Here and Now

Chapter 6

It was the moment Grace had been dreading all day, causing her to spend the day in a daze; not knowing how she managed to get through all her classes for that day. She watched the seconds pass by and then finally the big hand moved across from the 11 to the 12. The bell rang and the students began rising from their chairs drowning out the sound of the teacher calingl out that night's homework assignment. Grabbing her books she headed out the door, ignoring the calls of Carla who followed close behind her. Grace had been avoiding Carla all day. After what had happened at Eli's the day before she was sure that Carla would become suspicious that something was going on between her and Eli. Plus Carla hadn't even bothered to see if Grace was okay after she ran out, in fact Carla had stuck around for the rest of the band practice.

"Grace! Wait up a second!" Carla called up, jogging up next to Grace in the crowded hallway.

Grace continued walking, her head down, staring at her feet until Carla grabbed her arm and turned her around forcing her to stop.

"Listen, I just wanted to tell you that I think what you're doing is great, for Eli I mean" Carla explained, smiling as she noticed the look on Graces face.

"You mean" Grace trailed off, unsure of how to continue.

"I mean Eli told us all about how you have been helping him out with English." Carla laughed as Graces face registered with shock. "Now you better go or you're going to be late" Carla pushed Grace down the hallway, where they could already see Eli waiting by Graces locker.

Eli paced in front of Graces locker as he waited for her, unsure of why he felt so nervous. He still stood by the belief that even though he knew he had hurt Grace, it hadn't been intentional as she appeared to believe. Plus it didn't help that he still had no idea as to why he cared so damn much in the first place.

After what felt like an eternity Eli spotted Grace walking towards him through the crowded hallway. "Grace, I just wanted" Eli started but Grace cut in.

"Eli wait, before you say anything I just wanted to say thank you for what you did, it means a lot to me" Grace stopped when she noticed the confused expression on Eli's face.

"What I did? How you can be thankful for me letting the guys talk about you like that, I should have told them what was going on from the start" Eli rushed.

"No, I'm thankful that you did tell the guys what was going on. I know how hard it must have been. Whilst I am angry at what the guys said, I realized last night that I'm not angry at you. I'm angry at myself for not standing up to them, but instead running away" Grace looked down biting her lower lip, struggling to hold off the tears that were filling her eyes.

"Grace . . ." Eli started taking a step closer towards her, hating himself as he knew he at least was part of the reason why she was standing in front of him struggling not to cry.

"But mostly I'm angry at myself for thinking that I could fit into your life outside of school. I should have known that it wouldn't have worked" A single tear ran down her face.

Grace, too embarrassed to look up, continued to stare at the floor. Not sure what caused him to do so, Eli reached out and gently tipped her chin up so that their gazes met, causing him to sharply inhale a breath as his Graces whose were now glistening with tears. His heart ached to be able to take away the pain, and although he knew he was doing the wrong thing, he moved to do so in the only way he knew possible.

Still staring deep into her eyes he leaned slowly towards her, theirs eyes fluttering closed as the same time, lips parting slowly in anticipation as they both realized what was about to occur, only to be interrupted by a loud cough coming from just down the hallway. Embarrassed Grace turned away from Eli, who immediately took a step back, realization dawning on his face.

He had almost just kissed Grace Manning.

"I didn't realize you guys would both still be here," Grace finally noticed the person behind the cough, not being the least surprised to observe that it was Carla.

"Yeah, we were just, ah" Grace stumbled over her words, turning a bright shade of red.

"Leaving, we were just leaving" Eli finished off.

"I hope I'm not interrupting anything" not sounding sorry at all. Carla spun the combination to her locker and when it didn't open she turned to Eli, who seemed to be looking for the fastest way out of there. "Do you mind?" She asked gesturing towards her locker.

"Oh, yeah right" Eli banged on the locker and it popped open.

"Never could open it" Carla joked as Grace rolled her eyes, knowing that Carla had never had a problem with her locker before when she was around.

Reaching into her locker she pulled out the packet of cigarettes that she had returned to school to get. "I'll catch ya later" Carla called over her shoulder as she walked away.

Grace looked at Eli, "Listen I was thinking maybe we could skip this afternoon. I have heaps of homework . . ." Grace fumbled for some reasonable excuse.

Eli couldn't have looked more relieved. "Yeah, Jessie's been bugging me to go watch her practice for awhile so I guess I should go" Eli picked up his bag from where he had earlier dropped it on the floor and slung it over his back.

"Same time tomorrow?" Grace asked a hint of worry in her voice. "Yeah I'll see you then" Eli agreed taking off down the hall. Grace slowly trailed behind him.

"Hey mum I'm home!" Grace called out as she walked in the door.

"Hi honey, what are you doing home so early? Did you have another fight with Eli?" Lily asked noticing the thoughtful look on Grace face.

"What?" Grace snapped back to reality, she had in fact been imagining exactly what it would be like to have kissed Eli. "Oh, nah Eli had something to do this afternoon so we decided to take the day off. His coming over again tomorrow though" Grace explained trying hard not to think of their almost kiss.

"Well as long as your home I might as well tell you, It was meant to be a surprise but" Lily hesitated. "Out with it mum," said Grace impatiently, walking into the kitchen and dropping her schoolbag on the floor.

