Epilogue: Beginning Again
Helga cleared her throat and gave a slight gesture over her shoulder with her head as she kept her voice low. "Uh…I'm not sure if you've noticed how awkward things feel ever since Gerald and Phoebe went off on their own a block ago, but your parents are just walking ten feet behind us and watching us. Should we start up a conversation with them or something?"
Arnold sighed. "No…but I do think I should talk to them now that you mention it."
He blushed a little. "About them following us to school and following us home from school being okay some of the time but not all of the time. Ow!" Arnold winced—Helga had just elbowed him.
She scowled at him. "Football Head, you can't say something like that to your parents. They love you, they've missed you, and they just want to catch up on all the time they lost out on seeing you. Plus, they're pretty much the coolest and most interesting parents around, so it's not like they're cramping your style too much or anything."
"Helga…" Arnold rolled his eyes, smiling a little, "it's not that I'm embarrassed about them. I just want to know that some days you and I can walk home together—just the two of us." He slipped his hand into hers and squeezed.
Helga blushed; her eyes went wide. "I…well…"
Arnold smiled more. "Don't you want to walk home alone with me too, Helga?"
Helga took a deep breath and exercised a great deal of self-control as she replied, "I…want you to spend as much time with your parents as you need to and as they need to…no matter what that means for me o-or us." She blinked a few times and pulled her hand from his, scowling and pouting though her blushing remained. "And I still didn't say you could touch me…"
Arnold held in a chuckle. "But you're important for me to spend time with too. And sometimes you do say it's okay to touch you—and I'd prefer to be alone for that."
She blushed more then opened her mouth, clearly about to protest again, when Arnold went on. "You're not keeping me from my parents. I want to spend time with them and with you, and sometimes all of us together—just not always all of us together. I think that'll be good for everyone."
Helga bit her lip but finally sighed and nodded. "Okay, okay. But don't forget that I'm perfectly fine with at least spending some of our time with them. Got it?"
"I'll let them know." He winked then gave her a quick hug before dashing back over to his parents.
Helga stopped walking at the always paralyzingly good feeling of his arms around her, then came back to the present enough to see Arnold talking to Miles and Stella. Arnold smiled sheepishly and blushed a little as he explained some things. And Helga, still feeling some slight guilt, felt relief when she saw his parents smile warmly and look to each other and then back at Arnold. The three of them shared a hug. Then Miles and Stella waved to Arnold then Helga before turning and heading down a different street.
Arnold raced back over to Helga with a smile.
Helga raised part of her brow. "So, how'd it go?"
Arnold laughed. "Actually, they were going to start walking back and forth to school with us every day because they thought I'd feel bad if they didn't—they missed out on doing that when I was little and they wanted to make up for it. I told them they didn't have to feel guilty and that today I really wanted a chance to walk alone with you. They were fine with it, and I told them we'd see them back at the boarding house for dinner later. If you want to come over for dinner, I mean?" He blushed a little and looked at her hopefully.
"Well, I guess I could be persuaded," Helga replied with a little pout of stubbornness. Then she swallowed. "But for now we just…walk together?" She shook her head. "Sorry, this is new for me—figuring out how school's going to work with the way things are between us now.
Arnold nodded. "It's okay, Helga, I understand. Yeah, I think we just walk together. I can walk you home each day after school if you'd like. Or some days we can walk around with Gerald and Phoebe. Or some days we'll just walk with everyone to Gerald Field like we've always done."
"Okay." She nodded. "I could get used to this." She tried to pout and scowl again as she blushed and added, "Just don't be all over me the whole time grinning and trying to hold my hand and get all cutesy, all right? I've still got a reputation to maintain."
"Whatever you say, Helga." Arnold smiled and gestured forward with a grin for her to walk.
