A/N: Thank you to my sister S. for inspiring me with her experiences. Unlike this story, there was a different ending. But, she's awesome and very supportive. My role-model.
Time After Time
He's older. That's the first thing you need to know about him.
I'm in love with him. That's the first thing you need to know about me.
Our favorite color is purple—despite the fact that he wears black and my room was painted pink. He wrinkles his nose whenever I giggle, and I found out before that it's because he wants to laugh, but he holds it in. Come to think of it, he tries to keep everything together around me. But, I'm most likely sure that I changed that.
Even two people who are very different can also be similar.
I was 16 when I crashed my father's car while he was teaching me how to drive. Of course, I didn't plan to do it. It just happened. I paid attention the entire time and even turned off my cell phone to prevent any distractions. And my father was quiet along the ride with a few comments far away from criticizing, but more along the lines of supportive and instructive.
"T-that's okay," I remember his face turning red, "We've got insurance...I think."
"I'm so sorry, I pulled the break and I don't know what happened,"
"Clare, it's fine," He reassured me.
When we came home, my mother laughed at me and boasted to my father how she knew that it was going to happen. I felt worse knowing she expected me to fail. Then again, she was like that with everyone.
The upcoming week, rides to school and back were consistently offered by Alli's older brother. But sometimes I preferred to walk since Sav had student council issues to work on after-school, and we would have to wait a while for him to finish.
Yet, I didn't like walking either. Not that I was lazy or anything, because I adore fresh air, but there was always a group of jocks and cheerleaders that hung out around the corner of my street, and I would have to pass by them. That was the many perks of having Owen Milligan as a neighbor. That, and he had a party practically every Saturday, meaning that I didn't get much sleep those nights.
I'm neither popular nor invisible. I'm average. I go to school, get good grades, have a small group I hang around with, and haven't been asked out on a date since I began high school. Alli and Katie say that it's because I'm " unapproachable " and don't put myself out there much. What can I say? I hate school events; I already see those people for 35 hours a week, with about ten of them acknowledging my existence.
That, and I am a fond believer of chivalry in guys. But, it seems as if chivalry is on the verge of extinction or used as an act to get any action whatsoever nowadays.
It was on a Saturday that my dad came home looking angrier than usual. There was something about him that I feared, and I worried that he found out about me sneaking out nights before with Alli and Katie.
"Dad, something wrong?"
I heard him mumble under his breath for a while but after turned to me with wide eyes, "I'm sorry, did you ask something?"
"Yeah, are you okay?"
He scoffed, "Oh, I just found a mechanic for the car and—"
He was searching for the right and probably appropriate words to define what he was feeling.
"The kid's a smug, disrespectful-loony."
"Kid?" I questioned.
"He's like 19 or something," He lastly said before going upstairs.
He certainly was something.
Since my father was piled with work one day and my mother was busy with a church fundraiser, I had to go the next Saturday and check how much longer the car needed fixing.
Alli gave me a lift and promised she would pick me up in half-an-hour. I remember walking through the place. It seemed antique and smelled like car-fresheners. There were two older men that were just sitting around and chatting with each other. I walked up to them and asked about my father's car. They shrugged, and I felt ridiculous being there. Here they were, wearing wife-beaters and overalls, and I was all dressed up in a flowery shirt and skirt.
I was about to leave, but someone yelled out, "Edwards?"
I turned around and searched for the voice. It was young and raspy, so it couldn't be the two old men. They pointed to the far back, and I saw the car. And underneath the car, I saw a guy's feet peeping out of it.
I walked towards it and cleared my throat. The guy slid out, his back was on top of a skateboard and he slowly got up.
Green eyes. Shaggy hair that was covered by a black cap. Not tall, and certainly not short.
"This is my dad's car," I said.
He chuckled and wiped off some of the grease left on his cheek, "Obviously."
I don't even know why I found that attractive. He gave me attitude and I liked it, which is probably why I did a lame attempt to seem mature and "cool."
