AUTHOR'S NOTE: PLEASE READ BEFORE READING THE STORYI felt really pulled to write this story. I know I have not been writing much anymore, but I feel really called to write this. In this story, Eli is not dating Clare. Eli is dating another girl. Eclare is still my OTP so please don't think I am trying to step away from that or step on any toes here. If you don't want to read it, you don't have to but I do wish you'd give it a chance. I was going to use another character than Eli, but I love writing him so much. So yes, this will be a bit AU and also there is an original character in here. She is not a Mary Sue in anyway. She has her own personality and her own flaws. Please don't think I am writing myself into this story because I am not. I really felt called to write this and I hope I can do the story justice. I also hope you will give me a chance with this story. I know you may not be too receptive of it, but at least give it a shot. Just try to view Eli as being separate from Eclare. All of this will make sense as you read on. I just really wanted to address that. Again, I apologize if I step on any toes. That is not my intent. I just felt really moved to write this. I hope you give it a chance.

Full Summary: After Clare moves away, Eli is partnered up with the new girl, Catharine. He feels as though she is replacing Clare and chooses to lash out at her because of it. Eventually though, they become friends and Eli realizes that Catharine isn't as bad as he had thought. In fact, he actually sort of likes her. But how will he react when Catharine's past and secrets are revealed? And who will be there for him through it all? Enjoy.

Chasing Catharine

There is something strange about a girl named Catharine. She comes to school with a rubber band desperately trying to hold together an unraveled tapestry of copper hair. Her eyes are overcast by grey shadowy bags, and she looks tragically aged for being just sixteen years old. She walks through the halls as if in a trance, her mind some place far away – forgotten. People stare with curiosity in their eyes as she passes by. She's new. Hardly anyone ever transfers in halfway through the semester unless it is some sort of emergency or special circumstance. It's too difficult to transfer halfway through the semester. The students eye her with a hungering curiosity – they've grown bored of their everyday lives and a new student is always an oddity to marvel upon.

Eli Goldsworthy first saw Catharine as he was walking to his English class. She had dropped one of the books she was trying to put into her backpack. The backpack was precariously propped against a knee as she was fighting with the zipper. One thing lead to another, and pretty soon she was frantically bending down to pick up the book. Eli would have helped her, but there was something about her that stopped him. Instead, his brows furrowed together intensely as he watched her. There was something strange about a girl named Catharine, but all Eli saw was something special.

"Who's the new girl?" Adam Tores asked, sliding into his usual desk right next to Eli's.

Eli shrugged, "I don't know."

"Weird," Adam pulled his binder from his backpack, "No one transfers in mid-semester…" Adam's face paled and Eli shrugged again, letting him know that there were no hard feelings. Changing the subject, Adam said, "I wonder what her story is. Do you think maybe her family is like, in a witness protection program or something? Or maybe they're ex-secret agents undercover hiding from the mafia. Or maybe they're…"

Adam was met with a quizzical glance from Eli, "Really?"

"You never know," he shrugged casually.

Eli rolled his eyes and busied himself by trying to balance his pencil on the tip of his finger. He was already bored and class hadn't even begun yet. He had actually used to enjoy school before his girlfriend, Clare, had moved away. She had moved mid-semester (a few weeks ago to be exact) and it was difficult for Eli to make the adjustment. Her parents had divorced after her dad cheated on her mother. Her mother decided it was time for a change of pace and a "fresh start" so she packed up Clare and they moved to Ohio where some family lived. They had tried to keep up the long distance thing, but it was hard – really hard. After two weeks of a roller coaster of tears and angry words spat into the phone, they decided to just be friends. "Like pen pals," Clare had said. Eli was apprehensive at first, but they still managed to stay in touch, emailing and texting almost every day. But it wasn't the same. Clare had been Eli's first love and not seeing her in school was tough.

"You okay?" Adam asked, sensing Eli's mind wander.

"Yeah."

"How is she?"

"She's fine," Eli dropped the pencil, "She uh…she met a guy."

"Oh?" Adam's eyebrows shot up.

"Yeah. She says he's nice."

"She seemed happy when I talked to her last week."

"Yeah," Eli nodded. He was glad she was happy with her new life, but he couldn't help but feel out of place for not being in it. It was strange to him to not see Clare every day. He missed her more than he would ever admit; even though he was pretty certain Adam was on to him.

Ms. Dawes cleared her throat, calling the class to attention. She was leaning against her desk like she always was when she was preparing to give an announcement to the class. Eli rolled his eyes. Ms. Dawes' announcements always lasted longer than necessary because she tended to get sidetracked and emotional about certain things. Sometimes Adam would lean over to Eli and whisper something about it being "her time of the month" to which Eli would slug him in the shoulder all while tuning out whatever Ms. Dawes had to say. Usually Clare would just fill him in if it was anything important, but now he actually had to start paying attention on his own – something new to him.

"Class," Ms. Dawes began, "I would like to take a moment to introduce our newest addition to the class, Catharine Hayes. She just transferred here from Northbrooke and I would like for us to give her a warm welcome."

