Sixteen

When he was twelve two women were moving in across the street and Derek, being well, Derek, spent the day on the lawn watching the women carry in box after box from the moving truck out front. It was pretty hot for August and they were pretty hot for adults so Derek decided it was a perfect way to spend the day.

His father pulled in the driveway hours later, fresh from work and Derek didn't notice him until his dad slid in next to him on the lawn chair Sam had used until he had to leave for a doctor's appointment. Of course it didn't take long for George to figure out what was so appealing about the front lawn and he stood again, laughing loudly.

Derek looked up and his father clasped his shoulder before he said, "Son, if there's one thing I know it's that when U-Hauls are involved women generally aren't interested."

His dad went inside—still laughing way too loud—and Derek went back to watching because it wasn't like he was going to offer to help or anything. And of course after a while, he figured out his father was trying to be funny but if you took the joke out of it, he was kind of right. Moving in with somebody was a big deal and U-Hauls represented that.

So as he looked at the one on his side of the street with his whole family filling it up, Derek realized this meant a whole lot more than fleeing the familiar nest for college. This was his 'big deal' at nineteen years old and it was the only one he'd ever have. Because Casey wasn't just a maybe, she was a make it work or else kind of deal.

Derek walked back inside, deciding Casey could handle rallying the troops for a bit while he took a breather on the deck in the backyard. The deck chairs were one of those cheap kinds with the ugly coloured plastic straps looped around flimsy metal. With the money that had been saved to fix up the backyard going towards his new brother or sister, the scenery was still just overgrown grass and a dead vegetable garden. It was okay though, he was used to it by now.

The news of the baby had worried him a bit but excitement was infectious. Once Marti got over baby talk, everybody was looking forward to the end of nine months and he just ended up forgetting about it. Sure a half sibling would make his thing with Casey even more complicated but it already was no matter what. So putting blame on the baby when things were already crazy just didn't really seem right to him. He probably surprised them all when he offered up his room as home base for a nursery but he didn't feel the need to explain himself—he just wanted the baby to have it.

The deck creaked when he sat down and its foundation must've been pretty rotten after weathering the elements for such a long time. It was supposed to be his father's pet project after his parents bought the house, or at least that was what his mom claimed every time she used the fact it wasn't finished in arguments. The tire swing was there though and it was still standing, swaying in the breeze on the limb of the old maple tree Edwin fell out of when he was five. Maybe it meant something that Derek had asked for it and the swing was the only thing his father ever completed.

In a couple hours this would be officially his childhood home—though technically it always was, he just never referred to it that way. It was weird and a little bit scary to leave such a comfortable safety net behind. He owned this town—he was the Ferris Bueller of London and people backed his play no matter what. But, the devoted boyfriend who played hockey and carried around a camera—what kind of reputation was that?

And yet, Derek was going just because Casey was. It was all she ever talked about—them being on their own in a new place where no one knew their name and all he could do was make fun of her for the 'Cheers' reference because he hadn't known what to say. Everyday since they got back to London there had been a new challenge—the telling people, the shopping for their apartment and the time with everybody before they went away—it left him with no time to think for himself, until now.

And the more the impending move approached, the more Derek wanted to stay because he knew it wasn't fair to her to be putting one foot in when Casey had clearly cannon balled off the side. He really hadn't thought she'd want to be with him at all after his confession. So many scenarios went through his head during that brief moment before he told her what she wanted to hear and none of them came close to what actually happened. Her lips touched his and ever since he had been stuck in a whirlwind of disoriented and off kilter.

Sally figuring it out over soggy Cornflakes the morning after just cranked up the speed of his motion sickness. With the choice of a clandestine romance stripped away from them, everything just went down hill from there.

He hadn't seen Sam since the mad scramble in Vancouver to make him understand—long story short, he didn't—there was just a lot of bitterness. It sucked that it turned out that way but he understood that sometimes things needed to be worse before they could get better. And Derek was prepared to wait because they've been friends too long to let this be the iceberg that sunk them.

On the other hand, Ralph and Amanda didn't really have any problems, which was something—sort of—and their sibs were cool with it too after Lizzie made it clear Edwin was not her type. The parentals had been a bit more complicated, since telling them almost gave Casey a heart attack but they didn't really have much to say beyond a warning of what failure would cost the family. And, now everybody knew—the whirlwind was dying down and the chance to figure everything out was coming many weeks too late.

