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Couple try to help others click like they did

By MICHAEL KRUSE
Published February 14, 2007


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SPRING HILL - For Valentine's Day, here - the oldest story in the book, made local, with a 21st century twist, told in three parts.

Achilles Thomas and Eva Kaniaris met in early January 2003. They didn't meet at Chili's or Ruby Tuesday or the Java Bean or the Saints & Sinners Lounge or the Spare Time sports bar at the Mariner Lanes bowling alley.

"We met online," Achilles said one recent morning over breakfast.

"I still can't believe we met online," Eva said. "Isn't that weird?"

"I think it's getting more and more common," Achilles said.

So that's where they met, on Yahoo Personals. Her profile said she lived in Homosassa and was Greek.

Achilles had met three or four other women online, all of which were experiences that ranged from so-so to don't want to talk about it, "so I was ready to give up," he said.

"I said one last chance. So I sent her a message."

Hi koukla.

That's Greek for baby doll.

He was helping at his family's transmission shop here in Hernando County. She was helping at her family's Cardinal Street hair salon up in Citrus County. Both very Greek.

"I think we both got excited when we knew we were both Greek," Achilles said.

There were phone calls.

There were video chats.

There was a plan made for a date to go to the movies on a Sunday in early January.

"So Sunday," Achilles said, "I called her, and I called her, and I called her. No answer. All day long she didn't answer the phone.

"I was so upset."

He told his parents and his grandparents what was going on. Don't give up, they said. You should go find her.

So that Monday after work, Achilles got in his red '89 Camaro and made a right onto U.S. 19 and drove till he was in Citrus and started to look for Cardinal Street. Took a right onto Cardinal. Drove down Cardinal looking for the salon, looking, looking, looking, "almost ready to turn around," he said.

And then there it was.

"And there she is," he said.

Achilles parked on the other end of the parking lot so Eva wouldn't see him and then walked into the salon.

"Hi," she said. "Can I help you?"

Shortly thereafter - when she recognized the guy from the video chats - that's about the time she started screaming.

"I was so afraid," Eva said. "I was just like, 'I can't do this. I can't meet somebody off the Internet.' "

Achilles asked her to calm down.

"I told her," he said at breakfast, " 'Everything's okay. I'll leave if you want me to leave.'

"I just wanted an answer," he said.

They made plans again and went to Marguerita Grill in Homosassa the next night. He had jumbo shrimp. She drank what Achilles called a froufrou drink. American Idol was on. Eva laughed a lot. She does that when she's nervous.

"It was kind of uncomfortable," she said.

"I can admit it: I didn't talk much that night," Achilles said. "I was scared. I didn't want to scare her away by saying something wrong. I just wanted to be with her and hear her.

"I told her over time everything would get better."

Their second date was the next day. This time, Eva came down U.S. 19 in her blue Volkswagen. Achilles took her straight to his grandparents' house and introduced her to his yia yia and papou.

"Because I was so excited," he said.

Date No. 3 was that weekend. They went to Tarpon Springs and ate Greek food. Then they went back to Hernando, and that's when Achilles told Eva in Greek that he loved her: "Se agapo," he said.

Then: "I'm going to marry you one day."

Then: "I can see us getting married."

Then: "I can see us having children."

Then: She told him she felt the same way.

They're both laid-back and easygoing, they said. They both graduated from high school in 2000. Both of their birthdays are in May. Achilles has declared Eva's baklava to be the best baklava in the whole, wide world.

"When things are right," she said, "things are just right.

"It was meant to be. Something made him come find me."

He bought a ring at Gulf View Square mall in Port Richey, put it in his pocket, took it to Homosassa and proposed on the beach. They were married Nov. 29, 2003, at St. Michael the Archangel Greek Orthodox Church in Lecanto. They bought most of the stuff for their wedding off the Internet - including her dress.

Achilles is 24, Eva is 25, their kids are 2 and almost 1, and they live in a four-bedroom home with well-vacuumed rugs not far off Spring Hill Drive.

"We wanted to do something for Spring Hill, for the community," Achilles said.

"We wanted someone to fall in love like we did," Eva said.

So they started Spring Hill Singles.com in 2004. They advertised by putting fliers on windshields in parking lots and going into chat rooms and dropping links. But Achilles stopped all that about six months ago.

The site had about 200 members at the end of 2005. Now that number is more than 800.

Spring Hill Singles.com is free to join and to post a personal profile, but only paying members can make contact with other members - and there's a special going on right now for one year of full membership for $14.95. The site's main page has pictures of people gardening and smelling flowers and of a woman touching a man's face. There are links to sites like GuyGetsGirl.com and Kissing101.net.

There's a 24-year-old woman looking for a "sensible guy" who would "look at me and like me for me."

There's a 42-year-old man who is a "self-employed, financially secure" single father and doesn't have any "baby mama drama" and likes adventure, traveling and "bringing pleasure to my partners."

There are also love and romance tips.

Achilles and Eva have their own tips.

"Be yourself," Achilles said at breakfast.

"Be straightforward," Eva said.

"Be honest," Achilles said.

"Honest and straightforward," Eva said. "That's what I fell in love with."

"Life's too short," she said, "to hide what you really want."

Michael Kruse can be reached at 352 848-1434 or mkruse@sptimes.com.

[Last modified February 13, 2007, 19:57:31]


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