Lucy has developed strong feelings for a colleague, whose name is Michael.
To read last week’s post, all about how this happened, click here.
Lucy can’t be 100% sure if it’s actual love, or just a fuck-off HUGE crush, but it certainly feels like it might be the Real Deal. One of the reasons she thinks this is because her devotion has continued to be steadfast even after he made a horrifying confession…
He voted for Brexit.
Lucy could never have a relationship with a Brexiteer in a million years. How could she possibly spend her life with someone whose opinions and values differ so vastly from her own? Someone who thinks it’s ok to build walls, instead of bridges. Someone who thinks they know better than the experts?! It would be a disaster. She’d probably end up committing actual murder.
So when the apparently-perfect Michael revealed his dark betrayal, she felt it like a punch to the stomach. It’s that sick feeling you get when you find out your boyfriend has been cheating on you. Except Michael didn’t cheat on her with another woman, he cheated on her with Nigel Farage and a big red bus, which is arguably a hell of a lot worse.
But then… she got over it. So this is how she knows. If she can forgive him getting into bed with Michael Gove (puke) and Boris Johnson (vomit), it must be love.
There are other reasons too. It probably sounds nauseatingly wet, but when she’s with Michael, all her worries and stresses vanish. With him she feels like she’s a better version of herself: illuminated, witty, charismatic and sexy. He’s so funny and interesting that Lucy, who has a tendency to dominate conversations, miraculously finds herself falling silent, actually listening to everything he has to say (a skill she sometimes struggles with, with other people). He has an incredibly calming presence, and when he hugs her, which he does often and long, she feels as though she could just sink into his arms and never move again.
She’s reminded of that scene in Dirty Dancing when Baby says to Johnny:
“Most of all I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I’m with you.”
Which is weird because most of Lucy’s life is far more like a scene from the black comedy Fleabag.
That’s exactly how Lucy feels about Michael. It’s taken her 38 years to meet someone she feels so connected to – what if she’s never going to meet anyone else who makes her feel the same way? What if he’s her lobster? It’s a pretty depressing and terrifying prospect.
But as is entirely typical of Lucy’s bastarding sucky love life, of course Michael is happily married. He is Off. Fucking. Limits. So when he gets in touch about a work thing a couple of months after she last saw him, and that chat turns into a suggestion to meet up, she’s torn. There’s literally nothing she would rather do than spend time with him, but she knows that seeing him when she can’t have him is just a tad masochistic: it’s going to hurt. And not in a fun way.
Even so, the thought of never seeing him again is out of the question. And they are friends, so why shouldn’t she hang out with him? So she says yes… with trepidation. Will she have a lovely evening or will seeing him just mess with her head? Probably the latter, as she tells her followers on Twitter:
This tweet will come back to bite her, as you’ll see next week.
Lucy and Michael meet for dinner near Piccadilly Circus on a Saturday evening. Lucy has spent seventeen hours doing her hair and make-up, and deciding what to wear. It’s bloody impossible to dress for a dinner that isn’t a date, to look cool and gorgeous but also casual and effortless. How the fuck does anyone manage?
But in making an effort to look good she feels a twinge of guilt. She would never do anything with Michael: he’s married, and Lucy has morals – stupid boring Puritanical morals that have basically prevented her from breaking any rules of having any fun her whole entire life. But even so, just having feelings for him makes her feel guilty, even though she can’t control them. Stupid feelings. Stupid guilt!
Lucy does guilt rather well. She’d probably have made a good Catholic. If it weren’t for the whole ‘not believing in God’ thing.
In the end she chooses skinny jeans and a white shirt with little stars on it – and because he’s 6’5″, red shoes with heels. She looks relaxed but attractive – she knows this because as she makes her way through the crowds at Piccadilly Circus two guys check her out from top to toe and back again. Lucy’s delighted. Nothing wrong with making an effort for a Saturday night out in town, right?
Yup, she lies to herself, that’s exactly why I’ve made an effort. Saturday night.
Michael is already at the restaurant when she arrives, and has ordered a bottle of wine. He stands up and gives her a hug.
There is nothing better than a ‘Hey, you’ from a gorgeous man. Lucy feels the instant lurch of attraction like a trip off an unexpected step. Clearly the time apart hasn’t remotely dulled her feelings for him.
He’s made an effort too: smart trousers and a shirt with a collar, when at work she only ever saw him in jeans and t-shirts. He scrubs up pretty damn fine – even though at 48 he’s a full ten years older than her.
The venue, suggested by Michael, is a cosy wine bar and restaurant tucked away in a back street. It’s bijou and candlelit and feels intimate. The waiter clearly thinks they are a couple, and Lucy basks in the illusion.
But she knows it’s just that – an illusion. Michael has already told her he’s only free to meet because his wife is away, and he needs to be home by 10pm to Skype with her. Lucy feels like Cinde-fucking-rella, waiting for the stroke of midnight to break the spell.
Fucking Skype. She hopes his wifi goes down.
“So this is nice!” Lucy grins. “How did you find this place?”
“I’ve been coming here for 22 years,” Michael says. “I know the owners.” Lucy wonders how many other girls he’s brought here in that time.
The place is so dimly lit that they both struggle to read the small print on the menu. “Check us out,” Lucy jokes, as she holds the paper up to the nearest candle. “Cool enough to be out in town on a Saturday night, but too blind to read the menu.”
After the waiter has taken their order, Michael tells Lucy about his recent holiday. He and the wife went to Greece and travelled round some random islands. Apparently she likes islands.
Lucy obviously knows the wife’s name, but cannot think of her as anything other than ‘the wife’. Maybe it’s because if she gives her a name, she might start to become a real person, and Lucy would have to recognise that there is something not right about the fact that she is harbouring strong feelings for another woman’s husband.
