HOLIDAY INTERNET ROMANCE NOVEL
The next morning, a frowning Sara Riley read and reread Oliver’s brief e-mail. The whole tone of his writing shifted and she wondered if his sudden change of plans might have something to do with another woman. Having no idea that she was the only woman influencing Ollie’s actions, she was a bit startled by the overwhelming jealousy that cast a heavy cloud over her entire day.
The possibility that her Ollie might have feelings in other directions didn't occur to her before reading his message. She didn’t like the notion that her friend might be romantically involved with someone else.
“A real live woman,” she said softly. “Not just someone he only writes to on the Internet.”
Her Wednesday started out badly and rapidly went downhill from there. Sara only intended to go into the office for a couple of hours, to catch up on paperwork. Wearing a silky white sweater and black jeans, she only needed a light jacket since it was an unusually warm and sunny morning for November.
It was, after all, the day before Thanksgiving and most of the other Administrative Staff was on leave so she could dress casually and ride her bike to work as she usually did when the weather was nice. Her thoughts kept drifting to Ollie, try as she did to focus on the work she wanted to catch up on.
The day deteriorated quickly as one problem led inexorably to another situation going horribly wrong. She ended up being stuck there the entire day because of a delay in posting some of the mid-term grades, caused by inattention of other members of the staff, who were off enjoying their holiday.
To make matters worse, Professor Miller made a point of reprimanding her in front of the other Literature Professors who happened to be there, as if she were to blame for something he knew was not her fault.
“Really Sara, this isn’t Kentucky. You’re getting a free ride thanks to me, but you have to do your job here,’ he scolded, adding cruelly, “You can’t expect me to bail you out all the time. Your poor performance reflects badly on me after all since I recommended you in the first place.”
Biting her lip, Sara blinked back tears. To hear him refer to her limited scholarship, the one she’d worked so hard for, as a free ride was almost more than she could endure. She worked tirelessly at her job and he knew it.
“I’ll try to do better, Professor Miller,” she said quietly, bowing her head.
Shaking his own head in disgust, Professor Miller turned on his heel and stomped off, waiting until he was down the hall to smirk in satisfaction at his efforts to embarrass his ungrateful protégé.
Knowing she didn’t dare argue with him in front of the other professors, Sara suppressed the urge to tell him off and expose him for the lecherous jerk she knew him to be.
One did not speak out of turn to a full professor at UVA, especially not someone in Sara’s position who needed the job in order to survive and stay in school. With her friend, Cindy, on vacation for the week, she really sensed that she had no allies to come to her aid. And now even her dear Ollie was away from his computer for a few days and unavailable.
Sara Riley never felt as abandoned and desolate in the world as she did that afternoon. It was her first holiday season without any immediate family – they were all gone now except for her Aunt Lucinda in Georgia, who she barely knew. It really hit her for the first time that she was an orphan far away from the place that she always called home.
Feeling more lonely than ever before, Sara rubbed her aching head with her hand. She couldn’t count the times she logged on to Writing.Com that day to check for e-mail from Ollie, but there was no mail in her in-box. She blamed herself for refusing to IM with him. And that was the worst feeling of all because Sara knew she was the one who pushed him away.
As if to match her dismal and forlorn mood, the warm day turned cloudy, cold and windy, almost in the blink of an eye as it often did in the mountains of Virginia.
When it was at last time to go home, Sara remembered at the last minute that her rented video needed to be returned. Sighing heavily she put on her thin jacket and prepared to ride her bike over to Video Lovers, although it was now much too cold for a comfortable bike ride. Knowing she couldn’t afford the late charges, Sara was determined to get the tape back and at least do one thing right on that miserable day before Thanksgiving.
She also held out hope that the long ride might clear her head and make her feel better. Many times, physical exercise and exertion did just that. But on this solitary and cold ride, her thoughts kept drifting to Ollie as she wondered what he was doing and who he might be with for the holiday.
Feeling totally and completely deflated, the shivering young woman parked her bike at the closest bike rack to the store and walked the rest of the way with her tape tucked under her jacket..
“Oh Man,” she sighed heavily, as she saw that the lights in the store were out and the tape return slot had a closed sign on it.
At almost precisely that same instant, it started to rain big heavy drops, almost as if the sky opened up.
Not hearing the car door or the eager footsteps behind her because of the wind, the rain, and her own fatigue, she was startled when a man’s voice said kindly, “Can I help?”
Turning around with relief, she expected to see the heavyset young clerk from her last visit to the store.
Instead, Sara found herself looking into the kindest eyes she’d ever seen – eyes that warmed her heart, in spite of the cold and the misery of her awful day. Even though the man towered over her, there was a gentleness about him that she sensed right away.
“Can I help?” The tall, bearded young man said again, gesturing and fumbling with his keys as he walked towards the door.
“I’m the owner,” he explained breathlessly as he unlocked the door and motioned for her to enter. Turning on the lights, he shyly guided her into his store, his hands shaking all the while as he gently touched the small of her back.
Then for the first time he looked into the shining deep blue eyes that Oliver knew without a doubt belonged to Sara.
He realized that if anything, Ben did not do her justice in his glowing description of her. The truth was that he was in love with Sara and would have been no matter what she looked like.
Struggling, he searched for the right words to say.
Continued in "Sara's Port, Ch. 11"