The Dancer

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Chapter 21

I left George’s place a little late on Monday. There was a bit of rain, and the buses were late, so I had to run a bit when I got to campus. I had to borrow George’s clothes because I knew I wouldn’t be able to head to my residence building first without missing my first class. I probably looked stupid in his slightly big clothes — a worn out sweater that had hands that were too big for me, so I made sweater mittens, and his ‘skinny’ jeans that were baggy on me. I looked stupid, but I felt nice wearing them. I was wearing George’s clothes — I was wearing my boyfriend’s clothes. Knowing me, it was a fact that my face was a bright red tomato throughout the day. My mood was great, and I was a lot friendlier even though I started my school day with my lecturer making a fuzz about be being late. It scared some of my mates and had people smiling and interacting with me more.

I noticed that Grace didn’t come to school today again. She was nowhere on campus. I asked around her department building when my lectures were over for the day, hoping that I would get some sort of information. It was early in the evening and the weather was starting to drop a bit. fifty-seven degrees Fahrenheit. That’s fourteen degrees Celsius for everyone else in the world.

“Grace Miller? She hasn’t been to lectures for over a week,” the dark-skinned girl in round-framed glasses told me as she continued to tune her violin. The hall was noisy, but I heard her perfectly.

I mouthed a low sigh as I came to another dead end. Grace wasn’t picking my calls or answering my texts, she wasn’t in school, and no one in her department so far knew where she was. If I didn’t see the green dot on her messenger saying she was online and not just responding, I would be a lot more worried than I already was. “Okay, thanks,” I bit my bottom lip, running a hand through my hair as wondered what the hell Grace was up to. Advik was at the far end corner of the hall. I wanted to ask him if he had seen her around, but things were so awkward between us now, and I didn’t want to risk him getting worried about me because if Grace.

The music department was busy today. Most students were preparing performances for our school’s annual Halloween party, so I could slip away in the crowd without Advik noticing me from his seat in the far back of the music hall I had come to ask about Grace in. I left the building, having lunch as I talked to George, Grey, and my dance mates on my phone. I had dance practice tomorrow, and I have been added to the group chat with the other selected dancers. We were getting along well so far, and I was starting to wonder why I never really talked to anyone on my team before.

I picked up my back and left the cafeteria before going down the stairs and stepping into the cool evening. I made it to the residence building soon after and made a beeline for the elevators. When I got to my floor I made my way to the hallway that had my room in it. The floor lounge was empty, but I noticed the paper lamps and bat stickers that were plastered on the teal green walls. Our floor RAs must have put them up. Walking through the hallway, I noticed people had already started putting up Halloween decorations on their doors. It looked great, and I made a mental note to ask Austin if he was up for decorating our room and door.

When I unlocked the door and walked in I didn’t expect to see Austin and Advik casually sitting on Austin’s bed as they talked. The two looked over at me when I let out a surprised gasp. I stared right back at them, looking down at my feet when Advik’s gaze became a little bit intense. When did he get here? I swear I saw him in the practice hall an hour or so ago. I said in my head. Of course, I spent some time having lunch, and that was when he got here, but I felt so distressed by his presence that the logical answer didn’t click for a while.

“So—” I paused biting my bottom lip. What I wanted to say was stupid, so I stopped myself from saying it. I didn’t know Austin and Advik were friends, but it made sense, they were both in the same major and department. If Austin wanted to have a friend over, so be it. “I’ll just head over to the side of my room,” I mumbled, trying not to look over at them as I made my way to my bed. They started talking in whispers, and I listened in (although I wasn’t trying to) as Austin’s voice got a little higher. It seemed like they were having a small argument.

My eyes turned towards Austin’s ben when I heard someone get up and start to walk around the room. It was Advik. He was putting his shoes on. Austin came down from his bed too, but he just stood on the sidelines with his hands folded as he watched Advik get ready to leave. When he was done buttoning up his sweater he looked over at me, making my eyes go wide in shock as I looked away and rubbed the back of my neck.

“It’s not what you think.” I heard his voice say, and it was soon followed by the slamming of the bedroom door. I looked up at the now closed door, a bit shaken by his behavior. Why did he act like that? I wondered, frowning as Austin sighed from his corner of the room.

“Advik’s an idiot,” Austin scoffed, making me blink as I tried to piece together what had happened. “He still likes you,” Austin said rolling his eyes before walking over to his bed and flopping on it. He was then lying on his back as he stared up at the ceiling with his deep brown eyes. I could only sit there and looked shocked. Yes, I guess I expected Advik to still like me to some extent, but it was still shocking. I felt guilty about things not working out.

