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Fabio vs. the Friend Zone

Fabio vs. the Friend Zone

by Kelsie Stelting

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Since when did Fabio not get the girl?


Fabio’s always been there for me. No matter what. Now I’m a senior, still dateless and never-been-kissed. 

But he doesn’t seem to mind. 

Me spending the summer away, teaching English in China doesn’t have to change our friendship. But his unrequited feelings for me might.


I’m named after the world’s most popular romance cover model, but I can’t get my best friend to fall in love with me. Video game binges and Harry Potter movie marathons might be fun, but to get out of the friend zone, I have to do something BIG.

Confessing my feelings for her in the airport terminal was not what I had planned. 

And from the look on Grace’s face, I don’t know if we’ll ever recover.

Can their friendship survive his true feelings and grow into something more? Or, for the first time in history, will Fabio not get the girl?

Start reading Fabio vs. the Friend Zone today for a story that will leave you smiling and believing in best friends to lovers. This young adult contemporary romance filled with pop culture and nostalgia will make you laugh out loud. Grab Kelsie Stelting's latest installment in The Pen Pal Romance Series today!

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Chapter One

I WAS NAMED after the most famous romance
cover model of all time, but I can’t get my best
friend to fall in love with me.

To be fair, it would help if she knew how I felt
about her, but that was beside the point. Today was
the day. Today, I would tell my best friend I’d
harbored a crush on her ever since she found me
crying underneath the stairwell and gave me a pack
of Hello Kitty travel tissues. And before you start
telling me that’s not very manly, I’ll just say
welcome to the twenty-first century. Masculinity is
about way more than flowing golden hair and thighs
thicker than tree trunks. At least, that’s what
Grandma told me. The one who named me after


I had my room all set up for Grace’s last night in
the United States. I’d dawdled around long enough,
and I had about twelve hours to tell her I loved her
before she left to China for a month. Yep. While
Grace went to China to teach young children
English and broaden their horizons, I’d be
here...playing video games. I couldn’t be too mad
about her leaving without looking like a selfish jerk.
Plus, I had a contest to train for. But I couldn’t
think about that when Grace was... I checked my
watch... eleven minutes from knocking on the door.

She always showed up on time.

Always showed up.

I adjusted the candy bars on top of the bowl full
of Twix so each of the labels faced up. They were
her favorite. Then, I fluffed the bowl of gummy
bears—if they sat in a pile too long, they stuck
together, and Grace didn’t like that. Then I used
the mashed potato...masher(?) to crunch up the ice
in our slushy punch. Grandpa threw the blender out
the window last week, so it was the best I could do.
I hoped Grace liked it.

Seven minutes.

I went to my dresser and edged open the top
drawer—the one with all my underwear. Right
against the front was my stack of notecards.

I like you. I have always liked you. I never really
thought about whether it was possible or not to fa! in love as a sixth-grader, but it doesn’t really matter because I did. Grandma says the best relationships form from friendships, and if that’s true, things wi! be great between us. Just give me a chance.

I didn’t know why I signed it. It was meant to
be a speech. But it just seemed right.

Even reading it in that awesome internal
narrator voice, the speech sounded lame. How
could I speak for hours on end while playing COD or HALO but not come up with a stinking note-
card-long speech? Usually, I’d ask Grace for help on
things like this, but... Well, you get the point.

Three minutes.

I scanned the card one more time before
shoving it below a pair of Star Wars underwear.
What? It was the one fandom thing I could wear without catching crap. Except they were under-
wear, so...

Moving on.

Two minutes.

Why was I so sweaty?

Deodorant. That was a good idea.

I pulled open my desk drawer and rubbed some
under my pits. I smelled them, just in case. Blue
Mountain. Whatever the heck that was. It was
better than BO.

One minute.

I looked out the window. Her cute little hybrid
car pulled along the sidewalk.

She was here. Holy mother of Obi Wan, she was

I fluffed the soft blanket on my futon she always
liked to run her hands over and sprinted to the
living room.

Grandma sat in front of the blaring TV with her
nose in a book. Grandpa had just finished yelling
something at the screen. He always gave the best
commentary on power chair commercials.

Grandma didn’t look up from her book, but she
said, “Grace here?”

“In three, two...”

Three knocks sounded on the door—two fast,
one slow. Our secret knock for movie nights.

