Monday, June 3, 2013

Writing Stuff!

So I went back and forth on what to share for this topic. I've got a massive ongoing fanfiction project concerning the Harry Potter next gen kids (which can be found here if you're at all interested in perusing).

But what I thought I'd actually post is part of a short story I wrote last year and have been compulsively editing ever since, because I'd like some feedback on it. I don't want to post the whole thing because of the Internet being forever and I'd like to get this published some day, but I will post about the first half, and if you're at all interested in reading the whole thing, let me know. :)

So! Without further ado:

How a Knight in Dented Armor Saved a Disappearing Maiden: A Modern Fairy Tale

My name is Darcy, and the truth is, I spent most of my life trying to disappear.
At school, I was a shy, quiet bookworm who sat at the back of each class, never drew attention to herself, and had a distressing tendency to stammer when forced to communicate verbally. I had no real friends, I spoke only when spoken to, and I did not get along with my peers. You wouldn’t have either, if you’d had the misfortune of being born to parents who thought it a grand idea to name their daughter after the most famous romantic male figure in literature. And even to those who didn’t know from Pride and Prejudice, Darcy was just a weird name for a girl, and teenage adolescents delight in ridiculing the weird. So I spent my days at school just waiting until I could get home.
At home, as soon as my homework was done (so far as my parents knew), I was 1DistressedDamsel, a member and part-time moderator of the Once Upon a Time forums, an online community for fairy-tale lovers, debaters, and afficionados. Fairy tales had been one of my escapes for years – worlds where everybody knows about the damsel in distress and the story doesn’t end until she’s found. I read them constantly, and finding an online site entirely dedicated to their discussion? Talk about love at first sight.
Much as I love Once, though, I can’t pretend it wasn’t part of the disappearing act. I hid myself online behind words and pixels the way I hid myself in real life behind silence and a curtain of hair. I posted no pictures of myself, didn’t reveal my actual name, and left my profile page scarce on real life details.
At school or online, I was invisible, the only difference being that on Once, my invisibility didn’t keep me from being noticed. I still had a presence. A strong one, too. Once was my haven, my escape, my kingdom far, far away. Its members were my preferred peers, the people I spoke my mind with, shared inside jokes with, laughed with. They were my closest friends, and for a long time, they meant far more to me than anyone in my real life.
Here’s where my story begins: a girl sits in a desk in the back of a classroom, spending the last few precious moments before class begins immersed in a favorite Robin McKinley fairy tale novelization, reading faster as the teacher moves to the front of the room, desperate to finish her chapter even though she’s read the book so many times it’s falling apart. But then the teacher starts to speak, and the girl abandons her story world, looking up in horror because the words she is hearing are heart-stoppingly familiar — they are hers.
Some background: about a year earlier, a thread had been started on Once’s Knights, Princes, and Heroes sub-forum by a bunch of radical feminists. The thread was devoted to bashing Prince Charming and all those Knights in Shining Armor types, and while I could certainly see where they were coming from – fairy tales, especially Disney’s, seem to feature a whole lot of helpless damsels who can’t think for themselves – it didn’t seem fair to place all the blame on the princes and heroes who were, after all, just doing their duty, and I said as much. I got shouted at almost immediately, which in forum terms meant that several raging responses, written in all caps and containing a multitude of unearned slurs, were posted to my comment, bashing me and everything I stood for, placing all responsibility for setting modern feminism back 50 years squarely on my shoulders. At this point, I did what I would never have done in real life – I reported them all to the moderator and got their accounts suspended for breaking Once’s Terms of Service. The moderator in question, JustAnotherVegetable, wrote me a personal apology and said I’d made some interesting points and I should consider writing an essay for the site. And that essay, “In Defense of Shining Armor,” was what Mrs. Murdoch chose one day to read aloud to my English class.
“‘Prince Charming kisses awake a sleeping princess and is called sick and twisted. The knight in shining armor kills a dragon and is accused of taking power away from the damsel he rescued. Heroes of all sorts battle monsters and protect the helpless and do the jobs they were trained to do, and yet, by today’s hyper-feminized culture, they are villainized and trashed.’” Mrs. Murdoch stopped quoting me and surveyed the class. I tried not to sink down in my seat in panic. Inwardly, I was cursing myself. We’d been discussing folktales for a week. Mrs. Murdoch was young, just a few years out of college. Of course she’d be savvy enough to use the Internet to supplement her lessons, and of course she’d find Once. We were the biggest fairy-tale based forum on the web. I really should have expected it.
But Mrs. Murdoch was continuing, and I had to pay attention because the possibility that I might be outed had just increased exponentially – if, of course, Mrs. Murdoch had any idea who 1DistressedDamsel really was.
“This essay,” my teacher was saying, “was posted last year on a forum called Once – a community entirely dedicated to discussing folk and fairy tales. In other words, an excellent resource for you all as you begin your projects. The author of this essay,” — I held my breath – “1DistressedDamsel, took a common societal opinion of a fairy tale trope and debated it. This is what I want you to do. Read this essay tonight. Be prepared to discuss it tomorrow. You’ll be writing an essay like this. Why, this essay could even be a source for your own papers.”
She said more, but I’d stopped listening. I’d very nearly stopped breathing. I was in panic mode. My classmates, the ones I’d spent the past four years trying to hide from, were going to be reading my essay, critiquing my essay, possibly using my essay as a resource! I had to tell someone, but until school let out, there was no one I could tell.
Forget homework – that afternoon when I got home, I went straight to my laptop and logged into my Once account, praying Kale would be online and available to chat. Kale, also known as the aforementioned JustAnotherVegetable, had been my best friend since suggesting I write the Prince Charming essay the year before. She lived in England, which would have sucked had it not been for the wonder of the Internet.
I waited anxiously for the page to load on my ancient laptop, biting the inside of my lip over and over, until finally, the chat sidebar popped up, that lovely green circle glowing like a beacon beside Kale’s username. I all but attacked the keyboard.

