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Mainstream Fiction

The Text

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Just as Leah was almost finished with a tax return, her cell phone rang. She looked at the number. “Hi, Judy.”

“Scott and I are going to dinner tonight. Want to come?”

“I’ll pass, but thanks for asking. I know you don’t mind me tagging along, but I always feel like a third wheel.  Besides, I was out last night. A real jerk. Practically pushed himself into my apartment when he dropped me off.”

“That’s scary. Are you okay?

“I’m fine.”

“By the way, did you join the on-line dating service yet?”

Leah laughed softly. “Satisfied Matches? I did. Last week.”


“Nobody interesting yet.”

“You joined. That’s the important thing.”

“Keeping my fingers crossed. Have fun tonight.”  Leah put the phone back on her desk,finished the tax return, and placed the completed document in a tray in front of her. As she reached for another 1040, her cell beeped, but she didn’t recognize the number. Within minutes, the phone beeped again. Same number. Probably a robot call, she thought and ignored it.  The phone beeped a third time, and Leah saw that someone had texted, “Hi, it’s me.”

“Who?” she texted.

The name Alex appeared. Could it be Alex from college? Instantly, she remembered the guy with curly red hair and dimples, her first love whom she met on move-in day during her sophomore year.By the following year, they were talking about marriage. When Leah’s parents realized that she and Alex were serious and that he wasn’t Jewish, they forbade her from marrying him, saying she couldn’t disgrace the family, and they would take her out of school.

“Alex Douglas?” Leah texted.

“How u doing?”

That’s him, she thought, recognizing his colloquial salutation. “Been twelve years. How’d you find me?”

“Technology. It’s wonderful.”

“Great to hear from you, Alex. How are you?”

“K. U?”

“I’m fine. Where are you living?”

“NYC. Upper West Side.”

Wow, same city, Leah thought, then quickly texted, “NYC, me, too. Still writing?”


“You were such a great sportswriter.”

“U like sports?”

“No more than I did in college. Surprised you gave up writing. What are you doing now?”

“Commercial artist.”

“You hated art. Weren’t very good, either” Leah texted and attached a smiley face to lessen the blow.

“Got interested later. U married?”

“I was, shortly after college. Didn’t work out. You?”

“Still looking. Gotta go, honey. Text u soon.”

“Great.”  Honey?


At home that evening, Leah went to her bookcase and pulled out her yearbook.  She turned to the page for the college newspaper, spotted Alex in the photo of the newspaper staff, and stared starry-eyed at him.  She smiled fondly remembering how he’d slip his roommate a few bucks every now and then to get lost so she could spend the night.

As she looked at the picture of Alex, Leah recalled the depression she felt when they broke up after graduation and the many guys she dated afterwards. Her feelings for those guys came nowhere near the deep love she had felt for Alex. Four years later, after six months of dating, she married David Weissman. They were happy during the first nine months of their marriage, but ended up divorcing, citing irreconcilable differences.

While she reminisced about Alex, Leah felt the old anger toward her parents surface. How could they have stopped me from marrying the love of my life? Does he still have feelings for me?


The following morning when she arrived at work, Leah immediately called Judy. “Guess who I heard from yesterday?” she asked.

“Come on, Leah. You know I hate guessing.”

“Got a text from Alex.”

“Alex Douglas?”


“Why did he contact you?”

“Didn’t say, but he’s not married.”

“Oh, Leah. You’re not thinking of dating him again, are you?”

“Why not? I’m thirty-five. Maybe we can rekindle an old flame.”

“I know you loved Alex, but you’re not the same person you were then.  He’s probably not, either. I know how desperately you want to be married, but you can’t force it.”

“You know I want four kids. My biological clock is ticking.”

“Yes, I know, but I’m sure you don’t want a repeat of David Weissman, either. Just be careful.”


Leah sharpened some #2 pencils and pulled out a client’s folder. On the front was written, Leon Whittaker, dog walker. Six pairs of sneakers and trips to Ireland and France, purportedly to attend conferences on holistic pet care. Don’t think so. She entered the amount for wages on 1040.  Then her phone beeped, and Leah saw it was Alex.

“Morning. How ya doing?”

Leah smiled, picked up her cell, and texted, “Good. You?”


“Call me. I want to hear your voice.”

“Texting keeps the curiosity going.”

“Send me a picture, then.”

Alex didn’t respond.

“You in touch with anyone from college?”

“Talk to David from time to time.”

“What’s he doing?”

“Tour guide. Lives in Mexico. Married. Nice woman. I’ve met her.”

“Really? He always dated guys. How’s your sister?”

“Fine. She’s a legal secretary.”

“Wasn’t she mentally challenged?”

“No. That was my brother.”

“What? I don’t remember you had a brother. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Can we meet soon?”

“You free for dinner this Thursday?”

Thursday’s good,” Leah texted.

“Emilio’s! Wonderful place. Eighty-eighth and Broadway. Six pm?”

“Perfect. Can’t wait.”


On Thursday, Leah left work at four o’clock and rushed home to shower and dress.