"Do you have a specific estimate of when it shall be done?" I sounded like a pompous jackass, now that I think about it.
He ignored it and brusquely rubbed his hands against a cloth he held, "By Wednesday, the latest. The engine is pretty weak and I'm barely fixing it right now."
The conversation was coming to an end and I found myself disappointed. But, what was I supposed to do? I had no experience in flirting. More importantly, this guy was 3 or 4 years older than me.
"Um, thanks then," I smiled.
He smirked at me and then said, "So, you're grumpy old-man Edwards' daughter?"
This comment bothered me. The attraction was slowly dying by then.
"And you're the smug, disrespectful-loony?"
He barked a laugh and I felt stupid for stooping down to his level. Way to be mature and cool.
"One of the many few out there,"
I turned around and left, feeling my cheeks turn red, "Have a good day,"
He didn't reply to that and went back to work.
Telling Alli about him was both a mistake and not. I guess I'm not a discreet person since she figured out by the time that I mentioned him, that I liked the guy.
"19? That's creepy, Clare." Was the only negative thing she had to say.
"I turn 17 in five months," I would reply without even noticing and I knew then that I was digging myself a deep hole by saying that.
I was hopeless for love. Seeing other girls have a guy to hold their hand, go on dates with, and kiss was an ardent jealousy I kept to myself and never ever told anyone about.
Having Katie and Alli sleep over and being forced to hear about their troubles with their boyfriends or comparing experiences of going down on them and having sex made me feel out of place. Not that I wanted to have sex, but I wanted one chance to at least say, "So-and-so and I did this, went there, and said that."
It was as if plainly mentioning boys and relationships sent Alli and Katie off into their own little world, and left me isolated on Mars.
"Is he cute?" One of them asked.
This was a first. The attention was centered on me and it felt weird.
"Uh, yeah. He's alright."
Perfection was more a precise adjective I had a fear of using.
"Imagine if he thinks you're cute too?"
Of course, they were joking. They knew a 19 year-old—attractive or not—was not approachable for an unapproachable person like me. Generally, this idea applied to every guy at Degrassi and the tri-state area.
It's difficult to explain why, but certainly not impossible. I was close to having a boyfriend once, but the problem relied in the guy's shyness. Not to mention the fact that many others convinced me: I was too good for him. The problem was, I thought he was too good for me. Now, whenever I see Wesley and how happy he makes Hannah, a part of me regrets not going for it and confessing to him that I liked him a lot.
I dislike thinking of it as fate. But my father was busy once again on Wednesday and ordered me to check-up the car and see if it was good to go. I didn't have a ride yet again and both Alli and Katie decided to drop me off to tag along and see who the "mystery mechanic" was.
Because some gorgeous girl was there and both him and her were eating lunch together by the same area that the two older men were once chatting the last time I stopped by. As soon as I walked in with my high-school friends, the girl began to laugh and the guy look annoyed, if not, amused.
"Edwards' daughter, what brings you here?" He got up and eyed my friends, who were ogling him.
"The car," I indifferently answered, somewhat sad having found out that he had a girlfriend.
There was no use in trying anymore.
"Oh shoot," He cursed, "It's hard to find the part I'm looking for. You guys have an old car and I've ordered the missing part, but I'm not sure when it'll get sent to me."
It was probably because his perfect girlfriend kept smiling at me and his perfect face kept taunting me that I said the next thing,
"If that's the supposed case, I could take it to another mechanic who will get the job done,"
Alli and Katie gave me a look which meant that I came off rude. And, I knew it too, but I didn't care.
He only smiled, "I don't think so,"
I glared at him and didn't feel like replying anymore, so I left.
As I was walking away, I heard Alli and Katie telling him that I had a bad day and I wasn't being myself. It was just them looking out for me and apologizing for my unnecessary attitude. But, they were right. I did have a bad day and wasn't being myself.
