Gamer Goddess Ch. 02byTx Tall Tales©
Gamer Goddess vs the Real World
As mentioned in chapter 1, this story is very online-gaming-centric. It uses a lot of concepts, vocabulary and acronyms from games, especially Diablo 3, which this story revolves around.
Overall, I'd categorize this entire story as a Romance. I decided to submit Chapter 1 as exhibitionist/voyeur due to Sheri's emotional breakthrough via the online world, and video chat. I submitted this chapter as the same, because of the video elements, even though I believe relationships are the heart of this tale. And not just the one between Sheri and Steve.
I was nervous. No denying it. I had a few preparations to take care of, but I pulled up in the stretch limo by 6:30. Not by accident. By invitation.
Sheri's father came down the steps of their brownstone, stealthily peeking back at the house. The driver opened the door, and he climbed in quickly.
"Jon Elsworth," he said by way of introduction, extending his hand.
"Steve Jeffery, pleased to meet you."
He leaned back and looked me over. "So you're the magic man."
I grinned. "How am I supposed to respond to that?"
"Proudly? She's out of her room. Getting dressed up. Going out, with a man. I don't know how you did it, but I had to meet the miracle worker."
"I appreciate it. She's an amazing woman."
He smiled. "No argument from me. Her mother tells me you know her history."
"Only from reports. We haven't spoken about it. I didn't want to look too deep. It's her business, not mine."
"Once you walk up those steps, it becomes your business. It's shaped her life ever since. You're playing a dangerous game here," he said.
"Sir, no offense, but this is hardly a game."
"From what I hear, it's all about a game. It sounds like you're good. If you've mastered that one, maybe you can figure this one out. You'll never play a more complex or rewarding one."
"Anything I should know?" I asked.
"Wish I could help you. I do. She puts up with me, barely. I see her struggle, flinching if I even touch her. Do you know what that's like? Your baby can't stand your touch. Lying in that hospital bed, broken, and she screamed when I hugged her. Screamed. All I wanted to do was hold her and protect her. I couldn't even be in a room with her alone for weeks. My daughter. My only child. I failed her."
I didn't know what to say. It was difficult to hear.
"How did you do it? I have to know," he asked, practically begging.
"I'm not real to her. An avatar in game. A voice over a speaker. A fantasy boyfriend over a webcam. She's playful, joking, flirting, teasing, an absolute joy, but it's only possible in the abstract. I don't have high hopes for this working out, when I become flesh and blood to her. Still, I want to give it a try."
"Her mother and I will be praying for you. It's her cousin's engagement party. Her closest friend. She wouldn't chance this for anyone but her. She'll know almost everyone there. Still, you'll have to help her. Keep the men at bay. One hug, one grabbed arm, even brushing against her could ruin everything. Once she loses it, she's useless. For days. Do your best, please. Protect my girl."
"I'll do what I can. You can count on that."
"I have to go back. I'll see you in a few minutes." He shook my hand again, nervously. I couldn't say I blamed him. We had matching sweaty palms.
I spent a few minutes confirming everything was set. All my failsafes were in play, reservations ready. I had a few items ready for her within the Limo. I was almost certain we'd need them; I only hoped it was enough.
I felt like a teenager going on his first date. I was excited and nervous. I kept checking my tablet nervously, texting Dan and Jaime. They were great as always, trying to settle me down.
At five minutes 'til, I grabbed the orchid and got out of the Limo. I walked up the stairs to the brownstone and waited a bit, breathing deeply, thinking calming thoughts. We were friends, Sheri and I. Good friends. That should carry us through. I trusted her, and I believe she trusted me.
My knock on the door was answered almost immediately. Jon let me in, shaking my hand. "He's here!" he shouted toward the back of the house.
God, he looked more nervous than me. He was sweating bullets, rocking back and forth on his heels. I put my hand on his shoulder. "Relax, Jon. It happens or it doesn't. If this turns out to be a flop, we'll retreat, and try again later. I'm in it for the long-haul."
"I don't get it," he said. "We've tried everything, counselors, therapists, drugs, group, none of it has helped very much. Then out of the blue, you're here. I don't get it."
"I suspect everything else did work, at least some. It's been a journey, and I was the one lucky enough to be there when she was ready to take the next step."
An attractive, elegant woman, I'd guess in her early 40's, came tearing down the steps. "She's on her way, just a couple more minutes." She turned toward me, glancing at her husband.
