Title: and we aren't going to clean up this mess
Summary: Don't look at me. MartiDerek
Author's Note: Omg like seriously, I deserve the most fucked up person award.
So basically, Marti changes her name to Zooey but I still refer to her as Marti to make it easier for you people. I really hate the name Marti, okay.
Perhaps you could say that odd numbers were kind of the worst creation known to man. There's something unbelievably cruel about odd numbers. There's always one left out, one creeping in the corner and just wishing to be a part of it all.
Marti's always been the odd one out, from the day she was born to the day Casey and Nora and Lizzie came and changed it all. She has always ached for attention, for carpools wrapped around her schedule and lunch bags with special notes covered in kisses. No one knows of this dream. Nora forgets to make lunch a few times, leaving Marti to dip into Casey's emergency money box. She can't help but feel a pang of sadness when Casey will blame Derek for stealing the money, completely overlooking the thought that Marti would be the culprit.
There's just something so sad and familiar about being on the outside looking in, something that Marti knows she'll never forget, something that she takes comfort in, somehow.
She doodles lone girls on the back of the drawings she hands her parents to put on the fridge. They are practically in plain view, but it makes her happy that she has a secret, so she decides they should all be called SECRETS.
When Marti is fifteen, she has the house to herself. It's kind of hollow, without Derek and Casey and Lizzie and Edwin and their screaming and weirdness and wow. Somehow, being outside was better than being... well like this. This was the quietest silence she had ever heard, her house felt like all the joy had been scooped out. She even felt empty herself, lacking her brothers and sisters and their laughs and craziness and Smerek.
She can't help but call him every day, just to talk. Sometimes, even though she knows he's not even listening, she has this desire to just scream at him because I am not Smarti anymore. I haven't been Smarti for ages and I miss you with all my heart and I'm aching.
She starts to have this really strange dreams where he comes back and sees how much she's changed. He calls her beautiful, even though Derek would never say it like he did in his dream.
She's afraid of what these dreams mean, and when she draws her dreams, they scare her further.
She calls them THE FEAR SERIES, and hides them under a loose floorboard.
Her favorite part of the year is Christmas, because everyone actually makes an effort to come this year, and it feels like old times, except Casey's wearing less makeup and Lizzie is wearing more and everyone is awfully grown up. Derek and Casey aren't fighting as much, and Marti can swear that Dererk's hand slides up Casey's leg when he drops his knife on the floor.
Probably a trick of the light.
Everyone is just so old compared to her. It had never seemed so blatantly obvious. Even when Derek was in high school and she was in elementary, it never occurred to her that it was ten years that separated them. Everyone acted as if they were her age, pulling childish pranks on each other and making jokes that she would often hear in the hallways. It seemed that ten years was nothing.
But, she was always the odd one out. It's even more obvious now, now that everyone is in their 20's, drinking red wine (in Derek's case, whiskey) and talking about their jobs. The only thing that they ask Marti is how her classes are going, and even though she has so much to say about it, she can only manage to spit out: It's school. Boring!
But it's not boring. She has so many things to say. She could talk about her improving artwork. She could ramble about the boy that smiles at her from across the kiln. She could throw the brochure the prestigious private school sent her onto the table and watch Casey's face fall because she had never gotten past their entrance exam, let alone been sent a personal letter with hints of a scholarship.
Marti wishes she could say these things. She wishes she could say something that would draw Derek's eyes away from Casey's chest, something that would make his glassy eyes meet hers and see. It isn't until she announces that she wants to legally change her first name to Zooey, her middle name, that his eyes stray.
"Don't be an idiot, Marti," he laughs, "You're Marti, and that's that."
She meets his eyes, a smirk dancing at the edge of her lips, and tells him to fuck off. Watching his face change before her eyes makes her laugh, makes her happier than she's been in ages.
Nora and George tell her to go to her room and they take her sketch book away, just to make it worse. But Marti knows it was worth it, because Derek doesn't look anywhere but the floor for the rest of the visit, and Nora pulls her aside to tell her that Zooey is a beautiful name.
Marti hands Nora the brochure and the letter and swears she can see a future forming before her.
She sketches Derek's face on the inside of her closet. She managed to remember his face exactly: caught between laughter and shock. She leaves it UNTITLED, because after she looks at it again, it hurts to look.
The next time Marti sees Derek, she's sixteen and her boyfriend, Emile, tells her she's beautiful every day. Her parents love him, as does Marti, for Emile calls her Zooey and paints portraits of her and writes poetry and does all the stuff that she's only dreamt boys would do.
Needless to say, Derek hates him from the moment he meets him.
"Marti, come on," he tells her while cleaning dishes, "You're obviously dating a gay guy. He doesn't play sports, he doesn't understand how to play hockey, and he has no appreciation for a good joke. And what kind of name is Emile? He's so not right for my Smarti."
Marti gets so mad that she drops a dish on the floor.
