Disclaimer: I do not own Degrassi.
Author's note: Hello, epilogue! And thank you to everyone who took the time to read this fic. This has been so much fun and I'm really overwhelmed by your response. I'm taking a break (school and stuff, you know?) but my new fic, Quicksilver, will be posted July 1st. You can read a teaser for it, just go to my author profile and the link is posted in the About Me box.
Dedicated to musiksnob (because she is the best) and marieloveseclare for giving me the idea for this fic.
"Taking everything for granted but we still respect the time. We move along with some new passion knowing everything is fine. And I would wait and watch the hours fall in a hundred separate lines…"
New Perspective, Panic! At The Disco
"And all this craziness is back."
"Yeah. We'll have fun, Torres."
Adam snickers as we stand in the alley, getting ready for the craziness inside. My new book, Shatter, is being released today and it's already creating a lot of buzz.
"I still can't believe I got a blurb from Palahniuk," I say, staring at the sky. I recall the night Adam called me to say that Palahniuk read the galleys and contacted Liberty afterwards to say that he would be delighted to be quoted. So unbelievable.
"Well, your book is pretty amazing," says Adam, and I can feel myself blushing. "Clare really brought out a side of your talent I had never seen before… and other things."
"Yeah, she's the best," I admit, feeling warm just thinking about my girlfriend. We just went public a couple of months ago, after the frenzy over the profile died down, and it wasn't much of a shocker or a controversy. It happens.
"Are you ladies done with your chit-chat?" asks Liberty as the door to the back alley opens.
"Yes!" I say quickly and Adam jumps in fright.
"Fuck, you just sneaked up on us!" exclaims Adam, and Liberty starts laughing.
"Your lady friend, Kassie, Karen-" starts Liberty.
"Katie," corrects Adam crossly.
"Whatever her name is," says Liberty impatiently. "She's looking for you. And Gold, the reading is about to start and we have like a million kids out there."
"Fine," I say, and we walk back into the building.
"I must warn you, your ex is out there with her new boyfriend," says Liberty as she hands me some papers to look at.
"I can't believe she's dating that John Mayer wannabe," snorts Adam.
"Craig Manning is a decent musician, even if he's a slut," I say pointedly, not wanting to see Imogen again, but I can't help who shows up at my readings.
"Look who's talking," teases Adam.
"I am domesticated, thank you very much," I point out. "I wonder if Drew knows?"
"Oh, he knows," sneers Adam. "He was pissed off for a while but now he's dating some random chick he met at bar and claims he's in love. My brother, I swear."
"Men. A few morning blowjobs and they think they're in love—Di Marco, where the hell do you think you're going?" yells Liberty, and she walks away from us.
"I feel sorry for J.T," I say amusedly.
Adam just laughs as we approach the back of the stage, and there she is. My muse. She looks tired because she spent all day in the newsroom (now that she's the A&E editor her workload has increased), but she's smiling at me.
"I still can't believe I've had to wait to read the book like everybody else," she pouts as I approach her.
"Sorry, being my girlfriend doesn't mean you get privileges," I say sarcastically.
"I was misled, then!" she grins. "Hello, by the way."
"Hey," I say, leaning in for a kiss. She hums while she kisses me back and I feel someone tugging on the back of my jacket.
"Gold, we have no time for kissy-kisses with the lady," barks Liberty in a business-like tone.
"Sorry, babe, Liberty comes first!" I say as my agent drags me along with her and Clare just laughs and waves goodbye at me. Zane appears out of nowhere and fixes my hair as we walk fast, and then Liberty grabs me by the shoulders and glares at me.
"This reading better be perfect, okay?" she says, and then she smiles warmly. "Go impress them, Elijah."
It's the first time she has addressed me by my real name, and she is beaming like a proud mother. I swallow hard, and she pushes me so I can get on stage.
I had never seen a crowd like this. I'm not great with numbers, but I know that hundreds of people are here. I see my parents in the front row and CeCe is screaming something along the lines of "That's my baby boy!" and Bullfrog is grinning proudly at me. Zane and Johnny are already sitting down as well and they're beaming at me, their hands clutching my book.
