“You’re trying to start dating again?” George asked, and I nodded. fiddling with my phone. I had just set up a dating profile, and I was tweaking my bio. I haven’t dated in a while — since high school, and since my paranoia has crippled me into being antisocial online dating seemed like the only way I could really get back into it.
“Is it odd?”
“Odd that what?” George asked, picking at his pasta with his fork. I shrugged, smiling a bit as I looked around us. We were having our break from work, and I had gone out to grab something to eat with George in the mall’s cafeteria.
“Odd that I think I might get a good relationship out of a dating website?” I asked, and George paused turning his fork in his food before looking out into the open space thoughtfully.
“I mean, people do start dating from dating websites, so that’s possible I guess. I think I’m just surprised because you’ve mentioned liking someone back in school before,” George said, turning to stare straight at me. “Plus, Tinder’s more of a hookup site. If you’re looking for a relationship maybe try plenty of fish.”
“Hookups don’t sound that bad,” I muttered, looking up from my phone to find George’s face bright red. I laughed, watching as he covered his face. “Did I say something wrong? Come on, you’re not two,” I laughed at him, and he let go of his face before rolling his eyes.
“Also, the person I like doesn’t like me back, so that’s that I guess,” I let out when my laughter died down. For a while, I almost hoped George didn’t hear me, but I knew he did. It was awkward because I knew he was going to apologize or say something cheesy about Advik missing a chance with me.
“Well...” George trailed, making me look up at him. “I’m sure he’s not that great anyway,” he said, and I smiled. It kind of hurt to smile, but I had to. I still liked Advik, but he was dating someone now, and Grace was probably feeding him lies about me, so he’d think I was grosser than I had come off when I had tried to kiss him that evening.
“Thanks,” I muttered, and George shrugged before muttering a small ‘no problem’ under his breath.
We ate in silence, but I soon found myself overthinking things. I started worrying about what Grace might have told Advik even though I’d tried to trick myself into believing that I didn’t care anymore.
I still cared. I cared a whole lot, and it made me both sad and angry with myself.
“Hey, are you listening to me?” I blinked, looking up to find George giving me an amused look.
“S-sorry,” I stuttered, sitting up on the cafeteria chair.
George shrugged, resting his head on his hand as he kept staring at me with a small smile. “It’s alright, it looks like you have a lot on your mind,” he said. I nodded, fidgeting with my fingers. I hadn’t touched my plate of chips since I got here. They were probably cold now, and our break was about to end.
“Do you...” George trailed, making me look up at him again. He bit down on his bottom lip before making to run a hand through his brown locks. “Do you want to talk about it?” he asked, adjusting on his seat. He looked nervous like he wasn’t sure if it was okay to ask about it. I just stared at him before staring down at my food and sighing.
“I don’t know,” I answered honestly. The past few days had been a blur. Grace was just taunting me by existing and staying extra close to Advik. I didn’t have anything to hide from him, but Grace was a professional liar, and she could just make things up so that she would hurt me — or worse still, if Advik didn’t play along she might hurt him.
“Okay,” George said as my lips made themselves into a thin line.
“Actually, I think I want to talk about it,” I said changing my mind. George was a nice person, and I knew he was worried about me. George’s brown eyes went wide as he sat up to stare straight at me. “I’m getting harassed,” I admitted. I had wanted to say bullied but harassed seemed more fitting.
“It’s, it’s not that bad...” I muttered when I saw George’s face fall like he had been the one that got hurt. He was making me feel nervous, and I wasn’t sure what else to say so I just stared down at my hands that I had curled into fists.
“Are you sure?” George’s voice made me look up at him. His shocked look was gone, and now his eyes were glancing at me like he was trying to find something. “Did they hurt you?”
“What? No!” I wasn’t sure why I was being defensive, but the fact that he assumed that I might have got hit made me nervous, maybe because it was true. I could still remember grace hitting me back in high school, but that was high school, and I was just overreacting to her emotional taunting now.
