I just felt compelled to try and write a possible EClare reunion. I mean, this could totally happen on the show, or the writers could crush my heart. I could just use a little emotional relaxation and hope right now. So this is for everyone that still has faith in EClare.
Enjoy; I don't own Degrassi, and chances are I never will.
I didn't know what I was doing here; I had no reason to come. But something in my head kept urging me out the door…I just had a gut feeling that going to the graduation would be a cathartic experience of sorts.
But, when I got there, all I felt was out of place. Jake and I had awkwardly ended things just shortly after our parents had a messy breakup. We couldn't see each other without our parents getting in the middle, and Jake and I could not see eye to eye on their breakup any more than they could. It had just been the right time. We had managed to stay friends, but we weren't good friends.
So there was no reason for me to attend graduation for him.
Katie and I had worked on the paper for a couple years now, and we had managed to remain civil to each other even though we were equally headstrong and had different opinions on everything…I guess if I needed to justify anything I could be at graduation for my editor.
Or, I could even claim that Adam had wanted someone to go with. After all, his brother was graduating. As was his best friend…
And there it was- the face that managed to constantly reappear in my thoughts at the most inopportune moments. This face was framed by a fringe of dark brown hair. The face with the open, bright green eyes. The face of Eli Goldsworthy.
High school romance gone wrong was the abridged and understated version of our relationship. At first it had been great, and I had fallen so hard for him. He was my first love, but he was also a big bucket of emotional instability. And, at fifteen years of age, I just wasn't equipped to deal with every curve ball that Eli had thrown my way. It was sad, maybe it was even tragic, but I never regretted my choice to leave him. If I hadn't who knew where we would be, but I knew we certainly wouldn't be happy.
But, regrets or not, I still found myself wistfully going through different what if's whenever I spotted Eli in the halls, or heard about another accomplishment through word of mouth.
I was…disappointed to think that next year I wouldn't be able to spot him in the hallways anymore. I wouldn't hear about how his life was going, and I was certainly never going to talk to him again.
And I really wanted to…talk to him, that was. I wanted to know how he was doing. I wanted to know if he looked back on our happy days together with the same sharp pang of nostalgia that I did. But, mostly, I wanted to know if he was finally happy. He never really was when we were around each other.
Eli and I hadn't even crossed paths since he left school for a few days to finally get his mind in order. And, from what I heard from Adam (which was very little; the subject was taboo) it had worked. Eli had finally allowed people to help him, and they found out what was wrong. Now, supposedly, everything was under control- and had been under control for quite some time.
The thought made me happy, but I wanted to see for myself. I wanted to know for sure that Eli could leave Degrassi as a healthy person with no regrets…and I wanted to make sure he didn't hate me. He had reason enough, but I really hoped that if he was stable he had found a way to let go of all the pain and the blame.
Of course, I should just leave it alone, I was playing with fire by even entertaining the idea, but I still cared about him. Just one talk wasn't going to hurt either of us. I really wanted to congratulate him, although there was never any doubt that Eli would move on to bigger and better things.
"Hey," I greeted Adam as I slid onto the bleachers beside him. Graduation was being held at the stadium in the crisp spring air, and there was a buzz of excitement surrounding everyone.
"Clare…what are you doing here?"
I laughed at his shocked tone, trying to fill in the silence because I had never really hashed out what my justification was. "I, um, wanted to see Drew graduate," I lied.
Adam knew me well, though. He saw right through me. "Clare, you and Drew have probably said a total of two words to each other the entire time we've been friends. The truth, please."
"There are…some old friends of mine that I just wanted to see one more time. Besides, do I have to be here for anybody? I can't just attend my school's graduation ceremony? These are my peers!"
Adam raised his eyebrow at my vague and formal explanation, and my brilliant deflection. The problem with becoming close to people was that they started to know you really well. "So, long story short, you came to see Eli graduate?"
"Is that weird? Should I leave?"
"Yeah, it is a little weird, but, nah, I would stick around. I think Eli'll be happy to know that you came. He's asked how you've been doing a few times this past month. I mean, you guys haven't talked in a long time and he's about to head off to college."
Adam always knew how to say just what I needed to hear. He was a great friend that way, and I was always amazed at how he was able to maintain a friendship with me and with Eli. Our breakup couldn't have been the easiest thing for him, but he never picked one side over the other. But there was something about Adam's speech that really caught me off guard. "He's been asking about me, really?"
"Is that so hard to imagine? He still cares about you, Clare."
"And I still care about him," I whispered.
"Hey, Clare, some kids are hanging around my place after graduation," Adam smiled, slinging his arm around me in a comforting gesture. "Drew invited KC and Katie and I'm having Eli and Imogen over…you're welcome to join."
"Oh, that's really sweet, Adam. I'll be there."
"Cool…we can end the year on the right note."
