DM • by Laura Anne Harris

Sitting outside a café in Paris, a latte and a breakfast tart sit delicate and pristine on Lindsay’s plate, patient for her to eat and sip. It’s quiet here for a tourist, and Lindsay feels at home. She’s killing time before the museum opens, another day wandering carefree. Pulling up her Instagram feed on her cellphone, she sees her ex-husband smiling with a bottle of beer. She double taps “like” because she doesn’t want to seem bitter. She takes a quick selfie and a photo of her breakfast and posts it on Insta. Let her ex think she’s having the time of her life. Let him cry himself to sleep tonight. Mid-gulp, Lindsay’s phone buzzes with a DM notification. It’s a message from Robert Flinch. She doesn’t recognize the name.

She clicks to open it: Hey beautiful

Lindsay usually deletes messages like this. As a post-feminist, she cannot allow men to slide into her DM’s just to be sexually harassed. Today however, she pauses. Maybe it’s the romance in the Paris air, or her happy ex-husband, or her existential loneliness, but in any case, she doesn’t delete the message. Instead, she clicks on Robert’s profile. He’s a bit older than Lindsay, maybe by ten years, in his late 40s or early 50s. Not too much older that it would be off-putting. Being in her late 30s, she can swing either way, younger or older. The sweet spot. Robert has salt and pepper brownish gray hair, bright gray eyes, and a smile that slumps Lindsay back into her chair. She scrunches her face thinking, this guy cannot be real and who opens with, “Hey beautiful”? This is ridiculous. Just delete the damn message.

Without hesitation she types: Come on, who writes, ‘Hey beautiful’?

She laughs at her own spontaneity and hits send. She feels a buzz, probably from the first sip of her latte. She crushes her tart with her fork and takes a bite. Egg, goat cheese, and spinach—delicious. She washes down the flavor with a rich gulp of her latte. Then she sees that Robert has written back.

Yes, that opening was a bit presumptuous, but I think you look beautiful in your photos.

Would a robot type so coherently?

Are you a robot or one of those bots or whatever? Lindsay types.

No, why would you think that?

Lindsay tries to improvise the perfect response. She takes another bite of her tart, swallows, then types again.

Because I find open statements about beauty disingenuous.

I can find you beautiful and be genuine about it. Wait, what do you mean?

You don’t know anything about me.

I know you look happy on the streets of Paris, eating what I can guess is a delicious breakfast tart.

Lindsay tenses up. How does he know that?

How do you know that?

I saw your post, silly.

Oh right. Lindsay sighs and laughs. A mini wave of relief softens her shoulders.

That scarf is really beautiful against your brown hair.

Thank you. She smiles and bites her bottom lip.

I wish I were there to squeeze your shoulders. Lindsay rolls her eyes, but grins like a giddy teen. Her chest feels warm and her heartbeat flutters against her rib cage. But really, I would want to do more with you than just hug. She shouldn’t like this.

You’re awfully forward, she types.

I hope you don’t mind. I have a tendency to get carried away.

I don’t mind, Lindsay types.

Could you do me a favor?

Lindsay pauses. Oh great, here we go. She figures he’ll ask her for money, some sort of dodgy wire transfer.

What is it? She types, hoping the answer won’t be financial.

I want you to go to where you’re staying. Set up a Zoom call with me, so we can pleasure each other.

What do you mean by that?

You know what I mean.

The last message floats around her, making her feel lightheaded. Lindsay shakes her whole body. No one has ever asked her to do that. She turns off her phone and stares into her half cup. This is wrong. He’s a stranger. He’ll probably record the session and put her pussy all over the internet. She’ll be one of those real-life videos on Pornhub. Or what if he catfishes her? What if he’s a gross guy in a Harvey Weinstein robe. She opens the app to shut down the conversation.

A simple thank you, goodbye, delete.

She opens his message and inhales.

She types: Give me 15 minutes.

Laura Anne Harris is a writer and theater artist originally from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada now living outside Portland, Oregon in Vancouver, Washington. In May 2020, she received her Masters in Creative Writing at University of British Columbia School of Creative Writing. Her work has been published in My Entertainment World, The Seventh Row, Young Adulting, 45 Magazine, and Prism International. In March 2020, her solo show Destiny, USA held its professional premiere at the Spark Festival at the Belfry Theater in Victoria, British Columbia.

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Every Day Fiction