As soon as Derek and Casey made it across the street he pulled his hand out of hers as easily as he had taken it.
Adam was hopping up and down on the sidewalk, punching at the air as if he were boxing someone. "What are we doing now? Everything is so exhilarating. I knew you were beautiful, Casey, but I had no idea you were so much fun!"
"Well, I'm not even too sure where we are anymore. So…." Casey said, ignoring Adam.
They stood in silence for a few minutes-Adam kept jumping-until Derek reached out and put his hand on Adam's shoulder, stilling him, and spoke.
"Oh, I know where we're going next. I definitely know."
"Are you sure you can do this?" Derek asked and then immediately held out his palm to Adam's face. "Not you. I know you can do this."
"I can do this." Casey assured.
"This takes dedication," Derek said. "You've got to be committed to this or else it won't work and it won't be fun. You want this to be fun, right?"
"Yes," Casey nodded enthusiastically. "Fun, that's what I want."
Derek placed a hand on either of her shoulders. "I believe in you, McDonald." Casey nodded again, resolutely, her brow furrowed and her lips pouted into the classic determined Casey look. Derek removed his hands before he succumbed to the urge to lift his hand up and push some of her hair behind her ear.
"Alright! Let's move out, gang!" Derek raised his hand over his head and motioned towards the store front twenty feet away from them, ushering Adam and Casey to follow him towards it.
A little bell tinkled once Derek opened the door. He paused and took a deep breath. "You smell that?" he asked.
"Wasn't me." Adam said, immediately.
Derek ignored him. "That, my friends, is the smell of a store open 24 hours a day. This place has everything you could possibly need on short notice, and now it has us. Be free!"
Adam immediately beelined for the small mens clothing section of the 24 hour mega convenient mart, taking special interest in a randomly placed female mannequin that stood amongst the male ones. Casey watched as he began to drag the mannequin out from it's place. She turned to make a comment to Derek, but he was no longer beside her.
Casey took a deep breath before resolutely heading towards the area that had women's clothing. She knew exactly what she wanted to do. It was something she had always scolded Lizzie for doing as a child. Smiling to herself, she glanced around her to make sure no one was watching before she dipped in between the clothing hanging from the circular rack and crouched down in the middle of it.
Several minutes passed and Casey contemplated sitting cross-legged, as her legs were beginning to cramp. She also pondered if she should just find something else to do-no one seemed to be coming past. Casey peeked out through the clothes again and finally saw someone heading toward to her rack, and it seemed like she'd hit the jackpot. A snobby looking woman of about sixty, wearing a very fake looking fur wrap was fingering clothing with a look of disdain, as if she had expected to find high end, designer clothes in the 24 hour mart.
Casey bided her time silently until the woman was standing right in front of her hiding spot. She hesitated for a moment, thinking about backing out, but then she thought of the things she'd already done tonight. She could do this. She shoved her head out through the clothes, letting out a yell as she grabbed the woman's ankles.
"Oh my God!" The woman shouted. With a hand over her heart, she gave Casey a baffled look. "What in Lord's name are you doing down there?"
"I," Casey said matter of factly. "Am having fun."
"Wretched child." The woman shook her head at Casey.
"Oh, yeah. Cuz you're the picture of class, here in a convenient mart after 2 a.m." Casey rolled her eyes.
The woman's eyes narrowed at Casey but instead of responding she slowly walked away, without taking her eyes off Casey.
Casey just chuckled and lowered herself back into the clothes, spending the next few minutes entertaining herself by grabbing at people's ankles as they passed. Most of them screamed and only one tried to kick her. She was seated on the curved metal bar in the rack when she heard a terrible wailing that sounded suspiciously like Adam.
Casey popped up so that she was standing up in the middle of the circular clothes rack and searched until she heard where the wailing was coming from. Not at all surprised at what she was seeing, Casey lifted her hand to her mouth to stifle a laugh. Adam had one of his legs wrapped around the mannequin and seemed to be doing a pretty good job at making himself cry. Two staff members were standing near him, looking unsure of what to do. Casey could tell that they were both desperately searching their minds for the correct protocol for something like this.
