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Zina unSeen – Chapter 24

Dean reclined uncomfortably in the stiff bus seat. He was taking the Mustang bus services the rest of the way back to the city. He was close enough now that he didn’t think the agents would catch him, and had purposely called his mother with misinformation about where he would be heading. The woman had wisely played along, even giving him an address for some cousins who were in the neighborhood who could help him with a place to stay and nice southern hospitality. He had bought a large pair of glasses and a scarf, hoping to conceal his identity. He had covered the outside of his suitcase with newspaper and traded coats with a homeless man so that nobody would recognize him if they saw him. He wasn’t sure how long it would be until FaceSpace knew where he was, but he had to act fast. Hopefully the false lead would give him the time he needed to reach Zina.

He stared in anticipation at the message he had sent to her, and soon received a notification that she had read the message. Sometimes it took her an hour to dictate a long and detailed response, and these letters were the highlight of his life. He cherished every word, reading them slowly again and again, memorizing every tidbit about herself that she had revealed only to him. Because she felt he could understand her. Because he did, of course. He knew everything about her. The proof of that was in his suitcase.

It was taking her a long time to reply to his message, so he glanced slowly around the bus at the people around him. Normally, they were the types he wouldn’t give a second glance to, but now they fascinated him. The man in front of him was disheveled and smelled terrible, but D. wouldn’t risk moving his seat. Besides, he wanted to fit in with the riff-raff. It would make it harder to spot him. FaceSpace was used to him being crisp and tidy, punctual and even a little bit germophobic. They would have him profiled, just as they had most of their users profiled, and a seedy man sitting near a drifter would not be Dean’s profile.

Dean began to fidget. He could clearly see that she was online, but the little pencil indicating that she was typing to him wasn’t wiggling. What in the world was she doing that was so important that she couldn’t take two seconds out of her day to respond to him? He was getting anxious. Of course, he also admired her for having such creativity. Maybe she was in the middle of a project, working with Gwen was it? And simply couldn’t wait to hear from him and had chosen to read his message for her daily fix. That would be fine. But still, he hated waiting more than anything. And here he was, on a disgusting, germ-filled bus, ready to throw his entire life down the toilet. And all for her. The least she could do was write him back promptly. It was all he had to keep him going.

With a heavy sigh, he leaned back against the headrest and closed his eyes. It wasn’t until he did so that he realized just how tired he was. He let the quiet hum of the bus lull him into a light sleep, and dreamt of the day that he and Zina would be together at last. He couldn’t wait to tell her the truth about himself. All the things that he had been through for her. And in his dreams, she was there, ready to share his every trial and tribulation. There was never a more perfect woman.


Zina unSeen – Chapter 21

Over the next week, Lain noticed a shift in Zina’s behavior. She couldn’t help but keep her distance from her, regardless of the fact that she was desperate to make things right and pretend nothing had happened. However, Zina made no move to do so, and seemed rather distracted by somebody she was constantly talking to on FaceSpace.

When Lain checked Zina’s page, she discovered a mysterious new friend on her list. Upon glancing over Zina’s shoulder as she sat on the couch, laughing at something unseen and unheard by Lain, she found her suspicions confirmed and realized (with intense jealousy), that Zina was talking to the strange man. He didn’t even have a picture up of himself on his profile, which was a huge red flag, and Lain was troubled by it. Over the years, the horror stories of people being lured in by creeps on FaceSpace only grew more and more disturbing.

Lain recognized her friend’s tendency to jump into self-destructive relationships during particularly stressful times, and very nearly could have strangled her for it. She was getting extremely fed up with Zina and her terrible ways of coping with life, and didn’t want to get dragged down with her any longer. Unfortunately, she didn’t know quite how to express what she was feeling.

Whenever she would go to bed at night, she would glance at her end table, at the index card she had scribbled a phone number down. It was for a place where maybe Zina could get some help. They had been together for far too long and there was no way she could just abandon her now. Still, they were at an impasse, and it seemed like nothing she did was going to change Zina’s determination to escape her life by doing something compulsive and stupid, like sharing her entire life story with someone who could be a serial killer.

Finally, one day, Lain plopped herself on the couch next to Zina, who was in the middle of typing something, her hands flying furiously across the keyboard of her small laptop. When she noticed Lain’s presence, she stopped briefly, glanced over at her, and started again. Lain sighed and pushed her head back into the cushion of the couch.

“What are you doing, Z?” she asked, her tone soft but dripping with reprehension.

