Amy Argent

The Lie That Binds (available June 21, 2022)

TLTBweb

I am a liar.
I lie to protect myself.
I lie because I’m terrified.
I lie to keep a secret that would destroy everything in my life if everyone knew.
Holly is the new girl at school and my unwilling lab partner. She hates me because I’m one of the popular guys—one of the bullies who terrorize the unfortunate and the unpopular.  For me, it’s who I’ve had to become to keep anyone from getting too close—close enough to see right through me.
When Holly finds out my secret, I have to do whatever it takes to keep her quiet—even if it means telling the most damaging lie of all—the one I tell myself.

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Excerpt:

“Um . . . hi. I’m Holly. Can I sit with you guys?” comes out of my mouth in the quietest, shakiest voice possible, but I follow it up with what I hope is a confident smile. I scan the faces staring back at me. Curly and Ken-doll are eyeing me up, waiting for the girls’ responses. I can’t look at Gorgeous, or I’m going to combust, so I shift my gaze to the girls instead. Katie’s look is neutral, Bubbly looks confused, but Bitch Face has her eyes narrowed like a lioness contemplating her kill. Oh hell.

She sniffs delicately and looks down her nose at me, her gaze fixed on my chest. Are my boobs too small for this club?

“What’s up with your shirt? Are you advertising for where your dad works?” She fires off the words, dripping with disdain and sarcasm.

I’m wearing my 7-Eleven t-shirt. Retro was all the rage back in Amarillo, and honestly? This might be the coolest shirt I own. Or at least, it was when I wasn’t in the land of western bumblefuck with a side of ass backward.

Everyone here will probably be wearing them after I’ve gone off to college, or popped out a few kids or something, and I’m dying to retort, “I guess you guys aren’t ready for this yet. But your kids are gonna love it,” a la Marty McFly in Back to the Future. But I don’t. Instead, I drop my eyes to the floor, and through my lashes, I can see Bitch Face’s smirk.

She knows. How do they always know? Is there a secret handshake for the popular club? A tattoo? Do they all have the dark mark on their forearms? What is it? If we normal people could just figure it out, we could break in undetected, but somehow, I don’t think that’s going to happen today.

And why, why did I look down? Why can’t I maintain eye contact and say the things I’m thinking? Why do I always have to collapse in on myself? Dammit!

My cheeks are on fire as I stammer. “No, I—”

“Nah, her dad’s the new chief of police. That must be her own part-time job,” Ken-doll says, earning an approving look from Bubbly.

“Does Daddy need some extra money because busting booze parties doesn’t pay that well?” Bitch Face asks with a smile, and now the whole group is grinning and elbowing each other.

“No, Bitch Face, I don’t have a job, my dad is just fine, and this shirt is awesome. It’s you morons who are behind the times and clueless.” But the words stick in my throat like they always do, and instead I shake my head as tears well in my eyes. I need to leave. Now.

I turn on my heel amid the laughter and exit the caf with as much dignity as I can—I don’t even look to see who else might be watching. Disgusted with myself and my pathetic attempt to fit in, I dump my tray in the trashcan by the door. I hate veggie burgers!

What was I thinking? I should’ve known those bitches would see right through me! If only I’d had the confidence to pull it off and come back with some snappy retort so they’d know I wasn’t to be messed with. Dammit!

I spend the rest of lunch in the bathroom, swearing at myself and wiping away angry tears . . . and accepting my fate. I’m not going to be one of the popular ones at this school. I had my chance, and I blew it. Now I’ll have to try to figure out where else I can fit in—if I can fit in. I cringe at the thought of being an outcast. High school is hard enough even when you’re not a pariah.