Author's note: This is an entry in the 2012 Literotica Valentine's Day Contest. Enjoy!
Roses are red, violets are blue.
Cupid is clumsy, Psyche's aim is true.
~ A Strange Encounter ~
Aaron suddenly felt anxious. He had expected some uneasiness, but his day had been extremely busy. Morning classes, lunch with colleagues, afternoon office work; the hectic schedule left little time for self-doubt. Now, with just ten minutes to go, he finally felt the butterflies in his stomach.
A quick glance at his watch confirmed the time: two-fifty in the afternoon. He focused on the biography in front of him, committing the details to memory. Her name was Frida Nordstrom. A good Norse name, he thought. Her picture was too small to discern much about her, physically. The personal information section only listed her height and weight as average.
Dating had never been his strong suit. For all the experience he had acquired, he still felt awkward when meeting new people. The relationship had lasted eleven months this time; almost a whole year. That had to be a new record, but he felt no pride with this accomplishment.
"On Valentine's Day." He cursed to himself. "She dumped me on Valentine's Day? I can't believe it."
He admitted that his hookup with Sharon was shallow. They didn't share many common interests and they were politically askew. They did connect sexually, however; in a huge way. It was not unusual for them to spend a whole weekend in bed, only getting up for food and required maintenance. Sex alone is not enough, he knew, but still. On Valentine's Day? That was just cold.
The front door of the coffee shop opened and three women entered. Aaron looked up and scanned them: two nurses from the university hospital and a student, decked out in hardcore punk. Obviously, none of them were the financial planner he was meeting. He drank some coffee and chuckled to himself, wondering if Frida would try to sell him some life insurance.
A shadow cast itself over the page as he reviewed her educational background. He looked up to find the female student looking over his shoulder.
"Excuse me," he said. "Can I help you?"
The woman circled around his table and stood in front of him. Her expression was blank and her head cocked to one side. He stared at her with wide blinking eyes.
"Are you Seltzer?" she asked.
"Uh, yeah. I'm Aaron Seltzer. Can I help you with something?"
"We have a three o'clock meeting, yes?"
Aaron could not hide his shock. The woman was dressed in a leather skirt with a black Bikini Kill T-shirt. Her stockings and boots were not at all complementary. There was a tattoo on the right side of her neck and a tribal armband around her left bicep. Her face was a walking jewelry store with a wide variety of hardware on display. Most impressive, however, was the sculpture of hair on her head. The red liberty spikes jutted in all directions, punctuated with black tips and flaxen roots.
"There must be some mistake," he continued. "I was expecting..."
"There is no mistake." She cut him off. "I am Frida Nordstrom. You are Aaron Seltzer. FOP dot-com. Today is February twenty-fourth. It is three o'clock. This is Coffee News. There is no mistake."
"I'm sorry," he said, rising to his feet. "Excuse my manners. Please, sit down."
She pulled out the chair and plopped down across the table from him. He noticed the stylized image of a record player on her T-shirt jiggle and finally come to rest. He cleared his throat and sat back down.
"I see you have some coffee," he said. "Can I get you something to eat?"
"Okay. I didn't mean to be rude. It's just that you don't seem to match the biography I received. I'm a little confused, that's all."
"What were you expecting?" she asked.
"This says you're a financial planner and the picture doesn't seem to be you. See?"
She quickly scanned the page and handed it back to him.
"Well, you don't match with my information, either. I'm guessing you're not the former bass player for The Suicide Commandos." She handed him her printout.
Aaron looked at the biography and laughed out loud.
"Oh God, no. I'm not that guy. He's way older than I am." He slid the paper back across the table. "Actually, I teach at the university."
"There has been some kind of programming error," she flatly remarked. "What department?"
"Mathematics. Assistant Professor."
"What courses?" Her face brightened.
"Undergraduate linear algebra, calculus, that kind of stuff. Are you a student at the university?"
"No, I finished my degree two years ago. Computer Science."
"Really?" Aaron was now excited. "There are a lot of cross-listed classes between Comp-Sci and Math. What are you doing now?"
"I just started as an IT specialist. I was previously a contract system analyst at a large database firm, but that didn't work out for me." She lowered her eyes to the page in front of her.
"Maybe we should go down our lists and correct the information," he offered. "If you don't mind me asking, how old are you?"