“Talking to a friend,” she said, purposely avoiding Lain’s eyes.

“I see that,” Lain said, pursing her lips. “Who is it?”

“It’s not really any of your business,” Zina snapped. She was obviously still hurt and angry about Lain’s outburst and wasn’t going to be the first one to apologize.

“Is it that creep who keeps posting those weird pictures of pigeons on your page?” Lain asked. “The one with no picture up?”

“He put a picture up yesterday,” Zina said defensively, turning her screen toward Lain and pointing to a picture of a squirrel in a tuxedo.

“Charming,” Lain said, jealous bile rising in the back of her throat. “Look, just don’t tell him too much. You know there are some serious weirdos lurking on FaceSpace. Ever since the media took off over the first few cases, tons of people have it in their heads that they can get away with murder. Just watch yourself.”

“You know Lain, I really appreciate you watching my back and everything, but this isn’t like that. We’ve been talking for over a week and he’s just a nice guy. He’s friends with Roy, okay? I already asked.”

“You asked Roy?”

Zina hesitated and didn’t answer.

“Oh my god, Z.”

“It’s fine!”

“All right. But don’t come crying to me if you go and get yourself murdered.”

“Don’t worry. If I die, I’m sure bitching to you about it will be the last thing on my mind.”

“Good,” Lain said, pouting. She picked up the remote from the coffee table and turned on the TV.

Both Zina and Lain’s eyes were immediately drawn to the screen as a news reporter’s piercing voice began to speak.

“In other news, a valued FaceSpace employee has been reported missing. If you see this man, please report to your local authorities.”

The television began showing a clip of a man speaking cheerfully into a microphone about FaceSpace’s stock options, and Zina grew rigid.

“What’s wrong, Z?”

“That’s the guy who ran away from me in the park a few weeks ago,” she said, clutching the couch cushion between her body and Lain’s. “Should I report him?”

“I don’t know, he wasn’t missing then,” Lain said with a frown. “I hope they find him.”

“Yeah,” Zina whispered.

They watched the rest of the broadcast before Lain clicked the television set off and stood.

“Good night,” she said softly.

Zina held her eyes for the first time in weeks, suddenly overwhelmed by how much she had missed them.

“Good night.”


Zina unSeen – Chapter 18

Lain hid out in her bedroom until Zina left for work the next morning. Once the apartment was clear, she emerged with a deep sigh and headed out to shower. She had just finished dressing for the day and was starting to make breakfast when she heard a knock at the door. She briefly worried that Zina had forgotten her keys and debated whether or not to answer. Ultimately, charitability won over contempt, and she slowly made her way to the door and asked who was there.

“It’s me,” a deep voice answered.

Lain instantly felt her anxiety melt away and she exhaled in relief.

“Karl!” she exclaimed, throwing the door open.

“Hello, Miss,” Karl said formally with a small nod. He had greeted her with the same formality since he had chauffeured her as a child. However, the smile on his face was soft and loving, just as it had always been, and she threw her arms around him in excitement.

“I’ve been wondering when you were going to stop by. You just missed Zina, she’s been working in the studio with Gwen. Remember her?”

“Oh, that’s a shame,” Karl said, wrinkling his nose. Lain laughed. Neither of them had been big fans of Gwen. She was a year older than Lain and their parents had insisted on putting them on many play-dates, most of which resulted with Lain in tears. Karl had to talk her through many childhood dramas, particularly when he would drive her home from Gwen’s family estate, where the girl felt particularly comfortable antagonizing Lain. She had mixed feelings about letting Zina work with her, but thought love and Zina’s business should outrank the past.

“How is Zina doing?”

“She’s okay. Come on in, Karl. I was just making breakfast. Would you like to have some tea with me?”

“Of course. It will be nice to have you serve me for a change,” he teased.

Lain laughed and they headed into the kitchen together.

“And how are you doing?” he asked her, sitting down on a stool at the small island counter.

She opened her mouth to reply, “Fine,” but her voice caught in her throat. She could never lie to Karl. He saw right through her.

Karl noticed her hesitation and perked up.

“What’s the matter?”

She suddenly felt self-conscious. She didn’t know what Karl would think of her feelings for Zina. She was sure that he had viewed the two like sisters, and himself as a father figure to both of them. She was reluctant to disillusion him about the dynamic of their funny little family. He accepted her, as gay as she was, but still, it was hard to talk about her personal feelings to anybody.

“Did something happen?” he guessed. “Are you pregnant?”

This caused her to burst out laughing, and Karl’s worried expression relaxed into a small smile.

