"That’s really, great, Han. I’m glad you’re really fitting in. And I’m glad you’re finding such good friends.”
I wish I could be too...
“Yeah, well. I still miss you.” Hannah sits up in her bed, trying to find a more comfortable position for the phone. “Even if it’s getting easier.”
“Aw, I love you and miss you too. I should probably go, though.”
“Love you, too.”
Her sister hangs up and Hannah puts the phone back, laying back on her bed and staring at the ceiling, a mess of feelings going through her head.
What if I’m actually developing feelings for Jake?
She turns over in bed, trying to ignore the typing from her roommate’s desk, and eventually manages to drift off to sleep.
The messages from Chris are almost a relief, after spending the morning cooped up in her room doing homework by herself, causing her to overthink everything.
Diocusin: Hey. Any afternoon plans?
Diocusin: Want to do something?
JustinMyIdol22: That sounds better than sitting here.
JustinMyIdol22: Jake and Nikhil are both busy with laundry.
She considers options for a bit.
I guess I could talk to him and see his take on the situation? Really, I should talk to Nikhil, but I’m not sure that conversation will be able to be kept from Jake, since they live together.
She decides on the game room as a place that wouldn’t be too strange, but would also give her a reasonable opportunity to talk to Chris.
JustinMyIdol22: Want to check out the game room?
Diocusin: That sounds good. Meet you there?
She gathers her thoughts before heading out the door to meet him.
She meets him at the entrance to the game room. “Hey, Chris.”
They walk in together, and she looks around, wanting to ease into the conversation. “That dance game looks interesting. Dance Dance Revolution? I think Jake plays something like this.”
Chris shrugs, but doesn’t object, and a few awkward, fumbling minutes later, they stand on the pads staring at the angry Game Over screen. Hannah frowns.
“That’s... not so easy. I should ask Jake to show me this sometime.”
She takes a deep breath, trying to steel herself for the conversation. Speaking of Jake...
“Uh, can I ask you something?” Chris raises an eyebrow at her, but doesn’t object. “Do you... you think Jake likes me?”
She stares at him, her heart pounding, but somehow feeling like a huge weight has been lifted off of her chest, having stated the question that had been plaguing her out loud for the first time. The silence seems to stretch on unbearably, before Chris shrugs.
“I don’t know. Why don’t you ask him?”
Typical Chris. She can’t help feeling a little disappointed by the answer, staring back at the game and its high scores. She catches a glimpse of “JKE” scrolling by, wondering if it’s him and if she’s really just imagining the whole thing.
“I, uh. I think I like him. And I don’t know what to do about it.”
Chris shrugs again. “Ask him out.”
Hannah frowns, staring at her reflection in the shiny metal of the pads. “I don’t know. What if he doesn’t... like me? Maybe I should just talk to him first.”
She shakes her head, feeling a little better, despite not having gotten any confirmation either way.
“Sorry. I just... I didn’t mean to be awkward.” She shuffles her feet, watching the buttons light up underneath her. “Anyway. Again?”
She thought the crush had been bad, but somehow, having Jake actively avoiding her is worse.
She’d panicked for a bit, wondering if her conversation with Nikhil earlier in the week had somehow gotten back to Jake, but Nikhil swears he hasn’t spoken a word, so she’s left instead wondering if he’s just terrified that he feels the same way about her.
She gets dinner with Nikhil and Chris, and feels strangely relieved that Jake didn’t tag along despite really missing him. But the two of them manage to convince her to talk to Jake about it, which she thinks is probably a good idea anyway given something is clearly happening between her and him.
She sits staring at an IM window to him that night, ignoring homework and trying to will up the courage to send him a message. Instead, her sister calls, and they talk about mundane things, and she goes to bed afterward vowing to herself to do better tomorrow.
JustinMyIdol22: Hey. Can we talk?
NuttyJake2008: of course :D
NuttyJake2008: whats up? :D
JustinMyIdol22: Okay, seriously though.
JustinMyIdol22: Jake, you’ve been avoiding me.
She waits a bit, but he doesn’t respond.
JustinMyIdol22: I like you, okay?
JustinMyIdol22: And we should talk about this.
She feels her heart drop at the sad face. She’s not sure exactly what he means by it, but she’s pretty sure his lack of a response can’t be a good sign, especially given his usual easygoing chatter in text-based forms of communication.
JustinMyIdol22: I’m sorry. I’m an idiot.
JustinMyIdol22: I just thought... I don’t know.
JustinMyIdol22: I feel like we get along so well, and I just...
NuttyJake2008: i like you but um
NuttyJake2008: not like that? :(
For some reason a tear falls down her cheek, and she wipes it away, trying not to wake her roommate, who was for some reason still asleep. She blinks away the blurriness and tries to come up with a reasonable response.
JustinMyIdol22: Okay. That’s... good to know, at least.
NuttyJake2008: no i um
NuttyJake2008: its not you :(
JustinMyIdol22: Thanks, but that doesn’t really make me feel better.
NuttyJake2008: no i mean
NuttyJake2008: i dont
He doesn’t respond further for a bit, and she’s about to send a question mark when the message arrives.
NuttyJake2008: i dont like girls
She stares at it, and for some reason the tears are flowing freely now. She knows it should make her feel better, and that she really should be supportive, but instead she just feels upset with him -- like she’s the world’s biggest fool.
She heads to the bathroom, splashing some water on her eyes and staring at herself in the mirror, the blue-tinted lighting making her reflection appear as sickly as she feels at the moment. The red streaks in her hair serve as inconvenient reminders of him, and she silently curses her decisions, tearing her gaze away and wiping her eyes.
Taking a bit longer to compose herself, she heads back to the room to find a series of frantic messages from Jake, and while she knows inside that this is probably significantly harder for him at the moment, she can’t help but feel some irrational anger at him for somehow betraying her affections.
NuttyJake2008: im sorry :(
NuttyJake2008: i dont know
NuttyJake2008: :( :(
NuttyJake2008: do you hate me?
NuttyJake2008: ive never... told anyone before
NuttyJake2008: so i just
NuttyJake2008: i dont know :( :(
JustinMyIdol22: Sorry. I just had to use the restroom.
JustinMyIdol22: I definitely don’t hate you. It’s not your fault.
She laughs at that, involuntarily, trying to get herself to believe the words even as she knows they’re true. Her roommate shifts in bed in the way that Hannah has learned means she’s annoyed, and she returns her thoughts to the chat window.
NuttyJake2008: i do like you
NuttyJake2008: just not... like that :(
JustinMyIdol22: I understand.
JustinMyIdol22: And it means a lot that I’m the first person you’ve told.
She sits back for a bit, blinking away the tears that threaten to resurface, and thinking back on their interactions for for the past few weeks, realizing that perhaps she mistook their friendship, forged in some sense out of a mutual sense of loneliness and need for companionship, for something more. But as she replays the memories in her mind, she’s hit with a sudden realization.
JustinMyIdol22: Do you have a crush on Nikhil?
Jake’s extended silence is all the confirmation she needs.
JustinMyIdol22: That actually makes a lot of sense.
JustinMyIdol22: He’s cute, isn’t he?
NuttyJake2008: and um
NuttyJake2008: yeah hes kinda cute :P
The two of them talk for a bit before Jake excuses himself to go study with Nikhil.
NuttyJake2008: are you ok? :(
JustinMyIdol22: I will be. Thanks.
JustinMyIdol22: Will just need some time. Not your fault.
She believes the words more, that time, but as Jake leaves and she sits back in her chair, she’s still not sure she’s ready to face the rest of the day yet. Instead, she decides to head back to bed and deal with the world later.