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The Trouble with Faking

Rachel Morgan

  The Trouble with Faking

  By Rachel Morgan

  Copyright © 2014 Rachel Morgan

  Cover and interior design by Morgan Media


  After a stupid miscommunication, everyone in Andi’s new res thinks she’s secretly dating Damien, boyfriend of resident queen bee Charlotte. Since the rumour’s already out there and refuses to be squashed, Andi and Damien decide to keep up the facade in the hopes of snagging the attention of the people they really want to be with.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or, if real, used fictitiously. The author makes no claims to, but instead acknowledges, the trademarked status and trademark owners of the word marks, products, and/or brands mentioned in this work of fiction.

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For more information please contact the author.

  Mobi ISBN 978-0-9922339-7-6

  Epub ISBN 978-0-9922339-8-3

  Print ISBN 978-0-9922339-9-0

  I’ve been in love with the boy next door since I was ten. It’s a cliché, I know, but I couldn’t help it. His family moved into the house next door to ours one sweltering day in January, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the sandy haired boy. Even at twelve, he was handsome.

  I sat in the shade in the front garden, pretending to read my book while catching glimpses of him and his parents through the fence. It took me the whole day to work up the courage, but as evening drew closer and the temperature changed from oppressive to almost bearable, I walked next door, introduced myself, and invited him over for a swim. Having an excellent view of their garden from my upstairs bedroom window, I was all too familiar with the current algae-infested state of their swimming pool. And on a day as hot as that one, he couldn’t say no to an invitation like mine, could he?

  He didn’t. Damien Sanders accepted my invitation, and we’ve been friends ever since.

  Which sucks, of course, because of the part where I’m in love with him.

  “Andi, who are you staring at?”

  “Hmm? What? I’m not staring.” I tear my gaze from the other side of the vast dining hall where Damien just walked in with two guys. It’s been three days since I moved into my new home—Fuller Hall, Upper Campus, UCT—and I haven’t spoken to him yet. I’ve been busy with orientation stuff, and every time I’ve had a free moment, Damien hasn’t been available. I guess being a sub-warden at Smuts has kept him busy too.

  Smuts Hall. The guys’ residence across the parking lot. That’s right. After two years apart, Damien is once again The Boy Next Door.

  “You’re definitely staring at someone,” Carmen says as my eyes wander over her shoulder once more. She twists around just as Mike—a guy we met during the awkward Fuller-Smuts icebreaker thing on our first night here—looks over and waves at us. Carmen returns the wave, then looks back at me with a giggle. “Was it him you were checking out?”

  “Ha! No.” I take a bite of my burger to avoid elaborating.

  “Maybe you should be checking him out,” she says, twisting a strand of dark hair around her finger. “Unless,” she adds, eyeing the I ♥ Mr Darcy badge pinned to my T-shirt with a grin, “book boyfriends are enough for you?”

  I roll my eyes at her. “Maybe you should check him out.”

  “Well, you know, I would, but guys tend to feel intimidated by me.”

  I laugh and nod. My newest friend is taller than almost every guy in this room, and probably smarter too. I can see how guys might find that intimidating.

  “Besides, he’s too white for me,” she adds. “Too preppy. Too … European.”

  “Hmm. So you want a coloured guy?” I can understand that. I’ve somehow never found myself attracted to someone who isn’t my own race, so maybe it’s the same for her. Actually, scratch that. I’ve never found myself attracted to someone who isn’t Damien.

  “Maybe,” she says. “That would certainly make my grandma happy.” A sachet of salt smacks her cheek before landing on her plate. She snaps her head to the side and glares at the table beside ours where a bunch of guys are doubled over with laughter. “Hey, watch it!” she yells. She grabs the salt sachet and chucks it at the guy with the spoon in his hand—the one who obviously flicked the sachet in the first place.

  “So, not that coloured guy,” I say, trying to suppress a laugh.

