Finally! The final chapter. I hope you guys like it. Thanks for sticking around until the end. I know it was a little rough in the middle but we made it! I really like this, so I'm hoping the rest of you do too. Enjoy :)
"I love you." a soft voice whispered, waking Eli from his slumber. A smile graced his lips for only a brief second before he realized that there was something off. Something didn't seem right. The voice that had whispered in his ear was not that of Clare's but that of Julia's. His eyes flashed open instantly, and the first thing he saw was her jet black hair. It fell in front of her face and tangled around his arm where her head laid. It fell across the pillow like the trees of a leafless tree, strangling the soft white material of the pillow case. His heart beat quickened as he pulled back and a gasp fell from his lips. The fabric where her head sat had been colored a brilliant red, stretching out towards him. He yanked back his arm only to find that it too had been covered in the warm red liquid. Shock only took him over more as he pulled back the blankets and watched what he recognized as blood spread out across the cover as if it was pouring out of her body, making it's way towards him fast. There's too much. He thought as his entire body froze with fear. He looked back at Julia, laying lifeless as the blood oozed around her still body. He choked, and just as it was about to reach him, threatening to cover him…
Eli woke with a gasp. His body was warm and covered in a thin sheet of sweat but his breaths were quick like his heart.
It was only a nightmare. He thought to himself. It had been a while since he'd last had one but he'd forgotten just how truly horrible they were. Somehow, he managed to catch his breath and as he did, he looked at Clare beside him. She was real, the dream hadn't been. He felt total relief as he rolled over to face her. The sun gleamed through the window, bathing them in sunlight as it hit their pale bodies, casting and ethereal glow. Eli studied the girl laying beside him. The way the sun made her skin shine stopped his heart. It was like an angel was laying beside him. And though his translucent milky skin cast the same soft glow, no one would ever have mistaken him for an angel. He had fallen a long time tried to fight back a yawn, afraid of any slight move that may have woken Clare but the natural urge won. Realizing then that she was in too deep a sleep to wake, he brought his fists to his face and rubbed his tired eyes. What makeup had been left over from the previous days smudged, darkening the circles around his eyes but he didn't care. The only thought on his mind at this point was the previous night. The thought creeped into his mind and stabbed away at his brain, getting a little deeper inch by inch until it struck him like an axe being swung at full he really been so stupid? He scanned his brain, playing the memory over and over again and felt a painful twinge in his chest. He was confused for the fact that his stomach twisted in agony though is heart soared and he felt like a complete idiot, but at the same time he couldn't remember ever feeling happier.
His chest thumped rapidly against his ribcage, soaring with glee and for the first time in a long time he felt completely alive. It was so clearly there in his chest, vibrant in it's happiness but his stomach didn't let up once from his guilty the cheerful feeling he so obviously felt, the sickening feeling topped it, winning over his mind in the case of right and and Clare had sex. There was no getting around that fact. He had stolen her innocence and now, she was bound to him stuck with him in whatever way was toxic for her health and he knew that. Either way he would end up hurting her, he knew that to be true and panic filled him at the thought. He had never wanted to hurt her. From the first time her brilliant blue eyes had met his, he knew that not one single atom in him could ever handle hurting her and yet it was all he seemed to do. Step after step he left a trail of havoc on her heart. He could feel his chest tighten and the lack of oxygen made his head light. Bile collected in his stomach, gurgling as it fought to rise in his throat as his self loathing took hated himself. There was no getting around that ever he had hated something so deeply that it filled every crack and crevice of him, this was it. He knew then instantly that he was a disgusting, pitiful excuse for a person and his hatred burned bright through him like a powerful house fire set ablaze. There was no stopping it, not even with all the man power in the could he have been so stupid? How could he have been so unbelievably careless?Here was this beautiful, sweet, kind and innocent girl and in one night he had destroyed everything he had been trying so desperately to save. How would she react? Would she hate him completely? He wasn't sure he could handle it, but he was almost sure it would be for the best. Maybe she would leave him then, and quit fighting to win her way back to him. For such a smart girl she had been so incredibly dumb in trusting him or even thinking she wanted anything to do with him. He was sure in one night, he had ruined her completely and her heart would never forgive there he was holding her in his couldn't bare the fact. He didn't deserve her. He didn't deserve to even allow himself to feel a sliver of happiness over the fact that she was sleeping beside him or that he had never felt anything so passionate as he had the night before. His body ached with the sickly feeling and he could feel a dark heavy cloak settle over him. He felt as if he weighed a million pounds and all he wanted to do was fall into the sea, float to the bottom and stay there forever. He could never hurt anyone from down below. Maybe, he thought, that's how it was supposed to be all along. Maybe it was him that was meant to die that night, not Julia and now God was simply punishing him for escaping his fate. It seemed cruel, that he was now thinking of a God he didn't even believe in, though he did believe that if he existed that he would surely give this sort of inhumane punishment. His chest quacked, as did the rest of him and he was afraid his sudden convulsing would wake the tiny girl in his arms. But instead of waking, she rolled over with a small yawn and hugged herself around his chest.
