t was beyond clear to anyone at John Thompson High School, to any teen in the Golden Horseshoe, honestly, that Derek Venturi was not a saint. He had dated much, much more than his fair share of girls.
That would be concerning, and it was, but it did have an upside. Casey McDonald has plenty of information compiled in the popular wisdom about her boyfriend.
However, that information is not always consistent with her own experiences. After being in a relationship with the infamous Derek Venturi for the good part of a year, more than one thing about his public persona turned out to be false.
It ranged from the silly, like his favourite movie, to the relevant, such as his criminal record, to the absolute bonkers, in the line of his choice of underwear, but if there was one thing she heard over and over from all sources, including himself, was that he absolutely loathed public displays of affection.
Imagine her surprise when she noticed that he just loved to just touch her. All the time. To the point it was bothersome at times. It was as if he threw his “No PDA” rule of his out the window as soon as they started dating.
It was weird, to say the least.
However, data does not lie. Derek was clingy.
She first noticed this little hypocrisy of his when they met in front of the boys’ locker room before Derek’s first hockey match of his junior year. He sent her a text, asking her to go down there ASAP.
Worried, the brunette ran down the bleachers and sneaked into the school as fast as she could manage. Arriving there, Derek was sitting on the floor, in full gear, looking like an emotional wreck.
“Why are you so worried, Der?” Casey asked quietly, trying to instil tranquillity on him. “You’ve done this a thousand times.”
“Don’t fucking know.” The words that fell from his lips were quiet, and she had to lean closer to hear them.
“Derek, it’s going to be okay. You’ll do fine, like you always do. You’re just letting it get to your head.” She assured him, her fingers running over the muscle of his thigh.
“You don’t know that.” Derek's deep voice cracked, tears brimming his eyelids.
Casey went to go press her hand to his cheek, to caress it slowly and wipe the tears away, but Derek was quick to take her hand in his and hold it between both of his palms.
She did not bother saying anything, instead electing for simply watch as Derek’s almond eyes flitted shut. As his chest expanded with every breath that he took. As the shaking of his hands slowed down to a dull quiver.
The simplicity of her touch slowed down his thumping heart, but it was not enough to bring the signature cocky smile that he wore on day in, day out.
She gave his hand a good squeeze before waiting for a few beats for him to calm down.
“You okay, Derek?” She murmured quietly, pressing her other hand to his cheek.
“Yep.” He answered, simplistic, as he sniffed and rose to his feet with no further explanation. “Thank you. I love you.”
He pulled she into his embrace and pressed a thankful kiss to the side of her head.
“I didn’t do anything.” A small laughter slipped from Casey’s glossy lips while she gave him one last squeeze and pulled away.
“You didn’t have to.” Derek reminded her, his signature smile once again gracing his expression.
At first, Casey did not think anything of it. Derek was in a fragile state of mind, she weighed, and physical comfort was quite effective to ease anxiety. It provides grounding for the mind. Perhaps that was just one of his coping strategies.
However, after that incident, it was like he opened the floodgates of a Hoover Dam worth of repressed physical affection. He did not care for propriety, convenience or audience. One such time was when, two weeks after the game, they were walking to class.
Derek was walking to her left and her friend and his neighbour Emily was to her right. Now, the girl was the biggest gossip on the school and, despite having a boyfriend of her own, she still nurtured an unhealthy interest in Derek’s life. One look at his hands, and he could kiss his beloved reputation good-bye.
It was general knowledge Derek and Casey were an item nowadays and, given his social status, it was rare the poor sod that dared to hold it against him. That being said, he was very zealous of his personal image, and he would very much prefer keeping it.
“I don’t really understand why, if I’m being honest.” Emily complained, loudly.
Casey shrugged, shifting the weight of her textbooks from her left arm to her right. “Perhaps Mrs. Garrett was not in a good day.”
“She’s never in a good day! I just thought that if I had talked to her, she would have changed my marks! That was no excuse to chew me out.” The curly-haired girl bemoaned. “She could’ve just said no.”
“What will you do now, Em?” The other asked. “I mean, it’s almost the end of the semester, you won’t be able to cram it all now.”
“Well, I’ve got to try. I just have to study harder for the other exams to bring them up. My mom will kill me if I don’t get at least a B, and I’m hovering a D right now.” Emily mewled sadly, lips turning into a frown.
Casey’s hand was swinging languidly by her side, until she could feel a warm hand push into it, and although she could not see the owner, she was still quick in giving it a good squeeze.
“I’m sure you’re going to get those grades up. I’m not worried that you’re going to do great. Besides, you know where to find me if you need help with anything. I hope you know I’m always here.”
Emily continued to speak, but Casey’s attention was now on the boy besides her. He had a killer grip on her fingers, and she wrinkled her nose playfully at the boy.
“What are you doing?” She whispered as to not disturb the chatty girl beside she.
