I Enlisted a Pretend Partner for Our Family Meal – It Became the Most Rewarding Choice 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.