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A Learning Experience Part 1


She stared pensively at the bright screen before her. Was she ready for this kind of commitment? Uncertainty creased between her ocean-blue eyes. Renee Brown leaned against the arm of the sand leather couch; her legs curled underneath her. A small, orange pillow nestled against her legs under her black and silver laptop. She poised her fingers over the keys, hesitated, then gently grasped the glass of water on the end table. Her mind raced as she took a sip of the icy liquid. She was not sure yet if she was willing to spend 150 dollars on something that was so uncertain of working out. Her fingers twisted the ends of her dirty blonde hair. Is it worth it?

A week earlier, her mom and her sister, Carol, had brought up a silly idea. Renee was single, happy, and fulfilled in her life. She liked being single. It gave her freedom. She was open to a new relationship, but she wasn’t looking for it either. So, she wasn’t opposed to this idea, though it was kind of silly. Carol placed the laptop on the circular tempered-glass table and pulled out one of the cushioned chocolate brown chairs.

“Here, let’s have some fun.” Her sister pulled up a website as their mom approached the table. Renee felt her cheeks heat up as she slid into the chair. Her lips turned up in a lopsided grin as Carol and Mama pulled up chairs on either side of Renee. She glanced at the screen in front of her. Carol had pulled up an online dating site, called Christian Courtship.

“We can laugh at the goofy guys and peruse the good-looking ones.” Renee’s mom winked at her. It was just for fun, after all. She returned her attention to her sister’s laptop screen and scrolled through the main webpage.

“This says that I have to create an account to see the guys on here.” Renee hesitated. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea. Usually sites like this had to be paid for. What’s the point of paying for something that’s just for fun? Carol slid the mouse out from under Renee’s palm. After scrolling over the page again, her sister pointed out a line on the screen under the sign-up information.

“Look here.” She leaned closer to Renee, “It says that making a profile is free.” The small words did indeed say that. Renee took the mouse back and filled in her personal information, but then hesitated again when she reached the box for the username that would show on her profile for others to read.

“What should I use for this?” Renee glanced at her mom. Usually she had good ideas for such things.

“I suppose you could use PianoGirl218.” Mama leaned against the table. That username made sense. She would certainly remember it. She had always loved playing the piano and the last three digits were her birth date, February 18th. She typed it in the space and then filled in the rest of the information.

The laptop screen filled with several images of men within the area. There were hundreds of them! Right near the top, was a man with dark hair and a short goatee. The man’s username was Peter24. Renee clicked on the picture and the guy’s profile filled the screen.

“He’s the right age; 30.” Carol grinned.

“And he’s tall enough.” Mama gestured to the height description; five foot and eleven inches. “That’s as tall as your dad.”

“Okay, moving on now.” Renee clicked off the man’s profile and returned to the list of photos. Men of various ages, heights, and visages were all suggested according to the preferences she had set. She scrolled a little way down the page.

“HAHA!” Carol pointed at a picture of a young man on the right side of the screen. His black hair hung down past his shoulders, shimmering as the grease glinted in the lighting. His shirt looked filthy and could barely even be called a shirt as it raggedly hung on the guy’s bulky frame. Renee chuckled.

“I suppose someone would be interested in him.” She grinned. “He’s too young for me and I wouldn’t be able to live with someone that messy.”

“Yeah.” Her mom smiled.

“Let’s see who else there is.” Carol pointed out more pictures that looked interesting. There were several good-looking men. As they continued perusing the long list of potential matches, Renee wondered what it would be like to start dating again. She hadn’t dated since her senior year of college. That was nearly a year and a half ago. It would be fun, probably.

“Oh, hey, look at this one.” Carol pointed out a young man down at the bottom of the screen. He was built stocky, but he was not overweight. His face wasn’t devastatingly handsome, but it was very pleasant looking, with short brown hair and gentle green eyes. Renee clicked on the picture. His occupation was obvious by his username: ComputerScience28.

“He looks really nice.” Mama pointed out his likes that were on his profile, as well as his average height and young age. “He’s 32.” Renee smiled and then clicked back to the list page again.

Several moments later, as they were laughing at another silly looking one, the door to the garage opened and a tall, dark haired young man ambled into the kitchen. He pulled opened the fridge, grabbed an organic lemonade, and meandered over to the table.

“What is that you are looking at?” George twisted his face into a mock grimace. His eyes glinted with humor.

“We’re perusing Christian Courtship to find a boyfriend for me.” Renee teased. Her brother pulled back with a shocked look on his face, and then grinned.

“You guys are nuts!” Her brother rolled his eyes and then left the room. Two more men, one older, one younger, walked in through the door. Mama glanced at her watch.

“Well, it’s getting late. Now that your dad and two working brothers are home, I should start getting dinner ready.” She pushed her chair back and approached the kitchen. “It’ll have to be a fast supper since we have Bible study tonight.”

“I’ll go tell Bobby he needs to start getting ready.” Jay headed up the carpeted stairs towards her brothers’ bedrooms. Bobby was a young teenager and attended the Christian high-school nearby. Her other two brothers worked in offices near her father’s work offices.

“I just saw, through the dining room window, Edward pull up out front.” Carol Smith stood from the table as well. “I’m gonna go grab Anne from her nap.” The athletic woman strode through the open living area to Mama and Dad’s bedroom.

