Teddy wants revenge after losing his face at the Waterhole the other day. He racks while Taïga surreptitiously watches Derek and Elspeth, deep in conversation.
‘Doesn’t Derek like playing?’
‘Oh, he likes shooting pool all right.’ Teddy aims the cue ball at the first ball in the rack.
‘Then why doesn’t he play?’
The balls roll all over the table. ‘Ask him.’ He pockets the first ball and glances at Taïga. ‘Yay! Did you see that?’
But Taïga’s attention is elsewhere. She can’t take her eyes away from Elspeth who traces the outline of Derek’s t-shirt with her index finger. She’s so touchy! Gosh! Taïga tries to focus on the game, but it’s an easy win for Teddy this time…
With the Christmas holidays coming up, Taïga and the girls thought it could be fun to throw a party. Their basement is big enough, and they’ll only invite their friends. Taïga is supposed to talk to Chuck as he seems to like her a lot. She tells Derek about their plans as they’re waiting for the bus after school.
‘… so what do you think about it?’
‘I can’t believe you! You didn’t listen at all!’
‘But I did.’
‘I did. It was just boring…’ Derek smiles that aggravating cocky smile, looking expectantly at her. Taïga glares at him, shakes her head and walks towards the bus.
‘I’ll have a word with Johnny… and Chuck!’
Taïga stops and smiles to herself. ‘Great!’ And resumes walking towards their bus.
‘I don’t feel well.’
‘Uhuh…’ Taïga’s busy texting Linn and Loki.
‘I don’t think I can make it to work this afternoon… You don’t have any pain killers, do you?’
‘No, I don’t.’ Taïga looks up from her texting. ‘You shouldn’t take painkillers all the time. They’re not M&M’s you know.’
Elspeth just glares at her. ‘Well, I can see you’re in good shape, Miss Perfect… What about the party? Did you ask Chuck?’
‘No, I didn’t.’ Elspeth whirls around as Taïga adds. ‘But Derek said he would talk to his uncle.’
Elspeth just stares at Taïga and mimicks her voice. ‘ “Derek said he would…” Can’t you do anything by yourself?’
Irritated, Taïga puts down her cell. ‘What’s been eating you lately? Don’t you realize how rude and irritable you are?’ Taïga thinks her words might be a little harsh. ‘Why don’t you tell us about it and maybe we can work something out together.’
‘Well, I admit that it would help to talk to someone about it. But that someone is certainly not you!’ She stomps out of the room. Chase throws a “told-you-so” glance at Taïga who shrugs and resumes her texting. Her cell vibrates. “Meet us in the stables :-)” Taïga smiles to herself, texts “BRT” and jumps off the bed.
Taïga and Teddy don’t have school on Tuesday afternoons, and Derek’s decided to play hookey. They meet in the stables, waiting for the others to leave for their afternoon classes or their jobs.
‘You can come out now! The coast is clear!’
‘Are you sure they’re all gone?’
Squealing with laughter they run outside and start building a snowman.
‘I can’t believe we’re doing this! Just like when we were little.’ Taïga enthuses.
‘Yeah… Just imagine the others if they saw us!’ Teddy smiles.
‘Move over, kiddos!’ Derek places the head on top.
‘I’ll get some stones!’ Teddy hurries away towards the parking and Taïga takes out a carrot from her pocket. She looks at it wistfully.
‘C’mon, Freebird won’t mind!’ Derek teases.
Taïga looks at him. ‘Do you remember Mr. Bumble?’ Derek shakes his head. ‘Don’t you remember? The man who lived over by the Fae Ray Gardens and looked like a bumble bee!’
‘You mean Branch Timbley?’ Derek and Taïga beams at each other, both remembering how they thought their snowman looked like Mr. Timbley.*
‘Did you know he was a peeping Tom? He got caught looking into Serena Wilkins window one night…’ Teddy’s back with a lot of black stones and a scarf.
‘Really? That’s awful. Tell me about it!’
They are finishing the decoration of the snowman when someone’s suddenly laughing behind them.
‘Oh. My. God. I can’t believe you guys made a snowman! How old are you?’
Taïga sighs and sits down on the bench. Darn Elspeth has to destroy everything!
‘Old enough to have fun.’ Derek answers her.
