I LIED TO Hannah about the picture.
I lied to her about a lot of things.
No relationship should be built on lies, but I was in no relationship—at least not with Hannah. She was a girl I met on the internet. Bethany was my girlfriend, who shared my apartment, my bed, and my life.
Hannah got the scraps.
"No pictures," I told Hannah on Skype. "No specifics, no last name, no phone number. Nothing. I don't want to know you, and I don't want you to know me. We write together online, that's it. I'm not looking for a new friend. I'm looking for a writing partner."
"Got it," she replied.
I remember staring at the text on my laptop and wondering if she was hurt. It was impossible to tell, the words hanging there with no tone.
Hannah broke two of my rules within a month when she sent me an email from her personal address, [email protected]. Beside the email was her account picture. A picture of her.
I glared at the tiny square image, then at her last name, then back at the picture. I should have gotten on Skype and chewed her out then and there, but I didn't. I clicked on the picture, which took me to her Google+ page and a larger version of the image.
She was wearing a strapless cream-colored top with a fringe of black lace along the neckline. Deep cle**age disappeared into the lace. Her skin was incredibly pale, flawless, and her hair fell in thick black-brown curls around her face. She wore dark-rimmed rectangular glasses with little gems on each side. She was blowing an air kiss at the camera. At me.
I should have closed the window immediately.
Instead, I stared at Hannah's picture—and stared at it—until I felt my c**k getting hard in my slacks. I tried to ignore it, but the longer I looked at Hannah's picture the harder I got. She was beautiful. And I was furious with her, for foisting her picture and last name on me.
I slid my hand between my legs and closed my eyes.
That was the second time I got off thinking about Hannah.
The first time was a week before. Bethany had just left on a tour of Brazil. I could have joined her, but I had no desire to sightsee in South America with Bethany's parents in tow.
I found myself chatting with Hannah every day.
It was late—about 2:00 a.m. Hannah's boyfriend had gone to bed. That meant Hannah was alone in their basement office. As for me, I was on my laptop in the guest bedroom of my Denver apartment.
"I sent you a few paragraphs," I typed, "but don't worry about replying tonight. Aren't you tired?"
Little.Bird: Not yet. I haven't been sleeping well.
Little.Bird was Hannah's Skype name. Mine was Night.Owl.
Night.Owl: You could take something. I don't know, melatonin?
Little.Bird: Never works for me.
Night.Owl: Well damn.
We were in unknown territory with this conversation. As a rule, we dialogued about our collaborative story and nothing else.
Our story was an ongoing fantasy. We emailed pieces back and forth. That was how we met, and why: on a fiction writers' forum, seeking writing partners.
Hannah's character was a human with supernatural powers and mine was a demon.
She was Lana. I was Cal.
Little.Bird: Sometimes I smoke a little bit of Mick's weed to help me sleep.
Night.Owl: Is that right.
Little.Bird: Yeah. *Shrugs* Mick smokes 24/7 and drinks every day too. I'm not like that. Anyway it's legal here.
My stomach clenched. Colorado had recently legalized marijuana for recreational use. So had Washington. God, did Hannah live in my state? Why did that possibility have my stomach flip-flopping?
Night.Owl: Yeah, it's legal here too. I'm in Colorado.
Little.Bird: Okay Mr. Secret Agent No Specifics.
I smirked. Oh, so Hannah wasn't going to volunteer her whereabouts. I deserved that.
Night.Owl: I'm allowed to break my own rules.
Little.Bird: Just ask.
Night.Owl: What? Ask what?
Little.Bird: Oh please Matt. You're waiting for me to tell you where I live.
Night.Owl: Then tell me.
I felt a funny twist in my gut. Washington, not Colorado.
Night.Owl: Ah. I've never been out that way.
Little.Bird: You should visit some time. Great food, great atmosphere.
Night.Owl: Your boyfriend sounds like a real charmer.
Little.Bird: Lol. Sure. Doesn't matter, I won't be with him much longer. Brb.
Hannah was gone for ten minutes. Fuck, had I upset her?
