The Best Deceptions

(c) KES

Chapter Sixteen

"Come on, Katie," Kari called.

I shook my head, though she couldn't see me.

"You have to come out eventually," she said. "I'm not leaving 'til you do."

"Stop being ridiculous," I said, staring at myself in the mirror.

"I really don't think I'm the one that's being ridiculous," she teased. "I'm not the only who locked myself in the bathroom."

I sighed and unlocked the door. She barged in without another word. She was quite a picture, her hair in huge rollers, wearing one of Desmond's large button-up shirts and tiny shorts you couldn't even see under the shirt. She was gleaming; it was obvious how excited she was.

I, on the other hand, couldn't have looked more unsure of myself.

"Wow, you look amazing," Kari squealed. "I think it looks even better on you now than it did before."

I turned back to the mirror, having thought the same thing. For some reason, the soft, creamy fabric felt like it was made for me, but I had this feeling that it wouldn't fit as well the next day, like I absolutely had to wear it tonight.

"I don't look miserable," I said.

"It's a nice change," Kari grinned and jumped out of the way as I swatted at her. I couldn't believe how the dress made me look. It was as if losing Casey, and losing my father, hadn't even happened. I looked like a completely different person.

A pajama-clad Dez let out a low whistle from behind us. "You look hot," he observed, before continuing on his way to his room.

"Dez, she's your sister," Kari teased.

"Wasn't talking about her," Dez called back.

Kari flushed a pleasant pink. "He's cute," she said dreamily. "I feel very strange today. Don't you feel it?"

"The impending dread? Sure." I replied.

She rolled her eyes. "Stop being so dramatic. You're gorgeous. I'm gorgeous. He's…" she glanced behind her, "something way beyond gorgeous. We are going to have a great time. You are going to have a great time. I know you feel it."

I shook my head. I was beginning to hope, just a little, that things would go well, and I knew it was the beginning of the end. I couldn't let myself think things could be okay because the second I let myself get comfortable with the idea that prom could possibly be fun, I knew it would be taken away, and I'd be even more miserable than before. I think Kari knew that without me having to say it out loud, which was helpful. She could be optimistic for us.

"Sit," she commanded, gesturing at the stool in front of her. I sighed, but obeyed. I tried not thinking about anything as she curled my hair.

It really didn't work.

I thought dinner would be awkward; it wasn't. Dez and Kari did everything they could to keep me feeling at least somewhat positive about the night. To anyone else, it probably would have looked like three friends going to prom. I didn't feel like a third wheel at all.

That didn't stop me, however, from analyzing their every move. It kept my mind off Casey, off knowing I'd have to see him with Stephanie, so I was happy to do it. Dez couldn't keep his eyes off Kari, which I found incredibly adorable. She looked absolutely amazing in a vintage deep blue mini-dress. Her hair was curled in such a retro way that it looked as if she stepped out of the fifties. Kari relished in the attention Dez was trying not to show her, and I knew that they were holding hands under the table. I wanted to tell them that I was happy for them and that they could show how happy they were together, but I wasn't sure if I would regret it once we were at the dance.

"If it's any consolation," Kari interrupted my thoughts, "at the very least you'll completely ruin his night."

I glared at her and Dez shook his head in disbelief. "Kari…" he said. "We're supposed to be pretending that he doesn't exist. Haven't you figured that out yet?"

I smiled gratefully at Desmond. I knew he thought I was being ridiculous, but at least he supported my decision. Kari seemed keen on constantly bringing him up, though I wasn't sure why. Maybe she wanted to see me break down and throw a fit or something. I had been awfully calm about the whole thing.

"It's stupid," Kari said stubbornly.


"No," she cut Dez off. "I'm going to say what I need to say and then I'll shut up." She turned towards me, her eyes warmer than her tone. "You are being stupid."

"Hey—!" I complained, but she interrupted me before I could finish.

"You are being stupid," she repeated, "because you could have him if you wanted. It's like you like being miserable or something. So I demand that you either get him back, or stop acting like this, because it's entirely your choice."

"That's bull," I reeled at her statement. "He told me he didn't want anything to change."

"Do you really know so little about him?" she retorted. "He needed you to tell him that you wanted him back. After you decided to leave him, he wanted a little effort. You threw it away."

"That's enough, Kari," Desmond said quietly. I could tell he released her hand somewhere during her rant because he was reaching across the table to me with both hands. I let him clasp his hands over mine. "You deserve better than him if he can't understand the decisions you make," he said fiercely. "Whether or not you think he deserves another chance, not the other way around, is your decision only. You aren't the one who made a mistake here. He is."

I sighed and shook my head. "It doesn't matter either way. We have a dance to get to, don't we?"

