"Shit!" said Simon, as a thin trail of semen slithered through the red hair of his freckled thighs. "We've just been making love. Fucking, even. Is this really the time to be speculating about Virginia Falls?"
"That is why we're here!" said Lisa. "To see Virginia Falls. If it wasn't for the International Dot Com Convention we'd never have travelled from Basingstoke to Ghent. That's why we're staying in a Belgian Holiday Inn."
"I still don't really understand what you see in her," Simon continued. He placed a hand on Lisa's angular shoulder and nuzzled her ear, or what ear he could within the jangle of piercings, studs and rings. "She doesn't know you from Adam. Or Eve, for that matter. You might have sent her fuck knows how many e-mails, but she's not exactly been an enthusiastic correspondent. She's just a web mistress for one of those bloody American sex web-sites. Okay, she's one of the most famous and what she writes chimes with you, but all this speculation about her is pointless."
"You really do not understand," Lisa spelled out forcefully. "How can you? You're not a woman. Ting Dot Com is the only site that really speaks for women like me. Virginia knows what she's talking about. It's as if she actually knows me. What she says is so very real."
"Oh, for fuck's sake!" said an exasperated Simon. "I came here for the beer, the chocolates, the sights, and, of course, to be with you." He kissed her affectionately on the cheek, his nose-ring touching the stud through her upper lip with a small ching of contact.
"I know you're trying to be romantic or some shit like that," said Lisa, who detached herself from Simon and made no attempt to hide her pale breasts or her crotch where his semen left a thin sticky trail across the thick brown pubic hair. "That shows how fucking little you understand about me or about women in general. That's what so good about Virginia. She knows about women. She knows our needs and aspirations. She understands women's sexuality and desires."
"So, I don't," said a disgruntled Simon. "I mean, fuck it, we've been together years. Fucking ages. And you've never had sex with anyone else in that time. In fact, I'm the only guy you've ever had sex with. How can this fucking American webmistress possibly know more than me?"
"You just don't understand," said Lisa, grabbing Simon's limp penis and stroking it desultorily. "The things she has to say in her essays. Her poems. Her stories. The things she has to say liberates women. She frees the mind and body..."
"Shit, Lisa!" said Simon, running a finger through Lisa's thick bush of pubic hair and feeling the dampness of his cooling jism. "I've seen this Ting Dot Com site. And why it's called Ting, I really don't know..."
"There Is Nothing Greater," elaborated Lisa.
"And what the fuck does that mean?" continued Simon, positioning his lank frame against Lisa's small skinny body. He pushed aside a strand of her black-dyed hair from her bosom. His own tangled mess of long red hair fell over his face. "It's just a website run by a woman that sells a lot of politically correct sex videos and presents public service announcements scattered amongst ads for dildos, suppositories and body jewellery. And every week you get a chance to see Jpegs of a woman who must be at least forty, over fifteen years older than both of us, with big tits and even bigger thighs, who romps around in the nude, paints herself and sticks stuff up her twat. How can that be fucking liberating or whatever?"
"You just don't understand women," insisted Lisa, arching her head and flicking back her long black hair so that Simon's tongue could more easily twiddle with the ring that pierced her nipple.
Simon really did not understand, Lisa mused the following day as she wandered from stall to stall in the huge sports centre where the website convention was hosted. Each stall was accompanied by one or two, sometimes three, enthusiastic young people trying to persuade the many people attending the convention that their website was worth subscribing to. Not all the sites were likely to be of the remotest interest to Lisa. In fact, hardly any of them were.
It was amazing what there was on the internet. Sites for gardening tips. Sites to buy and sell antiques. Sites that specialised in genealogy. Sites that featured original fiction, original artwork and original music. There were dictionaries, encyclopaedias and repositories of all kinds. And if Lisa were more technically-minded, there was an enormous number of sites that addressed software and hardware concerns. But what interested Lisa most, what she primarily viewed of the vast resources of the internet that spread like a thin slither of shared culture over the entire globe, was Ting Dot Com and its webmistress, Virginia Falls.
Simon wasn't in the slightest bit interested in accompanying Lisa to the convention. He was more drawn to Belgian beer and hanging out with Barry—a mate of his who'd come down from Amsterdam where he lived on a houseboat with his cats, cannabis plants and fat girlfriend. So that left Lisa free to soak up the atmosphere without Simon telling her how boring it all was and how stupid she was to be fixated on a single website. However, as the novelty palled of being able to do exactly what she fucking well wanted without his fucking criticism and the smell of his fucking smelly roll-ups, Lisa rather began to miss his company. That wasn't right, of course. A woman shouldn't be tied to one man's cock. She should be free to follow her own needs and desires and celebrate her femininity.
