A Stranger in Lawndale
a multi-part story by Belle Book

Part Three: Love is in the Air

Ten minutes later, the main speaking parts had all been determined. Besides Mack, Jodie, Kyle, Upchuck, David, Ted, Kevin, Stacy and Derek there was a guy named Robert (playing Longaville), a boy named Zachary (playing Dumaine), a girl named Brittany Taylor (playing Maria), a girl named Brooke (playing Katharine), a guy named Skylar Feldman (playing Boyet), a boy named Tad Gupty (playing Mote), some girl named Tori Jericho (playing Jaquenetta), a boy called Alejandro (playing Marcade), a guy named Will (playing the Forester), and two boys named Matthew and Spencer (playing two French lords).

Derek listened as Mr. O'Neill announced the parts to all the people in the auditorium, then announced, "In three days, we'll be having our first rehearsal, so be here at 1 pm precisely." Then he gave all of them their lines before they had to leave.

On the way out, Upchuck approached Derek and Stacy. Thinking that Upchuck was going to do one of his come-ons, Derek told him, "Remember -- you're not handsome enough to pull off the ultrasuave act."

"Yeah, you told me," Upchuck sighed. "I only hooked up with a girl twice. Once I got Daria to go with me to Chez Pierre after she found me out walking Mr. Oatley's dogs and had me walk her past her friend's place -- only to imagine that I saw a lovely lady turn into a fox!"

He shook his head at that point -- but Derek was trying to keep his face from betraying his recognition of what Upchuck had said. He was thinking, So this is the guy who was walking the dogs when Rachel was trying to finish Trent off and thus thwarted her efforts! (1)

"I take it that the date didn't go so well for you," Derek said in a desperate attempt to keep Upchuck from seeing his face and wondering why he was trying to hide a stunned look on it.

"No," Upchuck admitted. "I think she hated it, although it's hard to tell with that poker face of hers. At the end, I kissed her and she reacted so badly that I accused her of being a lesbian -- wrongly, as it turned out. (2) She's straight, since she later went out with this Tom Sloane fellow."

Looks like Daria got over her crush on Trent Lane, thought Derek. I must tell Rachel this if I can reach her. However, what he said was, "What about the second time?"

"At Jodie's graduation party, I tried to approach this Goth chick called Andrea," Upchuck explained. "Much to my surprise, she agreed to go with me. (3) We went off together to Lover's Lane -- where she proceeded to pound me to the ground! I guess that's why she agreed to go with me. Honestly, I'd like to go out with Daria again or with Jane, since they're both smart and independent, but neither one will have anything to do with me and now we're all going to different colleges."

"Maybe you should try therapy to figure out why you're putting on this ultrasuave act," Stacy suggested. "I'm going to a therapist myself to learn how to be more assertive and she's helped me out quite a bit."

"What's her name?" asked Upchuck.

"Dr. Sharon Carter," said Stacy. "Here, I'll write down her address and phone number and give it to you." And she did.

"Thanks," said Upchuck. "I'll see you in three days. Right now, I've got a doctor to call." And he walked off. Once he was gone, Derek escorted Stacy to his car, got directions from her as to where her home was, and took her there.

In a few minutes, they were at her house. From the outside, it looked really nice if not extremely expensive. Derek got out, opened the car door for Stacy and escorted her to the front door. But before he turned to leave he asked, "Say Stacy, are you doing anything tonight?"

"Not really," said Stacy. "Why do you ask?"

"Because I'd like to take you out to dinner and to a movie, if that's okay with you," Derek said, a little nervously as he watched Stacy.

"I sure would!" Stacy cried out, then surprised him by giving him a big hug. "Thanks!"

Derek hugged her back, saying, "You're welcome." Then he lifted his head to look at her. Instantly, that electric charge lanced through him again as he looked into her pretty brown eyes. And once again, time froze for him, just like that. He lifted one hand to stroke her cheek and felt her shiver slightly beneath his touch.

