So I know I suck at this whole updating business, what else is new? I don't have a whole lot of time to sit down and write to begin with and when I do the Degrassi writers like to suck anything positive from the new episodes so I'm left with absolutely zero inspiration. I'm trying guys.
Only one chapter left after this and if I'm taking too long to update just drop by my tumblr, cheapnovelty87. Nothing like a good kick in the pants to inspire me. As always I don't own Degrassi, blink-182 or any other pop culture references. Thanks for putting up with me for this long.
~ Chapter 8 ~
Clare sat in the passenger seat of Jake's truck as he pulled up to school the following Monday after Cece's intrusion on her and Eli's "moment". She kept waiting for him to bring up their almost kiss, maybe in a flirty text suggesting they pick up where they left off or some big grand gesture like something from the movies, but to no avail.
The entire weekend she received no calls, texts, smoke signals, nothing. Not even one of his spontaneous visits to take her out to the park where they would sit and swing for hours or he and Adam dragging her to the theatre downtown where they would see the least popular show so they could substitute their own voices over the characters. Clare even checked his facerange and twitter profiles to see if he had made any updates in a slightly desperate state, but no luck there, only the expected school gossip and more selfies than she had ever wished to encounter.
Finally, with a little help from Alli she managed to calm herself down, maybe he was just busy. It's not like she had made any attempts to contact him either, partially because she was unsure if he was still amidst a downswing, she didn't want to make him feel uncomfortable by forcing him to talk about it. If he wanted to talk he knew where to find her.
Still, Clare couldn't help the anxious feeling that grew over her as each day went by. She hadn't let her cell phone leave her side in case he tried to call, once even hopping out of the shower soaking wet, positive she heard it ring. She wouldn't classify her behavior as desperate, more like…giddy. Cece's disturbance and the awkwardness aside, Clare was really glad they were finally taking a step in that direction. All weekend she couldn't get the kiss out of her mind, even if technically, it didn't happen. She was sure he was doing the same, both of them taking the weekend to think things over before they did anything drastic. She would see him today and they would talk then…and she could not wait.
Finally Jake's truck pulled into his usual spot, the Toronto snow crunching beneath his tires as he turned down the drone of Tom Petty's voice on the radio with a flick of his wrist. Looking around the lot, Clare smiled, seeing the Torres van in all its grace, parked haphazardly in the otherwise structured looking lot.
If Adam was here maybe Eli was as well, she knew occasionally Adam would give Eli rides in the morning and she couldn't help but hope today was one of those rarities.
Just as she was about to get out of the truck, Clare caught Jake giving her an odd look as he slouched back in his seat, content with hanging out in his truck until it was time for class, never being the punctual one.
"What?" she questioned.
Jake laughed, nodding at her as if that explained everything. "You're so….smiley, it's not normal for this hour."
"Why shouldn't I be 'smiley'?" she asked using his term, "I finished reading that new book of mine yesterday, I didn't have any homework and it's beautiful out. There, three good reasons for anyone to be so happy in the morning."
"Beautiful? It's cloudy," Jake mumbled peering up at the sky.
"Do you always have to be so negative?" Clare asked making her step-brother laugh once more.
"Hey I was just asking, no need to get so defensive," he smiled. "Trying to make sure you're smiling for the right reasons."
Clare shot him a look, "And what would be a wrong reason for me to be happy?"
"I don't know," Jake drawled, "some stuff Jesus wouldn't want you doing…" He mimicked holding a joint to his mouth with his fingers as Clare shook her head. "..Or you know, a boy."
Shielding her face from him, Clare quickly exited the truck, catching the smug look on his face as she turned for the school, shaking her head at his antics, glad they were getting along much better these days compared to their awkward painful beginning.
Entering the school, Clare looked around at the familiar faces, KC and Connor over by the media room looking through a book, Dave leaning against his locker typing away on his phone presumably to Alli, even Bianca and Drew looking awfully cozy snuggled up between lockers, but no sign of the black haired boy she was looking for.
