that's life (Australia)

Secret Story

Zoe and Levi were in love. But there was a problem...

- Zoe Johnson, 22, Wyong, NSW*

I wasn’t the girl in the photo he’d fallen for!

Another message popped up in my inbox.

Can we meet up to talk about this? it read. It was from my boyfriend, Levi. Although we had been together six months, we’d never actually met.

It wasn’t because we lived in different countries or even different cities. It was far more complex than that.

You see, I wasn’t the beautiful 20-year-old uni student named Tatiana, as Levi thought. I was an average looking 17-year-old girl called Zoe.

I was what some might call a ‘catfish’ – I posed as someone else on the internet.

I didn’t do it to scam him for money. I did it purely so I could experience love.

My difficult childhood had a dramatic impact on me as a teenager. Dad left home when I was 12 and Mum had met another man who was horrible to my four siblings and me.

Hiding behind another name and image made me feel like a different person – someone lovable.

It began when I fell for Levi after seeing his photo on a mutual friend’s Facebook page. He was 21 and well out of my league so I set up a fake profile using a different name and photo and sent a friend request.

I’m not sure where the idea came from but it seemed like the perfect plan. As the lovely Tatiana, I was more confident.

It didn’t take long for a message to come through from Levi.

Thanks for reaching out to me, but do I know you? he asked.

Hi there, sorry, I don’t think so. I have just moved to this area, I replied.

Those two messages set off a chain of correspond­ence between us. With a spark that neither of us could deny, a month later we were an item… at least online.

When can we meet? Levi would ask.

I always had an excuse.

I’m sorry, I’m working hard on an assignment, I told him once.

Another time I said, I’ve gone away to help my sister who’s just had a baby.

My excuses just came tumbling out.

After six months of messaging back and forth, Levi was sick of it.

Something’s up. None of my mates have heard of you! he wrote one day. I was desperate to see him but what could I do?

I wasn’t the girl in the photo he’d fallen for!

Then I had an idea... Okay, I’ll meet you on Friday night, I texted him. I went along, pretending to be Tatiana’s mate. Levi was even better in real life and I longed to hold him.

‘I’m sorry, Tatiana couldn’t make it,’ I said. ‘Her mum’s sick so she had to stay home.’

‘I knew it,’ he cried. ‘What am I going to do? She never wants to meet up and I’m totally in love with her.’

My heart broke when I heard him say that.

‘I’m sorry,’ I said. ‘I think she lives in a bit of a fantasy land, to be honest.’

‘That’s what I thought,’ he sighed. ‘Well, thanks for letting me know.’

I scribbled down my phone number and gave it to him.

‘Call me if you ever want to talk about it,’ I said.

I went home in tears. I knew I’d wrecked whatever I had with Levi and decided to focus on school instead. But soon after, he rang. ‘Would you like to meet up? I’m feeling down and you seemed so nice.’

I couldn’t believe it. That was two years ago and we’ve been together ever since.

I’m not proud of what I did but I’ve never told Levi that I was ‘Tatiana’ and I never will.

 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia