heavy and his body weak. As she drove away he could feel something being ripped away from his chest, slowly stretching, struggling and screaming until it finally ripped and tore his heart until he was incomplete.
She was gone.
His other was gone.
A hand on his shoulder made him turn to face his best friend and his girlfriend, but the world had lost some his color so he felt a bit of numbness when he regarded their intertwined hands.
I held her hand that way once.
"Let's go home Arnold"
He looked once more at the now empty road.
Everybody around them was starting to leave, with every parting the fragmentation of their close knitted group was becoming apparent and morale was at an all-time low, tomorrow they would get together once more to enjoy the few days they had left of each other's company.
They were sad, depressed and nostalgic, every corner they turned reminded of that time not so long ago when they believed those sunny days filled with baseball games and childhood adventures would last forever and even when they were old and gray they would be still be walking these same old streets with same people they had known all their lives.
But that dream was dead.
They had grown up.
And now they had to move on.
The road was empty.
"Yeah, let's go."
He looked around and wanted to cry.
His room was empty.
It didn't seemed like that when he was packing his clothes, books and some pictures and some of his more beloved memorabilia, or when he had carried the boxes with Gerald to the car. But now that he had returned one last time to get his jacket it hit him how empty his room actually was.
Before he could become transfixed by the miserable image he swiftly grabbed his forgotten jacket and hurried off, unable to look up even as he closed the door to his childhood room.
Downstairs there was no music, no celebration just a simple banner saying Good Luck Arnold and his family, his cherished, eccentric, dear family waiting to say their goodbyes.
His grandparents had wanted to come with him, just to help him settle in, but the road was long and they were too old to make such a trip, so Gerald would accompany him and they would also say their farewells here on the street.
The first to pull him into a tight hug was a sobbing Mr. Hymmh his neck became wet with tears he hugged the man back with equal strength.
"You'll be alright Arnold. You're a good kid, you'll be alright."
He wondered if he was telling him that or himself.
"I sure will ."
Next came Oscar and Suzie.
A weak but heartfelt hug from the old scoundrel and then a saucy wink.
"Make sure you meet all the hot college girls Arnold."
He laughed when Suzie slightly elbowed her husband's stomach and pushed him aside, wrapping her arms around his neck the sweet woman gave him a soft squeeze and pushed away.
"I'm so proud Arnold. You'll do very well I'm sure of it."
He turned to Ernie and opened his arms ready to fall on his knees and give a hug to the short man but he raised his hands to stop him.
"None of that Arnold, you're a man and we're going to say goodbye like tough men we are."
And then they shock hands, but before he could let go Ernie pulled him closer to his level and hastily said.
"You know Arnold there's always a spot upon for you in the wrecking crew. I'm just saying if you change your mind about this college thing you can always come back okay?"
"Okay Ernie, I'll keep it in mind."
Then Lola wrapped her arms around him and gently pushed him against her ample bosom.
"Take care of him, alright?"
"I will. You take care too."
He turned to his Grandparents.
And felt the urge to hold on to them as if were a child again.
So he did.
One arm around his Grandma and another around his Grandpa and he pulled the both to him. He felt their old frail bodies against his and pondered on the deep love he had for these two who had been grandparents and parents at the same time.
When had he grown taller than them?
When had he become strong enough to lift both of them up?
When had he become old enough to leave?
He didn't know.
It seemed that just a short time ago he had been just a kid.
This was stupid! How could he even think about leaving his poor old Grandparents running the entire boarding house?!
He had to stay and help.
He had to stay to help and help his family.
He had to stay with them.
I don't want to go.
"Arnold man we have to go or we'll get stuck in traffic."
A chill ran across his body when they separated and he lost the warmth of their bodies.
"I'll call every day."
"Be careful when exploring the savanna Kimba, don't drink the coconut juice or anger the natives."
He assumed that meant to stay from booze and fights.
Before this whole heartbreak with Helga he never imagined someone would have to warn him about such a thing.
Such was the corrupting power of obsessive passion.
He wondered how she was doing.
Was she happy? Lonely?
