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Zina unSeen – Chapter 22

Dean was exhausted, and glad he’d had the foresight before his trip to take out over a thousand dollars in cash. He had never liked the idea of FaceSpace tracking his spending habits, which was disturbingly easy when he was using his ATM card, and touted his archaic determination to keep cash on hand as a way to avoid ATM surcharges. It made it much less suspicious that he would travel with a large amount of money, and it hadn’t been as if he were planning a rebellion all along. At least not consciously.

The past week had been an emotional roller coaster. He was physically and mentally depleted as he hitchhiked and walked on foot as quickly as he could back toward his home city. He had never been quite so vulnerable to fate as he was on the road, and although he had heard that some people preferred a lifestyle devoid of every day luxuries and security, it didn’t suit him well at all. Dean, unlike “D.” was a man of routine, and there were just some things he liked to have every morning, like a pot of coffee and the channel 6 news. Fortunately, he had made it to a small motel, where he was able to set down his heavy suitcase and pull out the tiny laptop he had recently purchased. It had no web cam installed in it, which was intentional. Dean needed to ensure that FaceSpace couldn’t view his face as he checked his page, and although the company may have recognized his voice were he to speak, he was silent.

As one last ditch attempt to prevent FaceSpace from locating him, he went into the hardware of the machine and disabled any of the programs he knew that FaceSpace regularly used to track the whereabouts of their users. And for the finishing touches, he duct taped over every visible piece of plastic and metal. It was common knowledge among FaceSpace agents that most technological devices of the higher brand quality were full of hidden cameras. That left no question as to the lifestyle of the user and their environment. He made sure to nip that sort of security in the bud. It was unlikely that they would be able to find him now, that was for sure.

Dean kicked off his shoes and lowered himself gently into a creaky wooden chair. His entire body was aching from his hectic journey. He had never been so close to homeless in his life, and it certainly wasn’t a comfortable way to live. He had gotten in trouble for sleeping, for crying out loud. A crude security guard had cursed him out for not having a ticket for the bus terminal where he had decided to spend the night a couple of days beforehand. Every day, he missed his childhood bedroom more and more.

He set his laptop down on the small table in the motel room and grinned at the squirrel sticker he had used to decorate the outside of his small machine. The laptop looked pretty terrible covered in all that duct tape, but the squirrel sticker had been an impulse buy at the office store that lent it some charm. Dean had hidden his face inside the store, knowing the machines each had cameras. Inside, it felt like there were a thousand different eyes, ever watching his every move. He had breathed a deep sigh of relief when he made it out with his tiny laptop, happy to know that soon his perilous journey would be over. His destination was Zina, and once he found her, he was sure everything was going to be okay.

He had never been so tired in his entire life. If she didn’t take him in with open arms, she would have to be one heartless bitch. Dean furrowed his eyebrows at the thought of being rejected by her again. He wouldn’t be able to handle it. He hated being mad at Zina. They certainly had a unique relationship. They had yet to have their first fight, but he didn’t look forward to that day. If they were all as explosive as the type his parents had, he hoped they would never fight.

Zina was a completely unique case, and he was certain that she was worth any difficulty they might experience as a couple, but he knew that women could be careless with their words and generally thought with just emotions. A man needed some logic in his life, and a woman wasn’t it. At least, that’s what his father was always saying. Dean didn’t really know what to believe about it. All he knew was that he would prefer to spend the day with his mother, whether her love for him was logical or not. Still, he was sure that the intense pleasure that Zina’s words could give him could easily turn into an equal intensity of pain. How did people make sure their relationships were perfect?

Dean didn’t know, and obviously his parents didn’t either, so he made a mental note to look into relationship advice once his tiny laptop managed a connection to the motel’s wireless internet. When he finally managed to get onto FaceSpace, Zina had written him back.

I had this really strange encounter with a man who is missing now. He worked for FaceSpace. It makes me kind of nervous.

Dean’s heart began thudding in his ears. So they knew he was missing now. That meant his mother was probably worried sick. He should call her. He wasn’t sure if they would have her phones tapped or not, but they probably would. He was sort of beyond caring at this point. He was going to call his mother whenever he damn well felt like it. He pushed the chair back from the table and creakily got to his feet. He grabbed the phone and dialed her number shakily.

“Dean, is that you?” her frantic voice answered.

“Yeah, Ma. Don’t worry. Listen though, things weren’t working out so well at work. I don’t want to go back but I don’t know what to do.”

“There were people here looking for you. Scary people. They gave me a package for you if you come back. But I understand, honey. Just be careful, all right?”

She didn’t ask questions, and Dean was silently overcome with gratitude.

“I love you, Ma.”

“I love you too. Oh, and Dean, guess what?”

“What?”

“I left your father.”

“What?!”

“I just can’t stand how he treats you, and me. For a long time I thought it’s just the way that men are supposed to act, but it’s not. So I left him.”

“Good for you, Ma!” Dean was sincerely elated.

