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Electric Love

Updated: Feb 18

Cover Photo © @VivSketchess, Vivian Rodriguez

Contents ©Rosalie Thorne






ELECTRIC LOVE

(book one of three)




From: Khylo

Subject: Midsummer Fire Festival

To my favorite Paladin,

Arthas is my Siberian Husky. I was torn between Varian or Arthas until I saw his bright blue eyes. He loves pizza as much as I do, how can he not? Though he will happily take scraps from neighbors or the sidewalk, while I much rather buy slices fresh.

When it’s warm like this I take him with me on my runs, and if I have spare time, to the dog park. Though, now that he’s no longer a puppy, he’s just as happy to be home on his huge bed in my room that’s the size of an inner tube.

How have you been liking the warm weather so far? I’m lucky not to live in the heart of the city, which means I’m not trapped in the heat. I may love Arthas, but I actually hate the unyielding frost of Winter.

Signed,

Your favorite Rogue.


From: Nhemo

Subject: Midsummer Fire Festival

To my favorite Rogue,

I’ve always wanted a dog, but my mother is allergic. Instead, I have a cat – a huge Maine Coon. (Though, is that not the Husky of the cat world?) And funnily enough, given your boy being Arthas, my girl is Jaina. She’s a sweet old lady who sits by my bedroom window most of the day. Though, I bet if we put our fur babies together, they would cuddle with each other.

I always love how far off-subject our letters get. I also love how easily we can share our lives without actually knowing about each other. Which, really does have its charms, especially when we can start random letters as if we’re in the middle of a conversation – like we’re the oldest, dearest friends.

Signed,

Your favorite Paladin.




One


With a soft groan, I roll over in my bed as if turning away from the knocks on my bedroom door will make them go away. I may have spent too long on World Of Warcraft last night and maybe had gone to bed much later than I should have. But, technically, I have one more day of real vacation before my Summer class starts. Most importantly, I’m nice and cozy and sleepy….

“Reylee!” Mom says in a sing-song manner as she opens the door, “Time to get up, honey.”

A huge sigh caves in my whole chest as I turn over. “It’s so early though!” I whine.

“And you’ll be up even earlier for your class tomorrow, now com’on! Breakfast is on the table and I have to leave for work in fifteen minutes.”

When I finally look over to her, she’s already gone, her footsteps loud on our ancient staircase, the creeks letting me know she’s halfway down. Rubbing my eyes, I try and let myself relax a little longer… even if it’s just a minute, or two… or five. I know I’ll be fine tomorrow because I’ll go to bed early tonight.

And honestly? I’ll probably fall right back asleep after she leaves. I shouldn’t, but probably will.

Well… after logging into WoW.

Smiling now, I sit up and throw my legs over the bed quickly. I check my phone: 9:30. Which means – if the history of the past year means anything – I should already have a letter waiting for me in my mailbox from Khylo. Looking over at my gaming set up near the window, I wonder, do I have enough time to check before Mom yells at me for breakfast?

“Reylee!” she answers my question with her inflection of frustration.

Though my eyes linger on my gaming desktop, I answer, “Coming!”

Throwing on my favorite blush cat hoodie over my maroon cami, I pull down my little, frilly, cream sleep shorts quickly. I swing on the curved banister, drifting straight into the kitchen. Mom is standing, as always, waiting for the Keurig to fill her travel mug, half-eaten toast in her hand.

I slide into the closest chair and start picking through the freshly cut fruit, “Thank you, Mom.”

She gives a, “Mhm!” as she watches the stream of coffee; even though it always pours the exact same amount and she uses the exact same tumbler, she’s always worried it’s going to spill over.

The toast is the nice warm bread I like, not the almost burnt Dad likes, so I do a really thin layer of butter on two slices. Trying not to think of my gaming desktop upstairs, trying not to think of jumping into the game, trying not to think of the letter waiting in my mailbox, I even take the last two chicken sausages. A full plate, my leg bounces slightly as I try to run out the clock.

