Her Elysium Chapter 6-10

These are chapters 6-10 of Her Elysium, if you've not read the first five chapters, check them out here: Her Elysium Chapter 1-5

For those of you who are ready, let's continue!

Chapter 6 – Alex

DPS = Damage Per Second = Shorthand to refer to classes that are damage dealers. Their most important attribute is their ability to do as much damage to monsters as possible in the least amount of time, so they have to have a high Damage Per Second. I sometimes think more of them as ‘those who can’t tank or heal’, but I’m biased, I prefer being a tank mainly and a healer secondary. I’m no good as a DPS class, I always die.

“Was it a stupid idea?” I lean back against the bed in Troy’s room, my laptop next to me as I stare out of his window.

“Asking Fleur to come to the meet?” His answer is slow, he’s apparently actually doing his homework, something I’ve been trying all afternoon and failing.

“Yes.”

“You’re asking me this, again. After I’ve given you an answer six times already?” He now turns to me, frowning.

“Yeah?” I’ve asked him that often? I thought it was only twice, maybe. Hmm.

He rolls his eyes. “Asking her was fine. She can choose if she wants to come herself. Just, don’t get your hopes up too much.” He turns back to his desk.

“Why?”

“You may have fallen head over heels, but that doesn’t mean it’s the same for her.”

“I know. I know.” It’s not like I’m not aware of that. It’s just… Meeting a girl like Fleur and having her be a healer who matches my play style and she just sounds so sweet and she’s like… sexy smart. I guess it’s the perfect recipe for me. And I guess I’m just ready for a new girlfriend, no matter how silly that sounds.

“Now. Do your homework or you’re going to get written up. You can’t have that happen in the final weeks. Not after being good all year.”

“Fine, fine.” I grab my laptop, searching for the assignments we have for the week. There’s not much, it’s the final weeks of the school year after all, only two weeks away from exams. But still, the weather is so nice, I don’t want to do my homework.

I wish I was better at making the jump from knowing what I should be doing to actually doing something. After I open the assignment I look up for a moment, out the window. “Do you think the weather will be good for the meet?”

“Alex…” Troy turns back to me. “Go do your homework, or at least let me do mine. If I get written up, you know my mum isn’t going to let me come to the meet, which means, no showing up for you either.” He looks at me flatly. “So, whatever, but just let me do this, yeah? You promised you wouldn’t distract me if I let you do your homework here.”

“Yeah, yeah.” I push myself up, standing up and taking a few steps around the room. He’s right. I tried doing homework at home, but it didn’t work, so I begged Troy to let me come and do it here. “It’s just…” Hard to concentrate. Different from usual. I’m too easily distracted.

“I know.” Troy’s been my best friend for years. The only reason he puts up with me is that I’m the only one who can kick his butt at games he knows he would be best at otherwise. “But don’t let this year fall into the gutter just for that. Yeah? You can talk to Fleur later today. But you do have to pass this year or we’re going to have to find another tank for raiding.” He turns back to his desk. “And you know how hard that’s going to be, especially because I don’t know if Fleur will want to stay in the guild if you’re not there.” I can hear the teasing in his voice, but apparently that’s what I needed to hear. Because I sit down again, grab my laptop and scan the assignment for next week.

I can do this.

I hope…

* * *

BelleFleur: I asked my mum, but I’m still not sure if I’m allowed.

I frown at the screen. It’s only one week until the meet. One week of exams almost twice a day and then we’ve got the guild meet. And one week until Fleur will or will not show up.

I get it, but that doesn’t mean I’m not frustrated. Fleur’s a year younger than me and even my mum won’t let me get to these meets on my own. But it’s still annoying that I won’t know if she’ll be there until she actually shows up, or not. I guess I’m just nervous.

I wish I could make it easier on Fleur, but I know that talking to some random person, me, won’t help her parents feel safer about her going.

At least I’ve got Troy. Somehow, having a boy with me makes my parents think it’s safer. Though… I don’t know if it has to do with me being a girl, or my slight issue with hyperactivity and a lack of impulse control. Maybe they’re just scared I’ll get lost or something. Which… I don’t know. It’s much more likely that I’ll have to find Troy in the middle of nowhere when he gets himself lost yet again rather than the other way around. But with parents… you never really know why they think some things are safer than others. And I’ve kind of stopped asking them ‘why’ when it comes to their insistence that I don’t go places on my own.

AlexTheDestroyer: Well, we’ll just have to hope for a while longer.

Right? That’s not weird to say? I don’t know anymore. How do you talk normally to a girl you’ve just met but can’t forget about? Because I’m sure that I haven’t had to deal with this awkwardness in a long time, at least not with butterflies like this. It’s making me jittery.

BelleFleur: Yeah.

BelleFleur: You’ve also got exams next week, right? Your parents letting you play DoE during the week?

Like they can stop me. I almost say it, but reality is, they can totally stop me. If I don’t pass my exams… Well, Troy was right, my parents would very likely do something to prevent me from playing this summer and probably even make it harder for me to play next year. Which means the guild would have to find a new tank to do raids with, which isn’t easy and could pull the whole guild apart.

My parents only let me play so easily because I’ve got good grades and I can prove to them I’m taking my classes seriously while also being somewhat responsible in my sleeping patterns. It’s still a learning process…

AlexTheDestroyer: They don’t care as long as I keep getting good grades.

Better answer and still the truth.

BelleFleur: I wish it was that easy for me…

BelleFleur: But at least they’re letting me on in the evenings. So we can still play.

AlexTheDestroyer: Good.

The butterflies in my stomach do a little hyperactive dance. Playing together with Fleur in the evenings will be a nice reward for working my butt off during the day. Which I’m going to need, especially since my mind will be all over the place from exhaustion. Knowing that I’ll be able to play together with Fleur will keep me motivated, I hope.

BelleFleur: Well, hit that queue button so we can go play.

AlexTheDestroyer: Sounds like a plan.

I click through a couple of menus and sign us up for a random dungeon to run, not too complicated, but enough to keep us entertained.

I really don’t want to think about the exam I’ll be having in about twelve hours. I just hope I have prepared enough for this, because it’s going to be hard. These are the last exams before my final year. Next year will be what everything depends on, what University of Applied Sciences I can get into and everything.

A screen pops up and I click to accept the invitation for the dungeon. Okay, game mode back on.

Nothing but the mobs, the bosses and the other players from here on out.

One last night before the real stress starts.

* * *

“Alex?” Aaron’s voice pulls me from my thoughts as he suddenly speaks in the group voice chat.

“Yeah?” I stare at the screen in front of me. I’m looking over some exam notes for tomorrow’s exam while hanging out in the voice chat, since I bore easily.

“You’ve got everything set up for the meet, right?”

“Yes. Got the venue, got people’s payments, got all I need, I think. Why?”

“Dunno, bored.” He sighs. “There’s nobody here.”

I look to the side, at my phone. “It’s almost four in the afternoon. Everyone is studying, taking exams or working.”

“Ah, maybe.”

“No, not maybe. Pretty definitely.” I laugh a little. “Go make some triangle flag banner thingies or whatever if you’re bored.” Braining goes really well after two exams and now studying for tomorrow’s exams.

