Hey, hey, hey! How's it going readers? I decided to do this story a wee bit differently. Since there isn't a whole lot of material, and I'm mostly filling in the blanks, this will just be two chapters as opposed to four. Meaning this is Halo- Part 1 in its entirety. =)
Also, I'm so sorry this has taken me so long to start. Call it writers block, or lack of ambition, but I'm back! Believe me; I'm happier about that than anyone.
For the record, I still don't own Degrassi. I know it's been a while since my last story, but I still haven't obtained the rights. (Should be read with sarcasm)
It took Clare and I all weekend, but we finally finished half of my room. Clare hadn't even gone to church Sunday morning, opting to hang out and continue to help me. Cleaning my room was actually easier than I expected it to be, and my parents even came in to help for brief periods of time. It still wasn't easy, but it wasn't as hard as I had convinced myself it would have been. I stopped arguing over every single item, but everyone still asked me if it was okay to throw something away, so it was still a long, mind-numbing process. That's the only way I got through it, really, was numbing my mind.
Around six 'o' clock on Sunday Clare collapsed on my now-clean bed, exhausted. "Just crossing your room is like crossing over from earth to some parallel universe," she joked.
"Come on, Edwards, that simile was weak," I teased her. She was right, though. The side of my room that housed my bed now looked pristine, but the other half, the half that you had to cross from to get to the clean side, was still packed with junk.
"I'm too tired to come up with a better one," she yawned, throwing herself down so she was lying on top of my covers.
I walked over to the bed and plopped next to her, "Thank you for helping me all weekend. You really didn't have to."
"Yes, I did," she insisted, giving me a peck on the nose and then curling up against my side. She rested her head on my chest. I sighed, content. "Besides, I love spending time with you no matter what it is we're doing."
"Ditto," I smiled, kissing the top of her head, "I still owe you big time though." Clare shook her head, but I continued, ignoring her, "Like taking you on our second date, for example."
"Well, in that case, I simply can't say no." Clare laughed, and the sound was music to my ears. It finally seemed like Clare and I could relax and just have fun. Clare was dealing with her parent's divorce, and I was dealing with my hoarding. The best thing was we were doing it together, and we were unconditionally in love. I now knew that Clare was really here for me no matter what, and vice versa. I felt like we had climbed the mountain and we were standing on top- stronger and closer.
"Good," I squeezed Clare closer. "How does tomorrow night sound?"
"It sounds like a date. What are we doing?"
I smirked, thinking. I had to make this perfect; a million times better than our first date. "It'll be a surprise," I told her, deciding.
Clare propped herself up on her elbow to look into my eyes. "Should I be worried?" She asked, joking. Her eyes were shining, and a smile spread on her face.
"Definitely," I joked back. "If you don't lose sleep over this I will be offended." The mood was so light and jubilant. It was so different than the mood that had been settled over Clare and me for the past few weeks; different than any mood that had been present in my room for over a year. It felt amazing.
"I wouldn't want to offend you," Clare's smile grew bigger, and she leaned down to press her lips chastely to mine. She quickly pulled away, but I wasn't having it. I rolled over so that I was positioned over top of her, but I made sure I wasn't putting any pressure on Clare. She gasped, surprised, but didn't look uncomfortable, so I leaned down to plant a kiss on her lips. I caught her top lip between my teeth, giving it a gentle tug. Clare giggled and let her tongue slip inside my mouth, exploring. That was new; Clare didn't usually take charge of the physical aspects of our relationship. I liked it.
Clare rolled us over so she was on top as we continued to kiss. After a few minutes Clare broke away so she could breathe, but I continued to place light, soft kisses on her cheeks, her nose, and down her neck. Clare shivered as I ran my lips back up to her ear. "I love you, Clare," I whispered. "I'm so lucky to have you in my life."
"I love you, too." She whispered back breathlessly. "But I have to get home soon. My mom will start to worry. It is a school night after all." Her voice was sprinkled with regret as she slipped off of me and my bed.
"Your wish; my command," I told her, hopping off the bed myself. We climbed though the messy half of my room and out the door. I didn't bother to close it, let alone to use the padlock- that had been one of the first things to go.
My mom was sitting in the kitchen, leaning over a book. "I'm taking Clare home," I informed her, popping my head into the doorway.
