The Fill-in Boyfriend

Chapter 24

My parents greeted me when I walked in the house.

“How was it?” my dad asked, his face hopeful. I wanted to do exactly what Mrs. Reynolds suggested and tell my parents everything. But I wanted to give Drew a chance to explain first. Because I didn’t want to hurt my parents and hoped beyond anything that maybe I had just seen the worst part of the video, that maybe I’d go online and see that really his piece wasn’t mocking his entire family in one fell swoop.

“It was okay. Can we talk about it tomorrow? All that driving made me tired.”

“Of course. I’m so happy you got to be there for your brother,” my mom said. “I’m regretting now that we didn’t go.”

“No. It was probably better that you didn’t. He was busy.” I paused while staring at my mom. “You’re still wearing your makeup.”

The subject change seemed to throw her for a moment. She brought her hand to her cheek. “Yes, of course.”

“It’s late.”

“I haven’t gotten ready for bed yet.”

“Sorry to make you wait up.” On my way to my room my phone chimed. I pulled it out.

Don’t watch the video. It isn’t pretty.

Hayden’s text didn’t stop me. I had to watch it. I had to know what was up on the internet for the entire world to see. I changed into my pajamas and grabbed my laptop. I tried to watch the piece as if it weren’t me on the screen. As if it were some other seventeen-year-old girl. Even though I couldn’t do it completely, even for the small moment I tried to visualize it, I was still humiliated for the girl with the social media addiction. The girl addicted to the validation of strangers. She didn’t even know what she thought until someone told her what to think. She didn’t even know who she was. It killed me to know that Hayden had watched this.

I shut the laptop a little too hard then buried my head under my pillow. Hayden was right. I shouldn’t have watched that. I should’ve left well enough alone with the three minutes I’d already seen.

Drew called around nine a.m. I didn’t want to answer the phone but I wanted to hear his excuse. I wanted him to have one.

“Hello.”

“Gia, you weren’t supposed to come.”

I didn’t speak. I didn’t think I could. If that was his excuse, it wasn’t a very good one.

His tone became defensive as he rushed on. “I told you right there on the video that I was going to use it for a school project.”

Tears pricked my eyes. I forced them down like I always did. “It’s just . . . I thought you wanted to talk to me because you cared about me not because you were doing some project.”

“Gia, of course I care about you. I’m trying to help you and a lot of other people by bringing this out in the open. Did you know that it’s actually been proven that Facebook can cause depression? Comparing yourself to others, the need for validation, it’s not good for our mental health.”

“Well, your film managed to do that better than Facebook ever has for me, Drew. It made me feel like crap. Like some shallow, idiotic girl who doesn’t even know her own mind.” It took a lot to admit that to him. It was hard enough admitting it to Hayden’s mom.

“That was the message I wanted the audience to get. They were supposed to see themselves in you.”

“I don’t think it worked. I was made fun of after the ceremony.”

“Then those people were idiots.”

“That didn’t sound like an apology.”

“I should’ve told you about it.”

That still didn’t sound like an apology. “When did you turn into a pretentious jerk?”

“I posted it on Facebook. Didn’t you notice?”

I let out a small gasp.

“Gia, I—”

I hung up the phone then because it was that or yell obscenities at him and my head already hurt enough.

I ripped a piece of paper out of the notebook sitting on my desk and wrote down the website where his video could be found. Then I marched into the kitchen, my chest so tight with anger that I thought I might pass out. My parents were sitting at the table, my dad reading the Sunday paper, my mom the real estate section. They both looked up when I slammed the piece of paper onto the table.

“Whoa,” my dad said, a smile coming to his lips. “What’s that all about?”

“Your son is a douche. Just thought you should know. Dad, I’m borrowing your car. I’ll be at the library.” With that, I marched out of the kitchen.

My parents were shocked into silence behind me.

The librarian lowered her brow disapprovingly. “I don’t think we have any biographies on people who had to deal with d-bags.”

“What about pretentious jerks? Who do you think is the biggest pretentious jerk in history? I want to read his biography.” Mrs. Reynolds had told me to learn people’s stories. I thought this was a great start and maybe it would help me deal with the one in my life.

The librarian’s face lit with understanding. “Did you just go through a breakup? I do have books on how to deal with that.”

“No, I didn’t. I just want to read a biography. What is the most popular biography?”

“Presidents are pretty popular as well as Einstein, Anne Frank, Cleopatra.”

“Cleopatra? Was she that Egyptian queen or something?”

“Yes, the last pharaoh of Egypt. She was a powerful woman who was ruthless a lot of times. Even refused to share power with her own brother.”

“Yes. That. Where?”

“Let me show you.”

I was forty pages in when I got a text from Hayden.

You okay?

Did you know that Cleopatra had to marry her own brother?! Marry him!

Um . . .

It was customary. But gross, right? She hated him. Mainly because she didn’t want to share power with him. I’m sure he didn’t make a “documentary” starring her, though, so really, I don’t know what her beef was. I’m sure I’ll find out soon.

Did you just use the word “beef” in a sentence?

Do you have a problem with that?

I might. Where are you?

I’m finding depth.

Are you okay?

I showed my parents the video.

What did they say?

I don’t know. I’ll find out soon enough.

I feared seeing my parents’ reactions. I was already mad enough at my brother. I wasn’t sure I could handle more anger when faced with their hurt too. Especially because it wasn’t often I saw them hurt. They were so good at playing The Perfect Parents that I wasn’t sure how The Devastated Parents would look. My phone vibrated with an incoming call and I answered it with a whisper.

“Hello?”

“Why are you whispering?”

I closed the book, left it on the table, and walked toward the door. “I’m in the library.”

“That’s where all the Cleopatra facts were coming from?”

I opened the door and stepped outside. A breeze lifted the hair off my forehead and I sat on the closest bench. “Yes. What are you doing?”

“Not much. I called because you weren’t answering my text.”

I was confused. “I answered your text, like, five times. Did you send me another one?”

“You avoided my question, like, five times. I was asking if you are okay.”

“Oh. Yes. I guess. I don’t know.”

He laughed. “Is this multiple choice?”

“My brother’s just a jerk, you know.”

“Oh, I know. I’m sorry, Gia, I really am.”

“You know what’s funny? He couldn’t even say sorry about what he did, and it was his mistake and you had nothing to do with it and I think you’ve apologized three times.” On a whim I added, “Are you busy?”

“Just practicing a scene.”

“Do you want to get ice cream? I’ll run lines with you.”

He hummed a little and I thought he was going to turn me down so I added, “My friends and I always get ice cream when something bad happens. It’s how I get over things.” I cringed, angry that I chose to make him feel sorry for me again to get him to meet me.

“Okay, sure. Text me the address.”

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