Perhaps that was why in the last year she'd become so obsessed with Virginia Falls and her website. Of course, the webmistress' name wasn't really Virginia Falls. That was the name of a suburb of Washington D.C. The name was probably chosen as some kind of ironic comment. Or maybe it was just because Olivia Spalding wasn't quite the name by which the webmistress wanted the world to know her.
Ting Dot Com did somehow speak to Lisa. It was angry. Forthright. Uncompromising. Everything Lisa was sure she should be. And also—and she made fucking sure Simon knew this—Lisa had fallen in love with Virginia Falls. Lisa thought she was fucking hot. She wasn't the youngest or slenderest woman in the world, but there was something in those nude photographs of her. She was a woman who swore like a fucking trooper, fucked exactly whom she wanted, when she wanted, and wrote exactly what she fucking well liked. Well, there was something about her that made Virginia Falls the most perfect woman in the world. And although Lisa didn't think of herself as lesbian or even bisexual—and it was true that the only person she'd ever made love to was Simon—Virginia Falls was somehow that bit special.
There were other websites, of course, that occupied much the same niche as Ting. There was Fanny Fart, a British site, which was as much about demystifying femininity as it was about empowerment. There was Oyster, from Canada, which specialised in featuring the photographs of its readers' vaginas accompanied by cunt-related poetry. There was Sunny Squirts from California that had originally been for both men and women, but had become increasingly woman-centric. Nevertheless, it still featured nude pictures of rather too perfect women for the masturbatory pleasure of its male readers. Whereas what Lisa liked to see photographed were women like her—perhaps adorned by piercings, tattoos and startling eye make-up, but otherwise totally natural. And, although Lisa was sure the photographs of Virginia Falls were there for their aesthetic rather than their sexual beauty, it was mostly because they had become a focus for her masturbatory fantasies that Ting had become Lisa's website of choice.
Lisa eventually located the stall for Ting Dot Com. And there in the flesh was Virginia Falls. But she wasn't sitting in a chair signing books, as Lisa imagined she would. In fact, the person sitting at the stall was someone Lisa didn't recognise but imagined it was one of Crab Girl or Mandy Minge, the two editors on the site. Virginia was standing several feet behind the stall and intent on conversation with a rather fat woman with short hair and a neatly tailored suit. At least, true to form, Virginia was dressed provocatively. Her voluptuous bosom was on full display—each nipple, but not all the areolae, was obscured by a cross of two shiny strips of black tape. Otherwise, all she wore were baggy shorts that strained against her full thighs and an array of metal bracelets and necklaces. Nevertheless, whatever Virginia Falls was wearing, or not wearing, there was no easy way that Lisa could see of speaking to her idol, short of an un-English display of rudeness. And, not only was Lisa not inclined to be rude, she was also, truth to tell, rather shy. Even, on occasions, introverted.
"How can I help you?" asked the girl behind the desk who was dressed far less provocatively than Virginia. Her hair was bundled up in a mass of combs and her yellow tee-shirt had the words ting.com written in large black Courier characters. Underneath in smaller italic print was the tag-line: t astefully indecent nude girls.
"Erm..." said Lisa, not at all sure what help this girl could offer her. What she had wanted to do was speak to Virginia. Tell her how much she enjoyed her site. How much she agreed with what she said and how her theme of female empowerment and sexual bravado chimed with her. What she had instead was a bored-looking American girl and just by her elbow a couple of other convention visitors who looked like they had more specific questions to ask.
At last, she drew in a deep breath. "I'm Lisa Triple X. I'm one of the regular contributors to the Ting Forum."
"Oh really," said the decidedly unimpressed editor.
"Erm, do you have any ... Erm..." Lisa noticed a pile of merchandise behind the girl, " ... Erm ... One of those videos?"
"Tits In Nasty Greasepaint."
"There isn't a copy of that here," said the girl with some irritation, looking through the stack of videos. "I'll see if we've got one in the back. Unless you want Things Indecent Nudes Gobble?"
"No," said Lisa firmly. She was not especially focused on either fellatio or cunnilingus.
"Oh, all right then. Hang on."
While the girl was crouched over a cardboard boxes and plastic cases in the canvas corner of the stall, Lisa had the opportunity to overhear Virginia Falls chatting to this other woman—a conversation that appeared to be winding up. Lisa was surprised at how nasal and almost whiny Virginia's voice was.
"You'll be there tonight, won't you?" she said to the fat woman.
"Wouldn't miss it for the world," her friend answered in an Australian accent.
"50 Oude Langestraat, I think it is," said Virginia. "Fuck knows how it's supposed to be pronounced. Dutch is a fucking weird language. Everyone's invited. It'll be a blast!"
"It's only what I'd expect. Your party after that Milan convention left my twat sore for weeks."
"There'll be plenty more of the same! And best of luck with Bush Whackers. I like a site with balls. Well, not balls so much ... but you know what I mean."