Ms. Dawes began to clap. A few scattered, monotonous claps sounded from sporadic places in the classroom. Again, Eli rolled his eyes. He knew what it was like to be the new kid and he was not about to partake in furthering Catharine's embarrassment anymore.

"Now then," Ms. Dawes continued, "I understand we all have our partners already but Eli, since Clare moved, I was wondering if you could perhaps work with Catharine?"

An eyebrow shot up into his hair line, "Um…are you sure?" He wasn't trying to be rude, but the thought of someone taking Clare's place as his English partner kind of irked him. Ms. Dawes clasped her hands together and smiled sweetly at him. Eli fought the urge to roll his eyes while staring right at her.

"Yes, I am sure. You need a new English partner, and Catharine needs an English partner. I trust that you will show her the ropes and make her feel as comfortable as possible here at Degrassi?"

Eli decided it wouldn't do any good to argue. When Ms. Dawes set her mind to something, there was no changing it. "Alright," he agreed.

"Thank you. Now Catharine," Ms. Dawes turned to the girl, "We have partners in this class. All work is done alone, but we have partners so that you can proof-read and peer-edit each other's writing. I find that it has strengthened a lot of students' writing and it is just a fun way to pair up and work together. It is such a joy for me to see students working hard and helping each other out…"

"Here she goes again," Adam sighed and Eli had to resist the urge to chuckle. His smirk won out though, and he bit the corner of his bottom lip to try to keep it under control. When Ms. Dawes got started, there was no stopping her and they all knew it.

After about ten minutes of talking about how important it is to work together as a community and how "magical" it is to witness students strengthening each other's work and providing support and advice to one another, she asked the class to pair off with their partners to receive a new assignment. It suddenly hit Eli that he would never work with Clare again on an assignment. That bothered him. It bothered him that he was suddenly getting this new partner just weeks after Clare moved away. It bothered him that Ms. Dawes just couldn't let him squeeze into Adam and Dave's partnership. He was annoyed, and he wasn't exactly discrete about it. Sighing, he grabbed his backpack and loped over to Catharine's desk. She was glancing around and seemed out of place in the classroom with all the students already sectioned off in their pairs.

"Hey," Eli threw his backpack down on the desk in front of her.

"Hi," a small smile tugged at her lips, "I'm Cath…"

"I know."

"I am sorry you don't want to work with me, Eli. I don't know what I can do about that except to tell you to suck it up and deal with it because quite frankly, I don't want to work with you either. However, I see no way out of this, so…"

"What do you mean you don't want to work with me either?" Eli shot back, suddenly offended.

"Well," Catharine cleared her throat and tucked a fly-away strand of auburn hair behind her ear, "It's quite obvious you don't want to work with me. You have made that very clear. But what makes you think I want to work with you either? I hate working in groups. If I had it my way, I'd be working alone."

"Well too bad," Eli bit back, "We're stuck together."

"Care to tell me what I did wrong to make you so against working with me?" Catharine asked, drawing little circles on a sheet of notebook paper.

"It's nothing you did personally."

"Then what is it?"

"I just don't want a new English partner."

"I'm sorry."

"Yeah. My girlfriend…well, ex-girlfriend now…she was my English partner."

"Where is she?"

"She moved."

"I'm sorry."

"Her name was Clare and she had red hair too."

"Look, I am not trying to take Clare's place, Eli," Catharine frowned at the circles on the paper, not meeting his eyes, "Really. Look, would it make you feel better if I dyed my hair and changed my name?" She peered at him through a curtain of bangs and Eli rolled his eyes, not replying, "Because that's not going to happen," a small smile crossed her face, "Look, it's not my fault, okay? I don't really want an English partner, and you don't really want another English partner. Let's just suck it up, and grin and bear it. I need this grade and if that means working with you, so be it. Just know that I am not trying to take Clare's place, Eli. I would never try to do that. It's not my fault Ms. Dawes put us together, so don't treat me like it is."

Eli bothered his lower lip between his teeth. When he had first seen her in the halls, he had been captivated by her. There was something special about Catharine that he couldn't quite name. When Ms. Dawes assigned them to work together, it had angered him. He didn't want to work with anyone but Clare. Maybe he had been a bit too harsh on Catharine. After all, just as she said, it wasn't her fault. Eli decided to chill out. Maybe working with her wouldn't be too bad.

Ms. Dawes cleared her throat again, "Alright class. I would like you to write an essay on something life changing that happened to you. Have a draft prepared by tomorrow so you and your partners can peer-edit together. Right now, for the remainder of our class, I would like you all to write a list of some life changing events that have occurred to you."

Eli was about to pull out a sheet of notebook paper when Catharine slid one over to him, "I guess we should get started."

"Yeah."

"Well, to make it simple, how about we write our lists and then have each other read them? That way we can cut down on the amount of actual communication we have to have."

"Sounds good to me," Eli was already working on his list.

He decided he wasn't going to let himself get too close to this Catharine girl. After all, the last English partner he had ended up breaking his heart. He wasn't about to let anything like that happen again. The first event he wrote at the top of the page was, "Clare." Followed next by, "Julia."