He swallowed hard, trying to fight off his feeling of delight and instead punished himself with the indisputable facts.
Clare had been saving herself until marriage. He was sure of it, but to spite her parents she had given up on that. But deep down he knew that's what she really wanted. She wanted to wait until she had found someone she loved, and that would love her for the rest of their lives. Was he capable of that? He pondered the question for a few moments as he stared at his ceiling and fought off tears. He knew that he loved her. Nothing in the world was more true than that. She had become his everything in the short time they 'd known each other. He couldn't go a day without seeing a glimpse of the blue eyes he'd become so tragically addicted to. He couldn't think of life without hearing her voice or hearing her say his name, but somehow he knew it would be better for her if he never did again.
He was toxic to everything around him. He had fallen so deep into the abyss of this dark life and he was sure he would never resurface. As long as Clare was attached to him in any way possible, she was sure to sink just as he had. There was no hope for him, but there was certainly hope for her. Or at least there had been, until he had blown it all in one night of immeasurable pleasure.
Never in his life had he experienced anything even remotely close to how he had felt with Clare the night before. He could remember feeling in ways he'd never felt before and was sure he'd never feel again with anyone but her.
But how could he be so sure that he could stay with her forever? He couldn't even go a day without wanting to wash away all of his feelings, without wanting to escape from the world. So who was to say he would never want to escape from her? Who's to say he wouldn't drag her down so deep that she herself would never resurface again? What would he ever do if she ended up like Julia? The thought made him sick and he had to close his eyes tightly to fight off the feeling of nausea that swarmed over him. He couldn't do it. He refused to do this to her and even the slightest chance possible that he could made him physically sick.
So he thought of the only logical thing he could do.
For a moment he did nothing but watch her sleeping face. So calm and peaceful. It was hard to believe such a beautiful, gentle girl had caused so much trouble in his life. But what was harder for him to believe was that such a small person had effected him so deeply. Just a few months prior she had come into his life and completely turned it around without even really trying. He watched as she removed her body from his and rolled over. He watched even still as her back move up and down while she breathed slow and steady breaths. His chest ached for him to touch her, to caress her soft skin but he didn't dare. How could he allowed this to happen? He wasn't going to lie and say that the previous night wasn't one of the best he'd ever had. She was beautiful, perfect to him and so was the moment. Clare was perfect at everything and making love was no exception but he knew it didn't make it right. This was it for them. She would be stuck with him forever and in his eyes that was a fate worse than death. She didn't deserve that. She didn't deserve to be stuck in his life. No matter how hard he tried he knew that he couldn't get away. He was stuck under this permanent dark blanket and she deserved better. He wouldn't let this happen to her. For a few seconds, as he looked at her smile beside him he thought about the concept that maybe they could be happy together. Maybe they could have a future that wasn't doomed like he thought. But for some reason the concept seemed unbelievable to him, completely unrealistic and unable to begged to fill is eyes, stinging them as he looked at her. It shouldn't be like that. He shouldn't feel this way after the previous night. It was everything he felt love should be, and yet he couldn't help but hate himself. He thought about how her life would be with him if he stuck around. He thought about her beautiful blue eyes shaded red, the dark circles that would grow beneath him. He thought about seeing her shake when she needed another fix, freaking out when she needed something in her system. It was all too familiar to his life. The thought killed him but what hurt worse was that he knew that was her future if she was stuck with him. He would never damn her to that. He would never allow such a young and beautiful girl to fall apart at his he brushed her hair from her face and whispered softly in her ear with a shaky voice and even shakier hands.
