Dating : News Flash

h2>Dating : News Flash

“Two cappuccino, two cappuccinos for Paul?”

Metal scrapes against concrete as Paul pushes away from the table, the suntanned toned fellow bouncing up to fetch their coffee. With a snort, Steve looks back at the screen. His friend had always been full of energy. The barista’s voice floats through the small café.

“Paul? Here you go.”


“Do you need sweetener?”

“No, we’re good.”

Playing with the buttons, he forces himself not to unlock the phone. Paul was always ragging on him about being ‘fully present.’ As if he couldn’t do two things at once. Whatever. Well, he was an old friend, and those were hard to find. Two cups clink as they hit the wooden surface between them.

“There you go Steve, it’s as you like it.”

“Thanks.” He takes a sip. His friend knows him pretty well. The balance between the coffee and the milk is sublime. He closes his eyes to savor the taste.


“Very much so. How do you find these places? Yelp?”

“Naw. A friend works here off and on, she recommended it. They actually keep off yelp as much as possible. They like things low-tech.”

Eying one of the burlap bags nailed to a wall, he nods. “Is that why they don’t have WiFi?”

“Yeah.” Paul chuckles. “They’re thinking of instigating a no-phones policy. You’re not helping convince them otherwise, buddy.”

Straightening, he looks back at the counter. Catching him in the act, the barista scowls theatrically. He places his phone to the side of the brochure proclaiming the various exotic flavors the café boasts of. “Not my type of place.” He empties half the cup in one gulp. “Their coffee really is good, though.”

“They also sell beans. Roasted every Tuesday and Friday.”

“I don’t make coffee at home anymore. I like to get out, rub elbows with folks, see the world…”

“…from behind you screen.”

Pulling his phone closer, Paul taps the screen, prompting an riot of color and numbers to appear. Normal lock screens were so blasé. He grins at the Paul’s reaction. He’d done the work himself.

“Steve, I’ve taken you to a bunch of places and you invariably bury your face in this. You gotta live, man.”

Catching the edge of the phone with his fingertips, he pulls it back to his side of the table, protectively covering the device. “You know what I do. This is my lifeblood. My paycheck. My-”


Picking up the cup, he drains the remnants and smacks his lips. “You have coffee, I have this.”

“I think we both have coffee.”

“Maybe.” He looks back at the bar. A second cup wouldn’t be so bad…

“Anyhow, Steve, what have you been up to? I haven’t seen you since I went out on that hiking trip. What’s new?”

Steven shrugs nonchalantly, his eyes flicking down to his lock screen as notifications are pushed through. Something big was going on. “Same old, same old. I had a few posts on the subreddit go big, so I got a few more pieces sold to the outlets. The pay’s getting better, finally.”

“Glad you stuck with it?”

“Hey, if you’re good at something…”

Another slew of notifications flash on the lock screen. His fingertips itch.

“Sorry Paul, give me a second? I need to check something I put up a few days ago. Engagement was dropping, but if I hit the target today, I’m getting a bonus.”

“Ever the workaholic…” Paul waves a hand at the phone, lifting his coffee to take a sip.

Raising the phone, he navigates over to the back end of his site, looking for the number of visitors. Other alerts vie for his attention, but he ignores them all. Nothing but the numbers matter. Was he going to make the total? His breath hisses out as he sees updated total. Yes. Somehow, he’s had more visitors in the last thirty minutes than in the first few hours when he posted it. Numbers are way up, way, way up. He eyes the other icons. A number of messages have been sent his way. Notifications are coming in left and right from other apps, too. It’d been awhile since he had something go viral. He grins.

“It wasn’t another hit piece, was it?”

Dropping the phone on his table, he raises his empty cup. “To the internet.”

Paul rolls his eyes, but raises his cup anyway. Some of Paul’s coffee slops to the ground as the two meet over the table.

“Careful Steve!”

“Sorry man. I’ll get you another. I can afford it.”

Using the napkin to wipe the liquid from the side of his cup, Paul frowns. “You really want to keep making a living with that stuff?”

“People eat it up, money is money. What’s it matter? If I didn’t do it, someone else would.”

Paul grimaces, eyeing the grounds at the bottom of his cup. “It’s not life, man. Not real life, anyway. What you do doesn’t help anyone, doesn’t make the world better-”

“I do. It’s a warning. A warning to anyone who would do such things. Watch out, or we’ll get you. No matter who you are.”

“Even if they didn’t’ deserve it?”

“Eh, if they’re innocent, it’ll pass over eventually. My audience is a fickle bunch.”

“Yeah, but…” Paul shakes his head before pushing the cup to the center of the table. “You know what? Never mind. You do you, I guess. Just don’t come after me, all right?”

He laughs. “You? Do something newsworthy? What would a goodie-two shoes like you to get on the radar of someone like me? The best you could do is fall off a mountain, and even then that wouldn’t be too interesting.”