"Carolyn, this is Steve Jeffery, our daughter's date for the evening. Steve, this vision of loveliness is my wife, Carolyn."
I took her hand, leaning over to kiss it, formally, when she pulled me into her arms, tears rolling down her lovely face. "I don't know how you did it, but I can never thank you enough."
I held her up and brushed her tears away, trying to stifle my own. "No tears now. Please. Thank you for trusting me with her."
She nodded, wiping her face.
I turned to Jon. "Is Max around?"
He nodded. "Kept him in back, didn't need you both covered with dog hair."
"Could you get him? I think it'll help. He's a bond, and I would like to meet him anyway."
Jon seemed a little confused, but he walked away, and couple of minutes later that gorgeous chocolate lab came bounding in and greeted me like a long lost friend. I knelt down and hugged him, rubbing behind the ears, playfully. He rolled over and I scratched his belly, aggressively, getting his leg kicking.
"Oh, that's great," I heard from the stairs. "Friggin' Max steals my big entrance scene."
I looked up, laughing, and stopped in shock. She was stunning. The pink dress, with hints of lavender, was form-fitting, full length, a slit up the left side to mid-thigh. Spaghetti straps, no sleeves, the front curving over the top of her breasts, diving down daringly between them, showing plenty of cleavage. Her hair was up, long wisps falling in front of her ears, drop earrings hanging from her lobes. No glasses tonight. Simple necklace, looked like platinum and diamonds, short, accentuating her slender neck more than her breasts. I couldn't breathe, couldn't think.
She paused in mid-step, looking around. "Is...is something wrong?" she asked nervously.
Her mother laughed, "No baby, that's a natural reaction. You're going to have to get used to it."
"You...you're so beautiful, baby," her father said softly.
She chuckled, walking carefully down the steps, her heels obviously something she wasn't too comfortable with. "Sure Dad. I bet you say that to all your girls."
He grinned. "I do. Doesn't make it any less true."
She looked at me. "Well?"
I had struggled to recover, and took the coward's way out. "What do you think, Max? She good enough to go out with us?"
She stood over me, glaring at her puppy. "Max, you fucking traitor. Rolling over for him the minute he walks in the door."
I stood, and Max rubbed up against me, while I opened the flower box. "Bro-code, Cherry. You know how it goes." I grinned. "You do look lovely. Not my favorite outfit of yours, but it'll do in public."
She grinned, blushing. "Don't start." She chuckled, "You know I got PerZeus's bracers today."
I laughed, casually reaching forward and pulling her dress away from chest, sliding my fingers inside and pinning the corsage on. "You're shitting me! I talked to him today, and he never mentioned a thing. How the hell did you manage that?"
I saw her tense up a bit, especially when my fingers brushed against her skin. I tried to keep her engaged in our virtual world conversation. She laughed, and it was a beautiful, easy going joyous sound. "I told him I was going to cancel our date, since I couldn't trust your friends. I had him shitting bricks. I could have stripped his character completely."
"That's mean," I teased her, adjusting the flower, and patting it in place. "You didn't mean it, I hope. You know you can trust him."
She kicked me teasingly. "Of course I didn't mean it. Doesn't mean I can trust him. I know you can, but that's not the same."
"Do you have a leash for Max?" I asked.
"Leash?" Jon looked surprised.
"Yeah. She promised me a package deal. No Max, no date, no way," I teased, winking.
Sheri started to say something, but thought better of it, turning to her mother. "Did he screw up the corsage?" she asked, with a sly glance toward me. "Barbarians have never been known for their sense of style."
Her mother played with it for a few seconds, leaving it exactly as it was. Jon showed up with the leash and attached it to Max. He stood looking at his girl, trembling. I knew he wanted to reach out to her, but couldn't.
I think Sheri surprised all of us, including herself, when she gave her father a brief hug. "Thanks Dad, for everything. I couldn't do this without you. I love you."
We left him with tears in his eyes, while Max tried to kill me, dragging me down the steps.
The driver opened the door for us. Although horribly uncouth, I got in second, following Max, and tied his leash down, tossing him a treat to get him to settle. I scooted in as far as I could, and she climbed in afterward, suddenly looking horribly nervous. The driver closed the door after her.
"I lied. I think that's my second favorite outfit of yours," I told her.
She smiled awkwardly. "Bunny PJs number one?"
"Right the first time. How'd you know?"
She reached out and smacked me.
"Nervous," I asked her.
