A/N: So, I've posted this story on this site before but I've decided to rewrite it. I really like the premise but I don't like the way I wrote it before! So if you recognize the story, that is why :) I know this chapter is short but I hope you like it! Enjoy.
Eli Goldsworthy had always been an observer.
It was never really a conscious hobby of his, or anything. He wasn't quite sure when it started, but he always found himself experimenting. With reactions, with emotions, with anything he could get away with, really. Pushing the limits. It's fascinating, how much one can understand about people just by doing these small little experiments.
He assumed that's why he had such trouble when he first came to Degrassi. People weren't used to the way he did things. Eli couldn't help but notice that teenagers, especially in this town, had a habit of not seeing things that were directly in front of them. Yet even though Eli had relatively similar backgrounds and upbringings as these classmates that surrounded him, his way of thought was especially different.
See, Eli Goldsworthy had always been an observer. But he never stopped at just that.
He liked to push buttons. Investigate. Trial and error. He got the most desired results this way, to be filed away in a cabinet in his fathomless mind for later usage.
Teachers, for example: a typical specimen. He never really cared for school, or teachers or clubs or anything, but he could tell you one thing: high school is a breeding ground for interesting subjects. For example, Eli liked to try out the "reformed convict" one on his teachers. His garb alone gave him a bad-ass-ish look, and a snarky attitude to match set the ball rolling.
A couple insults here, a couple of botched assignments there, and he had teachers hating his guts. But then, Eli would change his tactic. Go for the more "teacher's pet" kind of game. Let them think that they really changed Eli and that he learned so much from them. Yeah, it was that "Freedom Writer's" bullshit that they really lapped up.
Bullies were another story. Well, Eli would probably refer to them as jocks at this point. But hey, in this day and age you never know what clique the little buggers would pop up out of.
When he was nine, there was a boy in his class who was much bigger than him, and the kid was a dick. Always pushing Eli around because he was bad at soccer and wanted to sit inside instead. He didn't know what to do, where to hide, how to get away. And at the mere age of nine, he decided that he would try something out. Instead of reacting, crying, screaming or just simply running away, he stopped doing anything at all. Eli just stood there and shrugged despite the sense of fear growing in his chest. The Bully was perplexed.
By the time Eli was a junior, it was pretty easy to figure people out in high school, especially at one like Degrassi. Stay away from the football players, stay away from the girls with short skirts and plunging necklines (nothing but an empty head in a pair of heels), and stay away from the boiler room. Pretty simple, actually.
Clare Edwards was, at the moment, his main subject. In some ways, she's simple. Like the way her brow wrinkles when she laughs, and sometimes she laughs so hard she snorts. And every time she snorts, she does this cute thing where she clamps her hand over her mouth as if she had just cussed in front of her parents. And then, as if realizing how silly she looks, she laughs again.
Eli had done enough observations to know that she always claims the smell of rain is her favorite smell. And yet when it rains, she's unusually sad.
Sometimes she clenches her jaw when she's nervous. He noticed it the first time they talked, right after he had run over her glasses. He noticed it again when they were assigned to be English partners, and again right after they first kissed.
And yet, there were things about Clare that Eli just couldn't understand.
For example, interrupting a teacher. Sometimes, she would glare at him, turn away, and then chastise him later for being so disrespectful to an authority figure. But other times, she would try to cover up her laughter. Once, when he asked her to go to a concert with him, she claimed that going out on a school night was "irresponsible". The next week, they went to a Chuck Palahniuk reading together late at night. No matter what, he just didn't know how she would react. No matter how hard he experimented, he always ended up, like The Bully, simply baffled.
"I just… I don't want to talk about it, okay? I can't. Please, just stop trying," Clare pleaded that late afternoon. He stood with his eyes open wide like his mouth. Five seconds ago, everything was fine. Peachy. They had been talking about that math assignment and how long it took the both of them to do, completely harmless territory. And then Clare mentioned her parents and how they were yelling so loud she couldn't focus, and it was all downhill. She shut down like a clam, hiding her pearl deep inside her chest for no one to see.
"I just wanted to help," he retorted. He could feel his lips curling into a line. Clare shook her head, as if to say it was impossible, completely futile, and that he shouldn't even try.
"Let's talk about something else."
He shrugged and shoved his hands into his coat pockets. What else was there to talk about, if it would just go back to her being upset? For once, he felt speechless. He had no idea how she would possibly react. Like a Rubik's cube, that girl.
In the distance, Clare's house loomed like a dark cloud. Eli slowed his gait to a steady halt and hoisted his backpack further up on his shoulder.
"We're here," Eli said curtly. Clare had barely noticed that they had come upon her house; she didn't even really seem to recognize it anymore. Eli looked at her as she stared up at it, her face filled with worry, and he didn't neglect to notice her grip on his hand tighten. He let go, watching his taut skin turned from white back to a milky beige as her hand slithered back to her side.
Clare sighed heavily, replacing his hand with her other one and wringing them together slowly. There was something wrong. He was dying to ask; the words were dangling from his lips, dripping like a cool glass on a hot summer's day. She didn't say anything, though. Instead, she walked up the porch steps with her head hanging low. He turned to walk away.
"Wait," Clare called to him. He was surprised he heard her, she was practically whispering. "Please, don't go."
Eli turned to see her face, gleaming with tears and smudged mascara. He walked briskly towards her, taking her shivering body in his arms. Her nails dug into his coat as she cried silently; a shaking hand found her back as it jolted up and down like a broken machine.
"Clare, what is it?" he asked, trying to keep his voice soft, but for some reason it sounded stern. He needed to know this time.
They had been doing this dance for some time now. The first few weeks of their relationship were so immaculate, like a ballet; every move was so precise and perfectly planned, yet it seemed effortless. But now... well, now it was different. Like a sloppy tango. They were always on different pages, different steps, and it was impossible to know what the other could be thinking.
Clare pulled away from Eli for a moment, wiping her eyes fitfully and pulling down her blouse, which had ridden up from her shaking. She took a deep breath and stared into her boyfriend's inquiring eyes.
"It's just… it's my parents. I don't want to go in there, it doesn't feel right anymore," she warbled, wiping her nose tentatively. The shiny tears continued to roll down her face and she wiped them furiously, as if punishing herself for crying. Eli stared at her, so fragile before him, and still he couldn't rid the confusion from his mind. "I'm sorry, you should go. I forgot you were supposed to go work on your hearse… I'm sorry, I really am."
"You don't have to apologize," he replied, looking down at his feet. "It's understandable. You just have to tune it out, okay, Clare? Listen, you can come for dinner tonight, if you need to."
She nodded and smiled without an ounce of happiness. She mumbled, "That would be really nice."
Eli kissed her cheek, feeling the coolness of her tears against his lips. It caused a shiver that rolled through his spine. Clare lingered for a moment, just as he did before, with a pile of words waiting to be let out. But she didn't say anything, and instead turned and walked inside.
His stomach was uneasy. There was something else, something more, and he couldn't deny it. As difficult as she was to figure out, she was lying, and he knew that much. Sighing in defeat, he quickened his pace as he headed for his house, his mind fluttering with the possibilities.
A/N: Forgot to say up there (and now too lazy to scroll up... oops) but this fic is set earlier on in the series, when Clare and Eli first get together, when they're still best friends with Adam and Fiona still goes to Degrassi. Hope that's okay. The reason Clare is acting weird will be revealed, and I promise it is not what you're thinking! Let me know what you thought.