If you are an old reader of mine, welcome back. This is going to be totally different than what you're used to from me. It's been weird for me to step out of Eli's head for a while, and into Clare's for a change, but at least give the story a try. You might end up hating it, but I'd be okay with that.
It's just that this idea just started bouncing around in my head, and I couldn't get past it. Seriously, I can't focus on my other stories because this one has lodged itself into my brain. So, I decided to give it a chance. I know it's cliché, but bare with me.
By the way, I don't own Degrassi.
So, in this story Eli hasn't happened. Neither has Holly J. I know, it's not a desirable start, but I can't get the need to tell this story out of my head. It's the beginning of Clare's sophomore year, and Sav is a senior. Sav has just won the presidential election. I think that's all the important specifications. Here goes:
You know those movies that are based on the premise that you fall in love with the most unlikely people? The ones that write characters to believe that they weren't in love till the last moment; that the thing they were feeling was hatred, or, perhaps, friendship.
I hate those movies.
But, it turns out, I was living one.
I used to watch those hokey romantic comedies and think to myself, 'Please, like people don't notice when they fall in love. Could they have made this girl any denser?'
If I had been paying attention to the actual movie, and not complaining about the lack of strong female characters in today's society, I would have noticed the signs, and probably wouldn't have been caught off guard, as I was, by my feelings.
Should have, could have, and would have- right?
"Hey, Clare," my best friend Alli raced up to my locker. The final bell had rung a few minutes ago, and the weekend was about to begin. I nodded at Alli, and focused back on the task of shoving all the books I would need to do my homework into my bag. It was only the first week of school, and I was already feeling painfully overworked. I loved school, but sometimes the homework seemed excessive. Did they not give us enough work to do in class?
"Earth to Clare," Alli's annoyed tone brought me back to the crowded hallway.
"I'm sorry, did you say something?" I asked, feeling horrible for missing it in the first place. I loved Alli to death, but sometimes she rambled, and I had a horrid habit of tuning her out.
Alli sighed, exasperated. "Yes, I asked you if you wanted to sleep over tonight. My parents already told me I could have you over."
"Yeah, of course I'd love to, but I have to check with my parents first."
Alli nodded, having already anticipated this response. "Sav's waiting in the car so we can stop by your house. You can ask, and then we can unwind from this ridiculous week back at school together. I have so much to talk to you about!"
"When don't you have a lot to talk about?" I asked her, a smile breaking across my face.
"You know me so well," Ali said, returning my smile. "Now, come on- I don't want to keep Sav waiting. He's doing me a favor."
"Of course," I said, hoisting my bag onto my shoulder. I loved the Bhandari family; they always treated each other with the utmost respect. I was happy to know that their family included me as well. Mrs. Bhandari was constantly reminding me that I was her third child.
Alli and I pushed out of the front doors, scanning for the car. I spotted Sav's mom's tiny Malibu, and headed toward it, pulling Alli along with me. The Bhandari's wouldn't let Sav get a car of his own, but he used Mrs. Bhandari's car more than she did.
"Hello, ladies," Sav greeted us as I slipped into the back set and Alli claimed shotgun. "How was your Friday?"
"Long," Alli sighed dramatically.
"Intriguing," I replied, overlapping Alli's response.
"Yeah, why's that?" Sav asked, ignoring Alli and glancing at me in the rearview mirror.
"All the teachers seem genuinely happy to be teaching their subject, the subject matter is new and exciting, and I have Dawes for English. I heard she's big on the creative writing aspect, and I can't wait to sink my teeth into new prompts and ideas."
Both Bhandaris turned to gape openly at me- Sav only for a moment since he was driving; Alli for much longer. I shifted uncomfortably under her scrutiny. Sav had asked me a question, and I had answered. Was that so weird?
"Are you sure you're only a sophomore in high school?" Sav asked; a hint of seriousness lurked behind his playful tone.
I blushed. "Unfortunately…yes."
"Aww, don't say that," Sav said, "High school can be some of the best years of your life."
