My world is hued in strong shades of blue and lined with sparkling gold. The only other color I can see is green. But it's not everywhere. It's only in the one place that matters most.

His eyes.

The two perfectly captivating irises are filled with the wild color of leaves and glimmers of jade. They stare at me intensely while he is away from me for all but a moment.

I am lying on the ground, looking up at the blurred sky. But I can feel those eyes on me. I want to look, but I can't. In fact, I can't move at all. It's as if my mind is operating seperately from my body. My body wants to stay and dream.

He's all over my sky. What was once a blur now sharpens as I see Eli moving closer from the corner of my eye. As he takes the last step towards me, I am suddenly able to will my body to move into him. He lies next to me, never taking his eyes away from me. They look so happy. Happier than I've ever seen them. Or maybe it's just the brilliance of the green.

I smile as he moves the hair out of my face, slowly and gently. I can only describe this as a perfect place; full of bliss and free from insufficiency. This is my Eden.

But then the sky changes. It's images of a person unrecognizable. The sky opens up like a thrashing wound, rain spilling out. Only, it's not rain. It looks like rain; actually, it's beautiful. Clear and glittering like a thousand drops of crystal. But once they hit my skin I cry out in pain. Eli is unaffected, at least physically. He sees the intense hurt in my eyes and looks like he's in the worst pain of his life.

The strange liquid is piercing into me like spears. I don't know what it is, but I cover my face in Eli's chest and begin to shake violently. I just want the pain to be over. I just want it all to go away.

Eli holds me and I feel his tears in my hair. I am still screaming. The rain is still falling.

"Clare, it's okay. I'm here." Eli tried to calm me, attempting to cover me with his seemingly rain-proof body.

"No! No!" I can't handle this. It still hurts. It hurts so bad.

"No!" I feel it all slipping away, everything, even Eli. Except for the pain.

"CLARE!"

My eyes jolt open, breaths gaping in and out of me with my fear.

"Clare... you're shaking." Eli says softly, holding me tighter.

All I can do is breathe hysterically in response. I feel like the drops are still hitting me, but I know we're inside. Eli hugs my head into his shoulder, although my eyes are darting around the background. It's my room. Just my room.

He pulls away from me. "What...what happened?"

I had to calm myself down, but the shaking still left trembling and the gasping left tears. "It hurt... so bad..."

Then Eli looks extremely worried, and I realize what he just took from that. "Oh, Clare. I-"

"No! No... not that. That was wonderful. It's just... there was this dream..." I said, looking at him. He still looked worried, but at least he knew it wasn't his fault. "It was great. Everything was great." I said, crying at how amazing it had been, to feel perfectly happy. "And then it just... got... destroyed. And the pain... I, it felt like I was..."

But I couldn't finish it. I couldn't do that to him. Just giving him the thought would be totally cruel and unfair of me.

"I'm sorry." I said, looking at him. "I can't... I can't..."

"Shh. It's okay." He said, taking me up with him again. "You don't have to talk about it."

I let my head fall against him, his arms hugging my back. "What time is it?" I said into his shirt.

Eli didn't have to move; there was a clock in his line of vision. "Almost 9:00 AM. Clare... I might have to-"

"Wait." I moved out from under him, looking him closely in the eye. "Don't say it. Not yet. Not until it's absolutely necessary."

He looked at me solemnly with a slight sad brow, and I felt bad for making him feel like he had to stay.

"But. Before you do leave, I think you should go see Adam. Maybe he'd be up for some of your Mom's famous tacos or something." I said.

"What makes you think you wouldn't be invited?" Eli asks.

Cue mental sigh. I didn't want to say goodbye. I wanted to have him all to myself for every last possible second.

But I was better than that. And so was he.

"Eli, it's okay. I have church anyways. It's Sunday. We can hang out again before you leave." I said.

"Church? After what happened last night? Tsk, tsk, little Saint Clare. Or should I say Clara Edwin." He said, a knowing smirk on his face.

"If you know what's good for you, you'll take that back." I said, closing in on him.

"Or what?" He said. "What could you possibly have on me?"

"How about last night becomes a one time thing." I said bluntly.

"Ouch, you're a cold one Edwards. But I like 'em feisty." He said, not backing down.

"Take it back!" I said, reminding myself of a six year old. I then took his wrists and rocked him back into the floor.

He smiled. "Okay, okay, I give! You win." I start to let go and get off, but he pulls me back. "Wait," he says before kissing me.

I remove myself slightly. "Okay, okay, Casanova, time to switch storybooks."

He sits up and takes my hand. "I'm coming back Clare." He pauses, before smiling. "So I guess that makes me Prince Philip to your Aurora."

