"We'll keep in touch. Through e-mail."
Those were the last words Evelyn heard from Dawson, her best friend and first love. It was probably an unrequited love, she didn't know, nor did she want to risk their friendship by finding out.
Evelyn and Dawson were born in the same hospital, two days apart, with Evelyn being the younger one. They lived in the same apartment building and went to the same schools. They were never separated until now.
But they still kept in touch. Through e-mail.
He complained to her about how his new school was dull and boring, and that he didn't get along with anyone.
She told him much how much everyone had missed him and reassured that he would soon fit in at his new school. How could he not? She thought. After all, the charismatic and cordial Dawson could make friends with furniture if he'd wanted to. He had such a vibrant personality, and was like a magnet that you couldn't help but feel drawn to.
For years, their e-mails ceaselessly ricocheted back and forth, in the domain of pixels and data.
Evelyn strolled down the back stairs of her school, her curly auburn hair bounced up and down with every step she took. She was lost in the reminiscence of the days when she and Dawson were carefree, naïve freshmen. Now, she was a senior, and Dawson was no longer by her side. Sometimes, she'd try to picture the people he mentioned in his e-mails. She wondered how close they were to him; she wondered if any of them could rival her significance in his heart. She was happy for Dawson's happiness, but she was bitter because she no longer supplied his source of felicity.
Evelyn became alarmed that she wasn't alone. There was a boy sitting at the ends of the stairs. His black hair dishevelled, his back slumped, his fast fingers typing away at his laptop.
He heard approaching footsteps and turned around to examine who they had belonged to. After he acknowledged Evelyn's presence, he went back to typing. His firm fingers routinely tackled the keys and produced a symphony of clatters.
"Hi." Evelyn broke the ice; she wanted someone to release her from the suffocating boredom she was victim to. It just so happens that her spare period did not align with any of her friends'. She sat down firmly next to the boy.
"Hey." The boy murmured, not offering Evelyn a second glance. She didn't expect his voice to be so deep, resonating with masculinity. He then pivoted so that the screen was not in her view.
"Soooo," she began, "whatcha up to?"
"E-mailing." He replied matter-of-factly.
"Yeah, of course." Evelyn retracted her over-friendliness; she knew she was becoming a nuisance to this guy. But she still sat there, allowing herself to be entertained by the click-clacks of his keyboards. Once in a while, she would stretch her arms in front of her and yawn. And then she'd look over at his face, the face that never deserted the stoic and cold expression. His lifeless blue-grey eyes were beautiful, they weren't shiny or flashy or anything. They held a poetic sort of beauty that Evelyn's attention caught on to and refused to let go. His lips were slightly parted and showed no emotion; she wondered if dimples would press onto his face if he fashioned a smile.
Evelyn tore away from the subject she had been studying with her curious gold-brown eyes; it was a strange thing she did that made her feel a little stalker-ish.
"Hey." the boy stopped tapping away at the keyboard and graced her with his soothing voice at last. His face was still, however, fixated on the screen. "You wanna play some games?"
He passed the laptop over to her and watched as she engaged herself in an intense game of Tetris.
"Tetris is boring." Evelyn announce after she failed to pass level 3.
"Try this." The boy took over the laptop and introduced her to a site with aesthetically appealing graphics. "Dragon Warriors."
"How do you play?"
"It's an RPG, you—"
"Wait a second, RPG?" she intrigued.
"Role playing game." He clicked the play button and waited for the new window to load. "Use the arrow keys to move and W,A,S,D to activate attacks. And, your objective is to kill off the demonic dragons."
"Sounds easy enough." Evelyn attempted the game and was found staring at a dark screen mere seconds later. The message told her that she'd lost all her lives and would need to start the game over from the beginning.
The boy guffawed. She didn't know he could guffaw. He had a pleasant sounding laugh, and his face looked more handsome, but he had no dimples.
"Wow, impressive," he spoke sarcastically while clapping, "I've never found anyone who lost all three lives in the easiest part of the first level."
"Shut-up, I just, I just need practice." Evelyn spoke in a disgruntled tone.
"Watch and learn." He announced proudly as he took over.
And she did, as he easily sailed through seven levels of this game. And then the bell rang. He closed up the laptop and left Evelyn staring at his enigmatic retreat.
"Hey, what's your name?" She called before he disappeared from her view.
"I know." He gave a bashful smile and left.
Evelyn was a little embarrassed. He was probably in one of her classes; she should've known his name.
That night, Evelyn sat herself down in front of her computer, cracked her knuckles—though she knew it was a terrible habit—and readied herself for a game of Dragon Warriors.
Excitement jolted through her body when she arrived on level two. But this exhilaration subsided when she realized she had been at it for over two hours. She also realized that she'd forgotten to check if she received any e-mails from Dawson.
She became elated when she found an unread e-mail from Dawson sitting in her inbox. She decided she was going to write about Nathan, and Dragon Warriors.
