Brad burned up my phone. He blasted it with back to back phone calls, letting it ring and ring until my voicemail picked up and it would begin again just as soon as he left a message. I didn’t want to listen to them. I could already imagine what he was saying. I knew he wouldn’t be sweet or even concerned. I’d heard all his angry threatening messages before and I bet the script hadn’t changed a bit.
I could tell by his text that he had shed his new persona. It bugged me that he wasn’t one bit worried.
“Where the hell are you?”
What kind of question is that to ask when you’re girlfriend doesn’t arrive home from work on time? He should have asked if I was okay. Was something wrong? Did I need help?
I turned off my phone. He was just going to have to understand that I needed some time alone. I needed time to think … to process. Although I wasn’t doing a whole lot of that. At the moment I was enjoying the new car I had acquired in my game. It was equipped with all kinds of goodies. Including an electric fence charm that prevented thefts.
That poor guy. I’d checked his bio card before speeding off. A very high-level player. An expert assassin. Decorated war hero. Oh, I imagined he was still scratching his head trying to figure out what had happened to his avatar.
The love charm I’d used was a very rare and a very mystical spell from the Faylon Realm. It was an experimental design and its release – completely accidental. It and its sister, the Phantom Angel was available for a total of two minutes and Tori just happened to be browsing the Faylon Store when it popped up.
Tori had liked them and they were extremely cheap. She’d managed to buy one of each for herself and for me before they developers jerked it off the site, deciding that paralyzing other characters was not a fair idea, but they didn’t revoke the items already in circulation.
The kiss was unique as well. Tori had paid too much in real cash to create the custom brand for me and splurged a little more to create a custom execution shortcut. All I had to do was hold the H and the D keys at the same time to activate it, then click a heart that hovered over my avatar’s head when I was ready to use it. It was a handy little trick and I was thankful for it, considering my limited skills.
“You’re still not talking to me.”
In my own virtual home, a voice broke the silence even though no one was in the room with me.
“Take off the cloak, Tori,” I sighed.
The Phantom Angel appeared.
“So?” Tori spoke.
“You’re the one avoiding me.”
“I just don’t get it.”
“It’s the threats,” I admitted. “I think he’s serious.”
“If he was serious he wouldn’t have told you.” The Phantom Angel sat down in one of my white leather chairs. “I went to your house. You weren’t there. Where are you?”
“I’m at work.”
“I thought you left early?”
“I did. I rented a room in the dorm.”
“You could have come to my place. You have the key.”
“I just needed time alone.” I clicked my mouse a few times and sent a gift box soaring to my friend.
“Oh, just something I found in Granota.”
“You are a brave soul tonight. What else did you find?”
I went to my garage and Phantom Angel popped in a few seconds after and whistled.
“Someone is definitely pissed off about losing that. There’s a lot of coins in that ride. Custom design. That’s gonna be hard to hide.”
“I’ll worry about that if the guy is ever reincarnated.” I glanced at the list of victims I’d taken out. A grand total of three and they all still laid in greyscale. Killers got one notification when their victims came back to life, then their pictures would disappear. I guessed it was a warning of sorts since some players held a grudge and hunted their killers. I didn’t worry about the other two. They were fairly new players who had rushed me, leaving me no choice. They’d probably given up on the game or created new accounts, but this guy … he had invested ten years.
“You offed him?”
“He raised his gun first.” I giggled. “Serves him right.”
“Lord, I’ve created a monster. I’m gonna find your picture on the bounty hunter’s board someday.”
“Are you going to collect the reward?”
“Maybe.” I heard her laugh through the headset. “It’s not personal. Just the way the game is played, Sis.”
“Ha, I’m laughing my ass off,” I said sarcastically, but I knew my friend would never sell me out.
“You just got here.”
“I need to nap before I go back to hell. I’m working third again. Why don’t you bring your sorry ass in and keep me company?”
“Why not. I’m here anyway.”
“Good. So, shut down the computer and get some rest.”
“Before you go … I have to tell you something.”
“What is it?”
“Tori, I don’t know …”
“Spit it out, woman.”
“Brad … he threatened to contact Rey.”
Tori didn’t say anything for a moment then, I heard her blow out a long breath. “Hillary, if Rey wants to come after me when he gets out, he’s going to find me. It doesn’t matter what Brad does. Rey has plenty of goons that will be willing to track me down for him. Don’t let that jerk use this to keep you with him.”
Then the Phantom Angel poofed.
I signed out too and climbed under the blanket. I yawned. I hadn’t been sleeping much myself. Not since I had returned to the apartment I shared with Brad. No matter how he acted, I still felt that unsettling fear.
