Authors: A. Gardner
by A. Gardner
Copyright © 2014
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Other Works by the Author
THE ENGAGEMENT GAME . . . available NOW!
THE ENGAGEMENT SCAM . . . coming soon!
He’s the only one that makes me feel like a
, and he’s coming home tonight. I comb through my long, tangled hair and let Dane’s face take over all my thoughts. The way his dark hair contrasts with the brightness of his eyes. The way he touches me, like my skin is made of fragile porcelain. I glance in the steam-covered mirror in front of me and realize I’m grinning. Thinking of him tends to do that to me.
My concentration is broken by the sound of Alana’s cackle. It’s loud enough to hear over the sound of water smashing at the shower tiles. I hate it when I’m the only one left in here . . . with
pregnant?” Alana laughs. “I’m not surprised, you skank.” She tosses her wavy hair over her shoulder with a raised eyebrow. Her black mascara is already damp from the mist in the girl’s locker room. She should’ve splurged for the waterproof.
“No,” Paige scowls.
I pretend to fold my towel for the hundredth time, hoping to hear the rest of their conversation before my appointment with Professor Welch.
“I don’t understand,” Alana replies, lowering her voice.
She pulls something from Paige’s gym bag and squints. “Then how did you-”
Paige grabs the small piece of plastic. “Give me that.” Her wet, blond hair flies across her face as she lunges forward. Her head turns slightly in my direction. I immediately look down at my cell phone and start pushing random buttons. “Don’t you get it?”
.” Alana’s eyes go wide. She covers her mouth with her hand. “You think it’ll work?”
it will.” Paige lifts her chin and zips her bag shut. “Stephen and I are meant to be together. He just doesn’t know it yet.”
“And when he figures out it’s a lie?” Alana whispers.
I listen so intently for Paige’s response that I forget to breathe.
Paige wrings the last bit of water from her hair.
“How the hell can you fake a preggo belly?”
“He will have popped the question by then,” she quietly responds.
. I can’t believe she’s Dane’s little sister. I take in a meager breath and try to hold back a bout of coughing. Paige glares at me. I knew it. I should have left about five minutes ago after Lacey Statton from my medieval history class asked if she could borrow some hairspray.
“What are you looking at?” Paige scoffs.
“Whatever,” she interrupts.
She struts past me. Alana looks me up and down before running to catch up.
“You think she-”
“Who cares,” Paige chuckles, eyeing the grass stain on my jeans. “It’s just, Mikki.” The two of them giggle and finally leave. I sigh, wiping my pants and grabbing my things.
I wrinkle my nose. I’m relieved Paige doesn’t know about Dane and me, and a little surprised. She knows everything about everyone. It’s in her nature to mess with other people’s relationships especially when they don’t involve her.
If she ever finds out about us . . . A chill runs down my spine.
Dane was my first kiss. I was twelve and we’d been riding through town all day on bicycles. We stopped at the corner market and bought a bag of sour patch candy with allowance money. I told him how much it sucked having to live with Aunt Scarlett, away from my mom. I started crying. I remember blushing and quickly wiping away each tear, afraid that he’d think I was stupid. He didn’t. Instead of laughing or telling me to toughen up . . . he kissed me.
I made the mistake of telling Aunt Scar. I came home on cloud nine and after a night on the couch watching MTV with chocolate ice cream, I spilled my guts. She told me to stay away from the Haskell’s. She said the entire family was nothing but bad news. I never understood why Mrs. Haskell would always glare at us at the grocery store like the two of us were mice eating through her cupboards.
The last time I talked to Dane was Christmas. His first semester break from college. Zanna talked me into seeing a local band play at the old theater near the beach. He was there, and we ended up walking barefoot in the freezing cold. He didn’t care that my hair was blowing all over the place. But then he left again for the east coast, and I’m stuck at Seaside Community College working for Aunt Scar on the weekends. Dane goes to NYU. His family has money. Lots of it. Hell, I can’t even afford a gym membership. I use the gym here at school because it’s free.
I glance at the time and race out of the locker room. I’m late for my meeting. My heart pounds as I dash towards Professor Welch’s office.
I stop suddenly and fix my hair before entering.
“Oh Mikki,” he says, looking up from his book. His youthful skin and light eyes are framed by his thin glasses. He looks a bit too young to be a college Professor. I remember my first day in his class. I saw him sitting at his desk staring at every student that walked into the room. I thought he was a student pulling some kind of prank. I clear my throat.
“Sorry I’m late.”
“No matter,” he smiles.
“You signed up for that internship I mentioned in class and I wanted to know if you’re ready to start.”
I nod. If that internship means I’m a step closer to finally getting a “grown-up” job, even though Zanna says they’re overrated.
You start next week. Your first rotation will be at the Banley Building.” I feel my stomach roll over like I’ve eaten an entire bag of my Aunt’s cucumber sandwiches.
