The quiet boy sat down beside you, his tousled hair looking so beautiful that you wanted to run your fingers through it. He glanced up at you with his large, violet eyes, and you felt your insides tickle. You turned away abruptly, taking your fork and attempting to eat what this school called “food”.
“Can I ask you a question, (name)?”
Your heart sped up at that, and you nodded slowly, your heart starting to thunder.
It had been three months since these weird reactions had begun, ever since the pool party at Alfred’s house when you noticed how incredibly handsome your Icelandic best friend was. And since then, you had been a wreck. You couldn’t look him in the face, couldn’t even glance at him in general without dirty thoughts of running your fingers up his bare skin entering your mind.
And poor Emil seemed so confused too. He was taken aback by your actions, but he tried hard to not ask questions and stay by your side. He knew that if there was a problem, the best thing to do was wait for you to initiate a conversation about it. If he were to ask, you’d you wind up the problem even deeper into your skull.
Was he going to ask about your sketchy behavior or…?
“I need your help,” he said, though it really wasn’t a question at all.
He cleared his throat, and on his pale skin, the faint blush of what he was about to say was evident on his cheeks. “There is this girl in my English class…” You already didn’t like where this was going, but you gulped down your anxiety and this terrible feeling of blah because you were his friend. You were supposed to be supportive no matter what. “Her name is Circe. Do you remember her? The one with the pretty, blond hair?” You nodded begrudgingly, and you glanced down at the delicate watch on your wrist. It had been Emil’s gift for your seventeenth birthday, and it was your most prized possession. “Well, she came up to me and confessed to me.”
“So, what’s the problem?” you asked him, getting irritated that he had the need to rub his amorous adventures in your face. “Circe is pretty and popular. She is the epitome of the perfect girl.”
“But not girlfriend,” Emil stated. “I’ve heard about how possessive and crazy she gets. She’ll be with twenty guys and will even make-out with them, but if she sees her boyfriend near any girl who looks like they are within ten years of him, she flips out. She also expects you should spend like $300 on her daily. She’s so high maintenance.”
“So, what you’re saying is…?”
“I want you to help me convince her I’m not worth the time. I don’t want to date her, but I don’t want her to try and destroy me for saying no.” Emil was playing with a pea, chasing it around with his fork. His face remained void of expression, so it was hard to imagine he was really worried. “Will you?”
“I don’t know exactly how I can help,” you answered truthfully, and you didn’t want to admit to yourself about how happy it made you feel that Emil wasn’t into her. That meant you still had a chance! However, this was a tough situation. “Maybe you should…” You stopped saying what you were going to say, no longer thinking it was such a good idea.
“It’s a bad idea. It’s terrible. So never mind.”
“No, seriously.” The intensity in his eyes was burning through you. “Tell me.”
“Okay…” you whispered with a bit of a sigh. “I was thinking a fake girlfriend. You could pretend like the two of you had been dating for a few weeks now, keeping it on the low as the two of you tried to figure out how much you guys liked each other or something like that. But you two are sure now. Something like that.”
“But would she believe me?” he pondered out loud, and you found it difficult to look at his expression. He usually never appeared so…frustrated and anxious.
And then something clicked. You could tell from the way his eyes lit up all of a sudden, and he turned to you, taking you by the hand. “You’d be perfect.”
You had nearly choked on your milk, caught somewhere between swallowing it and spitting it out. The result was that you were now coughing painfully into your right hand as Emil gently patted your back, his head still wrapped around the idea.
“You can be my pretend girlfriend!”
You knew this would be a terrible idea. If you had sent Emil off to pretend with some other chick, the two might fall for each other. Even if it was one-sided, the situation was bad. And if you were the pretend girlfriend… Well, how could you keep your sanity? With Emil… You wanted everything to be real with him.
But the hope in his violet eyes was too much for you. You knew he desperately needed you. Circe was bitch number one, popular for absolutely no good reason but having money and looks. She was the walking cliché. Perfect.
“I don’t know…how to be one. A girlfriend, I mean.”
“You’ve had boyfriends before. You dated my brother once, remember? And you also dated Arthur for a while.”
“No, no, no! I was twelve when I ‘dated’ Arthur, so that doesn’t count. Besides, all he did was read books! He never even kissed me! And with Lukas…well…” You sighed, not wanting to venture into that territory. “He doesn’t count, okay? Besides, you know I am a terrible actress. Well, stage fright. I could never pull it off, Emil.”