Sensations familiar yet more intense than Derek had ever experienced swirled within him. His mind was drained of every thought except anything concerning his intense attraction to Stacy -- and his desire to kiss her.

"May I kiss you?" he whispered, softly. Stacy's whole face glowed as she nodded, eagerly. Derek smiled warmly, bent his head down --

And then he heard an icy voice say loudly, "STACY!" That broke the spell at once. Derek lifted his head quickly as he and Stacy sprang apart in time to see a middle-aged woman with hazel eyes staring at them with a distinct frown on her face. Her hair was the exact same shade as Stacy's, only her hair was up in what appeared to be a severe bun. The woman wore a white dress that went past her knees and gave him the impression of iciness. In fact, this woman's whole appearance gave Derek the impression of iciness. She might've been attractive if she didn't look so icy and if her face didn't show the tell-tale signs of bitterness.

He was just about convinced that this was Stacy's mother. And looking at this woman, he felt sorry for Stacy.

"Oh, mom!" Stacy said, confirming Derek's suspicions. "I'd like you to meet Derek Powell. I met him at the mall and he took me to the former coffehouse before taking me home. Derek, this is my mother."

"Hello, Mrs. Rowe," said Derek calmly, extending his hand. Mrs. Rowe's eyes took on a speculative look as she shook his hand. He had the funny feeling she was sizing him up, either for herself or more likely for Stacy.

"Hello, Derek," Mrs. Rowe said, a little coolly. "I don't think I've ever seen you before."

"I'm new here," Derek explained. "I only arrived here last night. I went to the mall to buy some furniture and other stuff when I met your daughter. I volunteered to take her to the former coffehouse and then to take her here. I just asked her to go out with me to have dinner and see a movie. She agreed, but I just want to make sure it's okay with you."

"Hmm," said Mrs. Rowe speculatively. "Do you earn a lot of money, Derek?" This alerted him as to what Mrs. Rowe's priorities were for her daughter -- find a rich man who would take care of Stacy. This annoyed Derek, largely because it fit in with what he'd already learned about her and contributed to his negative view of Stacy's mother. Still, he had to tell her something, and he knew that if he pretended to be from at least a moderately wealthy family, she might agree to let him go out with Stacy.

"My family's moderately wealthy," Derek told Mrs. Rowe. "My paternal grandmother left me a small trust fund and I'm using it to fund my college tuition. I also earned some money by working two years after I graduated from high school. So I have quite a bit of money."

"Well then ... okay," said Mrs. Rowe. "What time do you plan on picking her up?"

"Five-thirty," Derek said. "I plan on getting a reservation at 6 pm and then taking her to a movie. What movie is being shown here that you haven't seen but would like to, Stacy?"

"Well, there's this film about a girl who moves to a new town and is all alone," Stacy began. "She develops a crush on the local heartthrob, a very popular boy. She thinks that he'll never notice her, but of course he eventually does. It begins at 7 pm. But I must warn you, it's a chick film."

"I'm not too fond of films that are only an excuse to blow people up or shoot them," said Derek. And it was true. He actually preferred foreign-language films but he had the funny feeling Stacy wouldn't be so interested them. Other films he liked included films based on books and even animated films. He didn't mind some films which involved violence -- but not if he thought the storyline was only an excuse to blow up or shoot people. Chick flicks weren't his absolute favorite type of film, but he thought he could try this one and see how he liked it. "So I'll go with you to see this film. And if it's okay with you, I'll choose the place where we'll go for dinner. I like Chinese food, so what's the best Chinese restaurant in Lawndale?"

"Well, there's the Good Times Chinese Restaurant," said Stacy. "I think that's the only real Chinese restaurant in Lawndale. And I don't mind. I prefer Chez Pierre -- an expensive French restaurant -- but I'm willing to compromise."

"Then I'll pick you up at 5:30 pm tonight and take you to the Good Times Chinese Restaurant," said Derek to Stacy. "I'll see you then. Until 5:30."

