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Searching for love
Lorraine watched, in a carefully furtive manner, as the red tail lights disappeared around the corner. Their house, their first home, had only a small paved area in front so it was easy observe any traffic passing along the street.
Her husband’s, their car, turned right at the junction, gone for the evening, again. The street lights cast a sheen on the window allowing them a glimpse of her own ghostly reflection.
‘A ghost, that’s what I am now, a fucking ghost,” she murmured aloud.
Her never seen, felt and never touched, a resident ghost, that’s what I am now!” She was louder now, consciously so, why wouldn’t she be, the silent house was her’s to fill with whatever sound she chose.
About to turn away something in her movement caught the street light in the window from a reflective angle.
“Nothing wrong with me, is there ghost?”
A quick appraisal, hair still shoulder length, no lines on the face, at least not in the window pane. He once praised her ‘cute nose’, “and my luscious lips,” aloud again, angrier now.
“Nothing wrong with me,” she almost shouted, turning to face the empty room. A surge of adrenaline fuelled by anger, aggravated by a sense of the unfairness of it all got her moving, drove her to the kitchen.
Classic hits were her thing, usually the radio was set to a station broadcasting an endless stream of songs and dance tunes she knew so well even the first few notes, before a single lyric, was enough to re-kindle a memory, generate a smile.
The opening bars of Abba’s ‘Chiquitita’ were enough for her to silence the radio. Cradling a coffee, reckless at this hour, especially while she seethed with already heightened emotions, she wandered back to the living room.
“I wonder,” she murmured, somehow feeling better already, comforted even by such a simple thing as being able to speak aloud. “Talking to myself, better than anyone else here right now, ‘hello’”, she called even louder, “no just me, the ghost, just me.”
When the screen burst into life she automatically turned to Facebook, scanning through other people’s lives. It didn’t help. The whole world seemed to be posting pictures of themselves, their lovers, their families, friends, cats and dogs.
“Pull yourself together, Lorraine, this won’t do,” she muttered.
Leaving Facebook she was about to check out TV listings for the evening when a thought occurred to her.
“What are you up to?” If her fingers hesitated over the keyboard she certainly never noticed it. With a few masterfully determined strokes she had logged out of her account and called up his home screen.
“Now, Paddy dear, let’s see what you’ve been up to.”
When Lorraine entered her own name as his password and found it worked she felt a pang of guilt. “Not changed, still me,” she wondered for a moment if she had been imagining things. “Maybe I’m the one who’s changed, not him,”
Reaching for her coffee she sat back, confused, uncertain, lonely.
“Fuck it, you should be here, where are you?”
For over an hour she worked through his virtual world as best she could. There was nothing there she didn’t already know, nothing. There was nothing to be found that could cause her to worry even more than she already was, nothing.
The last thing she checked was his version of Calendar. It was the same story, she couldn’t see anything out-of-place, yet an unformed thought still nagged away at the back of her head, she still had a troubling, worrying sensation that all was not what it seemed, there was something wrong, something she couldn’t quite grasp.
“That’s it, nothing is the answer.”
With renewed determination she attacked the keyboard, skilfully stroked the mousepad. In his version of Calendar months passed by in a blur until she paused.
There it was. Finally nothing became something.
Evenings they had spent together, restaurant reservations, arrangements for weekends away, they were all there in among bills due, bills paid, meetings to attend, work related deadlines. His life, her life entangled and intertwined together. Then it stopped, there was no him and her, it was all work, all business, the diary entries tracking a life separating, falling apart.
“The curious case of the blank calendar,” she whispered, “so I’m not crazy after all, what happened then and what now?”
She cradled the by-now cold cup, smelling the faint aroma of coffee dregs. “I’m right,” she said but felt no better for knowing it, no comfort in saying it aloud.
A few days later during a slight lull at work she looked around, wondering who among her colleagues would be best to approach.
The manager, was he one? Perhaps Miss Potter, prim and proper as the called her but never in her hearing. Did she too have a secret persona, a safe place where she unveiled herself to lovers, released her wild side buried deep beneath the frowning forehead, the pursed lips?