1DistressedDamsel: Dude dude dude!!!!
JustAnotherVegetable: Whoa, chica! What’s up?

Yes, my English internet friend calls me chica. It’s a thing Kale does. She assigns each of her close friends on the site a random endearment. So I’m chica, and BippityBoo is hun and Steed427 is darling, and so on.

1DistressedDamsel: My English teacher is using my Prince Charming essay for a class project!
JustAnotherVegetable: Seriously???
1DistressedDamsel: Seriously.
JustAnotherVegetable: Chica, that is awesome!
1DistressedDamsel: No! Not awesome! These are not excitement exclamation points!
JustAnotherVegetable: Why not? This is a big moment! Why exclamation points of distress?
1DistressedDamsel: Kale, my entire class is going to be critiquing an essay I wrote and I’m gonna be expected to join in!
JustAnotherVegetable: Yeah, but they don’t know it’s yours.
JustAnotherVegetable: Or, wait. Do they?
1DistressedDamsel: Doubtful. But that’s not the point! I’LL know!
JustAnotherVegetable: Honest, chica, you should feel flattered! You’re being brought into the real world!

I was about to reply with “I don’t want to be brought into the real world!” when another chat box popped up from a user I didn’t know, knight_in_dented_armor. That wasn’t unusual. I’d recently been elevated to moderator status, so my name popped up in the moderator box for all users whenever I was online in case someone had a question or a problem with the site.
knight_in_dented_armor: Hello?

Distracted as I was, I was still able to reply in a polite, professional, and enthusiastic manner, thanks again to the wonder of the Internet and text-based communication.

1DistressedDamsel: Hello! How can I help you?
knight_in_dented_armor: My English teacher is having us read your essay defending Prince Charming for a class discussion, and when I saw you were online, I decided to see if you’d be willing to answer a few questions.

I froze. Before that day, if a member of Once had logged onto Once’s chat to ask about my essay, I would have been more than happy to reply. In fact, it had happened a handful of times. I’d met some awesome forum members because of that essay. But this wasn’t a forum member, not really. This was one of my classmates, and in my head, I could hear the two halves of my carefully separated life screeching toward each other on a collision course, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

A flashing orange light from Kale’s chat box pulled me out of my head.
JustAnotherVegetable: Darcy? You there, chica?   
1DistressedDamsel:Yeah. Um, someone from my class just asked to talk about my essay in Chat.
JustAnotherVegetable: Asked *you*? Or asked 1DD?
1DistressedDamsel: 1DD. But what do I DO???
JustAnotherVegetable: Calm down, chica. You answer their questions. You’re a mod now. That’s your job.
1DistressedDamsel: Right. Right.

