Home > The Fill-In Boyfriend(9)

The Fill-In Boyfriend(9)
Author: Kasie West

“Yes, I saw.”

She handed me the phone anyway and I looked at the picture of the seven of us crowded around that table at prom. My date’s head was mostly hidden by my own and I found myself wishing it wasn’t. I held back a frustrated sigh over that thought and gave her back her phone.

“I’ve been thinking,” Jules said.

Never a good thing, I thought.

“It’s so weird that Bradley knew someone else from our school. Not only knew her but was having a relationship with her behind your back. What are the odds of that?”

Crap. Our story had holes. Big ones. Everyone seemed to analyze this statement because all their eyes were on me now to explain. One harmless lie. I thought that’s all I’d have to tell that night at prom. I was just changing the order of events. And now here I was, still lying. I felt myself building the web and I was afraid the only one who was going to get trapped in it was me.

“He used to live here before I knew him. Before he went away to school. He must’ve known her from then.”

“Who is she anyway?” Claire asked this time. “We should find her and talk to her. Tell her to stay away from Bradley.”

“I didn’t recognize her. Maybe she doesn’t even go to school here. Maybe she went to prom with a friend.” My anxiety was building, my heart racing. I didn’t like lying. Lucky for me, Daniel Carlson sidestepped into our group, draping his arm around my shoulder. I was happy for the interruption, knowing he’d change the subject to student council stuff that we had been working on for the last few weeks. Or at least that’s why I figured he was here. It’s all we ever talked about anymore.

“So, now that you’re single . . .”

Or maybe he wouldn’t change the subject. “I don’t do repeats, Daniel.”

He laughed. “Too bad for you.”

“Yes, it tears me up inside.”

“So,” he said. “Rally emergency. The sound system for the gym is down. Mr. Green doesn’t know if it will be fixed by Friday.”

“Okay, we’ll discuss it at the meeting today.”

“As vice president, I felt it important to report this immediately as I am just a servant to your authority.”

I hip-checked him. “Whatever. I’ll see you after school.”

“I’m dismissed, boss?”

I smiled. “Go away.”

He ran off, joining another group of girls ahead of us. Claire and Laney had fallen a few steps behind, talking about calculus homework, but Jules was still at my side.

“I thought he said he didn’t know our town very well. He asked if we had an arcade,” Jules said.

I blinked, confused. “What?”

“Bradley. You said he lived here before, but he said he didn’t know our town very well.”

Something in me snapped. I wasn’t going to put up with this anymore. I’d been trying to play nice for months now, thinking if I didn’t they might choose her over me. But right now, I had to take the risk because I was tired of feeling like I had to defend myself every time I hung out with my best friends. So in a voice as low and stern as I could manage I said, “I’m done with this. You met Bradley. He’s obviously real. If you continue to play whatever game it is that you’re playing, I will take my friends and you will be gone.”

My hands shook and I shoved them into my pockets so she couldn’t see how upset it had made me to say that. I was assuming what I had told fill-in Bradley the other night was true—that she thought I was the leader of this group. If she thought that, this power play would work.

She narrowed her eyes and her head clicked one notch to the side, like a lioness assessing her next meal. “I’m not sure what you’re talking about,” her mouth said even though her look said, “Game on.”

“Good. It was just my imagination, then.” I took the steps to the C building quickly, outpacing the group. “See you guys at lunch.”

A group good-bye echoed from the three of them and I ducked into the building while they continued on to the next one. I pressed my back against the wall, counted ten deep breaths until the shakiness was gone, then continued on to class.

I sank into my seat and the girl in front of me, a girl who normally sat on the other side of the room, turned around to pass me the quiz Mrs. Rios was already handing out.

“Thanks,” I said, annoyed Mrs. Rios had chosen to give us a pop quiz on the Monday after prom. I pulled out my phone and quickly sent off a tweet: PSA: Pop Quiz in Government. That should win me a few points with my followers. It made me feel better to do something nice after what I’d just said to Jules. I sighed and tucked my phone away.

“Bad day?” the girl in front of me asked.

I met her eyes lined in thick black, like they always were, and gasped. It was fill-in Bradley’s sister.


“Bec?” I asked.

She just smirked at me then turned back around, retrieving a pencil from her backpack.

“That is so not fair,” I said. “You looked nothing like this at prom.” I gestured toward her outfit, which was black layered with more black, then to her face, which was covered in almost as much makeup as my makeup-hoarding grandma wore on bingo night.

“It was a social experiment. You failed.” Bec paused. “Or succeeded in proving us right. Either way.”

“So you’re mad at me for not recognizing you when you purposefully made it impossible.”

“If that were your worst offense, I’d consider myself lucky.”

I’d done something else to her? Something worse?

Mrs. Rios cleared her throat. “Girls, no talking. It’s time for the quiz.”

This morning had not started off well. Fill-in Bradley could’ve told me that his sister normally dressed like a heavy metal band member. I might’ve remembered her then. She’d only been here a few months—mid-year transfer. As far as I remembered, I hadn’t said more than two words to her, so I wasn’t sure what my other offenses might have been.

I was distracted for the entire quiz, my mind barely registering the questions let alone being able to answer them in an intelligent manner. I tried my best then stared at the back of Bec’s head the rest of class waiting for my opportunity to talk to her. When the bell rang, I grabbed my backpack as quickly as she grabbed hers and matched her step for step out the door.

“What?” she barked when we were in the hall.

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