Hey, Arnold! Fan Fiction ❯ Tango ❯ Chapter 1

[ P - Pre-Teen ]

(A collection of ArnoldxHelga short stories.)

Dance 01: Tolerance

(She pushed him to the limit and he tolerated it. It was the way it had always been, until one day one of them snaps when they least expect it.)

Fate was cruel, or maybe just mischievous, putting them in every possible situation where they could be so close together, yet so far apart.

They had been stuck on the same academic group countless times. She came close to confessing her feelings without the aftermath of denial many times, and he came close to snapping and refusing to accept that denial. But in the end, she continued to hide and he continued to tolerate.

She too had a strong tolerance, to hold such emotions in her heart, to tolerate the silence and the secrets. His tolerance was for her, for the deceit of her actions, for the lies towards him and herself. For the sake of themselves and each other, they both tolerated.

It was a project like any other; or perhaps more simple. There were no eggs, or awkward inconveniences, only math problems. Their previous argument had long since quieted, while they divided the problems among themselves and worked in silence, sitting side by side in front of his relatively small desk.

Occasionally their elbows would touch, but the argument of it being done on purpose had become too old to concern either of them. Sometimes, their hands would brush when they reached for the eraser at the same time, before she snatched it and he tolerated.

He was lost in thought, focused on the math, the yellow number two pencil grasped in his fingers, his thumb resting on its surface. He applied pressure, just a small amount of pressure with his thumb, almost subconsciously.

The pencil had no tolerance. Maybe if it had been a pen, Helga's pink pen that she wasn't using today, it wouldn't have snapped. But the wooden yellow pencil Arnold had chosen to work with snapped, breaking in two. A small splinter was stuck in his thumb, with red dots of blood forming around it.

He only looked at the broken pencil, he didn't realize how much pressure he was applying, or maybe the pencil was simply cheap and fragile.

"Stupid football head," she took his hand and removed the splinter, pricking her own finger with it in the process.

He shook his head, carefully taking the tiny splinter and placing it on the desk. He picked up the two pieces of the broken pencil and fitted them together, though he knew they would not hold.

"Just use another pencil," she spoke impatiently and turned her attention back to her work. But secretly, she thought of her beloved, and suppressed the need to nurse his injury even if it was not grave.

Without a word, Arnold picked up another pencil and resumed his work. Until they had both finished and they simply sat there, pretending to go over the numbers. She stayed, silent, her emotions hidden; her enjoyment invisible. He stayed quiet as well and most of all tolerant.

Then his grandmother came, opening the door just an inch, and peeking in before letting out a heavy sigh and finally knocking. "Come in," Arnold's voice replied before the first knock had the chance to fade from the field of sound.

"I see I'm not interrupting," she placed cookies and two glasses of milk in a corner of the desk. How could she know if she was interrupting or not? Did she notice their relaxed expressions and assumed they were done? The mischievous glint in her eyes indicated that it was something more.

"No," Arnold replied unsure, "we just finished." His grandmother was referring to something else, that much he knew, but he had no idea what it could be.

Then the old woman sighed, "you've always been a good boy, so well behaved... maybe too well behaved. A little mischief now and then doesn't hurt. I won't interrupt again."

"What are you talking about?" Arnold inquired, while Helga came up with a million silent theories.

"Nothing, nothing," the door was closed; Arnold and Helga were alone again.

"Mischief?" it was one word that brought forth many thoughts, but remained a complete mystery. He tolerated it none the less, and didn't press the matter.

"Stupid football head," Helga ate a cookie.

"What did I do now?" Arnold gave her a confused look.

"Nothing," Helga revealed everything, and at the same time nothing at all. Arnold was oblivious, but she tolerated it.

Arnold gathered the papers, organized them and placed them in a folder. "Do you want me to keep the folder?"

"I'll keep it, because you'll forget to bring it to school." He did not protest against her choice and simply set the finished work aside.

He ate his snack in silence; he tolerated the tension as did she. It was comfortable and at the same time unbearable. It was familiar, but even a small familiar push can make one's tolerance eventually break. "How long?"