She had told him to write but the truth was that he hadn't found the courage to. But he would do it soon.
"You'll do fine Shortman. The important thing is to study but don't forget to enjoy yourself. Remember you have to have a play ethic. "
"I will Grandpa."
It was with a heavy heart that, with many goodbyes, wishes of good luck and promises to call that he got inside the rented moving van and drove away.
It felt strangely anticlimactic this goodbye to his childhood home and loving family.
It was almost heartbreaking, but unlike the violence he had had with Helga's goodbye, this a calm quiet, passive pain, it was expected and easily accepted.
After all we all had to grow up one day.
He remembered his Grandpa's words about knowing that you've done a good job raising a kid when you were confident about him going off on his own.
His Grandparents and the boarders had done a good job.
It was the end of an era and the beginning a new one.
Silently the two young men passed the invisible boarder that separated Hillwood from the rest of the world.
He was ready.
College was not a different world it was an entirely different universe.
First of all everything was… bigger, not always in terms of size but more like… more overwhelming.
For a boy who had grown up in tight knitted neighborhood, had gone to school with practically the same close group of friends all of his life, to say he was intimidated would be an understatement.
During that first week he had been terrified.
There were so many people, so many cliques, and so many clubs he didn't know where to fit in, the classrooms were ten times bigger and although his grades had been pretty good in high school he had left his first classes feeling like an ignorant whelp.
And during that time he had not written not even a word to Helga, even though she had taken the first step for once and sent him an email asking how he was doing.
Not that he didn't want to! There were few things that would have made him happier than to turn on his computer and write her a lengthy email detailing everything that had happened since the days he had last saw her and wait for her to write back. Or maybe even turn on his computer camera and talk with her, really truly talk to her and see her with his own eyes.
He tried to tell himself that he was too busy, too tired but eventually those excuses sounded hollow and fake even to his own ears.
In reality he was just too proud to write to her. There was a sick sixth sense that told him if he wrote to Helga now he would write something that would link to his current state of fear, worry and longing and she, quick-witted as she was, would immediately catch it and worry for him. As much as part of himself would exult in her concern, his pride would not allow it.
He wanted her to admire him, to see him as someone strong and stable, someone she could rely on.
He wanted her to see him as a man.
Great part of realized this was kind of stupid, he knew that he was just human and as such felt fear and worry in this new environment. But still…
He just didn't want to appear weak to her.
He wanted to be as strong as she was. Be her equal.
And so things went on for a while.
But slowly, almost without him realizing it he had gotten used to the new fast paced rhythm of his life, his roommate, people he talked with in class stopped being strangers and became friends, he grew more confident in his surroundings.
Only then did he wrote to Helga.
The news hit him like a ton of bricks.
It literally knocked the breath out of him and he had to stare at text for five minutes before his poor shocked brain could interpret the words in a clear, understandable manner.
"Hey Arnold are you alright?"
He looked up to see his roommate David and a few of his classmates, he wondered what they were doing around him until his brain reminded him that had gotten together for a few beers and video games.
But that didn't matter right now, nothing mattered right now excluding the message he had just received from Gerald.
"Yeah… yeah I'm fine. Just give me a moment."
He stumbled out of his room, and walked absently down the hallway until he was suddenly outside.
He took out his cell and stared at the screen, just to make sure he had read it right, or hadn't misinterpreted or something…
But there it was black and white.
Helga and Brainy broke up. Phoebe told me today. Though you should know. DON'T FILP OUT!
Now this was him and it was about Helga… Gerald should have really known him better than that.
YES! YES! YES!
He was scum, he knew that. He should not be celebrating, it went against almost every promise he had made about changing his ways, destroying his selfishness and all that…
But he was just so happy!
Taking a moment to remember if Gerald would be somewhere important right about now, he quickly dialed Gerald's number and waited…
"Hey Arnold wha…"
"Tell me. Tell me everything."
"Dude I told you not to flip out."
He struggled to hide his excitement. He had to appear calm, composed and in control even if his primary urge was to scream, shout and dance the monkey.