"Yeah, because they have worked out so well for you so far," Alli joked, but through the rearview mirror I could see the genuine hurt flash across his face. Alli always meant well, but sometimes she forgot to think before she opened her mouth. If I had to guess, and I knew both Sav and Alli well enough for my guess to be credible, Sav was thinking about Anya.
Anya had been Sav's girlfriend for most of high school. He had really loved her, but because of his faith he was bound to an arranged marriage. Sav and Anya just couldn't seem to make their relationship work, and it seemed that Sav was still coming to terms with that.
"Well, I was just elected president, so hopefully things will go better for me this year." I admired his determination.
"Of course they will," I chirped from the backseat, hoping I had some way of making sure my words held true. If anyone deserved to catch a break it was Sav; he was such a sweetheart. Sav was the older brother I never had. He turned back to smile at me after pulling up alongside the curb. "I'll be right back," I assured them both before hopping out of the car.
Alli got out as I opened my front door. "I'm joining you. We can pack your stuff easier with four hands."
I laughed. "I can't argue with that logic." We both slipped into the house, and immediately headed for the kitchen. My mom usually had a snack waiting for me when I got home from school, so we assumed that we would find her in there. "Hey mom," I greeted her, "something smells delicious."
"I made you some cheese quesadillas," My mom came over to kiss me on the cheek. "Hello, Alli. How's your mom."
"She's great, thanks for asking," Alli replied. "Speaking of my mom, she said it would be okay for me to have a slumber party. Can I steal Clare for the night, please?"
My mom slid the quesadillas out of the oven, and smiled at Alli and me. "I don't see any problem with that. I'll just make these up to go, and you girls can go pack."
"Thanks, mom," Alli and I said in unison, and then erupted into giggles. Alli and I ran up the stairs, and I pulled out my overnight bag. I shoved some PJ's, clothes for the next morning, and my toothbrush into the bag, as well as some other essentials, and slung it over my shoulder.
"I think I have everything," I muttered, spinning in circles just to make sure. I always forgot something important when I spent the night at Alli's, and it drove me crazy.
"Of course you do," Alli assured me, practically shoving me out the door. "Our night is ticking away."
"Alli, we're hanging out at your house. I hardly think that's cause for a huge rush."
"Well," Alli began, a smile creeping across her face, "we could always go out and have a little fun, too."
"Yeah and where are your parents going to let us go?" I asked. Like I said, I loved the Bhandari's, but they were really, really strict. It had to do with their faith, but even I, who was a religious person, had to admit that there was a line you crossed eventually. They had basically planned out Alli and Sav's lives, and I always found it unfair.
"There are ways of working around them," Alli said, swatting away my concern with her hand. I rolled my eyes and started down the stairs. "Oh," Alli squeaked as we reached the bottom. "Do you mind if I change here?"
"Why would I mind?" I asked her, "You know where to find the bathroom."
Alli raced to the front door where she had dropped her bag before shooting into the bathroom. Because her parents were super conservative, Alli tried to keep her style of dress from their knowledge. Alli loved the super girly short skirts and lots of bright, bold colors. I, on the other hand, enjoyed a more refined style of dress.
A few minutes later Alli emerged from my bathroom in sweats. "Does that ever get tiring?" I asked her. It was something that Alli and I talked about often, but she was pretty stubborn about keeping up the 'double-life' pretense.
"Yeah, but it's totally worth it," Alli told me. I shook my head, but dropped the subject.
Alli went to the car to let Sav know I'd be out in a minute, and I went to the kitchen to say goodbye to my mom. "I love you. I'll see you tomorrow," I told her, as she placed the container of quesadillas in my hand. "Have a nice night with dad."
My mom's smile wavered for just a moment, but she quickly composed it once again. "I don't think your dad is coming home tonight. He's working." There was a slight edge in her tone that made me flinch.
"Oh, okay. Well, I'll, um, call to say goodnight," I told her, quickly giving her a kiss in the cheek before heading out to the car. "Weird," I muttered under my breath. My dad had been working with increased frequency for a few weeks now. For some reason it was making me uneasy. Or, more accurately, my mom's reaction to it was making me uneasy.
