Somehow, I’d managed to distract myself for the rest of the night, knowing if I let myself get even remotely close to my computer, I’d end up on Smith’s realm again. And I did not want to do that. Not really. Instead, I watched a romantic war movie with Cat and listened to her complain the entire time. She was into war, not so much romance.
After the movie, I took a bubble bath and deep conditioned my hair. I organized the bathroom, cleaned under my bed, leafed through the first chapter of an old trig book… By twelve o’clock, I was cleaning out the fridge.
“Are you okay?” Cat reached around me for the almond milk and poured some into a saucepan for heating on the stove. She wouldn’t even allow a microwave in the apartment.
“Sure. Great,” I answered, unconvincingly.
“Are you sure?” She stirred her milk, adding Stevia one drop at a time. “Because you’re starting to remind me of-”
“Sarah,” we said in unison.
“I know, I know…” I grumbled as I tossed a bag of slimy cucumbers into the garbage under the sink. On the one hand, I was proud to have lasted this many hours away from my game. On the other, I was starting to have just the slightest amount of sympathy for Sarah’s addiction.
After tossing and turning for hours, I angrily tossed my down comforter aside and got out of bed. There was a calming red glow coming through my window from a billboard across the street. White light washed through my room, time and again. The calming strobe effect was from New York’s ever-present traffic. I shuffled quietly to the kitchen in search of one of Cat’s herbal sleep-inducing concoctions.
She was forever hailing the effects of something called… what was it again? I rifled through the ‘medicine’ cabinet.
Acaí, Royal Jelly? No, no.
Yes. I popped two of the pills, cringing at their very musty flavor, and headed wearily in the direction of my bedroom, swearing to name my next game character Valerian if this stuff actually worked.
From my doorway, in the peaceful darkness, I glared at the sleeping monitor.
My interlude with Smith had begun cordially enough, turned to fighting, and ended in – well, I had to admit I wasn’t sure how it had ended. Why had he stayed to talk to me? Why did he say he’d lose sleep waiting for my mail?
And mostly, why did I care?
Because it wasn’t yet settled. And that fact left me with a substantial amount of unease. Oddly, I’d felt more comfortable when he’d been mean to me. Now that I wasn’t sure where he stood, I was curious.
At my desk, I turned on the lamp and the computer. The space around me was filled with a relaxing static as the fan whirred to life. I logged impatiently into the game and told myself firmly that I was just getting on my regular character to organize my bags, do a little fishing, maybe check out the auction house… Even if Smith was on the game at three in the morning, he would be safely contained to his own realm, right? It wasn’t like I was looking for him.
When given the choice between two servers, Antonitas, my regular server, and Winterhoof, Smith’s server, I chose the latter and told myself firmly that I could use whatever damn realm I wanted.
Healslater2 was standing next to the mailbox in obvious desperation to have someone notice her. She was pathetic. But not as pathetic as me, running my mouse over the place where a mail icon would be – if I had mail. But I didn’t. So, I waited, because one could appear at any moment. Sometimes there were glitches with the system.
While waiting for the obvious issue with the mail to resolve itself, (because of course Smith would have sent me something, right?), I sifted through the ‘who’ tab to find his name listed as currently playing. He was in a ten man raid. It had probably been going on for hours… I felt suddenly embarrassed. Like a creepy, voyeuristic spy.
Just when the saner part of my brain had convinced the neurotic in me not to try and get his attention, I saw a whisper appear at the bottom of my screen in a heart-fluttering tell-tale pink. And as much as I hated to admit it, my stomach clenched when I looked down and saw his name.
[Smithlol] Looking for me?
Hell no. Maybe. Yes? Was I this starved for attention that any random guy handing out insults was a reason for my breath to catch in my throat?
[Smithlol] Then why are you even on this realm again?
[Healslater2] This is my main character.
There was a long pause following my obvious lie. Then,
[Smithlol] Heals Later TWO is your main? A level one rogue?
Had I really rolled a rogue? I could practically hear him laughing through the cable. He was probably falling off his chair.
