First short story in the series “Helga’s Session’s Spin-offs”, this one taking place between “Helga’s Fourth Session” and “Helga’s Fifth Session”. Helga has had her fourth therapy session. That night, she reflects on her unhappy life and visits one of the few people she feels she can count on.
Unnecessarily Long And Precise Legal Disclaimer: Since you’re reading this on fan fiction dot net, (I tried to write it as “fan fiction” and then actual dot in the legal disclaimers for the first two fics, but this site erased it from the text for some weird reason) it’s probably obvious that I don’t own the rights to Hey Arnold or any of its characters. I’m using these characters without permission, but I’m writing this purely for my own pleasure – not for the sake of copyright infringement – and therefore I wouldn’t try to make money off this story even if someone were willing to pay for it, nor would I attempt to use it infringe on the profits of Nickelodeon or Viacom Incorporated.
Author’s Note: The idea behind this series is that most of the stories will work by themselves but will also tie in with the “Helga’s Sessions” series and take place in the same continuity as that series. This takes place after “Helga’s Fourth Session” on the night of that very same Thursday.
a story based on a television series and set of characters that are all the creation of Craig Bartlet and intellectual property of Nickelodeon and Viacom
“Helga’s Thursday Night”
It was a little after four o’clock in the afternoon, and Helga Pataki had just gotten back from her fourth therapy session with Doctor Bliss. The session had primarily been about Olga, and Helga spent much of the trip home pondering Bliss’ theory about why Olga never listened to her and constantly took her parents’ attention away from her. When she got home, she’d found her parents excitedly discussing preparations for Olga’s arrival in two weeks, so she bitterly ignored them and went straight up to her room to visit her shrine and write some more poetry about Arnold. She kept doing that till she got hungry, then she went down, ate some stuff from the fridge, and went right back up and resumed her Arnold worship. Around ten o’clock, she even began to dance with her latest representation of Arnold, a box with a blue shirt over it glued to a football with two long strings of yellow yarn tied to it. She placed the arms of the shirt around her and imagined they were Arnold’s arms.
“Oh, I love you too, Arnold” she said affectionately, “but you already knew that! Ever since I confessed to you, you’ve known how you set my heart aflutter! You’ve known how your kind heart, your sweet and gentle nature and your adorably weirdly shaped head combine to make you irresistible to me! And as long as you’re here to protect me, my darling football-headed angel, I never need fear unhappiness again!”
Just then, she heard Bob’s voice from downstairs shouting “Olga, get down here! One of your little friends is on the phone!”
“It’s Helga, Bob!” Helga snarled back resentfully, “and tell Phoebe I’ll be down in a moment!” She stomped down the stairs into the living room, snatched the phone from Bob, and put it up to her ear. Bob walked off. “Hey, Pheebs, what’s up?” Helga greeted.
“Um, actually” the voice on the other end began uncertainly, “it’s…..” But Helga recognized the voice quite well and knew exactly who it was.
“Arnold!?” she shouted excitedly, and then she gulped as her entire body quivered nervously.
“Um, yeah” said Arnold. “You seemed especially unhappy at school today and I never got a chance to talk to you about it, so I thought I’d call you and ask if you were okay. I’m sorry I couldn’t call sooner, but there was this situation at the boarding house when Mr. Hyunh – he’s one of our boarders – anyway, he brought home a turkey, and my grandma thought the turkey was an assassin………”
Calling her to make sure she was okay was – in Helga’s judgment, at least – even nicer than how Arnold usually treated her, and she felt an extra rush of admiration for and attraction to him. Even better, he sounded deeply apologetic about not talking to her sooner, even though the situation with Olga had put her in an especially bad mood that day and she’d been even nastier than usual, giving Arnold every reason to avoid her. In her head, she swooned about how thoughtful and sweet he was and how adorable he sounded as he nervously explained the situation to her.
Unfortunately, liking him even more strongly than usual also meant she was even more nervous than usual. In the past she’d sometimes been able to share her problems with him, but this time she was so nervous she couldn’t slow her brain down long enough to think about what she was going to say to him.
