Disclaimer: I do not own Hey Arnold
Helga happily found herself enjoying a fun Saturday with beer and Bialy Williams accompanying her on the couch.
"When I was a kid, I was a people pleaser always trying to appease my parents, but..it didn't always go well," Bialy explained and lightly laughed.
"I detect a story coming," Helga said.
"Right you are." He smiled. "When I was about six or seven, I farted at the dinner table. My mom, being the well mannered and uptight person she was, scolded me and said that if you need to fart you need to step into the other room. Fast forward, a month later, I wanted to prove to her that I was a gentlemen who did not fart at the table, so I got up from and went to the laundry room. The laundry room was right off the dining room though and had no doors. Butt facing them, I ripped out a new one with everyone at the table and my a few neighbors heard the fart crystal clear."
Helga bursted out in a fit of laughter.
After she calmed down, Mathew continued, "you know I learned that if a parent laughed at their kid for something they did, they wouldn't get punished for it because even though my mother was strict, I was let off the hook."
"Well," Helga said pensively, "I don't think I ever made my parents laugh like that, so I wouldn't know."
"What were your parents like?"
Helga froze for a second. She'd hadn't thought about them in a while. They weren't usually even around much when she was growing up, and ever since she moved out, she barely had to worry about them.
"They—" Helga was interrupted by her phone ringing. Helga got up to answer it and didn't know whether to laugh at such a coincidence or groan that it was her father. Whenever he called, it's usually because he wanted something. "Hey Bob," she groaned.
"Helga, I need you to pick your mother up from the hospital."
"Why can't you do it? She's your wife."
"Look, I have a meeting about a contract for Bob's Beeper's, and I can't miss it. You just need to pick her up and babysit her for about an hour until I get back," his grouchy voice said through the speaker.
"Fifty bucks," Helga ordered.
"Fifty buck?—come on Helga. Do it out of the goodness of your heart."
"Criminy, Bob, I'm the one who is driving all the way down there and taking care of a lady with Alzheimers the least you could do is pay for my gas money."
"You know I think I want it to be sixty. Gas is getting more expensive with all the oil spills."
"Do you always have to pull my chain," he argued. "Fifty five."
"Deal," Helga said, wanting to end the conversation. They hung up the phone.
"Who was that?."
"My dad," she groaned. "He wants me took pick up my mom up from the hospital and babysit her for a bit afterwards."
"Is she sick?" Helga was supposed to hear concern in his voice.
"Kind of, it's liver surgery, but she brought it upon herself."
"Oh," he said, and then he asked, "why do you call you dad by his name."
She shrugged. "I've done it all my life, but I do when I feel like he not asking like a father."
"I see," he said and glanced at the clock. "Oh geeze, I need to go now. I have a babysitting gig too but mine's is with Sammy." Helga instantly remembered Bialy's nephew. Helga and Sammy hit it off during their last interaction and bonded over grade school love.
Bialy then got out of his spot, headed to the kitchen, and sat his glass on the kitches counter.
Her bottle of beer was empty, so Helga got up throw it out. By the counter, Bialy stood next to her and gave a shy smile. 'Well, I'll see you later."
Helga noticed the tinted color on his cheeks. She wasn't sure if it was due to the alcohol, the close proximity, or a little bit of both. She got answer when he began leaning in.
Helga stepped away when they were inches apart. Bialy straightened up took a step back as well. He did one of those awkward coughs and said a quick bye before leaving.
After the door shut, Helga found herself lonely with beer, the silence, and her thoughts as her only companions.
She didn't want to be so cold to Bialy. He was a nice guy and a great poet, but she couldn't start a relationship with anyone yet. She wasn't ready. Helga accepted the events that occurred a year ago, but it felt what happened caused a wall separating her from stepping into a relationship with anyone.
Arnold was still lodged in heart stubborn as a cancerous brain tumor.
But Arnold was dead.
And no amount of forgiveness or promises to be better could bring him back.
Arnold was dead.
This reality passed through Helga's mind again as she walked among the injured and the sick at Cherry Creek Hospital. She wasn't suffering the unbearable grief, but she didn't know how to feel about that. She felt numb from her loss now but guilty at times she still didn't feel worse. Her therapist said it was normal to feel numb and sad or angry other times. Why can't it be easier? Why can't there be a right or wrong? Helga ponder against herself. Emotion don't have right or wrong ever. Helga pondered. They're just there.
Helga went up to the visitor's desk where a nurse sat typing away.
"Excuse me, I'm here for Miriam Pataki."
The lady peered up from her screen. "Right ma'am. Let me search for that name...ah ha...I'll have nurse Jen take you to room K231."
Suddenly another nurse appeared beside Helga gesturing her to follow.
Even though it's been year since she had visited Arnold in the hospital, she felt familiar emotions flood back when walking through the bustling and sterile, white halls of the hospital. Doctors pulling unconscious patients and pushing homecoming survivors, brought back familiar memories.
Soon Helga arrived at her mother's room. A doctor was examining the screen next to her bed. Miriam appeared fatigued, but she seemed peaceful laying there rather than sick. Helga had not seen her since she went off to college. Her face was paler, she'd accumulated more wrinkles, and her hair was thinner.
