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Stalking Casey || The Rewrite

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“Casey, I want you to be careful this weekend – oh, and here’s the number for the hotel we’ll be staying at if there’s any trouble at all, okay? Don’t hesitate to call us, and remember to – “

“Mom.” Casey interrupted Nora’s nervous ranting in the kitchen.

The house was in a frantic state as George, Marti, Lizzie, and Edwin rushed around gathering their belongings. Nora talking 90 miles a minute wasn’t making anything any better or less chaotic.

“Everything will be fine, trust me.” Casey reassured her mother, bringing a much more calm expression to her features.

“Yeah well, last time you told her that, the entire population of the high school showed up!” Edwin called from the living room.

Casey let out a quiet sigh. Always bad timing. As she shook her head slightly, and turned her gaze back onto her mother, she noticed Edwin’s statement had already caused that nervous look to return.

“But!...” Casey stated, taking her mother’s hand in her own as she guided her into the living room with her, “We’ve learned since then.” She then re-thought the statement, “Well, at least I have.”

An annoyed gaze came to Casey’s face as she recalled the night of the “party”, but before she could start fuming over it, she was shaken from her thoughts by her mother’s reply.

“I know that you have. I do trust you, Casey.” Nora stated, smiling at her daughter as she gave her hand a small squeeze. The two of them stepped towards the door.

“DEREK!!” George called as he bellowed into the front room from the office which was tucked into the back corner.

Casey stifled the urge to laugh. The man was a mess. He usually was.

He was dragging a suitcase in one hand, a briefcase in the other, and his hair looked so disheveled that Casey would have bet he’d forgotten to even run a comb through it at any point that day.

“What….?” Came the unenthused drone of a call from the teenage boy who dwelled upstairs.

“Get down here!” George called, taking only a short second to gaze over his shoulder towards the upstairs, before yanking his ailing and spiraling luggage behind him. Even though the suitcase was on wheels, it was proving quite a challenge for George to manage. He nicked the edge of the stairs and the contraption spun off kilter, also managing to hit a side table, which nearly knocked a vase to the floor in the process.

“Oh, honey…” Nora watched her husband attempt to regain control of the bag on wheels, whilst also trying to stabilize the vase. She released her daughter’s hand finally; and stepped forward to assist the man who still managed to completely confuse her sometimes over how he managed to get into the situations that he did.

The sound of footsteps came bumbling down the stairs, and Casey’s amusement over her stepfather’s escapades quickly started to slip away as her eyes lifted to the bane of her existence.

As much of a mess as George could be, her stepbrother, Derek, somehow managed to be even more so in her eyes. She grimaced at him slightly as he completed his descent – skipping the last 4 stairs as he hopped down to land at her side and bid their family members ado.

George had finally overcome his adversity, with the help of his always thoughtful wife, and he turned on Derek with a pointed finger, “No parties, no sleepovers, no random acts of idiocy, no…”

As quickly as George had begun his strict lecture, Derek had already slightly rolled his eyes with a bored expression on his face. He’d heard it all before, and so had Casey, who was matching that expression slightly as well.

Nora blinked towards her rambling partner, before cutting him off, as she extended a hand towards Casey, “Here’s some money while we’re gone. Use it for the things that you need. Please do not blow it or fight over it.”

“Mom, when have you ever known me to blow money?” Casey questioned, reaching out to take the money.

“You’re right.” Derek piped in, snatching the money from Nora’s hand before Casey could. He smirked towards her, as she rounded her head with a glare in his direction, “Better let me hang onto it.”

“Derek.” George said sternly, a warning gaze towards his son.

Derek sighed, and slapped the money into Casey’s hand, not wanting to bother with this argument right now.

Casey instantly sucked in a sharp bit of air, shaking her stinging hand slightly as Derek suppressed a laugh he really wanted to unleash on her for always being such a wimp. He noticed, however, that his father still held a glare towards him, so he dismissed the urge; really just wanting this whole debacle to end already.

Nora looked tentatively at both of them, a little bit of a nervous bob under both feet, “Are you sure you guys are going to be alright?” she reached out to take her daughter’s hand once more, “Because it’d really be no issue for you both to just come along, and…“

Derek sighed heavily, the sound pressing Nora’s newly started rant of worry to the background. She always did this before they left for any amount of time longer than a single night. How old did she think they were? Ten?

“Mom, really. It’s only for three days.” Casey assured, once again, trying her best to calm her mother, “Derek and I will be just fine.” She stated, before gazing towards him, “Right?”

Derek however, had completely lost interest in the conversation, and was currently studying Lizzie and Edwin, who were sitting on the couch. They were arguing over who had to sit in the middle seat in the back of the car – as Marti had already claimed one of the windows. They were now playing rock, paper, scissors.

Kids… Derek huffed, thinking to himself. Glad I never was one.

Casey rolled her eyes. Clearly Derek was going to be of no help. Typical. She turned to her mom again, this time offering a smile, “Anyways, you can’t not go. This is important for George.” She stated, squeezing her mother’s hand once more before releasing it and giving her a slight shrugging motion, “And I can’t leave. I have a date with Max tomorrow, and I don’t even want to think of how backed up on studying I’d get.”

Nora let out a breath that indicated she may have been holding it for the last few seconds while her daughter spoke. But her posture seemed to relax a little, as she gave Casey a slight nod, “Right.” A calmer expression came to her face as she smiled.

