When Zina knocked on Lain’s door, still feeling unnerved by D’s strange comment, the door swung easily on its hinges and revealed the bedroom to be empty. Zina wandered in, glancing around, hoping against hope that Lain might be hiding or crouched behind her bed for some reason. She called her name, but there was no answer. Zina’s heart sank.
She shuffled from room to room, hoping that Lain would answer her calls. She soon realized with a heavy weight that she was alone in the apartment. Zina glanced up at the wall clock and inhaled sharply, realizing that it was Thursday. Lain would be at band practice and probably wouldn’t return for hours. Maybe even the rest of the night. She would have to handle this on her own.
She dawdled in the kitchen, putting a tea kettle on the stove and grabbing a snack. She puttered around, organizing the shelves of the refrigerator before the tea was ready and she returned to her bedroom. She ate slowly, staring at the screen where Dean’s message sprawled in front of her. Then she noticed something strange. He was visible online. Normally he just wrote and ran. They had never had a conversation in real time.
Zina gulped down a hot sip of tea, and with shaking hands she clicked on D’s picture. A dialogue bubble popped up, and she began to type. Her heart was thudding in her chest, but she ignored it. There was probably some rational explanation.
Zina: I haven’t said that phrase since we began talking. How did you know I say that?
An elipses appeared on the screen as D. dictated a response. It took an unusually long time for the tiny sentence that finally appeared on the screen.
D: I think you wrote it on a comment that Roy liked.
Zina considered this thoughtfully. She did use the phrase a lot. It would be no big deal if he had read it and it stuck out in his mind. The elipses appeared again, and her thudding heart began to slow. She watched in anticipation as he wrote, until finally she could read it.
D: It’s one of the things I first noticed about you. It was like someone was finally speaking a language I understood.
Zina sighed. That made sense. It would stick out in his head if it was what drew his attention to her in the first place. She laughed at herself for the strange acceleration of paranoia she had experienced. Her breathing returned to normal and she shook her head. She hadn’t noticed it had become so constricted.
Zina: Oh, I see. This is strange. I don’t usually use the messenger on FaceSpace. I’ve heard rumors that they track what you write if you use it and can sell you out to the FBI.
There was a long pause before the elipses appeared. It disappeared briefly and then appeared again. Zina pursed her lips impatiently.
D: I’ve heard that before. Do you have something to hide?
The irony of him asking her if she had anything to hide nearly made her laugh out loud. She began to feel annoyed toward Lain for filling her with ridiculous doubts. Her annoyance fully eased her doubts about D. and she relaxed. They had been talking this long, why not just enjoy it while she could? You learned a lot more about a person during a real time conversation, so that’s what she was going to do.
Zina: Not exactly, but I don’t want to be vulnerable to the wrong people either.
D: That’s understandable.
Speaking to him in real time was much slower than she had thought it would be. Almost boring, really. He didn’t carry the same spark that the emails seemed to have, and she found herself losing interest quickly. Maybe he was tired or something. Still, tired or not, D. continued talking.
D: Guess where I am.
Zina: If you say “outside my window” I’m going to kill you.
D: ha-ha. No. I’m taking the easy way out and riding the bus back to the city. I’m passing a herd of cows right now.
Zina: You must be getting close to home.
The elipses appeared briefly, then disappeared again. She waited for a few beats before finally, his message appeared on the screen.