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a brief inquiry into online relationships

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Dina stands in front of the vast open gates of the carnival as she takes in the sights and sound from outside. Colourful lights hang in rows from booth to booth, the sweet smell of cotton candy wafts in the air and floats all around, inviting her to enter the carnival. She can feel the warm buzz of joyous carnival-goers laughing heartily. In her hands, she thumbs a handwritten note. The smooth cream paper with neat scratched handwriting. She isn't sure what compelled her to carry the small note on her person, perhaps she wanted to hold onto a tangible piece of the girl she has been talking to for months on the Internet, to prove that she really existed.

If you really wanna meet, shall we cross paths at the carnival? This Saturday. I'll be there after seven.

Dina feels a small wave of adrenaline surge through her. She tucks the note neatly into her wallet, takes a deep breath, and walks into the carnival.

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Ellie pulls over her favourite red checkered flannel over her white t-shirt. Shaking out her hair, she pulls it back into her signature messy half-bun. She paces around in the room as she twists her fingers together filled with nervous jitters. She pulls her phone out of her pocket and re-read the last message from D.

D: I'll see you

A single line she has been obsessing over for days, filling her waking thoughts with nervous and excited energy. Their text conversation ceased to an end a few days ago, both of them mutually agreeing that the next time they would talk it would be in person, face to face. Ellie isn't sure what to expect, mind forming reasons over the many ways things could go wrong. What if the girl isn't like the way she is online, what if she's weird, what if she's an axe-wielding murder. Ellie shakes her head at the last thought she's fairly sure that the odds of that are slim. The girl found the note she left for her in a secluded corner of the school. Taking a breath to calm her nerves, she gathers her wallet and keys and leaves the room.

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Their conversations started something like this. Months ago, over an anonymous blogging platform. Ellie had posted one of her poetry online, musing over the events of her daily life. The poem received a bit of attention, garnering a little over a hundred likes and shares. Amused by the attention and glad that people resonated with her, she began to post bits of her poetry whenever she pleased. Most of her posts weren't as popular as the first, but it didn't matter, it simply was just an outlet to air her thoughts.

There was a blog that stood out to her though, one which liked all her poetry. One night, out of curiosity, she decided to message the blog. Little did she know, a simple 'hey' was enough to make a new friend. They conversed daily and it only intensified after learning that they were in the same school. They never traded names or any information that might have revealed who they were in real life, only midnight thoughts and secrets.

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Dina's phone buzzes in her pocket. Pausing her stroll amongst the carnival games, she reads the message sent from E.

E: I'm here

D: Me too

E: Should we just meet up somewhere or?

Dina ponders to herself, excitement fills her to know that the girl she has been falling for isn't too far away, but at the same time, the mystery of their identities are coming to an end. After tonight, there will never be a time in the future where they didn't know each other in person. The need to keep her identity a secret a little while longer wins over rushing up to meet the girl. Dina has waited over a week to meet the girl; she could wait a few more minutes. She wants to savour this mystery a little longer. She sends a text back.

D: What if we played a game?

E: What do you have in mind?

D: Eye spy? We'll walk around for a bit. Describe our surroundings and take turns guessing our locations.

E: Okay

D: I'll start first,

Dina takes a moment to observe her surroundings. She spies a game booth not too far from where she stands.

D: I see lots of stuffed unicorns at one of the games booths

Dina smiles and wanders off.

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Ellie lets out a small huff, she should have known D was going to be a tease. She pivots around and wanders to the vicinity of the games booths. Strolling between the stalls she spots children playing ring toss, and a row of colourful unicorns strung up along the edge of the tent. Ellie looks around, searching for the person she is texting.

E: I don't see you

D: Haha your turn

Ellie crosses over to the food section of the carnival.

E: I see a popcorn machine. Some pretty large bags of popcorn here

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It takes all of Dina's self-control to not to rush over to the popcorn machine immediately. Mentally, she kicks herself for the torture she imposed on them by proposing to play this game. She spots the popcorn machine from a distance and looks around as casually as she can.

D: I see the popcorn machine, but I don't see the person texting me

E: Oh really? Why don't you come find me? Your turn

Staring her phone, Dina grins to herself and spins around, walking straight into someone's solid back. She drops her phone. The phone lies face down on the grounds. She picks it up and finds herself staring at Ellie. A girl from science class, Ellie always kept her head down and did her homework quietly. She is cute though Dina remembers thinking to herself when she saw Ellie for the first time.

"Oops I'm sorry I wasn't watching where I was going," Dina said.

"Oh um, it's alright. Did you crack your screen?" Ellie queries.

Dina turns over the phone and studies it for a moment. No cracks.

"It's fine," Dina replies and Ellie nods.

Dina seizes the opportunity to talk to the girl, "Didn't think I would bump into you, how are you liking the carnival?" she asks.