Mom mouths, ‘Phone, wallet, keys,’ as she checks her purse, and when satisfied she has everything, gives a curt nod. She comes over to me, cups my chin, and kisses my hair, “All right, don’t forget I have a doctor’s appointment and your father works a double, so we’ll both be home late.” She holds on to my chin, raising it slightly, “Please try and do something productive today, won’t you? Maybe looking through your class syllabus? Instead of being on that game all day, yes?”

Full mouth, I don’t have to lie, offering a, “Mmm,” in response.

Not at all convinced, we both know she doesn’t have time to give me a lecture. She calls, “I love you!” from down the hall.

“Love you, too!” I call after her.

Door closed. Door locked. I hop up from the table, plate in hand, to peer out the window, watching Mom pull out of the driveway. Giving her time to come back if she forgot something… a couple of minutes later and it really seems like she’s gone.

Falling into my lavender Joyfly chair so hard it moves, the last bit of my sausage almost falls off my plate. Scooted back to center, I put the plate in my lap and get everything going. Loving the gaming desktop I built this past Christmas, everything is almost instant (which is such a change and relief from having the hand-me-down laptop I’d had for so long).

Of course, the WoW process is a little longer than I like, so I try and finish my breakfast in the meantime. Finally! Finally, I’m on and in and pop right out of my hearthstoned inn and to the mailbox.


From: Khylo

Subject: Okay, really, Midsummer Fire Festival

To my favorite Paladin,

I know we both said we have stuff to do tomorrow, but did you want to try and squeeze in the Festival? I should be free between eleven and three.

Also… what did you think about creating new chars for a Classic server?

From your favorite Rogue.


Super smiley and… well, with a little bit of butterflies, I check if he’s still on. Unfortunately not, I’m quick to write a letter back before hopping in the shower.

Logging off and letting my gaming desktop go to sleep, I head into the bathroom for my Monday shower. Happily distracted, I totally forget to switch the facet from tub to shower as the water warms. I really do wonder if he will want to do another Rogue and Pally, which we have perfected, or if he’ll want to branch out. If so…, what should I even try?


---


Black joggers on, still tryin’ to dry my hair with a hand towel, I close my bedroom door with a hard swing. Arthas picks his head up and the noise, but then quickly goes back to snoozin’ as I ease into my black S-Racer chair. I’m in a rather good mood, which means he doesn’t have to curl around my legs for comfort.

Though I had cut my stream early, last night was still rather successful, given that I got to raid with Nhemo. Her being oh-so-helpful in my obsession to get the Cursed Vision Of Sargeras for my Rogue. Then, before my run this mornin’, I sent her a letter to try and set up plans for tomorrow.

Eyein’ my phone… 10 o’clock. Knowing her she’s probably still sleepin’, but, still, I click on my computer just in case.

Only to hear the shrill, “Benji! Don’t forget, you promised to clean the patio before your school starts tomorrow!”

I had thought I timed out my run and shower perfectly enough, with Pops openin’ the shop, and Ma out droppin’ off Skai and Walker with Uncle Lucas, but apparently not. With a grimace, I holler, “A’ight, Ma! I’ll get it today… I swear.”

I’m only takin’ one Summer class, but she’s treating it like a new semester…. It’s like, Jesus, I’m still going to have plenty of time for them to take advantage of the fact I’m their son. Working downstairs can be pretty chill… but it can also be a pain in the ass when the popular crowd from school treat it like a Starbucks. And now that it’s Summer? They’ll probably be comin’ in every day.

But! But… that’s a problem for future me. Right now, I get to log into Warcraft.


From: Nhemo

Subject: Okay, really, Midsummer Fire Festival

To my favorite Rogue,

I should be home by eleven! That would be totally awesome if you want to do all the MFF tasks together. As I mentioned in chat last night, I want to try and get as many Burning Blossoms as possible so I can get all the goodies. Maybe actually get the Flame Warden title this year.

Also… I would love that! I know you were on the fence about making another Rogue and Pally, but from what I was reading, I think you would really like it (and it’s different enough).

From your favorite Paladin.


In the middle of writin’ a letter back, I get a whisper.


Hey!

Hey you.

I was just writing a letter back.

Oh?


Knowin’ she likes the letters as much as I do and rememberin’ the one night she confessed to keepin’ them all, I finish it out.


