HOLIDAY INTERNET ROMANCE NOVEL
And so, Oliver and Sara slowly, tentatively became acquainted throughout the rest of October and November.
At first, Sara reciprocated by reviewing a few of Ollie's items. Because of her experience with Professor Miller, she was cautious and a bit wary, but Oliver's engaging, self deprecating manner soon won her over. Corresponding rapidly became something they both enjoyed more with each passing day.
Oliver politely thanked her for her reviews and began sending her e-mails just to say good morning and the occasional c-note, just to send her a smile. He also nominated her for preferred and the promotion happened relatively soon after the nomination.
As far as she knew, from what little he indicated about himself, Ollie was a consultant, finishing up an assignment on the West Coast. Sara didn't press for details beyond that and he, in turn, never elaborated.
Gradually, Sara revealed that she worked and studied at a university on the East Coast, but that was all that Oliver knew. Sensing a reluctance in her that mirrored his own trepidation about an Internet romance, he was careful not to pry or do anything that might alarm her or scare her off.
As they grew increasingly comfortable and relaxed with one another, Oliver decided to suggest the possibility of sending Instant Messages between them. He made the suggestion, in a postscript to an e-mail, almost as an afterthought. It just seemed like a natural progression for their friendship. He was hopeful that she trusted him enough to want to move the relationship to another level.
Oliver would have been dismayed to see Sara's response on the other side of the country. As soon as she read his suggestion, she winced. Shutting her computer off, she left it off for a full day, debating what she should do to handle this dilemma.
On the one hand, she never encountered anyone who seemed as sweet and genuine as Ollie. But, she was gullible before and was not about to be sucked into something that she feared could turn negative in the blink of an eye.
She kept her co-worker and friend, Cindy, informed about her growing relationship with Ollie and she decided to seek her opinion.
"What are you worried about, Sara?" Cindy asked as she sipped her soda through a straw. The two beautiful women took their lunches outside to eat on the grounds of the University of Virginia's campus. The tall brunette and the shapely blonde were oblivious to many admiring stares as they discussed Sara's online friendship with Oliver. It was a warm clear day in November, and as usual the school was bustling with activity.
"I'm not sure, Cindy. It's just, well... I'm wondering what will he want next - to talk on the phone? I'm just not ready for that," Sara sighed as she picked at her uneaten lunch.
"If he turns out to be a jerk, just tell him to get lost and don't answer his emails. I don't see what the big worry is," Cindy shrugged. "It's not like he can jump through the computer and attack you. You said he's nice, didn't you?"
"He is nice, but so was ..." Sara's voice trailed off as she thought about Professor Miller.
She didn't have to say his name, Cindy knew who she meant.
"That scumbag," she agreed disgustedly. "Sara, this Ollie guy doesn't sound anything like him. Not all guys are like that. Sooner or later, you have to give someone a chance. You won't double date with me."
Sara rolled her eyes and shifted uncomfortably. "I'm not ready to do that yet, Cindy."
"I know, I know, but this Ollie is a guy you can get to know from a safe distance. I think you should do it , take a chance, but I bet if you tell him you feel uncomfortable IMing, he'll drop it. Just be honest with him Sara! He sounds like a nice guy - he'll understand..."
Despite Cindy's assurances, Sara was still worried about Ollie's reaction.
While the thought of more communication with such a nice guy certainly was appealing, the truth remained that it scared Sara to death. It was a lot easier to be careful in an e-mail than to deal with someone who needed an instantaneous response. And what if she found something objectionable about him? How would she ever extricate herself and avoid hurting someone she already cared for?
Because she didn't want to confront the situation, she avoided her computer and Oliver for almost a day and a half.
This was the first time Sara waited more than a few hours to answer one of his e-mails. Oliver became more fearful and apprehensive with each passing moment, worrying that he pushed for too much too quickly.
E-mails from Sara quickly became the highlight of his lonely life and the one thing he looked forward to - and counted on - more than anything. He couldn't bear to imagine going back to a time without Sara writing to him. Just entertaining that possibility filled him with a feeling of despair and a growing sense of panic and loss.
With the Thanksgiving holiday rapidly approaching, Oliver already felt anxiety over whether she would be as available on-line, and this was what prompted him to suggest IM-ing. He knew that colleges were closed for the long weekend - and he knew it would be an awfully desolate time for him, especially without Sara.
Oliver's own plans were to stay put in Los Angeles, virtually alone since the set was breaking for the holiday. His parents were in Europe as usual and his sister, Jen, was in New York with her own husband and children to take care of.
There didn't seem to be much point in flying across the country when what he really wanted was to stay in contact with Sara. All he needed to make that happen was his computer - and her willingness to stay in touch.
After a day and a half, Oliver could wait no longer. Deciding to take the initiative, he wrote another e-mail to Sara, trying to repair the damage he feared might ruin their developing relationship.
Running his hand, nervously through his hair, he thought about what he wanted to say and at last wrote:
I hope I didn't alarm you with my IM-ing idea. I was feeling anxious about staying in touch over the holiday. Now, I'm afraid I've done the one thing I never wanted to do - I've alienated you.
Your friendship (whether it's through emails or however) has come to mean so much to me - I'll take it in any way you're willing to give it. I only hope you are still willing.
Honestly, I didn't mean to push for something you aren't ready for. That's the last thing I'd ever want to do.
I hope you'll understand and forgive my stupidity. Even if you can't, please write and let me know you're alright, if only to tell me to go away. I hope you won't say that, Sara.
But I'll do anything to make this right, even if it means backing off. Okay?
Your worried friend,
Agonizing over whether or not to send the e-mail took up another half hour before Oliver finally closed his eyes and clicked "Send".....
Continued in "Sara's Port, Ch. 7"