"I know it's terrifying to have your world fall apart around you. I know, I've been there but you'll make it through. You're one of the strongest people I've ever known in my life and if anyone can handle it... it's you."
Without thinking, tears fighting hard as possible to fall from his eyes, he pressed his lips lightly to her head. She only stirred slightly, nuzzling into the pillow with a smile before he whispered, "I love you."
An electric jolt shot thought his body as he slowly pushed himself from his bed, careful not to wake her with his movement.
He knew where it was. He knew how to do it and he knew that he could.
The walk down the hall from his room to his parents was the longest walk he'd ever taken in his life. Seconds seemed like minutes which seemed like hours as he took each step. The sound of his feet as they hit the carpet echoed through his mind, mixed with the sound of his breathing which grew faster and deeper with every inch he progressed. He closed his eyes, trying to hold the courage of what he was about to do. His eyes flickered open as he entered their room, his hand tightened around the cold door knob as he pushed the door gently open and made his way to the drawers that sat across from their king sized bed. Neither of them were home, both of them would have left early for work that day and they'd have no idea of what he was doing, what he was about to do. His moms smile flashed in his mind as he kneeled in front of the piece of wooden furniture. She was beautiful to him, one of the most beautiful woman in the entire world. Would she cry? He hated it when she cried. He always had. His fingers trembled as they ran across the golden handle and he clenched his jaw as he pulled the drawer open. Inside, behind his dad's clean socks and underwear, lay an old shoe box, tattered and dusty from the years it had laid in there untouched. He could make out the shape of finger prints on the lid of the box, covered only with a thinner sheet of dust. As he wiped the dust from the lid, he realized then that he hadn't been breathing and he let out a gust of air that he had been holding in since he'd entered the room. His heart was pounding in his head rapidly and he felt as if each beat was aiding him to move.
Boom. He grabbed the box.
Boom. He stood from the spot he kneeled in.
Boom. He turned for the bed.
Boom. He sat down.
With each boom his heart made, he moved one step closer to his destination. With each boom, his pace quickened just like the drumming in his chest. It wasn't that he hadn't thought about it before, because he had. It was a more constant thought to him than what he would be eating for dinner that day. The shimmering silver of the gun that laid inside the box flashed through his mind at least once every single day but he'd never had the courage to come this far. Not until this moment.
He lifted the lid of the box and saw it. The gun his father had bought when he was younger after someone had broken into the house. The funny thing was, they hadn't actually stolen anything. His family hadn't even known that someone had entered the house until they woke that morning to find the front window broken and the living room thrashed. Pictures laid a strew on the floor, glass shattered across the carpet. Furniture had been turned over, thrust against the wall and scattered about where it hadn't started out but they had never found anything taken. Nothing expensive, nothing with meaning. Nothing at all. They had come in, made a mess of things and then left as if nothing had even happened.
"Why would someone had done such a thing?" His mom had asked as they examined the damage.
