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Authors: Lili Wilkinson

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BOOK: Not Quite Perfect Boyfriend
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‘Ben clearly had a great deal of faith in humanity,' I say, stalling for time.

‘Maybe he told someone something important, and they betrayed him.'

‘Yeah,' I say, laughing nervously. ‘Like that he's a closet
Star Trek
fan or something.'

Oh, don't tell me he likes
Star Trek
too. Could this guy be any more of a weirdo loser? A weirdo loser PSYCHO-KILLER? But he chuckles. ‘I would think,' he says, ‘that if they had television in the eighteenth century, Benjamin Franklin's secret TV shame would be
Oprah
. Or the
Gilmore Girls
.'

I am not sure whether I should laugh. I don't want him to think I'm laughing
at
him. Don't want to upset the killer.

‘So,' I say. ‘Any more quotes?'

‘One from Sophocles,' New Guy says. ‘“Do nothing secretly; for Time sees and hears all things, and discloses all.”'

I'm confused now. All this double-speak. He says
Sophocles
with a bit of a strange accent, and I remember that Mrs Church called him
George Papadopoulos
and figure that he must be Greek.

‘Sophocles also not a fan of the whole secret thing,' I observe.

‘No,' says New Guy. ‘Maybe that's what we should try to prove? Whether secrets are good or bad?'

I think about this. Secrets are harmless when they are about an imaginary English boyfriend, right? It's only bad when you've killed someone and hidden their body. ‘Animals have secrets,' I say. ‘Like where a nest or a den is, or where a dog has buried a bone.'

‘Right,' says New Guy, who I suppose I should think of as George (or psycho-killer George). ‘So there is a biological protective urge to keep secrets.'

I'm not entirely comfortable with Talking to a Boy on the Phone about Biological Urges. I wonder what Ben would say if he knew. Would he be jealous? What are you allowed to talk to Other Boys about when you're in a relationship? Where is the line between Having a Conversation with a Boy and Phone-Cheating? And where do Biological Urges lie in relation to that line?

‘Let's brainstorm,' says (psycho-killer) George. ‘Think of common secrets.'

Imaginary boyfriends. Psycho-killer. Imaginary boyfriends. Psycho-killer. Imaginary boyfriends.

‘Surprise parties?' I manage to squeak out.

‘Great,' he says. ‘What about secrets that are to do with not admitting something? Like: I broke the vase.'

‘Or: I hate your new haircut.'

‘Or: I ate the last Tim Tam.'

This is kind of fun. ‘There's no Easter Bunny,' I say.

‘I have a crush on someone,' says (psycho-killer) George, and I immediately feel uncomfortable again.

‘Um,' I say. ‘I think I'm all out of secrets.'

(Hah. That's a ginormous lie.)

(Psycho-killer) George is silent for a moment.

‘What about big secrets?' he says. ‘Like: I cheated on you.'

‘I only have six months to live.'

‘Your father is Darth Vader.'

I laugh. ‘And that girl you just kissed is your sister!'

‘I live a secret life,' says (psycho-killer) George.

A secret life as a murdering cannibal. I know your story.

‘Like Superman and Clark Kent?' I ask.

‘Maybe,' says (psycho-killer) George. ‘But I meant something else . . . like I have another family or something.' Yeah. Another family. Right. Maybe before he became a psycho-killer cannibal. Now his other family are chewed-up skeletons buried beneath the vegie patch.

‘I prefer secret superpowers,' I say.

‘Yeah, me too.'

I take a deep breath. ‘How about the opposite?' I say. ‘Instead of having a secret life or a secret superpower, a part of my life that seems real is actually fake.'

‘Like what?'

Why am I saying this? Why am I practically confessing my terrible terrible shame to a murderer? ‘I don't know,' I say. ‘Like an imaginary friend or something. Pretending you have this great . . . job, when you're unemployed. Or pretending you're rich and live in a mansion when you're homeless.'

‘Yeah . . .' says (psycho-killer) George, thoughtfully. ‘Or that you have this perfect life with a perfect partner and perfect kids, when in fact you're all miserable.'

I swallow. ‘Something like that,' I say.

This is very weird. I just came really close to telling the crazy psychotic serial killer socks-pulled-up New Guy that I have an imaginary boyfriend.

‘You know what I think?' says George.

‘What?'

‘I think that Sophocles would have been totally addicted to
Big Brother
.'

5
chi·me·ra

–noun; an unreal creature of the imagination; a vain or idle fancy.

– A Wordsmith's Dictionary of Hard-to-spell Words

After a fortnight of fake emails and MySpace comments, I am ready to break up with Ben. But I don't want to do it straight away. It has to be believable. So I plant little seeds. I sigh as Tahni and I eat our sandwiches at lunchtime. Ben writes me long and tortured emails about how much he misses me.

It's strange, because I'll miss him when we're broken up. He's the perfect boyfriend – except for the whole Not Being Real thing. That's a bummer. But still, I could certainly do worse.

When I walk into school the next morning, Tahni is waiting for me at my locker. Like a hungry shark. A hungry shark who is about to explode with excitement. She seriously looks like she's about to wet herself.

‘Hey,' I say, fiddling with the combination lock on my locker.

Tahni lets out an incoherent squeal, jumps up and down and flaps her hands. Is she having a seizure?

Maybe this is about the comment that Ben wrote on my MySpace last night:
Midge, I want to see you so much. It is so hard
being apart.
It's step one in my plan for us to break up. A few more of them, and I'll be able to sigh and say that it Just Wasn't Working.