  “Definitely not. Eish, why do these guys have to share our dining hall with us? Don’t they have their own?”

  I shrug. “They do. I don’t know why they don’t use it.” I finish off the last two bites of my burger and look around for Damien. He’s gone. Before I can think about it, I’m on my feet. “I need to go talk to someone quickly,” I tell Carmen. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

  “I’ll be in my room,” she says, standing with her tray in her hands. “Don’t forget the treasure hunt thing.”

  “Yeah, yeah.” I get rid of my tray, then hurry out of the dining hall. Damien’s probably on sub-warden duty or something, and in fifteen minutes I have to be back in Fuller’s upper common room with the rest of the freshers to start some silly treasure hunt, but I can’t let another night pass without at least saying hi to him. I run along the corridor and out of reception. I scan the parking lot between Fuller and Smuts, but I don’t see him. Maybe he never left. Maybe he’s visiting what’s-her-name, his g—

  “Hey, Andi!” I look to my left and see Damien standing in the road behind Fuller. He waves, and I run the short distance towards him. I crash into him with a hug, and he winds his arms around me, wrapping me in his deliciously familiar woody, citrusy scent. He isn’t too tall or too short. Not too built or too skinny or too squishy. He’s perfection wrapped around me. “I’ve missed you,” he says. “You and your quirky dress sense.” He steps back and smiles down at my pink polka-dot T-shirt and lime green suspenders. The I ♥ Mr Darcy badge is pinned directly over a large white polka dot.

  “Well, my quirky dress sense and I have missed you too,” I say with a laugh, tucking loose strands of orange-red hair behind my ear.

  “I’ve been wondering when I’d finally see you. They’ve been keeping you busy with O-Week stuff?”

  “Yes.” I push my hands into my back shorts pockets. “Faculty orientation during the day, and then res stuff in the evenings. That icebreaker with Smuts, a social with Kopano, high tea with Baxter, and a treasure hunt tonight.”

  “They haven’t forced you to hike up a mountain yet?” he asks with a grin. He’s well aware of how terrified I am of heights.

  I groan. “That’s coming up on Saturday. Anyway.” I remove one hand from a pocket and touch his arm, because I’m ridiculous and I can’t help myself. “What are you doing out here in the road?”

  “Oh, just searching for a flash drive. It was in my pocket earlier, and now it’s gone. I thought it might have fallen out when I was walking along here earlier.”

  “Oh. Sorry. I hope it didn’t have anything too important on it.” I look around, hoping I might spot the missing flash drive.

  “No, not really. I think I’ve pretty much given up on finding it now. Anyway, you’ve got to get back for your treasure hunt, but once O-Week is over, we must catch up. Just come over to Smuts when you’re free and ask the receptionist to call me.”

  “Sure.” I smile as happiness heats up my insides. I know it’s stupid. I know he only thinks of me as a good friend. But part of me always hopes that maybe now is the time he’ll start thinking of me as … more. He pulls me into another hug, and
my flyaway hair gets stuck in the chain around his neck. And then we’re both laughing again as I try to pull it free, and I’m forcing myself not to think about his face being so close I can feel his breath on my cheek. I tug the strand of hair until it comes loose, then push it over my shoulder.

  “Sorry about that,” Damien says. He gives my arm a squeeze and adds, “Have fun tonight.”

  I nod, then turn back to Fuller. I’m just about floating as I head through the old wooden doors, but the sight that greets me in reception brings me firmly back to earth.

  A girl with perfect brown curls tumbling over her shoulders, arms crossed over her chest, and eyes so furious they may as well be shooting poison watches me from the other side of reception. She steps away from her group of equally furious-looking friends and marches across the foyer towards me.

  “Who. The Hell. Are you?”

  “Hi,” I say to the girl who looks like she wants to tear my eyes out. “You must be Charlotte. Damien’s told me all about you.” Not that I was interested in hearing anything about his latest girlfriend. “I’m Andi. Damien’s friend.”

