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MESSENGER

      "So it sounds like you will be ok financially for a while when your Income Tax comes in, in a few months. So sweet of you to think of getting me a gift. I am so glad we got together this morning before I went to work."

      "NP, it was the least I could do for such a wonderful woman. I should give you most of the six thousand dollars just because you are you LOL."

      "Now perhaps I could be your kept woman? LMAO."

      "All the stuff I feel about you I should have helped with sooner but we were just getting to know each other. The time was not right then but it is now  :-) (smiley face)."

      "I know. I guess I was a bit impatient. I am sure it will all be ok . . . I will be back online soon, going on a break now. TTFN."

      "Ok," he wrote on the Messenger screen and shrunk the page down to the bottom of the monitor and brought up the movie he was watching. His eyes wandered rhythmically to the bottom of the monitor to wait patiently for the orange light to indicate that she was back online. Orange light!

      "HI ;-) (wink)."

      "Hi," he wrote back after enlarging his Messenger screen. "How was your break?"

      "OMG, way too quick and now I am backed up with calls. Am I interrupting a movie or something? Ping me when you have a moment."

      "NO, it's almost over. I'll put it on pause. Some guy is being thrown off a roof with a noose around his neck. LOL."

      "Who?" she said, putting a few calls in the quay.

      "Some weird movie called Hard Candy. I thought it was a drug movie, you know - Candy . . . LOL I thought it was some uplifting or adventure type thingy or something." 

      "Oh, that one. It was his misfortune to pick up the wrong kid to deal with. It is a good story though and I almost felt sorry for the creep. ."

      "Yes, until the confession at the end. I'll let you get back to work as it sounds like the weekend finally got busy. I am going to take a P break, stretch my legs and finish the movie."

      "I'll miss you while I answer these last few calls and catch up on about 80 e-mails. It's a good thing I parked indoors because it looks like the winter is finally upon us," she IM'd. She looked out her second floor office window as the flurries began to obscure the street lights. "So enjoy the movie. I love you."

      "I love you too and enjoy the last fifty minutes of work. You can call me, if you like. :-) .(Smiley face)." He shrank the Messenger screen and finished the movie. He got up to stretch his legs and looked out the window for the first time this winter evening. He turned up the sound on his computer speakers to hear the Messenger ping if she were to come back online while he wandered into the living room. Just as he sat down on the long gold and red couch, the phone rang.

      "Can you come and pick me up tonight?" was the first thing she said as he held the phone up to his ear. He didn't even have a chance to say hello. Her shaky voice penetrated the almost quiet of his apartment. Only then did he notice the strong wailing wind outside and the cold seemed so distant from the inside.

      "Sure, I'll take the next bus if it arrives on time and meet you right after work and drive you home. Is that what you had in mind?" He glanced at the clock on top of the TV stand above the Play Station console where they would play Little Big Planet if they were together on nights like this.

      "Yes, please meet me at the back door of the large green tower on King Street where you usually meet me," she said quickly. "I've been working all weekend alone and the last night is terrible. I keep seeing people in the building that weren't supposed to be here, hearing little noises and things. The only sanity has been you being online for three days and talking to me on MSN Messenger. I can't wait to finish my shift and get out of here. Eleven pm at the back door please, sweetheart." She began closing down her computer and the office connections. There were really six people working the weekend shift but five were in Toronto and she was the only one in London.

      "Ok, bye, see you soon." If he caught the 10:30 bus he should be downtown by eleven pm even if the storm didn't let up on this dark February night. Twelve inches of snow had already fallen over most of southwestern Ontario and was heading up the east coast. It was already fifteen minutes after ten. He closed down the computer and got dressed. His new boots engulfed his brown slacks too just below the knee so he didn't have to worry about the snow and cold. He threw on his large yellow sweater and red wool scarf under his winter coat. He locked the door to his apartment and headed across the parking lot to the bus stop.

      The Number 12 bus was on time and barely visible in the heavy blowing snow. It lumbered through the suburbs ending up downtown in exactly a half hour from when he boarded it. He got off the bus and pulled his hat on tighter and zipped the coat up to his chin. He made his way across the street to the large green office towers and trudged through the drifts and wind to the back door. He only had to wait ten minutes for his girlfriend to get off work and see him standing there.

      "I'm so glad to see you," she said as she opened the large glass doors and made her way over to his arms. She was the only warmth he could feel in this cold night and wind. "I parked in the Convention Center parking garage again," giving him a big hug and a kiss. "Let me tell you, it's spooky over there, you know, people hanging out or making deals this late at night regardless of the weather." She looked up lovingly at his smile, and took his arm as they made their way across the street. They pushed through the snow past the city plows and four-wheel vehicles that were foolish enough to be out on a night like this. They entered the parking lot on the far side of the street without realizing it and in the blinding snow, made their way across the drifts and concrete barriers toward the underground entrance. Its small green light was the only thing that could be made out in the howling weather.

       Arm in arm they pushed against the wind as the Convention Center snow plow pushed them up against the wall. The spring thaw would find her wrapped in his arms with no more need to protect her from the noise and the icy blast of winter. They had gone home a long time ago.