"Hey Doc, can I take my mom home or what?" Helga called out.
The doctor turned around. He was a burly, middle aged man with gray hair shaved shortly at the top. His face was square similar to Bob's. "Yes, she is. I was just checking on a few things before she goes."
"Hi, Miriam," she said.
"Oh, Olga is that you?"
"No, mom, it's Helga."
"Oh right, I'm sorry, Helga. Hey, do you know how long Olga is going to be until she is done making breakfast. She said she was going to make it bed in breakfast, but I'm just so hungry. I want to go down already to see how she is doing."
Helga wasn't sure really how to answer this. She wanted so badly to tell her mother that her perfect little daughter was not making her breakfast and forgot, but that would be cruel even for her.
Helga just stood there and looked at the doctor for an update.
"Well, uh, I will just be giving her the Alzheimers medication, and she will be on her way. The liver transplant was a success, and I just need you to make sure that she gets a lot of rest when she gets home, and I need you to sign these release forms."
"Oh Bob," her mother said holding the doctor's hand. "I'm glad to see you home. I just got a call from Olga. She told me she won a the Harper Chance Pianist Competition. Isn't our daughter amazing? Do you remember that day when she first played..." Mirium droned on
Helga remembered this day. It was when she got a lead role and Romeo and Juliet. They never spoke of her achievement at all. They were too busy talking about all of Olga's accomplishments. Sure, Olga's success that day were more important, state competition versus some fourth grade play. Sure, she procured it by eliminating all three of the other understudies, yet she used her best persuasion skills, and of course she didn't tell that to her parents that, so it would have been nice for them to finally gush over her and her apparent acting repertoire.
it was over though, all in the past, but there was no stopping the vexation that was her mother.
"Hey, mom I got lead in the play," Helga blurted. Her heart skipped a beat when the words tumbled out. The doctor and her mother stared at her. "Oh, that's nice, Helga," she said dismissively still staring at the doctor. Helga wanted the ground to swallow her up, so she could leave such an awkward position. The doctor flashed a sympathetic look which made her feel more embarrassed.
Helga said as quickly as she could, "Do what you got to do. I'm not in a rush." Then she snatched the forms from the doctor and stormed out.
She knew it was childish to live in the past, and she knew her mom was bonkers with the disease, but Miriam reliving those events submerged her with old emotions.
Ten minutes later, she was pushing her mother in a wheelchair to the car.
Twenty minutes later another, more intense, set of emotions and memories awoke in her as she drove through her old neighborhood and arevived at their old home.
"Babysitting" her mother was a frustrating to uncomfortable experience. After hours of sleeping at the hospital, her mother was awake and reliving Helga's and Olga's childhood in a cloud of delusion and confusion.
It was like old wounds were ripped open. Too masculine and tomboyish to be the girls but apparently too "girly" to be with the guys. A bully at school and a phantom daughter at home. Sure, she was rude and blunt, but it was a disguise of someone who was alone. Nobody bother to notice it and be on her side...
...until Arnold: the first person to show her kindness, attention, and affection from what she could remember.
It was the cold rainy morning where she had to walk herself to school. She arrived dirty, lack of lunch, and feeling ignored as her parents were back at home with Olga. Then on the darkest of mornings where she stood at the entrance of the school soaked from rain, the cold showers suddenly stopped. Helga turned around to see Arnold with an umbrella and a warm smile that melted her young insides. Then complimented her on her bow.
That year she fell in love with him but showed it through taunting and bullying because it was the only way a girl like her could get the attention of a guy like Arnold. He was most calm, compassionate, and kind. She stopped being mean to him after seventh grade and finally asked for a truce. They became friends, close friends. Then from sophomore year in high school they began a relationship. A relationship that felt like it could last forever. It all came crashing down in the form of a car collision during their sophomore year in college.
His death broke something in Helga. She tried so hard to earn his respect, friendship, and then his heart, but all that hard work was destroyed along with Arnold . It was like she didn't deserve the kind of unconditional love.
When her father arrived, Helga collected her money and went straight home.
That night she drowned herself in beer And fell into bed drunk and numb.
She woke to find she was in a dark bedroom all alone in a messy apartment. Loneliness and depression pressed her into the bed. She dreamt of her childhood. The dream was fuzzy. All she knew was that it left her yearning to see Arnold's face again.
The bed creaked as she pushed herself off. She went to her closet and dug around in the box on the top of the shelf. Then on one of the boxes she found on top was the locket. In it, was a picture of them. The picture was of her head resting on his shoulder as the smiling serenely into the camera. She felt tears well up in her eyes.
She held it onto her chest like it was a life jacket and took in a deep breath. Helga let the silent tears stream down her face.
Helga felt a gross taste in her mouth. Her face was oily and wet, and she felt hot in the summer night.
With the locket, Helga went to the bathroom to splash water in her face and brushed her teeth.