"Twenty-seven. Single, never married. Five-foot nine, one hundred thirty-five pounds. Sexual preference: men, usually."
"Whoa, whoa," he said, raising his hands. "That's too much information. I don't need to know everything about you."
"Okay." She shrugged. "What do you want to know?"
"Um, well, how about music? What kind of music do you listen to?"
"Seriously?" Her eyes popped wide open. "Would you believe Justin Bieber?"
Frida heard him snerk. A hint of a smile began to cross her face.
"Oh that's funny," he said, wiping a tear from his eye. "Okay, the wry sense of humor is noted. I am curious, though. What's up with the Riot Grrrl outfit?"
"You don't like my clothes?" She held her arms out and looked left and right.
Below her ear, the tattoo on her neck was revealed. It was an image of a demonized Cupid, shooting flaming arrows.
"It's not that; they fit you very well. I'm just wondering about the message. I thought that phase was over, replaced by neo-punk."
"Kathleen Hanna is a hero of mine," she responded. "The fight against rape, domestic abuse, sexism, and racism is never over."
Aaron fell silent. He realized he had underestimated her.
"Message received," he said quietly. "I meant no disrespect. I share the same values."
"It's okay. I didn't doubt your values. I dressed to meet someone else, remember?"
Frida sat back in her chair, holding her chin, looking at him. After an awkward minute, she leaned forward with her elbows on the table.
"So, Mr. Aaron Seltzer," she continued. "I think I like you. Would you consider going out with me?"
He hesitated for a moment, mesmerized by her pale-blue eyes. He felt some kind of attraction to her, but he couldn't decide if it was sexual or morbid curiosity.
"Yes, I would," he said. "I would like that very much."
"Please provide your phone number," she said, pushing his mistaken identity across the table. She folded the updated paper and stuffed it into her backpack. Rising to her feet, she held out her hand. Aaron stood and accepted the gesture.
"I'll call you." She cocked her head one last time and turned to leave.
He gradually sank back into his chair muttering, "What the hell just happened?"
~ Psyche Strikes ~
"Hey Rich. Thanks for stopping by." Aaron stood and extended his hand.
"No problem, my friend. I'm more than ready for happy hour."
Dr. Richard L. Barber, Emeritus Professor of English Literature, was never one to miss the cocktail hour, especially when someone else was buying. He released Aaron's hand and settled in at the bar.
"How is the term going?" Rich continued. "It must be almost midterm."
"Yes, that's right. I'm giving exams next week. Bet you miss it, don't you?"
"Not for a moment." Rich raised his hand to hail the bartender. "But then real essays take real talent to grade. Not like those fancy computerized tests you wimps administer."
"Give me a break," Aaron scoffed. "The last time you graded an English paper it was chiseled in stone."
The men laughed and raised their glasses to toast two careers: one distinguished and the other promising.
"Now tell me young man, how is your love life?" Rich asked. "Two weeks ago, you confirmed your foolish predilection for computerized dating. That woman of yours has poisoned your mind."
"Sharon is not my woman, not any more. Not that she ever was, really. The day after we broke up, I reactivated my account with that popular online dating service, FOP dot-com."
"Fucked-Over-Pinheads dot-com, that's what I say. Those clowns have no idea what it takes to find the right woman."
"This from a man who married and divorced three times?" Aaron raised his eyebrows. "I must admit, however, that a computer glitch produced a most unlikely candidate."
"Is she housebroken? Or have you raised your standards?"
"Ha, ha. Very funny. The computer selected a financial planner, but the biographical information was all wrong. The person I met was completely different."
"In a good way or a bad way?" Rich asked.
"I can't say for sure. The woman who showed up was nearly my age, but definitely not a financial planner. She's an IT geek with a Comp-Sci degree."
"Well, at least she's educated. That's better than bimbo Sharon. Is she attractive?"
"Yes and no." Aaron cocked his head. "Mostly yes, but she was dressed so provocatively, it was hard to tell."
"More provocative than that stripper of yours?"
"Oh, stop it. Sharon was not a stripper, she was a personal trainer. She only dressed like that for New Year's eve."
"Still, the street light pole dance was most impressive," Rich replied. "The police and television crew were also impressed, as I recall. So what makes this new tart so compelling."
"I wouldn't call it compelling, exactly. She was decked out in hardcore punk clothes and spikey hair. She also had the prerequisite tattoos and piercings. Yet, despite her appearance, there was a thoughtful and intelligent person in there."