Night.Owl: Wb. Are you okay?
Little.Bird: Yeah, I'm fine. I wanted to change into something more comfy.
I stared at the screen for a full minute before forcing my fingers to type what my brain was screaming. After I typed it, I stared at the words for another minute before hitting enter.
I must have been losing my mind. Or turning into a creep. Or both.
Night.Owl: So what are you wearing?
Little.Bird: Lol! All the walls are coming down tonight...
Night.Owl: Haha. God, sorry. I have no idea why I just typed that. Ignore that. Such a creeper right now.
Little.Bird: No, it was funny, that's all. You're not a creeper, trust me. I'm a girl who used to play online games. I know what creepers are.
Night.Owl: Well, whatever.
I felt my face heating. Hannah and I were having our first actual conversation and I asked what she was wearing.
I, a successful and very taken twenty-eight-year-old man, had become the equivalent of a horny fourteen-year-old. Real smooth.
Little.Bird: Matt, I said trust me. You are -not- a creeper. You're like the anti-creeper. That's why I laughed. It's like suddenly Mr. "I'm not looking for friends so don't piss me off with details about your life" wants to know what I'm wearing. Do you still want to know?
My blush of embarrassment was rapidly turning into a flush of anger.
Night.Owl: Yes, I still f**king want to know. That's why I asked, so either tell me or drop it. I don't need you to make me feel like a dipshit for asking.
Little.Bird: Okay! I'm sorry. Don't get angry. I'm wearing a blue bathrobe.
Night.Owl: A bathrobe...?
Little.Bird: Yes. It's a soft fuzzy blue bathrobe. Hits me about mid-thigh.
Night.Owl: Is that all?
I felt a throb between my legs. At the time, I had no idea what Hannah looked like, but that fact didn't seem to matter to my dick. I slid the laptop off my thighs and onto the mattress. I pressed a hand to my sex. And I waited. Where was this going?
Little.Bird: Do I... get to ask what you're wearing?
Night.Owl: Lounge pants.
Little.Bird: Is that all?
Night.Owl: Hannah. You should let your robe hang open.
My mouth gaped. My erection pushed against my palm. Alright? She took my order so calmly and without hesitation. Was she really doing it?
I conjured up an image of a young woman seated at a computer desk, her small robe hanging open and her full br**sts bared to the screen. I shoved my pants around my hips and freed my shaft. My whole body was tingling.
I needed to tell Hannah to stop and that I wasn't single and that we were going to ruin our pleasant anonymous online friendship.
Night.Owl: Describe your body. Spread your legs. God, my heart is pounding.
Little.Bird: Mine too. I spread them. Telling you this stuff is making me wet.
Night.Owl: God, Hannah.
I began to pump my c**k with one hand, pausing to swirl my thumb over the head. I could feel the lean muscles along my thighs and arms locking up—tensing in excitement or else willing me to stop. I needed to stop.
Little.Bird: My br**sts are... big. 34DD. They sit high on my chest for natural br**sts. My ni**les are dark pink. They're really sensitive. I'm curvy. Hourglass figure I guess.
I was ready to come. Already. I let myself moan into the silence of the apartment and rocked my hips into my hand. Oh god oh god oh god. I groped at the laptop keyboard.
Night.Owl: Help me come.
Little.Bird: I shave my legs all the way up. And I'm... really tight. And wet. So wet. I'm making a mess.
Night.Owl: God you're a slut Hannah.
Little.Bird: I am. My legs are spread so wide it hurts. I wish you were pounding into me right now.
My orgasm took me by surprise, the pleasure unfurling all at once. I gasped and sat up sharply. I came into my hand with a groan.
I'm making a mess.
I wish you were pounding into me right now.
I collapsed against the pillows. My chest was heaving. A rivulet of sweat trickled from my dirty-blond hair to my jaw.
What just happened? I stared at the laptop and waited. I couldn't log off; I had to say something. Thanks? Sorry?
Night.Owl: I should go.
Little.Bird: Wait. That was alright, Matt. If you're going because you feel awkward, don't. We don't have to talk about it.
