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21
Freestyle Roleplaying / Re: after the party | door
« Last post by Joseph McCormick on 12/31/2022 at 09:11 »
It shouldn’t be surprising that she still tried to take.

They neatly fell into their roles, he reflected now. Giving seemed built into his DNA, and she was happy to take. She took away their relationship and still tried to take his hand. What was he supposed to do?

For the first time in quite a while, Joey McCormick was tired of giving.

“Yeah, I skipped.” Theodora Jalson had probably never skipped a class in her life. He didn’t do it much either, but he knew when a lesson had no chance of benefiting him. “Wasn’t worth it. I’ll go today.”
22
Freestyle Roleplaying / Re: after the party | door
« Last post by Theodora Jalson on 12/31/2022 at 08:59 »
They were still technically in the castle.

While not directly on the route to the Great Hall, Theo would prefer to not be anywhere near the radius of people starting their day heading in that direction.

"No, let's get out onto the grounds," she turned and, on instinct, moved to take hold of his hand before she even truly thought the move through.

It shouldn't have been surprising to her when he flinched to her touch, a limp exchange of fingers where she never got hers connected within his until he dropped his arm altogether to his side.

It was only a brief sequence, but a telling one.

Her fingers clung to her books once more, holding them more for balance than because she worried about them falling.

It was a sunny day outside. Warm for February, which meant it wasn't exactly snowing but not enough that she couldn't feel the cold against her cheeks or see her breath fog in front of her. She didn't walk much farther, confident they were secluded enough. And, if anyone would interrupt them, they would be coming out the door they just left.

"I didn't see you in class yesterday," she started.
23
Freestyle Roleplaying / Re: after the party | door
« Last post by Joseph McCormick on 12/31/2022 at 08:51 »
Someone was watching this unfold.

Joey met the confused and concerned gaze of his roommate across the table. Cooper Hawthorne raised his eyebrows in silent questioning, and Joey simply frowned. Of course, his roommates had to be regaled with the whole unfortunate tale the moment he stumbled into his dorm smelling like the hours he spent in the menagerie. If he gave the word, he had no doubt that Cooper would invent some excuse and drag him away, because he was the sort of underappreciated friend to do what he could for a struggling soul.

But, if Joey was going to be strong and learn something from this, he could not need someone to save him.

He gave a barely perceptible shake of his head and stood, taking his bag and abandoning his half-eaten plate of pancakes. (It was okay; it was his third.) “Sure.”

He tried his best to project a confidence he did not feel as he followed her out to the Entrance Hall.

“Is this good or did you have somewhere else in mind?”
24
Freestyle Roleplaying / Re: after the party | door
« Last post by Theodora Jalson on 12/31/2022 at 08:07 »
"Um," Theo looked around, gauging where they could go and slightly if anyone was actually watching this unfold with more than a curiosity.

"Outside, I guess." She would have rather avoided a secluded room, one she could likely name, where they'd last visited as an excuse to snog in private. The Slytherin rose first, hugging her books to her chest defensively, as she waited to lead them where they needed to go.

It was most certainly crossing her mind, through those seconds, just how much time they had spent locking lips rather than trying to advance their relationship.

And she, as she had the last few days, realized that the problem had been her.
25
Freestyle Roleplaying / Re: after the party | door
« Last post by Joseph McCormick on 12/31/2022 at 08:03 »
He didn’t flinch when she sat down next to him.

Not initially, anyway. He was so used to her presence that his body didn’t react to it like it was unusual, but when she spoke, his heart certainly did. It always picked up speed around her, but not like this. It was supposed to feel like butterflies and blushes, and this was a fight-or-flight response.

He’d spent the better part of yesterday avoiding her and reality in general. Consolation from Atlas went a long way, but the wound was still fresh, and he didn’t want to feel it poked at again.

“Hey.” He picked up a napkin with a regrettably trembling hand and wiped a bit of pancake syrup from the corner of his mouth. “I…guess so? Where?”
26
Freestyle Roleplaying / Re: after the party | door
« Last post by Theodora Jalson on 12/31/2022 at 07:44 »
She didn't wait to give an answer and neither did he.

Theo stood silent, watching him intently, trying her best to appear composed and unbending even if her insides felt flimsier than a tower of gelatin. Emotions weren't her thing. They weren't meant to be and never had been before this, before him, at least not in a way that had her so damn conflicted.

There was still a burning, aching part of her that wanted to reach out and grab him by the collar, say the words she needed to, and snog him with the same sort of enthusiasm he always mustered out of her. Sadly, that part wasn't calling the shots anymore. It was being overridden by her brain, which could list all the things that were wrong, and her heart, which didn't know exactly why they were.