Renee directed Cinnamon in a figure-eight pattern around the cones set up in her family’s large, indoor arena. Her horse was getting a lot better with the natural horsemanship she was learning online. These new exercises were developing his abilities as well as her own. Too bad she was only able to work on them on Saturdays. She currently worked at a public horse-riding stable in the area. There probably wouldn’t be a lot of guys that would be good with her mild obsession with horses. Maybe she would meet a new horse person someday. Renee was always open to making new friends, especially if they loved horses as much as she did. She let her thoughts roam to the website she, her mom, and sister had explored a few days ago. What would it be like to date online? It could be dangerous. Yet she couldn’t help being curious. It would be interesting getting to know new people. Maybe there would be a horse person on the site. That seemed a little far-fetched, though.

The bay quarter-horse came to a stop next to Renee as she asked him towards her, the twenty-foot rope attached to Cinnamon’s halter pooling at her feet. She stroked his soft neck. She was going to try riding the figure-eight pattern this afternoon. He had learned it well already just on a line. After checking the cinch, she placed her foot in the stirrup and gently pulled herself up into the saddle. Gathering her reins, she used her legs and the leather in her hands to direct Cinnamon around the cones at a slow pace. Once she was sure he had it down, she picked up the pace to a trot.

The stars twinkled high in the clear sky. Dressed in her lightweight sweats and a t-shirt, Renee pulled up Christian Courtship on her laptop. It was time to close out her account. There was no point in keeping it. The little project had just been for fun. Pooh Bear, her champagne-colored chihuahua curled up next to her on the fuzzy blanket covering her bed. She stroked his smooth coat. The small dog snuggled closer. She had rescued him from the shelter a few months earlier. The officer had informed her that he had come from a rough background. The happy animal no longer was recognizable as the shivering, scared little lump in the back of that kennel. Renee returned her attention to the screen in front of her. A notification popped up in the left-hand corner. She had two messages in her IM folder. Curious, she clicked on the first one. The ComputerScience28 guy she had looked at had sent a message saying, Hi, I’d like to get to know you. The second one was from the sleazy-looking guy. Ew! She switched back to the message from the first guy. Huh. This seemed interesting. Why am I hesitating? Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to keep the profile a little bit longer. She typed out a reply: Hello, I’d like to get to know you too. Her fingers hovered over the keys for just a second, and then hit ENTER. Now she had done it. Raking her fingers through her hair, she drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. She was actually going to keep her profile on this dating site. Well, at least for now. Renee set her laptop on the bed and slung her bare feet to the floor. Maybe this would turn into something. Maybe it wouldn’t. At this point, it was just a trial thing. She stood in her walk-in closet. She wondered if the guy was going to reply to her. Of course, he is. He messaged me first, silly. Thoughts of what he was possibly going to say ran through her mind, but she dismissed them all. She didn’t know him, so how was she to know what he might say. Her eyes refocused on what was in front of her. She had to choose what to wear to church the next day.

Renee ran a brush gently through her wet hair. She glanced at her laptop. The last two days, she had conversed with ComputerScience28. He was living in a town about three hours south of where she lived in Fremont, Michigan. He had never been married before and had two siblings. Renee wondered if he was worth talking to much longer, though. She grabbed her laptop off her nightstand and headed upstairs to the living area. As she settled against the cushions, her mom walked into the room.

“What are you doing there?” She inquired. Renee turned her laptop so Mama could see her screen.

“I went to delete my account the other day and I had some messages.” The young woman shrugged sheepishly.

“I had wondered why you were so engrossed in your computer yesterday afternoon after we got home from church.” Mama smiled at Renee. “Just, be really careful, okay?”

“I will, I promise, Mama.” Renee gave her best assuring smile. She turned her attention back to the screen and opened her messages folder. ComputerScience28 had sent her another message. She grinned to herself and typed out a reply.

“What are you smirking about?” Dad walked into the room, surprising Renee.

“She’s been talking to guys online.” Mama winked at her. Renee’s blush deepened. She felt very awkward with this conversation. Earlier, she had been so adamant about not dating online. She was just prime for teasing now since she was now talking to guys online on a dating site. She was a little bit surprised herself. She glanced back at her screen and typed out another reply to ComputerScience28. Perhaps it wasn’t what she thought she would like, but she was enjoying it so far.

Two days later, she sat curled on the couch, in the spot she had been occupying for instant messaging on the site. Renee had received a new message, but it was blocked. She was only able to read and reply to some of the messages she received because she only had the limited free account. She had already received some messages that she couldn’t read, but none of them had had interesting looking photos. Her fingers were poised over the keys. The cost for the six months on the site was 150 dollars. She wasn’t hurting for money, but was this messaging worth it to pay that much? She thought back to what Mama had said to her earlier that day.

“You are ready for a relationship. Imagine a couple years from now if you pay for it and it pans out.” Her mom paused. “Would you think the money was worth it?”

Renee returned to the screen in front of her. Perhaps she would pay it. It was nice talking to the people. And that way she could talk to a lot more people. And her mom was right. It would be worth it. She looked again at the photo of the guy who had messaged her. He leaned his lanky body casually against the wall. His red and black checkered flannel complimented his fair complexion and light-colored hair. Kindness shown from his azure-blue eyes. His username read, Horsemanship15.

Pooh Bear leaped onto the couch and nuzzled against her laptop. He curled up next to her. Renee thought as she rubbed his belly. I want to do it. After a little bit more thought, she decided. Yes, I will do it. After entering her credit card information and going through the registration, she read through the man’s profile. Then she returned to Horsemanship15’s message. Hi! I like your profile. Would you like to chat? Renee quickly typed out her reply: Certainly. I like your profile too.

© 2020 Tori Leumas

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