"Is everything okay, Clare?" Alli asked as I slipped back into the car. "You look like you just got punched in the gut."
"Thanks," I muttered sarcastically, still lost in thought.
"Alli," Sav scolded.
"What?" She asked earnestly, "I'm a concerned friend."
Sav rolled his eyes. "You never cease to amaze me."
"So, quesadillas anyone?" I asked them, offering the Tupperware container to Alli. I figured food would be the best way to get Sav off Alli's case, and Alli off of mine.
"Oh, don't mind if I do," Alli said, grabbing a slice and taking a big bite. "Your mom's cooking is the best."
"Thanks, Clare" Sav took the slice that I handed him so he wouldn't have to take his eyes off the road.
They ate, and all was quiet. I leaned back against the upholstery, satisfied, and closed my eyes. I tried not to think too hard about my mom and dad.
After a few comfortable moments we had reached the Bhandari house, and Sav carefully parked the car on the curb. I was the first to slip out, and walk into the house. It wasn't like I was a legitimate guest, so I didn't have to wait for anyone to invite me in. Alli was close on my heels, and after we greeted her mom, we ran up to Alli's room. I collapsed on her bed immediately.
"Rough week at school; or, perhaps, does it have something to do with the look on your face when we left your house?" Alli stood at the foot of her bed, arms crossed.
"I plead the 5th," I said evasively.
"Clare, we don't live in the States. You can't plead the 5th."
"Then let's move to the States so I can," I said stubbornly, refusing to talk. Alli stuck her tongue out at me, and I was quick to reciprocate.
With an annoyed sigh Alli collapsed on her bed next to me. "Why won't you tell me what happened?"
"Because I don't even know if anything did happen," I told her honestly.
After a moment of consideration Alli relented. "Fine, I'll let you off easy this time. But only because I think we should start planning our night," She sat up excitedly, a huge grin illuminating her features. I simply groaned. Even on my best days I had a hard time going along with Alli's elaborate plans. I was much more of a 'curl-up-with-a-good-book-and-stay-in-all-night' kind of girl while Alli liked to seek out trouble at any chance she got. "Come on, Clare," Alli urged. "I heard the football game is going to be a real nail-biter tonight."
"Alli, don't pretend for one second that you want to go to the football game because you want to watch the game. We both know you would be too busy watching a guy on the team. Who is it?"
"Am I that transparent?" Alli asked, shocked.
I raised my eyebrows at her. "Are you really asking that?"
"Fine," Alli started to gush, "The new quarterback, Drew Torres, is totally adorable. He's the perfect balance of beautiful and rugged, and…"
Alli continued, and I listened as best I could. I nodded, gasped, and 'ahh'ed at all the appropriate places. Alli seemed particularly star struck for this Drew character, so the least I could do for her was go to one measly social even. Unfortunately, I was never really comfortable at football games. They were too loud, for one. Not to mention all the kids there were obnoxious and futile. I just never fit in. Whenever I was dragged to one I would bring a book along. But Alli was worth it. Besides, I needed to scope out Drew. Last year I had a bad feeling about Jonny, Alli's old fling, and I hadn't really done anything to prevent Alli from making the mistakes she did. But I wasn't going to let that happen again.
"So," I said once Alli was done going on, "what time does the game start?"
"Really, Clare! You're the best," Alli threw her arms around me, and her raven hair created a dark curtain around me, blocking out the rest of the world. For a second, I missed my long hair, and its ability to shield me if I needed it to. But I didn't regret cutting it off; new year, new Clare was my mantra, and I was sticking by it.
"Sure," I smiled at her, pulling away. "How are we getting there?"
"I'll go ask Sav," Alli told me excitedly, "Mom will definitely be okay with it if we're going with him." Alli grabbed my hand and pulled me to Sav's bedroom door with her. I had only been in Sav's room once in all the times I had been over their house. It always seemed strange to me that Alli just waltzed in whenever she felt like- it was a breach of privacy. "Sav, open up," Alli called out, knocking on his door.
Sav's door swung open a moment later, and he narrowed his eyes at Alli. "What do you want?" he asked suspiciously.
