The Dancer

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Chapter 5

“So, he randomly came up to you and told you he broke up with his girlfriend?”

“Yes!” I said in between a groan before covering my face with my hands and letting out a sigh. I could hear George hum a bit, and after a while, I took my hands away to look at him. He was smiling at me, and that was all it took for a small smile to crawl up my lips.

“Well, that’s super odd. Why would he do that?” he asked, resting his head on the space he had created. We were in the mall’s food court together again during our long break. It was rowdy because it was a Saturday, but we had managed to grab a table for two with high seats. We’ve made it a habit to always head out for breaks together. I liked it. I usually felt nervous alone, but being with him made the crowd less intimidating, and talking to him got me out of my head a bit.

Out of my head.

I really needed to stay out of my thoughts for a bit. I came up with the most unfortunate scenarios and circumstances, and I always ended up scaring and stressing myself from overthinking.

“I guess...” I trailed, wondering if I should go into detail about Grace. “I guess it’s because Grace told him something, but I don’t know what,” I said, deciding that it was okay if he knew. He already knew someone was harassing me, letting him know who it was wasn’t a bad idea, right? It’s not like he’ll ever speak or even see Grace unless she found a way to harass me at work too.

“Grace? Is that the name of the person harassing you?” he asked, and I nodded. Well, one of them. I thought, still thinking to Harry. He hummed, nodding to himself as he took a sip from his can of soda. “Is there a way you can talk to Advik about what she said? Could you ask her directly?” he asked, and I looked down at my hands as I tapped the table with my fingers. Maybe she had told him something that made him jealous? I shook my head at that thought, it’s not like Advik liked me.

“I could talk to them, but I don’t want to,” I said, and George cocked his head to the side before nodding. “I guess you’ll just have to wait it out then?” he asked,

I nodded. “I guess.”

“How’s tinder going?” George asked, changing the subject. I smiled, feeling less awkward.

“It’s fine, I guess,” I said, pausing as I tried to think up what to say next. Tinder wasn’t bad, but having people asking invasive questions about me threw me off, and those who seemed okay at first quickly got sexual and off-putting. “It’s just so many people want to, you know—”

“Fuck?” he said, finishing my sentence for me. I blinked at what he said as my face grew warm. He laughed, his brown eyes glittering as I looked away. I didn’t know George could be that direct.

“What, what were you expecting? It’s a hookup site after all,” he said, and I shrugged. I guess he was right. It was a hookup site, but I was expecting maybe a date or two before deciding to get frisky.

“You’re right,” I said, and our table went quiet since none of us said anything. My gaze moved to him, and I started to wonder what George did in his free time. He must have a lot of friends. I thought, smiling a bit. How couldn’t he? He was a nice person, and he was friendly. George wasn’t in college from what I knew, and I didn’t think he had plans to enroll into one.

“So, as you’re waiting for this whole drama thing to sizzle out what will you be doing?” George asked, making me blink. I had been staring, and George wasn’t stupid he would have realized I was doing it, and maybe that’s why he changed the topic. I’m just hoping I didn’t make him nervous.

He was giving me a calm gaze now. I looked away, humming to myself as I played with my chips. They had gone cold a long time ago. Maybe I should have just gotten chicken like George.

“Nothing really. Go to class, go for practice, sleep,” I mumbled, and George rose a brow at me.

“Don’t you have any friends?” I would love to say the question didn’t bug me. That the question didn’t sting, but it did. My shoulders fell, and George’s eyes went wide but he didn’t say anything. No, I don’t have any friends -- I do, online, but that’s more or less none. I said in my mind, biting my bottom lip. None at all. I repeated in my head, looking over at George. I wasn’t saying anything out loud, but it looked like he knew.

He just knew.

“What about your roommate?” he asked, and I let out a sigh, running a hand through my bangs. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to talk about this.

“Austin is well... Austin?” I said, making George chuckle a bit. “He doesn’t talk much,” I added, and George just nodded.

“I did like my former roommate though. Xander. He lives with his boyfriend now,” I said. I still wasn’t too sure why I was telling George all this, but he just looked at me with a small smile and nodded at my words. It felt comforting, and maybe it was just me craving for human companionship again. I’ve spent the past year being gloomy and self-depreciating.

