I was so intrigued by the enigma that was Dragosani that I could hardly wait for 11pm to arrive so I would be able to dial-up and get into the chat room. I was still answering the phone for my brother’s white-water rafting business and it helped to pass the hours away once I got home from work. With Mom at home looking after Dad, work seemed much easier and more relaxed. When Cid made his daily afternoon phone call, I was more at ease with him without my mother listening and pursing her lips, pointing at the clock. He called again every evening, at least once and I would listen to that beautiful soft voice and melt. Every day I yearned to hear him say those special words – the ones that went beyond ‘I love you – as my best friend’. But every night I crawled alone into my bed without hearing them. Sometimes I pretended my pillow was Cid as I cuddled it to me, other nights I just cried into it – calling his name.
As the weeks crept on after Dad’s surgery, we began to come to grips with the concept of the years of life left for him. Perhaps his weakness and the way he had to eat afterwards reinforced that. Or perhaps it was how he was fading away. I didn’t go out to the farm to visit after he made it plain he didn’t want me to come to the hospital, but I heard about his daily life through my brother. A little part of me thought he deserved his pain, but a huge part of me was crushed. That part that still begged for my father’s love.
Cid, being the lawyer, talked circles around my head about buying the family business. Every night he called and we hashed through my finances and different ways I could buy it, and every night I ended by saying I just didn’t want to. This continued until Cid had exhausted every possible plan he could think of. In the end, I just didn’t feel like I wanted to take on that massive responsibility. I knew my parents would not ‘give’ me the business. And I didn’t expect them to. But I also knew that if I mentioned it to them that they would go for every single penny they could get out of me – and more. I also knew that if any of the other siblings wanted to buy the business – it would be different for them. I accepted that.
Sometimes I wondered if it was because of I was the third child out of four, and not only the third – but the middle girl of the oldest and youngest. I never begrudged my brother for being the only boy, in fact I often felt sorry for him. I knew he was tied to our parents for more reasons than he gave and my heart ached for him. With this storm raging in my life, I almost lived for my escape into the chat room.
Dragosani and Ayns waited every night for Ani to sweep into the Parlor, and I did so with my own hungry eyes searching for theirs. Ayns flirted dramatically as I sat on the couch and chatted with Dragosani. At first Ayns was jealous of the newcomer and it showed in everything he did and said. But it never seemed to affect Dragosani. He chatted with everyone, including Ayns and refused to be goaded or to fight. I still danced with Ayns, long slow aching dances where we stared into each other’s eyes. But the couch was comfortable and verbal dancing with Dragosani was even more fun.
Chat rooms are not the land of the free and easy and totally safe. Not at all. There was another person in that chat room during that time who called himself Sean. Of course this was not his real name but he told me he had chosen this name because it attracted women. Being new to the game I didn’t think much of giving my e-mail address to either Ayns/Yak or to Sean. The emails and phone calls from Ayns/Yak were safe, even though he was married. He wasn’t a stalker. Sean, on the other hand, was another thing. Emails turned into phone calls and flowers and suddenly this guy wanted to come spend his holiday at the barn and he was hounding me. I started ignoring his calls and emails and in the Parlor his comments turned nasty. When the Parlor situation became extreme and I got upset, Dragosani told me how to click on a few buttons and I never saw another comment from Sean. Thankfully the emails and phone calls stopped as well and he either changed his name in the Parlor or just quit going there. Too me it was another brush with the kind of guy I usually attracted. To others it was that ‘terrible internet stuff’. I shrugged it off and moved on.