“Really?”

I shake my head. Why is Aaron so surprised by my idea? “If you want to. I’m not going to carry it over there for you though. You can do that yourself. But yeah, if you’re bored, go make banners or something game related to put on the tables or whatever.”

“You studying French by any chance?”

“Oui,” I grumble.

“Ah.” Sounds like that solves his mystery.

“Why?”

“You get grumpy when you have to do French.” I can hear him moving around. “Okay, fine. You go study, I’ll entertain myself until Troy comes on.”

“He won’t be on for a few more hours.” I can’t help but snicker, Aaron isn’t that good at entertaining himself.

“Why?” This time it’s Aaron who sounds suspicious.

“He’s got an exam until five and then has to do stuff with his family.”

“Fine. I’ll wait for someone else then. You go study your French.” I see him log out of the program and get back to my notes.

Why my parents want me to study French, I don’t know. Apart from France being one of the countries my parents love to visit, I don’t really have a connection with it. This was the one class my parents thought would be a good idea for me to take for some reason, and they kept insisting. I only took it since I had to choose an extra language class anyway…

I grab my book and start walking through my room, trying to memorise the words on the page. I’ve been at this for at least two hours but I still feel like it’s not going to work and that makes me feel even worse about French because I just want to pass all my classes, even this one.

When my phone rings, I take the distraction. I put the book down and pick up the phone, seeing it’s Cerise. “Hey.”

“Oh, you sound relieved.” Cerise laughs. “Still studying?” Cerise is one of our DPS from the guild. She’s a mage, like Owen, but she isn’t around as often since her Higher Vocational Education classes and her part-time job kind of make it harder for her to be on every evening.

“Yeah,” I grumble, letting myself fall onto the bed. “What’s up?”

“Just checking in on you. Making sure you’re actually working.”

“And you’re interrupting my study time for that?” I side-eye the book I just dropped.

“Yeah, you can’t study for hours on end anyway. You’re in need of a break.”

“Okay. So what was so important for you to break my study session?” I make myself comfortable. I like talking to Cerise on the phone, she sometimes seems to understand me better than the guys do. The guys can sometimes be a little… brute-ish.

“Well. I was thinking…”

“Hmm, hmm.” It’s never a good thing when she starts like that.

“You know how it’s my birthday in like… two months, right?” Cerise’s voice goes up.

“Yes…”

“And you know how I usually don’t really celebrate it, right?”

“Yeah…” Normally we just exchange gifts at a guild meet or something like that. My birthday is also over the summer, so it’s easier. That way we don’t have to try to get together three times over summer break.

“Well. I was thinking… Since we’ve got to know quite a few new girls in DoE, maybe we can do like a girls’ night, or a girls’ weekend or something? What do you think?”

“Ehh. What did you specifically have in mind?” Because in my mind, there’s just pink and nail polish and stuff like that when I hear ‘girls’ night’.

“Well, I have a good internet connection and I can probably get my parents to give me the house for a night. And you’ve seen how many people we can house round the dining room table…” She lets out a laugh. “I could, of course, add pink to it and we could do a face painting competition to find out who can make themselves look the most like a game character…”

“Very funny. But I like the idea.” I shake my head, also laughing. “Of the party, not the face painting. Though, you can go ahead with that if you’d like to.” I shrug, though I know she can’t see it. “Were you thinking about a shared party?”

“Yeah. If you’d like. It’s not as if I’d invite people you don’t know, it’s just gonna be the girls from the guilds. Unless you’ve already planned something?”

“I’d planned not to do much at all, really. It’s not like it’s going to be important for me and with the guild meet and stuff so close to it. This sounds way better.”

“Good.” I can hear the smile in Cerise’s voice. “We’ll talk specifics at the meet. I need to go now. There’s people expecting stuff of me.” She lets out an exaggerated sigh. “And, hey, did I remind you yet that Fleur may be at the meet this weekend? Just, you know, to stress you out. Bye!” And she quickly disconnects the line, but I can still hear her laugh before she does so.

She’s so evil, so mean. Like I need the reminder. Like I don’t remind myself of that every moment. I’ve talked to Fleur a few times this week, we’re both so busy with exams that it’s not easy. But even though it’s annoying for me, at least I know I’m going to the meet. And no matter whether or not Fleur is coming, it’ll be a fun day anyway.

But for Fleur… To not know if she’ll be able to come or at what time… I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be for her, but at the same time… Yeah. Parents…

I really wish this was easier. I wish I could talk to her or meet her. But for now, it’s all just in game and it may have raised my hopes a little too much…

Maybe.

Probably.

Argh!

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Chapter 7 – Fleur

Patch = Update for the game, like patching up something broken. Usually they come in two variations. The first one is weekly updates where they fix bugs and things like that and the second one is almost more of an upgrade than an update. These bigger patches often include more dungeons and other content between big game expansions. One of the things often added during these are raids and endgame dungeons.

I’m bouncing my leg as I wait for DoE to update. Of course, it’s the day before the meet and the game needs to update even though I’m itching to log on… My final exam ended late and I got home just in time for dinner. But now I’m done. Today was my final day of term before summer break and there’s nothing I want to do more than spend the whole evening with the guild.

I stand up, the update is going to take a while apparently, so I walk downstairs and grab a cool bottle of fizzy drink from the fridge. Then I step out into the garden where Mum and Dad are still sitting in the sun, the plates from their desserts still on the table between them.

“Mum?” I lean against the door.

“Yes?” She looks at me, her sunglasses reflecting me like a funny mirror.

“Do you know about tomorrow yet?” I try not to sigh, because that only makes her annoyed, and when she’s annoyed I’m likely not getting anything at all.

“This again?” She turns back. “Like I said. I don’t know yet. I’m not sure if it’s a good idea at all, you know that.”

“I studied. I went to all my classes. I worked hard. I deserve some fun.”

“Yes. You deserve fun. But why does it have to be with people you’ve only met online and you’ve never actually talked to? You can have fun with Hannah, Sydney or even that girl, Jade, from your work. Why do you have to look online for that?”

“I didn’t look for them online. They’re just other people who also play the same game and we play together a lot. They’re not scary or evil or whatever. We just wanna hang out in real life for once.” We’ve been having this discussion every time going to the meet comes up. “It’s not like it’s somewhere scary, they’ve just booked the outside tables at a barbecue grill place and it’s only an hour away by bus.”

“You’ve got work tomorrow.” Which is a lame excuse, as she always bothers me that I should go out with my friends, at least the ones she approves of, after work all the time.

“I wish you’d consider it.” I turn back to the house, escaping. Because as long as she’s not said ‘no’, there’s still a chance for a ‘yes’, even though I know that the chance is slim at this point.

I make my way up the stairs and lock myself in my room. The game wants me to log in again, which means the update has finally finished.

Right on time…

I sit down and as soon as I appear in game, a message from Alex appears.

AlexTheDestroyer: Any news yet?

BelleFleur: No.

BelleFleur: I just wish she’d make up her mind. This is driving me crazy…

AlexTheDestroyer: Yeah…

AlexTheDestroyer: Anyway, how did your final exam go?