“Anyway, I’m so glad you’re all right. Get in touch when you can.”

“I sure will, Ma.”

“Good boy. Talk to you soon.”

“Yup. Bye.”

Dean hung up the phone and grinned from ear to ear. His mother had stood up to his father and Zina was totally falling for him. Everything was as good as a fairy tale.

Zina unSeen – Chapter 1

A shrill alarm pinged and Dean looked up from his coffee cup. He sat it haphazardly on his desk, hissing as a slosh of dark brown liquid spilled out and burned his hand. When Dean scanned his computer screen and his eyes rested on the cause of the commotion, his heart sank. Zina had been dumped.

Although he was heartbroken to see his user in pain, he was also secretly thrilled. This meant she was single again, and if she was single, maybe if he ever got out of his contract with FaceSpace, they would be able to meet and she would see that she was better off with a real man like him. That Damien kid she had been with was about as arrogant and shallow as they come. At least, that’s what he thought based on Zina’s status updates.

Dean sighed heavily. A change in relationship status meant an extra three hours of research and a daunting evening of paperwork. He would have to try and figure out exactly what had gone wrong between them, what his user might be feeling, and what products FaceSpace could promote while she was in her time of need. Perhaps retail therapy would bring her out of her slump. Even if it didn’t, FaceSpace would profit from her mood just by having the ads there. Many agents would promote dating websites when their users were down, but Dean never did. He wanted Zina all to himself.

Despite his elation at having her single again, it was agonizing to see her going through another of many downs. It seemed like the woman, although wildly beautiful, had a streak of terrible luck. He wasn’t quite sure why that was, but just knowing that her heart was broken caused Dean to drop his balding head in his hands. Zina was everything that a man could possibly want, and he couldn’t fathom why nothing ever seemed to work out for her. He looked thoughtfully at her profile picture, hoping it might offer him some clues.

Zina’s dazzling blue eyes flashed out at him, and he traced the strong line of her jaw down hungrily with his eyes. Gentle strands of black hair stroked her neck and fell down to her shoulders, one of which was extended so that she could give the camera her middle finger. Her lips were curved in a sexy “don’t give a damn” smile that made anxious beads of sweat spring up on his high forehead. The woman was flawless, and trying to figure out what mental deficiencies would cause a man to let her go gave him a headache.

A stern voice startled Dean out of his thoughts.

“Mr. Sallows,” his boss said.

“Mr. Brown,” Dean sighed, turning in his swivel chair to face the plump, unpleasant man.

“A word.”

Dean followed Mr. Brown grimly down the hallway and into his large office. He wasn’t particularly surprised to be singled out, once again, by the petty man who was constantly paranoid that Dean’s elaborate work on Zina would cause him to lose his job and be replaced. He made sure to give him a hard time any chance that he could, and motioned Dean to take a seat.

Dean sat, avoiding Mr. Brown’s gaze in favor of the huge window behind him that overlooked the cityscape. At about this time, Zina would be on her way to work in the studio. He looked purposefully toward the block of buildings that represented Chapel street, where she was undoubtedly walking right that moment, and felt his heart skip a beat. Mr. Brown sank down comfortably into his chair, his round, piggish cheeks upturned in an arrogant grin.

“I know you’re overly invested in that user of yours,” Mr. Brown said.

“I just do my job,” Dean said sharply.

“’Just your job,’ eh Dean? You spend twice as much time looking at her pictures as the other agents spend on their users.”

Dean blushed. He knew it was true. He couldn’t get enough of her. Still, he had to defend his job or he would be demoted. A demotion meant he would probably never get outside the FaceSpace dormitories again. No friends. Worse, no family.

“She posts a lot. And you know that the smart and artistic people require more analysis. They’re complicated.”

“You’ve said her name in your sleep.”

Dean looked away from the window, startled.

“I have?”

“Mr. Sallows, you’re showing signs of impending insubordination. I’m not sure you’re fit to continue maintaining surveillance over this user.”

When it was put like that, Dean felt a twinge of guilt. He was watching her every move and she had no idea. But it was perfectly legal. She had agreed to it in FaceSpace’s terms and conditions of use. Still, at times it felt wrong. But he was conflicted. His life would be nothing without her.

Mr. Brown glowed with pleasure as panic filled Dean’s eyes.

“I’m not sure you have a say over how I do my job. That’s up to the agents in charge of the operation. If you want to take this up with the government, that’s fine by me,” Dean said, standing confidently. “You know I’m the best at my job, and so do they. Good luck convincing them otherwise.”

Mr. Brown bristled.

“That’s out of line, Dean! I’m giving you a warning. And don’t think this won’t make it into your quarterly.”

Dean did everything he could not to roll his eyes.

“Will that be all, sir?”

“Get out of here,” Mr. Brown growled.

Dean returned to his cubicle quietly, his blood boiling. As angry as he was, he knew that Mr. Brown was right. Zina was on his mind, day and night, and that’s the way he wanted it to stay. He would have to be more careful.