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Written content Copyright © 2015 by Author Jennifer Fales/J.A. Fales Publishing
*All rights reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted for resale or gain, monetary or otherwise, without prior written permission from the author Jennifer Fales. This is a work of fiction Any resemblance to people or places that are not is just a big, fat coincidence, my friend.
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“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”


―Arthur C. Clarke


Had you told me that an iPhone would land me in a psych ward seven weeks ago, I’d have laughed at you. Wait, no, technically I wouldn’t have—I’d have run away before you got within earshot. Doc Cogburn, who happens to look a lot like a sexy Charles Bronson in my estimation, says it’s because I have social anxiety disorder. It used to be severe, but he recently downgraded me to the regular kind.

That’s great news, right? Somebody should probably blow up some balloons and bake me a cake. The staff might be okay with that as long as Suzie the Straw-Haired Inmate down the hallway from me doesn’t see or smell anything. That woman can sniff out a Tootsie Roll at five yards, and she might kill you for it on one of her bad days.

Either way, the celebrations and the sweets are a moot point. That’s not why you’re here; you came to find out what went wrong with your Romance App. Don’t worry; I’m willing to explain, but that requires me telling you the whole story, and I’ll give you fair warning that it’s complicated.

It all started with a knock on my apartment door. I never answer because I live on the first floor, and that makes me a perfect target for ballsy door-to-door sales types. Trust me, if it’s a knock, then it’s salespeople. They didn’t nickname me Wilting Lily for nothing back when I was herding the children of pseudo-intellectuals like wayward cattle behind the gates of Sacred Conifer Parochial. Of course, that was before I got a work-from-home Internet job.

People like me rarely engage in frivolous conversations, and we certainly don’t invite friends over. You know what we do instead? We type responses to virtual friends while playing pathetic social games online and eating cheese-flavored snacks in our ratty hermit pajamas. At any rate, this knock was frantic, the excessively urgent, troubled banging of some hyped up sales guy who wasn’t going to take no for an answer.

I lost my patience when the person didn’t give up. So I stomped to the door and shrieked, “Go away!”

“No,” a deep (and not entirely unattractive) voice replied from the opposite side.

“Doesn’t matter,” I said. “Still not letting you in.”

There was a brief pause and then a sigh. “I’m your neighbor from across the hall.”

“Ha!” I snapped triumphantly. No one had lived there, not since the Kapoor family and their yapping miniature Schnauzer had moved out the year before. “Got you, you vile wretch! I don’t have a neighbor across the hall.”

“You do now,” the man answered tiredly. “My name’s Brian Jackson; I just moved into 1B last night, and I locked myself out of it this morning.”

At this point, I still wasn’t certain. Stretching on tiptoe, I placed an eye against the peephole and looked out at a square jaw and dimpled chin. “Can you step back a bit? I need to look at you to know if you’re lying to me or not.”

“Alright.” He sounded embarrassed.

“Wow, are you an underwear model?” I asked him, taking in my first ever up close and in person view of tanned six-pack abs above the black band on a pair of cotton briefs.

“Are you an idiot?” Brian replied.

“Probably,” I answered, looking down at my messy SpongeBob sweatpants and cheese-stained fingers with certainty. “But I’ll call the front office and ask someone to come over and let you in.”

“Thanks,” he replied, heading back toward his apartment door and giving me a lovely view of exceptionally taut buttocks in the process.

Though it was probably incredibly rude, I continued to stare at him through the peephole until the ridiculously flirty girl from the front desk showed up and unlocked the door for him.

The next several days went by in a blur for me. My life alternated between work and a weird relay race that involved me jumping up from my desk and running over to the door every time I heard a noise in the hallway. I caught a glimpse of the elusive Mr. Jackson two times. On both occasions, the man looked sweaty and delicious, obviously on his way back from the Fitness Center.

That was one of the features they had sold me on, too—shiny weights, sleek treadmills and gray yoga mats—when they convinced me to move into my crappy five hundred square foot studio apartment. Naturally, no one bothered to mention the psychotic dog next door or the woman who walked like an elephant at three in the morning upstairs.

Thankfully, the Kapoors and that demon dog of theirs eventually moved away. The Fitness Center and Lady Dumbo both stuck around, though, and neither had ever done me any good; I’d always been too shy to visit one or talk to the other.

Right around this time, I received an email notifying me there was yet another voicemail from my mother on my iPhone. This one was no doubt also laden with truckloads of guilt for being a lousy cook and a horrible bridge player who hadn’t given her grandchildren yet. I didn’t have it on me because, unlike the rest of the world, my mobile phone is not a permanent attachment;

I’m too stingy when it comes to paying for data plans. As a result of this, I have adopted a policy of leaving all the power-draining apps off and the phone powered on in a general purpose pocket on the nightstand beside my depressingly small bed.