I laugh. Sure, leave it to Alex to ask the hard questions first.

BelleFleur: I think I did well enough. You?

AlexTheDestroyer: Destroyed it.

I can’t help the smile, a fuzzy feeling in my stomach, which happens every time he makes me laugh at one of his lame jokes.

BelleFleur: Right…

AlexTheDestroyer: Hey, you got any preference for drinks or snacks or whatever? Or anything you can’t eat?

BelleFleur: Nope. Luckily not.

AlexTheDestroyer: Cool.

AlexTheDestroyer: So, you want to group up and get some dungeons done or something?

BelleFleur: Yes, please.

BelleFleur: I want to get this crazy thing called school out of my head and dive into the not-so-normal world of dungeons and monsters and magic.

I make myself comfortable as I wait for Alex to invite me to his party, but when I click the accept button, I see it’s just us.

BelleFleur: No others?

AlexTheDestroyer: They’re all in voice chat going crazy about tomorrow. I want to play, not chat.

Ah. Yeah. With me not knowing if I’m going, even though I really want to, we kind of stopped discussing the meet a few days ago.

Now it’s just nerves, nerves about yes or no for going and nerves about what would happen if I’d be allowed to go…

* * *

“Hey!” Jade prances into the flower shop, a big smile on her face. “I see someone is dressed for the summer. Or is it a date?” She wiggles her eyebrows.

“Don’t say that…” I close my eyes. “I don’t want anyone to put that idea in my mum’s head, even if she’s not here. This morning she looked at me and actually asked me if I’m dressing up for someone special today. I, of course, denied it, but I don’t want to give her any more reasons to tell me I can’t go.”

“Still a no then?” She leans onto the counter, looking at me.

“She had this great idea this morning…” I sigh, playing with a few flower petals on the counter. “She may allow me to go. But… she wants to come too.”

“What?”

“Yeah. I don’t want her there when I’m meeting Alex for the first time. ‘Hey, I’m Fleur, I know we talk and joke all the time online, so much so that I’m doubting if we haven’t been flirting or something. Oh, and this is my mum…’” I groan.

“Well, it’s some progress…” Jade shrugs. “But she doesn’t have to go to the actual meet with you, right? She could just drop you off or something and stay nearby?”

“Yeah, I said the same. But she answered with more of a ‘we’ll see’ than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. So I have no idea, still.”

“So are you looking forward to finally meeting Alex? Meeting Mister Funny-and-Cute?” Jade grins, leaning closer. “You gonna jump him and kiss him when you meet?”

My cheeks heat up immediately at that thought, my mouth opening, but no sounds coming out. “Don’t… I don’t… I don’t know.” I put my hands on my cheeks, but it’s no use, they’re scorching under my hands, even in the heat of the shop.

But Jade just looks at me, a glint in her eyes. “Busted! You’ve thought of it. You want to jump his bones.”

“I don’t. I don’t even know him. I just know he’s funny and sweet. I don’t know anything else about him.” Not that I wouldn’t like to. Not that I wouldn’t like touching him and seeing where things will go.

Though, with today’s weather, probably not very far. It’s already hot and the day has just started. I can’t imagine how hot it will be this afternoon when the meet actually takes place.

I let out a deep breath. “Is this going to be good enough? I don’t want to look overdressed, but I also don’t want to look like I just threw something on.” I look down at my dress. “Alex said the meet would be outside, so there should be a little breeze, right?”

“You’re going to wear that?” Jade steps around the counter, looking at me.

“Without the apron, of course.” I laugh as I hold it aside to show the whole dress. It’s just a simple summer dress with big flower patterns on it. It’s probably the ‘most summery while still decently covering’ dress that I have.

“Looks pretty.” Jade nods appreciatively. “Do you have like… a hat to go with it or something?”

“A hat?”

“Yes. Against the summer sun, but also, this dress requires a hat. A big summery hat.”

“I don’t have one.” Because, when would I ever think of that?

“No worries. I’ll get you one before the end of the day. Just make sure you personalise it with flowers or something. Make it more you.” Jade checks her phone. “Okay, got to go. Break’s over.” She smiles and I can see a little mischief in it. “We’ll get you an amazing outfit, and maybe even a little bit of makeup before the end of the day. That way your mum has to let you go.”

“Sounds more like she’d have all the more reason not to…” I shake my head, excited and scared at the same time. “Okay. Fine. You do what you think is best. It’s not like I’ve got much experience with dating, or even going on dates…” Not that I have no experience with it, but guys usually just aren’t that interested in me, especially not when they can have one of my friends. And when I do have one of those dates, I always know what to wear because I know the type of things those guys like, the same person my parents would like me to be.

“You’ll get there.” Jade waves at me as she leaves the shop. “This is going to be awesome!”

* * *

I look at my phone again. Andrew let me out of work more than an hour early, it wasn’t busy anyway and I think he got a little annoyed with my jumping all over the place with nerves.

Which means I can get to the party earlier, I could grab the bus and leave. But, instead, I sent a text to my mum and she said she’d come pick me up. I don’t want to push my luck, so I didn’t ask what she meant exactly.

Then my mum’s car turns onto the street, slowing down and stopping as she reaches me. I open the door and quickly slip inside, taking care that the big summer hat Jade was somehow able to find for me doesn’t get bunched up or broken on my way in.

“Hey.” I rearrange my things so I can sit more comfortably.

“Hey. How much did you say that meet-thingy costs?” She drums her fingers on the wheel of the car, looking thoughtful.

“Thirty euros. But that includes food and drinks and everything.” Wait. Does this mean that she’ll allow me to go?

“Okay.” She rummages through her bag and hands me some money. “Should cover the costs for the meeting and then some for maybe something fun or nice or whatever.”

“You’re allowing me to go?” Really?

“Yes.” She holds her hand up before I can say anything. “But, I’m going to be dropping you off. I will go and have a drink at the place itself to see everything going on and if everything seems okay, I will go visit a friend and then I will pick you up at ten. Are we clear?”

Hells yes! “Yeah. Thank you so much!” Wow. This really is going to happen. I want to squee, but I know that Mum hates that and I can’t piss her off right now. I want to tell someone but I can’t even send a message to Alex to tell him I’m coming. So annoying. But I can send a message to Jade. ‘I’m going to the meet! Mum’s dropping me off!’ I just have to share this excitement with someone.

Mum starts driving and laughs a little in that way which tells me she’s aware of my excitement and thinks it’s cute.

Then my phone buzzes and I see that Jade has sent me a lot of emojis and moving stickers, from happy faces to fireworks to a whole row of hearts.

I feel my cheeks heat up a little. Yes. Hearts. I’ll be seeing Alex. Oh, help! I check myself out as well as I can in the mirror, pulling at my dress a little, making sure there are no stains on it. But even if there were, I’m not going to be able to get changed anyway.

“That hat, did you make it yourself?” Mum glances at me for a moment as she drives through the city.

“Jade got me the hat, but I put the flowers on it myself.” So, I guess it’s a little bit of both.

“Very pretty. It looks lovely with all those fresh flowers on.” She smiles. “You’re really looking forward to this, aren’t you?”

