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just a picture of a cloud
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Vincenzo smiled, and Georgia Lee smiled with them. This was nice. Talking. Engaging.

She'd never been particularly social, even when she was younger. She was shy. Quiet. She hadn't understood why people would want to be friends with her, she was so small and weak and ugly and stupid. They'd been some, of course: the bar for friendship is very low, at a young age, and there'd been a number of girls who'd reached out to her, past her weakness and insecurity.

And then she'd pushed them away.

It hadn't been entirely intentional. They tended to make demands on her time that she simply couldn't fulfill. They couldn't understand why she had to be so busy, she couldn't understand why they couldn't understand; there was a general breakdown in communication. When what's important to you and what's important to someone else are so different that they can never be reconciled, any discussion that stems from that simply becomes pointless. They may as well have been speaking different languages.

There were people, people she knew, who'd see Vincenzo banned from the school, or forced to choose a gender or not given a choice at all, and simply made to be a boy. You could talk about liberty and equality and fairness with those people all you wanted, and it wouldn't make a difference because they didn't see inherent value in those things, or if there was value it was superseded by the importance of God's will, or of security, or social order.

She'd told her friends that she was unwilling to mortgage her future to simply "hang out" in high school, not accomplishing anything. She'd stressed that there was no higher priority for her than college admission, and they hadn't understood because such things had no value to them, and then they'd drifted apart. She'd liked her friends, but there wasn't any preventing how things had turned out.

At church she talked to people. In baseball too, and there were people she studied with. A lot of them she liked, but she wondered if any of them thought of her as a friend. Should they? A friend was someone you could count on, and Georgia Lee had more important things to do than coming to other people's rescue. For her own part, she hated counting on anyone. There was only one person you could rely on in life, and that was yourself. Not friends, not parents, not teachers, not Jesus. Thinking otherwise made you reliant, and it made you vulnerable, and Georgia Lee had long ago resolved to cease being vulnerable.

Still, this was nice. Meeting someone. Learning about them. Not thinking about College, or study, or applications. She could see why people did it. Georgia Lee knew it couldn't last, knew she couldn't afford to sit around, talking with someone all the time. Still nice, though. It was the end of lunch, and she'd been working hard, recently. Didn't she deserve a little break?

There was a little voice at the back of her head that chastised her whenever her thoughts strayed. Whenever her run times were too slow or she didn't get enough reading done or she ate that extra scoop of ice cream, it was there to remind her of how worthless and pitiful she used to be, to ask her if she wanted to be that way again. Her sisters had long stopped berating her for her failings, but Georgia Lee had learned to berate herself. It was better like that. Even for criticism, you shouldn't have to rely on others.

That voice was still there, still shrieking at her for not focusing, for wasting time, warning her that she'd get to attached to this person and that she'd get hurt. Those thoughts were always there, and Georgia Lee wouldn't want to stop thinking them, even if she could. For the time being, though, she stopped listening to them.

Instead, she listened to Vincenzo.

If there were two things Georgia Lee admired, they were passion and strength. Being whoever you wanted to be in spite of what people told you, that showed the latter. When Vincenzo spoke about their online stuff, she could see the former. Their face lit up, their hands got animated; the enthusiasm was infectious. Was their money in that sort of thing? Georgia Lee didn't know, but Vincenzo seemed to think it was a career, and they knew more than she. Perhaps they'd more of a plan than they'd realized, or perhaps things would simply fall into place for them.

Would she begrudge Vincenzo, if they found success? It didn't seem like something they'd worked very hard at, and what work they'd done was hardly work at all, to hear the joy in Vincenzo's voice. Was that fair? She supposed it wasn't, though expecting life to be fair was a habit she'd long since abandoned. She'd known for a long time that the path to her success wouldn't be easy, but she didn't begrudge people their shortcuts.

She had confidence she would emerge from the crucible of her studies remade, and would be the better for it. "Adversity is character building", her father would tell her, and she was planning on building an awful lot of character. Vincenzo, meanwhile, seemed to have a lot of character already. Well, that made sense. It wasn't as if life'd been easy for them either, she imagined. No, she hoped they found success with their online endeavours, and she said as much.

"That sounds really interesting, I hope it works out! Could I see some of this, sometime?"

It was something of a rhetorical request. Would she ever see any of it? She wasn't sure, but she doubted it. There simply wasn't a lot of time that she could allot to watching Vincenzo's videos, as funny as they might be. Not a lot of time she could allot to talking, even. Still, it had seemed like the right thing to ask, in the moment.

Maybe not every moment needed to have a purpose, needed to be leveraged towards some future endeavour. Maybe some moments were allowed to just exist, and to simply be... nice.
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