Chapter 1

"Casey!" I hear from downstairs as I finish the 11th chapter of the book I've been captivated by for the last couple of days. "Yes, I'm coming!" I yell as I toss the book on my bedside table and head down the stairs. "Oh so her highness has decided to join us, not like we were waiting or anything." Derek says from the dinner table. "Shut up Derek, sorry everyone but I had to finish that chapter." I say as I take my seat across from Derek. My mom and George just grin while Derek rolls his eyes. I'm not surprised, he hasn't read anything more in-depth than the cereal box in the last 10 years. "What were you reading? Can I read it?" Marti asks in her sweet 8 year old innocence. "Aww I'm sorry sweetie, you probably wouldn't like it, it's for older people." I answer. "Yeah it's called 'How to get boys to like me even though I'm a huge nerd'" Derek laughs from across the table. I can't help but be annoyed "Der-ek! You are the most annoying brother I could ev-" "STEP brother" he cuts me off correcting me, I don't have anything to say in retort. So we end up just looking at each other. And there it is again, that moment of I don't even know what, between the two of us. Whatever it is that can't be put into words. Weird moments that we share from time to time but never mention because what would we even say. This one probably only lasted about half a second before we were pulled out of it by George. "Oh come on that's not nice, you two should be thinking of each other as siblings by now." Shit, I think to myself, I hate when they say that. "Right" we both say, as awkwardly as humanly possible. We make eye contact for a split second before we focus on our plates. The rest of dinner is regular chit chat between the rest of the family; Edwin and Lizzie telling George and my mom about school, Marti making irrelevant comments here and there, and Derek and I in silence at our end of the table.

My mom, George, Edwin, Lizzie and Marti are all huddled on the couch watching whatever dumb sporting event that's on. I have my back to them and all I can hear is the crowd yelling and my own families' hoots and hollers every now and then. Derek and I are on clean up duty tonight. I don't know why they would put us on the same night and try and make us do something productive together when they know all we do is bicker. Tonight however, we are silent. We putter around the kitchen wrapping up leftovers and putting things away when we both end up at the sink. Without a word he starts washing and I start drying. "So how's Max?" he finally says with just a hint of bitterness. "Fine, were fine." I answer, and we wash and dry for a couple more seconds before I take my turn. "What about you? Any new girls come through the constant revolving door recently?" I try to keep the bitterness out of my voice but do about as well as Derek did. He flashes one of his rare genuine crooked smiles "Actually now that you mention it, no, no girls recently. By my choice of course, not theirs." I roll my eyes and then theres more silence. He reaches to put the last plate on the dry rack when our arms brush against each other. And for a moment everything is in slow motion and he's all I can focus on, the close proximity, the heat, just everything until he pulls away. He seems unfazed, as he should considering were step siblings, but me, I'm definitely fazed. It's happened a few times recently, any contact with Derek and I feel…alive. God Casey you have to stop. He turns around and leans against the counter as he dries his hands. I'm too lost in my thoughts; what is this? It can't possibly be romantic, I hate him for god's sake and he hates me. So then why does he seem tense during our brief moments too? Ugh this whole thing is ridiculous, just stop Casey. "What's up with you?" he asks. Apparently my face isn't as neutral as I thought it was. "Nothing, you just…you just got gross dish water on me." I say seeming believably annoyed. "Oh Case you're such a spaz." He says as he wiggles the dish rag in front of my face. I push him away and flash him a genuine smile of my own.

It's about 10:00 pm and Lizzie, Edwin and Marti have all gone to bed. George and my mom are still watching TV on the couch with Derek in his chair. I however am on the other end of the living room enthralled with chapter 12 of my book. Everything around me is blurry and distant when I read but suddenly I hear my mom talking about the commercial that's on. "George we should get tickets to that!" She says excitedly. It's a commercial for one of our local theatres, there doing Romeo and Juliette. George doesn't seem as into it as I'm sure my mom would like. She tries more convincing "come on, everyone is a sucker for star crossed lovers!" Without missing a beat, Derek and I's eyes snap to each other. My mom and George are too concerned with each other to notice. This is the first time we don't look away right away, we just keep each other's gaze, and for once he looks vulnerable. And there it is again, the tension behind all the banter. I still don't know what to make of it. Maybe it's just us wanting to have a better relationship in a sibling kind of way. Stop lying to yourself. Ugh I wish my inner self would shut up sometimes. "You know what, I think I'm ready for bed." I say closing my book and getting to my feet. Derek can't help himself "yeah you need all the beauty sleep you can get." Clearly the moment's over. I ignore him and say goodnight to mom and George before heading up the stairs.

I lay in bed trying to fall asleep but it's not working, I just can't relax tonight. Think about happy things, think about being in love, think about Max, yes Max…and no one else.