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The New Guy

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Titania went home to change for the evening. She put on her tight black shorts, and a red and gold strapless top that matched her belly-button ring’s colors. Maya waited for her, looking at an old photo her grandma kept next to the living room TV. “I always thought you kinda looked like your grandma, but you look a lot like him.”

She didn’t like the comparison, it implied she’d look like her grandmother when she got old, and Titania had absolutely no intention of getting old, ever. But her looks had never been compared to the grandfather she had never met. So she grabbed hold of the photograph she had seen so many times, and looked at it from a new perspective. She saw with no small amount of fascination where her lips and cheekbones had come from, but as her eyes strayed from the man in focus, she noticed the people in the background.

“Isn’t this Feste’s… Robin?” she asked, pointing at a man with a guitar in hand, who had the same Monalisa smile as the old man.

“Who?” Maya asked, confused.

“The one who played the guitar earlier today.” Her friend shrugged, meaning she had no idea what she was talking about. “I think he’s related to Feste, or something. Oh, look, this is the one who was playing the flute.” Maya wasn’t interested in the turn the conversation had taken, so she asked Titania if she was ready to go.

As they walked to Fabian’s, she was so excited about the way things were going with Oberon, she couldn’t shut up about it, but her friend obviously failed to see why. “He looks like he’s got money,” Maya commented, nodding her head in approval. “You have to make sure it’s not just looks, though.”

“It’s not,” Titania told her, shaking her head a little. “But that’s not even the good part. I mean, he helped Feste put this event together, he got all of his friends to make donations. He cares. And I don’t know if you noticed it, but he’s so hot!”

“It's hard not to notice, when you won’t stop talking about it,” her friend teased.

Before they entered the club, Titania noticed Orsino buying drinks, and came over to say hello. He looked happy to see her, or rather just happy in general, which made her instantly curious, even more so when he was handed two pink smoothies, a drink he had always refused on principle. “Those aren’t for you, are they?”

His immediate reaction was laughter, a good sign. He looked like he was laughing out of embarrassment as much as pride. Once more, Titania sensed some genuine happiness about him. “For some reason, Cesario loves this shit,” he explained, shaking his head in disapproval, but smiling like it was the most endearing trait a person could have.

“How are things between you two?” she pried, shamelessly.

He laughed again. “Why don’t you come say hello?”

Before they got to Cesario however, Oberon found her: “There you are!” he said, coming over, and checking her out, not even pretending he wasn’t bewitched. “You look beautiful!”

“I’ll catch up with you guys later, ok?” she told Orsino, who didn’t hide very well the fact he was checking her boyfriend out. Although Orsino had come out to her, she wasn’t used to seeing that, and started laughing. He did the same. On that note, they parted ways.

She followed Oberon inside, Maya tagging along, and they watched the rapper that came before the twerk battle. The guy had some cool rhymes, and it didn’t take long for her to want to dance to them. Oberon danced with her, and it was like they were the only two people in the world. That was the thing about him, after all: when she was around Oberon, nothing else really mattered.

“You look so hot in those clothes,” he whispered in her ear, as she grinded against him. Titania giggled. Well, that was the whole point of her outfit, but it was always nice to hear the whole production had the desired effect. Soon, he gave up on dancing and started kissing her right in the middle of the dance floor, like a teenager.

She didn’t want to stop, but if they kept going, they might end up forgetting they were in public. So she put some distance between Oberon and herself, so they could catch their breaths, and slow down a little.

He left her with Maya, to ask Feste something, promising he would be right back. Titania agreed, and joined Nick, who was hanging by the bar with Oberon’s friend, Peter Quince. Before she and Maya had done their first tequila shot, she noticed how Nick looked at his new acquaintance in the same way he had looked at her not long ago. And while she and Nick were far from right for each other, maybe he was right for Oberon’s geeky friend. At least they both sounded impressively engaged in the conversation they were having, though neither she or Maya had the slightest idea what the two were talking about. Fortunately the girls from the salon came over to have some drinks, so they hung out with them, instead.

Oberon came back right before Feste announced the twerk battle, so Titania pulled him towards the stage. "This is going to be fun! You've never seen me dance, have you?"

