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They followed Paul even as he used his PID to request a ride to the nearest theater. Once the request was made, there wasn’t much to do but wait.

“Jordan says your grades are better than mine,” Paul said. 

Jordan looked at him as if he grew a second head. Lidia sent Jordan a glare, but Paul kept talking before she could say anything. “That means you must have the work-energy theorem down.”

Her face scrunched up. “Yeah, but how’d you know that.”

Paul laughed. “It’s the only theorem Jordan and I struggle with.” 

She smiled again. “You two are all any of the professors are talking about. That experiment you’re working on and your latest paper has them scrambling to take it to the next step before you get there.”

“They won’t,” Jordan said. Paul smiled. Leave it to Jordan to humbly be a best friend. “Paul’s a real genius.”

“The fact that I’m not even top in my class anymore is evidence to the contrary,” Paul said,. His poor friend had no idea he was being bated, and he took it eagerly. 

“Einstein wasn’t the top of his class either!” he argued, “And Lidia is next level smart, too. She’s here in class with us and she’s two years younger.”

They continued talking. Paul would casually mentions something Jordan was passionate about, and Jordan would obligingly carry the conversation. It was even better when he realized Lidia shared the topic of interest. 

By the time their ride showed up, Paul was hardly even contributing to the conversation. Though it was fun. Strangely, it was nice to have someone else to talk to about things. Of course, Jordan didn’t tell Lidia how it was Paul was inspired to start this journey, but one topic of conversation led to another, and they were sharing more intimate stories before they arrived at the theater.

“I hit him,” Paul said. 

“Some jerk lied to Paul and said I said some bad things about his mother,” Jordan explained to Lidia. “What kid wouldn’t defend his mother’s honor?”

“Maybe any kid would defend his mother, but I’ve never met another person who was willing to defend the guy who hit him.” Paul smiled at the memory. 

“Why?” Lidia asked. In that moment, she looked at Jordan differently, and Paul knew those two were starting to see in each other what they had thought they saw in him. 

Jordan somehow found a way to humbly talk about how he’d not only forgiven Paul for decking him, but was trying to help Paul avoid getting expelled. Of course, then Paul regained the attention when Lidia heard about his confession.

“Before Jordan,” Paul said, “all anyone wanted to do was see if they could get me to lose my temper. Honestly, it’s still a side of me I’d rather no one ever see.”

It was honest truth, but the sudden look Lidia gave Paul bothered him. He expected as much, but it hurt all the same. Jordan is really the only person who ever saw a part of the monster Paul could be without blinking. Lidia wasn’t horrible for that momentary look of caution, but she was just like almost everyone else. 

As expected, Lidia talked to Paul less and less, and talked to Jordan more and more. Sure, they all talked. Sure, they all laughed. Lidia sort of fit in with them. She was able to hold multiple conversations at once. They’d talk about physics for a minute and then switch to music or gaming. Finding out Lidia was a gamer was all the more impressive. 

The movie wasn’t bad at all, but the highlight of what turned out to be a very long night of discussion and laughter turned out to be just how comfortable they were around Lidia. 

“Why don’t you come by the lab tomorrow?” Paul looked at his PID and grunted. “I guess I mean later today.”

“You guys don’t want me coming in and bothering you in the middle of an experiment,” Lidia said.

“Help us brainstorm ways to link two spacial vacuum areas, and we’ll welcome you to pretty much any event,” Paul admitted. “For now, I think it’s time to head home.”

“Really?” Jordan looked surprised at his own question. “I mean, it’s late, or early, I guess, but we’ve been up later.”

“You two wanna keep talking, it’s fine by me, but I’m tired,” Paul said.

“I could stay up a while longer,” Lidia said. 

A strange surge of resentment struck Paul. They were all having fun, but they were willing to keep going when Paul left?

Of course, that was the whole idea in the first place, but Paul couldn’t understand why it bothered him when it happened exactly as he’d hoped.

“You really don’t want to stay?” Jordan asked.

Paul shrugged. Even as he tried to understand why he wanted to stay just because they were staying, he managed to offer an excuse about being tired. 

He took one last look at Lidia. Why was he so hesitant to try and spend time with her? Wy try to encourage Jordan to admit how he felt about her? Why feel jealous? 

The image of him standing over a man flashed in his mind. 

Right, Jordan realized. I don’t deserve a nice girl like her. She never really wanted to date me anyway. 

“I’ll be fine,” Paul lied. It might be the first time he’d ever lied to Jordan. “You two hang out if you want.”

Paul walked away before his pride could convince him to change his mind. Besides, Paul thought to himself, it’s not like they’ll end up getting married.

… to be continued …

27 thoughts on “Visits From A Man Named Nobody 55

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