Outside My Keyboard

Plink!

Plink!

I groaned, throwing my head back and letting my pen clank onto my desk. My English paper was momentarily forgotten at the sound of the computerized plinking. I only had one paragraph to go, but I was tearing through my textbook trying to find the last quote I needed. Scowling at my laptop that was sitting on my bed, the screen facing away from me, I debated about whether to go over and read the messages.

Plink! It said again, as if trying to lure me over.

I hated that irritating, high-pitched, torturous sound. I hated that it paused my music for a brief second when it dinged. I hated that it made my dog bark anytime she was around to hear it. I hated that it made me drop everything to give it all my attention. And I hated that it made my heart skip a beat, my pulse quicken, wondering if it's him again.

It could be Elaina, your best friend, a voice in the back of my mind told me, drawing me away from the essay that was due in less than seven hours. Or it could be him, the voice went on, tempting me even more.

Without another thought, I got up and hopped on my bed, swiveling my laptop around to check the messages.

CR: Hey 1:31 a.m.
CR: How's your essay going? 1:32 a.m.
CR: You still up? 1:33 a.m.

I blinked a few times, partially out of uncertainty, partially in response to the bright screen glaring at my tired eyes.

It was him. Callan Reynolds, the mysterious, alluring lacrosse player who sat next to me in English class. He was the epitome of tall, dark and handsome, but he was also aloof and unapproachable. So, why on God's green earth was he messaging me at one-thirty in the morning to ask if I was still awake? That was quite a loaded question.

Instinctively, my hands reached out to type an all-too-eager response, but I faltered, fingers hovering motionless over the keyboard.

Callan first messaged me a little over two months ago, asking about the due date of a previous essay. A few days after that, he reached out to me again asking about the bibliography page. Since then, the length of our conversations grew steadily, and the content progressed from purely academic to commiserating over school in general, then eventually to normal, friendly chatter. At that point, I could tell you his top five favorite movies, the name of his third-grade goldfish, his dream job, and his most commonly used curse word. It was shit, for the record.

Based on those conversations alone, it would almost look like we were friends. Almost.

AC: a paragraph to go. Hbu? 1:36 a.m.

I sighed, shaking my head as I leaned back against the headboard. What was I doing? I was carrying on an imaginary, online relationship with a boy who didn't even know I existed outside my keyboard. And why? The answer was simple really…

CR: two and a half :/ 1:37 a.m.

Before I could think better of it, my fingers flew across the keyboard.

AC: take AP English, they said. You'll learn so much! 1:37 a.m.

His response came instantly.

CR: the only thing I've learned is that 3am sober is not fun 1:37 a.m.

I laughed aloud, quickly covering my mouth when I remembered my sleeping sister was on the other side of the wall. Callan wasn't so funny in real life, but online, he always made me laugh.

AC: I bet I can finish first. Loser brings winner breakfast? 1:38 a.m.

I sat back on my heels, nervous as I watched the little typing bubble pop up. The message was risky. We had never made real life plans during these late-night conversations. If I thought before I typed, I probably wouldn't have made that daring of a proposition.

CR: not fair, you only have 1 paragraph left 1:39 a.m.
AC: I didn't say you had to accept… 1:39 a.m.
CR: oh no, you're on. 1:39 a.m.

My stomach fluttered, shocked that he actually accepted the offer. Even if he didn't follow through, I felt like we were one step closer to acknowledging each other's existence outside the computer screen.

AC: alright. I guess we should get back to work then 1:40 a.m.

As the typing bubble appeared, I minimized the conversation and dragged it to the corner of my screen. I then pulled up Instagram and searched Callan's name. To my luck, his account was public. I discovered this a few weeks ago while we were chatting, feeling the need to put a face to the words. It was strange to look at him while we talked. The Callan Reynolds of reality was drastically different from the CR of the virtual world. His page was full of photos from parties, with blurred out beer cans in his hands and girls hanging onto his arms. They were the same old photos you saw on any high school boy's social media, but I was still drawn to him. Despite his active night life, Callan was quiet and kept to himself at school. He wasn't obnoxious or conceited like the other guys.

CR: I've been working. I wrote 5 sentences since we started talking. you better get moving or I might catch up 1:42 a.m.

I gaped at my screen, panicking for a moment. How could I have let him distract me so easily?

AC: fine, I'll talk to you when I'm done 1:43 a.m.

With that, I closed the window and returned to my desk to continue my hunt for the right quote.

"Aha!" I exclaimed out loud when I finally found the page I was looking for.

Once I had that last bit of information, I furiously typed away. I had never been so focused in my life as the words traveled quickly from my brain, to my fingertips, to the screen. After one last period, all that was left to do was proofread. I zipped through the six-page essay and corrected everything my tired eyes could catch. With a final click of the save icon, it was all over.

AC: DONE 2:16 a.m.

I stared at the screen, eagerly awaiting his response. It came after a few minutes.

CR: no way 2:19 a.m.
AC: yes way 2:20 a.m.
CR: good game, Carmichael 2:20 a.m.

I laughed, unable to help my wide smile. Before responding, I stopped to submit my essay on the class's website, so I wouldn't forget. It was really embarrassing to see the "Submitted at 2:25 a.m." message that appeared when I uploaded it, but I didn't care. The teacher said to get it in before the start of class, so really, I was five and a half hours early.

AC: so what's for breakfast? 2:27 a.m.

Although my eyes could hardly stay open at that point, I stared at the screen for at least five minutes. The typing bubble didn't pop up. Yawning, I decided that he was probably just focusing on his essay. I closed my laptop and started getting ready for bed.


