Part eight of ‘The man who dated his RL boss (without her knowing it).’
By six o’clock, they still had at least two hours’ work remaining. Nick noticed Vicky looking at the clock.
She’s thinking about our date, he thought. She knows she’s not going to make it.
But why, he wondered, did she not just send him an email?
“Nick,” she said, twenty minutes later, “I’m feeling a bit dizzy. I think I might need to go home.”
“Oh,” he said.
“I’m really sorry.”
“No no,” he told her, “it’s fine. You should go home if you feel unwell.”
“Talk about timing. Do you think you’ll be able to manage what’s left by yourself?”
It hardly mattered, he supposed, whether he did or didn’t. He said, “Actually, I think I should be good. It’s just a question of ploughing through it.”
“Yes.” She appeared to hesitate. Nick saw the guilt creep into the corners of her eyes. “Maybe if I had some water and a few minutes of air I might be ok.”
“Really,” he said, “it’s fine. I’ve got this.”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course.” He added, “are you good to drive, do you think?”
“I think so.” She got up unsteadily, even added a very slight wobble for effect. I would never have thought this an act if I didn’t know otherwise, he thought. She pulled on her jacket and gathered together her bag and phone and keys.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Nick,” she said and left. He watched her go, making full use of the privacy the otherwise empty office granted him. He looked at her legs, appreciating for the first time the tautness of her calf muscles. He looked at her ass, working out its contours from the way the fabric of her dress moved over it. He’d never looked at her ass before. It was a good ass, he decided. He wondered what she did to work out. I should work out, he told himself.
A very good ass; he watched it all the way until she slipped out of the door at the end of the office. My ass, he thought.
He felt an odd conflict of thoughts and feelings. On the one hand, she had lied to him; she had let him down; she had left him with a shit-load of work and barely enough time to do it in so that she could attend her virtual date. The persona of ‘Professional Vicky’ had crumbled in front of his eyes. She’d abused her position of authority, and she was the very last person he would ever have thought it possible to do such a thing.
On the other hand, she had done all of this in order to make her 7pm date with Cando. And she hadn’t done it easily: there was no mistaking the guilt he’d seen and the clear knowledge it conveyed that she was doing something wrong. She could so easily have just sent him a message to say that she was going to have to cancel. Instead, she’d effectively bunked off work, faked an illness to get out of a task which was arguably the most important task in terms of time-criticality that they’d been given so far that year. Why had she chosen that? What did it mean?
And, since she was his line manager, there was no possibility he could do the same thing – it would only come back to punish her. He took out his phone and composed a quick email: Curiosity, I’m so sorry, but I’m going to have to cancel tonight. Something came up at work and I have to stay to get it sorted. I’d have emailed earlier, but it only just became an issue. Have a great evening. C x
The reply came about half an hour later. Are you kidding me? I just got out of a very important late-night work commitment that’s left me feeling really conflicted and guilty. Please don’t make this for nothing. Are you sure you can’t get away? But almost straight away this was followed up by another, softer message. I wrote that last email in haste without thinking. I’m sorry. Of course you must stay at work. Don’t follow my terrible example. IM me if you do manage to get in at the end of the evening, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
Nick pushed all thoughts about that possibility aside and tried to focus on getting his immediate job done within the very little time available. Even so, as he worked, odd ideas popped into his mind – nice ideas at first, except they started pushing him towards an altogether unsettling notion. For example, he thought about installing the Second Life client right there on his work computer so that he could make the date after all. He did have the administrator privileges. The graphics quality and frame rate would be terrible, but at least he’d be able to type messages. He mused over the idea for a few moments, enjoying the pleasure he imagined it would bring to Curiosity if he were to turn up. He knew deep down it was ultimately a foolhardy venture, however, for even if he uninstalled SL from the computer at the end of the evening there was bound to be some sort of audit process that would eventually highlight what he had done and seek explanation from his line manager. It would be a case of misconduct, though that in and of itself did not unduly scare him: he knew full well he was far too valuable an asset to the company for this to warrant anything more severe than at worst a written warning. But then Vicky would know he was a Secondlifer. And even though the risk to his SL identity would be low, the remotest possibility of her finding out who he was in SL now gave Nick a faint knot in his stomach. He realised that unofficially a line had now been crossed and it had nothing to do with them having had sex together in SL. Somehow, he – or rather, Cando – had gotten to her. He had gotten to her to the extent that she’d put her prized RL integrity at risk just so that she could spend time with him. Suddenly, without any sort of warning, they seemed to have moved beyond any sort of point where her finding out the truth would be at worst some sort of embarrassing surprise. If she discovered the truth now, he decided, she would be utterly heartbroken. And if she discovered – or even suspected – that he had known who she was all along then he would be in real, serious trouble.
For the first time since he’d woken the previous morning, Nick felt a twinge of fear. For the first time since he’d looked that name up and discovered Vicky’s SL identity, he found himself wondering if venturing down this path had been the right thing to do. It was all starting to feel just that little bit out of his control. And yet, he told himself, it wasn’t. All he had to do to back out was just to let things cool off in SL. They weren’t a couple. They’d been hanging out together for hardly any time at all and their non-couple status had been explicitly outlined by Curiosity herself. A few days of no communication would require no explanation whatsoever and if on the other side of that they found the inexplicable spark between them extinguished somehow then that would just have to be chalked up to the mysterious way in which the universe worked. Or she’d assume that he’d met someone else. And what would it matter if he had? They were not a couple. And even if this was something that she somehow managed to make out to be a gross betrayal then who cared anyway? People broke up in SL all the time, just like they did in RL. If she hated him then she hated him. She’d get over it. And even if she didn’t get over it and broke all the laws of SL etiquette and published her vitriol in every corner of the web available to her then he could still just quit SL and maybe start over with a new avatar. If even this worst case scenario happened his RL identity would still be safe. No, he told himself: he was still in control. There was no need to be scared. All he had to do was break up with her.
The problem was, he didn’t want to.
This was Victoria Kent, for goodness sake! He, Nicholas Harding, was on the edge of a relationship with a woman way out of his league. It wasn’t every day that something like this happened to a guy like him and why shouldn’t he enjoy it? And what had he actually done that was wrong? Not knowing the real life identity of the people you mix with in SL was part of the deal that everyone signed up to when they created their account: everyone realised there was that faint possibility that you might somehow end up dating your own mother, and much as that made you cringe you accepted the risk because of how small it was and because of how huge the opportunities were in SL. It was perfectly plausible that Cando and Curiosity might just have run into each other in the metaverse by complete coincidence. When you thought about it, he persuaded himself, the only tiny thing that was in any way ‘wrong’ about any of this was his knowing her identity in advance. This had been his only deception. As Cando, he’d acted completely within his normal character so no-one could ever claim he’d invented a personality with which to seduce her. If Cando and Curiosity really had met by chance then he was certain – absolutely certain – that things would have progressed no differently at all from the actual way that they had.
The growing closeness between him and Curiosity, he decided, was a beautiful thing and that was all that it was. There was absolutely nothing else to be said about it.
Want to read another story by me set in SL? I’ve also serialised ‘The man who had an affair with his wife’ – the first part is here (scroll down past the text on NaNoWriMo to get to it).