Clare headed to her own locker to grab her books for her first class of the day and decided it wouldn't hurt to walk by Eli's locker on the way to class, you know, take the scenic route. Once she got there she couldn't help but smile to see none other than Eli himself, seemingly in his own world as he robotically grabbed his books with a blank look on his face.
As she approached she couldn't help but notice he looked a bit rough compared to his normal look. His usually sleek hair was sticking up in odd places in the back as though he'd spent a good chunk of the morning running his fingers through it; the skin beneath his eyes was dark, making him seem even paler.
Still, Clare was too excited to see him to be put off by his dark appearance, hell it was one of the things that first attracted her to Eli.
"Hey," she greeted softly, smiling up at him shyly.
He glanced at her briefly before returning to his locker mumbling, "Clare, hi."
"How's your leg? It's not hurting you, is it?"
"My leg?" he grumbled distracted, "no, it's fine, everything is fine."
"Okay…how was your weekend?" she tried again, hoping to get a bit more of a response from him.
"Busy," he replied shortly.
"Oh. Well I hope you're not too busy tonight, there's a new art museum that just opened up downtown…I thought maybe we could check it out?" Clare suggested, trying to keep the hopeful edge out of her tone.
Eli's face darkened with something she couldn't recognize as he closed his eyes tightly, "I don't think that's a good idea, Clare."
"Why not? If you have therapy or something tonight we can just go some other time," she tried once more, not wanting to push him but letting him know she wanted this.
"Just stop, okay?" he snapped, catching the attention of several students around, reminding her of another time he lashed out at her in a hallway.
He waited a few seconds for the extra students eyeing them to go back to whatever they were doing before taking a deep breath, "Look, I'm sorry for yelling, you didn't deserve that."
"It's alright Eli, are you feeling okay?" Clare asked worriedly, dipping her head in an effort to meet his averted eyes.
"Just peachy," he said slamming his locker, muttering something under his breath as he turned to her, his fingers back at work within his hair. "After you left the other day, I've been doing a lot of thinking and I owe you an apology."
"An apology?" Clare laughed. "You don't owe me anything, Eli. Cece already apologized for walking in on us about a thousand times, it's fine."
"I'm not apologizing for what Cece did, I'm apologizing for what I did" he said, getting frustrated.
"But you didn't do anything," Clare pointed out confused. "Or are you trying to say you're sorry for what you didn't get to do? Because I'm sure you could think of a way to make it up to me," she smiled suggestively as she moved closer to him.
"No," Eli replied flatly, his brow furrowing at the space between them. "What I'm trying to say is I'm sorry I tried to kiss you. You're my friend and I don't want to do anything to jeopardize that, it won't happen again."
"Well that's very…noble of you," Clare laughed, "but it's really not necessary. In fact," she stepped closer to him once more, her hand on his chest and her face inches from his, "I bet if you were to try again right now, you'd find the result quite satisfactory."
"You don't get it, do you?" he said harshly, pushing her away from him, "there's nothing going on between us, we're just friends, get it through your head."
Yanking his bag off the ground, Eli stormed away leaving Clare with only one thought running through her mind: What the hell just happened?
After Eli's outburst that morning, Clare had gone straight to Alli and recalled the whole scenario, the other girl just as baffled as she had been.
Clare kept replaying the past few weeks in her head trying to figure out when she stepped out of line. Things had been great at the movie theatre and running him over with a sled couldn't have scored her too many points, but he had said he'd forgiven her actions and even was the one to initiate their almost kiss.
She was lost.
Clare had spent so much time thinking about where she went wrong that she was even told off in one of her classes, something that would have practically traumatized her old self but now she couldn't even find it in her to care, shrugging it off as her mind kept going over Eli's words from earlier.
She had thought about asking Adam what his deal was, surely he would know what was going through Eli's head, but the only class she had with him so far he'd spent the majority joking around with Dave and as much as Clare wanted information, she wasn't about to broadcast it in front of the other students around them.
She could always ask Jake, he was in fact a guy and certainly would know about the crazy ways their minds work, but Clare really didn't want to let him know things with her and Eli were less than stellar after everything he had warned her about.
