HOLIDAY INTERNET ROMANCE NOVEL
Running was a reliable way to work out stress and anxiety for Oliver.
So, run he did.
For the next hour and a half, he ran around the neighborhood, to the local high school, jogging around the track, trying to sort through his turmoil and the sickening, sinking feeling that Sara was pushing him away and rejecting him.
No one paid much attention to the tall, solitary runner in the dark blue sweats, sporting a two day growth of beard.
So distraught was he over Sara's failure to respond to his email, he forgot to shave and he realized by the second day that Oliver Kelly would be much less recognizable as Oliver Lane with a beard and moustache. And not being recognized or noticed was, as always, just fine with him.
But changing his appearance would not change the reality of the tone and tenor of Sara's email. She let him down easy, but there was no mistaking that she let him down.
As he ran, Oliver found his thoughts focusing on the word that she used to describe him - he was her "friend" and nothing more. The more his mind centered on all that word meant - and didn't mean - the more frustrated, disappointed, and heartsick he grew.
Instead of buoyed by the run, Oliver finally returned to his hotel suite, exhausted and depressed. He tried to tell himself that it was no big deal and after all they still would be friends and still communicate.
Taking a long hot shower didn't do much for him either. Oliver's thoughts kept drifting back to Sara and all she meant to him and all that he felt for her.
It was hard to accept that she didn't feel a little of what he felt so strongly.
Frustrated and angry, he realized he didn't feel much like eating even though it was well after dinner time. He was just about to call room service for a light dinner when the phone rang.
"Hello," Oliver said, tersely.
Ben Jamison hesitated holding the phone away from him so he could look at it.
Oliver was in such a good mood since reviewing that woman in September that he hardly recognized his usually quiet and introspective friend on the phone anymore.
Now, though, he sounded downright sullen and grouchy.
"Geez, what happened? Did she give you a bad review?" Ben quipped, hoping to tease his friend out of the bad mood that obviously enveloped him.
Oliver sighed heavily, not wanting to share his pain. "No Ben. What's up? Isn't it busy there?"
Glancing at his watch, Oliver realized it was almost closing time at Video Lovers, back in Virginia.
Rolling his eyes, Ben sighed too. He didn't for a moment miss the way Oliver deflected the conversation away from his online relationship. Something was obviously amiss.
Sensing his friend's discomfort he decided to let the matter rest for the moment. There was obviously trouble in a relationship that so far made Oliver a very happy man, but he knew that his friend would open up when the time was right and not a moment sooner.
"No, it's been slow. Probably people are getting ready for Thanksgiving or something."
"So why are you calling?" Oliver persisted. He really didn't feel like the usual chit-chatty call with Ben on this particular evening.
Remembering the reason for his call, the words poured out of Ben, who was a fast talker whenever he was excited about something.
"This woman....I mean this blonde babe came in tonight and I think she liked me!" He said breathlessly, remembering the beautiful golden-haired goddess smiling at him and riding away from the store on her bike.
"You're not supposed to hit on the customers, Ben!" Oliver scolded in a harsher tone than he intended.
Ben was even taller than Oliver and about fifty pounds heavier. With unruly dark brown hair and dark eyes, he tended to look a little rumpled and menacing.
And although he'd never hurt a fly, his demeanor could be a little overbearing with women. He tended to come on too strong, scaring them off before they could get to know the cuddly teddybear underneath. He had a tendency to hover over the more attractive customers, especially blondes.
"I didn't hit on her. I helped her and what's more she thanked me and smiled at me," Ben asserted stubbornly.
"I hope you didn't ask her out, Ben. I told you about doing that. It's just not appropriate and it's bad for business if you make the customers uncomfortable."
"I didn't make her uncomfortable. I helped her find a movie - it was the movie they made based on your first book, you know, Revelations. I told her I knew the author and she was really impressed."
Oliver started to rub his now-aching head with his hand.
"I want to keep my identity low-key, Ben. You know that. Don't be blabbing it to every pretty girl that walks in there," Oliver admonished his friend.
"I didn't tell her you owned the store. I just told her I know you," Ben explained. "She seemed like a nice lady. Sheesh, what's got you so torked anyway?"
"Nevermind. I don't want to talk about it. Just make sure you don't tell anyone there who I am, Ben. I have a nice life there and I don't want to lose that."
"I hear you, Ollie. I won't tell her or anyone else. I promise."
Oliver made a face, hearing the hurt tone in Ben's voice.
Here his best friend was meeting a nice, attractive woman and he couldn't even be happy for him. Feeling a little guilty, his tone softened as he continued.
"Ben, I know you wouldn't. I'm just having a bad day. Talk to you tomorrow, ok?" Oliver asked, trying to sound pleasant and not the way he really felt - alone and brokenhearted.
"Yeah sure. Bye Ollie," Ben said quietly.
With what was rapidly becomming a throbbing headache, Oliver said goodbye and hung up the phone, glaring over at his computer as if it was to blame for everything that was going wrong with Sara.
He decided to take some aspirin and lay down. Getting some water, something inside told him to check his e-mail once again.
"What an idiot!" He hissed at himself when there was no new mail from Sara. "What did you expect? A retraction? Get real!"
In disgust he nevertheless went through his usual routine, logging in and clicking on Sara's Portfolio. To his astonishment, there was a new item sitting right at the top.
Created the day after he first emailed her.
Blinking, he tried to convince himself that it couldn't be, but it was.
"She must have marked it private," he said quietly as he clicked on the journal. Sure enough, it soon became obvious that this journal was something she didn't intend for him to see.
As he continued to read, his heart started to pound. Running his fingers through his hair, he felt a little ashamed, reading what were obviously her private thoughts, but he couldn't stop himself.
It soon became clear that her feelings, if anything, mirrored his own. Sara was feeling the same strong connection to him, that he sensed from day one.
But in addition, she'd written about her fears and what had happened to her regarding Professor Miller and all that meant for her future and her trust in men.
"That bastard!" Oliver snarled, wanting to ring the man's neck for misleading Sara and trying to take advantage of her trusting nature.
Reading eagerly, he devoured every word as his heart filled with hope and love for her, until he came to the last entry and the poem she wrote for him right after writing that she just wanted to be his friend.
The first thing he noticed was she'd written it in red:
Heart's Dream - For Ollie
That night eyes first saw your name,
Heart knew life was not the same
Gentle words flow from my screen
From life's love as yet unseen
So afraid is heart to fall
And heed love's strong incessant call
Tender words flow from my screen
From life's love or so one seems
Still mind wonders if heart dares
Let love know how much one cares
Insistant pleas from my screen
From the first 'til even now unseen
So alone, heart starts to melt
Knowing the hurt that must be felt
Wounding one beyond my screen
Never seeing this heart's dream
For hand typed lies this very day
Saying friends heart wants to stay
When it's love touching that screen
Ollie my love, my life, my dream.
Continued in "Sara's Port, Ch. 9"