Putting on a show, in different ways

While their significant others pretend to date each other, two friends try to hang out and not think about the bearding shenanigans happening elsewhere. This is an extended scene from One Little Lie.

~

Ryan

Another weekend without the boo meant I was spending time with my bestie instead. We were at my house on Saturday night, sitting at the kitchen table. We had our books open, but we hadn’t gotten around to doing much studying yet. We could have done something more fun like watch a movie or something but that left too many opportunities for either of us to stop paying attention and worry about… other things.

In a silent, unspoken agreement, we weren’t mentioning our significant others and what they were currently doing while we sat at the kitchen table and pretended everything was fine.

“Haven’t decided who I want to be in Alice in Wonderland,” Alicia told me and I made an effort to tune back into the conversation. The good thing about our silent agreement: we didn’t have to talk about it. That meant she didn’t have to know how badly I was failing at not thinking about what we weren’t supposed to be thinking about.

Just, how was their latest sham date going? What was Luke wearing, were her parents totally scary, when would it be over? No, I had to get a grip…  What was so great about a stupid fair anyway? If I put on a wig, could I pass as a girl and then could Luke and I date without worry?

Anyway, Alicia! Theater. Was there a better, more exciting topic? Of course not. We had started making props for Alice before rehearsals started because we needed to do something in set design class and there were a lot of props to make. Mushrooms, trees, flowers, signs, and more. For a play everyone thought of as ‘the one that’s a great big acid trip,’ it was surprisingly involved.

Luke probably hadn’t seen the new movies. We should watch them. He would hate them. No, Alicia was talking about her part in Alice. Wait, I didn’t know a ton about theater, but I got how auditions worked. “Doesn’t the director pick out your part for you?”

She held her chin up in the air. “I can make sure they’re inspired to go in the right direction.”

“Aren’t you obviously the Red Queen?” She had the hair already. And who wouldn’t want to be the person who sentenced others to death? Off with their head! Who wanted to be a superhero when royalty had better powers?

Alicia shrugged. “I was a queen before in Midsummer.”

“So what? The fairy queen and a fairytale queen are…” Okay, they sounded pretty similar. “Totes different,” I finished lamely.

She shrugged. “I don’t think I have the correct vibe anyway.”

“You know someone who does.” If Lydia started shouting ‘off with their head,’ the world would be in grave danger. She had a lot of gravitas; people might be compelled to listen to her.

“Yeah,” Alicia sighed happily. “Lydia’s so great.”

Technically, Alicia brought up one of the people we weren’t mentioning first. I only alluded to her. That meant it was only fair that I got to talk about Luke a little. Before I could, Alicia continued. “I thought about being Alice but I don’t know. I’m not a tiny blonde ingenue.”

She was a curvy, gorgeous badass and maybe I should channel some inner stereotypical gay best friend persona and tell her she was fierce and could slay and throw in some yasses for good measure. I went with, “You’re an actress. You can be anything. Isn’t that the point?”

Alicia considered that for a moment before shaking it off. “There’s other people trying out that fit better. Cara Lewis is into drama now.” We both frowned. “She was an extra in one play and she thinks she knows everything. Plus, she looks at the rest of us like we’re totally beneath her the whole time.”

I meant to keep reassuring her that she was awesome and could do anything she set her mind to and whatever else Barney and Elmo and our childhood puppet mentors taught us, but instead I said, “Cara Lewis hit on Luke the other day.”

Alicia looked down at the book in front of her. “You know what? We should probably study.”

“Did you hear the piece of gossip I just gave you free of charge?” I was tempted to feel her forehead and see if she had a fever. Did I already tell her about it?

She smiled wryly. “The charge is you freaking out for the rest of the night about what it means.”

“No, Luke doesn’t like her like that,” I said sensibly. Nope, I couldn’t drop it that easily. “But she did it right in front of me.”

Alicia rolled her eyes.

With supreme will, I said, “We can talk about other things.”

She looked at me kindly. “I really don’t think it’s a big deal.”

“Yeah, totally, of course.” I knew that! I just still wanted to slap Cara a little bit.

“You’re agreeing too much,” Alicia informed me.

I grinned. “You’re absolutely right.”

“Smartass.” She laughed, then realized something. “Hey, didn’t have we have an unspoken agreement to not mention Lydia or Luke?”

I literally covered my mouth with a hand while I said, Technically, you brought them up first, so you’re the party at fault here, because I knew that was the wrong to say and I couldn’t stop myself, but I could stop her from hearing it. She just watched me evenly while I acted weird; that’s why we were besties.