Adam and I then lapsed into less delicate topics to discuss…like our upcoming senior year and talk of the future. The actual ceremony started right on time, and it was fairly basic. The speeches were well written and well delivered…Katie was the valedictorian and she was perfect as usual. The kids were called one by one to go up to the podium and receive their diploma. It was nice- sweet and straight to the point.
After everything was said and done, Adam got up to follow him mom- she wanted lots of pictures with Drew and the rest of the family- with a promise to see me shortly at his place. I waved after him, unable to get a word out before he was lost in the sea of proud parents and excited students.
I wandered through the crowd for a little while, being conscious not ruin any photos or run into anyone. I didn't want to show up at Adam's house before he was there, so I watched families happily flutter about. Graduation was such a bittersweet ceremony, and I couldn't believe that in a year I would be going through the same thing. My future was so unknown and scary, but it was also hopeful. I was hopeful.
Once the crowd started to thin I walked to my bike. I had my license, but I still preferred to ride my bike every now and again. It was refreshing to feel the fresh air whip through my hair and sting my face. It always felt kind of like I was flying.
The ride to Adam's was about a half hour, and it was no easy feat in the dress I was wearing. By the time I arrived, everyone who was supposed to be there, was.
"Hey, Clare!" Adam answered the door enthusiastically.
"Hi…sorry it took me so long, but I rode my bike here."
"You're insane," Adam smiled fondly at me, and led me into the basement where the kids had convened. Drew and KC were playing some violent video game while Katie sat close by nagging them to go outside for breathable air.
Imogen and Eli were playing pool on the secondhand table Drew and Adam had found in a Dumpster last year. I had heard the story repeated several times, but it was never not funny. However, I has having a hard time relaxing my face enough to even smile because I didn't know what to do. I gulped, suddenly needlessly nervous. It had been so long since Eli and I had been in the same room together, let alone made conversation.
"Look who's here," Adam announced cheerfully, and I wanted to clasp my hand over his mouth to keep him from talking. I didn't exactly want to bring attention to myself…I wanted to ease myself into it.
"Hey, Clare," Katie greeted me after pulling the plug on the game system. The boys groaned, but Katie persisted. "It is beautiful outside, and we just finished High School…I have energy to work off."
"Basketball?" KC suggested, suddenly more enthusiastic.
"That sounds like a grand idea," Katie sounded pleased that she had managed to get them off their butts.
"Hi Clare, bye Clare," Drew patted my shoulder as he ran up the stairs. KC gave me a small smile and nod which I returned, and Katie gave me a quick, awkward hug before racing after them.
Once they were all gone I let my eyes wander over to the pool table again…where Eli was staring at me, a huge smile on his face. I had to admit, his eyes had softened, and he didn't have the same frantic air about him that he used to. I marveled at how different he seemed because of those small changes…and how attractive he still was.
Imogen also gave me a small wave, perhaps weary that I still hated her- which I didn't. Holding on to things had only made me bitter and uncomfortable. I had long since forgiven Imogen for how she went about courting Eli. I knew she just had poor judgment; that she hadn't really meant to hurt me, Jake, or especially Eli. So, I gave her a warm smile and waved back enthusiastically.
"Eli stinks at this game- wanna play me?" Imogen asked, seeming suddenly warmed by my greeting.
"Sure…but I have to warn you, I'm probably worse than Eli. I've never played before."
"Oh goody; I love to play teacher!"
And, with that, Imogen started to demonstrate the rules and technique of the game. We played several games, mixing up the teams, and we didn't talk much. I had fun, despite the fact that I was horrible at it, and I only felt a little awkward. I could sense Eli's eyes searching my face often, but I couldn't blame him- I was doing the same to him. It was just so weird running into him in a casual setting, but not being able to say anything. I didn't want to say the wrong thing, and I certainly didn't want company for the talk I wanted to have with Eli. But maybe I would never get up the courage, and I could just be happy knowing that we were able to coexist in a room without accusations and tears.
That was an accomplishment all by itself.
I decided to remove myself when we approached the tenth consecutive game. "I am ready to be done," I declared, flopping onto the tattered couch.
"Hey, Imogen," Adam started, "I have this really cool…thing…in my room. I want to show you."
Eli turned to Adam questioningly, and his eyebrow rose. "What's so special about it that only Imogen can see?"
"It's a, uh, surprise…that you can't see. And I need Imogen's help to…yeah. So, come on Imo- join me in my room."
"Slick, Captain Obvious," Imogen scolded Adam loudly while they were still heading up the stairs.
I giggled at the absurdity.
"What?" Eli asked, turning to me.
"Adam really just used the line 'I have a thing in my room' so that he could get us alone. Is that not funny to you?"
"It is amusing," Eli allowed, "but also confusing."
"What's so confusing about it?"
