The Conclusion of Sara's Port - HOLIDAY INTERNET ROMANCE NOVEL
Conclusion: Tybee Island
Despite Ben's persistent questioning, Cindy steadfastly refused to say anything more about Sara's aunt or her whereabouts.
Finally in frustration, he put up his hands in surrender.
"Okay okay, you won't tell me where she is. I understand that. But at least tell her to read his e-mail. And look at all the poems he wrote her - heck you can look at the poems yourself first if you want," he offered.
"I'll tell her about it. That doesn't necessarily mean she'll read anything he's written, including his poems."
"Just go read them yourself. Then, tell her," he suggested. He knew that the emotional impact of the poems needed to be experienced rather than described.
He hesitated, then added, "Hey, are you on Writing.Com?"
Cindy smiled for the first time, showing off her dimples. Seeing the way her eyes lit up when she smiled, Ben's heart did flip-flops.
"Yes, I created an account Tuesday, after I took Sara to the airport," she said, blushing.
"What's your handle?"
Cindy's blush deepened. "SassyC - it's a childhood nickname."
"It fits you."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Aw, nothin," he shrugged, then added, "Hey, want to do a campfire with me?"
"Maybe. I have to see what a campfire is and what it's about first," she giggled in spite of herself. "What's your handle?"
Ben looked down sheepishly. This time he was the one who blushed. "BigBen. Like the clock."
"Aw, how cute!" Cindy smiled at him warmly and Ben could sense her attitude softening considerably.
"Come on Cindy. Help me get these two back together. Ollie really loves her."
"Are you sure?" she asked, looking at him with big brown eyes that melted his heart.
"About Ollie? Absolutely. Your friend couldn't find a nicer guy. He's goofy, but he's my best friend. The whole fame thing freaks him out. It always has. I think without her he'll be some sort of weird recluse living in a cave by the time he's forty. I've never seen him the way he is about Sara."
"I'll try, Ben. But, I think Sara has made up her mind about him. She's pretty stubborn. In other words, don't get your hopes up," she cautioned.
Ben relayed the gist of the conversation to his friend as soon as he left Cindy's office.
"So you think she's with her aunt?" Oliver asked eagerly.
"Yeah, that was my impression and that it's south of here somewhere on the East Coast. Give me some time, Ol. I'll find out where she is."
Over the course of the next week, Oliver worked tirelessly finishing up his work on the film. He checked with Ben every morning and every night, but the answer was always the same.
At last, the following Friday morning, he could no longer continue to bide his time in Los Angeles, hoping that Ben would have a breakthrough with Cindy. Although they were communicating, she still told him nothing about Sara's whereabouts.
"I'm flying to Dulles tonight Ben," Oliver stated firmly.
"I'll pick you up at the airport, but what good will it do?"
"I've got to talk to Cindy myself," he insisted.
Taking Ben's advice, Cindy perused Ollie's portfolio after her initial meeting with him, reading each and every one of his poems.
Stunned at the emotional intensity and obvious love in his writing, she called Sara's aunt, who in turn read the poetry written for her niece. Lucinda asked for Ben's phone number and Cindy gave it to her unquestioningly.
That Friday afternoon, Cindy phoned Sara, just as she did every day.
Despite her best efforts for over an hour, Sara was not to be swayed, by Cindy at least, on the subject of Ollie.
"No. Absolutely not! Please don't tell him or his friend where I am," she insisted.
"I won't, but at least go on to Writing.Com, Sara. Read his e-mail. And these poems - I've never seen anything quite like it. There are so many. I've been reading them all week."
"Then what? He'll just tell me some more lies until he gets his story or whatever it is he's after," Sara argued.
Convinced that her friend would not be persuaded that night, Cindy reluctantly let the matter drop. When they finished their conversation, Sara turned to find her aunt standing in the doorway. After almost two weeks, the women were already quite close and Sara saw Luci more as a mother figure than a friend.
"I'm sorry, Sara. I couldn't help but overhear," she apologized.
"That's okay, I guess I was kind of loud. I'm sorry too," Sara said quietly.
"Forgive me for saying so, but I think you should give the young man a chance, honey," Lucinda urged gently.
"No, Aunt Luci. He'll just lie to me again," Sara said, shaking her head.
"I don't think so."
Sara looked at her aunt with huge questioning eyes.
"Why do you say that?"
"Cindy called me yesterday and I looked at his poems - the ones on Writing.Com."
Sara's mouth opened in surprise.
"Cindy called you? Why?"
Her aunt continued to explain.
"We've also been talking about your work situation, Sara. While you were talking to Cindy, I had a call from Mark Whiting."
"The Registrar? But, he's on vacation....," Sara interrupted in confusion, but her aunt held up a hand and explained.