"Oh, okay," My mom said, checking the time. Clare came to stand in the doorway next to me, waving to my mom. "Thanks for everything, sweetie," my mom said earnestly. Over the weekend my mom had fallen in love with Clare. She was beyond thankful that Clare had been the help I had needed all along, and my mom was trying to make Clare feel as welcome as possible. Part of me thought maybe my mom was overdoing things if only to make up for the dinner-gone-wrong at Little Miss Steaks. Clare had endured my mom's apologies all weekend.
"It really wasn't a problem," Clare smiled at my mom, "and I'll be back next weekend to finish what we started." She playfully elbowed me in the side and I chuckled.
"I hope so! Come over whenever, dear," My mom yelled after Clare as I ushered her out the front door.
"I'm glad your mom likes me so much," Clare said as we slipped into Morty. "I was afraid that I wouldn't get along with your parents after that dinner. They are nothing like mine," she mused.
"Speaking of your parents," I segued, "do they still hate me?"
"They don't hate you," Clare assured me, but she blushed.
"But," I concluded, "They still don't like me."
"Not that it's your fault," Clare reminded me, "That's all mine." She sounded ashamed. "They'll come around, though," she said, determined, "They have to."
I laughed darkly. "They really don't have to, unfortunately." However, I wouldn't give up trying. Eventually I would win them over; they would realize that I cared about their daughter more than anything in the world.
I pulled up to Clare's house, and threw Morty in park. She sighed. "I'll see you tomorrow morning."
"Bright eyed and bushy tailed," I assured her. The image made her laugh, lightening the mood again.
"Goodnight, Eli," She leaned in to give me a kiss on the cheek.
"Sweet dreams, Clare." She slipped out of the car, and I watched her disappear inside her house.
"So this is what happy feels like…," I whispered to the darkness. I had thought that I was happy the entire time I had been with Clare, but it had only been a small sample of the true happiness and gratitude I could feel. Everything in my world had taken a different meaning, but there was still one thing nagging at me in the back of my mind.
When I had vowed to myself never to forget Julia it seemed that I somehow set a mental alarm clock to go off every hour or so. However, instead of beeping the alarm just brought forth a memory or a mental image for me to obsess over. It wasn't anything serious, but the timely reminders were slowly wearing me down in Clare's absence. When she was around I had concrete evidence of my sanity to keep me grounded, but when I was away from Clare, like at night, I couldn't take my mind off Julia. It was almost as if she refused to be replaced.
I arrived home, got ready for bed, and crawled under my covers as I looked around my room. My eyes landed on the desk that I had, comically enough, forgotten was in my room. Clare and I had uncovered it this weekend, and I remembered that I used to write at the desk all the time.
With Julia on my mind I got off my bed, switched on the lamp atop the desk, and sat down with my pen and paper.
Dear Julia, I began…
After an hour I had finished my letter, proofread it, and tucked it into my English notebook where I kept all my work. And just like that, I felt it…Closure.
I smiled to myself as I hopped back into bed and shut my eyes. I fell asleep almost instantly.
The next morning I slipped out of bed feeling amazingly well-rested. I quickly showered and ate breakfast eager to get to school so I could see Clare. My high spirits lasted through my drive to school- I even hummed along to the music playing in my car- and I strode through the doors of Degrassi confidently. I found Clare rummaging through her locker, oblivious, so I snuck up behind her and squeezed her sides. She screamed and jumped into the air.
"Eli!" She chastised me.
"Yes, my love?"
"What was that for?" She feigned anger, smacking me lightly on the arm.
"I'm testing different methods of getting your attention. I'd say that one is super effective," I winked at her. Clare rolled her eyes and laughed at me. "So," I said, slyly slipping my hand into hers, intertwining our fingers, "can I walk the most beautiful girl in Degrassi to class?"
Clare glanced around the hall, "Who, me?" She asked, joking.
"Of course you- I don't see any other beautiful girls around," I whispered in her ear, raising my eyebrows at her. She giggled, falling into step with me as I lead her to her first class. She snuggled in close to my side, and I was about to give me a kiss on her nose when a voice boomed from behind us.
"Suspended for PDA," a voice I automatically thought was Simpson's yelled. Clare and I immediately dropped hands and took a huge step away from each other. All the color drained from my face and I broke out in a cold sweat before I saw Adam stroll up behind us. 'Funny kid,' I thought sarcastically, smirking at him.
"Kidding," Adam surrendered, draping his arms over both mine and Clare's shoulders. We awkwardly paced down the hall linked together as Adam continued, "Holding hands should be allowed. It is Wishing Star week…or whatever."