"What makes you think I want something?" Alli feigned innocence.
"Because you and Clare are standing outside my bedroom door; it's Friday night, and Clare looks nervous."
I blushed lightly. I hadn't thought my face was such an open book, but then again Sav did know me better than most people.
"Fine, I want something," Alli admitted. "Are you going to the football game tonight?"
"I didn't plan on it. Why?"
"Because if you take us to the game…and stay with us, mom will let me go. Pretty please?" Alli batted her eyelashes at her brother.
It was clear that Sav really didn't want to say yes, but he was really too nice of a person to deny Alli unless he had a good excuse for it. He sighed, and I could practically see his resistance snap in half like an abused pencil. Crack!
"Fine, let's go clear it with mom."
"Thanks Sav! You are my favorite brother ever!"
"Alli, I'm your only brother," he rolled his eyes at her, but a smile bloomed over his features as Alli shrieked and ran to give him a hug.
I just stood off to the side, enjoying their sibling moment with a bittersweet hint of jealousy. The Bhandari's were like family, but they weren't my actual family. I missed Darcy. She was always writing me letters from Africa, but I missed her hugs. As different as we were she always stood up for me, and it was comforting to have her around for my first year of high school.
I waited in Alli's room as her and Sav went to ask their parents' permission to go out. I usually did wait off to the side when Alli asked her parents for anything because I always felt weird being in the middle when they said no. It just felt like I was invading some kind of parent-child code.
After a few minutes had passed Alli rushed back into the room, "They said we could go!" Alli started to shove an outfit in her purse so she could change out of the sweats once we got to the game.
"Alli, we're going to a football game, not a fashion show," I reminded her when I spotted the colorful skirt she had picked out.
"It's all the same to me," Alli winked at me. I looked down at what I was wearing- jeans and a solid blue shirt with a grey zip-up hoodie over top. I had thought we were staying in for the night, but the outfit was fine for a sporting event. The blue was even Degrassi's school color, so I was set.
I reached into my bag and pulled out the book I was currently reading- Jay Asher's 13 Reasons Why. "I'm ready to go," I announced proudly. Alli eyed the book with scorn. "I'm going with you, aren't I?" I reminded her.
She sighed. "Clare, you're never going to find someone with your nose constantly stuck in books."
"Alli," I said, matching her exasperated tone, "I found KC last year, remember? It didn't exactly work out well. I want to focus on myself this year- no boys for me."
Alli's jaw dropped open dramatically as if I had just told her I was planning on going for a year without eating. "Are you serious?"
"No, I really want to find another great catch like KC. Yes, I'm serious," I replied sarcastically.
"Fine, we'll talk about that later," Alli promised ominously before grabbing my arm and pulling me out into the hallway. Sav was sitting on the top step, already ready to go. He was scrolling through his iPod, mouthing the words to whatever song was playing. The sight made me chuckle.
Alli walked right up to him and pulled an ear bud out so she could talk to him with a chance that he might actually hear. "Are you ready to go?" She asked pointedly.
"Of course, right this way," Sav gestured down the stairs, "your limo awaits."
"You're such a goofball," I said, smiling at him as I passed.
"Is that a good thing?" he asked me, returning the smile.
"In Clare's book, probably," Alli answered for me, "but not in any other girl's."
"Remember Alli, Sav is doing us a favor," I chastised her.
"I knew there was a reason I liked Clare," Sav laughed, holding the front door open for Alli and me. I decided it would be best to leave that comment unanswered.
When we arrived at the game Alli immediately kicked Sav and me out of the car to stand guard as she changed. After several minutes, and some very painful sounding bumps, Alli knocked on the door, signaling us to move so she could get out. Sav and I stepped to the side and Alli slipped out of the car looking surprisingly put together considering the racket she had made while changing.
We paid, and slipped onto the stadium. Sav went off to find some of his own friends, and Alli and I made our way to the top of the bleachers that were set up. After one quarter had passed, Alli started complaining about how she couldn't see well.
"Then go get closer," I told her. It seemed like a simple enough solution to me.