What about Wandering Wayne? Forever rambling about the place, dodging any real work, what exactly was he running from? There was another layer to his name. Were there other hidden levels beneath the ever smiling exterior? at office parties when girls were tiddly and giggly he liked to let his hands wander. Was that really as playful as he claimed when apologising the following day?
From the little she had learned it seemed everyone on the internet was hiding behind a false name.
She had a lot more to learn and looking around some more realised that Shirley was her girl. She was a rare mix of wild and free at times yet sensible enough and definitely capable of keeping a trusted confidence, this she knew from experience. Shirley then it should be, all that was necessary was the right moment and the right mood. Time would deliver both and sure enough in due course it did.
“That’s a strange question,” Shirley replied.
Lorraine ignored any implicit suggestion that her mousey life would never include surfing the net for a partner.
Honesty, or at least partial disclosure, was the best policy, she decided.
“Shirley, I wouldn’t even begin to try to pull the wool over your eyes. I think I just want to try a little harmless online fun, no one need ever know, except you of course. I know I can rely on you to keep anything to yourself.”
Shirley hesitated, slightly, “really? Gosh, I never thought of that, well, ok then. Bit unexpected but still, hey, why not, a girls gotta do and all that?”
“That’s great,” Lorraine felt a sudden rush of renewed enthusiasm, a scheme shared was a scheme made feasible, even in merely sharing.
With Shirley’s help and guidance Lorraine developed what they thought was an interesting profile and more importantly only posted it where they felt it would be safe. They settled on not using a photo, instead Lorraine chose an avatar using the Mona Lisa. The enigmatic expression, the knowing smile and the eyes that followed you everywhere appealed to her.
The same image as an avatar intrigued Peter, whoever this mysterious Laura Byrne was she had caught his eye, even more, she piqued his curiosity and held his attention. His fingers gently, slowly and carefully caressed the keyboard bringing to life the first delicately flowering words of interest.
Now Lorraine could look to forward to time on her own, time to herself. It was fun and she was certain was harmless inconsequential fun. No harm could of this ghostly online imitation of herself.
“Shirley, you’re a genius,” she whispered to the screen as she clicked on yet another message drawn to this other Lorraine, her alter ego Laura.
Paddy was surprised by how easy it seemed, chatting to this unknown woman. It was no bother to share feelings, eventually fears, troubles, hopes, interests with her. It was remarkable how much they had in common. Interacting with the Mona Lisa he was drawn away from all the worries and fears he had about his marriage.
Here was a woman he could be with anytime.
Be with?
Why not, little ideas unchecked and then nourished can grow into big ones and become a source of courage, or was it recklessness? Paddy decided against over analysing as he always did. Impulse, action, time to, move, wasn’t it? The final barriers of hesitance fell away. He was ready. Was she?
There were times she felt more Laura than Lorraine. The freedom to unburden herself to an unseen, unknown man was something she was coming to cherish. One evening, when Paddy was out, again, she was chatting easily online when she laughed aloud. Nothing unusual about that anymore, not during these comforting sessions.
This time the laughter sprang from the oddest of thoughts. Long ago as a young girl approaching what became the turmoil and pitfalls of puberty, she still attended Confession. In the comforting security of the darkness, speaking to the unseen whispered voice behind the wire mesh, she had been able to rid herself of troublesome and disturbing thoughts.
Now the faint light was the glow of the laptop screen and the voice was something to read, aloud if she liked, but otherwise unheard.
The effect was similiar to what she felt as a girl but now as a grown woman, much better. Maybe the time had come to hear the unheard and to meet the unseen, face to face and not on-screen.
It was a beautiful evening, the warm air still lingered from a fine summer’s day. Paddy strolled with a confident air towards the cafe by the canal. he would be early, it was good to relish slowly a turn he felt coming in his life. The red carnation he carried would be on the table and when it was joined by a white the evening would truly begin. Mona Lisa was surely the woman for him.
The white carnation Lorraine had plucked impishly from a neighbour’s garden where she knew it grew twirled in her fingers as she held on to the confidence to turn the final corner to the cafe by the canal.