I rolled my eyes; I had heard about that. In my opinion it was just another lame, perky attempt to take kids mind off the fact that we were still in lockdown. However, Adam seemed to be in an extremely good mood- I wondered how things were going with Fiona. So, I joked with him, "And which enchanted princess do you have your eye on?"
Adam giggled at me, knowing I already knew the answer, but he played along anyway. "The fairest of them all," he said, releasing Clare and me so we could walk down the halls comfortably, "Fiona Coyne."
I frowned at him, about to tell him that she was not the fairest of them all, that my girlfriend already had that title, when said girlfriend jumped at the chance to hear the news on Adam's luck with Fiona thus far. "So, what's the latest?" Clare asked excitedly. Then she added in a softer voice, "Does she know about your situation?"
"Haven't taken my transgender awareness survey lately," Adam joked. I smirked again. I had to hand it to him- he was in rare form this morning. But, after a moment of consideration, Adam grew worried. "Wait, you guys don't think she's out of my league?" Adam checked.
"Missing a few parts never stopped you before," I assured him, thinking of the time Adam went after Bianca. He certainly had an interesting taste in women…
Clare nodded in agreement. "Are you going to send her a star?" She asked, her eyes shining brightly.
Adam shook his head. "A million people have probably already done that. I need to do something different; something special to show her I really care for her."
"Good luck with that, dude. I wish you the best," I gave him a pat on the back, and flashed him a genuine smile. "I have to get to class, though. I'll see you two in English." I grabbed Clare's hand, squeezed, and walked off to History by myself.
I had to come up with a game plan for this date…what were some cute date ideas? Dinner and a movie? No, that was too unoriginal, not to mention it didn't come close to an author's talk. So, what was something cute, original, and special?
Well, it was nice outside, so why not spend our date outdoors? Like on a picnic. Oh, I liked that idea. Clare and I could go to the store together, get ingredients, make some food together, than go to the park, and we could take a hike on one of the trails. It was perfect for us, and there would be no opportunities for Clare to convince me into getting another piercing or that tattoo she had mentioned a week ago. I cringed just thinking what her parents would say if I brought Clare home with a tattoo.
Before I knew it the bell rang and it was time for English. I stopped by my locker, grabbed my notebook and folder, and headed to class.
Adam and Clare were already there and Clare was laughing at something Adam had said. I paused in the doorway not wanting to interrupt the moment of happiness. Now that I knew what it meant to be truly happy I appreciated the idea of happiness so much more. Every happy moment I got to witness or feel felt like a precious gift. As I was thinking about that Clare glanced at the doorway, spotting me. Her smile grew larger- if that was even possible. "I was wondering where you were," Clare smiled at me.
"I just had to stop by my locker. You cleared our date with your parents, right?" I asked, checking.
"Of course," Clare assured me. "My mom knows that I'll be with you for the better part of the afternoon. I just have to be home by nine thirty," she reminded me. I nodded, well aware of Clare's curfew. "Speaking of our date," Clare started smoothly, "what are we doing?"
"Don't worry- I have a plan. I figured it all out last period. I even took notes," I joked with her.
"Oh, really?" Clare's eyes lit up with a devilish gleam, and Adam rolled his eyes at me. I was glaring at him, so I wasn't able to stop Clare from flipping open my English notebook to search for the nonexistent notes. As fate would have it, Clare flipped open to letter I had stuffed in there the night before. "What's this," She asked lightly, but as she read the greeting her brow furrowed in confusion. I quickly snatched the paper out of her hands. She looked up at me- hurt and fuddled.
"It's not a big deal," I assured her.
"Then why can't I read it?" she asked me, eyeing the paper clutched in my hands pointedly.
I sighed, making a snap decision without giving it too much thought. "You can," I annunciated my words, choosing them carefully, "Just not here or now."
Clare raised her eyebrows at me, and I used my eyes to plead for her understanding.
"Okay," Clare decided, smiling at me. I relaxed and returned the smile.
"Care to fill me in?" Adam jumped in, annoyed that we were being so vague.
"It's a letter," I sad after a moment of reluctance, "to Julia."
"Ohhhhh," Adam dragged out the word for several syllables, "interesting."
"Not helping," I sneered at him.
A giant smile broke out across his face, "I know." I narrowed my eyes at him, but I couldn't help the chuckle that escaped my lips. Ms. Dawes swooped into the room to start her lesson for the day, so Clare, Adam, and I all redirected our attentions to the front of the room.
