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Degrassi Alive: The Story of Fitz
Elijah Goldsworthy and Julia Mason had been dating discretely in the background for as long as anyone could remember. But hardly anyone did remember because Eli and Julia were in, well, the background. They had few other friends, rarely spoke up in class, and didn’t cause any scenes. Eli was the complex, dark and mysterious boy who wore all black and could scare any six year old if he wanted to, but never did. Julia, on the other hand was simple and controlled. She kept her make up neutral, her sandy colored hair was straight everyday and she wore simple jeans and t-shirts and hoodies, rarely dressing up. She did well in school, but she wasn’t astounding. In fact, if you didn’t know her on a personal level, she was quite boring. But Eli could see her humor, her kindness, her loyalty. To him, she wasn’t boring at all. And he wasn’t complex to her. They fit together like a lock and a key and had no intentions of doing anything else with their social lives.
The extent of excitement in their lives had hit a dead end a year ago in ninth grade with Mark Fitzgerald. “Fitz,” as everyone called him, was Eli’s biggest enemy. But Eli had gotten Fitz thrown into juvie for a fake ID that Eli had given him and for bringing a knife to school during a dance. Neither of them had heard or seen from him, even though he was let out of juvie almost half a year ago. Everyone, even Fitz’s “buddies” had forgotten him.
“Hey, Eli. What’s up?” Julia answered her phone late one Sunday evening in mid October.
“I’m not going to be able to take you to school tomorrow. I feel worse and I threw up a little while ago so I can’t make it. Sorry.” Eli coughed.
“It’s fine, I understand. And I’m sorry; I hope you feel better soon! I’ll get your homework tomorrow and drop it by on my way home.”
“Thank you, you’re the best.”
Julia giggled. “Now get some rest, I want my boyfriend back!”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Eli replied. Julia could hear the smile in his voice, and hung up. She wrote for the rest of the evening, working on a story that she started the previous night. She worked late and fell asleep around one-thirty completely exhausted.
The next morning, Julia walked herself to school, taking all the safe routes and could just barely see the school when someone walked in front of her.
The familiar scowl stared down at her from a freckled face. Mark Fitzgerald. He was almost attractive, but today he was scarred with bruises and scratches making him look more threatening than usual. He had on a pair of medium wash baggy jeans and some old shoes that looked like hand-me-downs. He sported a thing black long sleeve shirt with the sleeves rolled up.
But underneath the scowl, Julia noticed something unfamiliar of this character. His eyes were soft, searching for something. Julia didn’t dare to stay around to see if it was trouble and tried to push past.
“Wait. I just want to talk. Please, Julia.”
The way he said her name sounded truly desperate. She stopped and looked up into his troubled brown eyes.
“Look, I didn’t go to juvie for nothing. When I was there I realized that what I did to you was wrong. Both of you. I shouldn’t have pushed you around like I did. I was just some immature teenage boy but I’ve learned to do better. I’m older now.”
“You’re seventeen.” Julia stated pointing out that it had only been a year. “And you’ve obviously been getting into fights so don’t play the ‘mature and civilized’ card on me.”
Julia tried to push past again. Her life had been going great lately, just her and Eli and no worries. But with Fitz back in her life, especially trying to make amends, she knew drama was about to start again and wanted to stay as far away from it as she could.
“Julia I am truly sorry and all I want is for you and Eli to forgive me. Maybe we could help him too. Try to get him to change for the better.”
“Get forgiveness from Eli?” Julia laughed at the thought. “He’s going to murder you just for talking to me. And Eli is just fine. Even if he wasn’t he still wouldn’t change.”
“He’s heartless! You just said he would murder me if he caught me talking to you. Which he can’t murder me for if he doesn’t find out.”
“You think I’m not going to tell him? And of course he would kill you, you’re a psychopath! Now please let me get by, I’m going to be late.”
“Fine, I’ll see you around.” Fitz stepped out of Julia’s way and let her pass.
“Hopefully not,” Julia murmured under her breath, but she knew he heard her.
As soon as Julia was well away from Fitz she called Eli and told him everything.
“That’s it, I’m coming to school. I have a feeling he’s not going to leave this alone.”
“No! Stay in bed. I’ll handle it. If I see him again today I’ll avoid him,” Julia said walking hastily toward the school.
“Fitz isn’t exactly ‘avoidable.’ If you do see him again tell him—”
Julia groaned in frustration. “I knew I shouldn’t have told you! Now you’re all stressed out and the second that I let you out of your bed you’re going to find Fitz. I know you!”