“Har har.” Raising a hand, Paul rotates it about to show the scar on the back. “You want a smack from my lucky hand?”

Eying his friends muscles, Steve grins, holding up both hands. “Pass.”

“Thought so.” Paul’s arm thumps down on the table. “So, how’s Erica?”

“Still mad about that piece I did in march.”

“Why’d you have to post that? You know she doesn’t like that kind of exposure.”

“It was trending. Besides, it’s not like her family uses that service, they’ll never see it.”

“But you’ll put her on blast to a few thousand strangers?”

“Not just a few thousand. Over a million.” He grins. “Her little eccentricity just paid for-”

Paul’s phone chirps, a cascade of bird calls. Pulling it out, his friend stares at the number.

“It’s my boss. Sorry Steve. Do you mind?”

Both eyebrows rise upwards. His friend, taking a call? He’d have to slip in a comment about not being fully present before their meeting was up. This was too juicy to ignore. He waves both hands. “No, not at all. I’ll get us both another cup.”


Moving over to the counter he nods to the barista. “Two more. You have good coffee.”

“Good to hear.” Her eyes turn to the two empty cups behind them on the table. “Bring me your cups? I’ll reuse them.”

Frowning, he rummages about for his wallet, throwing in a theatrical sigh for good measure. “You want me to walk all the way over there?”

Her nose wrinkles. “I’ll give you a buck off if you do.”

He grins, holding out a wad of one-dollar bills. “Deal.”

Accepting the thirty-five cents change, he drops it into the tip jar and moves back to his friend. Paul is standing, his face pale.

“-wouldn’t- … Yeah. I’m still with him. Proof?” Paul looks his way, brows furrowed. Pulling the phone away, his fingers dance around the screen before he stops to study the picture displayed there. Then the phone is back at his. “Yeah. They’re saying what? He wouldn’t-” Paul closes his eyes.

Picking up the empty cups, Steve pauses, examining his friend. He hadn’t seen the other man look like this is ages. Not since his dog had passed while they were in college.

“Yeah. Yeah, okay. Okay. I understand. See you back at the office.”

Ending the call, Paul turns his way.

“Sorry Steve, I gotta go. I can’t be seen with you.”

He blinks. Turning the phone about, Paul holds it up to show the picture. “Is that you?”

“Yeah, that’s me. Looks like it was taken at the con last year. I met a bunch of fans there. It was a blast. I told you all about it, remember? You should come down with me next time.”

Minimizing the photo, Paul scrolls down to the body of the thread the picture is posted in. “Read this.”

The first few sentences hit him like a blow to the solar plexus. “No. Never. I didn’t-”

Paul’s finger scrolls the thread downward. More pictures emerge. Others, people he has never heard of, echo the charges of the first. Reeling, he falls into a nearby chair.

“Sorry man. Until this blows over, let’s stick to email. Our company is in a critical phase. We’re about to go public. Since I’m one of the founders, I can’t afford to be linked to something like this.”

“It’s not true. None of it is.”

Paul shrugs. “Doesn’t matter. It only matters that the wrong people think it might be. Sorry man. Let’s catch up again when this blows over.”

With a nod to the barista, Paul walks out. Around him, the small café hedges moves in around him, the walls seeming closer than ever. After two attempts, he manages to make it to his feet. The cups wobble in his hands as he walks them back to the bar. The barista takes them, her eyes fixed his face.

“Hey, are you all right?”

“No. I think I need to go.”

Putting the cups to the side, she nods at the espresso machine. “You want me to make you a large cappuccino to go?”

“Yes. Thanks.”

Moving to the side, he pulls out his phone. He was viral all right, but not for his last big post. Comment after comment comes in, each one further digging the ground from under him. Email might be better. He switches over. The top three emails to come in are companies canceling their contracts with him. Quickly locking the phone, he takes a deep breath, the phone shaking in his hands. A paper cup appears out of nowhere with a smiley face drawn on the front.

“One cappuccino for Steve?”

He takes it without comment.

“Hey. You should put that thing down. It’ll rot your brain.”

He turns away and walks outside, stands just outside the café under the light of the mid-morning sun. His phone starts to vibrate. He clicks the power button, but it just won’t stop. Lifting up the phone, he holds down the power button down until it finally goes silent. Someone across the street turns his way and points, motioning to their friend to look.

Pivoting, he walks away from the pair. Strangers are all around him. Any of them could know. Hiding his face behind the cup of coffee, he jams his phone as deep into his pocket as possible. Look relaxed, look relaxed. It’s just another person hurrying about to be nowhere. Just another person in the big city. He just needs to let go of the phone and look like everyone else. Yet despite himself, his fingers remain wrapped tightly around the plastic, holding on for dear life.

What do you think?

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