|♠ 04: We're official
My fingers are interlaced with Rodney's as we walk into the school cafeteria. We're holding hands and I'm not dreaming about it.
Yep. Its really happening.
But there's nothing to smile or swoon about. Aside from the fact that the whole thing is just pretend, I'm uncomfortable with the attention we're currently getting.
Shocked whispers and stares follow us as Rod leads me toward the basketball guy's tables, making me feel exposed and judged. It reminds me of To all the boys I've loved before, particularly the scene where Peter Kavinsky and Lara Jean Covey are entering their school cafeteria together. Nikitta and I had swooned over that scene several times during our numerous rewatch. And just like Lara Jean and Peter, Rodney and I are pretending to be in a relationship to make his ex-girlfriend jealous. Only difference is that their story had a happy ending. I doubt mine will go the same route.
The daggers Paris Sydney sending our way from the Fantastic Four Blonde's table should be proof enough.
"Your hand is trembling," my fake boyfriend murmurs, giving my hand a gentle squeeze. "Relax, its going to be fine."
I can't help it. Not when his ex is looking at me like she's going to scream bloody murder any second.
"I think its working. Paris looks ready to kill you," Rod whispers into my ear, muffling his words by pressing a kiss to the side of my head.
"That's what I'm afraid of," I mutter under my breath.
He chuckles. "Don't worry, I won't let it come to that."
Yeah, good luck with that.
I wonder how long will it take for her to come crawling back to him? And how quick will Rodney take her back?
My chest tightens at that looming possibility— a very real possibility that can happen any day.
And then what about me?
You'll be back to pinning after the boy you've always wanted— what did you seriously expect would happen? Surely, you're no longer holding onto your delusion that he'll fall for you?
I pull my hand back from Rod and go sit across from Nikitta before he can protest. Nikky and I have been sitting on the basketball team's table ever since she and my brother got together for real. Even though the guy's are cool to be around with, there are still times I miss when its only the two of us.
"Dude, are you dating Gunther's sister now?"
Eric Johnson hollers as Rod takes the seat next to me, glancing between the two of us, his eyes bulging out of their sockets.
Next to Nikky, Gun tightens his mouth in a thin line and glares at Rod.
Rod shoots him an apologetic look, which my brother simply glowers at before turning his attention back to his lunch.
Wanting to escape the tension in the air, I abruptly stand and blurt, "I'm gonna grab some food."
"I'm coming with you." Nikky is out of the chair and rounding the table in the next second. Hooking her arm through mine, she practically drags me toward the counter. "I can't believe you went to through it. You said you wouldn't, or have you forgotten?"
"I wasn't going to," I shoot back, keeping my voice close to a whisper while grabbing a tray. "But Rodney was really persistent. He didn't give me the chance to say no."
"Sure," she scoffs. "That's what really happened."
I don't react to that, simply watching the lunch Lady put spaghetti on my plate. We'd both know I'd be lying if I continue to insist that Rod forced me to help him. Nikky knows me too well. She can easily call on my crap.
Plus the fact that she's fully aware of my feelings for Rod.
"Oh, my God, Daphine. That was such a big declaration."
I'm startled when Yvonne Lambsoft slides next to me as I grab a chicken burrito for Rod, who's currently engaged in an animated conversation with his teammates and has appeared to have forgotten that he needs to eat.
Nikitta aims a pointed glance at the burrito on my tray— she knows its one of Rodney's favourite snacks— before giving Yvonne a saccharine smile.
"Oh was it?"
I glare at her, which she promptly ignores.
"Totally," Yvonne exclaims, oblivious to the sarcasm. "It was like a scene from a movie." Grabbing a banana and a serving of the green salad, she turns back to us. "So, how did it happen? Wasn't Rodney like dating Paris Sydney? I mean, I heard they broke up...."She trails off, her mouth gaping. "Oh my God, are you the reason behind it?"
Nikky scoffs. "Of course not, Yvonne. Don't be crazy."
Elbowing her discreetly, I say. "No, Yvonne. I had nothing to do with it."
She doesn't seem to hear me though. She's clucking her tongue and shaking her head. "Rodney sure moves fast, huh? But hey, way to go girl." She winks at me before moving away.
"I bet ten bucks she'll tell everyone you're the reason why Paris dumped Rodney."
I chew on my lip. That's exactly what I'm worried about. Yvonne is a major gossip monger in Horizon High School. She's one of the first to spread news around school— whether it's true or not. So if— no when— she decides to spread rumours about me being the cause of Rodney and Paris's breakup, things would turn ugly.
And judging from the glares Paris just sent my way, she wouldn't do a thing to set it straight. Something tells me she'll likely use it to her advantage. I'm starting to think I'm way over my head with this fake boyfriend thing.
I'm taking notes in AP History as the teacher lectures in front of the class when my ears catch the conversation behind me.
