CUT SCENE #1
from Faking with Benefits: A lesson in text etiquette
This short 'dating lesson' scene takes place a few days before the Mother's Day chapters, and was cut in an early draft of the book to help streamline the story. Enjoy!
I lie flat on my back on my sofa, staring at the ceiling. I’m so bored.
It’s a few days before Mother’s Day, and I’ve been working my butt off trying to handle the Mother’s Day rush. I’ve just got off a three-hour call with an advertising company, talking to them about their services. They said that they’d get back to me within thirty minutes for a quote, so I’ve decided to schedule in a half-hour break while I wait for a response.
And now I’m bored. My fingers are itching. I just want to do something.
I pull out my phone to see if any of the guys has messaged me. I’ve been a bit off-the-grid over the past few days, and I haven’t been great at answering texts, so I’m assuming I’ll have some unopened messages from them — but when I scroll through my inbox, there’s nothing.
In fact, none of them has texted me for most of this week. Which I think is pretty unimpressive, honestly. Like, I’d understand if I was only dating one guy; but how do you have three boyfriends, and none of them can text you? I'm not even annoyed, just kind of weirded out. Why wouldn't they want to talk to me?
Unless it’s a test.
I narrow my eyes at my phone, then compose a heartfelt romantic message to Zack.
L: is this a test to see how long it takes me to text you?
Zack responds immediately.
Z: Yeah. And for the record it has been FOUR DAYS
Z: FOUR DAYS LAYLA
Z: u failed the test. i’m pissed.
I snort. The guys are more than used to me missing messages. Half the time I don't even remember to charge my personal phone.
L: You know I'm crap at answering messages if I'm on a deadline. You live three metres away from me, just knock on my door if you wanna talk to me
Z: No, because I'm not your neighbor, I'm your BOYFRIEND now, remember?
Z: and that means you can't forget I exist for 4 days
Z: So now we're fighting.
My laptop suddenly dings on the coffee table. I twist around to frown at the screen. It’s an email from my packaging company. Immediately forgetting about my break, I grab the computer and start typing. I’m halfway through drafting my reply when my phone starts dinging madly again.
Z: LAYLA, your boyfriend is UPSET, how are you gonna fix it ??
Z: Jesus woman you’re rubbish at this
Sighing, I set my laptop aside and grab my keys, shoving my feet into my slippers. I guess I should go sort out my fake relationship.
I pad across the hallway and knock on the guys’ door. There’s some fumbling sounds, then Zack yanks open the door. He’s wearing a black t-shirt that clings to his massive biceps so tightly I have to fight the urge to drool.
“Hey. You look hot.” I reach for him automatically.
He backs away. “I knew it,” he announces dramatically, turning his face away. “You don’t really love me. You just like getting knobbed by a mad-hot rugby player!”
I squint at him. “Um. What?”
Josh’s faint voice echoes out of the flat behind him. “Don’t come onto your partner when they’re mad at you, Layla. We resolve issues by talking. With words.”
Oh, right. “Of course I love you,” I tell Zack honestly. “Can I come in? Or do you want the whole building hearing our fake domestic?”
Zack considers me for a moment, then sniffs, turning and heading back into the apartment. I follow behind him, shutting the door. “Have you ever thought about being an actor?” I ask his back. “Not, like, a good one. But you’re obviously enjoying this.”
“Your insults aren’t mending my wounded heart,” he warns me, slumping down on the sofa and looking at me expectantly. “Go on, then. Fix it.”
I glance around the room for inspiration. Josh is leaning against the counter in the kitchenette, drinking a mug of tea. I give him a pleading look, and he just shrugs. Great. He’s no help, then.
I turn back to Zack. “I’m… really sorry that I forgot to talk to you for four days, baby.” I try. “Would… you feel better if I sucked you off?"
Josh chokes on his tea in the kitchen.
Zack hesitates, indecision crossing his face. “Well…”
“This is a limited-time offer,” I warn him. “My break only lasts another twenty minutes.”
Zack lifts his hands. “Okay, to be honest, that would probably work on a lot of guys — but as your teacher, I’m gonna ask you to at least try something a bit more romantic.”
“Right.” I sit down on the sofa next to Zack. “God, is this going to happen a lot? I don’t want to get into a fight every time I have a deadline due. How often am I even meant to talk to my boyfriend?”
Zack groans and flops his head back against the sofa cushions. “I give up,” he grumbles. “You’re a lost cause. I’m gonna pick a new girl for the segment. One who actually likes people.”
Josh steps out of the kitchen and comes to sit on my other side, offering me a packet of biscuits. I take one and dunk it in his mug of tea.
“Most new couples talk every day,” he says, as I take a bite. “I mean, when you… you find a boyfriend, you’ll set your own rules. But I think most people would be pissed if their partner went radio silent for four days with no warning. Or worried.”
“Right.” I lick crumbs off my lips, then frown. “Wait. You weren’t worried about me, were you?”
“No,” he smiles slightly, but it doesn’t touch his eyes. “I know what you’re like.”
I study him. He looks tired. His face is pale, and there are dark shadows under his eyes. “Josh, are you okay?”
He smiles unconvincingly. No dimple. “Yeah. ‘Course.”
He sets down his mug and stretches. “Fine. Just busy.” He clears his throat. “I think you’re meant to be comforting the boyfriend you forgot you had.”
I turn to face Zack, who has apparently forgotten that he’s meant to be heartbroken and has started messing around on his phone. “Zack,” I say solemnly. “I’m sorry I haven’t spoken to you these last few days. Work has been crazy busy, and I got caught up in it.”
“You care more about your work than me!” Zack declares morosely, not looking up from his phone screen.
“I don’t,” I tell him. “Even though we weren’t talking, I still thought of you all the time,” I say honestly. “I love you, and I’m sorry. I’ll try to be better at answering my phone.” I look down at my hands. “I’m kind of bad with these things, but… I don’t mean to be. If I’m upsetting you, just tell me, and I’ll stop. I promise I’m not doing it on purpose.”
There’s a pause, then Josh starts slow-clapping. I give him the finger.
Zack beams at me. “Okay, pineapple chunk. I get it. You’re a little workaholic goblin.” He kisses my fingertip, then rubs his cheek against mine. “Look, you made me blush. Do you really think of me every day?”
“Yeah,” I say. “You’re my best friends. I think of you all the time.”
Zack’s grin widens. He kisses my cheek. “It kills me when you’re cute,” he says in my ear.
Suddenly, the buzzer by the door goes off. Zack slaps his thighs and stands.
“That’ll be the pizza,” he declares, bounding over to the front door and heading out into the corridor.
Josh doesn’t say react, staring blankly at the black television screen. I frown. There’s definitely something up with him.
I put my chin on his shoulder. “Hey.”
He blinks, turning so we’re nose-to-nose. “Hey.”
Pressing forward, I kiss him softly. He sighs against my mouth, his lips parting. I give him a few more long, slow pecks, then pull back slightly when my head starts to spin. I touch our foreheads together. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
He hesitates for a second, then nods.
I want to push it, but before I can, my phone starts buzzing and jangling in my pocket. I groan, pulling it out and switching off the alarm. I guess my break is over. “I need to get back to work.” I give Josh one last kiss and stand, turning towards the door. “But you can come knock on my door if you need me.”
Josh just nods. I sigh, leaving the flat. As I step back into my own apartment, my phone buzzes again in my pocket. I check the screen. It’s a text from Zack.
Z: Ily my little socially constipated jelly bean xxx
Smiling, I sit back down on my sofa, opening my laptop back up.