Well here it is, the sequel to the "Faceless Affair". Thanks to all who voted on my poll, this story won by a landslide! I might do sequels of my other one-shots, especially the more popular ones.
I'll expand more on this in the ending author's note, but on April 11th of last year I posted my story "The Chains that Bind" on Fictionpress and joined the community. The response I got was overwhelming and beyond my wildest expectations... I just write whatever comes into my head and your support makes it all possible and brightens my day.
So to all those authors who have given me reviews, followed me or my stories, helped me fix my grammar problems, and have shared their talents and their friendship with me. Thank you, thank you all. :)
Also big thank you to the author Brievel for suggesting "Snail-mail" as the way these two characters reconnect, and check out my Youtube Channel (link in the profile) for my cover of "Feathery Wings" by Voltaire.
I hope you enjoy the story.
It was six months since his last meeting with Expose. The meeting where she told him goodbye and showed him her face, then nothing… nothing at all.
He gradually got over it and moved on with his life, she was a criminal after all and he guessed she always needed to remain on the move. In his heart, he always knew that their friendship was based on a single mistake, nothing more.
He never expected to fall in love with her, never expected a girl he met online to be anything other than someone to pass time with. With every meeting, however, he discovered a new trait that perked his heart. Until every single time they met it was guaranteed she'd have his heart thumping faster and louder… so loud he wondered how she didn't hear it. Before he could ask her, she was gone.
He got used to being without their long conversations, their inside jokes, seeing her every single day.
Then a letter arrived, postmarked from Oregon.
He looked twice at it and studied the letter carefully, because nobody really sent him letters, and he doubted he had any relatives in the area. There was no return address, only his own.
After several tense minutes trying to guess if the letter was even meant for his eyes, he opened it to reveal a piece of paper that contained a date and a time, along with another address. At the bottom was a small sticker of a pixelated face.
It was from her! His heart beat a bit faster as he smiled, and it briefly reminded him of their old meetings. He began looking up the address with giddy movements as he bounced in his chair. The address was an Oregon dance hall, and it was scheduled to have an open to the public 19th century gala four days from now. He could make it, if he left now.
His eyes closed and the giddiness left him, leaving him drained as he weighed the possibilities. Expose had told him she was a well- accomplished dancer during their conversations, and he'd wanted to see her dance for a long time. Could there be any harm in it? It was the middle of summer after all, and he could afford a plane ticket to Oregon.
His body made the choice for him, already going to a closet to dig out a suitcase.
After taking time to pack a suitcase, and taking an even longer time to get through security, he was finally on a plane to Oregon. The plane was making a few stops, so it would take about six hours minimum to get there.
Excitement mixed with fear gnawed at his insides, he was nervous. This was a highly respected dance hall hosting a formal ball, but he doubted his collared shirt was enough to make him fit in. Would they impress her at all?
He took small comfort in the fact that his outfit was similar to the ones he had worn during their conversations, so he'd be recognized… and he knew he would recognize her. How could he forget?
The face of the woman behind Expose was a face burned into his very thoughts, his very memory. He could see her dirty blond hair, stare into her striking green eyes, and hear the sound of her voice which captivated him. She was a picture, his own personal work of art that he could mentally enjoy for as long as he wished and recall at any time.
He never asked for her to steal his heart, but it had happened. Day by day, meeting by meeting, conversation by conversation she wore him down, until he finally broke. He was forced to wear a mask around her, forced to hide his feelings and curse himself for getting so deeply involved with her. Reality was always a pestering annoyance, telling him that she was a girl online, who lived dozens of miles away. A girl who had her own life, a life that only paralleled his… they weren't meant to be in contact. Yet here he was, going to find her… like a modern Prince Charming
But what would he say? Every time he imagined her image in his mind, he stuttered, blushed, and sweated. What affect would the real flesh and blood woman have on him? He couldn't just walk up to her and expect her to recognize him, or even care that he was there.
Plus he was at a major disadvantage when it came to the environment, he couldn't dance, had never been to a formal dance hall, and he was sure she would be surrounded by her own friends. Maybe they were criminals too… that was a thought!
The whole idea was out of his comfort zone, and his brain took the advantage of that to really think about what he was doing.
Here he was going to Oregon, wasting his summer to chase after a girl he had met online, a girl who might not care that he was there, and for what? For the vain hope that'd she'd want to renew a friendship that had been inactive for six months!
The cons and pros were balanced on the scale, his choice would tip them.
The plane shuddered as it landed, and the scales tipped in the pro's favor. Now there was no going back.
After a few days of exploring Oregon, the day of the dance approached. He showered twice, took time to iron his clothes, and made every attempt to look nice. After checking himself in the bathroom mirror for the umpteenth time, he finally opened the door and walked out.
The weather was nice and cool, with a light breeze beckoning him onwards as he walked towards the dance hall. His suit jacket was the only thing that looked elegant on him, and it covered a simple collared shirt and brown slacks. It was either the plane ticket or a tuxedo, and he had bought the ticket.
He entered a large building at the end of the street, and followed several posted signs to the dance floor.