After checking Mom’s messages, I noticed I was due for another IOS update and figured what the hell, might as well kill two birds with one stone and get it out of the way.

The update itself was nothing remarkable, but I did notice my latest icon, the one for the eParamours app, no longer populated on the display screen. Figuring maybe it was some shameless reading app for erotic novels pushed out to single gals for a trial run—a grand idea in my opinion—I had downloaded it just the day before.

The resulting display screen had come with a War and Peace length listing of terms and conditions. It even included some incredibly convoluted language about special algorithms, which I skimmed through despite disinterest and a thorough lack of understanding. To be honest, I stopped caring as soon as I found that magic phrase toward the bottom: No cash or credit payment required. Cheap as I am, that was all I needed to know.

I suppose the most interesting thing about the app was that, aside from the brief icon, it now didn’t appear to exist. What I mean by that is that after I performed the update, it all disappeared. There was now no icon and I could not find a single thing in the app store matching what had been on my phone earlier that afternoon. Being fairly used to disappointment, I wrote this off as a software glitch, consoling myself with the notion that it was par for the course that some of the prose was destined to be poorly edited. As a former English Major, I would have barely survived a nervous breakdown plodding through it.

Within a few days, I had forgotten about eParamours completely. Then, something strange happened. For the record, I’m talking “devil on the doorstep in a Sunday suit” peculiar. Brian the Edible left a present on my doorstep; it was a Tiffany-blue box with a little card and a white silk bow around it. There was a lovely silver locket in the box, and the card with its impeccable handwriting read, “Because you deserve it. —Love, Brian.” As you might well imagine, I was flabbergasted.

The following morning, after checking in briefly online with a handful of marketing clients, I showered and spruced up my hair. Afterward, I donned the Stepford Wives apron that Mom had re-gifted me three Christmases ago and stood vigil by the peephole with a plate of prepackaged key lime pie, fresh from the microwave. Sure, my eyes grew weary and my back ached a bit from the high heels I was wearing below the elastic ankle-line of my Hello Kitty sweat pants. I might have even felt uncharacteristically out of breath as the day progressed, but I couldn’t risk missing the opportunity to thank my loving and sexy new beau with faux-made pie.

Brian the Edible eventually showed up in the hallway, sweat-soaked and glistening from the gym. Even knowing that the man cared enough to buy me something legitimate from the Tiffany store, I had to pause for a deep breath and an impromptu battle with the antisocial voices in my head. Sadly, by the time I sprang into the hallway, the man’s door was shut, and I just couldn’t make myself knock.

“Don’t you worry,” I consoled myself while heading toward the kitchen and a lightly detergent stained knife and fork to carve myself a bite of scrumptious pie. “You’ll see your sexy, sweaty Lover Boy, and impress the living crap out of him with strudel, tomorrow.”

The next day, unfortunately, harbored no physical interaction with Brian the Edible, but I knew things were looking up when Mom didn’t call and the app reappeared on my phone. A client or two came through with a paycheck for me, and I received my first email from Brian, signed “Your Paramour.”

That sexy, sentimental man confessed there was no resisting my classic beauty; to him, I was like an Emma Watson or an Audrey Hepburn. Better yet, Brian proposed I come over to his place for a romantic candlelight dinner one night the following week. Though I struggled a bit, at first, trying to recall when he might have seen me and wondering how he had obtained my email address, I was still elated. I suggested a Wednesday night, to break up the bourgeois monotony of the workweek, and I even insisted on bringing dessert.

The rest of the week flew by, probably because I was on Cloud Nine. I hopped a Metro bus to the grocery store for the first time in years, rather than relying on delivery, because I wanted to scope out their entire selection of frozen confectionary treats. Brian the Edible loved me, and that lovely man deserved nothing but the best, as far as I was concerned. I also ordered sassy new underwear—the best secret Victoria had to offer— and a matching lavender wrap dress that boasted that it would slide off quick and easy as a raincoat. There was no need to purchase shoes, though. I had a strappy pair of sandals with moderate heels that I had never even worn. I figured they would do just fine.

Early Wednesday afternoon, I abandoned my efforts to concentrate on clients, marketing, and my Scooby Doo pajamas, with a song of love and gourmet lemon gingersnap pie in my heart. I slapped my entire arsenal of makeup and hot rollers on the bathroom counter and dove into the shower with gusto. Wilting Lily had a night of long-awaited passion ahead of her. My loofah and Rainforest Passion Fruit body wash would leave no hygienic stone unturned.

After the shower, I did a dance for good luck while squeezing my hair into rollers and slathering on my girlie war paint. Never before in my life had I been so excited about false lashes, flawless foundation, cherry-pink gloss, and lavender-lust eye shadow. I was a Goddess, for crap’s sake. Brian the Edible wanted to worship at my feet. That burning hunk of man-love would hand-feed me steak and beer—the real stuff, not that other, light nonsense— by hand, just as his emails had promised, in a few scant hours. Yep. Counting calories and eating salad was now solely for wusses and lesser mortals, by gum and by golly. In other words, my freaking day had come.

