It was the name calling, the finger pointing, the assumptions and unclear words that drove Clare up the wall. It was like they weren't even talking to each other. These words were being shot across the room at an ear-piercing volume and nobody was really paying attention to them. After all, they were just words.
Clare had learned early on that words were meaningless. People could say one thing and do another; as a matter of fact, that's usually what happened. In all her sixteen years of less than glorious times, she'd noticed that promises were just pretty words stringed together to make naïve people spill secrets and break hearts. When her family was going through dark times, it was because her older sister Darcy had failed to keep a promise and gotten herself in trouble. When she gave the new girl a chance at being her friend freshman year, she was stabbed in the back when said new girl stole her boyfriend. Words were words. Actions spoke a whole lot louder.
Lying in her bed, Clare glanced at the clock on her nightstand, doing anything she could to block out the sounds coming from the bedroom down the hall. In a bright red, her alarm clock told her it was a quarter to midnight. Any other school night, she'd be fast asleep by now. Early bird gets the worm, her mother told her at an early age when Clare would beg for another fifteen minutes added onto her eight o'clock bedtime. But her mind was racing as she stared at her ceiling and bit the inside of her cheek.
She needed a distraction. Sitting up in bed, her floral print comforter still resting on her legs, she looked around her room for something, anything to stop her thoughts. She saw books amongst books scattered about. But all of them had been read once, some even twice, and she never could focus properly on a story if she knew what was going to happen. She leaned down to grab her school bag, thinking she could do some homework, maybe work on some essays that were due weeks later, but she stopped herself when she realized she had already done them all. Groaning, she flopped back onto her bed, resting her head back on her salmon pink pillows.
The fighting stopped. The words drowned out and it wasn't long before Clare heard her father's heavy footsteps going down the stairs. She sighed, closing her eyes and thinking to herself, 'Yet another night on the couch.'
She was going crazy. It was never-ending yells of desperation that no one would hear, it was pleading looks of help that no one would see, it was nervous, negative thoughts that even she didn't want to think anymore. Clare was tired of the circle that had become her life. She needed something new. She needed a way to finally make her parents listen.
Her eyes reopened as an idea crossed her mind. Was it too risky? Was it too much? She rolled her eyes at her hesitance. Second-guessing was something she excelled at. If there was one thing she felt she could never be, it was spontaneous. Clare always took the safe road; planning, organizing and making sure of every detail so that nothing could ever go wrong. She realized that it sucked the fun out of everything in her life. She got out of her bed, tossing off the covers as she mumbled to herself in her dark bedroom, "Not anymore."
Walking over to her desk, she picked up her charging cell phone and went directly to her contacts. Adam, Alli, Angela, Anya, Ashley, Bianca, Blue, Bruce, Chantay, Connor, Craig, Dad, Danny, Dave, Declan, Drew, Eleanor. Her heart skipped a beat when the next name was highlighted and the number came onto the screen.
She glanced at the clock; maybe it was too late to do this, maybe he was asleep. There was one minute until midnight. She bit her lip; she knew he was awake, possibly writing, possibly reading a comic. He always stayed up late into the night. Sitting down in her small, purple computer chair, she stared at her phone screen with her finger on the big, green button. Who was she kidding? She was condemned to her title – Saint Clare. Always following the rules, always listening to what her elders say, always keeping her mouth shut no matter how much she wanted to just scream.
She looked out the window, feeling so small and pathetic. She couldn't even get herself to believe that she could change for the better. How was she supposed to get the rest of the world to think more of her if she knew she was stuck in this bubble? The stars shone bright through her open blinds as she thought. But a voice came, breaking her out of her miserable state of mind.
"Clare, are you even there? What, did you sleep call me?"
She looked down at her phone. Her eyes widened when it told her that she was connected to Eli. She must of pressed down on the button at some point, but she couldn't remember when. Still in shock, she brought the phone up to her ear and whispered, "Uh, hi."
"Hello to you, too. Do you what time it is, young lady?" His tone of voice was sarcastic and playful, much like it always was. It calmed her down a little, a smile forming on her face as her toes curled within the knitting of her carpet.
"Midnight, I know. Sorry for calling so late, did I wake you up?" She knew she hadn't, but she wasn't sure what else to say. She wasn't even sure why she had the idea of calling him in the first place. What did she want from him at midnight on a school night? In the back of her mind, the answer was clear, but she wasn't ready to admit it to herself.