After another awkward stretch of silence as he gathered himself, Joey walked off. Her breathing, coming slower and harsher with each sharp inhale as she watched him leave, hurt her lungs. Clinging to herself, arms crossed over and fingers dug into the fabric of her uniform, Theo left too.

Stuck somewhere between relief, regret, and the responsibility of knowing it'd have to be her to come to him for closure.



She gave him two days.

Well, a day and a half. They noticeably didn't sit together in the classes they shared, not that he seemed to show up to any of them. Concerning, of course, though there was little she could do about it during the pile of hours where she didn't even feel truly present. The morning after such a torrid, despondent day, Theo sunk into the familiar seat beside him during breakfast where she'd seemingly found herself for the past month and change.

The thought of him noticing her before she sat down was a fleeting one.

"Hey," she started, holding back the urge to hold his hand.

"Can we go talk somewhere?" She'd actually given him about fifteen or so minutes, standing awkwardly outside the Great Hall upon seeing him already seated before coming back in just in case he hadn't eaten first.
27
Freestyle Roleplaying / Re: after the party | door
« Last post by Joseph McCormick on 12/29/2022 at 06:54 »
He said too much. He didn’t regret it, but he knew something wasn’t quite right about it. Any other name, he would’ve been fine. Any other issue, he could have done his best to keep a level head. He didn’t like confrontation; why would he make it worse?

Yet it was as if something inside him was set alight, and both of them knew it.

This was all so confusing. No, Theo never said he didn’t care. But she said he only gave the first thing that came to mind; she suggested that he didn’t try, didn’t even want to put effort in. She assumed so much about him, but did she bother to ask? Did she really get to know him at all? All this about giving the first thing that came to mind, but his passion for animals was the first thing most people knew about him. Of course, no one would give him the extraordinary experience she did, and he would forever be grateful for it.

But that didn’t prove that she knew him. How was he supposed to interpret that now? It was an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime day, but he didn’t share it with someone truly invested in it. Was it an attempt to buy a chance at what she wanted - something more?

Maybe he should have thought about that earlier, but maybe Theo should have, too. If they weren’t right for each other - and he must have had an inkling of that, since it kept coming to mind that they never really spent much time together before the party - why go through all this in the first place?

To try, he reminded himself. To loosen up, have fun, try something new. You don’t know until you try.

He couldn’t fault her for curiosity he felt too. But he certainly wasn’t having fun now, and he suspected it only wound both of them tighter.

“Okay,” he said slowly, still clutching the inside of his bag. “Well. I don’t know that I can thank you right now, but…I appreciate that?” His voice rose like it was a question, because it was difficult to say anything positive right now, but truthfully, he did understand the point. If this was always going to be doomed, it was better to get out sooner rather than later. It hurt more than he could comprehend right now, but imagine if he got further than this and failed more spectacularly.

One thing was for sure: he could not get into a relationship when his reasoning was flimsy. He had to believe in it from the beginning or he didn’t have a chance.

He could be okay. He could learn something from this. Slowly, painfully, he could get there. He would.

But if he was going to do that, he could not stay here.

“I’m sorry too.” For going off on you, for not being enough. But he didn’t elaborate; he simply freed his hands, put his bag back on his shoulder, and straightened up. Keep your head up, Mum would say. As defeated as he felt, he couldn’t look down…not until he was free of this overwhelming conversation and all the activity going on around it like no complete life changes were happening at all.

“I…I think I’m gonna go now, if that’s…” ...okay, he almost added, but he shut his mouth at the last minute. What was he doing, asking his…ex-girlfriend for permission? (That was going to take some getting used to.) “I’m gonna go.”

For a brief moment, when he took his first steps away, his decisiveness was not a front.
28
Freestyle Roleplaying / Re: after the party | door
« Last post by Theodora Jalson on 12/28/2022 at 09:23 »
She shouldn't have brought up Atlas.

Maybe if she could have used another example, it would have not summoned such a torrent of defensive denial that felt so angry at her for even thinking it. Theo was stunned into silence, eyes widening, as she took it all in without saying a word.

In that, her anxiousness almost forced out a laugh. She was able to keep that under control thankfully. Though, that passion that just exuded itself so vibrantly did everything to prove her point. Joey, plain as day, would not have reacted that way if the tables were turned. She was sure of it. If it'd been Atlas saying something about her, could she have believed Joey would have screamed at him, or would he have given his supposed best friend a look, or a half-hearted comment about shutting up about it?

The truth, more likely, was Atlas wouldn't have said anything as she had.

Which made this altogether easier for her.

"I'm sorry," she managed to admit. This time, she finally realized it was important to say those things even when she didn't actually mean them.

"You're right. I know you care. I never said you didn't," she didn't add that he'd put those words in her mouth, despite how she would usually savor such a move. Theo held her place even if she wanted to reach out and grab a hold of him, feel him pressed against her, and breathe him in again.

