|Title: Made It Happy
Synopsis: Turning fourteen is hard, especially while having no friends--but the smallest of occurrences can brighten things.
Disclaimer: I own nothing--all fantasy on my end.
Author's Notes: Written for grean's birthday.
Casey sat with his arms over his chest, staring ahead at the made-for-TV movie on the set. It hadn't quite hit him yet; being fourteen was hard, but this only made it harder. His mother walked in, biting her lip and looking nervous.
"You... did write one o'clock in the invitations... you're sure?"
Casey swallowed and looked to the clock above the TV, reading 1:36. "Yea. I said one."
"Well, maybe they're running a bit late. I'm sure SOMEONE will show up, honey," she said, trying to smile.
With another swallow, Casey clenched his jaw tight. This is what he deserved for thinking that if one sat down with a small group of people at lunch, they had instant friends. He'd only been in the seventh grade two weeks now; Herrington Middle School had looked pretty big and scary compared with his old elementary, but he'd hoped his reputation wouldn't follow him. He'd managed to get his mom to buy the more expensive clothes at K-Mart even, getting jeans that weren't elasticized at the waist. He needed a belt or two, but it was a lot better than having some random bully grab the back of his pants, pull then snap it painfully on his back. The girls in training bras would laugh at him mercilessly; they would get a bra-snap because the boys played around, or LIKED them. Casey got his pants snapped because he was a complete and total loser.
So when he'd joined a group of people he didn't know, but had looked safe enough to approach, he'd eased a bit. They were in the same grade, but from two or maybe even three other elementary schools. The week before his birthday, he'd handed them their invitations, getting odd looks in return. Though they'd barely talked to him, Casey would laugh at their jokes or try to join in on conversations. He realized now, sitting in his house with a cake only he and his parents would eat and decorations that no one cared about, that none of them had ever talked back to him.
He was stupid. Casey Connor had no friends, and would probably NEVER have any. The movie was now coming to a close; looking up, Casey saw the clock read 1:58. He got up from the couch and walked briskly to the staircase.
"Casey... do you want to come eat some cake with me and Daddy?"
He couldn't rush up the stairs fast enough. He didn't want cake or presents right now. He wanted to be alone in his room to cry without his father trying to cheer him up or his mother doting on him like he was two years old. He slammed the door to his bedroom shut and got to his bed. Feeling like he was in a soap opera, he flung himself onto it and buried his face into the pillows.
Even tears were hard to find right now. His lashes scraped in small swishes on his pillow while thinking things over; any minute now, his mother would come up, knock on his door and ignore the 'leave me alone' he'd try to give. She'd sit next to him and tell him that he was a GOOD boy, and if people didn't want to be his friend, it was THEIR loss. 'It's not. Who wants to hang out with a nerd?' he thought, depressed.
There she was. Casey didn't bother saying anything this time around. The door cracked open and his mother stuck her head in. Funny thing was, she was smiling. "You have a guest, Casey. Why don't you come downstairs?"
Casey blinked; someone had showed up? "Who is it?"
Casey went completely numb; Zeke?
Who the hell was 'Zeke'?? "I'll um... be down in a sec," he said, sitting up. His mother nodded and left, and Casey tried scanning his brain for answers.
Todd, Jose, Jimmy, Chris, Greg, and Brendan; those had been the six Casey had taken the chance to invite. Frowning, he stood up and left the room, went down the stairs and came face-to-face with a tall, dark haired boy sitting on the living room couch.
Casey's dad stood up from the easy chair across from this... Zeke... and smiled. "Your friend just came in; said he was sorry he was late," he cheerfully said.
Casey nodded slowly, his eyes on the strange boy who looked back at him blankly. "Yea... um, hi... Zeke,"
"Hey," he said in a low voice.
"Well, c'mon in boys! Let's have some cake," Mr. Connor said, clapping his hands and heading to the dining room. Zeke stood up, brushing at his legs a moment. Casey frowned and cleared his throat.
"Um..." he started, making his voice a soft hiss. "Who… are you?"
Zeke shrugged and almost smiled in the corner of his mouth. "Heard you telling some guys at lunch that your mom was making pistachio cake," he said. "Love that shit."
Casey's eyes went wide a moment; if his parents heard a 'friend' of Casey's swear like that, they'd throw him out on his ear.
"That was great cake," Zeke complimented, wiping his mouth with one of the colorful napkins reading 'It's a Birthday!'.
Mrs. Connor beamed, taking Zeke's plate. "Thank you, Zeke. You can have another slice if you like...?"
"Well, I'll give you a piece to take home," she said with a wink. Zeke smiled graciously, leaning forward and taking a sip of cola. Casey still stared at him.
