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just a picture of a cloud
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There was nothing in particular about Bradley's touch that should have made it as awful as it was. His suit knee against Georgia Lee's bare one was not cold or wet or slimy, but the simply fact that it was Bradley's made it absolutely repugnant to her, and Georgia Lee moved her leg away so quickly that she banged her shin on the table leg, audibly, in the process. She tried not to wince.

If Bradley was actually teaching a class in boorishness, he surely couldn't behave any more repulsively. Even by sharing a table with him she felt vulgar, and she had no doubt that the people around them saw her that way too. Who acted this way? There were students in the school, especially younger ones, poorer ones, who were rude, to be sure, but they simply didn't know how to behave properly. Bradley was actively trying to behave improperly. He wanted to shock. He wanted to offend.

It was only the knowledge that it would've been exactly what Bradley wanted that kept her from telling hims just how appalling she thought he was. Instead, Georgia Lee gave a simple "No." in response, and turned back to Alice.

Alice Baker. She couldn't say the name was familiar. The girl clearly didn't do much. Still, next to Bradley she could not have looked more appealing, as far as conversation partners went.

"I'm a junior, sure." It was a weak attempt at a conversation, but she'd had little to work with. Still, Georgia Lee could have talked about anything, about politics, about the weather, about favourite of brands of paint to watch dry, had the alternative been paying attention to Bradley.

"Are you... enjoying it so far?" she kept her eyes on Alice's face, but she couldn't keep Bradley out of her peripherals. The effect of him leering at them was awful, like being stuck in a zoo that was visited exclusively by revolting, flat-faced clowns. Georgia Lee stared fixedly away from him. All he wanted was attention. He fed on it. He needed it like normal people needed food, or air, or a sense of worth and achievement and love. All Bradley needed were eyes on him, and voices answering his.

Georgia Lee's book had described birds, pecking at the shell of spurred tortoises. The young ones would get frightened and struggle, and encouraged, the vultures and the birds of prey would peck on for hours. The older tortoises were wiser, and knew to stay in their shells, and do nothing. Very soon, the birds would know that they'd get nothing there, and fly off towards easier food.

Bradley was a vulture, but he fed off of deadened spirits, not dead animals. All she needed to do was let him know that he'd get none of that here, that he'd simply be ignored, and he'd fly on off to bother someone else.

It was as simple as that.

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Swipe Rite · After the Dance