If you’ve been regularly following this story, you’ll know that Lucy’s in Kenya, where she met, and fell head over heels for, a charismatic Australian named Brad.
And everything was unicorns and rainbows and skipping hand-in-hand through meadows of wildflowers until last weekend, when she and Brad had a disagreement about drink-driving, which turned into a massive screaming fight, and just like that the whole glittering house of cards has come crashing down in a fiery shitstorm of blood-soaked misery and destruction.
All week Brad barely messages her, and Lucy’s distraught. Anna, who is now rapidly becoming her lifeline, checks up on her.
You may well wonder why Lucy does not simply call Brad out for being a cunt and dump his sorry arse. But feelings aren’t rational. Lucy’s spent the last two weeks dismantling her walls brick by brick, allowing herself to trust him, and to picture a future with him, perhaps not long term, but certainly at least three months of holiday romantic bliss. And once you’ve allowed hope into your life, it’s incredibly difficult to let it go.
What Lucy simply cannot comprehend is how Brad can have managed such an eye-watering U-turn in such a short amount of time. Just a few days ago he was telling his mum about her and asking her not to date other people. And now, in less time than it takes a Tinder veteran to fire off a dick pic, he’s done a complete about-face, accusing her of being too intense, and telling her he never wanted a relationship. It doesn’t make any sense!
What makes the whole thing so much worse is that in spite of her doubts, Lucy had allowed herself to believe that this might be her time. She’d thought that, finally, there was light at the end of the tunnel, but instead it turned out to be an oncoming train. And now she’s been mown down by it and is lying dazed and bleeding by the side of the track, unable to comprehend what’s just happened.
Brad spends the week texting her sporadically, pointless crap about his day or his ongoing search for an apartment. Meanwhile Lucy ties herself up in knots that would make a bondage fetishist weep for joy, ferociously overthinking the content and timing of every reply, trying to figure out exactly what form of words, and what length of silence will help get things back to the way they were, while at the same time also trying to present a cool and casual front that completely hides the obsessive crazy that’s beginning to seep out from every pore.
The tactics seem to work, because he finally agrees to meet her for dinner on Friday evening. This is definitely progress, but it presents Lucy with a new dilemma. Until now, their routine has been that when Lucy’s travelled into the city centre to spend the evening with Brad, she’s always taken an overnight bag and stayed at his hotel.
But now what?
Should she take a bag or not? Is this thing over, or was the argument just a blip? If she takes a bag she could look presumptuous or too keen when she should be playing it cool… but if she doesn’t and things are back to normal, she might have to schlep all the way home afterwards when what she really wants to do is stay over and have makeup sex.
Again, she texts Anna for advice.
Of course even though Anna’s advice is absolutely sound, Lucy’s a prize-winning expert in never taking the good advice, so she takes the overnight bag. Which of course Brad spots the second she arrives at the restaurant.
“What did you bring that for?”
“Well…” she stammers. “I thought I should be prepared, just in case.”
Mayday! Mayday! Abort!
He looks decidedly unimpressed, but kisses her on the cheek anyway and sits back down.
“So, how’s your week been?” he asks awkwardly.
Lucy’s week has, of course, been utter shite. She’s spent every waking moment cultivating nuclear-level angst about the argument, re-analysing every word and every second of the previous weekend, and missing Brad like a body part that’s been amputated. Now that he’s in front of her again, all she wants to do is wrap herself up in him and never let him go, but of course she can’t tell him any of that.
“Yeah, it was ok thanks,” she manages, lamely. “I sorted out the photos from last weekend, do you want to see?”
She makes a point of showing him pictures from their loved-up weekend in Lake Naivasha, back when everything was rosy and the dream was still intact. Maybe seeing them looking so perfect will remind him of how great they are together?
Can’t blame a girl for trying, right?
It doesn’t appear to work. Brad continues to be a grumpy fucker, complaining about his job, the traffic, and his mate who had the cheek to organise an engagement party that Brad can’t go to. When the waiter comes, he orders a bottle of wine without consulting Lucy, and where once she found this cute (He knows what I like! He’s confident and takes charge!), now it feels controlling. This is definitely a man who’s used to getting his own way, and doesn’t like to be challenged.
