A long-running thing. Americans, why must you spell it differently?
‘It’s spelt ‘gray’, not ‘grey’,’ he typed. Almost immediately the message pinged back on to his screen.
‘Gray, grey, what does it matter? The car is midway between black and white. Satisfied now?’
John snorted and took a sip of coffee. These things were important, after all, and it wasn’t like he was obsessed, he told himself.
‘Tell me more about it, please.’ His fingers rattled over the keyboard, lit by the small lamp on his desk.
‘Can do better than that. Here’s a vid,’ came back the reply. It was just like any other night, too many if John was honest. Just him and Angela. Of course, she was at university in America, and it was only early evening for her. In his London bedroom, the moon was on its way down already.
The link flashed up on the messenger screen and he clicked it. Almost immediately a video site popped up and he watched a grey car rotating over a black background while stats flickered all around it. Top speed, miles/gallon, all the info he would ever need to know.
‘Looks good,’ he replied. ‘When do you pick it up?’
‘Tomorrow,’ she replied.
‘Can I see it? Will you take photos?’
They made their goodnights, and signed off. John closed the laptop and sighed. The room suddenly seemed very empty indeed. Setting the laptop aside, he switched the light off and covered himself with the duvet. Squeezing his eyes shut, he waited for sleep to come.
The rain hammered at the window. The day had been long and hot, and it was a blessed relief that didn’t extend as far as John’s bedroom. The air was stuffy, a legacy of windows unopened in a long time.
‘I’m here babe,’ he typed. There was a long pause, and then:
‘Hey John. How’s it going?’
‘Good thanks. Got the car?’
A longer pause. Then ‘Yes. Want to see?’
Four requests to accept file transfers came up in fairly quick succession. Their names were random numbers, the kind a good camera creates, and he accepted them all. His connection was a good one and they completed very quickly.
The car was shiny, grey as promised, complete with Angela behind the wheel. He touched the screen, stroking the image of her face. They had met in a coffee bar, he was writing a novel, she was serving at the counter. One coffee led to another, and then dinner, and finally to bed. It had been whirlwind, and then she had been gone.
‘Looks good,’ he sent to her.
‘Uh, hey,’ she sent back, then ‘Oh shit,’ and finally ‘Don’t look at the last pic, ok?’ All sent in quick succession. John frowned.
Without replying, he had a look at the second picture. It was a closer shot of the car, Angela laid seductively across the body this time.
‘Who took the pictures? You look great, babe,’ he said.
There was no reply, so he clicked to the third picture. This time it was just the car, and he gave it no more than a cursory glance. He clicked on the fourth picture.
The scene this time was not of the car. It was a party; recent, judging by the orange timestamp in the corner of the picture. Angela was there, dressed in something cut scandalously short and made of green silk. It set her ginger hair off beautifully. There was a man, dark skin, white smile, wrapped around her in a fully-fledged kiss. Not even a peck on the cheek; this was a passionate kiss. The kind you give a lover. John balled his hand up in sudden rage and felt his heartrate increase before he could bring himself to type again.
‘Who’s the guy?’
A pause, then: ‘The one that took the pictures?’
‘YOU KNOW THE ONE I MEAN,’ he typed, savagely hammering each key in. ‘The one in the last picture.’
‘His name is Gray.’
He remembered then. She had told him about Gray, the boy she had left behind in America. They had split before she came over, he was an idiot, she never wanted to see him again. But he was rich…
‘How did you afford the car?’ he sent.
‘Gray gave it to me. As a present… you know, John, I’m sorry you had to find out this way. I needed time to get away from Gray but I see now that he’s all mine.’ John stared in disbelief as each sentence popped up onto his screen. ‘I think it’s probably best if we don’t chat anymore, ok John?’
‘No, it’s not ok,’ he typed, but as soon as he pressed enter a message popped up: The contact you are trying to reach is offline. Please try again later.
“Bitch!” John yelled, slamming his laptop on his knees. “Agh!” He got up and stormed around his room, ducking under the dangling plastic model he had mounted on the ceiling. A knock sounded at the door.
“Jonathan? What are you doing in there?”
He cursed quietly, then shouted “Nothing Mother! Just… tidying some things up.”
“Would you like a hot cup of milk, love?”
“No, Mother,” he grated out, “I’m seventeen. I’m too old for hot milk, Mother.”
He heard her sniff and mutter something, then shuffle off down the stairs. John curled up on the bed again, covering himself completely with the duvet, hot tears beginning to fall. It just wasn’t fair! The idiot couldn’t even spell his name right!