Derek woke up to the sound of Casey singing. Loudly. He grumbled and got out of bed, cursing her early morning personality in his mind. Not that her voice was bad (she had sure saved his band's ass in high school), but it seemed to carry and get stuck in his ears for the rest of the day. And it was so early! He wondered, for what seemed the millionth time that week, if agreeing to live with her was a good idea.
They had, surprisingly enough, been accepted to the same college, and as Casey had so eloquently put it, "It would be a ridiculous waste of family funds to have separate living arrangements!"
Derek agreed, but for different reasons. He had grown used to living with Casey ever since their parents married, and the thought of going away from the family when he went to college made him sad. With Casey, it was like a little bit of his family was coming with him. Some bit of normalcy from home in the crazy rush of college.
And, not that he would admit this to anyone, but the thought of going away from everything he knew scared him. He knew that nobody cared who was most popular in college. It didn't matter what you were in high school, college life was strictly about grades. People were focused, everyone had given up their high school antics to buckle down and start their lives. Derek had been quite frightened by that thought, and he was sure he would have flunked out his first year had he not been living with Casey.
He was brought back down to reality as he heard his stepsister's voice. Stepsister. He cringed at the word. He didn't want to think about Casey being related to him. He had always harbored sort of a crush on her. A forbidden fruit kind of thing. He knew he could and would never have her. But he always wondered.
It was the tiniest of crushes, so of course, it didn't stop him in his normal dating life. Nothing stopped him in his normal dating life. But sometimes, when he wasn't thinking about anything in particular, the thought would pop into his mind and he would wonder. What if things were different? But he would always push it out of his mind. He knew it was impossible, she saw him as a brother, so he knew he had no chance. And therefore, didn't get too upset over it.
Casey continued to sing from the bedroom next door. How could a human being have so much energy so early in the morning? He was incredibly tired, more so than usual. He thought back to the night before. He and Casey had gone out for drinks with some friends and hadn't gotten back till late. He had crashed as soon as they got home, but she had stayed up later finishing a paper. So she had gotten even less sleep than him? The fact that she was even conscious right now was one of life's mysteries.
He leaned closer to the wall separating their bedrooms and listened to her closer.
"I can hear the bells, don't you hear them chime? Can't you feel my heartbeat keeping perfect time? And all because he touched me…he looked at me and stared…"
Sometimes the lyrics meant something and sometimes they didn't. But whenever she woke up singing, he knew she would be cheerful the whole day through. Sunshine and roses all freakin' day. Starting at seven in the morning.
"…yes, he bumped me, my heart was unprepared, when he tapped me and knocked me off my feet. One little touch now my life's complete! Cause when he nudged me, love put me in a fix. Yes, it hit me, just like a ton of bricks! Yes, my heart burst, now I know what life's about. One little touch and love's knocked me out!"
He could hear her dancing around in the other room. He wondered briefly if she had a new fling. If she did, he hadn't heard about it. Usually she told him first. He felt an uncomfortable twinge in his chest and wondered if she hadn't told him. Or was it because she might like someone else?
"I can hear the bells, my head is spinning, I can hear the bells, something's beginning. Everybody says that a girl who looks like me can't win his love, well just wait and see!"
This couldn't be one of those days were the song was true. Definitely not! Casey was extremely attractive. At her worst, she was an 8 (according to the universal male-to-female rating code). Derek knew. He had seen her every which way, from all dressed up and ready to go out to crying into her pillow, her makeup streaking down her face and her nose red.
"I can hear the bells, just hear them chiming, I can hear the bells, my temperature's rising. I can't contain my joy cause I've finally found the boy I've been missing! Listen, I can hear the bells…"
Could there be some truth in her words? Casey had been in a dating rut for a few months now, he knew that much. She complained to him recently that all her boyfriends never went past first dates. She hadn't had much luck. But if she had met someone, surely he would have known about it? Wouldn't he?
"Round one, he'll ask me on a date. Round two, I'll primp but won't be late. Because round three's where we kiss inside his car! Won't go all the way but I'll go pretty far!"
Derek laughed. Casey was just being silly. He heard her voice theatrically act out the words. She turned on the hairdryer, but he could still hear her above the appliance.
"Round four, he'll ask me for my hand. And then round five, we'll book the wedding band. So by round six, Amber much to your surprise, this heavyweight champion takes the prize!"
Derek remembered that he had to get ready for classes, too, and walked to his closet to pick out his clothes for the day. He was still listening to Casey's greatest hits, smiling occasionally at the cutesy (cheesy?) lyrics that seemed to fit her so well.
"And I can hear the bells, my ears are ringing. I can hear the bells, the bridesmaids are singing. Everybody says that a guy who's such a gem won't look my way but the laughs on them!"
For some reason, Derek found a stupid smile on his face when he walked out of his room to the bathroom. He tried to wipe it off, but he had found that Casey's good moods were infectious. He was stuck with it.
She walked out of her bedroom at the same time as he did, and they met in the hallway. She didn't stop singing (any embarrassment she had once felt in front of him was dispelled quickly when they had started living together in high school). She took his hands and danced around the hallway with him.
"I can hear the bells, my father will smile. I can hear the bells, as he walks me down the aisle. My mother starts to cry, but I can't see cause Link and I are French-kiiisiiing…"
She stretched the last word out, closing her eyes and singing it with extra gusto. Derek laughed and twirled her around.
"Listen! I can hear the bells…"
Their impromptu dance was broken up by Casey unlatching herself from him and heading downstairs to the kitchen to start making their breakfast. Derek walked to the bathroom, the tune already getting stuck in his head. Casey's cheeks had been flushed slightly from dancing around her room, and Derek had wanted more than anything to dip her into a deep kiss when they were dancing. He shook it off, figuring it was just one of those moments when she looked especially good. She continued her song in the downstairs and he could still hear her as he fixed his hair.
"I can hear the bells, my head is reeling. I can hear the bells, I can't stop the pealing. Everybody warns that he won't like what he'll see. But I know that he'll look inside of me!"
The smell of eggs and bacon drifted upstairs to his nostrils and he inhaled deeply. One of the pluses of living with Casey was that she was a damn good cook. She didn't seem to mind cooking for him in the least, either. She was still singing, albeit a little softer than she had started out.
"I can hear the bells, today's just the start. I can hear the bells, and till death do us part, and even when we die we'll look down from up above, remembering the night that we two in love."
He made his way downstairs, finished with his manly grooming. She was setting out plates and singing softly under her voice. He could barely make out the words.
"We both will shed a tear, and he'll whisper and we're reminiscing. I can hear the bells…"
Her happiness in such a simple moment, or maybe the way her lips curved around each word, or maybe it was the way she smiled at him in between words, or any number of reasons caused him to suddenly lose control for a moment. He stepped toward her, grabbed her, and suddenly pressed his lips to hers.
It was the first time all morning that the house had been completely silent. He pulled away from her and stood back. Her eyes were wide and surprised. Her eyebrows knitted together. He started to apologize, realizing he had done a very stupid thing.
She cut him off. "I can hear the bells…" she finished the song in a voice that was just above a whisper. Breaking into a half-smile, she stepped closer to him. She took his hand and interlaced his fingers with hers.
"I think that I'd like an encore," Casey said, smiling.
Derek smiled. It was the cheesiest line, just like her dancing, just like her song. It was cheesy. It was perfect.
He gave himself a quick mental shut up! before he leaned down to give Casey her encore.