“Nothing.” Derek beamed wickedly, bringing up her conjoined hands to brush his lips against her knuckles. “I just wanted to remind you that I love you.”
A blush burned crimson on her cheeks and she turned her attention back to the brunette beside her. “Sorry, can you say that again?”
Of course, when they were around the people he trusted, Derek was even more overt with his clinginess. Such an occasion was when they were enjoying a warm, sunny day in London by having an al fresco lunch with Sam and Ralph at the lawn behind the school building.
“I feel as though it could have gone either way. I feel like I did well, but then again, I’ve been in the position where I think I do well, but then I end up getting a B.” She shrugged, plucking a grape from her pink Tupperware and popping it into her open mouth.
“It’s alright.” Sam shrugged, pushing around his food with the metal fork in his grip. “It’s just a test. No big deal. Besides, we studied all night. There’s no way you did poorly.”
Her shoulders pulled up in a shrug. “All we can do is wait.”
When she went to go shift the weight on her legs, she just then noticed that a warm palm had been pressed into the centre of her thigh. Casey had grown so accustomed to Derek’s touchy-feely behaviour that she had failed to notice when he placed it there in the first place.
She decided not to change her position and simply placed her smaller hand over his larger one.
He gave her leg a mighty squeeze and turned to look at her; ignoring a blabbering Ralph across the table.
“You’re so beautiful.” He crooned in delight.
She giggled, lips turning up into a giddy grin. “Yeah, well, I know of a survey at the girl’s bathroom that elected you as the sexiest guy on campus.”
He had the audacity to laugh. “See how lucky you are?”
She curled her fingers around his hand and brought it up to her lips to kiss his palm. “I sure am.”
Derek was fast in sliding his hand out of her grasp and back down onto her thigh.
“No, no. Don’t move it.” He chastised, eyes flashing with wild excitement.
“Is that a threat?” She quipped, cocking an eyebrow and pushing herself forward so that she could better peer into those luminous irises of his.
“Nope.” Derek said, popping the last syllable. “But you’ll just have to wait.”
“Wait for what?”
“For what will happen if you try and take it off.”
Now, if that is how he behaved in public, when they were alone together, he was absolutely glued to her. Now, they were not sexually active with each other, and Casey conscientiously avoided asking Derek about his experiences, as she did not know what kind of answer she wanted to hear from him.
That being said, even if they did not go all the way yet, they do come very close on occasion. More specifically, they came close whenever they spend time at his bedroom, at his empty house, with very lax door policies. After their respective release, however, there was no ‘hug and roll’.
The fact that Derek was an avid cuddler was not unbeknownst to her, as research pointed out a recurrence on that behaviour, but lately, as their relationship grew stronger, she found that he would increase how much physical contact there was between the two of them on the moments afterwards.
Tonight, after heated kisses and hushed whispers, she both had managed to find a spot in the other’s arms. She was tucked under his chin, his left hand pressing she torso closer to his.
“Do you think we’re going to still be together when we graduate?” She hummed against his chest; eyes fluttered close in fatigue.
“‘Course, Princess, as long as I have a say in it.” Her boyfriend cooed, his lips sponging kisses along her hairline. “Why do you ask?”
“I don’t know. Kendra was talking to Amy in the bathroom this morning. They were talking about us.”
“Oh.” He exhaled.
Derek knew where that was going. Kendra felt entitled to be his girlfriend due to her position as the most popular girl in school, and Amy hated Casey’s gut because her ex-boyfriend Max asked Casey out on sophomore year.
The hockey player tried to muster a neutral expression. “What did they say?”
“They were talking about what would happen to our relationship after we graduated.” She said, with a breathy voice.
“Isn’t that a little too much in the future?” He questioned. “We’re just juniors. We still have three semesters to go.”
“I think so, too. It’s just that…” Her voice broke. She gathered herself and continued, “They were wondering whether or not I was worth it, worth keeping around. They said you’d find someone better at college. Fresher, even.” She admitted, in a vulnerable state.
“Fuck them.” The boy responded, categorically. “They’re worth nothing. They don’t know what the fuck they're talking about.”
A small growl rumbled from the base of his throat, and the feeling tickled her.
When Casey went to open her mouth in protest, Derek had pulled his fingers through her brown hair and pressed a kiss to her mouth.
“There’s nothing else to say about the matter, yeah? Don’t want to hear another word.”
She nodded meekly, revelling in the way his fingertips massaged at her scalp. “Alright, Der, if you say so.”
She could feel a smile stretch across the boy’s lips and she were content enough to let her eyes shut once again. In spite of what the girls said, she had never felt so safe.
Casey felt as though the arms around her could protect her from any possible danger. Derek felt the same thing about hers.
It finally came to a point that Casey could not hold it into anymore. She needed answers, she needed to talk to someone about it.
However, the problem was, who?