"I'm not flipping out I'm just curious that's all. It's all so sudden, they seemed happy… did Phoebe tell you why they broke up?"
Oh happy day…
"Arnold my man… are you smiling?"
"What? No, no I'm not! What makes you say that? You can't see me."
"I can tell just by the way you sound over the phone! Dude seriously, you need to get some therapy."
"Yeah, yeah later… now tell me what Phoebe said?"
Maybe Gerald was right and he should consider professional help, this wasn't normal being this happy for the fact that Helga G. Pataki was single once again, just a month after new year's was not normal.
It wasn't like he had a shot, Helga was miles away out of his reach and surrounded by men with better shots than him…
It was irrational, it was sick but he was so happy it made him a little disgusted with himself.
But since when was love rational?
Since when was his relationship with Helga ever normal?
He heard his best friend sigh.
I know it's pathetic but please Gerald just this once indulge me. It's her… don't you see Gerald it's about her and I have to know.
"What do you want to know?"
A lot of questions popped into his head at the same time but one and only one pushed its way to first place.
"Is she… is she alright? I mean… they were close and she cared so much for him…"
"According to Phoebe she's doing fine. The breakup was more of a mutual thing at this point. You know how it is with long distance relationships... there came a point when they just realized they had grown too far apart, that's all. Better to move on with their lives than holding on to the tatters of a relationship, that's what Helga told her."
Looking at Helga's family he could see why Helga would be an expert with that particular motto.
He sighed in relief, miles away or not if Brainy had hurt Helga in any way, Arnold wasn't sure he could stop himself from hunting that weasel down and remove every tooth from his wheezing mouth one by freaking one.
"Arnold, I'm worried about you man. This thing with Helga has to stop, you have to move on and let yourself be happy."
It wasn't the first time they had this conversation, ever since Gerald found out that he and Helga chatted every other day this topic had become a constant in in life.
He saw the truth in Gerald's words, he would have to be completely delusional not to but talking was cheap. It wasn't with pretty words and motivational speeches that a junkie like him could give up the passionate drug that was his love for Helga.
He didn't know how he could ever cure himself from his hunger.
"I mean what are you going to do Arnold? Live the rest of your life as a monk waiting for the day Helga will finally love you back?"
What else could he do?
If Gerald knew, if Gerald felt even a tiny fraction of what he felt every time he checked his emails and saw one marked with Helga's name, how his heart would give a nervous jump and he would feel giddy and a bit nauseous like when would spin around as a child to make himself dizzy.
Gerald had Phoebe, the woman he loved at driving distance he couldn't possibly understand the meaning of those little stolen moments when he and Helga both had free time to see her even if it was just an image on a computer screen.
He could try dating, Gerald had told him, try to find love with another girl, but that hardly seemed fair. He may have discovered the possessive beast that dwelt within him but by no means would he take advantage of a young woman and use her to try to get over his broken heart, which was too disgusting even for him.
He would date when he was ready, whenever that may be.
And he told Gerald that.
Gerald accepted his decision, he may not like it or agree with it but it was his decision to make.
"So what are you going to do now, man?"
He could practically see his best friend's eyes bulge out of their sockets in shock and disbelief.
"You're kidding right?"
"Arnold, the woman you believe to be the love of your life just broke up with her boyfriend, you call me celebrating and ready to hear all the sordid details and now you're telling me you're not going to do nothing."
"You're crazy man. Bold and crazy."
And so this conversation ended.
Later that night he sat at the computer to read Helga's latest email, there was no mention of the breakup. True that, out of respect for him and their shaky friendship she rarely mentioned her boyfriend or their relationship, but still this was a bit big to just be ignored.
Maybe she was hesitant to tell him, maybe she feared that by telling him she would only incite him to make unwanted advances, which meant that she didn't trust him not to take advantage of her. Maybe the damages that he had caused in his selfishness were still having repercussions,
His hands trembled as he faltered in writing his response, should he imply that he knew or just tell her flat out? He should be honest with her, but she hadn't told him anything so maybe she just didn't want to discuss her romantic life with the guy who declared his love for her in her bathroom.