Classical music from a live band entered his ears, and he smiled, new confidence filling his soul. The hall itself looked like a scene from Pride and Prejudice with a chandelier providing light, watching over a wooden dance floor. More lights bathed the dancing couples in warm glows, and several tables were set up in the back of the room each adorned with a white table cloth.
The women were in silk dresses, adorned with colors and beads. Most of the ladies had flowers in their hair and silken gloves and shoes. They swirled their skirts around as they spoke, and fingered handkerchiefs or purses if they weren't clasping the arm of a partner. Their clothing looked like a blend of the old fashions and the modern styles, and yet they didn't look out of place at all.
The men all wore suits, and they all had their white shirts tucked in, with nary a wrinkle showing. Their boots shone in the light and their white gloves glowed in contrast to the black or grey suits. The men practically reeked the auras of sophisticated gentlemen, and as he looked at them, then back at his own clothing… painfully judging himself.
After a moment he shook off the lingering tendrils of shame that clung to him and instead scanned the room for her. He analyzed the faces of the women, sticking to the back of the room so he could see the whole floor.
No, No, No…. no… where could she be?
The dance had started a while ago, maybe she just wasn't here yet. He sat down at one of the tables and kept looking, his eyes focused on the doorways. He was going to be ready the moment she walked in, although what he would do once she arrived remained a mystery.
After a few more minutes of fruitless searching, he stood up. Maybe this was all a big hoax by Expose, maybe she couldn't make it, or maybe she had to move to avoid the law again.
He'd known that this would happen, she was a girl he had met online for pity's sake! He couldn't expect a real friendship to be forged based on their online relationship, much less anything more.
But knowing about it didn't stop the pain, the pain of feeling betrayed and abandoned. She was nothing to him, a criminal and a thief at the most. Their online friendship meant nothing, it wasn't real, and he'd known that from the beginning.
So why did it hurt so much?
He began to head towards the exit, most of the women here either had partners or a line of gentlemen waiting to dance with them, so there wasn't much incentive for him to stay.
A voice calling his name pulled him back, and he turned, wondering who it could be. It wasn't like anyone knew him here.
His eyes widened as he beheld a vision.
Expose was standing in the middle of the dance floor, in a floor length black dress that sparkled with sequins and small jewels. Her hair was up in a bun and her green eyes sparkled like emeralds, the dark eye shadow accented the look making her seem like a vampire. Her shoulders and arms were bare, and a black choker with a shining clasp was around her neck.
She smiled, as if they had known one another for years, and extended a hand. "Are you going to admire me all day or are we going to dance?"
The sound of her voice brought him back to reality as he finished taking another mental picture. "O-of cou-rse." He muttered, taking her hand and placing the other on her back.
As if on cue, the tones of a classical waltz began to play, and Expose placed one arm around his shoulder. She looked up at him and smiled again, that perfect beautiful smile, and he gulped. His fingers instinctively tightened around hers, as he marveled at the beauty before him. His heart beat faster and faster as he wondered what it would take to make that smile his.
"You're taller than I expected." She remarked "But it's good to finally meet you in person."
His head swam at her very words, and he had difficulty keeping his footing. He took a deep breath, inhaling her scent, before attempting to speak, finally managing to choke out a compliment. "You're lovelier than on the video."
Expose's pearl white skin turned red as she blushed, and she ran her thumb over his hand. "Thank you."
He smirked internally as she returned to normal, his heart began to beat like a drum, and his mind short circuited as she guided him through the steps of the waltz.
The music reached a crescendo as the waltz continued, with the pair managing more complicated steps. Until he found the courage to speak again. "Expose… I don't even know your name…"
The woman he was holding smiled "I suppose I owe you for hacking into your computer in the first place. My real name is…"
A tap on his shoulder cut off her sentence, and he turned to see another man standing there. "Excuse me sir, but I would like to cut in."
The man was well built, with obvious muscles showing underneath his suit. His salt and pepper hair was nicely groomed, and his skin gleamed in the light, making him seem ethereal.
The man's eyes, however, shone with adoration and nervousness as he looked at Expose. Her eyes mirrored the emotions of the newcomer, as her hands slipped away from his.
Not wanting to be rude he nodded wordlessly and walked off the dance floor as another waltz song started.
A small bit of anger began to gnaw at his heart as he watched the couple dance. Most of it was because of his annoyance with people who 'cut in' during dances, but some of it was for the newcomer. They obviously had known each other a long time and both shared a desire to be more than friends. They moved like they were one dancer, pulling off turns and dips flawlessly. They danced with confidence, sharing shy smiles and quick glances, and it was easy for him to see that they were both smitten with one another. Their eyes locked together and remained connected, saying more than words ever could.
His fists clenched at his sides as he took several deep breaths, now wasn't the time or place to make a pointless scene. True he cared about Expose, but what did he have going for him? He'd known her for six months or so, they'd seen each other in person for about two minutes, and the only communication they had was online. What basis was that for a friendship, much less anything more?
He didn't even know her name.