“Honey, we’re running behind as it is, let’s go.” George popped back into the conversation, tenderly nudging his wife’s arm as he resumed his fatherly, ringleader tone. “Lizzie, Edwin, Marti! Let’s move out!”

The three youngest evacuated their seats from the couch and shuffled towards the door. Lizzie stopped to hug Casey, wishing her the best of luck for her upcoming weekend with Derek; while Casey urged Lizzie not to have too much fun without her.

Edwin and Derek shared some sort of brotherly handshake, and Casey overheard the oldest boy of the two say something about bringing back the phone numbers of “any and all hot girls”, should he manage to see them.

“Yeah, you got it bro.” Edwin nodded, before slinging his bag over his arm and turning to head out the door.

“I’ll miss you Smerek.” Marti stated, her tone slightly pouty as she ran towards her older brother.

Derek swooped Marti up in his arms, embracing her, “And I’ll miss you, Smarti!” he exclaimed, bouncing her up and down in his arms a couple of times before placing her back on her feet. He knelt down in front of her, “But it’s only for three days.” He patted the top of her head, “You have to promise me you’ll have fun and not be sad, okay?”

Marti looked contemplative, so Derek raised an eyebrow and reached out to start poking her all over, and it didn’t take long for the young girl to burst into a fit of giggles, “Okay, okay, I promise!”

“That a girl…” Derek smiled, content as he ruffled her hair a bit more. He stood up, and spun her around to nudge her towards the open door, “Now go on, get out of here.”

As Marti scampered through the doorway, still giggling, Derek placed his hands on his hips and once more joined Casey at her side.

Casey, who had been watching the adorable Marti bounce out the doorway, lifted her eyes slightly, where her mother stood.

Nora lifted her hand gently, and with a smile gave a silent wave.

“Bye mom…” Casey stated, suddenly feeling a strange sadness welling up on her insides. Her eyes felt as though they were about to start burning.

“Bye.” Nora said quietly, as she turned on her heel and walked out of the door. She pulled it behind her, and the noise and chaos that had been so loud was gone, just like that.

“Love you…” Casey whispered under her breath, gazing at the closed door.

Derek turned his head to look at her. His arms folded, he blinked with disbelief as he leaned down to get a better look at his stepsister’s face; but he retracted just as quickly, “The hell’s wrong with you?”

“What?” Casey answered quickly, blinking her own eyes as she noted how heavy they seemed to feel. She turned to look at Derek, “What are you talking about?”

“You said “bye”, and now you look like you’re going to cry.” Derek stated, looking slightly uncomfortable as he held up a finger, “Please remember how I feel about that.” He dictated a little more firmly, taking notice of how thoughtful the girl seemed to become,

“Because if you don’t, this weekend is going to be ruined right out of the gate.”

When even Derek could point out something as strange as Casey saying “bye”, something was definitely amiss. And it was true. Casey never said “bye” to her mother. Anytime these business trips occurred for either her mom, or for George, she always said “see you in a few days”. Goodbyes had always felt way too permanent for her.

She brushed it off, however, and glared at Derek. Leave it up to him to be so attentive now, when she could have greatly used his backup earlier, trying to convince her mom that things were going to be fine. Still, she felt that ever so slight burn in her eyes as she took a breath, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She narrowed a gaze at him, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a phone call to make.”

She slid past him towards the kitchen, and he rolled his eyes as his body turned with her, “Oh yeah that’s right. The loser with the football jacket awaits.”

Casey, who had already been making a straight path for the kitchen counter, where the phone sat, spun around on her heel immediately. She pointed towards him, venom in her tone, “Max is not a loser!”

“Whatever you say, princess.” Derek quipped, tilting his head slightly, as he shrugged a bit, “Would you prefer I start calling him ‘dumbass’ instead?”

Casey scoffed. He was in an extra irritating mood already, and the rest of the family hadn’t even been gone a full five minutes. While insulting her boyfriend wasn’t a new tactical means of him getting under her skin whatsoever, nor was the “princess” tag, she still struggled to keep her blood from boiling whenever he did this kind of thing.

She wasn’t going to give into his games right now, however. So, without saying anything, only continuing to hold her glare, she grabbed the phone and pondered towards the stairs, making sure to shoulder check him on her way past. She took a deep breath.

Just keep going Casey. Don’t look back. That’s what he wants you to do. She told herself as she ascended the stairs.

Derek watched her miniature “tromping” all the way up, smirk on his face the entire time. It was never going to get old ruffling her feathers. Especially as it was the easiest, most high quality form of entertainment he had in his daily life.

Ah, yes. Life was good.



“Okay, Max. Yeah, I’ll see you tomorrow. Goodnight.” Casey felt the idiotic smile on her face as she hung up the phone.

It’d been well over an hour and she was both shocked and surprised that she hadn’t been interrupted a single time for the duration of it. What had Derek gotten himself distracted enough with that didn’t warrant a single barging in from him?

While she was thankful, and did feel it was a rather rare and fortunate occurrence; she couldn’t disregard it as not being strange.

No, “Casey, I’m hungry, let’s eat.” or, “Casey, you’ve been on there for a million hours, it’s my turn to use the phone.” or, “How can you stand listening to that droning voice for this long?”