  “His friend? How about secret lover?”

  I take a step back. “Excuse me?”

  “I know he’s been cheating on me. He’s been paying less and less attention to me, and now I find him sneaking around the back of Fuller with his hands all over you.”

  “Um, I don’t think that’s what happened.” Despite any wish I might have had to the contrary.

  “I know what I saw, so don’t even try to—”

  “Charlotte,” I say with as much patience as I can muster. “I am not his secret lover.”

  “Don’t lie to me,” she shouts. “My friend saw the two of you together last year.”

  “What? Oh, when I flew here for those two days in April? I was visiting my sister. Damien just picked me up from the airport.”

  “So it wasn’t you he was sitting on mem stone with?”

  “Mem stone?”

  “That big block of stone in between Fuller and Smuts!” she yells.

  “Oh. Yes, that was me. We chatted for a bit before he dropped me off at my sister’s. You know, just two old friends catching up.”

  “Liar!” she shrieks. “I know he’s been cheating on me.”

  “Listen up,” I say, rapidly losing my patience. “I have a big problem with cheating, and there’s no way I’d ever be involved in it in any way. Damien and I have been friends for eight years, and if that bothers you, you need to get over it.”

  I step past her and her friends and swipe my card to get from reception into the rest of the building. I stomp all the way to F flat before looking at my watch and realising I’m late for the treasure hunt meeting. I turn and hurry back to the upper common room. I open the door and slip quietly inside, but I manage to earn myself several stern looks from a few House Comm members before seating my butt on the carpet beside Carmen.

  I remove my phone from my pocket and type a message to Damien. I met Charlotte. She’s lovely. She also thinks you’re cheating on her with me. You might want to have a chat with her.

  I put my phone away and pay attention to the treasure hunt instructions. We’re divided into several groups, and each group is given a different clue. We’re all supposed to end up in the same place at the end, of course, but to avoid all groups simply following the lead group, no group will be able to get to the end in the same way. It feels a bit like something I’d be expected to do in primary school, and I’m starting to wonder if the rumours about Fuller being the boring res full of smart, nerdy girls is true. I’m also wondering if the fact that I’m enjoying the idea of this treasure hunt makes me boring and nerdy too.

  Who cares?

  I take the clue from Carmen and read it quickly. We shout out the answer at the same time—“The bench in reception!”—ignore the few members of our group who roll their eyes at our enthusiasm, and head downstairs, chatting along with everyone else who appears to find this fun.

  After hunting down five different clues, we eventually find a folded-up paper labelled ‘Last Clue’ that points us in the direction of Rugby Road in front of Smuts. We head outside, passing a group of girls retrieving a note stuck to the warden’s car and another group of girls huddled around the receptionist’s window. They look at us, then start running. And whether this is officially a competition or not, we all want to be the first to get to the end, so we start running too. Past mem stone and down the steps. It would be enough to terrify any sane person, this hoard of girls giggling and shrieking as they run towards a parked car with a white X painted onto the windscreen.

  Carmen reaches the car first and lets out a whoop of joy. The rest of us crowd around her a second later. All the car windows are down, and we peer inside and find bags of marshmallows and slabs of chocolate covering the seats. A sign stuck to the steering wheel says ‘Hot Chocolate on Jammie Steps at 8:30 pm.’

  One person says, “Yum,” a second person says, “Really? Is that it?” and a third person suggests we grab all the chocolate and run before the rest of the girls get here.

  Then I hear a shout from above us. I look up. Leaning out of a row of Smuts windows are a whole lot of freshmen with brightly coloured balloons in their hands. Another shout, and they all let go.

  Shrieks erupt as water bombs hit the car, the road, and the pavement, exploding all over us. We run back up the road with bursting water bombs chasing us all the way. We reach the front door, and I lean against the wall, shaking with silent laughter. My hair and T-shirt are soaked from the balloon that hit my back as I ran, and the girls who hadn’t yet made it to the end of the treasure hunt stare at us from the doorway. One asks, “Do we have to do that too?”

