A/N: Bonjour! I hope people are still interested in the Dare Me, Not sequel. Everything will be wrapped up in this one, and will probably be a lot shorter than the previous story. If you've just clicked onto this, you should probably go and read the first one, because this won't make any sense otherwise. Let me know what you think? :)
Title: Kill Me, Not
Summary: Sequel to Dare Me, Not.
AU of Clare's Senior year and Eli's Freshman year at TU. It's been eight months since the Charity Auction night. Eli's recovered, Clare's on the warpath, Fiona's struggling with alcoholism, and Adam is on anti-anxiety pills. Eli's previously comatose ex girlfriend Julia has woken from her coma, but not everyone is happy about that. Clare's still hell-bent on getting to the truth of what actually happened that night, and the truth may be more sinister than she originally thought.
Pairings: Major: Eclare. Minor: Fiona/OC, Adam/OC, Alli/Drew
Notes: Intro is set in June, six months since the end of Dare Me, Not. Chapters 1 and onwards are set two months later in August. Like in Dare Me, Not - the Intro is 7,000 to 10,000 words with the chapters at least 4,000 to 5,000 words.
Warnings: Themes of sexual tension, mature scenes, profanity, death, depression, angst, murder, substance abuse, minor violence
Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue.
Eli drummed his fingers against the soft and new looking black leather couch. The room stank of cigarettes and alcohol, which seemed to be ironic considering where he was. He glanced around, feeling more awkward than before. Second last day of his Senior year and here he was, sitting in Degrassi High's psychologist office. He'd never been there before, but he was surprised to find it was less depressing than he imagined it to be.
Adam was sitting next to him, giving him the same old bored 'eye roll', Clare was on the other couch with Fiona, idly checking her nails and scrunching her face up when she saw they weren't even. The woman in the chair - the school psychologist - had smooth dark hair and black framed glasses. She seemed to be writing something down on her little black notebook, even though nobody had said anything since they had entered.
Eventually, the psychologist who called herself Nina Henderson looked up from her notebook and asked, "So, why are we all here today?" silence rocked the room. Nina added, "Nobody can tell me why Principal Simpson personally assigned me to evaluate your mental health for perspective colleges and universities? Eli and Fiona, you're Seniors, aren't you? I'm sure colleges would love to know why your high school Principal thought this meeting was necessary."
"I'm also sure Principal Simpson would just love to know that you drink and smoke on the job," Fiona quipped back, smiling.
"Takes one to know one," Adam mumbled.
Nina began writing again. Fiona scowled. They had a team plan, a unified force. Come in here, don't talk, don't give anything away, and make it impossible for the therapist to come to any conclusions. But of course, things never go as planned. Just ask Imogen.
"Eli, let's start with you," Nina licked her lips, "Six months ago, you are knocked down by a person you assumed was your friend-"
"Not technically true," Eli interjected.
Nina continued like she had never been interrupted, "-which happens to be the same night that you and Clare are publically humiliated, and also your comatose girlfriend who you got knocked over, woke up-"
"Again, not true," Eli swayed his head slightly, "Julia was my ex, and I didn't actually get her knocked over."
"Then there's Clare," Nina ignored Eli and turned to the brunette, "You never liked Imogen did you? You always thought she hated you, turns out you were completely right. It must have been painful for you, to trust Eli and then find out he was just playing a game with your heart-"
Eli started to get angry, "Actually once again, not completely-"
"And then there's Adam," Nina looked over to Adam, who was fidgeting with his thumbs, "Who has his own little secret."
Adam paled, his throat went dry, "Sorry, what?"
"I read body language," Nina explained, "The fidgeting, the refusal to make eye contact, the tension in your shoulders. Classic signs of secret keeping."
"And then…. Fiona," Nina continued with a smile on her face. "The rich girl turned poor. The in closet lesbian. I noted earlier that Adam implied you were a particular alcohol drinker yourself. Social or regular?"
"Why don't you have a drink with me after school, and I'll tell you myself?" Fiona flirted sarcastically.
Nina laughed slightly, "So many issues in one room. This reminds me of the time I found out my sister was my mother. Awkward times, am I right?" she leaned forwards and then stared at them, "Well, you need those awkward times. You need to be set free of your secrets, because secrets are made to be found out, understand? Nobody takes their secrets to their grave," she let out a deep breath and composed herself. "Sometimes they're not easy to say and even harder to hear, but I'm here to listen. Principal Simpson is very worried about all of you."
Clare asked, "What exactly is it you want from us, Miss Henderson?" she smiled perkily, but it was fake.
"I want the truth," Nina tapped the pen in her hand against her notebook. "I mean Clare, there's you. According to your mother, you've given up on God and insist on walking around like a robot."
"A chipper robot who won't stop being fake," Adam added.
Clare looked at Adam with a head tilt.
