"Elise, can't you find any more polite way to curse?" Meredith asked her sister. "I've requested--"
"Again and again, I know. I'm sorry. It's just that I can never make it through this level on this game, and I almost made it, but Superio blew me up. Besides, by your logic, swearing is never polite, so how could I curse more politely?"
"You could try saying 'shoot' or 'dang'. It wouldn't hurt you."
"You're so old-fashioned, Meredith. Stop ragging on me about it, all right? I'll try; that's all I can do. Besides, it's not like you can make me do anything anyway."
"I'm older than you. You have to listen to me sometimes."
"Just because you're three years older than me doesn't mean you can boss me around the way Mom and Dad do. You're not even a full adult yet--you're only nineteen."
"Mom and Dad always tell you not to curse, too. Now will you let me have the computer?"
"Why? So you can chat with your stuffy friends?"
"Yes. And they're not stuffy; they're more intelligent than you are. You've been playing that game for--" Meredith checked her watch. "--four hours now. It's my turn."
"That's all right. The Backstreet Boys concert is about to come on anyway." Elise quit the game and stood up. "All yours," she said over her shoulder as she left the room.
Meredith rolled her eyes. She sat down in the chair that her sister had just vacated and double-clicked on the Internet icon. She carefully typed in the password and clicked the "Connect" button. The computer dialed and made modem noises for a few minutes before finally connecting. She quickly opened Netscape and went to her favourite chat room, logging in as BlackMagicWoman. As a precaution, she opened a second window and went into the chat room Elise had been scoffing at, this time as BookGirl. The conversation there was dry and dusty, centering around ancient history, but it was the sort of place that her family would expect her to frequent. She said hello to the people in the room and then switched back to the first window.
She glanced around the room cautiously before reading what was there, as though perhaps someone had come in while she had been logging on. Satisfied that she was alone, she turned back to the monitor. Her fingers flew over the keyboard.
BlackMagicWoman says Hello. Billy says hi there CuteOne21 says Hi woman Petey says whazzup CuteOne21 says privately Get off my turf, girl. BlackMagicWoman says privately to CuteOne21 What do you mean, "your turf"? Petey says Not a lot of people here tonight. Billy says yeah just us Petey says an some chix lookin for a good time Billy says u lookin for a good time, BlackMagic? CuteOne21 says Hey BigGuy. Why so silent? BlackMagicWoman says privately to CuteOne21 There are three. One's being quiet. That leaves one for each of us, unless you'd like a little ménage et trois with Dumb and Dumber here. BlackMagicWoman says Are you offering, Billy? CuteOne21 says privately I'm not that kinky. And I kind of like dumb. I just don't like other girls in the room while I'm doin it with dumb.Meredith snorted derisively. Whatever. She checked the user list. There certainly was someone being quiet in the room. "BigGuy," she murmured. I wonder if I can get something out of you."
Before she could find out, she heard footsteps on the creaky boards of the hallway floor. They stopped at the door to the computer room. Quickly, she clicked over to the "safe" chat room.
BookGirl says So, anyone here like Aristophanes? Philosopher99 says Wasn't he the guy that wrote *Lysistrata*? That one was a bit 2 wild 4 me."Meredith?" It was her father. "It's getting late. We're all going to bed."
"I think I'll stay up just a little longer, Dad. We're just getting into this big discussion about some ancient Greek stuff. It's very interesting. Wasn't Elise going to watch the concert?"
"She was until your mother and I reminded her that she had to work the church youth group's car wash in the morning."
"I thought she wasn't going to that."
"Your mother and I thought she ought to go. She hasn't been to youth group in a long time. Aren't you going to help out, too?"
"No. I've been so stressed about my grades and helping the youth group and everything lately that I just think I need a little bit of a break. A chance to unwind. So I'm going to sleep in tomorrow."
"I suppose that's all right. You go to almost every meeting; surely they can spare you from the car wash. Just this once."
"I explained it all to the group leader. She said it was fine."
"All right, then. Well, turn off the computer when you're done."
"Oh, and Meredith? You won't be needing the phone tonight, will you?"
"No. It's too late to call anyone. Why?"
"Well, I don't want to interrupt your chat--I know it helps relieve stress for you and all--but I have some research I need to do on the Net." It wasn't an unusual occurrence; he liked to do useless research and preferred his laptop to the family computer for that purpose.
"Oh. Sure, that's great with me. See you in the morning, Dad."
"See you in the morning, hon." She waited until she heard a door close before switching back to the first chat room.
