Major re-vamp, I know. It just got to a point where I realized there was no going forward unless I fixed the screw-ups from the past. Therefore…I went back and fixed the aforementioned screw-ups. Since…you know…that's what people…do… Okay, yeah, I sound stupid.
Formerly known as "The Soundtrack," welcome back to the musically-directed world of Derek and Casey. There are a few things I changed so that y'all can read this and not feel like you're wasting your time, but if you feel that way regardless…
She walked out onto the deck of the cruise liner, taking in deep lungfuls of the familiar Atlantic sea breeze. It had been nine years since she'd breathed this familiar air, but the imprint of its smell and taste were fresh in her mind. She shifted her floor-length gown away from the edge before balancing her forearms on the metal railing. Billowing in the wind were tendrils of brunette spirals that had escaped from the intricate netting of hair pinned to the back of her head with diamond pins and crystal flowers. The magenta blush of the sunset cast a pink glow across her pale skin as she closed her eyes and tilted her head up into the light of the sky in front of her.
She'd been there before—not necessarily on this exact ship, on this precise spot, but the setting had been similar enough…some nine years ago when being a teenager was an arduous mixture of knobby knees, pimples, and the last stages of the transitional phase where boy cooties turned into cuties in a bizarre, cataclysmic event that looked like a flash of fluorescent lights, sounded like the slam of locker doors, and left a lingering taste of tater tots.
However, had she been standing on the precise location, on the exact same ship, and in the very spot she would've been right where they'd met on that godforsaken, fateful day. The day that, if it hadn't occurred, would've made the lives of her family significantly less stressful…and infinitely more bleak.
She gripped the cool, rounded metal tightly between her fingers, smiling at the smooth paint finish. And she remembered.
Nine Years Ago
Even in the white button-down shirt, blue tie, and black dress pants, Casey McDonald could tell that he was a scrawny little thing—the type who could be the victim to a bully. Only in this situation, the roles seem to have reversed. Feet perched on the bottommost rung of the railing and hips pressed against the handrails, he was leaning away from the ship with his hand poised to chuck a pebble into the ocean below. A perfect picture, really.
"What are you doing?" Casey barked, cutting through the relative silence of the deck and making the brown-haired boy jump in surprise.
He turned to stare at her with a guilty expression—complete with sheepish grin and half-shrugged shoulders. The mischievous glint in his chocolate-brown eyes belied all that, though. "Nothing."
Narrowing her eyes and setting her hands on her hips, Casey jerked her chin at the small rock in his hand. She'd come out here for fresh air—not to find circumstances in which she could emulate her mother. "You stole that from the fountain in front of the grand staircase, didn't you?"
He smiled then.
No…wait. It wasn't really a smile. One corner of his mouth curved up higher than the other, but it still managed to reach his milk-chocolate eyes. There were actors in movies and TV shows with that same expression, but to see it on the face of this smug little prepubescent boy who'd been in the process of trying to brain a fish, that smirk made Casey nervous.
"Don't tell me you didn't think of doing it too," he said shrewdly, jumping down from the rails and coming to stand in front of her.
Casey scoffed, ignoring the way the breeze picked up his hair and made it flutter over his fudge eyes that glinted in the sunset. Grimacing at her errant thoughts, she jammed herself back into reality. "Well, that's just too bad because that's exactly what I was about to say. I have better things to do with my time than participate in Neanderthal-like activities."
Having just learned the word "Neanderthal," she'd jumped at the chance to toss it into any conversation—and it had made sense to her. Throwing rocks sounded like something cavemen would do, so she felt confident in its usage. Her confidence grew as his smirk turned into a scowl.
He tried to straighten himself up imposingly and crossed his arms over his chest. "Why aren't you at the party anyway?"
She frowned. "Random, much?"
He motioned at her emerald green dress with two fingers. "You're dressed for the party. Why aren't you there?"
She mimicked his stance and crossed her own arms over her chest, huffing in exasperation as his scowl deepened. "Why aren't you? You're dressed for it too. Unless you make a whole ceremony out of attacking marine life."
He ignored her last statement and simply answered bluntly, "It's boring." He belated to remembered that he was still holding the pebble and promptly lobbed it overboard.
"HEY!" Casey snapped, slapping his arm. "What'd you do that for?"
