Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

The Trouble with Faking, Page 2

Rachel Morgan


  “So how’s everything going? Are things okay with you and your mom now?”

  Anger that wasn’t there a moment ago flashes to the surface. I push it down. “You know, I’d rather not talk about my mother.”

  “Okay. Uh, are you still doing that blogging thing?”

  I slide my lime green ballet pumps off so I can tuck my legs beneath me. “Vlogging. And yes, I’m still doing that.”

  “And the crafts?”

  “Still doing that too.”

  “Awesome. I wish I were as passionate about stuff as you are. I watch your videos sometimes, you know.”

  I groan and cover my face with my hands. It’s fine if thousands of other people watch my videos, but for some reason it’s embarrassing to think of Damien watching them. Probably because I care way too much about his opinion.

  “Hey, don’t be silly,” he says with a laugh. “Your videos rock. I love them.” I drop my hands as he stands. “Do you want something to drink?” he asks. “Some coffee?”

  “Only if you’ve got the good stuff.”

  He chuckles and turns the kettle on. “Still a coffee snob, huh?”

  “Always have been, always will be.”

  “Sorry, I can’t help you out then. Cape Town does have some amazing coffee shops, though. I can take you to some of them if you want.”

  “I’d love that.” If it’s as close as I’m going to get to a date with Damien, I’ll take it.

  He spoons coffee powder into a mug, then looks up at the sound of a knock on his door. He crosses the room and pulls the door open. Standing there is Mike, the guy who waved at us earlier in the dining hall.

  “Hey, um, sorry. Oh, hi, Andi.” He leans into the room to greet me. “Um, yeah.” He gives Damien an apologetic look. “I sort of locked myself out of my room again.”

  “Sorry, man, I’m not on duty tonight,” Damien says, not unkindly. “Go to reception, and they’ll call the right person. He’ll have to get the bolt cutter.”

  “Right, thanks. Sorry to bother you guys.”

  Damien shuts the door and turns to me. “I’ve already had to cut three locks since everyone moved in. And I’m one of four sub-wardens. I don’t know how many the other guys have cut. Why can’t people just keep their keys on them instead of leaving them inside their rooms?”

  I hold up my lanyard and show him the student card and room keys dangling from the end. “I find it works pretty well to hang them around my neck.”

  “For you and most other students. Why can’t everyone do that?”

  “I don’t know. Maybe Smutsmen are too cool for that.”

  He shakes his head, then pours boiling water into his mug. “Would you like water?” he asks, setting the kettle down. “I’m afraid that’s the only other thing I can offer you. Or milk.”

  “Don’t worry, I’m fine.” I run my finger over a seam on the couch. “So how are your parents?”

  “Oh, they’re great.” Damien returns to the couch with his hands wrapped around his coffee mug, which reminds me that I’m missing the hot chocolate gathering on Jammie steps—if it’s still happening. I’d far rather be on Damien’s couch, though. “It’s only been a year since they left Joburg,” he continues, “but they’ve settled into Simon’s Town quickly and seem to be loving life there.”

  “Cool. Do you see them often?”

  “Every few weekends, I guess. It’s about forty-five minutes from here. In good traffic.” A ping sounds from Damien’s desk, and he gets up to fetch his phone. “Oh, great,” he says after looking at the screen. “A message from Charlotte’s cousin calling me a whole bunch of names I’d rather not say out loud.”


  “Yeah.” He sits and drops the phone onto the couch between us. He tilts his head back against the wall and sighs. “Hey, can I tell you something?”

  “Sure. Anything.”

  “There’s actually this girl I really like.”

  I sigh internally. Here it is. The reason I’ve never told Damien how I feel about him. And that reason is this: I know with complete certainty he doesn’t feel the same way about me. He’s told me about every girl he’s ever liked, and I’ve never been on the list. “Okay,” I say, trying my best to look interested.

  “Her name’s Marie. She’s a third-year student in Fuller. Quieter than Charlotte, more my type. Back in first year, I tried to get to know her, but she didn’t seem interested. I don’t know, maybe I came across as too desperate,” he says with a laugh. “So I gave up trying. Then in second year, after I started dating Charlotte, Marie started paying attention to me.”