"Correct," Nina pointed at him, "Then we've got Fiona, who drinks in classes and throws up during lunch hours. And Eli, who spends all his time writing sad, soppy plays about love and betrayal and psychopaths. And Adam, whose confidence has shrunk from 78 percent to a belittling 24 percent."
"What do you expect?" Eli shook his head, "I was run over by a crazy bitch, and then found out my ex has woken from her coma. Not to mention the Clare thing. Everyone here felt betrayed by me, and then Imogen. It took me ages to heal after the accident. My own mother didn't even visit me, and I'm still unsure whether my dad even knew about my accident. Thank god I have insurance left, because attempted murder is very expensive, especially if you survive."
"Actually," Clare added, "I was the one Imogen tried to murder."
"Yes, but I was the one who was hit," Eli replied.
"Like you didn't deserve it," Fiona said lightly, jokingly, but Eli tensed, and Clare looked down at her nails again.
"Eli and Clare," Nina said suddenly, "Clare and Eli. Who are you two? Separately, as individuals?"
Fiona pointed to Clare and said, "That's Clare," she pointed to Eli and said, "And that's Eli. See how their different? One's a …girl, and one's a …boy."
Nina looked at Fiona was annoyance. "Thank you for that, Fiona."
Fiona waved her hand dismissively, "No problem."
Nina turned back to Eli, and Clare. "Well?" she asked.
"I'm Eli," Eli said suddenly, "I write sad, sappy plays about love and betrayals and psychopaths."
"And I'm Clare," Clare said after him, "I bake cookies, and sing songs like Snow White and have all the animals flock to my feminine stature."
"Cute," Nina quipped sarcastically. She said, "Let's talk about the future. Eli, Fiona, you're both graduating tomorrow. What are your plans for the Fall?"
"Eli and I are both going to TU," Fiona replied, "I'm majoring in Theatre and Acting with minors in Fashion and Textiles, Foreign Languages and Sociology.
"I'm studying Theatre Scripts and Plays, Creative Writing and Journalism," Eli replied.
"How exciting," Nina's eyes flashed unexpectedly, "Did you both get dorms on campus?"
"I chose to stay in my apartment, but Eli applied for a dorm room at TU," Fiona said.
"I'm still waiting to hear back from them," Eli added, shifting uncomfortably.
Nina nodded, "Well, as much as I think this has been a complete and utter waste of time, I'd rather wished Principal Simpson had referred you four to me months ago, but of course, it's Principal Simpson so what can you expect?"
"So did we pass?" Adam asked, "You'll give us all a tick of mental stability?"
"Why not?" Nina shrugged flippantly, "We all need a bit of crazy in our lives. It would be boring without. You are free to go. Enjoy your lives, and try not to kill anyone."
They all stood up and walked over to the door when Nina turned and said, "Oh Clare. Could you hang back for a moment?" the others left the room and Clare took a step forward, waiting.
Nina stood up, "When your Senior year starts back up after summer break, I'd like to continue seeing you."
"Oh Miss Henderson," Clare smiled sweetly, "I'm truly flattered but you know student/teacher relationships just won't work."
Nina folded her arms, "I hope you enjoy your sarcasm, Clare, but sarcasm won't fill the void you feel in your heart. It won't help the insecurity and fear you feel when you're walking down a dark alley. It won't heal the hurt you feel. It will just leave you dried up, and bitter."
Clare's face stayed motionless.
Nina asked softly, "What are you feeling, Clare? Truly?"
"Off record?" Clare asked, voice unusually low.
Nina paused, and then said, "Off record."
"I'm feeling like I won't ever go back to normal until the person who's after me is locked up," Clare replied.
Nina frowned, "I'm confused, Clare. I thought Imogen was the one who tried to knock you over?"
Clare took a deep breath and then said, "She was," she spun around and headed for the door, "But someone else was working with her. And I'm not going to stop until I find out who it is."
Clare opened the door, walked out, and left Nina speechless.
The Next Day
Fiona threw her graduation cap up in the air and posed for a photo taken by Adam. Clare stood beside him, bored, and glancing down at her phone every twelve seconds. Fiona pulled Eli into her arms and Adam snapped a few shots of them. If Adam and Fiona hadn't dragged Clare to the graduation ceremony she wouldn't even be there. Even being around Eli was still hard to deal with, and everyone had been on edge ever since the Charity Auction night.
Not to mention the awkward therapy session yesterday. Eli and Fiona looked like twins in their matching graduation robes and caps. Adam kept calling them 'cute' to annoy them and Clare smiled when necessary and went back to typing on her phone. She had posted several 'HAVE YOU SEEN?' pages on a few social networking sites, asking anyone who had seen Imogen in the months before her death to contact her.
If Imogen had been seen with anyone, then maybe that someone was the real Dare Overlord. But, nobody had replied to her, and Clare was slowly running out of leads. Imogen's parents had up and moved - not to Indiana like Imogen had originally stated - but to British Columbia. Eli had healed, and was seeking a new friendship with the recently awake Julia. Adam was content not talking about any of it, and Clare was frankly, obsessed.
