Casey and Derek are on the other side of the backyard, sitting on plastic chairs side by side. Casey is reading a book, crossed legs, sunglasses on as she basks in the lazy afternoon sunlight. Derek has a cigarette squeezed between his lips, smoke drifting away in lazy circles.
They are the perfect image of calm and serenity.
Edwin and Lizzie are watching them, hidden behind the kitchen door. They have been waiting for a fight to break between them for ages now, so they can have any kind of entertainment this summer. They haven’t had any luck so far. And so far actually means the last three days since their siblings have arrived.
Not that they hadn’t argued, but nothing major had happened yet, which was unheard of. Everyone knew Casey and Derek couldn’t be put in the same place and not fight.
That was reason for concern.
“This is getting ridiculous. What the hell is going on?”
Their behavior is odd, but on the last few years Derek and Casey have been reaching some kind of understanding none of the others can grasp. It feels like they are best friends (which, seriously, is just absurd, but seems to be true, since they are always together, are willingly sharing a living space again and are making jokes together. About other people).
“Maybe it’s a new phase in their relationship?”
Lizzie is uncertain, but this seems to be the only answer to this level of peacefulness reached between them.
“Really, Liz, do you really believe that?”
She doesn’t, not really, but what else can that be?
They stare a little more. Derek finishes his cigarette. Casey flips a page from her book. He has nothing to do, so he grabs the water bottle, drinks a little and flicks some water in her direction. She kicks his shins back half-heartedly (a reflex almost), then crosses her legs and her toes touch his calf.
Marti passes through them, hair green and modern cat framed sunglasses, to grab a popsicle in the freezer. She ignores Liz and Edwin by the door, used to their spying and schemes. (Marti has always been the loner. Ed and Liz make plans, Derek and Casey fight). Since she started high school she’s been ignoring all of them, because she’s too cool to have family, apparently. Teenagers were so weird.
Ed ignores her ignoring them and calls her for a third opinion (this development needs to be viewed from all angles). Marti rolls her eyes and makes her way to them, reluctantly.
“What.” It’s more a statement than a question.
“Derek and Casey are acting weird.” Ed informs.
“So?” She says, seeming to care a grand total of nothing.
“We need your opinion to figure out what’s wrong.”
Marti rolls her eyes again, and Liz thinks she’s going upstairs, or out, or anywhere she doesn’t have to be near them. But then she glances at the backyard.
“They are just being Derek and Casey.”
“They are not being Derek and Casey if they are quiet.”
Marti seems to think she has a point. Marti stops and looks again, more attentive.
Derek tries to flip a page from Casey’s book, (another reflex) and she swats his hand away. He takes a long drag from his cigarette.
“It is weird. But those two have always been weird.” She pauses for a moment, and Marti has been a mystery ever since she grew enough to hide what she really thinks, but Liz has the feeling she might be trying to hide amusement of something. “Anyway, who cares. I have more to do with my life than be a creep and spy on my weird sibs. Gotta go live it.”
Left alone to observe and with Marti’s useless input, Ed and Liz watch more closely. Nothing. Still blissfully basking in the sun’s heat. Until Lizzie decides she’s had enough.
“We need one more opinion, Ed.”
Ed can do nothing but agree, and there is just one other person to ask. Really, it’s not actually a person, but, as a brother to Derek and Casey (and Marti), even though little Simon is just eight he is bound to have an opinion on everything.
They lure him with the promise of ice cream and, even though he’s no Marti, Simon is not exactly thrilled to spend time with his siblings and wants to go back to playing as soon as possible, which is right after he fills his stomach with the treat of the day (he has the Venturi genes, alright).
“So, Simon, do you see anything different with Derek and Casey?” Ed fires at him.
The little boy stares at them, ‘did-you-really-drag-me-here-just-to-ask-that' look on his face.
This might be harder than it was with Marti, since Marti had already seen the Derek-Casey dynamic before they went to college and Simon only saw them in vacations and holidays, and even so.
Liz butts in.
“Simon... isn’t it weird that they aren’t fighting?”
Their little brother looks at them as if they are the children that don’t understand a situation, and not the contrary.
“Derek and Casey don’t fight.”
Liz and Ed look at each other, exasperated, sharing the same feeling of ‘what is wrong with this child’. Liz decides to see where this insane trip of their brother is going to take them and asks what he means.
“It’s the way they play with each other”.
Ed and Liz pause for a moment. In the distance, they can make Casey telling Derek this will be his last cigarette of the day and he tells her to shove it (more normal, Casey bossing Derek and Derek cursing back, but still, not entirely).
That makes sense, in the strangest way possible, so Lizzie asks him to continue.
Little Simon is losing his patience, as if it is completely obvious and he sees no purpose in what they are currently doing (he is staying for the ice cream). He chooses to ignore her.
“Can I have my ice cream?”
“No.” His siblings answer at the same time.
Apparently Simon needs them to go back a little in their questioning, Liz looks up to Edwin, but Simon wants to be done with this as soon as possible.
“They are just doing couple stuff.” Simon rolls his eyes as he suddenly opens the wardrobe to freaking Narnia on their heads.
Lizzie's eyes are the size of a golf ball, Edwin has his jaw dropped so low he doesn’t know how to put it back on his face and they stare at each other like ohmygod this can’t be it, no way in hell.
“Simon.” Edwin starts slowly, as if he is tasting something he isn’t quite sure he likes yet, confused as hell. “What do you think Derek and Casey are?”
“Married.” Simon answers simply, as if it is the most obvious thing in the world. Honestly the kid just wants ice cream and his siblings are asking stupid questions, he truly just wants to go back to his room and play video games.
Liz and Edwin are having none of that. Does that mean he thinks they are married too?
“Eww, no! That is gross.”
A small comfort.
“They are just like mom and dad, doing that heart eyes thing when no one’s looking. It’s gross." The little Venturi says.
The middle kids can’t process that information in the adequate amount of time, so Simon loses his patience and asks again.
“Can I have my ice cream now?”
Broken out of his spell, Edwin shakes his head and rummages their freezer, looking for the treat. As soon as the younger boy has it in his hands, he runs for it, like a wild animal getting free of a trap.
“Don’t tell mom you ate that before dinner!” Liz yells, free from her daze, but the child has been set free like Dobby from his master and is already too far away. Turning around to her other brother, she asks. “What do you think?”
“Well…” says Edwin, and turns to the backyard just in time to catch Casey standing up from her chair and stripping off her shirt and shorts, left in just a yellow bikini. Derek ogles her, really ogles her, and smirks.
Liz just feels stupid. Edwin’s feelings aren’t very different.
Honestly, how could they have been surprised by any of this?