New Year, New Me

No copyright infringement intended. Twilight is the property of Stephenie Meyer. I'm just playing with her characters for some fun.

o0o

Chapter 1

I am sobbing. Literally, bawling my heart out. My chest hurts and my face is wet with tears and feels swollen. I'm finding it difficult to breathe.

I have made a mistake. I knew this would end badly, but I did it anyway. Isabella Swan; the masochist. I have just finished reading Me Before You. I knew it would end badly, but this ending threw me sideways and kicked me in the stomach. The climax came around so quickly, and not in the way I expected, so I found myself in a state of shock. It was awful. It was brilliant.

Yes, I am that distraught over a work of fiction. I am so consumed by it that I carry it with me for a couple of days, thinking about it, playing on my mind even as I sleep. Two days later the notion properly hits me – what the actual fuck? Why the hell am I so emotional about a book? Will Traynor, the male lead, was certainly right about something – you only get one life and it's your duty to live it as fully as possible.

Now, don't get me wrong, I have a pretty good life. I have a loving family, friends, interesting vacations, and a decent job. I have my health and I love my apartment. But there is one obvious gap – a man. I have been single forever. I like being single; I like my own space and my peace of mind. Some sex would definitely be nice though, and filling that gap with fictional heroes isn't going to get me anywhere. I won't find my Jamie Fraser if I never put myself out there. Yes, I am an Outlander fan.

I haven't dated in a long time. I'm not sure why; I'm not bad looking, and I take care of myself. I'm a confident sort, but I guess I've been shy when it comes to men. I have 'no' programmed as my default position when I get asked out, which isn't all that often. I always thought that I'd meet someone without trying, that I'd happen upon 'the one' in the normal course of my life, but that hasn't happened. Things don't usually – without effort. As I've gotten older, with the big three-oh on the horizon this year, I've found it more difficult to meet new people. Even more difficult to meet new, interesting, and good looking people.

My friend Alice met her boyfriend online. She thinks online dating is replacing the old ways of meeting people. We've talked about it a lot, and I've thought about trying it out someday. Maybe today is the day. It would be a good way to meet new people. Even if it's just a date, it's a lot more excitement than I've had in a while. What harm would it do?

I get out my cell and do some Googling. According to a blog I've found on the best US dating sites, eHarmony is the best. But it sounds pretty intense. The blog says, "It is worth paying for a good subscription on eHarmony to have the highest level of functionality. Remember, your dating life, just like your career, is an investment that will pay off in the end with enough patience and diligence." Nope! I think.

I scroll down and the next best is Match, a "heavyweight that's been around a while and has good functionality" apparently. I have a look at their site. It's interesting, but annoyingly you can't read that much about how it works before you sign up. I like their tag line, #loveyourimperfections; I can buy into that. Imperfections are character after all. I vaguely remember a Saturday Night Live spoof and head to You Tube to check it out. I find a video with Kate McKinnon as Martha Stewart and have a good laugh. Stop procrastinating, I tell myself.

There is free sign up so I've nothing to lose. I download the app. I go through the usual process, making a profile. I start with photos. I think it will be easy because I haven't long returned from a vacation so will have plenty of photos to choose from, but it turns out when you look at your vacation pics from a perspective of wanting to please a prospective date, you become quite a bit pickier. I select a few, trying to get some different angles and some tongue-in-cheek ones, to show them I have a sense of humor. My favorite is me sitting in the mouth of an alligator statue when I went to the swamp in New Orleans. It looks like he's eating my butt.

What am I going to say for my profile? This feels like a lot of pressure. More pressure than that report I have to complete for work. There, I know who I am, and what I want, and usually how to get it. This is uncharted territory. How do I sell myself as a good date? Do I even want to sell myself?

I research a little more and take a look at some profiles. I wish I could see the profiles of other girls. There are some hot men on here to be fair. The smaller stuff is easier, especially when they're asking a question. So I start there and answer the drop down questions.

Children: None.

Do I want children? This sucks; the only answers I can select are definitely, maybe, and no. I do definitely want kids, but I'm not ready for that now. I'm looking for a drink, maybe a dinner date. Saying I want kids here might read the wrong way. I go for maybe, but I am dissatisfied, because it's just not true.

Relationship Status: Never married.

Smoking: No, smoke is a problem.

Ethnicity: White/caucasian.

Education: Bachelor's degree.

Imperfection: I'm sure there are many, but which best suits me? The list is long, some things inane, and some deeper. I guess being stubborn is the one that best describes me. I'm not pig-headed, but I am tenacious.

I think marriage is…: Tricky, like the 'do I want children' question, options are limited again. I go for not necessary. I am conflicted about marriage. Part of me is still the little girl who wants to dress up in a white dress; another is a grown woman in the modern world, and I'm not sure how relevant marriage is in today's society. My dad divorced my birth mom, Renee, when I was a baby. They didn't work out, for a number of reasons. My dad told me once that a part of him still loved her, and I saw his eyes glaze over like he was lost for a moment – my taciturn and stoic father, emotional in our little kitchen back in Forks. I guess the moment stuck with me. Then again, when you get it right, marriage can be great. My dad married Sue when I was little. I don't really remember her not being there. I call her mom too.