There was always a reason for him to show up and disturb her when she was on the phone with Max.

She’d probably never understand why he always acted so obnoxious about the whole thing, but either way, at this point she’d convinced herself it was probably even worse that he hadn’t uttered so much as a peep or poked his head in.

Just what was he up to?

She stood up from the bed, ready to go downstairs and probably be all kinds of pissed off or furious over whatever shenanigans or endeavors her stepbrother had been up to, but a small “ding” emitted from her computer speakers, and she gazed over to notice that an IM had popped up on the screen.

Thinking it was probably Emily or Kendra, she decided she’d check it quickly first, but frowned upon gazing at the screen name.

CanusRufius

She didn’t know it.

Hi Casey.

She slowly pulled her computer chair out and sank into it. She was puzzled and curious at the same time, briefly scanning her brain for a list of possible people she may have given her messenger handle out to, as she scooted up and placed her fingers on the keyboard.

Hi!

She hesitated leaving it at this, but her curiosity was going to overcome her in a matter of seconds. With a small smile, anticipating who she was conversing with, she continued.

You’ll have to forgive my scatterbrain, but can you remind me who this is? Sometimes I can forget who I’ve told to send a message my way.

She lightly tapped her fingertips against the keys a couple of times.

Hm, yeah. Pretty popular these days, aren’t you?

Casey blinked towards the screen. She wasn’t sure if she should take that as some form of flattery or not. While she certainly had expanded her social circle since she started dating Max, she wouldn’t really think “popular” was a proper descriptive word for her.

Kendra, definitely. Derek, absolutely.

But not her.

I don’t know if that’s what I’d call it.

I like it when you wear your cheerleading uniform. You look really pretty in it.

Her expression filled with confusion, and a slight twinge of unease pinged into the pit of her stomach. She looked to contemplate a thought or two, before tilting her head slightly and placing her fingers on the keys again.

Wait…

Max?

This was certainly not his usual screen name; but she supposed it wasn’t out of the ordinary for anyone to have multiples. Perhaps he just hadn’t told her about this one before.

Or maybe it wasn’t Max at all.

It seemed this person knew her from school, however.

She waited and waited, and the silence was almost unsettling. She was about to attempt prompting them for their name again, but before she could, another “ding” rang through the speakers, causing her to jump slightly.

CanusRufius is offline.

Huh. She thought. That was strange.

Perhaps they had been too nervous to tell her their name. It had been an odd exchange, but probably nothing to make a big deal about. The cheerleading uniform comment had kind of made it seem like it must have been Max.

He'd probably been just trying to be sweet or something, seeing as he usually always made some sort of comment about that uniform every time he saw her in it.

Well, whatever.

The even more strange situation at the moment was still the fact that another ten minutes had gone by, and still no peep had been heard out of Derek. It was finally time to figure out what that was all about.

She stood from her chair, pushing the online encounter out of her mind, and turning on her heel to tread downstairs.

He was in his chair watching a movie of some kind. She walked up, shimmying her way in front of him to take her usual spot on the couch, beside his chair. Gazing over, she could see he was quite enthralled with the screen, “You’ve been quiet this evening.”

“So have you.” He answered back attentively, “It’s been pleasant.”

“Agreed…” Casey responded, trailing off as a quite whimsical sounding female scream emitted from the TV. She averted her eyes to the situation at hand going on in the fictional world of the movie, but it didn’t take long for her to scoff at the contents, “I can see why…” her tone dripped with sarcasm as she adjusted her sitting position, “But I’ll never understand how you can sit through these. They’re all the same.”

Derek snapped his eyes towards her, glaring as if she’d just violated a major law, “I beg to differ.”

“How?” Casey questioned in retort, motioning towards the TV with her hand, “It’s always some girl, running from some psycho who’s managed to kill all of her friends, her “hunk” boyfriend, and half of the police squad because they don’t know how to do their jobs.”

Derek rolled his eyes. For someone who couldn’t stand to watch movies like this, she sure had some passionate opinions about it. He turned slightly in his chair, “Casey, Casey, Casey…” he sighed. He still hadn’t decided if he were amused by her very short “analysis” or not. Nevertheless, as a fan of the genre, he wasn’t going to let her get away with slandering it so, “While your description can be considered pretty close to correct, it’s far too vague, and quite frankly, I’m offended at the injustice.” he stated, leaning in slightly as he pointed towards the screen, “You should attempt to read between the lines before offering such a shallow opinion.”

Casey rolled her eyes, feeling less than amused. How could one possibly read between any lines when it came to slasher films? Despite the plot line being continuously recycled, she still hated watching people die, real or not. But what kind of backstory was there ever to any of this, besides the fact that some unfortunate soul ended up crossing paths with either an unhinged or overly obsessed human being?

Derek noted that Casey was thinking about it, but she’d failed to respond to him. He fought the urge to smile. He hated it when he got “lost” in her. It happened more often than he’d ever admit.

Clearing his throat, he sat up a little straighter in his chair. “Let me help you out.” He started, pulling Casey out of her thought spiral. He motioned towards the TV, “For example, yes. This particular girl had watched her boyfriend and best friend die.” He explained, before adding, “But why?”

Casey frowned towards him, searching her brain for the easiest answer with a shrug. “I don’t know. Probably because the person is in love with her or something.”

