Can I just say how ridiculously wonderful all of you are? Seriously, you are the cheese to my macaroni. 32 reviews for one chapter! I practically squeed to death. Lol Well, here is another one for you all. Thanks so much for the feedback and I hope I get some for this chapter too. Expect a healthy dose of awkwardness, surprise, laughs and some fluff. Maybe even a few presents.
I just love presents.
CeCe Goldsworthy clenched her cell phone nervously in her hand as she paced about their living room. She dialed her husband's number for the 23rd time, praying that it would ring though and not take her straight to voicemail.
Hey, it's Bullfrog. Leave a message.
She threw her phone down on the couch behind her. A yelp startled her out of her trance and Eli jumped from the couch, rubbing his head and holding her phone warily.
"Lose something?" Eli scoffed sarcastically. He tried to hand it back to her, but she continued to stare at the floor and ring her hands together nervously. "Bullfrog is fine, CeCe… He probably just caught up looking at snacks and is driving at a turtle's-pace through the storm." Eli put her phone into her hand and squeezed her shoulder gently. "How about you take one of my pills? That'll calm you right down."
CeCe chuckled dryly at his humor and punched his arm. "Not funny."
She plopped down on couch next to him and glanced worriedly over at her only son.
"Bullfrog will fly through that door any minute, with some crazy story to tell about vicious holiday shoppers or the lack of proper fruitcake selection at the store. I promise." Eli smirked weakly at his mother and couldn't help but worry.
Had something happened to Bullfrog?
He swallowed hard and sat back on the couch, drifting into memories about a sugary kiss with the one and only Clare Edwards, and tried to forget about his concern.
Clare gaped at him through the rearview mirror and felt as if she would projectile vomit all over the interior of Bullfrog's car if she had to talk to him about Eli.
She would have liked to spend that moment in time reminiscing about the mind-blowing kiss that she'd shared with the younger Goldsworthy, but his father was too busy embarrassing her to let her mind run at ease.
"You… you, uh, s-saw that?" She stuttered, mentally killing herself for sounding like a scared little girl.
"Oh yeah. The kid jumped into my car with this big ole' grin on his face and told me to shut my trap when I asked him about it. Must have been a pretty good smooch… eh, Clarabelle?"
Clare opened her mouth to respond but no words would come out. She felt flustered and… sick. She felt clammy and her eyes weren't focusing correctly. Her head was growing heavier by the moment and the warmth coming out of the vents was hitting her face harshly, bringing her eyes shut gently. She moaned miserably and laid her head on the armrest of the door. "It was a nice kiss, yes." She said softly, embarrassed by her admission, but in too much discomfort to get worked up. She owed Bullfrog a great deal. The least she could do was humor his nosiness.
He chuckled softly at her words and glanced back at her, his face falling at the sight before him. "Are you okay, kid?" He asked her, concern peppering his voice. "How long were you out in the cold anyway?"
Clare's eyes rolled painfully back in her head and she whined lowly. She was sweating profusely, but her body felt ice-cold. Her face, however, was burning against the cold window. She glanced at the clock and thought for a moment before mumbling, "6 hours."
Bullfrog's eye widened and her felt his concern growing with every small whimper from the small girl's throat. "Just… Just keep your eyes opened, sweetie. We're almost there."
Clare grinned slightly at Bullfrog's fatherly attitude and struggled to keep herself from dozing off.
A few minutes later, she felt the car come to a stop and she raised her head up slightly from the armrest. Through her snowy window, she could make out the shape of the Goldsworthy's house. Pain shot through her temples and her neck muscles ached and twitch at the movement. She wanted to cry at everything that was going wrong, but she held back her sobs as Bullfrog opened up her door.
"Can you walk?" He asked seriously, watching as she struggled to get up from her spot.
Clare looked up at him with immense shame and anguish in her expression. "I can hardly move… everything hurts s-so much." She blinked back a tear as she tried to stretch her legs and a heavy numbness greeted her instead. The feeling was back to most of her body, but it was a painful, sore sensation that rendered her basically immobile.
