Part Eight: Let us go then, you and I

"Girls, I need to talk to you," Nora said one night as the three of them sat at their new kitchen table eating dinner.

It was about a week after the move-in. Most of the boxes had been unpacked and they were beginning to settle into the kind of life that would be their new life. The entire house was eerily silent, something Casey used to fervently wish for every day when living with the Venturis but now that it had actually become reality, she scolded whoever it was that granted wishes. She hadn't actually meant for it to come true.

"Sure, Mom. What's up?" Casey said, putting her fork down beside her plate and crossing her arms on the table.

"I know that things have been rough for the past few weeks. Moving out of the old house and into this one. Lizzie, you being away from Edwin. It's been a trying time for us all," she said, taking a deep and shaky breath, "Girls, I filed for divorce today."

Casey remained silent. What was there to say? She couldn't say she hadn't seen this coming. Her mother was a strong woman. And although she loved George, she would never forego her character for the sake of appearances. She hadn't done it with Casey's father and she wouldn't do it now.

"I know that this isn't what we planned when we moved into the Venturi house. I know things are a little strange right now but we'll work through them. Okay?" Nora said, a strained and absolutely transparent smile stretched across her face.

Lizzie didn't say a word. She got up from the table with her plate and water glass and disappeared into the kitchen. Mother and eldest daughter sat quietly as they listened to the loud clanking of utensils and dishes in the sink and the running of water. Then the rattling of the dishwasher as the bottom rack was yanked open and forcefully pushed back in. She emerged from the kitchen without making eye contact and silently made her way upstairs.

"It's not what I want," Nora admitted in a whisper, rubbing the heels of her hands against her forehead.

"I know. Lizzie doesn't blame you. She just misses them, you know. Edwin, especially," Casey said.

"When I met George, I thought he was the perfect man. He was taking care of three children all on his own. He was successful. I fell in love with him instantly. After your father and I separated, Casey, I never thought I would meet anyone else. But the moment I laid eyes on George, it was all over," Nora said, "I can't say that I don't still love and care about him. But I could never trust him again. I would be a foolish woman if I did."

"I'm not mad at you, Mom. I have never been mad at you. If anything, I'm furious at George for showing us this great life we could have had and then selfishly taking it all away."

"I know people make mistakes-"

"Don't rationalize this," Casey interrupted, "Don't for one second believe that this was just a mistake. This was devastation. This can't be reversed. I respect your decision and I support you in it."

"Oh, Casey. I can't believe I'm falling apart like this," Nora admitted, "I'm just so glad I have you girls in my life."

Nora grabbed her plate and got up from the table, giving Casey an appreciative smile. She smiled back. Inside, her heart was taking itself apart, bit by bit, like a jigsaw puzzle. It was finally over. No more Venturi-Macdonald household. No more big family dinners or Christmases. No more listening to Derek's loud rock music pour through the walls and swirl about in her room. No more fighting over the remote or struggles for domestic domination.

No more hope that things would ever be okay again.

"She filed for divorce yesterday," Casey said.

She and Derek were walking home from school. They'd stayed pretty clear of each other but when her mother had told her the news last night, she'd been determined to talk to him about it. He was talking to Sam and closing his locker door when she'd appeared at his side and asked if she could talk to him.

"I'll catch you later, Sam," he'd said, falling in stride beside her.

"I guess your dad should be getting the paperwork today sometime," she sighed.

"I guess so," he replied.

She noticed that he had on another jacket, not the leather one she'd taken from him that night. Not the one that she curled up in as she studied or watched television. It was a new one made of some slippery black fabric that wasn't Derek at all.

"Well, looking on the bright side of things, at least now you can convert my room into the man cave you've always wanted," Casey said, forcing a smile, "What was it you told me the day we moved in? That you'd had big plans for that room that involved hockey sticks, your favorite recliner and a big screen TV and now I was ruining it all?"

"You did sort of kill any chance of the man cave. I was this close to getting my dad to agree to it until he had to go off and marry your mom," Derek replied.

They were both quiet for a moment. The only sound was the whirling of the wind around them. It was bitterly cold. School would be out in a few weeks. Christmas would be coming. Even those quick glances at school that they exchanged would disappear for a while.

"So, I guess weren't not going to be stepsiblings anymore, huh?" he said.

"Yeah, I guess not. I'm sure you're thrilled about that," she said, "Despite everything."

"We may have never gotten along before now but it didn't mean that I wanted you to leave," he said.

"Oh." Her face grew warm.

