Part Eleven: This Is How It Should Be
"Casey! Look what I got!" Marti exclaimed, showing her big sister the new doll she had gotten.
"That's great! She'll look good with your other dolls," Casey smiled.
She felt pathetic inside. She felt giddy inside. She felt lonely. Derek hadn't stayed the night. Instead, there were a pile of gifts by the tree that were from him, and he was gone.
"Casey, aren't you going to open any of your gifts?" Nora interrupted her thoughts.
"Of course!" she said, feigning a smile.
Grabbing a gift to her that was from Lizzie, she slowly, almost methodically opened it. She should be more excited. She was with her family on Christmas. A lot of people would be happy to be in her place.
But she couldn't shake that terrible feeling inside of her that she was in love with her stepbrother.
Sure, she had always felt something for him. That flutter in her stomach when they fought as teenagers. That faintness of heart that surprised her when they kissed. But love? Her stepbrother? On this Christmas day, it was almost too much.
Casey pulled out the striped scarf and smiled at Lizzie, "This is great! I needed a new scarf."
Lizzie smiled back, "I was hoping you would like it."
Suddenly, Edwin exclaimed, "Cool! A telescope! I've always wanted one."
Nora and George exchanged knowing glances, "Just promise us that you won't spy on the neighbors."
Edwin smiled mischievously, just like his older brother, "No promises."
Casey's heart tugged. She missed Derek. She recalled the words he had told her last night.
I have always loved you.
There was nobody in the world that could say that to her. It was exhilarating. But it was also frightening.
"Casey, do you want some hot chocolate?" Nora asked.
She snapped back to reality. There was wrapping paper and bows and presents all over the place. She smiled and nodded.
Nora disappeared into the kitchen. Edwin was already up in his room, trying to assemble his new gift. Lizzie was trying on some of her new clothes. Marti was busy trying to find a place for her new doll among all of her old ones. George was in the garage, trying to find a project he could do with his new tools.
Casey stood up lazily and collected the crumpled wrapping paper. She hadn't gotten a gift from Derek at all. But, she supposed that the words he had said to her the previous night were her gift.
Moving to the kitchen, she tossed all of the paper into the garbage. Nora came over to her and handed her a cup of hot chocolate. Casey took a sip.
"Mmm…thanks," Casey said, letting the warm liquid soother her throat.
"So, are you ready to talk?" Nora asked, leaning back against the counter.
"What are you talking about?" Casey asked nervously, taking another sip.
As if bringing the cup to her lips meant that she could no longer talk. She couldn't drink forever. The hot chocolate would eventual run out on her, deceiving her, and she would have to talk.
"About Derek," Nora replied.
"What about Derek?" she asked between sips.
"Oh, I don't know," Nora said smugly, "Maybe about the fact that you two are in love with each other."
Hot chocolate spurted from her lips, spraying out onto the counter. Coughing slightly, Casey put her mug down and turned to the sink. She gripped the edge of the counter, her hands trembling.
Nora put her mug down, grabbing a towel and wiping up her daughter's mess. She then went to Casey and pulled her into a hug. Casey cried softly into her shoulder.
"Shh…" her mother said soothingly, patting her daughter's hair, "Casey, it's okay. Nothing to cry about."
"I can't help it," Casey whispered between sobs, "I shouldn't love him, but I do."
Nora placed her hands on Casey's shoulders, pulling her away. Casey wiped at her eyes and stood meekly in front of her mother.
"Sometimes we can't help who we love," Nora replied.
Casey sniffled, "How did you know?"
Nora laughed, "Oh, honey. George and I have suspected for years. The way you two fought in high school. How you avoided each other whenever you came home. Casey, it was anything but subtle."
Nora walked to the counter and pulled a paper towel off of the roll. She handed it to Casey, looking at her daughter's bright red face before hugging her again.
"You're not mad?" Casey asked.
"Why would I be mad?" Nora replied before pulling away and grabbing her mug.
"Don't you think it's weird? Just a little strange?" Casey asked, "He's my stepbrother, mom."
Nora shrugged, "I'm not going to lie, it is a little bit awkward. But not because it's strange. When George and I met, we never thought that you two would fall in love. But, Casey, you two aren't related. Not at all."
"People will think we're freaks," Casey said bitterly, crossing her arms.
"Let people think what they'll think," Nora said, "Nobody in this house will ever think that. I almost want to apologize for marrying George and causing this trouble for you."
Casey smiled, "Then I never would have met Derek."
"You're right," Nora relented, "And George is a pretty great guy, huh?"
"Yeah, mom," Casey said.
"You should probably go see Derek," Nora said.
Casey shook her head, "I don't think so. Not now."
"If not now, when?" her mother replied.
And as always, her mother was right. And as always, her mother was being way understanding. This whole situation was surreal. Her and Derek. Her mom suspecting all along. All of this going down on Christmas Day.
"Go get dressed," Nora said.
Casey hugged her mom tightly, "Thanks mom."
She hurried upstairs and slipped on some clothes. Wrapping her new scarf tightly about her neck, she nervously stuffed her hands into a warm pair of gloves. Lizzie came into her room, crossing her arms and leaning against the door frame.
"Going somewhere?" she asked.
Casey jumped, turning from the mirror to face her little sister. She smiled meekly.
"I am," she replied, "Do you like the scarf on me?"
Lizzie shrugged, then smiled, "I'm sure Derek will like it."
Casey's mouth drooped open, looking startled. Lizzie just laughed and plopped down on Casey's bed.
"What? Don't act surprised," she said, "Everybody in this house knows that there has always been something between you two. Even when Sam was in the picture years ago. Even when Jennifer was in the picture."
