It all started with a message alert on my phone. When I clicked on it and realized that I didn’t recognize the sender, I almost deleted it and only stopped short when I saw a glimpse of the message. It was a compliment about one of my books. It said something like, “‘Said book’ is a page-turner that…” I had to accept the sender’s “request” to read the whole message. In excitement, I accepted it. I got the chance to read the message, but by the time it ended, I was hot with temper and had already called him a dozen awful names. Who did he think he was?
His message had actually started out with great compliments. He’d really understood the nuances of the characters in my book and mentioned how much he’d enjoyed the reality of the story. But then, just like that, the compliments disappeared, and it seemed to become critiques unfolding into distasteful words toward the protagonist. I was mad. Yes, the protagonist is not the likable sort, but he had no right to distort the character as to how he understood her. His understanding of the protagonist was lacking, and I sensed him to be an “egotistical nonentity” of a person. I wrote that phrase as a response to his message.
For the sake of privacy, and the fact that this book is based on true events, I will not reveal his first message to me. Just know that my response was fiery and insulting as well, an action that I might have regretted, if it hadn’t formed into a friendship that I cherish so much even to this moment.
When I responded to his message with insults of my own, I became remorseful because I wasn’t the kind of person to fall for cheap shots like that. I knew that publishing my work would come with admiration and criticisms, and I was supposed to be ready. This person was clearly a troll, who had read my book, no doubt. He seemed to have thought deeply about it though. I should have been happy about that. I guess I wasn’t in a mood to tolerate someone who cheapened the actions of a character who temporarily forgot her life plans for love. He bashed her every move, even going as far as mentioning chapters and paragraphs. He called her names that were so disrespectful that I clenched my teeth to keep myself from screaming. I justified my reaction, but I should have known better. I fell right into his trap.In hindsight, we’re both glad I did.
Chapter 1 (An
The “you’ve got a message” icon was lit. He’d responded to my lengthy insults, and I couldn’t have anticipated his response for the life of me. It started out with multiple smiley faces, a few sentences replying to my earlier response, and then another comment about another book of mine.
I’m not exactly sure if I can explain the mix of emotions that swirled in my head, but I can say that seeing his reaction convinced me that I was chatting with a mad person. But I was curious, so I made myself a cup of coffee first, then opened the message he’d sent me and read everything word for word. This time, I was in control of my emotions. Although his second message was less harsh, I believe it was because he genuinely enjoyed the second book.
After the smiley faces, his message expressed enjoyment for being scolded for the first time in a long time. He dropped a hint that in real life, no one had the guts to do that anymore, and he usually received hate messages from trolls on his social media. But he’d never gotten a response like this, because he never responded to his social media comments or messages. All he did was post things that his fans liked, and those who weren’t fans let him know what hateful thoughts they harbored toward him. I was the first person he’d ever written to on a social media page he’d just created for this purpose. He thought about this for over three weeks, because he wanted to let me know that I have a talent for writing and room for growth, but that I shouldn’t waver from my unique style. I shouldn’t follow trends, and I should keep my voice alive. And yet, he wouldn’t take back what he’d said about the other book. It was after this explanation that he’d critiqued the next book.
My mind raced beyond any speed limit. Who is he?
My response to his second message started out with an apology for my previous message to him. Then I thanked him for what he’d written about the second book, and I asked who he was. I didn’t get a reply to this until after a month; yes, you read that correctly. But I continued to check his profile, which was active but set to “private.” It had one follower, me, and also followed one person, me. The name used was a generic male’s first and last name and that was all there was to it.
The third message I finally received after a month said, “Well done. I like how she’s developed.” That meant he’d read my newest book, which had just been released a couple of weeks before. I was happy that I’d gotten a fan in such an avid reader, but I was uneasy about who he might be.
“Yay, welcome back,” I said sarcastically. “You didn’t have to disappear just because you didn’t want to tell me who you were. You should have just written, ‘no comment.’”
“Missed me?” he replied.
“Don’t flatter yourself. It just made me wonder about the weirdo I was chatting with.”
“I’m glad you wondered. Weirdo, I am. A handsome one, too.”
“Sheesh, there’s no proof.”
“It’s better that way.”