  I chuckle. “That’s bad timing.”

  “I know, but I think it was because I was dating Charlotte. As if being with someone else suddenly made her notice me.”

  “Because you weren’t coming across as desperate anymore. Instead she saw you as desirable.”

  Damien laughs into his coffee mug. “Right. Yeah. Anyway, then Marie became the target of some of Charlotte’s gossip—which was the cause of the first major fight Charlotte and I had—and Marie went back to ignoring me. But I’ve been thinking about her more and more lately.”

  “Well, now that you’re single again, maybe it’ll work out between the two of you.” Or maybe you’ll finally notice me.

  “Maybe,” he says. “I guess we’ll see.” He puts his coffee mug on the floor, while I lean back against the couch and arrange myself into a slightly more seductive pose—as seductive as one can be while wrapped in a towel. When his eyes are on me once more, I give him a smile that’s meant to be alluring. He opens his mouth to say something, but he either changes his mind or forgets his words. He watches me with those beautiful blue-grey eyes, and maybe it’s just my silly, wishful heart, but it feels like there’s something different about—

  A loud knock on the door ruins the moment. Because there was a moment. THERE WAS DEFINITELY A MOMENT.

  “Damien, you in there?” comes a voice from the other side of the door.

  Damien jumps up. “Yashen,” he says as he opens the door. “Sorry, man, we were supposed to meet ten minutes ago. I just remembered.”

  “Hey, if you’re busy,” Yashen says, spotting me, “we can do it tomorrow evening.”

  “No, no, let’s get it done. Andi, I’m so sorry.” Damien turns to me. “I’ve got to organise this tutoring programme with Yashen.”

  “Oh, no problem.” I get to my feet and hang the damp towel over the back of the desk chair. “I’m sure there’s some O-Week activity I’m supposed to be doing now.” Even though I’d like nothing more than to get back to THAT MOMENT.

  “Cool. I’ll walk you out,” Damien says. “I’ll be there in a minute, Yashen.”

  “Okay. Oh, and we’re meeting in Paul’s room, not mine.”

  Damien nods, and the impossibly skinny Yashen runs down the stairs while Damien locks his door. We manage to say nothing as we walk back to reception, which is weird for us, because we’ve always had things to talk about. We stand by the front door of Smuts, he thanks me for visiting, I thank him for the towel, and then as we lean in to hug one another, his lips brush over my cheek.


  And then he’s looking at me awkwardly and mumbling goodbye and hurrying away before I can say a word. And I’m left feeling like I’m floating once more, because Damien Sanders has FINALLY NOTICED ME!

  I’m torn from a dream in which Damien is my tutor by a blaring siren. I sit up and blink at the darkness as my brain struggles to catch up with my body.

  Night time.

  My bedroom.


  Running footsteps.

  That means …

  Fire drill?

  I rub my eyes and groan as a memory of House Comm members warning us of the possibility of an upcoming fire drill surfaces. Someone pounds on my door, and I almost fall out of bed in fright. “Andi, hurry up,” Carmen shouts. “You don’t get to sleep through this.”

nbsp; I stumble out of bed, trip over a box of pin badges, and fall against my desk. I feel across the desk surface for my lamp switch before I manage to do myself any more harm. Once the lamp is on, I grab my keys and a hoodie and slide my feet into my slippers. “I’m here, I’m here,” I mumble as I open my door.

  Carmen and I join the mass of sleepy-eyed, pyjama-clad Fullerites shuffling towards the emergency exit. We congregate on the grass outside Fuller’s aged walls. “Over here,” our flat rep calls to us, and we huddle with the rest of F flat. I close my eyes and try not to sway. I wonder if it’s possible to fall asleep while standing.

  “Andi, you okay?” Carmen asks.

  “Mmm.” It feels like too much effort to open my mouth and add more words. Words like, I don’t handle sleep interruptions particularly well.

  “Do they check our rooms?” someone whispers.