But Eli hadn't been worried about that. All he worried about was the fact that none of them had been hurt. Even at the young age of 7 years old, he cared more about his parents than anything else. What would they do once he was gone? Would they cry? How long would it take before they got over it? Would they ever get over it? Eli was their only son, but he wasn't much of a son. No, they had lost him a long time ago. Finishing himself off would only lessen the pain of a lost son they'd been morning now for far too long. He looked back down at the gun. It wasn't loaded but it didn't matter. He knew how to load a gun. It was something his dad had taught him at a young age. Countless hunting trips and the want to solidify his safety made sure of that. He loaded the bullets that had been sitting along side in the box into the gun. He wasn't sure if his heart had stopped or if it was beating so fast that he could no longer feel it. He wasn't scared. To be honest, he was anything but scared. In a sense, he felt relieved. Soon, the pain would stop. Soon the memories would stop, and the aching pain to go on in a life he didn't want to live anymore would stop. All he wanted, was for everything to stop and his key to that achievement was now in his hands, emitting a click that echoed throughout the room as he loaded a round into the chamber. One light pull of the trigger and everything would be over. In slow motion, he brought the gun to his head, pressing the barrel to his temple. But something didn't feel right. He didn't realize until that moment, that his body was shaking. Trembling with his actions and he felt almost nauseous as the cold metal touched his skin.
Do it. A voice in his had spoke, egging him on and he closed his eyes as his finger touched lightly to the trigger. But as he closed his eyes, visions flashed through his mind. His parents, the moment they entered the house, calling out his name they would know something was wrong when he didn't answer. The look on their faces when they entered their room and saw the body of their only son, his brains spattered across their white blanket and walls. His moms blood curdling scream. His dad, the strongest, bravest man he knew would cry. He'd never seen him cry before in his life, and to think that his death would bring upon something like that. The trauma it would cause them, countless sessions in therapy, the money it would cost to try and get over having to scrape their babies corpse from their room. Would he be able to see them from heaven? He chuckled at the thought. Heaven seemed like a nice idea, but he knew it wasn't what would be waiting for him on the other side. No, the act of taking his own life at all would be the deciding factor in that. But either way he knew that the pearly gates wouldn't be smiling wide open once the deed was done. But he'd lived long enough in his own personal hell to know that there wasn't anything that could be worse. He welcomed the thought of the flames that would lick him in greeting, the burning heat would be a warm welcome to the frozen limbo he had been calling his life. The trembling in his arm seemed to settle as he tightened his grip on the gun in his hand. He kept his eyes closed and bit his lip to calm his chattering teeth, trying to find the hidden courage to pull the trigger. Any minute now and it would all be over. He would be over, nothing more than a painful scratch in the memory of the people's life he'd managed to ruined.
He began to count, hoping it would be the initial start to the end.
Do it Eli, do it to numb the pain. Anything's better than the life you've failed to live.
And then, as he thought the final number, her face flashed across in his mind, freezing him from finishing what he'd started. Her vibrant eyes looked right through him, staring him down as if she knew exactly what he was planning on doing. And then she smiled. Her warm, welcoming smile. And with her smile, he felt his body thaw. The frozen ridged feeling he'd felt for a year now faded quickly and he was a puddle of his former self. She was down the hall, sleeping in his bed. Sound asleep, safe from the horrible scene that was being played out where he sat. Would she hear the bang? Would it wake her? Would she hurry down the hall, scared and confused only to see the freshly painted red of his blood spattered around the room? The smoke would be billowing from the freshly fired gun and for the rest of her life she'd go on with that memory in her head. Would it haunt her with nightmares for however longer she walked the earth? Could he handle knowing that he had been the demise of the beautiful girl who now held his heart? The girl who now completely held his heart. Even sitting there barrel to his head, just the thought of her silky golden hair made his heart beat steady and again he was trembling.
Just do it. Do it, don't let her stop you. She doesn't matter. You don't matter. Nothing matters and in a split second everything will be over.
But she did matter.
In that moment, something happened. Eli decided that he wanted to live. Not just for himself, but for the beautiful girl who now stood before him.
Clare was in the doorway, her eyes wide with fear as she looked at the boy with the gun to his head. Her mouth had fallen open in shock and she was frozen to the spot.
"What are you doing?" She cried out painfully as she broke from the door way and hurried to his side. He lowered the gun from his head and slowly sat it back inside of the box, his body now shivering as she yanked it from him and slammed the lid back on tightly.
