He’d told himself repeatedly, he wasn’t going to let the bastard with the stupid screenname affect his sleep, or get the better of him.
So you can imagine his irritation when he rolled himself out of his bed after only sleeping for three hours. It was a Saturday, and he supposed he could nap as frequently as he wanted throughout the day, but that probably wasn’t going to be happening either.
He had plenty to be pissed about, like his stepsister’s quickly approaching date with the scum she called her boyfriend; and what pissed him off even more is how many hours she’d spent as the day carried on running and rushing around, looking cute, and getting ready to go out with the shit for brains.
On top of that, he’d also let what had been said about him bother him a little too much. He never usually cared too much about an outside opinion. He was quite aware of what was between him and Casey. The tension and the friction had been carefully preserved and protected by him since he’d met her.
Why? Because it brought something more to his life.
And people could say all they wanted - and they had - about how it was borderline, or straight out cruel, or hateful, or mean. But those people weren’t Casey, nor were they him; and they couldn’t speak for either of them. Therefore, people’s opinions about whatever they thought their relationship was didn’t mean fuck all in his head.
But, at the end of the day, the statement had been, “I see the way you look at him.” Like, this person had spotted it in her eyes, not heard her speak it into existence. There was a difference. He had no doubt Casey was very verbal to a number of people about how she felt about him on a regular basis. But seeing it in someone’s eyes, or their expression; those types of things usually bore the whole truth, unless acting was your profession.
At one point, he’d entertained the thought of calling Max himself and cancelling the date for her; possibly exchanging a few other choice words with the braindead jock; but he didn’t want to slip into that circle of hell in her eyes.
For whatever reason, what she thought of him meant a great deal. He didn’t understand why, but it was true. And he’d learned a while ago that not fighting that reality had made his life function slightly smoother. That didn’t mean he still didn’t want to bash his head against the wall some nights when he’d stayed up way too late thinking about her, but he’d molded that truth into a more manageable mental compartment.
What he didn’t understand was that it seemed Casey suspected Max had been the one giving her the go around on her messenger. She’d even stated she didn’t want to deal with it, yet, today she was acting just as hopelessly faint of heart as she ever could get over him. Maybe he’d read it wrong. It was difficult to read emotions through a line of typed out text, but, it’s not like the statement had been, “Oh Max, you’re so silly, playing these cute games” - which quite frankly, had it been, or anywhere near that, the sight might have made him puke - but rather like she just wasn’t interested in advancing the charade at all.
So was she or was she not annoyed about it?
“How do I look?” Casey’s voice stirred him from his thoughts.
He’d been sitting in his usual chair, facing the TV, but not really absorbing any of what was on. He was uncertain if he was more pissed that he’d spent half a Saturday buried in a mental hole of frustration, or that Casey had shuffled into her spot on the couch, looking like she did, for a date with a dumpster of a human being.
He shuffled ever so slightly, keeping his eyes focused on the screen of the TV before mumbling, “Like shit.”
She huffed a second later, “I figured you’d say that.” her voice held a bit of venom, but not much. His response hadn’t surprised her at all.
Derek tilted his head slightly, finally shifting his gaze to her.
In all fairness, he was highly attracted to her, but he could never pinpoint exactly why. Nor was he going to ever actually admit to it. He gazed away from her once more, and the two of them sat in a slightly charged silence for a couple of moments.
Casey could sense Derek was in one of his rare, thoughtful moods. They always made him the most cranky, and just sitting near to him could be intimidating.
She’d never been truly fearful of him, but knew he had a temper when pushed too far. The ins and outs of his personality after living with him for a while had been easy enough to figure out, but she still didn’t have much of a sense on where his triggers could always be.
Still, he was the one person she had never changed for, and she was fairly assured he’d never want her to, regardless of the intimidating aura that could surround him on any given day. She turned her head to him, “I noticed you decided to meddle around on my computer.”
Derek blinked towards the screen a couple of times.
He hadn’t really talked to her about that yet, and since she was bringing it up, he supposed this could be his way of letting out some of the frustrations that had been plaguing him thus far today.
“Yep.” he responded, a slight nod as he cocked his head to the side.
She was annoyed at the simplicity of his response as she narrowed her eyes at him, “Well I’d appreciate it if you’d stay out of my stuff, Derek!” she fired towards him, “How many times have I told you not to just…” she paused before flinging her hand in the air dramatically, “Meander around in my room and get into my things?”
It was true. These past few months, he’d had no regard for her personal space or privacy. He just waltzed right in whenever he felt like it, and she was becoming so used to it at this point, that she rarely called him out for it anymore, though it always irritated her beyond no end. Yelling at him for it didn’t ever seem to do any good.
Derek swung his head to give her a less than enthused gaze, before raising an eyebrow. A moment ago, a poised, chipper, and only mildly agitated Casey was sitting there. Now she was a scrunched up bundle of nerves who had a sharp gaze and tense aura. He leaned back slightly, adjusting his position. “You know, I’ve been debating on whether or not to give your boyfriend a black eye when he shows up.”