He guessed it would be an uncomfortable conversation but was it more uncomfortable than pretending?
What should he do?
He would do exactly what he told Gerald if Helga didn't want to tell him about her relationship problems then he couldn't butt in. He had to keep reminding himself that he had no claims on Helga other than friendship and as such if Helga didn't want to talk to him about Brainy then there was nothing he could do about it.
It was a difficult thing to do, first of all he was a natural busybody as his dear friends constantly told him, second this was Helga and she was too important for him to just let her go.
He wanted her to confide in him, to know that she could trust her.
But the type of trust he wanted could never be forced from her, it had to be earned. He had to prove to her that he was worthy of her.
Being with Helga, weather it was courting her or just trying to have a peaceful relationship with her was a lot like dancing the most complex tango that one could imagine. You had to be careful where you stepped, how you moved, sometimes you had to lead and other times you had to back away, and like a wild animal sometimes she would surrender her control and others she would fight back. A delirious dance, an ever changing rhythm and an intoxicating partner.
How he longed for her.
When he finally wrote back he did not mention Brainy or the breakup.
The first time he ever got drunk was on the night after his final exams, he had spent on of the most stressful seasons of his life closed up in the library only leaving for his basic accursed human needs and to take the hellish exams.
Stressed, irritated he had snapped at everyone and everything, including Helga, in their last chat he and the equally stressed woman looking disheveled and showing obvious signs of lack of sleep had gotten into an argument, for some stupid reason that he couldn't even remember, within seconds and their arguments against each other had broken down to the point that by the end of their little conversation Helga had, very elegantly he might add, flipped him off while he growled and glared at her like some sort of caged animal.
It was the first time since entering college that he really thought about Ernie's proposal.
Naturally by the end of it he was so worn out that he dragged himself to his dorm, crawled under his covers and just slept the day away. He woke up with David shaking his shoulder telling him that they were going out tonight to celebrate the blissful end of their stay in hell, still groggy from his long nap he accepted.
He knew he was still a minor when David offered him a cup, he knew he shouldn't, but it had been a long and demanding month and he just wanted to relax and let go just for a little while.
I mean… what harm could a few drinks do?
The sun, he concluded, was an agent of Satan himself.
His head felt like it had been trampled on by all the king's horses and all the king's men. And he was pretty sure that during the night someone had shoved a decomposing body down his throat.
Groaning and grunting like the undead he shielded himself from the vicious light, turning in his bed like it would settle the uprising in his stomach.
A door opened softly and soft footsteps tiptoed on the floor but still the sound was too loud for his aching head.
"Well good morning sunshine."
The glared he bestowed on the intruding presence was so foul that it would have set the offending figure on fire. The mocking manner it was received by David proved its lack of effect as the young man smiled holding a glass of water and an aspirin tablet in one hand and an empty trash bag in another.
The hand holding the trash bag rose to cover his heart as he took a step back as if he was wounded, the smile grew bigger, and if possible more mocking.
"Such words! And from such a kind, pure soul! And after I went through all this trouble to bring you some comfort after your spectacular show last night."
Arnold gathered his strength and rose to describe to David the several interesting ways he could go fuck himself when he doubled over. In a second David was holding the trash bag to his face so he could regurgitate safely.
"Ok… ok… there you go…"
"I'm dying." He gasped between waves.
"No, it just feels like it."
David put down the glass and the aspirin by his side and dropped down to his own bed.
After a few minutes of suffering and purging Arnold state evolved from feeling like he had been run over by a herd of wild elephants to just by one he closed the bag and distaste and swallowed the pill.
David looked up and Arnold noticed he was barely holding his laugh and he felt ice settling in the bottom of his stomach. He realized with growing horror that he had no memories of last night.
What did I do?
"You don't want to know."
Another wave of nausea hit him but this one had little to do with his hungover state.
"Will I find out?"
His roommate gave a short laugh.
He groaned deeply already fearing what was to come.
"How bad is it?"
Another laugh, another glare.
