Disclaimer: I do not own Life with Derek or anything else I may reference herein. No profit is being made nor is any infringement intended.
Part One: George.
"So, George," Nora asked, "Why don't you tell me about your kids?"
Eight words, pretty innocuous in and of themselves, yet they always made George Venturi's stomach curdle a little. Nora had stuck with him even after their miserable first date, but, based on his experience, this was the part where women's eyes inevitably began to glaze over. They didn't usually wait to hear about the actual kids before they lost interest. Just the fact that there were three of them made George that much less marriageable. One kid, they could maybe put up with, but three? The last woman he'd been out with had wondered if he'd gotten to keep the shoe the kids lived in as part of the divorce settlement.
But, to be fair, Nora seemed to know what that was like, with two little date repellents of her own at home. And she still seemed genuinely interested in his.
Well, he thought. If I'm going to scare her away, I guess now's the time. He reached into his pocket for his wallet. He needed a new one. Pretty soon, he might even need a rubber band to hold it together, but it was one of those things that he never got around to replacing. He pulled out the plastic insert that held the pictures and handed it to Nora.
"That's Marti on top," George said. "She's six." It was Marti's school picture. In it, she smiled widely, showing missing teeth that she was endlessly proud of. And, George thought, if you looked closely, you could almost see the cute little devil horns starting to sprout from her forehead.
Nora stared at her picture for a long time, and her smile widened.
"Why do I get the feeling this was the first time she sat still all day?" Nora asked.
"They had to use the same setting nature photographers use on hummingbirds," George said.
"She's adorable," Nora said. She flipped to the next picture, this one of Edwin. He'd raised one eyebrow right before the photographer clicked the shutter. It had been worth the price of the deluxe package. "Now this one has the Devil in him, doesn't he?"
"Edwin?" George asked, mock innocently. "The Devil? Naw, he's the most well-behaved little...hellion.."
Nora laughed and nodded. She thought so.
"...that ever tried to wreak havoc among the unsuspecting of the Earth. Okay you got me," George said.
"Can't put anything past me," Nora said. She flipped the page again. "And this would be the one who taught Edwin everything he knows, I guess?"
"Derek," George said. "Yeah. But you know the old saying. He might have taught Ed everything Ed knows, but not everything Derek knows."
"In light of that, you look surprisingly rested," Nora said, grinning.
"Yeah, well, looks can be deceiving," George said. "So are you scared yet? You've told me all about your two gorgeous, well-behaved girls and I come back with these little monsters."
"Monstrous though they may be," Nora said. "I'd say it's pretty obvious that you wouldn't have it any other way."
"I could use a little more sleep," George said. "But you're right. I wouldn't have it any other way. They're monkeys, but they're mine."
"That's what I always say," Nora said.
"But you have good kids," George said.
"They have their moments," Nora said.
She told George a story about Casey—her oldest's—bedazzling phase.
"Rhinestones everywhere," Nora said. "I was afraid I'd have to hide Lizzie's hamster. Hell, I was afraid I'd find poor Lizzie covered in the damn things. Then there was the time that Casey announced that she wanted to be a teacher. She begged me for one of those huge dry-erase boards on an easel so that she could practice."
"She didn't get high off the markers, did she?" George asked.
"I don't know," Nora said. "It would explain a lot, though. I was gonna say—I came home one day to find Lizzie writing 'I Will Not Question Casey's Authority' over and over on the board."
"She was actually doing it?" George said.
"She had three of the markers rubber-banded together to do three lines at once," Nora said, shaking her head. "But, yeah, she was really doing it. She was, maybe, eight at the time."
"Derek makes Edwin make him breakfast, like pouring cereal and such," George said. "I think money might be involved, though."
"Well, yeah," Nora said. "Otherwise, he'd spit in it. It's what I used to do to my older sister when she was being pissy."
"How do you hide your evil so well?" George asked.
"Lots of practice," Nora said. "What else did your little beasts do?"
"Well," George said. "I'll tell you about when I realized exactly what I was in for."
"Do tell," Nora said.
George realized that he was about to run into trouble with this story. But, in for a penny, in for a pound, he thought.