A couple of hooting noises from Clare's left entered her ears and she saw Sav, Drew and Dave running towards Eli and Fiona to jump into the pictures taken by Adam. Clare bristled slightly. Whenever she saw Dave and Drew, she immediately thought of Jenna, K.C, and Bianca. The fresh memory of her humiliation had only lasted that night and had successfully been taken over by Eli's assault and Imogen's death, but that didn't mean that Clare didn't hurt just thinking about it.
A lot had changed in the last six months since the Charity Auction night. Fiona had stayed on at Randall's firm and been promoted to Human Resources' Reception Secretary, which was good, because then she didn't have to deal with the uptight paralegal Melanie. Clare found a job at her favourite local book shop, and they had even found a fourth roommate for the fourth unused bedroom that Alli used to sleep in during weekends, Bank Holidays and in-service days.
Sav, who had just turned eighteen along with the rest of his Seniors took up the fourth bedroom, after getting a partial scholarship to TU to study Music. He found two part-time jobs and even managed to fit in the same social life he was always used to. Alli had been badgering her parents to let her take Eli's room if he got a dorm on the TU campus, but they were insistent on her staying with them until she herself turned eighteen.
"Hey you," Alli said as she walked up to Clare, wrapping an arm around her waist. They'd repaired the damage their friendship had endured, and now Clare was possibly closer to Alli than she was to Adam and Fiona. Alli had really matured in the last six months. Finding her best friend crying in the middle of a hospital car park next to a car she had vandalised really made her see how selfish and self centred she'd really been, about everything.
"Hey," Clare smiled back, turning back to her phone. Another missed call from her mother, and several voicemails from her local church's Minister. Clare had well and truly given up on her faith, and had stopped attending Church and sermons with Helen months ago. Clare found that when she put faith into nothing, she got zero disappointment in return. If you expect nothing, then you lose nothing.
"I can't wait to be done with this place!" Fiona cried, jumping up and down happily, "We have to celebrate tonight! Big dinner, all of us!"
"How can we afford that?" Adam asked Fiona, snapping another picture.
"My Godmother sent me cash, as a graduation present!" Fiona smiled and posed for a photo taken by the school's profession photographer.
"If you insist on buying us dinner, then we surely can't protest," Adam grinned cheekily. "Who can pass up a free dinner?"
I can, Clare thought with dread.
"Great!" Fiona cried, "Then we're all going! Even you two, Drew and Dave," she looked uneasy, but maybe that's because Drew and Dave hadn't been the kindest to her in the past but like everyone since that night, they had changed as well. Drew and Dave had cut off ties with K.C, Jenna and Bianca and had stuck by Eli, visiting him every day and helping him recover from his injuries.
"Plus ones are not an option," Fiona added curtly, but it was directed at Eli. Eli had bonded with Julia over the past months and he'd slowly but surely introduced her to the apartment, which nobody was happy with. Clare could hardly stand to be there as it was with Eli. Add his ex to the mix, and Clare spent all of her time in her room, studying late at school, working, or staying at Alli's.
Clare looked at the incoming call on her phone; Restricted Number is calling you: Answer or Decline. She scrunched up her nose slightly. That was the fifth time that month that a blocked number had been calling her. Every time she answered, she got the same thing: silence, and the sound of someone breathing. It was freaking her out, to say the least. She answered it, moving away from the others to press her phone to her ear. Nothing. Silence. Breathing.
And then something in the background made her freeze. The sound of a marching band on the other end of the line sounded… familiar. Clare looked up, glanced across the outside cafeteria and saw the Choir and Marching Band a few yards away. She pressed her fingers to her free ear to make sure she wasn't just hearing the music noise on her end. Nope. She was also hearing the same marching band on the caller's line.
Whoever kept calling her with a restricted number could be the same person who had texted her from a blocked number six months ago when Imogen's body was found in the local ravine. If they were one in the same person and Clare could hear the marching band in their background… that meant they were there, now. Watching her. Clare shivered, glanced up and scanned the crowd, trying to see if anyone was on their phone.
Everything was just so busy, and crowded. People were moving, and hugging, and celebrating. Clare couldn't make any sense of it. "Hello?" she asked the person on the other end. "Who is this?" the line went dead and Clare sighed, putting her phone back in her pocket. She had to get to the bottom of this, soon.
She was about to turn back to Alli and the others when something made her stop. A few yards away, across the road was… Jenna, sitting on a bench by herself, staring down at her graduation cap in her hands. Clare hesitated. She had made it very clear to Jenna and Bianca to stay out of her way for the rest of their school year, and after the events of the Charity Auction night, they'd actually agreed, and hadn't given her much grief.
