[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/xWVvNoo.jpg]]
[center [size10 [i Ah. She indeed was not alone. It was easy to forget that others led lives just as complex as her's. She felt a bit defensive, but the genuine response was also soothing. Vidiya gave a little nod in acknowledgement to the shared story. Her conflicting feelings were strong, but at least she felt a little less crazy, and this girl really did seem to understand. Vidiya straightened back up, looking a bit more resolved.
[#c20095 "I have something else to admit if you really do want to help me,"] she explained. [#c20095 "I will always appreciate it, but if you wish to back out after hearing this, I will understand."] Vidiya silenced a buzz on her phone. It was probably a text from her mother anyway, and she didn't need that right now. The movement was so smooth, it was an afterthought to their conversation as she continued to talk.
[#c20095 "When you met me at the gathering and asked me if I was a member of the community, I kind of lied. I'm not a part of the organization, but I am... gay. I came out to my parents shortly before I started college, and they're thinking it's something that might change if they keep introducing me to other men."]
Vidiya halted in her explanation. There were other things she had to say, but she was gauging this reaction first. Aside from her family, Dana was the first person Vidiya had ever come out to. If this would be a problem, she had to know immediately.]]]
Alarm bells went off the second Dana's hand touched Vidiya's arm. Not because of the other girl's reaction, but because it had been sort of inappropriate for her to do in the first place. So she doesn't really feel insecure when Vidiya politely moves her arm. [b “Sorry...”] She mumbles. For her touching her and for startling her.
It seemed Vidiya was pretty good at brushing things off as she went in to explaining the issue she currently had. An overbearing mother who wants to know her daughter is okay, and Vidiya wants to make it clear she's not engaged... That certainly was all sorts of layers of complicated for sure, but she wouldn't call it crazy. She could relate to that on some level; sometimes it seemed like her own father was more interested in knowing if she was dating someone rather than if she was personally or academically doing well.
Now that some of Vidiya's struggles were out in the open, their first interaction and some of what she said sort of clicked more in to place. [i "Pretty girls don't lay down their burdens at another's feet..."] She had distinctly remembered Vidiya saying after she confided that her mother wanted her to be a doctor instead of a nurse. How curt she could be, her aloof nature; a lot of it made more sense now. She was putting herself in a vulnerable position by asking this of Dana, so she knew that she had to be delicate about it. So honesty and sharing was probably her best bet.
[b “No, no, please don't worry, Vidiya. Its not a problem.”] Dana instinctively went to put her hand on the girl's shoulder but managed to catch herself, instead brushing a loose strand of her own hair behind her ear to hide the motion. [b “My, umm...] She clears her throat, embarrassed she was sharing this so soon. [b “Dad, can be a bit of a helicopter parent, as well. I actually had to fight him to [i let] me study here instead of a private Jewish University.”] Not to mention having [i 'goyim'] as friends, dating, or even going out were always being points of contention her whole life. She should've been a lawyer the amount she had to argue with the man and use evidence and facts to do things that everyone her age were doing. Like she was constantly on trial.
[b “I'll help you, so please don't feel worried or embarrassed about your situation. It takes all kinds, right?”] Dana smiles sincerely. [b “But I really [i will] be looking at your math homework. Think of it as my payment.”] Her smile beams.
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/xWVvNoo.jpg]]
[center [size10 [i Dana! Yes, the math girl. She was nice enough, if a bit forward. Well, in her defense, Vidiya had sort of slammed into her initially. Well... Time to see if it had set a bad precedent.
When Dana touched her, she jumped. However, for once, she didn't step away. She merely brushed Dana's hand gently aside. [#c20095 "I need you to pretend to be my tutor for just tonight. My mother is a bit overbearing, and I want her to think I'm okay without thinking I'm engaged."] Vidiya seemed to wither as she explained. That pride died, and shame took grip. [#c20095 "This is crazy. I'm sorry, I just realized how it sounded. I shouldn't have burdened you with this. It's just... Do you know what it's like to have parents who control your life?"]]]]
Well, that was certainly one way to wipe the smile off of Dana's face in a hurry. Initially happy and excited to see Vidiya again, but at the revelation that the other girl didn't remember her name made Dana become immediately embarrassed by how she reacted. Vidiya taking a step back also didn't exactly help and made her remember the embarrassment she had felt when they first met at the barbecue. She had opened her mouth to answer Vidiya and give her name again, but only sounds came out at first, not words. Dana felt like a sputtering idiot, the moment feeling like an eternity, but it was probably only a few seconds before she found her voice again. She swallows and finally manages: [b “Dana Spector.”] It was a bit weak, but that feeling was quickly fading as she regained some of her composure... She'd take the victory that Vidiya remembered her face, at least.
Dana was still a little stupefied when Vidiya asked her to come with her, but quickly snapped out of it as she followed along closely beside her. [b “A personal problem?”] Dana inquires, a little bit confused by this new development... It seemed Vidiya was a fairly complicated person; so far they were two for two with Dana not being able to get a proper read on the nursing student. She was cold which made her slightly stand-offish, but there was also some kind of inviting warmth about her that didn't make Dana immediately retract away.
So, Dana reaches out to touch Vidiya's arm to slow her down. She was confused and wanted to know what she was getting herself in to. [b “What kind of personal problem? Are you in some sort of trouble? Distress?”] Her eyes were wide, almost like a startled doe and sparkled with the same amount of innocence. What could it be that the ice princess needed help with? And could poor little Dana Spector really be of any assistance?
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/xWVvNoo.jpg]]
[center [size10 [i [b "Vidiya!"] What?! Vidiya whirled to face the sprightly young woman. That face... she remembered it. She remembered it in shocking detail in fact. She also remembered the messy binder... and she did math problems for fun. What was this girl's name again? Vidiya had been so wrapped up in her own brain the last two weeks that she had forgotten her name completely! The surprise on her face was just as obvious, if more worried than happy. Vidya took that signature step backward and gave a little nod.
[#c20095 "Sorry, what is your name again?"] She cleared her throat, looking sheepish. [#c20095 "Sorry. I know you were at the last gathering, but names are hard for me."] That was normally a lie. She was actually pretty good with names, but circumstances were making her feel otherwise at the moment. How could she forget one name? Especially one attached to energy and a smile like [b that].
[#c20095 "I should also confess that I need help with more than math. It's a personal problem, but would be, ah, follow me please?"] The near by cafe. Just the place she needed to be anyway! Nevermind that it was past "lunch", but her mother always felt food was the best way to share friendship. It was a sweet notion at least, even if Vidiya was never a big eater to begin with. Especially when she was eating with her mother, who was more than happy to check your table manners as loudly as possible.]]]
It was inevitable that the conversation was going to end, it [i had] to at some point; Dana still had to finish writing up the guide and she was sure Vidiya had important things to do as well. But it ended more abruptly than she had expected, Vidiya's phone buzzing and the girl taking the call. It must've been important because the second she brought the receiver to her ear, Dana could here very fast-paced talking which resulted in Vidiya excusing herself.
Something in her wanted to protest for one reason or another, and later on when she thought some more on it, Dana mentally kicked herself for not writing her number down on a spare piece of paper and catching up to Vidiya to give it to her. Despite the anxiety she had felt during the conversation, she had appreciated the companionship and how cool Vidiya was; it was quite possible the two of them could have formed a friendship afterwards. Dana would've liked to get to know her better, but instead, she seemed glued to the picnic table, and instead watched Vidiya disappear in to the hubbub of the university campus. That was too bad, but instead of dwelling on it, she resolved to finish her burger and carry on with the day.
Over the course of the next two weeks, Dana had gotten pretty busy. A lot more school work was cropping up, and after helping her one classmate, more wanted her help. As a result, she started taking more detailed albeit simplified notes during Calc III and her Chaos and Fractals classes. She ended up becoming the designated note taker for those classes and the school paid her some, and she even signed up as a tutor to help other students. Surprisingly enough, as a tutor, she was doing a lot of introductory math, where the student just required the one math credit. Despite it being easy for her, she understood that math wasn't always everyone's cup of tea; English had been the bane of her existence in the past, so she figured it was much like that. She also had been visited by her father, which was always nice and they chatted about their family and school.