The rest of the school day passed by quickly and without further mention of Clare's discovery from English. I had expected her to bring the letter up at lunch, but she didn't, obviously waiting patiently for me to declare it the right moment for her to read, and for that I was thankful. I had a perfect moment picked out, in fact. And once Clare knew the contents of the letter she would no longer feel apprehensive about it.
When the final bell rang I made my way to my locker where Clare was waiting patiently- already packed and ready to go.
"Someone is an eager beaver," I smiled at her.
"What can I say- you've got my heart all aflutter with anticipation," Clare shot back, giggling.
"I had better be the only one who makes your heart aflutter with anything," I commented lightly.
"No worries there, silly." I nodded, quickly packing my backpack and slinging it over my shoulder.
"You ready to go?" I asked Clare, slinging my arm around her shoulders. She leaned into me, reaching up to lace her fingers through mine.
"Of course- I've been waiting for this all day," I could hear the smile in her voice, and I leaned down to quickly plant a kiss on the top of her head. "Do I get to know what we're doing yet?" Clare questioned; the curiosity raged behind her words.
"I have faith that once we make our first stop you'll have a pretty good idea," I let sarcasm lightly color my tone, smirking.
"I'll try not to let you down, then," Clare commented as we pushed through Degrassi's doors, and made our way over to Morty. We climbed in, and enjoyed a comfortable silence as I drove to the super market closest to my house. Every so often, on the ride over, I would sneak a look at Clare. She looked beautiful even in her school uniform. The window was rolled down, and Clare had her face turned into the breeze soaking up the sun. The light made her creamy skin seem like it was glowing, and it brought out the copper highlights in her hair. Best of all she looked content, blissful. I sighed feeling the same way.
As I pulled into the parking lot and slipped into a space near the back so I could double park, Morty was just so wide, Clare started to shoot me bewildered looks. "The grocery store?" Clare questioned- incredulous.
"Well, yeah," I said matter-of-factly, trying to keep a straight face as Clare's scrunched up in confusion, "where else will we get food for a picnic?" I winked at her, and Clare chuckled.
"I'll admit you had me worried for a second. I was about to question your idea of romantic."
"Ouch," I fabricated hurt, "I'm offended that you would even doubt me for a moment." Clare rolled her eyes at me, pushing Morty's door open and slipping out. I quickly joined her, grabbing her hand as we walked together into the store.
After careful deliberation Clare and I decided to make pasta salad together. Clare picked out some bow-tie pasta, and I found us tomatoes, cucumbers, and Italian dressing. We also decided to buy a half-loaf of fresh bread. For dessert we picked up some fudge sauce and large, ripe strawberries. Once we were confident with our meal choice we checked out and headed back to my house.
My mom and dad were nowhere to be found, so Clare and I immediately set up shop in the kitchen. I put the water on to boil as Clare started to chop up the tomatoes. I grabbed the cucumbers and joined her. When the water came to a boil, Clare added to pasta, and set the timer on our microwave.
"Playing house with you is fun," I told Clare earnestly, smiling down at her as we finished the last of the chopping.
"I've never been one to get into domestics," Clare started, "but this is really enjoyable," Clare conceded. I laughed, picturing Clare sitting in a rocking chair with knitting needles. Truth was I hadn't expected this part of the date to be as amusing as it was turning out to be. In that moment I could picture Clare's and my future stretched out before us; I could literally see myself marrying Clare and spending the rest of my life with her.
I got a strange chill thinking that, like maybe I was going too fast, and Clare wasn't on the same page, but I pushed it aside. Of course we were on the same page…
Soon we had our dinner prepared and packed into Tupperware, so I had to search for the picnic basket I knew we had. I found it in the coat closet, strangely enough, and after all the containers were packed in I slipped my English notebook inside the basket without Clare noticing. With that we were ready to go, so we hopped back into Morty.
"Guess where we're going next," I prompted Clare, a huge smile stretching on my face.
"The park, perhaps?" Clare asked flirtatiously.
"Oh, so close," I told her, "I was actually thinking we could go to the playground first- work up an appetite." I winked at her.
"That's so cute!" Clare exclaimed. "It's perfect."
"I was hoping you would say that," I said, slipping Morty into gear. After a very short ride filled with banter about my taste in music we arrived at the playground across from one of the two elementary schools in town. By now it was around 5:30 in the afternoon, and the playground was pretty empty aside from one mom who had her hands full with three toddlers.
