Author's Note: We all know by now that I don't own Degrassi, but if I did, I'd somehow get each and every one of you (especially those of you who are always there for me and support me in all my writing) a date with Munro Chambers. Also, I don't own the song (Your Call, Secondhand Serenade) that this is sort of based on.
Waiting on Your Call
She had started having panic attacks in college. Normally they would be in regards to something totally stupid and not worth getting upset over at all. She would find butterflies metamorphosing in her stomach, her temperature rising, the blood fizzling into soda within her veins over ridiculous things like starting a new semester (she always worried about finding her classes on time, making As, making friends). She was at NYU majoring in Creative Writing, and was currently about to start her first semester of "real" classes. Her prerequisites were all behind her, and Clare couldn't wait…but she was also terrified. She had waited two years to start into these "real" classes, and now that the time was fast approaching, she found herself absolutely horrified.
What if her writing wasn't good enough? What if the professors she had told her that…then what would she do? Writing had become her passion in her junior year of high school. Maybe it was on account of her parents' fighting and her needing an outlet; or maybe it was on account of the cute, broody goth she had been paired up with as an English partner. Whatever the reason, Clare Edwards had discovered a passion for writing. She had kept it secret for a while – only letting her English partner and his best friend get small tastes of scattered poems written on discarded napkins. She had never really thought of making writing a career, but he had encouraged her to do so.
Eli Goldsworthy had helped her light that flame, and made sure that it didn't flicker or die out. He wanted her to continue on to do all that she could, and she did just that…up until now. Now, she was actually going to be taking Creative Writing classes as opposed to the history, art, composition, humanities, science, psychology, and mathematic courses that were required. Now, she was scared to pieces. Only a select few had read her writing (other than the articles she wrote for her high school's paper), and now…a whole classroom, plus a professor would be reading her words, her creations…and the very thought of that made her sick to her stomach.
The new semester would be starting in a week, and Clare had spent the past few night's wide awake. Sleep seemed to elude her, and all logical thinking eschewed from her mind. Instead, Clare let all the feelings stew and marinate within her until finally one night, they got to be too much for her to handle.
"Clare?" Her fiancé, Peter asked her one night at dinner, "The chicken is a bit dry. Did you overcook it again?"
Clare's fork slipped from her fingers and clamored to her plate, "Excuse me?"
"Well, it's just a bit dry. Don't cook it so long next time, alright?"
"Maybe you could try to cook your own dinner," Clare suggested, "At your own apartment."
"Clare…don't be a brat," Peter scolded condescendingly, "I was simply making a suggestion."
"No, you were complaining. You know, I don't always have time to make you dinner every night, Peter…but somehow I force it into my schedule. Sometimes I don't always feel like preparing a huge meal, but I do…for you. Tonight, I just didn't feel up to it, and I am sorry if the meal isn't up to your standards."
"I just don't see why when you have a crummy day, you think you can just crawl into bed and forget the world. You have responsibilities, Clare."
"I know that," Clare shoved her plate away from her, "I think I know that better than anyone, Peter. I just didn't feel like cooking dinner tonight, so I am sorry if I let the chicken go that extra five minutes in the oven."
"What's wrong?" Peter asked, and Clare could tell by his voice that he didn't really care. He was asking the question because that was what he was supposed to do. He was supposed to ask what was wrong, and see if there was anything he could do.
"Everything," Clare sighed, exasperated. Finally, she caved and admitted everything, "I am terrified sick about starting these new classes on Monday. I am scared that my writing isn't going to be good enough, and I am so scared that the professors will ridicule it. I am terrified of what my classmates will think of my writing. I am so scared that after all these years of hiding it, by the time I finally expose myself and make myself vulnerable through making my writing public, I will be hurt and devastated. I am so scared that it's making me sick and lose sleep and…" Clare could feel it coming on.
The panic attack.