She tries to pretend not to be bothered by Michael talking about her. “Ooh, if your wife likes islands you should take her to Lofoten in Norway,” she advises. “It’s supposed to be incredible!”
Then she kicks herself. Lucy, why the fuck are you giving him tips on how to make his wife happy?
The starters arrive. Michael offers to let her try some of his spicy prawns, and spears one with his fork. For a second, Lucy thinks (wishes?) he’s going to do that sexy feeding across the table thing, and then he doesn’t. Instead, he simply hands her the fork. Lucy tries not to look too gutted.
She eats the prawn and hands the fork back. “How’s work?” Michael asks.
Lucy tells him about her most recent project, and about the hot single colleague she’s been working with.
“Ooh, interesting,” he teases. “Any joy?”
“Nah,” Lucy says. “To be honest, he’s fit, but I didn’t really fancy him. I actually ended up giving him loads of advice about how to improve his online dating profile. It was weird because although he’s extremely good-looking, he wasn’t getting any matches. I think it’s because most girls assume that if a guy that attractive is still single at 40, he must be arrogant and a player, so they avoid.”
“And was he?”
“Hard to tell. He seemed nice enough, but possibly. I always assume really hot guys like that are single for a reason, and to be honest I’m usually right.”
“But isn’t that unfair?” Michael asks. “Surely that’s like assuming that just because a girl is blonde and gorgeous, she’s going to be a bimbo. Which obviously…,” he pauses pointedly and looks her in the eye, “isn’t always the case.”
Lucy’s heart does a little skip.
“So you didn’t want to date this guy then?” he asks. “How is the dating going anyway?
Lucy tells him about the flirtation with her friend Amir, who asked her out on a date and then ghosted her.
“I was upset, because I really thought it could be a thing. I thought he was one of the Good Ones. And, you know, the Good Ones are all taken, so you have to wait for them to become available again.”
Lucy wonders if Michael will get the hint. But then he’s male, so probably not.
“But then one did become available again,” she continues, “and we get on well, you know, and he knows my crazy, but he likes me anyway, and he doesn’t think I’m scary like lots of men do.”
“I don’t think you’re crazy or remotely scary,” Michael says quietly, holding her gaze.
Lucy melts into a puddle on the floor. He has this way of looking at her like he’s staring into her actual fucking soul.
Shut the hell up, woman, she thinks. You’re sounding like a Mills and Boon novel again.
Over the main course, Michael starts talking about music. “Do you know the band Dexy’s Midnight Runners?” he asks.
Lucy’s heard of them, but the only song she knows is the cheesy wedding favourite Come On Eileen.
“They were huge in the 80s,” he reminds her. “But I guess you’re too young to remember that, being from a different generation n’all.”
Lucy finds it annoying that Michael often seems to draw attention to their 10-year age gap. “I was alive in the 80s, you know,” she reminds him. “You’re really not that much older than me. And anyway, as they say, age is just a number, you’re only as old as the woman you feel, and so on… Though I guess since your wife is older than you, that probably doesn’t help!”
Lucy laughs, and wonders if he will realise that what she’s really trying to say is that if he would only leave his wife and feel Lucy instead, he could be ten years younger just like that.
As Michael rambles on about 80s bands she’s never heard of, Lucy stops listening and just starts watching the way he talks, his expressive face, the tone of his voice. She fantasises about what it would be like if he were single, and if he just leaned over the table and kissed her right then and there. Now wouldn’t that be an incredible thing? But obviously he isn’t, and he won’t. She needs to get used to that fact. Get a fucking grip, woman.
Being with him is intense and exhilarating and both the best and the worst feeling in the world. Because the sweet irony is that if he suddenly told her he felt the same way, it would be both incredible and impossible. She won’t be the other woman. She can’t. Lucy knows the anguish of being cheated on, and there is no way she could be responsible for doing that to someone else.
Some people would say it’s not her responsibility to feel guilty – it wouldn’t be her that’s doing the cheating. But that’s rather beside the point. Any man that would cheat with her, would probably cheat on her. One of the many things she loves about Michael is that he’s a great guy whom she respects and trusts. If he were to turn out to be just another cheating dickhead fuckboy, all that would be broken.
FML, thinks Lucy.
Before she knows it, her time is up. Michael needs to leave to go home and Skype with his absent wife.
They walk back to Piccadilly Circus tube station and down the escalators. Lucy is going north, and Michael is heading south, so they stop at the junction where they have to part ways. This little section of tunnel is one of the places Lucy knows best in the entire London Underground system: she’s said more goodbyes here than she can count, and had a fair few kisses here too. There’s a patch of wall just inside the tunnel that might even be a little bit moulded to the shape of her back from being pressed against it.
But of course this is not like those other goodbye. This wasn’t a date, so she’s not getting a kiss. Instead, she gets a hug. But not just any hug, a proper, full-body Michael special. He envelops her in his 6 foot 5 frame and she leans fully in, resting her face on his chest, breathing him in, heart pounding, head spinning. He holds her for minutes, saying nothing, as the tide of Saturday-night revellers ebbs and washes past them. She wonders what they think is going on as they pause to find their destinations on the map and then head off down the platform. Lucy doesn’t move, and unlike last time, this time she manages not to cry.
Eventually, she turns her head and looks up at him. He holds her gaze for a moment, then leans down and pecks the briefest of kisses onto her upturned mouth. Then he steps back, gives her a second, quick squeeze, and is gone.
And Lucy hasn’t seen or spoken to him since.
Click here to find out how that ill-advised tweet causes a familiar face to make a reappearance…