“For you, maybe. This is weird for me. I don’t feel comfortable chatting with someone I don’t know. No face, no followers, too weird.”
“I’m not a creep.”
“Can’t prove that either. Anyway, I’m grateful that you took the time to read my books. That’s every writer’s dream. Thank you so much.”
“I liked your writing style when I read your book for the first time, even if I absolutely couldn’t stand that character.”
“Hey, can you stop now? Anyway, thanks again. Gotta go.”
I saw the message before I closed my page. Another message came in.
“Do you want a story? I’ll tell you who I am eventually.”
My hair started to itch with a mix of curiosity and excitement. My fingers started tapping the table in a fast tempo just as fast as my mind was racing. I wanted to know who he was. I didn’t have to write the story if I didn’t like it. I wouldn’t tell him this, of course.I typed, “I’m in.”
Chapter 2 (Who Am I?)
“I just wanted to tell someone because if I continued to keep it in, I knew I’d burst. I don’t know you, but I like what I’ve learned about you from your social media accounts. You strike me as an honest person and I feel like I can trust you. It doesn’t hurt that you have a friendly face, too.”
“Lol, friendly face? I’m told I have a death stare that actually makes people pee their pants.”
“Really? That’s funny. I guess I can’t see that through your photos.”
“Nope, my photos are usually cute and smiley. Real life is different. I’m super tall, too, so imagine how imposing I’d look.”
“That’s quite hard to imagine. I just see a tall doll-like person with so much hair.”
“Lol. So I guess my approachable face made you choose me to be your ghost writer?”
“Actually, my original intent was not to write a book. I was just bored and thought you’d be a nice person to chat with.”
“Ah, gullible me.”
“Haha. Well, I didn’t think you were going to respond to my message. When I tell you my story, you can do whatever you want with it. It doesn’t matter to me, as long as I can stay anonymous. I just think you might want to write it, because you’re obviously a good writer. Plus, it would be too good to pass up.”
“That’s my middle name.”
“*Rolling eyes emoji*”
“Haha. But I’m really glad you responded.”
“That makes one of us.”
“You don’t mean that *sad face emoji*”
“Not a hundred percent. I’m still wondering what I’ve gotten myself into, considering that I have no clue who I’m chatting with, and the person is claiming to be someone that no one would dare talk to disrespectfully in real life. That’s what you wrote earlier. Are you some kind of dictator?”
“Hahaha, are you scared? Just think the opposite.”
“Okay, a chubby-faced underage girl?”
“Funny. Tell me something? I’m guessing you’re very popular since you said you get hate messages from internet trolls and you don’t respond to comments.”
“Stop it. Anybody can guess as much. I just want to know what you do.”
“That’s easy. Music.”
At this, I couldn’t stop myself from imagining who he could be. Possibilities from ballad to rock singers flashed across my mind. But I couldn’t imagine which one would get hold of my books, read them, and write to me about them. Which popular singer had that kind of time? Which popular singer could find books that weren’t on display on the shelves of Barnes & Noble?
But I reasoned that I followed a lot of musicians online, and I usually commented on their pages when they posted interesting photos. It was possible that one of them had seen my comment and curiously clicked on my page. Maybe that’s how he’d gotten to know that I was a writer. Or, I could just ask him.
“Musician? Wow! But that doesn’t help me because I follow many musicians online.”
“You don’t follow me.”
“Wait, what? Then how did you find my books?”
“*Smiley face emoji*”
“No, seriously, I’m curious. How did you know that I was a writer?”
“Through a blog.”
“Sorry, can’t remember. I just recall seeing the book cover and ordering the ebook.”
“You celebs order things online by yourselves?”
“Haha, very funny.”
“Okay, and then you read the book and decided to be mean about it.”
“Not exactly. I read the book and searched for the author, and learned about her other book, purchased it and read it. Then ‘watched out’ for more of her works, since her website advised keeping up with her on social media.”
I rolled my eyes involuntarily. “Cool. So one day you decided to write to that author?”
Who is he? “Are you going to give me another clue as to who you are? If I don’t follow you, then there’s no starting point for finding you.”
“That’s actually preferable.”
“Well, I need to know who you are.”
“You will, in due time.”
I exhaled impatiently. “I have to be honest with you. I don’t feel comfortable chatting with you.”