A horrified-looking Adam is sitting next to CeCe, who keeps hugging and kissing him on the cheek. Adam's girlfriend, Katie, is just laughing at the whole interaction. Somewhere in the back of the crowd I see Imogen and Craig, and they're making out in front of everybody. Oh, okay.
I spot Jay and Manny somewhere in the middle and Jay waves at me as I smile back. Bianca and Wesley are in the second row, and poor Wesley looks like he can't believe his luck. After a very messy divorce, Bianca met Wesley at some party Liberty organized for me and I guess they hit it off. Such an odd couple, I swear, but they look happy.
Also in the second row I see Alli, who is shooting longing glances at Johnny. For all I know, Johnny has been scared of taking the "next step" with Alli, which means he hasn't asked her out on an official date. I blame it on his shyness.
Clare takes her seat next to Bullfrog, who greets her with a hug, and then CeCe squeals and lets go of Adam as she proceeds to harass Clare. I can't help but laugh as I walk over to the microphone, and my eyes linger on the crowd. Everybody is here to see me, and this is extremely flattering and overwhelming.
"Hello there!" I say, and the crowd applauds and cheers. "Thank you so much for being here, it means a lot. Shatter is the product of months and months of doing nothing but writing, and I'm actually quite happy about it. It departs a little from my usual writing style but I really hope that you will like it. So… yeah."
Clare is flipping through the book and I smirk, because I know that she's anxious to read it. I've been keeping her in the dark about it, never writing in front of her, not letting her see the galleys. I can be an asshole, to be honest.
I go to the page Adam marked for me, and I start reading. It's the second paragraph of chapter two, and memories of the night I first kissed Clare come to mind.
"It's a night of electric blue. She moves and smiles, and the world shatters. It's an instant, a heartbeat. But one can't escape it. In the blink of an eye, his heart is gone and it belongs to her."
Clare is looking straight at me and I give her a knowing smile.
"She traces tension in the air with her laughter, and he falls for her. It devours him, consumes him, it destroys him. But this kind of destruction doesn't kill him. It only mystifies him. He wants her, she wants him, but both are in denial."
I breathe deeply as I run my fingers over the page, stopping at a paragraph.
"It's a night of bets and hidden desire, and he knows this needs to stop. He knows he needs to win. He needs to win her. And when they kiss, their mouths are hot and needy, a blur of want. She asks the meaning of this. The meaning is everything."
I stop reading and the crowd applauds and Clare's face is redder than ever. I can feel my own heart beating like crazy, and it's because of her. Just reading the words that describe our first kiss make me realize how much I love her. It's crazy.
I stop looking at her and face the crowd, and I smirk at them. "Did you like it? Questions?"
Yes, I hate parties, but like any other agent, Liberty says they're necessary. For good press and whatever. These parties are still stuffy and fake, but I know that they don't last forever. I take a sip from my scotch (second and last one of the night, I guess) as Wesley continues to rant about my book.
"Such a great book," says Wesley in awe. "I mean, I've just read the first three pages and I'm already loving it."
"Wait until you finish it," I warn him, and Wesley laughs nervously. I look around the room and see Clare talking to (huh?) Imogen and Craig.
"I know it's great," he beams, and Bianca joins us.
"Hello," she says, her smile a bit forced. Yeah, she screwed Drew during the divorce and I kind of admire her for that, but we still dislike each other.
"Hello, Bianca, how's life?" I say conversationally.
"It would be better if that whore wasn't here," says Bianca angrily as she glares at Imogen.
"I didn't invite her," I say defensively and Bianca snaps her fingers at me.
"I know, Eli, I know," she says, rolling her eyes. Glad to know her attitude hasn't changed.
"Baby boy!" squeals CeCe and I see Bianca and Wesley walk away as my parents approach me. "Are you drinking? Why are you drinking?"
"Because I'm old enough to drink," I retort, and my mother hugs me tightly.
"That reading was amazing," says Bullfrog approvingly. "You know I don't like to read much but I might actually read this book of yours."
"Isn't that something," I say sardonically, and my dad gives me a hug. "I'm glad you guys made it."
"Only because Billy Idol is having a concert in Toronto tomorrow," winks Bullfrog.