My dad received the car two days later. That was the last of mechanic-dude, as far as I knew. It was bittersweet. No more unnecessary drama in my life, but also no more him.
But when my father came home happier than usual, I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach that it would suck for me if it had to do with him.
"Clare-bear, did you tell Eli that we would take the car to another place?"
"Eli?" I echoed.
"—the mechanic. He said you told him that because he wasn't hurrying up with the car,"
I was screwed, but before I thought that, I couldn't get it out of my mind that his name was Eli. I expected it to be something less interesting and more generic like Bert or Jim.
"Oh dad, I didn't mean it like that—"
"It's fine!" My dad grinned, "He gave me a huge discount on it since he delayed a bit. That's my girl,"
Of course my father—if not everyone—would rather focus on saving money than having a rude brat for a daughter.
When I told Alli about this, she told Katie, and both of them succeeded in making me feel guilty.
"The attitude you gave him and the favor he did for your dad," Katie said.
"Straight-up," Alli agreed.
"I suck. I know,"
"Wait, why did you give him attitude? That's not like you," Katie questioned.
"Why does he a have a girlfriend?" I replied and it was obvious to both them and me, that I had a school-girl crush on Eli.
They giggled at me for a while, as I averted myself away from them.
Alli walked up to me and pressed a hand against my shoulder,
"Eh, he's too old for you anyways."
I felt horrible enough that it persuaded me to return to the auto-shop one day after-school and look for him to apologize.
"Edwards' daughter, what brings you here? I finished your beloved daddy's car already."
"I came to apologize for being rude to you last time. The discount wasn't necessary."
"Tell that to your dad," He joked.
"So, who put you up to this?"
"Me apologizing? No one. I'm just really sorry. I know my behavior was offhand," I said.
He smiled, "What caught you in that dump?"
"Your 'girlies' said that you had a bad day and weren't being yourself," He said, "What happened?"
"Nothing, really. To be frank, I'm just sensitive and very delusional."
There was a faraway look in his eyes and he smirked for a while before saying in a low voice,
That's how it started, I guess. I repeatedly went after-school and during the weekends to visit him at his auto-shop. In the best way to summarize Eli, he was nothing to me until he became something. Likewise for him, in regards of my younger self.
He always had something to say and so did I. Together, we drove his co-workers insane.
"When you die, you're dead. That's it. You close your eyes and never wake up. There are no dreams. There are no nightmares. It's fucking cryptic, so I don't believe in that afterlife stuff."
"Then, explain how ghosts exist? Someone couldn't have made that up with that much creativity. There's so much logic into that, there had to be a reason, meaning there had to once exist a real ghost."
"We have to agree to disagree," Eli would reply.
"You guys can't agree to anything!" One of the guys would yell.
Eli would snicker, and I would burst into tears so much that my face would turn red.
"You okay there, Clare?" He asked me once.
I stared at him for a while that I did not notice, but didn't care enough that he questioned it either.
"Clare? You there?"
"You called me Clare for the first time."
Visiting Eli became a problem.
Not that my parents knew, because they never really paid much attention to what I did. Alli and Katie found it cool that I made friends with an older guy, but also found it as an excuse to make inappropriate jokes about him and me. It wasn't inappropriate so much either, he was 3 years older than me and others saw it as a brother and sister relationship. To my dismay, so did Eli.
But, things got awkward when his girlfriend became worried. Which I will never understand, because Eli was way out of my league.
"She broke up with me," Eli confessed to me.
I felt awkward. What was I supposed to say?
"We've been on and off for a while now. It's stupid shit really,"
"Maybe it's for the best,"
And I think that's the worst thing I could have said. I learned it from both movies and books that this was okay to say. Hell, in most movies after this was said, the guy either kissed the girl or agreed with her. But, this was reality. Eli was 19 and out of my league. I was 16 and never been kissed.
"Fuck it," He sighed, "I knew you wouldn't understand,"
I stopped visiting him for a while out of pride and embarrassment that he talked to me like that.
