By morning, a cheerful little ding alerted Michelle to a new message on her laptop. She wandered into the kitchen where it sat charging, expecting a Facebook message or perhaps an important email from work. What she found instead was a little love heart notification indicating a message on that new dating website.
Michelle's heart skipped as she pulled out a chair, a soft smile gracing her face as she tugged the laptop closer. She hadn't expected a message so early - nor did she expect the little thrill that shot through her as she brought up the web page.
When she recognised the photo icon she grinned, feeling a little like a teenager with her first crush. No, scratch that, she had never been particularly interested in dating as a teen, not when she was so focused on school and a possible career. She still wasn't entirely convinced, but she had to admit seeing his icon pop up made her smile.
The message was simple but sweet, saying Hi Michelle. I see that you're a bit of a foodie. I don't want to sound presumptuous, but how about we meet up for dinner one night this week?
Another message below, the words rushed and somehow nervous even though they were just simple text on a screen. Feel free to say no, of course, but if you're interested, you said you enjoy Japanese food. How about it?
Her nimble fingers tapped against the table. Michelle didn't know how many times she read, and then re-read, his message - but each time it brought a smile to her face. She didn't know the man, but wasn't that the point of online dating sites? Pursing her lips, she considered the options.
Option one. Shaun turned out to be a disappointment, and she wasted an evening instead of using it for something productive, like work or seeing friends. Option two. Shaun turned out to be great, she had fun, and had good news to relay back to Andrew. Well, Michelle had never been a risk taker, but there was a first time for everything.
She replied simply, suggesting a time and place, trying to appear kind yet not overeager. Michelle's entire life, from her job to her personal life, revolved around talking to people. She loved it. No one had warned her it became a hundred times more difficult when a date was involved.
When her phone rang, buzzing inside of her jeans pocket, Michelle almost flew from her seat. The caller ID showed her sister, Julie, she sighed. "Hello?"
"Michelle! Andrew was just telling me you've signed up for online dating. That's great. Any luck finding a man yet?"
Rolling her eyes, Michelle tried not to let the irritation twist her stomach. Her beloved sister, always poking her nose in. "It's been less than a day, so no."
"But you've at least messaged someone, right? Come on, let me be excited!" Michelle could practically see her excitement, envisioning her bouncing around the living room like a child. "My older sister is finally in the dating game. It's about time."
Over the years, she had learned not to let it get to her. After all, Julie had been going on and on since she was in her twenties. So, with a long suffering sigh she answered, "I've messaged someone, but don't go getting ideas. I'm just curious."
"Well," Julie replied, heavy with disappointment that Michelle studiously ignored, "it's a start, I suppose."
Michelle didn't understand why Julie couldn't process the idea of someone being happy and single. Different people wanted different things she supposed. Julie had wanted love and marriage since she was old enough to know what it was. Michelle had always wanted a perfect balance between a good career and invigorating social life. Romance had never entered the equation.
"So," Julie continued, her smile evident even through the phone, "what's he like, this man?"
Before Michelle could answer - not that she wanted to - her laptop dinged with that little heart notification. Her heart fluttered, but she ignored the warm feeling in her chest. "Julie, I-"
"Is that him? Is he messaging you right now?" Julie's voice pitched, and with a grimace Michelle removed the phone from her ear. "I'll let you get back to him. Tell me how it goes!"
With that, the line went dead. Michelle couldn't say she was complaining about it. Laying the phone on the kitchen table, she opened up her messages with a smile.
Seven o'clock on Sunday sounds great. I'll see you there. And then immediately underneath, I can't wait.
Over enthusiastic? Perhaps Shaun was. Yet she couldn't dent the snort of laughter threatening to rise, or the twitch of a smile at the corner of her lips. At the very least he seemed nice. Genuine, which was something she welcomed. She hoped he was as genuine in person, and that they didn't disappoint each other.
She sat there for a moment contemplating her reply, trying to channel Andrew's carefree attitude or Julie's enthusiasm. In the end she simply channelled herself, for better or for worse, and sent him something simple.
Looking forward to it. See you then!
After a moment of hesitation she added a smiley face - and then, feeling oddly brave, a love heart too.
Less than a second later another reply popped up. It was just two red hearts, and a single kiss.
Michelle grinned, a small laugh escaping her. Perhaps, if all went well, this could turn out to be a great Christmas.