Derek raised an eyebrow, “Is he in love with her though? Or does he hate her? Maybe he wants her to suffer.”

Casey opened her mouth to reply but failed to emit any words or sound at all. Derek smirked at her expression, “Maybe it isn’t even about her. Not really.” He continued on, “Maybe it’s about someone she knows, and she’s just in the way.”

Casey narrowed her eyes at him slightly, and shook her head just barely an inch, “It can’t be that deep.”

Derek blinked towards her, before relenting that point, “Alright, it’s not. At least not for this particular movie.” He stated, giving her a surprising surrender to that point of the argument. When he noticed her looking slightly proud, he kept going. No way was she off the hook. Even if the psycho was in love or obsessed 99% of the time. “But that’s hardly the main point.”

Casey gazed at him in disbelief. Did he really believe there were actual stories here? “There is no “main” point, Derek.” She argued, and watched as he frowned towards her, “This stuff is over glamorized, over exaggerated, and made up so that boys like…” she struggled for a second before flinging a hand towards him, “You.” She finally finished, before restarting the thought again, “Boys like you, can stare at topless women and get your kicks out of watching people our own age be the capable heroes as opposed to actual adults being smart enough to make any difference at all.”

Derek was silent for a moment, and Casey wasn’t sure if he was going to shoot off some smart remark about her not taking a breath between all of that, or just laugh in her face.

A second later, the laughter came.

And she knew it was coming, but it still annoyed her. She was never able to have a truly constructive conversation with him. Everything always ended this way. She was beginning to wonder if he thought there was any substance to her at all.

“Fine.” She stated simply, opening her palm and slapping it down on the arm of the couch before pushing herself up off of it.

Derek could see the pouty look on her face, and so despite all the joy he’d gotten out of her more fully developed analysis that she’d probably rehearsed in her head hundreds of times, he stood to stop her from storming off, like he knew she wanted to.

“Alright, okay, relax princess.” He whimsied, holding his hands up to stop her.

She huffed and folded her arms, and before she could snap at him for calling her “princess”, again, he cleared his throat once more.

“Just…clarify for me again…” Derek started once more, tapping a finger against his temple before once again motioning towards the TV, “You don’t think there’s anything about these types of movies that are realistic at all?”

Casey looked at him as if he’d lost the last brain cell she wasn’t even sure he’d had to begin with, as her arms dropped to her sides in disbelief, “Of course not.” She spat, holding up a hand towards the TV, “You can’t tell me you believe any of this crap could possibly happen.”

Derek shook his head slightly, “Remind me again why we call you the smart one?”

Casey pressed her lips together, irritated. “Ugh, just move Derek, you’re so annoying!” she snarked, extending her hands to push him to the side.

However, Derek extended his hands as well, to calm her once more, “Okay, okay, just one more thing Casey, because it would actually bother me to end on that note.” He stated, and though he held some amusement in his gaze, he had shifted over to a more thoughtful expression.

The palms of his hands gently rested on her arms, and though she was quite done discussing the subject with him, she would hear him out; for whatever unknown reason, she always did.

“Just…” Derek stated, and his tone had quieted slightly. It was somewhat calm, “Don’t ever assume that there aren’t real psychos out there.” He instructed, before looking contemplative, “I mean, sure, the writers of these scripts have over heightened everything for the effect of entertainment, but, there are human beings out there who hurt and harass other people. I know you’re not stupid enough to think that doesn’t exist…right?”

Casey stiffened slightly in his hold. Something about the way he was looking at her, the way his voice sounded…

Thoughts of her messenger encounter from earlier popped into her head. She’d decided earlier she was going to forget about it as quickly as it’d happened. It had only probably been Max.

Still.

“Why are you trembling?”

Casey snapped herself back out of her thoughts. Derek had deadpanned his tone towards her, and that’s when she looked down and realized she’d allowed his hands to linger against her for longer than she had probably meant to. She took a step back from him and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, turning away ever so slightly.

She was a little flustered.

“I’m not.” She stated simply, fumbling a bit with her own thoughts, as Derek folded his arms across his chest. She turned to him once more, slightly defensive, “And I do know…you know…” she trailed off, and he raised an eyebrow. “About those people…” she looked at the TV again for a split second, “But…”

She paused once more. The girl on TV was climbing out of her bedroom window, she guessed. The power in the house was off.

“But what?”

She gazed at him once more, “But it doesn’t happen like this.” She stated, and upon seeing him narrow his eyes at her a bit, she felt slightly unsettled, “It doesn’t, right?”

“Actually, it does. This happens to people all the time.” Derek answered, stealing a glance at the TV, but averting them back to her almost immediately. “I mean, it doesn’t always resort to murder of course, but the stalking part, absolutely.” he paused for a second, before quipping, “It could even happen to you.” he reached out a finger and teasingly poked her in the ribs, and instantly she flinched away, turning and swatting at his hand.

She glowered at him as he flinched slightly, emitting a quiet chuckle in the process. “I knew you were just being a jerk. You think it’s funny? Trying to scare me?”

Derek tilted his head ever so subtly, stifling his already quiet chuckles of amusement, “Is that some kind of trick question?”

Casey turned away from him, disgusted. What a complete ass.

