Mira loved going to conventions and meeting other fans, buying merchandise, attending the celebrity panels, and joining in with the amazing cosplay; those who liked to dress up as a favourite character could get very inventive with their costumes.
Mira had chosen to dress as Domino from “Deadpool 2” this year, having previously cosplayed as characters including Wonder Woman, Zoë from “Firefly” and, last year, Valkyrie from “Thor: Ragnarok”. She hadn’t gone so far as to add a contact lens as another Dominio cosplayer she’d met at the registration desk had, but she’d carefully applied the white makeup around one eye and fluffed up her hair.
She’d hoped to meet her online friend of three years, and fellow fan, Erica, but at the last minute Erica had said she wouldn’t be able to make it this time, adding a sad emoji to her instant message. Erica hadn’t been to a fan convention before and was anxious about it, so Mira wondered if it was nerves that led her to back out.
“I’ll take lots of photos for you,” Mira had promised. She already had several of the building and a couple with some fans, including the other Dominio, who had gushed over Mira’s elbow-length fingerless leather gloves as more authentic than her own.
Mira browsed some of the stalls full of comics, signed photos, Funko Pops and other figurines, Blu-Ray box sets, and more. She’d got some money saved up especially to splurge on merchandise.
“Sorry,” someone said as they bumped into her. Mira looked up at the woman who was wearing a “Burr shot first” T-shirt and a beautiful dragon necklace.
“No problem. I love the shirt,” Mira said. “Both “Hamilton” and “Star Wars”, what’s not to love? My friend Erica has the same one.” Erica had proudly photographed the shirt laid out on her bed being admired by a plush Pikachu.
The woman paled a little. “Thanks,” she mumbled and walked away.
Mira was surprised by the reaction but didn’t take offence. People could get nervous around strangers, especially if they felt intimidated by the crowded halls. She continued browsing.
Several stalls later Mira had only purchased a couple of keyrings though she’d seen a lot of things she’d like. She’d probably buy more things tomorrow once she’d seen everything on offer, and had her eye on a “Stargate: Atlantis” print and a colour-changing “Supernatural” mug.
Stopping for a coffee, Mira spotted the Hamilton fan again, huddled in one corner and glancing at the convention leaflet and then at the room as if lost. She wandered over slowly, giving a wide smile.
“Hi,” Mira said. “This your first time here? It’s a bit overwhelming when you first get here but most people are really friendly and you’ll have a great time.”
The woman nodded, one hand moving to fondle her necklace.
“That’s a great piece,” Mira said, “I’m Mira.”
The woman nodded again. “I know.”
That was unexpected. Mira glanced down at her ID badge; it was readable close-up but the woman must have good eyesight to have seen it from this distance.
“I’m sorry,” the woman said and launched into a ramble. “I’m so ashamed. I kind of hoped I’d see you here, but I said I couldn’t come because then you’d know what a liar I am, and so I said I wouldn’t come and then I got here, and it’s so crowded and you know I don’t like crowds, and I regret everything right now and I’m sorry.”
Mira blinked a few times, taking all this in. “Erica?” she asked when the woman finally stopped for a much needed breath. It was the only thing that made sense except the woman didn’t look like Erica’s profile picture. She leaned in and peered at the woman’s badge. Erica Staywell. Her friend.
“Yes. You look amazing,” Erica said. “Just like the pictures you showed me when you were preparing your costume. And I look…” She gestured vaguely.
“You look a little different to your profile picture,” Mira agreed. Her own pic showed her dressed as Princess Tiana from when she and some of her friends had all dressed as Disney Prince and Princesses for a Halloween party.
“That’s because that’s not me,” Erica said miserably. “It’s a picture I found on a stock photo website. I was making a vision board to inspire me and I chose her because she’s younger, thinner, prettier than me. I put her as my avatar because that’s what I wanted to look like, that’s how I wanted to feel, happy like she looks in that picture. It makes me feel good to look at her when I post online.”
That was understandable, but Erica wasn’t finished. Before Mira could ask why she’d never mentioned the photo was inspirational rather than based in reality, Erica explained. “We’d only been talking for a while when you said something nice about me and I didn’t want to admit I didn’t look like that; I’d just lost my job and was feeling miserable enough without having to show you how I really looked.”
Mira stared at her, aghast. They’d still been getting to know each other then but she remembered Erica getting made redundant and how it had in fact brought them closer with Mira sending her gifs to cheer her up when she was low, letting Erica vent about the struggle of hunting for a job, and being thrilled when Erica got her new job which turned out to be better in every respect than her old one. They’d even talked a bit about the vision board which had at first seemed to fail Erica by letting redundancy occur before delivering the better pay and flexible hours she’d been asking the Universe for.
Now she understood why none of the photos Erica had shared in the last three years had shown her face.
“Oh, Erica,” Mira said with sympathy. She was still reconciling this woman with her friend – and since they’d only ever communicated via text, no doubt Erica was getting used to hearing Mira’s voice too. Meeting someone in person was always an interesting experience. “I would have understood.”
Erica shook her head. “The longer it went on it just seemed like this huge thing that I’d have to tell you and I was embarrassed.”
“Enough that you’d come to the convention alone?” Mira had already planned her trip and booked a single room since it was a longer distance for her to travel and she wanted to attend both days, Erica only initially agreeing to come for one day because she could get the train from her hometown to the hotel where she could meet up with Mira.
“I almost didn’t come but I’d paid for the ticket,” Erica said, blinking away tears. “I’m an idiot.”
“Yes,” Mira said because they’d become close enough for her to tease. “You’re an idiot for thinking I’d care what you looked like. Which is amazing by the way.”
Erica shook her head again and Mira pulled her into a hug.
“Look, of all the people here we found each other,” Mira said, releasing Erica. “We have the rest of the day to enjoy the convention together. It’s going to be so much fun.”
“Okay,” Erica said, summoning up a smile and wiping her eyes. “I’d like that.”
“And I got you something so this will save me mailing it,” Mira said, rummaging in her bag. She held out one of the keyrings.
Erica took the Lego Loki keyring, eyes wide with surprise. “Oh, thank you!”
“I’ve got Lego Wonder Woman,” Mira said with a grin. “So, do you fancy the “Lord of the Rings” panel? It starts in ten minutes.”
Erica clipped Loki to her handbag. “I’d love that.”
They walked, arm in arm, to find a seat.