The news is gut-wrenching.
The Banley Building? The universe must hate me.
“Is there a problem?” he asks.
“No problem,” I immediately respond. “I’ll be there.” I take a long breath. “Anything else?”
“Have a nice weekend.”
“Sure.” I nod. I turn to leave, keeping my head down. My hair sways back and forth across my face.
So far my weekend isn’t off to a good start.
Dane’s sister detests me, and I doubt his dad even knows my name. Maybe that is a good thing seeing as I’m about to start working in his office. The Banley Building. The largest building on Main Street and home of Haskell Enterprises.
Yet another reason why Dane and I can never tell anyone about
“. . . I couldn’t say no to his offer.”
“She said what?”
Zanna chuckles as she takes another bite of pizza. “She’s a clever biatch, ain’t she.” Her black bangs hang across her face in loose strands. Zanna never hesitates to say what she thinks. Something I could never do. Then again her whole “eff-off” attitude might be why she only has one friend. Me.
“If you call ruining Stephen’s life clever.”
“Hey, she wants to keep him. She found a way.”
,” I mutter. I stare at my slice of pepperoni and shove half the slice in my mouth.
“Who cares about the Haskells anyway,” Zanna responds. She has to wait until my mouth is full.
“What?” I chew as much as I can before speaking. “They’re not
“You’ve got to be joking.” She glares at me. “You must be talking about Dane.” I feel all the warmth leave my cheeks. They must have looked chalk white.
“No,” I protest. “I mean . . . they’re not that bad in a general sense.”
“I’ve seen the way you look at him” she chuckles, letting the edge of her front teeth slide her tongue ring back and forth.
“Stop doing that. It’s weird.”
“They’re all the same, you know.”
“Whatever,” I answer. “I don’t want to talk about the Haskell’s.”
“What about the Haskell’s?” a voice comes from around the corner. People always said my aunt Scarlett looked exactly like me only ten years older. She’s my mom’s little sister. My guardian until I turned eighteen last winter. Her long, wavy hair is always perfect, and she fills out her clothes with admirable, feminine curves. I look nothing like her. I could never get my hair to stop frizzing and my clothes hang baggy over my flat chest.
“Nothing,” Zanna replies in a low voice. Scarlett looks from Zanna to me then bites the corner of her lip.
“You have homework tonight, M?”
“Some.” I drop the remaining pizza crust on my napkin. My stomach can’t handle any more. Dane is coming home, and my heart is already racing anticipating the text he’d send once he was nearby.
“Good,” she sighs. “Because . . .” Scarlett clears her throat and begins pulling serving trays out from the cupboard beside the stove.
“No,” I moan. “Don’t tell me you took a gig. I thought you said I could have this weekend off?”
“I’m sorry,” Scarlett shrugs. “But we need the money and I couldn’t say no to his offer.” She busies herself piling up equipment in a portable storage tub. “I already made the food this afternoon. Cocktails and appetizers. All we need to do is serve.”
“I don’t know,” she mumbles. “But it’s not like you have plans or anything.” My heart is still beating a million miles a minute. Yes, I do have plans. I plan on seeing Dane.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” she said, wiping her hands on her jeans. I shake my head and stand up. I need to be alone. My mind craves the words Dane had written in the front of my diary. A line from Shakepeare.
Shy love, I think of you.
“Come on, Mikki!” I keep walking until I’m sitting on my bed, wrinkling a corner of the sheets between my fingers.
“I’m gonna go,” Zanna appears in the doorway. “Talk to you later?” I nod.
“Bye Zanna,” Scarlett mutters. I stare at the ceiling. She always does this. Assume I have no social life and that I am fine with being a workaholic just like her.
“You couldn’t find someone else?” I say to her.
“I tried,” she replies. “I promise I did but it’s such short notice. Please, M.” She sits on my bed and squeezes the side of my calf. “Please. Please. Please.” It’s hard to say no to her. I know she can’t afford hiring anymore help. She
“Fine,” I agree. “But right after clean up, I’m out.”
“Fair enough.” She exhales a sigh of relief. “Better get changed. We leave in an hour.” She jumps up, twirling a strand of dark hair. “Oh . . .” She stops in the doorway and bites the corner of her mouth again. “And the gig . . . it’s at the Haskell’s.” My eyes go wide and my heart pounds so loudly I’m sure all of Seaside can hear it.
“Please,” she interrupts. “Before you say anything. Matt made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”
“I know, I know.” I choke down the words. “We need the money.” My phone buzzes in my pocket.
“Thank you,” Scarlett gratefully sings. “They’re throwing Dane a surprise homecoming party.” She shuts the door behind her and I anxiously pull out my cell phone. It is Dane. I eagerly read his message.
Our spot. Ten minutes.