Sent!

Yay!

I’m only going to be on for a few minutes…

But did you want to play tomorrow? For the MFF?

I’m down.

We’ll get you the Fire Warden title, and get me the Cursed Vision.

Lmao, at least mine won’t take months.

I can’t believe it still hasn’t dropped yet!


But just as I’m about to type back, it’s Pops that calls up the stairs this time, “Benjamin! The morning rush is over.” Which is his way of sayin’ that I should clean the patio now.

Knowin’ better than to argue that I have all day to do it, I clench my jaw and roll my eyes and holler back, “A’ight! I’ll be down in a sec.”


Looks like I gotta hop off too.

And I have an early morning tomorrow so IDK about tonight.

But tomorrow?

Tomorrow, def.

Sweet! TTYL!

TTYL


And just like that my little pocket of sunshine, my ray of hope, and my little happy haze from the night before and quite mornin’ is gone.



Two


-Rey-


The little script rolls to the bottom of the chat telling me that Khylo had logged off. I hadn’t lied about only being on for a few minutes, my bestest friend forever, Rose Tran, having texted that she wanted to hang out before my class starts. Still… I’m sad we’re not able to keep chatting. I’ve wanted, a few times now, to suggest we move to texting – like in the real world, with our phones or social media. But, well, there’s a safety in the anonymity, in our little fantasy world, and even if I made a specific account just to talk to him, that’s still rather real, isn’t it?

Cropped hoodie off for just a moment, I trade out the worn and holey sleep cami with a little pink satin bralette. Then I switch out my bottoms for light-wash jean shorts. Since they’re a little big around my hourglass waist, I grab my brown belt with the silver heart buckle. Last little touch, (that my mom hates), is my pink, faux leather garter – but it has a silver heart that matches the belt buckle! So, how can I not? (I’d taken off the strap that attaches to anything, anyway, so it’s there like a bracelet… just on my thigh.)

Unable to decide between my pastel pink or pastel blue Converse, I pick my favorite light pink Michael Kors Lita crossbody first. Able to mix metals thanks to my Slate Hendrix ear cuff, I put in both gold and silver earrings. Hair half up in a top knot, I wonder if I should get a trim again since the lengths are past my shoulder.

When there’s a loud knock on the door, I say fuck it and go for the pink Converse, really leaning into my favorite color. Rose is leaning against the porch post, scrolling on her phone, while I lock up the door. Then she slips it into the pocket of her overall dress, “Hey chickadee!”

I give her a one-arm hug before heading down the steps, “Hey lady! You want to head to Andrew’s Coffee House first?”

“Obviously!” she laughs.


-Ben-


As I should have anticipated, cleanin’ the patio turned into workin’ the counter when Ma got called in to cover a shift at the nursing home and Pops had to run down to the market for more prosciutto for the paninis. But no, I didn’t hope for the best and prepare for the worst, I had just thought I could do a rush job of outside and then take Arthas to the dog park as an excuse to get out of the house. So here I am, coverin’ the weird in-between of breakfast and lunch.

I hear their giggles before I see them. Two girls from my high school lazily makin’ their way in, eyein’ the displays as if they’re not going to get just coffee. I recognize the one girl from the used books and record shop, (who apparently has no idea about music and Hux complains about all the time), and her friend sort of seems familiar.

One earbud in, I scroll through my Spotify to try and find somethin’ far more entertainin’ than this.

“Uh, hello?” the short, plumper girl asks with a little too much attitude.

Leanin’ against the back counter, I only flick my eyes up, “Mhm?”

Book shop girl, who always wears a lot of pink, smiles kindly, “Could we get two coffees, please?”

I don’t budge and don’t look up from tryin’ to pick a song, “What kind?”

“A medium white chocolate frappe, please.”

“Oh!” her friend comments, “A frappe does make more sense, with the heat and all.”

Yeah, no fuck.

“Or an iced coffee?” she wonders aloud.

Startin’ my My Chains Are Broken playlist with Cat Girls Are Ruining My Life!, I try and drown her out. They have a little bit of a back-and-forth and finally she giggles, “All right! Fine, I’ll get a frappe, too.”