"Jennifer still is in the picture," Casey pointed out, figuring it useless to protest that anybody ever really suspected anything.
"Derek doesn't love Jennifer," Lizzie said, "Remember when I told you that I didn't really like her? That there was something off about her?"
"Well," Lizzie continued, "I figured out what it was."
"What?" Casey asked.
"He didn't really love her," she said, "Not the way he's always loved you."
The whole day was becoming more and more surreal. She had thought that it could never get stranger than last night with Derek's passionate confession. Then again, when she came home for the holidays with the news of his engagement, she never thought she would be kissing Derek days later.
"Now, you need to go!" Lizzie said, standing up and gently pushing her sister out of the bedroom, "Go to him, Juliet!"
Casey rolled her eyes, "I'm going!"
When she came downstairs, everybody was already standing there. Her mom, George, Edwin, and Marti. They came to her, hugging her all at once. Tears formed in her eyes.
"Guys…" she said, pulling away, "You're going to make me cry."
"What's new?" Edwin said jokingly.
George smacked him lightly on the back of the head. Edwin pretended to be sore, rubbing his hair astray.
"Bye, sweetie," Nora said.
Casey smiled wanly, grabbing her keys off of the table and leaving before she lost the courage.
When she pulled up to Derek's apartment building, Casey nearly decided to turn back around and forget about the whole thing. It was crazy what she was doing. She knew that. But, if she had come this far—nearly seven years—then there was no turning back now.
Climbing out of the car, she was enveloped by the harsh cold, stomping through the ice and snow. Reaching the door, she swung it open fiercely and stepped inside. She let out the breath she had been holding, knocking the slush off of her shoes. Going to the elevator, she reached for the button, but the doors opened before she could push it.
Jennifer came out.
"Oh, hey," Casey said.
He lied, she thought, Derek lied to me.
She thought that they had separated. Jennifer was supposed to be out of his life. Casey's heart stopped when she thought that she had missed her chance. Maybe last night when she had turned her back to him, he had decided to go back to Jennifer.
"Hey," Jennifer said, her voice even but not harsh.
"Is Derek up there?" Casey asked.
Jennifer nodded, "He's there."
Casey couldn't help but notice the waver in Jennifer's voice. There was a tiredness in her eyes. The tip of her nose also looked red.
"I don't mean to pry," Casey said, "But is everything okay?"
Jennifer laughed, "I guess. Besides the fact that my fiancée isn't my fiancée anymore."
While Casey's heart raced, a feeling of elation filling up inside of her, she outwardly tried to appear disappointed. She frowned.
"I'm sorry," she said.
The doors to the elevator began to close, but she reached out and pushed them open again.
"He's in love with you, you know," Jennifer said.
How many people had figured this out before Derek and I even did? Casey thought, thrown by Jennifer's words.
"Excuse me?" Casey couldn't help but say.
"I have to admit, it's a little weird, you two being stepsiblings," Jennifer said, "But, there's nothing wrong with it. Plus, you seem like a really nice person."
"I had no idea that this was going to happen," Casey admitted, catching the elevator doors before they shut again.
Jennifer managed a smile, "Neither did he. Everybody else did, though."
"You must hate me," Casey said.
Jennifer shrugged her purse higher onto her shoulder and shook her head, "No, I don't hate you. I thought that I had his heart first, but I was wrong. You've had it all along."
Without another word, Jennifer just smiled and turned for the door. Casey finally stepped into the elevator, letting the doors close this time.
When Derek heard a knock at the door, he figured it was Jennifer again. Maybe she had left something. She would probably be unpacking her things over the next few days, discovering that she had left a lot of things here.
But when he opened the door, he was surprised to find Casey standing there.
"Casey? What are you doing here?" he asked.
"Doing what I should've done a long time ago," she replied, "I shouldn't have shied away from you last night."
"You don't have to apologize," he said, thoughtlessly.
She took a breath and continued, "All of this has really just caught me off guard."
"I mean, this is a little weird," he continued, "I understand if you don't want this."
Is he even listening to me?
Frustrated, Casey stepped forward, wrapping her arms around his neck before kissing him. Stunned, all he could do was kiss her back. Shutting the door, he rocked her backwards against it.
"I love you, Derek," Casey managed between kisses, "I should've told you sooner, but I-"
He silenced her, spreading his mouth over hers, slipping his tongue into her mouth. She groaned, feeling his hands on her waist, her hips, in her hair. He unraveled the scarf from her neck, tossing it to the floor. He pressed hot kisses on her now exposed neck. She tasted so good.
Pushing her coat off of her shoulders, Derek slid his hand under her shirt, running his fingertips against her stomach, feeling her jump and flinch as he moved his fingers to her bare back. With the other hand, he fumbled to unbutton the shirt, finally pulling it off. Swiftly, in one motion, he pulled his own shirt off.
She pressed against him, feeling skin on skin. He tried to pull her closer, stumbling them backwards. They moved towards the bedroom. Derek reached for the knob, but she stopped him.
"Derek," she said.
He heard the uncertainty in her voice, "What? What's wrong?"
He placed a hand on her face, his thumb gently stroking her cheek, trying to search her eyes for a hint of what was wrong.
"I won't be your first," she whispered.
Bending to capture her lips gently with his, he smiled down at her, "You'll always be my first."
Casey pulled him close, opening the door herself before they stumbled inside.
Thanks to everyone who has been reading! I truly appreciate all of your positive feedback. When I started writing Life With Derek fics, I never dreamed I would get such an immense response. I know that this seems like an abrupt ending, but I truly have been so busy. I felt that it would be better to conclude the story instead of neglecting to update. I'll be writing more LWD fics as soon as I can. Thanks again!