"Sorry, sorry… It's just that… You're so prim and proper all the time but when you're drunk… Oh God Arnold…" He made no effort to muffle his laughter. "Sorry… You're a very fun drunk. Very cheerful, very caring, very generous with your money, "Arnold groaned "…and a very, very graceful dancer."
The moan that climbed out of his mouth was both pathetic and pitiful but considering the probable events of last night he couldn't find the energy to care.
"Oh yes. When you climbed that table and tried to moonwalk it was beautiful. Simply beautiful."
Suddenly the poor state of his body was the least of his concerns.
Come on! You're not the first guy to do stupid things while drunk. And you certainly not going to be the last.
Yeah… that's right. Certainly things got out of hand last night but there was no permanent damage just a little drunk dancing, nothing serious.
"But my favorite part was when you called this chick named Helga…"
The world stopped spinning, time stood still as the gravity of the situation sunk in on his poor abused body.
He called Helga… while he was drunk… He was pissed and decided to call his unrequired love. For a moment he was curious about the train of thought his drunk mind must have been following for him to think that calling the woman of his life while his inhibitions were especially low was a good idea.
Stupid drunk me!
A serious of truly horrible scenarios danced in his mind, to drunk call Helga was probably the worst thing he could do. He had problems controlling himself around her when he was sober!
What did he do?
A confession of his deepest feelings?
A slurry and idiotic love confession?
A pathetic and begging request that she would at least consider him a potential love interest?
Chills were running rampant through his body, cold sweat broke out from his pores. His heartbeat rising to alarming degrees. All this at the thought that he had made a fool of himself in front of the woman he loved.
He had been trying so hard to change, to become a man he could be proud of being.
This had become bigger than Helga.
He wanted to change for himself.
To grow up and stand proud.
The person he was, the selfish cruel one who had pushed away his family and abused the person he loved like he had the right to demand her adoration without giving anything in return. He wanted to punch that person in the face.
That person wasn't who wanted to be. So he had to change.
And he had been trying.
It was difficult balance to achieve. Helga was a complicated person and he handled their interactions with care. It wasn't walking like on eggshells but rather reaching a new level of understanding.
He was learning all the invisible signs that Helga gave.
Little treasures of her personality, tiny windows into her soul that only the most watchful eyes could detect.
Like the tapping of her right hand fingers on the desk when they talked which usually meant that she wanted to talk about something but was struggling to bring it up.
At those moments he now knew that pushing her would only incite her to back away. He had to control his old busybody instincts and while supporting her and encouraging her to let her move at her own pace.
Or when she twirled her hair that meant that something good had happened and the biting of her lower lip that normally meant she had a particularly nasty day.
It wasn't getting to Helga all over again but rather diving deeper in that passionate soul, discovering the hidden coves of that strange bully of a woman.
And loving every second of it.
But it wasn't just him that was changing.
It took a while from him to notice it but Helga was gradually becoming freer.
The guarded way in which she spoke and acted like at any moment someone would take advantage of any moment of vulnerability to use it against her, that way that made her look so angry and unapproachable was disappearing. Cracking away like a long standing, too used porcelain mask and the real Helga was starting to shine through the cracks.
Their talks now had a deeper quality to it, not nearly as intense as that day in the bathroom but slowly opening up to each other. Getting to know each other.
It had been only a month ago that Helga had trusted him enough to talk a little about her former relationship with Brainy. Nothing to deep, she didn't want to make him uncomfortable, just something about how she was handling the loss of her relationship.
It was so hard for Helga to form bonds that losing them even if it was for the best and the two parties parted on good terms it was still painful for her.
It took great self-control not to say too much in this occasion. Part of him, the part where the monster dwelt, lurking and alert, where his sickest thoughts resided wanted to speak up, to bad-mouth Brainy and present him as the better choice.
But this was wrong. This was not who he wanted to be.
So he listened, comforted her.
And they said their goodbyes and he was alone with his thoughts he felt a bit on edge but ultimately happy with himself.
She had trusted him, she had trusted him enough to open herself up to him and he was happy for it. He had listened to her, he had put his selfishness aside and truly talked to her.