Brad winces and rubs the back of his neck. “Man! My neck is fucked!”
“Aches and pains?” Lucy tries a flirtatious tease. “You must be getting old!”
“No, I think it’s because I used to get wasted all the time, and now I don’t so much. Back then I was fine. So clearly I need to get drunk more.”
He’s sort of joking, except he isn’t. And Lucy knows full well that a hard-living party animal who likes to stay out all night smoking and getting wasted is definitely not for her. The problem is, although there are red flags popping up all over the place like wasps at a picnic, she’s already fallen for him. Her head knows he’s a bad ‘un, but her heart simply won’t listen. She fancies him like fuck, but why does she always seem to pick the wrong guys?
As the wine flows the atmosphere starts to thaw, but Lucy still feels a huge brick of anxiety in her solar plexus. Brad’s showing no sign of wanting to discuss or even acknowledge what happened at the weekend, which means Lucy’s going to have to bring it up. But how, and when?
They finish dinner, and the waitress brings over the bill. It’s now or never. But first, an emergency nervous wee – it wouldn’t do at all to have to break for one mid-conversation. She runs to the loo, her heart a lead block, her brain nervously running through what she wants to say.
When she gets back, Brad wants to go outside for a cigarette. It’s like he knows what’s coming, and is trying to procrastinate. “Is that allowed?” he asks, passive aggressively.
“You’re a free agent, you don’t need my permission!” she exclaims.
“It’s only my second of the day, you know.”
What does he want, a fucking medal?
When he returns, she takes a deep breath and just dives in.
“I think we should talk about what happened last weekend…”
“It was really shitty,” he says. “I didn’t get involved with you to get into situations like that. I only ever wanted to have fun, and instead I ended up feeling terrible because I hurt you, and you were really upset.”
“Of course I was upset! You shouted at me, and it felt like you weren’t respecting my views at all. I’ve never been shouted at like that before, never! But actually I’m more upset about how it’s been handled since. Disagreements will happen, of course, it’s how you deal with them that matters. I tried to clear the air, but you wouldn’t talk to me, instead you shot me down like I’m one of your kids!”
Lucy’s like the captain of a sinking ship: she can see the boat is going down, and she’s frantically bailing for all she’s worth as the water sloshes in over the side.
“Well I told you, I didn’t want to discuss it. You didn’t listen to me then and you’re not fucking listening to me now! This has got too intense and I don’t like it. I’ve had so much shit from my previous relationships, and all I want now is to have fun, not be in shitty situations like we’re in right now.”
The water’s pouring in now, and Lucy’s drowning. All she can do is try to find some way to stay afloat.
“Well then maybe we should just call it quits, because if you just want to have fun, then it sounds like you’re not ready to be in a relationship, even a short-term one.”
“I like you and I want to keep seeing you,” he says, his temper clearly rising again. “But no, I don’t want to be in a relationship.”
“I’m not sure I really see the difference here,” Lucy tells him. “I’m only here for three months, so it shouldn’t get too serious, but if we are going to see each other all the time and not see other people, then yes, that’s a relationship, whether you like the word or not.”
“I’ve told you, this is too serious and I don’t want that. I can’t deal with getting hurt again. We need to dial it back.”
Lucy’s now trying to salvage what she can from the wreckage. She’s desperate to cling onto something, anything, so if what he wants is someone to ‘have fun’ with, maybe she will just have to settle for that.
“Well that’s fine,” she concedes, trying to pretend like this was what she had in mind all along. “Of course we can just have fun, but I do need you to tell me what’s going on, you need to communicate with me, you can’t just disappear like you have all week.”
“Okay,” Brad agrees, “But no planning.”
No fucking planning? Who the fuck does he think she is? Some pathetic little girl who’ll be at his beck and call any time he fancies a shag? No cunting chance in hell is she going put up with that kind of bullshit.
She tells him so. Though without quite so much swearing.
“If you want to see me, you’re going to have to book me in. Otherwise I will make plans with other people and we will never see each other. If you’re not ok with that, then I suggest we just call the whole thing off.”
“But I don’t want to do that,” he mutters in a small voice.
“OK then,” she smiles.
