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The Ex(9)
Alafair Burke

“What’s the gist?”

“Just like you said, there was a missed-moment post that went up on the Room ten days ago. The author of that post was Charlotte Caperton, the Room’s publisher. I’ll send you a link now. A woman named Madeline responds, saying, I think that was me. Charlotte then forwards that message to Jack Harris. Then some e-mails back and forth between Jack and Madeline—typical online dating triteness, not an ounce of sex talk. That’s why Tinder’s more my speed.”

“The e-mails, Einer.”

“Right. Then last night, she suggests meeting at chapter twelve this morning. What’s that, a café or something?”

“No, but what else?”

“He says, see you there. And that’s it.”

“So how do I get hold of this woman?”

“I guess e-mail her.”

“You don’t have a last name? Nothing?”

“No, that’s sort of the point of a certain kind of e-mail account, Olivia.”

“It’s important, Einer.”

“Of course it is. Like everything. By the way, Don was apoplectic when he walked out of here. What’s the deal with this new client?”

I resisted the urge to point out that he’d learned that word from me and still wasn’t certain what it meant. “It’s fine. I’ll deal with Don. Just send me all those e-mails.” I was already picturing how grateful Jack would be once I cleared all this up.

THE FIRST E-MAIL FROM EINER had no subject line. The body of the message was a link, which I clicked.

The Room

June 7, 2015, 8:07 am

Good morning, Roomers. As you know, we here at the Room try to balance our beloved sarcasm and snark with a healthy dose of heartwarming romance. And ain’t nothing that warms Auntie Charlotte’s heart like a Missed-Moment post. If I took all the hours I spend finding you the best missed connections on the Interwebs and devoted them to my own personal life, I might have someone in my bed other than Daisy the Ugly Pug.

But this morning, I have an extra-special post for you. It’s written in the third person, which I’ll explain below.

Here goes:

He saw her on the grass by the Christopher Street Pier Saturday morning, 6:30 am. He was kicking off the day with his usual morning run. She was barefoot in last night’s party dress, drinking champagne from the bottle. He looked in her direction, and she raised her bottle in a toast. He noticed that in her other hand, she held a book. He wants to know more.

Come on, fellow romantics. That’s a specific time, date, location, and description. We can do this! Are you the woman in the grass? Do you know who she was? Here’s why you should come forward.

The “he” in this post is a catch: an acclaimed novelist, a graduate of Columbia University, and an all-around good guy. He has a huge heart. And I happen to love him more than anyone else in the world (and that includes Daisy).

He may kill me for posting this, but if we Roomers can connect him to this mysterious woman in the grass, maybe the sacrifice will be worth it. Let’s get those e-mails rolling in!

I closed the Room post on my screen and returned to my e-mail account. The subject line of Einer’s next message was “Fwd: What did you DO?” I clicked on the message to open it. The introductory explanation was to me from Einer:

O, here’s the back and forth b/w Jack & Charlotte, publisher of the Room. Read from bottom up to read in order. (Please tell me you would know that without me telling you.) –E

Begin forwarded message:

I did as Einer had instructed, scrolled down to the earliest message, and read from there.

FROM: [email protected]

TO: [email protected]

DATE: June 7, 2015 8:46 AM

Subject: What did you DO?

B just texted me to see if you had another best friend who went to Columbia and writes books. A missed moment? When I figure out a way to get you back, you will wish that I had killed you. Can I persuade you to take it down?

FROM: [email protected]

TO: [email protected]

DATE: June 7, 2015, 8:58 AM

Subject: RE: What did you DO?

You know I have no other friends. You, Buckley, Dog. Admit it: You wouldn’t have told me about her if you didn’t sort of want me to do something. If we find her, it’ll at least make a great story, maybe more. Besides, think of it as a blind item to get you some free publicity. As for Buckley, she just told me yesterday that she thinks you need a girlfriend!

FROM: [email protected]

TO: [email protected]

DATE: June 7, 2015 9:04 AM

Subject: RE: What did you DO?

Don’t try to throw Buckley under the bus for this. I know for a fact that the thought of me with a woman totally “grosses her out.”

FROM: [email protected]

TO: [email protected]

DATE: June 7, 2015 11:12 PM

Subject: RE: What did you DO?

I can’t believe I’m asking this, but any word?

FROM: [email protected]

TO: [email protected]

DATE: June 7, 2015, 11:19 PM

Subject: RE: What did you DO?

Nothing credible yet but lots of shares and tweets. We’re gonna find her. I feel it. Go to bed.

Sent from Charlotte’s iPhone. Mention typos at your own risk.

FROM: [email protected]

TO: [email protected]

DATE: June 10, 2015, 3:27 PM

Subject: RE: What did you DO?

What did I do, you asked? Found the woman in the grass, that’s what I did! Booya.

Got a whole bunch of prank responses (as usual) but hers is legit, down to the details. Here’s the copy and paste:

Dear Charlotte, I just saw your Missed-Moment post on a friend’s Facebook page. Little did the friend know that I’m the woman you’re looking for. At least I think I am. Check with your mystery man: I have long dark hair and was wearing a bridesmaid’s dress. Oh, and I had a basket with me. Just so he knows I noticed him, too: if he’s the guy I smiled at, he was wearing a T-shirt that said “World’s Okayest Runner.” How great is that? If he wants to reach me, I’m at [email protected]. My name’s Madeline.

Here are my thoughts, Jack, whether wanted or not: 1) She uses excellent punctuation. 2) You really shouldn’t wear that shirt in public. 3) The fact that she liked said shirt means you could be perfect for each other. E-mail her, goofball.

FROM: [email protected]

TO: [email protected]

DATE: June 10, 2015, 6:27 pm

Subject: RE: What did you DO?

Me again. It’s been exactly three hours. Did you reach out to Madeline? Do it, Jack, or I may do it for you. And who knows what I might say? (Maniacal laugh.)

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