She wanted to tell him why she’d been especially unhappy. She wanted to tell him about Doctor Bliss’ theory and ask him what he thought. She wanted to calm Arnold down, show him he didn’t need to be so anxious about calling her, apologize for every prank and cruel word, listen to the rest of the “turkey assassin” story and join him in a good-natured (well, on his part, at least, maybe a little meaner on her part) laugh at the antics of his bizarre family…………….but her mind was frantically panicking too much. So instead, she immediately cut him off by snapping at him as usual. “For your information, football head, I’m fine! And if you ever call here again, I’ll rip your spine out and use it as a jump rope!”
“I was just trying to help!” Arnold replied in a tone that sounded angry, hurt, and a little bit indignant. Then Helga slammed the phone down, and immediately glared at the floor as if it were responsible for her frustration with herself.
“Olga!” Bob shouted from the next room, “Could you keep it down in there? I’m trying to watch my new beeper commercial!” Helga ignored him as she stomped back up to her room. She stared sadly at her shrine, wanting to resume her earlier fantasy but unable to now that she’d been reminded of the harsh reality.
“Oh, Arnold” she told the football and yarn in a soft, vulnerable voice, “I know you were trying to help me. I know you care about everyone, including someone like me who doesn’t deserve it. How do you continue to care about me after everything I’ve done to you? I know I hurt your feelings just now, as I probably have so many other times!”
“I’ve always admired how soft and kind your heart is” she continued,” but I forget sometimes that it’s also endearingly fragile. Dare I continue to dream that a boy as sensitive as you would choose a girl as rough and careless as I? Could I ever hold your heart and care for it properly, or would that be akin to some brutish ogre holding a delicate glass sculpture? And like that ogre and its sculpture, am I doomed to break your heart every time I touch it?”
“Oh, criminy” she scolded herself in her more typical bitter voice. “Here I am, spilling my guts to an ersatz Arnold, but when the real thing is on the other line, all I can seem to do is be a jerk to him out of some pathetic, cowardly need to hide my real feelings! How am I ever going to get anywhere this way!? She kicked the right wall of her closet, and then banged her head on it several times. Then she sighed and said “I need some air”.
She made her way down the stairs and into the entryway, but just as she reached for the doorknob, she heard Bob’s voice asking “where do you think you’re going, young lady?”
She turned around, folded her arms, and stared at the ground. “Nowhere, Bob” she mumbled resentfully.
“Good” he replied firmly. “Olga’s on the phone and she wants to talk to you”.
He held the phone out, and Helga reluctantly took it. “Hello” she said unenthusiastically.
“How’s my baby sister?!” Olga asked excitedly.
“Just give the phone back when you’re done” Bob said, and he left the room.
“Oh, I’m just fine” Helga replied sarcastically.
“Oh, I’m glad to hear that” Olga replied excitedly. “I’m excellent as well………” and Olga immediately launched into a long description of her happy college life, which Helga quickly tuned out. Finally, she threw the phone down on the floor and slipped out the door.
She walked down the dark street, quickly at first out of desperation to get away from the house. Then she slowed down, hunched over and staring at the ground with a miserable, weary expression on her face. As was often the case for Helga, she felt completely alone and unloved. She didn’t even pay attention to where she went and only just barely avoiding getting hit by a car at one point. The car splashed mud on her, and then it started raining. She quenched her fists and tried to hold the tears in, but they came anyway. This time, there was no umbrella and no Arnold to protect her. Depressing thoughts invaded her mind like a hive cruel, stinging bees. What, she wondered, had she ever done to deserve this life, this family, or this loneliness?
She took a mental trip through lots of flashbacks. She remembered That Day in preschool. She remembered the incident a couple days later when she called Arnold “football head” for the first time, and she remembered immediately feeling twisted up inside with guilt at the expression of anguish and anger on his face. She remembered the incident a couple hours after that when she first saved Phoebe from a bunch of other bullies and the two became friends. She remembered all the times she’d had dinner at Phoebe’s house and all the sleepovers the two of them had had at each other’s houses.