  I crack my eyelids open so I can see who it is. A girl from E flat. Jane, Jamie, Jenny. Something like that.

  “I don’t know,” her friend says. “Why?”

  “Well hopefully they don’t open any cupboards.”

  Her friend starts laughing. “Don’t tell me. Brian never left, and you made him hide in the cupboard.”

  The first girl elbows her friend in the ribs. “What else was I supposed to do with him when the fire alarm went off?”

  “How fortunate it wasn’t a real fire,” Carmen says loudly, and both girls glare at her.

  I smile and let my eyelids fall closed again.

  Eventually someone does a roll call, after which we all traipse back inside. “How often do we have to do this?” I mumble to Carmen as we reach our floor in F flat.

  She unlocks the door opposite mine. “Once a quarter, I think?”

  “Ugh. That’s far too often.” I push my door closed behind me and fall into bed without bothering to remove my hoodie. I switch off the lamp and snuggle beneath the duvet, hoping to spend my few remaining hours of sleep in another Damien dream.


  After the fire drill in the early hours of Friday morning, a braai that finished way too late on Friday night, and a hike on Saturday morning that I was insane enough not to try and get out of, I feel as though I may collapse into a snoring heap at any moment. When Saturday evening arrives, I’m beyond relieved I’m not one of the girls getting ready to go out. I lean in the doorway of the room next to mine, which belongs to a girl named Kimmy, and watch her and Georgia, the other girl who lives on our floor, getting ready for the RAG Big Bash.

  “I’m so glad I decided not to go,” I tell them.

  “Party pooper,” Kimmy teases.

  “That’s me.” I wave my hand in the air. “And I’m not the only one. I think there were quite a few girls who signed up for the Fuller movie night instead of the Big Bash.”

  “Yeah, all this O-Week stuff has been tiring,” Georgia says, sitting on the edge of Kimmy’s bed. “A simple movie night sounds pretty good right now.”

  “Hey, don’t you dare abandon me,” Kimmy says, pointing a mascara wand at Georgia.

  “I won’t. You know I don’t want to miss out.”

  I check my phone, but there’s still no message from Damien. I haven’t heard a thing from him since the awkward cheek kiss. “Okay, well, have fun,” I tell Kimmy and Georgia. “Movie’s starting soon, so I’ve gotta go.” I walk back to my room, change into some comfy clothes, grab two pillows, and head for the upper common room. I find it covered in mattresses, most of which are already occupied. I pick an empty one and make myself comfy. The lights are dim, the popcorn bowls are going around, and the movie is just beginning when Carmen sneaks in and sits down next to me.

  “Yay, you’re just in time,” I tell her. “Have some popcorn.”

  “You—” she points her cell phone at me “—have some explaining to do.”

  “Me?” I sit up. “What did I do?”

  “You didn’t tell me the news.”

  “What news?”

  “The news that a second-year Fullerite broke up with her boyfriend because he was cheating on her with you.”

  I roll my eyes. “That isn’t news. It’s a rumour, and it isn’t true.”

  “Oh. Really?”

  “Of course! You didn’t—”

  “Shh,” the girl on the mattress next to ours says.

  I lower my voice and continue. “You didn’t really think I’d do something like that, did you?”

  “Well, that’s what I said to the first person who told me. But then I heard the same thing from two other people, so then I started to wonder.”

  “Oh, come on. This is—”

  “Hey, I can’t see,” someone behind me says.

  I lie down, tugging on Carmen’s sleeve until she does the same. “How was your afternoon with your cousins?” I ask.

  “Oh no,” she whispers. “You don’t get to change the subject that easily.”

  “What, I’m genuinely interested in how your—”

  “It was fine. It’s great hanging out with the cousins I’ve hardly seen over the past five years. Now why didn’t you tell me about this silly rumour?”

  “I don’t know. I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t realise it was being spread around as news.”

  “So there’s no truth to it?”

  “None at all. Damien and I are friends. That’s it.” I reach for my bag of M&Ms and open it. “We were neighbours until he left for university two years ago, and we’ve stayed friends since then. His girlfriend saw us hugging and totally overreacted.”

