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Pretending(6)

Shanna Clayton


“Can you get to the point?”

“My point is that everyone knows we’re best friends. But when they see you…” She eyes me up and down, shaking her head disapprovingly. “It’s bad for my image.”

I can’t believe she just body-checked me—and with that disgusted look on her face! My hands curl into fists at my sides.

Making myself look this way has become so routine I don’t even think about it anymore. My old hoodie that does a good job of hiding everything suddenly feels much heavier. I adjust the bulky fabric over my hips. I’m hiding beneath it, and we both know it.

“Does it really matter?” I ask Gwen. “No one knows you help me.”

“Yes, it matters,” she says matter-of-factly. “People who know me know I would never allow one of my friends to look like this, much less my best friend. If that isn’t bad enough, I’m helping you make yourself look like something you’re not. Well, no more. I’m done with all that craziness.”

For a second I think she’s bluffing. Then she squares her shoulders and angles her chin. The girl means what she says, dammit.

“Fine,” I grind out through clenched teeth. “Just give me back my glasses. I’ll do my hair and makeup myself.”

“Your vision is twenty-twenty, Doll. You only wear those hideous grandma lookin’ glasses to look like a googly-eyed freak.”

“That’s not true.”

I wear them because they round out the almond shape to my eyes.

She cocks her head to the side, giving me the I’m not stupid look. “Before we moved here, you wore sundresses and shorts centimeters away from landing you in detention. Your hair was always down, a smile always plastered to your face. When I first started this, I thought it would be a one-time-only thing.”

It was supposed to be a one-time-only thing. It just didn’t work out that way.

“Is this about your dad?” she asks me point blank. “Is he back in town?”

I flinch at the mention of my dad. Most of the time I don’t acknowledge I have a father, much less say it out loud. He chose to walk out of my life, and that’s fine with me. The world is full of dead-beat dads. I was just unfortunate enough to land one of them. It didn’t matter what he wanted though—he wasn’t going to deny me the chance to meet him. That’s how this whole thing started, to give me that chance. Even though it was from a distance, it suppressed the need I had in me to see his face and know what kind of person he was. It made me invisible.

“This isn’t about him, Gwen.”

“Then why, Doll? Seriously, give me a reason. Maybe if you explained yourself—”

“No.”

Her shoulders slump. She pulls my glasses out of her pocket and stuffs them into my hands. “Whatever.”

I beat myself up a little as she walks away. Why can’t she just let this go? She doesn’t need to know how reliant I’ve become on the way I look. Somewhere down the line, looking this way has become my shield. People don’t notice me now, and when people don’t notice you, they can’t hurt you. Trying to explain that to Gwen wouldn’t do either of us any good. She would just try to fix me, and as weird as it sounds, I don’t want to be fixed.

“Gwen, stop.” I follow her behind a bookshelf.

She stops and looks back, waiting for me to speak.

“You have your secrets too,” I point out.

“Like what? We’ve been friends since we were ten. I tell you everything.”

“If that’s true, why do you hate Charlotte Hart?”

At the mention of Charlotte’s name, Gwen tenses up and breathes through her nostrils. “Charlotte Hart is a bitch. That’s all there is to it.”

I roll my eyes. I won’t buy that crap for one minute, and she knows it.

“Listen,” she sighs. “It’s a little hard for a chubby girl like me to understand why you would want to keep all the goods hidden away. You’re beautiful, Doll. Why do you try so hard to look ugly?”

I look over at a glass case a few feet away, unable to meet her gaze. Chubby is not how I would describe Gwen, and it’s not how I thought she saw herself either. She’s curvier than me, but in an enviable proportioned way. Her hip to waist ratio is the stuff video vixens could only dream of, but more importantly, she exudes confidence. It’s hard to believe the word chubby ever came out of her mouth.

Maybe that’s why it’s hard for me to look at my situation from her point of view. She thinks I’m acting crazy. Okay. I can admit my behavior is sort of crazy, but everyone has personal stuff.

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