Seventy-two degrees and drizzly. It’s like the gray clouds overhead are just spitting at me, enjoying the torment. Unfortunately for them, I’m untouchable today. I’ve got a boy I need to snag and this might just be the only opportunity I’ll ever have to step out from under this invisibility cloak he seems to have wrapped around me. He doesn’t see me… yet. But he will. Today, he will.
Puddles cover the walkways between dorm buildings, and my flip-flops smack against the wet concrete with each step I take. I’m running slightly behind, but I’m determined to get my shot. It’s happening now. Auditions. I’ve been waiting for a moment like this since the day my eyes landed on the untouchable, Seth Vans.
I regret to say that he doesn’t know I exist. I’ve been pining after the guy for nearly a month, and not once has he glanced my way. From what I can tell, he seems like a decent person. He’s not the arrogant or scandalous type, yet the mysterious vibe radiating from him is somehow pulling me toward him. He captivates me with this serious, dark demeanor, but on the rare chance that I see his smile, my bones turn to jello. He seems like a challenge, a complex intermingling of kindness and tragedy. A walking secret.
Unfortunately, he’s impossible to talk to. He has friends that he’s always goofing off with, but he seems slightly caught up in his own world. Nothing outside of it can penetrate. Sometimes it feels like he has surrounded himself with a glass bubble and only he and his friends are allowed inside of it.
But today is my one chance to break through. I’m gonna show him exactly what he’s missing out on by walling himself away behind familiarity. It’s time for him to experience something new. It might be uncomfortable at first, but I’ve promised myself that I’m going to make it worth it for him. He’ll never want to return to his small world again.
I shuffle through the auditorium doors, shaking the rain off my jacket, before pulling it and my scarf off my shoulders. I lay them over a chair and take a seat. Thankfully I’m not too late. People are still milling around, waiting for things to start rolling. My eyes follow Seth’s movements as he chats with a few of the women who’ve shown up to audition. He doesn’t seem all that invested in the conversations, but his eyes reflect a warmth that stirs my insides.
Ten minutes later, one of Seth’s buddies, Jamison Something-or-other, steps up on the stage and hollers for us to listen to a few announcements.
“As you all already know,” he begins, his dark curls bouncing as he speaks with enthusiasm, “today you’ll be acting out a short segment of our movie that involves the infamous, Seth Vans, and his lovely stage girlfriend. You should already have your lines memorized, but that’s not really the most important part of today. We need spark. We’re looking for the girl who brings the most believable emotion to the screen. Make us cry,” he says with a joking smile. “Now, we’re not going to waste any time.” He begins motioning all the girls forward so we’re closer to the stage. “Please come line up here and we’ll begin.”
We all obey his orders, and I position myself to be number six. Seems like a good spot to be. Seth won’t be too exhausted by the time he reaches me, but I’ll still be close enough to the end that I won’t be forgotten once everyone’s had their turn.
I watch as the break-up scene begins playing out with the first contestant—a rather cute redhead. I’m surprised that she can actually produce a few tears, but even with the waterworks, her acting is subpar. The next girl steps up on the stage, batting her lashes at her co-star, and instantly things feel wrong. This is supposed to be a scene of two lovers ending their relationship. The way the brunette on stage is acting makes it feel like she’s trying to woo a stranger.
So far I’m feeling pretty confident about myself until the fourth girl starts acting out her part. She’s amazing. Her beautiful face is crumpled with devastation as Seth gently tears apart her fragile heart. Tears slip across her cheeks and she hiccups around desperate pleas of forgiveness. I watch him cup her face as he gently rejects her, and it’s in that moment I know what I have to do.
Finally, it’s my turn and I can feel my palms growing sweaty as adrenaline courses its way through my veins to kick my brain into high gear. I’m fully alert at this moment. Nerves always improve my performance. And though I’m no actress, I plan to pour every ounce of genuine emotion into this two-minute segment. We take our places, and the scene begins.
“Kayla,” he says to me, and I fidget with my fingers, trying to hide my fears, “we need to talk.”
“Uh oh,” I respond with a smile, “those are never the words a girl wants to hear.”
I nearly laugh at the script. It’s so cliche and boring, but I roll with it. I’m not about to spoil this over a few lousy lines.
“I’m being serious, Kayla.” He steps forward, slipping his hand into my palm.
For a moment, I’m caught off guard. I glance down at our tangled fingers and gently rub my thumb against the back of his hand. This seems to throw him off slightly because when I peek up at him from beneath my lashes, he’s eyeing me quizzically. Taking a bold step forward, I glide my hand up his forearm, hoping to spark some kind of heated affection into his veins.
“We need to break up.”
