'I don't know what to do,' says Eli.
He had been sitting in the car when Grace went out, and when she had walked up to his window, he had just leaned over the side and opened the other door, so she had walked around, and gotten in and asked jokingly (nervously) if they were going anywhere fun.
He had just made a grimace that may have been intended as a smile but didn't quite make it. There was a long moment until he had spoken.
'About Australia? I thought you were coming,' she says, surprised.
He doesn't answer immediately. 'Dad asked me what I'm going to do over there.'
'Well, I don't know.'
'He wants you to come,' she says, though she is not sure. Rick had been weird lately, nervous. She supposed that it was all coming together a little too quickly.
He doesn't appear convinced. 'Jessie's staying.'
'She asked you to stay?'
'No,' he says. 'And mom hasn't said anything.'
'Well, what do you want to do?'
'I don't know.'
'You could make, like, a list. With the pros and cos of going and staying.'
'A list?' He sounds vaguely amused, but when she goes for the door he stops her with a hand on her arm, and she stays because the house is crowded and she really doesn't want to be with anyone right then; being with all her family and all Rick's family at once is really a bit much.
She waits until he has stopped touching her, laying back in the driver's seat, to talk. 'Pros and cons. Just... you know, what do you want to do?' she repeats.
'I don't know what I want,' he says, again, and she suddenly realizes how lost he sounds. 'I really just want someone to tell me what to do.' It's completely ridiculous, of course, and she sees that at once. He never liked anyone telling him what to do. But he's looking ahead, and so she can't read his expression to make sure he's serious—not that she has ever been able to, really; it sounds like a request.
Iwouldreallylikeyoutocome, she says in a rush in her head, testing it out.
She doesn't say it. Instead, she says, 'I love mom and Zoe, and I'm glad we're going, but everyone will be crazy about the baby, and then I won't know anyone at the school–' She interrupts her own blabbing, and he doesn't look at her, he doesn't talk to her, and she doesn't know what else to say, so she says, 'I would really like you to come.'
'OK,' he says. 'OK.' He sounds relieved, suddenly, and he's grinning at her like he does sometimes when they're friends, but he says nothing else.
She grins back—what else could she do?
'Gracie!' calls Zoe, who's leaning out the door with a puzzled expression. She locates them in the car and makes a face, and says, 'Come inside, we're waiting for you to have dinner!' She doesn't wait for a response, but instead enters the house, slamming the door behind her.
Grace winces—Zoe's in a Mood again.
'Pre-adolescence is a bitch,' says Eli, and though his tone is sympathetic, the smile is all for her.
They stare at each other for a moment, at a loss of what to say. They're sort of friends, or they used to be, anyway, but they haven't really talked in a while.
'We should go in,' says Grace, finally. She doesn't want to end it—like all moments in which they connected and shared something real, it ended all too soon. She wonders if it's because it's him that she craves them so much, or if it's only that they're all too few even counting everyone in her life.
'Yeah,' he says, and exits the car, and she follows him into the house because she has to.
Later, they will be inside and Eli will casually say he's going, and she will see his mother's face fall, and she will feel awful. Because she will know she has cheated.
Everyone was being adult and giving him his space, not pressuring him, when he just wanted to be wanted; she was just the first one to realize and to take advantage.
Later, she will feel awful, but she will also feel happy, because it's true: she wants him to come.