"Why he thinks we need time alone, I'd say."
"Well, maybe he thought we would want to talk. It had been quite a while. By the way, congrats on today…I'm sure Degrassi Drama will miss your talent, but I know you'll find some way to change the world with your writing."
"You couldn't know that; I could have gotten really bad since the last time we talked," his tone was light, playful and he smiled at me. For once, I couldn't detect an ounce of pain behind the smile and that made me want to smile back, a million times brighter. Maybe he was happy- legitimately happy with nothing standing in his way.
"I highly doubt that, but tell me what you've worked on in the past year…since we're here, I mean." I gave the cushion next to me one, firm pat and Eli paused only a moment before crossing the room to join me on the tiny couch.
"Okay, well, I did do this one-act- the theme was one man against the world. It was kind of trippy. And then there was the not-so-short story. I, um, wrote it while I was still getting better. It was about a guy who had lost love…an epic kind of love that no one gets over…and was still dealing with how to move on. And, along the way, he met someone great who could hold his heart while he pieced it back together. Sure, she didn't set his soul on fire, but she set it on a low simmer that just burned more intensely with time. It was kind of hokey, but it got published. I've been keeping a journal…yeah; there has been no shortage of writing."
Eli seemed calm and centered when he talked about his work, but I could see the barely contained fire in his eyes. He was more passionate about his work than ever…hokey or not. "I'd love to read some…I mean, you were always talented and I'm sure you've only improved."
"Well, thank you. I should hope that I improved with time, rather than regressing. I mean, the point is to get better, is it not?" Apparently Eli's humor had survived the long road to recovery. "So, what have you been up to Miss Edwards?"
I didn't know how long this casual conversation was going to last. I could feel, and I knew Eli could, too, the tensions and accusations and hurt and blame all under the surface. We had a lot that we needed to say, but was this the time and place to do it?
"Well, the paper always keeps me busy- Katie picked me to be her replacement editor, so that's exciting. I've been looking at university…trying to determine the right future for me. Just a whole lot of self-discovery and all that Jazz. I don't speak to my dad anymore, but my relationship with my mom is stranger than ever. I guess not much has really changed for me…not like it has for you."
"Thanks for noticing," Eli joked, and we were on the verge of talking about the important, touchy subjects. "Congrats on editor…I'm sure you've still got the same wicked eye. Um, do you mind if I ask you a question?"
I gulped nervously, but I couldn't deny him that. "Sure, ask me anything."
"Well, I mean, you're totally free to not answer if you don't want to, but why did you come to graduation? Are you close to someone in my class? I don't want to pry, and if I'm being nosy you can just ignore it, but I'm honestly curious."
"No…I just…I…there was, and I needed to…Damn it."
"Whoa…maybe you've changed more than you think. Did Clare Edwards really just say damn it?" Eli laughed when I punched him in the shoulder, but I was still too busy trying to put my messy and private thoughts into words to join him. "You know, it is still me, Clare. You can talk to me- I won't judge or laugh or whatever it is that you're afraid of.
"No, that's not what worries me. I just…it's a delicate subject." I cringed at my understatement, and Eli seemed to take note. In response he made himself even more at ease, leaning back into the cushions of the couch.
"We've dealt with delicate before…maybe not well, but we have."
"That's true. Okay, I'm just going to come out and say it," I hesitated just a moment before I decided that I could do it; I would be 100% honest because it might be my very last chance to do so. It wasn't like this one conversation would change anything…we were still the same people. Or maybe we weren't… "I came to see you, Eli. It's just- I never liked the way we left things, and just the thought of you going off to college without any hint of closure would be hard for me to swallow."
"You came for me?" Eli repeated back, his voice coated in regret and sadness…but I could only guess at the origins of the emotions.
"Yeah, but I didn't go for you…for you. I know that you have Imogen, or whatever, and my intent was never so…impossible. I just really wanted to know that you were finally, genuinely happy. It keeps me awake at night a lot; thinking that everything that happened to us might still leave a bitter taste in your mouth. I just didn't want you to move away before I got the chance to really give myself, and hopefully you, closure. And you really don't even have to say another word to me because I can see it in your eyes- that calm, that peace that was never there before. Just knowing that you're happy makes me happy."
Eli laughed one short, hard laugh and I knew that this conversation was about to get tough. "Clare, Imogen and I…well, I'll admit I owe her my life several times over. She's been an amazing friend, and sometimes an even bigger help than Adam when it came to my…recovery. She just gets me; we're two peas in one oddly shaped pod. I hurt her a lot, and I felt insanely guilty, but she forgave me and I forgave myself. In the end, she was the only person who knew when to sympathize and when to give me a good kick in the ass. When Imogen really loves you she'll go to the ends of the Earth to do whatever you need her to.