I don’t know.

“He thought you seeing us talking would give you the wrong idea,” Austin continued to explain, and I just sat on my bed and took it all in.

“Wait, did Advik think seeing you with him would make me think you two are dating?” I asked, and Austin groaned, cursing under his breath.

“I just said that.” Austin clenched his hands as his jaw tightened. It looked like he was having a rough time, and I couldn’t pinpoint why.

I was still in George’s clothes since I had felt uncomfortable changing with Advik in the room. I would usually back up against a corner of the wall and quickly swap clothes, but now I didn’t feel like doing that even though Advik was gone; I just wanted to listen to Austin keep talking.

Austin sighed again. “Sorry for yelling,” he mumbled. “I’m just—” he paused, shrugging before he covered his eyes with his hand. His brown curly hair was a mess — like he had been doing that pulling thing he did when he was frustrated. It also looked like he was shaking a bit, and I couldn’t help but notice that he kept cursing under his breath.

“Frustrated?” I asked, taking off my sneakers and pulling my feet up on my bed before hugging myself. The weather was chilly since Austin left the windows open, and the natural light from coming from the windows was a little dim because it had rained earlier in the day.

“Yeah, that sums it up I think...” he trailed, moving his tongue inside his mouth and poking at his cheek. “This whole situation is frustrating.”

Do you—” I started before pausing. I kept eye contact with Austin, and we looked at each other until I found the courage to ask what was on my mind.

“Do you like Advik?”

The room went quiet, and Austin just stared at me. I couldn’t really tell if he was blushing, he had dark skin after all, but the way his eyes moved away from me and the way he began to stutter under his breath told me everything I needed to know.

So, Austin liked Advik.

“I’m sorry,” I said, making Austin look over at me as I played with my fingers.

“What are you sorry about?” He smiled, sitting up on his bed. His smile looked forced like he was trying not to seem like a sore loser. “He like you. It’s not your fault,” he said before letting out a low sigh.

“He’s on our school’s LGBT+ forums now, did you notice?” he asked, and I just blinked. I didn’t really go there a lot, and the last time I was on there was when the transphobe drama happened. “He’s no longer posting as anonymous, so I guess he came out — he came out,” Austin repeated the last part of his sentence like a solidification of the fact. I licked my lips, hugging myself as I watched Austin. His expressions were hard to read. They kept shifting from angry, pleased, and worried.

“But, what is he?” the question felt strange in my mouth. When Advik and I had tried to work it out Advik was still confused. He didn’t think he was gay, and I honestly don’t think he is either. He dated and slept girls a lot when we were friends, and he seemed to enjoy doing it. Per his words, I was the first guy he liked, and he still didn’t think I was ‘really a guy’ – well, that’s the sense I made of all the blubbering he did whenever we talked.

“Not straight,” Austin with a shrug.

“What?”

’He’s not straight. He doesn’t have a label, but he knows he’s not straight,” Austin said more to himself than me, and I just looked at him before letting out a small ‘oh.’ The atmosphere was getting tenser, and I felt like I wasn’t supposed to talk. Austin wanted to get the insecurities he had off his chest. I should just listen as he listens to me when I have my own problems to share.

“That’s good enough, right?” Austin asked, making me raise a brow at him. He pulled his red blanket that was covering his bed, pulling it over himself so that only his head was visible. “At least he knows he’s not straight, that’s enough for me to hope he might like me back,” Austin said and I just heaved, looking down at my pillow.

The wind rattled the bead curtains Austin had put up about a week ago. He was like that. He would buy odd decorations at the dollar store and plaster them around, not really asking me if I liked them or not. I didn’t mind. He had a design eye, and I didn’t. Left to me all the walls would be bare and the tiny flow pots living on our window stills would be dead by now.

Speaking of decorations—

Halloween decorations.

That’s right. I had to remember to ask about those.

“What do you think of decorating for Halloween?” I asked, breaking the silence. Austin looked up, his sad eyes brightening up as he grinned.

“I was going to shop for decor tomorrow evening, do you want to come?” he asked. His smile was contagious, and soon I was grinning from ear to ear like him. I nodded, and he looked away, going on about the things we had to pick up tomorrow and what bus we had to take to get there on time — the discussion about Advik and his sexuality completely abandoned.

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