“Dana, the kids are in bed,” Jeff muttered before he turned his back on her and made his way downstairs to his office, his “man town” as he liked to call it, to spend the remainder of the night on his computer.
She sighed as he walked away. This was the way it was now, the way it had been for a long time. His computer and video games were his world. He took no pleasure in anything else, including her. A few years ago that really bothered her, but not now.
After a long moment she opened her laptop back up and typed in her password. The video she was watching when she heard her husband’s approach was still there, paused. She clicked the play button and smiled. Edward Pierce’s late night interview began playing once again. She watched this video ten times today. She couldn’t help herself.
It wasn’t that she was in love with or even obsessed with this actor. There was just something about him that she found very comforting. He was handsome, funny, polite and most importantly laid back, something she used to be once upon a time.
She bit her lip to hold back a soft sob. Damn, things had changed so fast. It seemed like only yesterday she was level headed, confident and happy. Those memories felt wrong, like she was thinking about someone else's life. It wasn’t her. At least it hadn’t been for eight years now, not since she met Jeff.
Back then she had been a kid, a twenty-one year old kid if there was such a thing. Life was good back then. She remembered the year of freedom that seemed like such a treasure back then. It was the year all her dreams were becoming a reality. She finally rid herself of a boyfriend, well she never really considered him a boyfriend. They had been friends since high school and out of loneliness and boredom they decided to say they were dating. She couldn’t recall kissing him more than twice in the entire year they dated. It felt like kissing her brother. He was sweet, too young and boring in a nice way.
It was clearly one of the biggest mistakes of her life to allow that relationship, well, the illusion of that relationship. She remembered hiding behind it like she always did, too afraid to go after any real attraction. The story of her life, crush on a great guy and settle for a safe guy who couldn’t possibly break her heart. There'd been two great guys she fell for that year. Unfortunately, she worked with both of them on and off. Dating Henry was her excuse to turn down their advances. God, she’d been stupid.
Henry was predictable and boring. He was a nice guy, but not for her. He was also inexperienced when it came to women. His ideal date was a trip to the mall; every single date for a year. Dana knew it was a mistake to allow it. There was no chance the relationship was going to be physical she made sure of that. She lied to Henry telling him she was a virgin and wanted to remain that way until marriage. It hadn’t been a ploy to make him rush out and buy a ring. The lie was the only thing she could think of to make sure he didn’t expect anything, and clearly he hadn’t. It would have killed her to hurt such a nice guy.
Hurting him was unavoidable. For the entire year she sought out advice to get rid of the guy, make him dump her. At the time the advice sounded reasonable. Then again she was only twenty-one and didn’t have much experience in driving off guys she cared about. Usually a break was simple. She talked to the guy, feelings were hurt, but it was always a clean break.
It had been a long and boring year with Henry. The advice was driving her nuts. The worse of it, the one she actually thought was going to work, was calling Henry every day at exactly seven o’clock at night. It was beyond old and boring and it didn't work. Thankfully she had a cell phone so she wasn’t stuck at her father’s house waiting to call him. Not that he knew she left the house. She never told him anything. She didn’t have a car, but had a good paying job so she could hire a taxi, take the train or call up one of her many friends Henry didn’t know about.
As the year mark approached it was becoming too much for her. She had a game plan. She invited him over for dinner, but she didn’t plan anything for dinner. It was not going that far. When Henry came over she was going to take him outside for a walk and end it, lay everything on the table for him. Tell him about the tips she received from
Thankfully Henry came to his senses at the same time. When Dana received the phone call she had to muffle her relieved sigh. He was a nice guy and she didn’t want to hurt him by sounding relieved when he told her he wasn’t in love with her. She was practically beaming with the news. That was until he filled the conversation with drama. He claimed she was head over heels in love with him and he couldn’t return the feelings. When she informed him that she wasn’t and that she had been trying to spare his feelings all these months he scoffed as if that was impossible. She was in love with him. He actually said so.
She ended the conversation on what she thought was a friendly note, but there was no mistaken the relief in her voice. After she hung up there was denying she was pissed at his attitude and the way he ended things. At least she was going to do it in person. Her temper escalated days later when she talked to him again asking if he wanted to help with a charity for their favorite history teacher from high school that had passed away the year before. His widow called Dana moments before begging her to call Henry and ask for his help. She reluctantly agreed to make the call. When he used a tone with her that she'd never heard from him before something in her snapped. He really thought she was in love with him, obsessively.
She couldn’t stop herself. She sent him an e-mail telling him how much she didn’t love him. She told him everything she did in the last year to get away from him, how she never felt a moment of attraction for him and he wasn’t even a good friend. It was harsh and probably some of it uncalled for even if it was true, but that didn't mean she should have written it. She regretted the way she did it, but the results were a relief. He was out of her life for good.
After a year of boredom and illness thanks to a patient she’d transported that year she was ready to start dating again. Thanks to the illness she caught because a nurse failed to inform Dana and her partner of the day of the patient's health precautions, she’d walked into a patient’s room and caught a lovely airborne virus.
It was only after a doctor came running down the hall waving his hands frantically in the air for her to leave the room had she realized the mistake. The nurse was suspended with pay, not much of a punishment if they asked her, and Dana was left with a painful illness that required multiple shots and took most of the “boring” year as she liked to refer to it just to heal. She missed a great deal of work and college thanks to the illness as well as lost fifty pounds.
The new year, her new life of freedom started off poorly. She lost her job with the top ambulance company in the state and ended up working in another field outside of emergency medicine. She was also kicked out of college when her GPA dropped. She went from being an honors student with a triple major in biochemistry, history and biology with a real possibility at either law school, med school or a promising career in forensic science to working in a pizza joint until she got her act together.
That was a strange period. Her professional career was gone. She was kicked out of school and she had no real focus. Things began coming together slowly. She finally bought a car, she was in a management position that she had no plans of exploring and she had more men actively pursuing her than ever before.
Except this had been different, they were men not boys. She felt overwhelmed and awkward at the same time. Although she wasn’t a virgin she was still extremely inexperienced when it came to the opposite sex.
She had men at work pursuing her, customers, co-workers and even ex-co-workers. It was overwhelming. She decided to focus on work and try figuring things out. A pizza joint wasn’t her future. She knew that much at least. She worked during the day and at night she used the internet to search for answers.
It was the internet that changed her life. She was lonely. Her friends were all in relationships or she was avoiding them because she was too embarrassed with her current career choice. The internet seemed like a safe way of making friends, well on-line friends. She had no plans on meeting any of them in person.