The Dancer

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Chapter 4

“If she breaths, she’s a thot.” People laughed at someone’s ‘joke’ and I cringed a little inside. I’ve never really liked that — sexist jokes, that is. It was unnerving, and I’ve noticed that since it was generally accepted that I was ‘one of the boys’ I got to overhear things like this more often.

It was Saturday evening and I was trying to calm myself down by exercising in the resident’s main gym. It was a small place, but most of the physical health students spent a good bunch of their time there. A small smile graced my lips when I remembered how Xander would follow me here and just watch me. He never exercised, nope. And when I’d asked about it he’d said ‘over my dead body’ or something along that line. My smile turned upside down when the reality that we weren’t friends anymore dawned on me. Xander was probably in the apartment he shared with Maxwell doing something mundane like watching T.V. or something. Everything has been going to shit recently, and my mind was just about with being tasked to process it all. Advik. Grace. The anonymous messages. My dance recital coordinator. Everything.

“You’re a great dancer,” she had told me this afternoon. Miss Bethany had given me a worried look, “but if you don’t start attending practice regularly, I’m sorry but I’ll have to cut you out of the school’s team. We can’t be carrying around a handicap when there are many students who want to join us.”

“Handicap,” I repeated to myself under my breath as I stared down at the machine track I was currently running on. She had called me a handicap. I wanted to be mad, but it was true. Having a member that wasn’t there five times out of ten was like not having them at all. I tried my best to keep up by asking people to help me learn the moves outside of dance practice, but you could say everyone was tired of me, and it was odd approaching people for favors when they weren’t my friends. I had to figure this out on my own, and it was a little scary.

My college had a GSA, and a handful of helpful LGBT+ groups. I had been a part of a few when I first got here, but a while after Advik had spoken to me that night I really didn’t want to go out and socialize or do anything. And just like that, I stopped going to meetups and the like. I could still talk to a school counselor, but did I really want to sit in a quiet room while someone probed me with questions that made me uncomfortable.

“Hey.” I kept running on the treadmill, wondering if someone had taken the one beside me.

“Hey,” the person repeated, and it was then it occurred to me that they might be talking to me. I slowed my treadmill down so that I was now walking. I looked to my side, and my eyes went wide when I saw Advik standing on the treadmill beside me. He hadn’t started his and was just watching me. I opened my mouth not knowing what to say but closed it before looking forward, staring into the gym.

Why is he talking to me? I wondered, feeling a bit nervous. He’d been the one cut our friendship off. He had told me not to approach or talk to him. Why was he talking to me now? Did something happen?

“Ollie,” he called, but I just grimaced and restrained myself from turning. I wasn’t going to say anything back from him. I was going to get over him and that was final. “Ollie, I just want to talk,” he said, and I shook my head, reaching out to increase the speed of my treadmill so that I was jogging again. Was he really going to make me listen to him? Gosh, I wish I had brought my headphones.

“You’re going to ignore me, aren’t you?” he said, and I turned a bit to face him. He looked a little under the weather. He was wearing grey joggers and a purple jumper. I looked away before I started to feel guilty. I had to stand my ground. Why would I let him interact with me like he pleased if he didn’t want me to do the same with me?

I heard him let out a dry chuckle before he sighed. “I wanted to ask about Grace. You’ve known her since high school, right?” When I didn’t say anything in response Advik kept talking. “Did you guys use to date?”

“Why do you care?” And just like that, I broke the promise to myself about not talking back to him. I looked at Advik from the corner of my eyes. He looked stunned and had almost tripped on the treadmill because he stopped running. He was running on it again, and it took a while for him to turn to look at me again.

“I...” he trailed, biting down on his lip as he looked ahead in front of him. “I really don’t know why I care. I just wanted to find out.” I sighed, looking away from him. There was a painful frown on my face now, and I was seriously contemplating getting off from my treadmill and leaving the gym. You don’t know why you care? I asked in my mind. A frown formed on my face as I closed my eyes before opening them again and shaking my head. I wasn’t going to let him affect me.

“You won’t answer me?”

“I thought you said we should stop talking to each other?” I said, ignoring his question. My voice was snarky and laced with venom. It was clear I was hurt. I was He seemed shocked by my response. He looked away and continued to run his treadmill. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want him to think I was dating Grace, but why did he need to know if I did in high school? Why was he being nosey? He should figure it out by himself.

“Yeah, I did say that,” he said, speaking up. “I was angry that evening. I didn’t know you would follow it through. I’m sorry.”

