Dani sat and stared at Ryan, desperately hoping he would just say something. Okay, dude, she thought. I know it’s a lot to take in, but come on. Say anything! Anything at all! For all I care, you can start beating me up, I just can’t take this silence anymore!
Alas, he did no such thing. He simply stared at nothing. His jaw was partially slacked, and his eyes were squinted just enough to notice, like he was trying to solve a riddle while going to the bathroom.
After nearly an entire minute of just listening to the menu music of the game they were playing, Dani was about to scream. Or at least say, “uhh, Ryan?” until she got a response. She even considered going to the kitchen to grab a snack.
Eventually, he broke the silence. “...Okay,” he said while nodding.
That’s it? Did he hear me correctly? “Okay?” Dani asked back.
“Yeah, it makes sense.” Ryan’s face had returned to its normal, confident self.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I figured there had to be something going on with you. And now that you mention it, you definitely look different than you did last year.”
“Wait, seriously? You can tell?”
“Here, look.” Ryan pulled out his phone and quickly pulled up Dani’s Facebook account.
Dani looked at it in amazement. She hadn’t touched social media since moving out, but when confronted with an old photo she couldn’t believe that she used to look like that. Everyday she saw herself in the mirror, and that image was not what looked back at her these days. Her fingers moved to trace her now-softer features as she continued to stare. Wow. Maybe I should start taking more selfies…
“Hey,” Dani shook herself out of the trance and asked, “why did you have my Facebook page open already?”
Ryan immediately swung his phone to his side, and his cheeks went red. “Uhh...I um,” he started rubbing the back of his head, “the thing is, I…it’s real easy to explain.”
Dani once again found herself waiting for an answer from Ryan. Is there even a not-weird explanation for this?!
“I was with some friends, and uhh, we got to talking about my roommates, and I showed them your page.” Ryan started nodding his head. “Yeah, and that’s...that’s why that’s...that.”
“...Really?” Dani said, doubtfully.
Ryan sighed. “No, not actually. I mean it was kinda true! I...was kinda trying to set you up with someone?”
Dani’s eyebrows sprang up. “Oh! Wow, uh...Thank you? But-”
“I know, I know. I should have talked to you first.” Ryan got up from the couch, eyes filled with guilt.
“Ryan, it’s okay!” Dani said. She giggled, and stood up next to him. “I think that’s actually really nice of you. It’s just, right now, being in the middle of my transition and all…”
Some of the worry left his eyes, but Ryan still looked concerned. “Right! For sure. I didn’t make any solid plans yet for you to meet anyone, I was just...gauging interest?”
“But even if my transition was further along, I’m just not sure if relationships are for me, you know?” Dani said. She felt a tad guilty for lying still, even during this moment of honesty.
“Simon did say something about you being asexual, but I guess I tried anyway because...am dumb?” He chuckled and sat back down on the couch, which Dani quickly copied. With a sigh, he continued. “It’s just that we’ve been hanging out more, and I wanted to see you get out of your shell. But now that I’m saying it out loud, I might have been projecting a bit.”
Dani tilted her head at his claim. Wow, Ryan knows what projecting means? Am I an asshole for being surprised at that? She had to admit that her opinion of Ryan was starting to seem outdated. As soon as she admitted that, the warm feeling that had been filling her chest when she was around him returned. Nope. Don’t want to deal with this right now. But it wasn’t going away. Her usual method of picturing high school Ryan yelling a slur in the cafeteria was no longer working. Uh oh.
Ryan didn’t seem phased by Dani’s internal crisis. “My recent relationships just don’t seem to be working out,” he said, “so I was distracting myself by trying to play matchmaker with you.”
Dani nodded, trying to show she was listening intently. God, his self-reflection is so sweet. And he really did mean well...No! There was no way she could let herself fall for him, especially not while they lived together. Ryan doesn’t like me. Not like that. He likes… She stopped her train of thought. It seemed to work a bit, though, as the feeling was starting to fade.
“But enough about me,” Ryan said, “back to you. Is there anything else you wanted me to know?”
Dani welcomed the distraction from her thoughts. “Well let’s see,” she said. “I told you about the name and pronouns change. You know I’m on hormones. And you know to keep it a secret from everyone other than me and Simon. I think that’s-oh wait, actually there’s one more thing.” Ryan held out his hand, gesturing for her to continue. She cleared her throat, and focused on the specific muscles she needed to. “I'm kinda going to have this new voice. At least when I’m at the apartment.”
She noticed his face shift, in almost the exact same way Simon’s had the day before at the park. Something about the voice was throwing them off. I mean, it's a new voice. Of course they’ll be surprised to hear it. That’s what she told herself, yet a part of her worried at how long they had both stared.
“Wow! That voice…” Ryan said. “I think it suits you really well.” He smiled, reigniting the warmth once more.
Maybe there’s nothing to worry about. My voice is good, I know that. I’ve practiced it for months, it has to be. Dani smiled back, as she tried to think of new ways to squash the feelings for her roommate. “Thanks, I think so too.”