"It's good... I'm looking for someone actually..." Ellie trails off.

Oh it seems like she's busy, Dina thinks, "Oh okay, I'll see you around."

"See you."

They part ways and Dina walks over to the rides section and sends E a text.

D: I see a Vikings ship

E: That Vikings ship is huge. I can see it too from where I'm standing.

D: How nice, we are staring at the same thing. Like two lovers staring at the moon

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Ellie swears that the blush did not form on her face because of D's text, only from the chilly wind that blew gently past her cheek. In fact, Ellie swears she isn't blushing at all. As she strolls among the rides she sends back a playful text.

E: Oh we are lovers now?

D: Only if you want to be

E: You wish

D: It's your turn by the way

Ellie glances up and finds herself standing at the foot of the Ferris wheel.

E: What if we ride something?

D: I can ride plenty of things. Not having fun?

E: Haha really funny. But wanna go on the Ferris wheel together?

D: Let me get there first

E: Come find me

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Dina makes a beeline to the Ferris wheel. With a ticket in hand, she waits, absentmindedly playing with the hem of her shirt as she waits in line for her turn. The Ferris wheel moves slowly and she spots Ellie sitting alone on a bench in the air. Dina lets the people behind her ride first, waiting for Ellie's bench to reach the ground. Didn't Ellie say she was looking for someone? Dina asks herself. Her heart begins to beat in her chest. I don't know why but something's happening. Dina thinks as she smiles and sits next to Ellie.

"Hey" Ellie smiles.

"Hey yourself" Dina lets out a small laugh, "Did you get stood up? I thought you were looking for someone, why are you riding the Ferris wheel alone?" The Ferris wheel starts to move.

"I thought it would be the best place to spot them in the carnival."

"Is that so?"

"Yeah, cause they wanted to play eye spy so I told them to find me on the Ferris wheel." Ellie laughs at herself.

It feels like someone stole all the air from her lungs as confusion and clarity wash over her in huge waves. She pauses, staring at Ellie.

"E?" She whispers, as she feels her heart begin to hammer in her chest.

Elle's eyes widen in recognition, "D?"

They stare at each other wide-eyed for a moment. Absorbing the fact that they have been talking over the past month without knowing who the other person is in real life.

"Yeah?" Dina exhales a laugh and beams nodding her head. Ellie laughs, groans and buries her hands in her face.

"Hey, what's wrong?" Dina's smile dims. She gently tugs Ellie's hands away and sees the girl's face tinted red with embarrassment. Ellie glances away from her.

"Oh fuck, remember that one conversation we had about crushes?" Ellie mutters.

Dina nods, it was one of the more interesting conversations they had where E talked about her crush. The words used to describe her crush were loud, sarcastic and magnetizing. Dina thought that the description sounded like her but she brushed it off not wanting to overthink things.

Dina gasps "That was me? You were talking about me?"

"I didn't know it was you! How was I supposed to know I was talking to my crush over the Internet anonymously over the past months" Ellie exclaims, returning her hands to her face.

Dina stews in silence for a while and the Ferris wheel comes to a stop at the top.

"You know, I like you too," Dina admits.

Ellie carefully takes her hands away from her face.

"What?"

"Yeah, I love the way you talk, I love how our conversations are always so easy. I love the fact that you are always with me throughout the day, till late at night. You were always close even though you physically weren't and now I just wanna be close to you," Dina says breezily.

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Ellie is taken aback hearing the sincerity dripping from Dina's voice. She gazes into her eye chocolate brown eyes shimmering back into hers. For a moment, Ellie can't remember how to breathe. She was always crushing on Dina from a distance. Dina's like the radiant sun shining brightly wherever she goes, and Ellie's like the moon quietly admiring her beauty from afar.

Now Dina's here in front of her. Telling her that same way she feels about her.

Anticipation rises as Ellie leans in and Dina follows suit. They take their time, as the wind whistles around them as if it's urging them together. At the top of the Ferris wheel with the starry night above their heads and the carnival light glowing beneath their feet, Ellie closes her eyes and the space between their lips.

Dina's lips are soft and warm like sunbeams warming gently on her skin. Overwhelmed with emotions, Ellie pulls away from the chaste kiss, opening her eyes to watch Dina's reaction.

Dina beams at her, shining eyes as she radiates delight. Dina's palm finds Ellie's cheek and she pulls her in for another kiss. This time, Ellie kisses her with more confidence, heart fluttering in her chest as Dina holds her close.

Eventually, they pull away from the kiss breathless. Ellie leans back, her lips tingling as she misses the way Dina's lips felt against hers. Dina's hands drop to Ellie's lap as she entwines their fingers together, squeezing gently.

"You like me?" Ellie asks softly, hardly daring to believe what is happening is real.

Dina grins back, "Yeah, I do."