He shook his head, and pulled his phone out. "No, but I'm ready."

Titania was curious. "Are you making a video?"

"Feste said the best video gets a prize, and I know the best video needs you in it."

She went upstage to dance with the other girls, some of them were in Illyria for the first time, and Titania could tell they were new to twerking. Feste let the new girls present themselves first, leaving her for the last, but at least he asked her about the charity. And Titania felt like a celebrity getting on a stage and telling those people they were all responsible for each other. Pretending she was the princess of Illyria had always been a part of her daydreams, and charity work was a very princessy thing to be involved in. So she threw all the power of her fantasy into her little speech, and as usual it worked better because of that touch.

Finally, it was time to dance, which she did with pleasure. Titania loved dancing, and she loved the reaction people had to it. She took both admiration and envy as compliments, and enjoyed herself. There was no greater feeling than moving in compass with the beats, but the applause was a close second place. Feste called for an individual round of applause to each contestant, deciding who had won the battle by popular acclaim, as usual. Titania received louder cheers than the others, and that settled another victory.

She was still riding that high, when she got down from the stage, and found Oberon waiting for her, with a big smile on his face. What a smile! She wanted to drag him somewhere, and do everything to him. As they moved through the dance floor, however, there was another round of applause directed to Titania, more spontaneous, and limited to those who stood closest, like Maya and the girls, as well as some of the new faces. She wasn’t expecting that, and could only laugh in surprise. Oberon joined the others in the applause. What else could she do other than enjoy it?

As usual, Feste saved his best music for when the battle was over, and Titania felt like dancing to that. She beckoned everyone around to do the same, and they did. She had some fun going from dancing with Oberon to dancing with one friend and then another, until she found herself with a partner so unexpected, she froze.

Before her stood Lieutenant Malvolio, but he looked very weird: his thin hair was dyed blond, he wore a sleeveless t-shirt, and a gold chain around his neck. The most surprising part, however, was the smug look on his face, like he was too focused on whatever he was trying to do to realize how ridiculous his appearance was.

Her only reaction was to stare in shock. She should probably say something, but when the air reached her throat, she was still too stunned to speak, and whatever faint sound she managed to make meant nothing, and was immediately drowned by the music.

“Time to dance with a real man,” the officer said, to the girl’s horror.

She didn’t like the sound of that, no one who said such things to her had ever been anything but trouble, and to make matters worse, that one was a cop. Titania smiled uncomfortably, afraid of him, wondering if Malvolio would let her go if she humored him and danced with him for a little bit, like she had danced with her friends. She doubted that, but she also doubted he would be a good sport if she flat out said no. She would have to lose him with some kind of distraction, and so she danced halfheartedly, trying to come up with something to free herself from that man.

It wasn’t long before he said: “Check this out,” and pulled his t-shirt off, acting like he was sure Titania wanted to see his hairy pot-belly. The fact that now his holster and gun were visible only made her feel even more apprehensive. His chest had been shaved around what looked like a new tattoo. “What do you think?” he asked, removing the cling wrap that covered it.

His tattoo was still swollen, red, and covered in unguent. Titania was disgusted by it, but she still read it out loud: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Someone behind her giggled. She had no idea what it was supposed to mean, but she didn’t like the way Malvolio appeared to be expecting something from her that wasn’t a simple acknowledgement of his tattoo.

Titania took a step back, still giving her most uncomfortable smile to the policeman, when Oberon came to her side. “Do you want to get a drink?” he asked, ignoring Malvolio completely. “Sure,” she nodded, taking his arm, hoping the man would let her go.

He didn’t. “Not so fast, boy,” he said, placing a deterrent hand on Oberon’s shoulder. “We’re in the middle of something here.” Malvolio pushed him away, and turned to Titania: “Now, where were we?”

She held her open palms in front of her in a sign of refusal, among other things. “I don’t want to dance, but thanks for asking,” she said, taking another step back, hoping that had been clear enough for him. But there was no such luck.

He held her by the arm. “You can stop testing me now. I did my part, I think I deserve some recompense.” As he spoke, Malvolio leaned in closer and closer, until she had to get away from him in all urgency, which wasn’t easy, because he kept pulling her by the arm. She jerked herself free, and Oberon came between them. “You heard her, she doesn’t want to dance with you. Just move on.”