Billy says blackmagic u still there? BlackMagicWoman says Right here. Sorry. I had an interruption to take care of. Billy says privately u lookin for a good time? BlackMagicWoman says privately to Billy Perhaps. Are you offering? Petey says Billy u oughta get a load of this pic of Cute. BigGuy says Hi, all. Sorry about my silence. What's up? Petey says You will be if u see the pic of Cute. Billy says privately Of course Im offering BlackMagicWoman says privately to Billy Sorry. Cute says she likes dumb, but I don't. Get a life. BigGuy says Where's that pic? BlackMagicWoman says privately to BigGuy I'm much better than she is. Wouldn't you rather see a picture of me? CuteOne21 has left the room. Petey says Awww she left and just when I was gonna talk to her. Billy says Bummer. BigGuy says privately Where's your pic? BlackMagicWoman says privately to BigGuy Are you sure you can handle it? It's pretty steamy. BigGuy says privately The steamier the better.Meredith smirked as she typed in the URL for the picture she'd found. It wasn't her, of course. It portrayed a woman of similar height and build posing nude, her face turned coyly away from the camera. No one would ever know the difference unless she met him in person, and even then she could attribute the change to a haircut and dye job, and perhaps a little weight put on. She waited for a response.
BigGuy says privately Well, well. I don't suppose you'd care to work a little of your black magic on me, would you? Petey says is Blackmagicwoman still here? Billy says The list says she is BigGuy says She's here, all right. BlackMagicWoman says privately to BigGuy Black magic is my specialty. Are you sure you can handle what I can give you? Billy says u gettin action, BigGuy? Petey says Hey share will ya BlackMagicWoman says You'll get your turn later--if you can stay up past your bedtime for it. BigGuy says privately A big guy like me? I can handle more than you. Can you handle me? Billy says O cum on it'll be fun. BlackMagicWoman says privately to BigGuy We'll just have to find out, won't we? *unzips your pants* Petey says Afraid of a little three on one blackmagic? BlackMagicWoman puts Petey on ignore. BlackMagicWoman puts Billy on ignore. BigGuy says privately I guess we will. *rips off your shirt*Meredith sat back and enjoyed herself, occasionally glancing around to make sure that no one was watching her. It wasn't often that she actually did this; usually she just hinted and teased. She liked the adrenaline rush of trying to take her flirtation to the edge--and beyond--in defiance of her "goody two-shoes" personality. Whoever and wherever BigGuy was from, he had quite an imagination. He appeared to be far more experienced than she, too; he did things to her that she had never thought of. She liked him much more than the few other men she'd had cybersex with. They had been crude; he was inventive. She had giggled her way through the first time and gone through the motions after that, watching her own actions and those of her partner appear on the screen with mild interest, but this--this was different.
When the two of them had exhausted the possibilities of written communication, she waited. She wanted to talk to him more, but wasn't sure how to start. With the others, she had simply left the room afterward. They hadn't interested her much, beyond being people whose minds she could play with. Guys to provide a cheap thrill. Luckily, she didn't have to start the conversation. He did that for her, too.
BigGuy says Looks like Billy and Petey had to go. It's just us now. Tell me more about yourself. BlackMagicWoman says Well, I'm 23, young and healthy, as you can see from my picture. But my hair isn't like that anymore. It's about an inch shorter and black instead of blonde. BigGuy says Not your body. Yourself. Where do you live? What do you like to do besides cybersex? And *mischevious grin* how was I? BlackMagicWoman says Well, I live in a little town in Indiana called Gosport. Actually I don't live in town, I live out in the country, but Gosport's the closest thing. I work in a larger town nearby--Bloomington. I like to read, I like to listen to music. Soft rock. And you were *wonderful*. The best I've had yet. BigGuy says Gosport? You're kidding, right? BlackMagicWoman says No, I live in Gosport, IN. Seriously. Where are you? BigGuy says In Gosport! Or just outside of it. Hey, I have an idea. How about we meet for something a little more... satisfying... than we can get online? I'll even take you out to dinner. Wherever you want to go. And then we can rent a hotel room...Meredith stared at the screen. He lived in the same area she did? And he wanted to meet and have sex... for real? She could hardly believe that this was happening. She decided to play coy; while the idea of having an affair with him was interesting, she wasn't entirely sure about it.
BlackMagicWoman says But aren't you afraid I might not live up to your fantasies? BigGuy says Not at all. Why, are you afraid of me? BlackMagicWoman says No. But why don't I give you a little more to fantasize about? BigGuy says I've had enough cyber for tonight. Fantasies are not very fulfilling. Just one dinner, one night. Please?She changed her mind, deciding that she didn't know much about being coy, and settled on expressing her real fears to him. To be sure, her interest and her curiosity about the realities of sex almost outweighed those fears--but they still persisted.
