They were an odd pair. She didn’t care. Their developing friendship was an entirely new experience for Dani.
Growing up she never had a lot of friends. As the tomboy she made friends with boys more often than girls. The problem was that they didn’t want just friendship. They wanted something more.
Friendships built with the expectation of one day being more was the story of her life. Her personality, looks and easy nature tended to give the wrong signal to any guy friend she tried to keep. It wasn’t that the prospects were undeserving, unsuitable or even undesirable…there was just something missing.
Orson stood out in that way. He wasn’t athletic, thick headed or though skinned (all common characteristics of a majority of men that a girl army brat encounters). She enjoyed his company in the library and campus coffee shop because he was easy to talk to. There was no pressure or pretence to worry about. He sincerely wanted to be her friend.
On campus Dani was forced to live in a girls dorm. After a long first semester she was growing very tired of being surrounded by girls. On the day she first met Orson she’d been driven from her room by yet another catfight screaming its way down the hall. She couldn’t take it any more. She needed silence.
She found herself at the library searching for the most solitary corner possible. She found the perfect space in the basement. One lone boy, who looked like he was mentally miles away and partially hidden from view by several stacks of books, was the only company with which she had to contend.
Settled in and finally able to study she heard the boy shout at the top of his lungs. Instinct and training kicked in and she ran to asses the situation. When he peered down at her, soaked in coffee, there was a look that passed across is face. She’d seen it before.
Despite her best efforts Dani couldn’t hide the way she looked. The daughter of a gorgeous Italian mother and dashing polish father, some genes show thought no matter the lack of makeup or styles you avoid.
Unlike her three sisters who adored the attention, she hated that look. It made her feel like a possession, something to be claimed rather than loved.
This time it was different though. The look only lasted for a split second. She saw it flicker into his expression and out again. Most men would have denied her help and shown off in some way. Usually trying to slip in a wink or flirtatious gesture. Not Orson. He gave a shy smile and even said thank you.
Over the last few months on numerous hangouts he asked her hundred of questions. Where did she grow up? What was her family like? Why did she enlist? On and on the questions went. It was like he was trying to read her like one of his star charts.
He really wanted to understand her. At first it took her off guard. She felt like an enigma he was studying under a microscope. However, after watching him interact with others on campus, she quickly realized he treated her the same as anyone else.
His lack of social grace and awkward manners were strangely endearing to her. He never put on a façade. He was who he was. He seemed to accept himself, faults and all. Unlike her, he didn’t hide who he was way from the world afraid of what others might think of him.
It was that very thing that made their conversations easy, never forced, genuine. The look of surprise that always overtook his face when she laughed at his jokes reassured her he was never intentionally flirtatious, but somehow managed to stumble into it. It was more than endearing.
Eventually he became her closest friend. She felt like she could share the world with him and he’d only ever take half, leaving he rest to give back to her. Despite the fact that she often couldn’t keep up with his intellectual rambling she always felt like she was on equal footing with him, never belittled.