Finding Priya

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Being Bold

PRIYA

I’m feeling lazy. Or, alternatively, I’m feeling how I always feel at the end of the day. Which is sad really, considering I haven’t done much of anything.

We’ve only had two official days of class, which means we’ve yet to actually do anything besides receive our syllabi, and I’m already basking in a serious case of senioritis. Stretching out on my bed in my on campus apartment, I adjust my laptop on top of my legs and scroll through my Netflix options, preparing for a relaxing night in. My contacts have been taken out in favor of brown framed glasses and my hair is piled into a messy bun on top of my head and I’m wearing yoga pants and an oversized t-shirt. I’m definitely not trying to impress anyone and I’m completely content with that.

A knock on the doorframe brings my attention upwards and I smile at the sight of my roommate, Amanda, dressed in workout clothes. “Hey, I’m gonna go for a run, do you wanna come?”

She works out every day and if I’m home when she leaves, she always asks me if I want to come along. I really should say yes, but she’s so much fitter than me that I’m afraid I’m gonna look like an idiot next to her. That, and I’m lazy.

Still, she always asks, and that’s why I love her so much. I’ve known Amanda since we were randomly assigned to be roommates as freshman. We got along so well that we decided to stay roomies for all the years after that. And despite the fact that I often feel like a blob of lard while standing beside her toned frame, she’s never once made me feel insecure about the fact that I have some extra weight on my thighs and hips and stomach.

“Nah,” I tell her, settling back in my bed, “I have dance rehearsal this weekend, so I think that’ll count as my workout quota for this week.”

As a rule, I hate working out, but I do love dancing. I danced from the age of three all through high school, only to quit when I got to college because I didn’t have the time anymore. Plus, I wasn’t dancing competitively. But that didn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it as a hobby. So when my mom asked if I wanted to be in a group dance at our upcoming religious festival, I jumped at the opportunity.

I’m in a group with four other women and although I’ve never danced this specific type of Indian dance before, I had a blast at the one practice we’ve had so far.

“Fair enough,” Amanda grins, crossing one foot over the other and leaning against my open door frame, her green eyes sparkling. “Let me know when your performance is; I definitely want to come see.”

She really is the greatest friend.

“For sure,” I nod, happy to have such a supportive roommate, “How was work today?”

Amanda works as a tutor in the accounting lab. She’s so patient and understanding and a great teacher, so it’s a good fit for her.

“Pretty slow,” she shrugs, “It’s syllabus week, so no one really came in. How’s the team looking?”

“So far, so good.”

Her lips stretch into an amused smirk. “I’ll bet.”

“What does that mean?” I furrow my brow in confusion, though I have a pretty good idea where this conversation is going.

“Nothing,” she laughs, standing up straight and reaching up to adjust her long brown ponytail, “I just think it’s funny that it’s like a rule that all soccer players have to be gorgeous. Especially Braden Harding.”

I don’t disagree. And although there’s plenty of people who have gushed about Braden’s attractiveness, there’s something about knowing my gorgeous best friend thinks he’s hot that sends an unpleasant twinge to my stomach. “Don’t you have a boyfriend?”

“Doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate beauty,” she replies, and I relax slightly, reminding myself that she’s very much in love with the guy she’s been seeing for the past two years. “I’m gonna go. Be good.”

I wave goodbye as she disappears from the doorway, turning my attention back to my computer and deciding that binge watching a comedy show is exactly what I need. I’m just about to start the second thirty minute episode when someone knocks on the apartment door.

Setting my laptop to the side, I swing my legs to the floor and pad towards the front door, noting that Amanda hasn’t returned from her workout and as far as I know, none of my friends are supposed to stop by. I pull the door open, freezing at the sight of the unexpected visitor on the other side. “Braden.”

I just saw him at practice a couple hours ago, but we hadn’t spoken past the usual pleasantries then. Being this close to him means it’s harder for me to resist pushing back the strands of sandy brown hair falling over his forehead. I press my palm against the side of my leg to keep from reaching towards him, my heart rate already having doubled from the moment I opened the door.

“Hey, Priya,” he smiles warmly, and the way he says my name with such genuine friendliness makes my throat dry. He’s wearing black basketball shorts and a red t-shirt with the Spiderman logo on it. His hair is slightly damp, indicating he’s just showered and he smells so good that my mouth starts watering slightly. “Can I come in?”

I’m beyond confused and very flustered, but I don’t want to seem rude, so I nod and step back to open the door wider. “Um, yeah, sure.” Once he steps inside, I can’t help blurting out, “How do you know where I live?”

