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Faker by Carly Anne West

C eci and I sat at the table by the trashcans at

Wong’s Wok while I listened to her tell me she was leaving Gary. I made my eyes so wide they dried out, and the left one started to twitch. Ceci’s told me about leaving Gary before. She’s told me this four times, but I’ve tried to be surprised each time. I like to be supportive.

“Are you winking at me?” Ceci wanted to know. I was not winking, I was twitching. Ceci

knew I was straight, so she must have thought I was being conspiratorial, which was precisely the wrong reaction to her news.

“I have a lash in my eye,” I lied, and she

handed me her compact for the mirror so I could fish it out, but she kept talking.

“I’m just not getting what I need from him

anymore,” she said. “He’s so possessive.” I nodded and I-know-ed. I listened to her

explain and tried to create a transparency onto the life I had told her was mine. I waited for her to pull a noodle from her chopsticks into her mouth – her lips forming a tight “o” – and seized my opportunity.

“Have you actually said that to him?” I knew she had. Ceci told me she had, and

that was enough for me. It was such a relief to know I would never have to take Gary’s side. I had never met Gary. The ease of the single-sided strife was like mashed potatoes with butter. The simplicity coated the inside of my belly like comfort food.

“He has a terrible temper,” Ceci answered

as explanation. She had told him, but in only so many words. So many words was fine, but too many


words was just that – too many. I knew of Gary’s temper the way I knew everything else about him from Ceci. His temper was not something to taunt.

Ceci should have been frantic and shaky, a Chihuahua with a manicure. But she was calm and quiet. She had hair like wheat – beige and brittle. It only ever shook when she was chewing, which it did now, her scalp riding the motion of her gnashing teeth. She never really smiled though, and that was something that felt appropriate about her. It was what made me know she wouldn’t leave Gary.

“How’s Ethan feeling about his job these days?” Ethan was the husband I told Ceci I had.

It was a lie that popped out when I first met her. She had just finished telling me about her fight with Gary – our first lunch together – and I had answered yes, I had a husband, his name was Ethan. Ethan was a civil engineer working for a boutique consulting firm. They had a major contract with the city. He was my polar opposite in appearance, fair and smooth-skinned, nothing like my dark- haired, deep-pored self, and he was seven years my senior at forty-two. I answered her questions like output from the data entry we performed in our department (Data Compilation) on the eighteenth floor. She asked questions, I spit answers out like tickets. By the time we had finished lunch, Ethan had an identity all his own, and we shared a decent life together. He was the bland type, so that automatically made me more exciting by contrast. He gave me context.

“Same,” I answered. “He’s hanging in best he

can.” Ethan’s firm was perilously close to losing their biggest contract with the city.

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