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Allergy Season

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She came into his room with a small request.

“I could really use a ride to the game,” she says.

She’s a bit stuffy, with tissue in hand, and he wonders for a moment if she had been crying. It is Casey of course.

“Are you okay?”

Well, that slipped out.

“Are you asking me because you have to be sensitive or because your really care?” She’s suspicious. She really should be.

“Oh, uh, the first one,” he answers. Maybe a little too quickly, trying to recover.

When she goes into how she is allergic to Max, he almost dies laughing.

But then she’s looking at him, and he realizes that she really believes this. That she is allergic to Max. He feels a little bad about his little uproar. A laughing fit is the opposite of sensitive.

She’s taking about how she has changed. Her interests are much more shallow these days, but hey, it’s none of his business. Why should he care? It’s not like he misses her talking about poetry. Or lecturing him about objectifying the cheerleaders.

Did he just use the word “objectifying”?

“What was wrong with me before?” She whines. He feels his heart squeeze. He suddenly wants to reach out and pull her into his arms.

He reaches for his jacket instead.

Of course there was nothing wrong with her. She’s smart, and unique, and strong, and...she just needs someone who can keep up with her.

I could keep up with her.

Wait, what was that? Scratch that. Not him, someone like him. Yeah, that’s what he meant.

But, definitely not Max. Or someone like Max. Airhead jocks aren’t good enough for her. He is much more challenging for her than Max would ever be.

No! Not him! Just someone...else.

“Sensitive Derek is not a liberty to answer that.”

There. Saved it. Smooth.

“Now, let me ask you this. Did Max ever ask you to change?”

He already knew the answer. Casey was a people-pleaser, something he suspected she developed from the scant amount of attention she received from Dennis. How someone could ever ignore Casey was beyond his comprehension. She was usually in his head 24 hours a day. You know, in a “how could I annoy her today?” kind of way.

Oh, she’s waiting for me to respond.

“Well then here’s an idea: change back.”

Her face goes through a few phases. Confusion, epiphany, excitement, and then that huge smile. She’s going to write poetry again.

As much as he will miss that cheerleading uniform, he loves that she is so passionate about poetry. If that means she will be herself again, the uniform is a minimal sacrifice.

He give her a bit of a “duh” look, before ushering her out of his room. His heart flutters when she tugs on his jacket.

But only because he’s happy for her.

For getting through her crisis.

Plus, he will probably earn points with George for being extra sensitive.

Yes. That must be why.

Just a sibling helping a sibling.

Nothing else.

He’s not sure he believes himself this time.