"What?" She looked at him, his every detail forever engraved in her mind.

"For how long are you going to act as if you don't like me?" He felt himself close to snapping, so close. "I know it's not true. I know you..." his tolerance returned, maybe in self defense, a useless defense that prevented a question for which he already knew the answer all too well. He wouldn't blame her silence if he had silence of his own, he was tolerant once again.

"I what?" Helga knew her secret was out, but she and Arnold acted as if it wasn't. She had falsely claimed it wasn't true. She had acted as if she didn't want it to be known, so he tolerated and conceded.

"Nothing never mind," he was tolerant, too tolerant maybe, so tolerant it was both surprising and frustrating.

She had tolerated him for a long time too, but he was no mind reader, she couldn't expect him to guess how she felt from her vague hints. Then when she did tell him, she quickly denied it and he chose to tolerate it. He was very patient, caring, kind, and tolerant, but she was done tolerating him, and tolerating the wait. "Stupid football head," she had loved him since she was a small child and now she was a teenager, just a couple of years away from adulthood. "I love you."

It wasn't the first time he heard that, but this time there was no drama, no chaos and no rush, except for the fire of their emotions. It wasn't a confession to the occasion, but an indication that her tolerance had been finally washed away completely, little by little. It was the last drop, the small drop that unleashed the flood.

He noticed then, albeit late, that she didn't want him to tolerate, because she was more tolerant than she appeared to be in that sense; and one of them had to snap to end the silence. He decided that he would stop tolerating the denial and the hiding. Because he wasn't waiting for her as he thought he was; she was waiting for him. He was the one who owed a reply. "I know; I love you too."

End of Dance 01

xoxox xox xoxox

Dance 02: Secrets

(Stuck in the Pataki residence during a storm, Arnold makes quite a discovery about Helga.)

Arnold Shortman was a nice boy who always tried to be considerate and polite to those around him. Despite his young age, he had been through many experiences that helped him grow and mature beyond his years. There were two occasions in his life that stood out as the biggest shocks of his young existence. One of those occasions was when his classmate and personal tormentor, Helga G. Pataki, confessed her love for him when they were trying to save the neighborhood. The other surprising occasion was even more shocking, just when he thought such a thing wasn't possible and it made him realize just how real the first event had been.

After her confession, Helga denied everything and Arnold, confused by the event, humored her in not bringing it up. Things became more or less how they were before, except Arnold knew Helga's secret, even if for her and his own sake pretended not to know. Yet, knowing that secret made him change a little, even without realizing it. He was slowly becoming braver around her and less avoidant, knowing that her taunts and pranks were not rooted in hatred. Even so, nothing could prepare him for the event that occurred on that stormy night, when Arnold was stuck in the Pataki residence with Helga and her family.

The rain fell heavily, bouncing off the streets with a continuous sound. There was a blackout that consumed the entire neighborhood due to the harsh storm. The houses and streets were pitch black and only lit up when lighting crashed. Miriam sat on the couch fast asleep, her head was thrown back, mouth open, snoring lightly, she had a few too many smoothies earlier.

Bob was on the phone yelling at the electric company about missing wrestling and football on TV due to the blackout. He slammed the phone harshly, making Miriam momentarily wake from her slumber at the noise, only to fall asleep again seconds later. "Miriam, I'm going out to give those idiots a piece of my mind in person."

His wife didn't reply, but his eldest daughter, Olga, who was visiting, much to Helga's dismay, jumped in front of him as Bob headed for the door. "You shouldn't go out in the storm daddy, it's not safe," she insisted.

"Someone's got to do something about this," Bob argued, "I'm bored!"

"I'm sure we can find ways to entertain ourselves," Olga cheerfully chimed melodiously. The phone rang and the young woman who was seen by many as perfect, placed her hand on her stressed father's shoulder, "allow me," she offered, picking up the phone, "good evening, this is the Pataki residence, Olga Pataki speaking." There was silence as Olga listened to the other side of the conversation, "of course he can, I'm sure baby sister will be happy that her little friend is staying over, I'll let them know right away, thank you for calling!"