[+blue “How are you fairing?”] He had asked her, sipping at a cup of coffee. They were in a small cafe close to her campus.
[b “Well, just busy. I don't know if I told you, but I took two extra courses this semester; they're online but still a lot of work.”]
[+blue “That is what I like to hear, and Bubbe will be happy to hear it as well.”] He beams and she beamed back. They had the same smile. But a small cloud forms over their conversation as her father grows a little grave. He sets his mug down, twisting it slightly so the handle was facing exactly to the right. He clears his throat, like this was hard to ask. [+blue “Are you seeing anyone?”]
[b “No, dad,”] She comically rolls her eyes at his noticeable relief. [b “I've been much too busy for that.”]
He picks up his cup again, takes a sip, and then nods. [+blue “That is probably for the best.”] After that, they went clothes shopping and for a walk in a park before Dana had to head back to campus to meet up with another student.
A few days had passed since then and it was much like any other day, where Dana sat in her dorm working away on an assignment that was due in a few days. She liked to stay more ahead than she currently was, but she felt a little stretched thin at the moment. She would manage though; she always did, and she enjoyed helping others when she could.
It was just near the end of this statistical analysis assignment that her phone buzzed. She looked at the time first, as she hadn't expected to be contacted at this time, but then picked up her phone. It was from a student asking to meet with her for help in their Advanced Algebra course. Normally students would set up a time to meet up, but there were a few times when, in a panic to finish an assignment or study for a test, she would be asked if they could meet up right away. Dana didn't sense much urgency in the text, but still elected to help out. She shoots back a text telling them she'd love to help and she'd be right there; the other dorm building was pretty close to hers anyhow. So, Dana quickly gathers her things, backpack, and her binder of Algebra notes, quickly putting them through the rings so they would be more organized and not haphazardly arranged, before leaving her room.
On the way, Dana was mostly looking at her phone, at the time, and texted the student that she was close by and which direction she was coming. When she got closer, she lifted her head up to look, and standing outside the dorm by herself was Vidiya. She almost gasped. What an astronomically improbable result! Dana couldn't really hide her delight, smiling, and nearly skipped the rest of the way to the other girl. [b “Vidiya! I hadn't expected to ever see you again!”] She bubbles with a little bit of laughter. [b “I'm more than happy to help you out with Advanced Algebra! Where did you want to go? The library is probably pretty empty right now. Or we could go to the campus coffee shop; they have a really good oat-bran blueberry muffin we could share.”] Uh! It was just so weirdly good to see Vidiya again, she could almost hug her.
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/xWVvNoo.jpg]]
[center [size10 [i Yet another genuine and flattering comment. Well, supposed Vidiya could simply give up speech altogether at this point. And she was a curious girl, too. One who liked math and ran around with a messy binder... Why did those two details baffle her? Possibly because, at least to Vidiya, math involved finding some order among the chaos, but contrary to that, chaos is where it nestled in this stranger's life. Well... It mattered very little at this point. Her phone rang. She answered Dana's conversation with a simple [#c20095 "Hmm."] as she checked the number. Her mother's number was on the screen. She answered the call... and immediately received an admonishment in Urdu.]]]
[center [size10 [i Vidiya attempted to respond. She couldn't seem to get a word in edge-wise though. Instead, she covered the receiver and turned to Dana. [#c20095 "Please excuse me,"] she mumbled. Then she returned her attention to the call. Absently, she picked up her plate and mostly finished burger and took it to a nearby trash bin. After discarding of the remainder of her lunch, she headed off as her mother went from scolding to bemoaning how much she missed her daughter and how she wanted to see her again soon! Vidiya knew this game.]]]
