Chapter 1 revised.

I wanted to delete Chapter 1 because I posted it before it was ready and I'm wasn't entirely happy with it. The main character was called Gina originally … yes, I have no idea why both my stories have a character called Gina, anyway we can't have too many Ginas … so I plucked the name Anjie out of the blue quickly. But it's not the right name for her and I get bothered with things like that.

Also, I hadn't re-read this story properly for about a year and looking at it now … it could be quite a lot better with some addition and revision.

As this is a flashforward, should it all be in italics?? I get confused as to when to use them properly and also when characters are thinking things rather than saying them out loud, do I need all the "" everywhere??

ONLINE/OFFLINE Chapter One (1.1)

'The term 'internet dating' is a vague one, covering every conceivable combination of men, women and a PC.'

Taken from a Sunday Times article entitled 'They Just Clicked' – Aug 4th 2002

"Have you even been in love? Horrible, isn't it? It makes you so
vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens your heart and it means
someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these
defenses. You build up this whole armor, for years, so nothing can
hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid
person, wanders into your stupid life...You give them a piece of you.
They don't ask for it. They do something dumb one day like kiss you,
or smile at you, and then your life isn't your own anymore. Love
takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you
crying in the darkness, so a simple phrase like 'maybe we should just
be friends' or 'how very perceptive' turns into a glass splinter
working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the
imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a body-hurt, a
real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love..."

Rose Walker

February 2003

It was just after midday on a grey February day - low, heavy clouds pressing the frail winter light out of the London sky - adding to the profound depression Julia already felt.

'It was October 2001, half term, and the children were home from boarding school', Julia was thinking to herself as she lay in the bath, 'and Rob was there too …'

She closed her eyes and sighed deeply. 'Fucking shit! Life is full of such unjust coincidences! What if he had never showed me that stupid game? Where would I be now? It's impossible to know … but one thing's for sure … I've never been this unhappy … EVER … and, considering my life, that's saying a lot'.

She lay under the water, feeling her hair, tendril-like, swaying around her face like seaweed. 'I feel like I'm drowning now, drowning in self-pity … wonder what it would be like to drown … hmm?'

She quickly dismissed the unpleasant thought from her troubled mind.

She splashed the rapidly-cooling water over her emaciated body, and to her horror, tears started coursing down her cheeks … unstoppable, uncontrollable … body-heaving sobs - and she never cried, well, hardly ever, except in romantic films. She saw it as a sign of weakness. Her father had always teased her if she ever looked as though she might cry, and so she had never shown any feelings overtly all through her childhood and teenage years. Learnt to repress it all and bottle it up deep down inside. It wasn't really even self-pity or self-loathing that made her cry, although she was feeling both … no, it was this terrible sense of loss…..a loss so painful, that she thought she would never recover from it. In a flash of blinding self-revelation, she knew she'd reached the end of the line. She'd been totally in denial … about everything. She was drinking too much, way too much, but it was the only way she knew to numb the pain and pass out in oblivion after the too-long, lonely evenings. Her cigarette consumption had doubled, and she looked awful. Could it only be a few months ago that she had radiated beauty and glowed with the inner happiness that comes from being loved and being able to love equally back. She couldn't go on like this, and she needed help now.

Yes. Right now. She got out of the bath, and reached for a towel, blew her nose and patted her swollen face……wrapping the towel around her, she went into the bedroom, lay down on the unmade bed, and picked up the telephone.

The house was totally silent…..the only sound, the ticking of the Chinese wall-clock. The bedroom was beautiful - furnished with exquisitely painted antique Chinese furniture, with palest grey walls and carpet. Usually, she loved being in this room – it was her sanctuary - but not today. Everything seemed too grey and colourless, both inside and out. The gloomy greyness outside leaching through the hand-embroidered sheer white curtains into her entire being.

Silence. She wanted to scream. Out loud. Kill that terrible silence! She wanted to kill her feelings too. Make it stop! Just make it all go away … now.

'But who to call?', Julia thought to herself. 'All my so-called friends are tired of listening to me talking about myself, my emotional problems, my fucked-up life…….and I suppose I don't blame them either. There is a limit to how much you can take of someone else's troubles….and mine have seemed never ending … but … it's not my fault….really it's not. Everything was just too much to cope with at once.'

Sighing, she put the telephone down again, and lit a cigarette, and lay in the damp towel, blowing the smoke at the ceiling. The only words that seemed to echo through her jangled brain were….I hate love! I hate love! I hate love …

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