The Fill-in Boyfriend

Chapter 19

I stared at my computer, confused. The Facebook page of a guy named Bradley was up on my screen. He didn’t look familiar and I wasn’t sure why this page was pulled up at all. Had my brother been using my computer? I went to close out of the page when my eye caught on a detail beneath his picture—UCLA. My eyes darted to his picture again. It wasn’t my Bradley.

Jules.

She’d been on my computer that morning. This is what she looked up. This is what she left up for me to see. But she hadn’t discovered anything yet. Was she just trying to let me know that she still suspected something? That she was digging? That she’d figured something out? Why did she care so much? I signed out of her account and into mine. I brought up the real Bradley’s page and like I had hoped, his profile was still a picture of a black weight lifter that he admired. Even if Jules found this page, she wouldn’t think for a minute it was the right one. I closed out the page then checked my Twitter and email.

The house phone rang and I waited for my parents to answer it before I remembered they were out for a date night. I stood and padded down the hall and into the kitchen just as the answering machine picked it up.

A voice began talking on the machine, leaving a message. “Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery, this is Professor Hammond at UCLA calling about your son, Drew.”

I snatched the phone up, anxiety tightening my chest. “Hello, hello, I’m here.”

“Oh, hello. I was just leaving a message.”

“Is Drew okay?”

“Okay? Oh yes, of course. I’m one of his teachers and I just wanted to let you and your husband know about an award your son is winning for a short film he made.”

“I’m his sister.”

“Gia?” he asked.

Drew’s teacher knew my name? My heart swelled. I shouldn’t have felt so proud about that but I did. It meant he’d talked about me at least once. “Yes.”

“Ah, good to talk to you. Can you let your parents know? And you should come too, of course. He’ll be receiving his award and showing a small piece of his film at a banquet this Saturday. Your parents should’ve gotten an invite in the mail a couple of weeks ago, but I’m calling all the award recipients’ families just to make sure they received that. It included four tickets. It’s really a special honor. I’m sure he’d appreciate the support.”

“That’s great. Thank you for calling. I’ll let my parents know.”

“You’re welcome. I’ll see you Saturday.”

I hung up the phone and went to put it down but changed my mind. I dialed Drew’s number.

“Hello.”

“Hey, it’s me.”

“Hi. What’s up, G?”

“I just got a call from your professor. Congrats on the award.”

It was silent for three breaths. “Oh. Thanks.”

“I’m coming to the banquet.” I had just made that decision.

“I already talked to Mom and Dad about this. My teacher is making this into a bigger deal than it is. It’s not worth the three-hour drive at all. I’d rather you all come to a film festival the school is putting on next month. I have an entry in it that I’d love for you all to see.”

“I don’t mind coming twice.”

“Gia, really. It will be so boring. They’re only showing a three-minute clip and between driving here and back and then sitting through a two-hour awards ceremony, your whole day will be wasted.”

My happy feelings from before were deflated. “Okay.”

He must’ve heard the disappointment in my voice because he said, “I was just down there.”

“But we hardly saw each other.”

“I’ll make you a deal. Next time I’m down, we’ll go out, just the two of us.”

I couldn’t remember the last time we’d done that. “Okay.”

“Good. See you next month.” He hung up the phone. He was right. It was probably pointless to go all the way to LA for a three-minute highlight.

My parents came in carrying bags that they set on the counter in the kitchen.

“You’re home,” my mom said.

“I am. You went to the grocery store for your date night?”

“No, we just stopped by on the way home.” She unloaded a gallon of milk. “How was your day?”

“Fun.”

My dad tousled my hair. “Did the surfer dude teach you anything good?”

“He taught me never to call him a surfer dude.”

My dad laughed.

“Drew’s professor called about an award he’ll be getting on Saturday.”

“That was nice of him to call.”

“Are you going?” I asked even though Drew had assured me they weren’t.

“We were going to, but Drew told us it wasn’t worth it. He wants us to come next month.”

“We should go anyway,” I said. “Surprise him. He probably just doesn’t want to inconvenience us.”

My dad pointed to the cupboard above the fridge. “I still have the tickets they sent.”

“I scheduled some open houses for Saturday,” my mom said, unloading vegetables into the fridge.

“Oh.” My eyes drifted to my dad, thinking about suggesting a father/daughter outing, but he shrugged as if he had accepted my mom’s excuse.

“We should probably honor Drew’s wishes.”

“But like I said, maybe he was just saying that to be nice but really wants us to come.”

“I don’t want to argue about this, Gia,” my mom said.

I stopped midbreath. “I wasn’t.”

“The decision has been made.”

“Right.” I sighed. “I’m going to go clean my room.”

“Thank you,” my mom said as I headed out of the kitchen.

But when I got to my room, instead of cleaning it, I sank to the bed. My prom dress still hung over my desk chair, stirring up a longing I didn’t like to feel.

On a whim I pulled out my cell phone and sent a text: I was trying to be a better person today but the world isn’t cooperating.

Hayden texted back almost immediately: Uh-oh. What happened?

I sighed. I wanted to support my brother, who won an award, but my parents don’t want to go. And he doesn’t want us to come anyway.

Instead of the chime of a text I was expecting, my phone started ringing. I jumped then smiled when I saw Hayden’s number on the screen.

“Hello.”

“What kind of award?” he asked as if we had been talking all along.

“I guess he did some sort of short film. He takes a couple of filmmaking classes.”

“You should go anyway,” he said.

“That’s what I said, but my parents didn’t agree. My mom has to work and my dad was quick to use that as an excuse.”

“You don’t need them.”

“Well, that’s the thing. I do. I don’t have a car. It was like pulling teeth whenever I wanted to borrow it to visit Bradley. And since my mom has to work, that’s not happening.”

“I can take you.”

“Why would you do that?”

“Because I owe you and I’m working on being a better person.”

I laughed. “You do not owe me. We’re even now. If you did this, I would owe you.”

“Bec would probably come too. She loves that artsy film stuff,” he said as if I hadn’t said anything at all. “It would be fun. An adventure.”

I pulled at a loose string on the bottom of my jeans. “I don’t know. My brother was pretty insistent about us not coming.”

“He probably just didn’t want to pressure you. I know that I hate to have people go out of their way for me.”

“You’re right. He’d probably be happy we came. Maybe he even wanted my parents to insist on coming.”

“He probably did. You said you two aren’t very close, right?”

“Right.”

“This is like you showing him that he’s important to you. That you support him.”

It felt weird making Hayden drive me three hours, but he was right, this would be a good show of support. I remembered the conversation I had walked into the middle of between Hayden and Spencer. How Spencer implied that Hayden was too nice, did things without thinking about himself. I hoped this wasn’t one of those times. “Are you sure?”

“Of course.”

“I’ll give you gas money.”

“If you want to.”

“Thank you, Hayden.”

“You’re welcome, Gia.”

Share your love