Dudes. I'm sorry. I was sort of hoping that nobody would read this so I wouldn't have to feel bad about taking so long to update. But that wish was shot to hell, so, I'm sorry. I was in Japan/Korea for the past month and between college classes, I just couldn't find the time. Anyway! Since the season is finished, I thought I'd take a few minutes before my fall semester starts to write out a few things. I hope you like this. If not...
Well. There's a back button, y'know. Thanks for stopping by! :]
"Jane, you look like you're about to hurl."
And really, she did. Jane stood in Eli's apartment like she wanted to blend into the paint on the wall, but just couldn't quite find the right shade of camouflage. Her pale face seemed troubled, her eyes running through a wide array of conflicting emotions. She attempted to avoid Eli's own brown eyes, but he wouldn't let her escape that easy. All he wanted was her to let her inside a little bit. All he knew about Jane - and what he did know, he adored - was limited to the confines of the office. He wanted to know more. He needed to.
Just a few nights ago, Eli had pleaded with Jane to go on one real date with her. And for the truth. He'd promised her that he wouldn't hate her or push her away, and with some reluctance, she'd agreed. Tonight was that night. They had grabbed dinner, nothing overly fancy, nothing overly casual. Just something very sweet for a first date. Memorable. He'd taken her to his favorite restaurant, and then they took to the streets, just walking without a destination. Or at least it had seemed that way to her. Without any hesitation, he'd held her hand. Older couples smiled as they passed, the twinkle in their eyes approving of the budding romance. And then, just as Jane thought her Cinderella night was about to come to an end, he'd said the magical words that kept the stroke of midnight at bay:
"I don't want the night to be over yet. If you want to, I have two pieces of the world's best chocolate cake at my place."
A.) He said he didn't want the night to be over. B.) He said chocolate.
There really wasn't room for a no.
And so Jane took another tentative step into the dangerous place Eli had so easily persuaded her to visit. She was only seventeen years old, and here she was with a guy. Alone. Not to mention that he was looking incredibly yummy in his suit. Her mind was preoccupied with the implications of her coming up here with him. What if he expects me to sleep with him? How can I tell him I'm in high school without him hating me? What if I lose my job over this?
"Jane?" Eli beckoned softly. He kept his distance, standing a few feet away from her, even though every bit of testosterone in him wanted to close the gap between them.
She smiled with some difficulty. "I'm fine, really."
"Do you want to sit down?"
Eli motioned to the sofa that seemed a little bit too inviting, but she could hardly say no. She nodded and followed him over to it, sitting down with him right next to her. She knew that he was just trying to help her relax, but the way he looked at her and the way he smelled so good, she just couldn't help the nerves from creeping in.
He took her hand in his, a gesture to signify that he had something important to say. "Jane. I really like you. It's actually starting to scare me how much I like you, and I just need to know if there's something keeping you from...I don't know, letting me in. Because I feel like everytime I try to get closer to you, you push me away. And I mean, if you don't like me, I get it." He dropped her hand gently and the tiniest hint of a sigh pushed past his lips.
Jane's heart fluttered and her hand instantly missed the warmth of Eli's. She rubbed her hands together and to replace the nerves, panic came stomping its way into her stomach. She looked down. "Oh, Eli. I know you keep saying that you're not going to hate me, but you're going to hate me."
"Jane - "
She shook her head insistently. "No, no you will. And you're right, I can't keep this from you anymore. But I'm going to lose everything," she told him. Her voice started to tremble and Eli watched, pained that Jane was hurting.
"Jane, what is it?" Eli urged.
Jane bit her lip, looking down. "I'm not twenty-five."
Confusion came out of his mouth as he replied with, "So, you're younger then?" He realized that with Jane's features, no matter how she wore her makeup or her hair or her clothes, she could not be a day over twenty-five.
"Yes." She hesitated to go on.
"Twenty-four?" he ventured.
"No." She looked up, into his eyes, utterly afraid that he'd keep going.
"Twenty-two?" he asked, again, this time alarmed that she kept denying each decrease.
Eli stopped. "Jane, I'm confused."
She looked away again. "Eli...I'm not twenty-five. Or twenty-four. Or twenty-three. Or twenty-two. Twenty-one, twenty, nineteen. None of that. I'm seventeen. And I'm still in high school. When I came to Donovan Decker looking for a job, I was really only looking to apply for an internship. But Grey thought I was applying to be her assistant and from there, things just got way out of hand. My brother and I - " Jane continued, but Eli couldn't hear what she was saying.
He couldn't breathe. He couldn't believe a word of what Jane was saying. There was no way. There was no fucking way that this wonderful girl beside him was seventeen. Seventeen was insane. Completely and absolutely bat shit crazy. It was fucking jailbait. He leapt up, starting to pace. His habit of biting his nails came on so suddenly that he couldn't stop himself, even though later he'd look back and wish he'd remained the calm, collected twenty-three year old Jane believed him to be.
When Eli realized that Jane was no longer speaking, he stopped pacing, turning to face her with disbelief holding him in an ironclad grip. He could formulate no words, but they were unnecessary. So much passed between them in just that one look.
"Please don't hate me," she pleaded with him. Maybe it was the doe-eyed look, the way her hair framed her face, or possibly the damn, cold fact that he was still smitten with Jane Quimby, despite the unknown age gap, but Eli's heart refused to give any. He couldn't hate her for this. Not if he tried.