[center [size10 [i [#c20095 "Mom, I'm busy with classes right now,"] she quickly reasoned, pointedly choosing to respond in English. This wasn't a complete lie either. [#c20095 "I'm afraid a visit from you will distract me from my studies."] Right in the grades. Her mother couldn't resist such a plea for concentration, right? Wrong. The woman was an unstoppable force. [b "Oh hush! If school is so hard, perhaps your father and I should discuss if we should even pay for you to finish your degree. After all, you'll never really use it after you're married, so why should you stress yourself out!"] Shit. Money. Of course her mother would bring that up. Vidiya took a deep breath as she headed back to her dorm.]]]
[center [size10 [i Then the idea struck. [#c20095 "Let me ask my tutor,"] Vidiya stated. [#c20095 "I am really only struggling with one class. Ah, they're working very hard to help me, so it would be disrespectful to ignore my studies with them. I can't imagine what they might think if I abandon my studies at this point..."] Vidiya tried to make it sound like an afterthought in her tone, but she was certain her mother picked up on her anxiety too. Either way... It was reason enough for now. She heard her mother huff out a breath. [b "Oh! Well your father and I would have hired one for you. Fine... Will I be able to meet them when I come to visit you next?"]]]]
[center [size10 [i Vidiya finally appeared to relax again. By this point, she had reached the front of her building. [#c20095 "Okay,"] she conceded. [#c20095 "You'll like them. They're nice."] Vidiya could only assume her mother was parsing the language she used. [b "Nice you say? Oh..."] Something in that tone... Vidiya felt her stomach drop. She realized her mistake. She didn't specify if it was a man or woman. This realization didn't hit until her mother was already giggling like a school girl over the phone, though. [b "No, your mother understands. Who am I to get in the way of your studies? You work so hard! I'm very proud."] And so on. For now, Vidiya appeared safe, even if it was a misconception. This safety lasted two weeks... Then she received the next call.]]]
[center [size10 [i [b "Oooooh! I miss my baby so much. You know, your brother and father miss you too! Please let me come and visit you."] Another day. Another disaster. Vidiya tried handling it a little more calmly this time. [#c20095 "I told you already, Ammu... I'm busy studying. In fact, I'm seeing my tutor today."] The next statement uttered by her mother caused her to drop the pen she was holding at her desk. [b "Bring them because I'm already checking into the hotel. Surprise!"]]]]
[center [size10 [i No. No no no. Vidiya tried to protest, but her mother guilted her into the "lunch date" easily at that point. Her father had also come, excited that his little girl was "blooming" so well at school. This meant Vidiya had about three hours to find a "tutor" to come with her. She started searching immediately, going to the college's community forum to start hunting out practically any tutor. She looked at her current homework. Specifically, she was working on Advanced Algebra. She was never the best at math to begin with, but she had been getting by with good grades so far. Still, she obtained the number of a random "tutor" and immediately texted the student to meet her at the front of her dorm building if she was available.]]]
It was barely a flicker, but Dana saw what appeared to be a small smile on Vidiya's face, which, for some unidentifiable reason warmed her and made her smile some as well. Maybe Vidiya only had a chilly exterior and was more friendly than she would let on. Dana could see that, as it seemed now that the two had broken the ice, Vidiya was more willing to share and open up some about herself. However, she did note that once Vidiya had perhaps shared more than she had meant, Dana had enough tact not to comment directly or ask questions. Instead, she said. [b “Well, I think it takes a special kind of person to be a nurse. Its an admirable vocation.”]
So, with that, she swiftly transitions to what Vidiya had asked of her, talking more naturally, because, well, it was [i math]. [b “I'm in an undergraduate program getting a degree in Computational Mathematics.”] With a minor in Actuarial Sciences, but it felt a little braggy to add that in there... And math was kind of a weird thing to try and act cool about. Dana loved math, but she knew that wasn't the most common sentiment in the world. [b “If you ever need extra eyes on some math problems, I'm your girl; I even do math for fun sometimes...”] And she trails off a bit there. Yeah, definitely not as cool when you say it out loud, that was for sure. Also kind of a lousy attempt at trying to make a friend out of Vidiya. 'Hey, lets do math together sometime!' That was just silly. [b “But like, the [i cool] kind of math.”] Dana adds before she even realized, and wasn't exactly the back-pedal she would've expected.