Their bond had been deepening.
Please somebody tell him he didn't ruin it all in a drunken speech.
"It was especially interesting when she convicted you to do the chicken dance."
He ruined it… He ruined it… Wait what?
He looked at David, who was apparently trying very hard not to laugh, the shocked expression on his face must have had some effect because David sobered up a little and began telling him the full story.
"Well Helga called, I tried to stop you but you really, really wanted to talk to her. It was a video call and you were very happy about it because you could finally show us how beautiful she was. That girl… let me tell you Arnold she is something. Spent all the time ginning listen to your drunken babble, I don't know how but she convinced you to take off shirt…"
"…and to dance the chicken dance for all of us to see. Including her, I was holding your phone the whole time."
"C'mon Arnold, I was half drunk when I met the girl last night and I even know she type of girl that just takes a no. Besides she got us the greatest show I had ever seen I think I owed her."
"Please, I need to talk to her. And I would rather do it alone."
David shrugged and rose from his bed before he closed the door he turned back to comment.
"You know Arnold I used to wonder what type of girl you were interested in, I mean, I have never seen you date. I used to imagine you with some sweet innocent girl-next-door waiting for you to come back but I was wrong… you're kind of a masochist Arnold."
He called her number and patiently waited.
His cheeks were burning with shame and anger.
If he had her right in front of him he didn't know if he would try to ring her neck or kiss her. Knowing the depth of his disease he was more inclined to the second one.
"Morning Football Head."
A tingle of excitement and irritation made him almost smile and close his fist in anger at the same time when he heard that teasing voice.
That was Helga alright, even if a hundred girls with similar voices to hers were talking at the same time he would recognize hers by the mixture of softness and playfulness that caressed him.
He was truly lost to her if could still be so happy to hear her voice while still being so angry at her.
"Did you have a fun night?"
The badly concealed laughter was really putting him on edge.
Damn her! Damn that infuriating bully! Damn me for not being able to face to face with her!
"Not as fun as yours apparently."
His voice was controlled and steady, keeping at bay the urge to just yell at her. But she must have noticed the barely contained anger because she huffed and said:
"Don't tell me you're angry at me! It was hilarious!"
Now he yelled at her.
"Humiliating me in front of God knows how many people is not hilarious! Dammit Helga I thought you were over this bully thing!"
He was frustrated more than angry. He thought she had changed, he really thought she wouldn't do this sort of thing anymore.
"I can tell you how many people were there you moron! Five! You and your equally drunk friends, it was outside your dorm at four in the freaking morning."
This stopped his rant.
"Nobody but your friends saw and trust me I'll be surprised if any of those drunks remember anything."
It was with some difficulty that he summoned back his anger.
"But nothing! You owed me that!"
"How does someone owe a chicken dance?"
"When somebody calls someone else at four a.m. with no regard to the fact has pulling all-nighters for days I believe that that person deserves vengeance."
He forgot that he had decided that Helga was under as much stress as he was. She had probably finished her exams yesterday and had wanted to rest…
"It was the middle of the night, nobody saw and it was just a stupid dance. That you performed very well, I might add, very gracefully."
There was a pause.
Shame flooded him as he stared at the covers of his bed.
He had done it again.
Why couldn't he ever do right by her?
Could she tell he meant it?
He shouldn't have accused her. He should have trusted her. He should have…
Even if he wasn't going through the hangover from hell this would still be the most eloquent response he would have given.
"Arnold you though I humiliated in front of everybody, of course you were angry. If it were me I would have skipped the call and just socked you."
"Over the phone?"
"I would drive there."
Only Helga could make him so happy by threatening him.
"I'm sorry too. I shouldn't have done that, I was very tired and when you woke me up I got angry."
He smiled, an apology from Helga G. Pataki was precious and rare and should be savored.
Where once was a storm now it was calm. He dropped on the bed staring at the grey celling, phone next to his ear.
She was too precious to him.
