Allan waited. Had he really meant to type that last remark? Actually, yes, he had. He wanted - no - needed Carl to know. But there was no comeback. No word from Carl, just his last sentence staring back at him on his computer screen.
"Allan: And another thing. I fell in love with you a long time ago."
He waited. Hoping for a response as the seconds ticked by and turned into minutes, but still no reply. He could wait no longer.
Allan: Carl, are you still there. For God's sakes talk to me.
Allan sighed heavily. "Damn. Me and my big mouth."
Allan knew it was going to be hard to tell Carl just how much his being online had come to mean to him, but he had, rightly or wrongly, expected some kind of response. Even "Thanks for all you've done, but I don't think we should chat anymore" would be better than this silence.
Allan: Carl, please, if you're there, just talk to me.
Another minute passed. Then suddenly a message appeared on Allan's screen.
Carl: Sorry about that.
Allan: About what? What happened?
Carl: My bloody screen froze and I had to shutdown and go through all those 'you didn't shut down properly' error messages on starting up again.
Allan: You're computer froze?
Carl: Yeah, you know, was typing one minute, next it froze couldn't do a bloody thing.
Carl: Last thing I got was: "Allan: Because you're young, fit and probably very handsome. Carl: LOL!"
Carl: I suppose, at least, I could get on today. I know I couldn't get online yesterday at all, so I'm pleased I can today.
Allan: Was something wrong?
Allan: That was the last thing you got?
Carl: Yeah! Oh, I forgot to tell you, the 'phone bill arrived, so I had a few problems.
Allan: What kind of problems?
Carl: You know that programme the one that was connecting me to Premium Rate 09 services?
Carl: 15 in total on our bill.
Allan: Oh, no!
Carl: I was dreading the bill, but the whole thing only came to £44.72.
Carl: £20.57 of that were the Service Charges.
Carl: £17.49 was the calls.
Carl: £7.44 of those to 09 numbers.
Carl: No more than 26-seconds each one.
Allan: Your whole bill was 44.72?
Allan: For 3 months?
Allan: Damn, I want to live there!
Carl: Service charges took most of it.
Carl: Line Rental Measured Service payable in advance at £81.61 pa was £20.57.
Allan: Minimum mine would have been was $69 without making any calls.
Carl: Well, anyway, I called the 'phone company.
Carl: Said I had all these 09 numbers that I hadn't called. They said it was through the Internet and there's been a lot of complaints.
Carl: I didn't mention that programme.
Carl: They said I have to pay the bill.
Carl: But I can complain to the watchdog company if I wanted to. They asked me one of the numbers and checked - the watchdog company are investigating the company whose number it was and they gave me the website address.
Carl: Anyway, I couldn't get online.
Carl: I can pay a one-off fee to have call barring on 09 numbers, so I checked with my parents and they said okay, so I accepted. They put it on instantly and it changes the 'phone's tone. No dial tone.
Allan: That sucks.
Carl: I didn't know this, so I called the faults operator and she explained it. I had to call my ISP and explain to them, too and they said I could change it on the computer, so he went through it and I did.
Allan: Way cool.
Carl: Was easy enough. Anyway, he said I may have to restart the computer for it to kick in and I did, but it didn't work.
Carl: I called the 'phone company's customer services number and explained to them. She said it would take around 2-hours for the tone to be changed back. Anyway, I went out and when I got back still no change.
Allan: But you got online, so don't you now have the blocking?
Carl: Well, I called the 'phone company at 8 am prompt when they opened for business and explained again. It was a different lady, but she said I shouldn't have been told 2-hours, it's down to the engineers getting the job and can be up to 24-hours and that it would be done today and it was - I now have the dial tone and yes, I still have the call barring on 09 numbers.
Allan: That's cool.
Carl: But what a messing around I seemed to have and my parents weren't very happy with me.
Allan: Oh, but they're okay now?
Carl: Yeah, I'm paying for the 09 calls and the call barring.
