Mary slid into her seat in front of her computer. She couldn’t believe she had forgotten to keep an eye on the time. Early on in their daily chats, they had jokingly synchronized their clocks in order to avoid being late. Now she was seventeen minutes late to her chat. The thought of David not waiting for her made her hands sweaty. They had each missed the start time by a minute or two, but never this long in the nearly four months they had chatted on a daily basis.
She ran her hands down her shirt and keyed in the chat address and her password. The screen popped up and she saw a string of messages, all from David asking where she was. She scrolled down to the most recent one and saw he had sent it twenty seconds ago. She hit reply and her fingers flew over the keyboard as she banged out her apology.
Mary: So sorry! Forgive me, please. My gardener had a crisis. I couldn’t get away until now.
The lie sat uneasily on the screen and with her. She bit her lip. If she told the truth, he might blow her off. And she didn’t know if she could live with that possibility. She justified the falsehood by telling herself it was partly true. There was a crisis. Jared was her gardener. And she couldn’t have broken away any sooner, not with the tears she was shedding.
She chewed on her nail and clicked send. One little white lie wouldn’t matter in the whole scheme of things.
# # #
David tapped his fingers against his desk. He could barely keep his mind on his chat with Suzanne. But at least with Suzanne, one only needed half a mind to keep up with her chatter. Where was Mary? It was unlike Mary not to let him know in advance if she was going to be later than a minute or two. He couldn’t afford to lose this fish, not with the potential payout. He sent her a message every two minutes, each one more anxious than the last.
Ping! He toggled over to Mary’s chat and retrieved a message. He skimmed it and smiled. This was something he could work to his advantage.
David: I was getting worried when I couldn’t reach you. I realized I would have no way of getting in touch if something were to happen.
Mary: I thought of that, too.
David: I couldn’t bear the thought of not talking to you each day. U brighten even the dullest of days.
Mary: You’re making me blush.
David sat back, toying with several flirtatious responses. He keyed in an answer to Suzanne and wondered if kicking it up a notch with Mary would be the right move.
David: I would love to see that, cheeks a soft pink, dark hair curling about your shoulders.
Mary: Now my cheeks are on fire, not pink, but red. Not very attractive at all.
David: Let me be the judge of that.
Mary: It’s a good thing this is not a video chat or you would probably disconnect with one look at my fire-engine red face.
David: Are you fishing for compliments?
Mary: Maybe I am.
David: Then allow me to be the one to shower you with them. If you were beside me, you would have no doubt as to my feelings.
That ought to send her into a whirl. David leaned back in his chair and checked his schedule. Darlene would be coming online soon. He’d better wrap things up with Suzanne for today.
Mary: What do you mean?
David: Ah, that would be telling too much. If I reveal all, you might find me too boring.
Now he would see if his shy little kitten would come out to play. He glanced at the calendar on the wall. He was on a tight schedule to pull off this Peru adventure and needed to ramp up his support. If Mary wanted to come along for the ride, he was more than happy to give her a lift.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Phantom Love is copyrighted and cannot be used in any form without permission from Sarah Hamaker.