Derek did his best to choke down the last of his remaining chuckles towards her, as he folded his arms once more, and leaned his weight slightly in her direction, gazing once more at the TV, “I honestly don’t think you ever have to worry about anything like this, Spacey.” he gazed at her, “I mean, who on earth would ever want to stalk you?”

Casey’s hand flew to her eyes, and she rubbed them, agitated. She debated in her head whether to snap at him again or not. It was never worth it, though she was always compelled and drawn to retort to him anyway. She knew that one of the things he lived for was to torment and tease her. But, for the sake of her semi-stimulated mind over all that he had said so far, she just wanted to know for sure. “So is it real or not?” she questioned, her tone having lost most of its edge, though some quiet hints of it remained. She watched his curious eyes return to her, and she motioned to the TV once more, “The stalking.”

Derek frowned slightly, but his gaze drained of teasing intent, “It is. It does happen.”

“And why is that?” she then asked, prompting the conversation further once more, “Why can’t people just talk to each other? Why would they ever consider something like harrassment to be a better solution than a conversation?”

“Maybe there’s a reason to prevent said conversation.”

“Like?”

“Like the person has a partner. They can’t very well just confess that they love them or like them.” Derek explained, shrugging slightly, “And I mean, I can’t relate, but maybe they’re too insecure to try in the first place, regardless of the circumstance. Maybe they’re too afraid of rejection. There are a lot of reasons.”

Casey seemed to consider the information, though she still thought it sounded far too impossible for reality, “So then...is it like a secret admirer?”

“Hm, depends.” Derek tilted his head slightly as he gazed towards the ceiling, trying to decide on how to explain it, “Secret admirers are almost always harmless, but sometimes the situation can be just the right amount of complicated to drive them into a territory beyond that.”

Casey blinked towards him, equal amounts curious, equal amounts thoughtful, as his gaze met with hers. She narrowed her eyes slightly, “How do you know so much about this anyway?”

Derek looked at her pointedly, “Well besides the fact that I’ve probably seen just about every movie known to man about stalkers, I pay attention to the real world.” he stated, leaning towards her as he reached out a hand and patted her head, “Not just what they put in school books.” he then frowned slightly, as if to make an additional comment to himself, “Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever even read a full paragraph from a school book…”

Once again, his hand was quickly swatted away. If this conversation was going to go south again, then now was the time to cut it off. She didn’t know why she’d felt the need to pursue it as far as she did in the first place. Now she was just cranky and unsettled. “Whatever, let’s just...talk about anything else.” she stated, attempting to detour the situation. The entire air about the room right now felt stagnant and slightly miserable to her. “Are you hungry?”

Derek emitted a huff, “Another trick question?”

Casey rolled her eyes, “Fine. Any suggestions on dinner?”

“As long as it’s edible, I never care.” he quipped, before adding, “Which means you aren’t cooking.”

She huffed, “Didn’t want to anyway.” she murmured, her gaze shifting away from him. Especially not for you, ungrateful jerk.

“Looks like we’re going out then.” Derek decided, immediately heading over to the coat rack. He retrieved his jacket, before also grabbing her hoodie and launching it towards her, before reaching over and gripping the doorknob.

It smacked into her side, nestling on her shoulder as she snatched it and turned to him, “Well I can’t just walk out the door looking like this.”

Derek blinked towards her, a confused expression crossing his face as he shut the door he’d just opened a second ago, “Why not?”

She glanced down at herself, almost as if she were about to go into panic mode. “Derek. I don’t even have any makeup on.”

Derek tilted his head to one side, then the other, “For what it’s worth, it doesn’t really help anyway.”

Casey glared daggers, before stomping her foot, huffing, and storming off towards the stairs without another word towards him.

Derek gazed towards the ceiling as if to plead with any god above that would take mercy on him in that moment, “Well can you at least hurry up? I’m starving.” he called out after his furiously anxious stepsister, listening to her stomps all the way up the stairs. She didn’t answer him, and he supposed that was fair. The makeup comment was a bit of a low blow, though nothing out of the ordinary. She’d be fine in ten minutes, and he’d be fine once he got something in his stomach. He hadn’t realized he felt this hungry before. But since Casey had pointed it out, it was all he could think about.

You can imagine his level of irritation when 20 minutes later, they still hadn’t left. He stood outside her door, pounding a couple of times, “Holy shit, Casey!”

“Alright I’m coming!” Casey shouted back, “Just...one more minute!”

“You have exactly 30 seconds before I come in. I don’t care if you have clothes on or not.” he threatened from the other side.

Casey huffed. She hated it when Derek rushed her. In all reality she couldn’t blame him for being annoyed about it though. Makeup had turned into hair styling, and hair styling had turned into a change of clothes. Then she’d had to decide whether or not to wear a necklace.

In all honesty, she’d never been the type to consider so much in terms of vanity, but, since she’d started dating Max, her ways of thinking had been altered some. She was more aware of how she looked most of the time, and whether or not it would be impressive enough for him, and the social circle he entertained.

Which begged a bigger question of why she cared so much tonight, considering she was going out with Derek. Not Max.

Whatever, it didn’t matter at this point. Derek was going to break down her door any second and now she was just overthinking things. She slipped on a last second bracelet, and grabbed her jacket and purse from the end of her bed.

