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That Polite Mask You Wear

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10:32 pm: ‘Finish up!’
‘We’re waiting’

Empty boxes littered my new apartment, and my body ached. Almost the whole day was spent just arranging furniture so tonight I could come home and go to bed without any worries. I would love to curl up in bed right now, but I can’t bring myself to tell my friends no when they want to celebrate. Against the wishes of my tired body, I walked away from any resting place and leave for what would hopefully be another fun night with friends.

10:34 pm: ‘give me two seconds’
10:35 pm: ‘I’ll be there in a sec’

Nothing brings me more comfort than Iron Bull’s bar. The dark wood and packed tables made for a cozy-almost-at-home atmosphere. The bar serves as the meeting point for our group and carries many memorable games of Wicked Grace within its walls. Music and laughter and the intense smell of alcohol move through the air tonight just as it did every night. There was no stopping the smile on my face as I made my way to the back of the establishment.

The moment I stepped foot into the room, a chorus of cheers erupted from the already intoxicated bunch.

“Come take a seat! We’re about to start the game!” Krem motioned me over with a glass in hand.

“You’re all so impatient!” I took my seat beside Varric and smiled at Josephine who sat comfortably across from me. The dwarf sat a dark drink in a tall mug in front of me, “Well what’d you expect? You’re the one being celebrated!”

I took a quick drink while Jose dealt out the well-worn cards. Despite its appearance, my drink tasted of vanilla and held none of the bitterness that the others were probably indulging in. Varric and Krem flashed glances in my direction. It was a secret between us that we kept from the others for a few unspoken reasons. Reasons the others would probably poke fun at or exploit if they knew.

“I guess it is my turn, no? I’m not sure I’m entirely certain what I should gamble..” Unlike the ‘secret’ that Josephine is an Antivan who you do not gamble with which only unlucky newcomers were left out of. It’s also no secret that Cullen doesn’t know when to quit, so you could bet him out of his clothes. Which I have been guilty of doing a number of times.

“Earth to Ell-”


Varric shook his head, “Welcome back! Care to share what has you smiling like that?”

“I wasn’t-”

Sera popped her head up from under the table, “Lord lady tits got laaaid!”

Josephine raises her eyebrows, “Is this true?” She acts surprised, but her eyes give her away. The woman is a glutton when it comes to juicy gossip.

The others turned their attention to me. My face is definitely red. “No! I was just enjoying the moment,” Looks pass around the table as the group silently decide if they believe me, “Besides, I’m not even seeing anyone.” Varric shook his head with the knowing grin on his face. “Pay attention to your cards, people!”

The conversation passed along with the time. With the time also went the people as they scattered to their respective homes -except Sera who was blacked out and carried out by Dorian with Bull right behind him. Varric and I locked up the bar for the night and took a short walk to his car. Varric was quiet. Too quiet. The ride consisted of little more than small talk and the sound of the AC. It wasn’t until I went to step out of the car that Varric spoke up.


“Wait. Just one second..”

He dug into his pocket and pulled out his cellphone, “There’s someone I’d like you to talk with. He’s out of town for business for awhile, but I think it’d be great for you two to get to know each other. I think you’ll get along great as long as you can get past his thick eggshell,” His fingers scrolled through an unbelievably long contact list, “I’ll send you his number.”

“Only because you asked so nicely,” I rolled my eyes and opened the car door, “I’ll see you later. Thanks for tonight!” He smiled and said a quick ‘No problem.’ before driving off.

First thing I did was check the time. It was an ungodly 3:40 in the morning leaving me with just a few hours sleep. With a quick tug on my hair tie, my hair fell from its entrapment and I shook it out to allow it full freedom. Reaching back with my hands, my breasts received the same freedom from their confinement. I found my phone where I left it plugged in the wall beside my bed. Opening the text from Varric revealed a phone number but without a name attached.

Despite the exhaustion hitting me like a train right now, I fought with my phone and autocorrect to make an effort at sending a decently approachable text.

3:43 am: ‘Hello! I’m Varric's friend ’

Good enough. I pushed the phone away from my face and buried myself under my comforter.


“Varric, I didn’t think this was necessary to say, but I don’t want you giving my personal phone number out to strangers!” The absurdity of the situation began this morning when I woke up to find a message from an unknown number. The only people who should be able to contact my personal phone are a few, and I know I hadn’t given the number to anyone recently.

“Well, good morning to you too, Chuckles!” The cheery tone in his voice only fed my aggravation with him, “Let me explain before you pop a vein. For one, she’s not a stranger! She’s a very good friend of mine. Two, you should be thanking me! She’s a great lady, and you needed a bit of help putting yourself out there. You’re obviously lonely-”

“I most definitely am not!”

“You are! You work constantly-” “I like my work.” “And you never go out-” “I enjoy my time alone.”