“But you make the most sense,” he argued. “We’ve being friends since we were two, and we could have harbored feelings for each other for years, and we could be keeping it ‘on a low’ because we weren’t sure if we should remain friends. Besides,” he continued as he turned a light pink, “everyone says we look good together.”
“W-what?” Your eyes widened at this information. Since when had people been saying this? You should start hunting down these people and convincing them to persuade Emil that the two of you didn’t just look good but were meant to be. “I…well…Emil…”
“Just think about it. I’ll be in the library. Circe would never go in there.”
He stood and grabbed his bag, leaving you all by yourself in the jungle that was your school’s cafeteria. You made a quick sound of displeasure, kicking your feet lightly on the floor, and then you pushed your tray aside to take out your journal.
It wasn’t a stereotypical kind of journal; you didn’t exactly write down daily adventures and the stormy emotions in your misunderstood, teenaged heart. In here, you made decisions. You wrote lists. You attempted to draw and creative write here. It was more of your “everything” journal.
You found a pen and began to write.
• Emil is really cute!
• You’ll be helping him.
• Let’s be serious: you really want to anyway.
• Maybe he’ll really fall for you…
• You get to see the pleasure of having Circe knocked off her high horse!
• You really want to. But it’s not even real.
• Circe will hate you. For life.
• Your friendship.
• Your sanity.
Staring at the list, it seemed that the pros outweighed the cons, but the cons had some pretty heavy stuff.
You sighed as you started a new page, a more optimistic and sarcastic one.
Things That Couples Do:
1. Holds hands while walking slowly, especially in crowded places.
2. Whisper to each other romantically.
3. Hug romantically.
4. Do other weird and loud public displays of affection.
5. Give each other surprises!
6. Camera-whore. A lot.
7. Feed each other food. Romantically.
9. Do annoyingly cute things, like calling each other with nicknames.
10. Kiss in public, but as if you’re alone.
EXTRA: 11. Sex. But this is so not happening.
You stared at the last one, having written down the S word before you could stop yourself. You couldn’t deny that you had dirty thoughts about the Icelandic fellow. You were seventeen, for Heaven’s sake, and you had hung around the BTT too much for your own good. Actually, that damn French frog was the first person to ever kiss you, having stolen your first kiss during a game of truth-and-dare a few years ago at a party thrown by the loud American football player, the ever-so-popular Alfred. You had decided to dislike Gilbert ever since he had dared the “romantic” French.
“Aaaiiish,” you groaned, rubbing the back of your head.
Emil was your friend. Even if it hurt you, it was the least you could do, right? Besides, really having these feelings for him gave you the upper hand; at least you wouldn’t have to feign being in love with him.
It was funny that Circe had set her sights on Emil. Emil was nowhere close to being popular material. In fact, he was quite dorky, and the two of you bonded over watching puffins on animal channels and eating licorice. He had a little stuffed puffin named, well, Mr. Puffin. He still slept with it, even if he had had it since he was six, and he even still talked to it, you reckoned. Plus, he was a prude. He was the only one who still wore T-shirts at the pool, and he stocked up on the sunscreen too.
But you liked his dorky side. How could someone as artificial as Circe be into such an adorkable person like Emil? Besides, his usual apathetic tone and expression could be quite irritating though you usually didn’t mind it.
You closed your journal and threw in into your bag along with your pen, zipping it back up as you grabbed it and left for the library. Your answer was yes. It had to be. You’d feel forever awful if you said no to your best friend.
“Open your mouth,” Emil instructed quite harshly.
“No,” you muttered, turning your face away. “You know I hate seafood. Why are you trying to force feed me fish? Do you want your girlfriend vomiting all over the place?”
“Stop acting so spoiled. This was in your list of corny things couples do. Could we try to at least look like a happy couple?”
A bright smile lit up your face as you turned to him, and he seemed to be a little shocked at this sudden reaction, a smile of his own beginning to form. “Could you try to, you know, not be such an ass?” Smile gone. “Stop bossing me around. We’re in this together, and forcing things like this just looks awkward and fake.”
A scowl had returned to your face. “Why’d you come up with such a stupid list anyway?”
You sighed and reached into your book bag, pulling out a small, clear, plastic bag of black licorice, a red ribbon keeping the bag closed. “I ran out and got some last night,” you informed him as you tugged on the ribbon. “I may hate seafood, but I love licorice, and this is the perfect, cutesy couple thing. It could be our thing. Black licorice.” You giggled lightly, letting your thoughts get away from you. You had imagined sharing licorice affectionately with him for a while now. You pulled out a piece and held it up to his lips. “Ahh,” you coaxed him, and his entire face was red as he opened his mouth to take in the sweet. “There you go, sweetie.”
