I DO NOT OWN HEY ARNOLD!!! DON'T SUE ME!!! (I don't have any money anyway so you wouldn't get much out of it if you did)

Return To Innocence

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"Can you just explain to me why we're going to… where ever it is we're going--where are we going?" asks Roxanne irritably with just a hint of confusion, "And, tell me, why would I even want to go there-"

"It's not about what you want," I say, cutting her off sharply in aggravation.

"So what is it about? Who wants this?" she goes on, not caring in the least how whiny and selfish she sounds. She and I walk side by side to Charlie's house, trying desperately--at least on my end--to get along for this short amount of time. See, I realized that in this situation it really shouldn't matter how I feel about her; it shouldn't matter at all if I feel she's a terrible person; it really just shouldn't matter if I think she's not worthy of someone like Charlie--someone so intelligent but just too quiet for his own good. Now, you're confused, right? You think I should be angry or jealous of him, right? You think that because of what Phoebe said I should be worried he's got a thing for Helga, right? But… somehow I just can't stop being me. I know that sounds silly, maybe down-right ridiculous, but I think it might be too cruel to just let him be lonely… always wondering what it would have been like if he'd taken a different path in life. So what am I doing? It's like I'm single-handedly trying to turn back time; trying to erase whatever time has passed between these two individuals. Can I? Can they just start where they left off, or is it simply not that easy? Sadly, this dream I have is naïve. What's worse is I realize it completely, yet I strive to make it happen.

"I want this," I reply. I look to her and notice her rolling her eyes in an obvious manner. She chews recklessly at her bubblegum, periodically blowing a loud bubble. I keep reminding myself that I'm doing this for Charlie, but now that I'm here, now that I'm standing next to this girl, I'm finding it hard to believe that this is the same person Charlie speaks of so lovingly. Maybe Roxanne's just changed, maybe she hasn't always been like this. Sometimes I think about what Roxanne must have been like as a kid. I try to imagine this girl that Charlie speaks of so distantly. What if she were a completely different person? I see this little girl--my vision of her as a child--playing hop-scotch and hide and go seek with little Charlie Reiker. I see her as a little freckle-faced youngster making mud pies and wearing overalls, chasing Charlie around park, scraping her knees and making grass stains on her new clothes. Could she have been like that? So what is it that turned her into a prissy, snobby, whiny, irritating young woman?

"So you don't call that selfish?" she states, looking at me slightly through the corner of her eye.

"What?"

"You say it's not about what I want, right?" she pauses, slowing her pace as we approach Charlie's home, "So it's about what you want? If you ask me, you're acting just as selfishly as I am, Arnold." she stops.

"Believe me, sweetie," I use the word distastefully, "it's not about what either of us wants." she seems to not have heard me as she stares in awe at her surroundings. She turns a few times in a circle, admiring everything from the dirty defaced building--Charlie's home--to the trash-ridden sidewalk before her. She recognizes her environment, I can feel it. But, this recognition I feel from her is not one of happiness, but one of dread.

As if feeling my eyes on her, she turns abruptly to face me, anger in her expression; sadness in her eyes. I realize then that it's the same look I remember getting from Helga when I wanted to take her to Charlie's against her will. "You want to explain to me now why we're here?" she places her hands firmly on her hips.

"Where's here?" I ask coolly, watching as she grows slightly paler yet slightly flushed with anger.

"You know… here," she gestures frantically with her hands towards Charlie's broken home, "You know where!" she cries, backing away from me. "I never agreed to this--you never told me where we were going!" she points to me discriminately, angrily, heartbrokenly.

"I would have, I just-" I try to explain, but my reasoning falls on deaf ears. She continues to back away from me as I try to get closer to her, as I try to calm her down.

"You know, I don't know why I even trusted you! Why?! I just let you lead me wherever you decided to go? What for?!" she screams, clenching her small hands into tiny fists.

"You need to calm down, you're over reacting!" I almost shout. I take a step to her but she violently yanks herself farther away from me.

"No, NO!" she says holding up her hands in a defensive manner.

"What do you mean, no?" I ask, somewhat confused. She looks down to gather her breath for a moment.

"I mean NO, get away from me." she says heatedly, folding her arms in a slight attempt to intimidate me again; ha, there's only one person who could intimidate me that easily, and even she has lost that strength over me.

"Why? Just what is it you think I'm going to do?" I ask almost in an incredulous tone.

"Well I," she pauses, "You just… need to step away from me right now. You're too close." she says, raising her eyebrows and tilting her head up. Now, as simply as she said the words, 'you're too close,' and as simple as their surface meaning must be, I know they're hinting at something else. I guess it's just me again, trying to find meaning where there is none; trying to make things more complicated and complex than they need to be.

"I'm too close?" I repeat, mimicking her by folding my arms just as she.

"You're too close," she answers, yet her statement seems to hold a different meaning. Perhaps the tone she repeated it in is to blame. Or, maybe I'm right. Maybe there is some underlying meaning to those words.

For a brief second--that feels like a lifetime of silence--we stare at one another. Everything seems to fall quiet around us as we watch intently the other's expression--waiting for the other person to back down. She looks at me, searching my face--my eyes--for something.

An answer to the earlier question perhaps of 'why are we here'.

"Arnold?" I hear as a distant echo. Did I really hear that? I'm too immersed in this staring game to identify the voice, or even look for its source. "Arnold." it repeats, and I see a flicker of recognition on Roxanne's intended stoic face. Her lips part. Her eyes struggle to keep from looking in the direction of the voice. Her heart rate obviously is rising. In her expression is a look of pain, heart ache, and…

comfort. Yes, comfort somehow at the recognition that it's Charlie Reiker.

As I realize Roxanne's torment, I quickly snap out of my stare and look towards Charlie standing on his stoop.

"Arnold?" He repeats one last time. He looks confused from me to Roxanne and finally settles on me with a look of betrayal. "What is this?" he asks in an aggravated and hurt tone I'd only heard him use with his father. At this moment, Helga walks out of Charlie's house, looking just as confused as Charlie himself. She looks, as he did, from me to Roxanne. When Helga settles her gaze on me, though, her expression is not one of betrayal, but one of utter confusion. She perks an eyebrow at me, then scoffs and walks back into the house.

As I look to Charlie and Roxanne, I can see the same look in both their eyes. As they turn to face one another for the first time I see something else there as well…

Irritation.

Aggravation.

And hurt.

But this irritation, aggravation, and hurt I see in their eyes is not from my actions… but from their own.

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Here's chapter 20--I can't believe this story is 20 chapters long. When I first started out on this piece of fan fiction (my first actually) I never thought it would be this long at all. Maybe 20 chapters isn't long for some of you, but for me, someone who never finishes anything of what she starts, it's long as hell. Anyway, I hope you enjoy ;D