“Yeah!” Like my asking and begging for the last couple of weeks wasn’t obvious enough.

“Anyone in particular who’s coming. I thought you mentioned an Alex?”

“Hmm, hmm.” I play with the hem of my dress a little. “Yeah, he’ll be there too. He’s the one organising the meet.”

“Oh, that’s nice. Have you told him yet that you’re coming?”

“I don’t have his number. We always meet in the game, so we didn’t actually swap numbers.” Especially since I sort of don’t want to ruin the surprise of who I am. Or maybe just because I’m scared… What if he isn’t as hot as I imagine him to be? Or what if his jokes are much less funny in real life? Or maybe he’s just annoying or something?

I kind of didn’t want to ruin the dream before I really met him. Or ruin whatever his idea of me is by being all plain and boring…

Dammit. Now I’m scared. What if I’m this huge disappointment to him? This plain little girl who has crappy social skills when out in a group…

How can I be scared and excited at the same time?

This is going to be one long drive…

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Chapter 8 – Alex

Caster = A type of class that doesn’t do physical attacks but instead relies on magical spells. A healer is a caster, though they rely on healing, not damage attacks. Mages and bards are two types of caster DPS classes, they do magical attacks from a distance. Out of all the DPS classes, I suck least at playing a mage probably because, like a healer, you don’t want to stand anywhere near the monster you’re killing.

It’s hot. It’s way hotter than I expected it to be today and I’m glad I took a strappy top with me instead of just my t-shirt. I lean over the table, my head on my arms. It’s too sticky to sit like this, but also too hot to keep sitting up, even in the shadows.

“Troy…” I don’t even lift my head. “Get me something to drink, will you?”

“Why should I?” He puts his sweaty and hot hand on the bare skin of my back and I groan.

“Too hot.”

“Well, yes. It’s summer.” I can almost hear the evil grin he’s making at me. “Summer means hot.”

“Summer is evil.” I sit up, glaring at Troy. “Go get me something to drink. I’m your guild leader.”

“Ah-hah.” He raises his eyebrows as he pulls a face. “And I’ve known you since you were small enough to eat sand pies and were considering adding spiders to your diet.”

“Ugh.” I sigh. I don’t want to get up, it’s too hot to move. I’m hoping that it will be cooler when we go home in the evening.

“Hey, did you hear from Fleur this morning?”

I shake my head. “She had to work and didn’t know if she could get out early. And it sounded like she didn’t know if her mum would let her come anyway…”

Which sucked. I really want to meet her, we’ve been spending so much time online that I really want to see her. But I get it. Meeting people you only know from online is just not something that many parents would allow you to do… Especially as a teen girl, which I know everything about. The only reason my parents allow me to come to gatherings like this is because Troy is with me. I don’t know why, but somehow they trust him to protect me or something…

“Bummer. I know you really want to see her.”

“Troy…” I glare at him. “Don’t go there. I just have a lot of respect for her as a fellow female gamer and she’s a great healer.”

“Hmmm, hmmm. Keep telling yourself that. Keep telling yourself it’s about respect and not something more primal.” He grins and I kick at his leg. Which is way too much moving in this heat.

“Shut up.” I groan and drop my head onto my arms again. It’s too hot to argue with him today.

Troy’s finally quiet for a while, but then I feel him move next to me, sitting up straighter. “Eh, Alex?”

“What?” I’m not lifting my head up for some stupid question.

“I think she’s here.” Something in his voice tells me that he’s not joking, unlike the ten times he’s tried this same move this afternoon.

My heart starts beating like crazy and I look up. Okay, so maybe I’m a bit more excited than I’d like to admit…

At the door there’s a girl in a brightly coloured summer dress, her hand on her big sun hat as she lifts the front to look over the group.

I can only stare at her. She’s like a vision. She wasn’t joking when she said she loves flowers. Her dress is covered in them and I can even see some flowers on her hat, which I think may even be real. I don’t know, it would fit Fleur to do that. She really is so much like her character, maybe not in actual looks, but definitely in the aura she gives off.

I watch the girl take a deep breath, nodding to herself, and walking over to Aaron, who’s standing on his own at the table with drinks.

They chat for a moment and then Aaron looks our way, pointing at us.

I’m not sure if I’m breathing anymore right now.

Fleur smiles and then comes over to us, but as she comes closer I see she has her eyes on Troy and my heart sinks. Fleur eyes me for a moment but then flashes a brilliant smile at Troy. “Hi, you’re Alex, right? I’m Fleur.”

Troy lets out a little laugh. It’s not the first time people expect him to be Alex, especially when it’s just the two of us together. I have to admit, he does look like he could be a tank called AlexTheDestroyer, and, sure, I guess he looks good. But to hear the girl I’ve been talking to, the girl who has been on my mind for weeks now mix us up… it hurts, it stomach-pain-inducing hurts.

Troy clears his throat. “Actually, I’m Troy. This is Alex.” He wraps his hot and sticky arm around my shoulder and I shrug him off as quickly as I can. Too hot and not good.

“Oh.” Fleur’s face falls some and then she puts on an awkward smile. “Hi.”

“Hey.” My voice is rough. “Nice to meet you.” The happy feeling inside when I first saw her is gone now. She didn’t expect a girl, she expected a guy like Troy. A guy who’s built like a wall like AlexTheDestroyer, not a plain frail girl like me.

“Sit down. Sit down.” Troy motions at Fleur, his voice is forced upbeat, then he stands up. “I’ll go get you two something to drink. What do you want?”

“Water.” I can’t help but grumble a little. There’s a beautiful and smart girl sitting right across from me and all she wants is a guy like Troy. Fuck. My. Life.

“Me too, thanks.” Fleur’s voice is careful before she meets my eyes. I can see her confusion, and her disappointment.

“I’ll be right back.” Troy walks off and when he’s out of hearing-range, I speak up.

“I’m not who you expected.” No question, fact. I wish it didn’t hurt as much as it does.

Fleur shakes her head and takes her hat off, playing with the rim in her hands, her hair falls forward a little, hiding her face. “No.” Her voice is soft, quiet among all the rowdy voices around us.

“I’m sorry. You thought I was going to be a guy. Like Troy, or Aaron.” I feel my throat close up, making it hard to breathe. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to deceive you.”

I stand up. If I stay here any longer I’m going to cry. I don’t want to cry in front of Fleur. It was all just in my head. Everything that happened was only in my head and I can’t just force my feelings onto her because I had the wrong idea.

I’m a girl, I fall in love with girls, but other girls usually don’t fall in love with me. I’m used to it, but it still hurts.

I make my way to the back, to one of the snack tables, looking at everything but not seeing it, my whole vision going blurry.

“Oh, Alex.” Cerise comes over, wrapping an arm around my waist as she pulls me against her side.

I quickly cover my mouth with my hand as I take a shuddering breath, big fat tears slide down my cheeks. “I don’t want to cry. I’m not supposed to cry.”

“I don’t care about supposed to or not. You like her and it seemed like she just turned you down. Pretty sure crying is a normal response.” She leans in a little, her closeness comforting, her voice soothing. “I know it’s no use to you right now. But, you’re amazing and you have amazing strength in you. You know I’d date you if I was into girls, right?” Her voice is soft and makes me laugh a little, even though the tears don’t seem to be drying up just yet.