"My heart," I sigh and CeCe shakes her head.
"Aw, Eli, you know we love you more than we love Billy," she assures me.
"Good to know," I say, sarcastically somber. Jay and Manny stop to say hi, and I talk to a bunch of people I don't know, but I just want a few minutes alone with Clare. Liberty keeps staring at me from the corner she's standing in, pretending to pay attention to what her husband is saying. I know that she's making sure I don't sneak out.
Adam walks over to me after leaving Katie to swoon over Craig Manning, and I really hope that I don't have to talk to him and Imogen. Not interested.
"Do you want me to distract Liberty?" asks Adam, wiggling his eyebrows.
"Please," I say desperately as I notice that Clare is now talking to my parents while she holds my book in her hands. I can't get over our last visit to Terrace, when CeCe decided it would be "cool" to show Clare my old baby pictures and other embarrassing stuff.
"On it," says Adam as he walks away. He starts talking to Liberty and I walk over to my parents and steal Clare away without explanation.
"Impatient, aren't we?" she says happily as we walk out of the room.
"You know me so well." I find a deserted corner and we stand there, but before anything happens, I need to ask her something first.
"Why were you talking to Imogen and Craig?" I snort.
"Oh, Craig wants me to write a profile about him," says Clare in disgust. "And Imogen was just… there. She kept throwing dirty looks at me, though."
"I just thought it was weird," I say sincerely.
"Oh, it was," she says eagerly. "Very uncomfortable."
I decide to stop talking and I move closer to her, almost shaking in excitement. It amazes me that I'm still so nervous around her although we've been dating for a while now, and I hope that this never changes.
"Finally," I mumble as I press my lips against hers. We make out eagerly for a couple minutes, and I can't wait to go back to my apartment so we can be alone.
"I can't believe you're leaving in two days," she says sadly.
"Book tours require travel, you know?" I say, kissing her on the cheek. "It's not a long trip, though. And I doubt that I will meet any pretty journalists."
"Funny," she smiles, and kisses me again.
"Clare, I've been thinking…" I say tentatively, and she looks at me. "Um… you practically live in my apartment now. So, um, what if… what if we make this official?"
"Sorry?" she asks.
"This is me asking you to move in with me," I blurt quickly. Clare raises an eyebrow at me and somehow I feel that I fucked up. I open my mouth to start apologizing; maybe it's too soon or something.
"Really? Are you sure?" she asks, but she's smiling again. Phew.
"No, Clare, I'm joking," I sneer before kissing her. "Yeah, I'm serious."
"Big step, Goldsworthy," she reminds me.
"I have large feet, Edwards," I grin, making her blush.
"Yeah, well… okay," she nods, and she looks excited. "Ooh, does this mean I get to redecorate or something?"
"Ah, already ruining my life."
She chuckles and I lean in to kiss her, wrapping my arms around her. She's still holding my book, and the cover digs into my stomach, hurting me.
"I need to thank you," she says quietly.
I let go of her as she holds out my book, her face bright with happiness. "The book, silly."
"Oh, it's not about you," I lie, waving my hands around dramatically. "How conceited of you to think so."
"Jerk," she laughs. "Well, even if it's not about me, I noticed that you're not that cryptic anymore when it comes to dedicating a book."
I smile timidly and look away, and I know that I'm blushing. "No, I'm not." We look at each other and I take her hand as we walk back to the party, her hand blazing hot in mine. Of course I dedicated it to her, why wouldn't I? And I didn't want a half-assed dedication like the ones to Julia. Because I wanted to hide everything I had with Julia, I didn't want anyone to know.
With Clare, well, it's different. She's the best thing that has ever happened to me, but I'm not the kind of guy who shouts his love for someone in the middle of the street (although I did do it the other day in the hallway of my apartment building. I was drunk. And Clare was there. I said something like "I love Clare Edwards!" Shameful, really).
But I can write about my love for her. As we enter the room she gives me a little look that she reserves only for me, and I can't help but smile at her. Because she really is the hurricane I saw in my dreams, the one I wrote about in my novels. I think of the dedication on the first page of Shatter and I know that I wouldn't change a thing.
To Clare Diana Edwards: the wallflower that became a hurricane.