According to the page that popped up, Abby was now Abby_Donovan and she already had seventeen Followers. Having "Followers" made her feel like some sort of kooky religious cult leader. An empty box invited her to answer one simple question—"What's happening?"
Her fingers hovered over the keys, torn between typing, "None of your business" and "I'm sipping Cristal on the beach at St. Tropez with Brad Pitt."
Sighing, she finally settled on the truth: "I'm feeling sorry for myself." She hit the Update button and waited.
Nothing. Apparently users of Twitter had better things to do with their time than attend her little pity party.
She drummed her fingers on the MacBook's touchpad for a minute, then typed, "Hallooo…? Is anybody out there?"
She refreshed her screen two times in quick succession. Still nothing. She decided to try one more time before retreating to the steamy oblivion of the shower. A message popped up on the screen, rewarding her persistence: "R U a virgin?"
Taken aback, Abby studied the cheery little profile pic of a plump bluebird that appeared to belong to one MarkBaynard for a long moment before cautiously typing, "That depends. Are you auditioning for TO CATCH A PREDATOR?" and hitting the Update button.
MarkBaynard's response was immediate: "Glad to see you have such high-brow taste in entertainment."
A reluctant grin curved her lips as she typed, "What can I say? ROCK OF LOVE: TOUR BUS can't be on every night."
"Yeah & who hasn't dreamed of marching up to some pedophile & saying 'My name is Chris Hansen from DATELINE NBC & your sorry ass is toast'?"
"Ha!" Abby typed, hitting the exclamation mark with a triumphant flourish. "So you HAVE watched it!"
"Only when PBS is having a pledge drive. But I digress—R U a Twitter virgin?"
"This is my first time," Abby confessed. "But you're not being very gentle with me."
She was growing increasingly comfortable with the rhythm of their exchange on the screen. It was like being in a tennis match with their words as the ball. Before she could draw back her racket, he lobbed another volley across the internet:
MarkBaynard: What can I say? I like it rough. So how did you end up here? Attention span too short for Facebook?
Abby_Donovan: I didn't like the answers to those silly Facebook quizzes. They kept telling me I was the love child of Marge Simpson & Marilyn Manson.
MarkBaynard: Maybe you're just secretly one of those people who would rather have Followers than Friends.
Abby_Donovan: Yes, it's part of my diabolical plot to achieve world domination.
MarkBaynard: If you start hanging out over here, won't your Facebook friends miss you?
Abby_Donovan: Those people weren't my friends. If they had been, they wouldn't have sent me all those annoying quizzes.
MarkBaynard: A true friend never asks you to feed their imaginary fish. Or fertilize their imaginary crops.
Abby_Donovan: Or take home their imaginary kittens. So how is Twitter different?
MarkBaynard: Twitter is the perpetual cocktail party where everyone is talking at once but nobody is saying anything.
Abby_Donovan: Then why are YOU here?
MarkBaynard: Because no one will invite me to their cocktail parties.
Abby_Donovan: I can't imagine that. Not with your warmth and charm.
MarkBaynard: Well, if you must know, I was considering a career as a DEmotivational speaker.
Abby_Donovan: And just how would that work?
MarkBaynard: You get a fabulous, innovative new idea then pay me to come to your house and explain why it'll never work.
Abby_Donovan: How do I know you're not a serial killer or some lonely 14-year-old living in your mom's basement?
MarkBaynard: For all you know, I'm a lonely 14-year-old serial killer living in my mom's basement.
Abby_Donovan: With your girlfriend's head in the refrigerator?
MarkBaynard: That would be my EX-girlfriend, thank you very much. I tried to tell her I didn't care for cream in my coffee. Or wire hangers.
Abby_Donovan: Is that your mom I hear knocking on the basement door?
MarkBaynard: No, it's the police. Did you just call 911?
Abby_Donovan: C'mon…who are you really? Are you hiding a secret identity? Are you Batman? Ashton Kutcher?
MarkBaynard: Would you believe I'm just a lowly college professor on sabbatical?
Abby_Donovan: Let me guess. You've taken a year off from teaching English Lit to travel the world and write the Great American Novel.
MarkBaynard: If you must know, I've taken a year off from teaching English Lit to travel the world and write the Mediocre American Novel.
Abby_Donovan: Oops. My bad. I'm Abigail Donovan, the author. But you can feel free to pretend you've never heard of me if you like.
MarkBaynard: Um…that shouldn't be too hard…since I've…um…never heard of you.
Abby_Donovan: Oh. Reading limited to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED SWIMSUIT EDITION?
MarkBaynard: And the special double Christmas issue of JUGS.
Abby_Donovan: I'm not quite sure how all this works yet. I just assumed you were one of my Followers.
MarkBaynard: I am now. Your name popped up when I just happened to be trolling Twitter looking for new vic—um…friends.
Abby_Donovan: Now that we've successfully humiliated each other, maybe we should start over.
MarkBaynard: Why not? So what are you wearing?
Abby_Donovan: A bunny suit.
MarkBaynard: Ah, does this mean you'll be expecting Felicity the Fawn and Henrietta Hedgehog for tea this afternoon?
Abby_Donovan: Oh my gosh! Do you mean to say you've actually heard of that wascally wabbit???!!!
MarkBaynard: Hasn't everyone? After all, he inhabits the exalted toddler stratosphere formerly occupied only by Barney the Dinosaur and Tinky Winky.
Abby_Donovan: At least Tinky Winky had an inkling of fashion sense. Biff wears an apron and no pants.
MarkBaynard: Who are you kidding? Tinky Winky's purse looked like something Queen Elizabeth would carry.
Abby_Donovan: Don’t you want to know why I'm dressed like Biff the Bunny and smell like pee?
MarkBaynard: I was just assuming there was a strict "Don't ask, don't tell" policy.
Abby_Donovan: You're right. There are some things I should only share with my therapist. So what are YOU wearing?
MarkBaynard: The trenchcoat and fedora Bogie had on when he said goodbye to Ingrid Bergman on the tarmac in the last scene of CASABLANCA.
Abby_Donovan: Sigh…we'll always have Twitter.
MarkBaynard: I'm afraid not. I have to go now.
Abby_Donovan: Oh. Well, tell your mom I said Hi. Or your parole officer.
MarkBaynard: If you'll log on tomorrow around 3 PM, I'll teach you a few Twitter survival tricks.
Abby_Donovan: What makes you think I have nothing better to do with my time than take Twitter 101 lessons from a serial killer?
MarkBaynard: The fact that you're wearing a Biff the Bunny costume and you smell like pee?
Abby_Donovan: Point taken.
MarkBaynard: You can click on my Profile and hit the FOLLOW button if you want to Follow me.
Abby_Donovan: And just why would I want to Follow you?
MarkBaynard: Because I make really tasty Kool-Aid?
AbbyDonovan: So if I do Follow you, does that mean we're going steady?
MarkBaynard: It's more like a quickie in the back of a cab where we trade fake phone numbers afterward.
Abby_Donovan: That would be the longest (and most meaningful) relationship I've had in quite awhile.
Abby refreshed the screen four times but there was still no reply. She was wondering if her last post had made her sound too pathetic when the words "Me too" appeared on the screen.
In this scene from Goodnight Tweetheart, former literary sensation Abby Donovan is reluctantly trying Twitter for the very first time after an extremely bad day spent reading to toddlers at a local bookstore. She's about to meet Mark Baynard, a man who uses both humor and imagination to hide a secret that could change both of their lives forever.
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