Bea opened the door to her apartment. Her guests were slightly early, but that was probably a good thing. Hey, the faster her computer was fixed, the better. She had papers to write!
"Hi!" the woman said. Bea had met Claire at school. They'd had the same class for Behavioral Neuroscience, but they hadn't really started to get to know one another until they were assigned to the same group for their research project. Thrice weekly meetings had developed a passing friendship between the two, though Bea doubted that they'd keep in touch once the semester was over. "This is Ian."
"Hello," she said. "Thank you *so* much for coming! Wow, it's really great of you to do this," she said to the man next to Claire.
"It's not a problem. I used do this sort of thing all the time." Ian grinned at her. "So where's the computer?"
At their last meeting, Bea had whined to Claire about how her computer had crashed. Neither she nor her boyfriend knew anything about computers and she didn't have a lot of money to call a technician. Claire had said that she knew someone who might be able to help, and that was how her research partner's uncle Ian had come to show up on her doorstep.
"This way." She showed them into the second bedroom of her and her boyfriend's apartment. They used it mostly for storage and for the computer, so it was kind of messy. She had straightend up a bit before they came over, though.
"Wow," said Claire. "Totally. Wow. I don't think I've ever seen so many CDs outside of a record store before."
Bea grinned. Their CD collection was kind of excessive. Three walls were covered in floor-to-ceiling bookcased packed with CDs. "Yeah. My boyfriend works for a distributor so he gets a lot of freebies and I used to be a DJ. We're just into music."
"Cool." Claire knelt down to look at the titles while she talked to Ian about her troublesome computer. He flipped through the case of diskettes he'd brought while the computer booted up.
"I'm sure I can fix it, no problem."
"Yeah, Ian has a special relationship with computers. He can fix anything."
Ian laughed. "Annette thinks I'm part computer myself."
"Annette?" I asked, a bit confused.
Ian looked a bit flustered at my question and I wondered why. "Um..."
"It's my middle name," Claire interrupted hurriedly. "I, um, go by Annette with my family. Yeah."
"Oookay. Well, I'll be in the kitchen if you need anything. Thank you again for doing this for me!"
She left them there and went to go get dinner ready, still thinking about Claire's other name. Their reaction was kind of weird. Stilted. Made her think that there was more to it than they'd said. Freaky.
She went back to check on them a little later. Ian was poking at the connections under the desk the computer was sitting on. Claire or Annette or whatever her name was helped him by handing him various tools.
"Can I get you guys anything to drink?" Bea asked.
Claire shook her head. "Naw, we're good."
"So how's it going?"
Ian peaked his head out from under the desk. "Pretty well. I'll have it fixed in no time."
"Wonderful! I really can't thank you enough for doing this for me!"
"Oh, it's really not a problem," he said. "Actually, it great to get out of the house for once."
"You don't get out much?"
He shrugged and Claire answered. "He works at home. He's not supposed to, uh, I mean he doesn't, um, get to go out much..."
Ian started coughing and said he'd really like some water now. Bea went to fetch it, now certain that something weird was going on with Claire and her uncle Ian. Maybe they were in the Witness Protection Program or something. Whatever, Bea was just glad to get her computer fixed. She loaned Claire some CDs and didn't ask any more questions.
For years after, the mystery intrigued Bea, especially since Claire disappeared from school a couple of months later. Sometimes she wondered just who Claire and Ian had really been.