Home > Fake It 'Til You Break It(8)

Fake It 'Til You Break It(8)
Author: Meagan Brandy

My eyes roam over my form, and I begin to equate his perfection to my own body. I’ve always been comfortable in my own skin, but more and more my mom likes to comment about how I’m still a ‘work in progress’.

“D.”

My stare pulls back to Nico, who observes me with unreadable eyes.

“Why do you think he paired us together?” I blurt out.

His frown is quick.

“Look at these other partners, I’d bet they’ve never spoken to each other. Me and you, though?”

Nico simply watches me, his expression as ungiving as ever, so I glance away.

Way to put yourself on the playboy’s level, Demi.

“Look at me.” His voice is an easy command.

I do, and disapproval stares back. “Why you comparing yourself?”

“I wasn’t,” I deny too quickly.

His head drops back. “You’re lying.”

I’m clearly caught, so I give an extremely overdramatic sigh as my affirmation and shake my head.

I swear he swallows a small laugh, though when I quickly search for proof he’s human after all, it’s gone.

He pauses a moment, then asks, “What do you know about me?”

“You... play football, have for years.”

He nods. “You dance, hip-hop mostly.”

Common knowledge.

I nod, willing myself not to go where I expected him to start.

It doesn’t work and the words escape. “You have a thing for sex in water.”

He doesn’t even blink. “You’ve never had sex.”

My head tugs back at his sudden and so surely stated claim.

I eye him as he does me, and a slow frown takes over.

I’m not stupid, I know what he’s doing and it won’t work.

He can mock or make fun of me all he wants.

I shake my head. “I’m not gonna confirm or deny what you’ve heard, so don’t bother with this little tactic.”

His pointed expression deepens, and the longer he’s silent, the more I fidget.

Very slowly, his eyes narrow. “Confirm... what, exactly?” He leans closer. “And heard what from who?”

I scoff, looking away.

I get it, I opened myself up for this by bringing up his sex life, that’s my mistake, but he has to know I’m not a virgin, and I’m sure as hell not going to give him the satisfaction of hearing me say it out loud.

Nico’s gaze is laser focused for a long moment before he finally glances off.

He doesn’t say another word the rest of class, nor does he the remainder of the week.

When week two rolls around and it’s more of the same wasted time, I’m over it and attempt to strike casual conversation, but Nico quickly affirms his attitude.

He falls asleep propped against the tennis court gates, and since I have no material to study, I sit silently, replaying my routine over and over again in my head until we are told we can go collect our things.

Nico is suddenly wide awake and gone as soon as he’s excused, but I hang back, cautiously approaching our teacher once the majority of students are gone.

“Ms. Davenport, how can I help you?” The weariness in his tone isn’t missed. I can imagine he’s getting complaints left and right with the intense sets of pairings he set up.

I take another step toward him, so the stragglers still sliding in to get their phones can’t overhear. “I know you asked me not to complain, but I’ve tried to talk to Nico and he’s about as interesting as a cardboard box. He doesn’t want to converse, which is fine on a normal day, but I need to know this isn’t going to affect my grade because I don’t know what to do at this point.”

“Is he helpful during labs?” he asks.

“He’s getting his work done, but there’s no partnering happening at all.”

He drops into his chair. “Have you tried getting on his level?”

I scoff. “What level would that be?”

When Mr. Brando frowns, I look away.

“I tell you what,” he begins, so I give him my attention. “Since you’re the first person to approach not asking me to reconsider, I’ll help you out next class,” he says vaguely. “The rest will be up to you. Earn the grade, Ms. Davenport, and you might even earn a new friendship, too.”

I nod even though I got absolutely nowhere and drag myself to my next class.

Thank god it’s hump day, because I’m over this shit.

 

I’m surprised to find my mom’s car in the driveway when I get home, and even more so when she’s sitting at the little bar top, waiting for me.

Her eyes fall to my sports bra. “You had dance today?”

“Yeah, I was at the studio.”

She nods as she sets down her coffee cup and leans back in her seat. “So, Nico Sykes.”

Ah. Right.

Guess this is the first chance she’s had to grill me.

“He’s my new partner for lab.”

“Oh?”

“Mom, stop.” I wash my hands quickly, drying them on a paper towel. “It’s not a big deal.”

“I didn’t even say anything.” She gives an innocent shrug, running her finger over the rim of her cup.

I hold in my eye roll and wait, but it doesn’t take her long.

“I asked around, did you know it was him who was caught in a scandalized position with Mr. Clemmons’ daughter?”

I pull open the fridge.

Yes. One blue Gatorade left.

I unscrew the top and take a quick drink. “Yes, Josie was, or still is sometimes, his girlfriend.”

“Would you say he’s a troublemaker?”

“He’s a high school senior. It’s not like he was arrested.”

“Still, public indecency is real.”

“And Josie Clemmons didn’t even get her black card taken away.”

My mom nods, pretending to act casual. “That’s a wealthy girl, great family. I bet he seduced her with those... those eyes of his.”

I fight a laugh, grabbing a croissant from the box on the counter.

Even my dear mother who thinks she’s too good for the world can’t deny Nico’s visual appeal.

“Those eyes, Mom? Really?”

Hers narrow, warning me not to say another word, but just as quickly, she smiles. “I was thinking, maybe I should walk around the corner, say hello to the Sykes. Maybe invite them for dinner?”

A scoffed laugh escapes. “You don’t cook.”

Anger quickly fills her eyes, so I clear my throat and try again.

“Why the sudden interest in being neighborly?”

“He’s your partner.” She pretends her intent is innocent, when we both know that’s never the case when she’s involved. “Perhaps you’ll be smart, and we’ll be seeing more of him.”

“What does that mean, ‘be smart’?”

“Oh, please, Demi. If he had Roger Clemmons’ approval to date his daughter, then there must be something promising about the boy. It’s worth looking into.”

“So you want to, what, see if he meets your scale of measure?”

Her expression hardens, and she decides to belittle me as she feels I’ve done to her. “Put the bread away, Demi.”

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