"Until then," said Stacy.

"Nice to mee you, Mrs. Rowe," Derek said as he prepared to head back to his car.

"Nice to meet you as well," Mrs. Rowe said. And then she and Stacy went inside. Derek went back to his car, got inside and drove back to his apartment. Along the way he thought about his encounter with Stacy and with her mother. He didn't like Mrs. Rowe at all, but at least he didn't have to date her. He just had to date Stacy and not judge her by what her mother was like. Which was easy -- because she was nothing like her mother.

And tonight, he planned on having a good time with Stacy.

Stacy was really excited as she waited for 5:30 to arrive. She'd gotten a shower right after she got inside then looked at her outfits as she wondered what she would wear. Eventually, she decided on a blue crushed velvet short-sleeved shirt and a lovely white skirt. Then she spent a little time deciding what makeup she'd use. In the end, she decided on Kiss-Me-Coral lipstick, blue eye shadow, mascara and a little blush. As she didn't want to embarrass her date, she didn't use too much makeup. She didn't want her first date with Derek to end with him not asking her out again.

Especially since the instant he had looked down at her that powerful electric charge sizzled through her once again. And when he had lifted a hand to stroke her cheek, something began thrumming inside her which both surprised and thrilled her. She had felt as if she was a former caterpillar, now a beautiful butterfly who was opening its wings to fly for the first time. And that's why she had agreed when Derek asked if he could kiss her. Though her mother had interfered, she hoped that he'd do so at the end of their date. She also hoped that it would be great.

Just before 5:30, she came downstairs. She stood there only for a moment when she heard a car pull up. "That's my date! See you later, Mom!" she said as she opened the door and went outside. Just as she stepped onto the porch, Stacy saw Derek step out from behind the wheel of his car. He wore the green shirt she'd seen him wear earlier but this time he was wearing white pants, not black ones. And he looked as gorgeous as ever. Her heart began beating faster as she saw him smile warmly at her.

"Hello Stacy," Derek said as he headed to the passenger side of his car. "You look great!"

"Thanks!" Stacy said as she approached his car. "And you look really hot!"

Derek smiled brilliantly at that, then opened the car door. "Thanks. Shall we go to the Good Times Chinese restaurant? I got directions to it."

"Of course!" said Stacy, smiling as she got in and waited for Derek to get in himself. Once he did and they were on the way, Stacy asked, "How are things going with you in your first day here in Lawndale?"

"Fine," said Derek. "The furniture people moved the stuff I ordered into the apartment and they're painting the apartment even as we speak. Of course, they're also taking a supper break but they should be finished by the time I come back from taking you to the movies."

"Okay," Stacy said. "I'm doing fine myself. I told Mom about getting the part of Rosaline." She sighed as she remembered her mother's reaction. It wasn't great. "She mocked me for wanting to branch out into something other than fashion and boys."

Derek got an angry look on his face and something told her he was restraining himself from saying what he really felt. Finally, he said, "Now I know why you are the way you are. And I also know that your mother's a first-class bitch."

Stacy wanted to wince at Derek's comment about her mother, but she had to admit to herself that it was true. "I hate to say it, but you're probably right," she said. "But let's forget about her and think about having fun at the restaurant. This is my first time having Chinese food."

"I hope you like it," Derek said. "And I hope it's good -- for your sake."

About a half-hour later, Derek was eating his chicken chow mein and thinking that the food was pretty good. He'd eaten in Chinese restaurants where the food was terrific, and in restaurants where the food was absolutely awful! He was glad neither he nor Stacy were in one of the latter restaurants!

"How do you like the food, Stacy?" he asked her. They were sharing chicken chow mein because Stacy didn't want a large amount. She wanted to remain thin. The chicken chow mein turned out to be a rather large amount, more than enough for two, so Derek didn't mind sharing.

"It's pretty good!" said Stacy. "Normally, I go to Chez Pierre but this isn't too bad."