She remembered all the times she’d tried to tell her parents about her problems at school and Bob had waved her off so he could watch “The Wheel” or a beeper commercial and Miriam barely responded because she was under the influence of a “smoothie”. And she remembered all the times both parents had gushed over Olga or told Helga she should be more like Olga………and then a moment from her latest therapy session played again in her mind;
“These are only my guesses” Doctor Bliss made sure to clarify, “but I wonder if your sister doesn’t want to acknowledge that anyone in your family has problems because she knows that your father doesn’t want to talk about them. If your parents really make her feel like a ‘wind-up doll’ but she hasn’t told them, she may be afraid to let them know that she doesn’t want the attention. And if she’s that afraid of your parents expressing disapproval of her, she may honestly think that you’re better off not being noticed by them, in which case it may be hard for her to believe that your feelings are valid or that you really have the problems you do.”
Helga took a moment to let all of that sink in. “You really think so?”
“Like I said, they’re only guesses” Bliss repeated. “But they seem to me like a plausible explanation for your sister’s behavior patterns based on everything you’ve told me. But what do you think? Do they fit what you’ve observed about Olga?”
The question gripped Helga’s mind again. She wanted more than anything to believe that one of the people who hurt her hadn’t intended to, but she was almost afraid to accept that. What if she started believing that and then it turned out that she’d been right the first time and there really was almost no one she could trust? But then, at the same time she was afraid not to believe it; how could she give up on a possibility that would make her existence slightly more bearable? How was she to determine what the truth was in any case? Olga had certainly sounded happy on the phone, but could that really have been an act? And if it was, could she really ever get her to drop it?
Oh, what does it matter? groaned the cynical, angry voice in her head. Olga can’t help me, can she? Then, more hopefully, she wondered or can she? She sighed, I don’t know anymore. Can Doctor Bliss even help me? Can Arnold……. but then she stopped herself. She simply refused to doubt that Arnold could help her. He could help anyone! After all, that was what Arnold did; he helped poor souls in need. And no one was more in need than she was.
She would never lose faith that her football-headed love god could single-handedly solve any problem, improve anyone’s life, and heal anyone’s pain. One day when they were grown-ups, she was certain; Arnold would solve all the problems in the world. He would bring about the end of world hunger and the beginning of world peace, he would win a thousand Nobel Peace Prizes, he’d deserve all the fame and praise he got in the process, but he’d modestly claim not to deserve it……..and maybe, just maybe, if she was absurdly lucky, she would be by his side as he did it. And every day he would tell her that he loved her, and she’d be happy forever.
Or, she thought miserably, more likely she wouldn’t be lucky. She would never find the courage to tell him how she really felt and she’d keep hurting him until he didn’t want to talk to her anymore. No doubt, picking on him would still be fun sometimes, but once she’d paid the price of him walking out of her life, she’d realize it had never been worth it. Then he’d really leave here out in the cold by marrying Li-la or some other girl she could never hope to compete with, and she’d be miserable and broken forever, all hope of happiness gone from her life.
Oh, how she hated to admit that she was so dependent on another person for her own happiness. She’d let herself become powerless against Arnold; he had absolute control over her emotions. Hadn’t Bob always taught her that a Pataki was free, never let someone else control them and didn’t care what other people thought? But wait, she didn’t want to be like Bob……….or did she? He seemed happy enough, and most people were too afraid of him to try to walk all over him, a trait she greatly admired. But if she became like him, didn’t that mean she was doing exactly the opposite of what he taught her by trying too hard to please another person? But was she really so different from him already? No, she supposed they were both bullies, but she was fiercely certain they were different in one very import way; if she were a parent, she’d never treat her own children the way Bob and Miriam had treated her.
