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Hello, Cupcake!
About the Author: Alan Orloff has published eight novels, including PRAY FOR THE INNOCENT. His debut mystery was an Agatha Award finalist; his flash piece, “Happy Birthday” (Shotgun Honey) was a Derringer Award finalist; and “Rule Number One” (first appearing in Level Best Book’s SNOWBOUND) was selected for THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2018, edited by Louise Penny and Otto Penzler. www.alanorloff.com


Every evening after dinner, Tammy retreated to the computer in her den, flitting from one social media site to another for hours, seeking refuge from her long-decaying marriage to Brad, a now-rich, son-of-a-bitch who had been treating her like dirt for the better part of a decade.

One of these days—a day fast approaching—she would screw up her courage and divorce the bastard, taking him for every cent she could squeeze from his XXL body.

Now, dinner dined and dishes done, Tammy fired up the computer on her desk and waited for it to finish booting before she could lose herself in the virtual world of cyberspace, safe for the moment from Brad’s condescending attitude and verbal abuse. Not that the Internet was without hostility. There, though, when trolls crawled from the shadows and launched an attack, you could simply close the window and be done with them. If only it were that easy with Brad.

When her homepage appeared on-screen, an email subject line caught her attention:

Tammy, You’re Invited to ReKonnect!

She clicked open the email. You’re invited to join ReKonnect, the new social media site that allows you to renew past acquaintances, rekindle past loves, restart old relationships, and return to those friends and family members you may have lost touch with. Using our unique “rejection-proof” system, you can search out people from your past without them knowing about it. Only if BOTH parties agree will a rekonnection be made.

Tammy read the rest of the spiel.

ReKonnect is the new—fun!—way to reconnect with people who once meant a great deal to you. Family members who’ve gone their separate ways. Dear neighbors who have moved. Old flames, former roommates, co-workers. See what’s happened to them—the good, the bad, and the downright unbelievable! It’s a snap to get started. Simply fill out the easy-to-understand questionnaire, sit back, and let our powerful—and proprietary—algorithms do the searching for you! Join now to take advantage of our introductory offer: Only $9.95 per month!

Tammy clicked the button in the email that whisked her to the site. What was ten bucks a month for a little entertainment? There were a couple of ex-college roommates she’d lost touch with. She entered her credit card information and was guided to the questionnaire. She’d answered four questions when the door to the den opened and Brad came strolling in.

“Here you are.” He said it mockingly, as if she couldn’t possibly be anywhere else.

“What do you want?”

“You seem fascinated by something. What is it?” He came close, too close, and peered over her shoulder. “What the hell is ReKonnect?”

Tammy sighed. The quickest way to get rid of Brad was to answer his questions as efficiently as possible. She summed up the idea behind ReKonnect in four terse sentences.

“So who do you want to connect with?” He leaned against the desk and hit her with a blast of whiskey breath.

“People I’ve lost touch with. Friends.” Unlike you, I have some friends.

“Friends, huh?” He bared his teeth in what he probably thought was a smile. “Like who?”

“I’ve been wondering whatever happened to Melissa, my old roommate. And my cousin Kevin? We’ve lost touch with him.”

“You sure you’re not going to use that to look up old boyfriends? Like that dreamy guy from high school who used to call you Cupcake? What was his name, Jason?”

Tammy tried to keep from blushing, but she knew it was her tell. “Now, why would I do that? I’m so happily married.”

Brad pointed his finger at her as if he were lecturing a misbehaving mutt. “Damn straight you are. And you’ll stay happily married, whether you want to or not. For better or worse, baby. For better or worse!” He cackled as he pushed himself off the desk and kept cackling all the way out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

Bastard!

Brad hadn’t always been that way. She remembered him when they’d met, twenty-five years ago. Trim, handsome. Funny. Considerate. Things between them had been good at the beginning. Once, they’d gone to Vermont for a long romantic weekend, and—



This story appears in our FEB 2019 Issue
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Reader Discussion

16
Feb
Did not think the story was going in THAT direction! Great ideas and writing as always, Mr. Orloff!
By Susan Rickard


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