Author's Note: What am I doing? I have a hundred stories to update that are sitting there unfinished driving us all mad and here I am making yet another one. Bear with me though. This may seem a little OOC, but I've been playing with this idea and so yeah...I'll write it and see what I think and if it passes my inspection, I'll post it for you all to read. Hope you're doing well. Oh yeah, and I do not own Degrassi.
Starting at Square One
Eli knew as soon as he said it that he shouldn't have. Sometimes words just had a way of spilling out of his mouth like a faucet with no filter to collect the contaminates that found their way into his speech. That was exactly what had happened when he had approached Clare. He hadn't meant for his words to come out so harshly, they just did. He wished he could have told her what was really on his mind - that he could never be a proper boyfriend to her unless he took care of himself first. Eli knew he had to start making his mental health his top priority and he couldn't date Clare if she wasn't going to be his number one priority. Clare deserved to be someone's top priority. So Eli had decided that they needed time apart in order for him to focus on himself in hopes of getting better so that he could be better for her.
Of course, nothing came out that way. He ended up accusing her of being the problem in their relationship, basically calling her a trigger to his mental illnesses. The look on her face as he said those words was one he could not get out of his head. That night, it played over and over again like a broken movie reel playing the same scene constantly. She looked like a deflated balloon. And then of course, there was the image ingrained into his mind of her sitting in the window looking out and wiping away a tear. She had looked so broken, and it was all on his account.
Eli knew he didn't deserve to be forgive for any of this, but at the same time, he wished more than anything they could just erase the events of yesterday and he could sit her down and maturely talk to her about what he was going through. Of course, communication had never been their strongest suit. They tended to jump into things without looking to see how deep the waters were below. She was starting to take after him in that regard. Eli knew he needed to just talk to her, and that was what he had intended to do until...
"Dude, what the hell?" Adam ran up to Eli in the hall and grabbed him by the forearm. The first bell hadn't even rung yet - Eli had gotten to school early in hopes of talking to Clare about the day before - and Adam was acting like there was a fire or something.
"Adam, let go of me," Eli shook free from Adam's grasp, "What are you talking about?"
"You and Clare. Did you two break up without telling me?" Now Adam looked hurt, and that bothered Eli. Why would Adam even think such a thing. There was a major difference between a break up and taking a break. What had Clare told him?
"No. We uh...we're taking a break. I need to focus on myself right now and my mental state. I need to make myself a priority. If I am going to be with someone - especially Clare - she deserves to be my priority and it wouldn't be fair to her if I put her on the back burner. So, I am giving us a break so I can work on getting better. Where have you been anyways?"
"Food poisoning," Adam grimaced, "That's the last time I ever eat a gas station chili cheese hot dog...ever."
"Gross," Eli shuddered, feeling his own stomach churn queasily at the thought of a greasy gas station hot dog. If he didn't already feel like throwing up because of the guilty that had been washing over him for the past day, he sure did feel nauseous now.
"So you and Clare are not broken up?" Adam pressed as they continued down the hallway together.
"No. It's just a...separation for a little while. Nothing to worry about," Eli however was beginning to feel uneasy. What made Adam think that they were broken up? Did something happen he wasn't aware of? The over-thinking began to kick into gear and Eli's mind wouldn't quit playing all the different scenarios in his head. Maybe Clare was telling everyone they had broken up. Maybe Adam had just heard it through the grape vine. Maybe...
"Well...does she know that?" Adam shot Eli a sidelong glance.
"What are you talking about? Of course she..."
Eli paused mid-sentence. He quickly understood what Adam was talking about. Just down the hallway, he could see Clare laughing and flipping her hair while talking to some guy at his locker. Eli felt his cheeks flush. Who was that and why was she talking to him and flipping her hair that way? His eyes narrowed in on the guy as if he was trying to target him to fire a missile at him.
"Who the hell is that?" Eli demanded.
"Grayson Grammer?" Eli nodded, feigning calm, "I see."
"Who the hell is Grayson Grammer?"