The newcomer she was smitten with, well he seemed to know and care deeply about her, he looked like someone chiseled him from stone, and he could afford to dress formally. Besides, one look into Expose's eyes… and he knew he wasn't ever going to mean anything to her. She was wholeheartedly in love with this new man, and he had been cast aside.
The waltz ended and the newcomer led her off to a circle of friends, with one hand resting on her back. The innocent touch reignited the wildfire raging in his stomach, and quickly he smothered it. Smothered the desire to be that man, to have her adoring gaze, to be able to share innocent touches and gestures.
All the burning emotions and anger and jealousy. All the dark possessive thoughts and anger. All the pain, and the truth that she would never be his. It burned his insides to the core, and his brain briefly entertained the idea of walking over and punching his rival in the face.
He shut that idea down, girls always took the side of the punched man anyway… he'd seen enough movies to know that simple truth.
The room seemed to close in, until the music faded away and all he saw was Expose laughing and holding the hand of the newcomer.
It was just the three of them in that moment, three parts of a love triangle that only he knew existed. He took a deep breath, groaning inwardly, before turning to leave.
There was nothing for him here.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Expose leave too.
Thoughts of going after her now that she was away from tall, dark, and handsome surfaced. He could get her alone… talk to her.
She vanished into the shadows and the thoughts followed her. This whole experience had been a waste of time and money, he wouldn't make it worse.
A scream pierced the night, and his footsteps paused, his mouth opening in a whisper "Expose…"
He should have kept walking, but he didn't. He turned and ran towards the source of the scream, ducking down an alleyway behind the dance hall.
Expose was pinned against a wall, with one man holding her still and three more watching her like hawks. Their wobbling stances were proof that they had been drinking something much stronger than the dance hall's punch, and silver gleamed in the moonlight as each man flipped a pocket-knife.
He should have turned and called for help, but he didn't. Instead the fire of rage started up again, and this time he let it consume him.
His hands grabbed a piece of pipe and a trash can lid, and he stalked forward, spitting a message through gritted teeth. "Let go of the girl!"
The men turned and chuckled, too drunk to recognize the danger. "Buzz off boy, I'm gonna have me some fun with this lady. She's been stealing money from the wrong people, so after our fun, she ain't never gonna type again!"
An inhuman roar tore itself from his throat as he charged, ramming his improvised shield into one thug's chest. His pipe smacked against the hand of the second thug, knocking the knife loose.
He swung a punch, knocking the third thug off his feet, before kicking the fourth off of Expose.
His vison clouded with red, he charged as the thugs began to get up, venting his rage.
A swing of the pipe across a head, the bash of the lid against a nose, the cracking of bone, the smell of blood, they were all stimulants, all causes to fight harder, to let his rage fuel him. He attacked like a hawk among doves, screaming and howling, before hurling his weapons aside and beating the thugs with his fists.
He pinned the thugs down and rained blows upon them mercilessly, each punch punctuating a sentence.
Expose would never be his!
She'd never see that he loved her!
He was pursuing an impossible dream!
Some tall stranger was filling a part of her life… filling a part that should be his!
He was cast aside!
Everything he had done, every feeling he had for her, it didn't matter!
She'd never be his!
These thoughts flashed in his brain between punches, as he leapt from thug to thug battering them down. Hurting them, to make sure they'd never ever hurt her.
Until finally it was over, the men lay unconscious and beaten on the ground. The haze of anger faded away from his eyes and he stood, keeping his face in the shadows. The only sound in the alley was Expose's terrified breathing, but whether she was afraid of the ordeal she had been part of or him… he couldn't say.
"Go, get inside and with your friends… call the police and have them come pick up these dirtbags."
With that he turned to walk away, only to hear her voice rise in a whisper. "Who are you?"
He almost turned, almost turned to show her his face, to tell her how much he cared for her… one movement and she would know, maybe even understand what he felt. She see him as a hero and he'd receive all her adoration, because he had saved her, no one else.
It was movement he never took.
"I'm Nobody." He answered, figuring that was all he'd ever be to her. She'd never love him the way he did her, not while tall, dark, and handsome was in the picture. Still at least she'd be happy with him… he'd take comfort in that. Because with any girl, that was all he wanted.
So he walked away, back to his home, back to a life that was so different from hers, back to a place where he could never be with her.
He'd get over her, and although she'd was gone… he knew in his heart she'd never be forgotten.
I hope you enjoyed the story, did the sequel live up to your expectations?
Now for a bit of a longer note:
On April 11th last year I posted my first novel "The Chains that Bind" for a school project, thinking I would put my novels out there. I began to post other stories once I saw people reading my work, and the response I got was mind blowing.
Every kind review, grammar check, recommendation and suggestion has been read and enjoyed by me. Every author who has left a review or spent their time researching or suggesting ideas... they have made me a better writer. Thank you very much for your support. The support for all my writings and stories has been wonderful, and I've branched into Angst, romance, science fiction, and other genres and scenarios I never would have risked without a firm support system.
Thank you very much for everything, and here's to another year of story writing! :)