"Here we are!" announced the girl Lisa had been speaking to. "Tits In Nasty Greasepaint. There wasn't anything else you wanted?"
Lisa pointed at a couple of glossy American women-centric comic books and a book that featured photographs of a nude Virginia Falls in outdoor settings: The Immodest Nude Gallery.
"Well, enjoy," said the girl, who took Lisa's wad of euros and handed back the change.
After this encounter, there really wasn't that much more for Lisa to do at the convention. She soon weighed herself down with plastic bags, flyers and free CDs loaded with software she doubted she'd ever use. The stalls bored her and her feet were sore. She had two plastic glasses of the rather strong beer the Belgians drunk and regretted that she'd given herself so much free time.
Eventually she had enough and made her way to the bar where she was due to meet Simon, Barry and Els, Barry's Dutch girlfriend. She rather liked the ambience of Ghent and regretted she hadn't allowed for more time to look at the castle, the cathedral and the shops. The city was much more attractive than she'd imagined when she booked the holiday.
"So, you've been invited to a party with this Virginia Falls?" said Simon who, despite his affected nonchalance, was clearly quite impressed. "You must have made quite an impression on her."
"We immediately hit it off," Lisa lied. "I told you she understood women."
"Well, she certainly seems to have understood you."
"What sort of party is it?" asked Els, who was sipping on a glass of red wine.
"I'm told it'll do in my pussy," said Lisa boldly. "For weeks!"
"Sorry?" asked Els, who wasn't sure she heard right.
"You're not bi, are you Lisa?" wondered Barry understandably.
"It's not a fucking orgy, is it?" spluttered a rather startled Simon.
Lisa was rather pleased with the reaction she'd got from her friends, but she was rather more worried about whether she'd be able to carry through her intention to go to Virginia Falls' party. She'd gatecrashed parties before, but always with Simon and usually more company than just Simon. And on those occasions, a bottle of cheap supermarket plonk had been all that was needed to ensure they got through the door, especially when it was associated with the promise of blow. However, she was sure that this was a different endeavour altogether. Blagging her way in wasn't going to be such an easy task, especially without assistance.
In any case, Lisa was rather enjoying her evening out with Simon, Barry and Els. Some choice skag was mellowing her out, not to mention the contrary effect of the rather strong Belgian beer. Fortunately, Simon and Barry were less enthusiastic than they usually were about skinning up in a country noticeably less relaxed than Holland about dope-heads puffing their spliffs, and a few lines of coke sharpened Lisa for a long night ahead.
Soon they were in a cellar bar waiting for a local indie group to thunder through their repertoire while Lisa's friends nursed their beers and puffed on their rollies in the amicable surroundings of Ghent's alt rock scene. The time was coming for Lisa to make her promised getaway and she knew that there was no way she could opt out, especially as Simon's pleas that she should reconsider were becoming more urgent. Furthermore, Lisa's bravado was reinforced by the effects of the various beverages and the excitement of the thumping rock music.
"So you're sure about this?" asked Simon when Lisa stood up to leave. "You're fucking sure? I mean, it's not something you've ever done before."
"Don't be so fucking protective," said Lisa, looking at Els for support.
Barry's girlfriend was nodding in mellowed-out bliss and unlikely to care what Lisa did, but she was together enough to at least respond in form.
"You fucking go for it," she said in her heavily accented English. "Don't let Simon put you off. If you want it, do it!"
"Okay. Okay," said a defeated Simon. "But we'll be here all night. So don't hesitate to come back if you want to."
"As if I fucking would," said Lisa, shaking her long black hair and picking up her things.
But once she was out in the distinctly cool night air, Lisa wasn't so sure that Simon's concerns for her were so misplaced after all. Her map of Ghent indicated that Oude Langestraat wasn't that far away, but in the dark of the night it was easy to take a wrong turning through the unfamiliar streets. But when she located the address she discovered she'd already passed it by in her increasingly frantic wanderings. It was, after all, a fairly ordinary-looking building with an array of buttons for all the flats in the block. And which one of them was for Virginia Falls' party? Shit! She couldn't very well ring them all.
"You here for the Ting do?" asked a tall woman in an American accent. She was arm in arm with another woman, equally slim but almost half her height, and they were approaching the apartment block.
"Yeah," said Lisa as nonchalantly as she could manage. "Can't remember the flat number, though."
"Good thing we arrived then," said the woman with a smile. "By the way, I'm Sunny. And this is Tina. What's your name? You're English, aren't you?"
Thanks to this encounter, gatecrashing the party was nowhere near as hard as Lisa expected, though she found herself having to lie rather imaginatively about how well she knew Virginia and about her software support job with the county council the description of which metamorphosed into something vaguely to do with the web and a lot more glamorous.
"Gee!" said Sunny, when they got out of the lift on the fourth floor. "I've not had to work for years. Daddy's money, you know. Hey, it sounds like the party's really got going!"