"I never expected Helga to work at a bakery of all places," Arnold said, looking up at the hut. "It seems so…unlike her."
Phoebe chuckled. "I agree. It was shocking to say the least that Helga, of all people, would find solace in decorating cakes."
He's only been back in Hillwood for about four hours, and all he wanted to do was see Helga. Gerald wasn't exactly too thrilled, and he wasn't afraid to voice that opinion. He took the whole damn day off of school to come pick up his best friend, who he hasn't seen in years, and all that kid wanted to do was see Helga Pataki. Even through Gerald's protests of "She's still at at school, man," and later, "She don't want you bugging her while she's hard at work, man," they fell on deaf ears. Gerald finally relented when Phoebe met them after school and flashed their Dino Land season passes.
Arnold continued to look at the structure; it fit in with the theme of the small theme park. He wasn't fooled by the fake, tan, stucco "huts" as he once was when he was younger. Well, not like he was ever actually convinced that they were real, but after his years in the jungle, they seemed too over-the-top-fake. Disregarding his distaste, he looked up at the sign of the building that the couple brought him to.
The sign rested between two large boulders, and was propped in front of some palm leaves for decoration. The sign simply read "Dino Land Bakery". That was all it needed to be, he guessed.
"So she…really likes decorating cakes, huh? Is she pretty good?" He already knew the answer - Lila's letters told him that she was, in fact, amazing - but he wanted to know what Gerald and Phoebe had to say. Secretly, he enjoyed when other people spoke positively about her - he knew she didn't get that a lot in her childhood.
"Oh, she's quite skillful at cake decorating. She has an impeccable grasp of color theory which proves useful with this trade, and her attention to detail is second-to-none."
"I heard she doesn't bake her own cakes, though, so you might wanna take that into consideration…but I dunno man, they are pretty fresh." Gerald shrugged with a small smile on his face. He wouldn't ever admit it, but Arnold knew that Gerald was proud of Helga. Just a little bit.
Dino Land's bakery, for whatever reason, had developed into an actual, functioning, stand-alone bakery over the years. Apparently, if you needed an intricate wedding cake that had to just be perfect, or you just had to have the most flawless, spectacular birthday cake for someone special, you actually went to Dino Land to order it. It seemed strange to him that the theme park that was already run-down in his childhood would have such a place.
Since the bakery was now making actual money in spite of the park, they remodeled a bit of the entrance so the bakery was actually half outside the park - basically, there were two entrances into the store-slash-workshop. One inside the park, and one outside the park. At the Park entrance of the bakery, there was a large glass window that you could see the cake decorators while they were hard at work. Lila told him all about it; he remembered her being so excited about the remodel but also annoyed that it forced the bakery to be closed for a few days.
When they were approaching the big glass window, he saw three figures. Two girls were in the front, and one was in the back. The one in the back had blonde hair…that had to be her. As he got closer, and his excitement grew, he knew it was definitely her.
Her bright, blonde hair piled high into a bun at the top of her head. She had on a forest green apron and a khaki uniform, probably to keep up with the dinosaur theme. An electric blue piping bag was tight in her gloved hands, her gaze sharply focused as she piped small, delicate rosettes onto the cake's top surface. It was a tall, one-tier cake, already frosted with deep purple and a pastel pink drip. That was what was trendy right now, he guessed, although they looked kinda weird to him, but cool at the same time. He continued watching her for a few minutes - surely she must get irritated at all the guests constantly ogling her and her work? Wouldn't it get distracting? Regardless, he watched her as she was piping with determination, her eyes never leaving the cake. Her tongue stuck out a little as she was committed to nothing but this cake - as if nothing else existed. She was pouring her soul into this simple little cake, although with Helga, nothing was simple…he was sure this cake would turn out amazing, just like everything Helga did when she was passionate about something.
Once she was done with a few rosettes, she pulled the piping bag completely away from the cake and wiped her forehead, admiring her work. She looked up, smiling - her genuine, relaxed smile was so beautiful, he thought - as she called out to the girls that was right in front of the window, who were decorating cookies. She suddenly scanned up and outside the window, to see what kind of guests were looking at them. She must have done this a lot, as she did it so casually - simple people watching, Her eyes glanced up to the guests that were looking in from the opposite side of the window. She saw Gerald and Phoebe and gave an enthusiastic wave. And then her eyes met Arnold's.
She kept waving, but her smile faded as her eyes focused a bit more, and she blinked a few times. Her waving stopped but her staring continued.
One of the girls right in front of him, one who Helga tried to call over - she was snapping her fingers trying to get Helga's attention back, but it was to no avail. Their eyes met for a few seconds, Helga not daring to move or break eye contact….until Arnold smiled and waved.