“No,” she gasped. “I’m just having a rough time in my personal life.”

“Ah,” Karl nodded. “Tell me more.”

She looked into his steady brown eyes and sighed. Before she knew it, the whole story was spilling out and Karl listened quietly. When she was done, she was in tears again, and worried that Karl might never see the two in the same paternal way.

“I know you’ve gone above and beyond,” Karl said softly.

Lain sniffled and nodded, bracing herself for the possibility of his disapproval.

“I’m not sure you could ever understand how life has affected her,” he said quietly. “You know, my father would beat me up a lot, and I still can’t form relationships with people very easily. Deep down, I’m a very lonely man who is very scared of showing my heart to people. I think Zina might be the same way.”

“Yeah, but do you think she loves me?”

Karl inhaled deeply.

“I think you’re the most important person in the world to her.”

“Yeah, but, like a girlfriend?”

“You’re more than that, Lain. Don’t be selfish.”

Lain prickled and furrowed her eyebrows. Selfish was the last thing she had always been with Zina.

“Why can’t she just say it then?”

“Do you know what I see in Zina, versus what I see in you?” Karl asked. Lain shook her head, clearly still miffed.

“You’re not afraid of anything. It’s admirable. But in Zina, I see a terrified little girl who doesn’t trust so much as the ground she walks on. Who feels like every choice she makes is the wrong one and every step she takes will cause the earth to open up at her feet and swallow her whole. She doesn’t want to take you down with her. And I think you should respect that. Understand that. And don’t give up on her.”

“But I can’t do this anymore, Karl. It’s not fair. It’s not my burden.”

“No, that is absolutely true. But there’s one last thing you can do, and as the closest person to her, I think you should try. Do you know what helped me?”

Lain shook her head.

“I started getting counseling. My father died and my mother insisted it would be good for us both. So I went to humor her. But you know what? I’ve learned more about myself in six months than I had figured out in sixty-eight years. I’m actually happy.” He looked at her slyly. “I even have a girlfriend.”

“You do not!” Lain gasped, slapping his shoulder with a dish towel. “What is she like?”

“Amazing,” he said. “And you know what? For the first time in my life, I feel like I deserve that.”

“So Zina needs therapy?” Lain asked, frowning.

“She needs more than you could ever give her is what I’m saying. The only chance she has is to help herself.”

They sat in silence as Karl’s words sunk into Lain. They chatted a while longer, and Karl gave her updates about her parents and their whereabouts. Apparently they were in Greece for some reason. Neither of them cared enough to ask why. Eventually, he glanced down at his watch.

“Well, I’d best be going. I’ve got some errands to run. When will Zina be done with her project with Gwen?”

He said Gwen’s name with a wrinkled nose and Lain giggled.

“In another week or two.”

“I’m going to swing by to see her, I’ve missed you both so much,” he informed her. “Thank you for the tea.”

They stood, and she embraced him. He hugged her, tightening his grip when he felt her sniffle sadly against him. She peered up at him with a bright smile.

“Thank you for listening to me,” she said.

“Thank you for trusting me,” he replied. “The longer you keep things buried, the more toxic they become. You should always let out your feelings, Lain. It’s the only way to get anywhere.”

She nodded and walked Karl to the door, her mind reeling with thoughts of Zina and her abuse. The two said good bye and Lain headed back toward the kitchen to clean up. She paused thoughtfully in front of a clunky yellow phonebook. Zina had brought it home months ago for a collage. She began flipping through, hoping against hope that there was a chance for the one she loved to truly be happy. She would do whatever it took.


Zina unSeen – Chapter 17

Dean ran back toward his parent’s house from the library, his heart racing. His hands still shook from the lengthy message he had written to Zina. It was as if everything he knew about her had culminated into the perfect prose, and he couldn’t wait to see if he would hear back from her. He was nervous about being rejected, but he knew this would be a much safer opening than trying to talk to her in person. There was so much he wanted to say to her, but he couldn’t risk blurting anything out. This way, he could carefully select his words and appear to her to be as articulate and caring as he actually was. It was perfect.

He knew he couldn’t keep this up for long, though. The FaceSpace agents would be after him soon, probably within the next couple of days, to issue him a new phone. They would be wondering why they hadn’t heard from him, and would probably come right to his parent’s door once they realized he had dropped off the radar. There was some sort of protocol. He knew he would have to leave the comfort and security of his parent’s home sooner than he felt he was ready for, and it would break his mother’s heart. The thought almost made him lose his composure right in the middle of the sidewalk.

