The Backup Girlfriend by Emma Doherty

1

Livy Chapman walks out of the main entrance of school talking to some girl I’ve seen around but never spoken to. She pauses and reaches into her bag, and I watch as Livy hands over a piece of paper.

She’s beautiful. No other word for it.

Livy continues walking down the main steps, and I stop pretending altogether that I’m doing anything other than watching her. She joins up with Sophie, her best friend, and Sophie’s current boyfriend, Mark. Sophie must say something that makes Livy laugh because she’s soon flashing her bright white teeth and shoving Sophie away.

It doesn’t take long for Chase to appear. Wherever Livy is these days, that’s where you’ll find him. He sneaks up behind her, wrapping his arms around her, her face lighting up before she even sees him, knowing instantly who it is. She turns in his arms to face him, and before she can open her mouth, he’s bending down to kiss her. She kisses him back for a couple of seconds before pulling away from him, but he tries to pull her back, wrapping his arms tighter around her and chuckling at whatever Sophie is saying to them. Livy pries herself away from him; she’s not into public displays of affection, not like me.

If Chase had ever looked at me like that, I would have kissed him back for as long as he would have wanted. The thought makes me sad, just like it has for the last couple of weeks since they got together…just like it has for the last couple of years since we started dating. I always knew it wasn’t me he really wanted.

Chase says something else to Livy, pulling her back against his front and resting his head on her shoulder.

They’re both smiling from ear to ear.

Happy. They both look really happy.

“Are you okay?”

My head snaps to the right, and I see my friend Sasha has appeared beside me without me even realizing. She has her gaze fixed on Livy and Chase, and it’s not hard to see that she saw their PDA and me watching it from a distance like a weirdo.

“I’m fine.”

“Look, I know it’s shitty, but if you ever—”

“Sasha,” I say sharply. “I’m fine.” The last thing I want is her sympathy.

She doesn’t look convinced.

“Seriously, no drama here.”

She nods and grins at me. “Want to come back to my place and lay out? We could get ice cream on the way.”

I shake my head. “I have to go home.”

I don’t. I don’t have anything going on at home, but I also don’t feel like hanging out, not even with Sasha, who is one of my closest friends.

She shrugs, and we both turn away from the entrance and walk toward our cars as Jennifer, another friend of ours and a fellow cheerleader, joins us.

“Hey, Abbie. Did you speak to Coach?”

I frown. “No.” I haven’t seen Coach all day.

“She was looking for you before, said it was urgent.”

I hesitate for a second before continuing toward my car. I seriously doubt it’s that urgent. The season is practically over, we’re only cheering at games for fun these days or at the odd pep rally, and she probably just wants me to confirm what cheers I’m going to teach at the auditions we’re holding for the incoming freshman class in a couple of weeks. She’d be better off speaking to Sasha anyway; she’s vice-captain and the one who actually does all the hard work for the squad, choreography, and organization. To be totally honest, I’ve been riding her coattails, and she’s been carrying me for years. “I’ll see her tomorrow.”

“Wanna come over to my place to lay out?” Sasha asks Jennifer, who readily agrees. “Sarah’s coming too.”

Well in that case I’m definitely not going. Sarah Billington is supposedly my best friend. I say supposedly because lately, every time I’ve seen her, she’s just seemed to want to rub it in about how happy Chase is with his new girlfriend and how much happier he seems than when he was with me. Like I’d need reminding. I’ve come to the conclusion that she’s actually not a good friend.

She’s also obsessive about telling me every little bit of gossip she’s managed to find out throughout the day, no matter how secret or sensitive it is.

I used to love to hear it. I wanted to know everything about everyone, ammunition against people that I definitely didn’t need, but lately? I really don’t care. If I’m honest, I think I’ve outgrown Sarah, high school, everyone.

I’m ready to go.

There are only three months until graduation, and as far as I’m concerned, it can’t come soon enough.

“Hey, Abigail.”

I look up from my spot at the kitchen table, where I’m ignoring my homework in favor of watching a new makeup tutorial from my favorite blogger on my phone, and I see my mom tottering in on her high heels, arms laden with designer shopping bags.

“Hey Mom.”

She drops them on our large countertop then heads straight to the fridge and pours herself a large glass of wine before leaning against the counter and peering over at me. I eye her wineglass but don’t comment on it. There’s no point. It’s not like it’s unusual to see her drinking before six in the evening, and it’s not like she won’t be drinking for the next couple of hours.

Her eyes narrow on the bag of chips I have next to me, which I’ve been dipping into a huge bowl of guacamole. The bowl of chips is practically empty; I’ve been devouring them ever since I got home.

