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

Chapter Twelve: Halloween Fever

Sunday, October 29 --

Derek pulled up outside the Griffin house. He'd already picked up Stacy, who was sitting beside him; and Quinn, who was in the back seat. As he walked to the front door, he reflected on the events of the past month, beginning with the aftermath of the discovery that Tiffany had been abusing drugs because of sexual abuse.

The warrant had been served by the morning after Tiffany revealed the sexual abuse her uncle inflicted on her. Adam Kriegler was arrested right at sunrise, much to the initial surprise of Tiffany's parents. However, when the whole truth came out, they were very sympathetic to Tiffany. They agreed that Tiffany should go to drug rehab right away. While she was in drug rehab and afterwards, Tiffany was to go to group therapy with fellow victims of sexual abuse. Indeed, the therapy was to be the main focus of her time in drug rehab, since it was pretty clear that drug abuse was only the symptom and the sexual abuse was the main problem. So, Derek managed to find a rehab center in Baltimore that had an opening and then allowed Tiffany's parents to take care of the details. And the next day, Tiffany was on her way to the drug rehab center, where she stayed until yesterday. That was because she had finished the program and was ready to come home. Once home, she was going to continue group therapy.

As for her parents, they had to go into therapy as well. Her dad had to go because of workaholism stemming from parental neglect and her mother had to go because of the abuse she'd suffered at the hands of her father. And then there was Mr. Kriegler. Quinn gave him and the others updates based on what she'd learned from her mother, who was assigned to represent Tiffany at the court hearings because she'd given Tiffany shelter before her uncle was arrested. And Quinn's mother had apparently learned that Mr. Kriegler resigned and moved from Pennsylvania shortly after a Jewish girl hinted to her parents that then-Rabbi Kriegler had touched her inappropriately and had ordered her not to tell anyone. Unfortunately, Rabbi Kriegler was an Orthodox Jew, like her mother at first (Tiffany's father had been born a Reform Jew, so they became Conservative Jews as a compromise) and the parents were urged to go to a religious court because the Orthodox branch of Judaism was so strict -- and was much like the Catholic Church when it came to dealing with sexual abuse. When the parents decided to go to the authorities, however, Rabbi Kriegler decided to resign and leave the state. The religious court agreed to let him go, so he left. Derek wondered if Mr. Kriegler himself had been sexually abused when he was younger; but since Mr. Kriegler hadn't said anything about possible sexual abuse as a child when questioned by the police, there was no way to know for sure. But in any case, he was in jail without bail -- because the judge had decided to make sure he wasn't able to hurt Tiffany's parents, just to be on the safe side.

Unfortunately, things were harder where Sandi was concerned. As he had promised, he'd gone to see Sandi's parents after church and helped Sandi explain to them that she needed to come to terms with being a lesbian since her efforts to be attracted to guys didn't really work out. Mr. Griffin seemed to be accepting but Mrs. Griffin was not! Despite all of Derek's efforts to charm her into acceptance, she turned out to be fiercely homophobic, so much so that she was actually ready to disown Sandi! Thus she gave Sandi an ultimatum: continue going out with guys or she would disown Sandi. And when Sandi decided that she was going to accept her lesbian status and Mr. Griffin decided to stand up to his wife (for once) and support Sandi in her decision, Mrs. Griffin threatened to leave if they didn't back down. By this point, Derek had enough and he told her that she was acting like a total bitch and even if she didn't approve of homosexuality she should still try to be there for Sandi and not try to force Sandi to be someone she wasn't. So either she had to be there for Sandi or she could just leave. And Mrs. Griffin decided to leave! So Sandi not only had to deal with having to come out as a lesbian, she now had to deal with the breakup of her parents' marriage!