After Olga hung up, Bob gave her a questioning look, "who was that?"

"It was the grandfather of baby sister's little friend," Olga joyfully informed, "he said it's not safe to go out in this weather and asked if baby sister's little friend could spend the night, since the storm will probably go on until the late hours of the night."

"And you told him yes?" Bob was not pleased at this, but he had no time to argue since Olga had already skipped away to inform Helga and Arnold of the news. Bob grumbled and proceeded to go out, against his daughter's advice.

xoxox xox xoxox

"Baby sister!" Olga's high pitched voice interrupted Helga's fantasy.

As she and her football headed love sat next to the window waiting for the weather to let up, she was allowing her imagination to run wild, enjoying being able to quietly sit next to him looking at the storm outside. Their team book report assignment, the reason for Arnold's visit, lay finished on the living room's coffee table.

It was Friday and book report was not due until the next Wednesday, but Helga had insisted on getting it done and over with as soon as possible, to which Arnold had replied with one of his famous "whatever you say, Helga." In truth, she just couldn't wait to spend time with him and was sad that the report was so easy that it was completed in a single visit even if she kept finding faults in everything to try to stretch the duration of their assignment.

"Criminy Olga, what do you want now?" Helga exclaimed in anger.

"Oh don't be so cranky baby sister," Olga giggled, "I just wanted to tell you that your little friend's grandfather just called and said he couldn't pick him up. Since the weather is no bad, we agreed that he should spend the night here."

Olga's words echoed in Helga's mind, Arnold, her one true love, the reason of her existence, brightest star in the sky, her beloved football head, would spend the night in her house? She was far too busy floating on cloud nine to hear Olga volunteer to set up a sleeping bag in Helga's room. By the time Helga even began to wake up from her daze, her cheeks rosy and her imagination running wild, the light of Olga's flashlight had already disappeared upstairs and Helga had missed her chance to protest.

Arnold stood quietly by Helga's side, observing her flustered expression in what little light reached her from the small pink flashlight in her hand. She caught him looking at her and let out an avalanche of insults and complaints, before storming off to the kitchen. Arnold began to follow, but Helga stopped him, "stop following me football head, doi can't I have a moment alone?" He backed away wordlessly and Helga continued towards the kitchen alone, she needed a moment to collect herself and talk to her locket in private.

xoxox xox xoxox

While Helga was having her private poetry session in the kitchen and Arnold stood in the darkness of the living room, Olga returned downstairs, her presence announced by the light of two flashlights instead of one. She gave Arnold the extra flashlight to help him get around the house and led him upstairs because she felt she had to show him where everything was. "This is the bathroom," Olga indicated to one of the doors in the hallway, that's my room over there, mommy and daddy's room is at the end of the hall and this," Olga opened a door, "is baby sister's room," she announced. "I found a sleeping bag for you and put it in baby sister's closet so you can take it out when you're ready to go to sleep."

"Thanks," Arnold quietly replied.

"You're welcome!" Olga smiled and danced out of the room with her usual constant cheer.

Arnold was left standing in front of the open door to Helga's room. His mind was filled with thoughts of what they could possibly talk about until they fell asleep. Maybe Helga would insult him until she fell asleep or maybe they would just lie there in awkward silence. None of the possibilities sounded good. He concluded that maybe the best thing would be to avoid Helga for the rest of the night by going to sleep immediately, at least he would make sure to bother her as little as possible that way.

With that in mind, Arnold went over to the closet, opened it, feeling a little guilty to do so without asking Helga, and took the blue sleeping back that was recently placed there. As he picked it up from the closet floor where it was neatly rolled up, he noticed a pink book under it. He curiously picked it up and flipped through it to find that it was filled with handwritten poetry that occasionally included his name or metaphorical descriptions that matched him.

He gasped, as his legs seemed to give out from under him and he had to sit down on the floor. Helga's confession immediately came to his mind and when it was further confirmed that she did have very strong feelings for him, Arnold couldn't help it but to think of his own feelings. After the confession he was confused, eventually he came to terms with the fact that he not only liked Helga, but he like-liked her. But by then, things seemed to be slipping into a barely different version of their old routine and he decided not to bring up the subject unless Helga did.

