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By @samharnold

Three months of building up courage, 200 emails and one messy divorce later and today was the day she was going to meet the man of her dreams.

‘What is wrong Mum you’re really quiet?’ Annie asked her, ramming chips into her mouth. ‘You’re not eating your dinner.’

‘I think I have done something really silly.’ 

‘You’re the most sensible person I know, I would doubt that.’ Annie replied, smirking.

Claire decided to come clean and told Annie all about Thomas.

‘Well, how is that being stupid, it will be fine Mum. My friends meet people all the time, don’t be stupid.’

‘Yes but what if he isn’t who he says he is? What about if he is getting me to meet him so he can attack me? What if he is a murderer?’ Claire stammered ‘You hear all these horror stories, all the papers say don’t ever agree to meet these people.’

Annie laughed, ‘stop panicking for god sake, the worse that will happen is he is butt ugly with no teeth.’

Claire smiled despite herself. 

‘Just relax mum, it will be fine.’ Annie placed her hand on her mum’s arm and squeezed showing a little of the young woman she was growing into. ‘I have to go to Laura’s but please do not stress, you’re going to have fun, text me when you get home.’

Annie sailed out of the house leaving Claire with her thoughts. It had started through boredom and curiosity really. After spending six months on her own, once her divorce had been finalised, she decided to see what internet dating was like. With nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon, she had logged her laptop on and typed dating sites into google. Her first surprise of the weekend was how many sites there were. After a little trial and error, she decided to settle for a site that boasted a reputation of being for the older person who wanted to find a relationship, rather than just a five-minute fling. For the next three hours, she worked on her profile describing her dreams and feelings to a blank form. The question what would you like from a man was especially difficult to describe. Someone the complete opposite of my ex-husband didn’t seem to answer the question well. She settled on describing her ideal partner as someone who was honest and generous, who made her laugh. After hours of working on her profile to try to make it as honest and attractive as possible, she only had to decide on what picture to use. After much searching through pictures on the computer and working out whether she could successfully cut her ex out of many a nice photo, she finally settled on a picture of herself dressed up for the last staff party. Well more Annie settled on the photo for her, telling her she looked hot, which apparently was a good thing.

More for embarrassment sake than anything Annie helped hide her face in the photo. That way if her friends saw her on this site they might not recognise her as the desperate woman that she felt. With her finger poised over the send profile button, she froze, frightened to finally commit to going back into the dating game. 

‘Go on press the **** button,’ Annie had encouraged.

‘I don’t know, internet dating is only for losers. 

‘Mum, press the **** send button.’ 

Annie watched her mum leave the room in silence. After a couple of seconds, she huffed, got up and went to her room, leaving her mum alone in the kitchen. 

It was almost midnight when Claire remembered that she hadn’t turned the computer off. Tired and fed up she went back into the study and opened the lid to find her profile still proudly displayed with accepted written beside it. Annie had hit the button that Claire had been too afraid to. Maybe it was the tiredness, maybe it was the fact that she had spent yet another Saturday evening on her own but, instead of pressing delete she left the profile on the website. 

The next day was filled with the dreaded Sunday, family visits, so it was late in the evening when Claire fired up the laptop again. To her surprise, there were already three emails from dream dating to say that she had a message from an admirer. More for curiosity than anything she logged onto her email to look at her matches and messages. One was from a gentleman nearly twice her age who asked if she would like to chat for a while, she politely informed him that he was too old for her but wished him good luck with his search. One was a gentleman a couple of years older than her, a polite email to introduce himself, she decided to reply to this man and chat for a while to see how they got on. The final email was from some pervert who made it very clear what he wanted from a relationship and had graphically described all sorts, this she deleted straight away. 

This was how things went over the next couple of months, emails would arrive some people have deleted straight away, some were politely told you’re not for me and others were chatted too. She had noticed that she was starting to look forward to returning home and chatting to prospective dates feeling her confidence and self-esteem grow a little every day. After a couple of months, Claire was enjoying chatting with a variety of men, but none of them had ever made it past emailing.

That was when Thomas started emailing her. The first email was much the same as the rest and they started chatting with each other. Over the next couple of weeks, they emailed each other virtually daily. Thomas had many of the same interests as Claire he liked the same books, enjoyed the same films. The emails increased in length and intimacy over the next couple of weeks and they both decided to start talking about previous relationships. It was during these emails that she discovered that like her Thomas was divorced and also very worried about joining a dating site, thinking that his friends would laugh at him. Over time it was clear that this was a more intimate relationship. She started feeling this could go somewhere. With this in mind, they decided that they would meet for a drink in a local bar the following Friday and see whether they got on just as well in person. 

How will I know you Claire typed to Thomas? I will have a copy of 1984 in my hand he typed back. Better than a carnation any day. She giggled when she read this, they had already decided that 1984 was both their favourite book. She liked the way that he made her laugh by cracking the joke about the carnation. She couldn’t remember the last time a man had made her laugh, not since well before she had got married. The next email contained the bar and the time they could meet. 

That was how she found herself, stood in front of the mirror checking her reflection and makeup, before making her way to the bar to meet Thomas. She felt the butterflies in her stomach. When was the last time she had felt like this? With a shock, she remembered that the last time was on her first date with Michael. God everything seemed so perfect then, what had gone so wrong? Would this all end that way too? 

Before her courage completely left her she decided to make her way to the bar deciding to take a slow drive, listening to her favourite album on the way to try to calm her nerves. 

Claire got in the car and the rain was pounding down, she had to put the window screen wipers on full, in order to see. Just what I need, she thought, still she had left plenty of time to get to the bar. Being late was Claire’s pet hate. It was all going so well until she rounded the corner onto the high street and hit the traffic. The queue was from one end of the high street to another. Claire glanced nervously at the clock in the car whilst the rain continued to drum on the roof. Typical she thought, I decide to get back into the dating game and first the weather is against me and then the traffic, maybe someone is trying to tell me something. By the time she cleared the traffic jam, she had just five minutes to drive what would normally take ten minutes. With nothing else for it, she put her foot to the floor and sped along the wet slippery roads. As she rounded the corner she felt the wheels slide from under her car, looking up she saw the car heading straight for the wall. She started to fight with the steering wheel desperately trying to control the skid, silently screaming inside, waiting for impact. 

Eight minutes later she walked into the bar heart still pounding from the near miss with the wall. She looked around her which is when she spotted him and her heart started pounding again. Standing at the bar in his normally cocky manner was Michael of all the nights to run into her ex. That was when she noticed the copy of 1984 in his hand. 

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