HOLIDAY INTERNET ROMANCE NOVEL
Oliver Kelly also endured a restless night, tossing and turning. He couldn’t quit thinking about Sara’s writing and wondered if he might have overdone it by bombarding her with so many glowing reviews.
“She’ll probably think I’m weird,” he muttered as he kicked the covers off and rearranged his pillows, trying to relax. He was more than a little agitated and worried about the first impression he might make on his fellow author.
Oliver was a member of Writing.Com long enough to observe all sorts of behaviors among his fellow writers from a - so far - safely detached distance. By and large, Writing.Com was an open, thriving community of supportive people of all ages who learned from their fellow writers and helped each other improve their skills. Most of the authors he encountered were serious about their writing, with the goal of being published one day, and they appreciated honest, helpful reviews.
Occasionally, someone expressed personal interest in him, but so far he deflected personal inquiries tactfully and avoided revealing too much about himself. His mission, and what he enjoyed, was encouraging talented writers, not getting emotionally involved. For that reason, he avoided the Instant Messaging system like the plague. From what he could discern, chatrooms and instant messaging led directly to more interaction than he was prepared to handle – at least until reading Sara's Portfolio.
He still wasn’t ready for any chatroom, but the notion of exchanging instant messages with Sara certainly was appealing. Oliver didn't start out looking for an emotional involvement, but thanks to his evening’s reading and reviewing he seemed to have found one.
After reading so many portfolios, Oliver felt he could tell a lot about a person from reading their work. All he read led him to believe that Sara was a warm-hearted generous soul, who shared a lot of his own views about the world. Her written words spoke to him in a way no other writer’s did in all the time he belonged to Writing.Com. In fact, he couldn't ever recall feeling such an attraction to another author anywhere, based simply on his reaction to their writing.
The loneliness of residing in a hotel for months on end was something he felt even more keenly than usual during this trip. Against his better judgement, he gave in to David Aaronson's urging and went on a double date with a starlet, Dina Derson – a conniving witch if there ever was one. Oliver cringed just at the memory of their date to a premiere with the director and his wife, the previous week.
They barely settled in for the film when the woman started pawing him, running her manicured hand up and down his leg. When he politely refused her advances by returning her hand to her own lap, it only served to make her more determined – and aggressive. At dinner, she talked non-stop, gossiping about the other attendees and critiquing their attire.
Obviously, she wasn't the least bit interested in the movie they watched – and that was the only thing about the evening that held any interest for Oliver. He finally put an end to the wretched date by feigning an upset stomach, but the persistent actress continued to call him every few days on the set.
Their latest conversation was enough to make him shudder.
"I'm busy, Dina," was his usual response to her repeated offers to cook him up something special at her place.
"Well you have to eat, sugar. I could bring something over," she purred seductively, implying much more than concern over his nutrition.
"No. Thanks anyway, Dina. I'm really working on a story idea and when it's going like this I don't like to take breaks," he lied.
"Some other time, lover. I'll call you in a few," she promised.
When he relayed the conversation to his best friend, Ben Jamison, he told Oliver that he was crazy – ignoring Dina Derson and all these women who were his for the asking.
Ben talked a good game, but Oliver suspected his best friend of being much more romantic than he cared to admit.
Oliver rolled his eyes and chuckled, just thinking about Ben. Glancing at the clock, he decided to give him a call. It was only a little after three in the morning on the East Coast and Ben was a night owl, especially on the weekend. Now that he was hooked into the DSL line, his phone line would be free.
Ben also created a portfolio on Writing.Com, but his main goal was to meet women. Oliver was promoted to Preferred within a few weeks of joining. Ben was still not Preferred, since he didn't do much writing, but he could and did email and IM quite a few women whose portfolios caught his eye.
“Hey,” Oliver said in response to his friend’s casual greeting.
“Hey yourself!” Ben replied. “Guess what I’m doing?”
“Harassing the unsuspecting women on the Internet as usual,” Oliver sighed as he grinned at his friend’s predictability.
“No, smartass. I’m proving my theory is correct. He is watching me,” Ben confided quietly.
Oliver winced as he covered his face with his hand.
“Not that again. You’re nuts!” Ben claimed that The StoryMaster was watching his every move on the website with over 16,000 members.
“He’s not watching you!” Oliver scoffed.