This is supposed to be the part where the guy usually misses the girl and starts wondering about her or regrets talking to her like that. But, that only happens when the guy has feelings for the girl. So, clearly, none of this happened. I was still desperate and sometimes asked a friend of mine, usually a guy, and usually Connor to pass buy the place and creep on him for me.
"Hell no." Connor replied when I first asked him to do the favor.
"That's honestly the most immature thing you could do,"
"I know, I know. Just please. What about the time I helped you get a date with Jess?"
"Clare, this is high-school. Not kindergarten. Go and talk to him if you want. I'm not doing...that."
"Connor, you said you owed me,"
It took a bit more to get him to say yes. And when he came back from stalking the auto-shop, he would tell me how Eli seemed fine. That when he saw him, he was laughing with the other guys at work.
He was over it. I wasn't.
Personally, I define this as fate. Others see it as a coincidence.
I was invited to a part one night. Technically not. Alli was invited and she invited both Katie and I to tag along.
It was some of Sav's older friends who hosted it. I was hesitant at first, but went anyways, thrilled to think I might see Eli. It sounds pathetic, but that's what happens when you like someone as much as I liked him. You take every chance you get—impossible or not—just to see if it brings you closer to them.
I lost sight of Katie and started talking to another girl who went to the same school Darcy once attended. Eli came up behind me and dug a fingernail into my side, like other times before.
"Ow," I said.
"What are you doing here?"
"My friend invited me,"
He grinned at me and it felt like everything was fine again. There really was no need to mention the past. But, it was too soon to get my hopes up again because he quickly excused himself to go meet up with his friends that were at the party.
A random guy then asked me to dance and I didn't want to. I felt uncomfortable around him and seeing that he looked as if he owned the place and me. In the end I said yes. I was not like that. Yet, the moment he looked at me the way he did, I thought about everything. Maybe, I was unapproachable and needed to take a risk. It's sad how I found dancing as a risk. But, that's who I was. Scared.
When he left to dance with another girl, I turned around and saw Eli heading towards the door.
He looked at me with a sad smile.
This time, I didn't say anything and instead he passed by me and said, "The guys have been asking about you at the shop. They miss our arguments."
I laughed, "You're funny,"
He had a look on him that I never saw before.
That was the last thing he said to me before he went out the door and left the party. I took that as an invitation to visit him again.
It was a couple of weeks before we both got the hang of it. I visited him fewer days then. It wasn't constant like it used to be, but once in a while.
Sometimes, I worked on my homework in there and Eli would help me when he felt like it. He also had his stuff to worry about too, since he was attending a university nearby, and worked in his grandfather's auto shop—he barely told me this new information—to help his parents pay his tuition.
I soon found out that Fridays were when they closed early.
No one was home after-school one Friday and Alli was off to visit her family in Ottawa. I only talked to Katie when Alli was around. Things were awkward without her. So, I spent the entire day with Eli at the auto-shop.
"Are you really 19?"
"Why? I don't look like it?"
I guess it was me secretly hoping he would say no and admit that he was 17 that made me ask such a stupid question.
"No. You look 19, alright."
"Why do you say it like that?"
"Say it like what?"
"Say it like it's a bad thing,"
I sighed, "It's not."
I don't remember much, and I know that it's because I get embarrassed every time I think about it.
But I do remember this, Eli was locking up the back door and I was at the end of the room, gathering my stuff to leave.
When I stepped nearby the door, I bumped shoulders with him and he smelled like gasoline. I always found the scent of gasoline addicting and this was something my mother and others had criticized me for in the past.
All I thought about was how it would be like to kiss him. I've seen Alli and other girls do it a couple of times enough that and I had an idea of how it worked,
I didn't even consider the fact if Eli wanted to kiss me or not. It was selfish instinct and he looked so attractive at that moment that I no longer resisted.
When I placed my hands on his face, he gave a confused look. He didn't tell me to stop, and he didn't necessarily encourage me either. All I remember was my face inching closer to his. I counted the freckles on his nose. There were 14.
