99% Faking It (Dating Dilemma)

By: Chris Cannon

Chapter One


Matt walked toward me with an easy grin on his face. He’d finally started to relax around me now that he realized I wasn’t going to throw myself at him. Not that I hadn’t entertained the idea, because he had chocolate-brown eyes and dark wavy hair and broad shoulders and…wait…where am I going with this?

Right. I wasn’t throwing myself at man-candy-Matt because he’d made it clear that he thought of me only as a friend. And at first that had sort of sucked, but I was a big girl and I could deal with it. He made a good friend. We had fun together.

At one time, I may have held out hope that he would turn to me and say, “Lisa, I was wrong. You’re exactly the short, nerdy girl I’ve been looking for.” But it had been a few months and now I was over it. At this point in my life I wasn’t sure any guy was worth the trouble. Until some new guy showed up and took my breath away, I was declaring my life a drama-free, date-free zone.

Matt sat down next to me at our normal lunch table in the Greenbrier High School cafeteria and opened his brown paper bag. “Are you and Nina getting your nerd on tonight?” he asked.

“Is it Friday?” I said, like it answered the question, because it totally did. Every Friday night my best friend Nina and I engaged in Nerd-girl Festivities. We went to Books-A-Million to find new treasures and then hung out in the coffee shop afterward talking books and boys and anything else that came to mind. “What about you?” I asked. “Any exciting plans?”

He shrugged. “Not sure yet.”

“Someone has commitment issues,” I teased in a sing-song voice.

“Hey,” Matt said, “I’m just a guy who likes to keep his options open.”

“Please. You have a pathological resistance about committing to plans. You always wait until the last second.”

“Right.” Matt took a bite of his sandwich. “Just because your mom’s a therapist doesn’t mean you’re qualified to analyze me.”

“My mom’s job doesn’t have anything to do with it.” I popped the top on my soda and took a drink. “I’ve seen you try to pick out a donut at Krispy Kreme.”

“It’s not my fault they all look good.”

“Yes, but most people have a favorite.” Maybe that was his problem with dating. All girls looked good and he couldn’t pick one. “Let’s try an exercise my mom does with her clients. If you could do anything tonight, no matter how impractical, what would you choose?”

Matt’s gaze flicked over to the table where his younger sister sat with her best friend Jane and then he glanced back at me. “That’s a stupid question.”

Busted. I leaned in so no one would overhear us. “I didn’t ask who you’d do.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Matt’s tone was a little too defensive.

“Nothing.” Jane had a steady boyfriend, who happened to be drop-dead gorgeous, and they appeared to be very much in love. That didn’t stop Matt from staring at her whenever he thought no one was looking. Since I used to spend a fair amount of my time checking out Matt while he was otherwise occupied, I recognized the game he was playing. It was a no-win situation.

Nina picked me up to go to the bookstore a few hours after school. “So you and Matt seemed awful chatty at lunch today. Anything I should know about?”

“Nope. I’m still living my life in the friend zone.” I tilted the air-conditioning vents down so the air didn’t hit me in the face. Short girl problem 101. Whatever normal-sized person who’d sat here last had left the vents aimed so the air blew my hair all around my face. Since I wasn’t modeling for a shampoo commercial, this was not an ideal setting.

“I know you still like him,” Nina said.

“Wrong. That ship has sailed.”

“Are you sure? West said Matt talks about you when you’re not around.”

I froze for a second and then took a cleansing breath. “Please tell me you’re not discussing my past crush with your boyfriend. That would be in direct violation of the best friend code.”

“Wrong. It doesn’t count if he’s the one that asked about you. He said Matt talks about you almost as much as he talks about Jane.”