"Whatever makes you happy. Just go be Bambi with your Thumper, already." I start laughing, even though it doesn't last. Because once again, he's kissing me goodbye and stepping out the door.

My mom isn't back yet. I have no idea why, and it worries me a little. At least, until I find the note on the fridge that reads "Sorry I couldn't stay sweetie. I needed to go to the church early today. Hope you slept well." There is a smiley face at the end of the last sentence.

Ever since the divorce, she's been throwing herself into volunteer work at the church. I think it's just something that keeps her busy. She must not have bothered to check my room, but why would she? As far as she's concerned, I am a saint. To her, it's easier that way. To just pretend nothing's wrong. She keeps every possible bit of optimism that she has left.

I put on a conservative-looking pale blue dress and a white headband. It flows out from the waist but is structured with a shirtdress look at the shoulders. I grab a white trench coat and put on thick gray tights with white flats.

The mirror is always unforgiving, but for once I am satisfied with the reflection.

I see my mom at church, and drift back into memories for a while. This was the former normal. The only thing missing is my dad. Oh, he's here of course. But he barely even acknowledges me when I'm with Mom. He waits for her to go to the bathroom before hugging me.

I spend the whole time glancing over at Dad across the congregation. It almost hurts too much to face everything like this. Maybe my mom has a point to her delusions.

I almost breathe a sigh of relief when it's over. My mom tells me I can go ahead and leave, because she wants to catch up with someone.

I used to love Sundays. They were the epitome of family and love for me. At least until everything fell apart.

I walk to my bug, which mysteriously reappeared sometime between last night and this morning. I wonder what went through Adam's head when he saw Eli's hearse outside my house at God knows what time last night.

I can only laugh at the thought.

I still have the mix in my car. I uncover it from it's place of rest down in my glovebox and pop it in, letting it play at random.

So, this goes out to
The ones that fall in love
And to the girl
That filled my dark...

"Did you have fun with Adam?" I said, spotting Eli waiting outside in his hearse with the windows down. Not surprising. Church lasted long today.

"Yeah. Thanks for being so cool. I know this whole thing is hard for you." He said, walking me to the door after locking Morty.

"No kidding." I said, opening the door. It wasn't long before I felt Eli kiss me, his hands across my back.

I laughed underneath his kiss. "Someone's impatient." I say, after he pulls away for a second.

"Sorry. I guess I'm just happy that we're together, you know?" He said, smiling. My faced dropped, and I twisted my mouth thoughtfully.

"What? What is it?" Eli asked.

"It's just...we won't be like this for long. What if... what if it happens again? What if it just goes right back to how it was?" I said.

"Clare." He said.

"Don't. Don't Clare me. You know that's a very logical fear." I said, stepping away from him.

He sighed. He knew there wasn't a way around it. "What if it does."

That wasn't what I expected. I kind of thought he'd just say It won't or Don't worry. But he didn't.

"Eli. You know that's not fair. I hate what this does to us. I can't just keep trusting you every time things fall apart. I don't want to run back into a war zone." I said.

"Clare. I promise. It'll be different this time." He moved into me again, holding my face tenderly. "Please."

Interesting. One kiss and I forget every bit of hesitation. Good to know you're strong and independent, Clare.

"Okay." I said under my breath, pulling away from the soft kiss. "Okay."

"Thank you." He said. "Je t'aime."

I love you.

"Je t'aime trop." I replied.

I love you too.

We spent our last minutes together, until the goodbyes dripped from our lips like poison too hard to swallow.

"Remember. I'll be back for Thanksgiving in a week." He said.

"Okay. And Eli- I'm sorry." I said, looking at him in sincerity.

"What? Why?" He asked.

"About whatever you had to pull yourself away from to come here. I should've just answered the stupid phone." I said.

"Hey, Clare. One, I would go through consequences for this weekend a thousand times just to keep it. Two, what happened this weekend could not in any way be done over the phone." He said, raising the eyebrow opposite to the raised corner of his mouth.

I groaned and hit his shoulder. "You're gross."

"And you're amazing." He said, leaning down to kiss me one more time.

I watched him leave, all the way from the doorstep to following Morty with my eyes as Eli left the neighborhood.

Because these words were never easier for me to say
Or her to second guess
But I guess
That I can live without you but
Without you I'll be miserable at best

You're all I hoped I'd find
In every single way
And everything I could give
Is everything you couldn't take
Cause nothing feels like home, you're a thousand miles away
And the hardest part of living
Is just taking breaths to stay

Because I know I'm good for something
I just haven't found it yet
And I need it...

xXx

Monday came, and I understood from Adam's glances that he knew. He was trying to be sneaky about it, but instead it was glaringly obvious. He kept looking at me as if there was supposed to be something evidently different. It didn't compare to the conversation I had with Alli, though.