"Shut up, Derek. You think that you are so great because you fucking hit a puck on ice and you still make potty jokes even though you are twenty six years old. You think you're some fucking god, but guess what? You're a loser. Emile is a gentlemen and I love him, you asshole. And don't you dare call me Smarti. I'm not your baby sister anymore. I'm a fucking adult."
She storms up the stairs and locks her door. She sneaks out and goes to Emile's house and kisses him so hard that she tastes blood. He takes her virginity that night, and after, he takes a piece of charcoal and writes Zooey on his chest, right above his heart. He does the same to her, writing Emile in his perfect script. He tells her that it is his masterpiece. He tells her that he would title it I AM IN LOVE WITH YOU.
It is then that Marti realizes that perhaps her heart does not belong to him entirely, because she can't help but think Derek over and over in her pretty little splatter painted mind.
In the morning, she sneaks back in through her window and sees Derek asleep in her rocking chair. His brow is furrowed but he looks peaceful. Although she still feels the anger towards him pounding in her blood, she can't help but feel admiration towards her brother. (Oh God, her brother. He is her brother without a prefix.)
She kisses his brow before she goes into the bathroom to clean Emile from her body.
He doesn't tell on her, probably a repayment from all the times she promised he was home in high school, and for that, she's grateful. He keeps meeting her eye across the dining table though, like he knows exactly what she's done. She keeps thinking about it to herself, about what she would say to him if he asked. You don't know everything, Derek. Even though you think you do.
Every time she thinks of a cutting remark, the more it sounds like I love you.
He makes some stupid comment at the dinner table, something about how girls have such low self-esteem that they have sex so much earlier on in life. And Casey kind of smiles at him like he's finally listening to her, like he actually is doing this for her.
Marti tells him he should've actually treated girls like human beings back in high school instead of toys. Nora snorts into her glass of wine, Casey's smile falls, and Derek just looks at her, her oh so scandalous secret threatening to spill itself.
Instead of allowing him to have something on her, she says, "Besides, it's not about self-esteem. Sex is fun. Girls are just trying to have a good time."
It's not a surprise when George comes into her room later on and asks if she needs anything.
She says condoms, just to watch his face turn pretty colors. She draws it later, when she's grounded for at least a month, and it gets into a gallery.
She titles it: I NEEDED CONDOMS.
Derek doesn't come home for a long time after that.
She's already driving when he comes next. Driving and filling out university forms and making art – and he finally comes home.
She's sitting in bed and he knocks on the door.
"Hey," he says.
She doesn't even reply, just meets his eyes. It's quite sad, she thinks, how far she had pushed him away to avoid the aching feeling that rose in her chest when he walked into a room. She had avoided him for so long that she couldn't even remember how painful it was to hear his voice.
"Are you still dating that Em-whatever guy?"
She shakes her head no, and wraps her arms around herself, "Emile. We broke up a little while ago."
He gives her a semi-smile, so unlike himself, and says, "Well, I hope you broke up with him. You deserve the best."
She doesn't correct him. She doesn't say that Emile broke up with her because she never looked at him when they were having sex, or that she never said his name, or that she deserved so much less. She deserved nothing. She stares, and stays silent, watching his emotions flicker across his face.
He stands there, ruffling his hair, looking lost and misplaced. She's never seen him like this, and it makes the ache in her chest throb.
"Should I call you Zooey, or something?"
His voice is garbled, like he is nervously talking to a stranger. It makes Marti feel cold. She shivers.
"Smarti," she mumbles, "I'm Smarti to you."
His eyes get brighter and he smiles this absolutely beautiful smile that her fingers are aching to sketch, but there is still anxiety behind his eyes. She's always been able to read him like a book.
"I think I'm in love with Casey," he blurts out, "You were the only person I thought I could tell."
She tries to contain herself, she really does. The scramble of vowels that escapes from her mouth is unintentional, and it makes the following silence all the more worse.
She stares at him, with a slacked jaw, "Leave my room now."
His eyes widen, "You don't think I would ever do anything to you because I'm in love with Casey, right? You're my sister, Smarti. That's all shades of wrong."
Her fingernails dig into her thigh, and he notices before looking away.
"Don't you fucking dare call me Smarti. You're not my brother."
He turns away fast, but she still sees his face crumble, and it's enough of a peek to reduce her to sobs.
She rips a piece of paper from her notebook and sloshes paint on her bed as she tries to get the feeling on paper – the hollow void that was her heart, the damned voice in her head screaming obscenities.
ALL SHADES OF WRONG is what she would title it, but when she is done, she rips it into thousands of pieces. When she finally stops feeling pain and succumbs to numbness, she decides that tomorrow, her name will legally become Zooey.
She gets into RISD to the shock of her parents, who didn't even know she applied.
"That's so far away, Zooey," they say.
She still notices that every time they say Zooey, they look at her like she isn't the same person she has always been.
"I know," she replies, "I think I need to be away from here."
They nod slowly, like they are trying to understand, but they never do. Then, Marti decides to let them get it a little. She shows them her portfolio and as their eyes dance across the papers of charcoal, oil, and pencil, she feels proud for the first time in what feels like ages.
