DISCLAIMER: I don't own Degrassi or anything else.
This story is dedicated to literarylolita who requested "an emotional love scene. Like after someone dies." I'm not sure she was expecting something like this, but hopefully she likes it anyway.
Anyway, someone dies in this, so if that bothers you, don't read it. It's kind of all over the place, so let me know what you think.
Four days ago, I was sitting in this very seat, in the back of the gym next to Clare, watching the senior class graduate. We cheered as Fiona got her diploma, applauded when the quarterback planted a very public kiss on his boyfriend, and laughed when Anya tripped going up the stairs and turned her embarrassing moment into an amusing one by doing a very funny dance.
I smiled and Clare teared up at Sav's touching valedictorian speech.
I never would have thought four days later we'd all be back, listening to Mr. Simpson convene a memorial service in Sav's honor.
The morning after graduation I woke up to someone leaning on the doorbell. Bullfrog was at the station and I knew my mom would be out running errands, so I pulled a t-shirt on over my boxers and ran down the stairs. I squinted through the peephole and saw that it was Clare. In all the months we had been dating, we kept showing up on each others' doorsteps unannounced, and somehow it seemed like it was never good news.
"What are you doing here?" I asked as I opened the door.
As soon as I saw Clare's stricken face, I knew exactly what had happened; it was the same look my mother had given me two years ago after she got off the phone with Julia's mother.
"Who?" I asked, pulling her into my arms.
"It was Sav. He got into a car accident last night on his way home from Fiona's party. He didn't make it." Her sobs became hysterical and I sat down on my front step and pulled her onto my lap.
We sat there for probably half an hour, my tears mixing with hers. I knew Clare had been close with Sav for practically two years through Alli and since Adam got together with Fiona, we had hung out with him and Holly J on a few occasions.
Clare's phone rang and she checked the screen. "Alli?" She was silent. "I'll be right there."
She jumped off me. "I have to go."
"Let me drive you. I just need to put some pants on and grab my keys."
She backed up. "Alli needs me; I have to go." She practically ran down the street. Alli didn't live too far away so I wasn't worried about her walking, but I didn't think she should be alone.
I called her a few times in the days after that but she was always busy, trying to support Alli. She called me last night and asked if I would go to the school's memorial service with her. She asked me to meet her at her house at 8:30 so we could go over with her parents.
The four of us rode together in stony silence and I wished I had just taken Morty on my own, but I guessed it was kind of tactless to drive a hearse to a funeral. When we arrived, we sat down in the back of the auditorium, but when Alli arrived with her family she dragged Clare to sit down in front with her.
So I ended up sitting between Clare's parents, who were doing their part to support their daughter by not fighting, which I appreciated. I caught Adam's eye from across the aisle but he was sandwiched between his mother and Drew and I figured I should just stay put.
The auditorium was packed, and soon the place was standing room only. I knew Sav was pretty popular, but I figured because he was student council president and he was on the morning announcements and he was the de facto DJ at a lot of parties, people who didn't know him that well had enough respect for him to show up at his memorial.
I wasn't sure if the air conditioning wasn't working or if the amount of people crowding in the room was affecting the temperature, but I started feeling really hot. I loosened my tie a little bit. I was wearing the only suit I owned and I had slicked back my hair a little with gel, trying to look presentable.
The only good thing about this situation was that since Sav was Muslim, I didn't have to go to church. His family had a religious service the next afternoon after his death, since it was their custom to bury the dead quickly and the school decided to have a secular memorial service here instead. The last time I was in church was Julia's funeral and I swore I would never go back again.
Mr. Simpson took his place at the podium and began the service. "A few days ago, we came together to congratulate the class of 2011 on the beginning of their journey. It feels both unbelievable and unfair that just a few days later, we have to gather again to honor a friend and student whose journey came to an end far too quickly. Sav Bhandari was more than student council president to the students of Degrassi. He was an excellent student, a strong leader, a devoted son, and I know I'm not the only person in this room who thought of him as a good friend."
Simpson's voice cracked on his last sentence and he brushed a tear away. It seemed like a wave of emotion overtook the entire crowd and a lot of people were reaching for their tissues. Mr. Simpson continued, "I know there are a lot of people who want to share their memories of Sav. I hope we can all try to spend this service commemorating his life rather than dwelling on his tragic death."