Casey’s jaw dropped slightly. It was possible her stepbrother was in just the right kind of mood to go through with such a thing, “I’d prefer if you just didn’t talk to him.”
“Yeah and I’d prefer you not go out with him at all.” Derek argued, now allowing some of his reserved agitation out. He lifted his hand and pointed towards the upstairs, “Not after pulling whatever the fuck that was last night.”
Casey, against her better judgement, reached over with both her hands and rested them on top of Derek’s arm, easing it back down gently, “Derek, this is my relationship.” she stated, her tone having lost it’s scolding edge from moments ago when she’d started the conversation, “I’ll deal with it, okay?” she lifted her hands off of his arm and shifted back to her seat more comfortably, “The solution isn’t always to just fight about everything.”
Derek scoffed in annoyance, “Yeah well, talking is more useless.” in a matter of seconds, that twinge of annoyance began boiling up hotter inside, and he snapped his head in her direction, “And why should I give a damn about what you want anyway?”
Casey’s eyes diverted to meet with his once more. Their gazes burned into each other’s for a moment, before Derek turned to face the TV again, his posture slumping subtly, and his tone shifting, though he hadn’t wanted it to, to reflect traces of bitterness within it, “You already hate me so what do I have to lose?”
Casey blinked, retracting ever so slightly to lean her back into the couch beside him as well. She struggled for a moment to really respond at all. She didn’t have the time to get into this with him right now, and to be honest, she was already feeling rather exhausted. Because there was always something to get into with Derek.
There was never a break. Never any peace.
It was a constant trek of arguments and indifferences.
She shook her head slightly, “Whatever. Just…” she felt her train of thought slipping away from her again so she rolled her eyes and threw her hands up slightly, her half frustrated, half tired stare burning into the TV, “Don’t ruin my night, or I really will hate you.”
She heard Derek’s huff of a response, and was thankful that at that exact moment, before her step-brother could start in with anything else, the doorbell rang.
She almost expected there to be a race to the front door.
But in the split second it’d taken her to jump to her feet and scamper towards it, there had been no being bumped to the side, no strong grip on her arm to yank her out of the way. Not even a single word uttered from the boy she’d left in the living room.
She stopped slow before answering the door, peering back in at him. He was still sitting in the chair, staring at the TV. Silent. Unmoving. Though, she could still see the glare in his eyes, and the tightness of his hands as they gripped his own arms from their folded position over his chest.
He was most certainly pissed.
And she felt bad for that.
But there was really nothing she could do about it right now.
She frowned, but turned to open the door.
“Hey!...” Max started, from where he stood on the other side of the door. He trailed off, his brows furrowing ever so slightly as he watched Casey’s frown slip away quickly and settle into the sweet, sociable, “you can approach me”, smile he was used to seeing on her.
“Hey there handsome.” Casey replied, her stance slightly bashful as she bobbed on her heel a couple of times.
He had been planning to ask her if everything was alright, but her tone and expression indicated she was just fine. So the prior thoughts that whatever was going on before he’d arrived hadn’t been so pleasant for her left his mind, and he gave her a smile back. “You look beautiful.”
Casey felt her cheeks warm ever so subtly, while in the meantime, Derek had to suppress the urge to vomit from his position on the couch.
“Thanks.” She extended a hand out towards him, and he wasted no time in taking it. Gazing over her shoulder, she felt the frown return to her face as her eyes rested on her step-brother, “See you later, Derek.”
“Hm.” Derek murmured, and without looking towards the door, he lifted his arm and gave her some kind of half-assed wave.
He felt her eyes linger for a second longer, and then, the object of his attention left through the front door.
That moment - that split second - it always made him feel miserable. The one where she would walk out the door. He should have been used to it by now, but for some reason, he wasn’t.
He sighed heavily and sank further into his seat, his left hand reaching over the arm of the chair and pulling the lever attached to the side of it as the panel below his feet flung upward. He gazed bemusedly at the clock on the wall, before mentally preparing for a boring evening alone.
“So...is everything alright at home?”
Casey blinked towards her boyfriend, who was shooting her a thoughtful, but curious gaze from the driver’s seat of the car. They’d just packed up their picnic dinner, and were preparing to head to the theater for an evening film, and she could tell something had been on Max’s mind - like he’d wanted to ask her something or talk to her about something the entire time. She gave him a bit of a smile, but her gaze went to rest on her hands, which were clasped and lying in her lap. “They’re fine, yeah.” she stated, pausing for a brief second, “Why do you ask?”
Max tilted his head slightly, “You’ve just seemed kind of distracted this evening is all.” he stated, turning the key in the ignition and waiting for the car to whirr to life. “Was wondering if Derek was giving you shit again.”
Casey felt her hands tightening around one another ever so slightly, and she felt a lump forming in her throat. She hated when Max brought Derek up, almost as much as she hated it when Derek brought Max up. She just never knew what to say. It was like being caught between a cobra and a mongoose most of the time. While Derek definitely had more issues with Max for whatever reason, her boyfriend also hated the way Derek could make her feel sometimes.