Tahni still hasn't managed to utter anything coherent.

‘Calm down,' I tell her. ‘Yoga breathing, remember? In through the nose, out through the mouth.'

She takes a deep breath.

‘O.M.G.'

Maybe she met a new boy. Maybe she won the lottery. Maybe aliens took out her brain.

‘Midge,' she says, gasping. ‘I am so sorry. This is going to sound so bitchy, but when you first told me about Ben, I kinda maybe thought that you were making him up. Because no one else had seen him, and you've never even
looked
at a boy before.'

I nod and smile.

‘And I just wanted to apologise,' Tahni continues. ‘For not trusting you.'

Ahh, the marvels of the internet. I put my books away, stacking them in alphabetical order. Last year I ordered them by colour, which looked very pretty but was ultimately confusing.

‘So have you spoken to him yet, this morning?'

‘No,' I say, laughing. ‘It's the middle of the night in England.'

Tahni gives me a playful slap. ‘You don't need to keep going on with this game,' she says. ‘I know your secret.'

Oh, crap. How did she figure it out? Was it the MySpace page? Was the blue background not masculine enough?

‘Why didn't you tell me?' she says.

‘Um,' I say, ready to confess.

‘I can't believe you didn't tell me Ben was definitely moving to Australia
and
coming to our school!'

Huh?

‘Come on,' she says, grabbing my arm. ‘Chris Stitz told me where his locker is. I'm
dying
for an introduction.'

I think I'm having a stroke. I wonder if I've slipped into a parallel universe. Or if this is a terrible cruel joke and there's a film crew on standby, ready to catch my moment of ultimate humiliation. Why would Tahni say that Ben was here? Maybe she's just teasing me. Maybe my imagination is so powerful that he turned into a Real Boy, like Pinocchio.

Everything goes all fuzzy, and it's like time speeds up, because I can't get a word out before suddenly I'm standing in front of this Boy.

He's tall, with lovely light-brown wavy hair that is exactly the right length. He has good skin (v. important), and is toned without being muscly. He has
heavenly
shoulders. His eyes are exactly the same colour blue as the background on his MySpace page. He's not exactly the way I pictured Ben in my head, but he still looks pretty good.

I think Tahni was expecting someone a bit less . . . well,
hot
. I'd described him as a cute nerd, but this guy is just plain hot. When she sees him, it's like watching a double take from an old Warner Brothers cartoon. Her chin hits the ground.
Smack.
But in true Tahni fashion, she pulls herself together and summons her most dazzling smile.

‘Hi Ben,' she says. ‘I brought you a surprise!'

She shoves me forward. The Boy looks at me, as if I'm a Transformer and he's expecting me to turn into a Mac truck or something.

‘We were
so
excited when we found out Midge's boyfriend was moving here!' Tahni rabbits on, not noticing the Boy's confusion. ‘She's told us all about how you met over summer.
So
romantic!'

The Boy keeps looking at me, like he's waiting for something. An explanation, probably. I want to dissolve into a puddle. This has
got
to be a dream. There is a terrible, terrible silence. I stare at my shoes, waiting for the inevitable. My cheeks are burning and I'm afraid I might burst into tears. That would just totally be the final nail in the already hermetically sealed coffin that is my life.

Tahni is still babbling. ‘I admit I thought Midge would never get a boyfriend. I thought she'd end up cutting off her hair and wearing polar fleece and kissing girls, or that she'd just be lonely and old with eleven cats and a caravan.'

Thanks, Tahni, for all your wonderful support.

‘When she told me she'd met this boy called Ben over summer and how he was English and sensitive, I thought she must be making it up. You sounded too good to be true.'

A flicker of understanding passes over the Boy's face. He's figured it out. My terrible secret shame.

‘Well?' says Tahni. ‘Aren't you going to kiss her hello?'

Please let this be a dream. I silently beg this Boy to put me out of my misery quickly. He still has a slightly puzzled frown on his face, and a strange little half-smile. The moment drags on forever. If time sped up before, it's completely stopped now. It's as if we stand there for hours, Tahni expectant, the Boy confused, and me, slowly melting into something wet and sticky, like Gatorade, but without the electrolytes. I am radioactive. No one will ever speak to me again. I'll have to change schools. Change my name. Maybe go on
Extreme Makeover
, get a new face and a new identity and start again. Only then will I be able to escape this terrible, terrible shame.

The Boy opens his mouth to say something, then shuts it again. I plead with my eyes. My eyes tell him everything that's happened and about how sorry I am and how I will never do it again, not that I will have the chance to because I will never again have friends to lie to, and can he please get this over with because I need to go home and see if there's enough money in my piggy-bank to get plastic surgery.

I wonder what you have to do to qualify for a witness protection program?

Suddenly, the Boy speaks. To me. He speaks to me. He really
is
English, with this lovely soft accent that makes him sound like he's the star of one of those English Provincial Cop Shows set in a green and floral Quaint English Village where everyone calls each other ‘guvnor' and there is a disproportionately high rate of crime.

‘Sugar,' he says. ‘I missed you so much.'

And then he steps forward and kisses me.

6
cock·a·ma·mie

–adjective; ridiculous, pointless, or nonsensical.

– A Wordsmith's Dictionary of Hard-to-spell Words

BOOK: Not Quite Perfect Boyfriend
11.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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