Luke and Lydia were pretending to be a happy couple right now and that’s why we weren’t mentioning them. But the conversation I had with my father came back to me. Totally casually, I shared a random, no big deal thought with Alicia. “Hey, my dad said that I talk about Luke too much. That’s crazy, right?”

She didn’t immediately agree and start discussing whether my father needed to be committed into a mental institution or not. She didn’t look at me directly or say anything.

“What the hell, Alicia? Seriously?” She was a traitor and we weren’t besties anymore.

At least she looked apologetic while saying, “He does sort of have a point.”

“Don’t tell me that.” I buried my head in my hands and made a pathetic noise.

“Okay, I won’t tell you.” She paused, then murmured, “But he does.”

Nope, I wasn’t that person. I couldn’t be that person who was relationship crazy. I was too interesting! Had my focus really shifted so completely from myself to Luke? I didn’t even want to think about it… which probably meant it was true.

“I get it,” Alicia consoled. “Honestly, Lydia is pretty much always on my mind too. Are we pathetic?”

Yes, completely. I had so many great qualities… humility not being one of them. How could Luke have taken over my life? Aside from him being soooo cute and sweet and sexy and— Dammit, I was doing it again.

I tried to put on a brave face. “It’s our first relationships,” I reasoned with Alicia. “We’re allowed to get a little carried away.”

“You really think so?”

“Let’s tell ourselves that,” I said firmly.

“Did you ever think you’d actually get to date in high school?” Alicia asked me.

“Hell no.” I didn’t even have to consider the question.

“Maybe that’s why. I mean, you got this opportunity, it makes sense to make the most of it.”

My life had never been flat out miserable but perhaps it was a little lonely. I had one parent, few friends, and no love interests at all. I did the best I could, I laughed at everything, was quick with he jokes and got impeccable grades so I’d be able to leave this town behind. I’d been content. But not exactly happy.

Until Luke came along and didn’t just make me happy but freaking ecstatic.

Of course I took the opportunity to be ecstatic. I deserved to feel like that for once in my life. I just got a little carried away. That was one of the few faults I had.

Alicia drew me from my thoughts.  “Maybe we should go do something,” she suggested. Yeah, I wasn’t really in the mood to study anymore. “Wanna go hang out as besties?”

We could go to the diner and eat our feelings away. “French fries?” I suggested. “Oh, or pie? Ohhh, French fries and pie?”

She nodded. “And no discussing our love lives.”

“Didn’t we already try that?” It didn’t matter who I was talking to, Dad or Alicia or someone else, my thoughts always drifted back to Luke.

“That was an unspoken agreement,” She reasoned. “This is spoken.” Would that be enough? She thought about it and added, “There could be penalties.”

“If we mention our significant others, we can kick each other.” I couldn’t kick myself, there was no way I had that coordination, but kicking Alicia would have to do.

“Food and violence,” she mused, then nodded. “What a great combo.”

We went to the diner and ordered a bunch of junk food.

I didn’t really do things by halves. I threw myself into things, of course it would be like that with a relationship. Luke was going to be a big part of my life. But he wasn’t my whole life. And I needed nights like this every so often to remember that.

My supportive best friend powers kicked in once we had snacks. I told Alicia. “If you want to be Alice, you should go for Alice.”

“I might not get the part,” she answered back. I’m afraid I won’t get it, I translated.

“Like I said, that’s not up to you. But you can try. And if you don’t get it, you’ll be an amazing Queen but at least you gave it a shot. There’s nothing more you can do.” See, I was such a wise, excellent at giving advice person. I deserved lots of attention from myself and anyone would be lucky to have me. I would be lucky to have me.

Alicia made a thoughtful noise. “Hey, at the risk of being kicked, you should take your own advice.” I sent her a puzzled look and she elaborated. “Isn’t that part of the reason you’re talking to everyone else about Luke so much? You aren’t talking to him.”

Huh. So, if I took my own advice, I just needed to tell him my concerns. That was all I could do and maybe we would get somewhere.

“You’re right,” I told her. “Or no, I’m right. Obviously.” I couldn’t solve things on my own. At least I could give it a shot and tell him what was wrong. I needed to do that but was a little worried about it. I confided in Alicia. “I just want to go back to that happy little bubble we were in not that long ago.”

She acknowledged that with a nod but said, “Maybe there’s something even better waiting for you after this rough patch.”

Hmmm. There was only one way to find out.

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