Work, always work. Eventually I’d find myself elsewhere, but no, I was trapped here, always… and I was texting Dakota. I could see Dakota. Why was I texting Dakota?
I ran through the back hallway with an emergency corset for one of the dancers. Hers had broken. Throwing open the stage door I saw the chaos of intermission, and saw Dakota.
Wake up, Piper.
His arms came around me, and we were standing in the hallway, alone. Alone? Yeah, we were alone. I wrapped my arms around him and rested my cheek on his chest.
“I love you.”
I smiled, turning my head up to face him. “I love you too.”
The jolt back into my body was too fast, but not strong enough to really wake me. I lay on my side, immobile, listening to the sounds in my apartment. Someone was talking to Kimmy in the common area– Shit, Dakota. It was Dakota. How had he gotten into my apartment? How had he gotten past security?
I heard the door open, heard someone– it had to be Dakota– walking toward my bed. I wanted to see him, wanted to hug him, wanted to talk to him, but I just. Couldn’t. Move…
Gasping, I rolled onto my back. The bedroom door was still shut tightly; no one stood beside my bed. I whipped my head around and saw Kimmy, still asleep in her bed, sunlight slanted over the mountain of blankets she slept under.
Relief hit in a wave, followed by the slow creep of disappointment. For some ungodly reason, I had wanted Dakota to be here. What an outrageous disaster, I realized, covering my face and rolling back over to go back to sleep. Except the need to tell Dakota I’d been dreaming about him hit, and the next thing I knew I had dragged out my phone to text him.
Went into sleep paralysis and hallucinated that you’d somehow gotten into my apartment. Woke up confused as to how the hell you’d gotten in and then disappointed that you weren’t here.
His response was underwhelming, but somehow made me feel better.
Lol okay then.
Content enough, I went back to sleep.
It didn’t occur to me until much later in the day that I’d dreamt about something I absolutely should not have been dreaming about. I stared into my drink at lunch, thankful I had early lunch. Dakota wouldn’t be in EJ’s employee cafeteria– our regular haunt nowadays, due to the slowly cooling weather and the fact that he’d suddenly started providing cheap meals for us on the regular– for at least another half hour.
“Cait,” I said, getting her attention from her phone. She pushed her glasses up her nose to see me better, even though I didn’t look up from my cup of water. “I fucked up.”
“Did you fuck Dakota?”
I looked up at her and tried to pass off my look of oh god how did you figure it out as a look of outrage. “What? No!”
“You’re a piss poor liar when asked a direct question,” Cait said, “but we’ll pretend you’re a good one and that you happen to know someone Dakota’s sleeping with, other than his girlfriend.” I could work with that, so ignoring the fact that I was brick red and guiltier than a whore in church, I nodded. “So other than knowing that little secret, how did you fuck up?”
“I caught feels,” I admitted, and that was that. It was there, in the open, out loud and honest and oh god what had I just done.
“I’m not surprised, he’s a decent guy except for the whole cheating on his girlfriend thing.”
Immediately, I opened my mouth to defend him, and then shut it. This was like my conversation with Kimmy, only somehow worse, because Cait didn’t know me the way Kimmy did, and yet she could read me like a book. “The only other person I’ve told is my roommate, and even then I was kind of playing it off as a phase.”
“Nah, it’s so easy to catch feelings for guys we can’t actually have.”
And didn’t that just hit home? I nodded. “Yeah, yeah it is.”
“I get his side too,” she continued. “He’s not happy, but doesn’t know how to end things without causing a scene, so he cheated. Been there done that.”
“I should really ask him about that,” I murmured. Then I remembered the day before and brightened. “Oh my god. I should tell him what a fucking delight she is.”
“Please do,” Cait said, grinning. “Maybe pick his brain about her. I want to hear all about it when you do.” With that, she stood up. “We’ll talk later, I’ve gotta bounce. Your boy is here.”
I resisted the urge to whip around and look for him, instead smiling up at her as she gathered her stuff and headed away. “Bye, Cait, see you at pre show.” She waved and I turned– to watch her wave goodbye, obviously– and happened to catch sight of Dakota coming my way. “Hey, stranger. Go get food and come sit.”
He rolled his eyes and dropped his bag off before strolling away to get food. I turned my attention to my phone as I waited, scrolling through tumblr blindly while trying to think of a tactful way to tell him his girlfriend was a clingy brat.
Dakota returned with his plate and regarded me over it, reading me in that annoyingly accurate way of his. “So. What’s on your mind.”
Shaking my head, I let my anxiety keep me quiet. “After you eat. How were the first shows?”
We chatted easily as he ate, though I mostly let him lead, still searching for the right words and coming up short. Once he’d wolfed down his food, he pushed the plate to the side and relaxed back against his chair. “So…?”
I couldn’t stop the grin that spread on my face. “So ah. Alexis.” His lip quirked up. “She’s ah…” manners straight up deserted me, replaced with an uncontrollable round of giggles. “She seems like a fucking delight.” Dakota waited patiently through my hysteria, which I managed to swallow. “And you…” I reached out and took his hand. “You don’t look happy.”
He gave me a wry grin. “Yeah, but it is really hatred you’re seeing on my face?”
I squeezed his hand. “I didn’t say you hated her. I said you looked unhappy.”
Dakota stood with a shrug and grabbed his backpack. “Later.” I watched him go silently, controlling the urge to sigh or straight up faceplant into the table. It was pretty much what I’d expected, and why I’d waited until he was done eating to bring it up.
Pulling out my phone again, I texted Cait, belaying the story to her.