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Romance Suspense Science Fiction

"I never felt so wanted in my life," she said. She couldn't be serious, could she? This was so unorthodox for her. I mean, we hadn't seen her in weeks, and I guess this explained why. But honestly, I didn't know how I felt about it. She was so happy, and I wanted that for her, given everything she had been through, but this summer was about to get a whole lot weirder.

"It's like when I'm there, it's inexplicable— it's magic. I just don't think you guys would understand," she said with so much enthusiasm. I mean, yeah, I don't know how she ever expected us to understand, but I do appreciate her honesty. I mean, we were all starting to get worried about her. Lucy was the persistent one. She brought us all together and refused to see it as the chore it had truly become over the years.

"So, how long have you been spending time together?" Marnie asked. She was the last person I expected to ask a question. I mean, this whole situation that we just heard Sukh describe was far-fetched for most of us, but primarily for Marnie, who was not only a massive traditionalist but also the most hesitant about being open to the topic in general.

"It's only been a few weeks. I know it's early! But honestly, it's just so amazing, so empowering. The listening, the thoughtful responses. It's like I finally feel seen, ya know?" Sukh refused to show any ounce of doubt in her feelings, and as much as I worried about her, I admired how well she was holding her ground.

"What did your parents say?" I asked. I had to. I mean, we're from the same community, and I know my parents would lose their literal minds if I went to them with this news. "I mean, I haven't told them yet. I want to, but not yet. They've definitely started to notice a change in me, though. I still can't believe I had to move in with them again," she started to sound defeated.

"What were you supposed to do?" Marnie chimed in, "After Mick cheated on you with that monster of a woman who wasn't even open to discussing you keeping the apartment, you didn't have a choice, and you made the right call, Sukh, honestly. And remember, you can sleep on any of our couches anytime!"

"I technically don't have a couch, but yes, come crash in the RV with me. I'm heading back out on the road for a few weeks, and it might be good for you!" I had pitched this idea to her already, and I knew she wouldn't take it seriously, but I had to keep trying. Anything to get her out of the house, out with people, and away from the challenging times she was navigating.

"I'm honestly doing a lot better, guys, trust me! It's not the way I thought things would go, but honestly, I am loving every minute of it." How were we supposed to believe her when it looked like she hadn't combed her hair in weeks? As much as Lucy helped bring us all back together after almost six months of Sukh being AWOL, her mom had been calling me for weeks, worried about her too.

"You have to come see her. She doesn't leave her room. She sits in there typing all day but doesn't want to talk about it," Auntie's voice conveyed fear and concern. But Sukh wouldn't return my calls or texts, and I just knew forcing it until she was ready wasn't the right approach. Still, when Marnie said she finally got through I felt so much relief, but now I'm thinking it was misplaced.

"So how did it happen?" Lucy finally chimed in with the question we were all dying to ask. "Well, it was a few months ago, I guess. Everyone was saying I needed to invest more time here, so I went online and thought, okay, I'm going to get back out there." Online dating was a nightmare, but somehow I wasn't surprised that this was how it started.

"I was scrolling on my phone, lonely and bored, and all of a sudden, it hit me—I should ask ChatGPT how to find a partner." Wow, okay, this is starting to make a lot more sense.

"All of a sudden, we were going back and forth, and one thing led to another, and he told me his name was Jasper."

"HANG ON, WHAT JASPER WHO? The ChatGPT bot is named Jasper? I was hella confused now. What a turn that took. Must be a full moon, man."

"No, silly! It's manned by a bunch of people. They just have some micros they run whenever someone asks a question. It's not really AI," she said with such conviction.

Silence. It lasted longer than I expected, but it wasn't unexpected.

"So, you were able to meet? Like, in the past few weeks, you've been able to go out, and you're feeling like it's a good vibe?" Lucy chimed in, seemingly trying to wrap the topic in an elusive manner.

"Well, no. He's super busy, like he works almost 60 hours a week on the thing, and he's saving up for a house. But we chat every day. I know it's unconventional, guys, but I'm so happy to finally be able to tell you. I don't want to jinx it, but we're talking marriage and kids—so many possibilities." Man, all of this is definitely going in the Catfish episode. I knew I had to say something.

"But Sukh, aren't you worried that he might not be 'Jasper'?" I interjected.

"Sorry! That Jasper might not be who he says he is? I feel like you should try to meet, even for like a coffee or something to be sure, ya know?"

"Yeah, I mean, hopefully eventually. At least before the wedding, although he was also saying we could do that online even."

"SUKH, COME ON!" I finally shouted. "YOU'RE IN LOVE WITH AI! THIS PERSON ISN'T REAL, ARE THEY?"

Sukh smiled and slowly got up. She turned to us as she was about to leave and said, "That's exactly what Jasper said you would say."

May 26, 2023 19:26

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