Seeing as for the past three years, he had only just barely acknowledged my existence on the planet earth, it seemed unlikely that he just happened to know where I’d be.

“Coach told me,” he shrugs as though it’s not at all a big dead that one, he asked Coach Bradley where I live, and two, that Coach Bradley willingly gave him that information at all.

He plops down on the couch in our living area as though he’s been here a thousand times. I stay standing, nervously twisting my fingers together and willing my pulse to chill out for a minute. “Um, what can I do for you?”

I really am the world’s most eloquent person.

He leans forward, resting his forearms on his knees, his expression serious. “I need a favor.”

“Okay?” I’m partly intrigued and partly bewildered as to how he thinks I can help. I assume it’s soccer related, seeing as that’s all that I actually know we have in common. And if that’s the case, then Braden, as a starter and team captain, has more sway with both the coach and the players than me.

“I don’t really know how to preface this without it sounding seriously strange,” he begins, looking me directly in the eyes, because apparently nothing unnerves him, “so I’m just gonna go for it. I need you to pretend to be my girlfriend.”

It takes me a moment to process his words. Mostly because I can’t believe they actually left his mouth.

“What?” I blink stupidly. “Why?”

He shrugs as though he didn’t just suggest something completely outrageous. “I really need to focus on soccer this year and like I told you, girls are a distraction.”

That makes absolutely not sense. “I’m still not following.”

“I’m hoping that if I can say that I have a girlfriend, I’ll stop being…,” he pauses, apparently trying to think of the right words, “approached.”

I cross my arms over my chest and do my best not to roll my eyes. “So you want a fake girlfriend so other girls will stop throwing themselves at you.”

“Kind of.” At least he has the decency to look sheepish.

There are plenty of aspects of his little plan that are just beyond comprehension, so I grab onto the first one that I can think of. “Even if we pretend that logic makes sense for a second, why me? You don’t even know me. Surely you have you have female friends that can fill that role.”

“All the girls I talk to regularly are dating my teammates,” he explains, “You’re the only single girl I know that I see on a regular basis, which means that it would be believable if we started dating. Besides, the fact that we don’t know each other is kind of perfect, because it means that once it’s over, we don’t have to worry about things being awkward.”

I part my lips to ask why he thinks I’m single and then remember I told him I’ve never been kissed. So I guess me being single is a logical conclusion to draw. I process his words and ask, “Once it’s over? And when would that be?”

If he has an end date in mind, that means he’s sort of thought this through, right?

“When the season’s over.”

Or not. I blink. “That’s the entire semester.”

Apparently this isn’t a short term, casual kind of charade. He really wants to go all out.

“If we make it to the championships, yeah.” His gaze is so direct that I feel my cheeks heat and am thankful that my skin is dark enough to hide some of the color. It’s not fair that despite the fact that I’m towering over him while he sits, he still seems to hold all of the power in this conversation.

I gulp and shake my head. “You realize this is a completely ridiculous plan, right?”

He grins widely and my breath catches in my throat. It’s devastating. There are fireworks and explosions and I’m pretty sure the world just shifted on its axis. “I know.”

I shouldn’t even consider doing this, but I am. And it’s not because I have a bit of a crush on him; I’m not enough of a pushover to do something just because a hot guy asks me to. I’m far too logical for that.

But I am thinking about it. Because the truth is, I feel like I’m in kind of a rut in my life. I chose accounting as a major because I figured it was safe and would guarantee me a job after graduation. It was only sheer luck that I actually ended up enjoying my classes. But I’ve always played it safe. I’ve always done what’s expected of me. So when an opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone presents itself, who am I to say no?

So I take a deep breath and say, “Fine, I’ll do it.”

Considering how confident he was in his pitch, it’s kind of hilarious how surprised he looks at my response. Standing from the couch, he rubs his palms down the front of his athletic shorts, his eyes wide and his tone sounding almost…reverent. “Really?”

“Yeah,” I breathe out, unsure of what else to say because he’s kind of looking at me like I’m his guardian angel and it’s both invigorating and terrifying.

“Thank you so much,” he grins. He steps forward, his arms raising slightly as though he wants a hug. I’m summoning the nerve to step into his embrace when he clears his throat awkwardly and says, “About…what you told me at the party.”

Shit. And here I thought that night just wouldn’t be brought up again. How silly of me.

“Right,” I cough. “That.”