He nearly choked on the licorice.
“Whoa, are you okay?” you asked, patting his back. He nodded as he held the half-eaten licorice as he coughed into his elbow. “You had me worried!”
“Have you always been this cute?” he asked you without meeting your eyes.
“Obviously. I’m glad you finally see my cuteness level is at 9000,” you joked playfully, and you bent forward and stole a bite from the licorice strand he was putting in his mouth, barely missing his lips but brushing his fingertips. “Mmm,” you commented chirpily as you chewed away.
“Whoa, are you guys finally going out?” Alfred asked as he plopped down in front of you guys. His friends stopped to observe the both of you, wondering why Alfred was talking to someone so under the radar of popularity. What they didn’t know was that Al had known both of you since kindergarten, and he and you had always been close, even if interactions in school were limited since he was always busy and/or surrounded by the cool crowd who almost always refused to move in your direction. “That’s so awesome! Whoo! Totally called it, bro!” He held up his hand for Emil to hit it, and Emil awkwardly high-fived him, keeping it light. “You guys are sooo cute,” Al commented as he typed something into his phone. “There, now Facebook and Twitter know. See you!”
And he was gone just as quickly as he had popped up.
“That reminds me,” you said as you took out your phone, “this is a perfect opportunity to camera-whore.” You hit the phone function and held it up, pulling Emil in close. “Smile!” you declared as you hit the capture button.
“You’re really good at being a girlfriend,” Emil mentioned silently as you pulled back to check on the photo. “You said you weren’t.”
“I guess that reading fan fiction and shoujo manga pays off,” you mentioned. The photo had turned out so adorably!
“You really are cute,” he murmured, and his lips quickly pecked your cheek just as the bell rang. “Come on. Don’t we have to hold hands as we walk slowly down the hall? We’ll pass in front of where Circe usually stands with her friends, so it should be the perfect opportunity.”
It had been fun pretending when it was just the two of you, not really focusing on being romantic in front of Circe.
You quickly packaged the licorice again, wondering how lunch had flown by so fast, and you followed Emil out. He lead you by holding your hand, and by the time you two had reached the hallway, you guys had slowed and stayed close. He had his right arm around you waist, holding on loosely to your right hand, and he would brush his lips against your ear and whisper something unintelligible from time to time. You simply blushed and smiled. You had no idea what else to do.
“Yoo hoo~ Emil!” The two of you froze what you were doing and looked up at the smiling Circe. Her grin stood frozen in place as she glared at us. “What are guys doing? Do you two go out?”
“Yeah,” Emil answered for us.
“We had been thinking about going out for a few weeks, but we didn’t make it official until about two days ago,” you answered with full confidence. “Why?”
“No reason,” she snarled. “I hope you guys have a happy life.” She paused before she grabbed Emil, dragging him from my side. She whispered something into his ear, and you saw his face transform. With a cute flip of her hair, she turned and waved at the same time. “Bye, sweetie. I hope your girlfriend can keep up with you.”
You took Emil’s hand and brought him back to you. “Let’s go, Em. You said you wanted to walk me to Biology.” He seemed like he had frozen thanks to Circe, but your touch made him thaw out. “You look like you saw a ghost,” you giggled, even if your stomach was churning violently. You wrapped your arms around him, snuggling your face close to his neck. “You’re so cold,” you murmured, and you ran your hands down his arms. “Let’s go.”
He obliged with a hint of a smile, and that gave you hope. Whatever Circe had said to him, it didn’t matter. Emil seemed to brighten up just by being with you. That meant you had a chance, right?
You laid on Emil’s lap as you guys watched the cute puffins on the screen.
“Waah~” you exclaimed, “they’re soo cute! Em, promise me you’ll buy me a puffin. Then we can have a real Mr. Puffin. It’ll be so cute!”
Emil laughed at your reaction and affectionately patted your head.
The affection was only friendly though, but it was nice to get him out of his reclusive self and watch him laugh and act so brightly.
The two of you had been “going out” for about two weeks now, and the entire school was aware of your relationship now, for some reason. So, basically, you two had to pretend you two were a couple 90% of the time you were out together because if anyone caught word that it was fake, it would easily get up to Circe and your plot would be foiled. And that would suck.