"He's a friend. I've known Mark and his wife Ginny for twenty years. Your uncle and I used to vacation with them in Kiawah Island. I called him when you first told me about all this. Cindy and I found out a few things about Professor Miller and she faxed them a week ago. And your Oliver talked to a few people he knows on the Board of Trustees."
Sara winced at the reference to "her Oliver," as her aunt continued to talk.
"Your suspension was revoked at 4 this afternoon. And Professor Miller is looking for a new job right about now," Luci finished with a smile as Sara hugged her.
"You can go back to your own job on Monday if you want to. By the way, Oliver helped persuade the Board of Trustees to act quickly on this, Sara. He was a big help."
Frowning, Sara shook her head. After more than a week and a half on Tybee Island, she knew that Georgia was and would always be her home. And she wasn't sure how she felt about Oliver being involved with expediting her reinstatement.
"I love it here, Aunt Luci. I don't want to go back, if that's alright with you. I love working in the library and living on the island with you. I can write here and maybe eventually take some courses in Savannah, but I don't want to go back to Virginia after what happened. And I don't want to feel like I owe him anything."
Luci smiled indulgently, knowing exactly who her niece meant when she said "him".
"It's fine with me if you stay here forever, sweetie. I already told you that. But don't do it to run away from Oliver. Look at his poems and read the letter he sent you, then decide."
Sara shook her head and looked down. "No, Aunt Luci. He'll just hurt me again."
"I don't think so. Don't make the mistake I made," Luci admonished, with tears in her eyes.
"What do you mean?"
"I was angry at your father for so long and I never gave him a chance to explain. I'll regret that the rest of my life, Sara. I loved him so much. He was my big brother, my protector - everything to me growing up. I should have given him the opportunity to apologize to me, but I wouldn't even talk to him or read his letters. I read those poems that Ollie wrote for you," she said again.
"And?" Sara asked.
"I've never read anything quite like it. He's obviously crazy about you. He signed all of them Oliver Lane, you know."
"No I didn't," Sara responded, with a shocked look on her face. "He signed them Oliver Lane?"
Luci nodded and she could see her niece softened her attitude considerably, although she still sensed a lingering reluctance that reminded her of her own stubborness.
"Thank you for everything you've done for me, Aunt Luci," Sara said, with tears in her eyes.
"What about Oliver?" Luci persisted.
Sara looked out the window at the sea with a defeated expression on her face. Her eyes focused on the light illuminating the ocean from the lighthouse a half mile away.
"Oh, alright," she agreed. "I'll look at it tomorrow if it'll make you and Cindy happy."
"I think it will make you happy, Sara. That's what counts," her aunt said, hugging her again. As soon as she was back in her own room, Luci picked up the phone and made one more phone call - this time to Ben Jamison.
For the first time since arriving in Georgia, Sara slept soundly and didn't dream her hopeless romantic dream about making love with Oliver.
The next morning, instead of going for her walk as she normally did, Sara got up and took a long shower and put on her white sundress. She spent an unusual amount of time with her hair and getting dressed, delaying the inevitable. Later she wondered if some premonition or instinct led her to try to look her best, but at the time it was an effort to put off something she feared would be very painful.
After a few hours of procrastinating, as promised, she finally logged on to Writing.Com.
Resolutely, the first thing she did was read Oliver's email:
It seems like I'm always asking you to forgive me for screwing up, and here I am doing it again. I hope you can forgive me for not telling you right away that I am Oliver Lane.
I wish I had leveled with you from the beginning. You gave me a chance to get to know you even though you were afraid. I was afraid too, but I took the coward's way out.
Oliver Kelly is my real name.
Lane is my mom's family. I decided to use a penname so I could keep my private life private. Before I found your port on Writing.Com, I had no life to speak of, except for my work and my friend, Ben, and reading on Writing.Com. I went on a blind date with Dina Derson and she turned it into a huge publicity stunt - and she tried to do that again Monday. She found out from the studio what flight I'd be on and where I was coming from and made up all that stuff she said on TV.
When I got off that plane, I was imagining what it would be like to have you meet my plane. She surprised me, Sara, and I was tired and confused. I'm not very adept at handling situations with people, particularly aggressive women like Dina. When she and I went out, I faked a stomach ache to get away from her because I didn't have the nerve to tell her I wasn't interested.
I have been in love with you from that first night I visited your portfolio and my love for you gets stronger all the time. It's sort of overwhelming for a goofy guy who's been alone most of his life. I know it must seem arrogant of me not to have told you, but I kept thinking - we'll get through this weekend and then I'll tell her. With most people, I'm afraid they'll pretend they like me because I'm Oliver Lane.
With you, I was afraid of the opposite, Sara.
