*Secondary Disclaimer: I've shoved the entire Hey Arnold universe into the teenage turmoil and hormonal hell of High School. Deal with it. ;) This takes place at the end of the episode "Helga on the Couch" with the intro quoted from the episode itself. Oh and I named Brainy since no one was kind enough to do so. No wonder the kid has problems.
1: Friends Help Friends
"Ok, So you love Arnold and you're scared to tell him because he might not love you back," Dr. Bliss sums up the lengthy initial session with a new patient at Hillwood Psychiatrist Center, "Helga, This kind of thing happens every day, but you realize you'll never know how he feels until you tell him."
Helga Pataki scrunches her face, ready to go on the defense yet again, "But I'm not ready to tell him!"
"You don't have to tell him now you can do it when you're ready."
"You mean I can still keep it a secret?" Helga states hopefully.
Dr. Bliss nods, "Mhmm"
"It's ok to be obsessed about him- you know the shrines and stuff, the 3 am vigils, the tantric spells...?"
The doctor gives a little smile, "As long as you're not hurting anyone it sounds like an ok way to express yourself."
"So," Helga paces again, "Animal sacrifices are out?"
"Yes, I'm afraid so."
"So it's ok to be Helga? I can go out there and yell and boss the other kids around, right?"
"What about Brainy? Can I still sock Brainy?"
"No don't sock Brainy. That's why you're here in the first place," The woman pauses, "Ok, that's plenty to think about! The session's over, Helga!
"What! Already?! But we were just starting to make some progress!!"
"We can talk again," the doctor states.
Helga hugs the woman briefly before running out of the office.
Dr. Bliss returns to her desk where she sits thinking for a moment before scribbling a few more notes on the Pataki case.
Poor girl has a tough, young life. In that household with such... uncaring parents. So alone in the world.
The woman tsk's, shaking her head.
No wonder she obsessed on the first kind person to reach out to her. At least this Arnold boy seems nice enough. Tolerating her pent up, misguided frustration for this long. The boy is a saint! But... that other youth, hmmm. Something just isn't right with him.
The doctor picks up her phone, dialing a number and waiting for the receiver to pick up.
"Hi, Principal Jenkins? This is Dr. Bliss. I would like to see a student the children call "Brainy"?"
Helga prances off the city bus.
The weight of what she assumed to be the edge of utter madness lifted from her narrow shoulders and professionally excused as completely normal behavior.
I'm normal. Normal! Not loony! Not a psychopath! I'm a regular old plain-Jane girl!
"Man I feel great! So clean!" She exclaims aloud, since thinking out loud is probably considered normal now too. After all, it's just self-expression,
"Confession is good for the soul! It's the new, honest me!"
Helga skips down uneven city sidewalks as if floating on air, headed back in the direction of home.
Even returning back to that empty husk of misery doesn't seem so bad. Her dysfunctional household is probably as normal as Helga herself!
Miriam buried in another "smoothie" cocktail coma. Normal!
Bob probably still at work doing late shifts, working hard to ignore what remains of his family, after all, without his beloved Olga around there's no reason to go home. Still normal!
None of it matters much. All just trivial things in everyday life because Helga's worry she has held inside about possibly going insane has subsided. Now the budding teenager is free to continue her conquest of love with a certain football-headed, golden-haired, angel-faced jerk of a boy.
"Everything is ok!" The girl lets out a bellowing shout, sounding more manic than ecstatic, "I'm-I'm going to be ok!"
The fluttering girl rounds a corner, colliding head-on with an innocent bystander. The unexpected collision knocks Helga flat on her bottom, the victim's groceries tumbling all around, the wind briefly knocked from the dazed girl.
Earth to Helga! Criminy! Who the-
"Sorry Helga," A voice shakes Helga from her stupor as a hand reaches out to help her back up.
The frazzled teen blinks stars from her eyes only to replace the bright spots with the shock of greeting her car crash head-on.
Of all people... it had to be-
"Arnold!" Helga gaps at the equally startled boy letting the young man help her stiffly to her feet and stuttering foolishly, "I just want to say that-that-"
Arnold's questioning eyes follow hers too closely, aware of the change in her voice.
Feeling as though he's run into more than just the usual angry Helga, Arnold presses. "What? Is something wrong?"
Helga stands rigid, unblinking eyes staring down at the hand grasping hers, his hand, his warm skin, his... him.
The only reason I still tolerate all the bullying, Arnold reminds himself, and why I'll deal with the millions of spitballs she's shot at my head every day of school since we were little kids is... I know darn well Helga isn't the monster she tries so hard to be. Every once in awhile I get to see this first hand.
Like right now.
Arnold seems to be the only one who has noticed Helga's pain runs deeper than most and the shell she builds around her is only for protection.