Granted, she’d vented to him on numerous occasions about some of her stressful nights at home, and so he was well aware that Derek could wind her up into emotional messes, and seemingly fairly easily as well.
She’d never even really attempted to tell him that while Derek could make her extremely miserable at times, he was also a very necessary part of her life.
But that’s probably because somewhere deep down, she felt he’d never be able to understand that.
She let out a slight exhale, pressing her lips together while gazing towards him, her hands unclasping as she used her left one to reach out for his right, which was resting on the gear shift. It was only after he allowed his free hand to be pulled into both of hers, once again resting in her lap, that she managed to address what’d been lingering in the back of her mind, “Max?”
“What?” he responded, his eyes on the road as he pulled into an intersection.
She gazed thoughtfully at his hand resting between both of hers, “You do know that I don’t actually hate him, right?”
Max managed to steal a slight gaze at her, and Casey felt as if his expression held a layer of disbelief towards her. “Not that you’ve ever really given me a reason to think that you don’t, but,” he started, turning his free hand now to grasp one of hers more firmly, “I get it. He’s your brother.”
“Step brother.” Casey corrected, almost instantly.
That was one thing that both Derek and Casey were very adamant about. No one was ever allowed to misunderstand what relation they actually were.
Max was no stranger to the correction. He nodded slightly, knowingly, “Right, sorry.” he acknowledged, before continuing, “I guess it’d probably also be pretty out of character for you to truly hate anybody.”
Casey contemplated his words, but she didn’t necessarily disagree. While she could get frustrated and agitated at people from time to time - and Derek daily - hatred wasn’t an emotion she was familiar with at all. “I only bring it up because he saw your message on the computer.”
Max blinked towards her briefly, a ponder-some look on his face, but quickly diverted his eyes back to the road rather fast, as she continued with what she was saying.
Casey’s tone had lowered just a bit, into that reserved indifference she could sometimes have when she couldn’t make up her mind whether she was annoyed or not, “He didn’t actually say it bothered him, but I could tell.” she stated, before Max felt her fingers run over the top of his hand, “You already weren’t his favorite person, and that really didn’t help.”
“Oh? I wasn’t aware I was trying to get on his good side in the first place.” Max replied, in an almost teasing tone, but Casey had never found this ridiculous resentment between them to be any sort of funny at all.
And really, when it all came down to it, she knew Max would probably set aside his differences with Derek if it would give her any kind of peace of mind.
Derek on the other hand? He’d probably have to be killed first.
When Max heard her sigh, he gave her hand a slight squeeze. “Hey, relax, I’m sorry.” he said sincerely, gripping her hand and bobbing it a couple of times on her knee.
“Just, next time maybe call me, instead of sending me messages that Derek will definitely be able to access seeing as he has no respect for my privacy anymore.” she stated, taking a breath as if a weight had been lifted off of her. She smiled slightly, gazing at him, “Talk about out of character…” she paused for a second, now lifting her hand to poke his shoulder, “That was so strange, especially from you.”
Max shook his head subtly, as he pulled into the parking lot of the theater. The place was packed, and they’d both suspected it would be, seeing as it was a Saturday evening. “Well, seeing as I haven’t messaged you for months, I can’t even begin to remember what you’re talking about,” he started, pulling the keys out of the ignition, as he turned towards his girlfriend once more, leaning over the center console as he lifted her hand as if to cradle it. “But sure, I agree.”
He leaned in to kiss her, but she pulled back slightly as his words registered. She shook her head a bit, “Wait so, you weren’t on messenger yesterday?”
Max seemed to chuckle a little bit, and his expression almost seemed surprised that she was even suggesting such a thing, “Casey, I don’t even remember my username anymore.”
Casey blinked, studying his expression a bit, her hands resting on his forearms. Though he seemed to be semi-amused at the inclination, she felt like his tone resonated sincerity in what he was saying. She decided quickly she didn’t want to question him further about this. Nothing got under Max’s skin more than when his word was questioned. He’d grown up with an extended family member who had a knack for deception, and had sworn to never let the genetics of that particular branch of the tree poison him.
The one single time she’d seen Max extremely furious was when the football coach had doubted his defensive testimony over trashing a rival team’s locker room; as football players could be extremely rambunctious, especially when it came to “the big game”. He took a lot of pride in his position of quarterback, and wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize it; because one day he hoped to sail out of senior year on the back of a full scholarship, and the fact that the coach had questioned him at all had made him seriously consider quitting the team altogether.
Casey hadn’t realized she’d been sliding down a thought spiral, but she’d made up her mind. Even if the whole thing still felt off. She blinked herself out of her daze, and smiled with a bit of a nod, “Okay, let’s go.” she stated, her hands leaving his arms as she turned to open up her door.
Max narrowed his eyes, as he watched her climb out, a few thoughts swirling in the back of his mind as well.