"I don't know." He cried, he could feel his stomach churning as he clenched his jaw and Clare sat the box on top of the dresser.
"Are you…" she began, breathless though she hadn't been running, "What were you…? How could you…? Eli! Why would you even…"
She couldn't seem to get her words out right, but neither could he. He was in shock of what had almost just happened, he was completely mortified at himself as he stared at the ground and felt the warm stream of tears wash over his face.
Part of him was thankful that she'd interrupted him, if she hadn't he was more than sure he'd be dead in that exact moment. But another part of him hated her for that very fact.
She turned quickly from the dresser and back to him, kneeling before him and placed her hands on each of his cheeks. Neither of them looked well. Dark circles decorated below their eyes, their skin a sickly pale color that wasn't of their own. But Clare's blue eyes were as radiant as ever and they sent a shiver down Eli's spine, and he lost it. All the pain and anguish and fear that had feeling him since the day Julia died fell out of him. He crumbled apart, letting himself feel every emotion he'd locked away and it came crashing out at full force and he began to cry harder than he had in a long time.
"I can't…I can't do this." he choked through his tears, his face red with his cries. He couldn't bring himself to look at her. Instead he stared at the floor in front of him, "You're too good for me Clare."
She felt frozen with fear and her entire body shook with the pain she felt for the poor boy in front of her.
"I'm not good… I'm not a good person. I don't deserve this… to be happy, I don't… I can't feel that… I can't feel happy…" He was coughing now, and sniffing and he hadn't cried as hard as he was in that moment since he was a little kid. Memories of being held in his mothers arms when he'd been hurt or scolded rushed over him. He felt helpless and empty and the darkness was crawling up on him fast.
"Eli, what are you talking about, you do deserve me." She choked back, trying to get him to look at her but his eyes were glued to the ground as he shook his head.
"I'm lethal. I'm like a virus. I'll only destroy you like I do everything else. You are the only good thing that's ever happened to me and I can't… I can't let myself do that to you. I can't hurt you!"
Clare placed her hands tighter to his cheeks, trying to force him to look at her as tears rolled down her own.
"Look at me!" she demanded, "Eli, please just look at me. Just calm down, calm down!"
He sniffed and sputtered, somehow calming himself enough to look her in her tear filled eyes.
"You have to stop this. You have to stop hurting yourself like this. Look at me, I'm here. I'm here and I'm not going anywhere."
"You should!" he cried, "Get out while you can. I don't deserve you-"
"You're right. You don't deserve me. You deserve to be happy. Do I make you happy Eli?"
He grimaced as he nodded, "I can't…."
"Hey." she spoke firmly. She seemed so strong in that moment despite her tears, "Don't do this. Don't try and convince yourself that you don't deserve to be happy. Don't try and convince yourself that you don't deserve me because that isn't your choice. I want you. I want you, and you want me and life should be that simple!"
"But it's not." his eyes moved back to the box on the dressed and his body shook.
"It is." she moved her hands from his face and then took his hands in her own, "Look Eli, it is."
He looked back at her, silent.
"And what about when you're not? What about when I drive you away, or drive you mad? I'll ruin you Clare, just like I ruined Julia."
"You didn't ruin her Eli, you both destroyed each other. The only difference is that you've gotten a second chance. You didn't kill her, she killed herself and you had nothing to do with it. You have to stop blaming yourself because… because…" She stopped, too choked up to continue but his eyes held hers desperately, waiting for her to continue. It took her a moment, but she finally found the small shrivel of strength to say what she needed to say.
"I can't keep walking in to you with the gun to your head. What do you expect me to do if the next time…if I come in too late? Why would you ever do that to me?"
He didn't speak.
"You'd do the same thing to me that Julia did to you?""It's different. You don't need me. You shouldn't have to carry this burden!"
"You would be putting the burden on me Eli. Because if I lost you right now… I would be just like how Julia left you… broken."
He stayed silent, his tears calmed but his heart still raced. He felt weak, but her hands held him there.
