A/N: Well, as promised: A romantic comedy of a Valentine's Day story. :D
I hope you enjoy it; don't worry, it should pick up in later chapters. Expect slower updates, because I don't have much written in advance this time (and won't have much time to write more within the next few days; tomorrow's my birthday!). Anywho, if you like this and you haven't already read it, you may enjoy reading my other LwD fanfic, which you can find the link to in my profile.
As always, I LOVE reviews! -wink, wink-
Sam breathed in the crisp February air as he got out of his car at Smelly Nellie's. The sky was cloudless and blue, a rarity for this time of year, and the icy snow crunched beneath his tennis shoes. This was one of his favorite times of year—although that was probably helped by the fact that his February 8th birthday had been yesterday. Seventeen at last.
Such were the idle musings in his head when he entered Smelly Nellie's, expecting to be greeted by the rich scent of hot coffee and the soothing music as usual. Instead, he was accosted by Derek nearly he stepped inside.
"Sam," Derek hissed in his ear.
"What?" Sam asked at normal volume, only to be frantically shushed by Derek.
"I need you to distract Sally for a few minutes," Derek said in a barely detectable whisper.
"Why?" Sam whispered back.
"Because technically my shift doesn't end for another half hour, so I need to grab my hockey stuff and sneak out."
"But—" Sam wasn't given time to complete his sentence before he was roughly shoved forward, nearly running into a tall, pretty girl with her blonde hair up in a high ponytail.
"H-hey, Sally," Sam said. "What's up?" Sally turned; out of the corner of his eye Sam saw Derek bolt for the counter and duck behind it.
"Oh, hi Sam," Sally said, surprise and welcome in her voice. "It's been a long time since you've been in here."
"Yeah," Sam said, scratching his head. "So, uh, how've you been?"
"Fine, really. Nothing too exciting going on."
"Still broken up with—" Sam searched his mind frantically for her ex's name, but for some reason all he could come up with was "muscle-man" "—your boyfriend?"
"Yeah, he's moved on no problem," Sally said, rolling her eyes. "Anyway, I suppose you came to talk to Derek…" She looked around the small restaurant. Derek, who was behind the counter taking off his apron (and getting hopelessly entangled in the strings), tried to duck down again but tripped over what Sam could only assume was his hockey bag and fell out of sight. "I could have sworn I saw him a second ago…"
"N-no, actually," Sam said, taking her arm and dragging her over to an empty booth near the back of the restaurant, in case Derek made any more loud thuds that might attract Sally's attention. "I, um, came to talk to you."
"To me?" Sally said, giving him a strange look as he all but pushed her into a booth and took his own seat across from her.
"Yeah, see, I, uh…" Usually, Sam considered himself a pretty smooth talker; however it was slightly more difficult to make normal conversation when he could see Derek wrestling with his apron over Sally's shoulder. The few patrons in Smelly Nellie's were also eyeing the junior manager and giggling. "I, um, wanted to ask you if…"
"If…?" Sally repeated curiously.
"If you were planning to come to the hockey game this weekend we're playing against your school," Sam said randomly, although he had no idea whether Sally had any interest in hockey or not.
"Oh. Okay. Well, it's next Saturday, right?"
"Yeah, the fifteenth. See, I'm asking because Derek and I don't really know anybody from your school, so, uh, it'd be great to see a familiar face and all that—" Really, Derek was a much better liar than he.
"Is Derek playing?"
"Of course," Sam said, trying not to watch Derek somehow manage to put his leather jacket on backwards. He became nearly as clumsy as Casey when trying to do something hurriedly and not get caught. "He's the captain. The only game he's ever missed was when he had chicken pox—oh, and he left early one time because Casey called and told him to come home…something about Lizzie and Edwin's party?"
"Right," Sally said. "Well, I might show up. My school has a pretty good lineup this season, I hear, so it might be fun to come and watch Derek Venturi get taken down a few pegs." She laughed.