So why was Clare feeling like she actually wanted to walk over there and talk to Jenna? Clare shook her head and turned away, stopping abruptly when she heard a quaint sob escape from Jenna's lips. Cursing her good nature, Clare spun back around, crossed the road and stopped right before Jenna, staring at the dejected looking blonde. A few tears escaped Jenna's eyes.
"What's up, Jenna?" Clare asked, "Did you find out that aging does in fact affect your looks?"
Jenna sniffed and glanced up to Clare with surprise. She tugged at her graduation robe and said hoarsely, "My life is over."
"I wouldn't say that," Clare sat down next to Jenna, "Sure, you probably won't be as popular in college as you were in high school, but I'm sure you'll make up for it with your attitude."
"I can't go to college," Jenna suddenly whined, hands up in the air. "I'm pregnant!"
"Wow," Clare checked her nails, "I thought K.C lost all his manhood when he started dating you."
"This isn't funny!" Jenna screeched, "My life is over! K.C has left me! I can't go to college! I can't raise this baby all by myself! All I have is my brother!" she hiccupped from the crying, "What am I going to do?"
"You have options," Clare said seriously, "There's adoption, abortion, foster care."
"Abortion?" Jenna's eyes widened, "You - good girl saint - would suggest that?"
"I lost my faith a long time ago, pretty much around the same time I lost everything else, thanks to you," Clare spat, her blood boiling whenever she thought of the Charity Auction night and that freaking video that ambushed the event. Thank god for computer geeks Connor and Wesley or that thing would have gone viral.
"Oh my god," Jenna whispered. She looked over to Clare. "I'm so sorry."
"What?" Clare's head snapped round.
"Clare, I'm so, so, sorry," Jenna repeated, crying, "I had no idea I would hurt you that much. Okay that's a lie, I did want to hurt you, but it's only because I was so insecure about K.C. Turns out he was the real jackass, not you. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, he fled, and now I'm all alone."
Clare swallowed. She hadn't expected that.
"You're just so decent, Clare," Jenna wiped her smeary mascara from her face, "You would never set out to hurt anyone like I did."
Clare looked down guiltily. "Actually, that's not entirely true," she said, "Remember a couple of months after Winter Break, when that supposed SDT scandal about you, and Bianca and K.C popped up on Degrassi's forum?"
Jenna nodded back, "Yes, it was horrible. People talked about me for months."
Clare licked her lips, "Well that was me."
Jenna's face fell, "What?"
"I wanted payback," Clare explained, "I got Connor to help me out with it and then I sent it, to all the other schools, and colleges in the area."
Jenna went pale, but then she shrugged weakly, "I guess I deserved it."
"You did," Clare nodded, and then she looked at Jenna. For some reason, they both burst out laughing at the same time, dissolving into quiet chuckling.
Jenna asked quietly, "How have you been doing, Clare?"
"Fine," Clare shrugged slightly, "Don't I sound fine?"
Jenna looked at her with a narrowed gaze, like she was studying her. "No you don't. You sound forced. What's going on with you?"
"I don't know, Jenna," Clare began sarcastically, "Maybe somebody ruined my entire life whilst publically humiliating me. Maybe somebody tried to kill me. Maybe there's another person out there, running around, trying to get me."
"You sound paranoid," Jenna pushed her hair back, "Imogen killed herself. Just because the police ruled it homicide does not mean it was. Come on, the girl was psycho! She tried to kill you, but the stupid bitch missed and got Eli! She probably knew she was headed for a life in prison and wanted to skip to the end. Who could blame her? It's not like anybody would rush to stop her."
"Jenna, she has a family," Clare said hoarsely. Clare was never going to be Imogen's biggest fan, but clearly the girl was messed up in the head, mentally. To a certain degree, maybe her actions weren't her own. Despite what Imogen did, she had a family, who had lost a daughter. Even if Imogen had wanted to kill Clare, Clare knew she had to find out who had really killed her - before she became the second victim.
"Had a family," Jenna corrected Clare.
Clare sighed softly, and then stood up again. She looked at Jenna awkwardly and gave her a sarcastic smile. "Nobody should know we had this little conversation," she said.
"Well, duh," Jenna rolled her eyes, "I can't be seen talking to Clare Edwards, the religious virgin."
"And I can't be seen talking to Jenna Middleton, the stuck up bitch," Clare snapped back.
Jenna cranked her eyebrow up and said, "Wow Clare, you really did grow a pair, didn't you?"
Clare said seriously, "Talk to your brother, okay Jenna? Don't do anything impulsive or stupid. K.C's a dickhead, you're better off without him. But talk to someone you trust."
"And there she is," Jenna stood up as well, "The old Clare Edwards is never far below the surface."
Clare snorted slightly. She was already walking away when she yelled back, "Keep being a bitch, Jenna!"
Jenna called back, "Lighten up, you cranky bible basher!"