Even after splashing cold water on herself, she still felt hot with the air conditioning broken. She opened all the windows. The increased ventilation of air cooled down her flat. She went back to bed because she hoped when she went back to sleep, she wouldn't be lonely anymore. With the light winds breezing through her room, Helga drifted off.
The next day she was surprised to hear her phone ring.
"Hey, Helga, I was wondering if it was okay if Sammy and I can come for a visit."
Helga was surprised to hear this and wanted the company. "Sure, you can come over."
It didn't take long until Helga found herself answering the door.
"Hey, Helga," Sammy greeted with a smile.
"Hey, lover boy, how are you with Wendy?" Helga teased. "Have you actually talked to her
Sammy gave her a guilty look like he failed his mission. "I'm easing into it." Then he asked, changing the subject. "I'm hungry are you going to make breakfast?"
"Sammy," Bialy scolded, "don't invite yourself like that. She's has to offer it. Anyway, we're only popping in to say hi."
"Nah, it's fine. You guys can come in."
"Alright free food," Sammy cheered.
"Free for you," Helga retorted.
They stepped inside and began to prepare breakfast.
"Well, anyway about last night. I...um...well I—" Bialy began.
'I need to use the facility. Where is you're bathroom?" Sammy cut in.
Helga and Bialy couldn't help but chuckle at Sammy's wording.
"Down the hall. The first door on the left."
The nine year old boy flashed a suggestive glances in their direction, before taking off.
"So, Helga, are you going to perform at the poetry slam this Friday?"
They kept their conversation light and easy like the pancakes. Helga thought as they talked that she hasn't felt this way with a guy since Arnold. She wasn't sure if she should feel about this.
Then like a scorching touch, Helga remembered the locket she left in the bathroom, and Sammy was in the bathroom. He would see the locket and get the wrong idea.
"Watch my pancakes," she ordered and dashed into her bathroom.
When she threw opened the door, Sammy whirled around. Helga looked at the boy's panicked pale face, the missing locket, and then at the opened window.
"Sammy, what did you do?" She seethed accusingly.
"I...I.." Sammy stammered, looking like a dear in headlights.
Helga didn't give him the opportunity to answer. She tore out of the apartment, flew past the elevator, and down the stairs. When she got to the curb, she stood on the brink of hysterical laughter.
Shining gold against the gray gravel, was the locket in the middle of the rode. For a paralyzing moment, she stared at it catching her breath.
Then she went sprinting after it without checking both ways, but she felt arms bind around her waist. The limbs squeezed her torso tightly and only allowed her to get a foot on the road. Her heart leaped out of her chest when a truck hurled down the street. It flew inches away from her face slapping her with its sudden appearance.
The morning rumbling of the city continued, but all Helga could hear was the loud, empty silence. It was overwhelming.
In heart crushing devastation, Helga saw how the truck obliterated her golden locket. The pieces laid there, destroyed, on the road.
As if a switch clicked on in her mind, she started to wail and bawled furiously. Tears raced down her cheeks. Her cries were loud and her breathing staggered. The storm of tears blurred her vision along with the surrounding noises, smells, and taste. Her world melted around her replaced only by her sobbing. She tried to fight again st the arms that kept her from her precious keepsake. She kept fighting. She needed to grab the locket before another car breaks it even further. She needed to salvage something.
"Helga, stop, you could've gotten yourself killed. Calm down," Bialy said when his arms were getting fatigued.
"No," is all she could reply with as she dreaded the next car to come flying by.
Checking it was clear of any vehicles, he let her go into the streets after she calmed down enough. He went by her and helped collect the pieces.
The locket was completely flattened and the chain shattered. The picture was stamped by the residue of a tire. She held the pieces in her hands and let more tears fall.
She had this locket ever since the fourth grade. It listened to all her confessions, kept her deepest darkest secret, and held an image that always carried her through the day.
Bialy said gently, "Come on, Helga, let's step off the road."
He led her back into the sidewalk and held her as she cried. When her crying abated, Baily said, "I guess you're not over him then." He said, eyeing the picture.
"I—I am," Helga said. "I just was feeling really down, and I needed to see his face again."
There was silence between the as Helga stared at the remains of the locket, and Bialy stared at Helga.
"I know you love Arnold. He sounds like a great guy, but he's not here anymore, and I don't want to sound self centered or I don't care that you morn him," he held her tighter, "but I want you to find comfort in me. I don't want you to forget Arnold. He was your first love and a good friend—"
"He was more than that."
"I know, but I want you to know I'm here for you too...I'm alive—'
"—no you don't understand." She said firmly.
He snapped his mouth shut.
"I'm over him. I've accepted he's dead. It's just...it's just...he reminds me...that I do deserve to be loved."
Bialy begun caressed the side of her arm in a comforting manner. "Can I ask you something?"
"You already have," she mumbled.
"Do you think you deserve love?"
"I...I guess so."
"Well, I you do because even though you're act tough and untouchable, you're passionate and you really care about people. Anyway people don't deserve love. They need love, you need it, so let me take care of you, Helga"
He waited for a reaction, any reaction.
Helga with her hand free of locket bits brought her's to Bialy's. She held tightly, and those warm hands said, "okay, I will."