Emily was out of the question. They were friends, but she does not want anything she says to go into her Derekpaedia folder she is 75% sure her friend kept on the depths of her closet. Sam and Ralph were kind and would listen to her, but they were Derek’s friends first, and they were teenage boys, biologically stunted when it came to emotions.
Into her family, there was Vicky, which was a hard no. Her sister Lizzie was a good listener, would often give sensible advice, and was even friends with Derek’s brother, Edwin. However, she was a little too young to know about those things, so it was also a no.
So, by the process of elimination, her only choice was her mother.
Nora poured the cups and offered one to Casey. “Two sugars, no cream.”
“Thank you, mom.” The teen said, with a weak smile.
“Now, tell me, what is that you wanted to talk to me?” The older woman asked, giggly that her adolescent daughter still came to her for advice.
She sighed. “It’s about Derek.”
Those words really put a damp on Nora’s excitement. When they moved to London, so she could focus her efforts on her own interior design firm, she did not expect to find love with the lawyer she hired to help her set up her business. George was everything she could hope for in a man.
So, imagine her surprise when her oldest daughter happens to think the same thing about his oldest son. Honestly, any day now, she was expecting for Edwin to go through his Spring awakening and take Lizzie down the same road.
To try to put order to the situation, they called for a joint family meeting, where Nora and George agreed to keep their relationship casual while Casey and Derek finished high school, under the provision that the two of them would be mature and serious about theirs, regardless of the duration of it.
Ever since they forged this pact, there was a nagging feeling on the back of her head that it was a bad idea from the start. If it did not work out for them, then it would be difficult for Nora and George to turn serious, either before or after their graduation. On the other hand, if it did last, they would never know if it was because it was meant to be, or because their parents pressured them into it.
They are teens, for God’s sakes! They should not have their relationship destiny bound to their parents’.
However, Nora was a mother, and a damn good one at that, so she schooled her expression and braced herself for some “Derek talk”.
“What’s about him?” She asked.
“Well… It’s just that…” Casey sighed. “He touches me a lot.”
The woman gasped. “Against your consent?!”
“No! God, no.” The teen denied emphatically. “I don’t mean it like that. I meant he is very clingy. He likes a lot of physical contact.”
Nora breathed out in relief. “Oh, okay. Why is this a problem?”
“It’s just that he’s not like that with anybody. It’s weird. He used to have this stupid ‘no PDA’ rule that, like, the entire school knows, and yet if I don’t hold his hand walking down the hallway, it’s a national tragedy.” Casey declared, with increased amounts of arm movements. Settling down, she finishes her statement. “I guess I’m just concerned. He had a lot of girlfriends; I think I might be doing something wrong.”
“Well…” The interior designer began, measuring her words. “I’ll admit that Derek never struck me as someone clingy, as you put it. However, what you must understand about men, Casey, is that different for them is usually a good sign. They are creatures of habit, and if they are better with you than they were with their ex-girlfriends, that means you’re special enough for them to want to change.
“That being said, no one knows what lays in Derek’s heart, me least of all, except for Derek himself. If you want to know why he is like that, then you’ll have to ask him directly.”
“You know what? You’re right! I have to confront him.” Casey downed her tea in one go. “Thanks, mom. You’re the best.”
“Anytime, honey!” She called from behind her.
Confront him she did. Casey went to his house determined to put that subject to rest, but Derek distracted her with conversation, videogame and the carnal act of love, she ended up side-tracked, but no more. She would ask him.
As soon as she gathered courage.
“Derek?” She murmured quietly, shifting in her spot on his bed.
“Yes, Case?” His attention was elsewhere, as he was finishing up a design for a website he kept on the side.
“Why do you like touching me so much?”
The young man turned quickly to meet her gaze. “Touching you? What do you mean?”
“You’re always holding my hand or my thigh. Or my hair.” She quipped, nuzzling her chin into the palm of her hand.
“Oh, that.” He said, as if he had hoped she would not notice. He did hold on to hope.
“Yes, that.” She reiterated. “Derek, when we started going out, you were staunchly against PDA. All the girls in the school can recite verbatim your whole spiel about it. Now you can’t go without it. What gives?”
“It’s comfort, I guess.” He shrugged, standing up from his PC chair and sitting next to her on the bed. “You ground me. Make me feel like I’m not going insane.”
“Then why you were so against it with your other girlfriends?” She asked, a little doubtful.
“I don’t know.” Derek told her, bringing her into his tight embrace. “I mean, I have a theory. My mom, well, she was not really into hugs and kisses and shit. She would hug us when she felt we deserved it. I’m a little touch-starved, I guess. With the others, I don’t know, I didn’t feel that same rush, that comfort, because I didn’t love them as much as I love you, and of that I am completely sure.”
“Really?” Sher voice was quiet.
“‘Course, Princess. Can’t tell you how much you mean to me. How much you make me a better person.” Derek cooed, grabbing her face in his hands and peppering kisses along the span of her cheeks.