Helga started forward, Arnold alongside her. As they continued onward, Arnold just smiled and quietly looked forward while Helga kept glancing at him. Then finally she sighed, reached down, and took his hand in hers. "Don't say I never did you any favors, Football Head," she muttered, her scowl fading to a shy look as she lightly blushed.
Arnold blushed a little too as he squeezed her hand in return. "After dinner tonight, want to go up to my room? We can listen to music and spend more time together."
"…And are you going to keep trying to convince me to convince my family to move out of the Beeper Emporium and into the boarding house?" she added, rolling her eyes.
"Not if you don't want me to." He chuckled. "But you have to admit, living together would be sort of fun."
"Oh Football Head, you have a weird definition of fun. I noticed it from the moment you got these loopy feelings for me." Yet despite the sarcastic reply Helga smiled more.
"We can just listen to music and do whatever you want after dinner. I promise." He smiled at her.
"Well, Football Head, I'll make you a deal—I'll let you give me one of your little spiels about the great advantages of living in the boarding house if you'll also talk to me about how you've been sleeping lately." She frowned a little and raised an eyebrow. "On our way to school today, I was talking to your mom and she said you raced downstairs pretty flustered this morning. Are you still having that bad dream about none of this being real, Arnold?"
He swallowed, looking down. "This was the first morning in almost two weeks that I had that dream, so it's getting better. I think the idea of actually getting to start a school year with my parents with me made it come back." He smiled a little again and glanced at her with his half lidded gaze. "That's another great reason for you to move in—if I could see you each morning, I'd know for sure that everything that happened in San Lorenzo with you and me was definitely not a dream."
Helga had to smile a little again. "Point taken. I'm just glad you're starting to feel more confident about accepting everything, Football Head."
"And you're not having any more dreams about us not being together, right?"
"Nah. Now I'm just having weird ones about your pet pig eating bacon while sitting in first class on a plane. Seriously, I have no idea where those are coming from. I probably need to lay off the Mr. Fudgy Bars before bed."
The two kids shared a laugh.
"So," Arnold shrugged and moved a little closer to her, "dinner, music, talking afterwards to make us both feel better. And then we can do whatever you want, Helga. Go to Slausens for ice cream, watch a movie, head to the arcade. It's kind of a special occasion; our first day of sixth grade."
Helga sighed and moved a little closer to him as well. "Ah, you know me, I'm a pretty cheap date, Football Head. All I'd probably want after dinner and the talking and indulging your obsession with jazz is a kiss goodnight."
Arnold swallowed and blushed more, still smiling. "That's another reason I thought it'd be better if you and I walked home alone sometimes. Just in case you ever feel like having an earlier kind of kiss, I'd…prefer if my parents weren't there watching us again."
"Or Gerald," Helga had to add with a grin.
They shared a laugh, blushing shyly.
Helga swallowed. "You…think about kissing me that much?"
Arnold blushed darkly and shrugged at first then shyly nodded. "I guess."
She blushed darkly too. "Wow. And here I thought it was just me."
They stopped walking and glanced at each other. Then they glanced around to make sure they were alone.
Finally they clasped each other's hands and leaned in for a lingering kiss. (Helga's leg even popped again).
The two kids pulled back after a few moments; their eyes fluttered open. Arnold just gazed at Helga with a warm grin, and she gazed back at him lovingly for a moment. But then she blinked, shook her head, and continued walking forward again. "All right, all right, sheesh, enough mushy stuff. You said you wanted to walk me home so get to it—chop chop!"
Arnold chuckled and headed forward to catch up with her. "Whatever you say, Helga."
"No one likes a kiss up, Arnold," Helga replied as she slipped her hand back into his.
Smiling, the pair walked side by side for the rest of the journey together back to Helga's home, ready to face a new year of their lives with all of the wonderful changes that had come into them over the course of the summer.
Thank you all for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it! It's so nice to have some new material to base stories off of after all these years. And it was so great to finally have some closure ^_^
I hope you're all doing well!
~Azure129 aka Jenna