She was shaking all over, and her face suddenly felt as though her blood had been replaced with bubbling, molten lava. She felt her head grow dizzy and light, and she could feel her heartbeat quicken. This was it…after trying to suppress all these fears, they were finally uncorked, and there was no stopping the emotions from spilling out of every pore.
The shaking got more violent as she said, "I am so scared, Peter. I just…I don't know what to do."
"I don't see what you're all worried about," Peter shrugged, and popped another bite of chicken into his mouth, "It's just classes, Clare. Everyone takes them."
"I don't mind taking them," Clare tried to explain, but could feel her voice rising, "I just am terrified that my fears of not being good enough are going to come true. What if this writing of mine that I have worked so hard on and have wanted so much out of suddenly isn't good enough? And what if I was just kidding myself in thinking it ever was?"
"You worry too much."
Clare lost it. She picked up her plate and slammed it on the floor. The shattering of broken porcelain caused Peter to glance up from his plate and look at Clare in horror.
"What did you do that for?" He demanded.
"To get your attention," Clare explained, and then the tears came, "I just am so scared, Peter. I just…I want to be okay. I want my writing to be okay. I just…I want…" the shaking was more violent and Clare held onto the sides of her skull with her clenched fists as she rocked back and forth. She hated panic attacks. She hated how they had just come on within the past years, and how she still didn't know how to get a handle on it. That seemed to really frustrate Peter – the fact that she couldn't get a handle on it.
"Oh stop it," Peter rolled his eyes, "You're making a scene."
"It's just us!" Clare shouted, "Why can't I make a scene?"
Peter took a sip of his milk, and stared at Clare as her breakdown continued. Why can't he see that I just need him? Why can't he just get out of his chair and come over here and hold me in his arms until I calm down? Why can't he just hold me tight, kiss me, and tell me it will all work out? Why is he just sitting there…cold like a marble statue? Why is he so stoic?
"I swear, if you weren't getting yourself all stressed out, you wouldn't know what to do with yourself."
You think I like this? You think I enjoy getting like this – having these violent panic attacks? Do you think I enjoy having this happen to me? I hate it! I freaking hate it, and all I want is for you to hold me. Please, just hold me. I am your fiancé and I'm crying…why aren't you trying to make this better?
"Are you almost done with your little temper tantrum?" Peter asked, and Clare slid down into her chair, the tears running down her cheeks like raindrops on a windshield.
Please just pull me close to you and tell me that you love me. Please try and make this easier on me, instead of making it worse. It's like you think I am getting some sort of enjoyment out of this…well I'm not. I'm miserable, and all I want is you to make it better.
And then he said it. He knew exactly what to say to hurt her, and he said just that, "I swear, if you spent half the time you waste on worrying on doing something productive, you'd have that book of yours written by now."
Clare flinched as if his words had been a slap. He knew how Clare always wanted to get a book published. He knew how she was more comfortable writing Fanfiction than coming up with her own stories. Her problem was that she fell so deeply in love with certain already-created fictional characters, that if she tried to create her own, they wouldn't be able to compare. Peter knew she desperately wanted to publish her own story and hold a copy of her book in her hands…but he also knew she couldn't just yet.
Why would he say that? Why would he say the one thing he knows will hurt me even more?
"I'm done with my dinner," Peter said, as if nothing was happening, "Are you going to do the dishes, or should I?"
When Clare didn't respond, he said, "Everyone gets a little stressed, Clare. But if you think for one minute that the world is going to stop for you just because you're a little worked up…you're dead wrong."
"I-I don't want…I am not asking for…I just…" Clare didn't know why she even bothered to say anything. It was no use trying to explain to Peter what her panic attacks were like. He told her always just to brush herself off and get over them. As much as she tried to explain that panic attacks and anxiety didn't work like that, it was no use.
She thought back to high school, back to Eli. Eli was a whole cocktail of mental illness – depression, anxiety, Bipolar Disorder Type II, hording…Clare had been at a loss with how to handle him. His moods would change so quickly, and he often frightened her. Finally she asked him once, what he wanted her to do during his mood swings.
