Can't Stop This Thing We've Started
"Clare Edwards to the principal's office now. Clare Edwards to the office." The intercom in the classroom announced.
Clare rolled her eyes and stood up as her peers "ohh'd" immaturely. Knowing that there were just a few minutes left of class before lunch started, Clare grabbed all of her belongings and left the classroom.
She mused in her head about what Principal Simpson could possibly want from her as she made her way down the hall. Her nerves where getting to her but when she reached his office and was greeted with a large smile she decided that there was no way she was about to get in trouble.
"Clare! Come in, come in! Have a seat." He motioned to the chairs in front of his desk as he took his own seat.
"Hi, Principal Simpson. What is it that you wanted to talk to me about?" Clare asked as she sat in the seat that was closest to the door. Simpson's smile dropped only slightly as the tone in the room grew more serious. He cleared his throat before speaking.
"Well I don't know if you've heard but Katie won't be in school until the beginning of next month." Clare nodded her head, having already heard the rumours of the school presidents tryst with prescription pills and her trip to an addiction rehab centre; "Anyway, until she's back we need someone to take over the responsibility of editing the school newspaper. When I asked Katie who she thought was best suited for the job she immediately referred me to you and if you were in some way unable to perform the task she requested that we pull the issue all together."
Clare's eyes widened upon hearing Simpson's words. She had been positive that Katie hated her, and maybe she did, but to know that the older girl trusted her so fully with something so important made Clare begin to see the way Katie treated her in a whole new way.
"So, how about it, Clare? This issue is riding on your shoulders; do you think you can handle it?"
"Ohh umm yeah. I would love to fill in for Katie. It's a great opportunity and hopefully it will help me win the position next year after Katie graduates," Clare answered, enthusiastically.
"That's the spirit! Here, Katie left me this to give to you." He slid a small three ring binder over his desk. Clare took it her hands and began slowly leafing through it, all the while listening to Simpson explain exactly what it was; "It has the template for the issue, but Katie says that the final layout is up to you as long as it flows, she trusts you. And there are also a few old issues if you need some references and the password for the editor's account so all the writers can send you their articles, you're familiar with that. One more thing," Simpson pulled a USB from his suit pocket and handed it to Clare; "It has all of the already finished articles on it."
"Thank you, Mr. Simpson. I won't let you or Katie down," she said as she gathered all her things to leave, Simpson smiled at her and just as she was leaving his office, called out to her one last time.
"Clare," she turned immediately; "Good luck."
She smiled politely at him and left the room. She couldn't wait to get started, seeing this as an opportunity to prove to Katie she had made the right choice and that next year when Katie leaves she would know that Clare was the only suitable option to replace her.
By this time the lunch bell had already rung so the halls were filled with students in transition between their lockers and the cafeteria. Clare however was making her way directly to the newspaper room, wanting to look over what had already been put together, in order to determine what still needed to be done.
"Eli Goldsworthy, please report to Principal Simpson's office immediately!"
Clare flinched at the sound of her ex's name over the intercom. She couldn't help but roll her eyes and wonder what trouble he had gotten himself into this time. She didn't have time to dwell about it though as she was soon standing in the newspaper room. With a satisfied grin she placed her things down on the large desk reserved for Katie and took a seat in the chair she had never had the guts to sit in before. Silently she flipped through the binder and pushed the USB into the correct port. A few short moments later Clare had successfully found the articles for the current issue, taking notice that quite a few of them still needed to be edited.
So engrossed in the prospect of work, she failed to notice the boy standing nervously in the doorway, willing himself to find the courage to enter. Eli had left Simpson's office just minutes earlier with the knowledge that he had been recruited to help with the newspaper until it's 'heart of ice' editor could return. Eli didn't know why Simpson had asked him, he wasn't an editorial writer; he was a fiction writer with absolutely no interest in journalism. But after everything Eli had put Simpson through last year, he figured he could do him this one favour, even if it meant facing Clare.
Eli reached up and knocked lightly on the frame of the open door. Clare's head snapped in his direction and a look of confusion appeared on her face.
"What are you doing here?"
In that moment they were both shot back to a time to when Clare had spoken those same words to Eli, back to a time when things were so much simpler between the two. Back to over a year ago now, when their relationship was made up of flirtatious banter, stolen glances, smirk's and blushes. For the first time ever Eli realised just how long he and Clare had been doing this dance of theirs.