Adam winced again, feeling as though Eli had just punched him in the stomach. He knew this would happen, and he knew he would be the one stuck relaying the news to Eli. Adam inhaled and explained, "He's a new kid that transferred in a few weeks ago. Apparently he and Clare have Chemistry together..."
"Okay!" Eli turned on Adam, "I think I can see that without you having to point that out, Adam."
"I meant the class, dummy," Adam rolled his eyes, "She's talked with him some but this morning they've been inseparable...that's why I was wondering if you two had broken up."
"I-I didn't think we had," Eli scowled down the hallway at Clare and Grayson. He was confused and hurt and that was a dangerous combination for him; it meant that the over-thinking and over-analyzing wouldn't stop. He'd be forced to imagine and reimagine Clare and Grayson talking and laughing. The very thought was enough to make him either want to throw up or punch something. Possibly both. He kept his hands clenched at his sides as he saw Clare flip her hair over her shoulder. It was such an obvious move. Pathetic, Edwards.
"What exactly happened?" Adam asked, stopping off at his locker. He reached up and turned the combination before swinging the aluminum door open and revealing a clustered mess of textbooks, papers, and what Eli thought was an old bologna sandwich.
"I uh...I just told her I needed to focus on myself."
"Your exact words."
Eli sighed and added, "Uh...I told her that she was the problem, the reason I had been acting so horribly. I know it was mean of me, but I just wanted to...to kind of do it like a band-aid. I knew I needed some space from her to focus on getting better, but I didn't really know how to say that at the time. I was so worried that I'd hurt her or something so I just kind of let that spill out."
"What?" Eli tried to look innocent, but he knew his words had done some pretty severe damage, "I didn't mean to sound that harsh, really. I just wanted to take a break apart so I could focus on getting better for her. Damn it," Eli hissed, "I wish I could have explained that better yesterday."
"Well, apparently she thinks this so-called 'break' is free game to be flirting with Grayson."
Eli was fuming as he watched Grayson interact with Clare. It had been one day - just one day and she was already flirting with someone else? Eli felt a weight, like a lead brick, rest in the pit of his stomach. He felt nauseous and he could feel the blood in his veins bubble and turn to soda. Was their relationship really worth so little to her?
"What am I going to do?" He asked.
"Well, you could go talk with her?" Adam shrugged as if it were the simplest solution in the world, "Just sayin'."
Eli frowned, suddenly becoming intently interested in the linoleum tile flooring, "I don't even know what to say to her." How could he possibly apologize after the horrible things he had said the day before? He wouldn't even know where to begin.
"Hi is a good start."
Eli rolled his eyes but after some prodding from Adam, he decided to give it a shot. After some convincing and attempts at pep-talks from Adam, Eli made his way over to Clare. He approached Clare who was still talking to Grayson. They were at his locker and she was leaning against the locker next to his. She was twirling a curl around her finger and rolling her eyes and laughing. Her smile widened when she noticed Eli and she quickly turned back to Grayson. Eli was again, fuming. He knew just what she was doing. This had become a game. Well if she thought she was going to win this one, she was certainly mistaken.
Eli cleared his throat and Clare whipped around, facing him, "Oh...hi, Eli." He knew she was pretending to be suddenly surprised by his presence. It was all just one big act - a game. She was angry and now she was trying to make him jealous. Well that just wasn't going to work.
"Clare," Eli nodded curtly, "I just came over to tell you that..."
"Have you met Grayson?" Her blue eyes lit up and she turned towards Grayson, glancing at him as if she were fan-girling over some movie star. It made Eli sick.
"No," Eli's eyes narrowed into slits as Grayson slammed his locker and suddenly stood and extended his hand for Eli to shake.
"Pleased to meet you."
"I'm sure," Eli recoiled his hand sharply and Clare glared at him.
"What is wrong with you?" She asked and Eli had to fight to keep from rolling his eyes.
"Nothing is wrong with me. I am just fine. In fact, I am better than fine. I am perfect."
"Good," Clare eyed him suspiciously, "Anything I can help you with?"
"No," Eli bothered his bottom lip between his teeth as if thinking, "Actually, there is something."
"You can come over and get your crap out of my locker. Maybe Grayson will be willing to share a locker with you can use yours again."