I repeat, “What kind?”

“Oh, um… large Nutella.”

I put my phone down by the register, “A’ight,” and love that I can turn my back for the process.


-Rey-


Of course, I know the boy behind the counter, I even know his name is Benjamin Organo. He’s in the same grade as me and used to drive a motorcycle to school (until his accident that caused the scar on his face). I know he always seems grumpy, and though he’s tall, with high muscle mass, falls under the eboy aesthetic.

Today being no exception. With his black tank top, his dark wash jeans with holes, his legit-looking combat boots, and his signature gunmetal chain necklace, bracelet, and ring set. When he pushes back the right side of his black mane, I notice his earbud, (which makes more sense why he was so focused on his phone).

Rose, and a lot of the other cheerleaders, automatically dislike him and his crowd. Which is rather stereotypical high school. I don’t know that I ever felt any sort of way about him… until he almost got me fired my first week at Mary’s Books And Records, using his friendship with Gleeson ‘Hux’ Huxtable, because I was having trouble sorting the vinyl correctly.

Plus, after having such a wonderful evening and morning though, his cloud of… darkness is kind of annoying. Like, why does he even work here if he hates it so much? But being the nice and polite girl I am, I smile and offer a wave in farewell, “Thank you!”

A couple of shops down South 9th Street, Rose hovers before continuing, “We heading to your work?”

I nod, enjoying a long sip, “Mhm. I wanted to pick up my hold items before Hux puts them back.”

She gives the biggest eye roll, “He’s such an ass. He should let you hold stuff for two weeks, not one… so you can get to your paycheck.”

I try and shrug it off, not really wanting to argue, to add to the lingering negativity. “It’s worth buying that signed Stardust today,” even if it is me borrowing from the future. “With Good Omens and the new Sandman show, we can barely hold on to his stuff.”

“Oh! When does that come out again? Dameron has all the comics.”

“August… 5th I believe?”

Phone out, probably sending him a text, she nods a little, “Cool. Before school, so he’ll be able to binge it.”

I snort, “He would have binged it regardless.” Across the street, I bump into her softly, “Speaking of mister loverboy Dameron Estrada, how’s that going anyway?”

She gives a look – the same look she always gives me when I ask that sort of question. The look of ‘don’t pressure me to be in a relationship with him’, even though that’s not at all what I mean. I don’t care that they’re friends-with-benefits, I just care that she’s respected and happy. “We’re good.”

“Good! Sucks that he had to go to his dad’s all next month until school.”

“What is even in Ohio, anyway? Corn apparently.”

Finally at work, I toss my empty cup in the garbage can and hold the door open for her, “Corn and astronauts.”

She laughs, “People who hated Ohio so much that they had to go to space.”

Totally ignoring Hux, we go straight to the back. I pop behind the curtain and grab my little stack. Even though he probably can’t hear us, Rose and I hover, with hushed voices. “What about you? Maybe you could meet someone in your class tomorrow and have a Summer fling.”

I don’t want to agree but I also don’t want to tell her why. How can I tell her that all my romantic attention is on someone I haven’t even met? Someone I don’t even know what they look like or anything?

Instead, I act like I’m double-checking my books, “Uh, ah, yeah… maybe.”

She peaks forward, looking around the bookcase that is blocking us. Then, back, she raises her brows, “Or… are you still hung up on that gamer dude?”

Trying not to flush, my heart rate does kick up. “What? No, of course not. I don’t even know him.”

Her laughter is a little burst, “Except that he lives in Philly… and he’s in high school and he’s always willing to play with you as soon as he sees you’re online.

“Oh! And!” she snaps her fingers, “That he has a dog. Isn’t that what you talked about last week? Named after some character… just like how your cat is named after some character?”

Totally blushing, I look at all the shelves even though I know I wouldn’t want anything in this section. “Well, yeah, okay, so?”

She smirks, “So? I think you spend just as much time playing with him as you hang out with me.”