“Mind your own business,” Malvolio said, shoving him away so forcefully, Oberon fell.

Titania was paralyzed for a moment. She noticed the people in the club had made a circle around them, watching the absurd scene she had been dragged into. They just stood there, staring, some with their phones in hand, but doing nothing to help. Before Malvolio got to her, however, Jinx stepped in. “Is there a problem?” he asked Malvolio, with all the confidence only the tallest, burliest man in Illyria could have.

The cop looked intimidated, but not for long enough. He smiled. “Not at all.” Jinx just stared at him. That’s when Titania noticed some soldiers coming their way, and the music being turned down. She could hear every word Malvolio told the soldier: “She asked me to be here, so here I am.”

“Is that true?” he asked her, sounding worried it might be.

“No,” she shouted, offended that Jinx thought she would ever have anything with a goddamn cop.

Malvolio looked hurt by her answer, which Titania was confused by. She’d met her share of men deluded into thinking she liked them back, but those were people she’d meet and interact with o a certain frequency. She had talked to Malvolio once. Was he completely insane? Maybe he was, because he suddenly straightened up, ignored the towering man between them, and said: “Don’t worry, darling. I’m ready to tell everyone I love you. You hear?” he shouted to the whole club, and by that point there was no more music, so everyone really was watching Malvolio. “I love Titania!”

She wanted to disappear. She didn’t want to get dragged into that ridiculous scene, but that was already happening, and all she could do was attempt to be less of an espectacle than Malvolio. After a deep breath, she reminded him: “I don’t know you.” Her words made the club explode with howling laughter.

Malvolio’s confidence took a serious hit, and he suddenly went for his phone. The many soldiers around him misinterpreted his movement, and Malvolio found himself surrounded by guns pointed at him. He stopped, and stared at the boys. “What? You’re going to shoot me?” he teased, knowing very well they weren’t stupid enough to start another war against the police. “It’s my phone,” he told them, with the smug smile of someone who would never have allowed that, if their places were reversed.

Here and there, people whispered nicknames for him. “Worm,” they muttered. “Maggot,” another one said. “Pig,” shouted someone from afar. But Malvolio was unmoved. He got his phone, and stared at the soldiers until they lowered their weapons.

“If you don’t know me, then what’s this?” he asked Titania, handing her his phone, open to a chat with her face on it.

It was a different picture from her real account, and it didn’t take much scrolling to see that someone had sent her nudes to him. She was mortified, and deleted them immediately. “Who sent this?” She was too outraged to realize he didn’t know either. “This is not my account!”

Titania took her own phone out of her pocket, and showed Malvolio and everyone who cared to see that those texts hadn’t come from her. “I don’t even like texting with these nails. Everyone knows I send voice messages.”

Titania gave him his phone back. She could see how betrayed Malvolio felt, but she was too angry that someone had sent him her nudes to take any pleasure in his humiliation. The others, however, couldn’t stop laughing and teasing Malvolio until he was escorted out by the soldiers.

Oberon came to her asking if she was alright, and so did Maya. “I need a drink.” They walked her to the bar, where she had two drinks while people kept coming to her to ask if she was alright and mean comments about Malvolio.

Orsino was among those. He and Cesario assured Oberon everyone sooner or later had to put up with Malvolio, and he had done the right thing by not making it worse. A girl who looked like one of Oberon’s friends, asked her: “Does that man think he’s in a relationship with you?” So Titania explained what little she knew about the whole thing, which amounted to the catfish using her pictures.

She had hardly finished the explanation, when Maya said: “Look what they just shared in the group chat.” Titania saw the screenshots of the catfish’s instructions to Malvolio. Fortunately, it didn’t include her pictures.

“Who’s that from?” Maya didn’t know.

“‘Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them,’” the other girl read out loud, making a face. “Did he really get that tattooed?” Titania nodded. “I don’t know, ‘thrust’, ‘greatness’, I don’t think that’s supposed to be inspirational.” And now that she mentioned it, Titania had to agree she thought there was something off about that sentence when she first read it.