Clare cringed as she heard her parents shouting downstairs. She hated when they fought like this – especially when her mother would get defensive. She knew better than to say things like that. You'd think she'd have learned her lesson after…


The sound of a plate hitting and shattering against the wall caused Clare to startle. It was starting. The battle had begun. Who would walk away with the most bruises? Clare would already guess the answer to that question.






Another plate. Or maybe a bowl…Clare couldn't tell. She unplugged the laptop from the wall and carried it over to her bed. She snuggled deep within the covers and turned off the light. Maybe she could pretend she was invisible. Just to disappear.




A fist against bone. Particularly jaw bone. Clare shivered.




Clare felt her eyes ooze with fresh tears. Why did it have to be like this? It had never been like this up until recently. What had changed? Melissa. Her father's intern at the lawfirm. That's what had changed. She had come into their lives and had flipped everything upside down. Clare hated her.


Now that was a new sound. It took Clare a moment to realize that it had come from her laptop. She glanced down at the screen and noticed she had gotten a new IM on facebook. Clare had never liked the idea of facebook, but Ali had insisted upon making one for her.

She glanced to see who the IM was from – Eli. Of course. Clare couldn't explain why her heart suddenly felt like it had wings, as if it had just gulped down a RedBull or something. She slid further under the covers.

Eli: Hey, blue eyes, what's shakin'

Clare: Not much.

Eli: Come on now…surely that's not all the response I'm gonna get outta you!

Clare: My parents are fighting

Eli: Is it bad?

Clare: Sort of…

Eli: Do you want me to come and get you?

Clare: Haha yeah

Eli: You think I'm joking…

Clare: No…I mean…yes…I…

Eli: Only you would bother to stutter in an IM, Clare.

Clare: Bite me.

Eli: Tempting.

Clare: You're a pig.

Eli: And you're a saint.

Clare: Do you have a reason for popping up on my facebook chat? Or was it just to piss me off?

Eli: Oooh…Saint Clare used the term 'pissed' I must be really hitting a nerve.

Clare: I'm gonna sign off now…

Eli: NO! Don't do that. Just…wait. I'll be there in ten minutes.

Clare: What?

Eli Goldsworthy is now offline…

Clare felt the blood rush through her veins. She couldn't just leave! Her parents would kill her. But they sounded a little bit busy now to pay much attention. If she climbed out the back window…wait a minute? Who was she? This wasn't her. Clare didn't climb out windows and sneak off to see boys. But this wasn't a boy. This was Eli. And they were just…acquaintances. Right?





Maybe a getaway was what she needed. An escape. Clare didn't know how long she would be gone, but she suspected she should pack some things. She grabbed her backpack and stuffed it full of a t-shirt, socks, underwear, and her toothbrush and toothpaste. She glanced at herself in the mirror before mentally slapping herself.

What was she doing? Why did she care how she looked? What did it matter? Who was she trying to impress? All these questions were giving her a headache. Clare hiked the backpack onto her shoulder and began to slide down the fire escape.

When she reached the ground, Clare felt a wave of relief flood over her at the sight of the hearse. Seriously, who drove hearses just for the heck of it all? It was kind of creepy. Clare silently hoped he didn't have a slew of dead guys stowed away in there. That would be just her luck.

"Hey!" Eli sauntered over to her.


"You look upset."


Eli's eyes widened, pain sweeping across his face, "I can see why."

"They've been like this lately," Clare's eyes fell to the grass, ashamed, "I'm so sorry you had to hear that…"

"Shh…look at me," Eli lifted her chin up with his thumb, "you're okay, alright? Now then, we're going to go get you away from here for tonight. I know just the place."

"I didn't know how long I'd be away so…I brought a bag for the night."

"Good girl," Eli grabbed her hand and lead her over to his car…if you could even call it that. He opened the door and she slid inside. Once he had gotten situated, he turned on the engine and the volume of the radio.

"Where are you taking me?" Clare asked.

"It's a surprise."

"I don't like surprises."

Eli smirked, not taking his eyes from the road. It would be too dangerous. If he looked at her, he wouldn't be able to turn away, and then they'd get in a wreck and die. Yup, not exactly the best plan. Eli gripped the steering wheel tighter until his knuckles paled a ghostly white. He was so nervous around her and he hated it.

He was supposed to be cool, chilled, relaxed. He wasn't supposed to get butterflies in his stomach and goosebumps from sitting next to her. This was ridiculous. It was Clare.