“If it was a mistake you could have just come up to me and told me you didn’t mean it,” I said. I was trying to relax, but the frown on my face was refusing to budge, and my grip on the treadmill handles was tight. I thought when I got an apology that I would probably burst into tears and throw myself at him, but that wasn’t the case. I was just—

Angry.

“You think I’m lying about that?”

“I know you’re lying, and if you’re not then you’re just a shitty person.” I wasn’t sure where the courage to say all this was coming from, but my mouth was running off now, and I didn’t have any plans to restrain myself from getting my anger out. So he talked to me like I was poop under his shoe and he just expected me to be buddy buddy with him just because he wanted to talk to me again.

Advik didn’t say anything about that. He just bit the inside of his cheek before letting go of one handle and pushing his dark hair back. “You don’t mean that. You’re just angry. I get it.”

“I do mean what I’m saying,” I answered. We both stayed quiet after that. And the noise from the other dudes at the gym, and the sound of work out machines made me feel anxious and nervous. I started to wonder what exactly what Advik was thinking, and I started to wonder why Advik was talking to me again. It had something to do with Grace, I know that, but what did she say to get him so riled up to talk to me? I’m sure her telling him that we were dating back then (which was a lie) wasn’t enough.

Is he jealous? And just as quickly as I had thought of that, I rejected the idea. He was dating someone right now, that couldn’t be it. Plus, he had called me disgusting that day. The memory made me feel nauseous, and it was enough to make me stop the treadmill and get off. Advik stopped his treadmill when he realized I was packing up to leave.

“Ollie, wait!” he yelled after me as I half walked/half jogged out of the gym. What does he want? I asked myself when I heard his footsteps behind me. He wasn’t attempting to move forward so that he would be walking side by side with me. He kept his distance a few steps away, following me into the elevator lobby, and eventually getting into the lift with me.

“Ollie,” Advik called but I ignored him. I had nothing to say to him, and it would be better if he left me alone.

“I broke up with Lia,” he said, and my heartbeat picked up a bit. What reaction was he trying to get from me? Why was he telling me this?

Thankfully the lift opened at my floor and I walked out before sighing in relief when I noticed Advik hadn’t followed me out.

Good. I thought, trying to stop myself from shaking before I headed to the room I shared with my roommate, Austin. When I walked in he turned to me with a concerned look. I rose a brow at him in confusion. He rarely ever paid attention to me, much less show concern for me.

“Your phone has been going off for the past hour,” he said, making me turn my face towards my bed. My phone was laying on the blanket. I had left it behind when I headed down to the gym. I apologized to Austin before heading over to grab my phone.

I opened it, paling a bit when I saw the messages. The ‘Anonymous’ sign was gone now. The person had disclosed their identity in full, and they weren’t messaging me on my ask but in my private inbox instead.

MixTap3:

I’ve been wondering if you’ve been too stupid to figure out who I am or if you’re trying to ignore me?

Neither of those things would be a good Idea. I’ll make your life hell Ollie.

SAT, 7:05 PM.

MixTape3:

Why did you ghost us?

SAT, 7:06 PM.

Because you’re toxic? I thought to myself, but I didn’t say anything out loud. I just took a sit on my bed and brought my legs up with me. I still had to take a shower. I was smelling of sweat. ‘Mixtap3’ also known as Harry was one of the three other people I knew from my old account Tumblr days. We had become friends because we were all trans and needed to fit in. We wanted to be around people who understood, but somehow slowly became the popular accounts trans police on Tumblr — basically ‘mean girls’ but online. For a while, I didn’t care that I was acting like a douche bag deciding who and who wasn’t trans enough. I didn’t have this kind of power in school and going on a power trip on Tumblr after facing shit in school made me feel good about myself for a while. It was a cringy ‘I might not look how I want but I look better than these people.’

It took a lot of soul searching to realize fishing for validation online while tearing down other people was a bad way to handle my insecurities.

I read through the other messages that Harry had sent me. Sometimes they seemed oddly friendly, and other times they were mean and triggering. I wasn’t sure what he was trying to achieve by messaging me. Sure, he was angry that I ghosted them, but he seemed a bit too angry.

My thumb was a bit sore from all the scrolling, and when I decided I had seen enough slurs from one evening I put my phone on silent and tossed it in the drawer of my bedside table. I had a lot on my mind now. When I had gone downstairs to exercise, I had just wanted to run a bit then spend the rest of the day swiping through tinder and then Advik just had to come out of nowhere and confuse me.

A shower. I thought as I rubbed my eyes with the base of my palms. I needed a shower.

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