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The Lying Game by Miller, Mickey (1)

1

Carter

It’s natural to think hate and love are opposites.

They’re not.

Actually, indifference is the opposite of love, not hate.

And indifference is precisely what I’m feeling right now as I stare at the tall blonde I met last night, who is still in my apartment. She’s been lingering this morning, sticking around and watching TV in my penthouse.

The time has come for me to kick her out.

“I have practice soon, so it’s time for you to go,” I say, nicely but without room for discussion.

She blinks a few times, and leans over on the kitchen island, letting out a slow breath. Trying to be cute. “I can just hang out here while you’re gone. And be waiting for you when you come back.” She lifts her eyebrows and tilts her head as she tries to tempt me.

Clenching my jaw, I stare her down.

Last night, we were enjoying ourselves.

But this afternoon, I don’t feel a shred of desire for her.

All I feel is the distinct sensation of wanting this awkwardness to be over, and for her to leave.

Am I an asshole?

Yes. And I’m fine with that.

I was very upfront last night with Natasha about my ‘no strings attached’ policy when it comes to pleasure.

I don’t do relationships. They’re not for me. Maybe I’m paranoid, but when you’re worth millions of dollars you never know how a woman might deceive you. Maybe she’ll play the part of a perfect girlfriend up front, then after a year you’ll find out she has a giant secret she’s been keeping from you, lying to your face every day.

And yes, that’s happened to me.

Natasha stares at me, squinting and giving me this ‘Blue Steel’ type of look where she wants to seem like she’s not trying too hard, but I see right through it.

My eyes drift over to my bookshelf. I notice my copy of The Great Gatsby put on top of the shelf. Natasha must have been reading it.

My muscles quiver, seeing the tattered copy of the book that I read junior year of high school. My then girlfriend Lacy and I would read the passages to each other after school. I was so into her, I thought I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. She asked me why I didn’t press for sex, like the other guys were all doing with their girlfriends. I had this zen calmness back then. I just knew we’d be together forever, so what was the hurry?

It’s funny the things you think you ‘know’ when you’re seventeen.

I ‘knew’ I’d be with Lacy.

I ‘knew’ I was a relationship guy. Not a fuckboy.

Then Lacy broke my heart with a lie.

Little did I know back then, I would become the king of one night stands. And I thank Lacy for breaking my heart to show me that.

Like James Gatz himself, if I reached for a relationship, I’d only be a boat beat back against the current, in search of a green light that doesn’t exist.

Shaking my gaze off from the book, I refocus on Natasha, my smirk returning.

I love my life these days.

I’m twenty-seven years old, just signed my first multi-million dollar contract with the Chicago Wolverines.

I enjoy my lack of responsibility when I’m doing anything besides playing professional basketball.

Noticing me drifting off, Natasha steps around my marble kitchen island and runs her hand along my shoulder.

“You look pensive. Everything alright?”

I swallow, suddenly thinking that maybe my slapstick version of Natasha isn’t appropriate. At least she reads. Maybe I’ve underestimated her, maybe she is relationship material.

“I can be waiting for you . . . when you get back,” she adds, her voice full of sultry suggestion. She runs her tongue over her upper lip.

I tense when her finger grazes me. “Look, Natasha. I think you’re great. Last night—and this morning—was a lot of fun. But you don’t want me, believe me. I have a lot of issues.”

She furrows her brow, and a curious smile spreads across her face. “I like issues.”

I run my thumb and forefinger across my forehead.

“You’ve never seen issues like mine, believe me.”

“Doesn’t seem to affect your, ahem, prowess.” She lets her eyes drift below my belt.

I let out a slow exhale. This is probably most guys’ dream come true. A hot blonde begging to be nothing but a friend with benefits.

Taking a moment to assess, I search inside myself for feelings. After all, she’s smart. Attractive.

But I feel absolutely nothing for her.

Just then, my phone buzzes with a text. Picking it up, I play like someone’s calling me.

“Hey Chandler, what’s up?” I say to no one on the line.

“Oh we have a team dinner after practice tonight . . .  oh totally forgot about that . . .”

