When we got to her house, Bec ushered me inside and straight into her bedroom, closing the door. Had this been some sort of elaborate plan to murder me? I did a full circle, taking in a room that didn’t seem like it belonged to her. Well, some of it did—like the band posters of boys wearing guyliner and the roughly sketched charcoal pictures. But then there were beautiful photographs of nature—a wave breaking against a rock, the canopy of a tree, a cloud-filled sky. On her dresser was a big vase full of colorful sea glass.
“That’s what you’re wearing to the barbecue?” she asked, forcing my attention back to her. She was staring at my shoes.
I looked down at my outfit in a panic before I remembered who I was taking fashion advice from. “It got the three-girl vote of approval.”
She sighed. “Okay, whatever. My brother will probably love it. You look . . .” She waved her hand at my outfit as if that counted as an adjective. “So anyway, here’s how this is going to work.”
“Wait. What do you mean how it’s going to work?”
“What I’m going to tell him.”
“He doesn’t know?” I practically yelled.
“Shh.” She looked back at the door then shook her head twice. Here I’d thought he had been the mastermind behind this plan and that Bec had reluctantly arranged it but he didn’t want this at all. Great, he was going to think I wanted him or something when all he really wanted was his old girlfriend back. It was Bec who didn’t. “Believe me, he will be happy that he doesn’t have to go alone.”
“He’d better be or I’m out of here.”
“Oh, no you aren’t. You owe him and even if he doesn’t know this is for the best, you have to help me convince him that it is.”
“You want me to help you convince him?”
“Only if he needs convincing. Now wait here while I talk to him.” She left the room, closing the door softly behind her.
There was no way I was waiting here and going into this blind. I needed to know what he thought of this whole thing. I cracked the door just in time to see her disappear around the corner then I followed her.
I pressed my back against the wall at the end of the hall and listened.
“Hey, Bec, what’s up.” At fill-in Bradley’s voice my mind was able to conjure up the perfect image of him—blue eyes, brown hair, tall, a defined jawline.
“Looks like you’re going somewhere,” Bec said.
“I know where you’re going.”
I could almost hear his eyebrow raise.
“And I don’t think it’s a smart idea.”
“Have you been snooping in my mail?”
“She treated you like crap and then cheated on you and you’re going to give her the satisfaction of seeing you show up at her party dateless and alone.”
“How do you know I’m not taking a date?”
I let out a small gasp of surprise. He’d already figured this out without our help. He had claimed on prom night that he would never be in need of a fake date. It was obviously true. Bec wouldn’t even have to reveal that I was here if he really was going with a date. She’d probably be happy that he’d found someone so he didn’t have to take me.
“Oh, please. You don’t have a date. You’ve been a recluse since she broke up with you.”
He laughed and my heart returned to beating a normal rhythm. “Are you trying to go to the party with me, Bec? If you want to go, all you have to do is ask.”
“No, I’m not. Me being there would do nothing for you. What I want is for you to show up confident with proof that you have moved on from that horrible girl.”
“She’s not horrible.”
“I think time has made you forget the extent of her betrayal.”
His voice went low. “I haven’t forgotten.”
“Then why are you going? Why?”
“I guess I need some closure.”
“And you can’t talk to her at school or something?”
“I haven’t seen her at school lately. She goes off campus for lunch. I’m not going to hunt her down.”
“And yet here you are . . . hunting her down.”
“Only that’s not what is going to happen. I know her. She would only invite you for two reasons. One, she wants to rub in your face how happy she is with he-who-will-not-be-named and make sure you haven’t moved on. Or two, she’s dumped him and realized how great you are and wants you back. I’m pretty sure it’s the second, and I think you might just be crazy enough to take her back.”
“I’m not going to take her back.”
“You’re right. You’re not because I found a date for you. Not just any date, a gorgeous one who will pretend to be in love with you.”
“You hired me an escort?”
Bec laughed. “That was my backup plan.”
There was silence for a moment then he said, “You’re serious, aren’t you? You really did get me a date for this.”
“Yes, I’m very serious. She’s here right now.”
“Bec! No. This is not happening. Tell the poor girl she can go home.”
“She’s not a poor girl. She knows why she’s here.”
“And she agreed?”
“Yes, she owes you a favor.”
“She owes me a favor . . . ?”
He obviously hadn’t been thinking about me as much as I had about him because with a clue like that he should’ve immediately known it was me.
Bec cleared her throat. “I know you’re in the hall so you might as well come out.”
How did she know I was in the hall? Also, I didn’t want to step out now because I felt beyond stupid. I just wanted to go home . . . after I asked him why he went to prom with me.
“Hello? Time to come out. You promised.”
I swallowed and stepped out from behind the wall.
Fill-in Bradley’s eyes went wide and he took me in from head to toe. “Gia?” His head whipped to his sister. “Gia?”
“Yes. Gia,” she said. “You’re welcome.”
“You know I had nothing to do with this.” He tugged on the bottom of a T-shirt that said, You can’t take the sky from me. His hair needed my help again, but he was cuter than I remembered.
“Yes. Well, I know . . . now.”
“You do not have to come with me. You look amazing, really amazing, but I’d actually rather go by myself, no offense.”
“None taken.” Technically I hadn’t wanted to go with him to this stupid party where I wouldn’t know anyone either, but his saying he didn’t want me to go was a little jab to the gut. He’d rather go by himself than have to take me? Whatever. It didn’t matter. If I left right now I could go to Logan’s party with my friends. “I should probably just go home.”
“Yes,” fill-in Bradley said at the same exact time Bec said, “No!”
I looked between the two of them. Bec’s eyes were pleading. I had told her I’d try to convince him, plus I kind of agreed with her. He shouldn’t be going to his ex’s party alone. Especially if he was trying to win her back.
“Listen, I don’t have to pretend to be your girlfriend or anything. I could just go as your friend.”
“I really don’t want to make you do that.”
“You wouldn’t be making me. Plus I got all dressed up.”
He smiled. “We wouldn’t want that to go to waste.”
“Good,” Bec said. “It’s settled.” Then she grabbed my arm and pulled me back toward her room before he could object any more. “I just need to talk to Gia for a second and then she’ll be ready.”
“Okay,” he said.
When we were in her room, she turned to me. “Good call on the friends thing. That will get you there, then once you’re there you can hold his hand and kiss his cheek and whatever other girlfriend stuff you need to do to pull this off.”
“Bec, I was serious about the friend thing. It wasn’t a ploy. It’s so obvious he wants his ex back.”
“You see that too?”
“Yes.” He may have been claiming some closure thing, but it was obvious.
I picked up my purse from where I had left it on the floor of her bedroom. “At least he’s agreed to let me go, right?” On her dresser as I was leaving the room I saw several bottles of hair product. “I’m borrowing one of these.” I held up a small tube of gel and shoved it in my purse.
“Do your job,” she said as I left. “It’s not too late to save him from her.”
I was not going to force my fake girlfriendness on anyone tonight, so I just laughed and went to find fill-in Bradley.