"No!" Adam cried out. "I won't leave her! I won't leave you!" He turned his head and looked at the mannequin. One of his hands stroked it's cheek. "We're gonna be together forever, Dolly! I promised you the world and damn it! I'm gonna give you the world!"
Casey choked on her own laughter. Adam was speaking in a troublesomely accurate southern accent.
"Sir, you're going to need to let go of the mannequin." One of the staff said to Adam hesitantly. She looked worried that at any minute he may turn his affections onto someone breathing.
"Dolly!" Adam screamed out. "Her name is Dolly!"
Casey looked around, trying to find where Derek was. After a minute of searching, she found him. He was sitting, Indian style, on top of the check out counter, holding a bright pink pillow in the shape of a star with the words HANNAH MONTANA emblazoned onto them.
"Get off the counter!" A person who appeared to be the register worker was glaring up at him.
"You get off the counter." Derek mumbled.
"Miss? What are you doing?" Casey turned her head. The guy staring at her was wearing a nametag on his vest that titled him as "Craig". He was a good looking guy maybe only a few years older than Casey. The type who would go from a 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. shift and go straight to a party. Normally, Casey would become completely shy and polite, but tonight was not normal. She glanced over at Derek and saw that he was looking right at her. He gave a slight nod, urging her to do something. Casey took a deep breath, giving herself a second to step completely outside of her comfort zone. Then she gave Craig a huge grin.
"Craig!" She cried out, ducking out from under the clothes rack. She jumped forward and wrapped her arms around him. "It's been too long!"
Once she leaned back she saw the confused look on his face. "Uh, I'm sorry, ma'am. I don't think I know who you are."
Casey gasped dramatically. "What?" She placed a hand over her heart. "It's me, uh," she racked her brain for a name, "Regina!"
"Regina." He repeated uncertainly. "I'm sorry, I really don't-"
"I can't believe this!" Casey screamed. "How can you not remember me?" She grabbed a hold of his hand and lifted it up to her cheek. "We spent all of those camp-firey nights together! You whispered to me, 'Reggie, someday we'll find each other again. And when that day comes, I'm gonna sweep you up into my arms and carry you all the way to closest McDonald's and give you the feast a princess such as you deserves! Then we'll go to Vegas and, well, you should know what you said! But I don't see no sweepin'!"
Craig desperately tried to yank his hand from Casey's grasp. "I've never been to camp!" He cried.
Casey was thinking of what she could do next when she heard Derek scream, "This is my store, bitches!" He was now standing on top of the check out counter, bare chested. He had both his hands above his head, one holding the pillow, the other swinging his shirt.
Seconds later there was a crash from another part of the store. Adam was writhing around on the floor with the broken pieces of the mannequin. It appeared that they had both fallen. Adam was crying, holding on to one of the disconnected legs.
Casey felt Craig slip his hand out of her grasp and then place it firmly on her wrist. She looked up at him and he gave her a knowing look. "Let me guess. You're with them?" He asked.
Casey gave him a sheepish look.
"Come on." He said, sounding tired by the situation. "Let's get you and your friends out of here."
Casey mocked pondering for a moment before shaking her head. "I don't think so."
"Excuse me?" Craig asked.
"Well, I mean, you heard him." Casey said, pointing at Derek, who was now fist pumping. "This is his store, so surely I don't have to leave."
Craig went from looking tired of the situation to looking highly annoyed.
"You're really gonna keep playing this game?" He asked.
Casey smiled and nodded resolutely.
"Fine." He said, and before Casey knew what was happening, Craig had reached in and scooped her up. Finding herself in his arms, bridal style, she had flashbacks of Derek picking her up earlier. She came to the quick conclusion that this experience was definitely the less enjoyable of the two.
"What do you think you're doing?" Casey asked in a shrill shriek as Craig began to walk toward the store's doors. "You could get fired for this, buddy! Putting hands on a customer liked this!"
"You're at a 24 hour mart after 2 a.m. Staff rules get kind of lenient around this time." Craig gave a quick, glaringly fake smile.
