It was eleven minutes to midnight on a Thursday and she had gathered her things, deciding to call it a day. She turned around to face the speaker.
"That's the third time you've mistaken me for someone else," she said, crossing her arms and leaning back against the practice room door.
"Third?" He walked toward her. "I thought it was second."
"I think you should apologize."
"I'm sorry," he grinned. "Adelaide, right?"
"Glad to see you remembered."
"Do you remember my name?"
"You never told me." Adelaide said. "You know what'd be funny, though? If you had told me what your name was and I had forgotten. That way you could've forgotten my face and I could've forgotten your name."
"I never forgot your face!" he objected indignantly. "You just look like a bunch of other people, that's all."
"Gee, thanks. Great to know that I'm unmemorable. And old-looking, since you're a masters student."
"I didn't mean it that way." He was still grinning. "I'm just saying that the circumstances made our meeting each other weird."
"Then let's start over." She held out her hand for him to shake. "I'm Adelaide Engelhardt."
"Nice to meet you." His eyes glinted hazel-green. Unremarkable. Disarming.
That sudden thought was immediately followed by a distant sense of déjà vu that pricked her consciousness like a mosquito bite. It took several hours for it to strike her that it had reminded her of Gabriel. The realization stung.
She was in a car next to Gabriel and he was driving. The streets were busy – Seattle always was – and he was wearing a tuxedo, the kind that people wore for performances. She had been checking Facebook on a laptop when he had stopped at the curb, gesturing for her to get in in a way that had reminded her of taxis in the movies.
"So we're going to pull in here…"
The city scene had somehow suddenly disappeared, and they were back at the summer festival concert hall, a place that felt odd to be at in November. People were pouring out from the doors while a good number were filing in, them included. Without remembering how they got out of the car, they entered the building and headed for the stairs, his gloved hand holding hers to lead her through the crowd. But only because they could get separated. It was only practical.
"I thought you were going to perform," she said when he let go of her hand to undo his cufflinks.
"No, not tonight."
She didn't say anything back. Morrison was making his way down the stairs, Vivian close behind him. Gabriel followed her gaze with his eyes and, taking her hand again, gave her an understanding squeeze. She and Morrison made eye contact for just a second; he looked down first. Though it hurt her just a little bit, she mostly felt indifference. He had moved on.
She glanced up at Gabriel, and smiled a secret smile as she squeezed his hand back.
So had she.
"Who did you fuck tonight?" Nora asked as Adelaide came into the room.
"How do you know I fucked anyone?"
"You have that look on your face. Plus your hair is down and your clothes are mussed."
"I just came from a party," she pointed out as she rolled her eyes, waving her arms in front of her to emphasize the black sequined mid-thigh dress she was wearing. "I danced for over an hour in a hot room surrounded by sweaty people, most of who were underclassmen."
"You still haven't answered the question."
"Since when did I have to?" she shot at Nora.
"Never, but by choosing not to, I get to assume you had sex with Morrison or something."
"Oh please." Adelaide rolled her eyes. "I may be stupid and make bad decisions, but that's way up there."
"I don't hear you denying it, either." Nora looked up from Lolita.
"Zach Gilholland." Adelaide answered loftily, brushing her hair and wincing as it caught on the snarls. "I slept with Zachary Gilholland."
"Huh." Nora turned another page. "I hooked up with him twice last semester. He was okay."
"Geez – how long is it going to take for you to finish that book?" she demanded sourly, hiding her sudden embarrassment.
"However long it's going to take."
Her optimism faded away gradually enough that she didn't notice immediately. She still practiced, still studied, and still socialized. It was only during one dinnertime conversation she realized that she had to hack out the laughter she was obliged to respond with instead of letting it tumble from her mouth naturally.
January lapsed into February and so had she.
A/N: if I didn't make things clear before, the italicized sections are dreams.