The Dancer

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Chapter 16

“So, you don’t want to try this anymore?” Advik asked, and I nodded my head. He let out a sigh right after, and the room went silent after that. We were in his room sitting beside each other on his bed. I tried my best to keep my distance from him, not wanting to do anything that would confuse him or me. It was over. It had to be.

“It’s that guy at your work, isn’t it?” Advik asked, and my shoulders fell. He took in a deep breath, and I heard rustling from his side of the bed. I still tried my best not to look at him and fixed my eyes on my feet instead.

“It is,” he said, answering the question he had directed at me before pulling his legs up and folded them on the bed. “I guess it makes sense. It’s kind of selfish to ask you to go at my pace,” he added. I looked at him from the corner of my eyes, observing his composure and facial expression. He was taking this well, but you could see that he was having a hard time with it if you looked just behind the facade he was putting up.

“Well,” he started, turning to look at me. “Does this mean we’re not going to talk to each other again? Is that it?”

I shook my head, adjusting my sitting position on the bed as I played with my fingers and tried to calm my nerves. “No,” I said in a low voice before looking back at him. “We can still be friends like before... Before...” All this madness happened. I added the last part in my head, not wanting to remind him why things were so awkward and stiff between us now. If I had just kept my feelings to myself, maybe I would still be Advik’s close friend and I’d be laughing about my crush privately since I had no doubt that sooner or later I would have come to like George.

“Yeah,” Advik said, shrugging before putting on a small smile on his face. The smile fell off soon after. It looked like playing along like he was fine with all this was wearing him out. I got it. I understood how it felt, but I couldn’t bring myself to say anything about it. He needed time to digest it on his own. “I’d like that. I miss being friends,” he muttered, saying the last word with a low tone like he wasn’t sure of it.

in the silence of his room, I got into my head, remembering when we’d just hang out and play video games -- remembering how I slowly fell from him. It was odd how distant that memory and feeling felt now. Just months ago, I was a mess and unable to get over him, and right now I didn’t feel anything for him at all.

“Do you want to play Mario cart, or do you have somewhere to me?” Advik asked, bringing me out of my mind. I blinked as my lower jaw hung low in brief shock as I process what he had asked. Did he read my mind? My expression changed — I smiled. His reaction was a relief.

“No, I don’t have to be somewhere, and sure, I can play Mario cart,” I answered, smiling at Advik who was staring at me with an expectant gaze. Advik smiled before getting out of bed to set up his Nintendo. He came back with Nintendo remotes, and he handed me one before flopping on the space beside me and sinking the mattress. We played the game and only talked about it and mundane things. What we’d discussed earlier was over and done with. Advik understood, and I was glad I had been upfront with him.

I had dinner with Advik and his friends that night. Most of them remembered me from the party, and a lot of them were friendly to me. Of course, that didn’t mean they’ll befriend me just because they were friends with Advik. After what happened with Harry and the rest I wasn’t much of a friend group person anyway but being able to interact with people without being a mess of nerves was a nice change of pace. I’ve started speaking up in my GSA meetings and I was planning to meet up with the school counselor.

Advik and his friends left me in the elevator when the lift stopped at their floor. I small chuckle left my lips when the doors closed, and the elevator kept moving up. I don’t know, I was happy. The past few hours were surreal for me. kind of uncanny valley. I’ve been living on the edge of my mind for almost a year that just casually having dinner and not having anything to worry about felt weird.

When the elevator stopped on my floor I got out. No one was in the lounge, and I was guessing they went out for drinks. When I moved into the room I now share with Austin I’d avoided my floormates. I didn’t come for meetings, and I didn’t say anything on the group chats or RA put together. I didn’t talk to them, and they didn’t try talking to me anymore as time went by. Everyone was friends with everyone. Everyone excluding me.

Things will change. I said in my head, looking longingly at the couches before I walked over to the hallway that led to my room. The year was half over, but it wouldn’t hurt to socialize now.

When I opened the door to my room and walked inside I noticed all but Austin’s study light was on. I reached for the light switch of the room’s fluorescence light, tripping in on before I dropped my bed and took my feet out of my shoes. I looked over at Austin. he was staring blankly at his computer with his features twisted in a partly horrified look. The bridge of his nose was wrinkled, and his thick brows were drawn together in a frown.

“Hey,” I said, watching as he turned to look at me with wide eyes. He probably didn’t hear me come in. “Is something wrong...?” I asked, getting a little worried when he didn’t greet me back. He didn’t answer me. He just looked at his computer screen as a low sigh left his lips. He looked worried about something. I wondered what.

I took his silence as an indication that he didn’t feel like talking. I looked away, bending to tuck my socks into my shoes before I changed clothes and sat at the edge of my bed. The room was quiet — too quiet, and I almost gave in to asking Austin what was wrong.

“Have you looked at the school forums?” Austin asked, making me raise my head up.

“What?” I asked, a little confused as Austin moved with his seat, making the chair wobble as he turned with it so that he could face me.

“The school’s forums. Did you see what’s on the LGBT+ channel?” I just stared blankly at Austin before I looked away and shook my head. Him muttering ‘shit’ in a low tone made me look back at him again. He had his hand in his hair, scratching within the small afro top as his eyes moved from me to his computer screen, and then back to his screen again.

“Well, I think you’ll be interested...” Austin trailed, and I just nodded. He gave me a small smile — sad looking. He then turned back to face his computer, leaving me to dwell on my curiosity. I took out my phone and opened the school’s forums on the web. I didn’t go there much. Firstly, because it was a chunky website with zero user-friendliness, and secondly because I didn’t have the courage to join conversations or really do anything worthwhile.

━━━━━━━━

FckAllOfYou posted:

You all are too nice to trannies in this college.

Five minutes ago.

━━━━━━━━

FckAllOfYou posted:

You’re all just a bunch of fucking diversity quotas. Half of you are too in and out of surgery to have time for shit but you still get opportunities thrown at you.

Five minutes ago.

━━━━━━━━

FckAllOfYou posted:

Fucking trannies messing up shit for the rest of us.

Six minutes ago.

━━━━━━━━

FckAllOfYou posted:

You keep telling people to respect the way you are when you can’t even accept what you were born as. Stupid fucks.

Six minutes ago.

━━━━━━━━

The messages on the school’s LGBT+ channel in our school’s social media platform made blood drain from my face. My cheeks went hallow when I sucked them in, and I tried my best not to get up from bed and pace around. The posts didn’t seem to end. They were seconds apart, some being five minutes apart because of spam block. A handful people were having an angry back and forth with the troll. It was messy, and I couldn’t help but notice only a few none trans people were engaging with them. It’s like everyone on the forum was just watching from the distance, and I even saw a few upvotes on the troll posts. I’m not sure why I was surprised. There was transphobia even within the community. It wasn’t new.

The troll account only got deleted when two trans people got into a verbally abusive fight within the reply threads.

I refreshed the page one last time, staring at it and seeing for myself that all the posts were gone now.

The blood was drained from my face. Not because of the comments — I’ve had worse directed at me. I felt numb and nervous because I had a suspicion about who it was. Maybe I was unfairly passing judgment in my mind, but it looked like something Grace would do. Being snarky and offensive was her way of holding on to control when she felt it slipping away from her hands. She’d said similar things to me — worded more violently — worse in every comparison. These comments were only scratching the surface.

With a deep breath, I rested back, falling into the mattress and looking up at the ceiling after putting my phone aside. I had gotten message notifications from Advik but I didn’t feel like talking right now. I was worried. I just hoped she stuck to trolling and words. If she decided to hurt me, Advik or God forbid George. I had no idea what I’d do.

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