"Oh umm, Simpson asked me to help out with the paper until Katie returned, said you might need someone who could and I quote 'Write an article a day.' Don't hold me to that though, journalism isn't really my thing." She didn't try to stop the smile from coming to her face at his light hearted words; "Anyway, I just thought I'd stop by and tell you, you know, make sure you're okay with it," he spoke sheepishly.
"Of course it's okay, Eli," she told him and even she was surprised by the truth in her words.
"Okay then, just text me when you need me. You still have my number, right?" Eli asked anxiously. Clare nodded her head lightly; "Alright, I'll uhh, see you around," he said before retreating quickly.
"Guess you will," Clare whispered under her breath as she watched Eli disappear from sight.
It had been exactly four days since Clare had been entrusted with the task of putting together the newspaper and her spirit had dropped substantially since that day. She was now realising just how hard Katie's job was. Nothing seemed to be going her way. She had all of the articles on the USB edited, but now she was faced with the task of getting the rest of the articles from the staff, along with finishing her own and putting them all together in a proper layout. The biggest problem she faced though is that unlike Katie, the strong-willed, intimidating, school president, nobody seemed to take her seriously. Getting everyone to write their articles on time was somewhat reminiscent of pulling teeth.
With a sigh Clare pulled out her phone to text the one person she knew she could rely on. Within minutes Eli was standing in the doorway looking at her expectantly. She waved him in so he cautiously approached.
Honestly Eli was surprised to get her text, he assumed that she had only entertained the idea of him helping the other day in order to not be rude but really had no intention of contacting him. He watched in curiosity as Clare plopped down behind the editor's desk with an exasperated sigh and rested her face in her hands.
"Something wrong?" he asked. She was quiet for a few moments but when she finally lifted her head to speak it was like the flood gates had opened.
"Everything's wrong, Eli. I can't get the layout right and people don't take me seriously so nobody is doing their articles. How am I supposed to get this done if nobody writes anything? And I can't write them all myself because Katie might get a little suspicious if my name is at the bottom of every article. If I don't get this perfect, Eli I'm never going to make editor next year." Clare was running out of breath by the time she got to the end of her run on sentences.
"Well, what articles do you still need?" Eli asked as he made his way towards the desk. Clare released a sigh and reached for a piece of paper. Eli noted that it was filled with article titles and the names of the people who were supposed to write them.
"The two I need the most are the sports coverage and the model UN coverage. Those two together fill up quite a bit of space. If I can't get the rest then I can fill up the space myself. Luckily a lot of people got their articles in before Katie left."
She stood from her seat and strolled over to the cork board used to organize all of the articles. With her back now turned Eli reached down and snatched the list off the desk, stuffing it into the pocket of his khaki's.
"So, what do you need me to do?"
"I was hoping that you would write a few editorials to fill the gaps," Clare answered with her head down even thought she still had her back to Eli; "They can be about anything as long as they're school appropriate. Go crazy with it." The second that words escaped her lips she regretted it. Hoping that she hadn't set Eli off, she spun around quickly to apologise; "I'm so sorry, I didn't mean it like that."
Eli just stared at her for a second before an amused smirk appeared on his face and he let out a chuckle. Clare was caught off guard by his reaction, not that she wasn't grateful for it.
"I know, Clare. Don't worry about it," he said while moving forward until he was directly behind her. Reaching around her he moved the Model UN to the front of the paper, pushing the sports section back a few pages; "There. The Model UN is a big story so it should headline and they always put the sports at the back anyway. That should clear up some space for the shorter editorial articles, without making it look awkward."
"But Eli, what if I can't get the rest of the articles?" she spoke in a whine as she spun around to face him, not realising just how close they were standing until her face was just a few inches from his.
"Don't worry, you will," Eli replied in a gentle whisper.
Clare didn't miss the way his eyes went back and forth between her eyes and her lips, a tell tale sign that he wanted to kiss her. It was a look she hadn't seen since they had dated, but definitely one she recognised. Subconsciously they began leaning into one and other. In the moment that his lips grazed hers lightly she realised that this was a terrible idea. Clare turned her head away quickly, burying it in Eli's shoulder and shaking it back and forth.
"This is wrong. I'm sorry, I can't do this, WE can't do this."
With that said she pushed passed him and gathered her things in a rushed manner before bolting out of the newspaper room, leaving behind a self-loathing Eli.
Clare lay on her bed, her knees bent, legs up in the air, leaning on her left elbow as she used her right hand to doodle in her notebook instead of do her homework. Her phone sat beside her, Alli's voice coming through it loud and clear.
