Pretense

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Standing at the brink of Utopia, its foreign soil lunged at her body and whispered sweet sounds of tranquil victory. Its restless ocean glided in her direction, never losing sight of her graceful, but apprehended shadow. Its gentle zephyr mapped the contours of her body, penetrating her innocent beauty and magnifying its brilliant shimmer. It mocked her, stalked her, and provoked her. It wouldn’t cease to perpetuate its resonance as if only her compliance could put an end to its madness. Nevertheless, its land was an asylum for both prisoners and kangaroos alike. She liked to think of herself as the latter. She looked up at the banner that seemed to wink at her, “Welcome to Australia.”
She entered a bleak coffee shop adjacent to the white doves encompassing a certain prolific Sydney opera house. It did well to put her in her place. After all, in this austere edifice she was no longer a poignant, charming seventeen year old internet prodigy. Here, she was a blossoming, shrewd seventeen year old nonentity, trapped in a fourteen year old body. Her eyes shifted from the sound of sweet, aromatic coffee beans dripping in fat, bulky chunks to the empty, ineffectual presence of immaculate tables. She looked down at her watch. Five more minutes.
She took a seat by the store window, starring out at the congested streets to fulfill an inscrutable, blazing desire for emancipation. She had to let him know. She looked at her watch again. Thirty seconds. There was still no sign of him. She began to ponder if he had figured it out. Eric Coulter was no fool. But his devotion to her was steadfast and delightfully honest. He never once said “I love you” or “You are beautiful.” Instead, he praised her in meaningful ways, showering her with accolades of her sheer brilliance as a conversationalist and administrator of Australia’s premier fan forum. She thought: this was true love. But, she also overlooked that this was all in his job description as her faithful moderator, a ranking of prestige and excellence that she had bestowed upon him a few years ago. Still, he never ceased to admire her strength and persistence of mind, body, and soul. But what difference did that make? He’s always wanted a sister.
For years, he’s stood in front of a mirror, sharing his true shadow to even the most repugnant of apathetic strangers while she meticulously shielded hers from both intimate confidantes and supercilious acquaintances. He believed her to be a naïve girl at seventeen years old who counted on his friendship and guidance to eradicate the burdens of her existence. Day after day, she piled from dirt to pebble, pebble to stone, then stone to boulder on his strong, immutable shoulders. All her struggles and his were joined by a delicate bond, so loose yet difficult to break. She never declared this bond or acknowledged the acid seeping through her body every time he mentioned the words “girlfriend” or “love.” She resolved that she would stand as Invictus and he as Romeo.

Despite this resilient bond, time and distance brought them apart just as its intrigue had brought them together. He yearned for a passionate existence beyond stolid computers and predictable, online parasites. He once told her: “Moderating this forum was a blessing, but it’s hopeless to chase after an unrequited, chimerical love. I need to move on.” Subsequently, he took a leave of absence and vanished from her life for four long, arduous months. His photos, his sagacious words, and his passion for living never ceased to vanquish from the pigments of her memory and imagination. It was this prolonged hiatus that helped her gather the courage to compose two letters. One of them was an application for an Australian summer volunteer program and the other was a request to meet Eric Coulter, live and in person.

She looked down at her watch once more. Ten past nine. There’s no denying it, he must know. She took a deep breath and stood up from the table, prepared to jettison out of this foreign country in justified shame. But at that moment, she saw the body of a warm, familiar man take a seat at the table next to her. His hard, dark blue eyes stayed true to her phantasmal fantasies as a testament to his depth of mind that persevered with abandon. But they were surrounded by dark black holes filled with indifference. His body leaned against the shadows of the copious sunlight, embellishing its vigor and luminosity. He had a light, fluid ease of motion as his fingers navigated on the wheel of his Blackberry. In his other hand, was an intricate, deranged blend of Frappuchino that matched his disheveled attire and lethargic demeanor.

“Excuse me. But is there a reason why you’ve been starring at me for the past fifteen minutes? Do I know you?”

She immediately swept up and found herself face to face with the blue eyed, handsome stranger. His voice sounded even more bewitching in person.

“No. Sorry. I was actually looking at your Blackberry. I’ve always wanted one just like it.” She replied. She mentally slapped herself in the face. That’s not what she meant to say.

“Oh really? They are actually quite common these days.” He laughed. He paused and looked at her for a moment. “Say, is that an American accent? Are you Elise Takahashi from the Official Australian Idol Forums?”

Say yes! Say yes! The words she meant to say reiterated in her head over and over, yielding no mercy to her trembling heart.

“No. I’m not her.”

He blinked. “That’s too bad. She was supposed to meet me here. I ran a little late so she must have left.” He stood up and began to head towards the exit. Her mind continued to race, she couldn’t let him go now. Don’t worry. Just say it. He’ll understand. You were young. You couldn’t have told him or anyone else who you really were. You were protecting yourself! It is the internet after all. Besides, he loves you, Eric Coulter loves you. You want this, don’t you? You want him. Just say it and he’s yours.

“Wait.”

He turned around and threw her a small, hopeful smile.

“I… I mean I’m… You see what I’ve been trying to tell you is that… I… I…” she stumbled. “I’m American. Yes, that’s what I am. I’m trying to… I want to know… that … umm…what drink you ordered! It looks good! What is it?”

“Mint Chocolate Chip. It’s excellent, you should try it.” He said, visibly disappointed.

“Yes I think I will.” She sighed.

“Cheers mate!”
He gave her a soft smile and left the coffee shop. She watched him leave with incredulity. She was astonished by the sudden deprivation of her preeminent audacity. How did the young, tenacious founder, part time administrator, and businesswomen of a premier forum lose her presumptuous head to the pernicious spirits of Australia? There goes her chance. She finally understood; she had lost him for good.
A few minutes later she heard someone calling out for her.

“Evelyn Lee! For heavens sake! Where have you been? Who do you think you are? To think, a fourteen year old girl running around in a foreign country! Let’s go now. We have to drive to Adelaide in less than an hour to make it to Amnesty International in time.”





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