"Chez Pierre," said Derek. "I take it that's a French restaurant."

"Yeah, and it's a really expensive one," said Stacy. "Quinn gave me a menu one time so that I could know what to order when I went out on a date with a guy named Seth. (4) I'll give it to you some time if you want to take me out."

"I'll probably take you out there sometime soon but I must warn you -- I tend to watch what I spend," Derek warned. And it was true. He wasn't tight-fisted by any means, but neither was he a free-spender. "I'll probably take you there more often during the summer than when I'm in college. I hope you don't mind."

"I don't mind, much," Stacy said. "Quinn would certainly mind as she tends to order food by what's the most expensive, but as long as you aren't tight-fisted I won't mind that you don't take me there every night."

"Oh, I'm not tight-fisted," Derek reassured her. "And I'll probably take you there a few nights a week during the summer and on weekends when I'm in college. If you still have the menu Quinn gave you, maybe when I take you back home you can get it for me and tell me what some of the items are on the menu. I don't know much French, though I know more than I might have if I hadn't taken Spanish in high school." Which was true -- to a point. Derek knew Spanish and when he'd masqueraded as a high-school student in the past he always took Spanish classes, but he'd also learned Spanish during his travels in the 19th century when he spent time in the Southwest and amongst the Spanish-speaking people who lived in Arizona and New Mexico and above all, in California so he was very fluent in Spanish. But he didn't tell Stacy that, nor did he plan on telling her -- yet -- that he'd gained fluency in Japanese, Korean and Chinese as a result of spending time in those countries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

"Sure!" Stacy agreed. "I'd be happy to. We have Spanish and French classes at Lawndale High and with the exception of Tiffany, all of us take the French class. Tiffany did take French class the first time we all took it, but she flunked it at the end of our sophmore year. Anyway, we'll be heading to the movies soon, right?"

"Yes," said Derek. "Hopefully it'll be a good one -- one with a good plot. I'm not too fond of movies without plots. And too many action movies are ones without really good plots."

"You're not like a lot of guys," Stacy said, looking at him. "They love action and more action. The less plot and more action, the better."

"Do you like movies with a lot of plot?" asked Derek, looking at Stacy intently.

Stacy looked away for a bit before saying, "I'm kind of in the middle. I don't like movies with a lot of action and very little plot, but historical movies and movies based on books have too much plot and that would be tough for me."

"Well, I like those movies more," said Derek. "But don't worry -- I won't take you to a lot of movies that are based on books, or are historical films. And if I do, I'll be sure to explain to you about the plot before we get there."

"Thanks," said Stacy, smiling warmly as they returned to eating their meal.

An hour or so later, Stacy was leaning against Derek's arm as they were watching the action unfold on the screen. Periodically she ate some popcorn from its carton when Derek handed it to her and drank some soda as she watched the heroine moon over the local heartthrob.

"This is a pretty good film," she heard Derek say. "It's a pity that you can tell things will turn out well for her coming a mile away." Stacy felt a twinge of worry, until she realized that his tone was a teasing one.

Stacy chuckled. "Well, it's nice to get a softball plot," she said. "Plots that you can't see coming can be really hard for people like me, who aren't used to deep movies. Maybe I should change that."

"Once in awhile, I'll definitely help you change that," said Derek. "But you've got a gentle innocence that makes this kind of film really work for you. I don't want that part of you to change too much."

Stacy turned away from the screen to look up at Derek. He was looking down at her and the look in his golden-brown eyes indicated that he was quite serious in his statement. But that was all she could think of before everything started to fade away from her consciousness: the movie, the soda, the popcorn, everything except the look in those eyes of his, which had changed into -- was it a look of passion?

She felt his hand stroke her cheek and shivers ran up and down her spine. Then she heard him speak. His voice was soft yet something crackled in his voice. "This may not be the best time -- but may I kiss you?"