"Clare," a deep voice called, breaking her train of thought. Not recognizing the voice, she looked up to find Connor towering over her desk with a confused look upon his face.
"I'm sorry, did you say something?"
"The bell rang," he answered, "class is over, it's lunch time. Everyone already left but you're still here, aren't you going to eat lunch?"
Clare looked around realizing Connor was right, the whole class had disappeared, even the teacher. She glanced up seeing he was still waiting for her to answer. "Sorry Connor, I guess I got a little distracted, thanks for getting my attention."
He nodded, still eyeing her apprehensively.
Great, now even Connor thinks I'm weird.
"What were you thinking about so hard?" Sometimes when I'm thinking about a math formula I think real hard, what problem are you trying to solve?"
"No math, just a stupid, confusing boy," she mumbled, further puzzling the boy before her. "Can I ask you something, Connor?" a sudden thought coming to her mind as he signaled for her to continue. "Let's say there's a boy and a girl, they're just friends but they both really like each other…or at least it seems that way. One day they almost kiss and then suddenly the boy gets all weird and distant, why would he do that? He's always so flirty, it must mean he likes her back so why the hot and cold?"
Connor shrugged, not sure if she was still talking to him or just mumbling to herself, "Maybe the girl has bad breath?"
Clare sighed defeated, what was she expecting, Connor was simple, Eli…not so much. "Thanks, Connor."
After Connor assured her that if she ever had a math or science question he'd be of much more help, Clare eventually made her way to the cafe. Already planning on sitting with Alli for the day, certainly she could survive one day of Alli and Dave's constant flirting, when Adam waved her over, already in their usual spot with the other three.
Maybe Eli had explained everything to Adam, it was all sorted out and they were just going to tell Clare about their big funny joke they were all in on or something just as extravagant.
Upon sitting down, Clare quickly realized that was not the case, Eli letting out a loud sigh at her arrival as she sat across from him, instantly throwing the other three off.
"So how's life? I feel like I haven't seen you guys in forever!" Adam cried happily, reaching over to take Eli's brownie off his plate.
"Busy," Eli grunted, much as he did with Clare that morning.
"Busy with that? You didn't do anything with us all weekend," Adam asked as he bit into his burger.
"Busy with stuff," Eli snapped making the other boy raise his hands in mock surrender.
"Well damn, forget I asked. How about you Clare, do anything fun over the weekend?"
She glanced at Eli, who hadn't looked at her since she sat down before answering Adam, "Nothing worth talking about."
"Note to self, find less boring friends," Adam mumbled earning a slap from Fiona.
"Hey, I am not boring!" she chastised. "My weekend was divine, I went down to New York to see Declan and Holly J, that cunning minx, surprised us all with a visit. We went shopping, put up Christmas decorations and went ice skating at the Rockefeller Center."
"Ooh I love ice skating!" Imogen chirped, clapping her hands enthusiastically, "Adam Torres we should all go ice skating somewhere! I don't care if we just flood your drive way, I wanna ice skate!"
"Sounds cool to me, as long as you guys are fine with the idea of me showing you all up," Adam joked.
"Bring it Torres, my mom had me take lessons in grade school," Fiona informed smugly.
"Well we can't all be as great as Fiona," he rolled his eyes, "as long as I'm better than Eli, I'll be fine."
"Aw can Eli not skate?" Imogen mocked in a child-like tone.
"Let me put it this way," Adam said laughing, "half the time he'll be falling on his ass and the other half ogling over Clare while on his ass."
Their laughter was quickly interrupted by the loud screech of Eli's chair as he stood up and walked out of the cafe, leaving a large awkward silence in his wake.
"…Was it something I said" Adam asked, his joking tone no longer present in his voice.
Finding no other way around it, Clare regretfully informed them about everything that had been going on with her and Eli, from their almost kiss to his outburst that morning, keeping the more intimate details to herself.
Once she was finished she waited for someone to say something, anything, an explanation to his behavior or some reassurance for her not to worry, but nothing.