"Oh," Clare blushed. She had thought about approaching him about that but had no idea what to say. She knew she needed to get her things, but the thought of facing Eli after yesterday had made her stomach churn. She had gone over to Ali's for a girls' night in which she and Jenna instructed her that if she was going to survive this, she was going to have to teach Eli a lesson. Jenna had called it revenge, Ali had called it beating him at his own game. Whatever it was, they had spent the whole night grooming Clare to act a certain way. Grayson was already a sort-of friend of hers, and the perfect opprotunity, according to Jenna, for Clare to get back at Eli for hurting her. She hand't been too wild for the idea, but after a whole night of Jenna and Ali pushing her, she finally became convinced.
She was just going to have to pretend like what Eli had said to her had not affected her. Jenna told her that she needed to act as though Eli was in the past and that she didn't need him in her life. Ali had agreed, saying that they had become too reliant on one another. It would teach Eli a lesson if she acted oppositely. Jenna had told her that Eli might not have meant what he had said, but still had said it anyways due to the fact that he had grown so comfortable around her.
"It's like he's no longer afraid of losing you," Jenna had explained, "Like...he just automatically thinks you'll be in his life forever. You have to show him what it's like to lose you because I think he's forgotten."
"Isn't that cruel though? To both Eli and Grayson?" Clare had been wary.
"No, it's just teaching Eli a lesson and besides, Grayson is a normal seventeen year old kid. I don't know any other seventeen year old guys out there who wouldn't do anything for some attention from a girl," Ali had explained.
Finally, about three in the morning, they had won Clare over and she had agreed. She still didn't like the idea, but Jenna and Ali had made good points. She and Eli had both been so hurt after their first break up that when they had gotten back together, they had become inseparable. It was as if they didn't think anything could tear them apart. Maybe he didn't mean to intentionally, but Eli had taken her for granted.
Clare blushed as Eli raised an impatient eyebrow, "I'm sorry. I was going to ask you about that. Um..I appreciate you letting me borrow your locker for awhile."
"Sure. It was good practice for when I give a girl a drawer at NYU," Eli shrugged smugly. Clare's cheeks were staining a deep crimson and he could see she was fighting to keep from going off on him. Instead, she cleared her throat and calmly adjusted the headband in her hair. She was not about to show him the affect he had on her.
"I am sure. But Eli, I am afraid the girls you'll have over won't need a drawer. I think they'll be more of the leave-before-you-wake-up types. Supposing you have girls over. You might be the one to crash at their places in a drunken stupor and then leave in the morning. And that's assuming you'll even have one night stands with girls," she turned to Grayson and said, "Eli's exploring his sexuality," then back to Eli, "Let me know how that works out for you. I am sure you'll find a lovely guy..."
Grayson's eyes were saucers and it was Eli's turn for his cheeks to burn red. He had to put his hands in his pockets so Clare wouldn't see the fists they had formed, "Sweetheart, you're mistaken," his voice was cool and calculating. It hadn't taken him but a second to think up a retort to what she had just said. He wasn't going to let her get away with saying something like that. If she wanted games, she was going to get games. The field could be played both ways with this.
"Am I?" Clare raised an eyebrow.
Eli smirked cruelly at her before turning to Grayson and saying, "Careful; the most action you're going to get with this one is your own hand."
Clare let out a sharp gasp and her cheeks deepened into a darker hue of scarlet. Eli smirked again as she said, "You...you..."
"I think you better go now," Grayson eyed Eli.
"I'm bored anyways," he shrugged and headed back towards Adam. He was satisfied with the rile he had worked up from Clare. She had looked as though she was about to jump him and murder him. He had been successful in that regards. He knew what she was up to and he was not going to let her get away with it. She was going to purposefully try to make him jealous? Well then he'd just have to foil that plan.
He knew he hadn't been the most tactful, but if it was war Clare wanted, it was war she was going to get. There was no way he was going to just let her run off and flirt with some other guy without at least some retaliation.
"How'd it go?" Adam asked anxiously.
"She called me a misogynist and then gay and I told Grayson the most action he was going to get with her in his life would be with his own hand."
