Hi everyone! So thank you all so much for your lovely reviews on Finding Strength! They encouraged me to explore a different vision for Clare and Eli's future past the Drop the World Disaster. This story will take them from Degrassi immediately post Drop the World to their first few years in college. As always, I promise you a happy ending. It will just take them longer which is why we enter their college years – after the mess they decided to take them down in DTW, I felt time and different experiences were necessary. I still don't understand why the show did that to Clare and Eli, if someone knows and can enlighten me I would be forever grateful.
In this first chapter we explore Eli's thoughts after a week of reflection.
Disclaimer: I don't own Degrassi, Taylor Swift's music, or any of the real-world references I happen to make. I still love everyone involved with Degrassi, I just wish they could have shown us that love back with the Eli/Clare story, not break our hearts in that horrible way.
"Just…please, Adam. Just do it for me, okay? It's not like I can get it to her any other way – she's terrified of me," I told him, gritting my teeth as that new realization had only really set in last night.
It was now the last Friday of the break and I would finally get to go home tomorrow. My mom said I didn't have to go to school on Monday if I didn't feel up to it, but I hadn't really even thought about it. Nothing seems to matter anymore. Inside these white halls and in between all the IV lines and nurses who I knew mean to be sympathetic but only make me feel guilty and awkward, it was like I was living in a bit of different world these past few days.
After she left that night, I just stayed up thinking about what she had said and it felt like a foggy mist had finally been lifted from my vision. I replayed our phone conversation over and over in my mind and I knew what I had to do. So I did it. I asked the night nurse for some paper and a pen and I thought it would take me at least twenty different drafts, but as soon as I touched the pen to the paper the words just flowed nearly as fast as the tears on my face. I haven't been able to write anything since, though, and I'm not sure I ever want to.
My mom came in at around 5am; she had been visiting my aunt in Hamilton that weekend – that is until I managed to ruin even that for her – and I knew my dad must have given her the full picture because she didn't even say anything as she came in. My mom was one of the sunniest and most radiant people I knew, but my darkness managed to kill even that most powerful force. I could tell she had been running because she was breathing heavily, and her face was covered in tears and her mascara was smeared all around her eyes.
She dropped her bag on a chair and quietly came and sad beside me on my bed after I gently asked her not to cry, reassuring her I was okay. She softly ran her fingers through my hair, and softly repeated that yes, I was indeed all right as a troubled look crossed her face, and she waited by my side patiently until I finished my letter and after I set it down on the table beside my bed. She continuing running her hand through my hair and she held my hand as I snuggled into her side – this was something I used to do all the time when I was a kid when I would come home after never being able to escape the torment Mike would subject me to. Mom just held me that night as she had done all those nights all those years ago. In that moment not only did I badly need to feel someone genuinely care about me in light of what I had just realized, but it was the most comforting gesture I had received from another human being in months. Mom never asked me anything else that night – the last thing I remember was finally falling asleep as she continued pushing my bangs out of my face and softly repeating that my dad and her would help get me through this and that this nightmare would all soon be over.
I wished desperately I could believe her, but I am not sure this will ever be over for me. My mom told me she had found me a good therapist and made it pretty clear that going to see her wasn't really an option, so I didn't object. After what Clare had told me, I really did want to get better. Not to get closer to her – I was not even going to attempt such a thing, but because I knew I couldn't keep hurting the people I loved. I cringe at how I genuinely believed I could be happy again, but all I ended up doing was hurting everyone around me. Especially Clare. She was right – I had been manipulating her – but I wasn't even aware of it as I was doing it. All I could think about was much I love her, how I can't let anything bad happen to her, how I can't let anyone take advantage of the trust she gave so easily, and for the past few weeks – how I couldn't figure out what was going on with her, why she had been acting so differently towards me, and how I could fix it.
Because I wanted so so desperately to fix it. I knew that it wasn't all about Julia; I genuinely love Clare and had wanted a chance to reconnect with her. I was scared that if I didn't make an effort we would never be able to get over the distance that had somehow made its way in between us. But it was like the more I tried, the more she pulled away. And I had been too blind and too consumed by own demons to see it. I only tried harder, until I showed my true colors and I know now that what I did was unforgivable and irreversible. I don't expect her forgiveness and I told her so in my letter; I just wanted to tell her I would leave her alone from now on, a promise I meant to keep. Especially after I finally realized the most painful thing of all as I replayed our phone conversation in my mind over and over again. I was convinced she loved me in all our time together – but after really thinking about that night, I wasn't so sure. I felt like I had read every interaction we had ever had wrong – since when did she hate Morty? Since when had we been growing apart? Last night, as fear crept into my mind, I realized that Clare maybe never loved me. And I couldn't blame her. As much as I loved her, I only damaged her. I knew better than to take her down this road, but I let myself get completely carried away by my feelings for her because I thought she felt the same way. But now, I was not so sure anymore.
Adam's voice interrupted my train of thought. I could see the hesitation on his face as he said,
"Eli, are you sure this is such a good idea? Maybe we should give her more –"but I interrupted him because I really didn't think I could hear that word ever again.
"That letter gives her all the…space she could ask for. She broke up with me, Adam," I finally admitted to him, before explaining further "I only wrote her that letter as a good-bye and because I didn't feel right sending her dad's watch along without any written explanation. Trust me, I'm not trying to manipulate her into communicating with me. That letter will be the last words we will exchange, if you can even call it an exchange," I said, flinching at the last words.
Adam sighed and gave me a sympathetic smile as he said, "Eli, give her a chance to recover from this…intensity. I don't think she meant to break up with you, she was probably just reacting to seeing you in the hospital like this, you know?"
I turned over to my side slightly, as I told him, "She broke up with me before the accident, Adam," and I saw him shaking his head as she said "She just wanted some space, Eli. That's not the same thing".
He wasn't getting the complete picture here, so I explained, "Adam, she said 'We have to break up. We're not meant to be together'." I saw the look of shock on his face as he softly asked, "Did she say why? I mean, I don't have much experience here, but at least I know why Fiona and I couldn't be…and…it helps, dude. Knowing why, it really helps," he pointed out.
"It was because…" and I struggled for words. "Because…spring was coming," I said. "Just please, Adam, just give the letter and the watch to her. Please," I repeated as my voice broke and Adam gave me a sad smile and agreed.
"Thanks, man. And you know…I understand if you don't want to hang out as much now. I'm messed up, Adam. Wouldn't blame you," I honestly said, shrugging my shoulders. I had learned my lesson about dragging others down with me. I had hurt the person I cared about the most, I damaged her entire life, took away her beautiful laugh and replaced it with a scared desperation, with sheer terror, with –
"Dude, Eli, you sure talk a lot of crazy stuff. I'm not going anywhere," Adam determinedly said.
"Thanks, Adam. I really don't want to lose you too," I admitted.
"You couldn't lost me even if you did want to," he said with a smile as he picked up the letter and the watch that my mom had brought in this morning and headed out the door after we exchanged good byes and I promised to give him a call as soon as I settled in at home.
This chapter was on the short side for me but I would love a review!