  “Okay.” Carmen takes a handful of M&Ms. “I’m sorry if there might have been a moment when I doubted you.”

  “Don’t worry about it. Just eat popcorn and chocolate and tell me how the movie ends, because I’m pretty sure I’ll be asleep in about five minutes.”

  I settle back and focus on the TV screen. My eyelids begin to droop almost immediately, but a vibration in my pocket gets my attention. I pull my phone out and read the message.

  Damien: Hey. I’m on duty this evening so I can’t leave Smuts. Do you want to visit if you’re free after the movie thing?

  Do I want to visit? Of course I want to visit. I force myself to put the phone down for a minute before replying so I don’t seem SUPER desperate.

  Andi: Sure. See you then :)

  Carmen nudges me with her elbow. “What happened to being asleep in five minutes?”

  I return the nudge. “What happened to it being rude to read other people’s texts?”

  “Ha! Andi, seriously. You should know by now that I have no problem with being rude.”

  “So, what does being on duty entail?” I ask Damien. “I mean, aside from having to be on site the entire time.” I’ve been talking since the moment he came to reception to meet me. All I can think of is the awkward look he gave me the other night, and I’m worried that if I allow even a moment of silence between us, things will turn weird.

  “Well, if anything goes wrong, I’m the one people call,” Damien says as we climb the stairs to his room. “Basically, I’m the guy in charge tonight.”

  “Cool. It suits you, this job. You’ve always been the responsible type.”

  Damien smiles and unlocks his door. “Responsible doesn’t equal boring, does it?”

  “No, no, no. You’re definitely not boring.” I drop onto the couch and Damien closes the door.

  Silent moment.

  “So are you part of any clubs or societies?” I ask, rushing to fill the void. “I signed up for some stuff, but now I wonder if it might be too much.”

  “Okay, wait,” Damien says, sitting on the desk chair and spinning it around to face me. “Before we talk about anything else, I need to apologise for the other night. There was definitely an awkward moment there, and I don’t want it hanging between us because, you know, things have always been easy with us.” He runs a hand over his short hair. “So … I’m sorry about the half-kiss thing. I really don’t know what that was about. Seriously. I think I’ve had too many late nigh
ts recently, and I’m not functioning like a normal person. I apologise, and I hope you’ll forgive me.”

  “I—yes, of course.” The ember of hope inside me fizzles out. “Don’t worry about it. Everything’s cool.” I try to convince myself that everything is cool. That this is fine. After all, I didn’t honestly expect anything else, did I? “Hey, let’s go sit on mem stone and watch the city lights,” I say, feeling suddenly claustrophobic.

  “Can’t. Gotta stay here, remember?” He gives me an apologetic look.

  “Oh yes. Sorry.”

  “Show me all the new things you’ve made since I moved to Cape Town,” he says, removing his laptop from the desk and wheeling his chair across the room towards me. “I used to be up to date on every product in your store, but I think I’ve missed a lot over the past two years.”

  “Probably because I could no longer force you into helping me make them.”

  “I don’t believe there was any forcing involved.” He hands the laptop to me. “I’d deny it in front of my friends, of course, but I actually enjoyed helping you with Alice in Wonderland brooches and Mr Darcy button things and those pendants with the Northmonger Abbey quote.”

  “Northanger Abbey,” I say with a laugh. “Anyway, this is the newest one.” I lift my arm to show him the charm bracelet with five miniature classic novels attached to it.

  “Cool. They look just like real books.”

  “That’s the idea.” I lift the lid of his laptop and find his Facebook page open. “Oh. Um, you have messages.” I pass the laptop back to him, but not before I’ve seen some of the words in the little message windows open at the bottom of the page.

  Damien sighs. “Great. I’ve now got people on Facebook letting me know I’m a cheat.”

  “Sorry about that.” I bite my thumb nail. “And what about that girl Marie? Any luck with her?” WHY am I asking? I don’t want to know about Damien’s love life.

  “No. Nothing. She’s completely ignoring me.” He closes Facebook and hands the laptop back to me.