Once he waved, all hell broke loose inside of Helga's mind. The wind was knocked right out of her and she panicked; she struggled to catch her breath. Her reflexes dropped the hold she had on the top of electric blue frosting bag, spilling all over her apron and shoes. A soaked-in-frosting hand ran a hand through her hair as she struggled to breathe normally, staring emptily to the floor. She seemed to feel the frosting that was now stuck in her hair; her demeanor changed immediately to a different kind of shock- as she desperately tried to put her hands into the proper piping bag position, trying to save whatever frosting she could. And then, anger. Her face scrunched up, and he swore he heard her yell "Criminy! It took me all day to get that color right!" though the thick glass. She stomped her foot in anger as the two cookie-decorating girls up front rushed over to her. They clearly thought it was funny, and no big deal - the caucasian girl with braces and chestnut brown hair taking what was left of the piping bag from her hand, and started to clean up what frosting accidentally landed on the cake; and the small Indian girl with rose-colored glasses started to help Helga clean herself up. Helga's eyes went back to him, however, and she was frozen in place. The two girls also noticed this after a beat, and looked over to where she was staring; both of them seemed to almost immediately recognize him, despite the fact that he didn't share the sentiment.
The two girls erupted in a fit of more giggles, which snapped Helga out of her Arnold trance; her dusty pink face yelling at the girls in typical Pataki fashion. This didn't phase the girls however, as their giggles just transformed into laughter. Helga slapped her forehead with her palm, her face getting redder by the second and her scowl /very/ apparent on her face. The Indian girl surpressed her giggles enough to take Helga's hand and lead her out of sight; no doubt into a bathroom or something to get her cleaned up. The chestnut braces girl waved at him, and giggled some more. He waved back, sheepishly - he hoped he didn't effect her job in any way. He was just so excited to finally see her.
"Man, you messed up big time!" Gerald exclaimed when Helga was out of sight. "What if that cake was for her boss?! Or a really, really difficult client?"
"I know, Gerald…I shouldn't have startled her." Arnold sighed. At least there weren't very many people around who saw; this was a weekday after school.
"What if that cake is the last chance she had to save her job? And now she's behind schedule?!"
"Gerald…" Arnold warned.
"What if she spent weeks perfecting that cake, and she was almost done?!"
"Gerald!' Arnold whined. "I already feel really bad about it." He sat down against the wall of the structure. "I should have known she would have had a reaction like this…"
Gerald and Phoebe looked at each other started laughing. "Relax, man! This place is pretty chill. She'll be fine." Gerald gave him a light punch to the shoulder.
"Gerald's right, Arnold. Helga has impeccable performance at this bakery and the higher ups would never reprimand her for a simple mistake like this. If anything, she'll reprimand herself enough." Phoebe gave him a reassuring smile as she tried to make him feel better, but that last part made Arnold feel worse. He got up and started pacing, where he then noticed that the chestnut-braces girl kept looking at him while she was fixing Helga's cake.
After about ten minutes of being stared at every few seconds by the giggling braces girl, she ran to the window and gave him a series of weird, complicated, drawn-out gestures. Arnold didn't know what to do with them, so he looked around and pointed to himself. "Me?" he mouthed to her.
He heard Gerald sigh. He knocked on the glass to get her attention. "Mabel, man just tell him what to do." he said loud but firm, and clearly enunciating each word so she could read his lips. He was clearly exasperated by her actions. Gerald seemed to know this girl pretty well, since she nodded without hesitation and started to follow his orders. She made a big, flamboyant pointing gesture - and she was clearly also making some sound effects. She pointed him to the left, which is close to where the park "ended" - there was a gate, and on the other side was the public.
He followed her instruction, and Gerald and Phoebe followed close behind. Next to the fence there was an almost-hidden door, painted the same color as the fake tan hut. It had be one of their employee entrances. Behind him, he could hear Gerald muttering to Phoebe.
"She's just…excited, Gerald. I'm almost envious; one must wonder what she does with all that extra energy…" he heard Phoebe reply.
"I know, babe, I know. She just gets so tiring sometimes, you know? I don't know how that brother of hers deals…"
Arnold tuned them out while they were talking to each other. He made a mental note to himself to ask Helga about her coworkers later. His thoughts were interrupted when he heard a voice coming from the door.
"Just talk to him! If he's everything you say he is—"
"That's the problem, Conbon. He is everything I say he is!" his heart fluttered as he could finally hear her voice, clear as day. "Criminy, why won't you just let me—"
"Go!" He heard the other girl's voice say as Helga was shoved out the door, hearing giggles as it closed.
"Hey!" Helga yelled as she whipped around to face the door. "Hey! I wasn't done talking Con-nie! You just wait 'till I get back there and—" She shook her fist at the closed door, before suddenly cutting herself off and realizing where she was. She dropped her fist and turned around to look up at the tall, tan, football-headed man that was in front of her.
"Helga!" Arnold momentarily forgot everything that just happened and swept her up into a giant hug.
"Woah there, football head!" Helga gave a nervous laugh. "I'm kinda all covered in frosting here, wouldn't wanna get it all over you." She drolled sarcastically. He then remembered the frosting debacle and set her down quickly.
"Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry, Helga! I, uh, didn't mean to get you in trouble or anything—"
"You didn't." she deadpanned. Her arms crossed over her chest, as she was almost impatient by their conversation, but her blush was giving her away. He bet that her heart was hammering in her chest, just like his was.