By the time 7 o’clock rolled around, I honestly felt like I had a pretty good handle on things. The dress and undies fit like kid gloves, my skin was glowing, and the shoes, although a little smaller than I had first recalled (maybe my feet were swelling), looked amazing. All I had to do was pull the pie dish with its pre-sliced, thawed lemon gingersnap deliciousness from the refrigerator, and walk that and my lavender perfumed goddess booty across the hallway to the man’s apartment. A piece of cake … well, technically no, it was a piece, or rather several pieces, of a pie.

I have to pause here and acknowledge that there are fleeting moments when everything is perfect. That split-second when you know every star in the Universe has lined up just right, just for you; the moment when you know there’s no way you can not win. Fate bends over to kiss your ass without you even asking for it, and you feel amazing. That’s how it was when you rolled out the eParamours app, right? That was your Sistine Chapel; it was your Jesus on a Whole Wheat Cracker moment. This dinner, this date with Brian the Edible, was mine.

Being the Social Anxiety Queen that Doc Cogburn claims I am, it was impossible to stop my heart from hammering as I stepped into the hallway. It felt like one of those artery doo-hickeys at the top, or maybe an aorta or something, was trying to claw its way out of my throat as my apartment door clicked shut.

I locked it, despite the knowledge I would be right across the hallway. Not to mention that my best bet of ever seeing the place clean again might very well be an oddly fastidious thief breaking in during my absence. Regardless of emotions or circumstances, the pie and I made it across the communal, neutral colored hallway intact.

I knocked briefly on Brian the Edible’s door once, waited, and tried again because there was no immediate answer. We had agreed on 7 o’clock in our emails, and I was technically a few minutes late. I stood there, fidgeting with the plate and feeling the sides of my feet hanging out over the delicate platform of my strappy shoes like a river of meat escaping an overstuffed calzone.

Hopefully, Brian wouldn’t notice that. Although I did love a good calzone, I certainly wasn’t going to go out of my way to draw attention to the phenomenon.

“Yes?” he said as he opened the door, looking down his tan nose at my glorious pie. “Can I help you?”

I froze for a moment, peering around those broad shoulders and sniffing the air. There was someone else there, in the background, and I smelled meat. My Steak.

“Are we playing some game—storm the castle, maybe?” I asked, pushing past him into the apartment with a smile. “Because, honey, I’m a meat-eating girl; I would totally do that for beer and a steak.”

“Umm, hi,” a man behind the kitchen counter, one with a handsome but completely unfamiliar face, frowned back at me. “Brian, honey, you didn’t say anything about an extra setting for dinner tonight?”

That’s pretty much when I went on a lavender tirade. There I was, flinging sandals and my pie everywhere and shrieking about Tiffany & Co., and emails and cards signed “Your Paramour” and how I looked like Audrey Hepburn and Emma Watson.

They both just stared at me, and the one guy, Brian the Edible’s boyfriend, I guess, kept rubbing his forehead and stating that the two of them were gay. Very gay, like so gay there shouldn’t have even been a question in my crazy little head about it.

It took a while for me to digest what he was saying. Even when Building Security, and then the police, showed up, I couldn’t quite fathom that nobody knew what the hell I was talking about, or why I was yelling. It wasn’t my fault; it was the app’s – the one that courted me, seduced me, and tricked me.

I sent the Tiffany necklace back to the closest store and demanded a refund on my credit card. I told them four hundred dollars for a stupid hunk of silver was ridiculous. Doc Cogburn had advised me that returning it would be the wisest thing to do.

He thought it would not look good for my case—me claiming that I didn’t know the charge was there because a sentient iPhone application that fell madly in love with me had done it without my permission. I don’t know why; in my opinion, it was an unauthorized charge.

I still believe the app was using Brian like a battery, for the energy. It was obvious. He looked so tired and sluggish that night I came over and, frankly, some of the language about the algorithms I skimmed through in your agreement seemed sidewindy, if not downright nefarious. But who has the time to read all that stuff nowadays?

You caught a glimpse of Doc Cogburn when they signed you in at the front desk, right? He’s the one that would have told them it was okay, and that I wasn’t going to hurt you or vice versa.

He’s really handsome, don’t you think, and super nefarious-looking to boot? Just like Charles Bronson, in that rugged sort of cowboy-thuggish way, and also he’s definitively not gay. One of the interns laughed long and hard when I asked her about that, so I’m pretty sure we’re good this time around.

It will probably be a while before they let me have a smartphone in here; that is, at least, according to Doc Cogburn. Still, I figured you could keep me in mind if you do more testing.

I don’t know why they use the thought of A.I. to scare so many people in the movies and books these days. I mean, I totally adore your products, and this last app even loved me back.

In marketing, that’s what you might call a win-win.

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