“Hi :)” Popped up nearly as soon as the icons on her desktop. It was TRULVE; a corny screen name, but he was actually kind of funny. She’d met him in a chat room; talked to him almost daily over the past year, but never thought too much about it.
He seemed nice enough. At least he had offered some good advice about that jerk Terrance. She knew Terrance had been too good to be true, and TRULVE pointed it out—excessively, she thought, but still he was the one to be straight forward with her about him. She hadn’t caught Terrance cheating, but she knew he was. She just knew it.
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“What’s up?” She typed into the instant message.
“Not much, wanna meet ;)”
He’d been asking for a long time now, and although she’d been curious she was still hesitant. She’d never met anyone online before. She’d heard stories though-some bad, but most were good. The ones on TV, were horribly bad, And she didn’t want to be one of those.
“No silly, I have to get to bed anyway. No time to meet, busy with school and cheerleading. You know, it’s the life of a socialite.” She lied. She wasn’t a cheerleader, and wasn’t busy—ever. After school she just came home and jumped online, hung out with her friends at someone’s house, or took a nap; not what you would call the life of a socialite.
“C’mon. I’ve been good, right? I just wanna meet. We can go somewhere public.”
“Mostly good.” She replied, thinking back to the time he started sending her pictures of his body she probably shouldn’t have seen. She felt guilty for even looking. She never even told her friends about them. Her girlfriends would have probably laughed about it, but Ginny was more embarrassed than anything. She asked him never to do it again; then typed unless I ask. She didn’t know why she’d tried to lead him on that way. She liked him, but certainly not the way he might have felt. She knew he was prompting her to send similar pictures, and it didn’t make her feel good, but he was giving her attention she didn’t get at school. That is the part she liked.
Obviously he didn’t think sending the pictures out like that hurt her in a way. She wasn’t comfortable telling him; not yet at least. She still wanted to talk to him, but not in that way.
“I have to go to sleep. Big day tomorrow.”
Ginny reached for the top of her laptop to flip it closed, before he responded, knowing he would have some cheesy goodbye for her or beg her to stay online. If she merely ignored it, she could dismiss the message and not respond.
“Night SEXY La—“ was all she read before flipping the laptop closed. He was a fast typer.
Tim waited for a response from Ginny. Ten minutes passed and nothing. She did that sometimes. The longer he waited, the faster his heart would beat. He didn’t know why exactly. He trusted her, it’s not like she would cheat on him, but you never could be sure.
He never questioned whether they were “dating.” It was pretty obvious. He’d even sent her pics of his junk. She seemed to like it too. She commented, “Wow! Nice.” Obviously she liked what she saw. She’d even sent him a picture back, not a naked one like he wanted, but it was cute. She was a cute girl.
She wasn’t going to respond—again. He was kind of irritated that she wouldn’t respond when he said bye. He adjusted his pillow and left the laptop open next to him, just in case.
Two hours later he suddenly woke up and stared at the computer, trying to wipe some of the blurry sleep from his eyes. He thought he’d heard something. Was it a Ding! Had she responded?
When his eyes cleared, he saw that their IM box only read, “Night SEXY Lady!” his last IM to her. She still hadn’t said anything. I wonder why? Why didn’t she respond?
Tim didn’t sleep well that night, and felt it that morning when he woke up and dragged himself to the kitchen for breakfast.
Should I meet him? Thought Ginny. The day was too quick for her liking. She flicked at her lap top’s monitor with the tip of her precisely pink colored nails. She hadn’t turned it on yet, knowing that as soon as she did Tim would say something to her. She couldn’t remember a time that he hadn’t instant messaged her as soon as her computer went on. It was like he didn’t go to school at all. He rarely talked about it. She talked about school all of the time. She talked about her friends, boys, teachers, and anything else she could think of. School was her life.
She finally decided. She lifted the screen fully, and pulled her covers around her shoulders as the computer ran through its normal long process to turn on. Like clock-work—
“So we gonna meet?”
It was always his first question. It was annoying, but for some reason she couldn’t turn him away. It was either a thought of being rude, or some addiction she couldn’t quite understand. Was she addicted to the internet? To chat rooms? Or, was it Tim?