Stacy nodded once again and felt his other arm move from the armrest between them to the back of her neck as he shifted position so he could face her. She felt the hand that had been stroking her cheek move to clasp her shoulder, but all she could see was his golden-brown eyes getting nearer, presumably as he bent towards her. His breath was so warm as it caressed her face, and then his lips were on hers.

Every stray thought she might've had in her head dissolved in the tender warmth of Derek's kiss. She responded by raising her hands to grasp his shoulders so she could get closer, then she put an arm around his neck while her other hand went into his hair, ruffling it slightly. It didn't seem like he minded -- in fact, she could feel his arms slide around her back and one hand rest itself in her hair, causing her heart to race wildly -- especially when he deepened the kiss.

It was absolutely magical for Stacy. Time seemed to cease for a precious moment -- or a few moments -- or maybe hours -- or even days. But finally, Derek lifted his head. She opened her eyes -- she must've closed them when he kissed her -- and saw Derek looking down at her with a tender, warm look in his golden-brown eyes that melted her heart.

"Oh, Stacy," Derek whispered, his voice soft yet crackling with an odd fire in his tone. And in that instant, Stacy knew. She had fallen head over heels in love with this gorgeous young man. For a brief instant she felt compelled to tell him right then and there that she'd fallen in love with him, but then decided that she should tell him at the end of the date. Yeah, that would be a better time for her.

Stacy gave Derek a brilliant smile and prepared to watch the rest of the film alongside the man she'd fallen in love with.

This had been a wonderful date for Derek.

It wasn't the movie that made the date wonderful, although the movie certainly was a pretty good one. It was the kiss.

The memory of that kiss was still vivid for Derek, even after it ended and he turned his attention back to the film. The way he felt when Stacy's arms slid around his neck and then when her hand began ruffling his hair; the way her hair felt under his touch, so soft despite being in braids; the feel of her lips on his -- he could still remember it all. It was more wonderful than he'd ever imagined.

And now, as he was driving Stacy home, a song kept running in his head. It was a song from a musical that later became a motion picture. Although musicals weren't his absolute favorite type of show to watch -- he preferred regular plays, there were a few musicals he liked -- and the musical that this song came from was one of them. He hummed the tune as he drove.

He then heard her ask, "What song are you humming?"

"It's a song from a musical in the 1970s that a few years ago became a major motion picture," said Derek. "The musical -- and movie -- were about Eva Peron. Have you heard of her?" He doubted that she did -- he suspected Daria would have heard of Senora Peron and might even have studied her -- but he had to ask.

"Who's Eva Peron?" asked Stacy, confirming Derek's suspicions.

"Eva Peron was an Argentinian woman who was born in the nineteenth century," he explained. "She was the illegitmate daughter of a guy named Juan Duarte and a domestic servant named Juana Ibarguren. Eva's last name was originally Ibarguren as a result, though she later took her father's last name long before marrying Juan Peron, a powerful colonel in the Argentinian government. Peron later became President of Argentina and thus Eva became the First Lady. She was a very popular first lady, especially among the lower-income and working-class Argentinian people who were called descamisados or shirtless ones. But the military and the elite hated her. Then again, she hated the elite and middle classes as well, presumably because after her father died his legitimate family either kept Eva, her mother and her siblings from attending the funeral or at least tried to do so."

"How did Eva get to become the wife of Peron and the First Lady of Argentina?" Stacy asked, curiously.

"Well, in the musical and movie she accompanied a tango singer named Agustin Magaldi to Buenos Aires," Derek explained. "The song I was just humming was a song that Magaldi sang in the movie before Eva insisted on going to Buenos Aires with Magaldi. It's called 'On This Night Of a Thousand Stars.' Although it's possible that Eva actually traveled there with her mother and her mother left her with a family who was friends with her father's family. She then became a model and actress before meeting Peron at a charity for victims of an earthquake in San Juan, Argentina. Peron was briefly imprisoned before a massive rally organized by the unions -- and possibly helped along by Eva, although I doubt she actually organized the rally herself -- freed him. It was afterwards that she married Peron."

