Nick and Casey go shopping and buy Kristin a late birthday present, but she's not the only one who gets a surprise gift.
“He said she likes jewelry,” Casey told Nick as they walked through the mall, “but doesn’t need anymore as she already has plenty, and only wears about half. So he suggested clothes, though that’s difficult to pick out without knowing her size or styles she likes, or maybe shoes, though again difficult without her size.”
“So what do you think you’ll get her?” Nick asked.
“Probably a piece of jewelry. I know she likes gold and diamonds, as she always seem to be wearing one or both. I thought maybe something with her birthstone would be nice too. Since she was born in August, her birthstone is the peridot. I think maybe a nice pair of peridot stud earrings, rimmed in gold, would be nice. What do you think?”
“Sounds fine to me. You would know better than me what to buy for a girl.”
As they walked into a jewelry store, Casey asked one of the employees if they had any gold peridot earrings and where to find them. The saleswoman gladly showed their birthstone jewelry collection. One of the pair of earrings jumped out at Casey. They were simple studs, peridot stones set in gold, just like she wanted. The saleswoman began talking about prices, but Casey said she’d have to think about it and left the store.
“I thought that was what you were looking for?” Nick questioned. He followed as she led him to another jewelry store, listening to her explanation as they walked.
“Those are exactly what I was looking for, you’re right. But I want to look at other jewelry stores first to compare prices on other similar pairs of earrings. That way I know I’m getting a good deal.”
After looking at a few more jewelry stores with similar earrings, Casey returned to the first store. The store had the lowest price for the earrings, and came with a complimentary jewelry cleaning kit as part of the store promotion. Pleased with her purchase, Casey left the story considerably happier and, with Nick, returned to where Brian was finished with his promotion. The three left the mall together and went back to the hotel, where Casey gave Kristin her belated birthday present.
“Casey, they’re lovely!” Kristin exclaimed when she saw the earrings. She gave Casey a hug, telling her how much she appreciated the gift, though reiterating as Kevin had that the gift was unnecessary.
After spending a few minutes talking with Kristin about her birthday celebration, Casey left and walked to her room, not bothering to shut the door. She was expecting Nick to come over in a few minutes to play cards with her. While she waited, she lay down on her bed to rest her eyes.
“Taking a nap?” Nick asked her from the doorway.
“Maybe,” Casey said with a smile. She grudgingly pulled herself off her bed and sat at the table, facing Nick.
“We don’t have to play cards, you know,” Nick said. She looked tired, and he didn’t want to force her to play with him if she didn’t feel up to it.
“No, that’s okay. I just haven’t been sleeping as well, that’s all.”
“Any particular reason?”
“No. I mean, I can’t seem to fall asleep, especially on the buses. It’s weird now too, with Kristin around. When I wait on the bus during the concerts, I always think about her getting to watch from backstage.”
“Do you not like Kristin?” Casey glanced at the open door. They’d left it open in case Kevin came by, so he would know they weren’t doing anything.
“I do like Kristin,” Casey said after a minute. “It’s just, it’s awkward. I know that every time she looks at me she remembers that my dad slept with another girl before her, and sees that mistake in me. I know she tries hard to look past it, and she’s always been very kind to me. It’s hard for me too, though, because every time I look at her, I miss my mom, and wish it had worked out differently between my parents so that I could have had a more normal childhood.”
As Nick reached across the small table to grab her hand in a comforting gesture, Casey realized she had started crying. Most of the tears stayed in her eyes, but a few had fallen. She wiped them away. Nick smiled at her, letting her know he was there for her. He hadn’t realized how Casey felt about Kristin. He thought it was the simple “step-mother/step-daughter” relationship, but he’d failed to realize just how complex their relationship actually was, each dealing with different emotions.
“I’m sorry it’s hard for you.” He didn’t want to seem callous, but he didn’t know when he’d get a better chance, so he pulled out a small crystal box and handed it to her. “I bought this while you were in another jewelry store. I felt bad about not having gotten you anything for your birthday, so just consider a late birthday present.”
Casey opened the small box and saw a pair of earrings very much like the ones she’d bought for Kristin, but with rubies instead of peridots. She stared at them for a minute before responding.
“Thank you, but you know you didn’t really have to get me anything.”
“I know, but I wanted to. And you gave me the perfect opportunity today. You do like them, right?”
“Of course, they’re beautiful. I’ll wear them tomorrow. Now I think we should start that card game. If you ever expect to beat me, you’ll need to practice.”
“I’m plenty good, and would win a few more games if you didn’t cheat,” he teased.
“I do not cheat,” she said with mock indignation. “You’re just a bad bluffer.”
They continued teasing each other for the next five rounds of poker. Nick won the first round, but only because Casey let him. They played for a few hours before calling it quits. As Casey got ready for bed, Kevin knocked on her door.
“What do you need?” Casey asked.
“I just wanted to let you know that since Kristin gets to watch the concerts, I’ve decided you can too.”
Casey squealed and hugged him. She thanked him profusely and promised to be back on the bus in plenty of time. He left then, and Casey slept well for the first time in several nights, knowing she’d get to watch the concert finally.