Disclaimer: I don't own Degrassi or any of the characters.
Note: This story takes place two years after the current season. Clare is in the middle of her senior year, Eli is a college freshman, and Darcy is 20 and has just returned from Africa for the first time since she left Clare's freshman year.
"Clare, did you take my green sweater with the white collar?" Darcy asked as she rummaged through her bottom dresser drawer.
I sighed for what must have been the fourth time since my sister and I had gotten back from dinner with Mom. "Darce, you asked me to get rid of the extra clothes you left here; I donated them like three years ago."
"Except for the ones you took. Like my favorite black shirt."
"Take it back. I don't care." Except I did care because Eli really liked that shirt on me.
"I am going to need to go shopping. My African wardrobe is not going to work here in freezing cold Toronto."
I lay back on my bed, putting my hands behind my head. I couldn't believe Darcy had come home after three years of building schools in Kenya. She was planning to spend a month at home, so she could take her G.E.D. She had been working in small villages without access to the internet most of the time, so she hadn't been able to complete her high school education, and she had a job opportunity with the organization she had been volunteering for that required her to have a diploma. She would be working in their main office, and have internet access so she'd be able to go to college online.
"So Clare, you haven't told me anything about what life is life at Degrassi."
"It's been pretty normal. I'm about to start my fourth year as prop master for the school musical. We had to wear uniforms for a semester my sophomore year, but Mr. Simpson and the school board finally relented." I could see her flinch when I mentioned his name; I had forgotten that Darcy had falsely accused him of touching her.
"Uniforms at public school? I'm surprised you weren't happy to finally fit in."
"I gave up my uniform halfway through freshman year."
"And not a moment too soon," she chirped. "I can't believe you're a senior. A few more months and you would have graduated before me. Have you figured out where you're going to college yet? Banting? McGill?"
"Actually, I'm going to the University of Toronto."
"It's one of the best schools in the country."
"It's also 12 minutes from here."
"Well, I'm not going to live at home." I didn't really want to get into my living situation with her right now so I hoped she would drop the subject.
"Clare, you need to get out of Toronto. See the world. You should come visit me in Kenya this summer. I'll put you to work; we're doing great work with building wells and the missionary work has been very successful."
Of course, I should be just like do-gooder Darcy. Don't get me wrong, I was glad to see that she was doing well in Africa and she was certainly a lot happier than she was the year before she left. But having her come home so bubbly and successful didn't exactly make me feel very good in comparison.
She walked over to the mirror and poked at a small spot on her cheek. I had left the room pretty much the way it looked when she left, only moving some of her stuff into drawers, and not really changing the furniture or decorations. The only touches of me in the room were the pictures I had stuck on the edge of the mirror.
"I see you're still friends with Sav's sister."
"Yeah." We weren't as close as we used to be, but she was definitely my best girlfriend. It seemed like I was always helping her get through some boy crisis. She wasn't quite as good at helping me through my family issues, but hanging out with her usually took my mind of them for a little bit.
I wondered if I had any pictures up that Darcy couldn't make a comment on. Adam smiling at a dirty joke Eli told, never looking quite as masculine on the outside as he'd like. Jenna hugging baby Alex at her one year birthday party. A picture of me, Alli, and Connor at the Battle Bots competition our freshman with K.C. conspicuously cut out. I could see her looking at a picture of me and Eli kissing at his senior prom (that I dragged him to), but she didn't say anything.
I heard a pebble strike our bedroom window and looked outside. Eli was leaning against Morty, looking especially handsome. "Shit," I said under my breath, but Darcy heard and looked up at me in surprise. "I'll be right back."
I slipped into a pair of flats, opened up the window onto our balcony and began to shimmy down the trellis. "What are you doing here?"
Eli smirked. "Your mom's out, Clare; you could have used the stairs."
I looked, and he was right. Her car was missing. I guess she couldn't be without David for even one night. "Well, that means you could have used the doorbell."
"And miss watching you do the sexy spiderwoman act?"
I whacked him on his shoulder. "I told you not to come over tonight. Darcy's home and I'm supposed to be catching up with her."
He looked up at the window, and I saw Darcy try to move away before we caught her looking. "How's that going?"
I sighed and leaned into him. "It's so weird. It's just been so long." Eli had heard me complain before about her twice a year phone calls on Christmas and Mother's Day, and her not much more frequent emails.
He nodded toward the house. "Should I come up and meet her?"
"Not tonight. She's going to be here for a month; you'll have plenty of chances to meet her."