Once I got to know you and spent time with you, I was afraid you wouldn't want a guy who would deceive you like this, no matter who he is. I know that the money and the fame aren't important to you because I know you loved me as Ollie and you loved me as Kelly too. I know that from reading your journal and then from the way you responded to me when I kissed you. I love you, too, Sara, with my whole heart and soul.
Last weekend wasn't about any story research. It was about meeting the love of my life and spending time with you. Somewhere, down deep, I think you know that, but you're angry and afraid. I don't blame you, but look where fear got me, Sara. I can barely eat or sleep and I'm worried about you every minute of the day.
I love you, Sara.
Please write back to me and let me know where you are, so I can spend the rest of my life showing you how much I love you.
I hope you read this soon and write back to me. I'm working on a movie set as a script consultant - I made the commitment to do this for at least another week, but I may fnish earlier. I'm working around the clock. I'll fly back this weekend to try and see you or fly anywhere you say, Sara. Or, I'll fly you out here to be with me on whatever terms you say.
I hope you read this because I'm worried sick that I've lost you. I know I'm an idiot, but that doesn't change the fact that I love you and I hope you love me.
I'm so sorry I didn't tell you the whole truth while we were together. I'm your idiot if you want me.
Your Idiot, Ollie
p.s. I will make those poems public as soon as I send this e-mail."
"At least, you admit you're an idiot. That's something I guess," she muttered under her breath to the computer screen.
Still not completely convinced, she tentatively clicked on his portfolio and there she saw the folder called: "My Love For Sara."
To her wonder and amazement, each and every poem in the folder expressed Ollie's complete and total love and devotion for her, starting with their first correspondence in September and continuing up until very early that morning - 2 AM, December 4th in fact.
The last one particularly caught her eye, since the title referred to their last night together when the waitress called her a beautiful Christmas angel, and Ollie called himself her Mistletoe Man. She was almost afraid to read it and waited until the very last. It was a little before noon when she clicked on the poem that changed her life forever that December day in Georgia.
The words in parenthesis below the title said it all:
To Sara, My Christmas Angel
(A Proposal From Her Mistletoe Man)
by Oliver Lane, a.k.a. Ollie
In your eyes' reflection
stained glass lights the season
I love and desire you beyond all sense or reason
If truth you'd learned from these lips of mine,
Would you rescue me - in your arms entwine?
Or reject this broken man,
Kill my hope of bright tomorrows?
My days endless without you, full of sorrows
My life began on Writing.Com in September
Will you hold me within your soul and always be tender?
Or banish me from your side,
Left to my desolate life alone
Since my lies have turned your heart to coldest stone?
Oh, I wish I could go back in time
I'd give all the truth I own to make you mine
When I come to you, heart in hand
Will you read my love, forgive and find a way
Lifting up my heart as sunrise warms this ocean day
Mistletoe in my pocket, will we always remember?
How I proposed, this morning this 4th of December
Wiping tears from her eyes, Sara looked up from the computer and out the window as a movement caught her eye. A gray quiet morning, the sun was just beginning to peek out over the ocean. The ground was still wet from the heavy rain the night before.
To her amazement, she realized the movement was an airport taxi from Savannah, a very unusual sight on the island. Most vacationers rented cars to make the hour trip out to the coast from the airport.
But this was no ordinary vacationer.
Out of the taxi stepped her Ollie, clean shaven, and looking tired and very unsure of himself. Wearing a white shirt and jeans, as always the sight of him took her breath away. Paying the cab driver, he kept glancing anxiously back at the house. As the taxi drove away, he turned and took a few tentative steps forward into the front of the house and onto the sand.
That was the cue for her aunt's dogs to bark and they bounded up from the beach where her Aunt Luci was walking them.
Startled, Oliver looked up and at almost the same instant both dogs jumped on him, knocking him on his backside in the sand.
Muttering a string of expletives, he sat there for a minute, waiting for the dogs to calm down.
When the racket subsided, he glanced up again, and was rewarded this time with a smiling Sara reaching out her hand to him. From a discreet distance, her aunt saw what was happening and called her dogs back, wanting to give them time alone.
"Can I help?" Sara asked grinning, echoing his words to her the first time they met in the pouring rain outside his video store.
He nodded gratefully, taking in all of her meaning and at the same time awestruck at her beauty. She looked absolutely radiant in her white sundress with her hair flowing down, as if she'd been kissed by the sun.
When he didn't grab hold of her hand right away, she repeated, "Need some help?"
Taking her proffered hand gently, he sheepishly scrambled to his feet and brushed the sand off with his other hand.
Sensing correctly that he was a nervous wreck, she took the lead and pointed towards the ocean. "Want to go sit on the pier and talk?" she suggested.
