The Fill-in Boyfriend

Chapter 7

“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.

I wanted to ask what her brother’s name was, but I couldn’t admit that he hadn’t told me. “I need your brother’s phone number.”

“Why?”

“I just wanted to send him a thank-you text.” Right. A thank-you text. It would go something like Dear fill-in Bradley, Thank you for lying for me and tricking my friends by pretending to be my boyfriend. Now, can you tell me why you decided to come into prom with me? Why you wanted to help me? Why you gave me a super-intense look while we danced like you could see something in me that I had no idea existed? That way I can get you out of my head. Thank you.

“If he wanted you to have his number, he would’ve given it to you.” She seemed to take pleasure in saying this to me.

“He would’ve but he had to leave abruptly with the whole fake fight thing.”

She groaned as if she had just remembered how I had used him again.

“If I give you my number, will you give it to him?”

“If I throw myself down these stairs, will you leave me alone?”

We had exited the building and were standing at the top of the cement stairs. A guy as equally punked-out as her stood at the bottom staring up at us. She didn’t wait for my answer, which technically could’ve been yes or no, just walked down to join him.

“Hey, Gia,” he said when I caught up with them both at the bottom.

I did a double take and realized he was the guy who had been Bec’s date to the prom. “Hi. I’m sorry. I don’t know your name.”

He shrugged. “I’ve only been in four of your classes over the last three years. Why would you?”

My cheeks reddened. Had he really? I looked at him again, closer. He honestly didn’t look at all familiar to me, except from prom the other night. We did go to public school—class sizes were big.

“Watch out,” Bec said, “your popular friends might see you walking with us.”

I looked up to see Claire and Laney making a beeline for me. They probably wouldn’t recognize her, but Bec was right, if they saw her and realized she was the same girl from prom, it would ruin everything. I changed my direction, leaving Bec and her boyfriend behind.

“Coward,” Bec said when I was ten steps away. I tripped a little but didn’t stop.

“Do you know them?” Laney asked when I met up with her and Claire.

“She’s in my government class. We had a pop quiz. Who gives a pop quiz the Monday after prom? Our teacher is Satan, I’ve decided.”

They didn’t seem to notice that I’d completely glazed over their question, changing the subject. “Yeah, I saw your tweet. People were retweeting it all over the place.”

“Gia!” a guy called out while walking by. “Thank you for the PSA. You’re my hero.”

Laney laughed.

Claire tugged on my arm, bringing my attention back to her. “Are you and Jules fighting again?”

Another question I wanted to glaze over. “She’s been on my case about Bradley for two months and she still won’t let it go.”

“But we all met him. What could she possibly have to say now?”

My tongue felt two sizes too big for my mouth. Now was the time when I should come clean, tell them what she could dig up and how stupid I was for lying. That way she’d have nothing on me.

Laney grabbed my hand. “Just try to be nice to her. She’s been through a lot.”

“Right, it’s just—” My phone chimed and I instinctively glanced at the screen.

Claire must’ve been looking over my shoulder because she said, “Don’t you dare call him.”

My eyes were still wide with shock. It was a message from Bradley: I’ve been thinking about prom night . . . call me when you get home.

I was home, staring at my phone, not calling Bradley. What I had told Daniel was true—I didn’t do repeats. But Claire was right too—I’d always been the one to break it off with a guy. The breakup with Bradley was sudden and I hadn’t been prepared. Maybe it was premature. My mind tried to remind me that he had left me in the middle of the prom parking lot. I didn’t want him back. But it wouldn’t hurt to call him back, get better closure. Maybe if I told him how it felt to be left in the parking lot at prom, by myself, I’d feel better. Maybe it would help me get over this faster because I still got a stupid lump in my throat every time I thought of him.

I needed to touch Call. All the numbers were on the screen waiting for that simple act. What was stopping me? Nothing.

I touched the Call icon. My heart raced as the phone rang. I was going to do this. End it for good. Then why was I relieved when the call went to voice mail? “Heeey,” his prerecorded message said. “You missed me. But I have your name and number on caller ID so unless I don’t want to talk to you, I’ll call you back.” I laughed a little. Bradley was fun. It felt like I hadn’t heard his voice in ages even though it had only been a couple of days. I pushed End without leaving a message then threw my phone on my bed and left it there while I spent the next few hours on homework.

When I went back to my room, my phone showed several missed texts from Claire and a missed call from Bradley. I responded to the texts but I had made an important decision about Bradley. I had to wait to talk to him, give myself some time to calm down. I didn’t want my emotions to tell a different story than my mind. In the meantime, I needed to see fill-in Bradley one more time. He needed to answer one simple question—why had he done it? He’d answer that question away from prom night, under normal circumstances. He’d be in his nerd T-shirt with his shaggy hair. Then I could be done with both the Bradleys and move on with my life.

This was my plan and I was determined to make it work. I started by opening my closet and retrieving my yearbooks from the top shelf.

Share your love