Jessica Thompson as That Girl

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XXXIV. My Dolphin

Jessica’s POV:

I didn’t know how to respond, so I simply stared at Krista. Amid the silence, my stomach grumbles. We’ve been gossiping for far too long. “Oh,” I responded. I hate this part of me. This part that’s satisfied.

It’s sickening.

Krista exhaled, “So you really didn’t hear.”

Then, a lightbulb went off. “Do you know-”

“Brody and Victoria broke up?” Krista tilted back and forth. “I know.”

I dig the tip of my shoe into the dirt. “What are you going to do now?”

Krista chuckles, “You make it sound like I’m part of their relationship. There’s nothing for me to do. Francis is my boyfriend.”

“I know, but-”

“I’m not going to leave Francis hanging all because Brody is available.” Krista tucked her hair back and licked her pink lips. “Francis treats me really well,” she said. “I still like Brody, but I’m not stupid enough to let go of a good relationship.”

I smile, “That sounds nice.”

Krista links arms with me, “It is nice.” She rests her head against my shoulder, “Let’s go eat. Your stomach had been screaming at me for the last five minutes.”

The cafeteria was full. All tables were occupied, scattered with food. The chattering and excited laughter filled the building.

Krista and I found Shannon and Ivan in the middle of the cafeteria. They were sitting with some strangers. Sometimes, that’s how things work for small groups. You sit together and pretend you’re one large group when, in reality, you’re two to three small groups. It’s not a big deal.

Shannon waved her hands, signaling us to come over. My eyes pinned straight into Shannon, and Ivan linked hands. Krista and I exchange looks. “Come on. Let’s go tease them.” Krista drags me towards the half-filled table.

Our legs took a halt when Victoria stepped in front of us. Even behind the circular lens and makeup, I can see her blotch eyes. Behind Victoria stood her cheerleader minions. Steadily, the noises inside the cafeteria disperse.

This is it.

I’m going to get dragged into a catfight.

Victoria bit her lower lip, “Your brother broke up with me,” she announced to me and the whole cafeteria. I wonder if she knows Brody is sitting on the other side. I can feel his intense stare towards us.

“I heard,” I said. I wonder if I should apologize. No. Why should I apologize? She was the one who allowed her emotions to get the better of her and poured it on the wrong person, even if that person accidentally said the wrong thing at the wrong time.

“Times like this people would say: I’m sorry to hear that," Victoria replies.

I should take a step back, “I’m sorry to hear that.”

Victoria curled her fingers into fists, “It doesn’t mean anything if you don’t mean it!”

I avoided her intense glare. I can’t do it. I can’t handle this situation. What am I supposed to do? Walk away? Go on my knees and beg for forgiveness? Have a crying contest with her?

“Why are you yelling at her?” Krista stepped forward. “She didn’t do anything!”

“I know,” Victoria wailed. The tears streamed down her cheeks. The girls behind her patted her back in a form of comfort as they glared at us.

Out of the blue, something unexpected happened. Victoria threw herself at me. Not in a fighting sense, but an embracement. I stumbled back, and my butt bounced against the edge of a table.

Victoria cried even harder on my shoulder. I look around for help. When my eyes met Brody, he looked away. I’m itching to give him the middle finger.

I look at Krista, who stared at us in horror.

My gaze went towards Victoria’s friends, who were also staring at us.

I cannot believe she would do this...in public. Isn’t this something you would do with your close friends, behind closed doors, with a mountain of comfort food? Last time I checked, our level of closeness could be measured alongside the cafeteria lady.

Slowly, I raised a palm. “There. There,” I said. “Don’t be sad.”

Victoria only gripped onto me tighter. “I’m so sad!”

And I’m so confused.

“Do you want to get out of here and talk about this?” I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to say, but I don’t want to be here either.

Victoria lightens her grip, “That would be nice.”

Krista looked at me and mouthed: “What?”

I shrugged, mouthing back: “I don’t know.” But, what I do know is, staying inside the packed cafeteria would not help my sanity.

When Victoria and I got out, we went to a secluded area. Victoria slumped behind a wall and flung her arms around her body. The next wave of crises erupted.

This is not what a patient who recently got discharged from the hospital needs in her life.