"Clare. What happened?" Alli asked my, meeting me by our lockers before first hour.

"What? What are you talking about?" I said with a nervous smile.

"Clare. It's all over your face. Did something happen with Eli?" Alli said.

"He came back this weekend. He surprised me. We fixed things." I said factually.

"Uh oh." Alli said.

"What? What is it now?" I asked.

"Clare. You're acting so weird it's rediculous. Come on. Out with it." Alli said, even using hand gestures.

I looked around, making sure no one else was within earshot. "Um...something did happen. I guess." I said, looking awkwardly down at my hands, like I always did when I was uncomfortable.

She followed my gaze, and that's when she realized I wasn't wearing my purity ring. "Oh my God! No! You're kidding!" Alli said, her eyes widening with delicious surprise.

"Shhh! Alli, I didn't even say anything." I said, my own eyes widening at her volume.

"You didn't have to! Oh my God, Saint Clare had SEX!" She said in an excited whisper. "It's fun, isn't it, Claredy Cat?" She said, raising her eybrows suggestively.

"Jeez, you're just as bad as him!" I said, my forehead falling into my palm. My cheeks were unbearably warm and I suddenly missed the long hair that used to fall over them in moments like these.

"So, does this mean I can talk to you about this now or..." Alli said, obviously having fun.

"No. A million times no," I said, grimacing. "It's not just sex to me Alli. You know that."

"Does Eli?" She asked.

"What? Of course he does. Why would you even say that?" I said, frowning.

She sighed cautiously. "I just care about you, Clare. That's all. I just want you to make sure it's everything you always wanted it to be."

"I am not having this conversation here, now. Go to class, Alli." I said, starting towards physics.

"Okay. Fine. Just looking out for you." She said, and I heard her shut her locker.

After all that, I wasn't sure I was ready to face Adam. But he was much easier to handle than I expected.

I sat down, walking in to class late. This was the first time all year. Luckily, there was still an open seat next to Adam in the far corner.

I noticed him looking again, as if I was a suspicious bomb waiting to go off.

"Adam. Yes, it happened." I said, letting the words slide out in one motion.

"What are you talking about?" He said quizically.

"I know guys talk Adam. I'm not stupid." I said.

He paused before considering what to say. But Adam was smart. He realized the jig was up. "He told me not to tell anyone. I only asked because of Morty." Adam said sheepishly.

"Really? You mean he didn't bring it up?" I asked.

"Yup." He said, popping out the 'p' sound.

I smiled to myself. I should've known Eli wasn't the type to go around bragging.

The rest of the day went by slowly compared to my weekend. Most of it was spent wishing I were somewhere else.

When I got to seventh period, however, Miss Gump's face suggested the course of my day was about to change. She was looking at us like she knew something we didn't, like a ringmaster planning an ingenious finale.

"Who in here has had instrumental training?" She asks after the bell rings and the class quiets down.

One by one, hands slowly go up in hesitation. It's a shy motion in which the hand-raiser shrinks into themself and their fingers only gradually uncurl. Some move dominantly, in a way that lets you know they are better than you, and are most definitely over-eager kiss-ups.

She then proceeds to ask us who plays what. Annah plays the cello, Sam plays bass, Kahlil plays the drums, Liz plays keys, Laurel plays guitar, etcetera, etcetera.

I begin to feel abruptly inferior to the rest of the class. I play piano, but it's definitely not something I'm about to shout from the rooftops. I had classical training up until sophomore year, and then I just got to be too busy.

She then begins to harp a long, philosophical speech about how aspects of music are blended into one harmony in your heart or some other gibberish, when I notice Zach wearing the same hoodie he did Saturday, looking over at me. So Eli didn't obliterate it. How about that.

After the speech is over, she has Liz come over to the piano and play a song. It happens to be a relatively known tune, so some of the bolder students in the class happily join in.

The bell rings. Finally. I felt I was going to sit in my Awkward Corner forever.

When I get to my locker and retrieve my phone, I see a text message from my dad.

Caught up at the office sweetie. Can you get a ride after all? Took Annie to Ed's this morning. Sorry she broke down on you.

The words took a moment to register. Office. Meaning I'm busy and just don't want to tell you why.

Ride. Sorry, honey, I know I told you I could pick you up, but I lied.

Annie. Ed's. My precious bug in the hands of the greasy mechanics at Ed's Auto Shop. Yay?

