el’s laying in her bed, arm tucked under her pillow and leg hanging off the side. she’s facing her bedroom window, and the moonlight is shining on her face. in an any other circumstance, she’d be delighted. she always loved the evening - the stars warming up the chill in her soul. it reminds her of the night mike found her; that dark stormy night with the shine of mike’s flashlight coloring her face just as the moon through her window is right now.
except, she’s the opposite of delighted. her chest is burning as if someone set a fire to her heart. her face is swollen from dried up tears and el swears she hasn’t any water left in her body.
it’s friday night, and this all began on monday towards the end of the school day. the day went as it always did; mike and el share trig, chemistry and english together and el was lucky enough to have the rest of the party in her other classes, and the six of them meet back up at lunch everyday. english was mike and el’s last class of the day, with el having art with will right before, and mike having history, unfortunately, by himself.
sweet text messages were exchanged throughout the day, as usual, until that last english class on monday. she has always hated english. el’s art class was just down the hall from the english wing, so she always showed up to class before mike. she’s sat at her desk, waiting for mike to walk in and fill up the seat to her right, when she’d seen him walk in. and instantly she knew something was wrong. he’s barely looked at her, and for a second she thought he might walk right past her. he muttered a “hi” before opening his book and going over his homework answers.
and that’s how the week went, became their new routine. mike still drove her to and from school, but the tension was so thick and the conversations were so short that el nearly walked 25 minutes today just so she wouldn’t have to deal with it. she stopped kissing him by tuesday, and on wednesday she stopped holding his hand after he ripped his fingers from hers, almost as if her hand were made of lava. thursday came around and he didn’t even bother to go to her locker with her in the morning.
today, friday, was the worst. he barely even blinked an eye at her, and he spoke to her just once. a simple “see you at lunch” after getting out of his station wagon this morning. it took everything in her to not run home and cry into her pillow, but she was at school and the last thing she wanted was to have a breakdown in the middle of the parking lot.
by the time of 3rd period, she decided she couldn’t take it anymore. she sent a quick text to hopper explaining that she wasn’t feeling well, and that she’d like for him to pick her up directly after school. he questioned as to why mike couldn’t just take her home, like always, and it stung to have to make up an excuse as to why that wouldn’t work out. he’s got a doctor’s appointment, she sends. she knew hopper can sense something was wrong, but regardless he agreed to meet her at the main entrance at 2:15 on the dot.
and even though she knew she shouldn’t, she knew he didn’t care anymore, she still texted mike. hey, my dad is gonna pick me up today. have to pick something up for joyce. she knew if there was any inkling of the old mike left in there, he’d see right through her lie. part of her hoped he would. but even if he did, he hid it well because all he responded with was “ok.” and it was right there, in the middle of her spanish lecture, that she felt another crack spread across her heart.
they didn’t speak in trig, they didn’t speak in chemistry, and they absolutely did not speak in english. for a second she thought he wasn’t actually there - just a figment of her imagination, like if she were to breathe too hard he’d just might blow away and never come back.
she wondered if he could feel her pain, maybe even see it - the invasive and heavy ache that was spreading throughout her body. but then she looked over at him, saw him laughing at a joke jennifer hayes had told him about their shared history teacher, and she knew right then and there that it was over. el didn’t know how, or why, but she knew this was the end of what she felt was forever.
so when class ended, their teacher handing them their weekend packets, she nearly ripped it out of mrs. reyes’ hand, before giving her an apologetic look and dashing out the door. the second she walked over the door frame, she felt as if she could breathe again. el made it a point to go to her locker before last period, so she could run out of the school as fast as possible.
just like hopper mentioned, he was parked in the front of the building at 2:15, exactly. she dropped her bag in the back seat and jumped into the passengers side. and she knew hopper can sense somethings up, he always can. it’s something she’s repeatedly admired about her father - he always knows when she’s hurting, and he tries his best to help. her quivering lip and glassy eyes didn’t help her act either, but he stayed quiet and when they arrived at their house, he promised to be back by 6:30 and even offered to pick up her favorite take out for dinner. el croaked out a “yeah, sounds good. thanks, dad.” and nearly tumbled out of the car.
now it’s 10pm, and her room feels cold, despite it being september and the temperature in the high 70s. she’s starting to feel numb, and part of her thinks she’ll never be able to feel again. her phone is blowing up with messages, because of course the rest of the party can sense there’s something up. and suddenly she regrets being so transparent with them. she wishes she could go back to the beginning, when it took pulling teeth to get a single thing from her lips.
but she knows that’s not how life works, and so she picks up her phone and turns it off even though the continuous buzzing hasn’t yet stopped.
el sits up in her bed, and rubs her puffy eyes. she throws her hair back up into a cleaner bun, and decides she needs some water to wash away the dull pang within her ribs. and as she’s walking down her staircase, trying her best to be as quiet as possible to not wake hopper, that’s when she hears it. at first she thinks she’s going crazy, but then she hears it again, and she pauses. a knocking at her door - and it should freak her out, right? who could possibly be knocking on her front door at 10 o’clock on a friday night - and yet, she tiptoes over to the door anyway, before grabbing the doorknob and opening it.
and she immediately gasps. because standing right across from her, on the other side of her front door, is mike. and he looks like shit. he’s stood there, in what looks like his pajamas, and his hairs a mess and his face looks sunken in, and they’ve both got those matching swollen eyes staring back at eachother. she can see his bike off to the side of her lawn, as if he just threw it to the ground once he got to her house.
el doesn’t know what to say to him - doesn’t know how or where to start. and she ponders for a few seconds before deciding on just asking, “mike?” and at first she thinks she didn’t even say it - said it too softly.
but then she watches as what she believes is relief wash over him, before the anxiety begins its gnawing.
