So I took this down because I thought I wouldn't ever finish it -- but (with many thanks to the encouragement of unoriginal_liz) I DID manage to finish it and decided to repost it. (Sorry if reposting all the earlier chapters are flooding your inbox!)
. . .
Chapter one -- Derek
Derek palmed open the heavy doors to the back parking lot. He ignored the protests of his girlfriend as he pulled her through the mess of students heading to their cars.
"Derek! Can we slow down …please!"
All last period, he'd pictured the mail truck on his street, the mailbox crammed with letters, and one of the letters... the one he'd been waiting for … Derek jogged the last yards to The Prince.
When he got to the car, finally, he glanced down at Emily. Her face was red and most of her hair sprung loose from its clip.
She yanked her hand free from his grasp, crossed her arms over her chest. "Derek! God! Why are you in such a hurry, anyway?" She could only meet his eyes for a second before she tucked her chin down against the wind that had been pestering all of London the last few days. A weird cold front had descended over lower Canada, despite the lateness in the school year.
"Sorry, Em… I just …" he didn't like to admit that he was racing to get to the mail – find out his fate for the next four years. He hated how desperate he felt about college and the future. He especially hated hat the desperation implied he might have made a mistake in his priorities through high school. "The wind, I guess," he lied. "I wanted to get to the car, get us out of it."
Derek unlocked the passenger door to let her in. He felt like she wanted something more from him – a pretty common feeling for him these days. He tried to smile at her, seem like the carefree guy she'd thought she was getting in this relationship. He felt bad that he'd been mostly ignoring her today.
Emily sighed and got into the car.
Derek watched her, holding the door still. She did want something, waited for something from him. He ground his teeth, this was why dating Sally had been so easy – being around her had been like being around another guy; there wasn't all this puzzling out of her feelings. Sally wanted something -- she told him – he gave it to her – she shut up. Sally had been so easy. The party … Emily's always worried about the party …ask her about it …
"Doesn't feel nearly as cold as yesterday," he offered. Derek knew Emily worried the weather wouldn't clear over the next two weeks. She'd planned a huge pool party/cookout to kick off the summer.
She half-smiled at him appreciatively, "You blinked, Derek."
"You know, that doesn't always mean that I'm lying."
The last two days she'd been examining his every facial tic, thanks to Sam cornering him about pulling a graduation prank. Sam tipped off Emily to the Derek blinking = Derek lying correlation.
Now, he felt like he was under a microscope whenever he told her anything. But he didn't need to get so defensive. This is Emily … the girl's been in love with you since kindergarten so be nice to her... "Besides, it does feel warmer, right?"
Emily's smile got a little more genuine. "Maybe." She looked up at him with that doe-eyed look she'd been giving him since prom – the one that plainly said, "I can't believe you really like me". See. She's crazy about me. He smirked as he shut the car door.
The parkinglot had started to clear out. That little spat with Emily had cost him valuable minutes against the after-school traffic. The mail would be there, in the box, by now! Derek watched the last of their classmates, hunched over against the cold wind, as they drifted through the senior's lot. Still no sign of Casey though. Derek frowned. He didn't want her walking in this wind.
Derek slouched by the driver's side door and scanned the lot for Truman French's navy BMW. There he is… and there's Casey. His stepsister clutched those stupid cards with world's worst valedictorian speech written all over them.
Casey's hair whipped around her in long brown ribbons. Her shirt was too thin and her skirt was way too short. That was Truman's influence. Derek felt his jaw tighten. He watched as Truman let his stepsister into the BMW. Truman clearly checked out Casey's long legs as she bent them into the car. Derek rapped his knuckles on the roof of The Prince; his hands had balled into fists. He went back to grinding his teeth – his jaw constantly ached these days.
The driver's side door opened under him and Emily's face appeared. She leaned over the front seat, creaked the door open against the wind to see what was taking him so long. "Derek?"
He forced himself to relax, to smile, act like nothing bothered him. "Yep," he slid into the seat and closed the door behind him. He pecked Emily on the lips and started the car. "Let's go home."