Carl: Anyway, the guy who originally checked two of my numbers for me said they was the same company and when I went to the website of the watchdog company and checked all 8 numbers, every one of them is the same company.
Carl: the watchdog company is investigating the company. The watchdog company is the regulator for Premium Rate numbers.
Allan: I know a bunch of them are being sued and shut down all around the world now.
Carl: Seems I can write to the guy who own the company and ask him to refund the money, but to be honest other people have bills running into thousands of pounds - has been big news here - so I don't think I'll bother for £7.44.
Carl: The company is called Techno Inc.
Allan: Sounds familiar.
Carl: They are a US company he gave me the address and it's on the watchdog site, too.
Allan: Ah yes, I found that. Probably a fake address. I've never checked to see if it was real or not.
Carl: All 8 of the 09 numbers start the same with only the last two digits different and they're all that company - an adult service - and they're under investigation.
Allan: Wonder if I should send him a bill for helping you remove the program.
Carl: I got the same information that they were under investigation for all 8 numbers.
Allan: It was being done all over, so he probably needed a bunch of numbers to handle them all.
Carl: Yeah, well, some people haven't been so lucky. All 8 were in one month and the bill goes further to cover three. No 09 numbers after the time you found out how to get rid of it.
Allan: That's the good thing.
Carl: Thank goodness, looks like it worked then.
Carl: So you want a picture of me?
Carl: You said you don't know what I look like. Do you want a picture?
Allan: Yeah, of course, I do.
Carl: Okay, I'll use this 'send file' thing.
Carl: You like horror films?
Allan: Horror films? Yeah, I guess.
Carl: Because I look like something out of one.
Allan: Hmm, I'll bet.
Carl: Okay it's sent.
Carl: don't get scared, okay? LOL!
Allan: Oh, wow!
Allan: This is you?
Allan: I was wrong.
Carl: About what?
Allan: You're not handsome.
Carl: Told you so.
Allan: You are fucking gorgeous.
Carl: What did I do, send a picture of Rob Lowe or something?
Allan: I mean it?
Carl: Do you wear glasses?
Carl: Then I suggest you put them on.
Allan: I mean it; you are fucking gorgeous.
Carl: LOL! I suppose the American sense of humour is something I have to get used to if I'm chatting with you.
Allan: What do you mean, "the American sense of humor"?
Carl: All that stuff you said. LMAO. Good job I can take a joke.
Allan: About being gorgeous? That wasn't a joke.
Carl: Yeah, right.
Allan: Wait a minute, how did you know?
Carl: Know what?
Allan: That I wanted a photograph of you.
Carl: Offline messages.
Carl: When I restarted the computer there were offline messages. The ones you sent when my computer froze.
Carl: Yeah - "Allan: And another thing. I fell in love with you a long time ago."
Carl: "Allan: I know it sounds stupid, I mean, I don't even know what you look like, but over the period of time we've been chatting, I have fallen in love with you. Well, your personality, at least. I confess, when I don't see you online my heart sinks, I've got used to seeing you here. I do love you. I know you don't wanna hear it, but I can't help the way I feel. I'm sorry."
Carl: "Alan: Carl?" "Allan: Carl, are you still there. For God's sakes talk to me." "Allan: Please." "Allan: Carl, please, if you're there, just talk to me."
Allan: You got all that?
Carl: You didn't know what I looked like, well, now you do.
Allan: Yeah. I thought I scared you off.
Carl: I'm not gay, Allan.
Allan: I know, you said.
Carl: At least you have Richard.
Allan: Second best.
Carl: I'm sorry.
Carl: Listen, I have to go.
Allan: I have scared you off!
Carl: No, I'll be back. Same time tomorrow?
Allan: I'll look forward to it.
Allan: Bye. And thanks for the photograph.
Carl: I want one in return tomorrow, okay? LOL!
Carl: Fair's fair.
Allan: I guess so. Later, babe.
Carl: LOL! Later, Allan.
Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]
* Some browsers may require a right click instead