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Greater Need

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They were the one thing she'd wanted more than anything. Nancy Spumoni snow boots, cool and tough, so wanted by so many girls the shoe stores were totally sold out and anyone else who tried to buy them at this point got laughed out of the store. She'd had them, for a few glorious minutes she'd had them.

And they were a present from Miriam, on top of all that. Miriam, who forgot to brush her hair and change her clothes without someone telling her five times a morning, who fell asleep behind the couch with a glass in her hand, stood on line for eighteen hours just to get them. Spent a fortune on them, too, they were probably more expensive than one of Big Bob's fanciest beepers.

They were her best present, from someone who was usually too out of it to notice her, and she'd given them up in an instant for him. Just so he could get some cranky old man to find some girl he didn't even know, just to make some boarder happy.

And he'll never know it was me. How could he, I'm not the kind of person who does that crap. And besides, Gerald was right. You don't give things just to be loved, you do it because you love someone. Like I love Arnold, with every last cell, pore and molecule in my body! How can I have a merry Christmas if he doesn't?! I'd sell my own soul to keep the flame burning in his!

She couldn't pretend she hadn't given the boots away, either, Mom would notice. No, she had to rip off the bandaid and just confess she'd given away an expensive present Mom had stood on line for more than half a day to get. Something that meant a lot to her for that reason, and the coolest present she could ever get.

Helga swallowed, slowly opening the door and stepping inside. Mom was still awake, sitting on the couch with a glass of egg nog, and Big Bob and Olga were nowhere to be found. Good, Helga thought, she didn't need their commentary on top of all these feelings.

Mom noticed the missing boots right away, too, of course. Of all the times for her to be so alert, hmph.

"Helga? Where-"

"I gave them away! I know, I'm the worst, after all you went through to get them, I-" She clenched her gloved fists, tears stinging her eyes. "I didn't want to! But something bigger was at stake, someone needed them!"

"Oh, Helga..." Mom actually put down her drink and came over to hug her, and that just made Helga feel guiltier.

"I can't explain everything, just that...well, someone needed a miracle, and those boots were a part of it," she muttered. How could she even begin to explain the soul-smothering love for a stupid football head who needed to believe in stupid things like miracles? Because the loss of that caring little soul, the dimming of the glow that guides him to make it better for even the biggest idiots in need, to find the daughter of a sad old man instead of jusy buying him something because family is so much more important than material goods in his bright eyes...because this is the only gift that proves the extent of my love for you, Arnold, and because of my damn foolish pride you'll never know it was me!

Mom hugged her closer, and Helga bit her lip as a few tears slid down her cheeks.

"I'm sorry, Mom. I... loved them, and I appreciate all you did to get them, but..."

"Helga," Mom whispered, "this may be the sweetest, most unselfish thing anyone's ever done on Christmas. And if it meant I stood on line for eighteen hours just to get someone else a miracle, then I'm glad I did."

She understood. Really, she hadn't known how Mom would react, she wasn't prone to throwing fits like Big Bob, but she wasn't a total pushover either. But she understood, even if Helga couldn't explain it.

"I'm proud of you, dear," Mom said, and Helga sniffled, burrowing closer into the embrace.

"Thanks," she said quietly. "And I bet I'll like everything else you and Dad got me." It wouldn't be another pair of Nancy Spumoni snow boots, but Arnold had his Christmas wish and in the end, that was all she wanted.

You'll never know what I've done for you, my love, but maybe it's better this way.