“I’m sorry. I was just—” George trailed, pausing before letting out a sigh. He didn’t touch his food anymore and had pushed it aside when we started talking. “Is there any way I can help? Is it a teacher or...?”
“It’s another student,” I said, biting my bottom lip. “We used to know each other when I was in high school, and she was a pain in the neck,” I said, before pausing before I said too much. George just played with his fingers as he stared at me. After a while, he looked away before biting down on his bottom lip. He looked like he was trying his best to figure something out. I smiled, he was really kind.
“Does she live in the same residence building as you?” he asked, and cocked my head to the side, frowning a bit when I realized that I, in fact, didn’t know.
“I actually, don’t know,” I admitted, sitting up. I went to class, then dance practice, then I spent most of my free time on my phone in my room. I didn’t even use the cafe in the residence building.
“Are you sure she doesn’t know where you live?” George asked, and I shrugged. I wasn’t sure. I wouldn’t put it past Grace to figure it out, but I had a roommate, and she had a habit of pretending like she was a decent person around her non-targets. As long I was with my roommate, I doubted she would do anything crazy, like come up to my room to bother me.
“Gosh, you should try and stay safe,” George said, and I chuckled a bit, making his eyes go wide.
“Why are you laughing?” he asked with a small frown.
“Gosh,” I repeated in his odd accent, and he chuckled as well.
“I watched too much Winnie the Pooh as a kid, okay?” he laughed, and I shook my head, looking down at my food before pushing it aside. That was enough for today. I didn’t have much of an appetite — not like I’ve really had an appetite since Grace got here.
“I think she’s planning something,” I said, watching as Georges smile disappeared and he was giving me full attention again. That was the way he was, making sure that everyone felt like they were truly being listened to. I guess that’s why he did well in retail.
“If you ever need anything, you know you can ask me, right?” George asked, and I just stared at him. “Like, if you ever need to move or something,” he said, and our tale went quiet for a bit.
“Oh, okay,” I finally replied, and we both looked towards my phone that was sitting on the table when it buzzed. I picked it up, unlocking the screen before going through my Tumblr notifications. I felt my throat clog up when I came across the top message from an anonymous poster.
Hey, why didn’t you answer me? I’m starting to think you ignored my ask.
‘I answer all asks’ it’s right there in your bio. You’re a lair like you’ve always been.
I found another one that was worded like it was from the same person after scrolling through genuine messages for a bit.
If you don’t answer me, things are going to turn to shit.
My mind foggy now. What did they want me to do? Answer their stupid question so that I’ll post drama on my dashboard? I couldn’t handle that. I switched accounts to start afresh, not feed fires to some toxic drama I bailed out from. I was starting to wonder what exactly the person’s motivation to harass me was, but it was hard to figure out since I didn’t know who they were.
“Is something wrong?” George’s question made me realize that I was frowning and shaking a bit. I tightened my grip on my phone so that I didn’t stop it.
“I’m fine,” I lied through my teeth. My voice was shaky, so it was obvious to George that I was lying. I didn’t want to sit there and look at his brown eye boring me with worry, so I got up from my seat before picking up my tray. “We should go, we only have like five minutes till our shifts start again,” I said in a breathy voice. I was struggling to breathe for some reason. I had really thought the anonymous thing was a random one-time troll. It doesn’t seem to be the case.
George got up from his sit as well and picked up his tray. He followed me to drop it off before we both headed back to the tech store. I was in the storage room staring down at my hands. I clenched and unclenched them, trying to will them to stop shaking, but it didn’t help.
“You should rest. I’ll cover for you,” I heard George say in a small whisper when he came up behind me. He gave my shoulder a small squeeze before backing away.
“Thanks,” I mumbled, turning to look at me.
“Take your time,” he said, giving me a small smile before leaving the storage room. I was alone inside by myself soon. And when I was sure no one else was going to walk in I slipped down to the ground and took out my phone. I had to find some answers to who the Anonymous asks were coming from. My head was heavy, and I was paranoid. If I didn’t find some answers before Wednesday I’ll mess up my dance recital, and I already had my teacher breathing down my neck for taking time off to see my doctor.