He seemed a little taken aback by her sudden and violent outburst and took a step back. "What's your problem? It's not like it can hurt anything down there."
Casey glared at him and spluttered incredulously, "W-W-What? There are thousands of creatures down there! Manatees, whales, eels—if you'd switch the channel away from sports or cartoons long enough to catch a documentary once in a while, you'd have something to rattle around in your skull instead of just hearing some sort of whooshing in your ears! What if you hit a dolphin?"
He gaped at her in disgust for a few seconds before rolling his eyes and crossing the deck to lean over the railing again. He peered overboard for a second before turning back to her. "No dolphin," he deadpanned.
Clenching her teeth and squeezing her lips together so tightly that they nearly disappeared, Casey threw one last withering glare at him before turning on her heel and gracefully stomping back to the stairs that led below deck.
A hand shot out and gently wrapped around her elbow. She jumped and twisted to see the boy standing less than a foot away. She tugged her arm out of his grasp and took an awkward step back.
"What do you want?" she choked out, trying to sound disdainful and failing miserably.
He raised an eyebrow at her but then pointed at the other set of stairs across the deck. "The party's that way."
Her eyes darted to the other stairs, and she shifted from one foot to the other. "That's the teen party."
His raised eyebrow inched higher and higher on his forehead. "Oh, no. Oh, no. Don't tell me the keener's going to the adult party."
She glared at him again, vaguely noting the fact that she'd never made this face so many times in the thirteen years she'd been alive so far. "Keener?"
He cocked his head to one side and shoved his hands into his pockets. "You know, nerd or geek—someone who's really keen on getting good grades and stuff. I can tell you're one of them. You use all these big words like you had a brain transplant with a college professor."
She rolled her eyes and gave the full moon a beseeching look as if asking it why she was even talking to this boy.
"I'm not a keener," she said haughtily. "I just want to learn as much as I can so I don't sound like an idiot."
Instead of scowling at her pointed remark, his smirk turned into an actual smile, and she swallowed nervously at the butterflies that took flight somewhere near her gallbladder.
"So, keener, why aren't you going to the teen party?" he asked, changing the subject once again.
"Because I don't want to, jerk," she shot back before spinning around and heading back to the stairs. This time, he didn't grab her arm; he fell into step with her.
"What are you doing?" she asked, frowning at him from the corner of her eye.
"I'd think it was pretty obvious," he answered. "I'm walking. So much for that brain transplant, huh?"
"I see that you're walking," she gritted out through her teeth. "Why are you walking with me?"
Casey sighed in frustration as they descended the stairs. "What's so boring about the teen party anyway? Why don't you want to go back there?"
"I wasn't talking about the teen party."
"You're going to the adult party too?" she asked, confused. He'd made it sound like… Well, contrary to her previous assumptions, he didn't seem like the victim type anymore. On top of being the kind of boy who'd much rather hang out with kids his age rather than his parents, he seemed to be…
"Duh. That's why I said it was boring," he said.
"Why didn't you go to the teen party then?" she persisted, still clutching to her previous train of thought. He seemed to be…
He ruffled his hair in what looked to be a nervous gesture. "I'm not allowed."
She jerked her head back in surprise. "Why?"
When he answered, she realized that the hair-ruffling was as close to an indication that he had a modicum of modesty because what he said next (and how he said it) testified to the fact that this boy was most definitely one of those boys.
With that self-satisfied smirk, he answered smugly, "Because those girls can't get enough of me, and if I went, they'd never let me leave."
Casey stopped in the middle of the staircase, her feet on different steps. She turned to look at him as he stopped on the step below her and turned to face her.
"How you managed to lean over the railing and not fall off due to the giant weight of your ego is beyond me." Then she sniffed and brushed past him as she continued down the stairs.
But then he laughed and skipped a few steps to catch up to her. "I'm Derek, by the way."
"And I'm not impressed."
"Who said I was trying to impress you?"
She stopped at the bottom of the stairs and turned long enough to give him a longsuffering look. Cute or not, he was getting very, very annoying. She ignored his last question and made her way through the grand foyer to the left ballroom where the adult cocktail party was being held.
"Why are you on deck anyway?" he asked, as if the thought had just occurred to him.
She shrugged and pulled out a smirk of her own. "I was bored."
