Before the 2nd Kiss - Part 3

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Vic, the TA for my Classical Literature course, was mature and handsome. He had a great sense of humor and a charming smile. He was also very straight.

Or I'd assumed he was.

It was after class that he called me over. "Hey, do you have a second? I need someone to help me carry these books back to Dr. Sherman's office." He patted the heavy stack of classical texts and I raised an eyebrow.

Why he chose little me out of any of the other five guys in the class, I had no clue. I helped him anyway and he chatted with me as we carried the books across the building. "You're a promising student, Alex," he said. "There's something special about you. What you said in class last week was amazing."

Flattered, I smiled back.

"Have you considered doing the graduate program here?"

"Graduate? God, Vic, I'm only in my first year."

"The earlier you get started, the better. And you can get into some research projects even in undergrad." He glanced at me. "You just need the right connections. I could tell you more about it over lunch if you want?"

I stopped walking, everything finally coming together in my head. Even if Vic hadn't given off a hint of gay, I definitely did, yet he was saying these things... "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were hitting on me." I looked at him carefully.

Vic smirked. "Was it that obvious? Honestly, though, even if you aren't interested in me, you should still be interested in the research projects and stuff. I think you have a lot of potential."

I nodded slowly, deciding not to let myself be wooed as easily as I had been by Reed in high school. "That's fine," I said, shrugging and continuing towards the office before heading out on a lunch date with Vic.

***

So, I'd decided not to let myself be wooed easily, but fuck it, I was hopeless. Barely two weeks later, I'd let him kiss me and things escalated quickly. We'd almost had sex, but I managed to gather some sense and got away with just showing him the tongue techniques I'd learned from Reed. A few days later, I told Vic I wasn't interested if we were just going to be a fling. If he didn't want anything serious, that was fine, but that was also goodbye.

The mature, calm Vic I thought I knew panicked. He looked incredibly hurt as he told me he was serious about me and hugged me tightly, begging me to give him a chance. It all made it seem like he really liked me. That he'd fallen for me. That I was something special to him. Swayed by his actions and words, I agreed to date him.

A month passed before I realized it was a mistake. When I wanted to hang out, half the time, he was "busy." I didn't complain. When I chose hanging out with my friends over finding out whether he was available, he'd text me, upset. It was incredibly annoying when he could have contacted me if he was available. Still, when we were able to meet up, our dates went rather well and our time together was romantic.

Lexi was the first to notice a pattern. "Alex," she began, passing me back my cell phone open to the messages between me and Vic, "Look at what you say every time he isn't 'busy'."

As I scrolled through the messages, I realized as well. Whenever I said something like "I miss you" or "I want to see you" or ended with a heart emoji, he was available. And that one "I miss your touch" when he'd replied eagerly within seconds stood out in particular. "Coincidence?" I guessed/hoped.

Lexi rolled her eyes. "Be careful, Alex. Don't settle for anything less than you deserve," she said. "Which, in case you weren't sure, is a top-notch man."

I looked back down at my phone, wondering if top-notch men existed. Liam was the closest I'd ever known. Also Bradley. "Are you sure Bradley's aromantic?"

Lexi was silent and I looked over to see her frowning.

"Oh god. I'm sorry. That was so rude." I covered my face.

Lexi patted me on the back. "It's okay. I'm not mad. Bradley's a heartbreaker, there's no doubt about it."

"He reminds me a bit of my first love," I admitted. I told Lexi the story of me and Liam and found myself crying halfway through. I'd been so in love with Liam. Liam was perfect. Where would we be now if that kiss had never happened?

Lexi hugged me until I stopped crying and finished my story. "You're so strong, Alex," she told me. It was the last thing I expected to hear. "Guys will come and go, but you've always got your friends, okay? Romance isn't everything. Give it time and the right guy will come."

***

Lexi's words made me feel better, but Liam was still on my mind as I sat across from Vic at his apartment's kitchen table. Our dates felt so mature with the home-cooked dinners in candlelight, but I wondered if this was even what I wanted. Wouldn't it be better to date a friend, someone who wouldn't mind flopping on the couch with delivery pizza, the dim-lighting source being the television playing Supernatural instead?

"Hey," Vic reached across the table and took my hand gently, "you're not paying any attention to me. What's on your mind?"

"Um..." I hesitated, wondering if I should be honest. "I was just thinking... like, wouldn't it be good if we became friends?" Maybe he'd be more honest with me too, I figured, thinking back to our text messages.

"Aren't we?"

"Not really," I muttered, glancing away.

Vic's hand left mine and he asked, "Is this about that guy?"

"What guy?!"

"Your friend. That Asian kid with you in all of your Facebook pictures."

"Bradley? No, I..." Pausing, I gave a small smile. "Vic, there's no need to get jealous. There's nothing between Bradley and me."

"Jealous?" Vic scoffed. "Alex, babe." He rolled his eyes. "Maybe that's what you're used to from high school, but adults, we just want to make sure you're committed."

Ignoring the fact that he was talking down to me, I said, "Committed? I am committed."

"Good, then, don't bring him up again."

I stared at Vic like he had lost his mind. He was totally twisting things to make it look like my fault. This only started when I suggested we become friends. "Vic," I began, deciding to lay everything out in the open. "What kind of relationship do you want? I want one where we can be honest with each other. Where we can meet without me having to throw clingy words. Where we can feel totally relaxed around each other."

Vic stared at me quietly, face blank. "You want to break up with me."

Vic's robotic expression and tone frightened me. I kept quiet, feeling like either confirming or denying could send him out of control.

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