I hadn’t seen Andrea in a while, but I hadn’t forgotten her. Sweet, gullible Andrea, like so many others before her. It had been four months exactly; I paid close attention to these time lines. I wasn’t supposed to run into her again for another two months, but there she was, working behind the counter at a new coffee shop in my neighborhood. I acted well under pressure, though. I pretended to be pleasantly surprised to see her, called her by the wrong name, and feigned interest in what she’d been up to. There was no precedent for this in my plan, but it might have been an improvement.
I had been enacting my little plans since time immemorial; I can’t even recall when it started. Sweet, gullible Andrea was the latest on the list. She’d never even know what hit her.
Our affair had been brief but passionate, as they all were. She was shy and quiet, and her low self-esteem made her grateful for my attention. We broke up about two years ago, a messy break-up, a confusing one, so that we wouldn’t keep in touch but she wouldn’t entirely hate me either. The only contact we had before the coffee shop was one random email I had sent her, something affiliated with her interests to garner a curious reply from her. I didn’t respond. That was last year, around Christmastime. The next step was scheduled for June, but I had to recalculate.
I took to social media, remarking how nice it was to see her again, to which she responded in kind. The perfect way to spark that interest again, make her curious about how I was doing without her and then wonder why all her pleasantries fell flat when I failed to reply again. She would remember my less than gentlemanly moments, and she’d go back to thinking about me only with a weird feeling of ambiguity.
Then the time came to nudge her with another email, a nice note about the spam I was getting from her address. Maybe her account was hacked? Of course the spam didn’t exist, but these girls were always so malleable. She was open to my instructions, just as I thought, following my well-intentioned advice to rectify the problem. Within the hour, Andrea changed her email password, and all her others, because of course she used the same one everywhere. And my little watchdog program caught the changes, recorded them, and opened up all those accounts as easily as she used to open her legs. I’d tap into them bit by bit, using them just as I pleased, burning my paper trails before moving on. She’d never suspect a thing, assuming my message came too late and some other random hacker was delving into her accounts. After all, I had just tried to help her. She’d never suspect a thing.
There was never much to leech, but it added up quickly, especially when wisely invested. A little bit here, a little bit there. Bit by bit, I could build myself an empire from all these bleeding, broken hearts. I was in it for the long haul; good things came to those who wait.
Hunched over my keyboard, monitoring the details of Andrea’s various accounts, it was easy to forget the world around me. In those numbers, I saw the past, remembering our time together with a faint smile. I may have been there all night if it hadn’t been for the arm that suddenly draped over my shoulder, a warm body pressing against me.
Sweet, gullible Irene. I pulled myself away slowly, reluctantly, meeting her physical intrusion with a soft, inquiring hum. The glow of the computer screen cast her round face in an alluring light, a curtain of hair falling from her shoulder as she tilted her head.
“Whatcha doing?” she asked.
I reached over to turn off my monitor, showing her that I was ready to devote the whole of my attention to her. “Nothing much,” I said. When she smiled, wide and innocent, I smiled back. It started off as a feigned expression, but it was easy to infuse genuine warmth into it when I met her inquisitive gaze. “Just a little business, that’s all.”
Irene laughed, kissing me gently, then much less so. Her mouth was always so warm and welcoming, and I accepted her desperation happily. “You’re always working,” she said, sighing when she pulled away to catch her breath. “I wish I understood even half of what you do. All that technical stuff just makes my head swim.”
“Yeah, I know.” Patting the small of her back, I chuckled, my chest filling with the sense of pride that went along with everything falling into place. Irene and I were still a few steps away from the decline, my second favorite part of the whole cycle. In a few more weeks, I’d plant the first seeds of decay, the beginning of our destruction. We’ll stop talking, we’ll break up, a messy break-up, a confusing one, one where we wouldn’t keep in touch but she wouldn’t entirely hate me either. And then she’d get that random email, out of nowhere. Something pertaining to her interests, just enough to get her thoughts wheeling back to me. Maybe, considering how things went with Andrea, I might even have to drop in on Irene in a few years, out of the blue, just to remind her of my face, my smile, those lips that she so eagerly kissed, distracting me from all that baffling tech business.
Sweet, gullible Irene. Like so many others before her and so many more to come. “Come on, babe,” I said. “I think I’m ready for a break, anyway.”
I slipped out of my chair, reaching for her hand and guiding her away to the bedroom. The part of the plan I enjoyed almost as much as the money.
Poor, sweet, gullible Irene. She’ll never even know what hit her.