Chuckling to herself nervously, she scratches under her eye to buy imaginary time. It was strange; Vidiya seemed like a nice girl, and nicer by the minute, but there was a strange anxiety Dana felt as she continued talking to her, almost like she had to be impressive. Instead she elects to take another, bigger, bite of her burger. Probably to buy some more imaginary time. She wasn't the most apt conversationalist in the world, but it was never [i this] bad; she just couldn't seem to find the right words.
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/xWVvNoo.jpg]]
[center [size10 [i Oh boy. She was joking too. Vidiya had a sense of humor, but she wasn't so good with being upstaged. She shrugged, but her lips twitched into a small smile nevertheless. There was a little heat on her face. No one had really called her name "pretty". It might be "exotic" or "unique", but just pretty was actually refreshing to hear! This girl was impulsively kind, something Vidiya envied a little. It felt tricky to navigate these feelings of envy and flattered. She never really understood how to handle either feeling alone, let alone together.]]]
[center [size10 [i [#c20095 "Oh. I'm in a nursing program,"] she responded, a bit worried as to what she could safely share. [#c20095 "It's not so impressive. My mother would have preferred I became a doctor, but I'd rather... nevermind."] No! Shut up! Suddenly she couldn't seem to keep her mouth shut! Even after all of the safety of those carefully erected walls kept her anxiety in check. [#c20095 "Pretty girls don't lay down their burdens at another's feet..."] She spoke those words so quietly, and her face carefully smoothed back into her ice queen composure.]]]
[center [size10 [i Perhaps a change of subject. [#c20095 "What about you?"] Vidiya had to admit that the few scattered notes she had witnessed were full of complicated math equations. Were they equations? To Vidiya, it looked like a mess of letters and numbers. Then again, Vidiya mostly learned enough math to properly do her desired job, and the rest fell to the wayside.]]]
She had a very cavalier attitude which Dana wasn't used to, but she smiles some anyways. She takes the cue to sit down at the picnic table, and with her off-hand, Dana moves her bag so she's sitting right next to the girl, putting the paper plate that contained her burger delicately in front of her. It looked like her new eating buddy was enjoying a vegetarian burger, and she began to wonder if that was a dietary restriction she provided herself or because she was Indian... Or maybe she just preferred veggie burgers and Dana was thinking too hard about it; Dana's favourite lasagne was vegetarian!
Dana takes a small bite of her burger as the girl comments about her binder being disorganized. She wasn't wrong and mentally agrees with her as she chews before she can respond back. She probably should've thought that panicking to put her notes back in to her binder was going to end poorly. [b “You're right. I suppose that's what the rings in them are for, right?”] She quietly laughed at her own remark, and continued to beam when the girl finally introduced herself. [b “Vidiya Misra.”] She repeats like she was learning a new word, which wasn't half wrong. [b “That's such a pretty name.”] It was earnest the way she said it, like she meant the words when she spoke them. And she most certainly did mean them. Despite her sometimes unobservant tendencies, Dana could still sense this was a slightly awkward scenario—which might just be on her side—but she could also tell from the interactions that Vidiya was a patient person, you know, or else they wouldn't be having this conversation. What a saint!
That said, a small beat manifested between the two, and it might be because the two of them were also eating, but Dana felt like she had to fill the silence with something. But she was also genuinely curious about Vidiya. [b “What program are you in?”] It was a safe enough question, and it might help Dana figure out how to navigate this situation a little bit better. She had to remind herself that Vidiya might be aloof, but that didn't mean she was made of glass, especially considering their first interaction with each other.
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/xWVvNoo.jpg]]
[center [size10 [i Vidiya took a seat as Dana joined the fray of students getting food. She readjusted the build of her burger before taking a small bite. Her chew was slow and quiet, and her posture was straight. It gave her a moment to think. Collect her thoughts. Dana must be in a different major, for she hadn't met the student before. It appeared they were the same age. Were they the same year? That would be nice, to have someone in her age group for once. She often found herself more comfortable speaking with older students shooting for a Master's degree, or professors who were able to keep up with her onslaught of questions.]]]