Nora picks up one of the drawings, one of her teacher's favorites, and breathes out slowly, "It's beautiful. Absolutely fantastic."
It is a sketch of Derek. Even his sketched eyes seem to burrow straight into Marti's when she looks at the picture. It is the closest drawing she could recreate from the night he told her he loved Casey.
And then, Nora and George slowly look down at the portfolio once more, and Marti can see it in their eyes. They finally understand. What seems like thousands of Derek's stare up at them, and Marti is shivering because they finally understand.
"Oh," George says, very quietly.
Nora drops the sketch of Derek, and they all watch it descend to the ground in slow motion. It lands on the back of the paper, so they can see the title.
YOU ARE NOT MY BROTHER, it says.
The check for RISD is on her dresser in the morning when she wakes up.
Her first year of college is the same year that Casey and Derek finally get married. The announcement shakes everyone, but no one says a thing. Derek and Casey send emails out to the family, wedding pictures attached. They got married in Vegas, which no one pegged to be Casey's decision, but was.
Marti swears she won't open them and lasts two days. Her friends get her really drunk, and at four in the morning, Marti stumbles into her dorm room and looks at them. The first picture is of Derek kissing Casey. It's a little blurry, but Marti wasn't expecting much from a photographer from Vegas. The whole set of photos is filled with them kissing and holding hands and mouths half open – laughing like kids.
She cries loudly and her roommate curses at her from her bed until she sees the computer screen, "Fuck, sorry. Wouldn't have been a bitch if I knew it was 'bout a boy. Is that your ex-boyfriend or something?"
Marti takes a while to respond, so long, in fact, that her roommate starts to snore again.
"Or something," Marti whispers.
She sees a paper clip on her desk and wonders what it would be like if she cut herself and just died. Maybe she could write the title of her life onto her skin: OR SOMETHING.
Instead, she gets into her bed and watches the window until the whole world starts to get brighter.
She doesn't get out of bed all day, just watches the window, to the confusion of her roommate.
She goes home for Thanksgiving break, even though she wasn't going to. Her parents want her to be home, probably from anxiety that she too will run away with her step-sibling, even though there aren't any left for her to take. Now, Edwin and Lizzie have announced their relationship to the family.
Their family has become a fucked up web, and still, she is on the outside.
Nora doesn't tell her any details about Thanksgiving, but Marti idiotically assumes that it will only be her. She walks home from the train station, not letting anyone know that she has arrived, and walks straight into Derek getting his luggage from the back of his SUV.
It makes her sad to see that car. She knows suddenly that Lizzie must have been completely against it, which meant that Edwin was against it, and Casey must have loved it enough for Derek to deal with all of that. Her breath leaves her throat. She has not seen Derek in what feels like eternities, but must only be a year.
She almost turns to go back to the train station, to go back to the airport and return to her real home, but then –
"Zooey," he says, softly.
She starts to cry, because she hears it in his voice. He understands. He knows.
She doesn't realize her knees have betrayed her until she is tearing grass with her hands. Derek looks at her with panic in his eyes. Still afraid of tears, she notes to herself. But then, he digs into his pocket and pulls out a clump of napkins, which only makes her cry harder.
He sinks to the ground next to her, and she wonders if he'll even explain to Casey why he has grass stains on his butt. He breathes evenly, and when Marti looks at him, she can barely see him anymore.
"Don't tell me to fuck off, or to tell me to never talk to you again."
She can hear the boy inside of him, the boy who used to not care about anyone but his baby sister, and her tongue gets caught up with her teeth and she cannot speak.
"I love you, Zooey. I think I love you more than anyone else."
She thinks to herself, I feel like I could fly right now. I want to paint how I feel right at this moment. I want to kiss him. I don't want to have anyone else but him.
He continues, "But I don't mean that in the way that I think you hope I mean. And I wish you didn't think about me like that, because I know how it feels. I know what it's like to feel that way about someone you aren't supposed to have."
She finally can say what she is thinking, "You don't fucking know. You'll never have the same pain I have. I fucking love you but there are no prefixes and there are no exceptions. I'm going to feel like this for the rest of my entire life, while you get to love the girl you thought you couldn't have. You will never feel as hollow as I have since I was fifteen years old."
He takes her hand, and it burns her skin alive. There are so many shocks that fill her entire body, and yet, Derek barely flinches.
"I wish I could take away some of your pain, Zooey. I wish I could."
She wants to tell him so many things. She wants to tell him that she hates him. She wants to tell him to kiss her. She wants to tell him to kill himself, that she'll kill herself. She wants to tell him that she loves him, and she always will. However, she doesn't think she needs to.
Instead of all of these things, she tells him, "Call me Smarti. Please."
Later, she will paint/draw/write this feeling out and call it all the same thing. She will find great success, maybe even have some put in museums. But in that moment, she leaves the greatest masterpiece with him, when their hands are still intertwined and she loops I LOVE YOU onto his palm.