The Truth and Other Lies

Technically, Mia never lied to Calum. Maybe she didn't tell him the entire truth, but she never lied. And now she's conflicted because if she wants that promotion, she can't confess, but she also doesn't want to keep secrets from the man who's slowly but surely stealing her heart. But she shouldn't feel bad. Really. Because Calum hasn't been telling her the whole truth either.

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4. Dear Calum, From: People With Cameras On Their Phones

Of all the ways I’d like to be woken up the morning, Bennet storming into my room and tossing a spare pillow at my head isn’t actually that low on my list. Considering I’d once been woken by a woman I’d brought back measuring my inseam because she wanted to sew me a pair of pants, a soft cushion to the top of my head is hardly even distracting.

His throw lacks power, so I’m not immediately startled by his entrance, only bothering to lift my head from the mattress when he reaches out and begins to shake me awake. “Calum. Calum, get your ass up, now.”

Groaning, I roll over and sit up straight, rubbing my eyes with the palms of my hands and sending Bennet my most annoyed glare when my vision is clear and adjusted to the morning sunlight. “What are you doing here?”

“Seriously?” he says, not directly answering my question, crossing his arms over his chest and not even bothering to feel bad for jolting me from my sleep on New Year’s Day. “You couldn’t keep it in your pants for one night?”

“What are you talking about?” I blink, genuinely confused as I glance at the rumpled sheets beside me just to double check that I hadn’t brought someone home and completely forgotten. Not that forgetting I was with someone was something that happened often. But it’s good to be sure. I let out a soft sigh of relief when I see there’s no one sleeping beside me and turn a bewildered glare on the band’s publicist. “Do you see anyone else in this bed?”

Apparently that’s not enough to convince him that I’m alone, because his gaze narrows before it darts over to the closed bathroom door, his stare hardening as though he’s attempting to see through the painted wood. “Is she hiding in the bathroom?”

“No,” I scoff, offended he would think I would ever hide someone in the bathroom. I’m not a complete asshole. I’m also not a teenager living in his parents’ house who has a reason to feel embarrassed about his sex life. “There’s no one in the bathroom because I slept alone last night. Just like I promised.”

“Calum, when I told you not to hook up,” he sighs, lifting one hand to pinch the bridge of his nose with two fingers, “I also meant not in public.”

I don’t know what that means, but there’s apparently something that Bennet knows that he’s not telling me. “What the fuck is going on, Bennet?”

Finally realizing that I’m telling the truth about my sleeping arrangements the previous night, he pulls his phone from his back pocket and swipes the screen a few times before turning it to face me. “This. This is what’s going on.”

The phone is on the homepage of a tabloid’s website, where the latest headline reads Calum’s New Year’s Kiss. I take the phone from him to scroll down the page further, revealing a blurry photograph of me kissing a girl at the party last night. Despite the fact that it’s not a close up shot, it’s clearly me in the picture, given away by the tattoos on my forearm, showing beneath the rolled up sleeves of my shirt.

“Shit,” I curse under my breath, thinking I was an idiot to not take into account that literally everybody had cameras on their phones.

It’s just my luck that something like this would happen. It’s not like what we were doing was scandalous in any way. All I did was kiss her at midnight because that’s what people do at midnight on New Year’s Eve, and one brave soul deciding to capture the moment in their camera roll and sell it to the highest bidder had completely screwed me over. The worst part is that I was genuinely trying to be good, like Bennet asked. Maybe I should’ve known better. Being good apparently isn’t in my nature.

“So?” Bennet sighs, taking his phone back and shoving it into his pocket, looking at me expectantly. “Wanna explain what happened?”

“It was just a kiss,” I shrug, “I mean, it was New Year’s Eve and we were at a party and we’d had a couple drinks and when the countdown started, I don’t know, I just wanted to kiss her.”

That sounds casual and dismissive and like it didn’t mean anything to me, but the truth was that it had been a pretty amazing night. I honestly hadn’t been upset that she’d spilled her drink on my shirt, but she seemed so distressed by it that I offered to buy her a drink to calm her down. Who knew one drink would turn into hours of conversation?

Maybe it was because she was such a good listener. Her eyes were always wide and there was a constant smile on her lips, as though everything I said was utterly fascinating. And it blew my mind that anybody could possibly be that interested in me. I spent hours a day answering questions in interviews, but I never really felt like anybody cared about what I said. But she had.

And I liked hearing her talk as well. Not just hearing, actually, watching her speak was a beautiful experience. The way her eyes echoed every sentiment coming from her lips and her cheeks were flushed with excitement, not matter what she was saying, and how she spoke with her hands, like her stories were a symphony she needed to conduct.

Unfortunately, Bennet isn’t having any of my nostalgia, tapping his foot impatiently. “Well, your spur of the moment desire isn’t helping your case.”

