Disclaimer: Ha.

"Ow," Clare whimpered daintily, her pretty face wincing in pain. As the man with the piercing gun stepped away, she exhaled slowly and opened her eyes, the muscles in her shoulders visibly relaxing.

"So?" She looked at me with an impish smile but a look of apprehension in her baby blues. "How does it look?"

I grinned, eying the small gold ring encircling the outer rim of her ear. "Good. Youthful rebellion at its finest."

Clare giggled as she tilted her head at different angles, surveying her new accessory in the mirror hanging on the opposite wall.

"Didn't hurt much?"

"No. Not at all like it was when I got my ears pierced before – then again, I was seven at the time, so anything sharper than safety scissors hurt like nobody's business," she smirked at me over her shoulder. "Okay, your turn, Palahniuk junior."

I made a big show of sauntering over to the stool in the corner, earning another laugh from my "lady friend," as the piercing technician had referred to her upon our entering into his shop with our request.

Of course, he only called her that because he didn't know what Clare meant to me. He probably just assumed we were some quirky teen couple out on their first date after months of painfully unobserved sexual tension. And, okay, we were some quirky teen couple out on their first date after months of painfully unobserved sexual tension, but Clare and I weren't so… Michael Cera movie-ish. We had been through some serious shit together.

For three weeks I had done nothing but wallow in fear – in pity and self-loathing, too, but mostly in fear. Fear that Clare would never forgive me, that I would go to school and find her blissfully ignoring me and moving on to bigger and better things, to guys who deserved her more.

A fate worse than death, was a thought I had at one point, a thought I laughed out loud at. Julia had died, but at least she couldn't rub my transgressions in my face. That was terrible notion – that having a dead ex was better than an angry, live one – I know, but as Clare said herself, I'm messed up.

But seriously, when have matters of the heart ever been not messed up?

Come to find out, though, Clare found it in her heart to forgive me. Not that I don't think she holds the capacity for mercy (Saint Clare? Please.), but everyone has their limit. And there's no doubt in my mind that I surpassed Clare's – yet she still allowed me back into her good graces.

When she said those words, the heavy weight that I had been carrying all those days off from school dissolved, and I swear my vision became clearer, like when you're driving at night a road sign in the distance suddenly becomes readable.

Life without Clare would suck. It would suck more than anything.

Julia was a wonderful, beautiful girl, but I never imagined being with her forever. The thought simply didn't cross my mind. We knew subconsciously what we had was a high school dating relationship, one that would inevitably lead to a break up and possibly an awkwardly distant friendship afterwards. She and I loved each other in a way that was satisfactory for the time, but not permanent.

But I can see myself loving Clare - truly, deeply loving her. Maybe not quite yet, but I've never had this feeling of being whole that I get when I look into Clare's eyes. And when we kiss, I-

"Holymotherof-!" I yelled. My ear was searing with pain stemming from one tiny, minute point. The piercing technician chuckled, shaking his head.

"Eli, are you okay?"

"I thought you said it wouldn't hurt! Dammit…"

Okay, so I sat down and just wrote. Literally. I didn't try to think of a coherent trail of thought, and I didn't try to vary sentence structure or vocabulary or anything like that - whatever came to mind, I just typed. I will admit, though, that I went back to the last paragraph before the dialogue started up again ("But I can see myself... And when we kiss, I-") many times before I got it right.

Anyway, the point of doing all that was to make it as "Eli" as possible. Also, if it seems a bit wordy, all the better for me - Ms. Dawes said that was a problem of his haha

Hope you enjoyed reading!