They finally reached his house. Casey had been unaware that her feet had been leading her to the familiar place. It looked the same on the outside but for some reason she thought it appeared empty and forlorn. She ached to go inside.

"Look, Sam and I were going to hang out tonight with a couple of people. Probably go catch a movie or something. Do you want to come? It'll help you get your mind off stuff."

She'd clearly heard what he'd said but almost couldn't comprehend it. Derek had never asked her to do anything with him before. He'd never wanted to be seen in public with her. She hesitated momentarily.

"Sure, I guess. I'll invite Emily. I haven't seen her in a while," Casey said.

"Do you want me to drive you home? It's pretty cold out here," Derek said.

She shook her head, "I can walk. Despite the move, this town's pretty small. You can't get rid of me that easily, Derek."

He smiled, "I'll call you later and let you know the plans."

She barely managed to say goodbye as he turned and jogged up the front steps. She could barely contain the smile that was slowly spreading over her face as she hurried to get home.

When Derek got inside, he stripped himself of all his winter garb and deposited it on the floor by the front door. Jacket. Gloves. Scarf. He listened carefully but didn't hear his dad moving around. Stepping carefully, he made his way into his dad's office. There he was, bent over his desk, asleep. He hadn't slept in his bedroom since the day they'd returned.

Derek saw a large manila envelope lying by his dad's head. Scanning the front of it quickly, he saw that they were from a law office and more than likely the divorce papers that had been quickly sent off. It had been opened. There was no telling how long his dad would lay there, motionless and unfeeling and quietly disturbed. He loudly cleared his throat. George reeled backwards, losing his balance and almost falling to the floor.

"Derek, what are you doing home this late?" he asked, rubbing his eyes.

"It's four o'clock in the afternoon," Derek replied.

George turned to look out the window, "Oh, right."

Derek shook his head, "I'm going out tonight with some friends."

George's eyebrows raised, "And you're asking my permission?"

Derek shrugged, "Just thought you'd want to know. When did you get that?"

He gestured to the envelope. George looked down and awkwardly picked it up, staring at the front of it, studying the simple thing that had brought him the worst news.

"Dad," Derek persisted.

He jumped again, startled from his thoughts, "This morning. After I dropped Marti off at school. They're divorce papers, you know."

"Yeah, I know."

His dad tossed the envelope back onto his desk and stood up, having to brace himself against the wall for a moment while he regained balance. He managed a smile.

"Where are you going tonight?"

"Probably to a movie or something. We haven't decided yet."

"When will you be home?"

"Does it matter? You don't have to pretend to be a good dad now that Nora's gone," Derek replied more bitterly than he'd intended.

George walked past his son, patting Derek's shoulder as he started for the kitchen.

"I guess not," he said.

Derek regretted what he'd said as he watched his dad walk dejectedly to the kitchen. He hadn't been aware of how angry he was with him until now. He'd never been a bad dad, just a lousy husband. Derek sighed and made his way up to his room. He paused for a moment before going in. Glancing over at Casey's empty room, he couldn't help himself. He slowly walked inside and stood there among the nothingness. It still felt like her. It still smelled like her. He took a deep breath and then let it out.

His cellphone started to ring, which turned him from his thoughts. He left Casey's room and pulled the phone from his pocket.

"Hey, Sam. What's up?"

"There's a party tonight at Kelly's house," Sam replied, "You in?"

"Yeah, sounds fun," he replied, "Oh, wait. I don't know. I invited Casey along tonight. I don't know if that's something she's really into."

"You invited Casey?"

"Things have been weird lately, you know. I thought I'd be nice."

"I get it. How are you taking it? How's Casey?"

"We're both okay, I guess. Look, it's not a big deal. I'll see if she wants to go and we'll meet you there if she says yes," Derek said.

"Sounds good, man. See you later."

Derek waited a few minutes before he called Casey.

"Hey, Derek. As soon as you went in the house, I wondered if you even had my number. I guess you did," Casey greeted him.

"Yeah, I did. Look, Sam wants to go to a party tonight at Kelly's house-"

"Kelly Davidson?"

"Yeah. Why?"

Casey snorted, "Derek, you know that people like me aren't invited to parties like that. I'm the laughing stock of the school ninety-five percent of the time."

"It won't be like that, Casey. But if you don't want to go, that's fine," he said.

"No, I'll go," she relented, "I need to get out of this house. It's too quiet."

"Same here."

There was an awkward pause.

"Well, I'll call Emily and we'll meet over there. You can drive?"

"Sure. See you then."

Derek hung up the phone and couldn't help but smile not matter how hard his heart tried to convince him that he shouldn't.