[center [size10 [i Little did she know that it was often her attitude that caused other students to shy away from her. When Dana rejoined her, she waved a dismissive hand. Her mouth was full, and it was impolite to speak with a mouth full of food. She also shifted her seat a little to allow Dana to sit next to her bag. When the food was finally swallowed, and her mouth was free, she stated quite bluntly, [#c20095 "If your binder was more organized, then you wouldn't have to worry about it falling apart."] It appeared Dana wasn't the only blunt person, but unlike Dana, Vidiya's statement was calculated. A nicer way to say it might have been, "Oh! do you want help organizing your bad since I'm the one who bumped into you?" Maybe that could have been taken a bit easier, but Vidiya was not a "spoon full of sugar" type.]]]
[center [size10 [i [#c20095 "I'm Vidiya Misra,"] she said, finally deigning an introduction as necessary. Then she seemed to fall silent, concentrating on her food. It was easier than trying to come up with conversation on the spot. She seemed to lose her words. Perhaps it was because Dana had caught her by surprise so easily earlier. How frustrating! Vidiya would need to speak to her mother about how to handle this situation. After all, in most cases, her mother had never steered her wrong before!]]]
Oh... Oh no! Was asking that something she wasn't supposed to do? Dana was aware that sometimes she stepped over boundaries she didn't realize were in place, but it was never this flagrant. It was never literally the [i first thing] she asked someone. So again, she felt that sickening wave of embarrassment and the heat creep up on to her face. Her hand retracts when it isn't taken and she tries to play it off some by tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear.
Social faux pas aside, Dana had expected the other girl to leave immediately after, but instead she stood there, regarding her with a cool gaze. Was... Was Dana supposed leave? Did she apologize? She kind of felt like apologizing but also like maybe not calling anymore attention to it might be mutually beneficial. Her mouth condenses in to a thin line as her cheeks continue to blaze. It might have only took a second for the other girl to respond, but it felt like an eternity to Dana. And when she spoke, it was very matter-of-fact and a touch icy, although the message was... Nice, she supposed? She'd look after her things while she braved the line for a burger at the LGBTQIA+ barbecue.
Dana lets out a breath that she hadn't realized she was holding, but manages a nod to the girl, unloading her things at the designated table, and tightly making a B-line to queue up for the food. She doesn't look back once.
While in the line, Dana can properly mentally chastise herself for her behaviour. That was a silly mistake to make on her part and she should know better. It was fortunate enough that the girl [i wasn't] part of the LGBTQIA+ Community or else that might've been an even more embarrassing moment she had to live with... It wasn't like her foot getting lodged in her mouth was something new, anyhow. Going to a public high school had her asking or saying some silly things, but she had made friends quick enough where they understood or could defuse the situation. She still remembered 'she's a Jew' being their favourite and most efficient tactical retreat. She didn't really feel like that would work in this case.
When it was finally her turn to get the burger, it was quick, albeit there was a brief moment where she had to explain she couldn't have cheese on it. With that sorted, she breezed by the condiments table and back to the girl who was guarding her stuff. For a second, she stood there awkwardly staring at her. This was a tough situation to navigate for her, but finally... Dana looks away, her cheeks darkening some again. [b “Do you mind if I sit with you?”]
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/xWVvNoo.jpg]]
[center [size10 [i Oh! She did spill something. Actually, she appeared to have spilled everything. Vidiya set down her plate. The veggie burger was a bit disheveled, but was, thankfully, still on the plate. The young woman she had bumped seemed to have the papers in hand though, like she had done it a few times before. Vidiya could understand that.]]]
[center [size10 [i Unlike the young woman, Vidiya had seemed to stand solid. She even stood a bit straighter, looking composed. A bit like a marble statue, one might say. It was a part of her upbringing. [b "Pretty girls don't slouch!"] her mother would say. [b "Pretty girls never lose their temper. Pretty girls are good girls who always like to help. Pretty girls are this. Pretty girls are that."] Most of the advice was pretty harmless, beneficial even. After all, a good person would try to be empathetic, right? They wouldn't fly off the handle on a silly mistake, and it was just as much Vidiya's fault, right? Then why was she so... dumbfounded! Vidiya was hardly at a loss for words, even simple and polite ones.]]]