I took a deep breath and shook out my hands, which had grown strangely numb. They don’t know who you are, I reminded myself firmly. You’re just a stranger on the internet. I leaned forward and typed a response, hands shaking.
1DistressedDamsel: Sure! What would you like to know?
knight_in_dented_armor: Do you consider yourself a feminist?

I let out a shaky breath, almost in relief. I’d been asked that question before. I knew what was really being asked, and I knew how to answer it.

1DistressedDamsel: By definition, a feminist is any individual who believes that men and women should be treated equally in all aspects of life. Do you consider yourself to be a feminist?
knight_in_dented_armor: Well, by that definition, yeah. Sure.
1DistressedDamsel: And by that definition, so do I. I don’t tout myself as a feminist, however, because I have found that most people who use the word do not have that definition in mind.
knight_in_dented_armor: I applaud you on your skill.
1DistressedDamsel: What skill would that be?
knight_in_dented_armor: Your effortless deflection of the question I was trying to ask.

I sat back in my chair and stared at the screen. Who was this kid? I right-clicked on his username to bring his profile up on the main screen, then responded as best I could.
1DistressedDamsel: It takes being asked “How do you, as a woman in today’s culture, justify defending a character like Prince Charming?” only so many times before you learn how to deflect the question.
knight_in_dented_armor: How many?

I smiled at that, skimming his profile page as I typed back:

1DistressedDamsel: Twice.

His profile page revealed as little about him as mine did about me, which was frustrating. He’d only joined that afternoon and hadn’t made any posts. There was no name and no email, just gender, date of birth, and location, confirming what I already knew – he was a guy, he was my age, and he lived in my state.

Then he wrote again, and what he wrote made me roll my eyes in annoyance.

knight_in_dented_armor: Lol. But in all seriousness, how would you justify it? It seems unbelievably naive to me.

I think it was the “lol” that got me. Like, he was saying, yeah, okay, that’s kinda funny, but seriously now. Why are you an idiot?
1DistressedDamsel: I lose patience quickly with that question because I believe the essay speaks for itself, as its thesis IS the justification of defending Prince Charming. So the people who ask the question either didn’t really read the essay or didn’t think about anything I said.
knight_in_dented_armor: Oh, I read it. And I thought about it. I just find your thesis to be ridiculous.
1DistressedDamsel: Well, that’s the lovely thing about opinion-based essays. You are free to have a different opinion if mine is too “ridiculous” for you.
knight_in_dented_armor: Hey now, no need to get defensive.
1DistressedDamsel: Actually, there is. You came here looking to attack me, my ideas, and my writing, didn’t you?

There was a long silence from him, and I thought for a moment he wasn’t going to respond, but then this popped up:

knight_in_dented_armor: Fair point. I apologize, both for calling you ridiculous and for coming off as something of a condescending asshat, albeit unintentionally.

The phrase “condescending asshat” actually startled a smile out of me, because it wasn’t far off from what I’d been calling him in my head. I stared at his words for a moment, trying to decide if he’d meant the apology or not. In the end, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, and replied civilly.

1Distressed Damsel: Thank you. I will forgive the unintentional asshattery if you will promise to read the essay again with a more open mind. I have no problem with people disagreeing with my conclusion. But put a little thought into why before you come to challenge me on it.