A whole bunch of people came to the mic to talk about Sav. Most of them broke down partway through their thoughts and couldn't finish. Clare walked Alli up to the microphone, but she only managed to say, "Thank you for coming," before Clare had to lead her back to her seat. That Peter kid who used to work at the Dot made a really nice speech about what it was like to be in a band with Sav that had the whole room laughing and crying simultaneously. Holly J also tried to speak but couldn't. She sat back down in her front row seat and Fiona wrapped her arms around her.
A few people came up who I didn't really know, so I just focused on Clare. She was turned toward Alli so I could somewhat see her face. She seemed to be keeping it together.
When the line of people who wanted to speak had been exhausted, Mr. Simpson gestured to Jenna. She handed her baby to K.C. and walked to the stage and started singing Amazing Grace.
It was as if someone put me in a time machine and transported me back to Julia's funeral, because all of a sudden, I was back there, crying so hysterically my parents had to hold me up as they walked her casket out of the church, the choir singing this song. I knew I wasn't back there, but I couldn't help the tears that were pouring out so fast I couldn't stop them by rubbing my eyes. Clare's mother placed her hand in mine, and I couldn't look at her, but I squeezed to let her know I appreciated the gesture.
The service ended and we filed out of the school. I stood with Clare's parents while she waited with Alli for her Dad to get the car. I had managed to stop crying, but really wanted to get out of here. Adam came over and gave me a quick hug before his mother whisked him off to her car.
Mr. and Mrs. Edwards attempted to make polite conversation with each other about mortgage payments and car tune ups, and I really wanted to be anywhere else right now. Clare finally gave Alli once last hug and watched her climb into the car. She waited until they pulled away and walked over to us. I felt like I was watching her in slow motion; the smile she had painted on fell off and her face crumbled. I took three large steps toward her and swept her into my arms as she fell apart.
I placed a kiss on her temple and looked at her more closely. She had huge bags under her eyes and I wasn't sure she had slept since graduation night. It seemed like she had spent the last few days trying to keep herself together to be strong for Alli and now she had lost all control.
Mrs. Edwards cleared her throat. "Clare, we should get home."
I led Clare to the car, practically dragging her along with us. When she got into the car, she lay down with her head on my lap, still hysterical. Her parents exchanged looks, but I just ran my hand along her back and tried to be comforting.
When we went inside her house, Clare had calmed down a little bit but she was gripping my hand so hard it almost hurt. "Clare, why don't you lie down for a bit and try to get some sleep?" her mom suggested.
"That's a good idea," I said, since she still looked so exhausted and tried to drop her hand.
She threw her arms around me and said, "Don't leave me."
I looked at her parents to make sure they weren't going to kill me. "I'll stay with you until you fall asleep."
Clare looked totally helpless at she entered her room. She sat down on the bed, totally unfocused. She was wearing a short black dress that didn't look like it would be super comfortable to sleep in, and I noticed a set of pajamas sticking out from underneath her pillow.
I handed them to her. "Here, put these on." I didn't want to leave her alone so I moved over to her desk and picked up the picture of the two of us she had framed, turning my back to her to give her some privacy.
"Eli…could you unzip me?" We had been dating for a while but we'd been taking things glacially slow so I hadn't actually seen her without her clothes on, but this wasn't really how I wanted this to happen. She walked over to me and turned around and I undid the hook at the top of her dress and slid the zipper down slowly, swallowing hard as her smooth pale skin was exposed. She was wearing a black bra and I almost wished she'd ask me to undo that as well.
I turned back around and squeezed my eyes shut and tried not to listen to the sound of her stepping out of the dress and into her pajamas. I took off my suit jacket and hung it over her chair. I walked over to her bed, loosening my tie. I pulled the covers down and gestured for Clare to climb in.
It was kind of sweet tucking her in, and I wished I could climb in after her and hold her, but I had a feeling her parents were going to check in on her and that they wouldn't like that very much. I sat down next to her and rested my hand on her stomach, above her covers.
"Just try to sleep, baby," I said softly. She smiled a little at the term of endearment I didn't typically use, but it quickly dropped off her face.
"I haven't slept at all since I found out," she whimpered. "Every time I close my eyes, I see his face…or Alli's."
I closed my eyes for a second and not for the first time today, Julia's face appeared in my mind. "It's going to take some time, Clare. But it will go away." Most of the time at least.
"I just don't understand. He was 18 years old. He was going away to college. And now he's gone." I wiped away the tear that escaped from her eye.