‘I’m old enough to have fun…’ Elspeth flirts. ‘But she isn’t!’ Elspeth throws a malevolent glance at Taïga.
‘Aren’t you supposed to be at the bookstore right now?’ Taïga adds.
‘I called in sick.’ Her attention is drawn back to Derek. ‘So are we having a party or not?’
Derek leans against the snowman, smiling. ‘We are. Chuck said it’s OK next Friday before everyone leaves for the holidays. So it’s kind of a Christmas party.’
‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ Taïga is offended. Why did he tell Elspeth and not me?
Elspeth snuggles up to Derek, whispering something in his ear that makes him laugh. Taïga glares at them and starts off towards the house.
‘Where are you going?’ Teddy asks.
Shooting myself. ‘Doing my homework.’ And getting out of their hair.
Suddenly the earth disappears beneath her and she screams with frightened delight as Derek resolutely grabs her and hoists her onto his shoulder.
‘What are you doing? Let me down! Let go off me! You can’t do this! Let me go!’ Taïga struggles vainly, hammering Derek’s back with her fists.
‘You macho pig! Let me down!’
‘Stop shouting.’ He answers calmly. ‘Or I’ll spank you!’
‘Don’t you dare!’
‘Oh, I dare!’ Grinning, he slaps her butt. Taïga is so outraged she forgets to holler.
Unceremoniously he dumps her into the snow, and sits on his heels in front of her.
‘Will you stop acting like a child and listen to me now?’
‘No! Definitely not! Why should I listen to a mysogine-macho-pig who thinks he can do whatever he pleases just because he’s got more… more…’ She wipes away a strand of hair from her face. ‘… muscles…’
‘Woman-hater if you prefer.’ She glares at him and he smiles.
‘But I love women… it’s spoilt brats I can’t stand.’
Taïga just gapes at him. ‘Me? A spoilt brat? You’re so full of it, Derek Vargas.’ She scrambles to her feet and starts walking away.
‘Actually I meant Elspeth.’ Taïga turns around with a smile. ‘But that doesn’t mean you’re a woman, kiddo.’ Her eyes are furious slits and she opens her mouth to say something but thinks better of it. Derek swears to himself. Why did I say that! Really? I put my foot in it again. Get a grip on yourself, Der.
‘When you left… I made snow angels at night…’ He blurts out. Mental face-palm. I told you to get a grip on yourself! One foot isn’t enough, you have to jump in both feet! Now she’ll laugh at you.
But Taïga doesn’t laugh. ‘What?’
‘Just forget it!’ Derek looks at his feet.
‘Did you make snow angels?’
He looks sheepishly at her. ‘Yeah, well… Stupid isn’t it?’
Taïga just shakes her head. She suddenly feels like crying. She remembers the story he once told her about a young angel who lost his wings and powers because he fell in love with a human girl who died in an accident. The angel died of sorrow and guilt, lying in the snow looking at the stars until he froze to death and was reunited with his love. His body vanished, only leaving the trace of an angel in the snow…
They stand back to back. Why are my hormones running amok when he’s around? He makes me want to laugh and cry and slap him and… and kiss him!
‘Like when we were kids, huh?’
They take a few steps apart…
… Before letting themselves fall backwards into the immaculate snow…
‘What are you two doing?’
‘What does it look like?’ Derek answers his uncle who stares down at them.
Johnny chuckles. ‘I won’t tell you, son, or you’ll never forgive me…’ He stomps away towards the stables. ‘Give me a hand with the supplies, will you? The truck is parked behind the barn.’
Taïga tries not to destroy her snow angel as she rises. They both look at each other for a moment, Taïga being the first to break the eye contact. ‘I’m freezing. I think I’ll go have a hot shower.’
‘Why don’t you take a bath? We have a tub in our bathroom.’
‘I don’t know…’
‘And bath salts…’
‘No… It’s OK.’
‘And bubble bath…’
Taïga tries not to laugh. ‘OK. I surrender, I can’t argue with someone who talks “bubble bath” fluently!’
‘I can rub your back if you want to?’ He winks.
God, I’d love that! ‘I bet you would!’ She turns and walks briskly towards the house.
‘Hey, Taïga!’ Taïga turns around, only to get hit by a snowball.