He didn’t respond after that, so I had to assume that he’d either listened to me and had gone off to think about what I’d said, or he hadn’t and had just gone off fed up with this pretentious girl from the Internet. It didn’t surprise me that I wanted it to be the former. What surprised me was the motivation behind the desire – I kinda wanted him to come talk to me again. He was unbelievably arrogant, whoever he was, but he was also intelligent. I mean, how many high school boys do you know who use phrases like “effortless deflection,” “unbelievably naive,” and “albeit”? No, the truth is, cocky as he’d come off, there was something about the banter I’d almost enjoyed.
“Don’t be stupid, Darcy,” I chastised myself. “He’s just another ignorant high school boy.” And I filled Kale in on the conversation, went about my moderating duties for the afternoon, and tried my hardest not to think about the next day’s English class.
I was not in any way looking forward to it. In fact, I considered skipping, I was that freaked out about it, but I was afraid that might draw unwanted attention to myself. So I went, preparing to just sit in the back of the class without speaking like I always did, regardless of what my classmates had to say.
Unfortunately, predictably, it wasn’t that easy.
As soon as class started, everyone launched into a vicious back and forth about whether I was incredibly naive, a brainwashed housewife, or a male chauvinist in disguise. I had a few defenders, but they didn’t present their support very effectively, and they were easily shouted down by the vehemence of those determined to vilify everything I stood for. It was mortifying, but more than that, it was infuriating! I tried not to take it personally, but they were all making it personal, even if they weren’t exactly directing it at me. And more than that, they were all completely missing the point, and eventually, I couldn’t take it any more.
It was Emma Alexander who put me over the edge, Emma Alexander and her, “Basically, she’s arguing that these so-called ‘perfect’ men should be allowed to swoop in and take control of the lives of these women, and that we’re just supposed to accept it!”
“No, she’s not.”
It just popped out. I hadn’t meant to say it, but I’d been driven to the breaking point, and now 21 pairs of eyes found me in my back corner, and I had never wanted so badly to disappear.
“Darcy?” said Mrs. Murdoch. “Do you have something you’d like to add to the discussion?”
Well, my honest answer wasn’t so simple as a yes or a no, but fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), that had been teacher-speak, and she hadn’t actually been giving me a choice. Especially when I so rarely volunteered an opinion. So I took a deep breath, tried to ignore all the eyes on me, and answered.
“It’s important to understand what the author is really defending,” I said, praying my voice wasn’t shaking as badly as I was sure it was. “She’s not saying that Prince Charming’s actions are right or wrong, she’s saying that stories have to be taken in context. Fairy tales, like any other story, are products of their time, and they were told and collected during a period when women were more or less helpless and men were expected to be their protectors and rescuers. It’s part of the chivalric code, and the knights and princes were just doing their duty, and that has to be taken into account. You don’t have to like it, but you have to at least acknowledge it. That’s the author’s point.”
Silence reigned, heavy and uncomfortable, until Mrs. Murdoch stepped in and said, “Darcy makes a very important point,” and turned  the conversation in another direction. But she couldn’t entirely erase the attention that was still focused on me the rest of the period.
I was the first one out the door at the final bell.
When I got home that afternoon, there was already a message waiting for me on Once’s chat.
knight_in_dented_armor: You have quite the staunch supporter in my English class.

I wasn’t at all surprised to see that whoever it was had beaten me home from school (I was at the end of the bus route and my parents usually didn’t see fit to lend me the car), but I was slightly surprised that his first act had been to send me a message even though I wasn’t there. I thought about just ignoring him, but I remembered I’d promised to give him the benefit of the doubt.

1DistressedDamsel: Do I now?
knight_in_dented_armor: Yeah. This super quiet girl named Darcy. I’ve never heard her say three words together voluntarily, but she gave quite a speech in support of you.
1DistressedDamsel: Did she change any minds?
knight_in_dented_armor: I don’t know. The teacher agrees with her, I think.
1DistressedDamsel: And you?
knight_in_dented_armor: She articulated your points very well. Points that I spent most of yesterday carefully considering and evaluating, by the way. And I’ve come to the conclusion that you make a good argument.
1DistressedDamsel: But?
knight_in_dented_armor: Why must there be a but?
1DistressedDamsel: At the end of a statement like that, there’s always a but.
knight_in_dented_armor: All right, all right, you caught me. The ‘but’ is this: I don’t think you can reasonably ask every reader of a fairy tale to take historical context into consideration.

I chewed the inside of my lip as I read his words, my hands hovering over my keyboard. I knew what I wanted to ask, but I had to work up the courage to actually type it.
1DistressedDamsel: Why not? Doesn’t context matter?

My heart was hammering in an embarrassing way as I waited for his response.

knight_in_dented_armor: Well, yeah, but leaving fairy tales aside for a moment, each one of us, in every moment of our lives, takes things out of context. We judge and make assumptions about people and events in a split second without having all the information because it’s impossible to have all the information and can you imagine how crazy insane life would be if we did? But if we don’t take the time to take the people we interact with on a daily basis in context, how can we be expected to do it with something so relatively trivial as a fairy tale?

His words were like a blow. His point was undeniable, and it resonated with me in quite a painful way. I’d lived his point for years. I got taken out of context all the time.
I stared at his words on the screen for a long time before I finally responded.

1DistressedDamsel: Just because we don’t doesn’t mean we shouldn’t.