Fortunately for Sandi, once Quinn learned that Sandi was a lesbian she proved pretty supportive and agreed that Sandi should find a support group for people like herself. Of course, it helped that Sandi didn't reveal that she had a crush on Quinn. Apparently there was a group for gay, lesbian, bisexuals and transgendered people that had formed after Ms. Cho became the Principal of Lawndale -- apparently Ms. Li actually forbade support groups for homosexuals, bisexuals or transgendered people when she was Principal. Sandi joined it and as she began to make friends there, she became nicer and her friendships with Quinn and Stacy became more genuine. Derek also became more friendly with Sandi as a result. Although Sandi wasn't as popular as she was before she came out (and before her mother decided to leave the family rather than accept that Sandi was a lesbian), she didn't care as much about her popularity anymore, and that pleased Derek.

By this point, Derek was at Sandi's door and was knocking on it. After a moment, Sandi came out.

"Hi, Sandi," said Derek. "We just have to pick up Tiffany and then we'll be on our way to the mall to get costumes for the Halloween dance at your school."

"I think I'd rather just go with an outfit," said Sandi. "We always do that on Halloween. Still, if you and Stacy wish to get costumes I guess I can just get an outfit that doesn't really clash with it. Quinn and Tiffany can either get outfits that don't clash or costumes of their own."

They got into the car and went from there to Tiffany's house. Derek knocked on the door, which was opened by a middle-aged woman with dark brown hair and hazel eyes. This presumably was Tiffany's (adoptive) mother.

"You must be Mrs. Blum-Deckler," Derek said. "I'm Derek Powell. I'm here to take Tiffany and her friends out to shop for the Halloween party at Lawndale High."

"I'm Hannah Blum-Deckler," Mrs. Blum-Deckler confirmed. "Nice to meet you -- oh, here is Tiffany!" And at that point, Tiffany appeared at the door.

"Hey, Tiffany," said Derek. "I hope you're doing okay. I'm here to take you and your friends out shopping for the Halloween dance at Lawndale High."

"I'm doing okay, Derek," said Tiffany. Much to Derek's relief, her voice was normal, albeit with a pronounced Valley Girl drawl. "Let's go." They said good-bye to Mrs. Blum-Deckler and Derek walked beside Tiffany to his car.

Cashman's --

Stacy followed Derek through the store to the Halloween costume section as Quinn, Sandi and Tiffany trailed. The plan was to have Derek choose a costume, see if Stacy wanted a costume, and then see if the others could either choose costumes of their own (preferably, ones that wouldn't clash with Stacy & Derek's) or else just choose outfits which wouldn't clash with the costumes.

Stacy reflected on the ride down to the mall, when Sandi confessed to Tiffany that she was a lesbian. Tiffany was surprised, but turned out to be supportive once she learned of the fall-out concerning Sandi's parents. She also learned that Sandi's father was trying to get a nice condo for him and Sandi to live in -- Sandi's parents had agreed to let Sandi's mom have the house and keep Sam and Chris, while Sandi would live with her father. In the case of Sam & Chris, Sandi's father had wanted Sandi's mom to keep them because he didn't think he could successfully handle two brats.

As for Tiffany, the others had found out that she'd been making progress in therapy. She was beginning to deal with all the emotions that victims of abuse apparently often feel -- depression, guilt, helplessness and rage at her uncle. And she had to do all this now that the cushion that the drugs (and earlier, her concern with her appearance and her weight) had provided was gone. It certainly wasn't going to be easy, but Stacy hoped Tiffany could do it.

The group then arrived at the Halloween costume section -- and that's when Stacy saw it. A dark purple Catwoman costume. At that moment, she heard Derek say, "Hey, there's a Batman costume! If there's a Catwoman costume nearby, we could go as Batman and Catwoman, Stacy."

"Right over here," said Stacy. Derek came over and took a look.

"That's perfect!" he said. "The Batman outfit is in dark gray, and the Catwoman costume's in dark purple."

"And if the rest of us can't find or don't want any costumes, we could always get black catsuits," said Quinn. "I might just stick with the catsuit -- it might be easier that way than to actually decide on a costume. One time when Daria and I were younger, Daria dressed up as a ghost. I didn't show up because I couldn't decide on an outfit (1)."