They reached the doors just as two other staff members were escorting Adam out, one holding either of his arms. When Adam saw Craig carrying Casey he pulled himself out of their grips. "Hey!" he shouted, "Get off her!"
Craig rolled his eyes and tipped Casey out of his arms, a little too carelessly for Casey's liking. She stumbled and Adam reached out and steadied her.
"Out." The oldest of the staff members said, pointing at the doors.
"Yeah, yeah." Adam mumbled, putting his arm around Casey and guiding her out the doors. "Oh, and if you were wondering, I most definitely did not shove each and every one of your hand towel selection down my pants. Did not." Adam grinned at the disgruntled looking workers over his shoulder.
"Adam!" Casey hissed once the doors had closed behind them.
"Don't worry, my dear," Adam said, rubbing his hand reassuringly over Casey's shoulder, "I only had eye's for Dolly in there. But I bet they're freaking out."
Derek was physically shoved out of the store only a minute or two after Adam and Casey were led out. He wore a triumphant look, but still no shirt.
"Well, gang, I'd say that was a success!"
Adam wandered to the sidewalk and sat himself down on the curb. Casey and Derek followed, Derek pulling his shirt over his head as he did. Casey did her best not to take one last look.
"Maybe I should be an actor." Adam mumbled from the ground. "I mean, that was amazing. I'm amazing. I could have gotten like…whadaya call it? A Grammy for that performance. I am the ish, fo real."
"Oscar, Adam." Casey shook her head.
"Casey," Adam said in a serious tone, looking up at her, "My name is Adam, not Oscar. You even just acknowledged that yourself. Are you okay? Did that guy hit your head when he picked you up?"
Casey just snorted and rolled her eyes but Derek immediately said, "What? Who picked Casey up?"
"One of the guys that work there," Adam said, jerking his head in the direction of the store. "I was busy getting dragged out by two idiots to see what happened, but I'm guessing that Casey stood her ground and the guy picked her up and carried her to the doors."
"Are you kidding me?" Derek asked, looking livid. "He shouldn't be able to do that. We should go back and talk to a manager about that."
"Whoa, whoa," Casey said, raising her palm to Derek, "That's not necessary. I mean, we went in there to purposefully get kicked out. And he didn't hurt me. I mean, I was annoyed by it, but actually he was pretty cute, so I really have no right to complain."
This did not make Derek look any less angry.
Before Derek could march back to the store and try to get the guy fired (Oh, so he's cute so that just gives him the right to put his hands all over her, racing through his head) a cab pulled up in front of them. The three of them watched as the driver rolled down the passenger side window.
"You kids need a ride?" The cab driver asked.
"We don't know where we're going." Adam replied from the curb.
"Are you guys homeless or something?"
"No, sir, definitely not." Casey shook her head. "We're college students."
"Not ready to head back to the dorm, I s'pose." The man chuckled. "Well, hop in. I think I know an interesting place for you to explore for now."
Derek looked at Casey for approval and then shrugged and said, "Sure, why not?" as he reached for the door handle. Adam caught his sleeve.
"What if he's a murderer? Or a pervert? Or a murdering pervert?" He whispered.
"Seriously, Adam?" Derek asked.
"Yeah, come on, Adam. The worst this guy is gonna do is drive us in circles and jack up the ride's cost. He's just a cabdriver. Get up." Casey said.
"Excuse me for being distrusting." Adam replied as he pushed himself from the curb, "But I'm not feeling too faithful in mankind tonight. A stripper did try to kill me, remember?"
"You'll get over it." Casey assured him, grabbing him by his shirt collar and pulling him into the cab after Derek and herself.
The cabdriver (who's name turned out to be Lester, which sent a fresh wave of fear through Adam as he hissed, "Lester the molester" over and over until Casey punched his shoulder and Derek reminded him that the usual phrase was Chester, anyway), wasn't a murderer or a pervert. He chatted amiably with the trio and laughed as the told him of the night's adventures.
"Ah, to be young and…weird." He told them.
Ten minutes later he pulled over in front of a gated off street. "Have fun, kids." Lester said, taking the fare from Adam who, now being convinced of Lester's pure intentions, insisted on paying.