"Seriously, what does Rodney Jackson see in her? She's a nobody compared to Paris."
"Is there even a comparison? They need to be at the same level for there to have any competition."
Mocking female laughter follows after, grating on my nerves, making me clench my jaw and tighten my grip around my pen. I ignore them. Don't let their words affect you. They mean nothing.
I've been telling those words to myself since I walked into the cafeteria with Rodney, so much that they've practically turned into a silent mantra. I knew this would happen. Rodney and Paris are among the most popular students in Horizon High. I knew pretending to be his girlfriend would get everyone's attention especially after he dated Paris. So I already suspected that they would talk about us.
But because Yvonne had spread word about me being the "other woman"— just what Nikky and I had thought— it became worse than I'd expected. Now as far as everyone is concerned, I messed with one of the Fantastic Four Blondes aka The FFB's. Which I'm public enemy number one.
For hours, I've been getting angry glares and nasty words wherever I go. You'd think I just committed a heinous crime. That's high school for you.
I'm trying so hard to let the hurtful words roll off my back, but there's only so much I can take. Turning out the stares and whispers, I make my way to the girl's bathroom after the class ends, wanting to get a little break from all the malicious hostility. But I regret the decision the moment I step inside. Because right in front of the mirror and applying makeup are none other than Paris Sydney and her best friend Gyna Fox, another member of the FFB's.
Abort, abort, abort!! My mind is practically screaming at me, and I'm completely tempted to heed its advice. But what good will that do?
Besides, we're not the only ones in the bathroom. There are three other girls, too, staring wide-eyed between me and Paris. While the two stay behind, the third one quickly makes her exit— probably afraid we'll break out into a cat fight or something.
As if. If only she knows how tempted I am to run after her. But I can't do that. These girls will think I'm guilty if I do that. And there's absolutely nothing to be guilty of. So I square my shoulders and walk into an empty stall, like my heart isn't threatening to break out of my chest from being tense and uneasy. Like the two senior girls don't intimidate me in the slightest.
I silently pray that they'll be gone once I'm done, but God clearly doesn't listen. They're still there when I step back out.
Its Gyna who delivers the first blow while I wash my hands at the faucet. "Paris, isn't that the boyfriend stealer?"
The two girls— who are openly watching the scene— laugh out loud as if Gyna just told the funniest joke.
I stiffen, my jaw clenching, but I remain quiet. I don't want to engage in verbal sparring with them. I'm not stupid enough to think I'd come out victorious. But it doesn't mean I'm going to stay here and fortune myself.
Without acknowledging them, I head for the door. But Paris chooses the moment to address me.
"Delilah, is it?"
Squeezing my eyes shut, I slowly turn around. "It's Daphine," I squeak out.
Yeah, that'll show them that you're not feeling intimidated.
Gyna snickers and flips her long, dirty blonde hair, as if sending my weakness.
Clearing my throat, I push my glasses up my nose. "Um, you want sometimes?"
With pursed lips, Paris crosses her arms over her chest. "Yes. I want my boyfriend back. Will you return him to me?"
Not even trying to beat around the bush, I swallow down a hysterical laugh. "Didn't you already dump him?"
"How long do you think until he comes back crawling back to me? Seriously?doesn't it even occur to you that maybe your just a rebound?"
Ouch. She doesn't really attempt to pull her punches, does she? It would have stung so bad if Rodney and I were dating for real. Not that the thought of them getting back together doesn't hurt at all?"
I open my mouth to retort just as the doors swing open, as if the newcomer is frantic to get in.
We all turn our heads to see Nikitta with a stormy expression on her face. Focusing her glare on Paris and Gyna, she snarls. "Back the hell off, bitches!"
Then before the rest of us can react, she grabs my hand and pulls me out of the bathroom. She continues to drag me until we round a corner.
Halting her steps, she turns to me. "Are you okay? Did those girls hurt you? I'm so glad Monique Pontini thought to alert me of what was happening in there."
She must be talking about the third girl who left before Paris and Gyna confronted me. I should probably thank the girl, but it wasn't like I couldn't handle the situation myself. Calling my best friend for help hadn't been necessary.
"They weren't hurting me. They were just being their regular mean selves. Honestly, it was nothing."
The Fantastic Four Blondes are untouchable in our school, but I've never seen them physically attack someone. They probably regard physical confrontations as tacky and something beneath them.
Nikky scoffs. "Nothing my ass. Tell me what they said," she demands, looking as if she's thinking of storming back in there and confronting Paris and Gyna herself.
If I ask her to do it, she probably will. She calls my brother overprotective but, to be honest, she's just as bad.
But another confrontation is the last thing I want. Not to mention its my problem to deal with, not others. So I'm just going to do my best to avoid these girls in the next few days. Maybe until Rodney and Paris make up. Like Paris said, it shouldn't take long, right?
Ignoring the stab of pain in my chest, I tell Nikky, "Nothing that I don't already know."