Sunday mornings were a time to remain in the wonderful land of the unconscious, something I did religiously until now. I could feel the sun streaming in through the window, the fan at the end of my bed since the start of Summer keeping me cool. It took me a few minutes to figure out why my alarm clock was going off at 11:30am. I had to go to Hayden’s.
I glanced at the napkin he had given me Friday night with his address and squeezed my eyes closed. When he and Landon explained that Jacob needed help, my first instinct was to laugh in his face and skip off into the sunset. But then my reasonable side took over and agreed to find out what he needed help with.
My sister saw this as an excellent opportunity, her first words after we got into the car being “You should date Jacob. You help him and he helps you. An eye for an eye.”
The thought made me want to be sick. The only plus side I could see to it was that he wouldn’t start liking me. Not that I thought I was a desirable person, but spending a lot of time together seems to have people like each other. It was pretty damn clear that wasn’t going to happen.
I padded across to my window in my sweats and crop, sitting on the sill and soaking up the sun that filtered in through my window. I unlocked the hatch and pushed open my window, letting one leg dangle on the outside of the house. The air was so fresh, with the smell of cut grass filling my nose.
I don’t know how long I stayed there, listening to the sounds of Sunday, as quiet as if it were six o’clock in the morning. Peaceful was the only fitting description.
Parker came and got me some time after midday, breaking me out of my relaxation and rushed me to get ready. Apparently I didn’t have much time. I showered and let my thick hair run straight down my back. I threw on a pair of high-waisted shorts and a white singlet, lacing up my black connies as I made my way to the door.
Parker was thankfully organized and had gotten the napkin of Hayden’s address from my bedside table and had me put it into the GPS. It took ten minutes to get there, and five minutes of her convincing me to get out of the car.
Hayden lived on the richest side of the town with the biggest house in the neighbourhood. I’d pin this all on the fact that his mother was Mayor Porter. It made sense.
The idea of standing on the mayor’s front porch while my sister rang the doorbell felt wrong, but the idea of standing on Hayden Porter’s porch about to hear a proposal to help a guy I didn’t like felt even more so.
The door opened and out stepped Hayden, his blonde hair with so much gel in it that if I touched it, it wouldn’t move an inch. He had a wide and quite frankly, scary, grin stretching across his lips as he stepped aside.
“Nice to see you decided to show up.”
Parker chuckled, the door closing behind us as we stepped in. “It took some effort to get her here. Sorry that we’re late.”
“It’s not a problem.”
While this exchange continued I stood in awe. The front door opened up to a long staircase going down in front of us, two going up either side of the door. It was eerily similar to the Von Trapp family’s house in The Sound Of Music, just slightly scaled down with no view of a lake out the windows.
I was used to expensive houses having lived in one all my life, but never had I been somewhere so grand. I felt like I should have taken my shoes off to keep from dirtying the place but also that it would be inappropriate to walk around here in my odd, multicoloured socks.
“We're all congregated in the basement. We would take the main living area with Mum being out of town but we’ve made the basement our little sanctuary, so it’s easier than moving everyone.”
He led us down the stairs and through the house, eventually getting into a maze of hallways that I’m sure I’d get lost in if alone. At the end of the fourth – or was it the fifth? – we reached a door that opened up to a staircase. We followed him down.
It was more of a ground level room than a basement, with a window stretching the entirety of the wall, looking out onto the back garden. It was beautiful greenery, with native plants sprouting everywhere. The room itself was what I had expected a boy’s basement to be. It was large, with a three quarter sized pool table on the far side of the room, couches and chairs on this side of it with a television mounted on the wall. Landon and Jacob were seated on opposing ends of the large white couch, while Hayden took up residence in a beanbag.
“Make yourselves at home,” he shrugged, motioning to the furniture with his hand. Parker sat on the couch in between the two boys while I took the recliner by Hayden, sitting in it cross legged.
“Where’s Zavier?” I asked, noticing a lack of the fourth part of their quartet.
“Looking after his girlfriend who’s caught a cold,” Landon explained.
“He is so whipped,” Jacob commented, causing them all to laugh. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes.
“What’s your problem?” He asked. He was observant, I had to give him that.
“You,” I said. “The guy’s girlfriend is sick and you’re calling him whipped? That’s not whipped. That’s caring for your girlfriend.”
Landon snickered but other than that the room remained silent, everyone awaiting Jacob’s reaction. The thought, why am I here? crossed my mind multiple times, until I remembered that I needed help. There was no way in hell Parker’s plan would work.
“He bailed on our plans. You don’t do that when she’s just a little sick.”
I raised my eyebrow and was about to make a comment when Hayden jumped in first.
“Not to add gas to the fire but you’ve done that for a girl, too.”
“Whatever,” Jacob grumbled, running a hand through his hair.
“Great comeback,” I muttered, not quiet enough that no one heard me. Jacob’s steely eyes glared at me with the fire of a thousand suns. I struggled not to laugh.