"I hope you'll have some chances to sneak away. My roommate's going home this weekend." Eli had gotten a full scholarship to U of T that included money for room and board, thankfully allowing him to escape his father's house. His father wasn't abusive or anything, but he was a gruff man who spent his time either ignoring or yelling at his son.
"Don't worry. I will be there. At least Saturday night. Tomorrow we've got dinner with Dad and Cindy." Cindy, his girlfriend, was thankfully older than Darcy, but she wasn't older than our combined ages, and being around her just made me feel so awkward. At least Mom had enough tact to leave David home for Darcy's homecoming dinner.
"Well, I'll definitely skip that one. Maybe we could get breakfast with Darcy on Sunday."
"Let's make it lunch. I don't want her to get the wrong idea."
He laughed and kissed my forehead. "You share a room. She's going to notice when you don't show up that night."
"I'll just tell her I had a power squad emergency."
Eli looked at me and we both cracked up. "I gotta go." I leaned over and kissed him. I meant it to be quick, but Eli pulled me closer and deepened the kiss.
"Eli," I giggled, pushing him away. "I'll see you Saturday, and I'll call you tomorrow."
He gave me his puppy dog eye look and then laughed. "I love you."
"I love you, too."
Of course, I had left my house key upstairs, and I knew I could have rang the doorbell and had Darcy let me in, but I didn't want to deal with her meeting Eli right now. He smirked as I began to scale the wall again. We had offered to paint the trellis last year after Eli had pulled it off the wall in his attempt to climb up it in the middle of the night, and my mother had never noticed just how many extra nails we had put in it to secure it to the wall. When I got the top of the balcony, I turned and blew him a kiss. I watched Morty drive away before I climbed back through the window.
"So that's Eli," Darcy smirked from her seat at the desk, in front of my laptop.
"That's Eli," I confirmed.
"Do you…sneak out the window often?"
Usually he was the one sneaking in. Mom had never really accepted him and though she knew we were together, it was easier not to deal with her disapproval.
"Only occasionally. Mom isn't…" I trailed off.
Darcy nodded sympathetically. "I never told them about Spinner and she outright forbid me from seeing Peter."
"Are you dating anyone in Africa?"
She shook her head. "There was this one guy last year, but he left and it wasn't really anything anyway. I'm just really focused on the work. I don't want any relationship drama to derail that."
"You have to have a life, Darce," I said softly. It sounded to me like she hadn't resolved all the issues she had left behind more than three years ago.
"I do." She shook her head. "He drives a hearse?"
"Yup. Its name is Morty."
Darcy cracked up and for the first time tonight I genuinely smiled. I was starting to feel a lot more like myself talking to her, rather than the awkward 14-year-old she had left behind.
"Clare, I can't help but notice…" she began, and my smile quickly dropped off my face. "You've got a ring on your left hand, but it's not your purity ring."
And judgmental Darcy was back. Great.
"You're not engaged, right?"
"Then what's with the ring?"
"Eli gave it to me for our first anniversary."
"And you wear it on your left ring finger?"
"I put it there when I took off the purity ring. Neither Mom nor Dad have even noticed." But you of course noticed within 24 hours of getting home because you're more concerned about my virginity than my happiness.
"So you're sleeping with him?"
Darcy gave me such a crestfallen look that I had to look away. "Look, you've been gone for a long time. I'm case you've forgotten since you missed four of my birthdays, I'm 18 now. I've been dating Eli for over two years."
"I just wanted you to avoid the mistakes I made."
The anger I had been feeling towards Darcy had been building over the course of the day bubbled to the surface and I couldn't keep myself from yelling at her. "What mistakes? You were raped. That's not a mistake; that's a tragedy. And deciding to sleep with the guy you loved while suffering from depression isn't really a mistake either, it's just what happened."
Darcy had tears in her eyes but the emotion on her face was one of shock. "How do you know about that?"
"When Mom and Dad were fighting all the time, the Dot was my home away from home. Peter was working there while he went to college and the two of us got close. He told me what happened between the two of you."
The tears poured out of her eyes and she sat down next to me on my bed. "You know, sleeping with Peter, I mean, making the conscious decision to sleep with him was the only thing that helped me feel better at first. I mean, if I couldn't be a virgin at least I could experience that with someone I loved. But the more time passed, the worse I felt about it. I just couldn't be with him like that again. And he never pushed me, but being around him just made me feel terrible. And that's why I left. I couldn't face him." She laughed wryly. "And it turns out I was right, since he started dating another girl the minute I left. We wrote letters back and forth for months, but when he finally admitted he was seeing her, I just cut off all contact."
That's about when you cut off all contact with me too, I wanted to say. But Darcy looked so miserable that I just put my arm around her.