[center [size10 [i Yet here was this girl, appearing to be a bundle of nerves and chaos, and [b Vidiya] was the one tongue-tied. How... how humiliating! When such a blunt question came her way, she finally snapped to life. She took a measured step away from Dana and gave a single-worded, rather cold answer. [#c20095 "No."] She wanted to bail too, but she felt her feet a bit glued to the sidewalk.]]]
[center [size10 [i Well, what was she to do at this point? Vidiya sighed, and that stiff, straight board suddenly wobbled into a small slouch. [#c20095 "The barbecue is for all the students anyway. Just go get food. Um... Leave your stuff."] She pointed at the table. [#c20095 "The line is a little crowded. I'll watch it, okay?"] She may not have meant too, but she sounded a touch like an ice queen. Bossy, in charge, and willing to watch the peasants scramble to do her bidding. It was an accident, and another very telling part of her upbringing. If she appeared a bit uptight right then, one might think she was a pleasant spring stroll in comparison to her mother.]]]
It shouldn't have been a surprise to her that going away to university was going to be a fight. After the loss of her mother in Kindergarten, Dana's father held on to her tightly and never let go. She was put in to Day School up until High School, and the only reason she was [i allowed] to go to a public high school was because they had moved. And she started to understand what her father's fears were, she got a little more rebellious, a little more curious about the bigger outside world that he tried to shield her from. So when it was time for her to go to college, it took a lot of convincing for him not to ship Dana off to a private Jewish university. She needed to see the world, and not just the one her father wanted her to see.
Really what her father was worried about was her dating more non-Jewish boys, thinking that going to university was somehow going to radicalize her and he would lose her, but... Well, Dana has never really been interested in boys. High school had been a transformative time for her, but it seemed that aspect of herself didn't grow as much as she had thought it would. No matter who, or how amazing they might have been, it always just felt like she was hanging out with a normal friend, like there was nothing there beyond that. It was strange, that was for certain, but perhaps she just hadn't met the right guy yet.
And that carried over in to university as well, no one really interesting her more than the Taylor Series might... Well, that's not true; she couldn't possibly imagine anyone being more interesting than that. Functions and codes were so much fun and interesting to learn. It was her second year now at Chardon University, and to get ahead on her minor, she's elected to take two extra classes this semester. They're both online, but they've still kept her quite busy so far. Luckily Dana liked being busy and enjoyed math and science, and was having a blast in her Applied Cryptography course. Symmetric ciphers, hash functions and data integrity, and everything else was so interesting! So interesting in fact, that she hadn't really noticed what was going on around her.
Dana had been sitting at a picnic table trying to simplify vector-valued functions for a classmate of hers in Calc III. Their professor talked at the board a lot and since this is a math class, they're always behind, so there were a few people who were struggling to keep up. Her classmate had tried to pay her, but Dana had told them this was her performing the mitzvah of [i tzedakah]... Apparently only Dana had found that funny. And she still did, chuckling at the memory.
“Hey, do you mind if we grab this table?” She turns from her notes to three other students standing to her one side. It was at this point as well that she noticed that something was going on in the yard; it looked like some kind of barbecue. “Our folding table broke, and we don't have anywhere to put the condiments.”
[b “Of course... I mean, [i no], of course I don't mind! Just let me gather my things.”] She says and hastily begins shoving her notes loosely in to a binder, gathering her phone, and quickly throws her backpack on. Once she gets out of the way, two of the students take either end of the table and begin carrying it towards the grilling station, the one who had requested the table lingers for a second.
“Hey, you should come on over and grab a burger or a hot dog; its free!” He seemed rather enthusiastic, and Dana couldn't help but feel persuaded by his energy.
[b “I'd never say no to free food. What's this for?”]
He begins patting his pockets as if trying to find something, but quickly stops. “Ahh, damn, I don't have any more pamphlets... Its a barbecue from the Chardon-U LGBT+ Union for all of our LGBTQIA+ students.” He tells her.
