Taeyeon pondered. She eyed the keyboard cautiously. After a long moment of consideration, she tapped twice.
Her stare moved to the screen in front of her, where the thin black line flickered next to a symbol. She bit her bottom lip, and a small frown creased the skin between her eyebrows.
“Now, is this one just happy or is it flirty?” she muttered to herself. “I’ve seen other people use that one. Then again, this person doesn’t use that one. Maybe I should just stick to the one they used.”
She erased one of the symbols and replaced it with a slightly different one. Then, before she could dally for too long, she rapidly clicked a button and watched the message finally post. After a quick breath in and out, she took off her glasses and rubbed at her eyes. It was tiring to keep up with such things; the social complexities of typed emoticons were difficult to get a hand of in the first place, and in her opinion these subtleties changed far too quickly. She preferred to send messages without emoticons, but as part of her effort to be more talkative she had decided to attempt these little additions to her communication.
The computer chirped and she looked up. A new message flashed in the corner of the screen.
1 New Message from: Tiffany Hwang
Inadvertently, before she could stop herself, Taeyeon blushed. She glanced around as if to check that no one saw her reaction – which was pointless because she was alone in her bedroom – and hurriedly opened the message.
Hi! Any luck today?
Tiffany only used emoticons when she was socializing. This was not socializing.
Taeyeon glanced sadly at the thin, pitiful looking folder on the desk beside her bed.
Not today. Sorry.
She sent the message and then she wondered if she should send a sad emoticon. She hadn’t had much of a chance to use one of those yet. But before her fingers could settle on the right keys, Tiffany replied.
That’s too bad… Are you getting any closer?
Taeyeon raised her eyebrows and sucked in air through her teeth. Regretfully, she answered the question. And she lied.
A little. Don’t worry; I’m sure to have something for you soon. Her fingers paused. A fleeting rush went through her head; she saw every possible continuation of her response and tried to analyse their appropriateness as fast as she could. She settled for that uncertain little winking emoticon and belatedly hoped it didn’t make the whole thing seem creepy. 😉
And then she panicked; surely that wink did make everything creepy and Tiffany was sitting on the other end of the internet looking confused, or scared, or disgusted, or all of those at once –
You’re always so nice, Taeyeon. Thank you for everything that you’re doing for me. (:
Taeyeon blinked. She blushed. She pumped her fist triumphantly; one successful use of an uncertain emoticon, scored. At least, it seemed successful. She didn’t know much about Tiffany, having never actually met her, but from their interactions online she gathered Tiffany always preferred to say the honest thing in a nice way rather than puffing up her messages with hollow words.
Encouraged by this small victory, her fingers flew to reply.
No problem. I really hope to be able to help you, Tiffany. Your case means a lot to me.
After sending it, she realised she hadn’t used any emoticons, and this disappointed her for a moment before she assured herself that the message was more impactful without it.
Haha, I’m sure you say that to all your clients. 😛
Taeyeon snorted. She most certainly did not. She had a reputation for awkwardness – she caught herself; she was changing her reputation now, of course, so while she had yet to talk like this to all her clients, it was in her plans to try. She clicked her tongue doubtfully. It was unlikely in her mind that she could ever be like this with other clients.
After rereading Tiffany’s message, she thought. Slowly, she answered.
Not at all. For some reason, your deep need to find your mother has really affected me. I’m always sad and disappointed when I go another day of searching without finding her, and I cannot imagine how you must feel. So, never fear, Detective Taeyeon is here. 😉
Taeyeon’s hands shook after she sent the message. Her heart was thumping, and she felt weak. That was one of the longest and most complex messages she had sent in a situation like this. An analysis after the fact showed that there were at least six factors involved: the initial blunt response to Tiffany’s message, the element of honesty, the level of actual personal information revealed, the relation back to Tiffany, the cute quip of reassurance, and lastly, of course, the emoticon.
She bit her lip again as her eyes traced the message. Tiffany’s words had been formatted more jokingly, so Taeyeon hoped her blunt beginning to her response wasn’t too harsh. And while she was usually honest in her messages, this situation was somewhat different to her usual messages, so she wasn’t sure if she should have been honest about the meaningfulness of the case. In addition, revealing her personal feelings about it was a bit risky. Her attempt at precise empathy had come up short; Taeyeon had never hired a private investigator to find her long-lost mother so understandably (in her opinion) she couldn’t really feel how Tiffany was experiencing it at all. As for the final sentence, well… Taeyeon had the grace to look embarrassed about that.
Idly, she calculated what time it was in Los Angeles. Tiffany always contacted her at a time that was good for Taeyeon but not really a reasonable time in America. It was 5.56pm in Seoul, so it would be just before 1am that morning in Los Angeles. Taeyeon hummed in disapproval; she didn’t stick to a strictly healthy sleeping pattern herself, but she wanted Tiffany to take better care.
A chirp from the computer came as a pleasant surprise.
You really do seem like a lovely person, Taeyeon… I’ve had a long week, so I’m not sure if your words are supposed to make me so emotional or if I’m just tired, but I’m really thankful.
Taeyeon smiled pleasantly. Everything seemed to be going okay. But then she frowned again, for this was the point she often reached in conversations where there was no possible response. She couldn’t think of anything to say at all. Should she reiterate some of the earlier sentiments? People often did that, and while it annoyed her to be on the receiving end, it didn’t seem to annoy everyone. Or perhaps she should change the subject entirely, but what to?
Tiffany sent another message, which relieved Taeyeon immensely until she read it.
At the end of the month, I’m taking my annual leave from work. Two weeks. I’ve been wondering if perhaps I should go to Korea. What do you think?
She floundered helplessly. Her first issue was capacity; was Tiffany asking her as client to detective or was she asking as American to Korean or as acquaintance to acquaintance? In terms of the case, it was unlikely that her presence in Seoul would make any difference. As a tourist to a native, Taeyeon was not much help as she preferred to avoid crowded tourist spots. She had no idea how to respond in the acquaintance scenario – and then she reached the next level of consideration. Namely: what did she think?
“Should Tiffany come to Korea for two weeks at the end of this month?” she asked herself, having identified the question at hand.
Impulsively, she flourished her immediate response onto the screen.