[Healslater2] It’s Heal SLATER.
[Smithlol] Wanna join a run?
[Healslater2] Yeah, in about a million years.
Because that’s when my level one rogue was gonna be a kick-ass healer.
[Smithlol] Come on. Most of the people in this group are completely horrible. You’ll fit right in.
[Healslater2] You’re an ass.
[Smithlol] Maybe. But it seems to work for you.
[Healslater2] As if!
Did I just quote Clueless? He probably thought I was fourteen years old. But I had the sense not to go into a spiel about my birthday like I was expecting a gift.
[Smithlol] Be honest. You’re curious.
[Healslater2] I am not curious.
[Smithlol] If you say so.
[Healslater2] I say so.
[Smithlol] Okay. Then I guess you’ll never know if I’m a handsome and very rich entrepreneur or some loser playing games in my parent’s basement.
[Healslater2] I could probably take a guess at which one of those is the truth.
[Smithlol] Wow. Hurtful.
[Healslater2] *Rolls Eyes*
[Smithlol] Really? You’re seriously breaking my heart a little.
[Healslater2] I have a feeling you’ll be fine.
[Smithlol] Or maybe I’ll need therapy after all this abuse.
[Healslater2] Are you kidding? MY abuse?
[Smithlol] Yeah. You’re abusive.
[Smithlol] Well, you let me die like eighteen times.
[Healslater2] It was only seven.
[Smithlol] And then you sent me that death threat.
[Healslater2] You’re being a little dramatic.
[Smithlol] I was afraid for my life.
[Healslater2] I did think about hacking your account and deleting your character.
[Smithlol] You’re kidding, right?
[Healslater2] I’m not.
[Smithlol] Wow. You have quite the mean streak.
[Healslater2] I do not have a mean streak.
I have a nice streak.
[Smithlol] Could you really do that?
[Healslater2] Delete your character?
[Smithlol] Yeah, that.
[Healslater2] Hire someone.
[Smithlol] Lol That’s what I thought.
That’s what he thought? Really? Without knowing me, he’d assumed I was too stupid to hack his account?
[Healslater2] I could figure it out if I wanted.
[Smithlol] I’m sure you could.
Was he was being sarcastic, or placating me?
[Healslater2] What is that supposed to mean?
[Smithlol] It means that I don’t doubt your rigid determination.
Okay, now he was insulting my personality. Calling me relentless like it was a bad thing.
[Smithlol] You’re the kind of girl who gets what she wants. Always has, and always will.
Yep - definitely making fun of me.
[Smithlol] Tell me I’m wrong.
Fury replaced what was quickly becoming intrigue, and it pissed me off completely that, for one second, I’d started to change my mind about him. But he wasn’t different from the other day. His meanness had not been the product of stress, as I’d tried to tell myself, but rather indigenous to his personality. I was so angry at myself, I signed off without another word and switched to my normal character.
The game had a system – you only saw characters from other servers very coincidentally. If I joined a group to do a random, regular run – there was a miniscule chance that I would run into Smith again. But the chance was very, very slight. And the runs were necessary to ensure better gear, thus better standing… So it was worth the risk. But as long as I stayed on my own server – he was probably history.
I ran my character, a Blood Elf that slightly resembled my own appearance, to the bank, then to the auction house. The game was in-depth, and often better than real life. When I’d repaired my armor and cleaned out my bags, I clicked the little green button that would allow me access into a queue where I would wait a measly ten seconds before being admitted into a group.
The first was quiet. We did the entire dungeon without a single comment – not even a ‘hey guys’ at the beginning, or a ‘thank you’ at the end. The second was rough. Several kids jumped ship midway, and the rest of us were forced to twiddle our thumbs, waiting for replacements. Finally, the valerian had taken affect.
I climbed into my now-cold bed. Outside my window, a light snowfall was coming down. It lilted back and forth on a fickle breeze. I opened the glass and breathed in the freezing air – when I finally fell asleep, it was to thoughts of being bowed down to as the greatest online-healer of the twenty-first century. And Smith was in the very first row.