"Will somebody say something please?" Clare pleaded, the stunned silence killing her as she glanced around the table at Imogen's pouty face and Fiona who appeared more than a little uncomfortable at the topic.
"I'm gonna kick his ass," Adam announced, standing up, intending to follow Eli until both Imogen and Clare sprung up, holding him back by his hoodie. Clare wasn't the biggest fan of Eli's attitude as of late, but an ass kicking surely couldn't help the matter.
"Adam relax, you don't need to do anything drastic, maybe I was pressuring him, making him uncomfortable. I'm the one in the wrong here," Clare said, an edge of sadness in her voice.
"That's bullshit and you know it Clare, I'm tired of that ass messing with your head like this!" he yelled, returning to his seat and not happy about it.
"He's not, he's just-"
"Stop defending him, Clare," Adam interrupted.
"Look, we didn't really get a chance to talk this morning; maybe I just caught him at a bad time. I'll talk to him after school okay? Until then put the guns away," Clare said keeping her voice calm.
"Fine," Adam nodded, "but if he's still a dick to you after your talk, I'm kicking his ass."
"I wouldn't expect anything less."
Clare stood by her locker five minutes after the final bell had sounded, signaling the end of the school day. Adam had spoken to her moments before letting her know that if her and Eli's talk turned sour all she had to do was call him and he'd be there, ready to set Eli up for an ass-kicking appointment.
Imogen had found her after class as well to inform her that Eli would be in the weight room, the girl clearly had her sources and knew how to use them. Normally Clare frowned upon the quirky girl's nosey ways but today she found she had nothing but appreciation for her investigating.
Finally, mustering up whatever courage she had left, she started her way to the weight room hoping Eli's mood had vastly improved since that morning.
Clare had only been to the weight room twice before, always finding the place a bit intimidating: once in grade nine where Alli had insisted it was the best place to meet cute guys and all they had to do was stand around in their gym clothes (cue an awkward moment with that Reese kid) and once the year before where her and Eli had gone to talk Adam out of a fight with Fitz.
She turned down a small set of stairs, the lights dimmed and the hallway eerily quiet, if she hadn't known better she'd think she was on the set of a horror film, half expecting a psycho with a chainsaw to jump out at her at any moment.
As she reached the doors as the end of the hall she couldn't help but pause momentarily to compose herself, she felt comfortable in libraries, coffee shops, not gyms, she was way out of her element.
For a brief moment Clare considered going back, she would just have to talk to Eli later, only just realizing how silly she might look going into a place meant for workouts in her street clothes; however it was at that moment she spotted him.
Clare could only see his back but there was no mistaking the boy on the treadmill, black gym shorts, black t-shirt and a mop of dark hair underneath a bulky set of headphones. Who else could it be?
Deciding it was now or never, she quickly shoved open the heavy door and stepped inside.
Clare was expecting the smell, an awful stench of body odor and sweat, she was expecting the loud music with the thumping bass drowning out the rest of the song, what she wasn't expecting was for everyone minus Eli to notice her.
Truth be told, she was so focused on what she wanted to say to Eli that she hadn't even thought of the possibility of other people being in the weight room, yet here they all were staring at her as if she waltzed in with her hair on fire.
Katie almost stumbled off of the elliptical as Clare's presence caused her to miss a step; KC stood gawking at her over a young boy he was supposed to be spotting, his face turning red from the effort mid bench press. Even Owen Milligan, who rarely paid attention to anything that wasn't a sport, paused to cock a brow at her mid squat, reminding her of a very burly version of Atlas Shrugged.
Sure, the blazer she was wearing was a little much for the setting, especially considering almost everyone in the room had big, raggedy holes where the sleeves should have been on their t-shirts, but was it really that much of a shock that she would be in here?
"Surprised to see you here," the voice of Drew Torres called, voicing her thoughts, a forgotten jump rope hanging from his hands as he flashed her a cheeky smile.
"Last I checked I don't need a membership to use the school gym," Clare snapped, her normal cheery self suddenly absent.