"I think I'll just go with the catsuit," said Tiffany.

"Me too," said Sandi. "So we'll go look for some catsuits and we'll catch up with you at the dressing rooms, Stacy and Derek."

With that, the other three left as Derek and Stacy checked to make sure there were costumes in their sizes. Luckily for them, there were so Stacy went into the dressing room to put on her costume, which apparently was made from PVC fabric. It zipped up from the back all the way down to the waist. Stacy got into the costume, zipped it up, took her hair out of her braids so she could hide it under the mask, and then turned to face the mirror.

She stared at her reflection for a moment. She looked ... different somehow in the Catwoman costume. And she felt different too. More confident, more sexy, more physically attractive. Yes, this would definitely do.

Derek was also going to put on his costume and meet her outside her dressing room, so she walked out to look for him. He wasn't there yet, but ... there he must be, since she saw a guy dressed as Batman heading towards the dressing room. She got into her best slinky pose as he approached -- and he simply stared at her for a moment. And she could see the familiar golden-brown eyes light up.

"You look awesome!" Derek told Stacy as he drew near to her.

"And so do you," said Stacy. Indeed, Derek did look awesome in his Batman costume, with the costume accentuating his musculature and making him look really intriguing and mysterious. She slowly sashayed up to him until she got really close to him. She then whispered, "Who is the man behind the bat? Maybe -- he can help me find the woman behind the cat?" (2)

"Why don't we find out?" Derek whispered back, as he slid one arm behind her back and drew her into his arms. She looked up and smiled --

"We're back!" they heard Quinn say. Derek and Stacy drew apart and quickly turned to see Quinn, Sandi and Tiffany approaching, each one with a black catsuit on one arm. "Wow, you two look great!" Quinn said as the trio got close.

"Thanks!" said Stacy. "I feel great too!"

"Me too," said Derek. "If those catsuits fit you, we'll have what we need for the Halloween party."

Two nights later, Halloween night --

Derek got dressed in his Batman costume and looked at himself in the mirror. Although Derek certainly didn't have muscles bulging out from everywhere, Batman's alter ego of Bruce Wayne probably didn't look obviously muscular either in his regular clothes. Also, Superman was clearly more muscular than Batman. In the Batman costume, Derek's sleek musculature was somewhat more noticeable than in his regular outfits. But he knew what was essential for Batman -- the mystery and intrigue. And the costume certainly gave off the impression of mystery and intrigue that Batman should possess.

Derek got into his car and drove to Stacy's house first. When he arrived at the door, he rang the doorbell and waited. After a moment, the door opened -- and there stood Catwoman. Or to be more accurate, there stood Stacy dressed as Catwoman. She was stunning in her costume, the form-fitting catsuit accentuating every curve in her body, making her seem sleek and sexy in a way he'd never seen in her before. Although Stacy's innocence and sweetness were the most obvious things that drew Derek to her and her gentle affection was the thing he loved most about her, he had privately suspected that there was a latent sexiness to her that hadn't quite come out yet. It was coming out now, and Derek liked it.

"You're so beautiful," Derek whispered as Stacy sashayed up to him.

"Thanks!" Stacy told him, smiling brilliantly. "And you look so mysterious and intriguing as Batman! You'll make a real splash at the Halloween dance!"

Derek took her hand and led her to his car. From there, they drove to Quinn's house. When Quinn came out wearing her black catsuit and saw Derek & Stacy in their costumes, she said, "You sure look perfect for each other! I know you two will be noticed at the dance!"

>From there, they drove to Tiffany's house, where Quinn escorted Tiffany, also dressed in a black catsuit, to the car. Then they finally drove to Sandi's house, where Sandi was waiting for them, also dressed in her black catsuit. When she arrived, she noted, "Well, at least our catsuits won't clash with a dark gray Batman costume and a dark purple Catwoman one."

On the drive down Derek asked, "How are things going with you, Sandi?"

