Karen felt anxious. She had taken a shower, dolled herself up. Heck, she had even put on her good bra, the one that didn’t fit like a glove over her boobies. She was aware of it every time she moved but nope, she wouldn’t complain.

This was what she asked for, and Terry was open to discussing it. That was all she ever wanted.

So, why was she feeling like a teenager going to her first date?

The self-driving taxi was there waiting for her, always on time, like the ad jingle said. She opened the door, frowned, and slammed it shut again.

She ran back home and took a pee. God, she felt nervous. She got outside once again, got in the taxi and spoke the café’s address.

The taxi whirred and took her to her sunset date.

This time, Terry smiled when he saw her from afar. That was a nice for a change. So she told him, right off the bat. “Hey, Terry. How great is it to see your polite side for a change, am I right?” She bobbed her head up and down, her palms up.

Terry winced.  He stood up and pulled a chair for her. “Yes, I’m sorry for how I behaved earlier. It’s just that-“

Kate sat down, clutching her bag. “Dude,” she interrupted him, “I get it. I showed up out of the blue, being my usual crazy self. It’s fine.” She waved the whole thing away.

Terry sat down opposite her. “That’s good. So, let’s do this again, shall we? I’m Terry, nice to meet you,” he offered his hand.

Karen snorted but shook it. “I’m Karen, nice to meet you too.”

“And you had an idea in mind, Karen,” he said, stating the words clearly.

Karen found that odd. She whispered, mimicking the words, “Is she connected?”

“Of course Chloe is connected, Karen,” he replied clearly. “I wouldn’t go on a date without my girlfriend’s approval.”

Karen squinted, mulling it over. “Wait, let me get the logistics here. She gets a constant streaming from you, live but with a seven-minute lag. So I can ask her anything and Chloe can reply to this after seven minutes.” She fanned her face with her hand. “Whoo. Now I’m feeling hot. Are you feeling hot? I shouldn’t get a hot chocolate, not like last time.”

Terry glared at her.

“L-Like the last time I ambushed you, it was totally not a date. Not a date, no siree.” She popped her lips a few times, looking over the menu that appeared in her veil. “Yeah, I’m gonna order a strawberry soda. Thanks.”

The table glinged and her order was underway.

Karen tapped the table. “So…”

“So.” Terry smiled awkwardly. He mulled it over as well, and he finally broke the silence. “Well, we have some time, tell us your idea. Chloe is listening. I’m sure you can explain it better than me, it is after all your thesis.”

Karen blinked. “Wow, this is like presenting it to the board. Right.” She licked her lips. “I stumbled on Terry here completely by accident. I just saw him here all alone, and yes, I’m new to the city, I don’t know anyone. I thought about, you know, chatting him up. Making a friend, or at least, spend a couple of minutes with someone. And he told me about your situation, the increasing-distance relationship. Basically, he shooed me off, but as soon as I went home, it got me thinking: Nobody has ever studied this particular kind of relationship before! Everything else has been done to death, gay, trans, poly, but increasing-distance? Never, I checked. And I came up with both a solution to your intimacy problem and a kickass idea for my thesis! Wow, right?”

Terry waited a second, then responded, pointing down with his finger. “Yeah, the disconnect takes some time to get used to. We call it discommunication.”

Karen snorted, then reeled herself in. You’re trying to make a good impression, stupid. And she’s a girl. For all she knows you’re trying to steal her boyfriend. “Discommunication, good one.” She smiled at Terry, but not too long that it would seem like she was flirting with him.

Their drinks came, hot chocolate for him, strawberry soda for her. “The waitress didn’t even spill half of it on the plate,” Terry said seriously. “This place is quickly going to hell.”

Karen blinked. It took her a long moment to get that he was joking. Gosh, she was so nervous. “Oh!” she blurted out with a laugh. “Right, from the time I waited you. Good one, Terry.” She sipped her soda and decided to stop babbling. Small sips though, because she was still feeling ready to wee.

“Oh, Chloe sent a text. She says hi,” Terry said with an upturned palm, being the messenger. “She says nice to meet you, Karen. You’re sweet. And let’s hear your idea.”

Karen frowned, tilting her head.

“The discommunication thing. You’ve answered that, we’ll wait for it to reach her. Speed-of-light communication, who would have thunk it would be so slow, right?” he chuckled.

Karen nodded. “Right! Of course. Sure, let’s wait, I wanna hear her thoughts.”

“Okay.”

Karen sipped some more of her soda. It was over. Gosh, where had the entire drink gone so quickly? “Hey, Terry, lemme ask you this: You’ve told Chloe about the specifics of my idea, right?”

“Yes…” Terry sighed. “Trust me, there is no way to tell your girlfriend what a great idea you’ve come across that involves another woman. But after the initial argument, we’ve got nothing else to do really, we argue all the time, we spoke calmly and we actually considered it.”

Karen sucked air. “Tsk, Terry, sorry if I caused something-“

Terry raised his palm. “Really, it’s fine. I wouldn’t have brought it up to Chloe if I didn’t know her that well, and if we didn’t trust each other.”

Karen breathed deep, in and out again through her nose. “Good. That’s good.” She tapped the table. It thought she wanted to order another soda, sensing that she was done with the glass, but she swiped it away.

“What you said just earlier, it’s a good argument. That’s what we wanted to hear, because you didn’t tell me those things last time,” Terry said.

Karen noticed he hadn’t touched his chocolate drink. Huh. He must have been nervous too. But sadly, that didn’t make her feel any better. “Yeah…” she sighed, slouching forward. “I’ve been looking for a good thesis subject for months now, and the professor was on my ass about it because he wanted to start some other project and he can’t supervise me if I take too long, and this came up! So, yeah.” She nodded, her eyes up towards the afterburner sunset. “Here I am, asking you both if you want me to become your surrogate sexual partner and allow me to write about it.”

Terry looked up as well.

“Names changed, of course,” Karen added.

“Of course,” Terry shrugged, clearing his throat.

Karen tapped the table. This discommunication was killing her. She could see how it would completely kill the mood for a girl. Well, she didn’t know about Chloe specifically, but in her place, Karen would be turned off by it, no matter how much she wanted to do it with her boyfriend.

Terry forced a smile at her, waiting as well. He still hadn’t touched his chocolate.

Karen put her forehead on the table. “God, the wait is killing me… I’m so anxious to hear Chloe’s answer.”

Terry chuckled. “Trust me, I know.”

He was such a patient man. Karen liked that about him. His fingers caressed the curves of his cup.

Finally, he jerked up, rattling the chocolate cup. He perked up, meeting Karen’s eyes. “Let me put you through to this, so we can both hear it.”

He sent a group chat request and Karen immediately slapped ‘accept’ on her veil.

“Karen,” Chloe said on the recorded message. Her voice was soft, kind. Karen could easily imagine her being her friend. “I thought about it. It does sound insane, and we barely know you. But that’s fixable, right? Let’s just say I’m open to it, because I love Terry so much and I know he’s suffering with our situation. I think we should call tonight a date and let’s get to know each other better, alright?”

Karen covered her mouth, and squealed something incoherent. “Yes! Of course, let’s do this,” she said and her voice was now going to Chloe as well, albeit with the dreaded delay.

Terry breathed out deep and met her eyes. He looked hopeful. He smiled and said, “Well, Karen. Tell me more about yourself.” Then he picked up his hot chocolate and drank some.

End of fourth sunset.

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