“I know. I’d totally be into you if you weren’t a DPSer.” I laugh, but it’s raw, not a happy sound.

Cerise is great, but no matter what, I don’t feel for her what I feel for Fleur. It just didn’t happen, just like it didn’t happen with Aaron or Owen or any of the others I met in the Destruction of Elysium. It’s just been Fleur. Fleur’s the first girl I’ve met online who I’ve fallen for immediately. But she expected a guy, not me.

“Hey.” Cerise plays pretend-offended. “I can’t help being a crappy tank or healer.”

“I can’t help being born a girl.” I smile at her tone, at the look in her eyes. Cerise always knows how to make me smile.

“Exactly.” Cerise steps around me, leaning in front of me, looking at my face with soft eyes. “And you’re an amazing girl. Don’t ever forget that.” Cerise reaches out, wiping at my cheeks. “And you’ll find someone who will realise that and fall in love with you. Don’t give up.” She smiles, then her eyes flit to a point behind me before she quickly grabs something from the table. “And I’m out.”

I’m about to ask her why, when there is a voice behind me.

“Alex?” Fleur’s voice is anxious and I quickly wipe at my face before I turn to her, trying to wipe the last tears away.

“Yeah?” Looking at her just hurts again. She’s beautiful, she’s exactly as I expected her to be, and just seeing her now hurts.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I didn’t expect…” She raises her hands a little moving them nervously, before dropping them, her eyes averted.

“You didn’t expect a girl?”

Fleur shakes her head. “Which is stupid, because why wouldn’t I? We never exchanged other information apart from our names and you know, age and stuff. And really, Alex is just as good a girl’s name as a boy’s name.” She lets out an awkward laugh. “I just… I had this idea about who you were and it didn’t fit the reality. That’s not your fault. That’s my fault. And I’m sorry for that.” She takes a breath, facing me. “You didn’t deceive me, I deceived myself. I’m so sorry for hurting you.” She frowns and bites her lip, running the edge of her hat through her hands. A nervous tic that’s becoming more obvious.

She really does look like she’s sorry and I get it. The stupid thing is just that this happens to me way more often than I’d like… and this is not the first time a girl I like likes my personality, or my humour, or anything else, but can’t get over my being a girl. “Thanks. I’m sorry for over-reacting.”

She shakes her head, her hair bouncing around her face. “You weren’t at fault. I acted like an idiot, so of course I hurt you. That’s on me, not you.” She takes a deep breath, like I saw her do before, standing up straight, holding out her hand, a real smile around her lips this time. “Let’s try this again. Hi, I’m Fleur. I play a healer and I sometimes do stupid things that hurt people, even when I don’t mean to.”

I take her hand. “Hey, I’m Alex. I play a tank and I…” I don’t even know what to say right now. The only thing I can come up with feels silly. “And I sometimes play videogames all night with a girl I just met online. Sometimes so much that I get her in trouble.” I smile and Fleur laughs. I hold my breath for a moment, she’s so beautiful when she laughs. Dammit, this is not going to be easy.

“As long as that girl is just me.” Fleur smiles softer now, maybe even teasing a little.

“Yes. Just you.” I nod. The butterflies in my stomach seem to have resorted to playing high-speed-jet instead of fluttering. Maybe not all is lost? Maybe we can be friends?

Fleur’s cheeks colour a little at that, nodding slightly. Then she almost jumps a little. “Oh!” Fleur’s eyes sparkle instantly. “Did you hear about the new night quests? Like, they’ll only spawn during night-time in the game. What did you think about that announcement? I thought it was genius, but I saw some people complain about it…” She looks at me like what I’m saying will really matter.

“I…” I’m taken a little off-guard by the sudden change in topic, gathering my thoughts. “I thought it was interesting. Though, I totally hope they come with special night gear or something. I hope this isn’t one of those experiments they run and then totally forget about. Although…” I step closer. “I did hear that the next raid may be connected to the whole night-time thing too. Which could be interesting.”

Fleur nods, letting out a little gasp. “Definitely.” She smiles, then looks around. “I’m kind of hungry.” She pulls a face. “Just got out of work and wasn’t able to eat much today. Too nervous.”

I laugh. “Well. Let’s get you something to eat and drink then. Follow me.” I walk to one of the tables where there is more food-food instead of just snacks. “What do you want?”

Fleur’s eyes keep sparkling as she looks at everything on the table. “Oh. My. God. Ribs!” She rushes for them and as I follow her, I quickly grab some paper napkins, stuffing them into my pocket. We’ll probably need those later. She turns to me, her eyes big. “You want some too? What flavour do you like?”

“Do they have something spicy?” I step next to her. I haven’t actually checked the menu yet, too nervous. And suddenly it almost feels like we’re back to how we were before, how we act in the game.

“Eh.” She looks at the different plates. “Yes. Something with jalapenos.”

“Yes, please.” I grab a plate, but she pushes her hat into my hands and starts stacking multiple racks onto her plate, then she turns to me.

“Where do you want to sit?” She smiles broadly, looking much too cute.

“Eh.” I look around, finding the only table sort of in the shadows to be the table where I sat at before. “Let’s sit there. I see shadows there.”

“Oh. Definitely!” She starts walking and I grab two bottles of water from a table with drinks nearby before I follow her.

So, this means we’re sharing the plate. Right? I’m not misreading this situation? I’m not being stupid?

But I push the thoughts from my mind. This is food. This is sharing ribs.

Well, that and finding out that Fleur apparently loves spicy food as much as I do. Which is definitely a good thing. If we’d date, that is. Or, you know, just hang out as friends…

Dammit.

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Chapter 9 – Fleur

ADHD = Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder = I can try all I want, but sometimes my brain doesn’t do what I want or need it to do. It will focus too much or too little on things, making mundane tasks difficult to complete and even conversations hard to follow, but also allows me to shift my focus around in videogames so I always know what is going on where. I guess it could be one of the reasons why I’m a pretty decent healer.

I feel a little strange. I try to wrap my head around the idea that the Alex I’ve been talking to, the one I thought was a boy, is actually a girl. I know I didn’t behave nicely to her, and that troubled me, especially when I saw how upset it made her. And it wasn’t even Alex’ fault. I was the one who had different ideas about who she was than what she told me. I filled in the blanks about her in the wrong way.

But at the same time… Seeing her that upset. I felt so bad. Because I knew that the person who’d made me laugh so hard for the last few weeks was now in pain. And it was by my own hand.

So I gathered all the courage I had and apologised. Because if there’s one thing I’m good at these days, it’s apologising. I’m too impulsive and a little socially awkward at times, so I have to apologise on a regular basis.

Only, when she looked at me again, when I saw the pain in her eyes, not only did I feel bad, I felt a little flutter in my stomach, a little bit of the same feeling I got when I talked to Alex online. But that was just relief, right? Relief that she didn’t actually hate me. It has to be.

We start digging into the plate of ribs. I’m hungry, really hungry. But it seems Alex is just as happy to keep munching away, to keep eating and digging through the huge stack.