It feels like a pyrrhic victory, but at least they seem to have reached a deal. Lucy seals it by leaning in and kissing him. He kisses her back, and immediately the blood rises to all her important places.
Fuck! Why is he such a twat? And why does he have this ridiculous effect on me?
They go on to a late night bar for more drinking and, hopefully, making up. Lucy’s aim now is to help him forget all about the argument by reminding him how much fun she is, so she drinks three cocktails and flirts as though her life depends on it. A song comes on and Brad starts singing along, and it turns out he has an incredible voice, exactly like Brad Roberts from the Crash Test Dummies, which Lucy finds desperately sexy. They get drunk and flirt and he chain smokes, which Lucy puts up with because everything is going well and he has his hand on her thigh. And in the taxi back to his hotel at 3 am he falls asleep with his head in her lap, and she strokes his hair and feels hopelessly smitten, and hopelessly lost.
She knows now that he’s trouble, that he’s not The One after all, and her heart grieves for the hope that she’s lost, for the death of that fleeting moment where she allowed herself to believe that maybe she’d found her person, all the way out here in Africa, and would never be lonely again. She knows that was bullshit, and yet somehow she seems to have agreed to carry on regardless, on his terms now, in spite of him being an man-child who can’t have an adult disagreement without turning into an angry shouting cunt.
Whether she can cope with ‘casual’ though, without getting hurt, is another question entirely.
Lucy wakes at 9.30. They’re due to meet Anna and the rest of the gang for brunch at 12, but Brad is dead to the world. In the hope of waking him gently and getting some morning sex, she snuggles into him, but he didn’t even brush his teeth last night and he stinks of rancid stale fags, so she rolls away again.
He grumbles but doesn’t open his eyes, and moves over to cuddle her, but the stench makes her gag, so she pushes him away.
“You smell gross,” she tells him. She could possibly have said it slightly more gently, but Lucy’s never been one to mince her words. She hopes he’ll get up and brush his teeth and then come back to bed and fuck her, but he just goes back to sleep.
By 10.30 he still hasn’t moved, so she gives up and has a shower, passive aggressively bashing and clanging so that he’ll get the message. That doesn’t work either.
They end up being half an hour late for lunch and now Lucy’s pissed off again. Normally she’d stay Sunday night at his and travel to work with him on Monday morning, but this time she decides to bring her bag with her, in case she decides to go home.
Keeping it casual, right? Isn’t that the new rule?
In the taxi he grabs her hand and places it on his crotch. He’s got a hard-on the size of a prize-winning cucumber at the county fair. “Fuck I’m horny,” he says.
Lucy is furious. She’s literally spent the whole morning trying to get him to fuck her, and now this?! What. A. Cunt.
“Well why didn’t you say so earlier?”
“I was sleepy”
“Oh, well we’ll just have to make up for it later then…” she says with a wink. Maybe she will be going back to his after all. Hopefully straight after lunch.
But as usual she ends up disappointed. Lunch turns into a full afternoon drinking session, which turns into more drinks back at Anna’s house, and Lucy’s forced to trail along after Brad as he gets more and more pissed. She really doesn’t want to be a party pooper, but she’s tired and a bit hung over, and all she really wants to do is go back to Brad’s hotel for a nap and that sex that she’s been promised. It doesn’t help that drunk Brad is incredibly flirty and affectionate, which gives her hope, but every time she suggests making a move, he bats her away with a “What’s the rush?”
Lucy’s starting to get tired of all his drinking and smoking, so she decides to pull away. He wanted casual, right? But of course Brad doesn’t like this one bit. When she moves away to talk to other people, he complains that she’s ignoring him. She talks about her plans for future weekend trips, and is careful to say ‘I’ instead of ‘we’, and he gets huffy. “Oh so you’re making plans without me now, are you?’ he grumbles.
Yes, yes I fucking am, you total cunt. You told me you didn’t want to make plans. Which is it to be?!
Eventually she’s had enough. She’s tired and fucked off and he’s being a total dick, so she decides to go home. She hopes that by telling him she’s leaving, he’ll finally get the message and offer to come with her, but he’s too busy being the life and soul of this particular party to care. He merely walks her to the taxi, gives her a cigaretty kiss, and tells her to text him when she gets back safely.
She decides not to bother.
Next time: Showdown.