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A Time To Speak

. . . a time to trust. . .

Not from Eccesiastes, but it should be


Chapter Thirty-Five

Win

Alecia's message sat there on the page for a long moment while I stared at it, unblinking.

Alecia

I know you and I are not friends any more, but I thought you ought to know that Regina and the others are going after your sister-in-law's school now. Check out Forest Oak Christian School's Facebook page. I hope all is well with you.


My fingers itched to type out a response, but I was also hesitant. It was good to hear from Alecia after all this time but after all the deceit I'd seen from Reg and the others, I didn't know if I could even trust this message. How could I tell if it was really from Alecia? It might have come from a fake profile, a female version of that Brian guy. The profile picture looked like Alecia, but that didn't mean anything—it could have been stolen. I clicked on it and it took me to "Alecia's" wall, but that didn't help. The security settings had been maxed out. All I could see was Alecia's name, her profile picture, and her cover image.

Alecia and I hadn't spoken for at least six months. Why would she contact me now?

If I was going to answer her I would have to be very, very careful not to say anything that could be turned against me later. My fingers moved slowly, cautiously, over the keyboard. I hesitated, backspaced and re-typed several times, hesitated some more, and then finally hit Enter.

Win

Hi Alecia. Thank you for the heads up.


She or he or whoever it was replied at once.

Alecia

It's terrible, what Regina and Katrina and all the others are doing to you, and especially what they're doing to Sam. I couldn't sit back and not say anything when I saw them going after Lisa. I hope you can stop them. God bless you.


I suddenly felt like a little fish swimming in a big, black, murky body of water, with something bright and shiny fluttering in the water ahead of me. It might be Alecia or it might be someone else. The message sure looked good, but was someone trying to trick me?

Win

I'm surprised to hear from you. I thought you'd still be mad at me.


The little fish had decided to circle a little closer.

The unknown person replied quickly once again.

Alecia

I know Regina tricked you somehow. You never meant for any of this to happen.


I thought hard, then typed.

Win

No, I didn't. Reg used those quotes without permission.


A pause.

Alecia

Then how did she get them?


Circling, circling. It had to be Katrina, or maybe Bonita. Definitely one of the Disgruntled. The worm was in the water and they were wiggling it around, hoping I would bite. They were teasing me with this private message, trying to get me to say something they could use against me later.

Win

You know exactly how she got them. I was trying to show her that there are good people associated with the school, people who don't deserve to be ridiculed and humiliated.


Alecia

So you sent her those conversations, hoping she would see what you wanted her to see in them.


Win

Yes.


Alecia

You wanted them to see that abuse is taken seriously by some faculty members, and that the school isn't always as awful as they make it out to be.


Win

Exactly.


Another long pause. Then, mockingly:

Alecia

I guess that didn't work out so well for you.


Oh, I could almost see Katrina, Bonita, Stan, and the others all reading this conversation later, enjoying that last comment. They would probably laugh themselves silly, loving the irony of it. No, with Sam fearing for his job and Lisa now under attack, my family in turmoil, it definitely hadn't worked out for me. A surge of anger hit me. Before I could change my mind, I wrote:

Win

I'm not playing these games, Regina/Katrina/Brian/whoever you are. Go pick on someone else. I have more productive things to do with my life. Goodbye.


Alecia

I sat back in shock, staring at the message on my screen. Regina, Katrina or Brian? Did Win really think I was one of those people? What would make her think I was one of them? She must have had an even worse fight with the Disgruntled than I had thought.

I messaged her back.

Alecia

This is Alecia Grace Harrington, not Regina or Katrina. And I'm not Brian either. I don't even know who he is, except that he's a fake.


There was no answer, but after a couple of minutes the message on the screen showed Win had seen my message. I tried again.

Alecia

You and I worked together in the cafetorium when I was a freshman, and you were my prayer group leader my sophomore year.


No answer, but I couldn't tell if she'd read that one yet. Then I remembered—Win and I had talked about our experiences in prayer group one time on the Victor's page. I needed a memory that only she and I, and maybe John, had ever shared.

Alecia

I got fifteen demerits in school one time for sneaking into the lunch line with you, remember? We talked about it last fall.


Still no answer.

Alecia

John David is on green status in Datatrack. FCU thinks he gave them a donation of $25 ten years ago.