Way back in eighth grade, we came up with a
secret code so we would know what the visits were
for. Four years later, and it kinda stuck.

I jogged over to the door and pulled it open.
Even though I’d barely gone a few steps, I was out
of breath. Perks of being a nervous gamer.

Grace held up a McDonald’s bag with grease
soaking through the bottom. Who needed popcorn when you had French fries? We’d decided a long
time ago that popcorn got stuck in the back of your
throat and was way overrated. French fries were a
movie night staple now.

I took the bag from her and started walking
back toward my room.

Grace waved at Grandma and Grandpa. “Hi
Gramma, Gramps.”

Grandpa’s bushy eyebrows narrowed that tight,
furry line. “Still going to China?”

She nodded.

He frowned. “Communists.”

Grace laughed and hugged him. “I’ll be safe.”

He patted her arm. “Good girl.”

I watched them, insanely jealous. Of my
grandpa. He had more game than I did, and he was
grouchy and semi-racist ninety-nine percent of the
time. How did that work out?

Grandma put her book down and smiled at
Grace. “Gimme some sugar.”

Grace went to give her a hug too.
What was I? Just someone they kept around to
hold French fries? Oh. French fries. I opened the
bag to get one out, and Grace yelled, “Ah, ah ah!
Not until the movie starts! You know the rules.”

Begrudgingly, I shut the bag. I wasn’t in any

I had this plan. When we got to the part in the
movie where Ron finally quit being a baby and told
Hermione that he loved her, I’d pause it and do the
same. If Ron could do it, I could too. I just wished I
had a deluminator or something cool I could use to
tell her, but hey, Warr Acres High School wasn’t
exactly Hogwarts.

I checked my watch. My time was running out.
“The French fries are getting cold.”

Grace nodded, and Grandma’s book went up to
cover her face.

Grandpa pushed the volume button on the
remote so the sound came back on at full force. He
yelled at me, “See if you can talk any sense into

“Sure,” I yelled, even though I wanted to talk
sense out of her. This whole relationship thing? It
was crazy. Crazy enough it just might work. I

Grace and I walked back to my room, and her
eyes widened at the spread. “How many Twixes are

“Forty-seven.” She knew I’d counted.
She grinned. “So, that means I get forty-six,

“And diabetes,” I added.

She laughed this cute laugh that sounded like a combination between a tiny sneeze and tinkling
glasses, and it sent my heart rattling around my
chest. I swallowed before my heart bounced its way
right out of my rib cage. That was possible, right?

Grace dropped onto my futon, pulled the throw
over her, and ran one hand over the soft material
while using my remote to start the DVD.

The second she pushed play, I opened up the
bag and took my half of the French fries. We each
got one large to ourselves.

Side note: Why are people always hating on
French fries? Potatoes were a vegetable, fried in
VEGETABLE oil. What’s the deal?

Grace took her fries and pulled her knees up to
her chest. The Harry Potter music started, and I
leaned back too. That was another rule we had. No being weird during movies, which included stand-
ing, pacing, texting, or other distracting activities while the film played. Fine by me.

Grace couldn’t see me watching her with her
eyes glued on the screen. At least, not if I was
careful to sneak side glances and wasn’t a total
creep about it. I liked it that way. It meant each
glance was special, showed me something different.

Glance one I might see her raven hair cascading
over her shoulder, shiny even without the sun
hitting it.

On another look, I might catch her lips pulled
to the side. Grace chewed on the inside of her
cheek a lot. Usually when the characters were doing
something stupid.

Or I might catch her dabbing at her mouth with
a napkin. Grace’s parents always made sure she
acted like a lady. She didn’t have to do that fancy
stuff around here, but some habits stuck.

Like the first person who finished their fries got
exactly three more fries from the other person’s
stash. She finished first and took hers all at once.

“Can you believe we’re the same age as they
are?” she asked.

“The actors were in their twenties when this
was filmed.”

She shoved my shoulder. “I meant in the story.”
“Oh. Yeah?”

She gestured at the TV. “Yeah, I mean, look at
them. They’re barely seventeen, and they’re already
carrying the weight of the wizarding world on their

Good thing she was in my house, because even I knew how lame that sounded. “Yeah, but Dumbledore basically trained them that way.”