Clare gave Jenna the finger as she crossed the road towards the group she'd left to answer her phone as she heard Jenna laugh in return.
"Did I just see you laughing with Jenna Middleton?" Alli asked Clare, her eyes narrowing into slits.
"Don't be silly, she's a bitch," Clare brushed it off. She changed the subject quickly, "So what are we doing tonight?"
"Fiona's taking us all out for a graduation ceremony dinner," Alli shrugged back, licking her lips. "Big money gift from her aunt or godmother or someone she knows," she laughed softly, and then asked seriously, "Clare, are you okay?"
Clare took a deep breath. She was sick to death of people asking her if she was 'okay.' No, she wasn't freaking okay, but admitting it wouldn't make anything any better. Eli would still have broken her heart. Julia would still be awake, and in Eli's life. Imogen would still be dead. Nothing was freaking 'okay' anymore. It hadn't been for a long time.
Later That Afternoon
Clare was in the kitchen, adjusting her bracelet when Eli walked out of the hallway, fixing his belt. Fiona was hogging the bathroom mirror and Adam and the others were meeting them at the restaurant. Sav was sitting in the living room, playing his Xbox game. Clare's lungs tightened. Another awkward run in with Eli. Usually, they timed their schedules so well, it was almost like they knew where they should be - just to avoid the other.
Clare had worked so hard to bring her life back to normal, avoiding Eli and his frequent times with Julia, who he swore to Fiona was 'just a friend.' At first, Eli had resisted their differently timed lives. He knocked on Clare's door, sent her flowers, and hadn't even said a word about his hearse, which was completely totalled. Thank god he had Bullfrog's car, or God knows how he would have gotten around. He even had it moved, from the hospital car park to just outside the apartment, so whenever he saw it, he reminded himself of how much he had hurt Clare. He was always a masochist that way.
But then one night… he just stopped trying. It was something particularly odd. He was walking home after his shift at the Dot one night and he passed a cinema complex that was showing Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club. Their first date. The drive in theatre, lying on the hood of Morty, eating junk food, and watching Brad Pitt.
That was the night they got their tattoos. That was the night they first became intimate with each other. It was all a blur now. Six months after his accident, and everything was just a blur. All their times together, and everything he felt, was so real, that it almost made him… numb.
And then later that night, he was having a conversation with Fiona in the kitchen, when Eli stumbled across a sketch on a piece of paper. It was like a spider diagram, with a bunch of people's names on it. It had his name, and hers, Fiona's, Adam's, Jenna's, Alli's, most of their friends and school peers' names. It was in Clare's handwriting.
Eli had asked Fiona what it was, and ever so casually, Fiona said, "Oh that's Clare's, she's like obsessed. It's all she ever talks about." Eli couldn't shake that feeling of guilt. The Dare Overlord, and Imogen aside, he had been the one to ultimately destroy Clare. He had changed her, for the worst.
So he let her go, for all intents and purposes. Clare made it clear she didn't want him back, and he let her slip through his fingers. It broke his heart all over again. It had been literal torture; living a door away from her, but never being able to see her, or talk to her, or spend any time with her. Their lives had fallen into an uncomfortable pattern of avoid and ignore.
She looked exceptionally pretty on this very occasion. Her hair was longer, and she'd straightened it, and her pouty red lips were the main attraction. She was wearing a black dress, with flats and a purple cardigan. She was there physically, but mentally and emotionally, she was gone. He could see it in his eyes; she wasn't Clare Edwards anymore. Not really.
"Is Fiona ready yet?" Clare asked the room, but she was really talking to Sav.
"Like hell she is," Sav replied, "She's been in there for like two hours."
"I might just order a cab then, I need to pick up something at the store," Clare grabbed her purse.
"Eli will take you," Sav said casually, "That actually works for me, because then you can get my eye drops while you're out," he glanced to Eli and Clare. Sav was still pretty new to the apartment, and even though he was aware of Eli and Clare's situation, he often put his foot in it, and Eli suspected he even did it purposefully.
Eli rubbed the back of his neck nervously, shrugging slightly. He said, "Fine," he glanced to Clare, "If you want."
Clare's eyes blazed at him. Her eyes said 'Stop breaking our agreement.' The one where they didn't speak, or interact, or even acknowledge each other's existence. It was tiring though. Extremely.
"Go!" Sav cried suddenly, breaking the tension, "I got my eyes to moisten."
"Fine," Clare grumbled, heading towards the door. She opened it and strode out, not even waiting for Eli.
Eli grabbed his leather jacket and said to Sav, "I thought you just got new eye drops."
"I know," Sav grinned to himself, still playing the Xbox game. "You're welcome."
Eli shook his head, grabbed Bullfrog's car keys and headed out the open door, closing it behind him. Clare was already sitting at the passenger side, looking white as a ghost and bitter as hell. Eli wondered what fresh hell would come his way this time.