Arnold forced himself to close the book and put it back where it was, catching sight of Christmas lights and the base of something hidden behind the curtain of clothes on their hangers. Curiously, Arnold pushed the clothes aside and came face to face with his own image sculptured from a foot ball, yellow feather duster feathers, green buttons and a little blue hat.

He stood in shock for several minutes before covering the shrine behind the curtain of clothes again, then closing the door. He put the rolled up sleeping back in front of the closet rather than inside it, so that there would be no awkwardness in retrieving it later, he would just pretend in was never inside the closet to begin with.

Arnold hurried out of Helga's room, looking left and right at the hall, then quietly closed her door and stood outside her room in a daze. She really loved him, it wasn't just like or like-like, it was love, a very strong and somewhat obsessive love. He couldn't help it but to feel special and at the same time puzzled as to what he should do with the knowledge of her feelings towards him confirmed beyond the shadow of a doubt. Once again, he concluded that maybe it was best to let Helga admit her feelings when she was ready and with that thought in mind, he stood there waiting for her.

The approaching light of a flashlight indicated that Helga was coming. She arrived to find Arnold standing outside her door, "what are you standing around for, football head?"

"I didn't want to go into your room without permission," Arnold stuttered, feeling horribly guilty. He told himself to push the image of the shrine and the words of poetry he saw to the deepest corners of his mind, even if doing so was very difficult.

"You better not," Helga held her fist close to his face, "or you'll have to answer to old Betsy and the five avengers!"

xoxox xox xoxox

The night was both quiet and awkward, save for the happy sighs that escaped Helga now and then as she watched pretend Arnold sleep on the sleeping bag beside her bed, thinking that he was really asleep. Eventually he did fall asleep and did she.

When the next morning came, Helga claimed the bathroom first, completing her morning activities and going downstairs while Arnold took his turn to get ready. A bag containing a change of clothes for Arnold was left in front of Helga's room door, which was found the following Saturday morning. The storm had continued until the late hours of the night, as expected, but when the morning came, the bad weather went away, giving way to a day that promised to be sunny, and soon after the electricity was fixed.

At some point during which Helga and Arnold enjoyed sleeping in through their Saturday morning, one of Arnold's grandparents must have brought the clothes, as if hinting that Arnold should be in no hurry to rush home. Unknown to Helga and Arnold, his grandparents were well aware of her feelings for him.

"Look what you did!" Arnold rushed downstairs after having gotten ready for the day, to the sound of Helga's yelling. "It's ruined!" She exclaimed, waving around the book report papers, which Helga had made the mistake of forgetting in the living room the previous day. The papers were wet with the beer that her father had spilled on the coffee table that morning as he tried to catch up on the TV time he lost the previous day.

Bob was barely aware of his youngest daughter's presence, "yeah, yeah, that's nice Olga." The real Olga was meanwhile in the kitchen, making lunch for the family while singing a sweet cheery tune, with her mother sitting at the counter drinking smoothies.

Growling loudly, Helga stomped away to see Arnold witnessing the scene. He immediately tried to comfort her, "it's okay Helga, we'll just have to do it over, we still have time."

"Easy for you to say, football head!" Helga yelled, "don't you think I've had enough of spending time with you?" On the inside, for once in her life, Helga was thankful to her father. "I guess we have no choice," she conceded, "but I can't work on an empty stomach and I can't stomach Olga's cooking," it was so perfect and delicious it made Helga nauseous.

Normally, Arnold would point out that Olga had gone through the trouble of preparing food and that some appreciation should be shown for it, but before he could stop himself he suggested, "let's go out for breakfast, I mean lunch, since it's already close to lunch time."

"Whatever floats your boat football head, let's hope you don't make me lose my appetite," the day was off to a wonderful start for Helga. She had spent all morning staring at Arnold as he slept in late without his potato alarm clock to wake him up and then she got to go out to lunch with him.

xoxox xox xoxox

The pair went out for pizza, relaxing a little more as time went by, though Helga still kept an eye out for any of their classmates; she had a reputation to uphold. Thankfully, they didn't cross paths with anyone from their school.