“That is harsh.”
“It’s the truth. You’re a popular musician that I don’t follow online. It means that I have no interest in your music.”
“You don’t follow every musician that you listen to, do you?”
“But I know that you enjoy my music.”
“How is that?”
“You’ve mentioned us somewhere.”
“You’re in a band? Hmm, I guess we’re getting somewhere.”
“Yes, we are. It’s a four-man band and that’s where I’m going to stop for today. Like I said, you will know more in due time.”
“Four-man band. That’s like every band. Oh well, thanks for giving me some clues. I just hope you’re not a weirdo, because, like I said earlier, I don’t feel comfortable chatting with you.”
“I understand that, but try not to be too concerned about me. I’m not going to jump out of the screen and bite.”
“Sure, if you say so.”
“I say so. Anyway, something just came up. I have to stop now, but I’ll be sure to chat with you tomorrow.”
“Sure. Have fun.”
“I’ll try. I can’t wait for you to hear my story.”
“Can’t wait either.”
Chapter 3 (Stunned At First Meet)
I’ve had sleepless nights in my life, but this time it was due to an overactive imagination that just wouldn’t stop cooking up ideas and scenarios. The fact that I could possibly be talking to a famous person, who had something juicy to share with me, sounded like a far-fetched dream. In fact, I found myself looking at my phone multiple times a day just to make sure that I hadn’t made up the online encounter in my head.
It became a habit to just mutter, “who is he?” and then I would regain my composure and smile apologetically to people who thought I was asking them the question.
Sometimes I would find myself giddy with excitement, as I wondered why this mystery musician chose me to be his chat-buddy.
But as days went by, I started to regain my usual sense of normalcy and told myself that it was just a new wave of scam. The scam artist knew that there’d be some sad individual out there who would respond to unbelievable tales just to feel good about themselves. Pathetic. I shook my head.
And then out of the blue, another message. “Hi.”
“The thing that came up actually took you seventeen days?”
“Oooo, someone missed Mr. Weirdo.”
“I’m just saying. Your last message said we were going to chat the next day and then that didn’t happen. Not even the day after, or the day after…”
“You should have sent me a message if you missed me that much.”
“Well, I just figured you were busy being a musician.”
“I was. We had a ‘fan-meet’ in Europe with my band.”
“Fan-meet? So, you really are a popular musician?”
“You’re still skeptical, I see.”
“I’ll continue to be until I know who you are.”
“You will. Nice dress by the way. It’s a good color for you.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked as my eyes widened in confusion.
“The picture you posted yesterday.”
“Oh, that, thanks.”
“Hahaha. What did you think I meant?”
“Nothing! Are you going to start your story or what?”
“Are you mad at me?”
“Nope. I just think you’re dragging this out. I’d like to get something before you disappear again.”
“Aww, don’t be mad. I won’t disappear again, I promise. Even if I’m busy, I’ll say hi.”
“Whatever. Waiting for the story.”
“*Sad face emoji* I feel like you’re just friends with me because of my story.”
“It took you awhile to realize that. The story, please.”
“*Shocked face emoji*”
“Fine. I’m leaving.”
“Wait. I’m just thinking of the best way to narrate it. Texting will be too tedious. I’ll use voice messaging.”
My excitement ramped up so high that I feared it would burst from my head. Would I get to hear his voice or would he use those robotic voice things? Sheesh, I rolled my eyes.
“Okay,” I responded.
I saw the prompt that showed me that a message was being recorded. I waited patiently, watching my phone and breathing quietly, as though any sound would impact his recording. I get to hear how he sounds, I mused. This is actually real. This is actually happening.
After about three minutes and a few seconds, I got the voice message. Then an accompanying text message that said,
“There you go. Let’s begin from the first time I saw her.”
My eyes popped wider. “Her.” Ooooh, this is going to be good.
I clicked and listened.
He had an accent…
It was loud. There were flashes from all corners, phone cameras, and real cameras. He was concentrating on the photos and memorabilia that were placed in front of him for his autograph. His band would be playing at the Arena in the evening, but first, the fan-meet. They greeted the fans. He crooned a verse from one of their popular songs, She’s mine, which was currently number two in the country’s top-fifty music charts. The fans went wild with excitement, and he blessed them with his signature wink and lip bite.