Just as her hand reached for her doorknob, however, her computer “dinged”. The sound was enough to freeze her in her tracks and pull her attention away from the ever looming threat of Derek’s invasion, and turn her gaze back to her computer.

Maybe this time it was Emily or Kendra?

She turned around and dropped her jacket and purse back onto her bed as she moved her chair and leaned onto her desk to look at the screen.

You took off the pink outfit? But it was perfect.

Casey felt that twinge of discomfort settle into the bottom of her stomach again as she gazed towards her laundry hamper, where she had discarded the pink ensemble she’d changed into after school that day for something a little more “Friday Night”. Her gaze darted for a second, before landing on her window, which was opened up to let the gentle cool of the fall breeze outside in. She loved fresh air during this time of year. The curtains were parted slightly, and they swayed with the gentle wind.

She stepped over to the window, taking note that she felt far more nervous than she thought as she allowed her gaze to linger out of it.

The neighborhood was quiet, and the evening lull had set in. Only the orange hue of the setting sun blanketed the landscaped street. She blinked a couple of times, her confidence settling back into her with each second she didn’t spot anything out of the ordinary.

Shaking her head slightly, she felt a bit annoyed. This had to be Max.

But why was he doing it? She was quickly failing to find anything cute or romantic about it. She leaned over at her computer desk once more, and lifted her hands to type another response.

Max, just call me if you want to talk. I don’t know how to play along with whatever this is that you’re doing.

She tapped her foot impatiently. She really didn’t have time to stand here, but she didn’t want to just snap at her boyfriend and leave him hanging either.

She wouldn’t have been able to wait even if she wanted to, however, because her bedroom door hurled open.

“Honestly Casey, do I need to drag you out of the house or something?” Derek snarked, advancing on her like a man on a mission as he reached out and snatched her hand in his, “I mean what does it take for you to move your ass?”

Casey managed to barely grab her jacket and purse from the corner of the bed as she was being pulled out by Derek’s iron grip. She huffed, “Well maybe if you didn’t have the attention span of a moth!”

“Blah, blah, blah…” Derek mocked, as he pulled his squabbling stepsister along behind him.

They continued to fire insults at one another all the way down the stairs, and out the front door of the house. Within moments, she’d completely forgotten about her computer once again.



A couple hours later, night had settled in, and they were walking back through the front door.

They’d actually had a pretty good time. It was strange, sometimes, the ways they managed to get along. Anyone under the red sun who’d had a chance to spend any amount of time with the two of them in the same room could testify to the fact that they were a complete disaster. But somehow that never held completely true when they were alone. Sure, they still squabbled with and insulted one another, but the entire aura about it was different.

Part of it probably had to do with the fact that they didn’t actually hate one another. Though they claimed otherwise to anyone and everyone who asked.

Derek, for one, felt obligated to demonstrate to Edwin a firm example of what stepsibling rivalry was really supposed to be like. You don’t make friends, you are enemies. They become a threat? You eliminate. Simple as that.

Casey, on the other hand, though systematically and regularly dabbling in dramatic situations for herself, always felt edgy when the house was full. It was a lot of noise, a lot of chaos, and overall a lot of added stress. Not that she’d trade any of them for the world, but there were seven of them. Seven wasn’t a small number when they were all crammed under one roof. Most days it made the big house feel incredibly small, and the energy was just so different.

“Really, Case, if I would have known you were going to choose pizza, we could have just ordered in and not had to waste the time going out.” Derek stated, opening up the front door and waiting for her to walk in.

She eyed him pensively, “Oh please, Derek. You had just as much fun in the arcade as you did stuffing your face.”

She floated past him, and he became almost trance-like as his nose caught the scent of her shampoo, leaving him slightly dazed and unresponsive for a few seconds.

He had heard her, however. So he took another few seconds to contemplate her words, mentally decide she was right, shrug slightly, and walk in the door. He wasn’t going to ever let her think she was right about anything, however, so he shut the door behind him, and let out a muffled, “Well, you’re wrong, but, whatever.”

Casey shuffled her jacket off her shoulders, and placed it on the coat hanger, but shot him a defiant but questioning gaze, “Then why did it take me forever to pry you away from the crane machine?”

Derek furrowed his brows, snapping his eyes into a glare towards her almost instantly as he skulked towards the coat hanger as well and began removing his jacket, “Well I didn’t hear you complaining about that when I gave you the pony with the horn I won out of it.”

Casey rolled her eyes, “I probably should have. You blew enough money on it.”

Derek pressed his lips together, fuming slightly, “Alright that’s it, where is he?” he questioned sternly, pointing a finger towards Casey’s purse.

She’d almost already clutched it a bit more defensively.

“If you can’t appreciate him, then just give him back.” Derek stated, holding out his hand and beckoning towards her with his fingers.

Casey retrieved the small stuffed pony - which was really actually a unicorn - out of her purse and held it close to her, “I do appreciate it! That’s not what I was saying, I…” she stroked the mane of the stuffed toy for a second before gazing upward into Derek’s eyes. She let out a sigh of defeat, “I like him a lot, Derek. Thank you.”

Derek huffed in response, but relented to her nonetheless once her appreciation was expressed. He felt semi-reassured that the argument had leaned in his favor. To be honest, he’d only given the toy to Casey in the first place so she’d shut up and stop peering over his shoulder while he’d been playing. At least that was what he was telling himself.