He grinned hugely, and in the most gentlemanly gesture, he pulled open the ballroom door for her. She walked inside with a shy smile, feeling the beginnings of a blush forming on her cheeks.
"Thanks," she said shyly, stepping into the dimly-lit ballroom.
Derek—this boy who couldn't be a year older than her—had the gall to smirk even wider and then wink at her, and in the flashing strobe lights and the glimmer of the disco ball, he looked even more diabolically devious than she originally pegged him to be.
A little girl with light brown hair and a smudge of chocolate on her face suddenly materialized next to Casey. Gripping the tulle skirt of her sky blue dress with one hand, the younger girl reached up to grip Casey's hand. "They're giving out chocolate mousse, and I saved you some!"
Casey grinned down at her little sister's ecstatic expression and knew that this huge burst of energy wasn't going to last very long.
The party was in full swing. It wasn't as calm and formal as it had been when she'd left since a majority of the adults had gotten up from their tables and congregated on the dance floor in front of the DJ's booth. Casey had been old enough to know that some of the red faces she saw laughing and smiling weren't just because of the conversations but rather because of the x-amount of glasses of wine or champagne they'd all consumed.
One particular red face stood out from the crowd though, and Casey knew for a fact that this man's face wasn't red because of any alcohol. He was in one of his moods. Casey and Lizzie's father strode up until he stood right in front of his daughters.
"Casey, where have you been?" he demanded. It was irritation and anger that Casey heard in his tone, not worry.
"I just went out to get some air, Daddy," she answered meekly as Lizzie pressed closer against her side.
Casey vaguely noticed that Derek had shut the doors and was now standing with his back pressed against them. He probably couldn't really move much since the buffet table was to his left, and he couldn't move past the family without brushing up against the girls.
The girls' father sternly stared down at his eldest. "You know better than to go anywhere by yourself."
She did, and under normal circumstances, she wouldn't have, but the way he and her mom had been beginning to frown and whisper to each other, the thirteen year-old had felt she had no other choice. There had been too many people around her; it was suffocating.
She would've said something to that effect too, but someone had decided to butt into the conversation. As if it was so difficult to duck under the table and crawl away. "She wasn't by herself."
Casey closed her eyes and stifled a sigh and a grimace.
"Who are you?" her father asked coldly. She could practically hear his eyes narrowing and his eyebrows pulling together in a dark, intimidating frown.
"I'm her friend," Derek answered confidently.
Casey rolled her eyes behind her closed lids and opened them when Derek's proud statement was met with complete silence. The older man looked livid, and when Casey turned to look at Derek, he looked to be on the verge of bolting out the doors or bracing himself for her dad to start yelling at him.
But Dennis McDonald never yelled. He worked too hard and came home too late to ever have the energy to yell. So when he was mad, his voice remained low and even, but the anger could still be heard loud and clear. "Oh, really? Casey, is that—"
"Dennis?" Nora McDonald came up behind her husband and spotted her daughters. "Oh, Casey, there you are. How was the deck?"
Dennis spun around to stare at his dark-haired wife. "You knew where she was?"
"Of course I did," Nora answered indignantly, her soft demeanor momentarily marred by her scowl. "You know Casey wouldn't run off without telling anyone where she'd be going."
"So you let me worry? Why didn't you say anything?" Dennis asked with a glare.
Nora frowned. "You didn't ask. Casey, honey, come back to the table. Lizzie saved you some dessert."
She brushed past Dennis and ushered her two daughters back to their seats. Casey glanced back to see Derek give her a small smile and a parting wave.
The two of them didn't see much of each other for the rest of the night except for a few brief glances from across the ballroom. He was hanging around two other kids whom Casey assumed to be his siblings. One was a little boy about Lizzie's age, and the other was a little girl about three or four years-old in an adorable little purple dress. His little brother trailed after him in a manner that could only be described as hero worship as Derek himself held onto his little sister's hands as she attempted to dance. Casey smiled as she watched them, but when Derek looked up and met her gaze, she paled and turned around—but not before she saw the smirk cross his face again.
Surprisingly enough, he came up to her once. He traversed the ballroom dance floor and stopped right in front of her.
"Hello," he said awkwardly, but he still managed to have enough courage to look her straight in the eye.