"I just don't know what you want me to do, Eli. Do you want me to leave you alone? I can back off and leave you alone to cool down…"
"No," he had said, "I want…I want you to just be there for me. Sometimes…when I am on an episode…I don't really remember much of what's going on around me. It's like I crawl into this little shell, and that's all I can think of. I need you to be there to remind me that there's something more than my episode. I want you to be there for me…to hold me. Can you do that?"
She said yes, and she did. Every episode, she'd hold him tightly in her arms, rock him, and try to soothe him. Sometimes he would become violent and thrash about in her arms or even hit her. But Clare was quick to know that that was when he needed to be loved the most. She never let go of him during his attacks. She would hold him in her arms sometimes for five minutes, and sometimes for an hour. When he finally did calm down, he'd come to and she would softly kiss all over his face and brush his hair with her fingertips. He'd sigh and lean against her, exhausted from the attack. Clare loved being able to do that for him. It was tough, and sometimes she didn't want to, but she always did…because she loved him.
She couldn't help but wonder why Peter wouldn't do that for her? She wasn't a walking cocktail of chemical imbalances like Eli was, but she still needed Peter to be there for her and hold her during her panic attacks. She needed him to be there to show her that there was more than just episode…she needed and craved that. Why couldn't he just understand that?
Instead, during her episodes, he would ignore her. That's what killed Clare the most…the fact that he could just sit there and ignore her, calmly eating his dinner, while she was crying hysterically. It wasn't like she had a control over it. Her panic attacks just happened. Sometimes they were worse than others. But they always scared her.
"I-I think I need to lie down," Clare excused herself from the table.
"If you want to be anything in this world, Clare, you can't just crawl under your blankets when life gets difficult," Peter called after her as she headed towards the back of her apartment, and towards her bedroom.
Once inside, safely behind the door, she locked the door and pulled out her cellphone. She leaned against the door, falling to the ground, staring at the contact list. She knew she could call him. He had told her that she was more than welcome to call him whenever she needed when they had ended it. She had said the same for him. It had been two years, and there wasn't a single call from either of them.
It would be weird. He wouldn't want me to call out of the blue like this. Besides, he probably changed his phone number or something. It's been a long time…two years is a very long time. Besides, maybe we just made that promise of being there for one another forever just to ease the breakup a bit. Maybe we were just saying that to make it less painful.
Clare ignored the voice inside her head, and clicked the contact in her phone. On the fourth ring, he answered.
"Oh, sorry," Clare blushed, feeling overwhelmed and completely mortified, "Uh…this is…um…Clare."
"I know who you are," she could practically see a smirk tugging on the corner of lip as he rolled his eyes towards the heavens, "I just…I didn't expect…"
"I know," Clare's cheeks were stained a violent shade of crimson ember, "I just…never mind. I shouldn't have called. It's just…well…I didn't know who to talk to, and you had said I could call…but that was years ago…and maybe you were just saying that to make it less painful and I shouldn't have called. It was a…a mistake. I am so sorry. I'll let you go now."
"Clare," the way he said her name still managed to give her chills – soft, but commanding. Like he was feeling a mix of annoyance, frustration, and compassion, "It's fine. What's going on…you sound pretty shaken up."
"I'm having a panic attack."
"Since when do you have panic attacks?" Eli asked, and Clare could picture his brow furrowing with concern.
"Since college," Clare admitted, "Sometimes I can go awhile without one, but every once in a while, I get so stressed and they just…happen. I'm shaking really badly, Eli. I just…"
"Shhh," he shushed into the phone, and Clare instantly felt soothed, "It's alright, Clare. Now, why don't you take a deep breath and try to tell me what's going on."
Clare did as she was told, remembering how she had been there for him during countless episodes. She was so grateful that he was there for her now, especially because he didn't have to be. Then again, she didn't have to be either…but this was different. They weren't even together anymore – they hadn't even spoken in years! Yet, here he was, comforting her. Same old Eli. If he wasn't causing nightmares, he was doing anything he could to keep them away.