Underneath the sometimes sarcastic, other times horribly volatile facade is an injured, suffering young woman. Constantly ignored by those close to her.
Overlooked and forgotten about. From the moment a preschool-age Arnold and his grandfather encountered Helga wandering the streets alone in the cold rain.
"Well isn't that a sad sight," Grandpa had stated, pulling the car to the curb outside the preschool, "Who lets their little girl go to her first day of school alone?! And in this weather! Hmmph!"
Young Arnold had frowned, then smiled wide, raising his umbrella, "I'm gonna share my 'brella with the sad girl!"
Grandpa had patted him on the head, proud of the always-brave little boy, "Well hop to it, Shortman! See you later! Have a great first day at school with your new friend!"
Arnold, back in the here and now, sees Helga's trembling lip, those wide, damp eyes. The unspoken despair in that familiar face.
Wow she is NOT ok.
This is the face of an old friend, a confident, and she's in horrible pain. He has to help. It's his nature, it's who he is. The boy would suffer a bazillion spitball barrage to help a friend in need and Helga, regardless of her daily jabs at him, is a better friend than most. One who always comes through in the end, one way or another, sometimes with a grimace and a curse yet it still happens.
Aware of Helga's tumultuous family life, Arnold attempts to piece together a scenario that makes sense for her current afflicted state. After all, just last week she was ranting about her mother's careless, drunken behavior. Miriam Pataki had obtained a DUI and news spreads fast among the kids at school. Helga tried to play it off as no big deal even though she was in the car with her intoxicated mother when it jumped the curb right in front of a police officer, making the entire incident and the possibilities of what could've happened far worse.
Did something happen again in the Pataki household?
"Hey, Helga, it's ok. You can talk to me," Arnold tries to reassure the girl, half certain she will cuss him out for trying, "Why were you running? Is everything alright?"
She blinks, pale-faced and vacant while a barrage of emotions whirlwind through her conscience. Without warning, the skinny teen gives a great sob, tears cascading down her cheeks.
"I-I can't!" She cries out, "Sorry, Arnold, I'm so sorry I-I can't tell you what's wrong! I can never tell you!"
She covers her face and shoves passed the bewildered young man, running off down the street.
Arnold scrambles to pick up at least some of the items from his grandmother's strange shopping list. A battered pineapple. Two cans of spray cheese, one missing the cap now. Three TV guides because according to grandma 'They make darn good tinder for campfires, Cowpie!'.
Gah! This is hopeless!
By the time he gets back on his feet, the blond girl is yards away and moving fast.
Arnold's heart sinks as the white knight in him lowers his sword.
That was... different.
He sighs and squats back downs, disheartened, picking up the remaining groceries.
Wonder what happened to make Helga so upset?
A frantic wheezing sound causes Arnold to glance back up as another of his schoolmates stumbles past him the opposite direction of Helga.
"Brainy!", Arnold calls out, rising to his feet, now clutching the half-ripped paper bag to his chest "Hey! Wait up!"
The awkward, hunched, bespectacled kid shoots a sheepish look back over his shoulder at Arnold. To his surprise, Brainy is clutching his face, glasses broken, a freshly bloodied nose streaming from between gangly fingers making an absolute mess. Upon seeing Arnold, Brainy speeds up his retreat stumble-jogging away down the road and quickly out of sight down an alleyway.
It's not the first time Brainy was fleeing Helga injured, panting, acting... stranger than usual and he's a pretty darn strange guy. Forever pining after Helga even though it's definitely not reciprocated. Always just moments behind her at Hillwood High like a shadow. The guy even follows her around during daily life outside of school. Oddly, whereas most schoolboy crushes fade with time and constant refusal, Brainy's infatuation has intensified over the years. No matter how many times Helga swats him away he's always just... there behind her as if waiting for her to change her mind.
Come to think of it... that's really kind of creepy.
Brainy's bleeding and Helga's seriously upset about something, scared even and running. Brainy, always following Helga, breathing heavy as he gets closer to her, never taking a hint, never backing down.
Wow, that's textbook stalker stuff!
It was innocent when they were younger, laughable even. That's just Brainy. He'll never learn. Now we're all older, hormones are at play, relationships are getting serious.
Brainy's just another creep who won't take a hint and it's... it's NOT ok anymore!
Was Brainy stalking Helga just now and Arnold interrupted? The guy could be getting more aggressive, more forceful about it, really disturbing Helga. Whatever went down, Brainy did something to Helga right after Arnold ran into her and the guy got his nose busted bad for it. Worse than normal. Helga... She was so scared, so upset, who knows what that creep was up to! Helga had something she desperately wanted to tell Arnold, something terribly important. What if this was it? What if Brainy's tailing her has become threatening and she's actually in trouble? What if she needed help?
