The Dancer

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Chapter 1

The next day I was a bit on edge. I kept looking over my shoulder and jumping whenever someone touched my shoulder. It was just a message on ask, it’s not like they’re going to your school. I said to myself, trying to calm myself down, but it didn’t work.

“What’s up, man?” With a string of apologies, I backed away from the equipment I was supposed to be arranging. George, one of my coworkers was giving me a worried look. I had been spacing out since I got to the shop, and that had caused me to drop things or annoy some customers because I wasn’t paying attention to them.

“Look, if you need a break, take it. I’ll cover for you,” George said as I covered my face with my hands. He had curly dark hair and big brown eyes that always made me feel guilty for being and nuisance. I needed the break. Lord did I need it, but I didn’t want to bother George. He was that kind of nice that would take something upon him even though it wasn’t in his best interest. He would probably play it off like it was no big deal, but I knew it was. I took my hands away from my face and stared straight at him before nodding after some hesitation.

George smiled, his thin lips curving upwards as he reached out to pat my shoulder. “Take care of yourself, okay?” he said, and I just nodded, watching as he left me for another employee. I worked at a small fitness store close to the university. We wore the ugly brown t-shirt as our uniform alone with a plastic name tag.

After a while of just standing by the shelf, I made my way to the back room. I hadn’t checked my phone since morning because I was afraid, but I thought I might as well check it out. I won’t let them know they’d affected me. After checking my messages, and answering a few questions, I felt better. My heart rate had returned to normal, and I was starting to see that I might have over thought things. There were no more passive-aggressive messages, and I just concluded that it was an isolated incident.

I came out from the back half an hour later, and George mouthed a question to me from across the room; “are you okay?” I nodded, and he gave me a smile, turning away as I returned to work. At the end of my shift, I left the store as usual. Most of the time I walked about the mall for a few minutes before heading home, and today wasn’t any different.

Looking at gift cards and picking up some cosmetics was part of my regime after work. I was doing this when I heard a familiar voice. A nut formed in my throat, and it felt like I had been doused with water. I didn’t want to look. I scolded myself, but I couldn’t help it. I turned and immediately spotted Advik at the corner with a group of his friends. He towered over them being the tallest, so I could watch his expressions from where I was standing.

My lips drew into a thin line when I realized a girl was holding on to him. He didn’t know I was looking. He just chatted with his friends as the girl held on to him.

I was jealous.

I was fuming inside, but the only thing I had to show for it was staring right at them. It’s not like I didn’t expect him to date. He had every right to. It’s not like he ever saw me that way. I had been the one to center myself and but into his private life, then I just had to spill how I felt that day for no reason whatsoever.

You really fucked up. I sighed, forcing myself to look away. I had to learn to forget about him. He seemed to be doing well when it came to forgetting that I existed. I hurried up, picking the right stuff before heading over to the self-checkout. I barely knew how to use the machine, but I’d take that over waiting in line with the possibility of him bumping into me.

I should try going on actual dates. I thought to myself as I walked out of the store. I had pretty much become a hermit after what happened with Advik. Meeting people and getting a social life back would be a step forward.

The mall was crowded today since it was Friday. I was just lucky I got out before things could really pick up over the weekend. I was eating from the bag of chips I had gotten from the store when my eyes went wide with shock, and I turned when my mind screamed ‘danger’ at me. My eyes watched as the girl in a neon green denim jacket walked past me. She hadn’t paused, she hadn’t reacted to me. But I had reacted to her.

Didn’t she notice me? I wondered, turning back before I continued walking. I wasn’t walking anymore, more of jogging. I just wanted to get out of the mall, and the reaching the exit was the only thing on my mind now. What is she even doing here? I panicked, muttering a few apologies as I bumped into people in my haste to leave the mall. What’s Grace doing here? The questions came one after the other, bombarding my mind and hazing it up. My breathing steadied once I made it out of the crowded mall. I held my chest, taking in deep breaths as I walked towards the bus stop.

What is she doing here? I wanted to shout ‘I don’t know’ to my own thoughts, but that wouldn’t help. I took a seat on the wooden bench in the areas before I covered my face as I tried to calm myself down. What is she doing here?

Grace was someone I knew from my high school days. Specifically, she was one of the people that made my life hell in the last few months of my stay. Her, Harris, Thomas, and Claudia. I liked to believe I would have shrugged off their bullying if I wasn’t going through something online as well. Being bullied in real life sucked, and I just had to be that shitty human being that transferred their hurt to other people online. When I realized what I was doing, I backed away from the toxic friendships I had made online and started my new account, but it seems I’ve been found out, and now it looks like people from real life were starting to make their entrance back into my life.

Can’t I get a break?

My mind wandered back to the brunette with the green jacket, wondering if my mind had been playing tricks on me. Of course, people looked alike. Maybe I was just panicking and seeing things, but the pointy nose, freckled face, and lip piercing made it really look like her. Maybe she didn’t notice me because I looked a lot different. I’m not sure.

Another sigh left my lips as I tried to rack my brain for answers. I had only seen the girl walk past me for a minute tops. Maybe I was just seeing things, but if I wasn’t what did that mean? Was she at my university? Was she at the nearby art institute? I started clapping my hands. It was an odd thing that I did when I was panicked. It made the people standing around give me odd looks, but I didn’t care. I got up from the bench when the bus arrived and managed to get through the ride without breaking down there.

When I got to my room Austin rose a brow at me, but he didn’t say anything as usual. I’m sure I looked panicked, and probably on the verge of a panic attack, but I was grateful he didn’t pry. He was studying, with his back turned to me as I headed for my bed. I took out my MacBook when I sat down before going to my university’s email address.

There was one way I could test if Grace was really within the same campus as me. If I searched for her surname on the ‘email to’ bar it might pop up. Everyone’s school email was usually just their surname attached to the school’s domain.

I typed in ‘Miller’ and so many variants of an email with the surname attached showed up. I sighed, forgetting that Miller was quite a common surname. I typed up a G before the Miller with no result, then a G after the Miller, and after a few times of contracting and expanding the name; GraceMiller@UDowin.com, GracieMiller@UDowin.com, MillerG@UDowin.com — MilllerGrace@UDowin.com came up as a verified email address.

My heart sunk.

She really was here.

I bit down on my lip, holding in the scream that was building up in my throat. I clicked on her email, hovering over the profile picture until I found a way to enlarge it and have a better look. It was her indeed. The blonde streaks in the brunet hair, the lip piercings. The freckles and the piercing blue eyes.

Grace Miller was here. She was probably in the music department. Now that I think about it, probably in the same classes at Advik. I was starting to get nervous.

I knew she was here, did she know I was here? Would she try to make my life a living hell again if she did?

The questions bounced back and forth in my mind, but I couldn’t answer them. I was helpless, I just had to hope she didn’t start anything.

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