He’s right. I know he’s right. Because despite the fact that I’d had an excellent time and was spared from having to kiss the asses of all the label executives in attendance, the photographic evidence of me kissing someone does nothing to subdue the rumors that I am working my way through the city, one woman at a time. Sighing, I tug my hands through my hair in frustration. “What do you want me to do?”

“I want you to find this girl and I want you to date her.”

That isn’t the response I’m expecting. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it isn’t that. I blink in confusion, sure I’ve misheard him. “Excuse me?”

“This helps us skip a step in finding someone for your publicity relationship,” he explains, as though it’s a completely obvious solution, “Plus, since there’s photographic evidence of the two of you kissing, it won’t look good if you’re never seen with her again. But if it turns out the two of you are dating, then all of a sudden that kiss is a super sweet moment between boyfriend and girlfriend.”

That…kind of makes sense. If the public believes I was just kissing my girlfriend at midnight, like all couples do, then they’ll have a different reaction to the picture than if they think she’s just a random girl. It doesn’t mean I’m any less wary, though. Because her being a random girl is exactly the problem. From my understanding, the whole point of publicity relationships is that they’re mutually beneficial. She’d get nothing out of dating me besides mobs of people gawking at her and creepy men taking her picture everywhere she went.

“But…she’s just a normal girl,” I reply, slowly but surely recalling bits and pieces of our conversation, “I mean, she writes an advice column for some magazine.”

Bennet looks elated at this news, as though I’ve told him he just won a lifetime supply of slightly wrinkled slacks. “That’s even better. It’s more relatable.”

Relatable? Because it’s so hard to believe that I’d ever date someone who hadn’t graced the front cover of a magazine. Because any romantic relationship I’m in has to be approved by the general public as though it’s anyone else’s business in the first place.

“Let me get this straight…,” I say slowly, bending my knees and resting my forearms atop them, still trying to wrap my head around Bennet’s suggestion, “you want me to track down this girl I’ve met one time and convince her to date me in order to save my reputation?”

He shrugs, as though it’s not a ridiculous idea in the slightest. “I wouldn’t tell her that you need to date her for publicity. Girls don’t usually respond well to that kind of thing.”

Great. Now I not only have to date someone for publicity, I have to date someone for publicity who has no idea they’re being dated for publicity. And here I thought the whole purpose of a set up was to prove I’m not a complete dick.

“Then I have to get her to like me for me,” I realize, wondering why the idea that someone could like me genuinely, as a person, and not because they could get something from me, is so terrifying.

“Just be yourself,” Bennet laughs lightly. “You’re not that bad.”

I’m not so sure about that. I haven’t felt like myself in so long that I’m not entirely sure who I am anymore, so my response comes out as a murmur. “Thanks.”

Nodding, Bennet smiles as he realizes I’ve agreed to his decision and immediately sets off to figure out how to make it happen. Clapping his hands together, he gets to work. “Okay, the first step is finding her. Do you remember her name?”

“Ummm…,” I squeeze my eyes shut as I picture her face and the moment she properly introduced herself to me. My eyes fly open again a moment later when I remember, because of the way she’d looked so incredibly adorable and shy when she said it. “Mia. Her name was Mia.”

“Okay. I’ll cross reference Mia with the guest list from the party and we’ll go from there,” Bennet replies quickly, turning towards the bedroom door.

I call out after him. “This all seems a little creepy.”

He’s talking about tracking down a perfectly normal party attendant who was now going to be thrust into the spotlight against her will, solely because she had the misfortune of crossing paths with me.

“Yeah, well, we don’t really have a choice,” he says, not sounding the least bit apologetic. “So deal. I’ll get back to you with more information soon.”

“Bennet?” I say, another problem with this entire situation coming to mind.

He pauses in the doorway. “Yeah?”

“How long do I have to date her for?” I probably should have asked that question when the whole idea of a publicity relationship was brought up the first time, not when it was on the brink of happening.

He exhales deeply and lifts one shoulder in a shrug. “Until I tell you to stop.”

That sounds strangely ominous, but I don’t have time to ask for a more precise timeline, because he’s already left the room. Sighing, I push back the bedcovers and trudge towards the bathroom to get ready for the day.

After an extended hot shower and the proper grooming of my hair and choosing of my clothes, Bennet still hasn’t called, so I keep myself busy to pass the time. I make my bed and order a fruit platter for breakfast and write the bridge of a new song and then finally, my phone rings.

“I found her,” Bennet says, “Mia Sorensen. Writes a column for Glow Magazine called ‘Mia Knows Best.”

As he says it, the memories of her telling me how she got that job and how much it had become a part of her came flooding back and I can’t help but smile as I respond. “Cute.”

“Alright. Get to work,” Bennet replies briskly after he he’s given me her contact information, hanging up the phone before I have a chance to get another word in.

Letting out a sigh, I shove my phone into the front pocket of my jeans and look at the paper with an address scribbled on it. I check the date on my phone before I head out the door so that I can mark the day I officially became the biggest douche on the planet.

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