A chance encounter proves that 'over' is really just a state of mind. One-shot.
"I was thinking that we could go to The Power Plant this weekend? Maybe Saturday? There is an exhibit I really want to check out."
Clare Edwards is smiling at her new boyfriend expectantly.
Boyfriend. They made it official yesterday. Even she finds it hard to believe that things between her and Jake have progressed so quickly. A few months ago she was kissing Eli on the hood of his car.
Eli. Just thinking of him churns her stomach. They haven't spoken since their break up. In fact, they've been going out of their way to avoid each other; he's even switched into a new English class.
She hasn't handled things with them well. But, he is sick. And they had only been together for a few months. And, well, she was scared. She continues to list the reasons over in her mind.
"Yeah, works for me." Jake's warm voice pulls her from her thoughts. "Why don't we say around 8? I'll pick you up after practice."
"Great. I can't wait." She reaches across the lunch table and laces their fingers together.
Jake. She smiles as she thinks of him. He is safe, and sweet, and charming. And even though she doesn't feel her fingers tingle when their hands touch, she likes how she feels next to him.
"Sometimes I feel like a coin. If that makes any sense?" Eli's brows furrow as he tries to articulate his feelings to the doctor. He feels like an idiot.
He has been in treatment since the accident, albeit unwillingly. But Cece put her foot down. No more padlocks on bedroom doors. No more hiding or secrets.
"One moment I'm in control, and the next I'm just… not." It had taken him awhile to get here. To the point where he could actually talk about all of this, but now it seems that the floodgates are open.
His eyes move from his lap to see the doctor looking at him. "I think that's all the time we have Elijah. But, we've touched upon something important today."
A ghost of a smirk passes over his face as he grabs his backpack from the floor.
"Ha. If you say so."
His parents are paying a fortune for these sessions; he hopes they are actually doing something.
He nods at the receptionist as he passes, dreading the long walk to the library. He has to walk everywhere now, since he destroyed his car. And these walks give him too much time to think. Often he just thinks about her.
He misses her smile and her eyes. He misses the way they argued and the way they kissed. Mostly, he just misses his best friend. Clare.
He slips his headphones on and shoves his hands deep into the pockets of his leather jacket. Long walk indeed.
"I thought it was weird, even for Palahniuk. Different, but not too different. Different, but the same. You know?" Clare can tell that she's rambling and that Jake's no longer paying attention. He's being kind and he's smiling, but he doesn't seem interested.
"But, enough about that, how's soccer going?" When he first came back into Clare's life they had so much to talk about, years to catch up on. Now, the conversation is much more strained.
Sure, the silence is comfortable when they're with friends, or during the short lunch hour, or when they're making out. But these drives are just painful.
"It's good. I think I'm finally starting to mesh with the team. Are you sure you're going to be okay getting home?" Clare nods as the truck comes to a stop.
"Yeah. If I'm too late, I'll get my mom to pick me up. " She leans over and places a kiss on his cheek. "I'll call you later?"
Clare watches the truck disappear from the library parking lot, and she lets out a groan. Why did she ever decide that taking AP Chemistry was a good idea? It was going to be a long night.
"Just breathe." Oh great, now he's talking to himself. One more thing to add to the list of quirks. Eli would find the whole situation laughable, if he wasn't so angry.
Standing across the parking lot he can see her smiling at him, her new boyfriend. He can see her kiss his cheek. He can see far too much. And he keeps clenching his fists at his side.
It's not his place anymore though. He can't rush to her and push him away.
But that doesn't mean he isn't angry. He isn't even angry at that stupid jock, he's angry with her, angry with her for giving up on him.
He realizes he is stalking towards the front entrance. Normally, he would find anywhere else to be, but he is so far behind in math, and his computer just had to crash.
She is getting out of the truck only a few paces away from him. "Nowhere to hide now, Goldsworthy."
"Hi Eli." She didn't see where he came from, but when she turned around, there he was. He looks angry.
"Edwards." Clare knew that this day would come. When they would be too close to avoid each other. She just really didn't want it to be now.
"How have you...how are you?" She cringes internally, could she have asked a worse question? She notices she's holding her breath, waiting for him to speak.
"I'm…good." He pauses, and a look of calm comes over his features. Clare relaxes slightly. Just slightly. "I've been busy though. You?"
He smirks at her and she feels even more uncomfortable. He's being so mature, he's not pushing or shouting. Who is this person in front of her?