I thought I may have grabbed a few too many ribs, but I couldn’t help myself. When I read jalapeno ribs, I just had to have them, and when Alex also wanted them… Well, I guess I got a little too excited and just kept grabbing more. Not unusual.

I take a deep breath, trying to wait a moment for the food to settle, and then I take a sip from one of the bottles of water that Alex grabbed us. I lean back a little, looking at the girl sitting opposite me.

Alex’ eyes flit up to mine for a few moments, but then she looks back at her hands, at the way she’s pulling two ribs apart. Then Alex’ phone starts beeping and she nearly lets out a curse, quickly looking my way before she cleans her hands and taps at the screen. She picks up her phone and sends someone a message.

A few tables over, I see the guy she was sitting with before, Troy, grab his phone, and then look around. Alex also looks around for him, but he’s already coming over to us, holding a bag.

“Bag?” Troy puts it next to her on the bench, then he sits down, looking at me for a moment and smiling.

“Thanks.” Alex flashes him a smile, grabs a strip from a pocket in her bag, takes a pill out of it, and then puts the strip away.

“You good?” Troy stands up again, apparently done here.

“Yeah. Thanks.” Alex nods at him. “Thanks for always taking care of me.”

“No problem. Better this than the alternative.” He winks. “Okay, I’m going back. You two have fun.” He smiles and walks off again with the bag.

Alex eyes the little pill in front of her, sighing and then takes it with some water. She pulls a face and then grins at me, a little mischief in her eyes. “Gross.”

“Are you okay?” I’m not used to people being this unfazed by having to take medication.

She nods, taking a deep breath. She opens her mouth for a moment, then closes it. She seems to try to say something, but she also looks a little lost on how to.

“You don’t have to tell me.” I don’t want to make her feel uncomfortable.

“It’s not that. Just…” She shrugs, sighing. “I guess I can tell you. You’ll figure it out soon enough anyway, and the others already know. It’s not a secret.”

That makes me worry a little, my stomach constricting.

“I have ADHD. I take meds so I don’t do stupid stuff, or so I can actually focus on what is going on, like, having conversations.” Alex doesn’t look at me anymore, instead she’s looking at the table. “Things like this exhaust me, so many impressions, so many people all talking at the same time. So I take my meds to make things a little easier.”

I reach out, touching her arm as a laugh bubbles up in me. I thought it was something bad, something serious, but this…

“What?” She looks a little confused, and a little annoyed.

“Me too.” I can’t help the relief that floods me. “I also have ADHD. Well, without the hyperactivity, technically.” The words all run together a little, and I swallow hard, taking a deep breath. “I get it.”

Alex grins, she turns her arm, sliding her hand into mine, making sparks rush all the way up my arm. “Really?”

“Yeah.” I look at our hands, at the way she holds me, how careful she is. “I took my last dose on the way here. Didn’t want to have to deal with it surrounded by strangers. But I totally get it.”

Alex nods, then she lets go of my hand, instead grabbing her phone. I don’t know why, but I wish she hadn’t let go just yet. “Look.” She shows me a screen on her phone. It’s got a lot of different timers on it, all set for different hours. “My secret to taking meds on time.” She winks and I laugh.

Of course, the one funny thing about taking medication which helps you focus and remember things, is that you kind of need to set reminders to remember to take it…

“I have two computer screens so I can watch TV series while I play videogames, otherwise I get distracted.” I shrug a little, my own way of refocusing my focus.

“Smart. I just have the voice chat in the background, so there are usually other people around while I’m doing things. But the second screen is a good idea too.” She thinks for a moment, her eyes sparkling. “To think the girl who is naturally good at being my healer, would also have the same attention span issues I have… Interesting.” She looks at the now empty plate between us. “Want more?”

I shake my head. “Too full. But maybe we can get dessert later.”

“Good call.” She pushes the plate aside and then the girl she was talking to before comes over too.

“Hey. I don’t think I’ve introduced myself yet.” The girl holds out her hand and I take it. “I’m Cerise, I’m a mage in DoE. And you must be our new healer?”

I nod. “Fleur. Brand new healer and a little overwhelmed by the number of people here.” I smile at her and she nods as she sits down.

“So you decided to sit with our ball of energy? Makes total sense.” She bumps her shoulder into Alex, who pushes back.

“You’re just trying to flatter me.” Alex grins, then she leans over, her eyes shining. “Okay, so I read that—”

* * *

It’s interesting to watch Alex interact with people, and also to meet all the other members of the guild. After the odd start, the rest of the evening goes much smoother.

I really like talking to everyone and it seriously makes me consider getting a headset so I can talk to them in DoE too. Especially now that summer break has started and I’ll have a lot more free time to actually play with them. And having finally met them, it’s no longer as scary.

Alex stays close by all evening and she seems to really include me when she talks to other people, making me feel welcome. I like talking to her, watching her react, looking at her as she enthusiastically moves around as she talks. I thought she was talkative in DoE, but she is really talkative in real life too, probably even more so.

“Fleur?” Alex looks at me, her eyes curious.

“Yeah?” I’m sure I’ve missed something.

“Are you good?” She smiles, coming a little closer. She’s pretty, and so bubbly.

“I’m good. Just a long day.” I check my phone. “My mum is picking me up in five or so minutes.”

“Ah.” Alex’ face falls. “Let’s get your things then, I’ll walk you to the front.”

I nod, standing up, addressing the whole group. “I’m leaving. See you all in DoE.” I grab my bag and my hat, holding it instead of putting it on. The sun is too low to really matter anymore anyway and it keeps my hands busy.

“See you!” A lot of people wave at me, calling their goodbyes. I’ll probably have forgotten half their faces and online names before I’m even back home, but that’s okay.

Alex is waiting a little distance away, and I catch up with her before we go through the restaurant to the front. We stop near the parking spaces.

“Thank you for coming. I loved meeting you.” Alex’ eyes don’t shine as much anymore, but I guess we’re both a little tired now.

“I loved being here. Again, sorry for all the mess at the start.” I play with the rim of the hat in my hands.

“It’s okay.” Alex lets out a little laugh, putting a hand over mine, stopping my movements. “At one point, we’ll laugh that this ever happened. Don’t worry. I’m just glad you enjoyed yourself.”

“Yeah, I did.” We fall quiet for a bit, Alex’ hand is still on mine and I turn mine around, taking hers carefully as my heart beats like crazy.

Alex looks up, her fingers tensing around mine, her gaze is surprised, confused and maybe even a little scared, but I can also see happiness there too.

I feel like that too. I don’t know what or why. I’ve never felt like this around a girl before, or, really, around anyone. I thought I liked Alex, back when I thought Alex was a guy, but now… knowing that she’s a girl… It complicates things a little.

“I…” We both look up and speak at the same time, which makes us burst out laughing and the tension is broken.

“You first.” Alex smiles.

“I’d like to meet up again.” I look behind us. “Maybe not as a group, though.”

“Me too.” Alex’ smile grows. “And it’s not like we live that far away from each other. I live just on the other side of the city from here.”

I reach up, pointing either way.

“East.”

“Oh. That’s actually closer to my place…” I meet her eyes, and then look down again.

“Really?”

