January 2019: The Dating Game
Helen Pryke is a British author who has been living in the north of Italy for almost 30 years, learning everything about Italians, their culture, and their way of life. She now considers herself more Italian than British, even though she has never lost her British accent. Addicted to coffee and chocolate, she has also developed a passion for good food, having married an Italian who is a wonderful cook!
Helen writes emotional women’s fiction set in Italy that deals with the difficult subject of abuse in a sensitive way. She also writes middle grade fiction under the pen name, Julia E. Clements. When she’s not writing, she works as a proofreader for indie authors and a translator (from Italian to English). She loves reading, and will read anything and everything.
She glanced at the computer screen for the hundredth time, but it still looked the same as it had a few minutes earlier. She sighed, tapping the end of the pencil gently against her teeth. She was supposed to be doing her homework but as usual had got distracted by him, sending her messages and making her giggle. Frowning, she tried to concentrate once more on the pages of the algebra book on the desk. The words blurred one into another until they resembled one large blob of black ink on the white paper.
“I give up!” she muttered and flung the pencil onto the desk. It bounced off the book and landed on the floor with a muted thud. She gave it a satisfying kick and smiled as it disappeared under the nearby sofa.
A sudden movement on the computer screen caught her eye. Catching her breath, she looked more closely. Yes! He was back online, finally. A loud beep told her that he wanted to chat.
Hello, Angel, you still there?
She now knew she shouldn’t give her real name in these chat rooms, but when she’d first started out she’d been a bit naïve. Perhaps it was just as well her finger had slipped before she’d finished typing, she preferred Angel.
Hi, Stu, yep, still here… Where have you been?
Had to go offline for a while, but back now. Missed you xx
Well, she wasn’t going to tell him the truth! Let him sweat a bit, right?
Thanks. What are you doing?
Trying to finish my homework but someone keeps interrupting me!! Lol
I’m sure you’d rather chat with me than do crummy homework…
I know. What’s your homework?
Algebra. Know anything about it?
Only that no one in their right mind would do their algebra homework! Hey, why don’t we meet up for a coffee? All work and no play makes Angel a boring girl!
This was it, what she’d been waiting for after all these weeks chatting and getting to know him. Her heart started beating faster and she had to wipe her clammy hands on her jeans before she could type her answer.
You do know how old I am, right?
Sure, Angel, just like you know how old I am. I don’t have a problem if you don’t. Unless you were lying to me…??
I wouldn’t lie about that.
OK. And neither would I. So, I don’t see a problem if you don’t…
That was just it, she did see a problem; actually, she saw many problems, if she really thought about it. Starting with the fact he didn’t even know her real name. Her hand hovered above the keyboard as she hesitated. Another electronic beep startled her.
She took a deep breath and made her decision. For once in her life, she was going to do something for herself. It was about time!
OK. Where and when?
That coffee shop in the High Street, next door to the chippy. You know the one I mean?
Rita’s, I think it’s called.
That’s the one! How about in half an hour?
OK. How will I recognize you?
I’ll be holding a white rose…
How sweet!!! Lol
See you soon, Angel xx
He was gone again. She turned off the computer, a huge grin on her face. She’d done it! Her heart was thumping, she felt dizzy, she had giant butterflies in her stomach and she was already panicking about what to wear. Ten minutes later, most of the clothes from her wardrobe were strewn about the bedroom and she was still trying to decide between two outfits.
“Casual, keep it casual,” she told herself. “It’s only coffee.”
Finally, dressed in black jeans and a light–blue t-shirt with a cardigan slung over her shoulder, she left the house and headed for Rita’s.
Her heart thumping, she pushed open the door, turning nervously as a small bell chimed at her entrance. Several heads turned to see the newcomer, then went back to studying the cakes on display behind the counter. All except one. There he was, holding a white rose just as he’d promised. She felt her face flush as she made her way towards him, pushing through the crowd of people waiting to be served.
“Hello, Angel,” he whispered, smiling at her. Her eyes travelled over his handsome features, taking in his hazel brown eyes, his sensuous mouth, his high cheekbones, and his dark, wavy hair streaked with grey. He hadn’t lied, and for that she was grateful. She touched her own hair, smoothing it back from her face, suddenly aware of all her own defects.
Finding herself divorced at the age of forty-five, with no qualifications or career prospects, she’d decide to become a mature student and study at home to better herself. Joining the university’s online chat room had been her daughter’s idea, she’d never have done it otherwise. Wary of strangers, she’d been reluctant to talk with just anyone, but somehow she and Stu had hit it off right away. She’d dared to imagine she could have a second chance at love and now here she was, about to take that step into the unknown.
“Hi, Stu,” she replied, feeling like an awkward teenager. “Maybe you should call me Angela. That Angel business all started because I hit the return key before I’d finished typing my name!”