"Well, my dad just found a condo that we can live in, so we'll be moving after Thanksgiving," said Sandi. "It should be easier doing it then. Also, I've been doing well with the support group. I've seen quite a few girls who are attractive -- including a girl named Heidi."

"Is that the same Heidi who apparently wanted to join the Fashion Club after you quit because you gained weight after breaking your leg? (3)" asked Quinn. "Stacy and Tiffany suggested her and I noted that she wore clogs."

"Actually, Heidi did mention trying to get into the Fashion Club," said Sandi. "She didn't dare reveal her status when Ms. Li was in charge, but once Ms. Cho became the new principal and allowed a support group for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people to form, she came out. I think she's attracted to me as well, but I'm not sure."

"As for me, I'm doing okay," Tiffany said. "It's very hard coming back after an absence when you're pretty sure everyone knows you were in drug rehab and were sexually abused. However, Ms. Cho was very supportive. She was glad to hear I was seeing a psychologist who specialized in sexual abuse and did group therapy."

"I'm glad to hear that," said Derek. And he was. Tiffany had a very rough time, and he hoped the therapy would undo the damage that her uncle had caused. He was also glad that Sandi was finding new people now that her sexual orientation was out.

But that caused him to reflect during the drive to Lawndale High. Before he'd met Stacy and begun hanging out with her and her friends, he would've simply viewed Sandi as a bitch and wanted nothing to do with her -- unless he planned to seduce her and drain her of her vitality. But now -- he didn't see Sandi just as a bitch. He now saw her as a deeply insecure girl who cut people down because of her insecurity, largely because of the bad influence of her mother. She was now someone to be pitied and helped. He suspected that spending so much time in a human form had contributed to a change of perspective. It might have been a good thing, but it certainly would lead to some major adjustments once he returned to fox form.

Lawndale High --

Stacy walked with Derek to the gymnasium, where the dance was being held. She was really excited about the prospect of showing her boyfriend off. Although the whole school knew that she was dating Derek, most people only saw him when he came to pick up Stacy and drive her to her house, where they would often study together. Of course, Mr. O'Neill and Ms. Barch had seen him when he and Stacy had done Love's Labors Lost and Grease, but it would be the first time most of the other teachers saw him, and she certainly wanted to show him off to them!

Quinn, Sandi and Tiffany all went in first, wearing their black catsuits. Stacy and Derek waited until the other three had begun mingling with the crowd, and then they made their entrance.

She heard music and the buzz of conversation nearby, but although the music continued playing, the buzz died down as people began noticing them in their costumes. Derek turned to Stacy and asked, "I hear music, and I think I see some people dancing. Shall we dance, my dear?"

"Of course," Stacy said, smiling warmly. Derek took her hand and escorted her towards the dance floor. As they got onto the floor, the music stopped. She heard a DJ say, "Next up is an interesting choice -- the song Fever."

Derek whispered, "I like that song," just before he drew Stacy into his arms, resting one hand against the small of her back while holding one hand. Stacy put her free arm around Derek's neck and waited for the song to begin.

The first strains of the music began, and something inside Stacy began thrumming to the sexy sound. Immediately, the pair began a slow, sensual dance to the beat. Dimly, she heard the lyrics begin:

"Never know how much I love you,
"Never know how much I care,
"When you put your arms around me,
"I get a fever that's so hard to bear.
"You give me fever,
"When you kiss me,
"Fever when you hold me tight.
"Fever -- in the morning,
"Fever all through the night."

If Stacy had been able to look around as she danced with Derek, she would have been aware of the eyes of everyone on the dance floor -- and the eyes of those that were off the dance floor but were watching the dancing -- focused on them. But neither Stacy -- nor Derek, for that matter -- were even aware of the envious eyes that watched them. All Stacy was really aware of was the feel of Derek's hand against the small of her back, the warmth of his body which was pressed so close to hers, and the intense but warm look in his golden-brown eyes as they were focused on hers.