I hug my books against my chest, knowing that she only knows the tip of the iceberg. What I hadn’t told her, though almost had gushed about on several occasions, is that we also have very similar tastes in other video games, books, and even movies. What I hadn’t told her, though almost had gushed about, is that sometimes he had I go sit in this little garden in the back of Cathedral Square or on the wall looking out over Stormwind Harbor and pick music to listen to at the same time and just… chill together, sometimes talking about nothing, sometimes talking about important things.

“And this is all without being on a role-play server,” Rose says as if she can read my mind.

But, again, this is all without real life, one could find you on the internet even, personal details. I don’t even know his name! Just that he’s Khylo of the Knights Of Renn, (our guild).


-Ben-


Finally out and about, after doin’ all my other work outs, I finish my run on the gym treadmill and let the cool down begin. Hux, who is only walkin’ on the machine next to me, swats at my arm. Turning down E-Girls Are Ruining My Life!, I raise my brows at him, “What’s up?”

“You doing okay?”

I lift a shoulder, “Eh.”

“… work?”

I take a huge swig of water. Then, “Yeah. Even though I’m makin’ enough money on my own, I’m roped into the fuckin’ Coffee House out of family obligation.”

He nods slowly, never knowin’ what to say when I bitch and moan about family and all that bull shit. After takin’ a look around, probably desperate to find a subject to cheer me up, he asks, “What about that girl?”

Actually confused, I ask, “What girl?”

“Naomi or whatever.”

I squint, “Naomi?” I hop on the sides of my machine, “Do you mean Nhemo?”

He smiles and points at me, “Yeah! Your gamer girl.”

Instantly feelin’ a warmth in my chest, a little too happy to hear ‘my gamer girl’. I try not to smile, “I talked to her this mornin’ a little bit… we’re goin’ to do some questin’ tomorrow.”

He cocks a brow, “Have you thought about moving off game? Like, maybe to Snapchat or something?”

Hesitant to respond, I check my treadmill is actually off before hoppin’ down. He follows, “Com’on… you seem to like her and she’s a serious gamer, isn’t that enough?” he chuckles.

But I frown, “What if she’s one of those fuckin’ uwu cat girls?”

He crosses his arms over his chest, “Does she seems like she’d be one of those girls?”

Thinking back to all our letters, all our conversations, and all our late nights… “I mean, no?”

After wipin’ down our machines, we head towards the exit. As Hux holds the door for me, he comments, “I mean, obviously she’s important to you because you cut your streams early to play with her. Though, I don’t know why you haven’t asked her to be in your stream.”




From: Nhemo

Subject: Whoa

To my favorite Rogue,

I think I might actually be up earlier than you! Has this ever happened before? Even during the school year, I always have a letter waiting from you when I get home. This is crazy hehe.

Anyway! I overestimated how much time I needed to get ready – so here I am. Though I am excited about my plans for this morning, I also can’t wait to start the Fire Festival with you! (I’m on before it even starts so I couldn’t even get ahead.)

Hope you have a good day!

Your favorite Paladin.


From: Khylo

Subject: Whoa

To my favorite Paladin,

I’ll have you know, you beat me by ten minutes, you brat! If I hadn’t grabbed breakfast first, I probably would have been on at the same time. You are up early though… everything okay?

I double-checked and I should be home by eleven and then I’ll have about four? Hours – maybe three and a half, until work. I think we could get a decent amount of FF stuff done. I’ll have the same schedule on Thursday too….

What’s your tomorrow looking like, though?

Your favorite Rogue.




Three


-Rey-


Not the first one in the room, thank God, I quickly but carefully try to pick a seat out of the five rows of ten computers. There is a whiteboard across the front of the computer lab and there’s a projector hanging from the ceiling, but that doesn’t mean what’s going to be shown will be zoomed in…. But I also hate sitting in front because then I can’t tell if I’m being called on or if it’s someone behind me.

Aiming for the middle row, but all way in against the wall, I’ll have full visibility. Once I sit down, my nervousness finally fades, letting my excitement rise. Not just because of the subject matter and actually getting to learn from a teacher instead of trying to teach myself, but I also get to have a taste of what college life will be like.

Yes… this is good. School is good, my job is good, and everything with my new gaming setup is good. Family is good, friends are good… Khylo and I are good. It may be a busy Summer, but at least it’ll be very productive and positive.

