Porter wouldn't have admitted it even if held at gunpoint, but there was a part of his brain that refused to make the connection between Sarah J and his mom, so there was still some lingering romantic affection for the fictitious, poetry-loving girl. It was humiliating to admit to himself that he was thinking about his mom in that way, but whenever he tried to push the thought of Sarah out of his head he remembered their spirited arguments about poetry and the warm feeling he got whenever he logged onto Silverfizz and her name popped up.
He hadn't been on the computer in a week. When he finally did bolster up the courage, Parker was in the room and had immediately targeted his twin.
"So, how's your girlfriend?" Preston's mocking voice grated from the sofa. Porter gritted his teeth.
"Fine," he muttered. He couldn't tell his brother that his "girlfriend" was actually their mom; he would never live that down, and it would just make things between him and his mom even more discomfited. Parker, his tone still scornful, said "Has she sent you her picture yet?"
Why couldn't his brother just go away? His head was beginning to hurt. He absently replied "Yeah" and immediately regretted it. Why hadn't he just said no? Now his twin would plague him with even more questions. Sure enough, Parker pounced. "So?"
"What's she look like?"
Porter pictured himself punching his brother's face in. Surely mom would understand.
"Is she really ugly? That's okay if she is, man, she's not my girlfriend."
Porter muttered "She's not my girlfriend." Preston ignored him and whined "C'mon! She can't be that bad." He actually sounded genuinely curious.
"She's not." He answered automatically. It was actually really irking that his brother was insulting their mom like that. He didn't know it was their mom, but still. "She's..." What could he say to shut his brother up? "...cute." Cute was good. Cute was neutral. He was not thinking romantically about his mom by calling her cute. He really wasn't.
Preston snorted. "That's real descriptive," he snarked, and Porter shot him an irritated glare. Preston held up his hands in surrender and loped away, most likely to go pester Parker or Penny.
His brother gone, Porter turned back to the computer screen, on which the login page for Silverfizz was already up. His fingers poised reticently over the keyboard, hesitating before typing in his login name and password. He knew Sarah J would not be online today. She would never be online again, because she wasn't real, but that small part of his brain was still hoping against all hope that her name would appear.
When he'd first accepted her as a friend, he's been surprised by how open she'd seemed. He didn't know any Sarah Js in real life, so he had tried to imagine what she'd looked like. The name Sarah J sounded like it belonged to a peppy blonde, so whenever he envisioned her he would always see a small blonde whose facial features were blurred together into one skin-colored blob. When he started to...have feelings for her, he would lie on his bed, stare at the crinkled white paint on the ceiling, and daydream about physically meeting her for the first time. He imagined her blurred features crystallizing into a pretty face that usually included a small, knowing smile and intense, intelligent eyes.
He held his breath as he scanned his profile. No new messages from Sarah J. It shouldn't have been surprising but for some reason there was an empty pang in his abdomen when he saw she wasn't online. He snapped the laptop shut and let his head drop so that his forehead thudded hollowly against the wooden tabletop.
He could hear his moms lilting voice filtering up from downstairs. She was helping Parker with his math homework, guiding him patiently through the steps. Porter bit his lip. He wanted to talk about poetry and literature and about how he was thinking about having some of his poems published in the school paper. He wanted Sarah J.
He didn't have Sarah J, though. What he did have was his mom. Maybe he should talk to her more...
He abandoned the laptop and trotted down the stairs. There was a gentle clanging of pots from the kitchen, and when he peered in he saw his mom starting to cook dinner while Preston, his face scrunched in concentration, labored haltingly over a math problem. Before Porter could decide on a course of action, his mother spotted him and paused, her gold hair glimmering in the kitchen light and her eyes hopeful. He grinned awkwardly, shuffled into the kitchen, and wordlessly began helping her cook. She patted his shoulder, her thin hand lingering for a second, and when he glanced at her she gave him a look that clearly questioned whether he forgave her.
He gave a small nod; she smiled and her hand slid from his shoulder. They worked comfortably together, interrupted occasionally by Parker's math queries, and Porter was already feeling immensely better.
He may not have Sarah J, but he did have his mom, and that was enough for now.