Even if she would never love him like he loved her he still would always want to be connected to her, even if it was just platonically. The way he loved her was more than physical attraction, more than desire although those were present in great amounts. But when they were apart it wasn't her body he missed the most, it was the way she seemed to wake him from a long cold slumber. How every teasing comment or saucy grin made him want answer back with his own. How alive she made him feel…
"I would never hurt you like that again Arnold."
He sat up on the bed, heart racing, his vision swimming and headache forgotten.
She hadn't said it softly or shyly but confident and firmly. She was sure of her words, sure of her promise.
Helga the bully was no more.
They would always have those half-happy half-angry memories but now it was time to move on.
"So… you wanted to see me without my shirt?"
A gasp was heard on the other side of the phone and he could picture the blush on her checks and the biting of her beautiful pink lips.
Maybe this teasing thing wasn't so bad…
If once in while they traded places.
"Did not! Who told you that?"
"A little bird told me."
"Well if it was part of the flock you were with last night then that little bird was drunk as hell. Who knows what he heard?"
His grin bloomed into a smile.
"Now Helga I feel I bit violated, after all to take advantage of a poor innocent young man while he doesn't have the capability to say no…"
"Innocent my ass! You started taking your clothes off by yourself."
"You could have just asked…"
She gasped again and his smile evolved into a full on laugh.
"You're an ass, you know that!"
And when David came back to the room and saw him rolling on the bed laughing his ass off while a very angry Helga berated him on the phone, he took a few seconds to really admire the strange picture before heading out again with the words:
"A masochist definitively."
Maybe he was, just a little bit, the same way Helga was a little sadistic as well.
And maybe just maybe that's why he felt so alive when he was with her.
She was his equal by being his opposite.
If she had been like Lila, sweet and generous and girly he would have never loved her like this, would never have feel this all-compassing need for her every word, her every touch.
They simply would not fit together.
If he had never met her. Had never felt this sickness inside his body.
How dull his life would have been!
He was going to keep working, to keep changing and he was going to keep trying to be with her.
He feeling of desperation of two years ago when he had firmly believed that he wouldn't be able to live without her was gone.
He knew that if Helga found someone else that he could keep living and surviving the best way he could. He knew now that he too could as strong as Helga.
But that didn't mean he wouldn't try to frantically avoid such a future.
When he saw her again it was raining.
He had come home for his summer holidays and until he saw them all again on the stoop of the boarding house he had never been hit with just how much he had missed them.
He hugged them, every single one.
He thought he would be bored, Gerald and Phoebe had gone to Europe and Helga had gone on a trip with friends from the university newspaper. Most of the old gang spent their summers out of town but he wasn't.
He had missed his old room, and his strange family so much that even his Grandma's antics seemed delightful.
He spent time with all of them, memorizing all that he could before he had to leave again,
One day the weather was particularly cloudy and he had gone out to visit Harold who was working in Mr. Green's butcher and Patty who helped him.
His Grandpa had insisted that he take an umbrella with him in case it rained despite Arnold's belief that the weather would clear up.
Good old wise Grandpa.
He first noticed the little pitter-patter against the windows of the butcher and immediately mentally thanked his Grandpa for all his wisdom. Now it was pouring freely and he had just refused Patty's offer to drive him home, it was still another half-an-hour till the butcher had to close and even after there was the cleaning and the storing to do and he didn't want Harold to do all that alone.
So with his trusty green umbrella he made his way across the mostly deserted neighborhood. Pausing sometimes to observe another change that had occurred while he was gone or to bask in the nostalgia of a certain spot.
He was just around the corner of Chez Paris when a sound, a sweet loved sound caught his ears.
"Criminy! What next?"
His heart immediately tried to burst out his chest and run in the direction of that voice…
That voice, he had heard on the phone, on the computer but nothing was better than hearing it live.
He quickly turned the corner and had to swallow a cry of joy. His blood racing in veins filling him with warmth and joy, the world seemed suddenly brighter, more colorful. He wanted to laugh, he wanted to cry, he wanted to run to her and trap her in his arms just to see if she was still as warm and soft has he remembered to be. But he could only cry out joyfully.
She turned to look at him blue meshing with green in a tornado of emotions.