A memory flashes in Arnold's mind: The poor, tiny child covered in mud standing in the rain so lost and alone. This image easily morphs into the young woman crying just now, trembling as she spoke, actually apologizing to Arnold.
She DID apologize to me! No insults, no nothing!
Arnold drops the grocery bag with a clattering thump-splat-bang, a pickle jar exploding its contents and destroying the remaining items in the saturated bag.
"I could've helped her..."
The white knight starts to charge off down the street in the direction Helga disappeared, hoping he can manage to catch up.
I've got to find out what happened!
"I dunno, you sure 'bout all this? Brainy? Really, Arnold? Yeah, the guy is a little, eh, odd, but he's just a harmless-"
"Then why was Helga so freaked out and-and crying!?" Arnold interjects, still upset, "Why was Brainy busted up like that? She usually bruises him good but this time she probably broke the guy's nose! Blood everywhere! Why the hell did he panic when he saw me and scamper away like a damn criminal?! Brainy never does that!"
Arnold paces his friend's bedroom as Gerald lay on the bed tossing a baseball up in the air.
"Man, I don't know," Gerald drops the ball on his bed and stands up, "Look, if you think something serious happened then... then it might'a happened? You're an honest dude. So, what now? Talk to the police?"
"No!," Arnold replies stern, yet calmer now that Gerald is being more receptive. His downcast eyes on the carpet, thoughts days away, "I-I still don't know what actually happened. I didn't see anything myself and, to make matters worse, Helga won't give me the time of day. If I could just talk to her..."
"Yeah that sounds like good ol' Helga G. Pataki-" Gerald starts. Arnold's challenging glare causes him to get defensive,"What, man? You know it's true! The girl slammed her door in your face! I'd say that's reason enough to just back off and let things be."
"I don't think I can, Gerald, Not this time," Arnold looks up, worry and indignation clouding his usually chill features, "It just doesn't sit well."
Gerald sighs, grabbing his coat, "When the heck did you start caring so much about Pataki, anyway?"
His tone is teasing, knowing very well the girl has given his best friend nothing but grief since they first met in pre-school. An obsessive sort of torture, Arnold being her favorite target. Gerald assumes all girls, to some degree, are off their rocker, especially Helga and he can't for the life of him figure out why Arnold continues to be so kind to such an abrasive, irrational girl.
He's just like that, Gerald muses, A genuine nice guy and, unfortunately, a doormat to people like Helga.
"She's a friend, Gerald," Arnold follows the boy from the room and back down the stairs to the early evening outside, "Mean or not, friends help friends."
"Huh, some friend. So what are you gonna do?"
"I don't know," The blond boy shoves his hands in his pockets, wishing he, too, had brought a coat to fight the blustery evening.
He stares off in the direction of Helga's house just a few blocks away. She had refused to open her door after initially finding Arnold there when he failed to catch up to her out on the street. From inside her muffled voice begged him to leave. Worst of all, and sickeningly upsetting to Arnold, he could still hear her crying faintly in that fearful, lost way he's never heard Helga Pataki cry before. Even worse than the time trapped on the subway when she became utterly manic and swore monster sewer rats were going to gnaw all their heads off. This was different. All her shields were down and that girl is normally Fort Knox. Arnold would rather have Helga screaming at him for existing than ever hear her cry like that again.
"We have to do something," Arnold repeats his plight.
"You can do something if you like," Gerald points out, "I'm not a part of this one. Nuh-uh. It's allllllll you."
"Some friend you are," Arnold spats.
Gerald sighs, tossing his hands in the air, "The girl hates me! She really hates you! Heck, she doesn't like anyone!"
"But she's in trouble! Real trouble! I just know it!"
"Ok, whatever," His friend reluctantly gives in, "If it bothers you so much maybe I can talk to Phoebe and-"
"No!," Arnold raises his hands, "Don't do that! Helga's... unstable. She didn't threaten to hurt me, not even once! For her, that's really abnormal. I think... I think I have to handle this one head on, myself. She might be mad if we include other people. If she's in trouble, I want to be the one to help her out. I'm probably the only person she'd talk to, anyway."
Gerald forces down a laugh, "What makes you say that?"
"I just know, ok? She wanted to tell me something. She's taken my advice before. Even some of my help when no one else could get through to her-"
"Yeah, and the girl has tripped you, laughed at you, cussed you out, shoved you, called you so many names it makes my head hurt just tryin' to remember them all... I mean, let's face it! You ain't her favorite person, Arnold! She downright despises you!"
"No," Arnold grumbles to himself, "She doesn't! Not really... Look, I need to help her! Not you nor anyone else is going to talk me down so just stop trying, ok?"
Gerald raises his eyebrow again, staring Arnold down, "Man, you are serious about this."
"If you saw her crying like that, Gerald, maybe you'd be serious, too."