She put on a sleeveless strawberry-red dress with a thin, black patent-leather belt.  My black stilettos will look great with this, she thought, studying herself in the full-length mirror on her bedroom closet door.  Still have my figure.


When she got to the restaurant, Leah sat at one end of the long, dark wood bar, put her phone down, and looked around. Cozy place, she thought, observing the mural of gondolas on the Grand Canal along the back wall. So empty for a Thursday night at dinner time.  A few middle-aged men in Con Edison uniforms were sitting at the bar, drinking beer, and a young couple with a girl about five were eating at the table in the front.  Leah watched as the little girl tried to twist spaghetti around her fork, more of it landing in her lap than in her mouth.  A heavyset, balding man sat by himself at a table near the bar, drinking Heineken from a bottle, his eyes glued to his cell.

“Haven’t seen you here before,” the bartender said, walking over to Leah.

“First time. Meeting an old friend.”

The bartender smiled. “What can I get you?”

“Pinot Grigio.”

In the mirror on the wall behind the bar, Leah saw a couple in their thirties, sitting at a table behind her, the woman glaring at the man.

The bartender returned with the wine.

Leah took a sip and looked back at the mirror. She saw the woman gesture to a bouquet of red roses on the table and heard her say, “Don’t think these are going to excuse you.”

Geez, those folks aren’t going to have a very pleasant evening, Leah thought and glanced at her phone. Six-forty pm. He’s more than a half hour late. This is so unlike Alex. He was always prompt about everything. She signaled for the bartender.


“Water, please.”

The bartender placed the water in front of her. Just then, her phone sounded, and Leah read the message.

“It’s me. Are you coming?”

“I’m here. At the bar,” Leah said, scanning the room and noticing that now, more people had arrived.  She still didn’t see a male sitting by himself except for the heavyset guy.  She looked toward him and saw he was smiling at her.

He waved and mouthed “Hello.”

No, that can’t be him, Leah thought, remembering the good-looking guy from college, and trying to imagine how Alex might look now.  The tufts of gray at the sides of this guy’s head were straggly and unkempt.  No dimples. Leah stared in horror and disbelief, searching his face for some familiar, identifying feature.  This cannot be Alex Douglas.

“Got to go,” Leah said, handing the bartender the black bill folder and dashing for the door.

“What about your friend?” the bartender called.

Leah looked back over her shoulder. “He’s not coming.”

She was already out on the street when she heard, “Hey lady.” Leah didn’t respond, but soon Alex was walking beside her.

Leah turned to face him. “You fake. Who are you?” she asked, her face red.

The guy laughed nervously. “My name is Alex McBurney. I know I’m not who you expected. I can explain. Let’s go for coffee.”

“No coffee. Over there,” she said, gesturing to the park across the street. “I can’t imagine what you have to say.”

Leah suddenly felt Alex’s arm around her waist and pulled away.  “Don’t touch me,” she said, crossing the street. They entered the park, and she led them to an area where people were sitting on benches enjoying the warm summer night.

Leah turned to look at Alex who had sat down next to her. “So, talk,” she said. “Why would you–?”

“I have no luck meeting women at bars and clubs. The dating sites want you to post a picture. Who’s going to be interested in me once they see my photo?”

Not me. That’s for sure.

Alex continued. “If I can start a conversation through texting and get a woman interested in me, maybe she’ll want to meet. Then I’ve got a chance.”

“You just text any number?”

“Not any number. I punch in my area code and the first few digits of my number or those of someone I know. Then change a digit or two at the end. If no error message appears, I know the number is legit.  I type ‘Hello, it’s me,’ hit send, and wait for a response.  Many times, I get an error message.  Invalid number. Resend using a valid ten-digit number.”

“Then what?”

“I keep trying. Punch in different numbers.”

“Have you ever dated someone you met through texting?”

“Once. I dated a woman for a month. Some stop texting when they realize they don’t know me. Others ignore the texts.”

“What if you get a guy?”

“At first, I don’t know whom I’m chatting with. When I get their name, if it’s a guy, I say sorry, wrong number, and move on.”

“And with me?” Leah asked, incredulous that she had fallen prey to this scam. “I didn’t give you my name.”

“Didn’t matter. When I texted it’s Alex, you immediately thought of your Alex. I had you hooked. You gave me information,” Alex said. “What’s your name, anyway?”

“Not important,” Leah said, moving further away. “You manipulated the things I said.”

“Your comments and responses kept our texts going.”

“That’s messed up,” Leah said loudly, her face even redder now. “I really believed you were my Alex.”

“From our messages, it seemed like we were getting along. I figured when you met me, maybe it wouldn’t matter that I wasn’t the person you thought I was.”

“Come on,” Leah said, staring at Alex, her eyes wide open.  “You thought I wouldn’t care that I spent days texting someone I thought was an old friend, and when I met you, an imposter, it wouldn’t matter?”

Alex shrugged.

“Unbelievable. I’m outta here,” Leah said and stood up.

Alex reached for her wrist, but Leah pulled away.

“I said, don’t touch me,” she said and walked toward the exit.