Still no answer. I was tempted to keep typing, to list as many shared memories as I could recall, but there was no point. If she chose not to respond after all those statements, there was no way I could make her. But I tried one more time.

Alecia

Win, are you still there?


A moment later, I received a notification from Facebook:

Facebook

You can't reply to this conversation. The user you are attempting to contact does not exist.


After everything she had done to help Regina, Win had the nerve to block me. It was hard to believe, or perhaps not so hard in the strange, strange world that we FCU grads had built online. But at least my conscience was clear. I had tried to warn her what was happening with her sister-in-law, and now it would be up to her if she wanted to do anything about it.

Shaking off the encounter, I moved on to my next item of the day, sending a message to John. I wouldn't tell him anything about trying to reach out to Win.

Alecia

Good morning, John. How was Atlanta yesterday? Did you get to meet Bonita?


Today was Saturday, and John might be doing anything at the moment. Perhaps he was out jogging the way he liked to on the weekends, or maybe he was doing exactly what I was doing, sitting at the breakfast table and surfing the net. My second guess seemed to be correct, as he wrote back within a minute.

John

Hi Alecia. Atlanta was fine. Yes, I saw Bonita, but I didn't meet her. I think I really pissed her off. For sure she didn't get much computer time yesterday


Alecia

Why? What did you do?


John

Nothing much. I just made her computer crash by taking it offline and giving it a new IP address. It probably took her awhile to get back on.


Alecia

Is that why she didn't post any updates on her blog yesterday? She usually posts on Fridays.


John

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's what happened. She was trying to upload to her blog server when I kicked her off. She would have had to get help to get back online, then she would have had to navigate back to her file storage site and log in, and then try to log onto the blog server and upload everything again. By that time her computer time was probably up.


Alecia

That's pretty funny. I'm glad you could stop her for one week, at least. Did you get a good look at her? What is she like in real life? Is she as crazy as she seems online?


John

Crazier. Red-haired, like in her pictures. Short. She's totally mental.


John went on to describe how Bonita had started yelling at the "demons" on the computer.

John

And you should see what kinds of books she checks out. I think you'll like this.


He sent a link to the book Lynn's Lurid Exploits where it was for sale online. Just the picture on the cover made me blush.

Alecia

Oh my!


John

I'll send you a copy for your birthday.


I could see that smug smirk of his all the way from the other side of the computer.

Alecia

Don't you dare. I'm glad I opened that link on my phone and not on the computer at work!


John

I wish I'd had more time to mess around with Bonita's computer while I was at that library. I bet I could get her shrieking like a little girl if I really wanted to.


It was mean to even think about, but I was fascinated by the thought.

Alecia

How? What would you do?


John

I could seriously mess with her head if I really wanted to. Making her computer crash just once is the least of her worries. I could make her computer crash every single time she logs on if I really wanted to.


Alecia

It wouldn't be worth it. She'd just go to a different library after awhile.


John

True. But it would be fun to make her have to switch libraries. Besides, I'd just follow her there.


I started laughing out loud. I couldn't help it.

John

Or I could keep making the whole system crash within a certain time period after she logs on. If it kept happening every time she signed in, the library would ban her.


Alecia

But that might get too obvious. They might start investigating and figure out it wasn't her.


John

Then I'd love to be right there the next time she gets online, waiting for her to really get going into whatever she's doing, and then just—bam! Make the disk drive open up and close on her with no warning. She'd think it was possessed for sure, especially if it kept happening over and over.


Alecia

Wouldn't she just think it was something mechanical going on and get one of the librarians to help?


John

Not if I did it the right way. I could make it happen in a pattern, like open three times really fast together, and then once really slowly, like it was trying to get her attention or something. She would totally think the computer was possessed.


The more I thought about that, the funnier it sounded.

Alecia

Could you make the screen flash at her, too?


John

Sure. In different colors. I could even put messages on her screen.


Alecia

Like, what dirty work are you doing for Reg today?


John

Like, Hi Bonita, this is Satan. I like Lynn's Lurid Exploits too.


It may have been a sin but I couldn't help it. I burst out laughing.

John

And the best part is, I'd make it disappear if she brought anyone over to look at it. Nobody would ever see anything happening except for her.


Alecia

They'd think she lost her mind! Even she might think she was starting to lose her mind.


I could almost see John's smile as he typed.

John

That's the whole point, Alecia.