Finding the words "I should go" had been difficult enough. I had nothing else to say. I needed to think, or not think. I most definitely needed to get away from Hannah.
Little.Bird: Listen. I don't normally do this. I don't want you to think I'm like that.
Night.Owl: No. Neither do I.
Before Hannah could type a reply, I closed Skype and shut my laptop.
I didn't log back on for a week.
And what a week it was. Thoughts of Hannah invaded my mind. I woke up thinking about her, often hard, and I went to sleep thinking about her. I thought about her in the shower. I thought about her when I tried to work, my latest project open on the computer screen and my head locked in a daydream.
Hannah, Hannah, Hannah.
Over and over I turned the few details she had given me. Large br**sts, a curvy figure, a tight cunt.
A friend took me out to lunch on the weekend.
"What do you know about Seattle?" I asked, striving to sound nonchalant.
"I'm putting it in a story. Figured I'd ask. I've never been, no idea about the place."
"Well, I've been to the pacific northwest a few times." My friend chewed and watched me thoughtfully. I stared at my plate. I had hardly touched my meal, but under his careful gaze I shoved a forkful of risotto into my mouth.
"Tons of hipsters," he said. "All that unflattering facial hair. And I'll tell you what, it's depressing as f**k, the weather out there. It's gray. I mean if you like that kind of thing, it's great. But it's wet, Matt, it's basically wet all the time."
I slammed down my fork. I nearly choked.
Wet. So wet. I'm making a mess.
Hannah emailed a story installment after two days. Usually she replied within hours. Maybe she was having second thoughts about me.
Hell, I'd be having second thoughts about me.
Her writing was perfectly normal, though.
Our characters were traveling to a port city in search of information to help Lana harness her powers. I could feel my character falling for Lana as we wrote. I tried to steer him away from it, but Hannah wrote the girl in such a clever, engaging way. She was quirky and strong, a lover of laughter, by turns tomboyish and then disarmingly feminine.
I began to make connections.
She described Lana as buxom, short, and curvy. An hourglass figure. Was Hannah writing a thinly veiled version of herself? And for that matter, was I? Like me, Cal was tall and fair-haired, cynical in the extreme, and neurotically secretive.
I booted up my laptop a week after the bathrobe incident with the intention of continuing our story. Or maybe with the intention of chatting with Hannah. I missed her.
That's when I saw the email from [email protected].
The email with her picture.
The picture that made me hard.
Subject: Come back...
Sender: Hannah Catalano
Date: Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Time: 11:15 PM
Matt, hey. I really hope you read this. You haven't replied to my post. I miss the story. And I miss talking to you.
I can't stop thinking about what happened.
I met Mick through WoW (I'm a reformed nerd) and we cybered like twice over private messages. He's a really bad writer. It was really bad. Then we started dating long distance and I used to do things with him over video chat. That's all.
I don't know why I'm telling you this stuff, except that I want you to know that what happened between us isn't normal for me. I liked it though. Knowing you were getting off turned me on.
Speaking of Mick, I'm leaving him. My sister is flying out here on Thursday to help me pack and we're driving back together. I'm moving in with my parents for a while. Pretty awesome, since I'm 27.
I guess the point is, we'll be on the road for two or three days and I'll only be online on my phone.
* * *
After jerking off to Hannah's picture like a desperate juvenile, I must have reread her email three times. I mentally filed the new information.
Hannah has a sister.
Hannah is twenty-seven.
Hannah is leaving her boyfriend.
Hannah liked helping me get off; she can't stop thinking about it and it turned her on.
And now she had a face and a name, both of which I expressly asked never to know.
So she was Italian. That explained the knockout figure and the dark, heavy hair.
I logged onto Skype.
Little.Bird: Hey! That was quick, lol. I sent you an email like fifteen minutes ago.
Night.Owl: Don't I know it.
Night.Owl: Let's get one thing straight Hannah. I'm not sure what you think it means that you helped me get off with your rudimentary descriptive skills, so let me clarify. It means nothing. It definitely does not mean you can now assault me with your life story.