Everyday for a week, Evelyn had accompanied Nathan in the ridiculously addictive game known as Dragon Warriors. And she never failed to inform Dawson on these adventures that they'd embark on in the virtual reality of the game. Dawson claims to never have heard of Nathan, or perhaps he had simply forgotten such a person. His words also seemed to give off a touch jealousy that gave Evelyn such fulfilling satisfaction.
It was a tedious and dull Monday, and Evelyn dragged herself down the deserted hallways. Her spare period came fluttering by again. She stalked down the flight of stairs that would lead her to her new pal, Nathan, and her new hobby, Dragon Warriors. Except it didn't. She wondered if he was absent and left with a sigh.
She knew something was up when Nathan had not shown up for over a week.
That wasn't the only bizarre thing that occurred to her. Dawson had stopped replying to her e-mails. Is this an "Ignore-Evelyn" phase that my best friends are going through or what? She was frustrated, anyone could tell.
"Hey, do you guys know a guy named Nathan, and possibly what homeroom he has?" She was happy her other friends weren't ignoring her.
"Who?" the brunette named Jessica piped.
"Er, this guy, who has black hair, bluish, greyish eyes, and he's always with a laptop. You know him?"
Jessica shook her head.
"Oh yeah," the voice came from Sarah, the short and skinny blonde who was seated next to Evelyn. "He's so, like, anti-social though. The only friend I recall him having was Dawson. But that's 'cause Dawson's like, everyone's buddy."
But Dawson denied ever knowing Nathan, Evelyn recalled, what was going on?
"I think his homeroom is one of the ones at the left end of this hallway. I'm not too sure though." Sarah added.
"Alright, thanks." Evelyn was disconcerted. She couldn't draw the connection between Dawson and Nathan, but she was determined to find out.
The bell rung for the end of the school day, and Evelyn stormed towards the section that Sarah had hinted at. She thought if his homeroom was there then his locker must be close as well. Her calculations were correct, she found the boy with the laptop flicking open the lock on his locker.
"Nathan!" she heard herself call out subconsciously.
He turned and faced her with a shocked expression, but he quickly tore away apologetically. Evelyn inched forward in his direction but was shoved by a few rambunctious cheerleaders and landed on the floor. When she bounced back up, she realized that Nathan was no longer there. He was definitely avoiding her.
Evelyn entered the lobby of the apartment where she resided, drenched in utter disappointment. She slipped a rusty small key through the keyhole of her mailbox. She reached in and grabbed out a few useless advertisements—which she immediately tossed into the trash—and a few bills addressed to her parents. Someone was beside her checking a mailbox, but it wasn't just any mailbox. It was the mailbox that belonged to Dawson. Evelyn always wondered what kind of people live there now and lifted her head to find out.
"Mrs. McGrady." Evelyn sounded surprised.
"Oh, hello Eve." Dawson's mother replied softly. "I was told that some of my stuff were still being sent here."
"By any chance," Evelyn became excited, "did Dawson come with you?"
"What—what's that?" Mrs. McGrady stuttered as despair pressed onto her complexion.
"Dawson, did he come along?"
"Oh you poor thing," she broke out in a paroxysm of sobs, "You never knew?"
Evelyn stared at her, with more confusion than she's ever contained.
"You knew Dawson, didn't you?" Evelyn managed to get a moment alone with Nathan. She had dragged him to the stairwell where they had always met.
He nodded remorsefully.
"You—" Evelyn shivered as tears tumbled down from her blinking eyes. "You wrote those e-mails didn't you?" She plunged her forehead into his chest.
She couldn't see his face, but she had a feeling he nodded.
"Why? Why didn't he tell me that he had leukemia? Why didn't he tell me he had to move to get better chemotherapy? Why didn't he tell me he wasn't going to survive no matter what he did?" her fingers clenched tightly onto the cotton fabric of Nathan's t-shirt. "Why did I have to find out about his death this way?"
"He didn't want you to cry, like you are now." Nathan locked his arms around the shaking Evelyn, hoping to somehow calm her down.
"So were you just going to go along with this insane plan of his?" She pushed him away. "Did you really think I would never find out, and go on exchanging e-mails with you, disguised as Dawson, for the rest of my life?"
"I knew it wasn't going to work, so I—"
"So you ignore me for a week."
"I didn't want this either, alright?" he finally burst, "Do you think I enjoy lying to the girl I love?"
"It sounds stupid, but I fell for you when we exchanged e-mails like that. I thought it'd be enough just to communicate with you like that, but when you found the real me, I fell deeper." His nervous fingers raked through his hair. "Consequently, it became harder for me to go on lying to you, as Dawson, or as myself."
Evelyn felt extremely embarrassed and was at a loss for words.
"I can't replace Dawson, but, I'll make you happy." Nathan grabbed her into his arms, and this time she didn't push him away, she just sobbed softly in the comforts of his arms. "He would've wanted you to be happy."