“Before Jacob rips Kaia’s head off, shall we get down to business?” Hayden asked, his eyes trained on his best friend with serious concern. He had no reason to be; I could take on Jacob. I wouldn’t want to considering he was a solid six inches taller than me with three times as much muscle, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t do it.
“This is never going to work and you know it,” Jacob grunted.
“If this plan has involves us spending any time together I have to agree, it’s not going to work.”
“Something we can agree on. Finally.”
“This is exactly why it will work,” Landon told him. “Remember what Ada said on Friday? It wouldn’t work with anyone else.”
At the mention of his sister he grew quiet, thank god. Unfortunately it was at the wrong moment of time because I wanted him to explain what Landon meant by it wouldn’t work with anyone else. I didn’t like where this was going.
After a long pause Jacob huffed. “Fine.”
“Before we explain,” Hayden said, turning his attention to me. “Do you want something to smash?”
“Will I need it?”
He just smirked, ducking out of the room to return a moment later with a stack of plates. “We were about to throw these out.” He set them on the coffee table in front of me. “There here if you need them.”
I looked from the set of scratched plates to my sister and back again, a frown taking over my face. I didn’t like where this was going.
“Should you tell her or should I?” Hayden asked.
“You,” Jacob said in a tone that left no room for arguments. From the look on Hayden’s face he was relieved by this answer.
“Okay,” he said, turning to me. “I’m sure you can remember Jacob’s ex-girlfriend from year seven.”
I paused, wondering where this was going. “Audrey West.”
“That's the one. It seems six years hasn’t been quite long enough for her to get over Jacob so she’s made the announcement that she will try to get him back. This wouldn’t be a problem except for one slight character trait of hers.”
“That she’s crazy?” I offered up.
“Bingo. I knew you were a smart one,” Hayden chuckled, getting back to the point. “We figured there would only be one way to get her off his back, and that would be to date someone.”
It was at times like these I wished I cursed. I could see exactly where this was going and by the look in Parker’s eyes, she did too. The difference was, she was thrilled by this turn of events and I was hating it.
“So,” Hayden started, but was cut off by Jacob.
“As much as I don’t like her, I think I should say it.”
“Go for it,” Hayden shrugged, happily handing over the attention to Jacob.
“I don’t want to date anyone so we figured it’d make sense if I pretended to date someone,” he started, unable to look me in the eye. “Unfortunately, anyone who doesn’t hate my guts would probably end up liking me and I don't need that shit. You’re the only one we could think of who would never like me in a million years.”
I didn’t want to bring up the fact that I had liked him in a million years, far less than that actually. I had a huge crush on him in year seven, but I’m not getting into that. The point is, I wouldn’t like him in a million years from here on in. He got that dead right.
I managed to restrain myself from commenting on his ginormous ego and asked a simple question.
“What are you asking?”
He sighed, moving to sit on the edge of the couch with his hands linked together in front of him. “I’m asking if you would be my fake girlfriend,” he said. “Please.”
I had imagined asking Kaia to be my girlfriend a hundred and one times when we were younger, but never did I imagine it to be like this. My only defense was that I was desperate. Not for a girl, but for a way out of a sticky situation.
“Awh! Where’s a camera when you need one?” Her sister gushed, her voice heavily mocking. I didn’t mind Parker, but right now I was tempted to tell her to shut the fuck up. Not that she would take it personally. Hell, she’d probably laugh in my face and say it right back to me. She was that kind of girl.
She was ignored on the most part, except a quiet snort of a laugh from Hayden. My eyes stayed on Kaia, sitting in the recliner with her legs crossed and her eyebrows knitted. She seemed to be thinking pretty hard about this, which I could understand. It was a big ask, and a stupid one at that. I remained partially hopeful that she would scream why I would ask such a thing and storm out, but that wasn’t her style.
I swear I stopped breathing. The word had hardly been audible over the deafening silence, so when she muttered her agreement I first questioned myself to see if I’d heard it right. I then proceeded to be stunned into silence.
She had agreed to this fucking plan. She actually. Fucking. Agreed. I felt like I should question her sanity, just to make sure she wouldn’t pull out of this tomorrow.
A small smirk tilted up the corner of her lips. “Believe it or not, I’m not a complete bitch.”
I shook my head. “No, that’s not it.”
“You got me,” she laughed, but not the happy sound I used to enjoy hearing. It was bitter, as if she’d somehow grown out of it over the years. “You have saved me the task of finding a way to get my ex-boyfriend to back off. He’s a tad… Persistent.”
“You two aren’t together any more?” Hayden asked.
“Have you met him?” She asked, shooting him a dubious look. “He’s an imbecile.”
They’d be perfect together. I didn’t say that of course. She was about to help me where I needed it most. Apparently, she needed help too. For the same reason as my fake one.
My best friend laughed at that, looking like a seal flopping around on a beanbag. He managed to compose himself and said, “It seems as if we have a deal then?”