BlackMagicWoman says OK, I admit it. I'm a little scared. BigGuy says *concerned look* About what? BlackMagicWoman says Well, what if I find out you're some old guy who doesn't turn me on at all? I'm not a whore, you know; if you don't attract me, I won't do it with you. BigGuy says I've been told I'm rather handsome. And I'm older than you, but I think I look younger than I am. Maybe 35 or so. I'd show you a picture but I don't have one on the Net. BlackMagicWoman says Well, what if I see you and I don't want to go to the hotel with you? How do I know you won't rape me or something? BigGuy says We'll be at the restaurant. I can't exactly drag you out kicking and screaming without someone noticing. I'll even wait until you're safely out of the parking lot and away to leave myself if you decide you don't want to go to the hotel with me. BlackMagicWoman says I'm not sure I'm ready for this. BigGuy says If you don't want to, just say so.Again she stared at the screen. Suddenly nervous, she glanced over her shoulder again, checking for spies. No one was there, of course. Even her father was probably asleep by now.
Was she ready for it? She thought she was. She was a little tired of being the good sister, always hearing about others experimenting and never doing anything interesting herself. It would be easy to arrange an excuse to be out of the house for a night. She knew what it felt like to want sex; now she wanted to find out what the act itself was like. And it would be safe--a one-night stand, no emotional attachment involved, and a clean escape at the restaurant if she decided she didn't want it. A crooked smile spread over her face as she made up her mind.
BlackMagicWoman says Will you bring protection? BigGuy says Protection? BlackMagicWoman says Condoms. I won't do it without protection. BigGuy says Of course. Wouldn't want anyone to get sick--or worse. So you'll meet me? BlackMagicWoman says I'll meet you tomorrow night. 7:00. Unless you had other plans tomorrow? How does Italian sound? BigGuy says Tomorrow is fine. And Italian is great. Grisanti's? BlackMagicWoman says Yes. Look for me then. BigGuy says Bring a red rose with you so that I'll know you. I'll do the same. BlackMagicWoman says I'll be sure to. I have to go now. See you then.
The next evening, Meredith got out the dress she had worn to her senior prom. She had gone alone, but some of the single guys had decided she might be worth talking to after seeing her in it. It was long, tight, and jet-black, decorated only by a thin strip of silver at the hem. It left her shoulders and arms bare, as well as more chest than she normally would have shown, and a slit ran halfway up one side to reveal the legs that she normally hid under jeans. Her hair she left down; she always wore it that way, and anything else would have attracted attention from her parents. She threw on her trench coat over the dress, grateful that the evening was a little chilly, and stole a rose from the arrangement on the dining room table before rushing out the door just in time to get to the restaurant.
She had been there for only a few minutes, looking around nervously for someone else with a rose, when a familiar voice spoke her name.
"Meredith?" She turned to see her father standing there, staring down at her. His face was white--and the rose in his hand was red.
"Daddy," she said shakily. "What a surprise."
"Surprise? Some surprise. Do you realise what you've done?"
She squashed the part of her that was trembling in fear. Not now. She had to be calm. Calm and strong. She was not the only one at fault here; he had done as much wrong as she.
"Do you know what a shock this is?" he demanded, throwing the rose to the floor. "To find that my daughter--my daughter--is a cyberwhore?" His voice had risen with every word; now, everyone in the small waiting area stared at them.
"Daddy, please. Calm down."
"How can I calm down? I thought you were the good one. The safe one. And now I find you've been sneaking around behind my back, doing--doing that--and probably offering yourself in person to anyone you meet who lives in the area!"
The false assumption made her angry, and she stood. On her feet, wearing the high heels that went so well with her dress, she was as tall as he. "Me. I'm the only one who's wrong here. How do you think I feel? My father runs around screwing women half his age on the Internet and inviting them to hotel rooms for one-night stands! Hell, I just found out I had cybersex with my father! How do you think that makes me feel?"
"It's none of your business! I'm your father, not your child, and not your saint."
"Well, maybe my life is none of your business either, Daddy. I'm not just your perfect little girl anymore. I'm an adult now. I can support myself without your help. I have a job that pays well. And I'm not your saint either, Daddy. Nor your Blessed Virgin." She stood, not caring that everyone was watching and listening. "I'm moving out as soon as I can find a place. I can't live in the same house with a man who takes advantage of young women like that. I can't live with a father who does that. I never want to see you again."
It was an adolescent temper tantrum, and she knew it, but she meant every word. And as she got into her car and drove off, she wondered where she could find an apartment. She would have to get one quickly.