[b “Oh my.”] Is what she had managed. She's never really had that much exposure to those... kinds of views before, but she supposed if she was going to, it would be here in university, and perhaps it was time for her to get more daring. It was just... When did the acronym get more letters? [b “I'll be right with you in a second, I just need to...”] She was trying to put her phone in her pocket as well as balance her binder so all the papers she haphazardly shoved in there didn't get taken by any wind. The guy smiles at her and shoots her with finger guns before heading back towards the barbecue.
This was harder than it looked, and after trying standing for a few moments, Dana began to feel slightly self-conscious and began walking, which had the effect of making this a much more difficult endeavour. And she was back to not paying attention to her surroundings, being much more focused on her phone somehow not finding her pocket. And when it did, it seemed to have been at the right moment as she bumped in to someone, her binder dropping to the ground.
[b “Sorry, sorry!”] She said, not processing what the girl had just said in response. She drops to her knees and begins gathering the loose papers back in to the binder, her cheeks ablaze with embarrassment. [b “My mistake, I wasn't paying attention.”] She tells the girl, putting the binder in her backpack... Probably should've been there in the first place. She stands up, brushing loose debris from the knees on her jeans and manages a smile at the girl despite how embarrassed she still felt. The other girl appeared to be of an East Indian persuasion, which Dana found to be quite interesting. Her sheltered little life and where she had lived before moving on campus had left her with little diversity. But, she looked at the girl, looked at the barbecue, and then back to the girl again. [b “I'm Dana Spector.”] She holds her hand out. [b “Are you part of the LGBTQIA+ community?”] She asks innocently.
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/xWVvNoo.jpg]]
[center [size10 [i Vidiya wasn't sure if her parents understood what she meant at first when she said she was no longer interested in dating boys. "Oh! Find her a man! Someone mature and already established." The misunderstanding was, at least, one she could empathize with. The next time she tried, she attempted by saying she simply didn't want a husband. "Well why not? You'll want to have children soon." Well... maybe? She still wasn't sure. Children were a big responsibility, and her parents often wailed when she was younger how [b expensive] she and her little brother were to her. Thankfully, Suraj never heard a word of that. He was already under a certain amount of pressure, despite being the only boy out of three children.]]]
[center [size10 [i Pressures aside, Vidiya eventually broke down and confessed the truth as it was. Men were... disgusting. Well, not disgusting, but she couldn't bring herself to love one. Not in the way her parents desired. No matter what she tried, she simply felt her stomach turn, and her mind wander toward the affections of, say, their cute waitress. Or that girl she sat near in one of her classes. There was a cute girl now that was catching her attention. She was running a small barbecue stand that the student-run LGBT+ Union had up. Every so often, they held these little events. Sometimes it was food. Sometimes it was an activity. The message was always the same.]]]
[p Come and get a free meal! The Chardon Universty LGBT+ Union is hosting a small get together for all students to create a welcoming environment for all of our LGBTQIA+ students. We're all family here.]
[center [size10 [i Cute. Vidiya had one problem though. She was out to her family, but nowhere else. What would the rest of the world think of them if their daughter was openly a [b lesbian]? Disgraceful. Certainly not worth paying her tuition if she told everyone, right? And her school books? Well, no reason to give those to a shameful girl. Oh, and she could forget about her little dorm, or her classes. She would lose it all. For now, this dirty secret was going to stay in the family, and she would, in the mean, think about her ways. After all, she'll probably change her mind when she gets her license! Vidiya certainly hoped so.]]]
[center [size10 [i But she could ask the girl for a veggie burger, right? It wasn't like she was asking for her number or anything. She just wanted something to eat. Vidiya had already started walking over, but as she was getting ready for her request, she seemed to trip over something. The damage wasn't bad. Just a big of a scrape to her pride, and she didn't fall on the ground. She just bumped into another person.]]]
[center [size10 [i [#c20095 "Oh... I'm sorry."] The phrase felt so ready to leap off her tongue. [#c20095 "Did I make you drop anything?"] She looked the other person over with wide, anxious eyes.]]]
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