Kaia rolled her eyes. “I guess.” Her eyes rolled. “I feel like I’m agreeing to an arranged marriage.”
“One thing at a time,” he grinned. The three of them meticulously planned our arrangement while we sat in our respective silences. Every so often I would look over to catch her with a little crease in her forehead, one she used to get when something was bothering her. It was hard to look at her with distaste when she wasn’t talking. It was almost as if we were thirteen again.
It was established. This week, the girls would sit with us at lunch, making a show of Kaia and I being together publicly. Everyone would see, including Marcus and I suppose, Audrey, which were our primary points of focus. It wasn’t my original purpose for this plan but it would work with getting her to back off as well. It couldn’t hurt.
The next Friday, Audrey’s best friend Margaret was hosting a Valentine’s Day party. I knew from personal experience Margaret would take any opportunity to throw a party. Christmas. Easter. Valentine’s Day. Labour Day. The races. The football grand final. Everything. It was Parker’s idea to officially come out as a ‘couple’ there, where everyone could see; hopefully, Audrey and Marcus too.
Then we would continue to date until both ex’s were off our backs, or at least that’s what we told the girls. I would convince her that Audrey was still persisting until my father announced the king in a month or two. Long enough to convince them I was head over heels for Kaia. It shouldn't have been that hard; they knew her when I was young and had always said we had a good connection. I’m sure Ada wouldn’t mind helping out either.
It was settled.
The girls left soon after, not having any business in sticking around. Landon left too, claiming homework needed to be done but no one was that anxious to do homework. I felt he was up to something, but didn’t bother to ask. He’d tell us if he wanted to.
It left me and Hayden, the latter of whom suggested a game of pool. I kicked butt in pool. We had a pool table in Celti, albeit a full sized, not three quarter, and almost every day I would play with one of my siblings. Even when they were busy, I would head to the rec room and practice myself.
Hayden set it up, lining the balls up perfectly with the D at the top of the table. I stood behind it with a cue, chalking it up.
“Want to break?” I asked, motioning to the table. He got a stupid grin on his face that meant he thought he was going to win.
“Get ready to drop your pants.” A rule, of sorts. If one had no balls in a pocket by the time the other one, they had to drop their pants and do a lap of the table.
I smirked. “Just break.”
We played and talked, not taking the game seriously. Or so Hayden would have claimed. He was getting his butt kicked, but he kept saying “If I tried I would be winning. Don’t you worry.” I wasn’t worrying.
“I haven’t seen any girls around lately,” I commented, lining up my shot. It was number seven in the top left pocket, an easy cut. I smoothly let the cue go and pocketed the ball.
“There were two here about half an hour ago,” he chuckled, finding himself amusing.
“No shit,” I deadpanned. “I meant with you. You always have at least one around you.”
“I’ve given up that lifestyle for the time being.” The new information made me miss my shot.
Hayden had been interested in girls since primary school, as soon as he realized that they were pretty and that he wanted their attention. It had only escalated from their, reaching an all new high when he became the man whore of the school last year. Self-titled, I assure you.
There could only be two reasons he was giving it up. The first was that he’d gotten tired of sex and the second, was that he’d fallen for one of them. The first was much more probable, but I opted to guess with the second one.
“Don’t tell me you have feelings for someone.”
He didn’t say anything.
“I never said I did,” he defended, his jaw working as he took his shot. He missed.
“You never said you didn’t.”
He flipped me the bird. “Fuck off.”
The doorbell rang, saving him from answering the tirade of questions I was about to release on him. We both headed up the stairs and to the front door. I used to stare as I walked around the halls. There were so many of them, all lumped together. I was convinced they did that for the sole reason of making people get lost, but it turns out it was just poor architectural work.
Hayden opened the door and there stood my sister, red cheeked and slightly out of breath. She was in her running gear, earphones in each hand that she must have taken out.
“Ada. What a surprise,” Hayden greeted, leaning against the doorframe. I stepped up beside him with a frown.
“What are you doing here?”
“Mutti wanted me to fetch you. Royce will be home for dinner and it’s getting late.”
I looked down to my watch. It was four thirty.
“You know it’s late to Mutti,” she said before I could get a word in.
“Why didn’t you call?”
She grinned. “I was about to head out for a run after lessons anyway and Mutti couldn’t find her phone. It was easier.”
“Okay. I need to run and get my phone. Do you want a ride home?”
She nodded, winding up her headphones in her foolproof way that ensured they wouldn’t tangle. I jogged back to the basement, the maze of corridors no longer a maze to me, and grabbed my phone. I was back within a minute and we left, Hayden waving goodbye as we drove off.
“How’d it go?” Ada asked as soon as I turned out of his street.
“As good as it could have. She agreed.”
“Seriously?” She seemed as shocked as I was.
“Seriously. Apparently she has an ex to get rid of.”
That made her laugh. I didn’t bother to ask why.
“I hope this can make you two friends, at the very least.”
I scoffed, shaking my head. “I can’t see that happening,” I said, and then we went home.