"And leave you here alone?" Alli seemed upset by the idea, and I was touched that she hadn't moved because she thought it would hurt my feelings, or something.
However, I held up my book. "I think I can manage. I'll be here, in this exact spot, at the end of the game. Go, watch, enjoy," I commanded, and Alli happily obeyed.
In the last quarter I felt someone sit down beside me. I couldn't take my eyes off the book, though. The plot was so original and fast-paced that it seemed like a crime to stop even for a second.
"How do you read with all this noise and chaos around you?" Sav asked, yelling into my ear.
Reluctantly, I tore my eyes away from the page. "If the plot is interesting enough I can become oblivious in any situation. It's a real talent," I joked.
Sav laughed. "It's pretty fascinating to watch, actually. That guy over there," Sav pointed to a man a few seats, "almost spilled his drink all over you, and you didn't even bat an eye."
I blinked. How long had Sav been watching me? I suddenly felt very self-conscious. "Well," I guess I'm lucky that he didn't."
Sav nodded in agreement. After he didn't say anything else for a few minutes I turned my attention back to my book. As soon as I had plunged back in, though, Sav spoke up again. "Where is Alli?"
I looked down toward the field, noticing Alli on the sidelines right away. She was the only person wearing high heels and a skirt. "Right there," I pointed, allowing him to follow my gaze.
"She left you up here alone?"
"I encouraged it, actually. I'm not very good at being social."
Sav laughed. "We wouldn't have you any other way."
"Thanks," I smiled at him, and then returned to my book.
After the game ended Sav and I hung out on the bleachers, watching Alli talk to Drew from afar. I had to admit, he was a good looking kid, but I would have to meet him in person soon. I didn't really feel like it at the moment, though. Not to mention, I didn't want Alli's socially awkward friend ruining her chances with this guy. She seemed to really like him.
"How long do you think she's going to take?" Sav asked, breaking my inner monologue.
"If she's not done in the next five minutes I think we should drag her out of here kicking and screaming," I decided.
"Good plan," Sav smiled, and we shook on it. Alli always dragged the two of us on outings that ended with us hanging off to the side, waiting to go home, while she was a social butterfly. Sav and I had started to make bets on how long it would take her to finish up, and it kind of stuck.
With thirty seconds to spare Alli climbed the bleachers toward us. "Thanks for waiting guys. I owe you one." That was Alli's standard speech. Sav and I could repeat it word for word if we so desired. Not that it was hard to remember, but we had certainly heard it more than enough times.
"No problem," Sav yawned, "Let's get home before Mom and Dad freak."
As Alli changed back into her sweats, I called my mom to say goodnight. She didn't answer the phone, so I assumed she was asleep. I left her a message, hoping it would greet her in the morning.
Alli actually fell asleep on the short ride back to her house. The funny thing with Alli was that she was always so energetic and ready to socialize, but once 10:30 came around she was out like a light.
Sav gently shook her awake when we got home, and I aided her up the stairs and into her room. I changed into my striped pajama bottoms and tank top as Alli simply curled up in bed. "Thank you Clare. You're going to have to meet Drew soon. He's amazing," she grumbled sleepily.
"As soon as possible," I agreed, crawling into bed beside her. "Now go to bed. You're exhausted." Alli 'mhmm'ed in response before her breathing became deep and even.
I stared at Alli's ceiling for a few hours, begging sleep to come, but it didn't. Unfortunately I had developed this nasty habit of not sleeping a few months ago; I just couldn't get my brain to shut up.
I rolled onto my side so I could check the clock: two in the morning. I sighed, knowing I wasn't going to be getting much sleep tonight. As silently as possible I slipped out of Alli's bed trying not to jostle her. From my bag I grabbed my journal, something I brought with me nearly everywhere, and made sure my pen was tucked inside it.
I decided I would work downstairs because I could turn on a light without disturbing anyone. I slowly descended the stairs- avoiding all the creaky spots. Even though it wasn't my house I knew them all perfectly, so my trip down the stairs was silent.
I tiptoed my way into the living room only to find Sav there watching TV nonchalantly. If I didn't know any better walking into this scene I would have sworn it was midday. Something told me this wasn't a new thing for Sav either.