“Did you eat that whole bag?”

“There are some left,” I mutter.

She frowns. “You’ll put on weight,” she chides. “You need to be careful. It’ll go to your face first.”

I sigh. I wasn’t the skinniest of kids up until I was thirteen, and my mom never lets me forget it. She acts like it’s a crime if I even look at junk food.

She doesn’t have to worry. This is the only thing I’ve eaten today; I didn’t touch my lunch, which isn’t unusual for me. I’ll never let myself get big again.

“How was school?”

“It was fine.”

“Did you see Chase?”

My body tenses, but I try my hardest not to let it show. She’s asked me the same question every couple of days since she found out we broke up. “Yes, Mom. We go to the same school.”

“And?”

“And what?”

“Have you spoken to him about getting back together?”

“He’s still just as happy in his new relationship as he was last time you asked. We’re not getting back together.”

She tuts loudly and dismissively flips her hand in my direction, making it perfectly clear that she doesn’t see his happiness with Livy as any kind of problem in our reconciliation. “Of course you are. You’ve been together a long time, and you should have known better than to let him lose interest and go off with someone else.”

I try not to let it bother me that, despite knowing how long we’ve been together and therefore how upset our breakup will have made me, she chooses to blame me for the fact that he’s with someone else.

“We’re just friends now.”

She scoffs. “For now. You know what to do.”

She means what to do to somehow get back in Chase’s good graces and, when the time is right, make a play for him. She doesn’t think I should move on and find someone better who worships me and appreciates me, but rather that I should hold out for Chase.

Because Chase’s family has money.

A lot of it.

And that’s what she’s bred her daughters to do: seek out money and lock it down. It’s what she did when she married my dad at nineteen when he was already twenty-six and had a promising law career ahead of him, and it’s why she’s stayed with him despite everything he’s done to her. It’s also why my older sister is twenty-four, with a baby and married to the nephew of a senator who has future plans to move into politics himself.

And it’s why my mom’s been giving me a hard time about why I let someone as eligible as Chase get away when, in her mind, I should have been securing my future. Which is ridiculous because Chase could have no money and still be the most popular kid in school with a line of girls waiting to date him. I know for a fact I would have still been crazy about Chase, even if he had no money. That was just an added bonus in my mom’s eyes.

The more I think about it, the more I realize what utter bullshit it is.

Especially since I don’t even need the money. My dad makes more than enough, but my mom sees marrying well as something you have to work toward from a young age.

“It’s not going to happen, Mom.”

She rolls her eyes but puts down her glass and turns to her bags. She rifles through a couple of them before pulling out a strapless, floor-length dress in a light gold color and holding it up for me to see. “I got you this,” she tells me. “You can wear it on Saturday night.”

“Saturday night?”

“Yes, we have dinner at the country club.”

A sense of panic grips my body. “But I thought you said Dad wouldn’t be back for a couple of weeks?”

“He’s won’t be,” she says, not looking at me as she turns back to her wine. “But Eric has a table and needs to network, so we’re going.”

My body releases some of my tension at the mention of my brother-in-law. While I might not be his biggest fan, he’s harmless and he loves my sister. Still, I have no idea how I’m supposed to help him with his networking, but I guess he wants to look like a family man and having his wife’s family there will probably help with that.

“When’s Dad coming back?”

“Three weeks from Friday.” She says it calmly, like it doesn’t fill her with dread, and maybe it doesn’t. Maybe the fact that she gets to live this lifestyle and has an unlimited allowance that allows her to get her hair done whenever she wants, get weekly mani-pedis, attend charity lunches with her friends, and do endless amounts of shopping is worth it to her.

She turns to me and eyes me critically. “You need to get your roots done.”

I sigh.

“And Ellie is coming for dinner tonight.”

This perks me up. “Is she bringing the baby?” My sister gave birth five months ago, and that little baby might just be my favorite person in the world.

My mom shrugs. “She’s not coming until seven-thirty, so I doubt it.”

“So where will the baby be?”

She looks unconcerned. “With the nanny I suppose.”

My mom talked my sister into getting a nanny as soon as Eric Jr. was born. Ellie was reluctant at first but soon realized my mom wasn’t going to be the hands-on grandmother some children have, and eventually she gave in.

“I didn’t want to cook, so I made reservations at Luigi’s,” she tells me, naming one of the nicest restaurants in town as she walks back toward the doorway. “Make sure you get changed,” she calls over her shoulder as she exits the room, ending one of the longest conversations we’ve had in days.