He wasn't in seventh grade; Casey had figured on that much. Zeke had probably been sitting close enough to Casey's lunch table and overheard the invitation giving. But even so, how he'd known where to go... Casey didn't SAY where his house was out loud.
He was snapped back to reality by his father talking to him. He then looked up and found a small stack of presents sitting on the table. "Time to open your presents," Mr. Connor said with amusement. Casey nodded slowly and took them as they were handed over.
The first package revealed two new button-down shirts; thank GOD they weren't the geekiest things in the world, but Zeke still wore a telling smile when Casey took them out. "Thanks," he said.
His mother handed him the next gift, which was from his Aunt Joan. Ohhh crap.
"Oh, look! She made another lovely sweater!" Mrs. Connor cooed.
Casey thought he was going to die in taking out the large woolen turtleneck sweater. It had the most garish, bright red color to it with gray lining the collar and bottom hem.
"Try it on!"
Before Casey could scream and run away hearing his mother's excited demand, Mr. Connor laughed. "C'mon now Meredith, let's let Casey open his other gifts," he said.
Casey smiled weakly, seeing Zeke's grin growing as he moved to the last two presents; his father stopped him from opening the larger one, shaking his head. "No, open the smaller one first."
“Okay,” he replied and picked up the medium sized gift. He got through the pretty paper to the plain unmarked box and opened it. His eyes went wide; six game cartridges sat inside, recognizing them as belonging to the new top-of-the-line gaming system.
He didn't have the new top-of-the-line gaming system. "Um..."
"Open the next one, open the next one!" his mother nearly cheered.
A big smile found Casey's lips as he realized exactly what this present was going to be. His parents had finally relented after seven years of good grades and perfect attendance and figured it was time to let him have his very own video game system. Casey thought he was going to jump up and down and start squealing like a girl, and WOULD have, if not for Zeke sitting right there with his eyebrows raised and looking into the box of games.
"Oh my god... THANKS!" Casey nearly yelled, leaning down to his mother quick to hug her. She giggled happily, squeezing him back. He made his way to his father next, giving him a tight embrace as well. After Mr. Connor's heavy pats on the back, Casey looked up, bright-eyed and feeling high. Zeke was finishing the last of his soda and holding the copy of 'Super Mario Kart'. "Wanna... wanna play??" he asked.
His parents went to wash dishes--Casey's usual chore, but not tonight--after Mr. Connor hooked up the player and told Casey they'd have a tournament together later on. For now, they let Casey and Zeke grab up the controls and sit down to play.
Casey was impressed; Zeke was pretty good at this, making him wonder if Zeke himself had a system at home. He probably did; EVERYONE did but Casey, until now. After a few rounds playing Yoshi, Casey turned to Zeke and smiled. "So uh... I didn't invite you..."
Zeke's eyebrows rose as he tried choosing a car to race. "Nope."
"So why'd you come?"
"Pistachio cake," he replied, concentrating on the screen.
Casey rolled his eyes. "Yea, and now you get to play some games. Figures," he grumbled, trying to stay a BIT hopeful. Even if Zeke was here just for cake and to partake of Casey's gifts, he was here.
"Well yea, that's a plus," Zeke said, a sly smile forming on his lips. "That and the morons you asked to come wouldn't have, and I knew it."
Casey blinked hard, looking to his controls. "I've never had any friends…but I thought maybe someone would show up."
"Someone did," Zeke said. Before Casey could smile wider, the game clicked on and Zeke chose his car and player.
After kicking his father's butt, Casey was near death. It'd been a few hours since Zeke had gone and Casey was left enjoying his system with his parents. Even his mother had watched, yelping and yelling every time one of them crashed a 'kart' or got shot down by alien ships... whatever.
Casey finished brushing his teeth and yawned, heading to his bedroom. He picked up the new clothes from his bed and the two cards he'd gotten, one from his grandmother, the other from Zeke.
His grandmother had given him fifty dollars; thirty of that would go in his savings account, and twenty was his to spend. Despite the things he could do with twenty dollars (the candy he could buy...), Zeke's card had made him smile the most. He hadn't expected anything from the stranger-of-a-boy, but the small card he'd taken from his pocket before he'd left had made Casey smile. It was one of those cheap ones usually found at gas stations or convenience stores, but it didn't matter. The cheesy looking racecar on the front and the words 'Have a RACING GOOD TIME!' on the inside made Casey feel fantastic. It was signed with a simple 'Zeke' below the printed words, along with three dollars and fifty cents.
Casey figured he'd be ignored by Zeke the next time he saw him in school. Zeke would probably never talk to him again, really. But for at least one day, Casey had had a friend. He'd spend the three dollars but keep the fifty cents in his lock box, proof that someone cared.
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