For the last few days, I’ve made a conscious effort to make things normal again. Xander had invited me over to his place this weekend, and I was planning to go there after work. I had joined my GSA again, but I was still trying to find the courage to meet up with the counselor. Sometimes I would walk through the hallway with her office in it, then turn back last minute, telling myself I would do it some other time.
“Ollie?” The sound of Advik’s voice made me snap out of my thoughts. I looked away from the window I was staring out of to turn to face him. I apologize for zoning out, and he just shrugged it off. He was still giving me a smile. Advik has been talking to me openly in public for the past few days. He would wave when I walked by, and sometimes he would even approach me to have a chat.
We were sitting on the same table in the cafeteria together across from each other. It was early in the afternoon, and most people were having brunch or an early lunch. I felt a bit nervous eating since Advik was staring at me. He didn’t even try to hide it.
“Aren’t you...?” I started, trailing off as I watched Advik sit up to give me his full attention.
“Aren’t I what?” he asked, and I just sighed and shrugging my shoulders before I looked away.
“Aren’t you uncomfortable? Your friends are staring,” I finally got out, looking up to watch him look back over to his regular table. His friends turned away, and Advik turned back to face me before shrugging his shoulders.
“It doesn’t bother me,” he said, looking over at me. “I mean, I want to spend time with you. It’s been a while,” he added with a small smile and I couldn’t say anything in response since I now had food in my mouth. I swallowed before looking out the window beside us. I really didn’t want to be looking at Advik. I was determined not to throw myself at him. If he wanted me, he would work for it.
“So, what are you going to do today?” Advik asked, trying to start a conversation. We haven’t talked to each other for so long — almost a year, so it felt weird doing it now. Even though we were still talking about the same things; games, sports, movies and the like, it just felt — different. It didn’t stop my heart from beating any more slowly though. I was still very attracted to him, and I wasn’t sure if I should be mad at myself or not. I looked over at him, noticing that he had cut his dark long hair a bit so that it was just below his chin. His skin was a lot tanner, probably from going back to India for the holiday session that just passed.
A few seconds passed before I shrugged at his question. I sucked my teeth and smacking my tongue on the roof of my mouth before looking at him. “Same old, same old. Classes, dance practice, work...” I trailed, noticing that Advik was giving me an odd look. “What?” I asked with a small frown.
“Oh, nothing,” he said, smiling a bit before looking down at his phone. “It’s just, I was wondering if you were close to your coworkers — you know, I’m just wondering,” he said, emphasizing on the last part. I rose a brow, a little confused about what he was asking until I remembered that George had been with me when Advik was creeping around the store. He was probably talking about George. I bit down on my bottom lip, rolling my can of soda between my hands before thinking of what to say. I understood why he was nervous George was pretty good looking, and maybe I didn’t mind that Advik was worrying about having some competition.
Not that George would ever want to date me, though.
“Uhm...” I trailed, looking at Advik. He looked up at me, waiting for my answer. I looked down at my plate of potatoes, not wanting to meet his gaze. “Well, yeah. I guess,” I said, watching as Advik nodded. He didn’t say anything, but he looked like he was in deep thought.
“Can I ask something personal?” he asked, making me frown a bit. He looked up at me, folding his hands on the wooden table before he continued to speak. “Like crossing the line personally?” I thought about it for a while, cocking my head to the side in thought before I nodded.
“Are you seeing anyone?”
I blinked. I hadn’t been expecting that question at all, but I answered it by shaking my head before I returned my attention to my food. “No.” I wasn’t sure why I answered that question, but the both of us were blushing now, and I didn’t know what to do so I just stuffed my mouth with food.
“Okay, so is it okay if I ask you to come over to watch a movie like old times?” Advik asked, and I swallowed, licking my lips as I stared straight at him. I remembered doing that. After volleyball practice, I usually headed up to his room and we would watch a movie together. Tough, I never exactly watched the movie since my mind was always bombarded with thoughts of being in a room alone with my crush.
“Yeah,” I answered, watching as Advik’s face lightened up. It looked like he hadn’t been expecting my reply to be positive. It wouldn’t hurt, right? It would just be a movie and I would head back to my room.
“That’s great, so after my volleyball practice?” he said, and the atmosphere went a little tense again. I used to play volleyball, but with the falling out Advik and I had I just stopped attending until I was officially kicked out from the recreational team. Advik seemed to notice why I had gone quiet and he looked down at the table in guilt.
“You know, you could rejoin the team...” he trialed, only to be cut off by the sound of Grace yelling.
“Ollie!” The sound of Grace’s voice made both me and Advik turn to look at her. She was approaching us with a soda can in her hand. The way she was smiling at us made my stomach churn. Why was she acting like we were all on good terms? Besides, I could almost see the snarl she was sending at Advik behind her eyes. Since Advik had started hanging around me again she’s been overly friendly, but sometimes she would lapse, and I would see her anger behind the front. She had tried to keep him away from me, but her prying and interference had done the opposite.
“Hey, I need to talk to you,” she said, taking the seat beside Advik.
“Alone,” she added. The atmosphere had gone tense. She was now looking at Advik with a forced smile. Her words were clear even though she didn’t say anything. Get up. It was loud and clear. Advik turned to face me, and I just nodded, silently telling him that he could leave. With that he stood up with reluctance, leaving to meet with his friends at his table.
“What do you want?” I asked narrowing my eyes at grace with Advik was out of sight. She chuckled, resting her head on her hands as her smile widened. She was in her usual black lipstick, and I noticed she her changed the jewelry on her piercings.
“What? Can’t I talk to you anymore,” she said in a faked shocked voice before she started laughing again.
Stay calm. I told myself. She’s already lost, stay calm. I told myself, remembering that her plan had already backfired on her. Maybe she was plotting something new but for now, I would try and stay calm. What was the worst she could do? I didn’t have a social life to ruin or anything.
“Do what you want,” I ended up saying in response before picking up my can of coke from the table. The cafeteria was a little less noisy since most people had left for lectures. I didn’t have a lecture until four in the evening today, so I could stay here, and I assumed it was the same with Grace.
“Look, I know you and Advik are getting along, and you know, I won’t interfere now.” Her smile had disappeared, and she was frowning now. “You’ve pissed off a lot of people Ollie, and it won’t be that easy to brush me off. I’ll be helping them get back at you,” she said, getting to the point of why she was here. It felt like someone had poured a bucket of ice water over my head. I now knew that she was working with Harry and the rest for sure. How she had met them, I wasn’t sure, but Grace used to consume every part of my life. My shoulder media, my time, my items. It wasn’t unbelievable that she had figured out what was going on and didn’t say anything as I mentally hurt myself by keeping company with those people back in high school.
As much as I was trying to stay calm, I was sure my uneasiness was readable. Grace was smiling at me again, satisfied that she had made me nervous again.
“You still have an option to apologize to me and we can start over,” she said, and with that, she got up from her seat before walking away. I sat there alone for the next thirty or so minutes, just thinking. I wasn’t sure what to do. Whether to react and make her happy that she was getting at me, or whether to pretend nothing was happing while Grace ruined things behind the scenes. She hadn’t even mentioned how they were going to get back at me. That’s what made me the most nervous.