One day, a mysterious invite to a server showed up on her home page, an invite to server called "Daoist Discord" from a user by the name of "Transcendent Tourmaline Trapmaster".
She deliberately relaxed a bit. That felt even better. She tried leaning a little bit against Romana in response.
She leans in against her a little, a quiet approving sigh as way of encouragement escaping her lips.
Huh. This was actually pretty nice. Nothing bad was happening. She leaned in a bit more, and relaxed a bit further.
...why did she have an urge to put her arm around Romana?
She smiled, just slightly.
Romana smiled... (at her?)
Hailey put the urge about the arm out of her mind for the moment, tried to relax the rest of the way.
A question bubbled to the front of her mind.
"Why does this feel so great?", she whispered.
Wait, did she just say that out loud?
She wraps an arm around her.
"Because you've been starved of this, and it's a soft and good thing to have."
Okay, she did say that out loud, and Romana called her out, but it's okay?
"I'm not even sure I know what this is, but maybe you've got a point," she mumbled.
She relaxed again a bit, leaning into Romana's arm around her.
"It's easy to put it into words that don't explain it too well? 'Intimacy' is one, 'human connection' is a pretty good noun phrase for it, but lacks a lot of the... more physical side to the craving for affection and closeness that this all is a part of."
Her arm wrapped around a little tighter, squeezing her against her.
Okay, that kinda made sense. And the arm around her did feel good.
"Um, doesn't intimacy mean...?"
She tried not to tense up again.
She laughs quietly and warmly against her.
"Intimacy is about more than just sexual intimacy. It's about social, personal connection, in all its forms. Getting inside your guard physically is a good way to get the feeling quickly, and it's comforting, I find. It doesn't need to be anything more than that."
Her hand stroked her shoulder lightly.
Wow, that laugh was—
Wait, intmacy's more than that? She guessed that made sense?
Something felt missing?
"That makes sense?"
Why did it feel so disappointing to agree with that?
She kisses her forehead lightly.
"It's okay. Take your time."
She blushed brightly, and relaxed a bit, sagging into Romana's arms.
Take her time with what, though?
She did have that feeling of something being missing... And something about saying that sucked? Even though it made sense and she agreed.
And she kept having all these reactions to Romana's touch?
"Romana, can I ask you a question? Something feels really confusing."
She slides back into place by her shoulder.
Still blushing, Hailey nodded and steeled herself a bit.
"I'm feeling a whole bunch of things. Like when I agreed with you earlier about intimacy, I really agreed, it made sense, but something about it felt wrong to say. Or like I'm really really aware of it every time you touch me, and it doesn't seem to scale right from how aware I was of touches before just taken through my body being more sensitive as a cultivator. And it feels like all this means _something_ but I don't know what."
She sighs, frustrated at her confusion.
She smiles a little amusedly, and ruffles her hair.
"It's pretty normal for certain things to... snap into perspective, when you get started cultivating. I've heard stories of people getting back repressed memories, being aware of sealed off feelings, and getting further into insight practices then they were able to get because everything just works... smoother. You're pretty needy, right now, in a lot of ways and well..."
She hums quietly.
"I think it's probably something more then just being a bit more sensitive and wanting to have someone who cares about you close, but I'm not sure how helpful explaining what I think it is would be?"
She leaned into the ruffle a little, and blushed brighter again when Romana called her "needy".
"I don't know either, but being confused about what it means really sucks."
She laughs quietly.
"You're probably attracted to me. I could talk all day about why I think that but... take a deep breath and try to feel what you want and how your body is reacting to me, ok?"
Her hand slides down to clutch hers gingerly, squeezing lightly to reassure her.
Wait, what did Romana just suggest? That didn't ha...
Wasn't that just something her adopters and the pastor claimed about people they didn't like?
Did Romana think she liked girls?!
She didn't like girls! She barely even liked boys! What the hell had she done to give that impression?!
Well, aside from being extremely gushy. And clingy. And needy. And a mess.
Okay, maybe she had justified that impression. Sky above, she was such a fuckup.
How the hell was she going to fix this? She'd been such a clingy mess of a girl that her mentor thought she was gay. This was why she'd avoided getting close to anyone.