Eli fumbled with the radio in Bullfrog's car as Clare glanced out of the passenger side window, sighing. Awkward didn't even begin to describe them anymore. How do you act around a person, who was once your everything? Clare knew it was ridiculous that she had made Eli her everything, but it was such a natural progression that she hadn't even really realised it.
"I saw your mother at the shops yesterday," Eli commented suddenly.
Clare's lips tightened.
"She was buying milk," Eli continued lamely.
"Oh?" Clare sighed.
"She said she hasn't spoken to you in months," Eli added.
"Four, to be exact," Clare replied. "Is this your small talk?"
"What would you rather me do?" Eli kept his eyes on the road ahead of him. "Talk about us? The Dare Overlord? Julia?"
"There it is," Clare mumbled to herself angrily, "You just can't go a day without talking about that tramp."
"Tramp?" Eli retorted.
"She lied to you, Eli," Clare glared at him, "She tried to make you think that she thought you two were still together. If that doesn't scream psycho then I don't know what does."
"And I guess vandalising my hearse gives you a perfect bill of mental health," Eli muttered darkly. "How do you even know Julia lied to me?"
"Fiona told me," Clare folded her arms tightly, "If she didn't tell me things, I probably wouldn't know them."
"It's quite ironic really," Eli said, "You don't believe in God anymore yet your high horse is bigger than ever."
"Least I have a right to a high horse," Clare spat back.
"I preferred you when you were walking around, acting like a plastic robot," Eli gripped the driving wheel tightly.
"Well, it's a good thing I don't need to worry about what you think any more," Clare snapped.
"When did you ever?" Eli muttered under his breath.
"What did you say?" Clare shrieked, "I gave up everything for you! Even myself! And you ruined everything!"
Eli made a sharp turn into the back roads, steam coming from his ears.
"Watch where you're going!" Clare cried, bracing herself. "Why are you going this way? The chemist is back that way!"
"I'm taking a short cut!" Eli cried back, "It's my car, I'll go in whatever direction I want to."
"So typical," Clare rolled her eyes, "Eli Goldsworthy, just swarms in and takes over, like he knows everything when in reality he knows nothing."
"Clare, are you honestly going to blame me for everything?" Eli asked angrily, "It's not like I saved you by sacrificing myself! It's not like I got knocked over, just so you wouldn't. It's not like I haven't tried to make amends!"
"Nobody asked you to push me out of the way," Clare gritted her teeth, "It didn't really matter, did it? You'd already killed me that night, anyway."
"As if I didn't hurt myself that night either!" Eli cried.
"Watch out!" Clare screamed suddenly. A deer from the woods sprung out and jumped into the middle of the road. Clare reached across the space, grabbed the wheel and turned it abruptly, sending the car flying forwards into the woods. The deer sprang away from the road and darted off, unharmed. Eli's car jerked awkwardly and Eli braked just before they went crashing into a nearby tree.
"Shit!" Eli got out of the car, grimacing, "Well done. That's the second car of mine you've totalled."
"Don't be so dramatic," Clare unbuckled her seat belt and jumped out, walking around to where Eli was standing. There it was. The front tyre of his car was burst, flat. Clare said, "It's only a flat. Hardly totalled."
"I left my phone in the kitchen," Eli folded his arms, "Where is yours?"
Clare sighed, "I turned mine off and left it in my room because... Never mind." She'd left it behind because she couldn't handle any more creepy blocked phone calls that night. She added, "What the hell are we supposed to do now? Just stand around and wait until someone passes us? We have a dinner to get to!"
"I don't know, Clare," Eli replied restlessly, "Obviously there's nothing else to do in this situation."
"I knew I shouldn't have got in the car with you," Clare muttered under her breath.
"You're the one that drove us into the woods," Eli said sharply, "I could have braked in time before I hit that deer, but you didn't have any faith in me."
"Can you blame me?" Clare's eyes blazed with fire.
"I guess not," Eli replied, with less anger in his voice this time. Only sadness.
"Maybe we could walk back," Clare glanced away from him, unable to handle her emotions again.
"All the way back? It would take forever, and it would get dark, soon," Eli said. "Someone will pass soon, I'm sure of it."
Six Hours Later
"This is hopeless," Clare groaned, her head leant back on the passenger seat, as the passenger door was swung open for air. She glanced through the windshield and saw Eli, lying on the hood of the car, staring up at the dark night sky. Clare sighed, stepped out of the car and said, "Eli, it's been six hours, and we've not seen one single car pass. We should start walking back now."
"And leave my dad's car here?" Eli slid off the hood.
"I need to pee, for god sake!" Clare suddenly cried.
Eli gestured towards the woods with an expectant look.
"Absolutely not!" Clare shrieked, "I've got some class left."
Eli took in the sight of Clare, her messy disheveled hair, crumpled dress and red cheeks and suddenly let out a stomach roaring laugh.