“Yeah.” My heart does a little flipflop at the hopeful sound in Alex’ voice. “Which makes meeting up even easier.” I can’t help smiling at the idea of just spending time together with Alex. She’s smart and funny and so easy to be around.

“Definitely.” She takes her phone. “We should exchange numbers and stuff. DoE is great and all that, but I’d like to be able to just talk to you…” Her voice trails off at the end, uncertain. “If you’re okay with that…”

“Sounds good.” I grab my phone and add her number to it, then we also exchange friend invites in the voice chat program which the guild uses. I may not have a good microphone, but I’ve had an account for a while, although I only use it for text-based chatting.

“We’ll have to see when we can meet then.” Alex looks my way and I nod.

“Yeah.” My stomach does weird things under her gaze. “We should.”

“Actually. If you’re into films… There’s an action flick coming out this week or next. We could go together.” Alex immediately starts tapping at her phone, looking for something. I can’t help but laugh at it, so familiar to watch. “Yeah. It comes out at the end of the week. Starting on Thursday. We could go…” She looks up, raising an eyebrow. “What?”

“Nothing. I’d love to. I’ll have to ask my mum.”

“Of course.” She lets out a breath. “I’d really like it.” There is a vulnerability about her now.

“Me too.” I reach out, touching her hand, and she slides it into mine, holding on. I like this, this feels good.

Then I see Mum’s car drive up and we walk to meet her in a spot just down the road where she can park more easily. A few steps before we reach her, Alex lets go of my hand, instead stuffing it into her jeans.

Mum opens the door for me, looking at Alex, smiling. “Hi.”

“Hi.” Alex nods, I can see she’s a little uncomfortable.

I climb into the passenger seat, organising my dress, hat and bag in a way that leaves me some space to sit.

“Did you make new friends? And did you get to see the Alex guy you really wanted to meet?” Mum immediately starts with the questions. “Did you thank him for inviting you yet?”

Alex steps a little closer. “I’m Alex, actually.” She puts on a polite smile. “And thank you for letting her come today. We had a great time.”

“Ah.” Mum looks between Alex and me, a little confused. “Well, I’m glad. It’s never easy for Fleur to meet new people.”

“No, it’s not. Which is why we do these meets.” Alex is putting on her best charm, now that I know her a little, it’s easy to spot. “This way new members can meet other people. It makes playing together more fun. And you get to meet face to face, instead of just an online persona.”

“That’s definitely true.” Mum nods, thinking. “Well, we have a drive home to make. We should get going.”

“Have a safe trip.” Alex smiles, stepping back, her eyes on me. “And I’ll talk to you soon.”

“Yes. Talk soon.” I can’t help my own smile. “And I’ll message you about that thing.”

“I’ll check with my parents too.” Alex nods.

Then Mum drives off and I wave at Alex until we round the corner.

“She seems like a very responsible and thoughtful girl.” Mum looks my way for a moment. “And kind too.”

“She is.” I look at my phone, at Alex’ contact details which I’ve just added, my head a little light. “She really is.”

I came up here excited to meet the funniest guy I’d ever met and now I’m leaving having spent the evening with the sweetest and prettiest girl I’ve ever seen.

Talk about life changes…

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Chapter 10 – Alex

Melee =  A type of class who does primarily or exclusively physical close-range damage. Think a boxer hitting someone in the face or a knight cleaving someone with his sword. That kind of stuff. While with casters, you’re basically always under threat of getting hit by them. With these guys, you need to be in range of their weapons (or their fists) to get hit.

I watch Fleur drive off with her mother, and, for a moment, I don’t want to return to the party. Watching her leave, seeing her get into that car and be driven away, it makes my chest tighten, even though I know I’ll see her again soon.

How did this happen? I take a deep breath, looking around for a moment. How have I fallen for that girl even more, especially when she looked at me and smiled, when we laughed together about both having ADHD. I don’t know what, but I feel like this may be something special.

“Alex.” Cerise is standing a little way off.

“Hey.” I put my phone away, turning to Cerise, waiting for her to reach me.

“And?” She smiles and I know she worries about me.

“I think we’re going on a date next week.” I can barely believe it myself.

“A date?” Cerise’s eyebrows rise.

“Okay, we’re going to see a film together. But it could be a date.” I lick my lips. “She’s… really special.” I feel that tightening again, and at the same time a fluttering in my stomach. “I really like her.”

“I can see that. Everyone can see that.” Cerise laughs softly. “She seemed interested too, though she may not have realised it herself.”

I nod. “Maybe. We exchanged numbers, so we’ll see, I guess.” Just then, my phone buzzes and I grab it again. When I unlock the screen, I see it’s a picture from Fleur. It’s from her shoulder, where she pulled the strap of her dress to the side and you can obviously see she’s got sunburnt today. I let out a laugh.

Then I get another message from Fleur. ‘So red. That’s going to burn!’

I reply quickly. ‘Looks like it hurts. Take care of it!’

‘Will do. You also make sure you take care of yours.’ Yeah, I guess I may have got sunburnt too, especially since we were side by side the whole time.

“You’re in so deep.” Cerise’s voice is soft. “Don’t get hurt.”

I nod. “I’ll try.” Then I look back at the rest of the group. “Let’s see if we can stir up some trouble together.” I grin. It’s not a guild meet without Cerise and me doing something stupid.

“Good idea.” Cerise walks in front of me. “Wouldn’t want to disappoint the masses.”

* * *

It’s already late by the time I finally get home, but I still turn on my computer. Some part of me hopes Fleur will be online. Even though I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s already asleep by now. She hasn’t sent me another message since the one in the car, but I was really busy at the meet, so that’s not totally on her.

As soon as I log on, I get a purple message.

BelleFleur: You’re here!

AlexTheDestroyer: Yeah. Checking in a little.

Hoping to see you. Though I don’t type the last bit.

BelleFleur: It was so cool today!

BelleFleur: I never expected there to be so many different types of people.

AlexTheDestroyer: Gamers really are all different. Yeah.

I lean back in the chair, exhaustion setting in, but my heart is beating fast from talking to Fleur.

BelleFleur: Hey, ehm…

BelleFleur: Did you mean what you said about going to the cinema?

AlexTheDestroyer: Yes. If you want to.

Is she going to cancel on me? Is she going to say she was just caught up in the moment?

BelleFleur: Cool. Just… you know. Wanted to make sure.

BelleFleur: I wasn’t sure if you really meant it.

AlexTheDestroyer: Yeah. I really meant it. If you still want to, that is.

BelleFleur: Yes. I’d love to.

Oh, this is weird. I’ve never felt so nervous before. How can this be so scary? I’ve been on dates before, it’s not like this is the first time I’ve asked a girl out.

But a little voice in my head tells me that I know why this is different. This is different because I may know Fleur from playing a videogame online, and we’ve already chatted so much, and I know so many things about her, but today was the first time I actually met her. This was the first time that I could talk to her face-to-face and maybe, just maybe, I’ve already fallen for her.