Clare's mother knocked softly on the door we had left open. She was carrying a glass of water and a bottle of pills. "Clare, I've got a sleeping pill; I think you should take one, just this once. You look like you haven't slept in days."
She sat up and blinked the tears out of her eyes. "Okay." She took the pill and I shot her mother a grateful look.
She left us alone, and I watched as Clare's tears slowed and her breathing deepened. She was so exhausted that it only took about twenty minutes until she was sound asleep. I waited a few minutes to make sure and then pulled her bedroom door shut behind me.
I found her parents sitting at their kitchen table, sipping coffee in awkward silence. "She's out," I said.
"Thank you, Eli," Mr. Edwards said.
"I'd like to be here…for when she wakes up."
"It'll probably be a few hours," Mrs. Edwards said.
And it would totally be awkward to sit with her parents for that length of time, but I didn't want to abandon her. "I've got a book in my car or I could watch TV. You don't have to entertain me."
Her mother smiled. "Have a seat, Eli. Would you like some coffee?"
"Sure." Things had never really improved from that awful dinner Clare had subjected me to when we first started dating. When I came to pick her up for dates, whichever parent was staying with her and I would make awkward small talk until she made it downstairs and we could leave the house as soon as possible.
She handed me a cup of coffee and I dumped some sugar in it. Her father cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Well, I should probably head back to the condo. I've got some work to catch up on." He put his coffee cup in the sink and left without a word.
I met Mrs. Edward's eye and we smiled awkwardly. "So Eli, what are your plans for the summer?"
"My Dad was able to get me an internship at his radio station. The pay is really bad and I'll be fetching a lot of coffee for people, but they're going to have me work on research for on-air interviews and I'll get do some writing for their website as well, so it's really good experience."
I could see a change in her face that I had never seen before, something like approval. "Do you think you'll follow in your Dad's footsteps with his radio career?"
"No, I'm interested in the entertainment industry but more along the professional writing side than performance. I'd like to get into music or movie or TV reviews for a magazine or paper or website."
"Is that a possible career path?"
I nodded. "It's not easy to find a full-time writing career, but with the internet the opportunities for freelance work are huge."
"It'll be difficult to get started without full-time work."
"Well, I'm going to major in English Education in college so that if the writing doesn't work out, I have a fallback that I'm interested in."
"That's what Clare is interested in doing."
I grinned. "Yeah, she might have talked me into it. But she's right; it makes a lot of sense."
"Have you given any thought to where you're going to apply for college? I always forget that you're going to be a senior next year."
"Well, University of Toronto is my top choice, so I'm going to apply early admission and hope for the best."
Mrs. Edwards eyed me and her grip on her coffee cup tightened. "That's an excellent school, but are you sure you don't want to go away to college?"
I shook my head. "I like living in the city, and I'm pretty close with my parents so I don't feel a need to go too far away when there's a great school right here. Not to mention Clare."
I could tell she was skeptical Clare and I would still be together next year, but I had no doubts. Things were really great between the two of us and I didn't see that changing anytime soon.
"Do you think you'll live in the dorms if you are so close to home?"
I bit my lip and didn't say anything. "Eli?" She gave me a concerned look.
"When we were at the prom, Sav and I were talking about maybe getting an apartment next year if he didn't end up liking his freshman year roommate."
She gave me a sympathetic look. "I didn't know you two were so close."
"We weren't really, I mean, we were just starting to be. My best friend Adam is dating his girlfriend's best friend, so sometimes the six of us would go out to dinner at the Dot or a movie or something. A couple of times he and I went to Adam's house to jam together. We went to the prom in the same limo and we were all at Fiona's party the night Sav died."
"I didn't want to ask the Bhandari's this, but do you know what happened? Was he drinking?"
I gave a short laugh. "Sav never drank. It was against his religion. He was usually the sober driver to get people home, but most of the people who were drinking that night just crashed at Fiona's."
"So they have no idea what happened?"
I shook my head. "He dropped off Holly J and somewhere between her house and his house, his car flipped over. There was another set of skid marks so there was probably a drunk driver involved, but they didn't stop and there were no witnesses."
"I can't even believe it," Mrs. Edwards said. "What a senseless tragedy."
My hands tensed and I had to let go of the coffee mug before I dropped it. I had been doing really well lately handling Julia's death, but this was just sending me over the edge.
Mrs. Edwards must have noticed my discomfort. "Eli, I'm so sorry. Clare told me about your old girlfriend's death and I know this situation must be bringing up some difficult memories for you. We don't have to talk about this."