Unfazed by her attitude, Drew shrugged, returning to his workout only after he slapped the back of KC's legs with his jump rope childishly.
Unaware of her intrusion, Eli kept on running, the music from his headphones becoming more prominent as Clare approached.
She almost laughed at the range of emotion that flashed across his face once he realized she was there: shocked, embarrassed, confused, before settling on nonchalant.
"We need to talk," Clare informed, putting her hands on her hips in an effort to show him she meant business.
"Huh? Can't hear you," he replied loudly, motioning to his headphones in a manner that had Clare not been such a lady, she would have slapped him.
In no mood for his games, she reached across, pushing the headphones roughly onto his shoulders. "Can you hear me now?" she mocked.
"Crystal," he grumbled, rolling his eyes. "What do you want?"
"We need to talk," she repeated once more, noticing how once again the other occupants of the gym had stopped their workouts, now watching them closely.
"I'm kind of in the middle of something," Eli bristled, motioning to the treadmill beneath him as he continued running.
"Yeah?" Clare strode over the wall the treadmill was plugged into and snatched the cord from the outlet, the machine screeching to a halt as Eli nearly toppled off. "Well now you're done."
"Fine," he growled out between gritted teeth, "what do you want to talk about? What is so damn important that it has to be done right here, right now?"
"You! And this flip-flop attitude you've been giving me lately," Clare stated annoyed.
"It's called being bipolar," Eli sassed back, stepping off the treadmill to get closer to her.
"This has nothing to do with your illness and you know it so don't you try and play that card with me," Clare warned, oblivious to everyone except the boy before her. "One second more and last weekend we would have been kissing," Clare announced, ignoring the obnoxious "oooh's" coming from the other boys, "and today you act like there's nothing going on between us, you can't keeping playing me hot and cold!"
"I already apologized for that, what more do you want?" Eli yelled, no longer trying to uphold his oblivious front.
"Hey!" a deep voice shouted, interrupting Clare's rebuttal. She turned sharply, forgetting they had an avid audience, focusing her attention on the burly boy in front of her.
"Think you can take your little lover's quarrel elsewhere?" Owen continued, obviously annoyed with the two, "some of us actually come here to work out."
Clare turned to glance at Eli who was glaring at the ceiling before grumbling, "Fine," as he snatched a towel from a nearby bin and strode out the door.
She took a moment to gather herself before following him, doing her best to ignore Drew's high pitched voice mocking, "Eli Goldsworthy, you get off that treadmill right now!" as KC howled with laughter.
Eli was sitting on a bench about halfway down the hall when Clare came out, the silence of the hall such a vast difference from the loud gym they came from. Tentatively, she walked towards him, suddenly very aware of the growing tension between them. She sat down cautiously, keeping a good space between them, not that he noticed, Eli hadn't even looked up from his hands since Clare entered the hallway.
She tugged awkwardly at her red polo as she waited for him to speak, glancing at him briefly to watch him wipe the sweat from his face with the towel he had grabbed from the weight room. Clare sighed loudly hoping he'd catch the not so subtle hint and talk to her, but he paid no mind either childishly ignoring her or Alli was right and all boys really were morons.
Clare, not quite as content with the silence as Eli seemed to be, realized if any progress was going to be made between them she would have to make the first move. "You know if you don't have feelings for me anymore just come right out and say it. I'm a big girl, I can handle it," Clare started, her tone a bit harsher than it sounded in her head.
He sighed, his face still buried in the towel, "It's not that simple."
Clare could feel herself growing more and more frustrated at his cryptic response, his mysteriousness had only appealed to her when they first met, now she was just plain annoyed. "Then talk to me because this game of back and forth is really starting to get old, Eli."
Finally he removed his face from the damned towel and looked at her, his face unreadable. "I just think we're better off as friends."
"But why, Eli?" She pleaded, her annoyance growing, if it wasn't his stupid vague answers or his stupid dumb smirk it was his stupid guard coming back up. "The other day you were ready to kiss me even after I had run you over, what changed since then?"
