“So, all of it was just a lie?”
I could see disappointment and anger fight for control of her eyes. “No, of course not,” I answered. “Not all.”
I knew it was the wrong thing to say as soon as those last two words slipped out my mouth. Silence fell like a guillotine between us, severing the connection between us. Brynn stared at me for seconds that seemed like eons. She closed her eyes and was breathing deeply. I was on pins and needles, awaiting her next reaction.
Then she reacted. She spun and began stomping away across the field toward the parking lot. I dropped the blanket and basket on the grass and followed right after her.
“Brynn,” I called out from close behind her. “Let me explain.”
Still moving with dispatch, she said, “There is no explanation.”
“Please,” I begged. I reached out to touch her shoulder. “Please.”
She stopped, but did not turn to face me. Okay, so I would have a chance to explain. To the back of her head.
Either way, I’d have a chance to explain. But how would I explain in a way that Brynn would accept? What I had done I thought was fairly standard. I shaved a few years and a few pounds, and I added a few inches. To my height, I added a few inches to my height. How would I know that the woman who described herself online as a five foot, five inch, one hundred and twenty-eight pound, twenty-three year-old blond would turn out in real life to be a five foot, five inch, one hundred and twenty-eight pound, twenty-three year-old blond.
I walked around Brynn and stood directly before her. Certainly invading her personal space, I said softly, “I had no idea that I would actually meet a real person. I did not know it would get this serious.”
“The picture,” she said softly. Clearly she was disappointed. And frankly I would not blame her.
“I sucked in my stomach,” I admitted. “And took of my glasses.”
She laughed at her shoes and shook her head. I felt my own shoulders slump. It was over. She was going to keep on walking. She raised her head slowly, and I found her eyeing me carefully. She leaned in, her bright green eyes boring into mine. “Is it really you in there?”
I nodded slowly. “It’s me, Brynn.”
“And your name really is Mitch?”
I nodded. “And you really are an architect?”
I nodded again.
She set her face firm. “Is there anything else you need to explain?”
“No,” I replied adamantly. I did not think there was, but who could remember every chat? “I am so sorry. I just never thought--”
“I think I understand,” she said, her eyes softening. “I am a little hurt, truth be told, but I think I understand.”
“Thank you,” I said, hoping I sounded as sincere as I was.
“So, do you want to have a picnic?” she asked with a smile.
I put my arms on her shoulders and spun her back the direction we had come from. “I think there’s a basket and a blanket up this way.”
“Come un, come on,” I muttered to my computer. I watched the messages roll past on my monitor. Too many, way too many. And they rolled by way too slowly.
Would this damn thing ever boot up? If there was any chance that slapping my computer upside its head would have sped up its processor, I would have done so. But no, I had to be patient. My forehead had already patiently broken out in a rolling sweat. My toe was patiently tapping a card core punk beat into the hardwood floor of my bedroom. My heart was patiently pounding away at one hundred and seventy-three beats per minute. And my mind was patiently replaying every nanosecond of my time with Brynn in super fast forward mode.
Okay, the main screen was finally up. God, don’t let the cable be down tonight. Please. I was on fire and sped to my email program. It beeped a happy beep. “You have seven new messages,” the computer synthesized voice reported. My heart leapt. No, it was too soon for her to be home. But I checked anyway. Junk, junk, junk, junk, my mom, junk and junk. Let’s be honest – mom’s message could wait. I took a deep breath, then took a second. Then I started composing.
“Brynn,” I typed, “I cannot thank you enough for showing up today. That act alone spoke volumes about your faith in me, and your trust in me. I can’t express how sorry I am that I fell short of your faith and trust. But you stayed. I owe you so much for staying. I do not know how to repay that faith you showed in me. But I hope to earn that faith, to grow into it. I know that I began today by disappointing you, and I hope that the rest of the day alleviated those feelings. I con only say that I had a great day with you at the park. You are a wonderful human being, Brynn, and I want to keep on knowing you. I want to keep on knowing you. Mitch.”
I sat back and closed my eyes tightly against the strain. I was beat. It was a long, draining, exhausting day. I re-read the note. Of course it was not as good as the ten messages I had composed in my head on the way back into town. But wasn’t that the way it always was? I held my breath and clicked on “send.”
I stumbled into the bathroom and splashed water on my face. As late as it was and as beaten as I was, this was the closest thing I would get to “getting ready” for bed. I flopped onto my bed and felt myself starting to drift. Damn, I left the desk light on. Eventually that would bother me, but I was too dog-tired to get out of bed now. And in the midnight silence I heard the fan on the computer whirr and the monitor hum. I should turn that off, too. In three or four hours, those noises would really annoy me. But they were not even close to keeping me up now. Nothing could keep me awake now. Nothing could keep me from drifting into sleep. It felt so good to feel the waves of calm and overwhelm me.
Then I heard the tone and the computer voice. “You have one new message.”
I jumped from the bed, wide awake.