In The Cold, Cold Night
Bright lights shone all around, it was loud with the sound of laughter and I could practically feel the joy floating in the cold air surrounding me. It's seems like everyone at Degrassi was happy tonight, everyone except me.
Sure I was happy for my friends, happy that they're happy, I hate seeing the people I love sad, but try as I might I couldn't find it in me to smile. Walking through the crowds of students, eating, talking, and joking merrily with each other just caused me to grow more depressed by the second.
It seems like lately nothing in my life had been going right. Just when I thought I was happy again, I had good friends, a new girlfriend, and my mental stability was no longer on trial, life had to come in and screw it all up. I had another episode when I freak out at Imogen for making that project, got paranoid that she was cheating on me and no matter how many times Adam told me to leave it alone, I chose to ignore him. Sadly I was right.
Out of frustration I stormed to Fiona's condo one night and without knocking walked in like I always do. It just so happens I walked in at the exact moment Fiona decided to act on the feelings she had been having for Imogen and had fail to tell me about. It turns out Imogen also doesn't like to define herself with a sexual orientation. She's one of those "love is love no matter what it looks like" people.
I freaked out again, yelling and screaming at them until eventually I became exhausted and just started shaking uncontrollably; luckily I had my pills in the pocket of my jeans. It took them an hour just to get me calm enough that they could explain. They told me it was the only time it happened, and I believe them because neither of them has ever lied to me before. In the coming weeks after they started dating I came to the realisation that I should have seen it coming. They're great for each other and I couldn't be happier for them. That still didn't make it hurt less, and the way Adam laughed when I explained the situation certainly didn't make me feel better.
I'm only 17, and have had three relationships in my life, all of which could be used as inspiration for a novel or movie. My first girlfriend died, my second broke-up with me while I was lying in a hospital bed after having a manic episode and crashing my hearse, and my third left me for my lesbian best friend. It's a wonder why I even still try.
This leads me to this moment, surrounded by joyful people while being incredibly depressed. I don't understand why I just couldn't be a normal teenager.
"ELI! HEY, ELI! UP HERE."
I shot my head around to the Ferris wheel and looked up spotting Imogen and Fiona sitting in one of the carriages about half way up. Large smiles covered their faces as they waved down at me, and I force a smile and half-heartedly wave back.
"STAY THERE, WE'LL BE RIGHT DOWN," Fiona yelled to me, so with a sigh I forced my feet not to run away. I would have to face Fiona's demanding eyes, and Imogen's intrusive question's at some point, so I might as well get it over with now.
Just a few minutes later they were both released from the carriage and Imogen skipped her way over to me like lightning, wrapping her arms around my neck in a tight squeeze. I hugged her back and when she released me a few seconds later Fiona was standing by her side. She hugged me also much less painfully and then shot a large smile in my direction.
"Eli, it's so great to see you, I didn't think you would come. Frostival doesn't really seem like your style. Are you having fun?" Fiona asked while subtly reaching over and taking Imogen's hand in her own. These are the small things I notice, Fiona doesn't like to remind me her and Imogen are dating but she can't stop herself from being affectionate so she tries to be subtle or waits until she thinks I'm not looking. It doesn't bother me, but I just haven't cared to tell her that yet.
"It isn't really my style, but I thought I'd be a good friend and come for a little while to support you two. You guys did a great job with this whole carnival thing, and I think it's the only event Degrassi's had in years where the police haven't been called. Knock on wood."
"It's called a Frostival, Eli, but thank you, and don't think I didn't notice that you didn't answer my question, mister."
"I can't get anything past you, can I Fiona?" I asked sarcastically.
"Of course not Eli," Fiona answered with a smug smile forming on her face.
"Well it doesn't matter, don't worry about me. I don't want to burden you with my problems tonight, just have fun, okay?" I forced myself to smile warmly at them but I don't think either of them bought it.
"Eli you're not a burden, we care about you," Imogen spoke up for the first time.
"Yeah, well I can be 'not a burden tomorrow' for tonight you guys enjoy yourselves and don't worry about me, I'll be fine. I'm probably just gonna walk home now anyway, I could use the fresh air, you know? Clear my head."
"Are you sure? We can go somewhere quiet and talk about it," Fiona suggested.
"Yeah I'm sure, Fi. I'll see you tomorrow at your condo anyway, we can talk then."
"Okay, if you're sure," Imogen spoke.
"I'm sure; I'll see you both tomorrow. Bye, Imo, bye Fi."
I walked backwards away from them for a few seconds as I waved goodbye before I turned around. I stopped and glanced back when I heard Fiona call my name.
