Sunday 31 July 2022

Computer Dating

Digging through some old files marked "work in progress" and I found this story from 2005. I suspect the plan was to polish it a bit more and send it off for publication in some magazine's Coffee Break Fiction section. Having scanned over it, it does indeed need some editing, but here it is anyway.


 E-mails, e-mails, emails. I hate returning to the office after holiday. Hundreds of e-mails clogging my in-box make it even worse. It’s Monday morning and my holiday seems so long ago already.

I’m glad I had the foresight to block my diary before I departed for the golden sands of Corfu. So, I have no meetings today, which means I can take my time looking through my e-mails, putting off the reality of work until tomorrow.

Clutching my mouse like it’s an alien rodent, I click on the first memo and glance over the opening sentence for any relevance. The words are on the screen but I just can’t read them. All I see is a pale reflection on the monitor staring back. Didn’t I have a tan a few minutes ago?

I sigh but no-one rushes over with tickets for the next flight out of here and back to the lazy sun-blessed life I had got used to.

Evidently, I am not ready to deal with even the most basic of tasks, so I decide to search for personal memos and any funnies.

Thinking about the last funny email I got brings a hint of a smile to my lips. It wasn’t so much the content that made me smile, rather who sent it; The office new boy, Adrian. Fresh out of university and a welcome breeze in a stuffy office monopolised by early thirty-something women, like me.

Funny e-mails in the office were unheard of until Adrian joined a couple of months ago. 

It is also nice to have a bit of male eye candy around the place.  Perhaps there are 

some perks to this job after all.

‘I bet you’re missing him already.’

The words disrupted my thoughts. I turn to see my boss, Sandy, perched on the edge of my desk.

‘Who?’ I ask, fearing what the gossip mill has churned out in my absence, ‘Your holiday romance!’

‘Oh.’ Breathing a sigh of relief I say, ‘Mr Non-existent, you mean.’

Sandy is clutching a thick wedge of paper and I realise the small talk is leading to something. 

‘That’s a lot of paper,” I venture. “Not intended for me, I hope.’

Sandy glances at the pile in her hands and back to me, a grimace evident.

‘Afraid so. Sorry to do this to you on your first day back, but I need this collating in a spreadsheet for tomorrow’s board meeting.’

My already deflated spirits sink further and I can’t postpone reality any further.

‘I’ll need to take the team laptop to work on it at home tonight.’

‘That’s fine. Adrian has got it at the moment. You can collect it from him later.’

With any luck Sandy didn’t sense my heart jump at the mention of his name. 

‘I bet he’s using it to find some funnies on the internet,’ I say.

Sandy smiles and walks away, leaving me with a wad of paperwork and 

trying to interpret the meaning behind her smile. Sandy was recently divorced and certainly had a soft spot for Adrian. How else would he get away with searching the net so much at work!

I get home and all I want to do is curl up and fall asleep, but the pile of paperwork is too big to ignore.

“Oh well,” I announce as I heave the laptop on to my desk, “let’s get started.”

The task is easier than I let on to Sandy because I’ve done it many times before, and it’s finished in half an hour. 

After saving the file I decide to see what other files are on the laptop. Noticing a folder called “Adrian’s Stuff” curiosity gets the better of me and I open it. 

The screen displays a dozen files and I suspect I have found the latest batch of funny e-mails. I can’t help treating myself to a sneak peak at one or two, so I check through the names to see what takes my fancy. My eyes freeze on a file curiously titled “Jan, you must see this.”

Taken aback, I start to contemplate all names similar to my own: Jane; Jen; June? John?

Despite my apprehension I click on the file, and after a long pause the file opens. Nothing. Well, nothing except for a single line of text that I recognise to be a link to an internet page. Though I don’t know what I hoped it would be, I’m disappointed. A voice in my head stops me rolling the cursor towards the exit button, telling me to click on the link otherwise it will bug me forever if I don’t. The voice is right; I’m easily antagonised by such things. 

Nerves flood my stomach as the laptop starts connecting to the internet and negative thoughts start to swirl around my mind. What if it’s a computer virus; or an internet scam; maybe Adrian is trying to steal my identity. Or worse still, he could’ve obtained some embarrassing pictures of me. 

That’s it. He’s got hold of the one of me in a belly dancing costume. What was I thinking? I’ll never live it down, and Adrian is making sure of that.

On the internet page in front of me a message pops up to tell me I have downloaded some software. Great. Now I’m really in trouble at work if it turns out to be something seedy.

An egg-timer rotates in front of my eyes. I blink to focus because I have been 

staring at the screen intently.

I’m almost squinting by the time the spinning egg-timer stops. In an instant it is replaced by a video; a large bed occupies the screen but there is no-one there. 

Despite my predicament I can’t help thinking the owner of the bed needed lessons in folding sheets.  Didn’t his mother ever…. his mother? How could I tell it was a he? But I knew. It was Adrian.

What am I to do? I’m looking at the bed of a young man about 10 years younger than me via an internet link he may or may have intended me to find.

I hear myself call softy, ‘Adrian.’

He probably won’t hear that but I haven’t the courage to call any louder.

‘Jan? Is that you?’

The speaker resonates with his voice and he sounds so close to me, yet he’s not even on the screen. Correct that. He’s walking in wearing a headset.

‘Y…yes,’ my voice falters at first as I fumble for words. ‘You’re a sight for sore eyes.’

Jesus. That sounded full on. I meant because of eye strain, and perhaps the fear of viruses and fake smutty Britney Spears downloads. 

‘I could say the same, but I can’t see you.’

Adrian is now sat down on the edge of his bed and I remember the glass of 

wine in my hand. A large swig hits my taste buds and reminds me why wine is for sipping.

‘So, what do you want to see?’ Adrian asks.

He is always so confident, but right now he looks more nervous than I feel.

 His words sink in and my interpretation of them makes me feel even more nervous.


‘What do you want to see?’ he repeats.

‘Erm… I’m not that kind of girl.’ 

Yes I am! The voice deep inside returns, bursts from my mouth and shrieks, ‘take off your shirt.’

Adrian seems taken aback by my blurted request. I doubt he’s ever read 

Bridgette Jones. 

Adrian clears his throat; ‘I was asking you out to see a movie.’

My cheeks flush and I’m glad he can’t see me right now. But perhaps he can sense my acute embarrassment and a wry smile curls the corners of his lips.

To my surprise (and delight!) Adrian removes his shirt anyway.

Tossing it aside he asks, ‘do you want a sneak preview?’

I realise I haven’t said yes to going out, but I’m enjoying the performance so far!

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