"It's such a nice day," Clare said, spinning around in circles on the grass after removing her shoes, "I'm surprised not more people are here."
I shrugged. "I like having you alone- well, mostly alone," I amended, nodding toward the poor women trying to round of her children.
"In that case," Clare stopped spinning to look me right in the eye, "come join me, Mr. Goldsworthy."
I shook my head. "I'm having so much more fun watching you," I told her truthfully. Clare's bottom lip jutted out, and she gave me puppy dog eyes. I narrowed mine at her. "Not going to work," I warned her.
Clare walked right up to me, and I had to look at her over the bridge of my nose. "Please, Eli, take off your shoes and let loose."
Her ice-blue eyes started to wear on my resistance. I exhaled in exasperation, "Fine," I said slipping of my shoes and socks, sinking my toes into the grass. "Miss Edwards, may I have this dance?" I bowed in front of her, extending my hand like an old fashioned gentleman.
"T'would be my honor," Clare mocked an old English accent and grabbed my hand. We whirled around together in a waltz of sorts for several minutes before we collapsed on the ground, laughing. "I am so dizzy," Clare said, resting her hand on her forehead, closing her eyes.
"But are you hungry yet?" I asked her, propping myself on my elbow to look at her.
Clare considered for a moment before deciding on her answer. "Nope, let's swing!" With that Clare got to her feet and walked over to the sandy area where the swing set was set up. Her pure enjoyment of playing around was endearing. I loved hearing her laugh peal through the playground showcasing her innocent bliss. I sat up in the grass watching Clare start to swing before stopping to raise her eyebrows at me. "Are you coming?" Clare prompted impatiently. I nodded, hurling myself off the ground.
"Shall I push you?" I asked, a devilish smirk playing on the edge of my lips.
"Only if you want to," Clare shrugged, sinking her toes in the sand. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "This is amazing, Eli," Clare started as I got behind her and started to push her gently. "I haven't felt this relaxed since my parents started to fight. Thank you for bringing me here; I needed this. You're the best boyfriend a girl could ask for," Clare started to pump her legs as she got higher in the air.
I shrugged, dismissing her gratitude. "You've done so much more for me than I have for you," I reminded Clare. "I certainly owe you more appreciation than you owe me. In a way, you saved me from myself." I thought of my room which was now on its way to being clean.
"Don't think you haven't saved me, too," Clare told me fiercely. "We need each other."
"Yeah, I suppose we do," I agreed, the idea making a small smile turn my lips upward. After a pause Clare came to a stop. "You ready to go eat now?" I asked her, my stomach grumbling as I asked.
Clare gave her own stomach a pat, "Yeah, I could definitely go for some food right about now." We grabbed our shoes and socks, put them back on, and got back into Morty. I drove to the park across from the coffee shop Clare and I visited the time we skipped class together. I parallel parked Morty then walked to Clare's door, opening it.
"Milady," I offered her my hand as she stepped out of the hearse. I retrieved the picnic basket from the back, stuffed the blanket into it, and locked Morty up. "So, should we stick to the designated picnic areas, or are you feeling a little adventurous?" I asked, hoping Clare held in favor with the latter.
"Depends on what you have in mind," Clare raised her eyebrows at me.
"I thought it would be fun to wander around off the trails so we could find the perfect spot, and have some alone time."
"What girl in their right mind would say no to that?" Clare said by way of an affirmation. So, Clare and I disappeared into the woods. We hiked around for an hour or so, taking our time, and not worrying about a destination. We'd know what our perfect picnic area was when we came to it. In the meantime we crossed by a few brooks, splashing each other before moving on, climbed any trees that looked challenging, making it a contest to see who could get higher, and chased around squirrels and chipmunks. Doing this with anyone else would have seemed odd, but with Clare it was perfect.
Finally, we found our spot.
At first, I thought I was seeing things- the gray, decrepit bricks almost blending into their surroundings, but as we got closer I realized it was building; or, at the very least, half of a building.
"Clare, you have to come check this out!" I called to her. She was watching deer, and hadn't noticed the structure yet.
She bounded up to my side. "What do you think it is?" She asked, cocking her head at the crumbling edifice. I started around the other side, noticing the large holes that had obviously been windows at one point. Possibly, say, stain glass windows.
"I'm thinking an old, rundown church," I said, surprised.
