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Lizzie never accepted the premise that Derek was unfeeling and selfish—how can someone only ever see themselves as only a main character? Especially in a family as large as theirs, it seemed impossible.

 

 

But it came off as a universal truth—Derek, who never was pushed to be anything more than just a vessel for his own desires, didn’t care. Be damned the rest of it. It seemed to be true, at least in the beginning.

 

 

But Lizzie, ever observant Lizzie would often notice a change in Derek in the presence of her sister. Saying something would have outed his charade, but the way his eyes swept over her when she wasn’t watching, or the way his face betrayed him if they were to speak about her, without her presence. It was a cracking in an exterior that Derek had obviously built for over time, and Lizzie realized, that Derek wasn’t a hollow vessel at all, but encased in thick iron armor. The presence of Casey cooled and heated that iron until, Lizzie predicted, his metal shells would eventually rust over and threaten to break—and all the feelings that Derek pretended not to have would flood into the world, drowning everyone in their wake.

 

 

He was everything and nothing—an ethereal being who built layers and layers of protection around himself until he forgot why the layers existed in the first place.

 

 

Lizzie considered having a conversation with Casey about this—the way her stepbrother looked at her sister, the way that Casey seemed to be the beginning of an unfortunate change, a transformation to the status quo, the way water flooded into deltas of the ocean, but Lizzie would have to also have a conversation about how Casey, a previous reservoir of standing water, had become dynamic and fluid in a way that could break metals with heat and unfreeze the unfeeling. Glorious, gorgeous, the way she should always been, Lizzie noted that Casey wasn’t just breaking years of hurt off Derek, but standing often, stripped only to her feelings while replicating the smoothing movement of the tide against the rocks she had seen at the beach that summer.

 

 

And so, she watched. And watched and invited the rest of the bystanders to watch with her—their eyes glued while storming water hit against metal over and over again, hoping for something to stop. Or something to break, even if it was slowly through the bleeding of rusting iron, and for Derek and Casey to choose to stand naked, in the feelings they didn’t know they had.