Broke down. It reminds me of myself nowadays, but really he's talking about last night when she died on me right outside of the neighborhood.

Oh goodie. Just what today needs to spice things up a little.

I of course, do not have a ride, and will not be able to get one this late. Everyone flees the building like it's on fire after the last bell rings. I made the mistake of going to French to ask about the homework after Miss Gump let us out.

As it happens, I will be taking the bus home. Score.

No point in riding home now; it'll be filled with loud freshman and sulking people who failed their driver's test. I decide to walk around a little and wait for the late bus.

I know for a fact she's gone, but Miss Gump's door is open. The lights are off. It's barely cracked. Somehow, I get the feeling she was in a hurry and didn't bother to check if she shut it hard enough. She can be a bit scatterbrained.

It's too tempting to resist. I walk in and sit at the piano bench, calming into a lack of worry after initially being on guard. Nearly everyone is gone by now. It's almost four. The last bus leaves at five.

I begin to play the same song Liz did today, only, I add a little bit of embellishment here and there. Bass chords. Licks. It's recognizable, but I slow down the tempo and make it sound somehow more sultry.

I lose myself in the music, transitioning from one song to another.

"Holy crap."

I jump at the sound of a voice behind me. I failed to even notice the entry footsteps, the shadow, even the steady breathing behind me.

"You play way better than anyone in class today. Why the hell didn't you volunteer?" Zach is staring at my hands resting on the piano keys, as if he can't believe they belong to me.

"I stopped. I don't play anymore." I said.

"Pffft. You're pretty amazing for 'I don't play anymore'." He said, examining the piano. "You don't even have sheet music."

"It's true. I don't. I haven't had a lesson in three years." I said, getting annoyed. I was enjoying having the ability to play again, but then I remembered why it was easy for me to quit. I hated an audience.

"Why are you even here this late?" He asked.

"I could say the same for you." I said, taking my hands off the keys and placing them in my lap matter-of-factly.

"Okay. Fair enough. I'm here because I just got done working on a project with my lab partner." He said, and I felt out of place. I didn't want to admit why I got stuck here, or why I ditched out on the 3:30 bus.

I nodded, then continued to play. It was not, however, enough to drown out his questions.

"Do you need a ride or something? I'm about to take off, but if you need one..." He said.

"Uh, no, actually, that's okay. I'm good." I said.

"Okay. Well. If you're sure." He said, inching towards the door, still facing me.

"Oh, I'm sure." I said, not taking my gaze away from my fingers, now playing a soft melody.

"One more thing, though. I think you should rethink that. I mean, the whole thing about not playing piano anymore. Talent like that is a terrible thing to waste." He said, before walking out the door without giving me a chance to reply.

I could think of worse things to waste. Time. Money. Food. Energy. I'm really not doing so bad.

I rode the late bus home almost completely alone, except for one other kid who didn't look like he showered much, napping in the back. I decided to sit in the front.

As I watched the streets go by, I remembered how nice it was just to ride. I've been driving so long I've almost forgotten. Driving keeps you busy, which can be a good thing, but sometimes it's nice to look out the window and give yourself a chance to daydream. It reminded me of when I was younger and didn't have so much to worry about. I could just be.

But now, even my dreaming is filled with doubt. I think about what Alli said this morning. Of course Eli knew what this meant to me. But I wondered if I still knew what it meant to me.

When I was little, I used to dream of a husband who would love me forever, take care of me without question, and whom I could see myself falling for every day, all over again. That's the one I'd give myself to, the one who promised me forever. The one who gave me a ring along with the promise.

My ring finger suddenly felt very naked. I missed my little silver claddagh ring, symbolizing love through the heart, friendship through the hands, and loyalty through the crown. It sounded so beautiful when my mom gave it to me on my thirteenth birthday. It was hanging around my cross necklace now. I couldn't completely let go of it, because it was still a part of me. But it felt wrong to just leave it on my finger. Like I was lying to myself.

But in a way, I hadn't backed down on anything. I waited a long time for this. For someone who mattered.

For someone like Eli.


Phew. I'm so glad I finally finished this chapter. I'm sorry I took so long :( I usually like to get the updates out within a week, but this chapter took longer than I expected. There was a sort of slump I had to get through. I hope it wasn't noticeable.

I will definitely update sooner on the next chapter. I had science fair to deal with this week :\

How do you like it so far? I know for sure I'm going to finish this story but I've been contemplating on whether to write another one after this is done. I love writing but I always put a bunch of pressure on myself when I upload this stuff. I feel like I'm terrible at it and its just that no one wants to tell me. Lol.

-B