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In the twenty-five years I’ve known Cory York, the only thing I didn’t fake with him were my orgasms.
In seventh grade, I faked a stomach flu to stay home and keep him company while he was sick. I ended up with a virus that kept me out of school for an entire week.
In twelfth grade I faked an injury to avoid going to prom by myself. He took pity on me, dumped his original date and escorted me to the dance where the spurned girl dumped an entire pitcher of red punch over my head.
In college, I faked being in a relationship with him to get him out of a bind with a classmate. Most recently, I faked a proposal, an engagement, and wedding date.
Between the ring on my finger and the home cooked meals every night, I fell for him. So I left, because Cory York is a good friend, but a terrible boyfriend. I had to leave before he broke my heart.
We went from best friends to silent strangers. Now that I’m back in town, he wants me to be his plus one for his cousin’s wedding. This time I’ll have to fake not loving him.
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9 months ago
I know everyone says they hate to eavesdrop as they are actually eavesdropping, which kind of negates the former part of the sentence, but I really do hate eavesdropping. I’ve found that you never overhear anything good. It’s always things that make you take a step back, or in my case, five.
“It’s not a real engagement,” Cory said, and I swear I heard his eye roll in that sentence. “I did it to get back at Veronica for getting engaged to that douchebag. Yeah, and grandma, obviously, you know she’s thrilled about it, but still. Yeah, I know. It’s not serious – ”
I closed the door quietly and stared at it, wide-eyed. The pounding in my ears drowned out the rest of the conversation. He was talking to his brother, I knew that much. I also wasn’t stupid. I’d agreed to the fake engagement. Cory had never once lied or pretended anything when we were alone, but that was the thing, lately, things had changed. I chalked it up to us having sex last week. It was dumb, it was careless, and we shouldn’t have done. We definitely shouldn’t have repeated the mistake six times since.
Now things were weird between us. I couldn’t tell you the exact moment I noticed it, but I did. It was the way he looked at me, the way he held my hand as we watched The Bachelor when no one was around to see us. I replayed the one-sided conversation I’d just heard again, my lip quivering as I analyzed the sound of his voice. He wasn’t lying when he said this thing between us was nothing of importance. I knew him well enough to know that.
I looked down at the letter I was now crumbling, the one that held words that made me burst with happiness. The letter that said I’d been accepted into the residency program at Harvard. The one that gave me an out of this whole charade. I’d come back to the apartment we now shared to show Cory the letter, expecting excitement and celebration. Instead, I was met with a conversation I wish I’d never heard. With my shoulders slumped, I walked back to the elevator, down to the lobby, and out of the building. He was my person, the one I went to with things like this. We’d been best friends for as long as I could remember, and sure the lines between friendship and relationship blurred at times, but at the end of the day, we had a silent vow to never hurt one another. Well, that went out the window today. I tried to berate myself. Tried to tell myself I was being stupid for letting this get to me because technically I was being stupid, but it was hearing those words that made me realize something else, something much scarier than I hadn’t been willing to admit to myself: I was falling in love with him. Real love. Not the fake shit we’d been doing most of our lives.
* * *
I took the subway to my best friend, Yvette’s apartment. I’d explained my dilemma on my way over, through static frequencies in the subway and the hustle and bustle of the six o’clock employees getting off work, and by the time I was shouldering past the Wall Street men and women, I broke down. Thankfully, I was already a block away from her place by then. She opened the door and took in my form with sympathetic green eyes before pulling me into a tight hug.
“Congrats on the acceptance letter,” she said against my hair. “I’m so sorry about Cory.”
“Thanks.” I pulled back, wiping my eyes. “I don’t know why I’m so emotional over it.”
Her eyes went wide for a moment, but she didn’t comment as she closed the door behind me and led me into her small kitchen, where she poured us a glass of red wine. She was quiet, her eyes clocking my expression, which at this point must have looked a lot like self-loathing and defeat.
“It’s not like he lied to me or proposed under false pretenses. I really don’t know why it’s getting to me,” I said, taking a sip of wine.
“Ev, I can’t even tell if you’re serious or not right now.”
“What do you mean? Of course, I’m serious.”
“How could you just now realize that you’re in love with Cory?” She set her glass of wine down with a clink. “You’ve been in love with him your entire life.”
“Not my entire life.” I scoffed, rolling my eyes. “I think I would’ve known if that was the case.”
“Oh, honey.” She shot another sympathetic smile my way. “What are you going to do?”