Shortly after being dumped by Rebecca, I was informally asked out by two of her friends. As horrible as this sounds, one of them I genuinely didn't find attractive - she was too loud, too rude, too young, and not really my type - the other one, however, I did think was attractive. In fact, that was her job, more or less: to be sexy. She was a student just heading off to university (so the same age as me, or thereabouts); she was also non-monogamous.
It was the first time I'd heard of the term (although "polyamorous" was used more by her; it's the term I tend to use as a result), or even the concept - although Rebecca has to explain it to me. What her friend actually said was
i'm a slut slut slut! lol.
which didn't mean much to me, to be frank. Still, I enjoyed her blog (for what it was), and her presence. I never actually talked to her, not even on MSN, but she still maintained a kind of presence, up until shortly after Christmas 2003, when she said (well, she left a comment on my LiveJournal, I doubt "said" is the phrase...)
ps. will you go out with me? be my slut baby! lol
which was slightly clearer, even though I've no idea what a "slut baby" might be.
For me, sitting in my tiny room in student hall with only stacks of books and Emmanuelle: Queen of the Galaxy for company (and a very tenuous internet connection which I had to hack), this was a very tempting idea, although I knew very little about her - I knew her initials (K.A.T.E. - and her first name was Kate, which works), and a rough approximation of her age and original location, but very little else. I didn't know how she knew Rebecca; I didn't know which university she went to; I didn't even know what she looked like, apart from a couple of pictures which didn't seem particularly legitimate. I certainly didn't know why she found me attractive.
But, me being me, having recently been dumped for the first time, having no real friends at university and having not had sex for a few months (three years later, still having not had sex in that time, this would seem very trivial!), I reacted positively. I didn't exactly say "yes", because it wasn't exactly clear this was a genuine question, but I was heading towards it.
K.A.T.E. went silent. A few months later, she got engaged to someone at her university (then, allegedly, broke up with him after he got someone else pregnant), and after that, she went completely AWOL. I was barely talking to Rebecca that much, and when I did, neither of us mentioned her. I resigned myself to the fact that I wasn't going to hear from her any more, and committed her existence to memory.
A few years later and the cracks began to show. K.A.T.E. didn't show up at Rebecca's funeral, and 47 didn't recognise the name when I asked. I idly browsed for her on social media, just in case she hadn't heard of Rebecca's death, and couldn't find her anywhere - she wasn't on Facebook or Twitter, and she didn't show up on Google. Her LiveJournal hadn't been touched for years; there were a couple of people with the same name on Google Plus (but without the A.T. middle names), but they weren't her. I tried to find an e-mail address for her, but the only one I could find was a ZZN (which bounced back). The only place I could find any record of anyone who was undeniably her was on (what was left of) Rebecca's website, which as of today still exists, but on a page which was long dormant, and still mentioned me in positive terms.
I don't like losing contact with people, even peripherally, but after a while I started coming around to the fact that she probably doesn't exist. I'm ninety-nine per cent sure that Rebecca invented her, although I'm also fairly certain that this wasn't anything malicious. Rebecca had read The Ethical Slut during our time together (and I'm fairly sure this precipitated the end of our relationship; I still haven't read it), had joined some chatrooms with a low number of female participants, and didn't have many friends outside of college - I would imagine K.A.T.E.'s ideation as being a little invention of an idealised friendship which got slightly out of hand - hence not actually ending up arranging to meet me, even for coffee as I eventually suggested. I was guilty of the same, to a lesser degree, although in the end I owned up.
I don't begrudge Rebecca for any of this. There are worse crimes than character creation - it's just fiction, and who doesn't love a bit of fiction? - and she certainly covered all bases, maintaining a token presence on what passed for social media. She was a talented writer with a vivid imagination, and if K.A.T.E. was indeed an idea that just spiralled out of control, then I can't genuinely image Rebecca herself as generating a lie for malevolent intent.
I'm slightly confused, of course, as to why K.A.T.E. asked me out - where was this supposed to go if I gave an outright yes? - and this also raises other questions. What if I had married Rebecca - wouldn't her absence from any wedding celebrations be conspicuous? Why did she have a separate 'phone number - and, if it was a real one (I never called it), where did she get the 'phone from? If Rebecca, as she said on multiple times, was trying to cut me out of her life, why did K.A.T.E. keep contacting me? These are probably all answerable questions, of course - but then it also makes me suspicious of other people she introduced me to, like her crush's girlfriend Hana (also poly, sexy, and unashamed) or her college friend Kirstie (who, genuinely, wasn't real - that one she admitted to).
I caught myself today suddenly remembering K.A.T.E., as if just a passing shade. I so wanted her, at the time, to be real. 15 years later, however, and that doesn't seem to matter any more. However real she was - even if she was a complete fabrication - she most certainly made a small impact... even if only in the tiniest corner of my memory.
Maybe she'll make it into my next book.