He was trying but the only thing that was glaringly obvious was that he needed to come up with some kind of game plan very quickly. And it had to be the right one because a lot of people had a personal interest in making sure the Casey and Derek moving van left for Kingston in high spirits. The problem was that outside of retribution, Derek never had to do this before and he was realizing that getting back at people was a whole lot easier.

What was worse was that he knew this was his fault. Somehow, in all the thoughts about a relationship with Casey, the end game never came to mind and he didn't know if he could catch up in time. He just hadn't thought it was possible and yet he was going to University as Casey's boyfriend.

The school loved his portfolio, especially the movie. They threw around words praising the film's idea and somehow they thought it was relatable—but really who in their right mind thought that about Casey? The story was about a girl from a guy's point-of-view and the guy was always looking on from the shadows behind the camera. So many moments of her life flashing before his eyes and he was trying like crazy to put it all together. Apparently that was ambiguous—Derek wasn't sure because his dictionary was in a box somewhere.

The family celebrated and Casey was still unsuccessful in finding a copy of the movie, since he wouldn't let her watch it. The whole two minutes gave his three-worded secret away and he wanted to at least attempt to say it to her first. But, that was kind of the problem—he couldn't.

It wasn't a matter of not being sure or fearing embarrassment. His rules about feelings were kind of hypocritical now, since she knew they were lies and he didn't really care too much about what people thought anyways. But, all that didn't count because he still tensed up at the mere thought of actually saying the words. It didn't make any sense and maybe it was the combination of a crappy chair in his shitty backyard because it was quickly becoming a whole lot clearer.

This house was full because of failed relationships. Nora had enough of being second to work and his father got caught screwing his law secretary. He and Casey hadn't even been on a real date yet and if two different couples that were married with children could self-destruct so easily—what did that say about his chances?

He loved her and she didn't know how much because he hadn't told her. She was waiting for it; since Casey never ever gave in first but even if she did, Derek wasn't sure if he could give her what she wanted. Things were going great between them but he just couldn't let go of past experience. He didn't want to look at the odds and take the under because the scores in previous games weren't so high. But, history had its own saying about repeating itself so how was he going to dispute that? Derek was sure his parents were all gung-ho about their relationship in high school but look what happened to that. He lived though it once and he didn't think he could do it again, especially with Casey.

Quitting wasn't an option though, not after his families blessing with another member on the way. Derek was selfish but he was sure the word for doing that wasn't even close. The swollen with pride tower his father had been steadily building since the conditional acceptance into Queen's was nice—his dad was finally really proud of him for something outside of a hockey rink. They bought University sweatshirts and Derek pretended all the stories his dad had about college were cool, sort of like the birthday he was re-gifted the Prince. And as lame as it was, he didn't want to ruin it.

But more than that, giving up meant hurting Casey and somehow that became more important than anything else. He wouldn't do it and that defining moment Derek had been looking for when he realized he was in love—well, it was happening right now. Unfortunately, the bright lights, the stunt double for cartwheels and the wind machine weren't in the budget but the startling revelation was going in for the kill.

He was still afraid of losing her, even though he already had her and making excuses was what almost cost him Casey in the first place. Still, he was trying to do it again and he might be slowly going crazy if his brain thought that this time would be any different. She said she wanted to be with him and that was enough—no more excuses to avoid the pool because he hated being slippery when wet.

Love was making it work with what you've got and never forgetting it. Derek wasn't going to have any problems recalling something he had spent a month and a half thinking about, since he didn't usually consider anything for very long. That put him pretty close to even with Casey—he was officially in the water and sinking fast.

His break was over and he went inside the house, just barely dodging Marti who was dragging a box through the kitchen to a waiting Edwin in the living room. What Nora packed from the kitchen, Derek didn't want to know, nor did he want to help. Lizzie was hiding out at the bottom of the stairs listening to his father's unsuccessful attempts to convince Nora he needed a break so Derek easily slid by unnoticed. He finally found Casey outside, impatiently waiting in the back of the moving van hugging the checklist to her chest she had spent all week perfecting. He picked up a box near the door and walked out with his peace offering clearly displayed for his girlfriend to see.

She glared at him the whole way and when he was walking up the ramp of the van she decided to lay into him. "Now you help, when everything is almost done."