"Clare, is that you?" Sav asked, squinting through the darkness. The colors from the television were playing off his tan skin, but I was hidden in shadow.
"How did you know it was me?" I asked, walking forward to join him on the couch.
"Because my family loves sleep, and they never miss it. That only leaves you."
I nodded, knowing that Alli could be very grouchy if she did not get a full night's sleep. I hugged my journal to my chest, undecided as to whether I was happy to have company, or sad to not have the freedom to write. "What's keeping you up?" I whispered, wondering if that was too personal of me to ask. While Sav and I were comfortable around each other, and he was like my big brother, we avoided any meaningful conversation. Our only link, really, was Alli.
"Anya," Sav answered simply. I guess my question hadn't bothered him- good.
"I'm sorry," I said, meaning it. Sav's relationship with Anya had been so up and down that, had I been a part of such an emotional rollercoaster, I wouldn't have been able to sleep either.
"Can I take a stab at why you're up?" Sav asked for permission, turning to look me in the eye.
I met his gaze unwaveringly. "Stab away," I allowed.
"Does it have anything to do with KC?" Sav asked, a knowing smile crossing his face.
I knew Alli and Sav were close, but had she really told him about that? Not that it really mattered. Degrassi wasn't a small school, but it wasn't big either; gossip tended to spread. "Yes and no," I answered him, trying to be truthful.
Sav's featured clouded over with confusion. "Care to elaborate?" He requested.
"It's more of a habit these days," I started to explain. "My body is simply used to the lack of sleep; of staying up into the wee hours of the night. However, if I'm being honest with myself, it started because of KC. So, I stand by my answer- yes and no."
Sav frowned. "I wish I could say the same. Unfortunately, I'm wallowing in self-pity. You seemed to have moved on nicely."
"I'm better off without him," I shrugged. I had come to terms with that at the beginning of summer. "You, on the other hand, have a right to be upset. Don't get me wrong, there will come a time when you should move on, but for now it's understandable that you're not over Anya yet. I mean, you loved her. And it's not like you didn't work for a long time to try to save your relationship. I know it sounds cheesy, but you guys just weren't meant to be. Hopefully someday soon you'll be able to see that."
My motivational speech was greeted by a gaze of amazement. "Sometimes…it's really hard to believe you're fifteen- especially when you offer insight like that."
"Sometimes, I don't feel fifteen," I admitted. Sitting here in the dark with Sav somehow made it easier to talk freely with him. Darkness allowed people to shed their false appearances and become a faceless voice; being in the dark obviously made me fearless because, had it been light, I would have never said what I said next out loud. "You're the sweetest guy I know, Sav. And I'm not just saying that. Like how you took Alli and me to the game earlier even though you didn't plan on going anywhere…you really didn't have to, but you did it anyway. I don't know anyone who can match you in compassion. I'm happy to have you in my life. And I hope, someday, you can find a girl who feels the same way."
After a few minutes of silence I shifted uncomfortably. Had I said too much; made him uncomfortable?
Finally, Sav spoke. "Wow, Clare. Thank you. That was…really sweet of you to say. And, strangely, it was exactly what I needed to hear. I'll have to thank Alli for picking you as a best friend." The mood shifted from intense to light hearted with Sav's comment. He got up and stretched. "I think I should at least try to get some rest. I'll see you in the morning." Before Sav left the room, he ruffled my hair. A strange jolt zapped through my body. "By the way, I like your hair better this way. Goodnight."
And, with that, Sav left me alone in the dark. A blush rushed to my cheeks, leaving my entire body warm, but cold at the same time. I had no idea why his touch had merited such a strange reaction out of me, but one thing was for sure: I didn't have a prayer of sleeping a wink tonight.
It's different, I know. You might totally hate it, and that's fine. But let me know if it seems like utter crap to you. I will value your opinion no matter what.
Also, I'd like to disclaim that I am 100% an EClare fan. Really, I am. Like I said, this idea just wedged itself into my thoughts, so I had to give it the proper light.
Thanks for reading, guys. =)