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The Fake Boyfriend Experiment

By´╝ÜStephanie Rowe

The Fake Boyfriend Experiment



By Stephanie Rowe



CHAPTER ONE


Old dead men had nothing on the hot guy jogging across the parking lot of the Mueller-Fordham School of Music right now.

I immediately abandoned practicing my sixth rendition of Beethoven’s Fifth to watch the boy I’d never noticed before lope across the asphalt, his dark hair just long enough to make me think he didn’t waste time playing by the rules. His body was lean and athletic in his black jeans and tee shirt, and he ran with the cool confidence of a guy moving on his own time. A boy who really didn’t care what anyone else wanted him to do. He wasn’t just cute; he was hot with an attitude.

He was completely the opposite of the other two hundred students at Mueller-Fordham, home of some of the geekiest musical prodigies in the greater Boston area.

And after my summer, I was seriously afraid that included me. Geek, that was. Not a prodigy. Not anymore.

I leaned forward, craning my neck for a last sight of him as he disappeared around the corner of the building, out of sight and out of my life before he’d even managed to jumpstart it into something worth living. He was out in the sunshine, running freely. Where was I? Rotting away in the gloomy shade of practice room number five. Were there going to be any last minute tanning episodes to launch my freshman year? Not so much.

I laid my forearm across the piano keys to compare colors. My skin was almost the exact same shade as the ivory. Was that what I was supposed to look like on the last day of summer? No, I was supposed to be tan and happy, not looking like pancake batter that had been left on the counter for too long.

Tomorrow I would be starting high school. How could I start high school the same color as egg white? My arms were going to be a dead giveaway that I’d had no life this summer.

Spending three months on a tour of New England with my piano teacher and six other students from the Mueller-Fordham School of Music was torture that should be reserved for serial killers and people who wear ribbon barrettes. I might not have the world’s best social life, but I didn’t fall into either of those two categories, so I deserved some kind of decent summer, right?

“Good afternoon, Lily.” My piano teacher, who I’d dubbed Crusty on her most annoying days, strode into the private practice room before I could dive under the piano and hide.

Crusty was my current piano teacher, and had been for the last three years. The rest of the world called her Miss Jespersen. Not Ms. Not Mrs. Miss. As in, I’m like one hundred years old and still unmarried because I’m so evil that I suck the life out of any man who comes near me.

Today she was wearing a straight black pencil skirt, high laced black boots that looked like they’d belonged to her great grandmother, and a plain white blouse that made her already pale face look even more washed out. Make up? Not so much. She didn’t even wear lip gloss or mascara. Her only jewelry was a set of tiny gold studs in her ears and a silver watch with a brown leather band.

She reminded me of a vampire: walking around like she was alive, but in actuality? Dead and soulless. Just an empty body trying to suck the life out of anyone who crossed its path.

Crusty set her square purse on the floor beside the piano and carefully removed her white cardigan. “Well, Lily?”

I managed a smile. “Hi.”

She narrowed her eyes at my less-than-enthusiastic response, as if she could see the sparkly purple nail polish hidden under my sensible and completely unfashionable pianist-worthy shoes. I tried to breathe through my mouth, but I still caught a whiff of mothballs. Why would a human being always smell like mothballs? Seriously. Did she sleep in her attic with the bats or something?

Yeah, this was the way to spend my last day of summer vacation, hanging out with Miss Jespersen instead of at the pool with my friends, checking out guys, or even getting a second glimpse of the guy from the parking lot. Lucky me. According to my parents, being a piano prodigy was a gift. After three years of working with Crusty, it was a gift I was ready to give back.

“Well, I have news.” She waved a newspaper past my face, too quickly for me to see what it said. “You received a review from your recital in Rhode Island last weekend, along with a photo.”

“Really?” I snatched the clipping from her hand, then nearly gagged when I saw the picture. “Where did they get this?” The picture was from at least two years ago, before I managed to overrule Crusty’s strict dress code for recitals. I was wearing an ugly corduroy jumper with a white lace collar, and my nose looked enormous. My bun was total old lady style, carefully tucked in at the nape of my neck with that horrific velvet bow.

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