"Be careful, it's dark out," Fiona said and I could tell she was genuinely worried.
"And don't get yourself into any trouble either, we know how you are," Imogen tried to lighten the mood.
"I won't, I promise. Straight home, no trouble for me tonight," I smiled at them and waved one last time.
I left Degrassi and began walking in the general direction of my house. I told Imogen and Fiona I would go straight home, but knowing my parents they would be more worried about me if I came home early, than if I stayed out all night. After the accident and my diagnosis they became much more strict, still not strict by regular standards, but strict by their standards. Lately they've been slacking though and encouraging me to go out, so I know if I came home early they would think something was wrong.
I walked aimlessly for what felt like hours, but couldn't have been more than 15 minutes tops. The cold air whipped around me and I found myself zipping up the sweater I wore underneath my leather jacket and pulling my hood up over my freshly cut hair. I kept moving, rubbing my hands together trying to keep them warm, when suddenly I heard what sounded like crying.
It was light, not like heavy sobbing, but like the person had been crying for a long time and had almost nothing left in them. I've done my fair share of crying, enough to recognise the types. I lifted my head for the first time since I had left Degrassi and found myself in a spot that held a lot of good memories, but was haunted by bad ones as well.
No more than ten feet in front of me sat a bench, "our bench" and unlike all the other times I had seen it since our break up, this time it was occupied. I took in a sharp breath when I recognised the figure sitting on it.
I debated quickly in my head on whether or not I should walk away or try to comfort her. Clearly she hadn't seen me yet and probably wouldn't even know if I turned and left, but Clare and I had managed to rebuild some of our friendship over the past few months, and surprisingly it was the only thing that had yet to fall apart.
That's another reason why I was tricked into thinking that my life might be getting back on track again. When we returned to school this year, not surprisingly I discovered that Clare and I shared the same English class again. I kind of figured we would, because really how many Advanced English 12 classes' could there be. What I also discovered was that Ms Dawes also taught our English class just as she had last year. So because of our "tremendous", her words, partnership last year she decided to make Clare and I partners again. I could tell Clare was upset about it, but we both know there's no changing Dawes mind.
Looking at Clare now, I knew what my decision would be. Clare had always been a weakness of mine and I could never stand to see her cry, or any girl for that matter. So with a sigh I lowered my hood and walked over to the bench slowly, the same bench on which she told me I was suffocating her, less than a year ago.
"Clare?" I asked softly, just trying to get her attention without startling her. She looked up and back down quickly and I watched as she tried to wipe her tears away but failed as they only continued falling.
"Eli, I didn't hear you. You scared me," she said in a scratchy, hoarse voice.
"Sorry. Do you mind if I sit?" I asked but didn't wait for a reply as I took a seat next to her on the cold bench. Neither of us talked for a few minutes, as I didn't know what to say and she couldn't convince her tears to stop falling. "You know, you shouldn't be out here by yourself at night, it's dangerous," I finally said. She scoffed.
"So what's your excuse?" her tone was snarky, but I knew it was just her natural defense.
"I'm not an innocent little girl."
I could hear the anger and frustration in the next words that burst from her mouth.
"I'm not little, I'm 16 years old. I'm practically an adult. And I'm not as innocent as you think." She lowered her head, out of shame. I smiled sadly at her but I know she didn't see it.
"I'll have you know I was referring to your size not your age when I said little. In case you haven't noticed you're quite petite," I responded. A smug smile growing on my face, but it was quickly wiped away and replaced by a frown.
"Have you looked in a mirror lately, Eli? You're not exactly King Kong yourself there, little man."
"Hey! I've grown an entire inch since we dated, thank you very much."
"Wow, a whole inch. You should send out a mass text. You know, just so everyone knows."
I smiled when I noticed that her tears had stopped falling. Liking the fact that for once I was the reason they had stopped and not the cause of them. It grew quiet again and I felt her shiver beside me. For the first time I noticed her outfit. She wore a blue dress with a light cardigan over top of it, very similar to what she had worn on our first date but her dress was a dark blue this time and her cardigan was grey. Even though I was freezing myself I decided to be a gentleman, so I took of my jacket and wrapped it tightly around her shoulders.
"Eli, don't. You'll freeze," she complained and tried to shrug it off to give it back to me.
"Don't even think about it Edwards. You need it more than I do and besides my mama raised me a gentleman, so either you wear that coat or neither of us will," I told her strictly and watched her roll her eyes.
"Fine, but you're an idiot."
I chuckled lightly, but didn't respond. She's right, I am an idiot. An idiot who's still in love with her. The silence grew for the third time, but it wasn't awkward, it was actually nice despite the freezing cold. I thought about her words some more and finally choose to speak.