"—but I just, really wanted to see you." He blurted out as he gave another sheepish smile. "And I couldn't wait any longer."
"I told him it was a bad idea, you know." Gerald piped up, his arms now crossed. "The boy just landed about four hours ago. Told him he should stay home and rest, man! She's workin' anyway, she doesn't wanna see your sorry face around here when she's busy! But no, the man couldn't wait another second. He just haaaad to see you. You'd think his jungle survival instincts woulda kicked in, man, you never scare a Pataki in the wild."
Arnold knew that Gerald and Helga became closer after he left, and especially after Gerald and Phoebe started dating; but he was surprised with the extent of it.
Helga gave a curt sigh and looked back at Arnold. "Gerald's right, football head." Okay, hearing her say Football Head was awesome. "Who do you think you are, showing up at my place of business, uninvited, and-and just decide to just wave at me, huh? Who…who gave you the right?!" Her voice cracked a little towards the end. She started pacing. "I had things to do today, Arnold-o! I've got a big order to fill you know!" He almost wanted to laugh, she sounded so much like her dad when he would talk about business - although he'd be a dead man walking if he ever admitted that to her. "I've got three cakes to finish today, bucko! Three! On a weekday. Plus, we're so behind on dinosaur egg macarons, you have no idea how fast they've been selling lately! And don't even get me started on the new summer cookies we have to develop—" She was rambling, maybe stalling for time…or she was just so thrown off by his sudden reappearance that she didn't know what to do. She clearly did not want to talk to him yet, her coworkers meddling in her affairs really threw her off too.
"I think your job is really cool, Helga. You seem to really like it." he smiled down at her. "And I can tell you're really good at it."
She stopped pacing. "Y-yeah, well, it pays the bills, I guess." she shrugged as her blush deepened. "And thanks, I am good at it. And my coworkers aren't half-bad…when they aren't trying to ruin my life." Arnold was a bit taken aback about how casually she accepted the compliment; it was a vast improvement from when they were younger.
"Oh, yeah, them." He laughed, and then stopped as he remembered something. "Oh, doesn't Lila work here too? I remember from her letters that she was really excited to, um, have you start working at the bakery too."
Helga paled, her blush leaving her face as she suddenly turned cold. "Yeah, uh she's…actually kinda cool." She said quietly. "She's great, in fact. Sorry she's not, you know, here." She snapped. "She usually closes since she has first period open. I'll tell her how disappointed you were that she wasn't here." She looked away, her arms crossing again.
"I didn't mean it like that, and you know it. She actually still wrote to me, is all." He regretted what left his lips as soon as it did; but it came out too quickly. He saw her eyes open wide, and her hand went to rest over her heart, but only for a second. "What—whatever!" she breathed out, her stance becoming aggressive. "Like I even have time to w-write you dumb letters anymore. A-and it's n-not like my life is anything interesting, y'know, unlike yours!" She exclaimed. She glanced over at Gerald and Phoebe, who looked a little surprised at her outburst, but also not surprised at the same time. She shrunk back down.
"I mean…" she croaked, trying to find the right words to say. "I just…" She looked away, releasing her hands from their fists. "What are you doing here?" She asked softly, looking back up at him with her large, diamond blue eyes that were searching his for an answer to her question.
He chose to take the question quite literally, or maybe he didn't really know how else to take it. "I uh…m-my parents felt like it was time to settle down. Grandma and Grandpa are getting older, and…" his hand went to rub his neck nervously. "Mom and Dad are kind of…ready to settle down too. I-It's really great seeing you again. I missed you…a lot."
She was quiet for a few seconds. "Well, that's just dandy." She sighed, and then relaxed a bit. "I mean, it's…nice…to see you too. I missed you, I guess. But I really do have to get back to work, regardless of what my meddling coworkers might think. But maybe we can…catch up once I'm off." She looked at Gerald and Phoebe. "Since ya'll are soooo good at making plans without informing me, maybe you two can decide where we all go this evening after I get off." She waved them off and headed back to the door, leaving a slightly guilty-looking Gerald and a very guilty-looking Phoebe. Before she disappeared completely, she met Arnold's eyes one more time.
"Welcome back, Arnold."
lol. connie is from steven universe, and mabel is from gravity falls. this isn't a crossover or anything - but for me it is too hard and boring to use OCs so i just steal from other shows haha. hopefully it's easier for you guys to imagine the characters, too. also i know they should probably be wearing hairnets, but i don't like that aesthetic lol
tbh i don't know if this is going to end up as an arnold + helga story. it'll definitely deal with their relationship but i really don't know if they will end up as a couple or not. lol stay tuned…or not. i understand.
this is my first actual fanfic in a few years so i'm a bit rusty, let me know if anything seems off or if the characters are a bit wonky. if the characterization is right, please tell me that too! i love reviews hehe.
ALSO one more thing; please forgive me if my baker terminology is off. i actually work in a facility that makes fake cakes, so i know a little about decorating, but not real cake decorating. feel free to correct me if i got something wrong and i will fix it!