It was a little past 10 when Casey walked back through the front door at home. She slipped off her jacket and hung it, her eyes turning immediately at the sound of the TV, only to spot Derek as well, slumped still in the exact same spot and position as he had been when she’d left several hours earlier. She gave him a strange look, as he didn’t even bother looking up to acknowledge her.
She made her way to her spot on the couch and slid into it, turning slightly towards him as she perched her elbow on the arm of the couch. He still had that deep look of concentration in his eyes, though he didn’t look as upset as he had when she’d left. “Hello to you too, I guess.”
His head slowly turned to her, and he let out a yawn, looking rather tired, “Hello.” he stated simply, as he turned his head away once more.
“Really Derek? That’s all I get?” she questioned, pausing when he shrugged tiredly, before narrowing her eyes, “Have you even gotten up out of that chair since I left?”
“I mean, I got up to take a piss earlier.” Derek responded bemusedly, turning his eyes on her again, “Two, actually.”
Casey rolled her eyes. Typical.
She had been right about her initial consensus. His tone definitely indicated he wasn’t upset like earlier, however, she could still sense that he was being gruff towards her. Her eyes rested on him for a few moments, long after he’d already turned back to the TV, but he could always tell when she was doing this. When she let out a sigh, he rolled his eyes, “What?”
“Aren’t you even going to ask me how my evening was?” Casey replied with a question, her tone almost slightly pleading.
“Why would I do that?” Derek snarked, now deadpanning a stare at her, “I know that you know I don’t give a shit.”
Casey straightened her posture slightly, clearing her throat, “Well then, tell me about yours.”
Derek widened his eyes a bit - not in an exaggerated way - more of a slightly sarcastic way - as he lifted both his hands in the air and slapped them back down on the arms of the couch, “You’re looking at my evening.” he stated, his eyes glowering then once more. He slumped down and used his right hand to prop his head up, almost as if trying to block her from view as he sank his face onto his hand, “I know you know that, too.”
Casey was quickly becoming impatient with him. She knew he liked to punish her in all kinds of mental ways at any given time for any given thing. This time, however, there was an actual underlying problem that she probably should have made time to talk to him about earlier, even if it would have put a delay on her date night.
Derek did look mentally tired, and if he’d sat here all evening and tormented himself over the nonsense he’d read on her messenger; as much as it served him right for invading her privacy; she wanted to address it and get it out of the way, so that they could return to the more normal dysfunction they both felt more cozy in.
She sighed once more, and flopped her hands up and back down again, “Alright, Derek, maybe we should talk.”
Derek raised an eyebrow, giving her a sideways gaze, “I’d rather not.”
It was true. While they had all sorts of forms of communications, Derek rarely wanted to engage in anything that held any kind of “serious” context to it.
Casey shrugged sarcastically, “So what are you going to do then? Torture yourself all weekend?”
“Pfft.” Derek remarked with a huff, “You really think you’re in my head that much?”
Derek, of course, was bluffing. He would never admit it to the girl sitting next to him, nor to anyone else, that she did in fact, occupy a great deal of his thought capacity every day.
“You know, this is part of the reason you shouldn’t be dating such a pompous jackass in the first place.” Derek continued, his tone harrowing more with each second he wasted his breath talking about the one Casey claimed as her boyfriend, “His ego has rubbed off on you to the point where you think you’re that important and special.”
Casey’s jaw dropped slightly, but instead of firing back at him like she felt, she squeezed her eyes shut in frustration instead. This was part of the game, she knew it well. But she hadn’t started this conversation to argue with him. She’d simply wanted to clear up a mistruth she was certain Derek had been reeling over the majority of the day. She opened her eyes back up and sharpened them towards him, “Can we please leave Max out of this conversation for two seconds.” she stated more so than asked.
Derek turned on her quick, now mirroring her narrowed eyes and sharp gaze, “What the fuck for?” he spat venomously, sitting up straighter in his seat. Now he was ready for war, “He’s the whole reason why this day - no, the entirety of the school year has been such utter shit in the first place.”
Casey shook her head slightly, her expression one of disbelief, “That’s not true!” she argued, her voice heightened, “You know, you haven’t even bothered trying to be nice to him - “
Derek cut her off, only interested in her initial statement, as he was ready to lay all of her shit out into the open over the ridiculousness it had been, “It’s not true?? Really.” he folded his arms over the edge of his chair as he leaned into her, peering into her eyes as if he could see her soul. “So it’s not true that you spend more time at the school - at his games and practices; at cheerleading practice, and at pep rallies then you do with anyone here or any of your friends anymore?” he questioned, in a tone that held such conviction, Casey instantly felt guilty for it, “How many times have you hung out with Emily after school since you started dating him? How much time have you spent with Lizzie, or your mom?” Derek continued with his drilling, “You went from a handful of people that actually care about you, to a hundred friends who only give a shit that you suddenly have a social status. You spend more time in front of your mirror than you do on your homework, Casey.” he tilted his head to the side, “You wear shit that the majority population of the school know as “the slutty popular” girl look.” he emphasized, using air quotes with his hands, “But you wouldn’t know that, because all you care about is him.”