Both Kari and Dez looked frustrated for obviously different reasons. I loved how intensely protective he was of me, but I couldn't help to think that Kari might have had a point. Maybe I could have had another shot with him, but it didn't matter. I threw it away when I told him I was fine with things the way they were.

It hit me then that I really wasn't. I knew that I was relatively miserable without him, but I hadn't realized how much I really missed him until then. He always tried so hard to understand me, and had been so incredibly patient with my inability to decide how attached to him I wanted to be. I hadn't had that with anyone else. I put my coat on slowly, trying to ignore the ache in my heart.

Prom was held in the ballroom of a Milwaukee hotel. We were slightly earlier than most of the guests since I had ended dinner so abruptly, but I was okay with it. It gave me time to prepare for seeing Casey.

We sat at a table and sipped on punch for a little while, chatting unconcernedly. The ballroom looked amazing, but I didn't care, or pay that much notice to the decorations. I couldn't peel my eyes from the entrance long enough for me to notice anything but those entering.

More and more were coming and I knew he had to be coming soon. Kari and Dez had given up trying to include me in their conversation. When I saw Erica and Blondie, both looking absolutely gorgeous, I was finally able to wrench my eyes away from the doorway, knowing Casey and Stephanie would soon follow.

"Oh, no, you don't," Dez said, poking my chin up so I would have to watch. "You've been staring at everyone else. You are going to stare at him too."

"That's ridiculous," I commented, but obliged. I watched as he entered with Stephanie on his arm, and I kept my eyes glued to her. She looked exquisite and she moved so elegantly that I was immediately kind of jealous. They looked like they belonged together. When I finally allowed my eyes to drift to Casey, he was already looking at me, his face nearly expressionless. He looked so incredibly gorgeous that it almost hurt to look at him. I gave him a small smile, unsure of what else to do, and forced myself to look away.

"They don't look particularly happy," Kari noted. I raised my eyebrows skeptically. "Really," she insisted. "Even Stephanie doesn't, and I thought she'd be thrilled."

I tried to not let that mean anything to me, but it did. Was I happy that they weren't happy? I tried not to dwell on it.

"Wow, you look beautiful, Katie," I heard from behind me. I spun around and was face to face with Erica and Blondie. I hesitated for a moment, but she broke out into a grin and things were suddenly good between us again.

I smiled my thanks, unable to think of anything to say. Erica turned to Kari and Dez, leaving me alone with Blondie.

He extended his hand wordlessly. I glanced at Erica hesitantly, but she motioned for me to go with him. I followed him onto the dance floor and wrapped my arms around his neck, but kept my distance. He didn't say anything immediately, but was staring at me in an unnerving sort of way.

"Things have been weird without you around," he noted softly. "I wouldn't have thought they would be since you weren't really part of our group for very long, but they are." He paused, looking up slightly before he continued. "Everyone really misses you—" I interrupted him with a scoff. He laughed, "Fine, Stephanie doesn't really, but everyone else definitely does. Erica felt horrible for having to pick sides, and obviously Kari did too." He paused again, looking where I knew Casey was, but I had refused to look there so far. "And Casey… well," he pulled me closer suddenly and though I was surprised, I didn't back away, "He wants to kill me right now."

"What's he doing?" I whispered, wishing I didn't care.

"Getting up. I'm pretty sure he's coming over here."

I could feel my heartbeat accelerate. "If you're lying—"

"What are you doing, Chris?" Casey said from behind me, the anger obvious in his tone.

I kept my eyes on Blondie, not because I was afraid, but because I was having a hard time keeping my laughter in. Blondie had put on such an innocent face that I couldn't stop my shoulders from shaking. He gripped tighter on to my hips to stop me, but didn't change his expression at all.

"Dancing," Blondie said carelessly. "This is a dance, you know."

I wasn't looking at Casey, but I knew exactly the expression he had on his face. Not only was he angry, but he was now very frustrated. It was obvious the conversation wasn't going the way he planned it.

"You should try it," Blondie said before untangling himself from me and scurrying away, leaving me and Casey to face each other alone.

"That was smooth," I muttered, crossing my arms over my chest, feeling self-conscience for the first time that night.

Casey just looked at me, his blue eyes full of something I didn't recognize, before stalking away. I watched him go, and on a whim, followed. He pretended like he didn't notice, but it was obvious that he did. He couldn't pick a pace; it was like he wanted to both slow down to allow me to reach him and speed up to get away from me, and he couldn't choose which he wanted more.

I wasn't sure what I was doing, but when he didn't run to Stephanie, I knew I had to do something. He going to her would have been the only thing to make me back down.

He sighed loudly before stopping dead in his tracks and turning around to face me. "What do you want, Katie?" All that indifference I had spent so much time working on seemed to come natural to him.

It was infuriating. "I want to ask you something." He didn't say anything, but he didn't turn away again, so continued bravely. "That day when I was supposed to be gone, but I wasn't, and you told me that things weren't going to change. Was that really what you wanted?"