Finally, she looked away -- but only because she leaned in to rest her head against his inviting shoulder. As she did so, she felt his hand move up and down her back, stroking her softly. She purred softly, totally lost in the magic of the moment -- a moment she hoped would never end.

Tiffany was watching Derek and Stacy dance, sensing the sizzling passion between them, when she heard a voice say, "Tiffany?" She turned -- and there was Robert standing there. He was dressed as John Elway and looked a little nervous.

"Yes?" she asked.

"I hope this won't bother you, after what happened to you -- but would you dance the next dance with me, ma'am?" he asked.

Tiffany's first reaction was one of alarm. After all, until about a month ago, she had been the victim of long-term sexual abuse at the hands of her own uncle. She was still in therapy trying to deal with the effects of the abuse. And it was especially hard to deal with the pain from the abuse since she didn't have the numbing effects of the Xanax or her obsession over weight and appearance keeping it at bay. She wasn't sure she could dance with a guy after all the abuse.

On the other hand, Robert was known for being a real gentleman with women. He could be rough with boys, but never with girls. After all, he called her ma'am. And she could always avoid dancing with him to slow songs and just get on the dance floor for fast ones where they didn't have to be close to each other.

So she told Robert, "If the next song is a fast one, I'll dance it with you. I don't think I'm ready for getting close to a man yet."

"I suppose I can't blame you, ma'am," said Robert. Then his attention seemed to turn towards the dance floor. "I think those two are ready for a lot more than just dancing closely."

Tiffany followed Robert's gaze and saw Derek & Stacy dancing as if they were molded to each other. "Yeah, I would agree that Derek & Stacy are ready for a lot more than just dancing closely. But Stacy wasn't sexually abused or raped -- least of all by Derek -- so I won't be upset if they have sex, as long as they don't give me any of the details."

The song ended, and then the DJ said, "And now it's time for an old Halloween classic -- 'Monster Mash'!"

That sounded like a song fast enough for Tiffany, so she said, "I'm ready if you are, Robert."

"I'm ready, ma'am," said Robert, taking her hand and leading her out onto the dance floor, where they began to dance to the mid-tempo strains of "Monster Mash".

Some time later, Derek and Stacy got off the dance floor, laughing. Stacy said that she was really thirsty, so Derek went to get her a glass of punch. Since there were two punch bowls, he sniffed each one before getting punch from the bowl that was non-alcoholic for both of them.

When he returned to Stacy, he saw three adults talking to her. Two were female and one was male. The male had a bulging eye and looked like Frankenstein's Monster, while the woman who seemed to be accompanying him was dressed like a hippie. The second woman was clearly Chinese American and was dressed like Mulan from the Disney film. Presumably this was the new principal, Ms. Cho.

"Here, Stacy," Derek said, handing his girlfriend her drink with a warm smile.

"Derek!" Stacy said, smiling warmly back. "Mr. DeMartino, Ms. Defoe and Ms. Cho, this is my boyfriend, Derek Powell. Derek, this is Ms. Cho, the new principal of Lawndale High," she adds, turning to the Chinese-American woman.

"I'm pleased to meet you, Derek," Ms. Cho said, extending her hand. Derek took it and shook it firmly.

"So am I, especially since I've heard that you're nothing like Ms. Li, whom I had the misfortune to meet that one time she tried to kill Daria & Jane," Derek said.

He then withdrew his hand as the man with the bulging eye, presumably Mr. DeMartino, approached. "Derek, this is Mr. DeMartino, the history teacher," Stacy said, confirming his suspicions. "He's okay if you show signs of wanting to learn, but he gets really annoyed if you're a slacker or if you just have a hard time learning. Ask Kevin Thompson -- if you ever see him."

"Nice to meet you, Mr. DeMartino," said Derek, extending his hand.

"Likewise, especially since STACY is doing well in my class now, and I hear your HELP is a big reason why," said Mr. DeMartino, shaking Derek's hand firmly. He withdrew it and stepped back as the hippie woman, presumably Ms. Defoe, stepped forward.