“You’re damn right I’m going to find him!” Eli replied hoarsely. “I can’t let some delinquent get near my girlfriend, it’s not right.”
“I don’t need you to protect me from Fitz. Honestly, I don’t think he’s that bad anymore. I obviously don’t trust him but we don’t need to be enemies with him anymore.”
“Are you kidding? He almost killed me!”
“But he didn’t! He didn’t hurt you at all that night!”
“He took my girlfriend to the dance. On our anniversary.”
“Ugh. School is about to start, I gotta go. You stay in bed, get some rest, and forget about Fitz.”
Julia hung up before Eli could say anymore. Before now she had always relied on Eli, needed him and depended on him. She called him to feel that again, but felt something else instead. She felt suffocation. Growing up she always wanted a man to protect her from the bad guys, and Eli had before. Julia had loved it. Julia loved him. But now, with Fitz? It was different. She didn’t want to be protected from the ‘bad-boy-gone-good.’ Was there something wrong with her and Eli? Did she not love him anymore? Of course she still loved Eli! That would be absolutely ridiculous if she didn’t! Honestly, who else out there would like plain old Julia Mason? Any guy other than Eli would get bored with her because she learned how to fit perfectly into Eli’s life, and no other guy’s.
Julia walked through the motions of her own classes and picking up Eli’s assignments without even thinking about them. She had gotten a text from Eli at lunch saying that he did what she told him to and stayed in bed all day and that he’d be home when she dropped by after school.
Eli lived a few blocks past Julia and she was only a block away from her own house when she encountered Fitz again, running toward her.
“Julia! Julia, I have nowhere else to go. Can I stay with you? Just for a couple hours?” Fitz sounded truly desperate again and looked even worse than he did before school. He had new cuts and bruises and the rain was slowly washing the blood down his face.
Julia, being as sympathetic as she was lifted her umbrella a little higher in a silent ‘yes.’
“What happened?” asked Julia seriously as soon as Julia’s front door shut behind Fitz.
“I fell off—”
“You did not fall,” Julia interrupted knowingly. “What really happened?”
“My bike, I—”
“Save it. You can stay until the rain stops and you tell me what really happened. Let me put your sweatshirt in the dryer.”
Julia noticed bruises and shoe marks on Fitz’s chest when he complied, accidentally lifting his shirt with his sweatshirt while taking it off.
Julia took the sweatshirt curiously. “There’s the TV and there’s food in, well, the kitchen. Unless you want to eat rat poop, then you better go down to the basement.” Julia hollered as she walked down a hallway.
For the next couple hours they sat in the living room watching stupid shows on TV silently. Julia waited until the rain stopped, then picked up the remote and turned off the TV.
“What really happened?” Julia repeated, sounding a bit more sympathetic this time.
Reluctantly, Fitz told Julia the truth. The look she was giving him said she actually cared and he was getting a little nervous sitting so close to her, although they weren’t touching. But somehow, he knew he could trust her.
“One of my step brothers Steve is a drug addict and ever since I got out of juvie he’s hated me. I try to show him that there’s more to life than drugs and it pisses him off. Today he snapped and beat me up again, just like he does about once or twice a week. I’ve been staying away from home because of that, but today it was a lot worse, and I had to go somewhere—to someone. And I thought of you.” Fitz looked away respectfully at his last comment.
“Me?” Julia was beyond confused.
“Yeah, back in juvie, they were harsh. But I just though of you and it made all the pain and terrible things that I’ve done go away. It made it easier for me.”
“You know how Eli and I met? He saved me from jumping off a bridge. I tried to kill myself. At twelve years old I was being violently and sexually abused by my dad. You’re seventeen and your brother is beating you up, I have no sympathy for you.” That last part was a lie. Julia saw the pain that Fitz was going through, but she knew she had to stay away from it. “I never told anyone else. In fact, my dad still does it sometimes, but if I told Eli that, my dad would be in his grave by now.”
“You were truly serious when you said that Eli might murder me for talking to you, huh?” When Julia nodded, Fitz put his hand on hers comfortingly and said, “I’m sorry.”
Fitz looked deep and genuinely into Julia’s eyes. The pressure and weight of his gaze and hand made her jump when the dryer dinged. Julia walked hastily into the hall in a complete haze and came back with Fitz’s sweatshirt.
“It’s ready, you should go before my mom gets home,” Julia said, stuttering and not meeting Fitz’s eyes.