"Maybe," Sam said, finally looking right at her and grinning. "Then again, he's Derek Venturi—people have been trying to take him down a few pegs for years. They rarely succeed."
He was sure Sally answered him, but Derek had apparently given up on his attempt to put his jacket on and was now waving wildly to Sam across the restaurant.
"Right, well, gotta go," Sam said hurriedly, before getting up and bolting for the exit right behind Derek. Behind him, Sally turned, taken aback, just in time to see the two boys disappear out the door.
"Der-ek!" Hey, she didn't say it with as much class as Casey, but you had to give her points for trying.
"Oooh, look, a Valentine's Day quiz!" Emily exclaimed. She was lying on her stomach on Casey's bed, flipping through magazines while Casey did homework on her computer. "Come on, let's take it."
"Kinda busy right now, Em," Casey said, rolling her eyes.
"Great! Okay, question one," Emily said as though Casey hadn't spoken. "'Your relationship status: single, taken, "it's complicated", or…engaged?'"
"Single," Casey sighed. She climbed onto the bed next to Emily. "Again."
"Okay…" Emily said, trying to figure out where to go from the answer "single". "Ah. 'When did your most recent relationship end? Very recently, about a month ago, a few months, a long while, a year, "what relationship"?'"
"A few months, ago, I guess. It was early November," Casey said wistfully.
"'How are you feeling about that relationship now? I'm so over it, I'm pretty much over it, I'm caught up and bitter, or I'm very caught up and bitter?'"
"I'm so over it," Casey said immediately. "I mean, why shouldn't I be? It was months ago. I broke up with him."
"Okay, so 'caught up and bitter'," Emily said, consulting the magazine.
"'How did the breakup go? I dumped him, he dumped me, it was mutual, we just fell apart, "it's complicated"?'"
"It's complicated, I guess."
"You feel yourself wishing you were in a relationship: all of the time, most of the time, some of the time, none of the time?'"
"All the time," Casey said, flopping back on the bed. "It's like my post-Sam slump all over again."
"Yeah," said Emily. "But you didn't date Sam for as long as you dated Max, so the slump was shorter."
"That's because I met Max then. I mean, it's been so long, I might as well just put in a call to Kendra. It worked—sort of—last time. I mean, Valentine's Day is in less than a week and I don't even have a crush, let alone a date or a boyfriend!"
"Remember Valentine's Day last year?" Emily asked. "There was all that confusion."
"The dance did start off terribly, didn't it? But in the end…"
"I was with Sheldon, you were with Max, Derek was with Kendra."
"Then Kendra and Derek broke up for good, Sheldon moved to Newfoundland, and Max dumped me. I hate all this love," Casey said grumpily.
"Oh, no you don't." Emily rolled her eyes and gave Casey a light shove. "Anyway, this is the perfect time of year to find love. For instance, I'm totally crushing on Pete, and even though he's not as accessible as he was a few months ago, he will be mine. Eventually."
Not able to muster up a laugh, Casey just smiled.
"You must like someone," Emily wheedled. "Come on, you can tell me!"
Casey shrugged. "I like James Burton."
"Wrong answer. Everyone likes him. That doesn't count. Try again."
"Well…" Casey stalled, twirling a pen in her fingers. "I kinda like—"
"Casey!" Casey's door flew open and then slammed shut, letting a new occupant into the room.
"Hey, Liz!" Emily said. "What's up?"
"Yeah, what's wrong?" Casey sat up and patted a patch of available bed space.
"I kind of need to talk to you," Lizzie said, sounding uncertain. "About…boys."
"Actually, we were just talking about that particular subspecies," Emily said.
"We're listening," Casey told her; she and Emily fixed Lizzie with unwaveringly attentive stares. Lizzie shifted on the bed, nervous.
"Well, Jamie keeps dropping all these hints at school, and I'm afraid he has something…big planned for this Friday."
"Big? Like…how big? What sort of 'big'?" Emily asked.