I pushed forward and it was weird—everything was. Lips had a different texture than the skin on my fist or the glass of the mirror in my bathroom. Truly, that's where I practiced or pretended that I was kissing someone when I was younger.
Eli's lips were cold, chapped, and rugged. I was also able to taste the remaining taste of his coke he drank earlier.
Then, I pulled away. It was careless kissing, that I failed at and he did not reply to.
Eli started laughing at me and I felt my heart sink. I quickly gathered my stuff and headed out the door. I remember walking a different way than I usually did so he wouldn't find me.
After I was sure that I wouldn't cry and reached a block away from the auto-shop, I called Katie to pick me up.
I didn't have the nerve to tell Katie. I told Alli and made her promise that she would carry the secret to her grave.
"Did he kiss you back?"
"I'm not sure if I even kissed him. Our lips touched and I did that thing you once did, I bit his bottom lip or whatever,"
"On the first kiss?" Alli looked as if she tried to stop herself from laughing.
"Don't laugh," I snorted.
"I'm not that fucked up,"
Alli wiggled her eyebrows at me and that sent us over the edge. I had tears in my eyes. Partly, because I realized how much it was a mistake, and also because I had to admit that I made a fool out of myself and it was hilarious.
In the situation I was in, embarrassment and fear are the best way to describe what I felt. This should reasonably explain why I did not visit Eli anymore after that incident.
About three weeks passed and it was then that he called me in the middle of the day.
He sounded different on the phone that I did not recognize his voice.
My voice was gruff and in disbelief, "W-who is this?"
"I'm pretty sure you know who this is,"
"You need to explain to me what that was all about,"
"That kiss, it was out of nowhere and—"
"A mistake. I'm sorry. "
"I'm not mad or anything. I mean, I kind of saw it coming, I just didn't think you'd have the guts to do it,"
After he said that, I hung up and turned off my phone. This wasn't necessary, since he didn't call after. Not once.
You know you're in too deep when you ask a guy for guy-advice. And Connor was the most straight-forward guy I knew.
"Just go to him. Tell him that you liked him and that it's in the past. He's probably over it by now. You're not that amazing."
By that time, Connor's bluntness had made me regret ever going to him.
"Oh, I know."
"Seriously Clare, it's not like you had anything to do with him. It was nothing."
"But, I still like him."
Connor hooked his arm around my neck and sighed, "He clearly doesn't feel the same way. The dude is 19. There are better options for him out there and he's bound to pick one of them."
I frowned, "It must suck to be your girlfriend. When you break up with them, I can just imagine how horrible you are,"
Connor laughed, "Not to the ones I actually cared for. There's always a difference."
I sighed, "I know."
I always had Eli on my mind no matter what. It bothered me, I couldn't focus in school anymore, and I didn't want to go hang out with any of my friends. I had a fear of running into Eli and the confrontation I would have to face.
My parents finally took notice in me when I wasn't being my usual-self.
"Kiddo? You haven't touched your food." My father pointed out.
"Oh, I'm just tired. Food makes me even more tired. I just want to go sleep."
My mother had rushed out of her seat and placed her hand on my forehead, "No fever. I bet it's what you get for showering so late at night. I told you, it's bad for you."
"I'm sure that's not the case, Helen." My father replied.
"Fine, fine. I'll eat the food. Just don't make such a big deal out of it." I silenced them.
"Honestly Clare, you've been rather odd lately."
Not odd. Just heartbroken.
One day, I was walking home from school and a car pulled up beside me.
"Long time no see,"
It was him and he was smiling. I was smiling without noticing as well. He got a new hair-cut, that's as much as I remember and it was one that certainly suited him and made him look more mature.
The memory was distant as he looked right at me, but as soon as he started laughing everything came back to haunt me.
I remember staring at a tree across the street, avoiding Eli's face and everything. He was observantly staring at me and I was terrified of looking at him in the eye.