"I've invited Rick over for dinner" Grace who was about to open the fridge stopped what she was doing.

"You mean THE Rick, the one our always on the phone to? The one you insist is nothing serious?" Grace asked disbelievingly.

"Yes that Rick, and I guess things have become a little more serious than I let on" an embarrassed smile tugging at her lips. Opening up the cupboard she took out some plates, the special occasion plates.

"Zoë!" Lily called up the stairs, "Come and help your sister set the table, oh and set an extra place" Lily ran up stairs, already planning what she was going to wear.

"Hey E, I didn't expect to see you here" Eli's mother Karen greeted him as he and Jessie walked out of the Dojo. Jessie had been taking karate for years; Eli was not sure how long and had reached what he thought to be an unbelievable level. He couldn't believe that was his shy little sister who was fighting guys twice her size with a confidence he'd never seen in her before. It was hard to believe but his little sis was growing up.

"I can't believe you came to watch me practice" Jessie said a look of disbelieve on her face.

"Well I decided it was about time I came and checked up on you" Eli teased wrapping an arm around his sister's neck. Within an instant Jessie was out of his hold, Eli's arms twisted behind his back.

"Betcha you didn't know I could do that" Jessie laughed at the look of shock on Eli's face. Eli shook his head and laughed, he couldn't believe just how grown up his sister had become with his even noticing.

"Bet you didn't know I could do this!" Eli shouted, lunging towards Jessie with his arms out stretched. Shrieking Jessie ran towards their mother's car, a smile on her face. Closely trailed by her brother Eli, and her mother Karen who stared after her children with amazement.

"E, you're late" Rick called out as Eli walked in the door with his sister Jessie. "Jessie what are doing home? Where's Karen I thought she was picking you up today?" Rick walked into the hallway a confused look on his face.

"Eli came and watched me practice" Jessie explained happily, throwing her bag on the floor.

"You did?" Rick raised his eyebrows at Eli. "Yeah, well I haven't been around much so I thought it would be nice" Eli explained, then realized his mistake; all he needed was to encourage Rick to have another reason to give him a hard time.

"That's just the problem E" Rick started in following Eli into the kitchen, "Your never around, how you ever get the chance to study is beyond me".

"Dad, why don't you understand that studying isn't everything? I'm crap at school, I get crap marks, I always have and there's nothing you can do about it. And don't start on about just trying harder because it doesn't work" Eli shouted.

"E, if you want to go to colle-" Eli cut Rick off, turning away fro the fridge which he'd just opened.

"No, you want me to go to college, just back off okay" Eli slammed the door shut and stormed out of the room.

Rick took a deep breath and knocked on the front door.

"Shit! He's here" Zoë stare at her mother, shocked to here her swear.

"Sorry, do I look okay?" Lily asked Zoë and Grace who were in the lounge room. Smoothing her hair down Lily turned around in a circle.

"You look great, now opened the door!" Grace laughed at the sight of her nervous mother, not wanting to admit just how nervous she was as well. Lily walked towards the front door. Standing there for a second she took a deep breath then opened it.

"Hi Rick" Lily greeted the man standing just outside the door. Leaning forward she kissed him on the cheek then gestured towards the living room. "Come on in" Rick followed Lily into the house.

A nervous Grace and Zoë sat on the couch with their hands in their laps taking this new man in. He was tall with Dark hair and dark eyes. Grace was surprised at just how handsome he was, wearing jeans, a nice shirt and jacket which he'd taken off as he walked into the door.

"Rick, meet my children Grace and Zoë" Lily introduced a bit formally.

"Hi" Grace and Zoe said simultaneously.

"Hi Zoe, Grace" Rick said as Grace and Zoë stood up he shook their hands. Zoë who was less than half Rick's height blushed, her normal upbeat personality turned shy.

"Well dinners almost ready so if you guys want to sit down . . ."

"Eli can I come in" Jessie called out over the loud music, knocking on Eli's door. "Eli! Open up!" She said banging again after there was no answer.

"Alright, alright" Eli opened the door having heard the banging.

"Oh, sorry I thought you were dad" Eli apologised when he noticed it wasn't his father back for another round.

"Dad went out for dinner" Jessie started to be cut off by a groan form Eli. "He said to tell you that your not allowed to go out but there's money on the kitchen bench for pizza" Jessie explained ignoring the look on Eli's face.

"Pizza it is" Eli agreed, relieved that he's father was gone for the night, all he wanted was some piece and quiet so that he could get his head around things. "Why don't you order for us? I'll be down in a minute," Eli said walking back into his room.

"That went well don't you think?" Rick asked, after saying good night to Grace and Zoe Lily and Rick had headed outside to say goodbye.

"It went great" Lily sighed wrapping her arms around Rick and hugging him. "

We should do it again sometime" Rick suggested looking into Lily's eyes.

"Yeah, maybe its time that I met yours" Lily agreed.

"I guess so" Rick agree hesitantly.

"Come on, its not that bad. It'll be good.

"Okay, how about next Sunday" Rick asked, still not convinced.

"Next Sunday it is" Lily agreed smiling; she leaned I and kissed Rick goodnight.