Bullfrog smiled at her and nodded. "Don't worry. Just stay put and I'll come back out." He gathered his arms full of groceries and shut the car door, leaving Clare alone and miserable.
"I'm calling the police." CeCe cried, grabbing frantically for her phone, which Eli was hiding under his armpit to keep his mother from calling everyone and the Pope to find Bullfrog.
"Relax, CeCe, it's only been-"
"Honey, I'm home." Bullfrog bellowed sarcastically from the doorway as he threw it open and stomped inside. He was covered in snow all around and a tired grin adorned his lips. CeCe shot up from the couch, throwing her arms around him and nearly causing their Christmas ingredients to topple all over the floor.
"You had me scared shitless, baby! What the Hell took you so long?" CeCe gripped onto him so tightly that he felt like his stomach would explode and litter the house with intestines.
"It's a funny story, really." He set the grocery bags down on the kitchen table and brushed his hair with his fingers, sending tiny specks of water and snow all over the floor. "I'll spare ya' all the details, but basically, there's a homeless girl in my car. She'll be spending Christmas with us."
Eli chuckled dryly and looked at Bullfrog from his spot on the couch. "Very funny… That's a new one." Bullfrog looked at his son sternly and Eli widened his eyes. "You're completely serious?"
"Yep." Bullfrog popped the 'p' and lifted his eyebrows at the boy. "You'll have to carry her in. She can't walk. Her legs are practically frozen."
CeCe rushed into the kitchen to make the girl a cup of tea while Bullfrog put the groceries away. He whispered something in his wife's ear and her face fell in shock.
"I'm not going to carry some-"
"Go, Elijah, and carry that girl in before I give your Christmas gifts to the Salvation Army!" CeCe threatened, the look on her face telling her son that something more was going on, something that he didn't know about. He felt uneasy as he threw on his winter gear before trekking it over to Bullfrog's car. It was coated in snow already and the blizzard was swarming all over his face, making every inch of exposed skin red and tingly. He scoffed at the situation and wondered why they couldn't just have a peaceful Christmas. Why did Bullfrog have to pick up some charity case off the street?
He scowled and swung open the back door of the vehicle. The girl was on her side, her face obstructed from Eli's view by her gloved hands. He heard whimpering and crying, and suddenly felt immense empathy for her. She was a tiny little thing, cuddled up into herself, crying and shivering in the back seat of his dad's car. It was pitiful.
Eli put his knees near her feet and leaned forward to flip the poor girl over.
"Hey, it's gonna be okay." He assured gently as he gripped her shoulder and moved her on her back.
He was greeted with the tear-stricken, feverish red face of Clare Edwards.
"Clare." He breathed, barely able to comprehend anything that was going on. He felt as if someone had punched him in the stomach, so hard that he was rendered completely useless. He moved his hand up to stroke her cheek, simply not believing that it was really she who lay in front of him.
Clare coughed and offered up a weak smile to him, her bottom lip quivering emotionally as she whispered, "Hi, Eli."
Her voice shot him out of his own denial and his mind finally caught up to his actions. She was sick and freezing, and it broke his heard. He scooped her up from the backseat, running with her into the house as fast as he possibly could, through the ice and snow.
When Bullfrog and CeCe swung the doors open for them, Eli rushed in and set Clare down on the couch, stripping her of her soggy coat, glove, hat and shoes and wrapping her up in two blankets. He rubbed her arms through the blanket and tried to calm his shaky hands, while trying to figure out what the Hell was going on. CeCe poured tea and Bullfrog prepared some soupd for Clare. Eli finally got his words back and shot a glare at his father. "Why didn't you just bring her in first?"
"I didn't want to overwhelm you by bursting through the door with your sick girlfriend! Plus, I kind of hurt my back…" He muttered, stirring a pot of chicken soup and not wanting to explain that he was getting too old to lift up a small woman, and that he'd already carried her once, and that the flight home wasn't exactly comfortable for a man of his size.
