Hani and Ishu's Guide to Fake Dating(5)

By the time the last bell rings, I am exhausted. Somehow, Aisling and Dee are the exact opposite. They seem to be even more energized by the fact that it’s Friday afternoon.

“We’re going to get changed in the bathroom,” Aisling tells me. “You coming?”

“I have to get my stuff from my locker first. I’ll meet you guys there.”

As I’m getting my things, I notice Ishita glaring at her locker on the other side of the hallway like it has somehow wronged her. I swing my P.E. bag out of my locker at the same time that Ishita shuts her locker door with a thud. Nobody else seems to notice just how loudly the door hits home. What did that locker ever do to you, Ishita?

“Hey,” I call over, even though I know I shouldn’t. Ishita isn’t exactly known for being happy-go-lucky, but I don’t think I’ve seen her this angry since last year, when she got a B+ on an English essay. She tried to contest the grade by talking herself up to Ms. Baker, the English teacher, but Ms. Baker had smiled wanly and said she’d made up her mind and the result couldn’t be changed. Ishita threw a fit and got a week of detention.

“What?” Ishita turns her glare to me.

“Everything okay?” I lower my voice so she knows we can have a private conversation.

“What do you care?” Ishita asks.

“You just seem … angry? Bad test result?”

Ishita blinks at that, like a bad test result shouldn’t have come into my mind. Even though that’s literally all Ishita ever seems to think about.

She shakes her head. “No, it’s nothing. Whatever.” Then she turns on her heel, swinging her bag over her shoulder, and disappears out of sight.

“Yeah, bye to you too, Ishita!” I mumble under my breath as I swing my own locker door shut. “You have a great weekend too, Ishita!”

“Who are you talking to?” Dee turns the corner, looking around me at the nearly empty corridor. She’s already changed into jeans and a crop top, her hair is out of its usual ponytail, and I’m pretty impressed at the amount of makeup she’s managed to put on in this short amount of time.

“No one.” I shake my head, getting Ishita out of it. She’s been nothing but a burden since the day she moved to this school. Before Ishita, I was whoever I wanted to be. After Ishita, it was like our shared culture painted us with the same brush. If Ishita did something, Aisling and Dee would ask, “Why does she do that?” If Ishita said something, “Why does she say that?” I know it’s not her fault that people think our culture must be why we act and say the things we do, but still.

“I need to get changed,” I say. “I’ll be back.” I try my best to forget about Ishita. I have other things to worry about.

chapter three


I am literally going to catch pneumonia and die.

I roll my eyes at my phone even though Nik isn’t here to see—it’s just me rolling my eyes at a non-sentient object. Nik has been texting me for the past hour about how she’s at home and I need to let her in. Even while I was in the middle of class! I guess because Nik has spent so little time thinking of anyone other than herself it didn’t occur to her that I can’t open the door for her while I’m in school. She didn’t even remember what time school ends, even though she was attending the same school as me just two years ago.


Her texts are getting more and more frequent and more and more annoying. They’re making my blood pressure rise. I can hardly do anything for her from the bus, and her texting repeatedly isn’t going to change the fact that there’s a downpour, or that I still have fifteen minutes on my route before I reach home.

I tuck my phone into the front pocket of my bag, cross my arms over my chest, and glare at the rain-drenched window. If I don’t get my anger down to at least a simmer I’m sure I’ll say something to Nik that I’ll regret later. I probably shouldn’t start her first trip home in months on the wrong foot.

Nik tries to give me a smile when she sees me coming through the pouring rain. I can tell her heart’s not in it, but whatever. I guess I can’t really blame her—the rain is cold.

“Hey.” I slide past her and slip the house key into the front door. I twist it just once before it clicks open. Slipping inside, I leave the door open for Nik to come in. She does, with a slight shudder, taking in the house as if she’s seeing it for the first time.

“You’ve had the walls repainted,” she says.

I look at the walls when she says this. That feels like so long ago; it’s a memory that’s already blended together with others.

“I guess.”

“It looks nice.” Nik lifts a finger to touch the wall, like somehow it will feel different too.

We both slip off our shoes, and as Nik walks from room to room, taking in all that’s changed since the last time she was here, I take her in. Because it’s not just the house that’s changed; Nik has too.

Her hair is much shorter than it used to be. Her thick black locks that she used to proudly grow out have been cut up to her shoulders, and even have brown highlights. She’s put on weight too. Before, Nik was all skin and bones, and I’m pretty sure the only thing she consumed regularly was buckets of coffee. Now she and I could fit into the same clothes.

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