‘Get up! Don’t be such a “sissy”!’ Derek feigns a British accent.
‘Prick! You don’t realize how hard you throw, don’t you?’
‘Nope.’ He throws another one, less hard. ‘And I didn’t realize you were made off glass!’ And another.
Taïga covers her head, melting snow is trickling in beneath her polo neck. ‘Just stop!’ Another.
‘Say you give up!’
‘ “Pretty please, Derek, you’re the best!” ’
‘Don’t push it!’ Taïga rises, hiding a snow ball in her fist. She catches him in the chest and ducks quickly. ‘You’re on!’
‘Hi guys! What are you…’ Both Taïga and Derek turn around, throwing their snowballs at poor Teddy, who as usual steps through a door at the wrong moment… Laughing Taïga ducks inside.
There is nothing better than a long hot soak to clear the mind. Taïga plays with the bubbles and then just relaxes in the soothing bath. She inhales deeply. This bubble bath smells like a small slice of heaven. A knock on the door pulls her out of her reverie.
‘Taïga, Thomas has downloaded a new horror movie. I just wondered if you’d like to see it?’ Teddy asks.
‘Sure! I’ll be right there!’
Thomas loves scary movies. For tonight he’s downloaded “Wild Country”, a story about werewolves in Scotland. Derek joins them a while after the film has started. He thinks it’s crap, but he stays anyway, watching Taïga closely. It’s far more interesting to watch how she gasps and closes her eyes when she’s scared than following the film… He longs to take her in his arms and comfort her. She grabs Teddy’s hand and he responds by reaching out and pulling her closer to him. Derek’s mouth is but a thin line as he watches his brother. Their eyes meet over Taïga’s back, the expression on Derek’s face making Teddy withdraw his hand.
‘I hate those kind of films!’ Taïga says, snivelling when the film is over.
Teddy rubs her shoulder amiably. ‘But that was a happy ending!’
‘No, it wasn’t. The monster killed all of them, including her boyfriend! It was awful…’
Derek studies his fingers, then he sighs and stretches. ‘I’m off to bed. I agree with Taïga, the film was crap.’
‘C’mon, Taïga. It’s just a film.’ Teddy plants a kiss on her cheek, making Derek stop and stare.
‘I need to talk to you, Ted.’
‘I’m coming.’ Reluctantly he lets go off her. ‘Will you be all right, Taïga?’ Taïga nods.
Taïga sneaks back to Derek and Teddy’s room later. Teddy is shooting zombies on his laptop but Derek puts his book down as she enters the room.
‘I’m sorry, but I couldn’t sleep.’
‘You shouldn’t watch scary movies before going to bed, kiddo.’
Taïga glares at him. ‘Stop calling me that. I’m not a kid!’
‘To me you are.’ He stares her down. ‘15. That’s a kid.’ She heck doesn’t look like a kid. But she is, so stop all thoughts about her that way. Now! He decides they’re on deep water and changes the subject. ‘So what was scary?’
Taïga sits down on Derek’s bed. ‘The werewolf of course! It was horrible! How the guy sacrificed himself to save his girlfriend at the end…’
‘Have you thought about why? Why did they have to kill… it? It only tried to protect its baby…’ Derek says.
Taïga turns towards him. ‘I think that was sad too, like a lion protecting its cub. But then again the werewolf attacked first and the cute little baby will grow up to be a monster and continue killing innocent people!’
‘It’s not his fault, he hasn’t chosen his destiny.’
‘Next you’ll tell me Charles Manson and Ted Bundy were cute babies once!’
‘I don’t think you’re born a psychopath, it’s something you become! But you don’t chose to become a loupga…’
He’s interrupted by Teddy who thinks their conversation is not going anywhere safe. ‘I’ve got an idea!’ They both look at him. ‘Why don’t you paint us? It could be fun!’
‘I don’t think so…’ Taïga is reticent. She would like to continue talking to Derek. ‘It will take so much time.’
‘Knock it off, Teddy. Maybe she can’t!’
‘I can’t do what?’
‘Paint portraits.’ Derek teases.