Casey felt blow after verbal blow hitting her like bricks. She felt her eyes starting to burn; but even if what he was saying held the truth, that didn’t mean she wanted to acknowledge it as such. Not because she was incapable of realizing mistakes when she made them, nor facing hard truths when she needed to; but because in the whirlwind that the school year had been for her so far, she’d barely felt like she’d been breathing, let alone take time to realize so many things could have changed.
And that was the keyword as well. “Could”.
Because she was talking to Derek here.
While she had no doubt she meant something real to him, just as he did to her, he always found ways to make her feel like the things she did or said were so much more harrowing and disastrous than they actually were. Perhaps she could get an outside perspective. Maybe she should ask Emily if she’d changed as much as Derek was sitting here implying.
But even if there were elements of truth to what he was saying, it didn’t mean it didn’t hurt.
And she hated the fact that he was so capable of doing this to her.
She felt defeated, and quite mentally winded by his statement, but she needed to see this conversation through. Even if he was the biggest jerk in her existence.
She wasn’t going to ever be able to convince him that Max wasn’t the only person she ever thought about, and so there was no point in her responding to his rant. She turned away from him slightly and sank further back into the couch with a sigh, “Well, I brought up the messages and he seemed like he didn’t know what I was talking about.” she murmured, shifting the subject. “Said he couldn’t even remember his username.”
Derek usually wouldn’t let her get away with changing the topic like that, but this time, he relented. Afterall, the entire reason why this day had gone so far south was because of the damn messages in the first place. Her personality changing since she’d started dating that dull lug of a human being was an issue - at least for him - but it hadn’t been something he’d actively been searching for a way to bring up. He’d only done so because he’d had the window of opportunity. He was definitely more interested in this messenger crap that had started yesterday afternoon. At least for now.
He raised an eyebrow as he turned towards her slightly, “Do you believe him?”
She mirrored his posture, “Why wouldn’t I?”
“Doesn’t it seem like bullshit that he can’t remember his username and you got messaged by someone with a username you’ve never seen before?” he shrugged slightly, turning and resting his folded arms over his chest, “He probably made a new one.”
Casey found herself narrowing her gaze at him once more, though her tone remained fairly reserved, “I think you just want an excuse to blame him.”
Derek sighed, “Don’t be stupid about this.”
“Well what if it’s not him though, Derek?”
“Well then it’s some other dumbass at school that I’m going to have to pound the shit out of on Monday.” Derek fired back, matter of factly, as he sarcastically made a gesture in the air with one of his arms, “I’m just trying to tell you not to ignore the blatant coincidence of it.”
“Fine!” she replied, but she hadn’t truly raised her voice towards him. It was more of a frustrated waving of a white flag tone, “I won’t.”
A few moments of silence fell between them, both of them reeling from various things. Their exchanges, the messages, and the bigger elephant that was still very present in the room.
Casey couldn’t help but feel this was just all way too heavy for two high school teenagers on a Saturday night when they had the house to themselves. In fact, that thought would often cross her mind. Why was everything so serious for her? She was a junior. She should be having fun.
Instead she was facing life as if she were an adult with more crises than a soap opera, and on the rare occasions when she thought about it in this context, it all seemed so ridiculous. She waited another few seconds before turning to her step brother once more, “Let’s play Scrabble.”
Derek rolled his eyes, even if at this point, it did sound slightly appealing. He’d been in his head all day about so many things, there was no doubt the board game would probably ease his suffering. Still, he didn’t bother looking at her, “No.”
“Oh, come on!” Casey nearly flung herself off the couch. However, she had only simply bounced her legs underneath her, now in a crouching position in the corner of the sofa as she reached over and placed her hands on the arm of Derek’s chair, “We haven’t played in so long!”
“And whose fault is that?” Derek questioned, side eyeing her now, but still looking as unamused as ever in expression.
Casey pressed her lips together, but Derek heard her hands sliding along the arm of the couch. They inched closer to him until they rested on his right bicep. “Please?”
Derek eyed the positioning of her hands warily. It pissed him off to no end that she could win him over in these stupid yet simple ways. He unfolded his arms and gripped the edges of his seat, deadpanning a gaze at her for only a split second. If he stared at her for too long, he’d get lost, and he didn’t want that right now. “For fuck’s sakes, Casey.” he snarked, before heaving himself up off of the chair.
Casey clapped a couple of times, looking up at him with excitement as she stood from the couch. She reached forward and grasped at his arm again, “Okay I’ll go get the game.”
“Whatever.” Derek remarked passively, turning to watch the girl scamper up the stairs.
It was kind of cute. The way that the smallest things could excite her. And it was in these moments that a glimmer of the old Casey sometimes still revealed herself. He found himself slightly smiling as he watched her disappear upstairs, before turning to the kitchen to retrieve something to drink before the game commenced.
Casey smiled to herself as she walked along the 2nd floor hallway. She’d decided to drop her purse off in her room before visiting the games closet, and her joy over playing a game of Scrabble with Derek was short-lived when she saw her computer screen flashing.