I squatted beside her, and with a robotic arm, I patted her back. I don’t know what else to do. Krista never had an official heartbreak. Shannon’s heartbreak was pre-Krista and I. Ivan? He never had a girlfriend before Shannon. And I doubt he wants a bunch of girls to comfort him.

Finally, after a numb leg and the warning bell, Victoria stops crying. I skipped lunch, and now I’m late for class because of my older brother’s ex-girlfriend. There’s no logic in this situation.

Victoria lifted her head and wiped her eyes. The mascara smeared down her cheeks. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.” I want to ask her why she clings onto me, but it doesn’t seem to be the right time.

“Brody broke up with me because I called you a loser.”

“I know.”

“He said he wouldn’t accept a girl who won’t respect his family.”

“Oh.”

Victoria closes her eyes firmly, “I really like your brother.”

I nodded slowly.

“I tried to apologize so many times, and I promised I wouldn’t insult you again, but he kept telling me to stay away.” Victoria sniffed, “I know Brody doesn’t really like me.”

I really don’t know how to interact with Victoria.

“And I know your brother only agreed to date me because of the sex.”

This is getting a bit too personal for me.

“But, I was okay with it because I thought that he would like me back one day. Then, I had to go and screw up because of my lack of self-confidence! I kept bugging your brother about that friend of yours, Katy.”

“Krista?”

“Yes! Her!” She blew her nose on a tissue. “I-I’m so stupid to think something is going on between them. Stupid to accuse him of having feelings for her.”

Well, her suspicion isn’t wrong.

“And now, I’m stupidly alone.” Her head dropped on my shoulder.

I continued to pat her head with a robotic action. “Hey. I’m sorry that you and Brody didn’t work out. But, there are other guys.”

“But, there’s only one, Brody! He’s my dolphin!”

I scratch my cheek, “There are other dolphins in the sea.” That’s the expression, right?

Victoria clung onto me tighter and cried even harder. I exhaled lightly and continued to pat her back. I should stop talking. Whatever I say won’t go through her thick depressed skull.

Victoria cried an hour past the last bell. I had to message everyone to leave without me. I don’t know how I’ll get home, but I couldn’t wake Victoria up. Halfway through her waterworks, she fell asleep on my lap.

My legs are numb.

I look up towards the sky, “Why me?”

Victoria curled her body into my stomach.

“Why?”

An hour later, Victoria woke up. She offered to take me home since she was the one who made me miss my ride. The inside of her car was oddly comfortable, that it makes me almost want to fall asleep. From what I heard, Victoria’s parents are well to do citizens.

“Can I ask you a question?” Victoria asks.

“Sure.”

“Why did you let me do that?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know, that thing earlier.”

I laugh, “I can’t push a girl while she’s down.” Plus, we were in public. Then, while we’re in private, you clung onto me as if your life depends on it.

Victoria smiles, “Thanks.”

“But I have to know. Why me? Why did you come to me and did that thing earlier.”

Victoria’s cheeks grew red, “It’s because you smell like Brody.”

My face cringes. When I get home, I’m going to change detergent. Smelling like my brother is the last thing I want.

“My house is here.”

“I know,” Victoria replies. I forgot that sometimes she drove Brody home.

When Victoria parked her car, I opened the car door. I heard a door cracked from the driver’s side. Victoria followed me from her car towards my front door.

“Thanks for the ride,” I said.

She smiles, “No problem. Thanks for comforting me.”

“You’re welcome. Then, I’ll get going.” I turned around and unlocked my front door. I can still feel Victoria’s presence. She needs to leave. I turned around, “So, I’ll go in-”

“Jess? Who are you talking to?” Mom popped her head inside. “Oh, Vic! Hi! How’s your mom?” This is what I’m afraid of.

“She’s good. Thank you for asking Mrs.Thompson.”

“Are you here to see Brody?” It looks like mom hasn’t heard about the break-up.

“No. I’m actually here with Jess.” Jess? Since when were we that close?

“Oh.” Mom didn’t bother to hide her surprise. Victoria and I barely interacted when Brody and her dated. “How’s sweet. Will you be staying for dinner?”

I turned around and stared at Victoria with widening eyes. My look said it all. I need to do it, and I need to do it fast. “Mom. Victoria is bu-”

“I would love to Mrs.Thompson.”

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