Instead of granting her a response as she had hoped, Eli ignored her question, dropping his gaze back into his lap, further pissing Clare off.
She shook her head dismissively; feeling like this whole thing was just a waste of their time. "I don't get you sometimes," she admitted defeated. "There are days when I swear you want this just as much as I do, if not more. You're always flirting with me, finding any excuse to touch me, even trying to kiss me! It just doesn't make sense," Clare paused glancing over at Eli, hoping to get some type of reaction out of him but he continued to sit silently as he stared at his hands, that damn stoic look on his face.
"We could have something really special, Eli," she continued softly, "we had this horrible breakup, couldn't even talk to each other and we made it through! We're still here, we can get through anything."
"But what if we can't?" Eli spoke suddenly, his voice small and weak, finally looking up at Clare from his slouched position. "What if this second chance was meant for us to see we're better as friends? We obviously don't work as a couple; Morty's smashed remains are proof of that."
"So this is it?" Clare asked, feeling herself starting to get upset, "you're actually doing this? You're giving up?"
Eli took his time with his answer, as if the words he was looking for were etched somewhere on the wall before him, "…I'm sorry I led you on."
Clare's reaction was immediate, "No Eli, you don't get to do that again." He didn't mean that, of course he didn't, she knew him too well for that. That was his line, his copout, whenever the conversation took a turn he wasn't ready to face and Clare was tired of it. "There's something there and you know it! Don't push me away."
She had expected him to deny it again; pretend like it was never there, just something she imagined.
Hoping up, Eli turned to her, waving his hands in the air erratically, "See! This is what I mean! You shouldn't have to deal with this, with me. I said last year that I didn't want to take you down this road but I did and look what happened: we've only recently started talking again Clare, I can't do that again."
His hands dropped to his sides defeated as he looked around momentarily, deciding what to say next. Taking a seat beside her once more, Eli turned to her, the look in his eyes sending a chill down her spine, "I care about you so much, I don't know what I'd do if I lost you again." He immediately turned away after his admission, hating for Clare to see him in such a vulnerable state.
Clare wasn't going to let him shut her out, not after they were finally getting somewhere. "Oh, Eli," she soothed, moving closer to him on the bench to place her dainty hand over his slightly trembling ones, "you won't, remember what I said before? 'I'm not going anywhere,' that's still true."
"Yeah," he scoffed bitterly, "and then you left."
Unfazed by his comment, Clare soldiered on, squeezing his hands tightly, "Not this time, no one is going anywhere okay? We're both better this time, we can make it work."
"But what if things get bad again?" Eli asked his voice just above a whisper as he looked down at their conjoined hands. "I'm going to be bipolar for the rest of my life Clare; you can't just be there on my good days."
"And I won't" she promised, hoping to convince him, "it's not always going to be easy and we're both going to make mistakes, but I want to be there for you, Eli. We'll take it one day at a time."
Clare watched him closely as he mulled over her words in his head, several different emotions flashing across his face as the inner conflict waged on. She tried to be hopeful, stay positive, until he pulled his hands from her grip, burying his face in them as he continued to think.
As each minute ticked by Clare couldn't help but grow more and more concerned. She tried to busy herself so she wouldn't make him feel more pressured than he already was, she picked at her nails, counted dots on the ceiling and even glanced over at the door to the weight room where she would occasionally see Drew or KC peering out at them, once Drew giving her a goofy wave.
As big of idiots as she found them to be most of the time, Clare was extremely grateful they opted to stay in the weight room and spy on them rather than actually come out and interrupt her and Eli. Something told her Eli wasn't going to decide he wanted a relationship with her while Drew Torres and company made juvenile commentary like "oh no she didn't" or "are you gonna take that?"
Finally after what felt like hours but in reality was only a matter of minutes, Eli sighed from beside her, bringing his head up from his hands, his decision made.
Clare knew what he was going to say before he even said it, the way he kept his hands firmly in his lap, out of her reach, the ruffled state of his hair from his anxious fingers threading through it and the slight film of tears in his eyes. No, this is not what Clare wanted.