"Interesting," she said. "Could you sing the song you were just humming, please? It's got a cool beat."

"Sure," Derek said, smiling warmly at her before proceeding to sing "On This Night of a Thousand Stars." The reason why he'd hummed it in the first place was because tonight felt like a night with a thousand stars. Glancing at Stacy as he drove, he saw that she was enjoying the song.

When they arrived at Stacy's home, Derek got out of the car, opened the door for Stacy and walked her to her door. She looked up at him and said, "Thanks for a wonderful night, Derek."

"You're very welcome, Stacy," he told her softly. "Is there something else you'd like to do tomorrow?"

"You want to go out with me again?" Stacy asked in surprise. "Not too many guys have second dates with me. One time I went out with a guy named Brett Strand, but he never called back and when I later told him hi, he pretended that he didn't hear me. At the Medieval Fair we had at Lawndale, I wound up crying so much over it that I had to get on a Ferris Wheel because my eyes had gone red from crying. I wound up sharing a seat with Quinn's sister, Daria and her friend, Jane Lane and they urged me to call him, saying that it probably wasn't my fault he acted like such a jerk to me. Well, Daria said that -- Jane agreed but implied that I might've bored him with what she called petty problems and convoluted logic (5)."

"That's possible," said Derek. "Or the guy could've just been a jerk. Anyway, I had a great time and I'd definitely like to see you again -- maybe even go out with you on a steady basis."

Stacy seemed initially shocked, then positively delighted. "Of course, I'll go out with you tomorrow night!" she cried out as she hugged him. Derek hugged her back, then looked down at her. Her face was glowing with a soft, innocent glow that that somehow enchanted him. Unable to resist, he lifted a hand to lightly stroke her cheek before sliding it till it was at the back of her neck before bending down to kiss her again.

Emotions and sensations more powerful than any he had ever experienced swirled through Derek as he drew Stacy even closer. He'd never felt quite this way about any girl he'd met. He dimly remembered that his quest was to find a permanent companion -- a mate, and that's when the truth lanced through him. This was the one. Somehow -- this teenage girl was the one! Not only that, he'd fallen in love with her.

He knew that he had to tell her this. And sometime, he'd have to tell her the truth about himself. Although it might mean he'd lose her forever, it just wasn't fair to keep her in the dark about himself.

After what seemed like an eternity, Derek lifted his head and saw Stacy looking up at him with a warm glow on her face and in her eyes, a look that melted his heart.

"Stacy, I've fallen in love with you," he whispered to her.

"And I've fallen head over heels in love with you," she whispered back, causing Derek's heart to leap.

"I'm glad about that," he whispered back. "Where do you want to go?"

"How about Chez Pierre?" Stacy asked. "I'll go inside and give you the menu right now before I say good-bye to you."

"Sure," said Derek. She rushed inside, coming out in a minute with a menu in her hand, which she handed to him. He took it, smiling as he said, "Thanks for a great night, my little angel."

"And thank you for a wonderful time, my love," she whispered. "Good-night," she added as she hugged him before heading to the door to go inside for good.

"Good-night, my love," he whispered as he watched her go inside. Once Stacy was gone, Derek returned to his car and drove back to his home, his heart soaring.

1. A reference to Rey Fox's fanfic "Kitsune."
2. A reference to Rey Fox's fanfic "My Dinner With Upchuck."
3. A reference to "Is It College Yet?"
4. A reference to The Daria Database.
5. A reference to "Fair Enough."

To be continued,
Belle Book

P.S. The song "On This Night of a Thousand Stars," and the musical (and film) Evita are the property of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. And I kind of thought of using that song at the last moment -- I wanted to have Derek think of a song that expressed his feelings at the moment and that song was the one that came to mind. I like it -- even if it's more of a cliche and if Magaldi probably didn't mean it. That's why I gave Derek a slight interest in musicals, which happens to be something I like -- although I think I like them more than Derek does.