The thought of being addicted to Tim was scary. She only knew him online. She’d never met him, didn’t know anyone who knew him, hadn’t even talked to her on the phone. She trusted who he said he was, but she knew, without meeting him she would never actually know who he was.
Ginny held her hand over the keyboard for a long time. Then, she closed her eyes as if suddenly regretting her choice before typing out:
Tim nearly jumped out of his chair. He’d never expected her to say yes. She would actually do it. He would finally get to meet her—meet his girlfriend.
He ran back to his computer, sound cool man. Sound cool. He wiped the stringy grease of hair out of his eyes.
“You tell me. I’ve never done this.’
Tim thought for awhile, then remembered a nice spot. It would be perfect. It was so romantic. He’d be able to seduce her there. He could buy her flowers, charm her with bits of poetry he’d picked up and would surely try to memorize before seeing her.
“Loring Park. Flower garden, giant center boulder. I’ll be sitting on the bench. Saturday at noon?”
For the first time since he’d met her online Tim didn’t bother to say goodbye. He was too excited as he closed his laptop. He grabbed a shirt and pair of pants from the floor and ran to the bathroom to take a nice long shower.
Tim glanced in the mirror. This is what I look like? My girlfriend is so hot. I can’t believe she likes me. He saw the thick hairs of his moustache. Should I shave? He would have to trim his hair, too. He’d been doing that for a long time by himself and was good at it by now. Besides, he was losing more hair every day. Cutting his hair didn’t take nearly as much time as it used to.
Tim jumped in the shower planning every facet of their perfect date.
While Ginny felt nervous she still knew that what she was doing was right. She could only guess by the pictures that he was cute. He sure had a nice body—a little hairy, but still nice. It occurred to her that she hadn’t seen his face before, but for Ginny that wasn’t the most important thing.
She texted Sam to give her a call in an hour just in case things weren’t going well. She was trying to give herself an out. But, during the middle of the day she knew the worst that could happen was a date with a boring guy. If she didn’t like him she simply would never talk to him again. After meeting someone online it was easy to dismiss them once you meet them in person. They were suddenly real.
Ginny took the paved trail that wound around the great Oak and Maple trees. In October the trees would provide a canopy of orange, yellow, and red. It was one of her favorite places to be in the Fall. Now, it was a solid tunnel of green, the emerald tunnel, her father had called it. Runners slowly passed by on her right, and a smile came across her face. She knew this would be perfect. The setting was perfect.
Coming up on the giant boulders that identified the park like none other, she slowly switched to the tree bark trail, stopping short of the bench she would meet him at. She peered around the boulder in front of her and saw a young man on the bench. He’s cute, she thought.
He sat there quietly looking around. His face was shaved clean, his hair short, his eyes dreamy. She was glad she’d done this. After a quick breath to calm her nerves Ginny stepped out from behind the boulder. The young man looked at her. She began to walk to him.
She heard the voice, but it came from behind her. She turned. Staring at her was an older man, maybe in his thirties. He was unshaven, with a cracked upper tooth off center. His nails were yellow. He saw that these were the things she had noticed.
“What? You think you’re better than me?” He shouted, before she could respond to him.
“No—I. . .I’m just happy to finally meet you.” Play it calm. Go to an area with a lot of people. This was wrong. She knew now.
Before she had time to say anything more she noticed a flurry of movement around her. She heard shouting. Tim spun around, then turned back to Ginny. He lunged at her, screaming something she didn’t understand.
The man from the bench, The cute guy, was instantly on Tim. Police swarmed. It was a bust of some kind. Ginny hadn’t done anything. She knew she hadn’t. What was happen—
After they took Tim away, the cute young man pulled Ginny away from the group of police.
“Are you okay?”
“Yea. . .I think? I don’t know what’s going on?”
“He’s a predator. We’ve been tracking him for over a year. We were lucky enough to find your messages a couple days ago leading us to him here.”
“But, I thought he was—“
“So did a lot of girls. You saved a lot of other girls today. Come on. I have someone who needs to talk to you. You can call your parents, or a friend.”
It was then that Ginny began to cry, realizing how close she’d been to death. He was a rapist, a killer. She’d never known. She hadn’t trusted her intuition. She didn’t know. . . and yet she did.