He was supposed to have that stupid smirk plastered on his face where he would feign doubtful before he finally leaned in and kissed her. She wanted Confident Eli who knew what he wanted, not this conflicted, regretful boy in front of her.
Clare shook her head, hoping he'd change his mind, but it was too late.
"I'm sorry," he rasped out, "I think we should just be friends."
Clare wasn't sure why she was getting so upset; surely she knew this was coming since his outburst at his locker that morning. But something in her, most likely her naivety, had hoped there was something else in store for them. It's not like he was cutting her out of his life forever, he just wanted to be her friend, that's all. No big deal. Then why did she feel the sting of tears at her eyes or the large lump growing in the pit of her stomach?
Her and Eli's relationship had never been perfect, but aside from the end where his possessiveness had taken over she had truly been happy with him and a small part of her always wondered if they could ever go back to that. It was silly, she was surprised they were even able to rekindle their friendship after everything; did she honestly believe a relationship was in the cards for them? Rational Clare from last year would've said no, but this Clare, the one who held his hand as they sped down a one-way street going the wrong direction, the one who hid in his lap in a movie theatre to avoid her mother, and yes, even the one who ran him down in a sled had hoped she had been wrong about their future.
She didn't know if she should start singing or crying, Eli still had some type of feelings for her, but he didn't want to be with her.
"Okay," Clare smiled, hating herself for tearing up in front of him. Get a hold of yourself she thought angrily. So he doesn't want to date you, oh well, get over it. You and Jake are fine, hell even you and KC are acknowledging each other's presence again. It's not the end of the world; he's still one of your best friends. This isn't a big deal.
She nodded to herself realizing she was right, this doesn't' have to be a big deal, they'll just go back to how they've been these past few months: friends. Yet despite all this self-assurance, Clare could feel a slight pang in her heart as she realized another guy she cared about didn't want her.
It was almost laughable how at that very moment Clare realized that any milestone between her and Eli occurred on a bench: the moment she realized she liked him, the day she asked him for a break, the initial end of their relationship and now where they decided to remain only as friends, the irony of the situation too much.
Hearing Eli's voice brought her back to reality, realizing slightly embarrassed she'd been lost in her thoughts for a reasonable amount of time considering the odd look he was giving her.
She gave him the most genuine smile she could muster at the moment, "Fine, if that's what you want, we'll stay as friends."
Eli sighed, visibly relieved as if he was expecting her to lash out at him.
"But," Clare emphasized watching as his face contorted with worry once more, "if we're going to be friends that means we need to start acting that way."
"I'm not sure I follow," Eli replied, his eyebrows scrunching together.
"No more holding hands or any other unnecessary touching, no cuddling as we watch movies-" she started to clarify.
"Hey, friends can cuddle," Eli interjected a child-like pout on his face.
"Do you cuddle with Adam?" she challenged, watching his demeanor deflate.
"That's what I thought," she smirked. "No more trying to kiss each other," she continued to list watching Eli's face darken at her words, "and no more flirting. Strictly platonic."
Eli took a moment, going over her terms in his head before nodding as he grumbled, "I guess that's fair," although he didn't seem too happy about it.
Clare smiled, feeling good about their agreement, if there was no flirting or touching going on, something they opted against the first time around, it would feel like a legit friendship. They could do this.
She pulled out her phone and started to dial Jake's number, praying he and Jenna hadn't taken some random drive to the country side once again, she really did not want to walk home in this weather.
"What are you doing?" Eli questioned.
"Calling Jake," she answered. "My mom thinks I haven't spent enough time with 'the family' lately so I should probably get going."
Eli shrugged, "I could give you a ride."
Clare turned, cocking a brow at him, he didn't exactly have a means of transportation unless he meant on his back.
He laughed at her expression, clarifying, "Bullfrog could give you a ride, let me call him."
As they waited for his dad to arrive the weight room occupants, realizing it was safe to come out now, exited the weight room but not without having a little fun at the pair's expense.