Great. Clare's mother already thought I wasn't good enough for her daughter and now she probably thought I was still hung up on my ex. "I love Clare, you know."
"I know," she said, putting her hand on mine, like she had done at the service. "But I know that doesn't make it much easier."
She seemed to be speaking from experience and I gave her a curious look. She got up to pour herself another cup of coffee. When she sat back down, she seemed to be having an internal argument with herself. I didn't say anything to give her time to figure out what she wanted to say.
"Clare doesn't know this, and I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell her." I raised my eyebrow a little bit and nodded. That wasn't really what I was expecting to hear. "I dated this guy in high school for almost a year. He was really sweet and I was really in love with him. But he was depressed a lot of the time. His parents never took him to a psychiatrist, but I think he was probably manic depressive. And he was wonderful to me whenever he was on an upswing, but whenever he was down…let's just say, he wasn't such a great guy."
I wasn't sure if she was referring to abuse or just being difficult to be around but it wasn't my business so I kept quiet. "Eventually he ended up being down most of the time and I couldn't handle it so I broke up with him." A tear trickled down her cheek. "Two months later, he committed suicide."
She met my eyes and we shared the look of two people who knew what guilt felt like. "He left a note and in it, he told me not to blame myself and that he loved me, but of course, I did. God, it was over 25 years ago and talking about this just makes me feel like a 16 year old girl again. I can go weeks without thinking about him, but someone will mention the Maple Leafs, and I'll be right back at our first date."
"How did you deal with that? It must have been awful."
"Well, I went to his funeral and something the pastor said really spoke to me. I started going to church every Sunday and I got involved in their youth group, and a year later, I met Randall on a retreat. I threw myself into my faith and when I found love again, I was able to cope."
I laughed wryly. "Julia's death kind of caused the opposite reaction in me."
"Well, we all grieve in our own way." She walked over to the sink and rinsed out her coffee mug. She took her empty cup and the one Mr. Edwards had left and stuck them in the dishwasher. "I'm supposed to meet up with one of the women from church for lunch and then I have choir practice and I'm helping with a rummage sale, so I won't be back until dinnertime. Will you be okay? I can cancel, if you don't want to be by yourself, and I don't really want Clare to wake up to an empty house."
"I'll be fine, but thank you. I'll be here for her." I let out an involuntary yawn.
She placed her hand on my shoulder. "Coffee's not working?"
"Not on two hours of sleep," I admitted.
"If you want to take a nap, Darcy's bed is open." She grabbed her purse. "You're welcome to stay for dinner tonight."
"Thanks, Mrs. Edwards." She left and I headed upstairs to check on Clare. She was fast asleep, and she had turned onto her side, leaving just enough room for me to slip under the covers beside her. I probably would have been more comfortable in Darcy's bed across the room, but I knew that having Clare next to me would be the only way I could feel better.
I put my arm around her waist and buried my face in her neck, pushing her curls back. She didn't stir and I was glad she was finally able to get some rest, drug-induced or not.
I pulled Clare towards me, slipping my hand underneath the hem of her shirt and spreading my hand over her stomach. I wasn't trying to get physical with her but I just needed to feel her, alive against me.
The smooth sound of her breathing and the softness of her skin lured me out of my head and into the world of sleep.
I woke up to Clare taking a sharp breath and yelling "Eli!"
Apparently my dream where I was cradling her naked breast in my hand wasn't just a dream and my hand had wandered while I slept. I immediately removed myself from her shirt. "I'm sorry, oh my God, Clare, I'm so sorry."
She was breathing heavily and looking at me with wide eyes. "I swear, I was asleep and I had no idea what I was doing. I would never take advantage of you while you were sleeping or otherwise." If Clare didn't forgive me, I didn't know what I would do.
"It's okay, Eli," she said, and I let out the breath and I had been holding. I put my hand on her stomach, making sure I stayed above her shirt.
"How'd you sleep?" I asked.
"Pretty good, considering…" How you were fondled against your will while you were grieving.
Clare looked at my face and laughed. "Eli, seriously. I was just surprised. I didn't mean to yell at you." She looked over at the clock. "4 o'clock, wow, I was out for a while. I'm surprised Mom let you cuddle with me."
"Well she might have suggested I nap in Darcy's bed, but she's out at choir practice. She said she'd be back around dinner time."
Clare looked surprised. "You talked to my mom?"
