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Topic Started: Jul 3 2016, 06:36 PM (558 Views)
Espi
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Honestly, Alice hadn't known what to expect, but she'd hoped for better than this.

It'd been one thing to agree to go to the dance in a nice sundress. But finding someone to go with was entirely a different matter. She wasn't the romantic sort; her crushes tended to be on characters from books, not real guys. Her guys were sensitive, gentle and reassuring, encouraging her to do well without pushing too hard. Sweethearts, basically. There weren't a lot like that her age, that seemed apparent.

And since going out with fictional men wasn't an option, Alice had figured she'd make it a girl's night out. Only problem was that of the few people she could call on, all of them either didn't want to go or had a date. So Alice hung around outside the dance with her mom in the car, and waited for inspiration.

Ten minutes passed, and redfaced Alice returned to the car, asking to go to dinner with her mom, a smile stitched into her face. There'd been a bit of crying, comforting, talking, but Louise was aware lf Alice's feelings and didn't push the matter.

The nice Italian restaurant was quiet as usual, but despite the warm air Alice's arms were wrapped around herself. Her mom set up the table, and on their way to the seat Alice tried to reassure herself. Was she really that excited to go to the dance? Hardly so. This was more fun. Definitely.

Alice caught a teen's eyes as she passed the girl on the way to her table. She knew that face; it was someone she saw at the library. Yeah, she even had that weird Africa book! Alice arrived at her own seat, but as soon as the waitress left she said to her mom in a hushed, frantic voice, "Hey, I'll be right back. I saw someone I know." Not quite a lie, but hardly true. Still, her mom nodded.

She made her way back to the girl, and stood next to her, pausing before speaking. "Um, hi. You go to Cochise, right? Sorry if you're busy, I just..." Trailing off, Alice became fascinated with her shoes.
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Alice smiled, tentatively.

"Oh, if you say so, I..." Alice took a seat, wringing her hands in her lap, under the table. "Thanks."

The girl seemed to have an odd air about her. Alice was pretty sure her name was Georgia Lee; they were in the same grade, after all. She was also pretty sure that Georgia Lee was not popular with some people, as she'd definitely overheard derisive comments about the girl. Alice felt a pang of sympathy; she'd been subject to criticism before, and it always crushed her. Georgia must've been strong to handle that and still be so polite to a relative stranger.

Plus, from how the poor thing seemed antsy, she got the feeling Georgia wasn't just here for a meal.

And she even complimented her dress. "Oh, thank you." Alice smiled more confidently now. It was a pretty normal pastel blue sundress, nothing standout. Still, Alice had thought it looked good on her, and hearing the reassurance was nice. Alice looked at Georgia's own dress. "I like it, and I guess that's what's important. You look great, though! Yours suits you perfectly."

A short pause ensued. Then, Alice worked up the nerve to ask what she hoped wasn't too probing of a question. "How have you been? We haven't talked much, so...yeah. Excited for senior year?" Alice felt a little more confident now, but there was something else about Georgia. A sort of frailty, an exposure of some kind that reminded Alice of the time in the museum...
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Thankfully, Georgia Lee was quick to pick up from Alice's struggling attempt at conversing. She already knew Georgia Lee's name, or at least the first half of it. But it was helpful to Alice to get that kind of thing done in a way which enabled further conversation.

"No, it's okay. I'm Alice Baker. We're both Juniors, right?" Alice smiled. Georgia Lee seemed more comfortable, which in turn made Alice feel less uncomfortable. She was starting to relax, getting more energized about talking, even excited to chat, if only a little.

Alice's heart sank into her stomach when she saw Bradley Floyd, and withered further when she realized that he'd spotted them and begun approaching. . Alice didn't like to throw out insults, but there was little to be said for Bradley; he took delight in offending others, which was deplorable in and of himself. He was like some sort of toxin-spewing sea slug, immune to his own bile.

Colorful similes aside, Bradley was not a person Alice hoped to encounter ever, let alone in public.

As he spoke, Alice heard his comment and knew not to take his bait. She'd seen plenty of people get a compliment from him only for him to turn it around. So she looked around for a menu to grab and, finding none, began digging in her small purse as though she were looking for her cell phone.

Perhaps if the two ignored him entirely, he'd probably go away, like an itchy welt from a mosquito bite.
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Alice had encountered Bradley before, but only in passing. She found his appearance to be unusually unsuited to the horrible things she'd heard he'd done. He was, really, rather ordinary-looking, save for his completely noxious style of dress. But he was, essentially, everything unpleasant she could find in a person, especially so really, since he acted that way, apparently, on purpose.

Alice tried to conceal her distress at his incredible slobbishness. She'd been having a perfectly nice conversation without him, and now she couldn't continue it. What's more, because of Bradley's position, it would be physically challenging to slip past him without awkward contact.

Georgia Lee seemed to intend to continue the talk. Perhaps she thought Bradley would grow bored of being ignored and leave. It was possible, so worth a try.

"I'm doing okay. The year's been hard, but I think it'll go well next year." Alice stumbled over her words, insecure in her statements. She kept glancing at Bradley, at his smarmy expression. She felt like he was looking at her, oppressing her, ready to make a crude joke about her appearance or sexual behavior. That last bit worried her; she wasn't sure what be worse, being accused of celibacy (true, but relatively mild) or of deviancy or promiscuity (false, but mortifying).

Really, Alice wished he'd just leave them alone. She gazed down at her lap, trying to find more to say to keep him from interrupting.
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Bradley said nothing, and Alice felt even more uncomfortable in her seat. She wondered if her mom was looking for her. She couldn't quite see her table in the distance, so it was hard to say. Alice didn't want to say she regretted approaching; poor Georgia Lee being left alone would be awful. But she regretted Bradley approaching, absolutely.

Georgia Lee's words helped distract her from her desire to get away. Alice nodded quietly as the other girl spoke, intently listening to avoid Bradley's presence distracting her and causing further distress.

Forcing a smile, Alice responded, "Yeah, I know what you mean. People thinking they can walk over a poor junior when she's behaving perfectly well just for laughs." She bit her lip. That might've been a bit harsh for her. Bradley was unpleasant, but insulting him back might just make things worse.

Alice added hastily, "The graduation preparations might be tough, but they'll also be fun, I think." She was beginning to feel calmer, more composed, less frail. She felt more confident in her ability to maintain a conversation without the irritating man next to her.

"When do you turn 18, Georgia Lee?"
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And there it was.

Alice made a face as Bradley finally chimed in with his own commentary. In a sense, she was glad he was picking on Georgia Lee, cruel as it was. She had been dreading it, the snide, explicitly sexual 'joke', unsure how she'd go back to her mother with a straight face. But Georgia Lee seemed much more resilient to the insults, almost like she were more angry with Bradley than offended.

It did not occur to Alice to wonder what led to that strength of the other girl.

She shrunk, visibly, back into her seat, shying away from the boy like a receding turtle. He was just...it could not be reiterated enough that he was an annoyance at best. Georgia Lee spoke up, and the comment she made caught Alice by surprise, and made her smile.

Then she winced, looking at Bradley's expression. Alice tried to be nice, tried to be respectful, but...this whole encounter was proving that she still had a lot to learn about niceness. She'd spent the whole time thinking terrible thoughts about the boy, but did she know anything about him? He was crude, made off-color jokes and such, but did he deserve her loathing?

Perhaps so, perhaps not. Alice would probably never know. So she brushed the thought aside for now.
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