Clare came around to join me at the front of the structure. "Hmm, that does seem like a pretty safe bet." She chuckled. "I wonder how all this junk got here," Clare added softly. I shrugged, spinning around to get a better feel of the area. A few yards a way there was a chain link fence signifying the end of the park's property.
I handed Clare the basket. "Wanna set up? I think this place is perfect," I grinned at her.
Clare took the basket from my hand. "I couldn't agree more." I turned, walking over to the fence. "Um, where are you going?" Clare called after me, nervous.
"Just checking things out. I'll be back before you can miss me," I assured her. I walked right up to the opening in the fence. There was a lock on the gate, but the rust had made the metal weak. I gave it a few good yanks, loosening the latch, till finally it gave way in my hands. I smirked to myself. The gate creaked as I slowly pulled it open. It had obviously been a while since anyone had been here, or opened this thing up.
Now on the other side of the fence I found myself standing on a gravel pathway. About a hundred meters in the distance I saw a street. Perfect.
I sprinted down the path, the gravel crunching beneath my shoes. I was surprised to find the street was one I knew well, and could easily come back to whenever- which was great, because it was love at first sight. I was a sucker for disarray, and the crumbling church was hauntingly beautiful.
I sprinted back to Clare, making sure to leave the gate propped open.
"What were you doing?" Clare asked me as I settled myself on the blanket next to her.
"Marking our location," I replied simply, "so we can find this place again."
Clare nodded as she unpacked the pasta salad. She handed me a plastic fork, and we dove in. I unwrapped the bread, handing her a piece, and Clare and I enjoyed our meals in a thoughtful silence. "We make a great team," I commented, patting my full belly. "That was the best dinner I have had in a while."
Clare slid over to me and leaned her head on my shoulder, fitting it perfectly in the crook of my neck. I closed my eyes and let my head rest on top of hers'. "I agree. That was delicious. I don't think I can fit dessert anywhere yet, though. Those strawberries look so good; I'm tempted to try."
I laughed, lifting my head up. "I know something we can do to pass the time while we digest a little bit."
"Like what?" Clare asked, picking her head off my shoulder so she could look me in the eye. She waggled her eyebrows at me.
"Not what you're thinking, actually," I said, watching disbelief wash over her features. My heart rate picked up speed as I reached into the picnic basket withdrawing my English notebook. Clare nodded, understanding. She held her hand out, waiting for me to give her the letter. "Um," I hesitated, growing nervous, "I was wondering if I could read it to you, instead of you reading it to yourself."
After a moment of deliberation Clare nodded, a warm expression lighting up her face. "I would like that."
"Okay," I took a deep breath. "I wrote this after I dropped you off at home last night. Don't…say anything till I'm done, please."
Clare mocked zipping her lips, locking them, and throwing away the key. I knew she was trying to get me to laugh since I had suddenly grown so anxious, but I could only manage a small, nervous teetering. I had opened up to Clare before, but this letter wasn't written for her. I wanted her to hear it, but on the other hand it seemed all too personal. Too late to turn back now, though; if I didn't let Clare hear the letter she would assume the worst. I swallowed all my fear, and began:
How lame is this, huh? I've only ever heard of people writing letters to the dead in movies; I don't know anyone who's ever done it in real life. But, you know me; I don't really like to follow standards. You didn't either- I miss that about you.
Actually, Jules, I just miss you, period. I miss making you laugh. I mean, not many people could coax the sound out of you, and I always felt like your laughs were worth something because I had to earn them. I miss the way you lit up from the inside out when you caught onto my sarcasm; often reciprocating with a snarky remark of your own. I miss your special smile that you reserved only for me when I said something insightful, or when we shared an inside joke. I miss your scent, your presence, you.
But, the thing about missing someone is eventually you have to let go and move on.
For a little over a year, Julia, I couldn't do that.
See, I started hoarding. I had developed the irrational fear of throwing anything away; afraid that if I did someone I loved would get hurt again. So, I cut myself off from everyone, and started to collect junk. I stashed it all in my room, and the room soon became my own personal hell. Every time I looked around I was reminded of what I did to you, Jules- which I'm sorry about, by the way. I should have never let you leave the hearse. I was miserable; I blamed myself for your death. I wouldn't talk to anyone, and I barely felt alive at all.
I'm not telling you all of this to make you feel guilty, though. I'm just looking from some closure.