For a second, she thought he was about to ask her to dance, and she was immediately launched into a daydream of him waltzing her around the floor to a romantic serenade. The fantasy ended when she saw his eyes shift to her right where she knew her father was probably staring him down. Derek dropped his gaze and walked past her toward the dessert buffet to grab a cup of ice cream. When she turned back to her parents, Casey saw that Nora was looking at her with a small smile and a spoonful of mousse halfway to her mouth. The thirteen year-old blushed in embarrassment under the scrutiny of her mother—though she had no idea why.
When Lizzie began to droop, Dennis and Nora decided it was time to turn in. Dennis scooped up Lizzie, and Nora and Casey stood and followed him out the ballroom. That was when someone bumped into Casey's shoulder and pushed a small slip of paper into her hand.
Turning, Casey glimpsed a flash of brown hair disappearing between two obese ladies who were trying (and failing) to do the Macarena. The scene reminded her disturbingly of Jell-O being shaken. When she finally managed to tear her eyes away from the gelatinous display, Casey looked down and unfolded the paper. Derek had scrawled a message with what looked to be the sharp corner of a bar of chocolate.
Keener, he'd written, meet me in the garden-thing tomorrow after lunch.
"It's called a conservatory, Derek," Casey said, coming up behind him.
He jumped in surprise again, but then he lunged forward and clamped his hand over her mouth. Casey nearly shrieked and punched his ear.
"Keep it down, keener," he hissed, craning his neck over the rose bushes to see if anyone else was around. "We're dead if they know we're in here."
Casey finally managed to slap his hand off her mouth and wipe her lips with the back of her hand. "Why?" she whispered, humoring his paranoia. "The door was unlocked, and there weren't any signs to keep us out."
He smirked and reached into his pocket to pull out two rigid wires. "That's because I unlocked the doors for you, princess, and the sign is on the other door."
Her mouth dropped. "You picked the lock?"
He popped the collar of his polo shirt arrogantly and shrugged. "What can I say? I'm charming, handsome, and talented in so many different ways."
She wanted to be all huffy and indignant at his blatant disregard of the crucial tidbit that breaking and entering was, in fact, a felony, but she couldn't help but be impressed. He was a teenage James Bond in a green polo shirt and jeans. Not that she was planning on letting him know she thought so. His ego was gargantuan enough to not need any more stroking on her part. So she just rolled her eyes and picked at invisible dirt on her yellow sundress.
"Why'd you want me to meet you here anyway?" she asked, studying a half-bloomed rosebud lit up by the afternoon sunlight that filtered in through the greenhouse roof.
He scratched the back of his neck. "I don't know. I just wanted to get away from my parents for a bit, and it looked like you kinda wanted the same thing last night since your dad…"
She bit her lip and continued to stare at the flower. "Yeah, I guess."
They stood there in an awkward silence for maybe twenty more seconds before he spoke again. "So where are you from?"
Casey turned and started to walk past him, admiring the partially-bloomed flowers all around her. "Toronto. And you?"
"London," he replied, falling into step with her.
Casey whipped around to face him in shock. "England?"
He chortled at her hopeful, excited expression. "No, Ontario. In case it hasn't dawned on you, I don't exactly have a British accent."
She stuck her tongue out at him. "There can be people who live in England that don't have accents, you know. I've read about it."
Derek scoffed and shook his head, brushing past her to keep walking further into the conservatory. "Keener."
Casey glared at the back of his head. "Jerk."
Then he turned back, and they both grinned at each other. But as Casey stepped forward, she missed the small puddle of water on the smooth, tile floor and slipped. She very nearly did a split, but Derek managed to grab onto her and keep her from falling. However, in his effort to pull her back onto solid footing, he wrenched her toward him so that their chests slammed together, and they swayed threateningly.
At this point, they were both blushing like fools, so Casey tried to take a step away from him. Since all the blood had rushed to her face, she forgot that she was stepping back into the puddle and nearly slipped and fell…again.
But he caught her…again.
"You," he breathed against her face, "are such a klutz."
She scowled and pushed away from him, making sure to walk around the puddle. Something warm and soft suddenly wrapped around her hand, and she looked down to see her fingers intertwined with Derek's.
"What are you doing?" she choked out, the blush crashing back up into her cheeks.
