Tiffany smiled at the barista. “Thanks!”
“No problem. Here, the sweetener’s in the corner today. People were taking too much of it, so I hid the stash.”
“Oh!” Tiffany took a packet. “Thanks again. How did you know I use sweetener…uh…?”
“Sooyoung. My name is Sooyoung.”
“Sooyoung. I’m Tiffany.”
“Oh?” Sooyoung raised her eyebrows. “Tiffany as in Tiffany Hwang?”
“Whoa. You know my name as well as what I put into my coffee?”
“Aw, come on! You come here every day, of course I’d know what you put into your coffee. As for the name, aren’t you that writer for Stupid Mutterings? Short story kid?”
“Ah.” Tiffany blushed a little. “Yeah, that’s me. Wait, you read Stewie too?”
“Of course!” Sooyoung grinned. “I know what you’re thinking. Yes, I am a student here, that’s why I read it.”
“So you study here and run the café?”
“Kind of. The café actually belongs to an old lady called Sooyoung, but because she was sick, she offered me a job, to run it for her. It just so happens that we share the same name, that’s all.”
“Wow, what a coincidence!”
Sooyoung nodded, wiping off the counter. “Are you going to put me into one of your stories, then? I think I’d make a pretty cool main character.”
“Um,” said Tiffany.
“Don’t worry,” said Sooyoung, waving it off, “I was just joking. But, hey, nice work. I usually don’t like to read, but your stuff is pretty interesting. That last one, especially. Improvement.”
“Thank you! I’m glad you liked it.”
Sooyoung nodded. “Well, I’ll not hold you up now. Your coffee’s going to get cold. Go do your little typing thing in the corner.”
When Tiffany had settled into her seat, she pulled out her laptop. But instead of working on her newest story, she opened the browser and went on Facebook.
“Wow, that’s a lot of notifications. I really need to check this more often.” Realizing that she had said that aloud, Tiffany quickly glanced around and let out a breath when it seemed like no one had noticed.
After scrolling past several pictures, Tiffany opened up the page for Stupid Mutterings. She felt a little, well, odd, to be searching up comments on her own stories, but it was intriguing, all this new attention she was getting. She wanted to see what people said.
Under the title of her previous story, someone had gushed excitedly over the plot, and someone else had liked the supporting character a lot. Tiffany smiled faintly; she had liked the supporting character too. It had been fun to write – and now, it was also fun to see what other people made of the character she had tried so hard to form. Ooh, someone had picked up on a pun.
Tiffany took a sip of her coffee to hide her grin.
She scrolled up to see a rather large chunk of discussion about her most recent story, published in the issue the day before. Whoa, someone just posted their comments. This really was a fascinating experience, seeing how people reacted to different parts of her story.
“It’s Hwang,” said Tiffany without looking up.
Yuri slumped into the seat opposite to her. “Hweng.”
“Silence, child. Go get your pacifier from Sooyoung.”
“Sooyoung? How do know her name?”
Tiffany looked up. “The barista? She told me.”
“Wait. Let me get this straight. You, Tiffany Hweng-”
“Corn Yul, one more Hweng and-”
“You, Tiffany Hwang, went and talked to a stranger? Wow. Wow. Someone please pinch me.”
“I am capable of conversing with other human beings, okay.”
When Yuri didn’t answer, Tiffany sighed and looked up.
Yuri grinned. “Are you checking the comments? Did you see?”
“Yeah, I see them.”
“No, do you see what they all say?”
Tiffany frowned and read the comments again. “What?”
“Just tell me I’m smart.” Yuri leaned forward with a satisfied expression. “How many times do you see the work ‘improvement’ or ‘better’ in those comments?”
Tiffany didn’t answer.
“Good job, Kwon Yuri, you found Hweng a good beta! One who’s even better than you! I mean, me!”
“Don’t I get some credit for this too?”
“Well,” said Yuri hastily, “I mean, of course! You did write it, after all.”
Tiffany gave her a look.
“But come on, even you gotta have noticed how much more polished your piece sounds? Right?”
Tiffany made a noise with her nose.
“I knew this would work out.” Yuri clapped her hands. “This is going to be awesome, perfect, amazing! We’ll get even more readership and-”
“Okay, okay, do your gushing somewhere else, please. Go get a drink to calm yourself down.”
“It’s settled, then. Keep sending your stuff to her, okay?”
Tiffany rolled her eyes as she watched the weird girl dance away to place her order. Okay, so maybe Yuri had a point, maybe this mysterious wielder of the red pen was quite a big help to Tiffany. She wasn’t going to admit it anytime soon, though.
Anyway, who even used email addresses like that anymore? Taepeapea999? Incontinent vegetables. Ugh.
To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: email@example.com Subject: hello Attachment: oct15.doc Hey! Thanks for your last edit, it was appreciated. Here’s this month’s story; could you give me some feedback again? And actually would you mind using Word instead? It would be clearer, I think. Thanks, Tiffany
The next day, same place, same neat stack of papers, same red marks.
Again, her typoes were rounded up, grammar corrected, word choice pointed out. Tiffany didn’t know what to think. Should she be annoyed that, whoever taepeapea999 was, they didn’t bother using Word like she suggested? Or should she be grateful that they went through the story with as much precision and insight as they did last time?
Sighing, Tiffany pushed all those thoughts away and started to make the edits.