Not that you exactly minded. It was fake, yes, but it felt so real. Every touch, the sweet pecks he left on your cheek… He had even decided to bring in his own lunch and share it with you, foods you enjoyed eating. You guys had bought matching shirts to wear Monday, deciding that couple tees were a must. And adorable. The two of you had basically done everything a stereotypical, happy couple was supposed to do except one: kiss.
Not that you minded. Kisses were very personal to you, and if it didn’t even mean anything to him…
Yep, fake kisses were totally not happening, just like sex.
You guys heard the door rattle, and you shot up happily, “It must be Lukas!”
You were about to saunter over and open the door when Emil grabbed you around your shoulders and pulled you back towards him. “Maybe we should think of a better name than Mr. Puffin. Y’know, a name that doesn’t sound like it was made by a four-year-old.”
“But it was,” you remarked playfully, poking his cheek. “And it’s cute. So we’re keeping it.”
You felt a little odd that he felt the need to pretend the two of you were a couple around Lukas; while it was true that the secret could be kept better if only the two of you knew, Lukas was…well, Lukas. He knew the two of you so well, it’d be a miracle if he didn’t figure it out himself. Besides, Emil and you couldn’t be that good at pretending to date each other.
“So, what are you guys naming the children then?”
The voice came from behind, a low sound just slightly above the sound of the closing door. Emil turned red as you glanced up with a smile and a wink.
“Well, we’ve yet to decide. But I like the name Asa for a girl, don’t you, Em?”
Emil didn’t respond. In fact, he pulled away and quickly excused himself, heading for the bathroom. You stared after him awkwardly.
“Lukas, you shouldn’t tease us. You know I can’t resist teasing him,” you mentioned halfheartedly, your fingers messing with a loose thread on your shirt.
“I know you can’t resist him,” Lukas murmured as he bent down, his face mere inches from you. “Really, pretending to date? One of you must be desperate for the other’s romantic attention.” Your face began to burn. Lukas was the only one who knew how you felt about Emil; in fact, the time you two had “dated” for about a month, it was only to get Emil jealous. But you two failed. Emil remained apathetic. “I heard Circe asked him out. Did you suggest fake-dating?”
“I didn’t mean to,” you muttered, “but now I’m stuck doing this.”
“Don’t act like you don’t mind it.”
“I…I don’t…exactly,” you whispered, your face falling. “Lukas, I love this, but…it’s not real. It’s an illusion. It’s fake.” Your eyes met his dull, blue ones. “What am I supposed to do?”
“How many times must I tell you?” Lukas asked, ruffling your hair. “Tell him the truth.”
“What? Tell who the truth? What truth?”
The two of you looked up at where Emil stood, his hands still wet from the bathroom and his body tense. Lukas took a step back as he stood straight, staring at his younger brother. He offered no escape from the situation, so you jumped in with a smile.
“I’m pregnant. I thought it was time you knew.”
Lukas choked on his spit, and you burst out into peals of laughter at his sudden reaction. Yet, this didn’t even faze Emil. He returned to the couch, but he made sure to pick a spot quite far from yours.
“I wonder who the father is,” he muttered, and then he changed the channel.
“Maybe we should just break up,” Emil said for the fifteenth time that day.
It was Monday, and you two were wearing your adorable couple shirts, but his grumpy attitude made it evident that in this “relationship”, the honeymoon was over.
“Do you want me to come over and cook something for you tonight?”
As usual, you two were ignoring each other’s questions. Well, that was the usual for today. Neither of you wanted to answer the other’s question, and it caused some uneasy tension between the both of you.
“I don’t think Circe buys it anymore. Let’s be serious. Your idea of a relationship can be all sweet and cute and precious, but it’s not real.” You tensed at these words and took hold of your fork even tighter. “It’s so obvious we’re just pretending. No one can be this sickenly cute. Honestly, it’s like we jumped out of a child’s fairytale book. We’re so cute, it hurts.”
“Maybe we should wear matching outfits tomorrow. Can we wear purple? It’ll match your eyes.”
“Besides, Circe keeps coming on, stronger than ever. She has ambushed me every passing period right before second. She had this habit of running her fingers down my arms and… Anyway, we should just call it quits. It’s so obvious we’re not really together. It was cute the first few days, but now it’s just painful to pretend… I mean, not because you’re unlikeable or anything, it’s just that it is obvious we’re not into each other, right? I mean, you’re pretty and all, but you’re not really girlfriend material. I…I mean, neither of us are. We’re so inexperienced. It’s obvious we’re lying.”
