“Hey!” I turned at the sound of George’s voice. He was speed walking up to me as he tried to fit into his coat. It was Saturday evening, and the store I worked at had just closed a few minutes ago. Even if it was seven thirty in the evening, the mall was still flowing with people, and I had almost not been able to spot George in the crowd.
“Hey, wait up,” he said as he came to a stop in front of me. “I thought we were walking downstairs together?” he asked, and I nodded, muttering an apology.
“I guess I was just in a hurry to leave. I’m a bit late,” I said as we started to walk side by side.
“Late for what?” he asked, making me look up at him. He had a curious look on his face as he smiled down at me. I looked away, turning my gaze to the road ahead as I hummed.
“A friend invited me over for dinner,” I answered as we climbed on the escalator. “You know who it is. It’s my former roommate,” I added, and George let out an ‘oh’ as he nodded to himself. He looked a bit tired, and that was normal after a long shift like the one we just had. I smiled to myself, wondering how he could be so nice to customers when he was so exhausted. I usually called it quits at the checkout desk when I was cranky.
“Yeah,” I said, letting out a happy laugh as we got down and started making for the exit. The weather was a bit cool today, so I found myself throwing my hands around myself as we got out. George gave me a concerned look and I just looked away when he sighed.
“Do you need my jacket?” he asked, and my eyes flew wide as I turned to look over at him. He was pointing at the red jacket he had thrown over his work clothes. He never changed out of them in the lockers at all. I had asked him once and he something about trying to keep the water bill in his apartment down.
“You can have it. I’m taking the train so it’s not like I’ll be out much,” he said, and I bit down on my bottom lip as I narrowed my eyes at him. Why’s he so nice to me? I wondered to myself as I watched him take off his jacket before handing it to me. “Come on, wear it,” he said with a small smile and I nodded before putting it on. It was big, but I guess it didn’t matter since George was smiling now. My face was warming up too, and I don’t know. Maybe I was reacting like this because he was too nice. Sometimes I felt nervous about it.
“If you don’t have anything doing, maybe we could go out and eat sometime,” he said, ruffling my hair. I wanted to say something, but he shifted his attention to his phone almost immediately. I touched my hair, watching him as I tried to sort out the confusing feeling in my chest.
“I’ll be off then. I hope you have a good time,” he said, looking up from his phone before walking away. He turned when I called out to him. I smiled, waving at him. He returned it before continuing on his way home. When he was completely out of sight I started walking in the direction of the bus stop. They were still running. The bus I entered had a few people in it. I hadn’t been around the area Xander and Maxwell were now living in, so it took some time figuring out where I was supposed to drop off, but when I did I was off the bus and looking for the street with their apartment building.
“Okay, it’s here,” I said to myself, looking up from the address Xander had sent to me in a text before turning my gaze to the apartment building in front of me. The three-story apartment building looked like a nice place with the witch tech roof and masonry walls. Looking around the area also gave me a feeling it was in a decent neighborhood, and I wondered if Xander’s cousin and his boyfriend lived nearby.
My gaze moved to my pocket when I felt my phone buzz. I reached for it, smiling when I saw it was Xander who was calling. “Hey, Xander, I’m coming up right now. The second floor, right?” I said into my phone as I made my way into the apartment building and started heading up the stairs.
“Oh! I’m come get the door then,” he said, before hanging up. When I got to the second floor Xander was already waiting for me beside the door. He waved, and I waved back. He hadn’t changed much at all, but his face seemed to be in a permanent flush. Ah, maybe Maxwell teased him a lot, who knows.
“Hey,” he said when I got closer. My smile just widened, and the hallway fell into an uncomfortable silence. He looked over me for a bit, his green eyes probably staring at the wall because he was uncomfortable. He had let his hair grow out a bit, and they had started to form small waves — a bit like Maxwell’s
“So...” he started, turning behind him towards the open door. I could hear the T.V, and I could smell something cooking. “Do you want to come in?” he asked, and I nodded watching as a smile took form on his lips again before he disappeared into the apartment. I rubbed the back of my neck, feeling nervous. With a low sigh, I shook my head and walked into the apartment. I knew things would be a bit patchy when we met, but I was here to fix things, so that shouldn’t matter.