“He is. I know he is,” Ben insisted. “And now I have proof.”
“Okay, I’ll bite. What makes you say that?” Oliver asked skeptically.
“Tonight I upgraded and he IM’d me right away!” Ben replied with excitement. “It was like a minute later.”
“So what? What did he say when he IM’d you?”
“He thanked me and asked me if I was coming to the convention next year.”
Oliver shook his head in disbelief.
“Ben, he thanks everyone when they support the site, and he probably asks everyone who upgrades about the convention. That’s just good business. He doesn’t have time to watch you or anyone else. If he did, he’d probably fall asleep – from boredom.”
“What do you mean by that?” Ben frowned at the phone.
“If he really watched you, he’d know you were just there to meet women,” Oliver grinned. “You’ve been there for a while now and how many times have you struck out? On second thought he probably fell off his chair with shock that you did something to support the site. You’ve been on there for more than six months. What’d you do – a year’s upgrade?”
“No, I did three months.”
“Gee, are you sure you can afford all that money? You’re on there all the time.”
“I didn’t want to spend forty-five bucks.”
“Ben, you’d spend that on one date."
"You would, but I wouldn't, unless it was with someone like your actress girlfriend."
Oliver grimaced, but ignored the jab and the reference to Dina as his girlfriend, as he continued.
"You spend all your free time on that website. Every weekend – the least you can do is support it.”
“I’ll think about it, but I need to save my money in case I meet my dream woman....”
“Maybe, in the meantime, I’ll get you a year’s upgrade for your birthday,” Oliver laughed.
“So, why’d you call? Just to harass me? You should be in bed with that Tina or Gina or whatever her name was, not lecturing me about Writing.Com behavior.”
“Ugh!” Oliver groaned as the image of Dina filled his mind. “Don’t remind me. God, I hope that woman doesn't call me again. Actually I wanted to ask you for some advice about someone else.”
Ben sat up straight.
This was definitely new. Usually he was the one asking for Oliver’s guidance.
“Advice about who?”
“Advice about a…well a woman, an author on the site. A new port I found. I want to know what you think about what I did tonight.” Ben’s eyes opened wide as his best friend explained what happened with Sara’s Portfolio.
“And I sent her a bunch of reviews. Her writing was so great I just had to tell her with...well, you know – emails and comments and gift points,” Oliver finished as he held his breath waiting for his friend’s response.
“Uh huh,” Ben said, trying to conceal his surprise.
This wasn’t at all like Oliver to go on about anyone, much less a woman he didn't really know.
“How many reviews?” Ben asked curiously.
“What difference does that make? A bunch,” Oliver replied defensively.
“More than ten?”
“That’s not the point, Ben.”
“Oh my God, more than 20?” Ben started to snicker.
“Yeah, actually it was a little more than 30 or so,. Why do you think that makes a difference?” he asked nervously.
“Wow, what did she write in there? Erotica?” Ben held his side to keep from laughing out loud.
“Shut up butthead! No, it wasn't Erotica, although I like Erotica. It's great and so is her writing. Her writing was wonderful! Shut up!” Oliver yelled at the snickering he was hearing and he made a face at the phone.
“What’s her handle?” Ben asked curiously.
Oliver shook his head.
“No way. I’m not telling you. You’ll interfere and try to impress her yourself. Forget it. No way.”
He hesitated again, feeling more insecure than ever.
“Do you think I overdid it with the reviews?”
“No, I think ten would have been overdoing it. You went way beyond that!” Ben snorted. "You know that the Mailbox only displays twenty emails on a page."
“Crap!” Oliver muttered as he covered his eyes with his hands. “I just wanted her to know how much I enjoyed her writing.”
Now it was Ben’s turn to mock his friend. “Oh, she’ll know you enjoyed her writing and she’ll know you’re the one who’s looking for love on that website, not me!” He laughed as Oliver hung up on him.
Swearing under his breath, Oliver looked at the clock again and walked over to his computer, sitting on the desk. Impatiently he logged on to Writing.Com to check his own e-mail.
“Crap!” He said again, seeing that there was no new mail in his in-box. “Don’t panic. You don’t know what time zone she’s in, bozo!”
He grumbled as he turned the computer off and threw himself onto the bed in another attempt to get some sleep, hoping he didn't already blow his chances with Sara…..
Continued in "Sara's Port, Ch. 4"