She sighed, staring at the screen as she walked in and tossed her purse on her bed, before making her way to the lit up rectangle of pixels. She knew it was too much to ask it to be Emily or Kendra, and sure enough, CanusRufius was the name that came into view the closer she got.
Figuring she had a few minutes before Derek would come look for her, she pulled out her chair and sat down to read it. She just needed to end this now. She didn’t want to go through a repeat of today, where the tension in the house was so thick it could be cut, and these messages had been the prime reason for it in the first place.
You call what you and that guy you call your boyfriend went on a date? Dinner on a blanket in a park hardly seems entertaining. I didn’t even see him offer you his jacket.
She closed her eyes and pressed her hand to her forehead, drooping it ever so slightly as she felt that twinge of uncomfortable nerves resonating somewhere within her stomach.
She didn’t know why she felt nervous, she just was.
This person, whoever it was, had clearly been watching her again, and the way they’d referred to Max?
It was all too familiar but with oddities.
While Derek rarely ever addressed Max as “Max”, he would never be so simplistic to just call him “that guy you call your boyfriend” either. No, there would have been far more insulting words used.
Please stop messaging me. It’s not funny.
Yet you laid on that blanket and laughed with the football guy for hours. Why should you get to have all the fun but not me?
What you’re doing is an invasion of privacy. Don’t you have anything better to do? It’s the weekend.
All the better to watch you during, my dear.
Casey blinked a few times, and the hair on her arms began to stand up. Where had she heard that before? It felt familiar, but she couldn’t quite place it. Her eyes rested on the screen, as she reread the sentence over and over again. Every time she read it, she felt more uncomfortable.
She rested her fingertips on the keyboard once more, but was suddenly conflicted with whether she should even continue responding at all. It didn’t seem to do any good.
Reading the line once more, she reached up and turned off the power to her monitor. She didn’t want to look at it anymore.
She took a few seconds to compose herself. Sitting in her dark, quiet bedroom, with only the glow of the street lamps outside filtering through her closed blinds, she heard the faint barks of the neighbor’s dog cutting through the silence.
Her eyes scanned over the dark bedroom, slowly adjusting as their gaze went from the window, to the bed, to the vanity, then the closet door. It was slightly cracked, but only darkness peered back at her from inside of it.
As she sat still, and focused, her eyes narrowing slightly more with each passing second, as if attempting to conquer the dark that lay within the crack of the closet door, her concentration faltered, and her imagination decided to have a go at her.
It was as if the closet itself had exhaled. Ever so subtly, ever so quietly. Just loud enough for her to hear.
She gripped the edge of her computer chair as she slowly turned herself. She’d never been the type to get carried away too far into her imagination. Sure, she could be dramatic about things. Sometimes she exaggerated. But she had always had a healthy dose of logic coursing through her veins.
She hadn’t been the type of little girl who grew up scared of the monster under her bed.
And maybe that was why she felt so crippled with such an uncomfortable sensation now. Because it was her first time experiencing it. She didn’t know how to make sense of it, to understand it.
She wasn’t going to start now. At 17. There was no excuse for it.
So she took a deep breath, and stood up from the chair, walking towards her closet door carefully.
Of course there was nothing on the other side of it.
Nothing real, anyway.
But her footsteps still felt heavy none-the-less.
As she drew closer, she couldn’t ignore the pounding of her heart, that seemed so loud it could wake the dead, and when she reached out and eased her closet door open a little wider, the creaking sound it made almost caused her to jump.
Now she just felt annoyed. She’d been asking George to fix her door for weeks, and yet he still hadn’t so much as even looked at it probably. She knew he was busy, but how hard and time consuming was it to fix a closet door?
Rolling her eyes, she reached forward now, confidently into the dark closet, and gripped the pull string dangling within it. She gave it a tug, and within milliseconds, it was illuminated.
And there was nothing there. She knew there wouldn’t be.
But she still felt as if she’d overcome something. Something she’d probably never figure out.
The door to her bedroom swung open with a start, noisy and unrestrained, with the sound as if it’d been kicked open - because it probably had.
She jumped slightly again, and glowered her gaze as Derek popped his head around the door.
“Are you serious?” Derek questioned her, holding out a hand as if to ask ‘what the hell’.
Casey sighed, nodding slightly, “I know, I know, I’m sorry.” she stated, trudging towards the door.
“I will never be able to make sense of this.” Derek snarked, turning on his heel to head back down the hallway, as she followed along after him. He turned on her, “You owe me. I literally had to move the table by myself because your slow ass was doing god knows what.”
Casey felt clever all of a sudden, though she knew she was probably going to get herself into an argument she couldn’t win. She smiled slightly as she gazed at him, “Gee, Derek.” she started in her teasing tone that already had him shooting her a warning glare, “I wasn’t aware that moving a rinky dink coffee table was such an undertaking for you.”
He glared at her, stopping at the edge of the games closet to watch as she opened up the door and walked inside to retrieve the game of Scrabble. He leaned against the door frame as she searched for it, knowing that if he left her to her own vices she’d find a way to spend a whole 30 minutes in there somehow.