Since we still have a few minutes, I start going through my new planner, which I picked up at the Barnes And Noble College this morning, and I start transferring all the stuff from my phone. Though I can’t do the official cheerleading camp this year, I do need to start getting back into my exercise routine starting in June. Making a note for the next Friday, I need to renew my gym membership.

Luckily, it isn’t too expensive… though I should probably cut back on the coffees with Rose. Or buying books every week. Or maybe put off getting all the things I would not really need, but want, to start streaming.

Lost in thought over expenses and how I really should be saving more than I already do for college, especially since all the Ivys I want to go to are far away and I’ll need a car that will last more than one Winter, I’m not really aware of the rest of the class filling in. Only when the teacher calls for everyone’s attention do I look around. … not too bad a turn out actually, maybe half? Of the fifty seats are full.

Looking out at us, the middle-aged, stereotypical New England academic introduces himself with a, “Hello there. I’m Professor McGregor.”

He tussles his brown-grey hair and then pushes up his grey sweater sleeves, “Welcome to my Summer class that is specifically for high school students. I do believe we have students from all the Philly highs,” he comments softly, almost more to himself.

He starts pacing along the front row slowly, “This used to be an intro to coding class, but I’ve found over the past few years that most of you already have a good foundation. With all the material available in literature and online, we really aren’t starting from square one. So, this really has become a beginners class… so regardless of your level of know-how, this is the best starting place – and the pre-req for the rest of the college classes available.”

He stops back at his little desk, sitting on the edge. “Unfortunately with this being a Summer semester, we’re looking at an eight-week class instead of sixteen. In the past, I’ve found that it’s best to pair you up so that the course load is a little bit easier and you have someone to communicate with if you’re having trouble.

“So, without further ado!” and then he points to the end chairs in the front row. “You two will be partners,” then the next two chairs in, “you two,” then the two outside of the middle, “you two,” and then the two in the middle, “and you two.”

He does the same thing for the ten people in the second row. Then he points to me and all the way down the line, to someone I can’t really see, “Which means you two will be partners,” and then he continues.

Once the room is evenly divided, with twenty-eight of us total, everyone starts moving and rearranging – spreading out through the whole room. My row clears out completely and when I look down to see if my partner is coming my way or if I should get up or if we’re going to meet in the middle and –

“Oh no,” I whisper.

It’s fucking Benjamin.

With his black hood up, in black sweatpants with a red stripe tucked into his combat boots, with no supplies and only a Red Bull, he stares me down.


-Ben-


Fuckin’ really? Pink girl. The girl that works with Hux, Riley? Rebecca? Rory? It is an R, isn’t it? The one who doesn’t know shit about music. Fuckin’ head cheerleader or some shit… always hangin’ out with the popular assholes.

I know that the pickin’ of partners was completely random, but what the fuck? She’s the only other person from my school… there are literally twenty-six other people I rather work with. To work with someone I don’t know means there is no bias – we can focus on our work and that’s it.

Like, fuck… why is she even in this class? Does she know anythin’ about coding? About computers at all? God, she probably has a fuckin’ rose gold Mac. As I watch her make her way over, I realize she’s totally goin’ to drag me down.

She hesitantly moves the chair next to mine. Sittin’, she situates all her stuff, includin’ a pink purse with cat ears? Does she even know it’s based on the Sailor Moon cat?

“Hey.”

“‘Sup?”

Luckily Professor McGregor starts roll call to cut our conversation short. Askin’ if we have preferred names, when it gets to her, she corrects Reylee McDeermid to, “Just Rey is good, thank you!”

And when he gets to me, I correct Benjamin to, “Ben is fine.”

I crack my knuckles absently, hopin’ she’ll at least try to help with whatever the project is. Though doin’ it all myself might be better, I’d really hate to be that guy and have to tell the professor she didn’t do anythin’. I mean, I may be part of the alternative crowd with a rather Slytherin attitude about havin’ people close, but that doesn’t mean I’m an asshole.

… most of the time.

“Well! Now that everyone is situated, let’s get started.”