He winces as though this conversation is just as awkward for him. And it probably is, but I’m assuming it has a purpose, as Braden doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to revel in intentionally making someone else uncomfortable.

“It’s not a big deal,” he assures me, “The only reason I’m even mentioning it is that if we’re going to fake being a couple...”

“Then we have to be comfortable around each other and look like we’ve kissed before,” I respond, as I realize my impulse to do something spontaneous for once is actually not well thought out at all.

He nods. “And I don’t want your first kiss to be something you feel pressured into.”

I suppose that makes sense. Every romantic comedy I’ve ever seen has assured me that a fake kiss is sort of par for the course in a fake relationship. Plus, if people are going to buy that we’re dating, I can’t tense every time he touches me.

It’s sweet that he’s so concerned about the circumstances of my first kiss, but to be honest, at this point, I just want to get it over with so I can just stop worrying about he situation. And apparently, because I’m on a kick of doing things that I normally wouldn’t do, I say, “So then you should do it.”

He stares at me, probably wondering if I actually said those words. “What?”

I can’t quite believe it either and maybe I should just pretend the past thirty seconds of my life didn’t happen, but I might as well stand my ground. The worst thing he can do is refuse. I push my shoulders back and refuse to let my gaze waver. “You should kiss me.”

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” he says quietly.

He doesn’t look disgusted at the idea, which I guess is a good sign. It’s more that his morality is weighing on his conscious and he thinks he’s somehow backed me into a corner. But that’s not true at all. My blood is buzzing and I feel completely filled with light and I may not have a lot of experience in these situations, but I’m pretty sure that means I want him to kiss me.

“Look,” I sigh, though I’m not sure whether I’m actually speaking because I can’t hear my voice over the pounding of my heart, “it’s not like I have enough time to go out and magically find someone who’s going to be willing to kiss me in the next few hours. So it might as well be you.”

That’s a good of an excuse as any. Plus it doesn’t make me seem like I’ve pining for him for three years. Which I definitely have.

His snorts, his posture relaxing slightly. “That’s so romantic.”

“It kind of kills two birds with one stone, though,” I shrug. The fact that he’s no longer looking at me as though I’m absolutely insane makes me less on edge. “Because if we do end up in a situation where we have to kiss in public, people are going to know it’s the first time.”

At least, I assume that any first kiss might be awkward enough that someone who witnesses it would realize it’s the first. But really, what do I know.

Surprisingly, he sighs and says, “I guess that’s true. Are you absolutely sure?”

I don’t want him to end up feeling guilty for something that’s completely my idea, so I make sure to look him in the eyes when I say, “Yes.”

Nodding, he takes a step forward, lifting one hand to gently cup my cheek, the warmth of his skin against mine sending tingles of pleasure throughout my body. He leans down, his eyes fluttering closed, and my heart is pounding as I realize I have absolutely no idea what I’m actually supposed to do. So I try not to think about it too much. Shutting my eyes, I wait and am rewarded a few seconds later with the soft pressure of his lips against mine. Instinctively, I purse my lips to return the pressure. It’s closed mouthed and chaste and sweet and as far as firsts are concerned, this is definitely the one I’ll cherish forever.

It only lasts for a few seconds and I feel a strange coldness when he pulls away, but I also can’t seem to stop smiling.

“How was that?” he asks, taking a step back and tilting his head to the side as he prepares to hear my critique of his kissing skills.

Seeing as I have nothing to compare it to, I don’t really know how to respond, so I go with, “Not bad.”

“Thanks,” he laughs, and I’m glad that there doesn’t seem to be any residual awkwardness. Instead, things feel calm between us, as though we’re both right where we’re meant to be. He nods towards the door. “I should probably get going.”

“Yeah,” I agree, walking him to the entrance and pulling the door open for him, leaning against it when he steps into the hallway. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Do you have a break between classes?” he asks, sticking his hands into the pockets of his shorts. “Wanna get lunch? We should probably work out the details.”

Probably. Surely this scheme needs some sort of framework.

“Sure,” I agree. “I have a break at 12:45.”

“Here, give me your phone number,” he says, pulling his phone from his pocket. I recite my number to him and he texts me a smiley face emoji so that I have his number before shoving his phone away. “Text me when you get out?”

I nod to say I will and then lift one hand in a wave. “Goodnight, Braden.”

He waves and turns to walk away, calling out, “Goodnight, Skittles,” over his shoulder.

Apparently I have a nickname. The thought makes me grin for the rest of the night.

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