"What is so funny?" Clare demanded.
Eli finally stopped laughing and shook his head with affection. He missed seeing Clare like this. This was the first time he'd spent with her in ages. The first couple of hours went by with Clare playing the radio, but when that died, Eli decided to imagine faces and pictures in clouds and when that got boring, Clare and Eli tried playing 'I Spy.' It got boring fast, but somehow, time seemed to have fly with them. They hadn't spent quality time together in ages and somehow, they just slotted back together, like no time had passed at all.
"I miss you, Clare," Eli said seriously, "I just miss you, that's all."
Clare couldn't help but swallow the tightness in her throat. She whispered back, "Yeah, I miss you too."
Eli took a dangerous step towards her and Clare immediately stepped back, asking quietly, "What are you doing?"
"Sorry," Eli looked up at the sky again, "Sometimes wanting to hold you is just like second nature to me."
"Let's not talk about this," Clare turned her back on him, folding her arms. It was too painful, to think about how they used to be together.
Eli soundlessly crossed the distance between them and spun her around. Clare opened her mouth to protest, but Eli smashed their lips together and drove his tongue inside, trying to get her to understand the torture he felt every single day. Clare resisted at first but when Eli slipped his hand behind her neck, she immediately gave in and moaned instinctively.
Their lips melded together and Clare tugged him closer, desperate to feel him again, after all this time. Eli's fingers slipped down the length of her, feeling every inch of her through her dress. Clare moved impulsively towards him, running her hands through his hair and basking in his strong masculine scent. It was heaven. Pure and shameful lust. And love, buried deep beneath.
"Stop it!" Clare suddenly pushed him away from her. "You can't just kiss me like that!"
"I'm not sorry," Eli practically barked, "I know you aren't either!"
"That doesn't matter," Clare screeched, "I'm not here for your entertainment! You can't just run off with your ex girlfriend whenever you feel like it and then kiss me like that! It's too confusing."
"You really must have some complex, Clare," Eli turned away, jaw steeled. "I've already told you, Julia and I are just friends! Do you really want to know why she's still my friend? Do you really?"
"Well tough, I'm telling you anyway. She tried to kill herself, Clare. She flung herself in front of a car, because we broke up," Eli said through gritted teeth, "What was I supposed to do for fuck sake? I was all she had!"
Clare sighed and ran a hand through her hair. "I didn't know," she said quietly.
"Nobody did," Eli leant against his car. "Everybody thought it was the driver's fault. Even the driver."
"What happened?" Clare looked over to him.
"Julia went to the police and confessed everything. The driver's record was wiped clean and so long as Julia attended her therapist meetings, the police weren't going to charge for attempting suicide," Eli replied.
"And Julia's... okay?" Clare asked.
"She's much, much better," Eli nodded his head. He quickly, "I'm sorry I haven't been there for you, Clare. All these months and we've just let each other float away, haven't we?"
"I've been busy," Clare managed.
"Creating spider diagrams and concocting up theories," Eli looked down at his converses, "I found one of your little... charts in the kitchen one day. I blame myself really, for making you... like that."
Clare looked irritated, "Trust me, it's got nothing to do with you. Imogen was murdered, even the police think so. Not to mention my anonymous text from the real mastermind and all the weird creepy phone calls I've been getting lately. I'm not going crazy, Eli. There is somebody else behind the whole thing."
"Maybe there is," Eli agreed, "But that doesn't explain your change. I hardly even recognise you anymore."
"I hardly even recognise myself," she said without a moment's thought.
Eli let out a tempered sigh. He began, "I really, really regret last year, Clare. The dare, I mean."
"It may not sound like it, Eli," Clare whispered back, "But I've forgiven you for that. I get it. You didn't think you'd fall for me and then when you did, it was already too late. I understand, kind of. If I was in the same position, maybe I would have done the same thing, with money being tight and everything. You wanted a way out, and the dare was there. It was easy."
"It wasn't easy," Eli shook his head, "It was the greatest and worst thing of my life. Without it, I wouldn't have gotten to know you, but ultimately, it ruined everything. Quite the juxtaposition, isn't it?"
Eli said suddenly, "Clare, is there any way you could ever... go back... to the way things were?"
Clare stared at him through the darkness, feeling her pounding heartbeat in her chest. She said, "I forgave you, Eli. But I don't think I'll ever be able to forget. You're the love of my life, no one is ever going to compare but... so much has happened, and I can't get past the rest. Not yet anyway."
"I understand," Eli replied hoarsely. He added, "We'll always have the memories."
"Yes," Clare smiled softly to herself.
A couple of minutes passed in dark dreary silence, until the sound of a moving car finally perked their ears. Clare sprang up, and Eli jolted forwards, ready to jump up and down with his arms waving about to attract attention. The car didn't need any further notice; it slowed by them immediately and the front door opened. Clare grimaced through the glaring headlights, trying to see who was approaching them.