“Will you stop interrupting so I can expl-” “To the point, Varric.”

Varric grumbles on the other side of the phone and I wonder if he will hang up, but no, he continues to talk.

“It’s time for you to get out of your lone wolf phase and get out into the world,” I start to interject to mention the fact that I have traveled to many parts of the world, “and not literally. I can’t get you to come out to spend time with friends- people who care about you believe it or not. I’m not going to force you because I know I can’t, but I just want you to be happy. Not just complacent.”

I let out a frustrated sigh, “ I understand you have good intentions but, that does not excuse disrespecting my privacy and giving out my personal information.”

“You’re right, you’re right. I should have talked to you first, but I really think if you took time to get to know her you would-”

“Varric, are you trying to set me up with someone?”

“No! Well.. Sorta. It’s not just- Look, if you just talk to her I really think-”

“Meddling in my social life is one thing, but my love life is not-”

“I don’t meddle! I’m giving you the shove you need to-”

“This discussion is over for now. I have to work and I’m sure you do too.”

“Just talk to the girl, will ya? You’ve got nothing to lose!”
“Goodbye, Varric.”

My frustration with the issue did not subside after the phone call. If anything, it’s fueled. Responding to Varric’s mystery friend now would be too rash, but I can’t just leave the issue open. It would need to be resolved very soon.

3:43 am: ‘Hello! I’m Varric's friend’

12:10 pm: ‘I believe there was a misunderstanding. I would like to discuss it later after work.’

12:14 pm: ‘Of course.’


Days passed and I haven’t heard a word from Varric’s friend. Eventually, I stopped checking my phone and moved on with life. Varric never brought it up, but we also had more exciting things to talk about. Thanks to Varric, I was able to get out of my situation and start up a new life. Between the apartment and the job interview -plus a good word to the Dean-, he really has set me up. And, there isn’t a better way I can think to spend my days than having a room full of people who may or may not be listening to me lecture about everything plants.

“So, how are they treating you in there? Anyone giving you a hard time?”

Varric’s fingers moved across the spines of my books on the shelf in my office. Everything was nice and neat for now, but it’s bound to clutter up in due time.

“It’s great! There’s the occasional weird drawing on the desk, but other than that everything is pretty much perfect.”

He snatched a book off the shelf and opened it up to the biography cover, “Well, I’m glad you’re having a good time kiddo. Just gotta watch out for those older professors. They’ve got mean eyes on them.”

“Varric. What does that even mean?”

He gestured with the book still in hand, “Nothing! I’m just saying if you hear a side comment or two don’t let it phase you.”

“I wasn’t even worried about that until now!”

“Eh. Some of them are just old and mean. Not all of them! But a few.” He finally put the book back in its place and brought his watch up to his face, “I should be heading out. I’ll see you around, Kiddo.”

“I’ll see you around.”

With Varric gone, the office seems incredibly silent. No fans on, no feet shuffling around, no smart comments. Just me and my noise.

It’s hard to believe I’m where I am today. Something like this seemed so far out of my reach, yet here I am. Smile on my face, I pack up my laptop and lock my office door. A door with my name on it. Elaine Lavellan - Botany Professor

Safe at home and curled up on my couch for a movie or two, I turned my phone on for the first time since classes ended. Text notifications popped up as it buzzed in my hand.

V’s Friend
6:12 pm: ‘Hello. I’m sorry for not contacting you for so long after my previous message. There was an incident involving a young man and a coffee spill, so I’m afraid I had to replace my phone.’
6:34 pm: ‘Please message me when you find the time.’

8:40 pm: ‘I hope I didn’t take too long to get back to you. I’ve had my phone off for most of the day.’

V’s Friend
8:42 pm: ‘You’re fine. I’m glad we didn’t miss each other again.’

8:43 pm: ‘Did you want to call to talk about the misunderstanding?’

V’s Friend
8:49 pm: ‘I would typically agree, but I have to admit I have had a long trip and have turned to the complimentary drinks to make these meetings and events more bearable.’

8:50 pm: ‘That’s okay! Whatever gets you through the day :)’

V’s Friend
8:51 pm: ‘That’s an agreeable attitude.’

Our conversation went on for awhile. I shared my thoughts on the movie with him, and he gave me thoughts and complaints about the event he was at. Though, I don’t think he was chatting much with the people around him. I can imagine the man on the other side of the conversation sitting at an isolated table in the corner, drink in one hand and phone in the other. It wasn’t until almost 12 o’clock that he said he finally left to go to his room.

11:42 pm: ‘We should both go to bed.’
‘You’re going to have a horrible hangover tomorrow. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water!’

V’s Friend
11:43 pm: ‘You’re probably right. I’m relying heavily on autocorrect right now. I will try to remember your advice in the morning.’
11:44 pm: ‘Goodnight.’

11:45 pm: ‘Goodnight!’