She was wearing black pants and a pink shirt all wet now that she had been caught in the rain unprotected. She was wet and disheveled and had mud all over her shoes but to him she had never looked more beautiful.
And to top it all off in her hair holding the golden strands in a ponytail was pink ribbon tied in a bow.
He wanted to kiss her.
He ran to her, and immediately covered her from the rain with umbrella.
"What are you doing here? I thought you weren't coming to Hillwood this summer."
"Had too." She answered smiling "Olga's engaged, asked me to come to help as her bridesmaid."
She made a face utter displeasure at this part and when he laughed she shot him a dirty glare that only made him laugh harder.
"I take it the experience hasn't been pleasant?"
"It's a nightmare. Baby sister which flowers should be on the center piece red and white roses or pink and white camellias? Helga, baby sister dear have you arranged the seats already?" The sickly sweet voice in which she spoke gave him an idea of the many tortures Helga might be suffering at the hands of her ditzy sister.
"Is it that bad?"
"Worse. I swear if I don't get a break from her soon I'll dye the wedding dress yellow and blue."
He laughed, picturing the scene in his head. Beautiful, high-strung Helga… while doubted she would go that far, he had no suspicion that if pushed too far Helga would something that would make her sister have second thoughts about inviting her.
She sighed, and pressed closer to him in order to escape the still falling rain.
And like that moment in Gerald's Field a year ago they both suddenly realized how close they were to each other. Huddled together against the rain, their bodies inches away from touching.
They looked into each other's eyes, for a single moment he wondered exactly when he grown taller than her, only for that thought to be completely blown away by the feeling of her soft breath against his lips.
A standstill once again.
For a moment he truly panicked a million thoughts racing in his mind, what if they weren't ready? What if he messed up again?
He looked at her and wondered if she was having the same doubts.
They were just there so close and so far apart.
Maybe he wasn't ready, maybe he would never be ready, darkness existed in us all and the difference was in if we let it control us or if we fight against it.
He wasn't perfect. He would never be perfect.
And Helga was like that too.
There was no such thing like a perfect relationship and both of them were passionate and had their tempers, they would disagree, they would fight and sometimes she would drive him crazy and another times he would frustrate her.
But would that really matter?
They were their own people, with dreams, and strengths and weaknesses would they forever avoid their feelings out of fear? The fear that they would destroy one another?
Was he really that pathetic? Was she really that weak?
The answer came to him naturally, just by observing her, just by remembering all that happened.
They were strong, even when they were apart they were still strong.
And so a decision was made.
He bend over and slowly, carefully softly pressed his lips against her.
She was so soft.
She was so warm.
He parted from her, missing her already.
But before he stand upright again she rose on the tip of her toes and answered back.
Parting her pink lips to trap his bottom one and tasting him, caressing him, so lovingly and tenderly that he moaned finally pressing his body against her.
It was like they were in their own universe, their own little eternity right there on the muddy street,
And when they parted he realized that even that eternity hadn't been enough.
He looked at her standing under his umbrella, wet from the rain and couldn't help but raise his left hand to caress her check. The smooth, delicate skin making his fingertips tingle.
She rose her eyes to meet his.
She is so beautiful.
So wild and free.
How could he not love her?
"…I like your bow."
A moment of confusion before she realized what he was saying.
A saucy grin.
Her warm hand covering his as she cradled his hand against her skin.
"Even though my pants aren't pink?"
He felt so happy and delirious.
His stomach has doing cartwheels inside his body.
His heart was running a marathon.
And his body was so hot.
Maybe he was sick.
She laughed and threw her arms around him, lips met and he wrapped his arm around her. He doubted he would ever be able to let go.
He hopped that whatever it was, it was incurable.
And that's it. I am going to miss this.
Thank you, to all the people who read it, to all the people who favorited it, to all the ones who commented it I can never express to you my gratitude. Every time I had a writer's block I read your comments and I kept writing. This story is as much yours as it is mine.
Please leave a comment because I would love to hear what you guys thought about this Disease.
Goodbye, till the next time.