The door led into a small mud room, and right past that was the tiny living room joined with the kitchen at the far back. I looked around, soon spotting Xander that was now going through the fridge. I smiled when I noticed the taller person with red hair by the stove.
“Hey, Ollie!” Maxwell said in his usual sing-song voice, making me chuckle to myself before waving at him.
“Hey,” I said, letting my eyes move to the pan in front of him. “What are you making?”
“Toby taught me how to make steak over a stove, so I’m trying it out,” he answered, turning the meat in the pan with a spatula.
“My cousin’s boyfriend,” Xander answered, making me turn my gaze to him. He walked up to me with a can of soft drink, pushing it into my hand and getting a small ‘thanks’ from me.
“You can sit down. I don’t think the steak will be done anytime soon,” Xander said, making me nod before I followed him to sit on the long sofa. The show playing on T.V. made me raise a brow. I didn’t take Xander to be the soap opera type.
“So,” Xander started, making me turn to face him. He licked his lips before folding his legs and bringing them up on the seat. “You just got off work, how’s college been? I swear I don’t see you anymore,” he said with a little chuckle, but you could hear the sadness in it. We weren’t in the same department, and when we were roommates we tried to keep in touch even though we had different commitments. Drifting apart made us lose each other in the crowd. I barely saw him at all these days — even when I looked around hoping that I would spot him walking past me or something.
“Yeah...” I trailed, resting back on the sofa. “School’s been... something...” I said, making Xander give me a confused look. I just shrugged, faking a smile so that he wouldn’t think too much of my comment.
“I don’t know if it’s safe to ask,” Xander started, turning his eyes to the T.V. “But have you and Advik made up? I know something happened right before the winter break, but I don’t know...” he trailed, sighing before he turned to look at me again. “Ignore me. You didn’t want to tell me before, so I’m not sure—”
“I really had a hard time,” I blurted out, not wanting Xander to apologize for giving me space. “I pushed everyone away, but I really needed some support then,” I mumbled before my eyes went wide when I realized how he must be taking my words. “Not that I’m blaming you for minding your business or anything,” I added quickly, and Xander just nodded before looking away again. I watched him fidget with his fingers, and I looked down at my hands as I tried to piece together what I wanted to say.
“There are a bunch of other things I want to get off my chest, but I came here to catch up not wallow in my sorrows,” I mumbled, realizing that I was turning this into a ‘me’ fest. I’ve pushed Grace and the rest to the back of my mind. I was with Xander now. I was sorting out things with Advik. My dance instructor wasn’t giving me as much as before, and I had made friends in my GSA again. Did I have to self-pitying all the time?
“It’s okay,” Xander said, pulling me out of my thoughts. I looked over at him, smiling before I muttered a small thank you. “So, is that a no?” he asked, making me realize that I hadn’t answered the question.
“I — sort of. He apologized recently, but I don’t know...” I trailed, looking up at the ceiling. “You know I liked him a lot, right?” I asked, turning to face Xanny. I then watched as Xander nodded his head at my question and I sighed.
“I’m not sure if it’s because I’m still hurt but it doesn’t feel like I like him as much as I used to...” I said, admitting the fact for the first time. I still liked Advik. I got nervous and red-faced whenever he decided to walk over to me and talk to me, but—
I don’t know. It’s just a lot different.
A frown found its way on my face when I thought of George. I felt the jacket I still had on. It was a red cotton jacket with feather stuffing. It felt nice — warm — what am I thinking? I blinked, shaking my head before looking over at Xander who was still staring at me and waiting for me to keep talking.
I opened my mouth, but Maxwell saved me from having to say anything from walking up to us with a bowl of snacks. Soon Xander’s gaze was fixed on him, and I let my thoughts sit in the back of my mind as I munched on a biscuit and listened to Max narrate a story.
George. I thought to myself. My mind was soon filled with his smiles and laughs. His curly brown hair, and deep brown eyes. After thinking about it for a bit I reached out for my phone and searched up his number on my contact list. I went through our messages, smiling down at then. We talked a lot now.
Why George? I wondered. I barely knew him outside of work. I felt like smacking myself at the realization that I probably had a crush on him too. My feelings for Advik was still there, but—
A confused expression formed on my face as I tried to figure things out.
Did I just like setting myself up for heartbreak?