The next morning, I dragged my feet all the way from bed to my English classroom. Staying up until two-forty-five was not the best move. On top of my exhaustion, I was admittedly a little disappointed when I checked my messages and saw that Callan had never replied.

Maybe he just got distracted and never saw it, I tried to reassure myself. I wasn't totally serious about the breakfast bet, anyway. I was just joking around.

Pushing the thoughts from my head, I was momentarily distracted by a text from Elaina as I walked into English class. I replied to her as I made my way to the back row, not yet looking up from my phone. As I slipped it into my pocket, however, I was met with a pleasant surprise: coffee and a bagel sitting on my desk, a folded note reading Abigail on the front propped up next to them.

I turned to look at my neighbor, but he wasn't there. Confused, I picked up the note and read:

Good work, Abigail. I fell asleep at my computer and woke up at 5, so I forgot to respond to your message. I hope coffee and a bagel works. I know you like to get to class early, so I dropped them off and went back to my car to sleep until class. See you at 8:00 on the dot. – CR

Smiling, I sat down and started to eat my breakfast, rereading the note a few times to make sure it was real. There was something strange about seeing his handwriting instead of the generic computer font. But still, the message was from CR, not the real life Callan Reynolds.

I finished my coffee and bagel just before eight and got up to throw my trash away before class started. The trashcan sat right next to the door. As I was discarding my cup and napkin, a last-minute straggler walked in.

Callan and I stared at each other for a few seconds, and it seemed unreal. As far as I could remember, that was the first time we ever made eye contact. It was like a scene from that movie where the man and woman fall for each other online without realizing they knew each other in real life. Or a scene from that other movie where the world is a simulation, but no one realizes it until there's glitch in the system, like this moment. Two very different movies. I hoped it was more like the first one, where they get together in the end.

"Hey," Callan said in a low, gravelly voice.

"Hi," I replied, almost breathlessly.

A smile flickered across his face as he glanced down and saw the empty cup in my hand. But then the bell rang, and Callan walked by me without another word.

Both thrilled and confused, I, too, went back to my seat. As class began, I couldn't get myself to focus. My brain was replaying our encounter over and over, picking it apart as if expecting to find some hidden meaning in the way he said "hey."

I decided I wasn't fully satisfied with our greeting. It was time for another bold move. Flipping over Callan's note, I scribbled something on the back. I glanced over at him, but he was focused on taking notes. After a quick peek at the teacher to make sure she wasn't watching, my hand slowly reached out and slipped the note onto Callan's desk. The familiar rush of passing notes in class came back to me, reminding me of my devious ways back in seventh grade. Clearly, I wasn't much of a thrill-seeker, but this really did feel like a big risk.

Callan's eyes flitted over to the note, and I swear he smiled a little. Without looking at me, he picked it up and read it over.

Thanks for breakfast.

It was simple, yes, but I figured I would start out slow to see how he would respond. Callan wrote something under my short message. I quickly looked away, pretending like I hadn't been watching him, as he started to turn towards me. In a smooth motion, Callan tossed the note, and it landed flat on my desk.

A deal's a deal. I hope you enjoyed it.

I took a deep breath as I debated whether to say something back. He had replied the first time, but maybe he was just being polite. Would he be annoyed if I sent it back? He had seemed pretty focused before. I didn't want to distract him from class, especially since he didn't get much sleep last night.

Keeping my head down, I watched Callan in my peripheral vision. His head was slightly turned towards me, and he was tapping his pen against the desk, no longer taking rigorous notes. It almost seemed like he was waiting for me.

Building up some courage, I wrote a response and held out the note. This time, Callan took it from my hand almost impatiently. A surge of excitement coursed through me.

I did. Maybe we should make deals more often…

While I tried to keep it subtle, I still hoped he would pick up on my lightly flirtatious tone. I was usually terrible at flirting, but for some reason I wasn't too bad when I was writing instead of talking.

After a moment, Callan handed the note back to me.

I have another deal for you then.

Biting my lip, I tried to decipher what he meant. It sounded coy in my head, but it was hard to tell exactly what his tone was. Maybe he was going to try to pay me to do his homework. Maybe he was going to ask me to bring him breakfast next time. Or maybe it would be something else… There was only one way to find out.

Bring it on.

Butterflies danced unrelentingly in my stomach. My foot tapped under my desk in an attempt to relieve my built-up anxiety. I really hoped whatever the teacher was saying wasn't too important, because I hadn't heard a single word.

Callan tossed the note onto my desk, and it landed with our messages down. With another deep breath, I flipped it over.

Here's the deal: you, me, dinner, Friday at 7

It felt like the butterflies in my gut had exploded into a mess of excitement. Had Callan Reynolds just asked me out? It couldn't be possible. This couldn't be real life. I blinked a few times, but the note didn't disappear. It was really there.

I looked over at Callan to see if he was serious. He sat there with his elbows propped up on the desk, clasping his hands in front of his mouth to hide the irresistible grin on his face. Callan looked from me down to the note, as if urging me to reply. I swallowed, unable to tear my eyes away from him. When he saw the confused look on my face, Callan winked, sending me into another flurry of emotions.

I looked back down at the note, suddenly smiling as I penned another memo. Callan eagerly took it from my hand, and I watched openly this time as he read it.

That doesn't sound like much of a deal.

He rolled his eyes but quickly wrote something back. I took the note and read the final message:

Fine, then it's a date.


A/N: Hi! This was just a short, cute one-shot that I wanted to write to make myself smile. I hope you enjoyed!

Until next time, xoxo