At lunchtime, my mates came up to sit with me.
"Hey, Carter; you've got yourself a real problem with that Year 9 kid," Josh, my best friend since primary school, said.
"Yeah," Alex agreed. "She totally thinks you like her."
"I know," I muttered, unable to look them in the eyes.
"Mate, we don't want to see you suffer like that," Josh said. "It could be embarrassing for when you want a real girlfriend."
"Hey!" Alex exclaimed. "That's exactly what you need."
I looked up at him, forgetting my discomfort, and raised an eyebrow. "And how am I going to get a girlfriend? All the girls see me with Emily and think I'm weird."
Josh looked thoughtful. "How about that guy who fancied you last year?"
"Mark?" I asked, surprised. "But ... I'm straight. And ..."
"And being seen with a guy is exactly what would put Emily off," Alex interrupted. "Yeah, I know it'll feel a little odd, but it's only acting and I doubt you'll need to kiss or anything. Just show Emily you're not interested."
"Maybe," I said dubiously.
"Well, just think about it, mate," Josh said.
Even at the end of the school, I was unsure. Even if I wasn't uncomfortable with pretending to be homosexual, this course of action would mean I was using Mark. He might have actually felt for me last year and I would be giving him almost what he wanted without really wanting to.
Just then, along came Emily. She actually ran up to me.
Not you, I groaned internally.
She nodded to me, obviously following my advice.
Well, at least I was going home soon.