And reflected in the bathroom mirror, in the late evening twilight, didn’t she know it. She was now officially in her thirties. Jane padded down the stairs, the doorbell ringing just as she reached the bottom. She pulled open the front door.
“Wow, makeup!” Jane’s sister, Mags, gave her a kiss on each cheek on her way inside.
Carol, best friend to both Jane and Mags, did the same. “Wow, a skirt!”
“Okay, what’s going on?” Jane followed them down the hall and into the long, narrow kitchen diner. “You were supposed to be here an hour ago.”
“The traffic was awful.” Carol spread her hands in an apologetic gesture and gave her a little smile.
Mags pounced on a birthday card, lying on the table. “I don’t believe it!” She opened it and read aloud, “Happy Birthday. Must meet for a drink and a chinwag sometime. Best wishes, Tom.” She let the card drop back onto the table. “That waste of space sent you a card.”
“He always sends me a card.” The cards just weren’t signed ‘All my love’ anymore, since their divorce.
“A drink and a chinwag?” Carol scoffed. “Yeah right! As if the ice maiden he ran off with would allow that.”
“Thanks for your cards, by the way.” Jane went to a cupboard, opened it, and took down a jar of instant coffee. “Would you like a coffee?”
Mags shook her head. “No thanks, we’re going to the pub. I’m gasping for a drink.”
“All right.” Jane put the jar of coffee back in the cupboard. “But if you’ve hired a male stripper, or something...”
“A stripper?” Mags feigned outrage. “What do you take me for? No, what I’ve got is even better!”
Jane eyed her sceptically, slipping her feet into her shoes, before going for her bag and coat.
Fifteen minutes later, they were seated at a corner table in the King’s Head raising glasses of champagne.
“Happy birthday!” Mags produced an envelope with a flourish.
Jane opened it, half expecting a voucher for a beauty salon or a health spa or something subtle like that. Instead, she saw a confirmation e-mail.
Dear Ms Hollinger
Thank you for becoming a member of LookingForLove.com…
Her heart plummeted. “A dating agency?” She just managed to keep the dismay out of her voice.
“An online dating agency!” Mags squealed. “There are thousands of men on there just waiting for you! I mean, look at this one here!” She fished a printout from her bag and thrust it at Jane.
It was the details of a man named Bryan, aged 34, six feet tall, brown eyes. Jane’s eyes were drawn to the photograph. She had to admit he wasn’t bad looking in an I’ve-played-one-too-many-rugby-matches type of way. He had a wrinkly forehead and his nose needed a good bit of reconstructive surgery. “He’s probably used a photo of someone else and doesn’t look anything like this in real life,” Jane muttered.
“People who lie about themselves are thrown off the website.” Carol was solemn as she pulled out another sheet of paper. “This is what we’ve said about you.”
“What?” She grabbed the sheet of paper, almost tearing it.
There she was; Jane Hollinger, aged 31, divorced, five feet eight inches tall, blue eyes, brown hair. Likes history, cinema, reading and socializing. Looking for a man aged 30 to 40 for friendship and possibly more.
It could be worse, she supposed, putting it down and taking a sip of champagne. It didn’t make her sound like a complete charity case.
“And you’ve already had some interest,” Mags told her.
“Why didn’t you just auction me off on eBay?”
“Jane, there hasn’t been anyone since Tom!” Carol argued.
“I’ve been busy,” Jane was defensive. “I have to pay a full mortgage now.”
“Okay, fine, we’ll cancel the membership.” Carol began to fold the sheet of paper.
“No, Carol, wait.” She held up her hands apologetically. “It’s just that I thought I was going to be married to Tom forever.” She found a smile from somewhere. “And I’m now in my thirties and single, whether I like it or not. I didn’t mean to sound like such an ungrateful cow. I’m sorry. ”Inwardly she cringed when both women smiled sympathetically.
“I know what we’ll do, ” Mags announced. She sprang out of her chair, startling the woman at the neighbouring table. “We’ll buy a couple of bottles of wine and we’ll go and surf the net, try and find you the man of your dreams.”
“You’re on!” Jane picked up her glass and drained it.