Looking back, it all kicked off because I’d had a shit night. Josh and I had somehow regressed to basic, functional communication via text. How you? – Yeah alright. U? – that kind of thing. It was upsetting, so naturally instead of confronting my problems I’d stayed up all night drinking screwdrivers. I woke up with a dull headache and jittery nerves.
There was a blinking message from Erin on my computer screen, sent fifty-two minutes ago.
Good morning sunshine! What’s happening with you today
I wanted painkillers and to bury my face into Jas’s soft fur. But something was gnawing at my conscience.
There’s an important and increasingly relevant sociological theory about dynamic of strong and weak ties in the networking fabric of society. Weak ties, like our Facebook acquaintances are tenuous relationships. But the relative strength in weak ties helps to explain why, for example, people are comfortable telling a near-stranger their deepest, darkest secret. As opposed to telling the same thing to a close friend.
Oh I had a crap night, could barely sleep.
I paused, then continued typing.
Can I tell you something? It’s kind of embarrassing and shameful to admit.. I don’t really know where to start but I think I need to do it for my own sanity.
I confessed the entire saga, starting with the searing fights between me and Josh, my low self-esteem over our relationship. The innocent-at-first flirtation with a courier who sometimes visited my work. To the day we finally found ourselves alone in the shop.
Minutes ticked by as I waited for Erin’s reply. It seemed odd, she’d normally respond back within moments. I flipped on the TV for awhile, then returned to the study to half heartedly continue my novel.
When I saw what she’d written back, my mouth fell open in shock.
grace you WHORE!!!11!! Fhajskhfakafu how can you have done seriously now you have to go get HiM. GET hiMkgdjsgs bastard fuckkkk him bastard
The chat window was now greyed out – an alert told me that the user was inactive.
I felt vomit rising at the back of my throat and ran to the bathroom. The entire flat felt like it had dropped five degrees in temperature.
I went into the bedroom and threw myself in bed, covering my head with a blanket. Eventually, as I hoped it would, sleep took hold.
When I woke, the remnants of my hangover were gone and I tried to think it through rationally. Ok, perhaps I had offended Erin in some way. I’d plainly assumed I knew her better then I really did, and this was her way of letting me know I’d touched a nerve.
I approached the laptop like a dangerous animal, ignoring the still-grey chat screen. I opened a new browser window and loaded Google. Then, I typed Erin Mayweather into the search engine. When I saw the search results, if my stomach wasn’t already empty I would have been violently sick again.
Woman, 22 Missing – Police step up manhunt
Mayweather family demand answers but no leads in woman’s disappearance
I read them as quickly as I could. According to the articles, both dated from roughly four years ago, Erin had left for work one morning and never made it. Her boyfriend at the time of the disappearance was the prime person of interest for some time. Then, due to a lack of conclusive evidence, the case eventually went cold.
I was virtually rooted to my seat, trying to process this information when I heard a noise that sounded like footsteps in the living room. I ignored it at first, thinking it probably was the neighbour upstairs. Then, the sound of the TV volume increasing louder and louder and louder, as if someone was turning it all the way up.
On the verge of losing my cool, I sprinted to the living room as if expecting to confront an intruder, to find nothing except the TV blaring at max volume. I unplugged it at the socket and returned to the laptop. This time I typed another name into Google: Jackson Aiken. Erin’s boyfriend.
The hardest part about that was moving back to mum’s place. Back in my childhood bedroom, the walls still papered with Smash Hits posters, I had many a night to think long and hard – and sober – about why and how I’d fucked up over the last 26 years.
But slowly, bit by bit, things did start to turn around. After a dozen rejected job applications, I finally got my first job that didn’t require me to wear a name tag – an entry level copywriting position at a small agency. With a steady income, I moved out to my own tiny studio near the river. I even finished the manuscript.
One day I headed out to grab lunch at my regular spot when out of nowhere, I spied Josh sitting at one of the café tables. He looked thinner, scruffier, but still Josh. I felt as though an electric current passed through my body. I almost had a heart attack when he called out to me.
Instead of running away, I sat down. To my surprise, he started off by apologising for what happened between us the previous year. “I was as much to blame, Gracie. Being cold and acting like work was a matter of life and death, I couldn’t even see how much stress you were going through too. And I never owned up to it.” He confessed that there had been some kind of flirtation with a girl from his work, too during the last stages of us our relationship. I was stunned. It was the first time I’d ever heard Josh sound nervous.
Over the next hour, we had genuine heart-to-heart. It felt so good to reconnect that I felt like I was about to levitate off my chair. He leaned closer. “I’m so glad you sent those emails, otherwise I never would have had the wake up call I needed.”
“What emails?” I said, mouth full of cream cheese bagel. “The emails you sent, Grace. A couple of weeks ago.” My blank expression must have spoken volumes because he spun around his tablet to face me. “These ones”.
The browser was already open to Gmail. I tapped on the most recent mail exchange. Sure enough, there was dozens of messages back and forth between us. Speed reading through a few, I recognised the phrases I often used, my distinct email style.
They were sent from my genuine account, but they weren’t written by me. I had a feeling who did write them though. Only thing was, there were things in those emails I didn’t even remember telling her.
Undigested bagel lodged in my stomach like a yeasty lump. It dawned on me that perhaps this meeting wasn’t entirely by chance. “Oh yeah.. those emails”.
Parting ways, Josh and I hugged for about seven seconds too long and I knew that we’d be seeing each other again soon.
When we quietly started dating again a few months later, I couldn’t help my mind straying to Erin and her unusual.. intervention, if you can call it that.
Eventually, I decided that it’s a sign she chose to forgive me.