Helga awoke to a sound she found to be very annoying. 'Ugh. Where is that wretched noise coming from?' She sat up and rubbed her eyes. She blinked and she waited for her eyes to adjust to the brightness of the morning. She then twisted to her side to crack her back and stretched her arms out. 'Much better.'
She scowled as the sound continued. She turned to the direction it was coming from. Arnold was curled up on his side sleeping, and was snoring very loudly. Helga rolled her eyes. She reached over and shoved his shoulder. "HEY! FOOTBALL-HEAD!"
Arnold shot up. "What?! What is it?! Are you okay?!"
Helga started to laugh. "Yeah, I'm fine other than the fact that I was woken up by your obnoxious snoring."
Arnold yawned and then scowled. "Yeah, well, I haven't exactly been sleeping well."
"Yeah, great excuse," she waved him off. She got up and stretched more. "So, where we heading to now?"
Arnold rubbed his eyes and scratched his head. "Well, I thought about it last night, and...I guess it would be better to get my parents with the whole class. That way, if the guards are there, they can all help and we can set my parents free."
"Ah, now you're making more sense," Helga teased.
Arnold smiled at her in response. "Alright, I guess we should get going then." He slowly got up and stretched his arms out. He checked to make sure he still had his father's journal and started to walk.
"Uhh, aren't you forgetting about something? Or are you not human?" she snapped.
Arnold stopped and gave her a confused look.
She rolled her eyes. "Breakfast? I'm starving here!"
"Oh," Arnold furrowed his eyebrows. "Uhm...I guess we just have to look around and see what we can find. Maybe there's trees around here that grow fruit, right?"
"I guess. You better hope so or you'll have to deal with me being grumpy all day," she said bitterly.
'When are you not grumpy?' Arnold thought, fighting a grimace. "Let's go and see if we can find anything on the way," he suggested.
Helga scowled at the thought of them not being able to find anything for a while, but walked along beside him. She mused of what to say. 'Should I talk? He could be deep in thought...maybe I shouldn't disturb him.' She pondered over this for the next few minutes that they walked. All the while, she also wondered if Arnold could pick up on the awkward, at least for her, silence.
Arnold was in fact lost in thought as they walked. He was thinking of what was going to happen, and if it all would happen according to plan. And where was Adan? And would Gerald find his way back?
"Hey, Arnold?" Helga asked, breaking him out of his thoughts.
"Hmm?" he replied absentmindedly, pushing a big branch out of their way.
"Are you nervous? About meeting your parents?" she asked quietly.
Arnold thought for a moment. "Yeah, I guess I am. It's something I've waited my entire life for, but...what if they don't recognize me?" he wondered aloud.
Helga snorted with laughter. "Sorry to break it you, but anyone with a football-head like yours would be hard to forget," she teased.
Arnold smiled at the joke. "I hope you're right," he smirked.
"Of course I am," she said confidently.
Arnold looked at her for a moment. "Helga, why can't you be this nice all the time?" he asked suddenly.
Helga rolled her eyes. "I've told you this before. This is just who I am. I'm mean and a bully. It's what I do," she shrugged matter-of-factly.
"Yeah, but if you let people see who you really are, maybe.." he trailed off.
"Maybe what?" she snapped, suddenly getting defensive.
"Well, I mean, you can be really nice. Maybe if you were nice to everyone, more people would be nice to you in return," he finished. He bit his lip, anticipating her reaction.
Helga scowled reflexively. "What's it to you, anyway?"
Arnold debated with himself for a moment, wondering if he should drop it. "It's just that I know how nice you can be, and I think it's..well, really sad that you have to put guards up with everyone."
Helga fought to keep her feet moving. She wanted to freeze. She wanted to pound him, for no reason at all. 'He really sees through me.' She couldn't come up with a response, and Arnold took that as an ending to the conversation.
They walked in silence after that. As they walked, they came upon a tree with big, ripe fruit. Arnold commented that it reminded him of a mango, while Helga stayed silent. They both sat down and ate ravenously, suddenly becoming aware of how hungry they truly were. After they finished, they continued their journey back to the temple. The sun was now at its peak and was glaring down upon them.
Helga wiped sweat from her forehead. She was walking a little behind Arnold and watched him walk. She wondered if he ever thought about their moment on the FTi tower, and if it meant anything to him. Over the past months, she would kick herself internally, wishing she had never given in to that moment of passion. Now she was sure that he was repulsed by her. 'Who would ever want a nutcase like me?'
As they walked, images of Helga ran through Arnold's mind. For a reason he couldn't explain, he wanted to continue speaking to her. He wanted to confide to her everything he felt about his parents. He felt bad for saying that she put guards up, but he knew that she had insecurities. 'But this is HELGA,' he thought. 'She hates m-' his thought broke off.
He suddenly remembered her speech from the FTi tower. 'I LOVE YOU!' she had proclaimed. He tried to understand why he had buried that memory so deep into his mind and why he couldn't acknowledge it.
Helga had been there for him, disguising herself as Deep Voice, when he never asked her to help. Would she really have done that if she truly hated him?
'Could she really...love me?' he gulped. She was mean and nasty, but he had seen her softer side more than once.
'Was I the only one to see her soft side?' he wondered. And here she was now, in a very dangerous situation when he didn't ask her to be. She's actually risking her life to help him. HIM, of all people.
Arnold came to a realization. He looked to his side and saw Helga looking down, lost in thought. He took in her frayed appearance. He realized he actually found her to be pretty. He had always respected Helga as a person. He tried to remember everything that he knew about her, the soft side of her. The times when she would momentarily drop her walls, and he could see her for who she was. Just a soft, frail girl who needed a good friend. 'Maybe I could be that friend for her..' he thought. He started to think about his own feelings towards her. 'Maybe I could be more. Could I really like her? Like her like her?'
Miles and Stella squinted in the morning sunlight. They had spent the rest of the night before eating food they had forgotten about and slept on a mattress that they almost didn't want to leave in the morning. Adan had fed them all and told them to rest, for in the morning they would be starting their journey to a temple.
"Did food always taste this good?" Miles had said through mouthfuls of food.
Now, they held their arms up to shield their eyes. Lorenda and Adan looked to each other in shock as they saw more clearly the extent of Miles and Stella's conditions. They were so pale after being in the dark for who knows how many months, or possibly, years at a time. They were emaciated and looked sickly.
"So, are we going to go?" Stella asked, oblivious to their expressions. "I want to see my son."
Adan nodded quickly. Lorenda held Adoncia's hand and made sure to keep her close at all times. Adan pointed to the side of the home. They all looked to see a big jeep. Lorenda grimaced.
"I'd like to ride in the front," she said bitterly.
Adan simply nodded again. "Perhaps we should all ride in the front," he suggested.
Everyone mutually agreed to that. They got in the jeep and started to make their way to the temple. Adan was lost in thought, thinking of what could be waiting for them. He started to explained to the group that the guards are holding the class hostage, and that they will want to fight. Miles and Stella were barely listening to his warnings and plans. They were bracing themselves for meeting their son.
They looked around as they rode, everything feeling surreal. They were here and they were doing this. Stella reached for Miles' hand and squeezed it. They shared a knowing look. 'This is it,' they silently thought. They felt a sense of overwhelming anxiety, happiness, and fear.
"This is it," they heard Adan say as they arrived at the temple.