Okay, so he’s ignoring me. Maybe I overreacted with the whole “Ew!” thing, but he doesn’t have to ignore me. He’s not even at his computer anymore; he’s in the kitchen making small talk with his dad. He never makes small talk with his dad.
I sit at my computer a while, check my e-mail, my Facebook—I’m pretending I’m not actually waiting to see if Jan comes back so that I can…what? Apologize? Confront him? Throw myself at his knees and beg him to like me back? What’s wrong with me? I’ve never done this before. How do you tell if it’s love or infatuation? Why’s Jan so special? Why is he the one who’s activated this mushy alter-ego inside of me?
Ugh. I need to sound off on someone. I get up from my desk and pull off my warm-up jacket, kick off my sneakers and socks. Lily’s good at listening, but she’s not online right now. Neither is Summer—which is probably a good thing. I already know what she’d tell me if I mentioned my crush on Jan: “Sure, he’s got muscles, but he hasn’t got any direction. That usually means trouble, babe.” I don’t really know anyone else on SMN. Not well enough to talk about this kind of stuff. Offline, my parents are out of the question. They’d flip if they knew I was event thinking about boys. Ernie…absolutely not. Theo…hmm. Maybe. Too geeky for his own good, but sensitive. A good listener. He always seems to be the most fair-handed whenever an argument erupts during lunchtime.
I glance at his SMN window. He’s not home yet.
Someone knocks on my bedroom door.
“Yeah?” I call out.
“Homework, sweetheart,” my dad calls through the door. “And don’t forget to get washed up for dinner. Cordon Bleu tonight.”
I’m not in the mood to shower right this instant, but it’ll give me time to think things over. And maybe Theo will be online by the time I’m done. I start to undress—I catch myself with my shirt halfway off, remembering the “always on” nature of SMN.
“Take it off, baby!”
I look at my computer screen. Ernie’s smiling at me and giving me a thumb’s up.
Scowling, I rearrange my shirt. I reach for a pair of shorts; I toss them over my webcam.
Ernie moans in disappointment. “Tease!”
“Screw you, Ernie,” I say, and glance at Theo’s messenger window again. “If you sneak over here while I’m in the shower I’ll clobber you!”
“Don’t flatter yourself, sweetness,” Ernie says. “I only download on girls with actual tits.”
It’s such a crude, Ernie-ish thing to say, but I’m not listening. I’m thinking to myself: Theo, where are you, darn it?