"No, no. I was actually just finishing up the short story we had to write for Dawes," He stated nonchalantly. She pursed her lips, rolling her eyes to herself. That was Elijah for you. Doing his work last second and still achieving an A. Clare, on the other hand, was going through a bit of writer's block. She had written that story several times since it was assigned a couple weeks ago. Each time, Eli, her English partner, had given it back, stating the same thing every time. 'It needs more emotion.'
"Procrastinator," She scoffed, looking at her paper that was sitting with all her books on her desk. It was new and freshly printed off. It pained her to write. It was about a girl who was feeling lost within her own mind. She was so used to the conservative way things were but this need for something more had her clueless on what to do. It was hard to say where on Earth Clare got the idea for such a story.
"And proud," He said with a small laugh. She smiled again. His laugh – it was always so care-free. That's one of the things she adored about him. He did what he wanted. Eli never listened to what anyone else had to say. If it wasn't what he was comfortable with, it wasn't worth his time. The dark clothes, the obsession with death, the hearse – that was all proof of his 'mind over authority' type ways. It drew her in, to say the least.
She stayed quiet for a while. She wasn't sure what to say. She was searching for an excuse to tell him when he asked why he called her, but nothing believable was coming to mind. It wouldn't matter anyway – she was a terrible liar and Eli always knew when someone was lying.
"Is something up?" There it was.
"No?" It came out more of a question than an answer. Clare heard it and knew Eli did too. He probably also heard all the underlying self-pity and the fact that Clare was so wide awake, it was more probable that even without this phone call, she'd be doing something else to keep her mind off things that he could only assume – and would be assuming correctly.
Silence passed on his end. She could hear his breathing and her heart began beating faster when he didn't respond. What was he thinking? Was he in the place she was just seconds ago, thinking she was pathetic, caring too much over arguments and things that were bigger than her? She took the phone from her ear to check if he was still on the line, but just as she did, his voice came in clear, "I'll be at your house in ten."
Bringing the cell phone back against her ear, she asked, less shocked than she should have been, "Excuse me?"
"I know you heard me."
"Do you know what time it is?"
"I'm pretty sure we already established that it's midnight."
"I – I don't know. My parents will kill me if they find out I snuck out, much more on a school night. And with a geography test tomorrow?" Clare was freaking out. But it wasn't the idea that scared her. It was the fact that she actually wanted to go through with the plan that actually frightened her.
"That I know you'll ace. Come on, live a little. I know you want to," He taunted. She could practically hear the smirk in his voice. After a pause and a small sigh, she gave in. She knew she'd regret it later, when she was sitting on the couch in the living room being lectured by her parents. But in the moment, it seemed too alluring to pass up. "Awesome. See you soon then."
And with that, he hung up.
What had she just agreed to? Closing her phone shut, she looked around her bedroom. The situation sunk in – it was midnight, on a school night and her boyfriend of roughly a month was coming to her house to help her sufficiently sneak out. This was completely out of character for her. This was crazy, troublesome. This was wrong and yet, exactly what she wanted.
A smile crossed her face when she realized that this was it – this was the beginning to the new Clare. Getting up from her computer chair, she walked over to her closet and picked out a quick outfit. She fluffed up her curls and put on some light make-up. She wanted to look better than she did in the moment, but didn't dare walk into the bathroom to straighten her bangs and add anything else to her face at this hour. She had just finished putting on her flats when she heard the wheels of a car slowly stop in front of her house.
It must have been him, it couldn't have been anyone else, but she still looked out the window and the butterflies still came to her stomach when the unmistakable hearse filled her sight. He was only seconds away from her. She rushed to go pick up her phone but last second decided to go without it. She didn't want anything ruining this for her – especially not her parents.
She snuck out of her bedroom, very slowly and noiselessly closing the door, before creeping down the stairs. Through the entrance of the living room, she saw the glow of the TV and the hum of the title sequence to 'I Dream of Jeannie.' Her heart almost stopped when her dad's body shifted on the couch, but a soft snore brought her still figure back into movement. As quietly as she could, she unlocked the door and opened enough to let herself slide through before closing it behind her. As the damp, cold air of the Toronto night cleared her senses, she turned around and smiled at the silhouette figure leaning against the hood of the car.
She stepped through the already dewy grass, whispering loud enough for him to hear, "And what if my father had heard you pull up and stepped out to see who it was, huh? What would you have done?"
