By Julian Trueman
It takes a special kind of strange, she thinks, to be this useless.
Ava wraps her fingers around the coffee mug and considers her options. There, two rows in front and three chairs to the left, is the girl she’d been meaning to talk to. It’s an easily crossed distance. Ava’s even sitting near-ish to the aisle so it’s easy to get out from her seat and go sit with Caitlyn. She could even be a badass about it and go over the seats to plop down beside her. Easy as. Two big steps down and it’s done.
Alternatively, she comes to realise, as she registers that her travel mug is long empty, she could just sit here for the entire lecture without doing anything. Smart. A good use of time. Does exactly zero help to the planet-sized dilemma that she’d been agonising over. The lecturer notices he’s gone five minutes overtime, speed-talks through the last slide so quickly nobody catches it, ends the lecture. People are snapping laptops shut, standing, starting to talk. Ava’s missing her chance.
She shoves her laptop and the travel mug in her bag and bolts for the stairs, feeling distantly guilty when she pushes in front of someone to catch up to Caitlyn, who’s thankfully alone and not chatting with a friend or something like that. Ava bustles right up to her and then stops, abruptly lost for words. Damn, she thinks. She’d been planning for this the entire lecture instead of taking notes, and now she’s botching it.
“You alright there?” Caitlyn asks, raising an eyebrow, and Ava wonders if she’s read too far into their interactions at mutual friends’ parties and bar-crawls. It’s entirely possible she’s about to take a shot at someone who isn’t remotely interested.
“You free Saturday?” Ava manages, and Caitlyn gives a long, slow blink of bewilderment as she pushes open the door to the hall and they’re free of the crowd of students. Ava can see the second that Caitlyn puts the pieces together in her head, the way her eyebrows suddenly jerk upwards and her mouth opens a little.
“Oh,” she says, and for a split second Ava is reeling but then Caitlyn continues, “sure, I guess? What did you want to do?”
Ava blanches. She… hadn’t actually thought that far ahead. Caitlyn must read it on her face because the taller woman barks a laugh and hitches her laptop bag higher on her shoulder. “Just wanted to hang out? That’s cool, I guess. We could probably get dinner or something,”
It’s a relief that, as annoying as Ava finds the cliche, lifts a weight off her shoulders. Quite literally, she finds herself suddenly aware of her hunched posture and moves to correct it, shifting her own bag around.
“That sounds, uh, really good?” She laughs awkwardly, hoping her face isn’t, like, red or anything stupid like that.
“Great! You have anywhere in mind?” Caitlyn starts walking airily towards the exit and Ava hurries to keep up, trying to think.
Caitlyn sniggers, lifting a hand to shove her hair behind her ear. “Got it, you have no clue, right?”
“Aw, cut me some slack,” Ava finds herself saying, an embarrassed grin on her face as her voice instinctively pitches higher. “I’m a useless lesbian, okay? I dunno anything,”
“Aren’t all lesbians kinda useless?” Caitlyn shoves the door out of their way lightly and the sun immediately lances into Ava’s eyes. “Like, that’s kind of our whole deal, isn’t it?”
“I dunno, I dream of being a useful lesbian. But I guess that’s one of those, like, no-gay-can-do-all-five things. Otherwise we’d be too powerful,”
“That’s exactly how it works, yeah. All our energy has to go to sitting properly, you know?”
Ava barks a laugh as her mind completely fails to find any useful rebuttal to the oft-repeated sitting joke.
“At least I can drive,” she says instead, and Caitlyn snorts.
“I’ll have to try and find somewhere to go, anyway,” she shrugs. “I’ll let you know by Friday?”
“That- that sounds great?” Ava trips over the sentence a little but finds her verbal feet again, beaming. Holy shit. She’d actually managed to un-useless herself for once. And that was a proper date. “I have no idea when the last time I even went on a date was.”
“Mood,” Caitlyn’s quick retort seemed almost instinctive, and she hastily elaborated. “I mean, not like I date that many people. Being single is cheap, too,”
“Well,” Ava’s mouth is stupidly dry. “We can fix that? And drink to the pain of our wallets?”
“That’s something to drink to, if anything,” Caitlyn agrees. They round the corner and she stops, clearly wanting to head down the opposite branch to Ava. “See you Saturday? We don’t share any other classes, do we?”
“Nah,” Ava nods. “Saturday it is.”
“Neat. See you then!” Caitlyn gives a little wave and strides off.
And, well, if Ava’s a bit louder and bouncier than usual, her roommates at least have the good sense not to point it out.