A/N: It's my New Year's resolution(s) to get on top of my updating, and to post a new one/two-shot each month, so cross your fingers that I can stick with it. A lot has been going on to keep me away from writing, but I love both of my chapter stories too much to abandon either, and have way too many head canons lurking in my head not to put them on paper… or screen. I'm sorry for making you wait so long, I'm kicking myself, trust me. Enjoy the new chapter, because there's drama to come ;) Happy New Year!
It didn't take until third period to feel better as I'd imagined, because the first class of the day, the one I shared with my bane as of late, was suspiciously barren of one particular student that morning. It was fairly obvious to me why Eli had chosen not to attend today, but even though it was a massive relief not to spend my hour sorting his sighs into emotions, I couldn't ignore that it stung to be the cause of his absence.
I took my seat, fixated in passing at the empty one behind me, and I quickly found myself wondering what Eli was doing now in place of class. A year ago, I had no doubt that either parent wouldn't think twice about calling him in sick if he was tired or grumpy or avoiding an exam that he swore to them he wasn't. But now? I had no idea where they stood on Eli's academics and the like.
The last I really saw of CeCe or Bullfrog was the night of Eli's play. I sat a few rows behind the two and noticed right away, but hoped for the better part of act one that I could go the night unnoticed. CeCe had spotted me by intermission, but save for a staring contest that lasted four of the most heart wrenching seconds of my life, no words were exchanged. I saw her again a few weeks later at the grocery store, but this time it was her husband to find me first, and unlike the now stoic blonde, he spoke up. It was a brief and awkward few minutes, and as I cast my eyes away to avoid any added tension, I noticed the tempeh in their shopping cart-Eli's favorite. I must have reacted because he pushed the cart away, making up an excuse about needing to be on their way, while carefully avoiding where or to whom they were leaving to join. The moment consisted of a hug, tense but still so familiar, and perhaps the first time he'd addressed me by my given name instead of the warm Clarabelle he'd knighted me upon meeting me.
As I reminisced, Mrs. Shaw was making rounds between rows of desks, collecting papers from the classmates around me, and it was then that I realized I was sitting empty handed. The outline for our project, one worth a large chunk of the project's grade, was due today and Eli had taken it home after our library misadventure. I'm sure that under the circumstance, I could weasel an extension out of her, but I was already on thin and bitter ice over the fooling around that she so wrongly assumed was going on in place of school work with me and Eli. I shuffled through my folder to see if there was anything of substance I could turn in, anything to keep our, or at least my grade afloat since it was now apparent that I was the only one that cared enough to show up. But as anticipated, there was nothing but old graded quizzes and unrelated notes, and by the time Mrs. Shaw had made her way to my desk, I was floundering. I stammered an unintelligible excuse and her eyebrow rose slowly as she probably wondered how I ever made it into an advanced course, let alone one pertaining to the language that was escaping me now.
"Your partner already turned it in," she spoke finally, saving me from my gape. It was my brow raised now, incriminating me against another false assumption. "One of you has been working on the project," she breezed, her emphasis making it clear that it wasn't me she was getting at. "Mister Goldsworthy dropped the outline off this morning on his way to the doctor's," she explained, luring my attention.
"Doctor?" I pressed, looking up at her. I'd been with Eli just a day before and he seemed in perfect health… at least in the sense that would require a flu shot. I considered briefly that it could have been the rain or a lack of sleep, but both scenarios were true for me and I felt okay. It felt a little wrong to be discussing Eli's state without his presence or permission, but if Mrs. Shaw would offer any insight, I'd take it. "His father signed him out this morning for a doctor's appointment. He stopped here first to turn in the assignment so it would meet the deadline. He seems dedicated to the assignment, I hope that starts to rub off on you, Clare." Her tone was a little softer now, more like the cheery woman who'd been so eager to recreate the pairing we'd mastered a year earlier. I could tell we were letting her down, or that I was at least, and that our results thus far were nowhere near her expectations, but the history was too grainy and dark for me to easily put myself back in that place, that partnership, those ways. I was expected to do some of my best work since Romeo and Juliet, but I felt too much like Paris, now and I couldn't afford to be the one to fall. Eli already had that blocking memorized, and I was never a fan of remakes.
The bell rang on its own schedule, but I had no reason to rush from the room this time. I gathered my things, keeping to myself while the shroud of classmates made their exits ahead of me, and just as I turned to leave, I noticed the tell-tale blue slip on top of Mrs. Shaw's desk. Her back was turned and I'm not sure what possessed me to do so, but on my way out the door, I reached across her lesson plans and swiped it into my folder, scurrying into the hallway uncaught. Once safely to my locker, I scanned the note to see if there was anything that I was apparently looking for. It was for a doctor's appointment like I'd been told, signed from the office and from Bullfrog. The time was stamped for before homeroom, almost two hours ago. He must be done by now, and since it didn't look like he was coming back to school, it was reasonable to think he'd be home. So with that in mind, I did what any logical teenager would do when dealing with a potentially volatile ex who has had no qualms in showing how little interest he held in being anyway near me presently.
I skipped the rest of the day and headed for his house.