Finally, he reached the familiar door of his childhood home and let himself in quietly. His mother always made sure he had an updated version of the key, and he didn’t want either of them to know he had gone anywhere. If he got caught by the FaceSpace agents, any suspicious activity could be his downfall. Fortunately, his parents had gone to bed shortly after dinner. They were the types of people who believed in early to bed, early to rise. His father’s family had been farmers, and the old man strictly adhered to the rules of his youth and forced his family to do the same. It was only 7:30 when the elderly couple began their bedtime routine, and Dean had gone upstairs too. He had nothing better to do than sleep.

Dean quietly made it up to his bedroom. He undressed quickly before hopping back into bed in his mother’s crisp pajamas. He felt both crushed and elated. All the familiar smells and sounds of home made him happier than anything in the world. But soon he would have to hit the road and take on a dangerous journey to find his soulmate. If he wasn’t so sure Zina was worth it, he would simply stay put within the comfort of home.

When morning arrived, Dean felt his heart lurch as the previous night’s events slowly began to take form in his mind. A feeling of dread consumed him, and he kept expecting an agent to pop out of nowhere to tell him what a bad thing he had done. However, no such thing happened, and he gradually allowed himself the tendrils of excitement his body experienced whenever he thought about his message to Zina. He had a good feeling about it, but between his anxiety and his reluctance to leave home after finally just getting there, he spent the morning in a grim mood.

His father, who was especially adept at sensing when his son was down, immediately swooped in like a vulture once they were all settled at the table.

“How was your night?” He asked. “You like sleeping in your kiddie room? Didn’t wet the bed again, did ya?”

Dean glowered and his father sneered.

“Of course not,” he said, holding his father’s gaze. There was something much more assertive and steely in his demeanor, and it seemed to cause his father to shirk away from the conversation. Dean’s mother bustled into the kitchen, carrying a grocery bag bursting with milk and eggs. She took a look at the men at the table and quickly looked away.

“I’m making French toast, Dean,” she said cheerfully.

His father scoffed.

“Oh hush, Jasper. You know it’s my favorite, and I almost never make it because you don’t like it. I know how important it is to you for the whole family to have a unified meal, and frankly it’s not worth the fuss. Just today I’d like to have french toast with my son if you don’t mind.”

“Well hell, Mary, you don’t have to go on some sort of crusade about it. Just make the damned toast. I’ll have eggs.”

“Great,” Dean’s mother said edgily, turning to the counter to prepare the food.

Dean’s father buried his nose into the newspaper until breakfast was served. Dean’s mother sat across from him at the table. As they ate, he studied her closely. She was aging rapidly. Compared to the last time he had seen her, she looked almost a hundred years older. Her eyes were still kind though, and he felt desperate to turn back the clocks to long before he ever heard of FaceSpace. Back to a time when he was a boy and she seemed immortal and strong. Her deterioration alarmed him, and a huge lump in his throat formed as he attempted to swallow the last bite of his french toast.

His father, ever alert to all things weak, turned a keen eye to him.

The subtle gesture caused Dean to go rigid, and suddenly he had had enough. He found himself overwhelmed by a thousand different things. The unfairness of his father’s resentment. The endless bounds of his mother’s love. The inevitability of his mother’s death. The harsh fact that soon he would be leaving her once again, and may never be able to return. The intensity of his longing for Zina, and the pain and humiliation he felt from their confrontation. His boss, whose smugness reminded him of his father, and the psychological torture of being an agent for FaceSpace. It seemed the odds were stacked against him. Right at the kitchen table, Dean started to cry.

His mother looked at him in alarm, and his dad began to laugh uncontrollably.

“What the hell’s the matter with you, boy?” he exclaimed. Dean’s mother glared at him.

“Why don’t you hush, Jasper?”

Jasper snorted and Dean stood abruptly and ran away from the table. His father cackled, calling Dean names in between loud bursts of laughter, and Dean’s mother rose from her chair.

“You don’t have a nice bone in your body, do you?” she asked, pulling her apron off and throwing it on the table between them.

Jasper quieted, eyeing her curiously, and she ran from the kitchen after her youngest son.

She found him on the porch, gripping his unpacked suitcase tightly.

“Oh no, you’re going?”

“Just for a while, Ma. I can’t stay in the same house with him.”

“When will you be back?”

“I don’t know,” Dean whispered.

His mother didn’t ask him to stay. She understood as much as she could, and hugged him closely to her. He sniffled quietly against her comforting body, and she kissed his forehead.

