Darling?

“Come on darling. Show me. I'm the only thing you've got...”

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8. 8.

The police investigation goes on. They have tracked down and interviewed anyone and everyone who seemed to be involved. The stakes slowly have grown higher and higher, as other people put themselves forwards. TeensQuack themselves have been cooperating with the investigation, but I figure that’s just because it’d have been bad publicity. It was all in the major news outlets. How this man, this mysterious and evil man, had corrupted and manipulated an entire website. A website that was known for its credibility and friendliness now shared the same tarnished reputation as sites like Ask.FM.

 

A number of the victims revealed their names, and shared their stories to shocked presenters on the breakfast news. None of them exactly revealed their usernames, but I could tell from the sheer amount of them that I probably had spoken to them all. It hurt, it still hurts, so much how insignificant I must be to him. I am just another one of them.  I hate him for that. But at the same time, as the presenters depict ‘Zac’s’ evilness, I keep finding myself telling them in my thoughts about his favourite foods, his deepest fears, and everything else that probably isn’t real.

 

But these thoughts do soon fade away. Because Jake will send me a message, and my thoughts are consumed of what I can say in return. The thing about Jake is that I know he’s real. This isn’t because I am confident I know how to catch an internet crook now. Which I am, kind of. No, it’s because of the fact he sent me a little picture of himself holding up a picture of me. I may or may not have framed it.

 

Mum and Dad are a bit tetchy about Jake. I am understanding about this, because their daughter nearly slept with a pedo last time she spoke to a guy online. But they are just happy I am fairly open about it. They don’t know that I stay up until roughly about 4am, to keep up with his time zone.  But I get the same amount of sleep, so it’s not like it’s completely unhealthy.

 

 Being more open with my parents has taught me to be more open with my friends too. I even got added to their group chat, which I did not know they had. Surprisingly, we have a lot of the same interests, which I could have found out a few years ago. They have all been really great about the whole Zac thing (yes I told them about the whole Zac thing). It brought us closer, actually telling them about my life. This weekend I actually have plans to go to Tina’s.

 

I didn’t need to change the people in my life: I needed to change myself.

 

This morning I swing my bag as I head down the stairs for breakfast. School is going to be great, seriously. Good lessons, good friends, good life…and it would, of course, be better if Zac got caught. But 'the world is not a wish granting factory'. So I sit down, start buttering my toast, and smile to myself way too giddily.

 

Then Mum comes in, and her face is grave. Frown marks stretch her forehead, and her grip on the landline phone is so tight I feel sorry for it. “Dear? Get changed out of your uniform. Put on that black dress you wore at Nanny’s funeral.”

 

“Hm? Why?” I drop my slice of toast. Something tells me that now is not the moment to revel in buttery, salty toast.

 

She just looks at me. “He’s been caught. He’s been caught and he’s at the police station right now. His bail is so high that no one can, or wants to, get him out. You need to go down there and talk to him.”

 

I am not that naïve that I can’t understand who ‘he’ is. “Zac.” My voice isn’t a whisper, but just a breath. My love, my love for three years, who made me who I was. He made me into an introvert, he isolated me, he made me his pet. But he did the same thing to loads of girls on the website, so it’s not like I can call him mine.

 

“Neil is his real name. Neil Johnston.” There is no magic or mystery in his name. It doesn’t glide on the tongue like ‘Zac Walters’. His real name just sounds grubby, and I start to create a new picture of him in my mind. Black emo hair turns into black greasy ponytail. Blue eyes turn piggy. Ripped jeans turn into baggy things that fail to cover his crack. My Zac is no more.

 

“Okay,” I tell Mum. “Okay.” I head upstairs, and start peeling off my clothes. It’s funny that I’m taking them off for Zac, but for a completely different reason to what I’m used to. I tell the girls on the chat why I won’t be in school, and even though Jake is still asleep (damn timezones) I tell him that his impersonator has been caught.

 

“Okay,” I tell myself, as I look in the mirror. “Okay. It’s time to get a bit of closure.”

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