  I laugh even harder as Carmen says, “I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure the water bombs weren’t part of the treasure hunt plan.”

  “They most certainly were not,” one of our House Comm members says, pushing through the crowd of girls and marching towards Smuts. She doesn’t have to go far, though, because two guys from the Smuts House Comm are halfway across the parking lot, their hands already raised in surrender—although their cheeky grins suggest they’re not exactly sorry about the water bombing. She begins yelling at them about sabotaging her perfectly planned treasure hunt, and they argue that the treasure hunt was lame, and they were only trying to liven things up.

  I twist my hair over my shoulder and squeeze the water from it. “I think I enjoyed being attacked by water bombs,” I say to Carmen. “How about you?”

  “Eish, my hair’s gonna frizz out on me now, but aside from that, yeah. It was fun. The best part, though, is that we’re now completely within our rights to retaliate.”

  “Oh yes. You’re right. Any ideas?”

  “We should put evil clown masks on and hide in their rooms and jump out after they’ve gone to bed.”

  I blink at her. “You’re a little bit scary, you know that?”

  “I’ve been told.”

  “Please remind me never to get on your bad side, because I don’t think—”

  “Hey, Andi?”

  I look up to find Damien walking out of Fuller. “Oh, hi.” I twist some more water out of my hair and glance around to see if Charlotte’s anywhere nearby ready to attack me. “Did you get my message?”

  “Yes. We need to talk.”

  Most students in Smuts have one room to themselves—or half a room, if they’re unlucky enough to be sharing with someone—but as a sub-warden, Damien gets both a bedroom and a living room. His living room has a couch, a desk, a bar fridge, and a bookcase with a bicycle leaning against it and a kettle and microwave on top. Quite bare, according to my tastes, but I tend to like—as my mother calls it—an ‘overcrowded’ room.

  “Uh, just make yourself at home,” Damien says, gesturing to the couch. “I’ll get you a towel.”

  “Thanks.” I notice a frame on his desk housing a picture of him and Charlotte. I turn my back on it and walk to the window. No city-facing
view for Damien. He gets to see the inside quad of Smuts. Below me, a guy and girl sit on the grass chatting.

  “Here you go,” Damien says, tossing a towel to me.

  I run it over my hair a few times before wrapping it around my shoulders and sitting down. “So did you talk to Charlotte?”

  He sits on the other end of the couch with a sigh. “She broke up with me.”

  “What?” I struggle with the two conflicting emotions coursing through me. Half of me grieves to know that someone I care about is hurting, while the other half rejoices that he no longer has a girlfriend. “I’m so sorry. I tried to tell her there was nothing going on—”

  “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. It’s actually a relief.”

  “A relief?”

  He nods. “I started to realise we’re not really right for each other. I spent the holidays trying to figure out what to say and how best to end it—you know, without hurting her too much—but I guess she got there before me.”

  “I guess,” I say slowly. I certainly didn’t see this coming. I thought I’d probably be spending my university years the same way I spent my high school years: watching Damien with someone else.

  “I mean, I obviously told her I wasn’t cheating on her,” he adds, “but she seemed intent on believing her own story.”

  “Weird. How did the two of you end up dating if she isn’t really your type?”

  “I suppose I didn’t know her that well.” He scratches his neck. “She’s hard-working, takes her studies seriously, but she’s also fun to be with, and I liked that about her. But I didn’t realise back then that she has a tendency to overdramatise things. It’s exhausting the way she overreacts to everything. And she gossips a lot.” He frowns. “And not in a nice way. It kinda made me feel guilty, listening to all the things she’d say about people. Especially when she kept expecting me to agree with her. Anyway. Sorry.” He shakes his head and looks up at me. “Enough about Charlotte. What about you? I haven’t seen you since … April last year? Is that when you found out about your dad and flew here to meet Livi?”