But thankfully, it only took her a moment or so to locate the game.
“The parental units called while you were out today.” Derek stated, peeking into the door of the closet as he watched her fumbling to reach the elusive game which had been buried under a stack of others, on the top shelf. “Forgot to mention that earlier.”
“Oh!” Casey almost exclaimed, her tone perking up instantly at this news as she turned over her shoulder to look at him, “How are they? Are they having any fun yet?”
Derek huffed, “It’s business. How could they?” he watched Casey frown slightly and turn away from him once more, resuming her struggle to reach the game on the shelf. She managed to get her hand around the correct box, but there were four others on top of it. This was going to end up a disaster, and Derek began a mental battle over whether he should just stand back and enjoy it, or actually lend her a hand. He decided to think it over. “They did mention Edwin attempted to sneak out of the hotel, though.”
Casey once again snapped her head over her shoulder to gaze at him, though she kept her hand on the box, “What?”
“Yeah,” Derek continued, losing that inner battle with himself. She was probably going to hurt herself if he allowed this to continue, and though he wasn’t a whole lot taller than her, he was tall enough. He nodded as he stepped forward, “Apparently he was hungry, but it was after midnight and in his attempt to be sneaky he ran into a bellhop and caused him to not only drop all the luggage he was carrying, but fall down a flight of stairs.”
“Jesus, Derek.” Casey remarked, allowing herself to be moved to the side as Derek stepped in front of her. She frowned, “Is he okay?”
“Edwin is a Venturi. Of course he’s okay.” Derek replied, and Casey rolled her eyes as she watched him reach up with seeming ease and pull the game from the shelf, sliding it carefully so as not to spill the boxes on top of it.
“I meant the bellhop…” Casey replied with some reserved sarcasm.
Derek turned and shoved the Scrabble box into her hands before shrugging, “The hell should I know? I didn’t ask.”
He walked from the closet, Casey trailing behind him as she propped the box on her hip and they made their way towards the stairs, “Of course you didn’t.” she stated, before adding, “How much trouble did Edwin get in?”
“Well, they said they were going to ground him, but after Lizzie chewed him out they felt sorry for him.”
Casey smiled a bit. Just as Derek always felt proud for teaching Edwin to follow in his footsteps, it was nice to know that Lizzie seemed to follow somewhat in hers as well. The Venturi boys needed to be reminded, almost consistently it seemed, that they couldn’t just do whatever they felt all the time. They could both be such complete chaos sometimes.
Derek had noted the look on her face and huffed as they rounded the corner at the top of the stairs. “Just so you know, it’s complete bullshit that Edwin and I have to suffer for trying to have any kind of fun.” he scoffed, trudging downward, “The fact that you get your panties in a bunch if I even breath in the direction of what you deem as unfit behavior is enough to drive a person insane, and now you’ve polluted your sister as well.”
Casey’s mouth opened slightly, offended by his lack of ability to see it for what it actually was, and she glared towards him, “Excuse me?” she almost gasped, “You should both be thanking us. You’d be in so much more trouble all of the time if it weren’t for my panties!”
Derek raised an eyebrow, peeking at her from over his shoulder and wondering if she’d truly even realized what she’d said, all in an attempt to defend herself.
She huffed a couple of times, “Edwin avoided a grounding! If anything, he should be worshipping the ground Lizzie walks on right now.”
Derek tilted his head slightly, as they touched down on the bottom of the stairs, “Eh, I think he’d probably prefer the grounding.”
Casey scoffed towards him, but left it there as she followed Derek into the living room. He’d moved the coffee table out of the way so that they could sit on the floor and play in front of the couch. She grabbed a pillow from the couch to sit on and placed the box down as Derek sat down across from her.
All the better to watch you during, my dear.
The words flickered in her mind, almost like a poem. It felt and seemed so unsettling, and she shifted uncomfortably, as she frowned towards the game pieces that were being dumped into a pile on the middle of the game board.
Silently, she reached forward and began claiming some of the small wooden squares, but she could feel the uneasiness of the situation looming in her mind like there was some sort of dark cloud hovering just over her shoulder.
The sounds of the wooden pieces suddenly felt so far away, and in the sensation of it all, she could hear the quiet, shrill exhale that her closet had seemed to take earlier.
She didn’t realize Derek had been trying to get her attention. Nor did she realize she jumped slightly when he snapped his finger close to her ear.
She blinked a couple of times, looking over at him, now alert, “What?”
Derek narrowed his gaze slightly, “You alright?”
She could tell him what was on her mind. His question had felt genuine enough. But she’d already decided earlier to be done with all of this. She’d told whoever was on messenger to leave her alone, so what more could need to be discussed or done concerning it? It wasn’t worth the time spent arguing about it with Derek, even if it was still bothering her.
“I’m fine.” she responded, finally, before putting on a haughty expression, as she finished sorting the last of her wooden letters, “Prepare to lose at Scrabble, Venturi.”