I really wanted out. He demanded too much and I had grown tired of his bullshit a long time ago. It wasn’t unusual for Brad to shake me awake just because he wanted a midnight snack or his tongue was dry. I could easily sympathize with the slaves of the past. My life didn’t seem much different at times.
I guess that’s how Tori had felt when she had left Rey. Only she didn’t go back and forth, as I did. She’d kept on going.
I turned on my phone. Fifty-six missed calls and voicemails. Sixty-five text messages. And it was ringing again. Geeze, a normal person would have gotten the point after the first couple tries. I set the phone to silent and set my alarm, knowing it would still work. Geeze, people shouldn’t have to live like that. It was harassment. Bullying. There was no other way Brad could justify his behavior.
When my alarm woke me, I reached for my phone and glanced at the time. I had ten minutes before the third shift started. Thank goodness I was close.
A notification from Chatter flashed on my screen before I could pull myself out of the bed. I tapped it, thinking it was from Tori. She’d probably tagged me in one of her rare posts, but it wasn’t. It was Ethan and he hadn’t tagged me. He’d sent me a private message.
I stared at the ceiling. A few hours before, I had given in and accepted his friend’s request. He’d only contacted me once so far and I never planned to answer him … ever. Damn, it was starting all over again.
His posts had been easy to avoid but this was different. Something about it seemed so intimate that I gave in. I pulled up the message and my eyes grew wide. I popped up out of bed the moment I read it. I rushed out of the dorm, running all the way to the smoking area I knew Tori would occupy until the very last minute.
“Hey Hill.” Tori didn’t look up from her phone as I plopped down beside her.
“I killed Ethan!” I spat out, clutching my chest as I tried to catch my breath.
“What?” I had all of Tori’s attention then. I was almost hysterical. “Slow down. Ethan’s dead? What happened?”
“No!” I hyperventilated. I couldn’t get my breath after running so fast.
“Hillary, tell me what’s going on? Did he have a wreck while you were talking? Tell me what’s going on!”
“In the game!” I finally blurted out. “The guy I killed today was Ethan.”
“The game? Damn, you scared me to death. I thought something really happened to the guy.” She thumped the ashes from her cigarette and headed for the door. “Geeze! How do you know it was him?
“He sent me a message on Chatter. He knows it was me. He’s going to hate me. He’s been playing for ten years and I just caused him to lose everything.” I was extremely upset and Tori thought it was funny.
“He tried to rob you,” she reminded me. “He would have killed you if you hadn’t struck first. It’s part of the game and we all know that. Don’t worry, he has more than enough money to reincarnate his character and all his shit probably went to some backup account or friend. The only thing he lost was experience points.”
“Okay.” I began to calm down.
“We’ll log on right after we make our first round.”
“He won’t be on. He has to wait twenty-four hours before he can revive his avatar. You know that.”
“He does, but I don’t.” Tori winked. “I just have to find someone first.”
“Just a guy. He has the other half of the amulet.”
“It’s a Wickora thing.” That’s all she would say. “Just tell me you didn’t sell his car already.”
“Of course not. I’m keeping the car.” I giggled. “I already painted it purple.”
“Does everything have to be purple?”
“Does all your junk have to be black?”
I found my laughter and we were both giggling as Tori explained what she could do with the in-game item she owned.
“We don’t need you two tonight.” The new charge nurse snapped the moment we entered the doors to our ward.
Herb Lacey was a short, slightly muscular man that wasn’t much older than Tori and myself. He’d never worked in a nursing home before or even in the medical field. He’d gotten the charge nurse job right out of school because his aunt was the Director of Nursing. He was an ass and difficult to work with. He didn’t know or care about the residents or his employees for that matter.
“Are you kidding?” Tori asked and I had yet to ask to work the extra shift.
“No. I have to work the floor and I’m not in the mood to put up with you two at the same time.”
“Oh, yeah? You found someone else willing to work on their day off?”
“I don’t need anyone else!” He spat.
“That’s illegal, Herb.” Tori reminded him. “The law only allows fifteen to one at night.”
“Screw the law.”
“Good luck with that.” Tori laughed and so did I.
“Boy, I wish I could see him try to handle this ward alone.” I giggled. I knew how difficult my group alone could be at night.
“That’s his problem. Maybe they’ll fire his ass over it. Come on Hill, let’s go resurrect your boyfriend.” Tori put her arm around my shoulders and guided me out the door.
It was as if we had never been apart. I guess that’s how it is with true friends.