He chuckled a bit as he propped himself up, "I knew he wouldn't have. Something just felt right about tonight; like nothing could stop it."
She smiled at the thought. Nothing could stop it – nothing could stop them being together, happy and free. She looked up into his emerald eyes as he stood before her, his smirk looking ever so inviting. She wanted to kiss him, be embraced by his thin arms that were closed within the fabric of a black and white striped cardigan. But instead she looked away towards Morty, his car, and muttered, "Where are we headed?"
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him swallow before rubbing the back of his neck and regaining his composure. She smirked to herself as her eyes cascaded down the black paint of the ever so popular vehicle – the kids at Degrassi couldn't ever get enough of it.
"I have this spot I've been dying to show you, actually."
"Then what are we waiting for? Let's go," She said eagerly. She shot him an excited smile before walking over to the passenger side of the hearse and getting in. Eli was quick to react, though, following her actions as he got into the driver's side and started the car. "So where is this spot anyway?"
He smirked as he drove off her street and scoffed, "Now if I told you where it was, would that be much of a surprise?"
"I don't like surprises," Clare whined as they came to their first streetlight. Staring at the road, he smiled to himself.
"No, you like surprises. Everyone does. They just don't like them when they only know half the info," He retorted. And of course, he was right. Cynical, but still right. She sighed, giving up instantly. It was no use arguing with him, she knew that much. She looked out the window as they passed by neighborhoods and trees. There weren't many cars around, but she liked the feeling of being the only ones on the road. It almost felt like they were the only ones on the planet in the moment. Almost like truly, nothing could stop them.
"So I'm sure the last thing you want to do is explain to me why you called me at midnight and barely objected to this adventure. But I'm going to ask anyway," Eli broke the silence, his eyes still glued on road. Clare glanced over at him but he didn't look back, just raised his eyebrows to show that he was all ears.
She sighed. There wasn't an excuse in the world that sounded anywhere close to believable, and he already knew the basis of what was going on in the Edwards' home, so she didn't even attempt to sell him some bullshit story. She shrugged and looked back out the window, muttering under her breath, "Parents are arguing again."
"Alright. More than normal. Harsher than normal," She shook her head, looking down at her hands that were resting her lap. "I want them to stop. I really do. And not because it's annoying to hear and not so that they can just make everything back to normal. But because all this arguing isn't even getting anywhere. They're not even talking. They're just shouting. The louder they get, they think the clearer they are. But they're just using vacant words that just vaguely hit the subject. They're going in circles and I'm getting dizzy."
Eli didn't say anything. He pursed his lips but his face was expressionless. Clare let the silence sink in before she finally figured he wasn't going to say anything. In a desperate attempt to fill in the gap after she had just poured everything out, she went on, "They both need to wake up and realize it's not their words that are getting the other angry, it's their actions. My dad's always late to everything, my mom always sets up appointments and events without talking to my father beforehand. And instead of stopping, explaining their feelings about it maturely and listening like adults, they decide it's better if they just snap at each other, making immature comments about each other's characters. But I guess honestly, it's too late to even backtrack and finally go about this all maturely. It's gotten to the point that everything the other does just annoys one of them to no end. If my father doesn't say Amen after a prayer because he's already started to dig into his food, it's sudden sin to my mother. If my mother interrupts my father's daytime television to ask how she looks, he can't help but snap. It's gotten to the point that they aren't even in love anymore. Whatever love is."
Eli had been listening contently the entire time but the last line of Clare's ramble made him shoot her a look. She didn't catch it though. She was too busy watching the plants and plazas pass by. He repeated her, confused, "Whatever love is?"
She rolled her eyes, "You can't honestly believe in that word."
"It's not a word, Clare. It's a feeling. And yeah, I do believe in it," He objected. She looked over at him, an ironic smile forming on her face. He glanced over at her, raising an eyebrow before focusing back on the road.
"You, master of all that is dark and weary, are telling me that something as done up and 'warm' as love is real?" She questioned, her brow furrowing as the smile failed to falter. He rolled his eyes at her comment, but nodded anyway. Rolling her own eyes, she let out a sarcastic laugh, crossing her arms, "Please. If love was real, it wouldn't be something that people fall out of as well."
"Well, I don't think anyone falls out of love. It's always there. It just… drowns out when other emotions take over, you know? It's like how people picture happiness. It's always there, but sometimes you feel sad. Well, love is always there. But sometimes, you can't help but dislike the person you've fallen for," He explained as Morty came to another stoplight. They had been catching all the red lights, but Clare didn't really mind.