"We had a very nice conversation. It turns out, she might not hate me. I even got invited to stay for dinner."
Clare smiled. "Well, that's new." She ran her fingers through my hair. "It's nice being in bed with you."
I grinned. "It'd be nicer at my house. This twin bed doesn't leave us much room to maneuver." I leaned into kiss her but she moved away. "Clare?"
She bit her bottom lip. "It feels wrong to be happy."
I turned over onto my back so I didn't have to look at her. "I know that feeling well."
"Oh, Eli. I'm so sorry." She leaned up on her elbow and hovered over my side. "Here I am complaining and this must be so much worse for you." She pressed a kiss against the crook of my neck and I felt a tear trickle down after it.
"You knew Sav a lot better than I did," I said, trying to keep my voice from breaking.
"Yeah but he's the only friend I've ever lost. I've got two parents, four grandparents, one sister, two best friends, one evil exboyfriend, and one amazing current boyfriend and they are all present and accounted for. And aside from my sister's suicide attempt, this is the worst I've ever felt."
I peered at her curiously. She had never mentioned that to me before. She shook her head. "I don't want to talk about it. I don't want to think about any other bad memories. This is hard enough."
Clare placed her hand on my chest and I put my hand on top of hers and squeezed it. "When you get sad about Julia, what do you do to make yourself feel better?" she asked softly.
I pushed a curl that was dangling in her face behind her ear. "I think about you. Sometimes I call you just to hear the sound of your voice or if I'm with you, I'll kiss you or hold you just so I can feel how alive you are. I can't change the past, but I can control the present, so I'd rather concentrate on being happy with you than sad about the past."
Clare didn't meet my eyes. "What did you do before me?"
I laughed. "Hated the world and wallowed in my own misery."
A touch of a smile graced her lips but it only lasted a moment. "I just want to feel good again. Just for a little while."
"Clare, can I kiss you?" I knew I didn't really need her permission but I wanted to make sure she wanted to feel better the same way I did.
Instead of responding, she kissed me. It felt really intense, really quickly, considering we were under the covers, even if I was extremely overdressed in my suit pants and dress shirt. I pulled her on top of me, and pushed her heavy comforter off since it was really starting to get hot.
Kissing Clare was simultaneously the most amazing and frustrating experience on earth. She was an amazing kisser; she'd jump from gentle to fierce in a few seconds depending on her mood, and everything in between was just as good. But it felt so intense that seconds later I'd be hard, and then I'd have to keep half of my mind on preventing myself from grinding on her or putting my hands somewhere she wouldn't want, rather than just enjoying what we were doing.
"Eli," she whispered, moving her hands to the top button on my shirt and undoing it slowly. She undid the next button and my jaw dropped open. She had never been this aggressive with me before and I was curious as to where she was going with this.
When her fingers were on the bottom button, she looked into my eyes. "I appreciate how patient you've been with me. I know what you did before was an accident, but I wanted you to know, it felt really nice before I stopped you and if you want to…"
I placed my finger on her lips to stop her from talking. "Oh, I want to." As she released the final button and pushed the sides of my shirt apart, I slipped my hands underneath hers. I didn't go right for her breasts like I wanted to, but I touched her all over her back and stomach, raising her shirt little by little.
"Eli," she moaned. "Touch me."
My head fell back against the pillow and I looked at her in shock. "I can't believe I just said that." She buried her head against my chest, which was naked thanks to her, so there were no complaints from me.
"I like it when you take charge."
She looked up at me through her lashes and kissed me ferociously. I used her momentum against her and pushed her back until we were both sitting up with her straddling my lap. My hands were on her and she was so soft and so huge. I was about to attempt to take her shirt off when we heard a car pull up outside.
"Shoot, it's my mom."
I pushed her off my lap. "Pretend you were sleeping," I said as I jumped off the bed and leapt across the room to Darcy's. I fastened my shirt as quickly as I could and tried to rub some of the wrinkles out of my clothes, but I guessed sleeping could have been responsible for it.
Clare's mother came to her door and sat down on her bed. "How are you doing baby?"
"Much better," Clare said, and I stifled a laugh as best I could. "I definitely needed to sleep."
"I'm going to start dinner." She left us alone and I met Clare on her bed.
"So it was the sleep that helped?" I teased.
"The sleep. And you." She gave me a quick kiss. "It still hurts though."
I placed my hand over her heart. "I know, Clare. I know."