They were past that now, she understood. It'd be selfish to try.

"And I don't think you'll stop caring. Because that's how you are." Another moment of silence as she considered her point. Theo wasn't like that. It was taxing for her to feel that way. It was overall too much.

"And you deserve better than that. I just, I don't think we're right for each other. That should be okay, whether you believe it or not. That's what I think, and it's hard for me to say because I do care about you too. I care about you a lot. That's why I'm doing this before it gets worse."

If it was this hard now, how would it have been weeks from now? Months from now?  Because, if she hadn't spoken up first, Joey might have just stayed with her forever.
29
Freestyle Roleplaying / Re: after the party | door
« Last post by Joseph McCormick on 12/28/2022 at 09:02 »
He stayed quiet and let her correct him. An argument about something she must know more about than him wouldn’t get them anywhere. He still didn’t completely understand why people made a big deal about if people had labels or not when it really didn’t affect them in any way…but fine. He’d assume they did. Either way, the result was the same. Theo dated him instead of just kissing him, and it turned out they both paid for it.

Because she wanted more. More she wasn’t going to get in a bloody month, but why did that mean it was impossible permanently? Relationships took time to really figure out; his mum said both people had to put in equal effort, time, care, and love. Where there was an imbalance, problems arose, and he’d never seen scales so unbalanced. Maybe Theo didn’t think he was putting in enough effort, but it was unbalanced because he was still doing more. Too much, if she wasn’t even willing to give it time.

His frustration was building, but he didn’t want to direct it at Theo. It was more at the situation and the universe for being the way it was. He was frustrated with himself for being so hopelessly trapped in this brutal cycle of a conversation and messing up more at every opportunity. Every time he thought he could redeem himself, he only dug himself a deeper hole. It was so…futile.

He just wanted to slide down the wall and sit down right in the middle of the courtyard. What would really change? He was already being run over.

But defeat took a brief vacation when she veered into dangerous territory. Confusion, frustration, and the beginning of something like indignation flashed in green eyes at this unnecessary move to drag not only Joey through the mud, but Atlas, too. They’d done so well at leaving him out of this. Now she wanted to pull this?

“Seriously, Theo? I told you I spent time thinking about it! Do you…” He slid his pack off his shoulder and rummaged through it furiously. “...do you want me to find all the ideas I crossed out because nothing fit or seemed good enough? What do you want?”

Because apparently he was the last to know.

“I know you two have problems, but you’re going to bring him up now? At least Atlas doesn’t have some unknown expectations. I could take five seconds and it wouldn’t make it less than good enough! ‘Cause it’s supposed to be about the person, not the things. The fact that someone’s willing to put in effort and spend time with you at all because they care about you.”

But because he didn’t love her within a month, it wasn’t good enough.

He released a long breath and dropped the journal he’d grabbed hold of back into his bag. His hands were shaking, so he kept them buried inside, clutching the fabric like a lifeline. He didn’t know he could talk like that. He kind of wished he hadn’t, but…he wasn’t going to take it back either. Maybe he was a horrible boyfriend, but Atlas wasn’t a reason why, and Joey refused to let her lump his best friend in with his faults.

When he looked back up at her, any hint of fire was gone. He was more focused on forcing himself to take deep breaths and waiting for his verdict.
30
Freestyle Roleplaying / Re: after the party | door
« Last post by Theodora Jalson on 12/28/2022 at 08:00 »
He didn't say it verbatim, but they both knew that's what he meant. Her narrowed eyes conveyed just that sentiment; that doubting that she knew him pretty well by now, his small ticks and insinuations, was foolish.

Theo didn't say as much because admitting it would lead to more arguing, more tangents, when she needed to stay focused.

"Boys, not people." It was not the same. At least, it had never felt the same to Theo. She couldn't speak for everyone, but she was not self-aware enough not to see it that way. It was impossible to shake the exact way people looked at her when they realized she was Sierra's sister. The wide ogle, the uncomfortable friction.

Worse was what she heard in the girl's bathrooms, in changing rooms, in powder rooms. Her sister, of course, was bulletproof to anyone else's opinions. Theo had been the one left with the scars.

“What changed? It’s barely been a few weeks. Stuff like…advancement doesn’t happen overnight.”

"Yeah, because I want more."

Benjamin Orellana Jr. had gotten in her bloody head.

"I'm sorry that I just don't feel that way. And I'm sorry I have to be the one to point out that you don't either. I haven't been able to pinpoint what was wrong until Valentine's Day. And no, I wasn't expecting you to gift me more than you could afford."

She seethed, sucking in her breath.

"Just more than the first bloody thing that came to mind. I mean, really, if this was something for Atlas, you would have put a whole lot more effort."
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