I quickly tightened my bag around my should and muttered, "I need to go home,"
He then got out of his car and leaned against the hood of it. There were many emotions etched on his face that I could not identify and he asked, "What do you say we go for a ride instead?"
Eli drove to the curb of a practically-abandoned street. An old house was at the right of me, and whoever lived there was loudly playing a familiar song in the background. I knew the words to every lyric. My mother had invested this love of music for me since I was younger. That was the only time she and I had ever communicated with each other as mother and daughter without any obligation.
"You know Clare, I always have been in control of everything. What I want, I got. And if I didn't like something, I got over it."
He propped a shoulder against the window and I stared at him.
He scoffed and his voice grew softer as each word escaped his lips, "Seems like it, doesn't it? It really isn't. It's been some time now that I felt that I am no longer in control of anything anymore, really."
"You're not making any sense,"
"Funny you should say that, because that sounds like something you should be familiar with, right?"
I sniffled, "So, what's the point of this? You laughed at me and now you pick on me."
"The point is that...I don't know. Just tell me what that kiss was about,"
"I thought it was clear that I like you,"
Eli grinned ahead and replied, "Believe me, it was."
I sighed, "It should be. I mean, of course a girl like me would fall for a guy like you. It's now understandable to me that it's the way things are. And that someone like you wouldn't feel the same way."
What I said must have left an impact on him because we both stayed quiet for a while until he spoke again.
"I didn't always feel that way, you know?"
I was waiting for closure as I held my breath, "Then how did you feel?"
"I did like you back,"
"When?" I asked, afraid of the answer.
His eyes held a secret I was not expecting, "Now. I like you now."
And that word suddenly meant everything to me, "What are you saying?"
"Clare, I've had feelings for you since a while. I just didn't know if I should have told you or how to tell you. It's not something as easy as it would be if you were older or I was younger,"
"Age is nothing but a number,"
His hands clutched the steering wheel. The song was over, and I was waiting for his eyes to meet mine.
"Wanna go out with me this Friday?"
"Would you get a load of that? She looks perfect."
I'm done remembering and realize that I'm ready.
Alli hurries into my room and she's already tearing up. She has tons of mascara smearing on her cheeks and she's half-sobbing and half-laughing at me. I'm scared and can't stop smiling.
"Oh God, look at you,"
"Is it too much?" I ask.
Alli squeezes me into a tight hug, and I'm worried that my hair will get ruined.
"It looks great. You look perfect! Do you feel good?"
"I think so, oh man, I can't believe this is happening." I can feel my legs trembling and I anxiously search for the clock and the time.
"I swear, the number of times you two were on and off, I thought this day would never come." Alli wipes off her tears.
"They only broke up three times!" Katie chimes from the back and she's laughing hysterically.
"Does it matter now?" I smile.
"At the time we're wasting, yes! It's almost time!"
"I have to say, you cleaned up very nicely."
"And I must admit, that's a nice suit, who helped you pick that out?"
"Eh, I can have good taste you know?"
"Well, you are marrying me,"
"That's not taste. That's love."
"Geez, corny much?"
"You changed that, my love, the blame is on you."
He holding in his breath and he's staring at me as if I was that vulnerable 16 year-old again. There's that faraway look in his eyes and he can't stop grinning, that it begins to influence me.
We finish talking and realize that all eyes are focused on us. The priest begins to speak in a voice so sure of himself, like I am and Eli is.
"Dearly beloved. We are gathered here today..."
He's Eli Goldsworthy. I am about to spend the rest of my life with him.
I'm Clare Goldsworthy. This is our story.
A/N: The ending was supposed to end on a WAY more different note. It was going to be more "realistic," but then I changed it like literally last-minute because I felt that everyone needs more fluff nowadays. I know I do.
JUST to be Clear: They did NOT get married on the first date. Clare was remembering her relationship with Eli. That is why the first part and the ending are written in PRESENT-tense. And the rest is written in PAST-tense.