Once they got out of the cab they stood in front of a street filled with people and different music coming from all directions. Booths lined up on the sidewalks and in the street itself, and lights were strung up around the telephone poles. It went on as far as they could see, and it seemed that it may continue on other streets as they watched people come and go around corners.
"What is this?" Casey breathed. A little puff of her exhalation appeared in front of her.
"Some street fair, I guess. Actually, I think I've heard of it before. They hold it once a month, I think. A girl asked me to come with her once but it was on a weekday that month and it was too far to hold much interest for me." Derek explained.
"Wow," Casey said, mesmerized as a girl twirled around not too far from where she was standing, waving glow sticks above her head. The lights seemed to create pictures in the air before catching up with their source.
"Shouldn't something like this be closed so late?" Adam said. He was chewing on a celery stick, staring glow stick girl's bare midriff.
"Where'd you get that?" Casey asked. Adam shrugged. "Some guy over there was passing them out," he said, pointing behind him without taking his eyes off the girl. "They're handing out all sorts of free stuff out here."
Casey grimaced at the celery.
"Don't look so disapproving," Adam said after he turned to look at Casey. "At least I said no to the fish taco."
"Well, there's always that." Casey said in feigned agreement before looking back out in front of her. "This is really, really cool."
"Not cool enough, I guess. I mean, it didn't make it on your all important birthday list." Derek smirked, nudging Casey with his shoulder.
"You're the one who said we shouldn't just stick to the list." Casey reminded him.
Derek shrugged. A guy shoved a pamphlet into his arms as he passed, not even looking at Derek. Bewildered, Derek stared after the guy before looking down at the pamphlet. "Oh, jeez." He said. Casey moved closer to him to see what it was.
Half of it was dedicated to veganism, showing explicit pictures of chickens being killed, and dirty, sad looking pigs, packed tightly in a pen with no room to move. The other half advertised a strip club.
"Well, this is classy." Derek said. Casey had covered her eyes when she'd seen the pictures of the animals.
"Make it go away, make it go away!" She cried, horrified.
Derek smirked and tucked it in his pocket. "You're such a baby."
"And you obviously have no soul."
"Hey, I wonder what Adam's reaction would be to it. Adam?" Derek turned and found that Adam was no longer with them. "Where'd he go?"
"Adam?" Casey called, looking past Derek. "Seriously, it's like he needs a leash."
"I don't know about a leash, but I wouldn't mind some chains, especially if you were holding a whip." Adam said from behind Casey.
Casey turned around, ready to shove him, but then saw that he was holding out a rose.
"Here you go, Casey." Its stem was cut short and the tips of the petals were flush with a bright, bold pink which faded into a softer shade at the breadth of the petals.
"I read somewhere," Adam said once Casey took hold of the rose, "That a pink rose represents grace and elegance. I don't know if that's true, but it's definitely a lot more graceful and elegant now that you're holding it."
"Oh, Adam," Casey gave him a genuine smile. "This is actually really sweet. Thank you."
"No problem!" Adam beamed back. Casey held the rose not sure what to do with it and Adam said, "Oh, wait!" He spun around and after a few moments stopped a woman who was passing by, plucked two bobby pins from her hair and said, "Thank you!" The woman looked startled and opened her mouth as if to say something but then seemed to think better of it and kept on walking.
Adam took the rose from Casey's hand and reached up to put in the hair that was tucked behind her ear. "Do you mind?" he asked. Casey shook her head and he began to put the bobby pins in place over the stem. He pulled back and said, "Happy birthday, Casey."
Casey smiled, but gave him a questioning look. He clarified by saying, "Derek told me when he called. I wanted to get you something." He lifted his hand and touched the rose in her hair.
Derek felt something hot and sharp blossom in his stomach as he watched his best friend push a strand of hair out of Casey's face. It grew warmer still as he watched a flush of color spread across Casey's cheeks, illuminated by the random lights going off on the street.
Derek forced himself to turn away, and he wandered until he stopped and set himself amongst a small crowd in front of a guy playing the guitar. He listened, caught in the trance of good music, until Casey sidled up next to him.