It was a bold statement, especially for me, and I couldn’t help but feel that I was bringing the two halves of my life even more dangerously close together than this mystery classmate of mine had. Too close together. I was a little frightened of the deeper meanings of what I’d just said. Then he replied.
knight_in_dented_armor: You paint a picture of a perfect world. But do you believe it’s possible?
1DistressedDamsel: I have to.
knight_in_dented_armor: Because otherwise, the real world is too unbearable? I get that.
1DistressedDamsel: Do you?
knight_in_dented_armor: Yeah. You have to have hope in something, I guess. In light of that, I can understand having hope in an eventual Prince Charming.

I could read in that what he hadn’t said. He had a picture of me in his mind now. I was the girl who spent her life waiting for her white knight to appear. The girl who sighed longingly and gazed out of tower windows, failing to realize that if her hair could bring others to her tower, it could also help her to escape on her own. To him, I was the damsel in distress of my screen name.
Except that I wasn’t. And suddenly, I had to make sure he knew that. It was very important to me that he not walk away with that image of me in his head. And so, I wrote a reply far beyond anything I ever intended to reveal to an almost-stranger.
1DistressedDamsel: I don’t sit around waiting to be rescued, if that’s what you think. I don’t dream of a white knight saving the day.
1DistressedDamsel: I latch onto the image, but not because I need a savior. I latch onto what those shining knights represent: a way out that doesn’t require some horrible sacrifice. A wave of the wand that turns cruel and dark figures into compassionate and empathetic people.
1DistressedDamsel: My white knight is someone who sees me for who I am, not for who everyone around me tries to make me into.
1DistressedDamsel: Prince Charming FINDS his damsels. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella. He follows them and finds them, to prove that they were noticed. That they’re worthy of being found. That someone cares.
1DistressedDamsel: I want to believe in Prince Charming because I want to believe that everyone has that person waiting to see past what they show the world, to see who they really are.
I’d only meant to defend myself, to dispel the image of a lovesick adolescent girl who spent all day dreaming of her perfect prince. I hadn’t meant to go on and on like that. I hadn’t meant to show him a glimpse of my innermost self. But I’d hit “enter” at the end of each idea out of, I don’t know, muscle memory, or some hidden compulsion to put this out in the world for someone to see, with the result that yeah, that happened, it was out there, and I couldn’t take it back. So I kicked myself mentally and waited to see what he would say. It took him a long time to respond, and for one heart-stopping moment, I was afraid that he wouldn’t, that I’d gotten too weird too fast. The last thing I expected to read at that point was this:

knight_in_dented_armor: You are much more than I expected. I’m sorry I didn’t try harder to see you. Forgive me?   

I felt immediately guilty. I hadn’t been trying to call him out. I’d just wanted to explain myself.

1DistressedDamsel: I’m sorry. That wasn’t directed at you.
knight_in_dented_armor: Forgive me anyway?

I stared at the words, so not what I had ever expected from him. Slowly, I smiled, touched in a way. Clearly, I hadn’t tried hard enough to see him, either. And so, I responded the only way I really could.

1DistressedDamsel: Of course.

And just like that, we were connected, the connection of two strangers who have shared some intimate part of themselves. I didn’t know his name, and he didn’t know mine, but he knew something of my soul that few other people had ever known, and that meant something, and neither of us could deny it.
Not that I minded the connection. Quite the contrary, in fact. Our interaction continued over the next two weeks, and through our conversations, I found that I actually liked him quite a lot. He was intelligent and funny, and he did feel badly about the way he’d treated me in our first conversation, which meant he was sensitive, a rare trifecta for a 16-year-old boy. He quickly became one of my best friends on the site, second only to Kale (who was, of course, kept in the loop every step of the way), and if he’d been just another person I’d met online, there wouldn’t have been any problem. But he wasn’t, and I could never quite forget that. He wasn’t like my other friends on Once. I knew him IRL, even if I still didn’t know who he really was. And I couldn’t help but wonder exactly what he’d been asking forgiveness for, and whether or not I’d have actually given it in real life.
I guess I should explain that I spent most of junior high being bullied, a lot. There was a very specific group of boys who’d instigated it and kept it alive, but plenty of others had joined in on occasion, or laughed, or just stood there and let it happen. Because I was shy and I was different and I liked fairy tales and I had a weird name. The specifics aren’t important, and I don’t like to relive it, but it was intense and it was cruel and it went on for a very long time. The bullying is why I’d found Once in the first place, as well as being the reason why I’d spent so long trying to fade into the background of my real life. Better to be ignored, overlooked, and forgotten than ridiculed and mocked.
So, yeah. The question that plagued me was, was this one of the boys who had made my life miserable, and would I have forgiven him if he asked in real life?
I didn’t fixate on it, though. It was always there in the back of my mind, but most days, it didn’t matter. Because he could cheer me up with just a few words. And he could make me smile with a single remark. And over the next two weeks as the due date for the fairy tale paper drew nearer and nearer and the two of us grew closer and closer, our conversations were peppered with exchanges like this:

