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Chapter 5

Michelle

I hate walking into the classroom every morning. I'm the quiet girl, and when that door opens, I got all eyes on me. 

The spotlight makes it harder to breathe. It's making my skin crawl. 

My heart beats faster, and even though there isn't straight-up laughter or name-calling like in high school, the silence speaks louder than volumes. 

I hate not having any friends.

I hate not having any new clothes.

I hate not being normal. 

I hate not being... Happy.

I'm lonely, and it makes me feel vulnerable. Thomas definitely used that to his advantage when he...

When he...

Raped me.

Tears prickle behind my eyes. 

I think I'm suffering from PTSD. Sometimes I experience flashes of Thomas's face and how he pushed me against that wall at the party. It makes me want to scream. 

But I refuse to cry.

Don't ever look back. I keep my eyes down not to meet any of the sneers in the classroom. 

Stay strong. 

Breathe.

Sadly, I can't ignore the whispers. The popular girls are already at it, talking about me while throwing me dirty stares.

"Oh, look, it's the ugly duckling."

I'm the ugly duckling. 

"Does she ever change her clothes?"

No, I have no money or parents to pay for new ones. 

"Aren't her parents like... Alcoholists?"

They are.

"I heard they threw her out."

I left.

"She lives in an apartment together with Ciara and Zendra."

Because I can't pay an entire rent on my own.

"It must be hard for them to live with a weirdo. Michelle rarely speaks, and when she does... It's like a stammer." 

I've been stammering ever since the rape happened...

It sucks.

I press my laptop to my chest and try to walk quickly. I sit down in the back of the classroom.

One of the girls pouts my way and whisper, "I actually feel bad for the ugly little duckling, though. She is so weird and awkward that no one wants to be her friend."

Those words hurt, but I try to keep my calm.

"Did you sleep well?"

Shock seeps into my bones. 

I lift my eyes to face Maddox. What is he doing here? He pulls out the chair next to mine and sits down with a tired expression. 

"I did..." I say in a low voice, unsure why Maddox is sitting with me. We are project partners, but this is our history class—not the communication for which the presentation is required.

"Good for you..." Maddox cracks his shoulders. "I slept like shit."

I glance at Maddox and... What the hell? Those mean girls from earlier? They are staring at us. 

I almost blurt out laughing. 

Are those girls jealous of me or something? I hope they are. Wait. Am I terrible for wishing that?

Probably. 

But it's just that they were so mean to me, and revenge is sweet. 

Maddox breathes a laugh. "Ah, great, you're having those conversations with yourself inside your head again."

I look at him, and he sighs. "Anyway, you're cool with taking notes for me today, right?"

Wait. 

What?

I widen my eyes when Maddox tries to give me what must be his attempt at a charming smile, but he looks more like a grinning lion. 

Or a hyena...

I repress the urge to roll my eyes. "So that's why you're sitting with me..."

"Yeah? What other reason would I have?" Maddox questions and crosses his arms over the table to rest on them. "I woke up at five to run to the gym, and then I worked out until every limb screamed... My arms are so fucking sore from lifting."

"N-not my problem..."

He narrows his eyes. "Did you... Did you just give me attitude?"

My heart is pounding, yet I manage a shrug. "You're angry at me when you're the one who is using me..."

He blinks but quickly recovers. "Well, you're a nerd, aren't you? I bet you have top grades in each one of your subjects."

"Yes... I-I do have top grades..." I blush.

For some reason, I'm embarrassed about Maddox pushing forward that I'm a nerd. It's true that I only think of school.

But can anyone blame me for working hard?

College is everything to me; it will help me build a brighter future since most of my life has been dark.

"See?" Maddox yawns. "Your written notes will be way better than mine. Send them to me after our class is over."

"W-why do I feel like I've just become your servant?"

Maddox's eyes are closed, but his lips form a smile. "Thanks, Michelle."

My heart stops, then speeds up again. I should fear Maddox. He is a jerk, and he is massive—a dangerous combination. 

Yet I experience flutters seeing that smile. 

What is wrong with me?

"I'm going to take a nap," Maddox mumbles. "Poke me if the teacher comes over to our table..."

"Uhh..." I wet my lips and whisper-yell. "You would bite my head off if I tried to wake you."

"I don't bite."

The teacher is here now. He is talking loudly in his microphone, yet I whisper-yell again. 

"That's a lie, and you know it."

One of Maddox's eyes cracks open. "Are you going to shut up at some point? I need my beauty sleep."

"See, the point made! You're an asshole..."

Wow.

Did I just show Maddox's attitude?

Jesus Christ, my heart is pounding. It might seem like a tiny thing for anyone else, but holy shit—I'm a rebel!

His eyes narrow, and his expression is bewildered. "Did you just call me an asshole without peeing in your pants?"

Oh, shit!

Is he angry at me?

I return to my screen since I better not continue this conversation with Maddox if I wish to live. 

My heart is pounding too fast already; I don't need more reasons for it to thump. 

But... 

Oh-my-god! 

I can't believe I showed Maddox sass!

"Hey, I've been thinking about something," Maddox suddenly says. "You should go to my games."

I peer down at him. "Why?"

"Because you're supposed to be my fake girlfriend? You have to act the part convincingly. If I had a girlfriend, she would definitely be at my games and wear my jersey. Oh, and with a big smile on her lips!"

I blush. "Uh, I'm pretty sure your jersey wouldn't fit me."

"That's the point," Maddox mutters. "It's supposed to look cute."

"Why do you need a fake girlfriend again?"

"Mostly because my parents won't shut up about me having to find a woman and get married and yada-yada, but also so most gold diggers keep away from me..."

"Your parents wish for you to get married already?"

He shrugs. "It's important to my parents, I guess... They have been trying to make me marry a girl named Vanya."

"But you're not interested?"

"Nope, but... My parents value love over marriage, so if I can convince them that we love each other, they will get off my back. And you want to eat real food, right?"

I sigh heavily, with my cheeks burning. "I kind of do... I don't exactly have a lot of money... Sorry for being a food digger..."

Maddox grins like a hyena again. "No problem. It's actually great. The deal is still on because we both can gain from this, but we must practice doing couple-stuff."

"Okay. Like what?"

"Fuck if I know! Pottery and pumpkin carving and other stupid shit girls love? Dates and oh! You should sit in my lap in the library later. That way, the rumor will spread that we are dating."

I stare at him with my heart racing. 

The thought of sitting in Maddox's lap and going out on dates with him... Is it wrong that it kind of sounds a little bit exciting?

I have no friends, so maybe I could gain something else from this that is more than just free food. 

"I-I can do the lap thing..."

"You're stammering again."

Because I'm nervous.

"Sorry..."

"And stop apologizing all the time," Maddox sighs and averts his eyes while scratching the back of his head. "We also need to be kissing each other more often."

Kissing?

I gulp. "Okay..."

"Like a lot."

Can I do that?

The last time we kissed... I'm not sure if it's normal, but I felt sparks, and I'm not sure if that is a good sign. But let's be realistic here; I couldn't possibly fall for this asshole.

Then again...

I look at Maddox, and my insides turn to mush. That reaction tells me that I need to be careful with him. 

He is attractive, and I could develop a crush on him if I don't keep my guard up.

"Lots of k-kissing," I nod at him. "Got it."

Kissing Maddox and entering a fake relationship with him—what could possibly go wrong?

Comments (20)
goodnovel comment avatar
Margie Crawford
Great story.
goodnovel comment avatar
Josie Dano Acquiat
interesting to read
goodnovel comment avatar
Michele McDowell Passwaters
Great story!!
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