After spendin’ more than half the class time goin’ over the syllabus, expectations, university guidelines, and the policies on borrowin’ the external hard drives for our project, he finally gets to the good stuff.

“This class, you all will be building an app. Since I’ve been doing this for almost a decade now, we already have the basics built for you and I encourage you to take inspiration from something that already exists. The focus here is that you learn how to craft with purpose, get a good grasp on functionality, and come up with a real design. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but it does have to work by August, all right?”

Then he started takin’ questions. It’s Rey who breaks the silence, “So… what do you think our app should be? We could do something like Insta or TikTok… where people could build a profile and upload pictures and videos?”

Of course, she would want to stay in her comfort zone… probably Insta famous and on top of all the TikTok dances. I try really hard not to roll my eyes. Instead, I take a long sip of my drink.

Kind of as a dig? Kind of because I feel like I’m goin’ to be doin’ all the work? “What about a mix between Shazam and Spotify? You can have it listen to a song and then you can directly add it to a playlist?”

Maybe because she’s intimidated – either by me or the work ahead? She smiles a little and starts writin’ down in her little notebook, “That could be really cool.”

Shovin’ my hands in my hoody pockets I lean back, draggin’ one heel of my boot across the carpet, “Cool.”

I notice her rose gold mechanical pencil twitch against the paper as she slightly taps it. Then it seems like we take the same exact moment to look at the clock up front to see how much class time we have left.


-Rey-


Still with fifteen minutes left, Ben and I sit silently, staring forward at the still black screens on the table. Professor McGregor is dealing with questions and it seems like we really won’t have anything to do or start or whatever until our next class on Thursday.

I mean. I guess it’s lucky we got stuck together? At least we live down the street from each other, which will make any homework easy enough. Plus, if he’s in this class, he probably has a desktop as good as mine, which means we might not need to come to campus at all.

But, I mean… our, albeit limited, interactions he’s kind of an asshole? Don’t know that I would go as far as to say loner, loser, because I know he’s friends with Hux and I’ve seen him in the lunchroom at a full table. He definitely has this edge to him that will get very frustrating to deal with.

At least the app plan is cool. Khylo has definitely broadened my horizons when it comes to music, even to the point that I’m shelving things perfectly at work now. So yeah… I can talk to him to try to get a wide variety of songs and artists for our app test run to be able to recognize.

Though… I don’t know if I’ll tell him about the project. He’s a streamer and super into computers and I’m so new to all of this that I kind of don’t want to embarrass myself. Plus, then I’d have to tell him about the class, which I think crosses the line of being too specific since it would be super easy to Google.

Professor McGregor dismisses us right as my phone alarm goes off to mark the end of class. Ben is quick to rise and leave without saying goodbye, which is whatever. Because! Because now I get to get home and hop on WoW and have my sort of Fire Festival date with Khylo.


-Ben-


Missin’ my motorcycle so much, I slouch down in the back seat and try to hide when I see Rey hop on the bus. Just another thirty minutes… just another thirty minutes and I’ll be home and I’ll be able to hop on Warcraft and play with Nhemo. She’s super excited about the Fire Festival and she’s been waitin’ all year….

We had been in the guild together for a while. But it wasn’t until one of the main raiders asked in guild chat if anyone new anythin’ about Philly that we started talking. That was… mm, May? April? Of last year. She had the goal last Summer to get as many achievements as possible, and I don’t know how Fire Warden slipped by us.

Granted I had gotten that a few years back, so I guess I just didn’t think about it. But we spent all Summer runnin’ around to fill in her maps completely and doin’ all the quests in each zone. She even got me into pet battling, since she loved collectin’ them so much.

It was when school started up again that we did actually get sort of personal, telling each other that we were both in high school. This year she’s seventeen, while I’m nineteen, but we’re both seniors. … one particularly lonely February night this year I did Google how many high schools are in Philadelphia, and there are way too many. (Which is what kind of deterred me from tryin’ to snoop any further.)

