I'm Not That Girl

By Laura Schiller

Based on: Matched

Copyright: Ally Condie

"Don't wish – don't start.
Wishing only wounds the heart.
I wasn't born for the rose and pearl …
There's a girl I know:
He loves her so …
I'm not that girl."
- "I'm Not That Girl", Wicked (Written by Stephen Schwartz)

We've been told it's next to impossible for a Matched pair to know each other beforehand. That it hasn't happened for generations and we shouldn't hope for it, shouldn't even dream about it. But now it has happened, against all odds, and to Xander Carrow of all people. Matched to a close friend … and it wasn't me.

"It's all right," he tells me kindly, sitting next to me on a bench in the school greenspace. "You don't need to be nervous about your Banquet. It'll be beautiful, just wait. Like everything we've ever been told."

It's rare for us to be alone together like this – or almost alone, since there are plenty of students milling around the yard, but no one within hearing distance. Even Cassia is still at her hiking course. Not that there's anything inappropriate about it, of course; Xander's sitting at least a foot away from me.

"I don't know," I reply, fidgeting with my tablet container, feeling the empty rattle where the green pill should be. "It's just … I'll be meeting a complete stranger. A stranger I'm supposed to spend the rest of my life with. What if we don't even like each other?"

"You will." He scoots a little closer in reassurance, still smiling that sunny smile. Is it just me or is that smile a little too bright today? "The Officials at the Matching Department know their business. Trust them. Aren't Cassia and I proof of that?"

Cassia and I. He says it with deliberate emphasis. They are a Match – Cassia is just like him, bright, athletic and confident. Not to mention beautiful, with that coppery auburn hair of hers. Not like me, a mousy brunette (statistically the most common hair color) who can't get through a week without her green pills.

A sigh escapes before I can stop it. "Thanks, Xander," I tell him, forcing a grateful smile as I look up into his soft blue eyes. "You always know the right thing to say, don't you?"

Almost the right things, anyway.

"That's me," he jokes, spreading his hands. "Your sage voice of reason."

That makes me smile for real.

"But seriously, Em … " He catches my eye, and for a moment, all the sparkle goes out of him. His eyes and voice are deadly serious. He reaches out and actually touches my hand, not even checking to see if anyone is watching.

"You're beautiful," he tells me. "Your Match will be so lucky … I wish you optimal results."

And while I'm still too dumbfounded to say anything, he gets up and strides away on his long legs, leaving me sitting there with a residue of warmth on my hand and a head full of unanswerable questions.

It's starting again. That swooping feeling in my stomach, like the one you get when the air train makes a sharp curve and you're thrown sideways. That feeling of being trapped in a tiny cage, unable to move or even breathe.

Tomorrow night, I will take the first step to walking into my own cage and locking it from the inside. I will commit my life to a boy who will never be right for me, no matter how perfect he is. Because he'll never be Xander.