“el, i -“
hearing his voice, hearing him say her name, el can’t take it, it hurts too much, and so she cuts him off. “what, mike? what do you possibly need from me at 10pm?” part of her is proud of her newfound confidence - this is the strongest she’s felt in the past few days - that is, until she sees the way his eyes slightly perk up, just before he looks down at the ground, like a puppy that’s just been scolded. it kills her to know she did that to him, but then her heart starts pounding in her chest again and she’s reminded of the pain.
but mike doesn’t speak again, and they both stand there for a few minutes before el opens her mouth.
“mike, did you come here to hurt me even more or something? because trust me, i got the message that we’re over. you’ve made it quite clear this past week. but this is becoming too much for me - it hurts so bad. so please, if you have any sort of feeling towards me at all left, either say something or leave me be because i don’t think i can’t take this anymore.”
el almost can’t believe she got it all out without sobbing. she told herself she wouldn’t let him see her like this, - even though she’s not exactly hiding it that well - but as she looks back into his brown eyes, she feels a single tear roll down her face. and she wants to slap herself for being that girl that cries in front of her ex - are they even broken up? - boyfriend.
it takes mike a while to speak again, so long that el had had just about enough, and was about to slam the door in his face when he blurts out, “my parents are getting a divorce.”
everything stops, - the dull ache in her chest comes to a halt, and for the first time this entire week el thinks she might’ve gotten her answer for why he’s been pushing her so far away. she’s about to answer him, when he starts back up again.
“i was changing back into my clothes after gym class on monday. i was so happy to see you in english, - i always am - but then my mom texted me that her and my dad are getting divorced. she told me this over text , while i was at school. gave me some bullshit excuse as to why they’re doing it & blah, blah, blah. and i knew it was coming too, ya know? i knew they were at the end of the road, holding onto what few strings they had left. and yet it still felt like someone had stabbed me in the chest, right there in that locker room.” he pauses, letting out a sarcastic laugh, before starting up again.
“and then it hit me. they’ve only ever been with eachother. they started dating when my mom was a sophomore, and my dad was a senior. they stayed together all throughout my mom graduating high school, and my dad getting his degree at college. they married not long after that, and then nancy was born. i couldn’t care less about my father, but my mom she - she never got to see what else was out there. she never got another chance.” el watches as mike’s eyes turn glassy again, and she almost thinks he’s done before he continues.
“el i - i can’t do that to you. i can’t be the reason you haven’t seen what else the world has to offer for you. it would kill me if i knew that there’s someone out there, someone better for you, and i selfishly kept you back here with me. i don’t want to be - can’t be - the one to hold you back from growing from this town. i need you to have that chance - the one my mom never got - even if it feels like my heart is being ripped out of my chest. you’re the only thing that matters to me, i need you to be happy.” mike’s voice cracks towards the end, and el thinks it’s actually her heart cracking that made the noise.
el’s doesn’t know what to say to him. because mike just stood there and poured his heart out and said that the reason he’s been pushing her away, the reason she’s been in excruciating heartbreak all week, is because he feels like he’s holding her back. and so just as mike had, she pours her whole heart out to him.
she’s fully crying now as she speaks, “god, mike. when are you going to realize you’re it for me? there’s no one else out there for me because it’s you i want to be with. only you. i don’t give a damn about any other chances because i already got my one chance - you. you saving me in the woods - that was my chance. my chance at a new life, filled with love and family and friends. you make me so goddamn happy, do you know that? you look at me with that beautiful face and suddenly i feel okay again. i know i’m safe and secure because i have you. you continuously make me feel loved and cared for in so many ways.” she pauses. “you have no idea how much i love you. sometimes it feels like it’s going to fully consume me and i might explode from how much i love you. so please, cut it out with the chance bullshit. because after everything we’ve been through, everything that’s happened throughout the years, i’d still and always am going to choose you.” and when el finishes, she feels a weight get lifted off her shoulder. all of her cards are out in the table, and even if mike doesn’t accept that, even if he doesn’t agree with her, at least she’ll be content with the fact that she let everything out.
mike doesn’t answer though - he grabs el and kisses her. but this isn’t like their normal kisses, there’s so much - almost too much, if that’s even possible - passion and hurt and love all wrapped up into one kiss. and when they’ve finished, mike leans his forehead against hers before starting.
“i’m so sorry, el. i didn’t want us to become my parents - only together because we feel like we have to be. i don’t ever want you to feel like you have to stay with me, okay? please promise me that you won’t stay with me for my sake. i need you to be happy -“
“mike, please stop. how many times do i have to tell you it’s only ever going to be you-“
“i know you keep saying that el, but please just promise me-“
“okay, mike, fine. i promise if i ever feel trapped i’ll let myself go. but it’s never going to happen. i’m never going to leave. you’re stuck with me, forever.” el gives him a small smile.
“but, promise me this. don’t ever shut me out over your thoughts again, please. this week was hell, mike. i missed you so much.” she says, wrapping her arms around his neck and leaning her head into his neck, breathing him in.
“i promise, el.” mike assures.
el holds his face in her hands as she gives him one last kiss, before asking, “do you want to come upstairs? hopper’s got work at 8 so you’ll have to leave a bit early in the morning, but i just need you close. i’ve missed you.” she hates thinking it, but she’s almost scared that if she doesn’t stay with him he might just float away again.
mike grabs her right hand from his face and gives a small kiss to her palm, “yeah that sounds good. i’m never leaving you again.”
and so she laces their fingers together & leads him to her bedroom, where they snuggle up in her bed, her head laying against his chest and his arm wrapped around her middle. the sound of his heart beat steadies her - calms her. and the moonlight is still coming through her window, this time on the both of them, and el can feel the cracks in her heart seal back together again.