"You are just as innocent as I think you are."
"Earlier, when you said you're not an innocent as I think you are, you were wrong," I told her.
"Stop. Let me finish. There's nothing in this world that could spoil my image of you, Clare. You could kill a person right in front of me and I would still claim you were innocent, but that's beside the point. I know what you're talking about, Clare, and I know you didn't sleep with Jake. Just because you may have done things you regret with him doesn't make you any less innocent either. And virginal isn't the only definition of innocent anyway," I explained to her, without skipping a beat. She seemed surprised by my words.
"How do you know I didn't sleep with Jake?"
"Because I know you Clare. You'd never go through with something like that. You're virginity is way too important to you. You may not have made the decision not to do it consciously, but I know you knew that what you and Jake had couldn't last forever. Even if you wanted it to at the time."
A genuine smile covered her face and for the first time that night I honestly found myself happy.
"You should smile more, you have a cute smile," she told me. I blushed and looked down hoping she didn't see. "Your blush is cute too. You know, Eli, I never really thanked you for everything."
My head shot up at this and I looked at her in shock.
"What could you possibly have to thank me for? I made your life a living hell."
"No you didn't. My life was falling apart even before I met you. Darcy left, my parents were fighting and then you showed up and were like a piece of duct tape holding everything together."
"Yeah and then I fell apart," I added morbidly.
"I don't blame you; it wasn't your job to hold my life together. You had your own problems to deal with, problem's that were much less mundane than mine were."
I couldn't help but laugh at her words and how true they were, my problems were anything but mundane. I heard her begin laughing beside me which only caused me to laugh harder and suddenly I was thankful that it was so cold out and there was nobody else out to see us laughing like fools on this bench. When our laughter finally stopped the air grew serious once again.
"I still have my share of problems, you know? Bipolar doesn't just go away," I felt the need to tell her this. Like it was something that she should be aware of.
"Yeah but, I mean, at least you know what's wrong now. Plus you're taking medication, so it's managed."
"Yeah but that doesn't mean I won't lose it sometimes. I can lose my temper really quickly; sometimes it happens so fast that I don't know it's happening until it's over. I'll never have a normal life. I can only have the illusion of normalcy for so long before I freak out and I'm reminded once again that my emotions aren't under my control."
"Doesn't it get easier over time?"
"That's what my therapist says, but she also told me that there would be a lot of bad days before it gets easier and even so that won't stop me from having bad days or moments every now and then once I'm older," I explained to her sadly.
"I think I can live with that."
Those words surprised me, and they seemed to surprise her too because when I snapped my head in her direction her face was covered by a look of shock.
"What do you mean?"
I was confused, as I watch her slowly take a breath. I could see it in her eyes that she was trying to think of the right words to say. Finally she spoke.
"That night at the hospital, it was a mistake. It took me a really long time to realise that and I lost my way a few times but I finally know."
I cringed remembering the night in its entirety.
"Breaking up with me was the right thing to do Clare."
"I know. The mistake I made was leaving you there. That's when you needed me the most and I let you down. I ran away from our relationship as fast as I could but more importantly I ran away from our friendship, and for that, I'm sorry. Do you think we may ever be able to rekindle our relationship, IF we start with our friendship first?"
"And all this time I thought we already were friends."
She hit me on the shoulder and grabbed my sweater in that same hand. Before I knew what was happening our lips were brought together for the first time in months. My hands moved to rest on her hips, gripping tightly. I could feel her smile into the kiss but it didn't last long before she opened her mouth and let my tongue in. We kissed like that for a few minutes but it really felt like seconds to me, when I finally forced myself to pull away. Out of breath, I opened my eyes slowly to look at her.
"We're gonna take this slow right? Obviously that kiss won't count," she chuckled lightly; "It's just my dad doesn't think I'm ready to deal with a relationship yet, and frankly after what happened with Imogen I have to agree with him."
"What did happen with Imogen?"
"Let's just say she doesn't like to define her sexual orientation."
She burst into a fit of giggles. I only rolled my eyes and stood up, stretching my hand out for her to take.
"Come on, Edwards. I'll walk you home."
She took my hand and gracefully stood from the bench. The tears that had fallen from her eyes earlier where long gone and the only sign left that she had been crying was some redness surrounding her blues eyes, but she still looked just as beautiful as she had on the first day I met her. I felt a real smile tugging at the corner of my lips and I let it take over when I glanced at the content look Clare wore on her face.
What had started out as a terrible night had ended in something so great, I couldn't even begin to describe it. I got a second chance, something I never thought I would get with Clare.
It was a new beginning, for both of us.