"Julia?" Eli gasped.
Clare's eyes sprang open with shock as the sight of Julia came walking towards them.
"Hey," Julia said, "What happened here?"
"The car got a flat. What are you doing here?" Eli gasped, torn between amazement and confusion.
"I like driving through the back roads," Julia told him. She turned to Clare, "Hi, I'm Julia."
"We've met," Clare said, smiling tightly. They had met. Months ago, with Julia just woken up from her coma, staring at Eli, as he lay in his hospital room. Awkward.
"Oh right, sorry," Julia grimaced, "My memory's pretty good now but I don't remember much from when I woke up. Come on, you guys must be freezing," She beckoned them towards her car and Clare hesitantly climbed into the back seat as Eli climbed into the passenger seat.
"We'll have missed the dinner by now," Eli said to Clare. "We might as well just go home."
"Sure," Clare replied. It was one of the most awkward car rides she'd ever been in before. Julia and Eli talked like old friends and Clare just sat there, wishing the ground to open up and swallow her.
When they finally arrived home, Eli invited Julia up to the apartment, where everybody was sitting.
"What the hell, guys?" Fiona said tipsily as they walked through the front door, "I was five minutes away from calling the police, to report you two missing."
"Yeah," Adam agreed nervously, his hands shaking unnaturally, "Where the hell have you been?"
"Adam, are you okay?" Clare rushed towards him.
"I'm fine," Adam shoved his hands into his jeans pocket.
Sav, Alli, Drew and Dave stayed weirdly quiet at the sight of Clare, with Eli and Julia. The daree, the ex, and the ex. Not a good combo.
"We got a flat and were stranded for hours," Clare told the room as she took off her jacket.
"Eli, you got a little..." Sav said, gesturing to his lips.
Eli frowned and everyone turned to see the corner of Eli's lips; pink smudged lipgloss. Clare's eyes widened as she anxiously wiped her lips and watched Eli do the same.
"I should go," Julia said suddenly, "It was nice to see you all again."
"Text me when you get home," Eli said to her as she left.
"Clare, is it okay if I sleepover in your room?" Alli asked.
"It's fine," Clare nodded back.
"We better head as well," Drew said, looking at Dave. "Thanks for dinner, Fiona."
"No problem guys, drive safe!" Fiona cried after them as they exited the apartment.
Sav shared a look with Adam and Eli and turned back to the television.
Clare walked towards her bedroom and was suddenly shoved inside by Alli, who abruptly closed the door behind them.
"Spill!" Alli shrieked.
"What?" Clare's cheeks reddened.
"The smudged lipgloss," Alli pointed to Clare's lips. "Spill. Now."
"We kissed, he kissed, it was a just a kiss," Clare muttered.
"A kiss is never 'just a kiss'" Alli whispered back.
"No really, Alli. It was," Clare replied, going to sit down on her bed. "Tonight made me realise I've just been this empty zombie, walking around and saying all the appropriate things at the right time, because I've felt like something was holding me back. Like unresolved closure, or something. But talking to Eli made me realise that I've been holding onto him. Onto what we had, and that's unhealthy. I need to let him go, for real."
"And kissing is the way to do that?" Alli raised an eyebrow.
"It's one way," Clare sighed, "Maybe? I don't know, maybe it was the talking. We talked, for the first time in ages and I forgave him, for the dare. I want to forgive him for that, I don't want to hold a grudge or have to fight with him. Before he was my boyfriend, he was my best friend, you know? A part of me misses that friendship as well. But... we talked. He's letting go, and so I am. I have to. I can't live in this rut anymore."
"Does that mean giving up on finding out who killed Imogen?" Alli asked.
"I guess so," Clare whispered, looking down at the floor. "Maybe it's time for a real fresh start. Eli's going to University, I'm starting Senior year. Everything's changing. Moving on will help us grow... I think."
Alli sat down on the bed next to her and draped an arm over Clare's shoulder, "How's the moving on part going for you?"
Clare lay backwards on her bed and Alli moved backwards to lie with her. Clare said, "It's not. But maybe someday it will be."
Alli smiled sadly. "I always thought you and Eli would eventually work it out."
"Somethings just aren't meant to be, and if they are..." Clare mumbled, "Then they'll happen. Naturally."
Alli let out a deep sigh. She said, "I predict this year is going to be awesome. In two months time, we'll be back at school, ready to rule the Senior year."
Clare laughed, "Rule the Senior year? You really think so?"
"I do," Alli grinned back, "You're going to get over Eli. We're going to be the Queens of Degrassi, I will finally turn eighteen and everything will be fantastic in the world of Clare-Land."
And for a second, just a second, in that brief moment, Clare believed Alli. She believed things were going to get better.
How terribly optimistic. Before the end of the school year, things were going to get a lot, lot worse.
Before the end of the school year, somebody else was going to die.