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just a picture of a cloud
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Georgia Lee smiled at the compliment, genuinely pleased by it. And why shouldn't she be? She'd worked hard on this dress. At least someone thought she looked good in it.

She had, Georgia Lee realized, missed the point at which she should have introduced herself. She waited for the other girl to do the honours, but she seemed content just to talk. Did they know each other? No, Georgia Lee was almost certain there'd never been introduced. Perhaps she just assumed Georgia Lee would know her. Was she a cheerleader or something? On the student council? Perhaps she'd been on the news for rescuing dogs, or eating hundreds of hotdogs, or having intercourse with a celebrity. Georgia Lee scoured the depths of her brain for anything, anything that might give her a clue as to who this girl was, and came up with nothing.

Well, it was better late than never, Georgia Lee supposed. She cut off the girl's awkward, stumbling attempts at small talk.

"Yeah, sure, I've been doing well. Sorry, I'm Georgia Lee, by the way. Georgia Lee Day. I realized I completely forgot to introduce myself. Terribly rude of me, I know."

Georgia Lee winced internally at that last comment. Had she implied that her companion was also rude, for not introducing herself in turn? But no, the girl sitting opposite her looked, if anything, more relaxed, more at ease. She seemed more confident, more alive even. Georgia Lee was proud of herself. Who knew it would be so easy to draw someone out? She wasn't in the habit of getting meals with her peers, really. It had always seemed like a waste of time and money, when she cook something for half the price in probably half the time, and not have to sit through stifling attempts at conversation and heavy-handed flirtation. This, though, was nice.

The night, perhaps, would not be a total nightmare, she thought.

That, naturally, was when Bradley showed up.

Bradley was an eight year old boy trapped in the body of a middle-aged truck driver. Bradley was a black hole of pleasantness. Any happiness or enjoyment in a room just evaporated when he entered. To call him utterly void of charm, tact, or positive characteristics was to understate his awfulness. He didn't just lack those things, he had them in negative quantities. Bradley would need far, far more charm to simply be charmless. Bradley was anti-charming.

Bradley had a face that looked like God had put his hand on it and just pushed, presumably so as to prevent Bradley from finishing whatever awful thing it was that he was saying. He looked like his face was trying to reabsorb all his facial features back into it, perhaps ashamed at the idiotic expression that they constantly displayed. He had, Georgia Lee realized, probably been punched in the face quite a lot. A lifetime of undoubtedly deserved beatings had no doubt served to simply compress his face, slightly. Had it also compressed his brain? That would, she thought, explain a lot.

There was a particularly quality Bradley had, almost like a super-power, where he was so revolting that it almost couldn't be contained by a single person. The disgust that one felt for him spilled out, like his belly over his belt buckle, and oozed over everything around him. A chair that he sat on became revolting by association. Any book she saw him reading was a book that Georgia Lee never wanted to read again. Eventually, if he stood close enough for long enough, one would even begin to feel disgusted at oneself. It was an awful feeling, like being covered in grease, that no amount of scrubbing would get rid of. Georgia Lee shuddered internally at the thought.

Bradley was someone so utterly absent in positive or worthwhile qualities that the only way he could make himself noticed at all was by being as violently obnoxious as possible. This was Bradley's one, single talent, but at this at least he excelled.

Georgia Lee could recall, vividly, her first encounter with Bradley Floyd. It'd been right at the start of her Freshman year, and she'd been fourteen, and nervous, and awkward. Thinking back on Bradley, enormous and red-faced, shouting down the Cochise corridors at her, she was proud of her younger self that she'd managed not to cry. With all the delicacy of an ape performing spinal surgery wearing boxing gloves, Bradley had oh-so-considerately informed her, in front of half the school, that her ass looked great in her jeans, but that it'd look even better on his face.

That had been the first of many, many unwanted sexual comments. Initially Georgia Lee had made the mistake of responding to them. When Bradley had asked whether she liked dragons, she'd actually answered, only to have him tell her that this was good, since he was going to be "dragon [his] balls across her face." Pretty quickly, like everyone at Cochise with a pair of X chromosomes, Georgia Lee had learned simply to ignore him. You couldn't hurt Bradley by insulting him: he took actual pride in how terrible he was. No, all you could do to Bradley was deny him the only thing he craved, which was attention.

That would be hard to do here, though.

She'd learned, too, not to take it personally. He may well not even have known who she was, just that she had breasts and ears, and that made her a good target for his boorishness. Bradley wasn't a bully, not really. He didn't pick on targets, he just vented his odiousness onto anyone within hearing distance. There was nothing personal about it. He was an equal opportunity monster.

Georgia Lee looked at him as she would look at a cockroach that had just crawled out of her cereal, or something that stank that she'd found on the bottom of her shoe. She made no attempt to hide her disdain. Why bother? Bradley knew everyone hated him.

She transferred her bag onto the other side of her body and shifted to the edge of the booth, leaving absolutely no room for him to sit next to her. She did this while looking him in the eye, to make absolutely sure that the point behind the gesture wasn't lost on him. Just like every healthy food option that was ever presented to Bradley in his life, though, the hint was not taken, and he remained, looming over there table. When it became clear that he wasn't going anywhere soon, Georgia Lee sighed, audibly, and raised an eyebrow.

"What do you want, Bradley?"

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Swipe Rite · After the Dance