"Was it…I mean, you and Eli. He's good to you?"
"He's incredible, Darce. He always makes me feel amazing."
"What made you decide to do that with him?"
I didn't know where to start. "When we first got together, things weren't easy for us. He was bullied by this guy Fitz and he was still coping with his old girlfriend's death a year earlier." Darcy raised an eyebrow, but didn't interrupt. "We were at this dance and to make a long story short, Fitz pulled a knife on him. He didn't stab him, he just wanted to intimidate him, but it made me realize that if something didn't change, I could lose Eli. I gave him an ultimatum that he had to stop the fighting or I couldn't be with him."
I hugged my knees to my chest. "And he did. From then on, he kept out of trouble at school. He let me in and told me about his family and his past. When he was suffering from PTSD as a result of the knife incident, he didn't try to hide it from me and he agreed to get counseling. And he was there for me. Whenever Mom and Dad were fighting, he'd take me away and talk to me and hold me. He'd drive me to school and bring me chicken soup when I was sick…" And he sat with me in Miss Sauve's office when I was traumatized after I watched Dad hit Mom in the face.
"So you slept with him?"
I could feel a little bit of the anger coming back. "I waited over a year. I kept pushing him away, even though I didn't want to. He never pushed me even for a second. Aside from our first kiss, every step we made in our relationship I initiated; he never even brought up the possibility of having sex."
Her eyes softened and I realized she was more worried about me being taken advantage of than me having sex. "I realized the only thing stopping me was the stupid ring. So I took it off, put his ring on my finger, and made love to my boyfriend."
She laughed and I felt the tension move out of the air immediately. "You didn't do it in the hearse, did you?"
I blushed. "Not the first time."
"Clare!" She hit me with my pillow.
"We've only had to do that a couple of times. When Dad first moved out, Mom was so depressed she never left the house, and Eli doesn't have the greatest home situation." I grinned. "It's a lot easier now that he's in the dorms."
She moved over to lie down on her bed. "I can't believe I'm having this conversation with my baby sister."
"A lot has changed."
"That's for sure. It's so weird to leave your happily married parents at the airport and come back three years later to an empty house, divorced parents, and a baby sister with a better love life than the three of us combined."
"Just wait until you meet Cindy," I smirked. "You could add you, Mom and Dad up and triple it and I'd still win."
"Do you think he's going to marry her?"
"I wouldn't be surprised if they announced it at dinner tomorrow. She's never been married before so I'm sure she's pushing for it."
"She doesn't have any kids, does she?"
"No, thank goodness. Although that means we'll probably have to be bridesmaids."
"Well if the wedding's not in the next month, I doubt I'll be able to come back for it. With my new job and all."
Of course her job would keep her from coming back. Or her desire to completely cut herself off from her entire past.
"So when do I get to meet Eli?"
"We were just talking about that. Would you like to get breakfast with us Sunday morning? We can come pick you up and show you around campus."
Darcy gave me a confused look. "You're sleeping over there? Does Mom know about this?"
"We've never talked about it, but I'd be surprised if she hadn't figured it out by now." We had perfected the art of sneaking in and out of the house back when Mom was in her depressed stage, but once she started seeing David, she was around so little it was mostly for show.
"And she doesn't care? When she knocks on your door to say goodnight and doesn't find you here, she doesn't freak out?"
I laughed. "Mom hasn't stepped foot in this room since her and Dad started fighting. I had to figure out how to do my own laundry once I realized that all I had left to wear to school was a Winnie the Pooh sweatshirt, and that was in the uniform days. We eat dinner together on Thursdays, make small talk about science fairs and graduation tickets, and then she leaves for David's house and Eli comes over. We communicate more with notes on the fridge and text messages than actual talking."
"I can't believe our overprotective, insanely religious mother is condoning coed sleepovers."
"She hasn't lost her faith. She's just only focused on herself. Dad hurt her so badly that she just doesn't think about how her actions affect others. Which was bad in the beginning when she was constantly yelling at me about everything I said or did, but after the divorce, she locked herself in her room for three months and stopped paying attention to me."
"How'd she meet David?"
"She met him before the divorce. He was the person who finally got her to rejoin the world of the living, but he's also the main reason the divorce happened."
"I didn't know it had gotten so bad."
"I hate to break it to you, but this…" I gestured around the room, "is actually good Darcy. Nothing was worse than the two of them fighting, yelling for hours. He was always working, going into the office at weird hours, avoiding her. She thought he was having an affair, so she went out and met David. It turns out, Dad was on the verge of losing his job, but his extra work saved it. When he found out she had cheated, he punched her in the face so hard I thought she was going to have a broken jaw. She threw him out and that's when the perfect Christian family gave up the façade and broke up."
