Home > Fake It 'Til You Break It(7)

Fake It 'Til You Break It(7)
Author: Meagan Brandy

“Nico, wait!” I call out.

He freezes mid-step, glancing over his shoulder. Of course, he doesn’t bother turning all the way around but nods for Trent to keep walking, so I move toward him.

“Thanks for bringing me my phone last night. You didn’t have to do that.”

He faces forward. “I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about.”

“Right.” I roll my eyes at his back, walking as he does. “Well, I’m sorry for being bitchy when you were being helpful.”

He scoffs, pushes the door open and shifts to hold it with his back, indicating with a jerk of his chin for me to step through.

My eyes lock with his as I pass him, and he drops his head against the small glass window. “See you in class, D.”

Something in my stomach stirs, but I don’t say anything, only nod and keep past him.

Trent catches up to me around the corner. “Okay, what did I miss?”

“You don’t wanna know.”

“That bad?” he jokes.

“Well, your brooding bestie likely hates me more now.” I look to him, giving a big innocent smile.

He scoffs, shaking the nasty looking green drink in his hands. “Trust me, he don’t hate you.”

Right as he says it, Nico comes around the corner, takes one look at us and glares.

I laugh, hitting Trent in the stomach as I walk off. “But he doesn’t hate me.”

Trent lifts his hands, grinning and moves away to meet his angrily awaiting friend.

I head to first period, making it right as the bell rings, the whole way reminding myself to forget about the scene in the hot tub, knowing for a fact... I won’t.

From there, the day goes by rather quickly, each class getting deeper into lectures now that the new school year is in full swing, so there was no time to sit and be embarrassed over everything with Nico, who doesn’t so much as glance my way when I drop into the chair beside him in chemistry.

Mr. Brando, thankfully, gets right to it, clapping his hands to gain the students’ full attention. “I won’t say from who, but counting all five of my classes, I have received a total of twenty-one emails from students asking for new partners.” He shakes his head, disappointed.

The scoff from Nico couldn’t be more obvious – or loud. Asshole.

His friends glance our way with light chuckles, but he doesn’t acknowledge them. He doesn’t acknowledge the glare from his ex, who in a horrible twist of events is the new teacher’s aide during our class period, either.

Clearly, he assumes I was one of them when truth be told I didn’t even bother, not after the teacher’s comment when I first tried.

Mr. Brando folds his arms in front of him. “A little insight for you on me as a teacher? I like to work on more than my required curriculum. The first week is spent going over necessary review, yes, but I also use that time to study each of you as individuals. Everyone, especially those who aren’t so sure about the experience you will have with the person you were assigned to, look around the room. Check out each pairing in this class.”

I do as asked and am surprised by the clear line he drew between each duo. At first glance, it’s completely stereotypical – athletes with drama students, shy with exuberant, goth with preppy – but his next words prove this was his exact intent.

“I paired everyone in here with someone as opposite, visually and on paper, as I could find, some may seem subtler than others, but I assure you, there is a reason. I started by looking at who you requested, then went over your schedules from freshman year to now. I know all your extracurriculars, the ones the school knows about anyway, spoke to your past teachers, coaches, and here you are.”

I spot Ella Marshal with Samuel Banks in the front corner, and my brows lift in surprise.

Samuel is a rude, cocky basketball player who thinks he’s godly and pays no mind to those he considers less than him. And Ella, shit, I don’t think she’s ever even made eye contact with a guy before.

Right now, Samuel is leaning back in his seat, trying to hide his phone between his legs while Ella is leaning as far away as possible, arms folded in her lap, head slightly down. It’s almost cruel to put them together.

But me and Nico? Alex and Evan? What, were we the leftovers? Our pairings don’t seem so extreme now.

We run in the same crowd, we’re both athletes.

His best friend is dating one of mine, that more than screams ‘same circle’.

I glance at Nico, and what do you know, he’s already giving me those side-eyes he’s practiced in, not bothering to shift his head my way.

Mr. Brando starts talking again, so I face forward.

“There will be many times in life where you are forced to get along with, not just tolerate, someone opposite of you or someone you frankly don’t like for whatever reason.” He walks to the front of the classroom, scanning over everyone. “I like to think part of my job is to assist you in seeing beyond the hair, the clothes, the crowd, and reach the person underneath. That being said, please place your materials back in your bags.”

I frown but do as he asks, glancing around the room to see the same confusion on the other’s faces.

“A few days a week, our class time will be spent in different areas of the school. Phones will be left on the tops of the desks, where I can see them”—he knocks his knuckles on Samuel’s side of the table and his head snaps up from his screen—“and the fifty-three minutes of class time will be spent simply getting to know each other. I have a prompt for you for the first few days, but you don’t have to use it. You can be inventive. Anything you wish to speak about, you may, so long as everyone remains respectful. Today we will be in the quad, neutral ground. So, ladies and gentlemen, phones face down, and make your way out the door, grab a paper from me on your way.”

Everyone does as we’re asked and we shuffle out and toward the quad.

People start dropping onto picnic tables and grassy areas, some shifting uncomfortably while others have no choice but to follow steps behind their demanding partners.

I glance around, noticing Evan and Alex walk clear to the other side.

“Is here okay?” I ask Nico. We’re only steps out the door, but already at the edge of the grass.

Nico doesn’t say anything, but sits and pats the ground beside him for me to join, like I wasn’t already about to.

I get set to read over the paper, but Nico’s hand comes down to cover it and I look to him with a frown.

He quirks a dark brow.

“What?”

“Can’t ask your own questions, things you might be curious about?”

“Who says I’m curious about anything?”

His jaw tics, and after a few seconds of silence, Nico snatches the paper from my hands, crumpling it in his own.

I gape at him. “What’s your problem?”

His gaze narrows. “Let’s do this a little different, yeah?”

“Different how?”

“Mr. B said it’s about misconception, right?” Nico starts, licking his lips. “So, tell me, D. What do you see when you look at me?”

“I...” I start, but quickly trail off.

What do I see?

I look from his hair, shaved at the side, perfect little mess at the top, to his deep cocoa-colored eyes and long lashes. He’s wearing a plain t-shirt, nothing fancy, and no sleeves – to show off his arms maybe? And I mean, they’re worth the show. Not bulging but clear evidence of the weight training class the team is required to take zero period, and they only tighten, becoming more prominent when he moves them around. He wears perfectly fitted jeans – not skinny but not baggy, and his shoes always match his shirt in some way.

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