Book 2, Chapter 53

“Alright,” said FunJoe after the third round in which Rachel did not place first.  “What’s wrong, Bullz?”

Rachel grimaced at her monitor.  “Nothing,” she said into the headset – but FunJoe called her on it.

“Bullshit,” FunJoe said.  “You don’t play like this unless something’s bothering you, so spill.”

Rachel sighed.  FunJoe was one of her older online friends, and she knew that once he dug into something he wouldn’t be placated with simple assurances.  “I have a date,” she confessed.  “And it’s supposed to be just an excuse to dress up and have fun, but….”

Rachel hesitated – but FunJoe was an old friend, and she inexplicably knew he wouldn’t make fun of her, so she decided to be blunt, even if it meant being vulnerable.  “…it was my idea, and I was excited about it at the time but I’m not that pretty and now that I’m all dressed up and waiting to go I feel kinda stupid.”

There was a moment of silence on the other end before FunJoe answered.  “Huh,” he said.  “You know, I’ve seen your pics on Popular Social Networking Site.  So unless those are of some random model you found on the internet, I don’t think ‘not really pretty’ applies to you.  Just saying.”

Rachel chewed her lip.  “Objectively, I can accept that.  But believing it myself?  My past experience doesn’t bear it out.”

FunJoe sighed.  “You know David was a moron, right?  I kid you not: the first time I saw your pic I contemplated switching teams.  You’re smart, fun, and beautiful.  I do not get why you have these esteem issues, but you need to get over them, babe.”  He snorted.  “No, I take that back.  I get it, and if I ever meet your ex in a dark alley, I promise you this: only one of us would come out of it.”

Rachel laughed.  “Thanks,” she said.  “But that’s okay – I’d just as soon never see him again, even if it was just to ID the body.”

“Yeah, well…  I’m just sayin’,” FunJoe grumbled.  “Anyway: I’m glad you’re going out.  You deserve to enjoy yourself, you know. And if this dude you’re going out with is a jerk, just name the time and the alley, okay?”

Rachel laughed again, but a little more uneasily.  She had the feeling that under his jocular tone, FunJoe was serious.  “Thanks,” she said again.  “Um… I’m going to go ahead and log now, and finish getting ready.”

“Cool,” said FunJoe.  “Catch you later.  Let me know how it turns out.”

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating

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