“You take care, now,” she said to him softly. “Give me a call when you get home.”

“Sure, Ma. I love you.”

“I love you too, honey.”

They exchanged pained smiles and Dean walked down the street with his suitcase.  He felt suddenly lost, before he remembered the light at the end of the tunnel. Zina. He was overcome with a powerful determination to talk to her. He had to make sure that she would be the best thing to ever happen to him. She had to be. Dean headed toward the library, where he would be able to check his FaceSpace page in peace.

Zina unSeen – Chapter 16

As Lain started winding down on the drums, Zina sighed deeply and headed to her bedroom. She sat at her small desk and flipped her laptop open to log into FaceSpace. She had three new messages. The first was from her little brother Alan, who was asking if she could bring him and their mother some money for groceries. She replied, “Sure,” and closed the messaging box with his face on it. The next message was one that Lain had sent earlier in the day.

“I’m going for it, wish me luck.”

Zina’s heart lurched and she fought back a pang of nausea. That had been sent during the part of the day when Lain didn’t hate her. It was crazy to think that just that morning they had been laughing together, and now they weren’t even speaking. The message seemed so sad, blinking to be read, before whatever hell Lain had gone through had happened.

She heaved a heavy sigh and hit the little X in the corner of the box to close it. Lain’s grinning face disappeared and Zina’s eyes watered. She wasn’t sure she could process her feelings about her friend right now. For as long as she remembered, she liked imagining if she was happy or what it would be like if she and Lain were together. She didn’t know what had always held her back, but there was something. They could be about as normal as a creative lesbian couple could be, but there was something about it that felt wrong. The more she tried to think about it, the more confused she became.

Lain hadn’t pushed it with her, not even once, at least not until tonight. But she had been right. Zina knew perfectly well how Lain felt about her. And it was even worse because Zina was pretty sure that once upon a time, she had been the one who felt it first. It wasn’t a question in her mind whether or not she loved Lain. She was just terrified of the implications of losing the only relationship that had ever meant anything to her. Why shouldn’t she be? Every other relationship she had been in or had with another person just resulted in pain or bullshit. It was safer to keep her at a distance. The one beautiful thing in her life would only be ruined if she got too close. There was something tainted about her.

The last message in her inbox didn’t have a photograph. She frowned and opened it, unable to restrain her curiosity. Her eyes widened when a lengthy email presented itself. Soon she was immersed in the words. They flowed like poetry, and appealed to her on a deep, almost primal level. When she was done reading it, her heart was thudding and she had to take a deep inhale before she read it again. The name signed at the bottom was a simple initial. D.

She went to the beginning of the email again, her mind whirling. She briefly wondered if “D” might be Damien, but the fact was that Damien couldn’t articulate so much as his own signature on a receipt. The man seemed to be speaking to her on a thousand different levels. He made it clear that he was interested in talking to her more in depth. He claimed he had seen her face on his friend’s FaceSpace account and felt like fate had brought them together. He went on to express his personal view of the universe, which was so beautifully and poetically put that it could have been taken right out of her own head. At the end, he requested simply, “Maybe we can be friends.”

Zina shook her head in disbelief. It was as if the man was a physical embodiment of her own thoughts, but coming out of the mouth of a total stranger. Maybe there really was such a thing as fate. She hovered over his friend request for a moment before firmly clicking, “Make Friends.”


Zina unSeen – Chapter 11

Zina let the door slam closed behind her and dropped her portfolio and the heavy bags of groceries that she had brought home. The house was unusually quiet, and she poked her head into the living room, where Lain was sitting on the couch and staring off into space.

“Hey, I brought home dinner.”

“Cool,” Lain said, without looking at her.

Her dismissive attitude hurt Zina’s feelings.

“Is something wrong?” she asked, dropping her keys onto the end table with a clink and approaching Lain.

Lain pursed her lips and looked further away from Zina. She had never seen Lain act like this before, and was put off and concerned by it. She searched her mind for reasons Lain might have to be upset.

“Did something happen at practice?” she guessed.

Lain glowered at the arm chair behind Zina.

“Okay, you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to. I’m here for you though. I love you.”

Zina reached down to touch Lain’s long braid gently and Lain flinched away from her touch.

“Love,” she scoffed.

“Oh no…did you talk to Kylie?” Zina asked, sitting on the couch beside Lain.

Lain met her eyes for the first time.

“Yeah, that was a great idea. Thank you very much,” she grumbled.