He didn't speak, but his expression changed just slightly. If I had more time, I probably would have been able to decipher it, but Stephanie chose the most inopportune time to interrupt.

"Let's dance, Casey," she hooked her arm through his. "I love this song." She didn't acknowledge me at all and I didn't blame her for it. I would have been just as angry as she was, so I let her do this. I kept my eyes on Casey, who was clearly disconcerted.

"In a minute," he said softly to her. "I was on my way to the bathroom." He left without another glance at either of us.

"You can't just take him back," she snapped at me. "He was never yours in the first place."

I pushed back the urge to tell her that he was never hers either. I did not want to start anything with her. She was clearly looking for a fight, and I didn't have it in me. All I wanted was an answer to my question.

"And you have to realize how stupid you were, once you got him, to throw him away," she continued when she realized she wasn't provoking me. "You got Casey to care about you, and you acted like it didn't matter at all. All those stupid faults you thought he had you created, you realize that now, don't you? That he's as close to perfection as possible, and you threw it away. And now he's mine."

I shook my head, "He's not perfect." I said bluntly, surprising us both. "He's not even close."

"Then I guess you'll never really know what you're missing," she hissed.

"You have got it so backwards," I whispered, though I wasn't intending to offend her. I walked away from her without another word, lost in my thoughts. This wasn't one of those eye-opening moments where I realized suddenly that Casey was really a great guy who pretended to be egotistic to cover up his insecurities. Casey was anything but insecure. He was overwhelmingly overbearing, he always had to have his way, and he was definitely past being simply confident. I hadn't made up any of this, despite Stephanie's words. I was finally aware of something, however.

He was what I wanted. Those stupid traits of his were what I wanted.

Wanted in ways I hadn't really comprehended before. Before he was someone that got me out of my shell without much effort, but now it was obvious that he was the reason for it. Somewhere in my subconscious, I wanted to be close to him despite all my attempts to close off.

When I opened the door to the bathroom, some junior I recognized but couldn't put a name to let out a horrible squeak and nearly peed all over trying to zip up. He scurried out of the bathroom without a word and I was left alone with Casey.

He was standing in front of the mirror, looking but not really looking at his reflection. I slowly approached from behind him, and he looked at my reflection, a smirk playing on his lips. He opened his mouth to speak at the same time someone opened the door.

"Get out," Casey and I said simultaneously, not pulling our eyes from each other's reflections. The intruder complied and we were alone again.

"This is the boys bathroom, Katie. Are you confused?"

"Nope. I'm sure this is where I want to be." I held his gaze in the mirror, though I knew how much harder it would be if he turned to face me. "You never answered my question."

"No," he said quietly. It was only him twisting the cold water knob that apparently didn't work that made him appear anything less than composed.

"So, did—" I watched as his expression changed, conveying impatience. "Oh." I said, unable to say anything else. He turned to face me, his blue eyes much more intense being only inches away. He lowered his head slowly, pressing his lips once to the place on my neck he found in the park so many weeks ago. "You should've said something," I said, only half-aware of what was coming out of my mouth.

He shook his head, "That's not who I am. You know that. At least, I thought you did. I deserved some effort after you decided to leave me behind so easily."

"Easily?" I asked incredulously. "You really think it was easy?"

He just shrugged, "It's irrelevant. What I needed was you making some grand gesture. Kicking juniors out of the bathroom just to talk to me, for example." He sighed, "Though I'm not sure it would have mattered. You look so amazing tonight that I wasn't sure how long I would be able to stay away." He touched my cheek softly, his fingers rough.

I turned into his touch and it was enough of an invitation for him. He pushed his lips to mine softly, holding my face so gently I was sure he thought I wasn't really there. Impatient and tired of waiting, I kissed him harder and it wasn't long before he had me pushed against the bathroom wall, kissing me so fiercely I thought my knees would give out.

This was how it was supposed to be, me and Casey kissing in the men's bathroom. There was nothing romantic about it, or about us. It was dirty, broken and imperfect, like we were. I wouldn't have had it any other way.

The door opened again and we were not in the mood for interruptions. "Get out," we said together between kisses. This time he pushed me up against the door to hold off intruders.

I spent prom night in the bathroom with the prom king, who didn't even leave for his crown.

Author's Note: It's done! Thanks to all of you who stuck around with me, even if you hated that I called it complete. Well, now it is. I hope you enjoyed it, and please feel free to check out the other stuff I've written. What I'd recommend is listed on my profile page, because I just can't delete the things I wrote when I was 14, no matter how much I should.

Also, I am aware of some of the plagiarism that has occurred on this site in the last year or so. I will come after you if you try to take credit for this or anything else I've written, and I won't be nice about it. Just a warning.