"Jane, I...I don't know what to say."
"Then don't say anything. Just listen for a second. I took the job, because fashion is my world. Besides Billy and my brother, it's everything to me. And when Grey offered the job to me, I couldn't tell her the truth. And then I couldn't tell anyone, because I knew it'd mean the end. And I'm so sorry, because I've made a complete mess of things. I'm so, so sorry, Eli." She grabbed her purse that lay against his couch and stood up. "If you want me to resign, I will. It's what I should do." The trembling in her voice refused to cease.
She went to walk out, but Eli stopped her. "Wait. Jane. Please don't walk away."
Jane's breath hitched, and she looked up into Eli's eyes and tentatively nodded. Here she stood in a dangerous position, torn between heading for the hills and staying with this wonderful guy.
Maybe she should have had the cake first.
"You told him the truth!" Billy's question came out sounding more like as an accusation, and Jane could hardly keep herself in check as she allowed her best friend to go through the shock roller coaster Eli had gone through.
Jane nodded. "Yeah, I did."
Billy sat down next to Jane, who sat on her couch, hugging a pillow to her chest, and prodded her with the obvious next question, "How'd he take it?"
"Well, it definitely wasn't what I was expecting."
"What do you mean?"
Jane sighed. "I mean...I was expecting him to yell and be angry with me, but he didn't and he wasn't. He was shocked, but why wouldn't he be? Here I am, parading around like I'm a twenty-five year old in a world I'm not supposed to be a part of." Jane added, "yet," before Billy could refute her claim.
"Y'know, I expected something dramatic."
Jane shifted and shook her head. "No, not really. He asked me to stay after I told him."
"Wait. Jane. Please don't walk away."
"Why not? Now you know why I've been hiding my life from you. I'm a fraud, Eli. And you should hate me for this."
"I can't hate you, Jane. You might have lied about your age, but I have to believe that everything else about you is real."
"Does that still matter? I'm seventeen," Jane reminded him.
Eli internally winced, the reminder prompting him to take a step back and widen the gap between the jailbait in front of him. "It matters, Jane. You're so special, you know. Whether you're seventeen or twenty-five, that matters to me."
"So...are you going to tell Grey?"
It hurt that the first thing she had to ask him after revealing the truth was whether she had job security or not. Eli inhaled deeply before settling on an answer.
"No. I don't really think that this sort of thing should come from me. I'm not saying that I can help you keep this a secret. Or even that I feel comfortable hiding this from her. But, I know that you have your reasons. And I won't take your dream away, Jane. But eventually, the truth will come out. And I can't protect you from that."
"I know that. Thank you, Eli." A pause in conversation fell between them, but then Jane took a bold step towards him. "I know that my age probably freaks you out, but I still really like you. A lot. I don't know what to do."
"The truth is, Jane, I can't help my attraction to you. But you're so much younger than I thought, and now I don't know where the boundaries are." By boundaries, he of course meant sex. It didn't take much analysis to realize now that Jane couldn't have slept with anyone else. She had too much of an innocent glow about her. Maybe that was part of the attraction.
"Maybe that's something we can figure out together." The way she said these words, so hopeful and sincere and nearly wholesome, made the dawning agony of boundaries physically hurt him. How was he going to be able to keep his hands off of her when all he wanted to do was scoop this princess up and show her how much she meant to him? It just didn't seem possible.
Eli swallowed uneasily. "There will definitely have to be boundaries, Jane. I want to see your world, if you'll let me, before we try and figure this thing out. If you can try to let me in, maybe we can find a way around this."
Jane nodded. "Okay."
He returned the gesture. "Okay."
Jane finished explaining the scene to Billy. Who then proceeded to flip out. "What? That's it? You guys just said 'okay,' and the date was over? You're telling me that this guy finds out that the girl he thought was twenty-five is actually a high school girl and he's just happy-go-lucky about the whole thing? It just doesn't seem right. If he's as great as he sounds, he should have ushered you out the door then and there. I'd be scared shitless if I was him. You realize you're jailbait, right?"
"Hey! That's not fair. I really like him, Billy, and he likes me...so what if I'm a few years younger than what he thought?"
"Eight, Jane. You are eight years younger than what he thought. That's kind of a big deal."
"Well. He and I agreed to try and get past it. He wants to meet you. And Ben. He wants to be a part of my world."
"Okay...just because you go all Little Mermaid on me does not mean that I'm going to change my mind about this. I think that this is a bad idea, Janey."
Jane sent him that look, the same one that made all of the guys in her life fall helpless to whatever it was she wanted. "Will you please just try not to be negative about this? I really like him, Billy."
Billy sighed. "Okay, Jane. I'll try."
She grinned and he immediately felt better about giving in to her so easily. "Thanks. You're the best."
"Don't forget it."
I probably could have dragged out the big reveal for like...eons, but that shit gets old and boring, so I figured I'd just let the cat out now. I'm sorry, again, for the long overdue update, and I'm going to try reallllly hard to make sure the next one is timelier. Also, I'm basically making everything up now, so a lot of it will not coincide with the first season. Sorry about that. I'm thinking the next few chapters will focus on Eli and Jane's adjustment to her age, and any suggestions in what you'd like to see are welcome.
Please remember that reviews are like little pieces of encouragement and they help get the updates out quicker. Hint hint. Nudge nudge. ;)
Thanks for reading!