“Fine then,” you finally caved. “We’re over. Our fake relationship that I crafted to help you is over. Just like you want.” You were fed up with his attitude. You reached into your book bag and pulled out the licorice package, tossing it on his tray. “Here you go. I think I’ve grown sick of them.”
“Where are you going?” he asked as he watched you stand, collecting your things.
“Away from you. I’m sick of your attitude. I told you from the start that this was a bad idea. Would you like me to go tell Circe myself that it was all a lie? Or are you going to do it? Either way, it doesn’t matter. I’m leaving.”
“You’re not seriously angry—”
“I tried,” you snapped. “I tried to do this with you because I didn’t want to be a bad friend. But I’m so done with this. The entire time today, you’ve just been an ass to me, and I was trying to… No. Nope. I’m leaving. I’m gone.”
Emil didn’t even try to stop you. He simply picked at the violet ribbon on the licorice package.
You headed for a bathroom at the far end of the school, one that would be predominately unoccupied at the moment. You found a stall and threw your things on the floor as you sat down.
You took in a deep breath and began to cry. You knew it was a bad idea.
Someone kept ringing the doorbell.
You woke up with a lion yawn, looking around as dusk filled your messy room. Your mother wasn’t back from work yet, and your father had gone to the store to buy some grocery that were missing.
And who the hell kept ringing the doorbell?
You glanced down at your loose tank and the shorts you had slid on before collapsing on your bed earlier. After quickly finger-brushing you decided you looked presentable enough to answer the door, and you quickly ran for it before the finger of whoever was ringing fell off.
It was Emil.
He stood in your porch, his white hair sticking to his ears and neck with sweat. It seemed as if he had been breathing hard, but his breathing pattern was returning to normal. He didn’t let you say a word. In fact, he kind of just barged in and closed the door, pulling you into his arms.
“You’re kind of a sweaty mess,” you mentioned dryly. “I’m not one to object to hugs, but this one is kind of gross.”
“Did you really go out with Lukas to make me jealous?” he asked in a single breath.
“What?” You blinked. “D-did Lukas… Shit!” You pushed him away. “He’s such a jerk! He wasn’t supposed to tell you! I trusted him! And…and…” You quickly turned to the floor. “Please go away. I know it sounds so stupid, but I—” His arms wrapped around you again. “W-what are you doing?” you exclaimed, squirming against him. Why was he holding on so tightly?
“I asked Circe to help me,” he confessed all of a sudden, and your struggle stopped as your body slackened. What? “She’s really not as bad as everyone thinks. I asked her to pretend like she was into me so to see if you would get jealous, and then you suggested going out and I was elated but kind of disappointed.” His grasp tightened. “I have always liked you, but I just recently realized I loved you, when you went out with Lukas. I thought that you would realized that you and I…that we…were perfect for each other.” His lips were on the nape of your neck, and you shivered a bit at the sensation. It was just your neck. Why did your entire body suddenly feel like it was on fire? “I’ve always thought that you were into Lukas, so I got really jealous and angry when I saw you and him on Saturday, and it was childish, I know, but I was so sick of us being fake and getting jealous and I know I hurt your feelings, but I just wanted this ache inside my heart to…to stop.” You could feel his heart on your chest, hammering away inside his ribcage as he spoke. “So, when Lukas reprimanded me for how I treated you and told me that you came to class with bloodshot eyes from crying, I felt like such an asshole. I yelled at him a bit for stealing you away from me, and he was all like, ‘You’re such an idiot, Emil. She’s in love with you. She even went out with me to make you jealous.’ So, I kind of ran over here because…I wanted to know if it was true…” He pulled back, his eyes wide and frantic, and he grabbed both of your shoulders, shaking your gently. “Why aren’t you saying anything? Did I break you?”
You giggled at his question, and his face transformed. “Emil, you talk a lot when you’re flustered, I’ve noticed. Ranting about breaking up, explaining how much you love me… It’s really cute.” You caught the collar of his shirt and brought his face down close to yours. “I was waiting for you to realize we were meant to be.” And then your lips met his, finally accomplishing the most coveted number on the list: a kiss.
And it was better than you could have imagined.
“You guys are sickenly cute,” Lukas mused as he arrived home, observing the two of you strewn over each other, feeding each other licorice as you watched puffins. “Maybe I shouldn’t have helped either of you.”
That was when Emil’s shoe hit his shoulder.