And that was exactly why. She had the most beautiful curly red hair and big blue eyes. And when she smiled…the world felt…right.

Ugh, now he was getting cheesy. Good job, Eli, way to be a freakin' nacho.

"Hurry, hurry, hurry before I go insane; I can't control my fingers, I can't control my brain…"

Eli glanced over to see Clare whisper the words to the classic Ramones' song remade by Sugar Cult. He couldn't help but smile. She was so cute…and surprising to boot! Wow, way to be a grandma, Eli.

"You know this song?"

"Mmhmm," Clare nodded.

"You sure are something, you know?"

"Of course I know I'm something, I'm a human being."

Eli rolled his eyes and shook a finger at her. Maybe she was fighting for the title of "local nacho." He pulled the hearse into a parking lot and put it in park.

"Where are we?" Clare looked around, "Is this when you murder me and cut up my body into little tiny pieces?"

"Don't be so morbid," Eli laughed, "This is where I rape you."


"I'm kidding, Clare. It was a joke. Not a good one, apparently. But that's beside the point. Come on, get out. I wanna show you something."

Clare did as she was told. She climbed out of the hearse and looked up at the sky. Thousands of stars shown like twinkling diamonds. Eli sat on the roof of the hearse and helped Clare up next to him.

"It's beautiful," she said, breathlessly, her eyes wide.

"Isn't? The sky is always so peaceful at night. I love it."

"Me too."

"Alright," Eli pushed his arms behind him supporting his body, "So please tell me that this makes things just a little bit better? If not, I'm gonna have to do some brainstorming."

Clare laughed, "Yes," she nodded, "it is making things a little bit better."

"Good," Eli looked over at her and she met his gaze.

"Hey," Clare said.


"No, I mean, hey like 'hey!'"


"Like I just had an idea!"

"Oh, okay," Eli paused and waited for her to share this idea with him.

"Why don't we take turns answering questions about ourselves. Not like twenty-questions, but if you ask me something, I have to answer it, but then you have to answer it about yourself. Understand?"

"Uh-oh, you're gonna get me into trouble with this one," Eli smirked, making Clare want to kiss him even more than she already did.

"I'll start."

"Oh no."

"Shut up," Clare rolled her eyes as she thought it over, "What's your full name?"

"Oh my god, I really hate you, you know that?"


Eli shot her a questioning look that caused Clare to second guess. Did he hate her?

"Kidding," Eli poked her in the side, "if you must know, it's Elijah Bill Goldsworthy."


"Shut up," Eli rolled his eyes, "it's my dad's name. Your turn."

"Clare Marie Edwards."


"Yes, you got a problem?"

"No," Eli smiled, "not at all. If you could do anything you wanted to do for a day, what would you do?'

"Hmm…" Clare thought it over, "go to New York City. See a Broadway play. Or runaway to a beach or something. Just…get away. Escape, you know. From…everything."

"Is it that bad?" Eli asked, growing concerned. His eyes were shadowed with concern. Clare tried to avoid his eyes, but they were like magnets against hers, drawing them towards his.

"Yes," Clare nodded, "they throw things. Hit each other."

"Do they ever hurt you?" Eli asked, his voice growing an octave higher. If they had hurt her, he'd kill them! Okay, so maybe not kill them per say, but he would want to. God, he would want to. Anyone who laid a hand on Clare Marie Edwards deserved a slow and painful death.

"No," Clare shook her head, "they avoid me pretty much. Focus more on each other."

"Good," Eli nodded, capturing a pale hand in his, "if they ever do hurt you, let me know, alright? You can talk to me about that sort of thing."

"I know," Clare nodded, "thanks, Eli. You're a good friend."


That dreaded, cursed word. Eli wanted to roll his eyes and capture her lips in his. But right as the thought crossed his mind, her cell phone rang. Clare quickly retrieved it from her pocket.

"Hello? Dad? Dad…I'm sorry…I went over to Ali's to…work on some homework. Dad…stop it…please," her voice was so broken, so pleading, "I…I'm on my way now. Don't worry…Dad…Daddy stop yelling. Please stop…please."

Eli felt his blood boil as the tears tested her eyes. He wanted to punch something, but the only two things around were the car and Clare – neither one were an option.

Clare hung up the phone and looked at him with tears in her eyes.

"Come on," he squeezed his hand, "I better get you home."