"Things are good. Chemistry is killing me." She laughs nervously and looks into his eyes. She forgot how green they are.
"I'm sure you'll manage. More than manage. You'll ace it." The smirk disappears and now he's just smiling. "But, I gotta get in there. If I don't kill my next math test Bullfrog will shoot me…uh too soon?"
Clare snorts with laughter and realizes that she doesn't feel awkward anymore. "Maybe just a little bit."
He grabs the handle of the door and motions for her to walk inside. "Happy studying." And with that, he's gone.
If you had asked him a month ago what his opinion of therapy was, Eli would've said it was total bullshit. But after that little interaction with Clare he thinks he might be changing his mind.
He summoned every ounce of patience and recited all of those stupid techniques in his head. And, it worked.
Well, sort of. He imagines being close enough to smell her hair probably had something to do with his newfound sense of harmony.
He looks up from the computer he is sitting at and lets his eyes skim the room to find her. She's a table away, tucking her hair behind her ear and erasing furiously.
God, she's so beautiful. He had always thought so, but being in close proximity with like this her hurts his heart. He forgets to be mad at her. He forgets that she left him when he needed her most. He forgets just about everything but her eyes.
She's looking over at him now and they're both staring. And he's blushing.
Is he blushing? No, she must be seeing things.
Clare really should not be looking at him like this. Like she wants him to kiss her. Like she has forgotten about Jake. And the past few months apart. And how they weren't working. And how she broke up with him on the phone.
The thought of that particular decision makes her wince and turn back to her notebook. No, this was not how she wanted things to go. He wasn't supposed to be so calm. He wasn't supposed to make her heart race like this anymore.
When she sneaks another glance his way she sees him talking to himself. Muttering underneath his breath. He looks so cute when he is concentrating.
She lets out a heavy sigh and gets up from her seat. They're staring at each other again and he seems nervous. Before she knows it she's standing in front of him.
"Hi again." What is she doing? Jake. Jake. Jake. "I hate Tell-All. Definitely Palahniuk's worst."
Eli's laughing. He has to cover his mouth to keep the chuckles from disturbing the people around them.
"Really? Me too", he whispers and Clare's eyes shine.
She nods frantically. "It feels like he's trying to hard? But maybe I'm being too critical." She tilts her head to the slide questioningly and her curls bounce. "Maybe he's just maturing, or he's happy?"
He smiles at her. He misses this; Adam never wants to talk books. "I completely agree. It's different, but the same? Is that weird to say?"
When she smiles at him like that Clare is all he wants. He wonders if she knows that. Anger and resentment and horrible weeks be damned.
"I miss you", she says, watching him sadly.
He's not sure why, but this makes him angry again. She shouldn't get to miss him. She left him. She left them.
"I know I have no right to say that. And Jake…" she trails off, looking anywhere but into his eyes.
He sighs, "You're right. It's not fair. But then again, none of this has been fair."
She seems as if she's trying not to cry and this makes his heart ache. He doesn't want to make her cry. He doesn't want to hurt her. He just wants them back. He wishes he could erase all the bad. He wishes that he wasn't so messed up and she hadn't left him.
"I'm seeing someone now", he states matter-of-factly. As if he's trying to convince himself that therapy is somehow fixing him.
"Oh." And there is a tone in her voice that he doesn't recognize. "Anyone I know?" Ah, she thinks he's dating someone. She thinks he's over her.
"No, um, not like that. A doctor…a therapist." She lets out a sigh and plops into the chair opposite his.
"I'm sorry. I don't know how to do this", she says as she pinches the bridge of her nose with her fingers and squeezes her eyes shut. "I'm trying."
He just watches her for a moment, considering what to say. The anger has subsided and he's just tired. He's tired of things being awkward. He's tired of being without her. He's far too exhausted to be 16.
"Me too." Eli stretches forward and picks up her hand from her lap and Clare squeezes back tightly. "I'm sorry about everything toward the end. I never wanted to hurt you. I love you."
He is surprised at himself for saying it. But he's more surprised by how she's looking at him. She looks peaceful.
She wants to tell him she loves him too, because she does. But, it's not the right time. And he doesn't deserve to be toyed with. She settles for something equally true.
"When you hold my hand it tingles. My heart races." He is smiling at her and she knows she's said the right thing.
He releases her hand gently and she stands up. "I'll, uh, see you around?"
She watches him hopefully, and he is smirking at her.
"Guess you will."