I know we’re just acting, but I still freeze. Somehow just hearing those words directed at me is almost painful. He doesn’t mean it—obviously—because this isn’t even real. We don’t even know each other. And yet, I just stare at him in utter shock. Even though the scene is mapped out for us already, there was a stupid part of me that was still trying to win him over despite the inevitable breakup that I’d come here for.
“I mean it, Kayla,” he says again, as he starts pulling his arm from my grasp. I nearly stumble at the sudden movement, doing my best to play the part of a broken girl staring at the man she’s just lost.
“No, no, no,” I nearly cry, and I’m surprised at the depth of emotion woven into the three simple words. It almost sounds like I’m panicking to keep my heart intact. He starts to turn, and I know now is my chance to sear myself into his memory. Even if I don’t get the part, I need the real Seth Vans to remember me as a real person. I need him to see Mercy Nicholson.
Just as he turns away, I grab his hand, pulling him back around to face me. He’s clearly surprised by the unscripted action, his brows dipping in question as his eyes struggle to read my expression. I don’t offer him a chance to decipher the look on my face as I step forward, slipping my hands over his shoulders and around his neck where I slowly pull him toward me.
My lips meet his with the slightest of touches and I hear his breath catch. Working with the element of surprise, I deepen the kiss, sealing the gap between us as I wind my fingers into his hair. If he’d been stunned by my actions, I’m even more stunned when I feel his lips begin moving beneath mine. He’s kissing me back. And I don’t know if he’s just improvising with me, or if he feels the same mind-boggling fire dancing in his stomach as I do. Either way, the kiss is passionate and beautiful. But, I’m trying to make an impression here, not just kiss the pants off the boy.
So, I do what needs to be done. I step away, my stomach twisting in delight when I see him lean in slightly, trying to maintain contact. I want more than anything to fully indulge in this moment, but I don’t, especially with a room full of people gawking at us.
I create enough distance between us that we’re no longer touching, and then I slip my fingers around his. His eyes are searching me, questioning me, but all I do in return is smile softly. Then I lean in again, bypassing his lips and brushing a gentle breath against his ear as I utter two simple words.
And then I’m stepping off of the stage and exiting the auditorium. I can’t stay around and watch the rest of the audition. I don’t care what else happens, because I knew the moment his lips met mine, that I’d snagged him. Maybe I wouldn’t get the part. Who cares. That wasn’t my sole intention. All I wanted was for him to see me. Really see me. And in those two minutes of ‘acting’, I’m positive that he most certainly did.
I’m feeling quite proud of myself as I slip my jacket and scarf back on and begin the sloppy walk back to my dorm. My thoughts are dancing with the idea of receiving a phone call later that I’ve gotten the part, but I’m startled out of my daydreams by a voice behind me.
The person sounds slightly out of breath, like they’ve been running to catch up with me for some time. I swivel around and almost laugh at the sight of Seth closing the distance between us. His lips are lifted into a teasing smile and, for once, he’s looking right at me. His bright green eyes look a million times more brilliant when they’re pointed directly at mine, and I pull in an inhale as I wait for him to speak.
“Don’t go,” he finally says. He has recovered quickly and no longer sounds out of breath, but I can see a hint of nerves in his demeanor when he lifts a hand to run it through his hair.
“What?” I ask, confused by his request. There was no rule that I had to stay for the entire duration of the auditions… unless they planned to announce the “winner” immediately after.
“Please be my girlfriend.”
Did he really just say what I’ve always dreamed he’d say to me? I have no reaction for several seconds and then my mind clicks into gear.
“You just broke up with me,” I say, a smirk dancing on my lips, “and I don’t date the same guy twice.”
He starts laughing, the sound warm with relief. I can only stare as I take in his perfect smile and crinkled, sparkling eyes. He’s breath-taking. Absolutely stunning. And I have no right to want this man. He’s so far out of my league that we’re basically two entirely different sports. There’s not a chance he’d ever even play with the idea of us being together… and yet, here he is asking me to be his girlfriend. Well… fake girlfriend, of course. As silly as it sounds, I’m almost giddy with the idea.
“Please,” he says, leaning in just enough for me to hear the plea. “I’m not sure I’d make it through another audition.”
I watch him closely for several seconds before sighing, as if I’m doing him a huge favor.
“Fine,” I grunt. “This is your last chance though. You mess this up and I’m out of here.”
He slaps a fist into his palm, dazzling me with another smile before pulling out his phone so we can exchange numbers. Once I’ve saved his number, he turns back in the direction of the auditorium.
“You won’t regret this,” he says with a wink, walking backward away from me before turning to jog the remaining distance back to the auditorium.
I stand gazing after him for far too long, but I can’t help the goofy smile on my face.
“I already don’t,” I whisper into the wind, as I turn to make my way back to my dorm room.