Faking Faith

By: Josie Bloss

ONE





School was the same sort of hell every day.

I went to homeroom and everyone ignored me. I went through my morning classes, everyone ignored me. I ate my lunch alone in a library study carrel (secretly, so the librarian wouldn’t yell at me about getting crumbs in the keyboard), and tried to do homework. Afternoon classes, more of the same. Ignored.

And then home. Where I was also mostly ignored. In some grim way, I sort of appreciated the consistency.

People still hissed “psycho slut” or “crazy bitch” at me in the hallways, of course. It happened less often as the months wore on, but still enough to make me feel a little insane and perpetually paranoid as I walked past groups of people on my solitary way to class. But really, most of my day was ghostly and quiet.

It used to be different. I used to be busy—with dance classes and piano lessons and other activities typical of an over-scheduled, high-achieving suburban Chicago high school student.

And I used to have a couple of kickass best friends—Kelsey and Amanda. The kind of friends who would stay on the phone with me until midnight, endlessly analyzing the nuances of a conversation with some crush. Who would lend me shirts and borrow my shoes and offer blunt opinions on my hair. Who had known all my secrets since fourth grade. Who would walk with me, arms linked, through the school halls between classes.

Kelsey and Amanda and I had been a solid mass, an indivisible force to be reckoned with. Even if we weren’t part of the most popular crowd, we could hold our own in the high school hierarchy. If you messed with one of us, you messed with all of us. I didn’t even know how great I had it.

Because now I was alone at the bottom, and my old friends ignored me like everyone else. Except for when I was being taunted, I might as well not have existed. For anyone, anywhere.

The thing is, I deserved it. Even though I still couldn’t admit it out loud, I knew for certain that I deserved everything that came to me. I had been so stupid.

. . .

Blake Compton hit on me at a party last September.

At first, I’d been sure it was a joke.

Blake was one of those unattainable hot guys who seem to glide through the world like they run the place, oozing privilege and self-satisfaction out of every pore. He was the guy who nearly every girl lusted after, even the girls who rolled their eyes and claimed his player reputation made him ugly. He knew just how to work his charm and make anyone crumble to his will with one raised dark eyebrow or half a lazy smile. Blake could make people powerless.

As a girl with a serious appreciation for the male form, I’d adored Blake Compton from afar since freshman year. I’d typed a series of humiliating entries in my journal about the exact glossy brown shade of his perfectly messy hair and the precise gold of his perpetually tanned skin. I’d even written a terrible poem about the shape of his lips and that little quirk in the corner of his mouth that made me feel shivery in the knees whenever I caught sight of him in the hallways.

But I didn’t have any illusions that I’d ever have a chance with him or anything.

I thought I was probably everyday-pretty and smart enough to get by okay in the world, but boys like Blake are attracted to the sparkliest girls. The gorgeous girls who also glide through the world like they own the place. And I was wholly resigned to the fact that I’d always be admiring the Blake Comptons of the universe from across the room where I belonged.

It was just the order of things.

But then suddenly there he was, in the flesh, standing right next to me at Caitlin Merriweather’s back-to-school party. Quirking his mouth. At me. And everything changed.

“Dylan, right?” he said.

I nodded dumbly, resisting the urge to glance around to see if this was a prank. Blake Compton knew who I was?

“Hey, you know, I always thought that was a cool name. Can I get you another drink or three?” was all he had to say, with that lazy, heart-stopping smile.

By the end of the night I was drunker than I’d ever been in my life, and had been easily persuaded to accompany Blake to one of the bedrooms upstairs to “spend some time alone.” Kelsey and Amanda texted me a half million times from downstairs, but I ignored my vibrating phone. This was bliss, heaven. A cute boy, the cute boy, with his tongue in my ear.

Okay, so he really wasn’t the best kisser in the whole world, and he was a lot more handsy than I was totally comfortable with, but he was Blake Compton. He smelled like expensive spicy cologne and confidence.

As he kissed me, I felt like I drifted out of my body and hovered somewhere up near the ceiling, watching the two of us on the bed below. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me.

Guys in general had always made me kind of nervous and marble-mouthed, and I felt like a jackass every time I tried to flirt. At that point, I’d only kissed two boys at parties, mostly just to get the experience out of the way. Meanwhile, Amanda and Kelsey, who seemed to have some secret knowledge that I’d missed out on, had already racked up five boyfriends between them. They were just barely virgins anymore, and both knew far more then I did about the male species.

So I guess I expected them to be happy for me as we started to hike the mile back to my house for the planned post-party sleepover. Or at least good-naturedly teasing about Blake choosing me out of the masses.

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