Derek placed the box down in the section of boxes clearly labeled 'Casey' in big black block letters and smiled brightly. "Moral support is all the help one needs to be spectacular."

She rolled her eyes and pulled the checklist away from her chest, running her pen down the page before flipping it up so she could repeat the process with the next one. It didn't take long for her frustration to bubble over and Casey was stomping over to the box he just put down in no time. The struggle then began to open it, which was highly amusing because she didn't fair too well.

When she turned to look at him, he raised an eyebrow in question and she was too exasperated to ignore it. "Aren't you going to help me?"

Derek pretended to look scandalized by the mere suggestion—making his eyes go wide, dropping his mouth open and bringing a hand to his chest— before he said, "You know rule 556 in the dating Casey handbook forbids it! I would never do such a thing."

Her expression didn't look amused and Derek was having a tough time keeping his laughter at bay. But when she didn't say anything, he took it upon himself to fill her in on rule 556. "Thy boyfriend shall be conscious of my emotional needs as an independent woman or else," he scoffed, mimicking the rule in a high-pitched voice that made the almost insult his own. "It definitely sounds like something you'd say, oh wait, you did say it when I ordered you a milkshake from the McDonald's drive-thru without asking you first."

"Whatever, just help," she sighed and Derek decided not to listen as usual.

Instead, he walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, resting his chin on her shoulder so he could look down at the clipboard. There were so many numbers and letters, not to mention she went crazy with a highlighter—god she was weird.

"You're really weird, you know that right?" he mumbled and smirked when he heard her sigh in defeat.

"Why can't you just do what I ask for once?"

Derek took a moment to think it over before reaching up and extracting the pen from her grasp. She didn't give it up easily but he managed to move the pen to the top of the page so he had space to write. Derek knew she couldn't see what it said because of the way his hand was positioned and the fact that he knew it was bothering her put a smile on his face.

Finally, he moved his hand and like he knew she would, Casey read it out loud. "I love you…wh—"

"Why thank you, Casey. I love you too," he exclaimed brightly before turning the now stiff body around in his arms. "You know, I never expected for you to say it first but—"

"You idiot!" she screeched before she started whacking his shoulder with the clipboard. "I did not say it first! You tricked me! It doesn't count!"

He let go of her, smirking at the infuriated look on her face because bothering Casey never got old. "You can't take it back, it's out there now…unless you don't mean it. How could you do something so awful?"

He was playing of course, but there was some part of him that felt like he jumped the gun a little bit. He didn't think he read the signals wrong all the times she'd start to say it and barely stopped herself when they stayed up late talking. They'd been together officially for a couple weeks now—a month next week—and it had happened more than three times. Once you got passed three it was generally too late to call it a mistake, right?

"Of course I mean it," she scoffed at the very insinuation and he watched as she finally clued in on what exactly she was yelling at him for. "You…you love me?"

"Did I say that? Because I don't re…" He stopped because she was looking so unsure and the clipboard went back to her chest just so she could hug her waist. Shaking his head, he stepped forward and pried the board from her hands to toss on the stack of boxes behind her. Her arms were still crossed over her chest so he gently put his hands on her elbows and smiled. "Of course I love you, Casey."

Her blue eyes were wide and Derek tried to ignore the tears forming the best he could. Casey wouldn't look away from him so he silently waited her out with patience he stole from somewhere expensive. Seconds ticked away and Derek was one tick away from flying over the Coo-Coo's nest—he had to do something.

So he released her arms and started turning his hands in the classic way he usually used to emphasize questions. "Are you still unsure because I can take it back—"

Now her hand was covering his mouth and he wondered how much more crazy she could manage to fit into the scene. She just kept staring at him and he was about to lick her hand when she finally started talking. "No, I'm not unsure, I know I love you. I was just—"

He used his finger to shut her up—which was obviously much more manly—but, she was already opening her mouth to begin another ramble of asylum proportions so it was on to Plan B.

"Leave some crazy for everybody else, huh?" he teased and quickly kissed her before she could think of another way to ruin the mood.

And, he kind of liked knowing he'd be around for many more killed moments to come because they had to work—he was turning this baby into a franchise.

The End


Well, this is it and thank god it's over! I'm easily distracted by shiny things so the mere fact that 'The End' actually made it onto the page probably had a lot to do with the friend I wrote this for and some of the awesome reviews I received. It's been fun and thanks for reading.

A.