Crane machines took skill. They were rigged in a way so that you had to spend a ton of money to get one measly, rinky dink toy from them. But he’d managed it in under ten dollars and he was proud of that victory. He began heading up the stairs, and Casey filed up behind him, emitting a yawn as she trudged upward.

“I’m going to bed.” she stated, the hour of the night really sinking in after a long day at school, and then bidding the family farewell for their trip. “I have a date with Max tomorrow.”

“Pfft.” Derek huffed, shooting a fleeting gaze over his shoulder at her, “Yeah, you better get all the beauty sleep you can. Lord knows you need it.”

“Is that so?” Casey spat, and Derek heard her footsteps come to a halt.

He could almost feel the look she was giving him, and he smirked as he turned to gaze at her, “Do you really want me to say more?”

Her posture was huffy, and his gaze was challenging. He was peering down at her slightly, though he’d leaned down just a little to meet her eyes a bit better. The tension in the air between them was so thick, it could have been cut with a knife.

But Casey, for as much as she was always drawn to engage further with him, decided against it, settling for pushing past him and continuing her way up the stairs. She made it a couple of steps before turning to peer back at him, “Well just so you know, my secret admirer would disagree.”

Derek processed her words, but wasn’t quite sure he’d heard her right, “Did you just say your ‘secret admirer’?”

“I didn’t stutter.” Casey answered quickly, turning on her heel once more as she ascended the last four stairs.

Derek followed her, but he leapt the gap of remaining stairs as he rounded in front of her to stop her pursuit. “Wait…” he started, before pointing towards her, “You? A secret admirer?” he was almost laughing, and after he repeated the words to himself once again, he did.

Casey scowled towards him, but to be honest, she wasn’t exactly sure why she had said what she did. Was it really so hard for Derek to believe that someone could like her? I mean, she did have a boyfriend, which, coincidentally was probably the same person as this ‘admirer’, but that wasn’t the point. Derek hardly regarded Max as a functional human being as it was, and Casey felt it would serve Derek right to be wrong for once about her being so undesirable.

She rolled her eyes at the boy beside her, who was still laughing. “Whatever Derek. Laugh all you want, but I really do have one.” she snarked, moving around him now and continuing her trek to her bedroom door. She grasped the doorknob in her hand and snapped her head to glare at her stepbrother once more, who was now leaning over, grasping his knees like his ribs hurt. “And they told me I looked pretty today, too!”

She walked into her room at the sound of more laughter starting up from down the hall, and tossed her purse onto her bed. He was such a jerk.

Gathering her pajamas, she turned to make a beeline for the shower. The sooner she could make the water start drowning out the sounds of the obnoxious laughter of the one whom she shared a living space with, the better. Plus, she had better things to start thinking about, like her date with Max tomorrow.

As she was heading through the doorway, she walked right into the current object of her least affection, who’d had his interest sparked just enough to follow her after he recovered from his fit of laughter. “Wait, so…” Derek wasted no time in starting in on her once more, “You have a secret admirer, but you know who it is?”

“No you moron.” Casey answered back spitefully, “You do know what secret means, right?”

“Yeah, but you said they called you pretty today.” Derek responded, leaning against the door frame as he crossed his arms.

Casey looked annoyed and semi-confused at the same time, “So how does that equal me knowing who they are?” she pondered, before adding with a shrug, “It must be someone from school.”

Derek rotated his head in a dramatic circle, “Wow…” he emphasized, “This person sounds like they’re both blind and stupid.” he quirked, before adding, “But in all honesty, I’d probably rather you date them, than that lug of a boyfriend you have now.”

Casey narrowed her eyes, “Just what is your problem with Max anyway, Derek? All you ever do is insult and make fun of him.” she clutched her pajamas to her chest, but still had that huffy expression.

“Well, I mean it’s simple, really.” Derek responded, “I don’t like him. Never have.”

Casey was unsatisfied with this. It was one thing that Derek didn’t like him, but to berate and belittle him constantly? I mean, couldn’t he at least act like he was happy for her at all? “Well you know what Derek?” she snapped, leaning in a little more as she poked his chest with her finger, “Sometimes I don’t like you, either!”

Derek dropped his jaw in a dramatic display, placing one of his hands over his chest as if her finger had wounded him, which only earned him another scoff as she barreled past him.

The bathroom door slammed shut a few seconds later, and he smirked again. Yeah, he was an asshole. But he lived to dance this dance with Casey.

Secret admirer?

There was no way. She was probably just pissed off and still having lingering thoughts about their conversation earlier. The whole “stalker” thing. In all honesty, he probably shouldn’t have humored her to the extent that he had. The last thing he wanted was for her to be pacing and paranoid half the night in her room over it, but he supposed now he would have to lay in the bed he’d made for himself.

His eyes lingered over to where her computer was, and noticed that her messenger box was popped up on it.

He wasn’t one to snoop, but…

Well, yeah he was. Especially when it came to her.

He walked over to her computer without an ounce of guilt and slid into her computer chair, swiveling himself up to the desk to let his eyes rest on the screen.

CanusRufius? What the hell kind of name is that?

He took a minute to scan over the conversation that had been taking place. It was pretty brief and minimum, but Casey seemed to think this person was Max.

She was probably right, though this person claimed otherwise.

Would you be willing to play along if I told you this wasn’t Max?