How do you feel about meeting someone new? Let's see what happens.

Body Type: Slim.

Appearance: I was wrong; this is so hard! Attractive, I select. Cringe. But I'll just look needy if I say I'm not, and whom will that attract? Why do I have to answer this question anyway? They can make up their own minds from my photos.

Eyes: Phew, some easy ones, brown.

Hair Length: Long.

Hair Color: Brown.

Height: 5'5.

Romance: I have to say romantic with my Goodreads lists, I feel.

Personality: Hm, confident, usually.

Diet: I eat everything.

My Style: Classical.

I Live: Alone.

Nationality: US National.

Languages: English.

My Pets: No. Though I dearly wish I could have a dog. I love them, but I'm out all day at work, and it wouldn't be fair.

Occupation: Management.

Income: OMG, they really ask this? I select I would rather not say.

Religion: Christian.

Practicing Religion: Non-practicing.

That part is done at least. Wait, I have a message already. And another!

John has sent you a message: Hi you, how are you finding match? John

He's not bad looking, not good looking either, if I'm being candid. He's in Seattle and is 39, a little high on the age range for me, but I don't want to be small-minded.

Hi John, I have no idea what I'm doing to be honest. Have just this minute signed up. Any tips? Bella

For some reason it won't let me open the other message. I try a couple of times before I notice the banner telling me I have to sign up to have full access. My curiosity is peaked, and they have me hook, line, and sinker. Luckily, there is a half price offer, only $10.49 a month if I sign up for six months. It seems like a long time, but I don't think it is in the world of dating, so I use my and subscribe.

Jay has sent you a message: Hi Bella, what's your favorite film?

My cell rings and takes me by surprise.

"Hi Alice!" I answer the call.

"Bella, what you up to Friday? We're heading to that new restaurant on the waterfront, you in?"

"Yeah, count me in. What is it again?"

"An Italian place, called Bella Italia!" Alice laughs.

"Oh God," I whine. "I guess I have to try it then! I'm hoping to finish work at five if you want to meet from work, get a drink?"

"Let me check" she says. "I don't have any meetings so can probably swing it for around 5. I'll come to you."

"Great. Alice, you'll never guess what I'm in the middle of doing."

"What? Do I actually have to guess?" she asks but doesn't give me time to answer. "Erm, cooking that chicken stew I love? No wait, reading that damn book again? Seriously Bella, it's no good for you. But you're not crying, so maybe not…"

"None of the above, I have just signed up to Match"

"No. Way! Seriously?" She sounds likes she is bouncing, which from past experience she probably is. "What brought this on?"

"I don't know," I say, side-stepping the question. "It just feels like it might be the right time. You know, meet some new people, have some fun."

"Are we talking sexy-time fun?"

"Maybe, I could do with it."

"I know. Bella, I love you dearly but girl, you need to get laid."

"I got two messages already."

"What did they say? Are they hot?"

I briefly give her the run down.

"Don't respond!" she says as if I've done something hideously wrong. "You can't go responding to everyone who messages you. Look at their profile and their photos, and if you don't like them, don't reply."

"That's a little brutal, don't you think?"

"Dating is brutal. There's no point wasting your time, or his, if you're not interested."

"I guess you're right," I concede. "It just feels a little rude."

"Be bold. You're a catch. Hold out. I'm just glad you're dipping your toe. I think it could be fun. Just remember the rules, public place, only a drink or a coffee for the first date – you don't want to be lumbered with a whole meal if you don't like him."

"I know how to be safe, Alice."

"I know you do."

"Good pointer on the drinks, though. Any other pearls of wisdom?" I ask.

"Go with your gut. When it's right, you'll know." She's speaking from experience. She met Jasper a year ago through online dating. I've never liked the saying that someone is your 'other half.' I have always considered myself whole rather than half, but when I look at Alice and Jasper, I get it.

"Okay, see you Friday," I say.

"Wait, before you go. Have you thought about Jake?"

Now that is a question. "Not in detail."

"He's coming Friday. Might be the time to slip it in?"

"Yeah," I reply glibly. "Wait, he's free on a Friday night?" Jake works as a waiter, so is usually working at the weekend.

"Yeah, January is a pretty quiet time. He's got the weekend off."

"Makes sense."

"Don't worry about it, it will be fine. I'll lighten the mood if he gets grumpy," Alice consoles. "See you Friday."

Author's Note

Thank you for reading. This is my first time writing a full story, so I would really like to hear what you think of it. I would like to learn from this process so welcome all comments.

Huge thanks to Songster for betaing, particularly for sorting out my punctuation. Thanks to Rhona for pre-reading, and the Twits for encouraging me to write again, you know who you are.

Rhian xx