‘Of course I can! But if it’s good or not depends… The model must be patient enough to hold the pose for hours…’
‘C’mon, paint me. I can do art modelling as long as long as you let me keep my pants on!’ Derek looks deadpan at her. Gosh, is he serious or…
‘Watch me!’ He jumps up from the couch and starts sashaying though the room like a Diesel model, sexy and provocative, his jeans hanging low on his hips.
He stops right in front of her.
‘Like this, kiddo?’ He passes a hand through his unruly short hair, throwing her a cocky glance. Taïga swallows. Oh, yes. I like this. Her eyes are drawn to his waistline. I wonder what that tattoo is? Teddy grabs the phone lying by the laptop –which happens to be Taïga’s -and starts shooting away.
‘Rrrreugarde-mwoahhh, pumpkin.’ Teddy takes a French accent. ‘Yoou arrrre bioutifoul… Yesss… Zat’s rrright, ‘old ze pose, gimme morrrre … mooorrre emosssion….’ Derek pouts, strutting around batting his eyelashes.
Taïga is crying with laughter. ‘OK! OK! I’ll do it! Just stop before I pee myself!’
‘OK. What do you want me to do?’
‘Just be natural.’
‘Like this?’ He strikes a pose showing off his muscles.
‘Is that your definition of natural?’ He shrugs. ‘Just be your usual brooding self…’
His attention is drawn to Teddy on the floor, chuckling as he’s looking through the pictures on Taïga’s phone. ‘Hey, Ted. Erase them will you?’
‘Yes! Stay just like that.’ Taïga enthuses. ‘Now don’t move…’
After a while, Taïga tells him he can relax, she doesn’t need him to pose anymore.
‘Can I have a look?’
She’s good… It really looks like me! Well, it is me…
Taïga is painting fast, her brush flying over the canvass. She’s so concentrated on her gouache that she forgets all about Derek who’s discretely standing behind her, watching fascinated as his face takes form on the canvass. Teddy has abandoned them a while ago and is softly snoring in his bed.
‘So… What do you think?’ Taïga puts down her easel and takes a step back, right into the arms of Derek.
‘Gorgeous…’ But he isn’t looking at the painting. Taïga’s heart skips a beat, but Derek lets go of her.
‘I love it. I think you’re quite talented, kiddo.’ He kisses her chastely on her head. ‘Can I hang it on the wall?’
‘You should wait till it’s completely dry. Maybe tomorrow…’
As long as Teddy’s around, the three of them have fun and talk… It’s when Taïga gets alone with Derek it gets awkward. Taïga can’t help being attracted to the arrogant but handsome older Vargas brother. Why is he acting as if nothing ever happened? One day he kisses me so passionately my lips hurt, and the other he’s aloof like a big brother… He’s driving me crazy with his attitude!
‘C’mon. Let’s call it a day.’ Derek grabs a t-shirt from a chair and pulls it on. ‘It’s past midnight, I’ll walk you to your room.’
Lil Bling can’t stay away from the girls for long. If nobody sees him, nobody (aka Derek) will find out! Friday night he tries his luck, hiding out in the toilet stalls, watching the girls get ready for the party… but he forgot about the mirrors…
Chase drags a stammering, but leering Lil Bling out from his hiding place.
‘It’s a mistake! I swear I took the wrong door!’
‘If you miss the sign on the door you’re in need of glasses! No, a dog! Glasses won’t do!’ Chase is furious. ‘Get OUT! NOW!’
‘Fuck off!’ Elspeth adds, flipping her fingers. ‘Or we’ll tell Derek!’
Lil Bling doesn’t argue. He scurries outside, not without catching a last glimpse of lovely underwear…
The party’s a blast and DJ Lil Bling gets everyone on the dance floor, even VJ… At the end of the evening, Teddy whispers something to him and he puts on Jamie Scott’s “Unbreakable”. Everyone catcalls when Teddy summons his courage and asks Taïga for a dance. She puts her arms around his neck and smiles sweetly. They are soon followed by other couples. She can see Derek watching them with an undecipherable expression on his face.
Derek is deep in thought. He watches his brother holding Taïga in his arms. She looks so happy. God. I can’t just stand here…
“But I can’t, I can’t, can’t stop thinking about you every day
And you can’t, you can’t, you can’t listen to what people say
They don’t know you baby, don’t know that you’re amazing, but I’m here to stay”
Teddy brings his left hand up over her head making Taïga twirl. Derek catches his brother’s eye and brushes away Elspeth’s hand from his arm, striding onto the dance floor.