"You should ask him if you can use his guitar for a minute." Casey said, "Play one of your songs. They've gotten really good."
"How would you know?" Derek murmured. He glanced at Casey, but the first thing he saw was the rose so he looked away.
"I went to a couple of your shows." Casey said.
Derek, still hoping that a music career was in his future, did his best to find places to play in his spare time. Usually this only amounted to small, dingy dives that no one had ever heard of.
He turned his whole body toward Casey, this time doing his best to ignore the flower in her hair. His eyebrows were raised in surprise. "How'd you even know about my shows?"
Casey shrugged nonchalantly, looking over at the guy playing guitar rather than at Derek. "You tell Edwin," She said before looking back at Derek. "Edwin tells me."
Derek hesitated a moment before asking, "What'd you think?"
Casey gave a small smile before she softly started singing, "Scratch through me like paper/You leave me marked when you leave/Through this wall you whisper/You and I are just a dream."
Hearing his words sung back to him by Casey blew him away. They seemed so much more beautiful-important, now.
"That one's my favorite," Casey said, "But it doesn't seem finished."
Derek shook his head, forcing himself to form words. "It isn't. But I play it anyway because it's my favorite, too."
"Finished or not, it's about a billion times better than what you were able to do in high school."
"Ain't that the truth!" Adam said, appearing next to them before Derek could respond to Casey, "Edwin e-mailed me Derek's old demos and man were they bad. Except for the few he did when you were his singer, Casey. The songs still sucked, but you sounded incredible."
Casey chuckled, "Thanks, Adam."
Derek glanced between Casey and Adam and the time he and Sam had gotten into that fight right before Sam and Casey started dating flashed into his mind. He really wanted to pounce on Adam, right then.
"Let's all look around a bit more before we continue on, yeah?" Casey suggested before Derek was able to decide whether or not he should take a swing and say he slipped.
Derek wandered through the different booths, coming across tables of handmade jewelry, stacks of old books, artwork, and food. He glanced up every once in a while to see where Casey was. He was thumbing through a stack of prints when he looked up to see Casey a few booths away. He was about to look back down when he watched Adam walk up to Casey.
Derek was close enough to hear Adam say hey to her clearly, and her say it back. He watched intently as Adam hovered next to Casey, looking down at whatever she was going through. They both noticed her shiver, like she'd been doing throughout the night since she left her sweater at Excursion.
Without saying anything, Adam unzipped his gray hoodie and took it off. He held it out to Casey. "Here," he said.
Casey looked at the jacket for a second and then shook her head. "I'm fine."
Adam rolled his eyes. "You're obviously cold. Just take it or I'll go take that free fish taco. And I'll bring you back one, too."
Casey laughed and then hesitantly reached out to take the hoodie. "Thank you." she said as she slipped her arms into the sleeves and tentatively zipped it up. Adam smiled down at her and then quietly walked off to the next booth. Casey watched him leave.
The feeling Derek had experienced when Adam had given Casey the rose began to bubble inside of him.
Derek tried to concentrate on a laminated print of a field with the focus being on the knees and converse of a person sitting folded up in the grass, but found that instead he was counting in his head. After roughly a minute and a half of staring blankly he stepped over toward Casey who was thumbing through a crate of cds at another booth.
"You take his jacket but not mine?" Derek asked, trying to sound joking but he couldn't completely hide the sharp edge from his voice. Casey noticed it, giving him a strange look.
Derek gave her an awkward smile, trying to diffuse the tension that suddenly appeared between them. He turned, but then stopped for a moment and then looked back at her. "He should have taken a daisy instead." Derek nodded his head in Adam's direction. His gaze then landed on the rose clipped in Casey's hair. Before she could say anything, he turned and walked in the direction of another booth.
As you can tell I took some of your suggestions and decided to do some flirtation between Adam and Casey. What do you think, was Derek jealous? :) I'm not too sure how I feel about this chapter. When I first started writing it, I adored it, but now…I like the street fair, which is based off of the First Friday street fair held here in Phoenix, but I feel like Casey's part at the store kind of fizzled =/ Hopefully you guys still find it enjoyable! Please review!