"Kids, you behaving out here?" Drew mocked placing his hands on his hips in a very Audra-like way. "Don't make me put you two in timeout."
KC laughed beside him adding, "Get a tan, dude," motioning to Eli's pale legs. Clare couldn't help but laugh, ignoring the death glare from the boy beside her, realizing this was probably the first time she had actually been able to see his legs, typically confined in his skinny jeans.
Owen scoffed unamused from behind the other two, already having had enough KC and Drew time from their elongated stay in the weight room as he whipped the back of Drew's head with his towel, evoking more laughter from the boys. "Next time you need couple's therapy, do it somewhere I'm not," he directed Clare's way before turning out of sight.
Once Bullfrog arrived the two ran out into the cold trying to minimize their time in the freezing weather as Clare slid into the back seat while Eli climbed up front with his dad.
Bullfrog cocked a brow at his son, "What? Don't wanna make out with your girlfriend in the backseat?" he teased watching both kids redden.
"We're just friends, Dad," Eli replied annoyed.
"You were serious about that?" the older man questioned, the surprise evident in his voice, further irritating his son.
Bullfrog laughed as Eli gave a curt nod, his eyes locked straight in front of him, "Don't worry Clarabelle, you already missed out on the decent Goldsworthy, better looking and funnier, this one is just a knock off anyway."
"Relax, it's a joke, Clarabelle thinks it's funny," he pointed out, nodding to the girl in the backseat. "But I am funnier and better looking," he mumbled to himself before turning on the radio, loudly singing along to "Running with the Devil."
Four songs later Bullfrog pulled up to Clare's house, realizing his dad wasn't planning on stopping his rendition of Alice Cooper's "Poison" anytime soon, Eli exited the car with Clare, quickly regretting not changing back into his uniform before they left as the cold air hit his bare legs.
He started to walk to her door when a hand on his arm stopped him.
"Friends don't walk friends to their doors," Clare reminded him, an all knowing smile on her face.
"I was just going to say goodbye," Eli justified, shivering slightly.
"You can do so right here," Clare nodded.
"Can I call you tomorrow?" he asked hopefully, smiling as she nodded in agreement. "Alright, well, I'll see you later Clare." Instinctively he leaned in to press a kiss to her cheek but was quickly stopped as Clare pushed against his chest lightly.
"Whoa there, no kissing remember?" she teased playfully.
"I was going for your cheek Clare, calm down."
"Nope," she shook her head, "no kissing."
"Even for goodbyes?" he exclaimed. "But it's a friendly kiss," he tried once again, feeling like he got cheated as she shook her head once again.
"Nope, strictly platonic," she laughed. "How do you say goodbye to Adam?"
"We give each other really big hugs," he answered smoothly but the look on Clare's face told him she wasn't buying it. "Okay, so we don't, we just bump fists and leave but some friends hug, Clare, I'm not out of line!" He held up his pointer finger, "Fiona and I always hug and we're the friendliest of friends and sometimes Imogen and I hug but usually she just blows me kisses. We can go that route if you want to," he smirked.
"A hug will suffice," Clare gave in, wrapping her arms around him tightly as he did the same, albeit a bit tighter.
She felt Eli lean his head against hers briefly as he sighed, pressing his lips to her ear in a way she wanted to scold him for but couldn't find it in herself to do so. "I don't want things to be weird with us," he admitted quietly, squeezing her a bit closer.
"They won't, we just have to get used to this," Clare assured him as she pulled away, their hug lasting a little too long for friend standards.
Eli looked like he wanted to say something but eventually just gave her a small smile, promising to see her later on as he climbed back into the now quiet car with Bullfrog.
He ignored his father's knowing glance as he turned to watch Clare go inside, letting out a large sigh as the door shut behind her.
"Not that it's any of my business, but weren't you the one saying you two were better off as friends?" Bullfrog asked, knowing exactly what his son was thinking.
Eli turned to look out the window, ignoring the dads' eyes as the car started the drive back home, "Don't remind me."