He took his sweatshirt and put his hands on Julia’s arms reassuringly.
“It’s okay, I didn’t mean to make you nervous. I’m sorry.”
Fitz pulled Julia closer to him and hugged her, but not in a weird way. It was a comforting hug. Julia didn’t know what to do.
Just then there was a knock on the door and Eli walked in uninvited.
“I know you said to stay in bed but I’ve called you a hundred times is something wrong—?”
Eli got into the living room just soon enough to see Fitz pull away from Julia, but he was still standing dangerously close.
“What the hell’s going on?”
“He had no where else to go! I couldn’t just leave him out in the rain, look at him!” Julia replied hysterically.
“Yes, you could have. And yes, I do see him trying to make a move on my girlfriend.” Eli turned to Fitz. “Outside. Now!”
When Fitz opened his mouth to apologize, Eli grabbed his shirt and pulled him outside where it was lightly raining again.
Julia followed them outside with tears streaking down her face.
“Just leave him alone!” she shouted at Eli.
“Whose side are you on? Huh?”
Eli then gave her a look that she couldn’t explain. It was filled with desperate hatred for what she was doing; love for his girlfriend; worry that she wasn’t on his side after all. But what she saw most was love for his girlfriend. Not love for Julia, but his girlfriend. Someone to stabilize him, someone to be around him, someone to understand him. Not someone who cared desperately about him. Not someone he cared desperately about. It was just like Fitz had said: Eli was heartless.
But in that moment, Julia had to make the hardest decision of her life. Keep going with her simple, manicured life where she understood everything and didn’t worry about anything more than a math test. Or a life where excitement held her hand; where love held her hand. The way Fitz had looked at her inside her house and explained that she had gotten him through juvie when she wasn’t even there told her that Fitz could give her something that Eli couldn’t have.
But then again, she didn’t know for a fact that Fitz had changed. He could just be making this all up to get a girl. Somehow, she didn’t believe that, though.
“I’m not on any side.” Julia finally said. “Leave Fitz alone, Eli.” Julia turned to Fitz, “And you leave me alone.”
She was still crying a little and her words shook, but Julia stayed defiant in her answer.
Fitz pulled out of Eli’s grasp and with one last look of love and disappointment at Julia, he walked away.
“What’s going on? Where are you?” Eli was honest and worried in his question, no longer angry now that Fitz was gone. He walked up to Julia and as soon as his arms started to wrap around her she broke down crying into his chest.
Eli walked Julia back into the house and sat her down on the couch where she and Fitz were earlier. He comforted Julia, stroking her hair.
Julia was crying out of confusion between the two guys, wondering if she made the right choice. She had never had problems with Eli before and Fitz used to be a big jerk, so she must have. But there was that ‘what if’ screaming in the back of her head. She knew what Eli thought. Eli was thinking that she didn’t want to have an abusive boyfriend, no matter how cruel the opponent was. Eli was satisfied with not hitting Fitz after all, wondering if he had lost Julia if he had. Julia was think that she probably would have left Eli if the fight had gotten far.
Finally, Julia remembered Eli was sick and needed his homework.
“You should go home and rest; it’s been a long day.” Julia stood up, wiping tears away and got Eli’s homework from her backpack. She handed it to him and he stood up.
“Yeah, you get some rest too.”
Eli leaned down and kissed her softly on the lips and then walked out without another word.
Julia managed to make it up to her room before breaking down again. She skipped dinner; lying to her mom she had a lot of homework to do and stayed in bed all night with her thoughts whizzing around in her brain. One thought in particular kept coming back to her: Fitz. She couldn’t think about him anymore, she couldn’t feel that way. And she knew that Eli would not be feeling well enough to go to school tomorrow, which meant walking again.
The next day ended up being surprisingly easy. Julia had no run-ins with Fitz, no difficult assignments in class, and Julia didn’t have to face Eli and act like she felt nothing but pity for Fitz. At least, not until after school when she dropped off even more assignments. But when she did, Eli was quiet. He never mentioned the previous day at all. In fact, he acted like nothing had happened and he was just saving his voice. Julia thought it would be best not to bring it up and left happy that things were going well. Maybe the drama was just a one-day thing this time and Fitz won’t come back.
But that wasn’t true. Fitz did come back: in Julia’s dreams again. She woke up several times during the night drenched in sweat with the same smoldering scowl pressing into her head. Then she would start to think about him and get stressed causing her to take another hour to fall asleep again. By the time her alarm clock went off, she had gotten no more than three hours of sleep.