"That's not true. If the person I loved broke a promise – No, nevermind. I'm not using that as an example, everyone breaks promises. If the person I supposedly loved suddenly became an abusive drunk over the years, I wouldn't love them anymore."
"Well people change like seasons. It could be true that your parents have changed and still love each other, but just love each other's past characters. People outgrow each other, but they still have each other in their hearts, because they shared a point in time together," He argued. Using her parents as an example made her think about it in perspective, but she couldn't make herself agree or argue back. She just rolled her eyes again and shook her head when she felt Eli's eyes on her, expecting something from her.
They sat in silence for a while before Morty finally pulled into a foreign neighborhood and parked in front of a hill. Eli turned off the hearse and with a small, almost tainted smile said, "We're here."
Clare nodded. She got out, closing the black door behind her as she stared up the hill. It went straight before twisting left, going steeper and higher. The destination was hidden by bushes and trees. She glanced at Eli as he passed by her, carrying a blanket that he always kept in Morty's trunk. Without much of a thought, she followed up the dry dirt behind him. They were in an awkward silence again until somewhere towards the middle of the path, he looked back and waited for to catch up to him. When she did, he took no time to grasp her cold hand within his warm one. She smiled at him and he returned the gesture, giving her hand a light squeeze.
When they got to the top, all Clare saw was a circle of the same dry dirt, surrounded by trees and plants. She could tell up ahead was a drop and if she kept walking, she'd slide down it. Eli let go of her hand and put down the blanket. She shot the back of his head a look, not sure of what to think of the place, "This is it?"
From the ground, he looked over his shoulder at her and smirked. He got up, dusting off his hands and shook his head, "You think I'd bring you all this way for some trees and dirt?"
Guiding her by the small of her back, she took hesitant steps along with him to the edge of the hill. Her eyes were steadied on him until they stopped. Looking over, she gasped at the sight.
All the lights in Toronto shone from this high point. All the streetlights, the houses, the gas stations, the plazas of restaurants and shopping centers of mixed colored lights, shining gold and white and red and green – it took her breath away as she scanned over the view.
"Pretty, isn't it?" Eli's deep whisper came from beside her. His hand hadn't moved from her back. She looked up at him and smiled wide. Without much thought to it, she leaned in towards him and pressed her lips against his. Her hands wandered up to his neck as one hand felt the warm skin against her fingertips and the other played with his dark, long hair. They stood, embracing each other for a while before Eli broke free and looked down at her.
"Clare, I care about you," He said suddenly. She gave him a look of confusion, her lips still tingling from just moments before. He sighed and let go of her, going over to the blanket and sitting down upon it. Looking up at her, he explained, "I know you've been through a lot. I can tell that you're not a big fan of this mold people have set you in – that even I joke around about. And I wish I could help you escape it. I wish I could show you that not everyone in the world is ingenuous. I know sometimes it feels that way. But I don't want you to put limits on whatever we have because of things that people have done to you in the past. I want you to believe me when I tell you that I love you. I want you to know that anything you tell me will be kept secret and every promise I make to you will be kept unbroken. I want you to trust me with every fiber of your being. I don't want you to think I'm just like the rest of them because I'm not. I adore you. I really do care for you. I want everything for you and I'll do anything for you to keep you content… I just want you to know that I'm always here for you even if you don't think I am."
Tears were already forming in her baby blue eyes but a smile was shining on her face. Everything he had just said contradicted everything she honestly had believed. But coming out his mouth, she couldn't help but believe it all. She knew in her heart that he had just broken down any of the walls that her family, past boyfriend and past friends had built up for her, but it felt nice to be naïve and think that everything around her was hers. It was nice to be free and live in a world where everything was lovely and everyone loved. So for the moment – and maybe for a while, she really wasn't sure – she let herself love. She let herself believe in all the things fairytales told to her as a child. She let herself trust and smile without any thought about all the words and promises that were in Eli's speech. Because deep down, she knew more than she knew that the stars would never fall, that Elijah would back up everything he said with actions in the future.
Instead of explaining all this though, she bent down and sat beside him. Whispering as she pulled him into her, she said, "Come here, Goldsworthy." She caught a glimpse of his understanding smile before their lips met in a happy kiss and the lights around them surrounded their bodies like shields against the cold world.