"She could be really sick! How long was she out there? Why was she out there? Where did you find her?" He thought for a moment and looked up at his father seriously, his eyes piercing into the older man's. "And...Why did you call her homeless?" Eli's words tasted bitter in his mouth.
Bullfrog remained quiet and broke his son's gaze. "That's her business, son."
Eli felt sick to his stomach at the thought of this beautiful girl having to live on the streets. He kneeled down next to Clare, who had the blankets pulled up to her chin and was fighting the tears that threatened to explode from her half-lidded eyes. She looked absolutely miserable. He put a hand on her forehead and recoiled at the heat that met with his palm. "She's burning up!" He called out to CeCe, who soon came in with a tray. It had several Tylenol capsules, a warm cup of hot chocolate, a cup of tea, a bottle of water, several packets of sugar and a bowl of soup on it. Clare nodded weakly in appreciation and gave CeCe a small smile, unable to get out the words she'd have liked to say at that moment.
"Clare, how are you feeling? Do you need a bucket? More blankets? Cough syrup? What happened? Do you know how much I've missed you since the Frostival?" Eli pressed, the last question slipping out unintentionally and he grimaced at his now vulnerable part in the conversation.
Clare half-chuckled and looked up at him. "I feel awful…" She croaked out, ignoring his little confession for the time being. Her voice was full of sadness and scratchy coughs. "Another b-blanket would be n-nice…"
"But you're burning up. You'll get too hot." He mentally wrestled with the idea of getting her a blanket while he ran his finger gently back-and-forth across her scorching forehead.
Clare studied his face and noticed the love and concern that was etched all over it. Though she would have preferred different circumstances to this meeting, she couldn't help but feel happy about the attention. Just his presence brightened up her mind.
"Cold." She said weakly. Her body was betraying her so badly. She was afraid that she had pneumonia or something along those lines. She was absolutely terrified that, if she fell asleep, she'd never wake up. Just the fact that she was on the Goldsworthy's couch, being cared for by Eli and his parents made her feel like perhaps she had fallen asleep outside of the supermarket, and her situation now was all some elaborate dream that her pneumonia-burdened brain was concocting.
She prayed that it wasn't a dream.
"Okay, just one more blanket." Eli chided, walking to the hall closet and grabbing a blanket. He draped it over her carefully and tucked it in at the sides and feet. "Better?"
She nodded faintly. Eli sat down on the edge next to her and pulled the tray onto his lap. He noted how pretty Clare looked when he cheeks were so red.
"You're not so bad yourself." Clare winked slowly and Eli felt his face get hot, almost as hot as Clare's.
"Did I say that out loud?"
"Yes, you did." Clare laughed and sat up a bit. She grimaced at the movement and Eli eased her up.
Eli got a spoonful of soup and held it up to her face, not yet wanting to address the many elephants in the room. "Eat up, Edwards. We have to kill the germs in your insides."
Clare blushed and opened her mouth, entirely too tired and sick to protest. She smiled at Eli after swallowing the bite and said, "If it makes you happy, I missed you this week, too."
Eli smirked at her and put another spoonful of soup up to her lips. "As soon as you warm up and feel better, we'll talk about everything, from spontaneous Frostival kisses, to my vacation, to…" He looked in her eyes deeply and swallowed, "to your 'living situation.'"
Clare's eyes got clouded with tears and she nodded, avoiding eye contact with him as she accepted another spoonful. They continued the ritual in comfortable silence until the soup was gone.
Though her dignity should have felt depleted by the fact that Eli Goldsworthy was spoon-feeding her, she couldn't help but feel touched and giddy from the gesture.
And though his dignity should have felt depleted by the fact that he was coddling and spoon-feeding Clare Edwards, of all people, he couldn't help but feel like it was something that he'd looking back on, at future Christmas, and smile fondly at the memory.
Well? I hope that didn't suck too many eggs.
Thanks for reading and please review!