But I’m also strongly aware she didn’t realise that I was a girl, and seeing me kind of freaked her out, even if just a little. And I don’t think she’s ever been in this position with another girl. Not ever. Which makes everything a weird combination between trying to have a friendship and also trying to let her know that I’d like more from her…

I do want more from her, especially after I saw her today. The butterflies still haven’t settled and I can’t stop bouncing my leg with the nervous energy.

BelleFleur: Alex? I’m going off. I need sleep.

I let out a little laugh. Yeah, sleep.

AlexTheDestroyer: Good. Me too. Night night!

BelleFleur: Sweet dreams!

AlexTheDestroyer: You too!

I see her log off and I sit up too, closing the game and then shutting down my computer.

Just as I’m about to climb into bed, my phone lights up.

I grab for it, finding a message from Fleur, well, more like a picture. She’s sent me a picture she took through her window, looking out over her back garden. It’s beautiful and dark, but there are some lights visible. Then, a moment later, a message comes in. ‘Kind of calm and quiet here, so different from the meet.’

I sit up, looking out of my own window, but it’s just the street in front of the house, which is not interesting at all. Instead I turn to my computer and take a picture of my desk and the lights that swirl and blink on all my hardware, even when the computer is off. Then I send the picture, quickly following it up with a message. ‘I don’t know which lights are more interesting.’

Fleur sends me a winking smiley. ‘Well, I guess we’re going to have to compare that someday.’

My heart beats fast, having Fleur in my room? Would that really happen? ‘Sounds like a good idea. Sweet dreams!’ Because if I keep thinking about this, I probably won’t sleep at all tonight, and I’m really exhausted, especially now my medication has worn off.

‘Sweet dreams!’ Her message lights up the screen one last time before I put the phone away.

I curl up on my side, closing my eyes. Meeting Fleur today. Spending time with her. And she actually wants to see me again… I guess that may be more than I could have hoped for.

My heart keeps beating like crazy, Fleur’s smile popping into my head and her laugh running through my mind. She’s captivated me, more than she did before. Knowing her mind, her thoughts, that’s one thing. Knowing her whole personality, spending time with her… That’s a whole different thing.

And she’s caught me, captivated me, has me.

* * *

“Alex?” Mum’s staring at me as she sits down at the table.

“Yeah?” I look up, trying to keep my voice normal. I’ve been zoning off as I’m eating breakfast, my mind both stretched too thin from all the impressions yesterday and at the same time filled with a certain girl.

“How was yesterday?”

“Good.” I feel a blush creep up my cheeks.

“Hmm? What happened?” She raises an eyebrow as she smiles a little.

“A girl from the game also came. She’s a new member, our new healer.”

“I think I heard you and Troy talk about her before. But I take it she’s even more interesting in person than she was online?” Mum knows I’m into girls, she may not get it, but she knows that I’ve fallen in love with girls before. She’s even met a couple of them, with mixed results.

“Yeah. She’s very interesting to talk to.” Understatement of the year.

“Talk… Right.” Mum winks.

“Sure. Fine.” I roll my eyes as I let out a dramatic sigh. “She looks good and she’s very sweet.”

“Good.” Mum stands up again. “Don’t forget to drop by Troy’s today. His mum wanted to borrow a book, I put it on the table in the hallway.”

“Will do.” I quickly finish my breakfast. “Anything else?”

“Do I get to meet her?” Mum turns around in the doorway.

“Maybe. Someday.” I put my plate on the counter and then push at Mum a little so she’ll step out of the doorway and I can pass her. “But not right now. I don’t want you to scare her off.”

“I don’t scare people off.”

“Yes, you do. You’re a psych. You can’t help asking questions and that scares people.” I sigh, standing on the stairs. “I love you. But I’d like to ease this girl into our little world of insanity.” I wink and then bounce up the stairs.

Sure. I’ll drop by Troy later. But first, I get to play DoE, since school is over and I can do whatever I want.

Win! Win! Win!

* * *

When I got online, Fleur wasn’t there, which was a bummer. Though, I guess she may have been sleeping in. I don’t know.

I consider sending her a message, but if she’s still asleep, I may wake her up or disturb her while she’s doing other stuff. So, instead, I run a couple of Titans and even queue for a raid.

But as I’m waiting for the raid invite to pop up, which, even as a tank, can take a while as you need multiple tanks and healers for this, I hear a sound in the background.

It takes me a moment to recognise where it’s coming from, and even then, a moment longer to respond to it. It’s the voice chat program and someone is trying to start a voice call with me. I don’t generally get calls, as the guild just has a group voice chat server, so we don’t have to call to each other, we just drop by as we log on. Which I hadn’t even done yet, enjoying a little quiet after last night.

I tab out of the game and in the middle of my screen I find a message, a calling screen, telling me that Fleur is trying to call me. My heart jumps as I click on the green ‘connect’ button.

“Alex!” Fleur’s excited voice nearly deafens me. “Guess what I did?”

“Call me?” I laugh, then I click back into the game, not wanting to miss the pop-up screen for the raid.

“With my new headset!” Her excitement is cute, and very contagious. Then it dawns on me what she’s saying.

“You bought a headset? Just to chat?”

“Yeah!” Which sounds more like ‘duh’ in tone. “I went out this morning to get one. This way I can still talk to everyone, even when I’m at home.”

Everyone. For a moment that stings, she bought the headset so she could talk to the guild, not just to me. “Right. Well, I could probably walk you through setting up the guild server connection, if you want to.”

She’s quiet for a bit. “Thanks. But I like talking to you first. Ease into this and all that.” Her voice is softer now, not as sure.

“Well, I’m happy to do that too. Though, I am waiting on a raid, so I may have to focus on that in a bit.” I check the screen again but nothing is showing yet.

“I can wait on that.” I hear her move a little. “Hey, I really liked meeting you. That was so much fun and I thought everyone there was awesome.”

“Thanks. I loved meeting you too.” Though, I’m pretty sure we’ve had this conversation before, like, yesterday when she left. “Did you think about the film yet? Did you ask your mum?”

“I haven’t… yet.” She lets out a little laugh. “I thought I’d let her get used to the idea that I went to a guild meet first, before springing on her that I want to go out and see a film with someone from there. Though, she thought you seemed responsible.”

“Wow. High praise.” I laugh too. “Well, I haven’t asked my parents yet either. But we should, soon, or all the tickets will be sold out for the first days.”

“Yeah. Hey, would it be okay if we like… went out to eat together before, or afterwards?” She’s sounding nervous, insecure.

“You want to spend more time with me after being cooped up in a dark room, in slightly uncomfortable seats, for hours?”

“If you put it like that… Yeah?” She lets out a laugh again. “It’s just… I don’t get to meet many girls who also play videogames, at least not as much as me.”

Again, that friends thing… That ‘you’re cool because you’re a girl who plays games too’ not ‘you’re cool because you’re you and I would like to get to know you more intimately’. I don’t know what to think of it. Am I misreading what she’s saying? Am I misreading what she means? Am I just seeing things that aren’t really there?

Argh. Why is this so confusing? If she’d been Cerise, or any of the other girls I’ve met online, I wouldn’t have worried about this. But I am with her.

Fleur’s making my brain go all mushy.

 

Wow! So many things have happened, that meeting between Fleur and Alex!

What did you think?

 

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