"I don't know!" Lizzie cried, throwing up her hands. "He keeps saying cryptic things, and the moment I convince myself it's all in my head he does it again." She sighed. "This sucks."
"Wait, why does it suck?" asked Casey. "Don't you want him to make some big, romantic gesture for Valentine's Day?"
"It sounds sweet!" Emily put in.
"No," Lizzie said frustratedly. "I don't think I'm ready for him to make some big, romantic gesture. I've just gotten used to the fact that he likes me and I sorta like him back—"
"'Just?'" echoed Casey. "It's been months and months and months!"
"Things sure do move slower than when we were in middle school," Emily commented, and Casey nodded in agreement.
"—Plus, what if he expects me to make some big, romantic gesture back?" Lizzie's eyes widened. "What if he tries to kiss me?"
"I'm sure he won't try to kiss you, Lizzie," Emily assured her. "Jamie isn't a molester."
"If you really feel that way about Valentine's Day, why don't you just tell him?" Casey suggested. "I'm sure he'll understand."
"I don't want to hurt his feelings," Lizzie said. "And I'm going to feel really stupid if it turns out he wasn't planning anything after all."
"I see your problem," Emily said.
"Don't worry, Liz," said Casey. "We'll think of something.
"Great practice, D."
"Back atcha, Sammy-boy."
Derek hopped on one foot as he tried to shove the other through one of the legs of his jeans.
"Coach'll be floored when he hears we put in extra practice," Sam said, his voice slightly muffled as he pulled his shirt on over his head.
"Hey, nice boxers," Derek smirked. Sam flushed.
"Birthday present from my mom," he mumbled. Derek laughed.
"Well, she's got great taste, man. White with pink hearts—very classy."
"Shuddup." Sam punched Derek on the shoulder. Laughing, they roughhoused for a few minutes, before they finally got completely dressed and left the ice rink locker room with bags slung over shoulders.
"Hey, where's your jacket?" Sam asked, noticing Derek was shivering in the nippy breeze.
"I left it at Smelly Nellie's, remember?" Derek said.
"Oh yeah. Are we going to go get it?"
"No, 'cause Sally's still there. And I'm guessing she's a little ticked I cut off."
"Speaking of Sally," Sam said, climbing into the passenger side of the Prince while Derek got behind the wheel. "I seriously think you have a chance with her now."
"Huh?" said Derek. He was rubbing his hands together for warmth while trying to rev the engine, which spluttered in protest against the cold.
"Sally, man. I mean, last time we read the signals wrong, but recently I don't even think that's possible. She's into you, she's flirting, she's interested, so ask her out! I mean, she's quite a catch, even for you." Sam grinned.
"Yes!" Derek shouted, at first Sam thought in reply to what he'd just said—but apparently his sudden jubilation came from finally getting the engine running.
"So whaddaya think?" Sam asked as Derek peeled out of the parking lot at breakneck speed.
"What about her?"
"You gonna go for her or what?"
Derek shrugged. Sam stared at him for several long moments, then turned to look out the window instead.
Casey saw the tall boy passing her in the halls of J.S. Thompson High and reached out to grab his arm.
"I feel like we haven't talked since the poetry slam in January!"
"That's 'cause we haven't," Noel said with a smile, playing with a strap on his backpack.
"Well, what's up?" Casey asked. They began to walk together in the direction of the cafeteria.
Noel shrugged. "Not much," he said. "A little poetry, a little singing…I guess you could just call me an artsy guy," he laughed. "What about you?"
"Schoolwork, pottery, debate club, poetry, extra credit, volunteer work, dancing, dealing with Derek, thinking of getting back into cheerleading…the usual."
"Sounds like you're taking on a lot," Noel commented as they meandered down the hall, students streaming in every direction around them.
"Yes, but I've got it all very organized, and I've scheduled in plenty of free time, so it's nice and stress-free," Casey said.
"Scheduled free time. There's a new concept for you," Noel teased. Casey laughed.
"So, any school musical audition plans in the near future?" she asked, giving him a playful grin.
