I Hired a Fake Boyfriend for Our Family Dinner – It Turned Out to Be the Best Decision of My Life

Family gatherings were the worst for Lara, especially since her sister, Emily, began to make fun of her love life, or lack thereof. Determined to sit through her father’s birthday dinner, Lara decides to hire a boyfriend for the night. Little did she know that a romantic comedy would play out.

I love my family, but family gatherings used to be a nightmare for me. Every single time we got together, my sister Emily would find some way or the other to poke fun at my single life.

Last Thanksgiving, she took it too far and even set a place at the table for my “imaginary boyfriend,” complete with a hand-drawn face on a napkin. Everyone around the table laughed while I forced a smile.

“It’s funny, Lara!” she would say whenever I brought up the incident.

It was anything but funny.

Now, my father’s birthday is coming up, and of course, it was to be celebrated with a family dinner.

“There’s no way I can sit through another one of those events with my family,” I told my friend, Kate, when we met for coffee.

“I’m telling you now, Emily probably has something up her sleeve already,” I grumbled.

“Then just hire someone out for the night!” Kate chuckled, adding sugar to her coffee.

“Hire a man?” I exclaimed.

“Yes! My sister did it through an agency. She didn’t want to go to her ex-boyfriend’s wedding by herself, so she found the agency. Look, it’s all above board and the guys do exactly what you need them to do.”

“It’s not… sleazy?” I asked, trying to think of a better word.

“No, Lara,” she giggled. “And you know my sister. She’s so prim and proper! She wouldn’t have gone ahead with it if she didn’t think that everything was legitimate.”

Which is how I ended up hiring a date to the family gathering. I found Jake through the same agency that Kate’s sister used. He was charming, easy to talk to, and seemed to understand exactly what I needed.

We met a few times before the dinner to get our story straight, because the last thing I wanted was Emily to get wind of something fishy.

“So, the story is that we met at a mutual friend’s party, hit it off over their dog, and have been dating for three months,” Jake said, grinning. “Sounds about right.”

“Look, any story involving myself and a dog are winners,” I replied, opening our Chinese takeout for dinner.

“And I’m an architect with a passion for cooking, right?” he confirmed.

“Yes, spot on,” I said.

We had rehearsed the story so many times that I was starting to believe it myself. Although, I did wonder if Jake was actually an architect with a passion for cooking because it was something he had brought up and I just liked the idea.

“You don’t need to get to know him too well,” Kate said through the phone as I was doing my makeup on the day of the family dinner. “Just enough to be familiar and comfortable through the night.”

When we got to my parents’ house, I walked in holding Jake’s hand. My family’s jaw dropped collectively; even my mother raised an eyebrow and smiled at our entrance.

My sister, on the other hand, was never one to miss an opportunity, and leaned in towards Jake with a smirk.

“Blink twice if she’s forcing you to be here,” she said. “We all know how difficult it is to be with Lara. My sympathies to you for having to deal with… that.”

I was on the verge of snapping when Jake tightened his grip on my hand, smiling at me as he pulled me closer.

“Listen,” he said to Emily, his voice calm yet firm. “Is this how you’re going to act all evening? Are you jealous of your sister?”

Emily’s face turned crimson, but before she could retort, Jake continued.

“Because anyone would be lucky to have someone as amazing as her.”

“Um, no, that’s not what I meant,” my sister stammered before heading into the kitchen after my mother.

Dinner went surprisingly well after that. Jake charmed my parents with stories of his travels and even engaged my notoriously aloof brother, Mark, in a discussion about architecture and how spaces should be about belonging.

“I’ve never thought about it like that,” Mark said, picking up his wine glass.

“People usually don’t,” Jake replied, taking the roast potatoes that I offered him. “But it’s important.”

“You’re very different from the usual guys that Lara dates,” Emily said. “It’s like you’re too good to be true.”

I rolled my eyes at her.

But Jake?

Jake deflected Emily’s jabs with such grace and humor that even she had to back down. I found myself watching him, truly watching him, and wondering if any of this could be real.

The real turning point came with dessert as we sang for my father and lit the candles on his birthday cake.

Of course, Emily had to make another snide comment, something about how quickly “relationships” can end.

Jake stood up and raised his glass.

“I’d like to propose a toast,” he said, his eyes meeting mine. “Firstly, to the man of the evening, happy birthday, sir! May this new chapter bring you all the joy you deserve.”

He paused, letting everyone take a sip of their drink.

“But I’d also like to toast to the most incredible woman I’ve ever met. Lara, you’re intelligent, kind, and you have the most infectious laugh. I can’t stop admiring you, and I haven’t since the moment we met.”

Jake’s words hit me harder than I expected. I felt tears welling up as I clinked glasses with him. My parents beamed, thinking that this was an authentic relationship.

Even my sister looked taken aback.

After the toast, I pulled Jake aside.

“Thank you,” I said softly. “You’re an amazing actor, but I don’t know how I can ever repay you for that.”

Jake took my hand, his eyes softening.

“Lara,” he said, matching my tone. “I wasn’t acting, you know. Everything I said was true. I’ve been falling for you since the moment we met.”

I stared at him, my heart pounding.

“But we only met because I hired you for this night,” I said.

He shrugged, a small smile playing on his lips.

“Yeah, life is funny like that, isn’t it?” he said. “Sometimes these things happen when we’re not looking for them. I’d like to try things officially. With you, I mean.”

I nodded, smiling.

“I’d like that too.”

We joined the family and sat down to eat large slices of cake.

Even now, months later, Jake and I are still together and happy. We never quite told the family that I hired Jake. To them, he was the boyfriend who showed up and swept me off my feet. And in a way, that was true.

“You’re telling me that only I know the truth?” Kate asked as we sat in my living room with face masks.

“Yes!” I replied. “Jake and I didn’t want to tell my family the truth because you know how Emily is. She’ll have a field day about this. Her pathetic younger sister who couldn’t find herself a boyfriend, so she hired him.”

“But you did find a boyfriend,” Kate pointed out.

“I did,” I admitted. “And he has also left the agency as well. So, he’s serious about this. That’s new for me.”

A few weeks later, I went home to my parents’ house for tea. For once, I wasn’t dreading being there, because they knew about Jake.

But it was there that Emily revealed something to me. We were in the kitchen, doing the dishes when my sister turned to me.

“I’m sorry I’ve been so nasty,” she said. “And I didn’t mean to be so harsh with Jake when he came over for Dad’s birthday. It brought up some stuff for me.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I didn’t tell you this, but I broke up with Paul. He wasn’t away for work during Dad’s birthday. Our engagement has been broken off for months. I’ve been bitter about your happiness.”

I couldn’t understand why my sister carried the burden by herself, but at least she was open to talking to me now.

I don’t know how long this new, vulnerable version of my sister will last, but let’s see what happens next.

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