"And this is Ms. Defoe, the art teacher," Stacy said, confirming Derek's suspicions. "She's really nice to people, even to those that would try most people's patience."

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Derek," said Ms. Defoe, extending her hand and looking at him with appreciation, probably of his physical beauty.

"Likewise," said Derek, shaking her hand and then withdrawing it. "I've heard plenty about you, Mr. DeMartino. Mainly about how you can't stand trying to teach slackers or idiots, and how Ms. Li failed to properly compensate you for that. Since Stacy's told me that you don't rant so much about wanting proper compensation for teaching idiots and slackers, I guess Ms. Cho took care of that problem."

"She gave us all a RAISE, since she felt that Ms LI didn't give any of us a proper SALARY," said Mr. DeMartino.

"Yeah, but I'm really planning on getting a proper English teacher and reassigning Mr. O'Neill to being the Drama coach and the teacher of the Self-Esteem course," said Ms. Cho. "He has a hard time understanding that he's supposed to teach English instead of using English as an opportunity for self-expression. I honestly think he'll be better as a Self-Esteem teacher and the Drama coach than as an English and Language Arts one."

"Does Mr. O'Neill know this?" asked Derek.

"He knows," said Ms. Cho. "But I waited until after I saw him teaching English and the Self-Esteem courses before I told him that I was thinking about reassigning him. I don't think he was overly happy, but he seemed to understand. I've gotten some applications and will be doing interviews in November and December. I hope to find someone by the beginning of Christmas break and have that person begin teaching when the students return to class."

"It's probably better that way," said Stacy. "I'm actually learning more about literature from Derek than from Mr. O'Neill. Anyway, once I'm done this drink, why don't we dance some more, Derek?"

"Of course," Derek said, smiling warmly down at his beloved.

Later that night --

Stacy smiled at Derek as he got back in his car, fresh from having dropped off Quinn, Sandi and Tiffany at their houses. He smiled back, but looked a little nervous as he did so.

"What's wrong, my love?" she asked him softly.

"I was just wondering -- would it be okay with you if we went to my apartment?" he said. In that instant, Stacy knew what he wanted. And to her surprise and delight, she realized that she wanted the same thing -- and moreover, that she felt ready to take their relationship to the next level.

"I'd love to," she said, smiling at him in a way that let him know that she knew what he wanted -- and that she was ready to take their relationship to the next level. He smiled warmly back, then drove off to their apartment.

She'd been waiting for her mind to tell her when the time was right, and after getting the Catwoman costume, after the incredible sexiness she felt while she was in the costume and while dancing with Derek to "Fever", she now was ready.

It didn't take too long for them to reach Hargrove's Woods apartment complex, and from there to Derek's apartment. When they got inside, Stacy was a little surprised to find her heart beating very fast.

Derek took off the cape and cowl of Batman before telling Stacy, "I won't hurt you. I swear it."

"I believe you," Stacy told him, taking off her own mask and letting her long hair, now out of the usual braids, fall free. Derek smiled very warmly, took her into his arms, and kissed her more sensously than he'd ever kissed her before.

The kiss ignited a firestorm of desire within Stacy and soon she was clinging to Derek, kissing him passionately. As he kissed her and stroked her back, sensations poured into her, filling her, and layering themselves over each other.

Eventually, she was dimly aware that he'd lifted his head, but then she felt as if her legs were no longer underneath her. It took her awhile to realize that he was carrying her off somewhere, partly because her collar seemed to have been loosened and he was now nuzzling her neck.

And then she was on what was probably his bed and he was on top of her, caressing and kissing her as she thought she felt his hand on the zipper of her costume, pulling it down. Shivering with anticipation, she reached upwards for him.

The curtains on the window overlooking Hargrove's Woods weren't drawn, so the moon was shining through the windows. Thus the moon was the only witness to the dance of desire on the bed as Derek made tender love to Stacy.

1. A reference to the Daria Diaries.

2. This is actually a reference to the film "Batman Returns", which featured Catwoman.

To be continued,
Belle Book