So, I want you to know that I finally found someone who is helping me live again. Her name is Clare, Julia, and she's amazing. I love her. She has helped me clean out my room, she was understanding when it came to my problem, and she hasn't left my side even though I've been crazy trying to give you up once and for all. And I'm glad she didn't leave because I'm finally ready to stop living in the past.
I think you'd like her. Clare is the most thoughtful, selfless person on the planet. She could make anyone smile even on their worst day. Not only does she have a heart of gold, though, this girl has the intellect of no one I've ever met before. She knows how to carry an intriguing conversation, and she always has the best marks at school. If you were given a chance to know her I think Clare could have helped you with a lot of the problems that even I could never solve for you. I know Clare would treat you with respect and compassion just like she treats me. There's never a judgment in her eyes- only love.
So, I guess this is goodbye, Jules. Of course, I'll still think fondly of you every now and then. And maybe, when I die, we'll find each other in whatever is waiting for us on the other side. But, until then, I just wanted you to know I am in good hands.
I love you, Julia. A part of me always will. Thank you for everything you have given me.
I exhaled, closing my eyes so I could gain my composure again. Reading that out loud had been difficult, but I was glad I had done it. I felt like a giant weight had been lifted off my chest. I slowly counted to three in my head before peaking at Clare to check her reaction.
She was staring at me, her eyes glistening with tears that hadn't spilled over yet. I couldn't identify the look on her face, exactly, but I was relieved to see I found no trace of anger or hurt.
"Say something," I whispered after a long silence had stretched out before us. Clare blinked, and I reached over to wipe the leaked tear off her cheek with my thumb.
"Eli, that was…," Clare paused, at a loss for words, "beautiful." Clare got up, walked over, and sat down in my lap. "I'm touched. Thank you for reading that to me."
"You're welcome," I whispered. "I told you there was nothing to worry about."
Clare nodded, snuggling closer to me. "It's getting late," she said softly, regret clear in her voice.
"I definitely need to get you home soon," I agreed, but neither of us moved. "So," I started, curiosity getting the best of me, "better or worse than date number one?"
"Neither," Clare replied automatically, "just different. I will forever remember and cherish both memories." I smiled, satisfied. However, in my opinion, this date had gone much better than the first if only because Clare had not brought her destructive alter ego out to join us.
We sat there wrapped up in each other for a few more minutes till Clare broke the silence. "I love you, Eli," Clare whispered softly, "I'm so sorry about Julia."
"I know Clare, and I appreciate that. I love you, too." I kissed the top of her head, and Clare tipped her head back so she could gaze into my eyes. She leaned forward a little and paused, smiling at me. I took it as an invitation, leaning in the rest of the way. I placed my lips just lightly against hers', teasing. We paused like that, both of our breaths catching in our throats. "You're the best thing that's ever happened to me," I mouthed against her lips, barely making a sound. And with that Clare seized my lower lip between her own, sucking gently. I smiled as we kissed, opening my eyes. Clare opened hers' too, so as we deepened the kiss we maintained eye contact. It was chilling and romantic; it turned my insides to mush, and made me shiver in pleasure.
I could have stayed in that moment forever- kissing Clare beneath the stars.
The next morning I drove to Degrassi thinking about last night. I didn't even have the words to describe how wonderful I felt; like everything in my life was finally in its place and going well. It was something stronger than exuberance and gratitude. The only way I could think to begin to cover my emotions was one word: Clare.
"Hey," Adam greeted me as we walked up the front steps of the school together, "how was the date last night?"
"Beyond successful," I told him, sparing him any of the gory details. "Also, Clare and I found something for you last night." I winked at him.
"Um, weird," Adam said, squirming uncomfortably. "Care to elaborate? Because right now I just have the wrong idea in my head."
I laughed. "It's just this great place we found. You don't have a problem with skipping lunch, do you?"
"Why would I have a problem with that?" Adam asked indubitably.
"Just checking, man," I assured him as we stopped at my locker. Clare skipped up to Adam's side.
"How are my two favorite men this fine morning?" Clare asked, her bubbly nature more evident than usual.
"Better now that you're here," I answered. Adam rolled his eyes. "We're a go for lunch, by the way."
"Oh, good," Clare said, excited. "You're going to love this place. It's beautiful."
"You have fully piqued my curiosity," Adam laughed. "I can't wait."
With that, we split up, going to our respective classes with a vow to meet in the same spot for lunch. The morning classes passed by in a blur; nothing eventful happening. At noon Clare, Adam, and I slipped out the back doors and headed to Morty.