As they walked hand in hand, Oliver was grateful for the time to regain his composure. Up all night, making connections to Savannah, he was exhausted, but very relieved to find a welcoming smile to greet him.
When they at last sat on the pier, he sat beside her, never letting go of her hand.
"How have you been?" she asked, with concern looking at him again. Although he looked handsome as always, Oliver was noticeably thinner and pale.
"Bad, without you, but much better now," he whispered, then took a deep breath. "Did you hear about your job? You're reinstated and you can come back to Virginia anytime you want," he said eagerly.
She sighed and looked out at the ocean, determined as always, to level with him.
"I know. My aunt told me. Thank you for all you did, Ollie. But I want to stay here. This is my home now and I don't know how to explain it, but I belong here."
She'd expected him to protest but he nodded, thought about it for a few minutes and looked around.
"It is beautiful. I understand wanting to stay here."
"I'm not moving back to Virginia, Ollie, even if it is your home," she said in a firm, but not unkind voice.
There was a long pause as they both stared out at the ocean, thinking about what she said. Never letting go of her fingers, finally, he broke the silence.
"That's not an issue, Sara. I want to be where you are. You're my home. Did you read my e-mail?" he asked hoarsely.
Sara grinned. "Yes."
"And my poems?"
"And the poem I wrote for you this morning, asking you to...you know.."
"Is that yes to having read the poem or yes to the other...."
"Both," she said simply and he broke into a huge smile as she reached up to stroke his cheek.
"I rated you and gave you some nice gift points," Sara said with a giggle that warmed his heart no end.
They both sat quietly understanding that in an indirect way Sara just accepted his proposal of marriage.
Ruffling his hair to break the tension, she asked, "So, how did you get here - find out where I was, I mean?"
"Ben told me."
Sara sighed. "I know he and Cindy have been talking this week."
"No, I think your aunt called him actually," Oliver explained.
"Lots of matchmakers," she remarked as she looked out towards the ocean.
"Yeah, thank goodness. I think Ben and Cindy are going out tonight," he added.
"Yeah, they've been emailing on Writing.Com and talking about us all week on the phone."
Sara smiled. "I know Cindy set up an account there and she said something about being in a campfire with Ben. But I wouldn't let her talk to me about you very much. I was pretty stubborn, Ollie."
"Speaking of Writing.Com, I got a bad review this week for my story outline," he confessed, nervously changing the subject, hoping to make her smile.
Writing.Com news seemed like much safer ground than her anger towards him or his indirect proposal, especially when his heart was pounding so furiously just being close to her and having her touch his face and hair with her soft, warm hands.
"No you didn't!" she exclaimed with an impish grin.
"Yeah, the reviewer said my story outline was a farce," he said, sticking out his lower lip, in an exaggerated pout.
Giggling with a little snort, Sara replied, "You look like a baby when you stick your lip out, you goof! Farce isn't necessarily a bad thing. You should ask to see their bestseller, when they say things like that, Oliver."
He chuckled at her snort, tempted to imitate it again, but he did not. Her indirect reference to his Oliver Lane persona brought them both up short for a moment.
Wanting to regain their lighthearted banter he put his arm around her shoulder, lightly stroking and caressing her bare arm with his fingers as he said, "So, you said you rated me? What did you rate my poems?"
She giggled again and answered, "Oh really well. Mostly 4 stars and 4.5 stars. Excellent work!"
Surprised, Oliver frowned momentarily.
"What? You gave my love poems for you four stars?"
"Ollie, you have to leave room for improvement and besides...."
"I feel like you're still holding something back there and from me," she said softly.
Looking at her for a long lingering moment, Oliver realized what she was saying and that it wasn't just his poetry she was referring to.
He also realized something else.
She was right.
Sara was so beautiful and he wanted to spend the rest of his life with the woman beside him. And he knew now that she wanted him too.
So, he turned and kissed her with a passion and fervor neither of them ever imagined or experienced, holding back nothing, just like he did on the train only this time it lasted.
There, alone on the pier, Oliver kissed her as if he would never let her go. The way she snaked her tongue along his lower lip drove him crazy with tantalizing desire and he couldn't get enough of kissing her and holding Sara in his arms.
Both shaken by the intensity of what transpired, they reluctantly eventually surfaced to breathe.
"Holding back, huh?" he teased, then kissed her again even more passionately. She didn't believe it was possible, but he did.
"Mmmm care to reconsider that rating?" he prodded with a devilish grin as he kissed the top of her nose.
Sara studied him for a long lingering moment staring at his sensual mouth as if to say "Kiss me again."
Finally, still a bit flustered, she responded:
"Writing.Com doesn't have enough stars or gift points to do one of your kisses justice, Oliver."