This is a short story I wrote a few years ago as an assignment for my Creative Writing class. I think the assignment was to tell a short story about a lie. I have zero plans to do anything else with this story, but still think it’s cute. 😊
Side note: It’s always interesting going through old writing (it’s from 2018, not ancient, but in the past). On one hand, I can read it as if someone else wrote it, and appreciate it as an entertaining story. On the other hand, I can see all my mistakes clearly, including where I switched from third person to first at the end….and turned it in to the teacher that way. Whoops! This version has been corrected. 😂
Brayden Waters could serve little old ladies a leather shoe, and they’d likely rave over the meal, leaving him a big tip as if he’d cooked that shoe himself. Ruby had never seen him serve an actual shoe, but with the overcooked Salisbury steaks the chef served the purple haired luncheon ladies every Tuesday afternoon, a shoe might actually be an improvement. Still, the way his cheek creased when he smiled, his blue eyes dancing as if he knew a private joke, and the blonde hair that never stayed off his forehead despite his repeated efforts to brush it aside, it was easy to forget how terrible the food was at Willowtree Diner. He was probably the biggest reason anyone came to eat at the rundown place. At least, he was why Ruby was there, standing outside the restaurant, checking and re-checking her reflection to see if her mousy brown hair looked any less frizzy, fighting a losing battle as she smoothed it against the misty morning air.
Her hands felt clammy despite the cool weather. She wiped them on her jeans, then peeked at the frayed cuffs against her tennis shoes. She should have worn a skirt, or maybe even a dress. Anything would have been better. Then again, nothing would be good enough.
“Are you going in?” An elderly woman gave her a kind smile as her husband held the door open for both of them. “Go ahead, dear.” Ruby shook her head, but gave in when the woman’s husband continued to hold the door, and the woman stood, waiting for the teenager to go first.
“Thank you.” Ruby stepped inside, wishing she’d had more time to be nervous, and knowing there wasn’t enough time in the world.
“Sit anywhere,” the hostess at the front said, and Ruby took her at her word. She found a booth in the far corner of the restaurant, slipping into the seat and sliding down so she wasn’t noticed.
This is stupid, she thought. I don’t even know if he’s working. I don’t even know if this is his section. I don’t even—
“Can I get you something to drink?”
Ruby looked up, feeling her face grow hot as Brayden looked down at her, his face relaxed into that same irresistible smile he’d shoot at her in the hallways at school, the one he shot at everyone, the one that made her want to hide behind lockers or stay in the girls bathroom for all of lunch.
“Ruby Matthews? I didn’t know you ate here. I mean, I guess I’ve never seen you here before. Are you waiting for someone?” He nodded toward the rest of the empty booth, and Ruby quickly shook her head.
“No, I’m here alone,” she stammered. “I mean, I don’t usually eat alone. I have friends who like to eat.” She closed her eyes, wishing she could just stop speaking already. “Of course they like to eat. Everyone eats. I’m just going to shut up now.” She peeked at Brayden, horrified to see him still smiling at her. Was he laughing at her? Was everyone laughing at her? Maybe she should just leave now while she only looked a little bit like an idiot. She couldn’t ask him what she came here to ask. Not now. Not ever. He was just too cool for her, and she’d already made a fool out of herself.
But I came all this way to do this. If I don’t ask him, I’ll never forgive myself. The worst he could say is no.
“So, a drink?”
“Will you go the Spring Formal with me?” Ruby clapped her hand over her mouth as soon as the words fell out. “Never mind,” she continued, her voice muffled behind her hand.
His one word answer shocked Ruby more than actually asking him the question. Okay? As in, he’d go?
“You don’t have to,” she said. “I’m sure there are a ton of other girls who want to ask you.”
“I want to go,” he said. “And I’d love to go with you. But only if you’ll agree to something first.”
This time, he was the one who appeared uncomfortable. He moved toward the seat, and Ruby slid over as he sat down next to her.
“What is it?” she asked. He looked over his shoulder at the counter, and Ruby saw Lindsay Willow, reading a menu as if she actually didn’t know what her father served at his diner. Ruby studied her long blonde hair, the way her perfectly manicured fingers flipped the pages of the menu, and how her tight ass filled her skirt as she sat perched on the stool at the counter. As the most popular and prettiest girl at school, Lindsay could have anything she wanted—and she did, at least for a little while. She’d had Brayden. The two had been together since freshman year, and he’d hung on her arm throughout high school like one of her designer purses. But they had broken up weeks before, which had been the original inspiration behind Ruby’s crazy idea to ask him to the formal.
She turned back to Brayden, and her heart skipped a beat at the intense way his eyes seemed to be pleading with her.
“Tell Lindsay you’re my girlfriend.”
“What? No, I can’t.”
Not only was it a lie, but Ruby was scared of Lindsay. Last year, Lindsay had ruined Sophie Jenkins’ reputation for merely bumping into her. It was so bad, Sophie’s family moved to Maine over the summer. And earlier in the school year, Lindsay had made Mr. Tuttle cry after he gave her a bad grade on the math final. Rumor was that her grade was changed shortly afterwards.
“Please, Ruby. She won’t leave me alone. I can’t even get her to believe we’ve broken up.” Brayden looked back in Lindsay’s direction. “Crap. She sees us. You have to do something.”
Sure enough, his ex-girlfriend was staring at them, her eyes narrowed. Ruby regretted ever walking into the diner when Lindsay stood up and walked toward them.
“I can’t do this, Brayden,” Ruby hissed, ducking even further down in her seat.
“Please,” Brayden whispered back. “I’ll go to the formal with you. I’ll go on a dozen dates with you. I’ll even marry you if that’s what it takes. But you have to save me.”
Ruby didn’t even have time to digest his marriage statement before Lindsay was at the table.
“Hello, handsome,” she purred, perching herself on his vibrating leg. He stopped shaking it, and didn’t push her off. He did grab my hand, however, and I noticed his palm was sweatier than mine.
“Hi Lindsay,” he choked out, then cleared his throat. “Um, I didn’t see you here.”
“Yes, you did,” she said. “But I forgive you. I see you’re doing charity work right now.” She looked directly at me, her green eyes full of poison. “Are you done yet so I can give you my order?”
“Uh, no,” Brayden said. “I mean, I’m not doing charity work. I’m visiting with my girlfriend.”
Lindsay threw her head back and laughed, wrapping her arm tighter around Brayden’s shoulder.
“Yes, but you can visit with me so much easier at the counter.”
“Not you,” he said. “Ruby.”
Lindsay stopped laughing, but her smile remained.
“Funny, sweetheart. Let me know when you’re done messing around. I’m sure my father has work for you to do.”
“I’m not fooling you. Ruby is my girlfriend. Tell her, Ruby.”
They both looked at Ruby, and she could feel the words stuck in her throat like vomit. This should have been a dream come true. Brayden Waters, acting as she were his girlfriend. She’d wished this for years, and now it was here. But it wasn’t real, and Lindsay was going to murder her. Ruby would be tomorrow morning’s headline in their local newspaper. There was no way she was getting out of this alive. But then, Brayden leaned over and kissed her cheek. Ruby could feel the warmth of his lips on her skin, sending an electric pulse through her body and radiating out her fingers and toes. When he lifted his mouth, the warmth remained, and Ruby let go of his hand to touch the place where he’d kissed her.
“It’s true,” Ruby said. Let Lindsay murder me in me sleep; I can die happy now. “I’m his girlfriend.”