"Want to talk about it?"
She shook her head. I could sense the anxiety building up, her breathing getting faster. Time for the first of my crutches, and by far the most important. I hoped to God I had guessed right.
"Turn to look out the window, Cherry, your back toward me. Trust me."
She turned, slowly, and I reached around her and place the 10" tablet in her hands. She looked down at it, into my smiling face.
I turned away from her, our backs maybe a foot apart. I looked into my matching tablet. "You're not going to wuss out on me. Don't make me get the boobies and booty involved. You know they'll side with me."
Her face on the screen grinned. "Not tonight. I made them promise. I gave them my own bribes. They're both very happy right now. And nothing as cheap and gauche as Victoria's Secret."
"Jesus, Sheri! Frederick's? You really think that's fair?"
She leaned over, and pulled her top out a little, showing me a lacy pink and red bra. "All's fair in love and war."
"I picked up some loot today," I told her. "Open the compartment on the door."
She reached off screen, and came back with a box. "Can I open it?"
"You know I need to gear you up. Someone gave you a hell of an amulet, but I think you need this. Go ahead."
She opened the box and gasped. "Stats?"
"Primary is +100 Courage and Beauty. I think the beauty's wasted, pretty sure you've already maxed out there. Also has some other crap, like 120 resist to fear."
She laughed, putting it on her finger. "Noob. Fear has a 70 max."
"70 Fear resist, plus vampiric resist from teammates. As long as I'm nearby, you have nothing to fear. Ever."
"What's the stone?"
"Perfect Star Ruby, sorry it doesn't match your outfit and other jewelry better."
She laughed, "God, who's the noob now, AceHole? Any pro knows you don't go for the matching sets unless there's an ungodly bonus. This is perfect. Do I want to know how much I'm going to owe you for this one?"
"Please don't ask. I can't give you a fair price for being with you tonight. No way I can afford that."
She giggled, and I felt her back touch mine softly. "According to Dad, you can afford a hell of a lot."
"Not you. Not this. Don't make me get all sappy, now, right before we have to hit the dungeon."
"I'll have you at my side, like always. Watching out for me."
"And vice versa. No Dead Ends this time Ok? We're playing hardcore."
I leaned back a little and felt more of her weight against my back.
"We can handle this, right?" she asked.
"Stupid question and you know it. Is there anything in game that you and I can't handle together?"
She shook her head. "No. You're right. We make a hell of a team. PerZeus is jealous you know."
"Of course. Who wouldn't be? Smart, sexy, gorgeous, and a kick-ass gamer. You got it all babe."
"No, silly. He's jealous of me. Taking all your time."
"Maybe a little. He's been #1 since 9th grade. Even most of the time during my marriages. That probably should have told me something. Guess I'm kind of ignorant in some areas."
"Sandy's my PerZeus. The one always there for me. I wouldn't do this for anybody else. Thank you for making this possible."
Her back was pressed firmly against mine, her voice louder in my ear, than from the tablet. I was barely looking at it, preferring to watch her reflection in the window. But the ruse worked. It took us just far enough from reality to let her open up.
The Limo pulled to a stop, and backed into the space across from her cousin's place. We'd been holding it all day. I felt her nervousness return. She closed the tablet and put it to the side.
"Take it. Take the tablet," I told her.
"I'll look like an idiot," she whispered, sorrowfully.
"No you won't. Your cousin loves you, she'll understand. Being here is the biggest gift you could ever give her and she knows it. If the tablet helps, that's all that matters. Anytime you get nervous, for any reason at all, turn away from the crowd, and look for me online. I'll be there."
The door was open for her to get out, and she wasn't moving. At least she had picked up the tablet again.
"See where the Limo is? It'll be here all night, and Max is here waiting for you. If it gets bad, come back to the Limo. Don't even worry about me. You got that?"
"Then get your cute butt out there. Time to farm. Loot and XP. Nobody's better than us."
She turned and smiled for me. "We're the best, aren't we?"
"No doubt. Hell, you're almost as good as me," I teased.
"Asshole," she giggled, climbing out of the vehicle.
"AceHole, short for Ace in the Hole. That's what I am for you. Your secret advantage."
She waited for me outside of the vehicle, and I reached for her gently, turning her toward the driver. "CherryBomb, meet GnuMeat. He'll be out here if you need him. You can trust him with your life. I do."