"Or we could go to Smelly Nelly's and get milkshakes?"
Derek's grip on the steering wheel tightened, "I really need to get home, Em."
"But we never do anything fun after school!"
He cut his eyes as her and saw her pout. "I'm sorry bout that and I'll make it up to you later, kay? I just have a lot of stuff to do and … alright …" Derek scratched at the back of his neck. "To tell you the truth…"
But Emily wasn't deterred from her complaints; she interrupted him, "And I know you keep saying you have all this …" she crinkled her fingers to make air quotes, "important stuff on your mind…"
Derek drew his upper lip between his teeth to chew at it a second. Why couldn't Emily pick up on the tells he really needed her to get? … She was Casey's best friend for fuck's sake! He expected she would be more like his stepsister and … just know. Like right now, he was sick to his stomach with worry but she didn't even see.
"Anyway, Derek… there can't be anything more important than spending time with your girlfriend…especially not some prank that has all your attention…"
"Jeez, Emily! What the fuck is wrong with you? I don't need all this 'don't prank graduation' shit from you, too. Why does everyone keep riding my ass about a stupid prank? I am NOT planning a prank! I told you I wasn't, and that means I'M NOT even if I fucking blink!"
Emily turned away from him to stare out the passenger side window. And she was sniffing … which meant she was crying …which meant he had made her cry …again. Since he'd begun dating her, Derek realized that, over the years, he'd failed to notice that Emily was super sensitive or that Casey had toughened up while living in his house. He'd assumed the two best friends to be far more alike in temperament than they actually were.
Turned out, Emily wasn't equipped for the kind of teasing, fighting or playing that girls who had brothers accepted. Dimi was still little, Marti's age, and regularly bossed by his sister. It was probably why the poor kid got along so well with a little diva-in-training like Smarti.
He'd pulled on to their block before Derek realized that Emily's silence and tears weren't going to end on their own. Sometimes, if he just waited these little episodes out, she managed to pull herself together. But, this obviously wasn't one of those times, "Listen… I don't mean to be an asshole here…" Derek pulled to a stop at the curb between their two houses. "Emily?"
She ignored him and got out of the car, slamming the door behind her.
He worried his lip between his teeth again as he watched her stomp up her porch stairs and then slam that door behind her too.
Great. Perfect. Derek slumped behind the wheel for a second and then looked towards the mailbox, the one thing on his mind all day. The little flag was down. It had come!
He sprinted up to the house and rifled through the letters with shaking hands: two credit card bills, advertisements, Edwin's pen pal from Ireland, Casey's Grandma Susan … Fuck, just a few left … a graduation card from Dennis McDonald – bastard wasn't coming then – figures. A scarily official looking letter from Marti's school, Derek stuffed that in his pocket.
One left … He closed his eyes. You are such a fucking pansy – just look.
QUEENS COLLEGE FOR DEREK VENTURI
His hands were shaking bad now. Open it.
Derek crammed the rest of the mail back the little iron mailbox.
Don't be such an Emo.
He took the stairs two at a time as he ripped the letter open... He was in.
He had the scholarship.
He was going to Queens! "Whoa.."
Aaaaand someone was in his room? Derek folded the letter and put it in his pocket.
"Derek?" His father lay across his bed, much as Edwin had the day before. I haven't even moved out yet and everyone suddenly feels like they can just make themselves at home IN MY ROOM.
"I've been thinking about your future…" his dad started.
Derek batted around a conversation with him until his dad finally left, but he couldn't really concentrate.
What a relief – the scholarship had come through! He hadn't been a good enough player to be completely assured a spot regardless of his grades. Especially not with that one specific school in mind. What Derek wants, Derek gets. No one realized how much effort it took to not want what you couldn't get. Well, almost no one.
Next door to him he heard Casey running through world's worst valedictorian speech again. The thing had actually gotten more depressing since her first draft. And she still hadn't accepted her own scholarship to Queens.
He sighed, time for an intervention. He turned up the volume on his stereo and kicked one speaker to face her wall.
Then he lay back on his bed and waited for her.
(To Be Continued)