"So wait, he like, kissed you?" Alli asked.
"What do you mean 'You Guess'?"
"I mean his lips brushed against mine for a second. I don't even know if it counts as a kiss. I turned away before anything serious could happen," Clare explained, grateful that she had fixed things with Alli and had someone to talk to about this.
"So he just kissed you out of nowhere?"
"What does that mean, Clare?" Alli's tone held accusation.
"Well he did his Eli thing."
"You're gonna have to be more specific."
"Eli does this thing before he kisses me. He looks back and forth between my eyes and my lips like he's asking permission. I don't know, I guess I just got a little caught up in the moment and leaned in."
"So he thought you wanted to kiss him too?"
"I don't really blame him, Alli. At the time even I thought I wanted to kiss him."
"Clare you can't go down that road again," Alli warned.
"I know, I know. I'm just so afraid to talk to him."
"Why? He's better now, isn't he."
"That's the problem. Every time I'm around him I see more and more of the guy he used to be. I'm afraid that my feelings for him might come back at any moment."
I'm afraid they already have.
"So don't talk to him in person. Call him or something."
"Alli, I broke up with him over the phone, left him in the hospital and then started dating a new guy two weeks later. The least I could do is actually have this conversation with him face to face. I think I owe him that much."
"Clare you don't owe Eli anything."
"Maybe you don't think so, but Eli is a good guy. I know he hurt me, but I hurt him too. This conversation could help us both get the closure we need."
"Or it could open up a whole new can of worms."
"It'll be fine. Eli and I are both mature. We can handle it."
After a few parting words Clare ended the phone call with a sigh and glanced down at the page she had been doodling on, noticing for the first time that she had been printing the same three letters over and over.
Almost a week had gone by since the sort of kiss with Eli and it was nearing the day of the deadline. Unfortunately Clare had been unable to obtain the rest of the articles for the paper. No one else had sent theirs in and every time she tried to contact one of the writers they seemed to disappear or brush her off. It's amazing what lengths some people will go to just too slack off and not do their work.
Although Clare's mind should have been preoccupied with her newspaper woos, at this moment she was far too distracted to worry about it. Minutes earlier while sitting in the cafeteria with Alli she had received a short text from Eli, asking her to meet him on the bench outside of the J.T Yorke memorial. So here she was. Clare had been avoiding him for days, trying to find the words that she needed to say to him. Had she been any less stubborn, Clare would have admitted to herself that she was just too afraid to speak to him, but it was too late now to back out considering he had just looked up and spotted her from his place on the bench.
Clare quickly took in his appearance. Blue polo, beige khaki's, converse, and a leather jacket, but not the same leather jacket he had worn last year. No, this one was different. It seemed more mature. She also took notice of the red folder he held in his lap.
"Hey," Eli greeted her softly as she sat beside him.
"Hi." There was an awkward silence for a second before she broke it; "So, why did you want to meet me here?"
"Oh umm, yeah right..." He snapped out of his daze and held out the folder in his hands; "I just wanted to give you this." Clare hesitated before taking the red folder from him.
"What is it?"
"All of your missing articles. Plus a few that I wrote. You can feel free to throw those ones out if they're garbage, I just thought that if you still had some small stops to fill in you could use one or two," Eli rambled on as she skimmed through all the articles he had just given her.
"No, no, Eli they look good. Thank you, but how did you get everyone's articles? Every time I talked to one of them they brushed me off." Clare was astonished that not only would Eli do something like this for her, but that he had managed to do it successfully.
"Well it turns out I can be a pretty intimidating person." Eli smirked mischievously.
"Eli," Clare said in a scolding manner.
"What? Clearly they weren't going to listen if I asked nicely."
She shook her head softly and chuckled. They fell into an awkward silence again, neither one looking at the other. Just as Clare was about to make up an excuse to leave Eli spoke.
"Are we gonna talk about it?"
"Talk about what?"
Clare avoided Eli's eyes at all costs. It seemed that he was determined to have this conversation no matter how much she had been dreading it.
"Clare, please," Eli pleaded.
"I don't know what you want me to say."
"Why don't you try telling me how you feel?" Eli suggested, but they both knew that wouldn't be as easy has he had made it sound.
"I don't know what I feel, Eli." Clare shook her head, trying to get her thoughts together. When she caught the desperate look in Eli's eyes she knew she would have to tell him the truth; "Okay I do, but I...I don't want to feel this way. I'm sorry, Eli."
She launched herself from the bench before Eli could respond and once again left him alone in his thoughts.