"I love being at NYU, Eli. I really do, and I am so grateful that you pushed me to pursue my writing. I am engaged – can you believe it – to a guy named Peter. Peter is a decent guy…for the most part. But he just doesn't quite…he doesn't understand. He keeps telling me to just pull myself together but…"
"It's not that easy," Clare could see a small heavy smile anchor itself on Eli's face.
"No, it's not. Next week I start into a new semester, which means I'll finally be able to take some creative writing classes. I just…I am so scared, Eli. I've been losing sleep and haven't had much of an appetite because I am just so stressed out about this."
"What are you scared of, Clare?"
Clare nibbled on her bottom lip for a moment, "Failing," she finally admitted, "I am scared my writing won't be good enough."
"Good enough for who?"
"The professors…my classmates."
"You heard me," and Clare really could see that smirk now, "Clare, writing is something you do…for you. It's yours, and if you love it, that's all that matters. Who cares what the professors or other students think? Write for yourself and not for anyone else."
Clare knew he was right, "Thanks, Eli. I just…I want to make a difference with my writing. If one person has felt like their life has been changed on account of my silly little writing, then I can die a happy woman."
"You'd be surprised," Eli explained, "Sometimes some of the best writers are the ones who got dejected. You're going to be fine, Clare. Just go in there with your head held high and let your writing speak for itself. It's good, Clare…really good. If they can't see that…well, then it's their loss."
"Thank you so much," Clare felt instantly comforted, and almost felt as though his words had wrapped her in that hug she had so desperately wanted at dinner.
"Anytime. So…you're engaged huh? Care to tell me why, during your panic attack, you call me instead of going to your fiancé for help?"
Clare felt like melting into a puddle of mortification on the floor, "Um…not really."
"That bad, huh?"
"You wouldn't understand."
"Eli…don't do this. I should I…I need to go."
"Liar. And if I don't understand, then why don't you explain it to me."
Clare could picture him with his arms folded over his chest. Whenever Eli wanted something, he always got it. She sighed and said, "Peter just doesn't understand what it's like to have panic attacks…to feel so out of control. He gets angry with me and impatient."
"Doesn't he know that when someone is acting a bit off their rocker, that's when they need to be loved the most?"
His words sent a pang through her heart; and Clare felt as though someone had just flicked at one of her heartstrings as if it had been a string on a harp, "Um…I guess not."
"You were always good about that."
"Well, you were. You were really good at that whole be-there-through-thick-and-thin thing."
"So were you…and look at us now – after how many years you're still sitting here on the phone with me while I have a breakdown. You know, you don't have to right? It's not your job anymore."
"Clare, I don't care if it's not my job…wait, what the hell do you mean by that anyways? You were never a job, Clare. Being there for you wasn't a job. It was something I wanted to do because I cared about you. It's just…I did it because I wanted to."
"What does you sitting on the phone with me now mean?" Clare's brow furrowed, and she was worried about his response. Maybe she shouldn't have asked that question, but she needed to know. It would drive her even crazier if she didn't know.
"Well…I guess it means that I care about you, Clare."
"After all this time?"
"If I know you at all, Clare Diane Edwards, I know that you're blushing furiously right now."
"Oh shut up," Clare rolled her eyes.
How does he still know me so well? How does he still have this pull on me?
"I still know you."
"And I still know you're a pain in the butt."
"Yeah? Um…I'll be out in a second, alright, Peter?"
"What are you doing on the phone? And why is your door locked? Clare…I think we should talk. This behavior is completely childish and unacceptable."
"He sounds like a douche."
"What'd you say to me?"
"Not you, Peter," Clare winced, "Oh, just give me a minute, please? I'll be out soon."
"Peter!" Clare was at her wit's end, "Just please give me a moment."
"Yeah," Clare blushed, "He wants to talk."
"So I heard."