"Tattoos and piercings? Good God, are you dating my granddaughter?"
"Your granddaughter lives in Melbourne, you old fool," Aaron reminded him. "Her name is Frida Nordstrom. I told her I'd like to see her again."
"You're fucking crazier than I thought." Rich shook his head. "You don't need a piece of ass, you need a good shrink."
Aaron ordered another round of Macallan, considering his friend's concerns. Rich had befriended him soon after his arrival at the university and he had grown to trust his sage advice. He was also unsure of this course of action. Frida seemed okay, but was difficult to read. For all he knew, she could be a serial killer.
Overhead, the television was showing the university hockey game. The home team was playing an away game tonight, and they were losing by one goal at the end of the second period. If they could stage a comeback, they would probably secure a berth in the WCHA tournament. The broadcast cut away to the local station for a news update.
"And in local news, this breaking story," the anchor announced. "After many days of customer complaints, disparaging tweets, and lambasting on Facebook, the wildly popular online dating service, Friends-O-Plenty, has confirmed that their computer system has been hacked."
Aaron's ears perked up at the report. He put down his drink and focused on the television.
"Amanda Lowry, spokesperson for FOP dot-com, confirmed the infiltration during a news conference earlier this afternoon. She stressed that the client database was not compromised. Names, phone numbers, and credit card information were not lost, she reported. The hackers somehow modified the computer programs that identify likely client matches. The computer programs use sophisticated algorithms for identifying and selecting compatible traits, she explained. Those algorithms are highly sensitive and closely guarded secrets, so it is possible that this was an inside job."
"Is that the one you signed up for?" Rich asked.
"Yeah. Listen," Aaron replied.
"Ms. Lowry also reported that a tweet was received from an individual named Pysche, claiming responsibility for the hack. The tweet was said to contain language calling FOP's CEO, Finis Dumas, a moron and an asshat. Mr. Dumas was unavailable for comment. When asked how the infiltration affected their service, Ms. Lowry reported that matches made over the last two weeks were based on erroneous logic. She stressed that FOP is extremely sorry for the recent mismatches and is working to restore functionality. Clients who were affected by the hack will have their subscription fees refunded."
"Wow!" Aaron exclaimed. "That explains a lot."
"See? I told you those bozos are incompetent. What are you going to do now?"
Aaron thought for a while about his options. He had every right to request a refund and start over, but that didn't seem appropriate. His meeting with Frida was not meant to be, yet by a simple twist of fate, had occurred anyway. What was done could not be undone, he reasoned.
"I don't know what to do. I suppose I'll go through with it and see her again."
"You should cut and run, my boy. She's not your type."
"How can you be so sure?" Aaron shrugged. "Hey, I've got a question. What the hell is a Psyche?"
Rich sat up straight in his chair. This was a subject he actually knew something about.
"Psyche is the objective of Psychology. It is the totality of the human mind, conscious and unconscious. It's from the Greek, meaning life, spirit, ghost, and self."
"Hmm, that doesn't make any sense. Why would some hacker use that as a handle?"
"Well, there is another possibility, I suppose," Rich replied. "There's also the Roman mythology of Cupid and Psyche. It isn't really mythology, though; it's more of a fairy tale."
"Wait a minute. Did you say Cupid?"
"Cupid, Psyche, and Venus. They're all characters in an ancient story."
"So Psyche is a person?" Aaron asked.
"She's a beautiful girl. According to the legend, Psyche was the most beautiful mortal ever. So beautiful, in fact, that Venus was jealous. Venus devised an evil plan to have her son, Cupid, shoot Psyche with one of his love arrows while she slept. Venus would then put some vile creature in her chamber so Psyche would fall helplessly in love, securing Venus' status as the sexiest babe in the cosmos."
"Go on." Aaron felt like a little boy around the campfire, listening to Fractured Fairytales.
"Venus' plan had a flaw, however: Cupid was clumsy. When he snuck into Psyche's bed chamber, he was so shocked by her beauty, that he scratched himself with his own arrow. He was totally smitten with Psyche and couldn't shoot her. Venus was pissed. She put a curse on Psyche that kept her from meeting a suitable husband, or even a boyfriend. Of course, now Cupid is pissed, so he decides to go on strike and stop shooting the mortals. Without his arrows, no one on earth falls in love, fucks, or has babies. With the earth growing older, the temple of Venus is doomed."
