This story is by Tom Housden and was part of our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Jack Hatfield couldn’t stop thinking about her. She had him tingling with excitement. They chatted all day, and she promised to meet with him. When? He didn’t know, but he hoped that it would be soon. The attention she gave him made him feel good, unlike any other girl he met. They had built up a great dialogue between them. It was an online friendship so full of hope that they both looked forward to the next time they had a conversation.
Her name was Lucy. She was the kind of girl he could easily talk for ages, as if she was sitting next to him. Their relationship, if you can call it that, was at an early stage – they had only been chatting for about a week – but Jack felt like he knew her quite well already and that they had a connection, albeit a virtual one.
He took another look at her profile picture. She was stunning. She had blue eyes and blond wavy hair with coloured streaks that came down to her shoulders. He loved women with blue eyes, the sort of shade of blue that you could look into and fall in love with. Coloured streaks seemed, to him anyway, that she was a bit of a rebel. Lucy in the sky with streaks – no, definitely not the same as diamonds! The line of another song came to mind – she was a rebel and a stunner. He was a bit of a rebel in his own way, so that was another thing they had in common.
She described herself as of average build but quite curvaceous, and she had beautiful shoulders. He had a thing about shoulders, he didn’t know why, but it was one of the features of a woman that he liked.
In her profile picture, she didn’t wear a ring. He wondered if she was single. What would be the point of coming into a singles chatroom if she wasn’t exactly that? He may have to find a subtle way to bring the subject into one of their conversations.
They had built up a good rapport with each other. They talked about what seemed like anything and everything – what they had done that day, their respective hobbies and interests, their studies and careers, music, television, the list goes on. Jack felt so comfortable with her he felt he could chat with her forever, just like two friends in a pub.
He needed sleep. It was getting late, and he was gradually falling asleep at his computer. He looked at the time. It was almost midnight!
The words his mum used to say came into his mind:
‘Nothing good can come of sitting at a computer day after day. You’ll get square eyes.’ Generous advice he should have heeded. Why do they make these chatrooms so addictive?
As he finally fell asleep, the words that Lucy said to Jack at the end of their first chat echoed through his mind:
“This was really fun for me, Jack, and I am dying to meet you.”
Even though the words she said filled him with hope, he couldn’t help but notice that she ended their conversation rather abruptly. Had he done or said something wrong? Lots of questions were going through his head.
His alarm clock woke him at 7am. He should have turned it off, as he had the whole day to himself. He nodded off, back to sleep again, and didn’t wake until 9am. I must have needed it, he said to himself out loud.
After dressing and eating, he turned the computer on and logged on to the chatroom. That was when his heart sunk. He scanned down the list of usernames at the side of the screen. Leanne, Lizzi, Lulabell, no Lucy though.
He wasted an hour playing Solitaire, checking to see what his Facebook friends were doing, casually glancing at what his Twitter followers were posting and playing some other games he had installed on the computer. All the while, he was keeping the chat window open to see if she was there. There was still no sign of her. He wondered where she had gone. She can’t just disappear off the face of the earth! Maybe she hadn’t developed an unhealthy obsession like Jack had.
For the first time, he doubted himself. He couldn’t stop thinking. Was she even real or was ‘she’ just a chatbot? If so, what was the point of a robot striking up a conversation? If she wasn’t real, she couldn’t have been in university and doing all the things she told Jack about. There were too many scenarios that could present themselves in situations like this.
Even though he knew he was probably being stupid because he hadn’t met the girl, a wave of emotion swept over him and he felt a sense of despair and sadness. He couldn’t quite put a finger on why he felt this way. Maybe he’d chatted to her for so long, he’d lost all sense of the real world. It was only a chatroom. Had he blurred the boundaries between the virtual world and the real one? He told himself that anyone could adopt a different persona than their own online, a bit like their own invisibility cloak. Had he wanted her to be real? With the description she gave him, you bet he did!
He kept on glancing back at that chat tab, but no luck. Was she genuine, or did she hide behind her cloak? He was really hoping that wasn’t true.
A couple of days passed. Still nothing. He was getting more and more depressed every day. He knew there was more to life than waiting for someone (or something?!) to come online.
Maybe she was nervous about meeting him again. Did she have a mystery illness that he didn’t know about?
Just as Jack was about to question what he was doing with his life, she was back! It was her, Lucy. He wanted to have a go at her for not telling him why she disappeared, just like that. However, he didn’t, because that would have sounded stupid. Maybe she would tell him in time.
A few conversations later and the topic still hadn’t come up. Jack decided to ask her why she had vanished.
‘Jack, I… I am sorry. I have something to tell you. The truth is… I have a disability, a few actually. Cerebral Palsy and Scoliosis.’
She was prepared to be rejected, like she had been countless times before.
‘Thankyou for telling me, but it doesn’t change your personality. I still plan to meet you.’ Jack replied.
‘I’m looking forward to our first date,’ they both said in unison.