"Oh, you know, I'd love to, but I have to wash my hair that day."
"Whichever day the auditions are on."
"Oh, come on. You know you had fun."
"Well, a little. The swaggering was nice…as was laughing at Derek in his 'guyliner'."
"Gotta agree with you there," Casey laughed. "Oh, speak of the devil—"
The next thing Noel knew, she had grabbed his arm and made a sharp turn down a nearly abandoned hallway, dragging him along. The last thing Noel saw before the main hall disappeared from sight was Derek Venturi's surprised-looking face staring right at him.
"What was that all about?" Noel asked, once Casey let go of his arm.
"The last thing I need right now is to deal with Derek," Casey said, beginning to walk down this hallway instead—although it was in the completely opposite direction than they had been going. "Anyway, go on—you were talking about things you enjoyed about the musical?"
"Right," Noel said, falling into step beside her again. "Hmm…getting to kiss a pretty girl?"
"Really?" Casey stopped dead and turned to look at him with wide eyes.
"Yeah." Noel chuckled nervously and shoved his hands deep into his pockets. "See, I kind of had a bit of a crush on you back then—that's the real reason I stayed in the musical. And, um, I was the one who got you flowers."
"I—wow—Noel, that's so sweet!" Casey said. She opened her mouth to say more, but Noel spoke first.
"Don't worry, I got over it; you don't need to give me the 'I value your friendship too much' speech," Noel said, winking at her.
"I—oh, I wasn't going to give you that speech," Casey assured him.
"Too nice even for that, huh?" Noel said. "Well, it's been great talking to you, Casey—but I gotta go catch lunch with some friends. See you later, alright?"
"Right…sure…" Casey said as he gave her one last grin and walked off. She stared after him for a few minutes, before being rudely interrupted from her thoughts by her cell phone going off in her pocket.
"Hello?" she snapped into it.
"Edwin?" she said, confused. "Why are you calling me?"
"I've been trying to call you all day," Edwin said. "Why was your phone turned off?"
"Um, because I'm a good student and don't have my phone on during class. Why are you calling from home? Are you sick?"
"No, I got left here this morning. Nora took Lizzie to school early for some school project, and Dad thought she took me too so he left for work without me and you and Derek obviously didn't take me so I've been stuck at home all day."
"What?!" gasped Casey. "Seriously? Oh my—Well, why didn't you call Derek? He's an awful student, he always has his phone on during class."
"I did. He just laughed and hung up on me."
Casey quickly ran through a list in her head of how to best maim or dismember Derek for this, but decided she'd better get to that later.
"I'll be right home, Ed, okay?" Casey said, nearly dropping her bag as she checked her watch. "I'm not going to have time to actually eat, but hopefully I'll be able to drop you off at school and make it back in time for class. Be ready." She snapped her phone shut and took off.
Really, life was so much more peaceful when it had just been a household of three girls.
"Once again, I appear to have waited too long," George sighed, shutting the phonebook with a loud thud.
"For what?" Casey asked, coming into the kitchen.
"Dinner reservations for Valentine's Day. Nora told me she didn't want to do anything big, but I remembered what you said last year, so I thought I'd make reservations early—but apparently Aaron's Pizza Parlor through Zonko's Bar and Grill are filled up a week past Friday with husbands who don't procrastinate as much as this one does. Now what am I going to do?"
"You could go see a movie or something," Casey suggested.
"I thought of that—but the only things playing are R-rated horror movies of blood and guts and gore, and none of that exactly spells 'romantic'. Your school's Valentine's Day dance doesn't happen to need a couple chaperones this year, does it?"
"Afraid not. Well, then…why not make Mom a romantic dinner at home?" Casey said. "Learn to cook…make a nice meal…candles, kick the kids out of the house, the whole nine yards?"
"Hey…you know, that's not such a bad idea! I could do that!" George said.
"Right," Casey said. "Just let me know when you start cooking, okay? I want to read the fire extinguisher manual before you start the oven, just to be safe.