Today’s story is inspired by Michelle Reinhold. Michelle is a long time and very close friend of mine. She is also a member of Kava Writer’s Collective (the best writer’s group in the world). But you need to know this about Michelle, she is a patient person. She went through my novel “Paint Chips” with a red pen, editing all 87,000 words (which, due to her excellent editing, became 76,000-ish). My novel is what it is because of her kind editing.
Here’s Michelle’s story idea…
Katie: A teen who is lonely and isolated from friends and her faith
Setting: An Internet cafe Katie frequents after school
Conflict: Involved in an internet relationship with a college boy. She calls it just a long distance friendship, but it is really “friends with benefits” and their online chatter has become quite sexual in nature.
Katie clutched her netbook to her chest as she walked into the coffee shop. Walking to the counter, she fished a couple dollars from the pocket of her jeans.
“You want the usual?” the girl behind the counter asked. “Hot cocoa?”
“Yeah. Thanks,” Katie said.
“You come in here every day, don’t you?”
“Well, just after school.”
“What do you do on that laptop of yours? You’re always typing like crazy on it.”
“Just chatting with my friend.”
“A guy?” The girl behind the counter smiled. “Is it your boyfriend?”
“Well, not really. I don’t know. I think he’s just a good friend.” Katie paused and waited for the girl to swirl the whipped cream on her drink. “He’s in college.”
“Nice. An older man.”
“It’s not like that. He’s just a friend.”
“Sorry. Geez.” She rung up the price of the cocoa and took Katie’s money.
Katie found a table in the back corner of the coffee shop. She sat in the chair that would put her back against the wall. Opening the laptop, she checked the time on the bottom right of the screen.
One minute before their scheduled “meet up” time.
“Hey,” she typed. “How r u?”
“Hi. I’m good.” His words appeared within seconds under the name Bill. “You?”
“Ok. At the coffee place.”
“Yup.” She took a sip. “Yum!”
“Wish I could have a sip.”
“You should come visit sometime.”
“Can’t for a long time. Too much going on at school.”
“College must be alot of work.”
“A lot. They’re two words.”
“Right. Sorry.” Katie flushed, embarrassed.
“So, what’re you wearing?”
Katie looked at her outfit. A baggy, gray t-shirt, faded jeans, her hair in a ponytail.
“I wore a short skirt to school. Almost got in trouble.”
“I bet all the boys were checking you out.”
“Yeah. I get that a lot.” Kate bit the inside of her cheek. A habit she had whenever she lied. “I’m used to it.”
“You’re gonna get me all jealous.”
“Well, their just kids. Not a man like you.”
“They’re…as in ‘they are just kids’.”
Kate sipped her cocoa. The cursor on the screen blinked. She didn’t know what to say. He was always correcting her. It drove her crazy.
“FYI, Katie, that’s 2 strikes. One more error and it’s 3 strikes, you’re out.”
“Sorry. I’ll do better.” She tried to think. Quickly. How to keep him online. “So, do you want to be bad today?”
“Because your mom caught us. Remember?”
“I told her we were done.”
“What about your friends? I thought you said they didn’t like me.”
“I don’t talk to them anymore.” It was true. Katie had cut them all off. He was more important to her. “If they don’t like you, they don’t like me.”
“And the church stuff? You don’t think it’s wrong to talk like that to me when you’re going to church?”
“I don’t really go anymore. When I do, I help in the nursery. I can’t stand the pastor.”
“All I want is to be with you.” She wanted to cry. But fought it. “I’m lonely without you.”
“I know. Me too.”
“Then why can’t we ever get together. I could use my mom’s car.”
“No. You can’t do that.”
“Why not? She wouldn’t care. She’s too busy with her new boyfriend. She’d love to have me out of the house for a weekend.”
“I wish we could make it work. I’d love to hold you.”
“It’s ‘know’. Strike 3.”
“Wait. Don’t go. I’ll do anything.”
“What would we do if we were alone on an island?”
“I thought you didn’t want to be like that today.”
“I changed my mind. Tell me.” There was a brief pause. “Would you be a tease?”
“At first. But only because I’d feel very shy.”
“I promise, I won’t look. Why don’t you take a dip in the ocean.”
“But I don’t have a swim suit.”
“It’s okay. I’ll be a gentleman.”
Katie typed furiously. Building this fantasy with a man she never met. But, to her, this was all very real. It wasn’t until she tipped her hot cocoa off the table that she snapped out of her imaginings.
Chocolate and milk covered her pants. It was cold. The girl behind the counter rushed over with towels.
“I’ll get it,” Katie said. “It’s okay.”
“But you got it all over you,” the girl said.
“I said it was fine.”
“Alright.” The girl turned to walk away. “You’re kind of rude. I just wanted to help you.”
“Sorry,” Katie said. “I was just a little embarrassed.”
“It’s alright.” The girl turned back around. “How’s it going with your friend?”
Katie looked at the screen. He was asking where she was. What she was doing. Why she hadn’t responded. He threatened to disconnect. Gave her one more chance.
“Okay, I guess.”
“You were getting all flushed a few minutes ago. Everything okay?”
Kate turned her eyes up toward the other girl. “Yeah.”
“Just make sure that guy’s a good one. You don’t need to be involved with a jerk, you know.”
“I know.” She put her hands back on the keyboard. “Listen, I gotta get back to him. He’s about to log off.”
“I get it.” The girl went back to the counter.
“Sorry,” Kate typed. “Spilled hot cocoa all over myself.”
“Got you going, huh?” His words.
“I guess so.”
“How about you post a picture of yourself. You know what I like.”
“I can’t. My mom checks the cache on the computer. And she took the data off my phone.”
“I hate your mom.”
Katie felt a tug of loyalty. Who was this guy saying bad things about her mom. But she didn’t want him to log off. Not yet.
“I know,” she wrote.
“Listen, I gotta go. Class starts soon. Chat later.”
“Ok. I love you.”
The screen showed that he logged off.
Katie gathered her things. Smiled at the girl behind the counter and walked out of the coffee shop.
One hundred miles away, Bill shut down his computer. He sat at his desk. He heard noises from upstairs. They were home.
He smoothed back his hair. Made sure he was pulled back together after his fantasy trip with Katie. He walked up the steps.
Opening the door, he saw his wife and kids. He smiled. Forgetting all about Katie and the island.