And thinkin’ about her letter last week, I kind of agree. This whole anonymous pen pal stuff is rather charming. I’ve probably spilled my heart out to her more than anyone else in my life… and it’s great that I don’t know her. She’s just this incredibly sweet, kind, generous, funny, adorable girl that I get to let out all my pent-up romantic-ness with. That I don’t have to do the whole PDA thing at school, that I don’t have to take out and waste money on, that I don’t have to try and read her body language or question her inflection.

Yup… just… ten more minutes and I’ll be back with my Nhemo.


-Rey-


Khylo wasn’t on when I started the game, so decided to throw a load of laundry in the wash. Then I finished loading and ran the dishwasher. With a daytime AC set to seventy-seven, it isn’t too bad in the house and luckily my bedroom gets morning Sun instead of afternoon.

In my comfy, grey velvet bicycle shorts, my softest lilac cami, with an oversized, long sleeve, white linen tee, I sit down back at my gaming desktop with a fresh glass of chocolate milk. Which I had to be careful not to spill with my laughter when I see Khylo dancing in front of my toon and a stream of whispers.


Pst.

Hey.

Where are you?

Nhemoooo.

Brat, stop being AFK.

Lmao How did you even find me?

This is your hearthstone inn, silly.


Feeling my heart explode, I type back quickly after accepting his party request.


Well, hi!

Are you ready for some questing?


He stops dancing and starts jumping up and down.


Been ready! Let’s goooo!

Stormwind first?

Of course!


And we hop on the Redridge Mountains birds heading west. As I watch him flying just that much farther ahead of me, I realize that yeah class may not have been perfect, but today is a good day. It was silly of me to let some guy affect my mood so much.


-Ben-


Takin’ the time in the air to switch over to Spotify, I start my Playing With No-One playlist. Legends by The Score starts the pumpin’ up strong, makin’ me get totally in the zone to be jazzed and ready to kick ass however Nhemo needs me to. And perfectly enough….


Any new music suggestions, BTW?

Mmm, what about The Score?

Jumping all the way down to the S’s?

I thought that was going to take at least the Summer.


Smilin’ to myself, I reply.


Oh, I know you love it though.

Hehe.

So, The Score?

I don’t think I’ve heard of them.

They’re kind of small.

Rockin’ shit though.

I think they’d be good to add to your workout playlist.

Ooo, there are a few albums, too.


Which I know is kind of important to her, seein’ at how disappointed she was that Corpse Husband and Arankai only have a handful of singles, (though became that much happier when we found Archers).


Okay! Which songs am I adding to the playlist?

Legend, Unstoppable, Revolution, Higher, Miracle, Strange, Stronger, Glory, and Born For This.


Still standin’ next to the drop-off point in Stormwind, I give her all the time she needs to get the songs added. Waitin’ to ask if she’s going to listen to them now so I can restart my playlist (and we can listen to them together), I idly try to find the Fire Warden achievement task list.


Okay! Good to go!

… should we listen together?


Huge smile on my face, I nod even though she can’t see me. And maybe it’s the music but I finally add a particular word to my chat with her….


-Rey-


Of course, babe.


“Babe?” I whisper to myself. And then, I may or may not have squeed in response.


Sounds good, muffin.

Heh, muffin?

Like stud muffin ;)

I like it. And it’s accurate.

I did tell you I basically look like my char.


Pale, light eyes, with black, shoulder-length hair, and a short beard. I laugh a little.


Even the beard?

I can get some stubble.

It’s my Italian roots.


The only other time he’s spoken directly about his appearance, he mentioned being compared to Adam Driver around the time the Gucci movie was being released. Putting it all together, yeah… stud muffin applies.

Just outside of the gates, standing in front of the bonfire, I take a minute to look at my toon. I had just updated my hair last week to shoulder length with the side part. Even my outfit is all coordinated since I finally found all the pieces for my trans-mog.


-Ben-


And I basically look like mine so…

Good pairing, I think.

Even the purple eyes?

Well, no!

But that’s the only one with freckles.


I try and remember that actress she compared herself to. The one in… ah, what was that movie, Ophelia? I pull my phone up real quick, Daisy Ridley does sound familiar. And Daisy Ridley with freckles would be very beautiful indeed.


You’re right, though.

Good pairing.




TO BE CONTINUED in the novel...

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