“When you lose your way and the fight is gone
Your heart starts to break and you need someone around now
Just close your eyes while I put my arms above you
And make you unbreakable”
Taïga bites her lip and closes her eyes letting Teddy guide her. She can feel him matching her movements behind her, stroking her arm lightly…
… Sending goose bumps all over her body. What!?!
She whirls around. Derek! For a second she just stands there, staring into those impossibly blue eyes but he pulls her close and starts to sway to the music, gazing deep into her eyes. Taïga can hardly breathe. His blue eyes are black with emotion and for her life she can’t tear her eyes away. Derek takes first her left arm, then the other and puts them on his shoulders. ‘I’ll make you unbreakable…’ he mouths. Taïga blushes and tries to relax in his arms.
“Cause she’s the girl that I never had, she’s the heart that I wanted bad
The song I heard on the radio, that made me stop and think of her
And I can’t, I can’t, I can’t concentrate anymore
And I need, I need, need to show her what her heart is for”
His hands run down her lower back, pressing lightly. Taïga sighs and melts into him.
Derek’s right hand run from her neck down her shoulders and her arm, caressing her fingers, making her heart flutter erratically…
He leans back away from her, only to rock back in towards her again. Her fingers are stroking his neck, playing with his soft hair. She matches his movements, circling her hips, grinding towards him.
She swoons at the sight of his lips slightly parted, his eyes making love to her…
Teddy watches his brother loose himself in Taïga’s arms, and he can’t help feeling a stab of jealousy. Jupiter grimaces behind Elspeth’s back, making a heart with his hands and Teddy grins. But his smile vanishes when he sees the expression on Elspeth’s face.
Her eyes are black with hate as she watches Taïga and Derek on the dance floor…
“If you ever turn around, I won’t let you fall down now
I swear I’ll find your smile and put my arms above you and make you unbreakable.
You need to know that somebody’s there all the time, I’d wait in line and I hope it shows
Can’t walk away ’til your heart knows that it’s beautiful. Oh, I hope it knows, it’s beautiful”
Derek and Taïga are oblivious of the others. Their fingers are entwined and his right hand is keeping the pressure on her back, stroking her gently with his thumb, showing her how much he wants her. Taïga puts a hand on his chest, feeling how hard his heart is beating under the soft t-shirt.
Taïga’s eyes are heavy lidded with emotion as she leans backwards…
… and he dips her deeply, holding her with one muscular arm, the other hand playing on her thigh… Please, don’t make the music stop…
He pulls her up again, leaning his front against hers and they continue dancing, their mouths an inch apart… her whole body aching for him to kiss her.
“Cause I love, I love, I love, I love you darling
Yes I love, I love, I love, I love you darling
And I’ll put my arms around you and make you unbreakable”
When the music stops, they just stand there close together, none of them willing to let go.
Taïga tilts her chin upwards and Derek’s lips brushes softly against hers, sending a thousand volts of electricity through her.
He groans and is about to deepen the kiss when; ‘NOOoooo… How can you do this to me!?!’ The magic is broken.
‘What the hell, Elspeth!?! This better be good…’
Elspeth just stares at him, opening and closing her mouth. ‘I’m pregnant!’
‘What!?!’ Derek is flabbergasted. ‘But… Why didn’t you say anything?’
Taïga can feel her blood drain to her feet. Pregnant? … Ohmygod. How could he? Trying to seduce me in front of her? Ohmygod. Ohmygod.
Teddy finds Taïga in Shadows box. He tries to console her as best he can.
‘Don’t cry, Taïga. Please… I’m sure there’s an explanation.’
‘I’m not crying.’ Taïga sniffs bravely. ‘I’m just angry! I don’t want to hear his “explanation”…’ She tries to hide her tears, angrily wiping them away. ‘Oh, Teddy… how could he?’
Teddy kisses her hand. ‘Give him a chance to explain… It seems bad now, but things will surely work out for the best.’
‘Not likely… I don’t ever want to talk to him again! You can tell him that!’
Part II – End of Chapter 05