Lunch was filled with Helga's occasional rude comments, which Arnold knew full well she didn't mean. Upon exiting the restaurant with satisfied appetites, they found that they didn't have the will to go back and work on their book report again.

"Helga, we still have time to finish the book report, are you sure you want to get it done right now? I mean it's a good idea to finish early and all, but," he trailed off into silence, as the image of his shrine and the words of her loving poetry surfaced in his mind again.

Arnold was so curious to read more from that little pink book, but he didn't want to make Helga feel uncomfortable by admitting to what he had seen. He thought his best choice was to let her reveal her secret poems and sculptures to him when she was ready. He didn't want to risk making their situation more awkward than it already was at times.

"What do you mean, bucko?" Helga growled in response, "are you bailing out on me football head?"

Honestly, Arnold didn't have the slightest idea where he was going with any of this, but he longed to catch a glimpse of Helga's nice side as soon as possible. He knew where he stood, but her tough front didn't allow for her true feelings to show freely. "It's only the start of Saturday afternoon," Arnold reasoned, "shouldn't we enjoy the weekend a little before we go back and finish our homework? We could go the amusement park."

Helga stood frozen, wondering if she was yet to wake up, theorizing that this was all a dream and that in reality she was still back in her room, sleeping peacefully, with her football headed love in a sleeping bag next to her bed. "Why?" She began uncertain, then put more strength into her voice, "what's wrong with you, football head? Are you trying to ask me out on a date or something? What makes you think I'll say yes? I wouldn't be caught dead in the amusement park with you!" Helga immediately regretted her words, she expected to see Arnold's hurt expression, but instead he just smiled at her.

"Whatever you say Helga, shall we go?" His grin widened at seeing her shocked face as he offered his arm. He felt that he wanted to correspond to her devotion in some way, until slowly, little by little, she gained the confidence to admit the truth and not take it back. He realized that he wanted her to admit it and if that didn't happen soon, he would have to come out with his own feelings.

Seeing the undeniable proof of Helga's love for him hidden in her closet was the last drop for Arnold's already full glass. He wondered what her reaction would be if he told her that he liked her as in like-like. One thing was for sure, there wasn't a secret that could last forever.

Helga managed to close her agape mouth and reduce her wide eyes to their normal size before reluctantly linking arms with Arnold. She was seriously wondering if she was indeed still dreaming, "whatever floats your boat football head; just don't get any ideas." As they walked together towards the amusement park, Helga felt the need to break the silence, "why are trying to be nice to me, football head? I'm not going to redo the book report all by myself, bucko."

Arnold wondered what he should reply and began by clarifying, "I don't mind redoing the book report with you. We can do that today after we get back from the amusement park or we can get together again tomorrow and work on it."

Needless to say Helga hoped for the second option since it involved basically spending the entire weekend with Arnold. "That still doesn't explain why you insist on going to the amusement park and walking like this," Helga considered pushing Arnold away, but found that she was far too comfortable to do so, even if they were walking down the street in plain sight on broad daylight and any or all of their classmates could pop out at any moment. "Are you going to explain this to me football head?"

Arnold tried to find an explanation that wasn't too incriminating. He intended to confess what he saw eventually, but only when and if she revealed her hidden shrine to him willingly. She might be upset that he saw it earlier, but he couldn't keep the secret of having invaded her privacy in his conscience forever and if she became comfortable enough to willingly reveal it, then she shouldn't bee too upset about it.

Then he realized he was getting ahead of himself and mentally reminded himself of his decision to take everything slowly and wait for things to fall into place naturally. "I'm not going to explain it, Helga; at least not right now, but someday." Someday, he would tell her how he felt; someday they would both talk about their emotions freely.

Taken aback, Helga insisted, "why?"

Arnold smiled at her in a way that made her heart melt, "because everyone has secrets."

End of Dance 02

Disclaimer, I don't own Hey Arnold.