She sipped on some of the slush punch, mulling
it over. I knew, because she was making her
mulling face. The one with the left corner of her mouth all pinched. “How do you get ready for your

I glanced at the ceiling. “Um. Read a million
books. Like you.”

She laughed through her nose, but it wasn’t
totally happy. I didn’t know why. Didn’t know how
to figure it out.

I handed her a green gummy bear. Her favorite.
She pinched its head and pulled.

I ate the bottom half, and she ate the top half,
and things were normal. At least, for now.

I glanced at my watch. Twelve minutes until the

My breathing got all heavy, and my heart
pounded. I had to be sweating through Blue

Grace looked at me. “Want me to get your

I shook my head. I couldn’t pull off the whole
Kevin James in Hitch move. Nothing was sexy about
an inhaler.

I checked my watch. Nine minutes.
Was there a way to put on more deodorant
without arousing suspicion?

Probs not.

Eight minutes.

If I made it that long.

I went over the speech again in my mind.

Six minutes.

If I made it that long without disintegrating
into a pile of sweat and pubic hair, it would be a


I wiped my forehead. Pretended to go turn up
the AC.

Put on more deodorant.



This was it.

I paused, right on Ron’s shameful face and
looked at Grace. “Grace, I have to—”

“Pee?” She snapped to her feet, sending Twix
wrappers and all my chances of telling her how I
really feel to a pile of garbage on the floor. “Not if I
get there first!”

Grace darted away, toward the only bathroom in
the apartment, and I chased after her. She got there
first—of course she did—and I waited outside the
door. I was half tempted to tell her. Spilling my guts
while she spilled her urine wasn’t exactly romantic
though. I’d waited too long not to have this
moment be perfect.

The problem with perfect moments? They
never came.

After Ron came out to Hermione, there was
just a bunch of bloodshed. Grace closed her eyes
through most of the fight scenes. Definitely not the
right time.

After the movie, Grace leaned back on the
futon, hugging her gut. “Why did you let me eat
thirty Twixes?”

I looked around at the wrappers on the floor,
then the bowl. “You maybe got twenty-five.”
She dropped to the side, burying her face in a
pillow and groaning.

I groaned back. “Mmmm-mmm-mmmm-

Grace laughed that perfect waterfall laugh

Her phone rang, and she answered. Someone
started talking so loudly on the other end, it had to
be her mom. Mrs. Chu still didn’t understand how
phones carried sound. And to be fair, most of us
didn’t. We just didn’t yell into the mouthpiece.

But I digress.

Grace said something in Chinese. Goodbye. I at
least knew that word.

She hung up the phone and sighed. “I can’t
believe I’m leaving tomorrow.”

“I can.” I’d been dreading the day for months.
She hit my arm.

“What?” I said.

She rolled her eyes like she didn’t get it. “You’re
coming to the airport with us, right?”

I nodded. But that wasn’t important. My best
friend—nay, the love of my life—was leaving for
China. China. And if what Grandpa said was
anywhere close to the truth, this could be my last
chance to tell her how I felt.

Man, my pits were sweating again.

Where was that deodorant?

“Well.” Grace stood up and brushed salt crumbs
off her sweatpants. “Mom was asking if I was on my
way. I better get going?”

Nowhere in my carefully laid plans had a curfew
come into play. I’d prepped for tornadoes, a surprise
outbreak of yellow fever, a Russian raid, and even
explosive diarrhea (hey, it happens). But Mrs. Chu
was an even stronger force to be reckoned with.

Was I using that phrase right?

Either way. Grace was giving me a hug and
walking out the door with the rest of the Twix.
And she still didn’t know how I felt.

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About Kelsie Stelting

Hi! My name is Kelsie Stelting. I'm an author of relatable, heartfelt teen romance. Growing up, I always wanted to read books about girls like me. Girls who felt insecure sometimes, who tried their hardest, who sometimes failed and found a way to get back up every time they fell down.

Since I couldn't find those books... I wrote them.

Since publishing my first book in 2016, I've written and released more than twenty books, including my flagship series, The Curvy Girl Club. 

When you read these books through my website, you get a great deal and stories you can read in your preferred format and your preferred devices. You're also supporting my small business that supports myself, my husband, and our three children.

I appreciate you supporting my work and immersing yourself in these books! <3