Today he held her hand.
Okay, well maybe he didn’t hold her hand, but when she turned the corner to go to her locker today, he pulled her into the nearest supply closet to hide from the dean. And maybe he held on to her hand longer than necessary. Like, through the entirety of his explanation for the detour he forced upon her. She didn’t mind, though.
But when she got home from a long day of classes, she couldn’t help but think about the whole thing. She collapsed onto Troy’s recliner and sat in front of the blank TV, not bothering to turn it on because her mind was clouded with the events of the day and the feel of his hand and the possibilities of what it all meant.
God, Jeff Winger was a frustrating man.
“Hey Annie.” She was pulled from her thoughts and she looked up to see Troy throw himself into Abed’s usual seat in front of the television.
“Hey! What are you still doing here? I thought you had a date with Britta.”
“I do but she’s running a little late because she’s attempting to therapize Jeff again.”
Annie huffed out a laugh. “What else is new?” He laughed tiredly, and she looked at him thoughtfully. She was elated that Troy and Britta were dating, and she thought they made an adorable couple. Annie let go of her crush on Troy a lifetime ago, and she just wanted her friends to be happy. They adored each other. “How are things going with you two?”
He gave her a half smile and shrugged. “They’re good. Sometimes I feel like I have to keep up with her though, you know? We have fun but sometimes I feel like she’s always thinking about her next project…or person to therapize.”
As much as he tried to hide it, Annie knew Troy was more insecure than he let on. But that was normal right? Everyone was a little insecure on the inside. But with Troy, he was especially insecure when it came to Britta. As much as she hated to admit it, Annie knew it was because he was worried he’d never live up to Jeff. He’d never be cool like Jeff. He’d never be a man like Jeff. Which was ridiculous because they were two different people, who were wonderful on their own for different reasons. Sure, Britta and Jeff had history, but they were long over…and Troy didn’t need to worry. Britta chose Troy. And Jeff chose…well, she didn’t exactly know what he chose just yet.
He was quiet for a moment before he continued, “And then there’s everyone else. I feel like everyone thinks we’re weird together. Like, they’re thinking ‘What’s that cool, independent woman doing with that nerdy kid who likes videogames and action figures?’”
“Troy…” She began. “I don’t think people are thinking that. Britta doesn’t care you like that stuff. Just because she’s a little older doesn’t mean you won’t work! Although…” She thought a moment. “I feel like I can relate. Except for me it’s ‘Hey, what’s that good-looking, experienced adult man doing with that naïve, inexperienced little teeny-bopper?’”
Troy looked at her with sympathy. “Oh yeah…What’s going on with you and Jeff? Are you together together? Or are you guys at the together stage before you’re together?”
Annie laughed good naturedly and shook her head. “I have no idea,” she threw her hands in the air. “Well, we’re definitely not together together. But he’s giving me all these signals like maybe we might be? In the near future?”
Troy shook his head. “He’s a hard dude to read.”
“He is! One minute he’s acting all distant and calling me kiddo but the next he’s looking at me with those eyes and smiling at me like he wants more.”
“If it makes you feel any better Annie, I’m dating Britta and she never looks at me the way Jeff looks at you.”
Annie suddenly felt bad. “Oh, Troy…”
“No, it’s cool. We have a good time together, and we care about it each other. She’s just not that good at showing it, you know?”
“That may be true, but I know she really likes you.” She was thoughtful for a moment. “I think Britta and Jeff are sort of similar…They have trouble displaying their emotions…in productive ways. Jeff scares himself whenever he feels even a hint of affection towards someone else and Britta cares for people by smothering them with not-always-helpful-advice, until she gets so caught up that she forgets what’s important.”
“I guess that’s why she’s with Jeff right now instead of on a date with me.”
Annie looked at him sadly. “Believe me when I say this, Troy. You two are good for each other. You like her for all her flaws and passions. You see the good in her more than anyone else I’ve ever met. And she doesn’t see you as a kid! She sees you for the caring and loving guy you are.”
He grinned and she noticed a hint of blush. “Thanks, Annie.”
She nodded in satisfaction.
He bumped her elbow with his. “I know we’ve already established that Jeff is emotionally disabled, but he’ll come around. He may have walls built up thicker than cement, but the only times I’ve seen him put them down is for you. You’re awesome, Annie. And Jeff knows it.”
She felt tears tempt the corners of her eyes, but she reached over and squeezed his hand. “Thank you.”
He smiled at her before adding, “Man, older people suck at communicating. They really are they AT&T of people…” That made Annie laugh genuinely.
The next moment was filled with the sound of both of their phones chiming with text messages. Troy looked at his. It was from Britta: done fixing the man child. meet at senor kevin’s for our date?
At the same time, Annie looked at her phone to find a text from Jeff: just spent the afternoon avoiding britta’s textbook freudian crap. need to decompress. @ starbucks on 3rd. join me for coffee?
She looked at Troy expectantly. He held is phone in conformation, “She’s ready for our date.”
Annie nodded, smiling. “Jeff wants to meet for coffee.”
Troy’s eyes grew wide and he smiled, “That’s good right?”
She smiled and nodded. “Yeah. I think so.”
“I’ll see you later, Annie,” he said as he tapped her shoulder in a friendly goodbye. He stopped at the door and turned to face her. “Don’t tell Abed I said this, but, sometimes it’s easier to talk to you about this stuff.”
Her chest warmed and she giggled. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell Abed I’m your favorite roommate,” she teased.
He grinned, “Have fun with Jeff. And I want details!” He called out as he made his way out the door.
She shook her head fondly, appreciative for Troy’s support and genuine concern for her feelings. It was funny, the fact that she was infatuated with him for so many years. Thinking about it, she was glad it never worked out between the two, because otherwise they’d never be roommates, or even close friends for that matter. She was grateful to have him in her life, and for the fact that he was willing to help her figure out her thing with Jeff.
She sighed. Jeff. At twenty-one years old, she knew her feelings toward that man were more than an infatuation. They were scary and real and sometimes suffocating. She sensed that he felt the same way, so she knew the wait would be worth it. Good things took time. Which was why she decided Troy was right. A coffee date—uh, meet up—with Jeff was a good thing. They would take these small steps together.
Annie got up and ran to her room, threw on a pair of flats and refreshed her lip gloss before sending him a reply: On my way.