Derek half grunted, half huffed in response to her. It was always amusing to him that she ever thought she could beat him at anything, and if it weren’t for her adorable attempt at having any kind of competitive spirit towards him, he wouldn’t have let her off so easy. Because he’d spent a lot of time looking at her. And there was still something bothering her. It was written all over her face.
She’d always been a terrible liar as well.
Nevertheless, the game began, and by the time it was over, the two of them had both secretly decided that they’d had a good time.
Derek pondered down the hallway to put the game back in the closet, and Casey watched him thoughtfully, standing at the doorway to her room.
She knew that if she wanted to salvage tomorrow, now was the moment she’d have to be upfront with Derek. She just didn’t know exactly what to say or how to say it. She’d never give him the satisfaction of knowing that he meant more than just a cog in her day that made it function, but she was also nothing like him in the mentality of letting something so cruel continue to be so bothersome to his inner being.
So, she waited, and as he drew near to her once more, heading for his bedroom as well, which was the next door over, she took in a breath. “Derek?”
“What?” he asked, continuing to walk past her, but stopping near his door as he turned his head to the side to look at her.
He looked so tired.
Casey seemed to fumble for a second, her hand pressing itself around the doorknob to her room as if it were going to be some form of support. God, why did this feel so hard? It wasn’t as if she were confessing she had feelings for him or something - she simply needed to let him know that what he’d read on messenger wasn’t true. So that maybe he could sleep better tonight. And her too.
Still, she had to be careful. If he felt as though not a single ounce of her resented him in any sense, his ego would grow to the size of the planet overnight. That absolutely could not happen. He was already far too full of himself for that.
“Um.” she started again, but upon making eye contact with him, and his expectant and slightly curious gaze peering back at her, along with a subtle head movement in her direction, as if he were attempting to urge what she was trying to say out of her, she suddenly felt something else in her stomach. Something else screaming at her to run while she could. She smiled ever so slightly, “Nothing, goodnight!” she attempted, giving him the briefest wave in history as she spun on her heel, hoping to make a quick retreat.
That didn’t work, however.
As she spun to shut the door, Derek reached up with a hand to halt it from going very far, and it didn’t take much strength for him to push it back open completely. “You’ve been acting ridiculous since Scrabble.” he stated, folding his arms and leaning against her door frame.
She shook her head slightly, “I haven’t…”
“Oh?” Derek questioned, his arms falling to his sides as he pretended to be amused suddenly with the structure of her doorway. He gazed upward for a second, before taking a step inside of her room, and Casey closed her eyes and took a step back from him.
They’d done this before.
Why is it that he was so capable of doing this kind of thing to her?
It was infuriating.
She held a hand up, as if that were going to stop him, but she knew he wouldn’t - unless she just decided to be up front altogether. “Alright fine, maybe I have.” she stated, and this did seem to get his attention a little better, “But that’s only because I don’t know how to tell you…”
Once again, he raised an eyebrow towards her, “Tell me what?”
She studied him for a second, hoping to gage whether or not he was going to continue backing her into a corner until he was satisfied. But he seemed to simply be interested in listening to her for now. So she sighed, slumping her shoulders very slightly. Whatever. She gazed at him, with a subtle shrug, “I don’t hate you, Derek.”
He blinked towards her, almost as if that was the last thing he expected to come out of her mouth. His very fleeting expression of slight relief and shock were over almost instantly, however, as he simply mumbled out an, “Okay.”
“I just…” Casey started again, clasping her hands together in front of her as she straightened out her posture a little bit again. “I wanted you to hear it from me.” she continued, then remembering that she didn’t need to go too far with it. She pointed towards him, “That doesn’t mean you don’t annoy me to the point I can’t see straight.”
Now Derek just looked pompous as her words continued to register the longer she kept the conversation going. He had tilted his head to the side, almost as if to indicate he wasn’t completely satisfied, but very well aware he’d won the war without even having to try at all.
Casey narrowed her eyes, “Sometimes I wish you’d just...go away for a while, so that I can breathe.” when he looked contemplative, her tone and gaze softened once again, “But…” she decided to finish strong, and even though she felt this situation, and whatever was between them was far more complicated than could be solved by this simple exchange, the point was this, “Hate is just...” she questioned again, and it felt even more strange now that she had repeated it for herself. She lifted her eyes to meet his once more, before shaking her head and giving him a reassuring type expression, “That word doesn’t fit into how I feel about you.”
Derek looked thoughtful, contemplative even, of her words. Normally he would challenge her to the highest degree, testing her every emotional limit for proof that what she said was true. It must have taken her a great deal of mental strength to say what she just had. Because even though she wasn’t as cold hearted as he could be - she still had her limits on just how far she was willing to go for him.
So he allowed himself to gaze at her for just a moment longer, and she looked almost nervous the longer he stood there. He finally pressed his lips together as well, offering her up a subtle smile, before turning on his heel and heading out the door. “Goodnight, Casey.” he called out to her.
A second later, she heard his door close, and she finally let out the breath she felt she’d been holding in for forever.