"What?" Adam's eyes bulged from their sockets, "Eli! You were supposed to go over there and talk with her. What part of that confused you?"
"Eh, not really my strong suit. Besides, the little brat deserved it. She saw me coming towards her and practically threw herself at Grayson. She's doing this to get back at me for giving us a break. She's bitter about what I said and you know, if she thinks she's going to win this, she's wrong. Dead wrong. This is not going to end without a fight.
"Eli..." Adam rolled his eyes, "I don't think this is such a good idea. It sounds to me like there was just a simple miscommunication on both your parts. You didn't come across as you had intended and she took your harsh words to heart. You two just need to sit down and talk. It's that simple. You two don't need to start World War Three over here, you know that right? You can just calmly talk..."
"She's too busy flirting with Grayson to talk."
"Maybe you got this all wrong. Maybe she's just being friendly to Grayson," when Eli glared daggers at him, Adam recovered, adding, "Perhaps I should talk to her first?"
Eli didn't protest. Actually, he kind of wanted Adam to talk to her for him. Maybe he would get more out of her than Eli could. And maybe he could tell Eli what he could do to go about fixing this mess. As fun as it was to rile Clare up like that, Eli wanted nothing more than for things to return to normal - or at the very least as normal as they possibly could. However, he was starting to doubt that would happen any time soon. All during first period, all he could think about was how his word choice had landed him into this situation. If he had just told Clare what was on his mind without getting defensive...
All he wanted to do was run to Clare and apologize for what he had said both yesterday and that morning. He decided that he should find her at lunch and help her get her things from his locker. Maybe it would give him one last chance to talk with her. If that didn't work out, he'd send in the reinforcements - Adam.
After class, he found her talking to Becky. Eli inhaled and worked up every ounce of courage he could to walk over to them. He was not really looking forward to facing either one of them, but he knew he needed to talk to Clare. Adam had been right, communication was not their strong suit. Eli knew they needed to fix that and that was going to start now. He swallowed the nerves that had clustered like a tumor in his throat as he made his way over towards the girls.
When he approached them, Becky waved excitedly, "Hi, Eli!" She smiled her best toothpaste-ad smile and Eli actually didn't want to say anything too mean to her. Besides, it wasn't her he was after. He turned to Clare.
"Hey, Becky," Eli nodded to her, "Clare."
"I was wondering if you wanted to come get your stuff out of my locker at lunch today. I am free to help carry stuff if you need. Unless you need it now..."
Clare bit her lower lip before saying, "Um...I have everything I need in my backpack. But yeah lunch works for me. How about you just unlock the locker and leave. I'll get my things and be on my way. I think it's best that we have as little interaction as possible. You know, we don't want to complicate things."
"Complicate things?" Eli's eyebrow shot up, "What the hell does that mean?"
"Well, I just think that since we are broken up now, we should focus on some time apart from one another just like you said. So we are going to go about this in the best way possible and that is..."
"No interaction whatsoever?" Okay, so it was starting to look like he would have to send in the reinforcements after all. This was not the outcome he had been expecting at all.
"Exactly. You just do your thing and I'll do my thing. And don't worry, Grayson said I could use his locker. This weekend he is taking me to go see the showing of How To Lose a Guy in Ten Days at the dollar theater. After the movie, he wants to take me to get me my own locker shelf. Isn't that sweet?"
"Saccharine," Eli's voice dripped with sarcasm.
"Well, I'll meet you at your locker at lunch and you can unlock it for me and go about your business."
"Fine," Eli shrugged, trying to pretend as though this whole thing was not secretly killing him on the inside.
He said goodbye to Becky and made his way back over to Adam.
"Well what?" Eli bit back.
"I'm guessing it didn't go well."
"Want me to talk to her?"
"Not just yet," Eli shoved his hands into his pockets, "What are you doing this weekend?"
"Uh...Drew wanted me to help him..."
"Can you cancel?"
"Probably. Why?" Adam eyed him suspiciously.
"Because," Eli smirked, "You're my date to see How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days at the dollar theater."
Adam didn't bother to hide the sarcasm in his voice, "Oh, yipee."