“Things didn’t go well?” Zina’s face contorted in sympathy.

Lain stood up and glowered down at Zina.

“No, she’s straight. But totally wants to bang our bass player. Damn you breeders…” Lain put her hands over her face and Zina stood.

“Hey!” she exclaimed, offended and pained by Lain’s outburst. “You don’t get to call me that.”

“Isn’t that what you do? Get yourself hooked on some maggot who’s no good for you just so you can carry his spawn and pretend you’re part of a larger whole? Have these meaningless relationships because it’s fun and convenient and then divorce ten years later and fuck your kid’s lives up?”

“What is your problem?” Zina cried. But there was no stopping her. Lain was on a roll.

“’I’m falling in love with you.’ I fucking said that to her.”

“Look, I’m sorry she doesn’t love you back, but you can’t take it out on me.”

“I never wanted her to love me back!” Lain shouted. “I just wanted to get over this.”

“Get over what?! I don’t know why you’re yelling at me!” Zina shouted back.

“You wouldn’t understand how much it hurts to have someone look at you and be offended at the idea that they might be like you are. Like what you are is so inherently corrupted and disgusting that you should never associate them with it. I can’t believe I let you talk me into that, especially when I think we both know perfectly well that I’m fucking in love with you! You’re such a shit!” Lain pulled Zina by the lapel and kissed her hard.

Zina was caught breathlessly in Lain’s passionate embrace, and when Lain pulled away, she was still steaming forward in full force. Zina’s heart was thudding hard in her ears, and the same rush of desire she had felt that morning overwhelmed her. She said nothing, just watched Lain.

“When I said I was falling in love with you, I had my eyes closed. I wasn’t thinking about her. All I could see was you.” Her temper was winding down now. It was apparent by her tone of voice.

“I’m not a breeder,” Zina mumbled sulkily.

“Oh my god, you drive me crazy!” Lain exclaimed, stalking out of the room. She walked through the huge open concept doorway and headed to her bedroom, where she slammed the door behind her. Zina collapsed onto the couch and pinched the bridge of her nose, letting her tears pool silently against her fingertips. She didn’t know what the hell she was supposed to do now.

Zina unSeen – Chapter 10

“When you get home, what do you tell your parents you do at your job when they ask?” the agent quizzed.

“I review stock options,” Dean answered swiftly.

“If they ask to buy some?”

“They won’t,” Dean assured the agent.

“But if they want more information regardless?”

“I direct them to the website, where there’s a giant picture of my smiling face at the bottom.”

“Right. You’re to keep your phone on you at all times. You can’t take a shit without us knowing about it.”


“If you break any code of confidentiality, you and the person you tell will be subject to profound punishment.”

“I know. You can count on me to keep FaceSpace confidential.”

“You realize that if people knew the extent of information we compile about them and what it is used for, we would lose out on billions of dollars and the country would be in constant danger of terrorism.”

“I do understand,” Dean said.

“You can contact us at this web address. Give me your phone.”

Dean handed the agent his phone and the agent fiddled with it.

“I bookmarked the page where you can communicate with us any of your needs or concerns. If you become aware of any suspicion toward the FaceSpace corporation or treasonous activities during your stay, alert us immediately.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Anyone who has any nonconformist tendencies should be avoided at all costs. Their words and actions will be eternally recorded by FaceSpace.com and they could be held accountable for any treasonous activities in a court of martial law.”

“Yes, sir.”


“Yes sir?”

“Enjoy your vacation.”

“Thank you, sir.”

The look in the agent’s eyes caught Dean off guard. It was as if the man truly meant what he said. Some people were never so lucky as to secure a whole two weeks at home. Most FaceSpace agents only got to see their families a couple of days every year, during special occasions. Often, they were promised the opportunity to see family only to have the promise broken. Dean suspected this was to simply keep up the agent’s morale and give them something to look forward to, while simultaneously keeping the agents in line. They all knew who their puppet master was, and every agent treasured time with the friends and family they had made in their life before FaceSpace.

Dean suddenly found himself filled with joy and anticipation. He was released to his cubicle, where he logged on to his FaceSpace page. It was on this same interface that he had first seen Zina’s face, heard her clever commentary on life and witnessed the world as beautifully as if he could see right through her eyes. Now what did he have? She would think he was a freak.

Still, nothing could dampen his spirits. He was going to see his mother, and she was going to be so happy and proud of him for compiling stock options for FaceSpace.com. It broke his heart to lie, but he loved seeing how happy she was for him. Dean quickly purchased his plane tickets online and carefully typed into the text box prompting him to elaborate anything on his mind.