She sighs, and I smile as I nod into my phone like Chandler is continuing to talk to me.

It’s not that I mind being more forceful with her and simply telling her we are done. It’s more that I enjoy the thrill of the lie.

Just then, my phone rings. For real.

Natasha shoots me a funny look.

“Were you just . . . faking a conversation?”

“Call coming on the other line,” I say, waving her off. “Hi Mom.”

Rolling her eyes, Natasha walks away.

“How’s the best son in the world?” my mom drawls sweetly.

"Hey, Mama. What’s up?”

"Well, the reason I called is, you obviously know Mrs. Benson.”

My heart does a tumble at the name ‘Benson.’ I hold the phone away from my face, clutching it hard.

“No, Mom, I completely forgot that you two went to wine night together every Saturday in high school after my games. Why do you ask about her?”

“Well Carter, I have a favor to ask. Lacy is moving to Chicago for a modern dance tryout.”

My heart skips a beat. I can already feel my blood pressure rising.

“Lacy’s going to be in Chicago?”

“You didn’t know? I figured she might have called you or you would have seen her Facebook updates.”

My jaw tightens, and I try not to bite down too hard on my lip. My mom has no idea Lacy and I aren’t exactly on speaking terms, and haven’t been for years. “She must have forgotten to let me know.”

“So, do you think she could crash at your place while she’s there? Tryouts are an unpaid thing. Mrs. Benson is worried about Lacy having to pay rent. We were casually chatting at dinner last night, and I mentioned your new place and how you have that extra room. Apparently Lacy’s living arrangements fell through at the last second. And Lacy is too shy to ask for favors, you know how she is. So that’s why I’m calling.”

I move my mouth to start talking, but nothing comes out.

It’s just past the first of June. It’s the tail end of spring, and we’re headed into summer in Chicago, after putting up with one hell of a winter. This is the first summer I’ll be living all by myself, in a place that I officially own.

I’ve already declared the theme of this summer to be freedom.

The freedom I’ve earned with a lifetime of dedication to my sport, which culminated just a few weeks ago when I signed that monster contract.

Freedom doesn’t mean spending a summer with my ex-girlfriend.

My mom can sense my silent resistance.

“And you two always get along so well, anyway. It’s only eight weeks and then she’ll be out of your hair.”

I grind my teeth.

Only eight weeks.

She’s got me between a rock and a hard place.

Lacy Benson always knew how to fuck with me.

Still does, after all these years.

As big of an asshole as I am, I can’t say ‘no’ to my own mother.

“Just eight weeks?” I bite out.

“Just eight weeks, and she’ll be out of your hair. I talked with Mrs. Benson. She says her audition is at the end of July.”

My cat Smokey brushes my leg.

She licks her paw.

I can feel the tension on the other side of the line.

“Of course she can stay with me, Mom,” I finally bite out.

“I thought you’d be fine with it. I mean, you two get along so well.”

“Of course we do.”

“She’ll be arriving on the train tonight around seven-thirty. I’m sure she’ll be tired. She left yesterday morning.”

“That’s great. Just great. I can’t wait to see her,” I lie.

My mom and I say some more pleasantries, then we hang up.

“Smokey,” I growl. “Come here. I’m done playing games.”

I stare her down.

Finally, she rolls her neck and jumps into my arms. Maybe she senses the anger emanating from me just thinking about Lacy’s name.

Well, if Lacy’s going to be here, maybe I can finally get some revenge.

Maybe it would be fun to make this summer a living hell for her.

Natasha walks back into the room in heels. She shakes her head, and puts her hands on her hip.

“How was your chat with ‘your mom’?” she says, making air quotes.

I smirk.

“You’re an asshole,” she says, shaking her head.

I nod. “I know.”

“I can handle asshole. But I can’t handle a blatant liar. I’m leaving.”

As the door slams, I feel nothing in my heart.

Not desire. Not hate or ill will. Just indifference.

The way my heart feels about Lacy Benson, however, is another matter entirely.

I’m not indifferent to her. I hate Lacy with every bone in my body for how she lied to me.

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