"He punched her?"
I shuddered, remembering the sound. "Yeah. After the divorce, I went to family therapy with him and I believe he will never do something like that again. It was awful, but we've moved on as much as we could. I don't see him that often, but it's more because of his girlfriend than anything else."
Darcy looked totally overwhelmed by everything she was learning and I felt a little too happy that my perfect sister was finally going to face the not-so-perfect stuff she had left behind.
"Does Sunday morning breakfast with Eli mean you've stopped going to church?" Darcy asked. I could tell she was trying hard to sound non-judgmental as if the answer wasn't going to make or break our relationship.
"I usually go on Saturday evenings, unless there's a special service going on Sunday mornings. Mom goes on Sundays, but 8 a.m. is just a little too early for me. You should come with me. There's a new pastor and he's not as funny as Pastor Dan was but the music is really good, especially when the choir sings."
"Does Eli go with you?"
I couldn't contain my laugh. "He's Jewish."
"Is that going to be a problem?"
"No!" Darcy said quickly. "I'm just surprised."
"He doesn't really practice; his mom was fairly religious but she died when he was 8 and his Dad doesn't really care about anything."
"Is that an issue? Not having different faiths but having different levels of commitment to them?"
"Honestly, no, because he totally respects my beliefs and from the conversations we've had we share a lot of the same feelings on the important stuff."
I feel like every topic we bring up just depresses either her or me. "So, are you going to try to see any of your old friends now that you're back in town?"
"I don't know," she said. "I haven't really kept in touch with anybody. Have you heard anything about Manny? Or Emma?"
"Manny's still living in Hollywood. She was the quirky best friend in a pretty big romantic comedy last year and she was cast as the lead in a pilot but it didn't get picked up. She's still off-again and on-again with Jay who I see at the Dot pretty frequently. Emma's back with Mr. Simpson and her Mom since the divorce went through. She's going to college part-time."
"I can't believe Spinner married Emma." That was one of the few emails I had actually gotten a response to.
"That tells you why you shouldn't get wasted in Niagara Falls with someone you barely know. They tried to make it work for a while, but they just have nothing in common."
"Is Spinner still around?" Darcy was trying to sound casual, but I could tell she was interested.
"He's here for a couple more months but he's going to Alberta in July for cop college."
"Oh that's great; he always wanted to do that." She narrowed her eyes. "How do you know all this?"
"Well he still lives in the loft and he's been working security at U of T so I run into him every now and then." He has totally caught me doing the walk of shame at six a.m. on school days more morning than I'd like to mention.
"I can't believe you're going to school there next year. Are you going to live in res?"
Here we go. "Actually that's another reason I've been talking to Spinner. When he moves in July, Eli and I are going to take over his lease."
"You're moving in with him?"
"Please save the lecture. I've already gotten it from Mom and it didn't change my mind then." Or any of the many follow up lectures that came after I told her not to send in the housing deposit.
"It just seems like you're moving so fast."
I stood up and walked to the other side of the bed because I wanted to put a barrier between us so I couldn't reach her. "Are you kidding me? Darcy, you left me three years ago. You took off for Africa and never came back. You don't get to have an opinion on my relationship. You have no idea what I've been through with Eli and otherwise."
"I know. I know. You're just so young."
I held up my left hand. "You asked me if I was engaged and I told you I wasn't because I'm not. But I might as well be. Eli and I are together forever. We don't make it official because we think it's crazy to be engaged at 18, but not because we think it's crazy that we'll be together. This isn't just a high school romance; we're not a bunch of hormones and insecurity and waiting to have a date for the prom. We've been through a lot together and this is it for us."
Darcy kept looking at me. I kept waiting for her to butt in with her opinion, but she kept quiet. I pulled a pair of pajamas out of my bottom drawer and walked into the bathroom. I placed my hands on the edge of the sink, and took a few deep breaths to calm myself down. I got changed, brushed my teeth, and walked back to the room.
Darcy had gotten under the covers of her bed and I turned the overhead light off and crawled into mine. I wanted to say goodnight but it just felt weird after the fight we had so I just pulled my pillow closer and curled up on my side.
"So if you're not engaged and you're moving in together, does that mean you guys aren't ever going to get married?"
I smiled. "I'm sure we will someday."
She leaned over the edge of her bed and reached out for my hand. "Just don't elope. I'll need a little bit of notice since international travel isn't the easiest to arrange over there."
"You'll be the first person I call," I said softly.