“I’m coming home!!!”

Zina unSeen – Chapter 9

“Lain, what are you doing here?”

Kylie looked up from the sheets of music she was studying and peered into the brightly lit doorway, where Lain’s dark silhouette was standing. Rehearsal wasn’t going to be until much later, and Kylie liked the extra time alone. It was during the early morning that her creativity was at its peak, and having anyone around during that time was really disruptive to her creative flow.

“I have to talk to you,” Lain said quietly.

The edge in her voice was gone. There was no trace of the aggressive woman who could wail into a microphone for hours, slamming the patriarchy or asserting her independence. It was a little bit alarming.

“Are you okay?” Kylie asked.

“I’m fine. Sorry, this is stupid. I should go.”

“Well you already interrupted me, you might as well make it worth it.”

The daring but kind glint in Kylie’s eyes made Lain sigh and stay put.

“It’s just that…ugh, I don’t know why this is so hard.”

“Sit down. What’s wrong?”

Lain shifted uncomfortably. She reluctantly crossed the room and settled on a stool opposite Kylie.

“I’m not sure what to do now,” she whispered. The air between them seemed thick, and Lain inhaled deeply.

“Just say the first thing on your mind,” Kylie said, grabbing her guitar and strumming softly. The music relaxed Lain and she closed her eyes.

“I’m falling in love with you.”

The music stopped abruptly and Lain opened her eyes. Kylie was staring at her. At first, her expression was difficult to read, but then she stood up and backed away.

“Lain, you know I’m not…like that…right?” Kylie asked, setting her guitar down with a resounding thud.

Lain bowed her head. She had known it was possible that she was misreading Kylie. It wasn’t the first time. There were moments when she saw only what she wanted to see, and forgot that the strange anomoly of straightness actually did infect some women. Getting it wrong was one of the most embarrassing things she could do, which was another of the many reasons she had been holding off on telling Kylie about her feelings.

Zina would never have understood that. She had never let anybody in except for Damien, and that had been a catastrophe. She felt a sudden anger toward her friend. Zina, who was perfect in every way. Who she had been hopelessly drawn to from the second she laid eyes on her. Zina, the straight and unattainable.

“I guess it’s always a gamble with women,” Lain mumbled. “I’m sorry, I knew I shouldn’t have said anything. But uh, either way it’s best you know since we work together and everything. I just wanted to be honest.”

She was crushed and humiliated, but trying her hardest to keep her composure. Kylie stared across the space between them, her eyes softening as Lain’s began to water.

“I mean, if I was a homo I’d be totally flattered, but I’m just not. To be honest, I really like Loki. That sexy shirt he wears, you know, the see through one? I can never concentrate when he’s in it.”

Lain wasn’t sure if her crush’s crush on their bass player was supposed to make her feel better or worse. She raised an eyebrow at Kylie, who exhaled a desperate laugh. They were both feeling pretty awkward. It was exactly the situation Lain had been hoping to avoid.

“What I’m saying is these things happen, you know?” Kylie said. “We spend a lot of time together, it’s natural. But I’m never going to tell Loki about these stupid feelings. Mostly because it would go straight to his head and he’d come to every practice obsessed with boning me. I’m gonna let this one go, for the band’s sake, and I’m sure you’ll get over your crush on me too. In the meantime we can continue to make music the best that we can. I love what we’re doing here.”

“I love it too,” Lain mumbled, rubbing her temples. “God, straight people have it so easy!”

“What do you mean? We’re kind of in the same boat here,” Kylie said.

“Yeah, you could approach Loki and he could reject you, or more likely, fuck you and ruin the band for everybody. But there’s not the chance that he would look at you like you’re less than human for being honest about your feelings. Or the fear that your interest in him could result in being treated like some contagious disease by the people you care about most -”

Lain’s voice cracked and she hid her face in her hands as a powerful sob overtook her. Kylie jumped over to her and hugged her tightly.

“Look, I’m not a homophobe, all right? And I know you’ve probably had some fucked up experiences with girls who were. I already knew you were gay before we started this thing, and I love everything about you. You don’t have to worry about that with me, and you shouldn’t worry about it with anyone. What they think about you doesn’t matter. Just do what works for you and makes you happy. If they act like that, they never deserved you in the first place.”

She caressed Lain’s head as she cried. Finally, her tears subsided and she quieted in Kylie’s arms. It felt right – this distance between them – and she knew that friendship was all they were meant to have. Some part of her had always known that.