"Eli…look, how about I call you back in a bit, alright? Let me just get Peter out of my apartment, and then I will give you a call, alright? I like talking to you."
"I like talking to you too," Eli admitted.
"Well…is it okay if I call you back?"
"Only if you promise it won't take two years."
"Cross my heart!"
After hanging up, Clare pushed herself up off the floor, and tried to work up the courage to face Peter. She had to admit, this didn't look good. She had had a fight with Peter, then locked herself in her bedroom to call her ex. Yup, there was no possible way she could try to make this out to be better than it was.
Clare exited the bedroom, and crept out to the living room where Peter was sitting on a couch. When he saw her, he smugly crossed his arms over his chest and said, "Look who finally decided to come out of her bedroom. Are you done throwing a temper tantrum?"
"Don't," he held up a hand, "Clare, when we met, I saw you as this beautiful, intelligent, bright, amazingly confident person. You just seemed to make everything brighten wherever you went. Now though…now you've changed. You've started throwing these little tantrums whenever life gets to be a bit difficult, and it's unacceptable. It's childish and immature, and will not be tolerated in this relationship."
"Peter, they're panic attacks…they aren't tantrums. I can't…"
"Don't tell me you can't help it, because you can. I just don't understand what happened to you."
"Peter, nothing happened to me."
"You used to be this amazingly happy person…"
"Peter, if you love me, you're going to love me at my worst. Do you understand that?"
"It's just…before, there didn't use to be a worst."
"There was always a worst Peter," Clare sighed and sunk down in a chair across from him, "Now you're just finally seeing it. I have panic attacks. I'm not perfect, Peter."
"You were to me."
"And I still should be," Clare was growing a bit concerned, "Peter, if you love me, I should be perfect to you no matter what. You should love the good and the bad and not want it any other way."
"I just want you to be perfect and to me, that means no tantrums."
"Peter, it's anxiety!"
"Please," Peter scoffed, "Mental illness is just a term coined by liberals to excuse poor behavior."
"Peter…what the…what the hell are you talking about? Mental illness is so serious!"
"Look, Clare, I just don't see this working out. I mean, you just…you're so different from who you used to be. You're not the person I fell in love with anymore. I don't think we should get married, Clare. I don't want to marry a stranger."
It took her a moment to say the words around the lump in her throat, but she finally managed to say, "Good, because I don't want to either," as she ripped the diamond ring off her finger and tossed it at him, "Good luck meeting that perfect girl, Peter."
He didn't say anything as he stood to leave, slamming the door behind him. Clare knew she should feel something now that their engagement had just been called off. She should be sad and hurt and angry…but all she felt was a sense of relief.
Clare snatched up her phone, and quickly called Eli back. He answered on the second ring.
"Peter called off the engagement."
"What? Really? Clare, I am so…wow. Would I be an asshole if I told you I was happy? I mean…don't take it the wrong way but…"
"Not at all," Clare admitted, "Because I'm happy too! He told me that he wanted me to be perfect all the time, and being perfect means no panic attacks. He said I wasn't the person he fell in love with simply because he found a big fault of mine."
"Faults and imperfections are what makes people beautiful, doesn't he know that?"
"I guess not."
"His loss. So…what are you going to do now?"
"Well," Clare thought it over for a moment, "Now, I'm going to sit and talk to you."
"And then what?"
"Does it matter?" Clare smiled, "I'll figure it out from there."
Author's Note: When I write, I write for myself because it's a huge hobby of mine. However, I write fanfiction for two reasons. One – because I love to write, and it's my blood and my breath. Two – because of you all. I love you all so much. Sometimes I get discouraged about my writing, and you all support me and I am truly blessed. Seriously guys, if my writing makes a difference to just one of you, I feel as though I have done what I was put on this earth to do. Maybe one day I will get creative enough to write my own book using my own characters and get it published. If I do get published, you all will be the ones I'll be thanking, and you all will be the first to know. Again, I love you guys. Take care!