He smirked and continued to walk until he was practically dragging her along behind him. "You're bound to step into another puddle. The sprinklers turned off right when I got here. This way, if you fall, I'll have a better hold on you."
She ducked her head and smiled a little, involuntarily squeezing his hand.
He had a hold on her for sure.
They spent the rest of the afternoon meandering around the conservatory, ducking and giggling behind bushes when they thought someone was coming. They talked about everything—debated the purpose of video games, the pros and cons of wearing a seatbelt (since he kept insisting it could very easily snap someone's neck depending on the force of the impact—which was untrue, by the way), and their siblings.
His brother was named Edwin, and he really was Lizzie's age. His sister Marti was four and already insanely obsessed with the color purple. Casey told him about Lizzie and how she was starting to act more like a tomboy as she started getting more and more into sports. Then he told her about how he loved to play hockey, and she told him how she loved to dance. They walked and held hands until it was almost dinner, and they had to find their respective families.
Casey didn't care that there was only a 2% chance they'd ever see each other again. For the remaining two days on that cruise, she lived a fairy tale. Despite the fact that she'd never actually read Romeo and Juliet, she compared hers and Derek's "relationship" to the famous couple—the way they snuck around, hiding and whispering behind rosebushes because their families didn't want them together.
Face it: they were thirteen year-olds. What morally stable, right-minded parents would let their thirteen year-olds run around together alone and unsupervised?
But it's not as if their parents really did have much to worry about after all. All the two ever did was talk and hold hands. They never even hugged let alone...kissed. They didn't dare stray into that territory because… Well, they never had to talk about it, imply it, or allude to it—they were just never going to see each other again, so there was no point in starting something like that. Yes, Derek lived a mere three hours away, but neither of their families were ever going to spring for a visit. This was their summer fling—their thirteen year-old, obscenely innocent version of a summer fling.
But he had quite a hold on her.
For years afterward, Casey would still remember the warmth of his hand around hers. She remembered the way he brushed away her tears with the backs of his fingers when they stood on the grand staircase to say goodbye the night before they had to disembark.
Sad thing was that she didn't think either of them knew the other's last names.
When she returned to Toronto, the first thing Casey did was borrow Romeo and Juliet from the local library. Once can imagine her reaction once she realized that the epic love story was, in fact, a tragedy. What made things even worse was that Romeo and Juliet didn't just get gypped out of a happy ending—they died. Then it reminded her of that Titanic movie, and one can continue to imagine her chagrin at the parallels: star-crossed lovers meeting on a cruise liner only to have their happy endings viciously ripped away from them.
It couldn't have come at a worse time because Dennis and Nora finally made a decision. Their attempts at rekindling their romance during a family cruise was an epic failure, so they finally reached a consensus—the one word that could break the heart of a thirteen year-old hopeless romantic.
Casey had wanted to put Derek and her father in the same category when she realized there must have been some sort of cosmic relation to the fact that both their names began with a "D" and they'd both essentially broken her heart in some form. But she couldn't label Derek like that. He didn't intentionally do anything hurtful to her. She wouldn't say he was her first love because not only would that be too sappy and romantic, but because it simply wasn't true. It was barely a summer fling, but there had been a connection between the two of them—a connection that even after they parted ways, never broke.
She occasionally courted a fantasy where they'd snuck off the boat and ran away together, swept up in a whirlwind romance that spanned the continents. They'd eventually married, settled down, had children, grew old, and then related to their descendants their epic love story. But she eventually grew tired of waiting for something that would never come, pining for something imaginary to be real, wondering what could have been. She knew that her fantasies were her coping mechanisms for dealing with the divorce. She couldn't have her father, so she wanted Derek.
Two years later, she didn't think she'd get what she wanted…in a horrible, twisted version. It was like the cosmos decided to slap her in the face and burst out laughing.
She got Derek back.
Only this time, he was supposed to be her stepbrother.
I'll be posting the rest of the chapters soon. Sorry for all this if it's pissing you off, and I hope you like the edits. There's not much in this chapter, but the deeper we get into the story, you'll see some differences. And I'll be posting the legitimate updates soon enough.
Those of you who've been with me since the beginning or have reviewed before may not be able to review again since you're only allowed to post one review per chapter per account. (If you didn't know that already…) So if you've got any qualms or complaints, just send me a message or logout and review.