Then came agenda number two, autograph time. They finished signing for the VIPs. This time was for the ticket holders of the second most expensive tickets. He’d mastered the art of autographing despite the noise and blinding flashes. He knew that it would be rude to put on earphones or plugs, because he needed to give his fans his attention. He was very good at drowning out sounds. He also had a rule of keeping eye contact. He focused on the faces of his fans, and not on their phones or cameras, which tended to produce lightning sparks in the form of flashes at a hundred miles per hour.
But on this day, he was a bit nervous. He fumbled twice on the lyrics during rehearsals. He knew there was nothing to be nervous about, because he wrote those verses, but the Arena had given him quite a shock, since it was the largest venue they’d ever performed in. It wasn’t his first time here, but it was the first after a major reconstruction made the venue even bigger. So as he signed autographs, he realized that he had to remind himself to smile, make eye contact, and listen intently in order to answer questions his fans asked him during their turn. But when the next person in the line came forward, a photo was placed in front of him without a word. His eyes were focused on the thighs of the pair of jeans now facing him. Smiling at the red dyed patch in the shape of a heart, he looked up.
It was when he got stamped on his foot by his bandmate sitting on his right side, that he realized that he’d been looking at her face all along.
Paralyzed was how you could describe him in that moment. It was the unusual shades of brown in her full, neck length hair. It was her large almond-shaped eyes that held the largest and darkest irises he’d ever seen. It was the oval-shaped face with a tiny nose that rose up as though she’d just argued with someone. It was those bare lips that looked too full for a face so angelic and innocent. Her long neck held a black choker with an “R” pendant. He’d just been looking at her clavicle when he felt the thud on his foot. She stared back at him, straight-faced and emotionless.
He cleared his throat, “What’s your name?” He asked as he readied his pen to sign the photo. And this photo, he noticed excitedly, was one of just him. Most fans brought one of the photos from their latest magazine shoot. A version of that group photo was being sold outside the Arena.
But she’d brought a photo of him – one of his favorites, he might add – that was taken during a solo performance a couple of years ago in Thailand. He liked that haircut, and that was a very good year for him and his band.
“Make it to Mabel-Agatha.”
His widened eyes weren’t caused by the interesting nature of both names together. It was her voice. It was the deep hoarseness of it. It didn’t fit the immaculate vision standing in front of him, dressed in an Elmo t-shirt underneath a denim jacket that was a shade darker from her pants. This girl was unusual, and he was whipped.
He cleared his throat again. “Nice names.”
She shrugged. “I don’t think they go well with each other, but I love my roommate so I can’t tell her that to her face.”
He was smiling sheepishly at a face that wasn’t smiling back, while trying so hard to look at what he was signing at the same time. He had to think twice before spelling “Agatha” and then he unknowingly started composing a poem.
When one of the security men came to push the line ahead, he noticed that he’d caused quite a holdup. He reluctantly gave her back the photo, and then watched her move to his bandmate. That was when she smiled, and his heart gave a lurch of awe and extreme disappointment at the same time.
She didn’t look his way. She only had eyes for Twine, the band’s muscular drummer.
He knew he had to concentrate on the autographs for the other fans, but it was difficult. Then she smiled again, so widely this time that he thought he was going to die because he couldn’t breathe. Twine lingered when he gave her the photo. That made him a bit furious, but he tried his best to hold it in.
It was when she disappeared into the line that he replayed their conversation in his head. “Mabel-Agatha wasn’t her name, but her roommate’s. Why didn’t she ask for him to sign a photo for her? A thought brewed in his head, but he quickly dismissed it. Even if she liked only Twine from the group, it didn’t make sense to just ask for only his autograph, did it?
She didn’t attend agenda three, photo ops. He searched the crowd frantically, looking for a girl with height at approximately five feet six inches and so many shades of brown in her hair, an Elmo t-shirt, a dark denim jacket and a gray backpack.
She wasn’t anywhere.
“Hey T, what was the name of the girl that looked like a doll with a cracked voice?”
“The one you signed for who had really full lips and was very, very happy to see you.”
Twine raised an eyebrow. “Uh, they were all very, very happy to see me.”“Ass,” he muttered in anger and walked away.
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