by Brett Jackson

You meet Gina during your first week in Liars Anonymous. You’re hesitant to date another compulsive liar. Group might get weird when things fall apart. But it’s not like you have better options. Dating’s practically impossible as a recovering liar. Simple questions like “Do you want to take a pottery class?” or “Am I as beautiful without makeup?” beg for the truth to be stretched, but no lies are permitted in Liars Anonymous, not even white lies. Gina knows; she understands you.

At first you and Gina avoid questions, but you learn to be open with each other, more open than even group rules require. You volunteer information. You know that Gina stole from the register when she worked at Dairy Queen in high school, then blamed the missing money on a mentally retarded coworker. Gina knows that you’ve lied for years about your mother. You tell friends that your mother was a junky who overdosed on heroin, but she’s alive and well and living with your awful stepfather near Phoenix.

One night, after nearly six months of dating, you and Gina are eating at a small Italian restaurant. She eats lasagna; you eat gnocchi.

“Do you realize it’s been nearly six months?” you say.

Gina looks up from her lasagna. “What has?”

“Us. Our relationship.”

She drops her eyes to her plate.

“What’s wrong?” you say.

“Nothing.” She grabs your hand. She washes her hands too much and they’re always rough. “Nothing’s wrong. It’s incredible, actually. I used to dread anniversaries.”

“You did?”

“Everything becomes so loaded,” Gina says. “Every action, every word. Suddenly fun isn’t enough. Things have to be going somewhere. But nobody’s honest about their feelings, so you just end up lying to each other. I love that we don’t have to do that. You know?”

You sip Chianti. “I guess.”

“I’m glad that we’re on the same page,” she says. “I really like you.”

“I really like you too.”

“I don’t love you though. Not yet, at least.” She takes a deep breath. “I’ve never said that before. It’s so freeing. You should try it.”

She stares at you, waiting.

“I don’t love you too,” you say eventually.

Brett Jackson lives in San Francisco, and is currently at work on a novel. This is his first published story.