“You guys don’t talk anymore?” he asked

“We don’t,” I answered before sighing. A sad smile formed on my face at the thought of Xander. I wondered what he was up to, and whether if he and Maxwell were as lovey-dovey as they were when they started dating. I pushed Xander away, and it’s not like he cared too much about it. He was happy, and he didn’t need me pushing back into his life after shutting him out.

“Why?” I opened my mouth a bit, but nothing came out. A sigh left my lips soon after closing them, and George was still staring at me with.

“I guess we just drifted apart.”

“Call him?” George suggested. I bit my bottom lip, looking out into the cafeteria crowd. I did still have Xander’s number. I could call him, but what would I say?

“I mean, if you’re looking to go out more, maybe start with people that actually exist,” he said, and we both looked towards my phone. “That also means online dating really won’t cut it. Well, not for now,” he added, looking straight at me again.

“Got it,” I said, reaching out to grab my phone before pocketing it.

“You know, Ollie,” he started making me look at him again. “I’m your friend, so feel free to talk to me.”

“Oh, okay.” The smile on my face couldn’t be wider. George just smiled back before looking away from me and out into the crowd.

“I think we should start heading back to work,” he said, making me look down at my watch. We’d spent all our break hanging out the cafeteria talking. We hadn’t even eaten much. I still had a full plate of chips right in front of me.

We left the cafeteria together, and this time I did my full shift. George still asked me if I needed to take a breakthrough. I was still grateful for that. My mod was high throughout the day, and I made a note to myself not to check my anonymous messages for the time being. I didn’t need to fill my brain with worry and drama. I was going to step back from tinder, talk to the few close mutuals I had on Tumblr, and then maybe I’ll try calling Ollie and reconnecting with my schools GSA.

I was in a good mood. I really was, then I saw Advik stroll into the store. I wasn’t sure what expression I had on my face, but it seemed to be enough to have Advik look nervous before awkwardly walking out of the store again. He had his hair combed back today. He didn’t look like he was out with his friends. There was no one around, and his clothes were more casual than they usually were when he was hanging out with them at the mall.

What’s he doing here? I wondered. How did he even know where I worked? If I thought about it, it was possible he knew. He hung around the mall a lot, but him knowing where I worked would mean he would have been looking to find me, and I wasn’t sure what to feel about that. A part of me was jumping with nerves — happy nerves, the types you got when your crush took interest in you, and the other part of me was just — sad? I’m not sure how to pinpoint the emotion, but what I was certain of was that Advik was confusing me.

“Is that Advik?” I heard George ask from behind my back. I turned, looking up at him. He wasn’t staring at me, so I followed his gaze to the glass windows to find Advik standing by it. He didn’t walk away when he saw me stare at him, instead, he knocked on the window softly before stepping away.

“Yeah,” I answered. My voice was small as I watched Advik from behind the counter with George.

“Do you want to go out and meet him? I’ll cover for you.”

“I—”

“Just go,” George said, squeezing my shoulder before walking away. I turned to protest, but he was already gone. In confusion, I turned my gaze back to the windows. Advik was still there, and I could feel my heart beating from just staring at him. I used to do everything not to look at him because he would always glare at me, but now he was looking at me with a pleading look I wasn’t used to. I just wanted him to act like back in the day when we were friends — smile and laugh like old times, but I wasn’t sure that was possible. Or maybe it was.

With some thought, I eventually decided to walk over to him. I left the checkout desk before walking out of the store. If you throw yourself at him, you’ll make a fool out of yourself. I reminded myself when my chest started to feel tighter when Advik smiled at me in relieve.

“You came.”

“What do you want?” I asked. My words came out too fast, and a bit strained, and if Advik couldn’t tell I was nervous then he didn’t have ears. He opened his mouth before closing it again and heaving.

“I want to talk; do you have time?” he asked. I stared at him, the buzz of the busy mall filing my ears as I tried to arrange my thoughts.

“Sure,” I said, and Advik smiled.

“Come on, let’s find a seat,” he said, gesturing towards the seating corner a short distance away. I looked over at the seat before looking back at him and nodding.

I don’t want to regret this. I thought as I started to follow Advik towards a sitting area. I really don’t.

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