Woo, long time no update! I apologize! This oneshot just kind of came out of no where and I was in the mood to write one. Can't say I will be updating oneshots regularly again, but I will be trying to put them up more periodically then I have been for the past year.
Eli couldn't stop staring at Clare. Although he had already had every detail of her face committed to his memory, he felt like if he didn't stop looking at her, he would lose her image as soon as she left. He had to bite down on his lip and hold his hands together tightly in front of himself to keep his composure.
Clare was putting the last of her clothes into a cardboard box. Her movements were slow yet determined. She would do anything to stay here in Toronto, but she knew where she needed to be right now. And that was wherever her family was. But she couldn't shake the feeling that she wasn't strong enough to do this; to leave the boy she had loved for over two years now. She couldn't even look him in the eye. She didn't want to see all the pain that he was trying so hard to hide from her.
She folded a sweater slowly and put it neatly in the box. Then she rose from where she was kneeled down in front of it and pulled the last article of clothing from her closest. Closing the closet door tightly, she felt the smooth fabric of the dress slipping through her fingers and falling in a heap on the floor, the hanger making a quiet clatter sound. She couldn't take it anymore; she fell too, and buried her face in the fabric, her sob mostly muffled.
Eli immediately jumped up from the box he was sitting on and ran over to her, pulling the dress away from her face, and then her hands. Her eye makeup was running down her cheeks and her eyes were red. Eli pulled her into his arms, and she buried her face in his black t-shirt.
Eli felt the tears welling up in his eyes as well, and he used all the strength he possessed to push down the lump in his throat. His arms were shaking badly but Clare moved so only the side of her head was resting against his chest and then reached out and placed her hand on his forearm. He softly kissed her hair, running his fingers down through her soft curls. Her eyes were closed so hard that it almost hurt, and her lips were pressed together in a tight line. The tears still flowed from her tightly sealed eyelids and Eli held her tighter.
"I can't do this." she whispered. The sound of her pained voice almost made the tears in Eli's eyes spill over and he swallowed hard.
"You can." he said, his voice surprisingly forceful. "And you will."
She inhaled sharply and finally raised her head to look him in the eye. Fresh tears sprung from her eyes when she saw the look on his face. His green eyes were glassy with tears and his chin was quivering ever so slightly.
"How am I supposed to do this?" she asked, sitting up slightly.
He stared at her for a few seconds, and then wiped away more of her tears with his thumbs. He then slowly pushed her off his lap and stood up on his shaky legs and grabbed her hand to pull her up with him.
"You just do, Clare." he said, his voice slightly disheartened. "You just do."
He sat her down on one of the many cardboard boxes that filled her bedroom and picked the dress up off of the floor. He stashed the hanger into a plastic bin that was full of them and folded the dress, placing it in on of the boxes. Clare watched him, not sure of what to think. She was still crying, but not as heavily as before.
Eli then reached for the roll of tape sitting on her dresser and folded the box close and then taped it shut. He then reached for the fat Sharpie marker that was next to the tape and wrote 'Clare's clothes' in his scratchy handwriting. He stared at the box for a moment. It was the last one. There was nothing left to pack.
He felt the tears fill up his eyes again and he reached up to brush one away. Clare stood up, pushing the box in front of Eli to the side, and wrapped her arms around him in a tight embrace.
"If you are going to be strong for me you better let me be strong for you." she said in a commanding tone, her voice breaking slightly on the last word. He stood, frozen for a few moments before he finally broke and wrapped his arms around her waist, never wanting to let go again.
Clare could feel his tears falling onto her shoulder and she pulled back from him. "I love you."
He nodded, looking at the ground softly laughing humorlessly at himself for crying. Then he looked up again, and locked eyes with her. "I love you too."
Clare was just about to grab him and kiss him when they both heard a low rumble sound coming from outside and they both glanced towards the window. The moving truck was parking against the curb. They both silently looked at each other, then the boxes, and they both grabbed one.
Eli was the first one out the door and he quickly headed towards the stairs. Helen, Clare's mom, was heading up the stairs and Eli waited for her to pass before heading down himself.
Just as Eli was about to step down on the first step, Helen placed her hand on his shoulder. Eli looked up at her, hoping there weren't still tears in his eyes. But from the way she smiled sadly at him, he assumed that he still looked upset.
"Hey, thanks for helping us out." Helen said casually. "Moving is such a hassle. It's nice to have an extra set of hands around."
Eli nodded, forcing a small smirk. "You're welcome."
Clare appeared in the hallway, watching her mom and Eli. Helen smiled sadly at her daughter when she noticed the eye makeup smudged messily around her eyes and cheeks. Eli nodded at Clare, forcing another smirk and she passed by them, carrying a box of clothes down the stairs. When she reached the bottom, she glanced up at them, but couldn't quite hear what they were saying. She then continued out the front door and towards the truck.
"Eli, I know this is incredibly hard," Helen started. "But Clare's stepfather and I agreed that you should have these."
Helen walked into the bathroom by the stairs and flipped the light on. There was one box sitting on the counter with a white envelope sitting on top. She grabbed the whole box and walked out, turning the light off and setting the box on the floor. She then took the box from Eli, stacking it on top of the other one and pressed the envelope into his hands. Eli held it, confused.
"What is this?"
Helen smiled. "Just open it."
Eli tore the envelope open and pulled out four plane tickets. He stared at them, shocked.
"You didn't have to do this; I was planning on saving up for them myself!" Eli exclaimed, a genuine smile playing at his lips.
Helen just laughed. "Check the dates."
Eli examined them and his jaw nearly fell open. "This one is for tonight!"
Helen laughed again, holding her hands up tightly in front of herself. "We thought you might want to help Clare get settled. And we called your parents and they already have you bag packed so you are all set."
Eli laughed, shocked. He then flipped through the rest of them. The second one was a return trip in two weeks and the next set was for in 3 months, he would be leaving right before Clare's birthday and coming home a week later.
"Ssh, don't tell Clare about the second set of tickets. We want that one to be a surprise. We were thinking about throwing a party and having you walk in without her knowing and surprise her."
Eli stared at her, still completely perplexed. "Thank you, thank you so much!"
"Anything to make it easier for you two."
The front door reopened and Clare stepped in to the house, closing the door behind herself. Eli quickly stashed the envelope full of the second set of tickets into his pocket and rushed down the stairs, holding the other two tickets.
He picked her up off of her feet and held her tightly in his arms. She even laughed giddily, her voice still sounding slightly hoarse from crying. He then put her back down and shoved the tickets in her face.
"What are these?" she asked, her eyes growing wide when she realized what they were. Eli just laughed excitedly, kissing her softly on the lips.
"You're coming with me?" she asked, in disbelief.
Eli nodded. "I'm going to help you move in."
She laughed happily, throwing her arms around him, still holding the tickets. They both laughed again and held on to each other tightly.
Helen watched from the top of the stairs, smiling. This wasn't going to be easy, moving across the country because of her job being moved, but as long as her daughter was happy, she was happy.
Plus, Helen had liked Eli more and more lately. Her first assumptions about him had definitely been wrong; he was exactly the kind of guy she would want Clare to be dating. And she hated to have to rip Clare away from him, especially when things were going so well for them.
This is why she had two more sets of plane tickets waiting in an envelope in her purse. One was around the time of Spring Break so they could spend their vacation together and one was for the majority of the summer.
She would surprise the two with those tickets later on though.