knight_in_dented_armor: Are you bothered by the fact that the acronym of your username is ODD?
1DistressedDamsel: Are you bothered by the fact that the acronym of your username is Kid A?
knight_in_dented_armor: I withdraw the question.

And this:

1DistressedDamsel: You make me laugh out loud.
knight_in_dented_armor: You know there’s an abbreviation for that, right?

And this:
knight_in_dented_armor: I demand female rescuers, fairy tale writers of the world! Where are they? Where are the tales with the MEN in peril, and the WOMEN coming to their aid?
1DistressedDamsel: East of the Sun, West of the Moon
1DistressedDamsel: The Snow Queen
1DistressedDamsel: The Ballad of Tam Lin
1DistressedDamsel: The Six Swans
1DistressedDamsel: The Lute Player
1DistressedDamsel: The Feather of Finist the Fair Falcon
1DistressedDamsel: The Black Bull of Norroway
1DistressedDamsel: The Lad in Search of a Fortune
knight_in_dented_armor: All right, all right! It was a rhetorical question!
1DistressedDamsel: Don’t you need to know for your English paper?
knight_in_dented_armor: Do you just have a list of those saved onto your computer?
1DistressedDamsel: Have you noticed that you change the subject whenever I’ve won an argument?
1DistressedDamsel: And yes.

He was bright and witty and smart, and I’d never had a bantering partner before. I liked it, a lot, and I found myself risking certain grounding from my parents just for the chance to grab a quick conversation with him when I got home from school each day.
Kale, ever the romantic, said over the phone at one point that, “It seems to me that this situation has all the makings of a true Internet love story,” but I pointed out that Kale thought every interaction I had with a guy on Once had all the makings of a true Internet love story, which she couldn’t deny, so I was able to laugh her off pretty easily and think no more about such ridiculousness.
Until this happened:

1DistressedDamsel: Why dented armor?
knight_in_dented_armor: I’m sorry?
1DistressedDamsel: Your username. Why are you a knight in dented armor? I mean, I get that it’s the opposite of shining armor, but why dented? Why not dusty? Or dirty?
knight_in_dented_armor: Because armor can get dusty or dirty from just riding down a road for days. But dented, that shows something has been done. A battle has been fought.
1DistressedDamsel: And lost.
knight_in_dented_armor: *indignation* Lost? I battled something that dented my armor but didn’t kill me! How is that not the mark of a good knight?
1DistressedDamsel: Because it’s more the mark of good armor?
knight_in_dented_armor: Eh, potato, potato.
knight_in_dented_armor: . . . is a saying that doesn’t work in a text-based conversation.

I laughed out loud, I couldn’t help it. And then I stopped short because the laugh had brought with it something else, a rush of emotion that caught me entirely off guard and sent my stomach down into my shoes.
“Oh, no,” I whispered. “Oh no, oh no, oh no.” But there was no denying it, and no getting around it. Whoever knight_in_dented_armor was, I had feelings for him. Serious feelings.
I willed it not to be true. I sat there, knees pulled up to my chest, staring at my computer screen, silently freaking out as I tried to figure out what in the world I was supposed to do next. Because this just made everything too complicated. So I sat and I tried to make the feelings go away, but it wasn’t happening, and after a few minutes, I had to admit it.
“What am I going to do?” I moaned, my forehead resting against my desktop in despondent, angst-ridden despair. Then I heard the “diddily-boop!” that signaled a new message. I looked up at the screen and froze in horror.

knight_in_dented_armor: Darcy? Are you there?

I stared, the image of my name in pixels burning into my gaze so that I couldn’t escape it even when I blinked. He shouldn’t have known my name. I had never told him my name. I had very specifically and deliberately never told him my name. But somehow, he knew. He knew who I was. Somehow, he’d found out. And he hadn’t said anything.

-----TO BE CONTINUED (if you reply and say you're interested in the rest, that is)----

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