"So, is either of you going to fill me in on where we're going, or do I have to wait till we get there?" Adam asked, sliding onto Morty's bench of a front seat next to Clare.
Clare and exchanged a glance before turning to Adam a telling him in unison, "wait till we get there."
"Whatever," Adam chuckled.
We enjoyed the ride there singing along to the radio, and being generally goofy. We hadn't spent a whole lot of time as a trio outside of school for a while, and I missed this carefree dynamic we had.
I turned Morty onto the gravel path I had checked out yesterday, driving all the way up to the gate and throwing the hearse into park. Adam looked out the window. He gasped in amazement upon seeing the crumbling structure, and pushed out of the car. Clare slid out after him, and I hoped out of the driver's side. I walked up to the gate, pushing it open, and allowed Adam to go through it first. After all, Clare and I had seen it yesterday. Adam's eyes lit up, and he sprinted toward the old church. Clare and I shared a smile over Adam's enthusiasm. We slowly followed behind, watching as Adam climbed up and down what was left of the building. I slung my arm over Clare's shoulders and she smiled up at me.
"Whoa," Adam breathed out, taking it all in, "this place is…whoa."
"Better than lunch in the caf?" Clare joked, knowing the answer.
"I have to bring Fiona here someday," Adam decided, a dangerous gleam shining in his eyes. I laughed. That boy had a major one-track mind. "How'd you guys find it?"
Clare answered, "Well, Eli and I were just on one of our urban adventures, and we just stumbled upon it." That was a major understatement. It was more like we had walked right into it before realizing it was here.
"Did you just say…urban adventure?" Adam questioned, amused.
"Where you're standing right now," I told him, struggling to keep a straight face, "This is where a deflowered Clare." I waggled my eyebrows to drive the joke home.
Clare smacked me right in the gut almost immediately, defending her honor, "Ew, you did…," she said to me, not finishing before turning to Adam, "he did not!" Adam and I smiled- at least he thought it was funny. Clare continued to speak, so I turned to look at her. "Okay, we had a picnic, we kissed, se tu."
"And it was parfait," I told her honestly. She blushed.
"And we shouldn't be talking like this in a place of worship," she said, clearly abashed.
"Abandoned place of worship," I emphasized, reminding her.
Suddenly Adam started to talk again, moving frantically about the space. "Imagine," he started, snagging Clare's and my attention again, "candles over here, twinkly lights on this tree, an ice bar!"
Clare and I glanced at each other and moved forward to stand 'inside' the church. I took a step up onto the bricks where a wall had been almost completely demolished. "Did you just say…ice bar?" I asked Adam, shocked and confused.
"We have to throw a New York style party," Adam exclaimed, gathering steam.
My eyebrows came together in confusion. Did I just hear him right…us…throw a…party? "I hate to pigeonhole us," I began carefully, "But are we really the party-throwing types?"
"The anti-crackdown party," Adam declared, him mind already made up, "in a secret location, bring your crush." As much as I hated to admit it, it sounded fun. And it would be a hell of a whole lot better than that stupid one-hour, school sanctioned fun event the student council had tried to throw. Still, this wasn't something we usually did. Why did Adam seem to feel the desperate need for a party?
Clare was on the same page as me. "Wow. I mean, that sounds amazing," she assured him, "but, why the sudden need for a party?"
Adam hesitated, clearly not sure how to say that it was for Fiona. Or, at least, I was assuming that it was considering Adam had specified this as a 'New York style' party. "Well," he started, "Fiona says she's missing this event thing back at home."
I smirked- I knew it.
Clare melted upon hearing that, clearly winning her over with the romanticism of it all. "And if the girl you like can't get to the party, bring the party to her?"
Adam shrugged, blushing. "Something like that," he admitted.
"Awe," Clare sighed, turning back to look at me. I rolled my eyes at her, but smiled all the same.
Party-throwing types or not, Adam had just won over the romantic in Clare, and, I had to admit, it could be fun. No matter what, I was sticking with my friends on this one.
Whoo! New personal longest, baby!
So, what do you think, was this worth the wait? Did you like what I did, or did you hate it. I won't mind if you did, just let me know. =)
Thank you all for reading; you're amazing.
So- I have this major project from school that I have to get done, so I won' be getting the second half of this up until after this coming Friday. I know, it's a long-ish wait, and I'm sorry. I hope this can tie you over until then!