Part eleven of ‘The man who dated his RL boss (without her knowing it).’
“Let’s do the RL hotel thing,” she said to him, a month into their relationship.
In real life, Nick blinked twice and then sat up straight in his chair; his heart did a double thud inside him. “What?” he replied.
“The hotel thing we spoke about a while back. Don’t you remember?”
“I remember very clearly,” he told her. “I also remember the word, ‘hypothetical’ being very prominently attached to it.”
“I know,” she said. “But then I got to thinking, ‘Why not?’ I mean, I trust you. The idea excites me. Why not do exciting things?
“Are you married in RL?” she added.
“And neither am I. So what’s stopping us?”
“How about the fact I might be a serial killer?” he wrote.
“But it’s me that’s suggesting the meeting, not you!”
“How do you know I haven’t cleverly manipulated you into doing that?!”
“Look, if you kill me the police will be all over my flat and then my computer and then my IM logs, and that will lead them to you. I think I’m covered.”
“I don’t know what to say,” he typed, breathless with anxiety in real life. “I’ve never even thought about taking an SL relationship into RL.”
“That’s not what I’m suggesting,” she interjected. “That’s not what I want at all.”
“Then what is it you’re suggesting?”
“This would be a one-off. A single meeting. Everything would be in the dark, just how we talked about it. This would basically still be SL, just with an added physical dimension for one night.”
“I don’t know,” he told her. “This is too big.”
“Look,” she replied, “of course we don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. I’m just letting you know that I’d like it.”
“I’m not saying I don’t want to do it. I’m saying it’s unexpected.”
“Then give it some time. Get used to the idea.”
“What if we’re not attracted to each other?”
“We’re not going to see each other’s bodies,” she told him, “we’re only going to feel them.”
Nick looked down at his slight but definitely rounded belly and wondered how many trips to the gym it would take to turn it into a six-pack. “I’m not quite the chiselled hunk in RL as I am in SL, you know,” he commented.
“I don’t care,” she answered, and then added, “though I will care if you’re unwashed and don’t smell amazing.”
“Good hygiene I can definitely do,” he reassured her.
“Can,” she told him, “I have never even contemplated something like this with any other person in SL. This is how special you are to me.”
“And I do feel incredibly privileged and honoured that you would trust me,” he replied.
“Promise me you’ll think about it?”
“I don’t need to think about it. The answer is no.” Nick typed that sentence all the way to the end and his finger hovered over the enter key. It was the right response, he told himself. It would be insane to agree to something like this.
But then he thought about undoing that zip and seeing – and feeling with his fingers – the skin of her back. He sighed and deleted the words.
“Okay,” he wrote instead.
And now, a previously locked door opened in his mind. At the office, he looked at her in a way he hadn’t looked at her before. He studied her. He took every opportunity he got to look at bits of her as closely as he could: her fingers as she typed or wrote things down on a pad; the back of her neck when he stood behind her at her desk. There were times when he could lean forward to scrutinise some small detail she wanted him to see on her screen where his chin was just above her shoulder and his lips no more than an inch from the side of her head. It is astonishing, he thought to himself, how many opportunities there were to be intimately close to someone if you looked for and exploited them.
He looked at her eyes when she was talking to him one day, only half hearing what she was saying. He gazed at the skin across the bridge of her nose. He noticed the tiny pores there. He examined the tiny hairs at the edges of her eyebrows. How would it be to look at these things one day with the knowledge that he had touched and kissed them?
Now that it was open, the door would not shut. Previously, he had managed without too much difficulty to keep Victoria Kent and Curiosity Redgrave in more-or-less distinct boxes. The whole point of those timed email messages, you will recall, had been to prove to himself that they really were the same person. In a Venn diagram of this woman, the two circles of Vicky and Curiosity were only just overlapping at the edges. Now, however, the two personalities were merging: the two circles were moving towards becoming just the one. He looked at Vicky and he saw Curiosity. He read Curiosity’s words and he heard them in his head in Vicky’s voice.
And yet the two circles could not completely become one. That remaining slither of ‘just Curiosity’ contained the way she spoke to him as Cando; that remaining slither of ‘just Victoria’ contained the way she spoke to him as Nick: two opposing orange peel curls and he knew in the back of his mind that they had to be larger than that in reality, that his deception was not just a tiny, incidental thing like the last curve of sunlight before a total eclipse.
But the pull to her physicality was just too great to resist. Nick had had a few RL girlfriends in his time, but none had lasted for more than a few months and it had been nearly six years since the last time he had slept with a woman. He had never really had an RL sexual encounter that had moved him beyond the feelings of momentary arousal; he had never looked at the woman he was having sex with and felt overcome with a sense of awe at what was happening or overwhelmed by the connection between them: it had always been him and only him in his head, and she was someone who just existed outside his body. Being with Vicky would be so much more than that, he was certain of it. It would be just the way she had said it would be: the intimacies of SL and RL fusing into something greater than the sum of their parts. This was an opportunity to experience something altogether new, something wondrous at the cutting edge of human experience: why would anyone with any glimpse of such a thing turn their head away from it?
Those early fears he’d felt about being found out were now almost entirely absent. It wouldn’t happen, he told himself; it wouldn’t happen for the principle reason that the entire scenario had been designed by Curiosity to protect her own identity, and whatever protected her protected him also. In any case, he thought, so what if she did find out? His trail of innocent behaviour led right up to this very meeting: who but someone who had no idea who it was he was going to meet would agree to an arrangement like this? The very worst that could happen was embarrassment and rejection, but the best would be Nick and Vicky instead of Curiosity and Cando: the next level; a real relationship. Wasn’t that worth taking the risk for?
Three days after her proposal, he logged on and sent her a private message. “Let’s do it,” he told her.
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).