“Can I kiss you?” he yelled out.

“What?” Leah did an about-face. “Don’t text me anymore. If I hear from you again, I’m going to report you for harassment,” she said, turning around and walking quickly out of the park.

“You’re hot,” he yelled to her, retreating back.

“You’re nuts,” Leah said, raising a middle finger behind her.


It was nine-thirty when Leah got home. She put on an old tee shirt and pajama bottoms, got into bed, picked up the phone on her nightstand, and punched in Judy’s number. “Can you talk?”

“Sure. How was your date?”

“Got duped.”

“What happened?”

Leah told her everything.

“What a scheme! Got to give him credit for ingenuity.”

“I guess. But how could I have been so naïve?

“Don’t beat yourself up. You’ve talked about Alex so much over the years. You’re still in love with the memory of what you had. Doesn’t help you had a marriage that didn’t work out.  It’s easy to understand that you wanted it to be Alex.”

“How could anyone do this?”

“It’s how he meets women.”

“Maybe I’m angrier at myself for falling for his scam.”

“I understand. You’ve got to put this past you. Keep putting yourself out there. I’m sure you’ll meet someone. It’s ten pm. I’ve got to get up early. Call me over the weekend.”

“Thanks for listening.”


Leah thought about the real Alex all weekend but was too depressed to contact him. When she got home from work on Monday, she turned on her computer and did a search.  There were nine listings for Alex Douglas living in New York, California, Massachusetts, and North Carolina.  She called the first three in New York and the four in Massachusetts.  Then she called the number in North Carolina. “Is this Alex Douglas from Coleman College?” Leah asked.

“Yes. How can I help you?” the voice at the other end asked.

Upon hearing his voice, Leah became overwhelmed with emotion.  She paused to collect herself and cleared her throat.  “Hi, Alex. It’s Leah Nussbaum.”

“Leah. What a pleasant surprise. How are you?”


“To what do I owe this phone call?”

“Last week, I got a text from someone who claimed to be you.  I was so excited to hear from you that I fell for his scam.”

“Sorry to hear that, Leah. There are a lot of weirdos out there. By the way, I don’t mean to be sentimental, but since you called, I want to apologize for the way things ended between us.  Years ago, I thought about writing or calling you to apologize for my behavior when we broke up, but I figured time had passed, and you probably didn’t want to hear from me.  I wanted to tell you how sorry I am for saying those ugly things.”

“Thanks. You’ve got to admit, we had a good thing while it lasted.”

“Firsts are always special.”

“You married?”

“Twelve years. Two wonderful girls. Lila’s nine and Simone is eleven.”

“And you?”

“Once. Now, looking.”

“You’ll find someone. Where are you living?”

“NYC. Bought a co-op apartment on the East Side.”

“What kind of work do you do?”

“I’m an accountant. And you? Bet you’re dazzling readers with your sports reporting.”

“You remember. After college, I worked for a small paper covering local sports. Saw so many injuries. Wanted to help, so I decided to go to medical school.”


“I love my work. In private practice with two friends from school. One’s a dermatologist. The other’s an ENT, and I’m an internist.”

“One-stop shopping,” Leah joked. She heard voices in the background.

“I’m sorry to cut this short, Leah, but I need to go. Simone needs help with her math homework. Great hearing from you.”

“Good talking to you, too. Take care.”


Leah poured a glass of wine and sat down on the couch in her living room.That’s that, I


As she sipped her wine, her phone rang,and Leah saw it was Judy. “Hi. What’s up?”

“You okay?” Judy asked, noticing that Leah sounded a bit remote.

“Just got off the phone with Alex Douglas.”

“What happened?”

“He’s happily married.”

“Oh. I know it’s not what you wanted to hear, but at least you know.  Have you checked Satisfied Matches?”

“Not lately.”

“Promise me, when we get off, you’ll check your account. Have a drink at the bar across the street from you. Probably lots of professional guys who work late stop in for a quick drink. You might meet someone.”

“Okay. I will,” she said, to get Judy off the phone.

Leah put her feet up on the cocktail table and sipped her wine. Twelve dates in the past two months. Ugh! I don’t want to meet one more jerk or read any boring bios. Why is it so hard for me to find someone?  She sat in silence and thought of the weirdo and his texting game. Why do these things happen to me? What does it mean? she asked herself.  I hate dating. Just hate it. She picked up her cell, punched in her number, and changed the last two digits. No error message. The number is legit. Leah took in a deep breath and texted, “Hello, it’s me.”

She waited.

A few seconds later, her phone beeped.

“Who is this?” someone texted.

She typed “Leah” and waited.


Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Carol Pierce (USA)

Carol Pierce was born and raised in New York City. She holds a B.A. in English and M.S.Ed. in Special Education, and a Professional Certificate in Supervision and Administration from Hunter College. She was a teacher and Assistant Principal with the NYC Department of Education for more than 20 years. An emerging writer, Carol enjoys the power of words and writing short stories that transport readers to other worlds. Her stories have appeared in Drunk Monkeys, The Write Launch,, and in The Headlight Review.

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