"You have to write events, not names," Catharine peered over at his paper.

"They were events," Eli corrected her, "Life changing events."

"I think you should stick to the assignment and write events…"

"What happened to limited communication?"

"I just…"

"Can you stop talking?" Eli raised an eyebrow and realized that he had spoken a bit more loudly than he had expected to, "Uh…excuse me," he grabbed his backpack and headed down the hall. He didn't really know where he was going until he found himself inside the boy's restroom. He dug out his cellphone and texted the one person who he was always able to go to when things got tough.

"Hey," he began to type, "Got a new English partner today. Sucks."

"Shouldn't you be in class?" The reply came just a few seconds after.

"Shouldn't you?"

"Touché."

"Saint Clare skipping class?"

"Living dangerously."

"You're home sick and you know it."

"You got me."

Eli grinned down at the phone, "Sorry you're sick."

"Yeah. It's just a cold, but Mom didn't want to take any chances. She thinks it's the flu."

"Sorry."

"It's okay. Tell me about this new English partner."

Eli rolled his eyes, "Her name is Catharine and she's got red hair."

"Hmm…sure you're not just imagining a mirage of me because you miss me so much?"

"Ha, I wish. I hate having to work with her."

"Eli, be nice."

"It's true. I don't want anyone reading or correcting my writing but you."

"And you didn't like it even when I did," Clare reminded him.

"Yeah well…"

"So, it's not her fault, Eli."

"I know."

"So don't treat her like it is."

"I know."

"I wish I was still your English partner."

"How are things with you and Jake?"

"Changing the subject?"

"Maybe."

"We're just friends, Eli. He's nice but I can't see myself dating him."

"And why is that?"

"Stop fishing. You know the breakup was hard on me too."

"You suggested it."

"We fought every day because of our different schedules. It was so hard, Eli. And I would like to think that we could work it out and see each other on holidays, but you know I can't afford to fly back and forth every holiday I get. And I know you can't either."

Eli winced and waited a moment to reply, "We could try."

"Eli."

"What?"

"Be reasonable."

"I can't be reasonable."

"Listen, I want you to work well with Catharine. I want you to be nice to her and work well with her. It is not her fault we broke up and I am not your partner anymore, Eli. Don't take that stuff out on her. If she's new, she's probably having a hard time adjusting as is. Be nice to her."

"Are you having a hard time adjusting?"

"Some days more so than others."

"Anything I can do?"

"Don't be a jerk to your new English partner."

Eli rolled his eyes and just as he was about to reply –

"Don't roll your eyes."

"It's creepy how you can do that."

"I got to go. Email me after you finish your first assignment with Catharine. I want to know how it goes."

"How bad would it be if I just didn't work with her and failed English this semester?"

"Bad."

"How bad?"

"Bad. And I would be angry at you if you kept taking your anger out on her. So you'd get a failing grade and an angry Clare. The decision is all yours."

"Yikes. Okay, I'll try to be nice."

"Good."

Eli tucked his phone back into his pocket. He figured he should probably go and apologize to Ms. Dawes and Catharine for being a jerk and running out of class like that. Why did Clare always have to be the reasonable one? He grabbed his backpack off the floor and headed back to class. The bell rang, and just as he was about to open the door, Catharine pushed past him, her shoulder bumping violently into his. She didn't even glance up.

"Ms. Dawes?" Eli approached her desk.

"Elijah, you better have a good excuse for running out of class like that."

"I wish I did, but I don't."

"Very well. Detention after school."

"Fair enough."

"Eli," Ms. Dawes voice softened, "I know you're having a hard time right now since Clare has moved, but I think you need to give Catharine a chance. I am not asking you to date her. All I am asking is that you work professionally with her."

"I understand."

"I hope so. Both your grades depend on your partnership."

Eli waited until her back was turned to roll his eyes. Adam had lagged behind so that after Ms. Dawes was done with Eli, he'd have a chance to talk with him before their next class.

"Dude, not cool."

"What?"

"You know what."

"No. I don't."

"You treated your new partner like dirt."

"She was annoying me," Eli answered as if that excused everything.

"I annoy you. You don't just run out on me."

"Yeah, cause I can punch you."

Adam rolled his eyes, "She doesn't seem all that bad, Eli."

"She is. Trust me."

"What did she even do?"

"She was…all controlling when I was listing my life-changing events."

"You can be controlling too. Sure you two just didn't butt heads?"

"I'm sure. I just feel like she is trying to replace Clare."

"No one is replacing Clare. She didn't even know who Clare was, Eli!"

"Yeah, but still…"

"Eli, just work with her. It's one class. Besides, she's not that bad."

"How do you know?"

"Because after you ditched her I went over and talked to her."

"You did what?" Eli caught Adam by the arm, "What did you say to her?"

"That you're just going through a tough time right now and…"

"Dude, that's not okay!"

"Well, she looked pretty upset. I am sure it's not every day that guys run out the door to get away from her."

"I didn't…"

"You were an ass, and you know it."

"Okay. I was an ass. So what do I do?"

"Simple. Apologize."