She’d apparently received it earlier this evening, right before they’d left. So that’s what had been taking her so long.

Well, I mean, she probably really had used some of the time to get ready, but this must have been distracting her, if she’d been willing enough to respond. Her curiosity during their “stalker” conversation suddenly made sense as well. She hadn’t acted bothered by this all that much, honestly. But, he guessed, the moment she’d seemed to get lost in her thoughts and tremble in his grip had felt off.

Alright fine, I’ll play, but only if you do something for me first.

Derek sent the message away, hoping it sounded enough like Casey to warrant a response. She could be a negotiator when she wanted to be. But she was mostly submissive towards everyone but him. She cared so much and spent so much time considering how other people felt about things, perhaps that had sounded too demanding to pass.

However, his second guessing was silenced, when the messenger dinged.

What’s that?

Tell me your name?

This time, he definitely sounded passive enough. The question mark at the end had sold it. He smirked proudly. Not only could he potentially really have some fun with this, but he could possibly also figure out who this idiot was.

You looked like you were having fun with Derek tonight.

Derek’s eyes popped slightly wider as they scanned over the statement.

And here I always thought you hated him.

What the hell?
This person had been watching her?
Not only that, but they seemed to know who he was too.

He furrowed his brows, determined now to dig a little deeper to see what else he might possibly be able to get this person to reveal.

So we know each other well enough that you think I hate Derek, huh?

Derek sent the question away to the other side, before frowning towards himself as he reread what he’d typed. He quickly added another line.

I don’t actually hate him, by the way. He’s amazing.

There. That was better.
Even if it blew the top off his cover. No way was he going to let this person get away with insulting him.

I see the way you look at him. Like you’re annoyed. You don’t have to lie to me, Casey.

Derek was feeling a slight tinge of annoyance. Could someone really tell all of that just by the look in Casey’s eyes? Was this person really looking at her that closely?

And I mean sure, he lived to get under her skin, but...it wasn’t like she actually hated him, right?

Derek folded his arms and slumped back in the seat. Now he was just agitated. Who did this person think they were? Speaking as if they actually knew her... And watching her like this? He huffed and reached out for the keyboard again.

You think you know me that well? You think you know how things between me and Derek work?

I know everything I need to know about you.

Max. This had to be that colossal jackass. The longer this conversation had gone on, the more Derek agreed with Casey.

But why?

That was the real question.

He’d seen the movies. Boyfriends and their manipulation tactics. He knew the games; knew the means at which some particular breeds of male companions would go, all in an effort to draw the girl of their choosing closer to them. They’d start by absorbing all the time they could, which would then lead to isolation, further commitment, then worse.

But this idiot had another thing coming if he ever tried to take Casey out of his life.

Over his absolute dead body was the only way.

Derek couldn’t wait to cross paths with him tomorrow.

What’s the matter, Derek? You don’t look like you’re having much fun anymore.

The agitated bobbing up and down he hadn’t realized he’d been doing with his right leg ceased immediately as his eyes scanned the message on the screen.

He stared thoughtfully at it for a moment, before pushing himself out of the chair and confidently taking a couple of steps towards Casey’s bedroom window.

He didn’t bother looking outside; he wasn’t going to waste the effort to give this bastard the satisfaction of that. Instead he instantly slammed the window shut, and drew the curtains to a close.

He folded one arm across his midsection, while using his other hand to rub his eyes. He didn’t want to be truly worried. He didn’t feel like he actually needed to be. While he was thoroughly convinced that this was Max, possibly on something, getting his rocks off by trying to make Casey uncomfortable; he still didn’t like the idea that he was parked somewhere down their block or hiding around the corner of a house across the street just watching her like this.

It wasn’t okay on his watch, and he was tempted to jump back on Casey’s computer and lay all of his shit wide open right then and there.

Still, though he enjoyed dabbling in mind games from time to time - always with Casey - and even more so enjoyed any chance to cause friction in his stepsister’s relationship, it was going to be a far better solution not to give in to the asshole’s cheap attempt at some weekend amusement.

He’d get a chance to settle this tomorrow, face to face with the loser.

“Derek? What are you doing?” came Casey’s voice from the doorway, a tired drawl behind her tone as she dropped her evening clothes in the hamper and huffed, “I’m tired of looking at you for one day, get out.”

Derek hadn’t even been paying attention to the fact that the shower water had stopped running. Though he’d had every intention of doing so initially, lest Casey catch him on her computer, pretending to be her.

He gazed towards her. She did look spent, and he decided he didn’t want to attempt drawing any energy out of her that she really seemed like she didn’t have. He took a second to debate asking her what it was about him that she truly hated; if she even actually did.

But doing that would just mean her asshat of a boyfriend had gotten inside his head.
Which was probably his intention, and led back to the entire issue of not giving him the satisfaction.

So instead, Derek mumbled a goodnight, his gaze catching a glimpse of the pony from the crane machine earlier, which Casey had already placed on her vanity.

“Goodnight.” she replied warily, eyeing him as he trekked the few steps to her doorway.

He paused for a second, gazing over his shoulder ever so subtly however, to tell her one last thing. And though his voice held no sarcasm or teasing tone of any kind, it did drip with the hints of the firm dominance he always regarded towards her when he needed to drive home that he was being serious, “Keep your window closed.”