Part One: Empty House

Derek awoke Saturday morning (or was it afternoon?), and lazily got out of bed. He struggled with this moment every day, when he finally had to force himself to begin the day. Walking to the bathroom, he slowly undressed and showered. The water felt nice against his skin. Stepping out of the shower, he wrapped a towel around his waist. Something seemed strange to him. But he couldn't quite put his finger on it. So, he shrugged and went back to his room.

It was halfway through dressing that he got the feeling again that something wasn't quite right. Shirtless, he peered into the hallway. Then he realized exactly what it was. It was quiet. Too quiet.

"It's never this quiet on a Saturday morning," he said to himself.

Derek jogged down the stairs and into the kitchen, where a note was stuck to the refrigerator.

Nora and I are taking the kids to the zoo for the day. We'll be at the circus tonight. Behave, Derek. I mean it.


"Sweet," Derek said, crumpling the piece of paper into a ball and turning to shoot it into the trash can.

But as the paper flew out of his hand, he saw Casey standing there, her arms crossed in front of her chest. The paper ball hit her, and he burst out laughing,

"Nice block, Case," he said, then realized that her being here interfered with the plans he was soon to form.

"Why aren't you with mom and George?" Casey asked.

Derek opened the refrigerator and examined the contents, "Dad said they were just taking the kids."

"Exactly," Casey replied.

Derek sneered and took a swig from the milk jug, making sure Casey noted that he put the cap back on and put it back for others to enjoy. It was those kinds of things that Derek loved to do to Casey. They were so simple, so gross…so him. And yet, so not her.

"Listen, I'm going to need the house to myself today," Derek said.

"Excuse me?" Casey replied, "I don't think so. This is my house, too, Derek."

"And your point?" he asked, starting for the living room.

Casey reached out to stop him, her hand connecting with his bare chest. It was then that she noticed that he was shirtless. He looked down, saw her palm on his skin, and then looked back up at her. But, she was already withdrawing, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear.

"My point is, Derek, that you can't kick me out of my own house," she replied.

He shrugged, "So, just stay in your room. And turn your stereo up really loud."

"What? Why?" she asked, following him through the living room and up the stairs.

He paused just as he was about to step up, and turned to look down at her. He smiled, rubbing his hands together. It annoyed her how he always thought he was so cute. All he ever did was annoy the hell out of her. And that thing he did with his hands, as if he held the secrets of the world (or worse, knew something she didn't know). She would have twitched, but she was too controlled for that.

"Let's just say that I'm inviting Hannah Stephens over," he said, pausing for some kind of effect, "And you're going to want your stereo up after she gets here."

"Derek, that's disgusting," she said, following him up the stairs after he turned from her.

"It's called being a teenager, Casey," he replied, reaching his bedroom and gripping the door knob, "You should try it sometime."

He opened the door, went inside, and shut it, effectively locking it behind him. Casey, on the other side of the door, sighed. Then, she pounded her fist on the door and yelled,

"I wish my mother hadn't married your father!"

The only reply she got was the sound of rock music growing progressively louder. He wasn't going to compromise. But, then again, when had he ever? Casey sighed and went to her own bedroom, shutting the door behind her to hopefully shut out Derek's loud, annoying music. When she had awoke that morning and found the note, excitement had filled her.

It was an entire Saturday morning without her mother or the kids. No loud conversations about cartoons over a messy breakfast. No coloring books lying about to slip on. It would be complete bliss. And that was when she thought of him.

Derek. All of the excitement and anticipation of a peaceful day vanished. She would be here with Derek all day. There was no reason why she should let him ruin it, though. She was determined to stand her ground. He wasn't going to command her to stay in her room all day and then expect her to obey. If she had to, she would put her hand up and stop him.

She thought about the moments earlier when she had placed her hand on his chest in the kitchen. It had felt smooth and sturdy.

Wait, Casey thought, I mean it had felt gross. Just like I expected Derek's chest to feel. Not that I've thought about touching Derek's chest.

She shook her head, realizing how silly she was being arguing with herself. She resented Derek and she always would. Regaining confidence through her earlier pep talk and through her more recent embarrassing thoughts, she opened her door and strode to Derek's door. She noticed he had turned his music down. She beat on the door. He opened it.

"You are not going to give me rules," she said, "You can't ban me from parts of my own house."

"Why do you have to be so difficult?" he asked, leaning against the doorframe.

"Why do you have to be so difficult?" she replied, noting that he was fully dressed now.

Derek shook his head, as if he were talking to a child, then grasped her shoulders, shaking her slightly.

"Casey, Casey, Casey," he said, clicking his tongue, "When are you going to realize that people with actual lives automatically have rule over those who don't?"

She snorted, pushing his hands off her shoulders and then for added emphasis, brushed the spot where they had been. She started back for her room, calling back,

"You are not going to get your way again, Derek,"

"We'll see about that," he replied.

They simultaneously shut their doors. It was on.