He smiled, but didn't stick out his hand. "300 lb. neckbeard, Steve? Think you missed it on this one." He wasn't a big guy, maybe 5'10" but he had that hard look that came from working for a living. His family were mechanics, and he'd worked in a garage as soon as he knew one tool from the other. His rough look hid his sharp brain. Master's degree in mechanical engineering from MIT. Lead Mech E in all of our fledgling companies.
He wasn't done with her. "I hate to say this, and he'll probably kick my ass for it, but I have to warn you. You fuck with him, you betray him, and heaven and earth won't save you."
I was in his face before he could finish. "YOU STUPID FUCK! How can she trust you now, after you threatened her? Get the fuck out of my face! Get lost. I'll find someone else who has my back."
He shrugged. He backed up, looking at Sheri. "What I said. Remember it."
I had my phone out, already dialing Dan.
"Stop," she told me, her hand on my arm.
"No. I need someone here. Someone I can trust."
"He's the one. I know it. He'd never let you down. I'll never betray you, so his words are just so much shit. I want him here. Please." Her hand squeezed my arm, and I looked up at her. She meant it.
"You sure? I can have someone here in 10 minutes."
I looked over at Mark, who was standing there, acting like he didn't have a care in the world. "Tonight, you're here for her, not me. You fuck this up, and you and I are going to have it out. You understand me?"
"Don't fucking talking to me like that. I'm not some hired punk. You forgotten everything? Who has your back? I'm here. I'll do whatever it takes. Always. Fuck you, if you think otherwise, asshole. Fuckin' skirt has your brain fucked up again."
Sheri stepped in front of me, glaring at him. "Fuck you, GnuMeat. I've got his back, in game and out. Not like some sissified glass-cannon, taking his shots from a distance and kiting his way through the elites while Ace and I do the heavy lifting. You sit back and take your shots, but I've got his back. And he has mine."
Mark smiled. "Good. You remember that. Don't forget who has the 120K DPS in the background, ready to do serious damage if needed."
She turned and grabbed my hand, stomping toward the entrance. I was surprised by her response. I think she was as well, and released me after half-a-dozen steps. "Sorry," she mumbled.
I took her hand in mine, and she didn't pull away. "My girlfriend can hold my hand anytime she wants. As long as she has my back."
She nudged me with her shoulder. "Don't tease me."
"Wouldn't dream of it. I liked the way you shot him down. Too cool."
She giggled. "Damn, he pissed me off! I'd neuter him in game."
I looked up at the three story edifice in front of us. We were on the avenue, and all the buildings facing the road were old and stately. It was a mixed neighborhood. One block over, off the main drag, many of the buildings which had once housed the well-to-do had been converted into apartments. Not low rent by any means, but nothing like the places around us. Someone had money, but I guess that shouldn't surprise me.
She stopped and gave my hand a squeeze, then dropped it. I watched her take a deep breath.
"You Ok?" I asked.
"I think so. I need a moment, that's all."
A figure standing in the dark by the entrance stepped toward us. "You lose those bracers, your scrawny ass is mine," he growled.
She grinned. "PerZeus?"
"Dan for tonight," he said, standing tall in his form fitting tux. At least as tall as he could. Not an especially imposing figure, at about 5'7" and maybe a buck fifty.
She laughed. "I expected someone a little...bigger."
"Laugh it up, sweet cheeks. I own your ass in game, and we both know it."
"For now. We'll see how I do with my amazing new epic bracers," she said, poking away at him.
"Jesus, lady. Even out of game, you're a piece of work."
She walked over and I was surprised once more when she put her hand on his arm. "Thank you for being here. You...I think I can..."
He grinned. "I know, irresistible. It's a curse. I can't help it."
She smacked him playfully. "Way to ruin a moment, jackass."
His big smile disappeared for a moment. "Hey, just so you know, you're worth all of it. I appreciate that you can stand here with me. It means a lot. Big props, half-pint."
She smiled. "Ditto." She walked back to me, "What's his role?"
"Joining us inside. You get nervous or upset, and I'm not around, he's there for you. My brother by another mother, he won't let you down."
He nodded. "Whatever you need, sugar britches. I got your back." He grinned. "Awfully nice backside, I might add. Definitely worth watching."
I saw her fiddling with her iPad for a second, adjusting her grip, as if to verify it was still there. "I guess we can't stand out here forever."
I put my elbow out to escort her, and a few seconds later I felt her hand slip in and grab my bicep. I kind of wished it was bigger. She gave me a squeeze. "Take lead."