"And, yes, she and I tried to date once I was really sure that I had made it to the sane side of life, but it only lasted for a month. Imogen and I…we're more like brother and sister. We just have that kind of connection. Not to mention, it did me good not to get involved with anymore girls the rest of high school."
I hated the way it was still painful to hear about Eli with another girl. It shouldn't have been that way; I should be mature about the matter, but the thought still make my heart squeeze in uncomfortable pain. There was no way around the fact that I still loved him, but we had both proven to each other that we could not be in love.
"So you're single?" I couldn't help but ask. It was just weird to imagine that he didn't find someone else who could appreciate what he had to offer.
"Yeah…I seem to function better that way, anyway. What about you, huh? What happened to boy-wonder Jake?"
He was trying to keep his voice casual, but I could hear the need to know just below the surface. "We stopped seeing each other after our parents did. It wasn't a big deal; we just kind of grew apart. I mean, Jake was great and all…but he was always just a distraction."
A moment passed between us as we realized there was nobody in our way for once…not even each other. "What do you mean he was a distraction?" Eli was bold enough to ask.
"I mean…I needed someone around to keep me thinking about you 24/7. Jake was good at that, and he wasn't just some stranger- we had a little history. He was perfect. And he was so patient…and sexy. But he was a placeholder and we both knew it somewhere in our hearts. We were never in it for the long term."
"I always wondered that," Eli mused, "how you had moved on so quickly. But you hadn't…you were just better at faking it. I was just such a mess that I couldn't stop myself from being an open book. I wore my crazy emotions on my sleeve, and it caused me a lot of loss. I still can't believe how adamant I was about not accepting help when I so desperately needed it."
"The good thing is you got it- it just took you a little longer to get in the right place to ask."
"That entire day was hell, though. It's all still so vivid. The rushing emotions that I couldn't slow down or make sense of, breaking Imogen just to make sure I wasn't the only one who would have to suffer…my improvised monologue. At least my mind isn't tricking me anymore…it's right these days."
"What do you have, if you don't mind my asking?"
"Oh, a medley of things- anxiety, a dash of depression, a hit of manic depressive disorder and a whole lot of OCD. It's all under control, though, and I finally have my priorities in the right order."
"I am really sorry that you had to go through all that…but I'm glad you didn't have to do it alone."
"Yeah, Cece and Bullfrog have been great, and so have Imogen and Adam. Fiona even still checks up on me every now and then. I'm lucky to have such sweet, caring people in my life. But it's too bad I scared away the sweetest of all." I looked up to find Eli studying me pensively. "If you could go back and redo anything, would you?"
"You didn't really give me many options…I had to do what was right for me, and I did. So, no, I wouldn't redo anything."
"Good," Eli sounded satisfied, and it caught me off guard. "Because the time we did get to spend together before I lost it was great enough to outshine all the mistakes I made…the mistakes we made."
I was relieved to hear that he sounded so sure…that he finally found the mental stability that allowed him to see our past that way. "So you wouldn't redo anything, either?"
"Well, no, that's a bit of an overstatement. If I could redo it all again…I would take more time to appreciate you while I had you. Looking back, which I try not to do too much, everything seems like it went so quick."
A single tear welled up, and spilled over the edge- sliding down my cheek. "Sorry," I muttered, unable to get a grip on all the emotions twirling through my head.
Eli reached forward and wiped the tear away with his thumb. It had been so long since we had been this physically close, longer since he had touched me so tenderly, and I couldn't help but notice that he smelled the exact same way. And it was still intoxicating. "God, how many times have I been the cause of these running from your eyes?" I knew the question was rhetorical, so I kept my mouth shut. Eli and I just continued to stare at each other, an unidentifiable emotion charging the air between us. "This doesn't have to be the last time we talk, you know."
The words came out decisive and passionate…like he had just thought through all the implications and he didn't care. He wanted to maintain contact.
And, his words lit a small light inside me…I wanted to maintain contact, too.
"We could be friends," I agreed as he finally pulled his hand away.
"Friends…and we could take it slow; one day at a time. I want to know you again, Clare Edwards."
"And I want to find out who you really are, Eli Goldsworthy."
"Good; it's a deal, then." Eli held out his hand, businesslike, and the mood shifted back to the graduation-charged excitement. I grabbed his hand and shook.
"How about we go find that 'thing' Adam has been showing Imogen for the past thirty minutes."
"Lead the way," he smiled at me, and I could feel the corners of my mouth respond immediately…like traveling around the world only to find yourself back home where you belong.
Although I had meant it when I said I didn't need a do-over…I really wouldn't change a thing…it seemed like the universe was determined to give me one. We had to be sure not to screw it up this time.
So, I was just going to make this a one-shot…and it totally could be. But it also has potential to tell the story of their entire summer. What do you think, lovely readers; is it worth continuing?