When they broke their embrace, Lain looked up at the ceiling and laughed as she wiped her face off.

“That was awkward. Thank you for not lynching me or something.”

“Christ. Why would I do that?”

Lain shrugged.

“You never know. I’m really sorry. My roommate pushed me into doing this.”

“Zina? You know, I always assumed you two were together,” Kylie said.

“Wouldn’t that make more sense?” Lain laughed, hopping off her stool and heading toward the door.

“I’ll see you at 3:00, yeah?” Kylie called. Lain turned and grinned at her.

“Wouldn’t miss it.”

Zina unSeen – Chapter 7

Zina furrowed her eyebrows and tried to shift, but she couldn’t move. For a moment, she panicked, remembering the face of the bizarre stranger in the park. Had he tied her down? Her eyes flew open and she exhaled in relief. Lain had fallen asleep on top of her, snuggled gently like a cat. They had broken open a bottle of wine during Yahtzee and had somehow ended up on the living room couch together. Zina tried again to shift, but didn’t have the heart to move Lain, who was snoring softly. She smelled really good; gentle like lavender.

“Lain, I’ve gotta get up,” she whispered, nudging Lain’s head with her nose. Zina felt an unexpected twinge of pleasure as Lain buried herself into her chest. Her hand found itself comfortably gripping the roundness of Zina’s breast, and Zina inhaled sharply. Her cheeks flushed a deep red as she contemplated her next move. Lain sleepily assumed that she was another of her lovers. The most awkward part was that she almost wished she were. It would make the pain of losing Damien and the discomfort she felt from the man at the park almost nonexistent.

Zina assertively gripped Lain’s arms and flipped her over on the couch. She found herself settled on top of her friend. The movement was enough to stir Lain from her sleep and she opened her eyes groggily.

“Wow, Z. Didn’t know you had it in ya,” she laughed.

“Hush,” Zina said good-naturedly. “If you weren’t molesting me in your sleep maybe you could have stayed there.”

“Yeah, well it looks like you’re the one doing the molesting now,” Lain observed.

Zina shook her head and dismounted. She was going to be late for work again.

“No, don’t go!” Lain called after her. “I kinda liked it!”

Zina headed for the bathroom.

“I thought you liked Kylie!” she called over her shoulder, stripping once she reached the bathroom. She took a quick glance at her bedraggled face and jumped in the shower.

“Yeah, but she’s no you!”

“Dude, I look like the walking dead right now.”

“All the better to eat me with, my dear!”

“Oh my god, you’re so gross!”

Lain cackled and Zina grinned despite herself, shaking her head. That girl always knew how to crack herself up. Zina twisted the knobs of the showerhead and listened as Lain rolled off the couch and tapped her microphone. She began singing an impromptu love song, and by the time Zina was done with her shower, her cheeks hurt from laughing and all thoughts of the horrible men in her life had disappeared.

“You know,” she said when she was dried off and dressed, “if I wasn’t so sure you were fucking with me, I probably would have dated you if I hadn’t been with Damien.”

“Well I’m only fucking with you because you’re straight,” Lain said with a crooked smile. She was back to sitting on the couch and sipping some coffee. “If I thought there was any real chance in hell, we’d have to have a serious talk.”

“Straight huh? Give me some time to think things over and maybe we will. But I still think you should talk to Kylie. You’ve been into her for months.”

“It’s bad luck to get involved with a band member,” Lain sighed.

“It’s bad luck to get involved with a roommate too,” Zina laughed.

“But you’re a hot roommate!” Lain protested. “100% of case studies have proven that the bad luck is worth it.”

“If you say so,” Zina said, kissing Lain on top of the head as she whisked past to grab her keys. “But seriously, talk to that girl. I think she likes you too.”

“Maybe…” Lain said.

As Zina left, she laughed to herself. For someone who seemed so assertive, when it came to her real feelings, Lain was really shy. She put on a brave face but she couldn’t hide her vulnerabilities from her roommate. It was really strange to consider, but it made sense in a way. She hadn’t always been totally open with Damien either. It was really difficult to put yourself out there for someone who could break your heart with just a look.

She sighed and braced herself for another day with the pretentious Gwen. The money was good, but she felt unhappy every time she remembered her obligations toward the woman. It was difficult to reconcile the exploitation of her art for money, especially for people like Gwen, but she had to make a living somehow. At least this way she was her own boss. Most people envied her. They had no idea of the emotional toll it could take. At least she was in control, she thought, and headed up to the loft.