Besides, there was still that nagging part of her that wished she were less like Bob and more like Arnold. But how could she feel that way when being a mean and insensitive had protected her for so long? Besides, certain as she was that most of her classmates would hurt her if given the chance, she took sadistic pleasure in hurting them first. So then why did she so admire Arnold for being a gentle soul who’d never deliberately hurt anyone? There were even times she thought he was a complete sap but admired him anyway!
She shook her head, trying to clear it of all the confusing, contradictory thoughts that were driving her crazy. Crazier than usual she corrected herself bitterly. She finally stopped walking and looked up, idly curious as to where she might be; it was Phoebe’s house. She knocked on the door; there was no answer. She knocked again; still no answer. She started pounding it, imagining it to be all the things that were making her life so unhappy.
Phoebe lay awake in her room, anxious about tomorrow’s test. She heard a loud knocking at the door. Who would desire to converse with any inhabitant of this domicile at such a late hour? she wondered, glancing at her clock and seeing that it was 11:06 PM and 50 seconds. The only examples she could remember of anyone trying to contact any member of the Hyerdahl family past 10 in the evening were all of Helga’s late night phone calls about infiltrating the Sunset Arms. But why would Helga be heading down here this time and knocking instead of calling?
Oh well, she thought, I suppose it would be preferable if I answer the door before one of my parents wakes up and answers it. I suspect they would be highly irritated if they knew she was visiting at this late time of night. She knew Helga wouldn’t do this unless something was troubling her more deeply than usual. That didn’t mean Phoebe didn’t wish that whatever was bothering her best friend could wait till tomorrow, but she still felt it was her duty as best friend to talk to Helga whenever she needed it, especially since Helga’s life was so hard. Besides, it was rare for Helga to share her problems with her, and Phoebe also couldn’t deny that it always felt nice when Helga opened up to her. So, she stretched, forced herself out of bed, and skittered quickly to the door.
Helga was about to give up and leave when the door slowly creaked open and Phoebe stepped out. “Konichiwa, Helga” she said in an obviously tired but still friendly voice. “Did you need to talk about something?”
Helga nodded sadly. “Pheebs” she whispered, “you like me, don’t you?”
“Of course, Helga” she replied, surprised that Helga would even ask.
“And you’ll always there for me, right? You’ll always be my friend?”
Privately, Phoebe couldn’t help the good-natured but somewhat amused thought that this was a humorous question on Helga’s part. After all, would she be standing out here in the rain at precisely eleven o’ seven PM and 5 seconds if she didn’t care about her enough to always be there? But out loud, she simply said “of course, Helga”.
Helga smiled affectionately. “Thanks, Pheebs”. She turned to leave then.
“Helga” Phoebe began hesitantly, and then Helga turned to face her again. “Was there something else you came here to talk about?”
Helga considered for a moment, but decided she wasn’t really ready. “No”.
“Are you sure?” Phoebe asked. “Is there a problem with your parents, or…….Ice Cream? I recall you mentioning an impending visit from Olga………”
“Two weeks isn’t what I’d call ‘impending’” Helga said dismissively, “not that you’d know from Bob and Miriam’s reactions. You know how they are about Olga”.
“Would you like to discuss it?”
“You can, you know” Phoebe ventured cautiously, “I really do care, Helga, enough that I’ll listen if you need someone to talk to”.
“I’m not ready, yet” and she wasn’t. All she’d wanted was to be reassured that someone cared.
“Well, okay” Phoebe said disappointedly. “I hope you’ll at least discuss it with Doctor Bliss.”
“I have” said Helga, and she turned around and walked off. Phoebe watched her go, then closed the door and went back to her room. The only downside to being Helga Pataki’s friend, she thought, was knowing when Helga needed help but not knowing how to give it.
As soon as Helga got back home, she got tight hugs from her parents and tearful lectures about how worried they’d been when she was gone. For just a moment, Helga could feel the cynical part of her mind about to say something snide and angry like it’s Thanksgiving all over again; maybe if I run away more often, mom and dad will care more often! But she shut the thought down just as it was about to start. She chose to simply enjoy the pleasant happy moment while it lasted.