The rest of the week went by exactly like that. Easy through the day, quiet with Eli (who was still sick) and stressful dreams about Fitz. Even Eli was having nightmares that Fitz was stealing his girlfriend. Nothing changed until late Friday night.
Julia was in her bedroom finishing up a movie—Jane Eyre—when her father came home sometime past midnight. She could hear him stumbling and could tell he was drunk so she turned off the TV and quickly got into bed. Sometimes he left her alone if he thought she was sleeping.
Tonight, that wasn’t the case. He came pounding upstairs and banged on Julia’s door.
“Open this door, girl! Let me in! Let me see my daughter!” she could barely make out.
She knew he wasn’t going to leave and that he would certainly bust down the door if she didn’t open it, so she decided to go out the window. But as soon as she opened it, her father heard it and broke the door open. Julia turned around with fear and saw lipstick stains on her dad’s face and shirt. He was too close for her to go out the window; he would catch her before she could get away, so she just played along not knowing what else to do.
“Yes daddy?” Julia said, shaking.
Julia didn’t remember what happened after that, but it lead to her dad beating her and throwing her around the room. It ended after he pushed onto her bed and…sexually abused her. The details were fuzzy, but at some point, her dad passed out and she knew she had to get out of there. Julia didn’t know where she’d go: she couldn’t go to Eli’s with the bruises (usually she could use Fitz’s method and say she fell down the stairs or something, but tonight was the worst it’s been since before she attempted suicide) and she really had no other friends. So Julia grabbed her jacket and set out into the light rain.
She had been walking for about twenty minutes, going farther and farther away from her house, when Fitz ran into her. Literally ran into her. When he stopped running to see who it was and to apologize, he saw Julia’s abused, tear and rain stained face.
“Sorry, look just come with me, my brother’s following me and he’d hurt anyone who would get in his way right now,” he said hastily.
Julia nodded and Fitz grabbed her hand and ran away from where both of them were coming from. They ran for fifteen minutes straight, hand-in-hand in the rain until they finally stopped under a tunnel after the yells of Fitz’s brother had died out. Fitz and Julia sat down exhausted, leaning against the wall of the deserted tunnel and each other.
“So what are you doing out here?” Fitz asked Julia.
He had caught his breath much quicker than she did and it took her a minute to respond. Fitz must be in good shape from living with his brothers. Once again, Julia felt sorry for him.
“My dad,” Julia finally replied, breathing heavily still. “He came home late and was really drunk. Anyway, I bet my battle scars tell the story.”
“Was it…just violence?” Fitz picked his words carefully.
“No, Fitz. It’s never just violence….” Julia trailed off and they remained silent for a few more minutes.
Julia leaned on Fitz’s shoulder for comfort and warmth, and she started softly crying again. Fitz stroked her face and hair, just as Eli had done a few days ago.
“You can call me Mark,” he finally said softly in her ear.
Julia clutched the same sweatshirt that had gone through her dryer and buried her face in his chest, crying harder. Mark Fitzgerald put his arms around her tight and sang her favorite song softly in her ear: Brighter Than Sunshine by Aqualung.
Julia’s crying slowly seized and she found enough courage to say, “I just don’t know what to do anymore. I’m so confused. Everything with Eli used to always be perfect, even when you were bullying us. I understood it all. But now you’re so nice, and you’re going through so much with your brother and I’m going through the worst it’s been with my dad since before I…” Julia trailed off again, not wanting to mention something she knew she didn’t have to. “And now I’ve realized that Eli never wanted me, he never loved me. He just wanted someone to fit into his way of life, someone he could lean on. He only loved his girlfriend…not me. But I can’t be here like this, it’s wrong; I’m still his girlfriend, no matter how he feels about me.”
“Julia,” Mark whispered softly in her ear and she looked up. He wiped away a tear and smiled down sadly at her. “I love you.”
She cried harder, wrapping her arms tighter around him as he started to sing again:
I never understood before
I never knew what love was for
My heart was broke, my head was sore
What a feeling
Taught up in ancient history
I didn’t believe in destiny
I look up you’re standing next to me
What a feeling
What a feeling in my soul
Love burns brighter than sunshine
Brighter than sunshine
Let the rain fall, I don’t care
I’m yours and suddenly your mine
Suddenly your mine
And it’s brighter than the sun, sunshine…