"I can't handle this…" he choked.
"You can Eli, I know you can. You're so much stronger than you think. You're so much stronger than the easy way out. I need you here. I love you."
Her words shook him. He looked back into her eyes and wished he could stop his own crying but there was no use.
"There's nothing for me anymore. I mean look at you... everything good that comes into my life, I ruin."
"Nothing left for you?" She asked softly, "What about me?"
He shook his head.
"You love me Eli, I know you do. You don't… share the sort of passion we shared last night without being completely in love."
Her words sent a spiraling feeling of loathing over him and he tried not to let the painful crushing feeling take him over.
"Do you know what I was thinking last night, while I was laying beside you listening to you breath?"
She watched him, knowing he wouldn't reply but he seemed to calm so she went on.
"I was wondering if you'd still love me in the morning."
He closed his eyes and pulled away but she held him there.
"But I didn't have to think long, because something in me told me that you would. You would still love me in the morning, and the next morning and the one after that. Just like I'll always feel the same for you. I don't want to wake up in the morning without you Eli, not anymore. Not ever again."
Without a single word, he pulled her into him and held her tightly against his body. She wrapped her arms around him just as tightly in return, holding him as if she was afraid to ever let go. He could feel her heart beat against him and something inside of his body changed in an instant. She had been right. He still loved her, even more so than he had the night before, and twice as more as the night before that. He wasn't sure now if he was able to ever not love the girl he was holding in his arms. She was his, and he was hers and nothing would ever change that. Not all the drugs or illegal substances in the world. Not even a bullet to the head.
He pressed his lips to hers and kissed her with enough passion to last them a lifetime, a lifetime he planned on living right at her side. He wasn't sure how or why it happened, but before either of them could say another word or make another move their lips were pressed together in a feverish kiss. He'd never kissed anyone like he kissed Clare in that moment. It was as if he couldn't get enough, as if he couldn't put enough energy into it and as if he never wanted it to end. His hands held her waste tightly, as if he loosened it she would float away but she didn't care. Because she was kissing him back just as hard. Before either of them knew it, he was leading her back down the hall and to his room, leaving the memory of what had just happened in the past.
If he was going to endure this shitty world, he was going to do it with her and do every single thing in his power to never hurt her ever again. They had walked away from each other for the last time and he would make sure of it. For the rest of their lives they'd walk side by side.
Because he loved her, and nothing had ever been, or would ever be, more true than that.
Eli spent that weekend in bed with Clare. Neither of them spoke a word of what had happened that morning. His parents never learned of it nor did they bother to two as they held each other in his room, not bothering to move from beneath the sheets if it wasn't completely necessary. They slept a good 32 hours without any fault. The heavy blankets on the windows helped them lose focus on time and Alli covered for Clare, saying she was staying with her. Randomly, Eli would wake up and gaze at the sleeping face of the girl beside him. He'd brush her hair from her face, admiring her beauty. He'd press his fingers to her chest, feeling her heart beat as a worried reminder that she was real. That she was there with him and she was in fact alive. She had saved his life and he couldn't decide yet whether he was grateful or bitter. But he didn't dwell on the thought, instead he took comfort in the feeling of her warm body against his and she held him as his body shook, convulsing with his withdrawals for the substances his body so desperately wanted. She held him through his sickness, through his cries and kissed him when he felt pain. He wanted to divulge back into the darkness that tugged at his feet but she held him above it and he loved her all the more.
She was real. They were real and his chest shook at the thought. The feeling caught him off guard. It was something he hadn't felt in a long time. Something unfamiliar but something his mind seemed to welcome. Even more, it was something it ached for. Something he hadn't felt in over a year of his currently numbed life. It was happiness. He tried to fight back the smile that graced his lips as he wrapped his arms around the girl on his chest. All the thoughts, all the feelings and pain and disaster his life had been was slowly fading away thanks to the girl that had saved him. His life may have been poison, but she had turned out to be his antidote. The warmth of happiness surrounded him, and for the first time in in a long time, he let himself feel it.