"Fascinating. How does the story end?"
"It's a long story. Venus finally relents and agrees to let Cupid have the girl if he will restore the balance of love on Earth. So Cupid starts shooting again and all the mortals start humping like little bunnies. Then he shacks up with Psyche and knocks her up good. Everyone is happy except Psyche. Now, she's a single mom and Cupid won't marry her because she's mortal. She ends up going through a whole lot of shit dealing with dumbasses who despise her because of her beauty and who think of her as Cupid's whore. Do you want to hear more?"
Aaron didn't respond to his last question. Lost in thought, he was sorting through pieces of a puzzle; a troubling picture was beginning to emerge. The hacker may have taken the name Psyche from mythology, to represent victimized women. The hacker set off the logic bomb about two weeks ago, just in time for Valentine's Day. The iconic symbol of Valentine's Day is Cupid. Friends-O-Plenty would have likely employed system analysts and programmers, many of them on a contract basis. He recalled glimpsing a demonic Cupid and his flaming arrows.
"Aaron? Are you okay? You look sick." Rich put his hand on his shoulder.
Aaron covered his mouth, murmuring, "Oh my God."
~ Bagu ~
Aaron pushed the call button for apartment nine and checked his watch. It was seven-fifteen. As usual, he was late.
"Yes?" Frida's tinny voice squawked from the intercom.
"It's Aaron. Sorry I'm late."
"Just a minute," came the reply.
He moved to the entry door, expecting the security lock to buzz open. The door remained stubbornly silent, however. He hoped she wasn't too upset with him. Just when he had the sinking feeling that she might cancel, he saw someone walking down the hallway. Frida pushed open the door and stepped into the entryway.
"Uh, hi," he stammered. Once again, his wide blinking eyes greeted her arrival.
"You know, if I have to pop your eyeballs back in every time we get together, you'll eventually go blind."
This was not the same person he had met in the coffee shop. It was Frida, of course, but she had discarded the hardcore punk look in favor of a sexy evening dress. The skin-tight aqua-colored garment came halfway down her thighs with a halter top tied around her neck. The plunging neckline revealed more cleavage than he had suspected. She also abandoned the spikey hairdo in favor of a straight combed look. With just a lip ring and a couple of jeweled studs in the dimples of her cheeks, she looked almost normal. Almost.
"Wow! That's a different look."
"You don't like my outfit? Again?" She gestured with her hands, twisting her face with mock exasperation.
"No, no. The outfit is fabulous. You just surprised me."
"This is my college professor seduction dress. I only wear it for the academic types. I see you left your coat and tie at home. That's a nice shirt."
"You could seduce more than university faculty with that outfit. You said we were going to a nightclub, so I grabbed this from my closet." He straightened the collar of his vintage party shirt.
They walked down the street to where Aaron had parked. Frida seemed remarkably stable on her black mid-heel boots. Her lilting stride induced a sympathetic resonance within her halter. He glimpsed another tattoo on her breast: a dragon fly that was clearly enjoying the ride.
"What is that? A Buick?" Frida pointed at his car as he unlocked the door.
"No, it's a Volvo."
"I expected a sports car."
"Not on my salary," he said, opening the door for her.
"This is a 1995 model 850," he continued, sliding into the driver's seat. "My father gave this to me when I graduated from college. It has 192,000 miles on it. Do you want to take your car, instead?"
"I don't have a car. I ride the bus or take my bicycle. I was just kidding about the sports car."
"It's a little early for clubbing. Do you want to get something to eat?"
"Sure. I like sushi," she offered.
"Sushi it is. I know just the place."
Bagu Sushi was always crowded on Friday nights, so the short wait for a table was a pleasant surprise. The Dragon Roll and his favorite Number Nine would go well with the sake.
Frida sat with her back to the wall, looking around the crowded restaurant. When she craned her neck, Cupid glared at him, perhaps looking for a target. Aaron studied her face, unable to shake the feeling that he had met her somewhere before.
"If you don't mind me asking, how many tattoos do you have?" he asked.
"Six. Some of them are not currently visible."
"That doesn't surprise me. And body piercings?"
"My face, ears, and nipples. Plus one that is private."
"You pierced your nipples?" he asked. "Doesn't that hurt?"
"I didn't pierce them, the man at the parlor did. And yes, it hurt."