"Derek was three, almost four," George began. "Well, okay before I go into the story, I have to tell you that Derek contracted meningitis just before he'd turned three..."
"Oh my God," Nora said.
"Exactly," George said. "You can imagine we were pretty terrified that he wouldn't make it. But he did. Not without complications, but still."
"Complications?" Nora asked.
"Yeah," George said. "He has a 90 percent hearing loss in his right ear and a probably 98 percent in the left," He looked up at Nora to see if she'd shut down yet. It didn't look like she had.
"That was the worst of it," George said. "We got off pretty light, considering."
"So I'm told," Nora said.
"So the story has to do with what happened shortly afterward," George said. "We were trying to get him to wear this hearing aid. It was over the ear, very expensive, and uncomfortable as hell, apparently.
And he didn't want to wear it. For months he kept taking it out, trying to leave it places, until finally, he chucked it out of the car window and straight into the London Sewer System. Kid had one hell of an arm, even then. And dead aim. We took it as a hint."
"Yeah, I would've too," Nora said. She was still sitting there. This story was actually how he'd gotten rid of the last woman he'd been set up with. It occurred to him that she might be a keeper, if he didn't do anything to piss her off in the next hour or so.
"So," Nora said, after she finished chewing a hunk of breadstick. "What'd you do next?"
"Well, obviously I couldn't murder him, people would've asked too many questions," George said.
"George," Nora said. "You know what I mean."
"Yeah, okay," George said. "We took many, many classes in sign language. I'm horrible at it, but I keep working. Their mother is a little better. All three kids are completely bilingual. Derek speaks and lip-reads so well that I forget that he's deaf and talk to his back as he's leaving the room."
"Yeah," George said. "I've seen other people do it, too, so I know I'm not completely pathetic."
"I guess I'll take your word for it," Nora said.
For her part, she couldn't imagine forgetting such a thing. Living with it, sure. But not forgetting. Which is why George had a good laugh at her expense a few weeks later.
Part Two: Nora.
Nora thought of it as The Night of the Salmon Jerky. George invited her to his house in London in the hopes that he'd impress her with his cooking skills on his home turf. No such luck, of course, but she had managed to choke down a good deal of her overcooked fish before he let her off the hook and pulled out some pizza bagels from the freezer.
So there they were, crunching on their junkfood, George's copy of Appetite for Destruction playing in the background, when the side door opened.
In walked a tallish, skinny kid with a lot of hair who could only be Derek. He paused on the way through the kitchen, having noticed Nora in the dining room.
"Oops," Derek said.
"Forget something?" George asked.
"Yeah," Derek said. "Movie I rented."
He turned to look at Nora. "Hi," he said.
"Hi," she said. She gestured to the table. "Pizza bagel?"
"Yeah, thanks," Derek said, immediately cramming one in. I might have to get used to boys, Nora thought. She couldn't picture Casey or Lizzie doing that.
George put a hand on Derek's shoulder to get his attention. Then, he introduced Nora formally, spelling out her name. Derek, after remembering to wipe the grease off his hand (on his jeans) held it out for Nora to shake. All this before he'd finished chewing.
"Derek," Nora said, patting the chair nearest to her. He looked guiltily at his father, but sat down.
"Where are you headed tonight?"
"I'm staying over my friend Sam's house," he said. "Dad said 'Get lost kid, ya bother me' but at least Sam's mom cares."
Nora laughed. George shot the kid a dirty look.
"I think he wanted the house to himself," Derek said conspiratorially.
"De-rek," George said.
"Uh-oh," Derek said, getting up. "I better get out of here before I get locked in the shed again."
Nora laughed some more. He really was cute as a bug. Nora saw a lot of George in him, actually, and she couldn't wait to meet the others now.
"Nice meeting you," Derek said, before he turned away to grab his movie off of the bookcase.
"You too," Nora called while Derek's back was turned. George laughed.
"Oh, crap," Nora said. "I did it, didn't I?"
"Told you you would," George said. "Who knew you'd do it so fast?"
On his way out, Derek signed something to George. Nora caught the movement out of the corner of her eye but didn't look because it obviously wasn't meant for her eyes. Not that she would've understood anyway.
"Said he thinks you're way out of my league," George said.