Deadline day had arrived and Clare was rushing through the newspaper office trying to get everything together. She knew she could do it by herself even if it meant staying hours after school while the rest of her peers had fun outside at the Frostival.
"I had a feeling you'd still be here."
Clare spun around at the sound of the familiar voice and sure enough there was Eli walking towards her with a confidence she hadn't seen him wear since their early days. She was still speechless as she watched him hoist himself onto the desk nearest her.
"What are you doing here so early? The Frostival doesn't start for another three hours," Clare said after checking her watch.
"Yeah I know, but Fiona and Imogen talked me into coming early to help out. Apparently the entire crew they have out there isn't enough," Eli said sarcastically, causing Clare to chuckle; "So are you going? You know, to Frostival."
"Probably not, I have to finish the paper and even if I did finish in time I'm not really in the mood for school sanctioned fun."
Realising that Eli had distracted her briefly she got right back to work, but unfortunately for her Eli didn't give up.
"Oh come on, Clare. You've been working hard on this for weeks. You deserve to have a little fun."
"Well I can't have a little fun until I actually finish. And since I probably won't finish for another few hours I don't think I'll be making it to the Frostival."
"What if I help you finish? Would you go then?"
"Eli you've already done enough."
"Well if I've already done enough one more thing won't hurt."
Clare was about to protest but thought better of it, knowing that arguing with Eli was like fighting with a stubborn mule. They worked together well and within two hours finished a task that would have taken Clare most of the night had she done it alone.
"There all done, and still with one more hour until Frostival starts. You know you have to go now, right?"
"I don't know, Eli," Clare said skeptically.
"Come on, Clare. Just for a little while. I'll make you a deal. You come and I promise that I'll drive you home as soon as you want to leave, whether that's five minutes in or at midnight."
Clare contemplated Eli's offer. Wondering if agreeing would be giving Eli a signal she didn't want to send, but after careful consideration she agreed.
"Okay Eli, I'll go."
"Yes! Okay, come on. I'll give you a ride home." Clare shot him a look of confusion; "I figured you'd probably want to change out of your uniform."
She quickly grabbed all of her things and followed Eli out into the parking lot. Most of it was already covered in rides and booths but a small section was still available for parking. It wasn't until this moment that Clare started to wonder just what exactly Eli planed to drive her home in, but when they reached a car that Clare recognised as Eli's fathers Mustang she no longer had to wonder. Eli opened the door for her politely like he always had, allowing her to climb in and place her stuff in the back seat. By the time she turned back around Eli was comfortably sitting next to her inserting the key into the ignition. The car shot to life loudly making Clare jump. Eli chuckled lightly and turned the stereo on. Bryan Adams filled the car as Eli pulled out of the Degrassi parking lot.
Eli quickly realised that turning on the stereo had been a bad idea when the lyrics of "Please Forgive Me" spread to his ears.
It still feels like our first night together
Feels like the first kiss
It's getting better baby
No one can better this
Still holding on
You're still the one
First time our eyes met
Same feeling I get
Only feels much stronger
I want to love you longer
Do you still turn the fire on?
So if you're feeling lonely, don't
You're the only one I'll ever want
I only want to make it good
So if I love you, a little more than I should
Please forgive me, I know not what I do
Please forgive me, I can't stop loving you
Don't deny me, this pain I'm going through
Please forgive me, if I need you like I do
Please believe me, every word I say is true
Please forgive me, I can't stop loving you
Still feels like our best times are together
Feels like the first t...
Awkwardly Eli reached out and changed the song. Unfortunately "Can't Stop This Thing We've Started" was the next song to play, which wasn't much better for the situation he and Clare were currently in. Clare didn't really seem bothered by it though so he just left it.
Eli followed the familiar path to Clare's house and soon he was pulling to a stop directly in front of it. He smiled as he watched Clare grab her things.
"So, do you have a ride back or do you want me to come get you when you're ready?"
"Eli you don't have to do that."
"Hey. I don't mind, but it's up to you."
"Well it would be nice not to have to sit in the truck with Jake and Jenna," Clare mused.
"Then it's settled. Call me when you're ready."
"I will," Clare said as she climbed from the car; "Oh and Eli, Thank you, for everything."
"It was my pleasure, Clare."
She lowered her head and he caught a small glimpse of a blush on her face as she closed the car door. For the first time in months Eli was left perfectly content after a conversation with Clare and although he tried to fight it, he couldn't help but let himself get a little excited for the night to come.