It’s the day of Lucy’s second date with Barry, who she matched with on Bumble. Barry’s divorced with a daughter, and makes moronic grammatical errors, but he’s cheeky and does A-grade banter so Lucy’s decided to forgive these misdemeanours and see whether the spark might ignite into something more exciting.
To catch up on the story so far, click here.
Last time, Barry told Lucy she was his first ever Bumble date. Previously, he said, he’d been on Plenty of Fish, but found the sexually aggressive women on there freakishly terrifying. He’s looking for someone a little classier, he says.
Given the way he then groped her enthusiastically behind a bus stop, and followed up with several butt-clenchingly suggestive text messages, Lucy is not entirely sure she believes this story. But since she fancies him more than she’s fancied anyone in a fuck of a long time, and when he kissed her he made her tummy go squiggly, she’s willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, even if he’s not Mr Right, he could always be Mr Right Now.
They’ve arranged to meet in a pub a short walk from Hammersmith station. On her way there, Lucy gets a text from her friend Sophie asking what she’s up to, so she tells her about the date.
(Editor’s note: eagle-eyed readers will spot that Lucy’s messages are normally in green, on the right, but this time they’re in white on the left. That’s because this chat accidentally got deleted, so the screen grabs have come from Sophie’s phone.)
Sophie’s right. Maybe Barry and Lucy aren’t the perfect match, but there’s no reason why she can’t enjoy his company and possibly get a little bit of action in there too. After all, it’s been a while, Barry is definitely fuckable, and a girl’s got needs. And maybe, just maybe, it will develop into something more.
When Lucy arrives at the pub, Barry’s not there.
Bollocks, she thinks. He’s late. That sucks, (a) because he’s fucking late, and that means she now has to sit by herself like Billie No-Mates, swiping on Twitter until he arrives, and (b) because she wants a drink, and now she doesn’t know if she should just get one for herself, or buy a round. A round seems like it would be the Right Thing to do, but that might almost be like rewarding him for being late, and then he might start doing it all the time. Which would obviously be totally fucking unacceptable.
As far as Lucy’s concerned you should never be late, except under extreme circumstances, like if you’ve been involved in an accident, or you were delayed helping an old lady find her way home, or you stopped to buy Lucy a present and got held up by an unexpected item in the bagging area. And even then it’s not ok. You should anticipate these things, and plan accordingly. It’s what Lucy would do.
At the bar, she’s almost certain the barman gives her a pitying look because she’s on her own. So she gets her phone out and texts Barry, just to prove to the man that she has a date, and he’ll arrive any second. Barry replies immediately. He’s almost there, he says, and he’ll have a large glass of Merlot. Lucy notices that he doesn’t say sorry.
FFS, she thinks. Now I have to splash the best part of a tenner (this is London, folks!) on a guy who not only can’t be on time, but doesn’t even apologise for being late. Dammit!
The pub is of the smart gastro variety with a leather-upholstered banquette running all the way round the wall, so Lucy takes her drinks to a corner table and gets comfy on the bench, facing into the room where she can watch the door. Twenty minutes later, Barry saunters in, cool as a cucumber.
“A’right, gawjus!’ he says with a twinkle, and kisses her on the mouth.
“What time do you call this?” Lucy says with a smile, even though she’s not actually joking.
“Couldn’t fin’ the place,” Barry shrugs.
Lucy’s pretty sure the pub is marked on Google maps, and Barry has a smartphone, so she’s not entirely sure ‘couldn’t find it’ is a valid excuse. But she decides to let it go, because he’s even cuter than she remembered, and there’s something about him that is just so, well, attractive. That mysterious spark that is usually so hard to find is definitely burning brightly here, that’s for sure.
Even though the table has two other chairs, Barry snuggles up next to Lucy on the banquette and put his hand on her thigh. Lucy feels a little quiver of excitement at his touch, and more so when he leans in and gives her another, longer kiss. Lucy smiles and takes a sip of her wine.
Their moment is interrupted by a lady with a sheaf of papers and a handful of biros.
“Are you here for the pub quiz?” she asks with an encouraging smile.
Barry and Lucy look at each other, quizzically (sorry).
Lucy hadn’t been expecting a pub quiz, but this could be fun. And it might be a great way to get to know Barry a bit better, suss out his intelligence, and keep the conversation away from sex for as long as possible.
So they pay their £2 to join and are handed an answer sheet, a picture round, and a pen. While Lucy studies the picture round – movie posters with the titles removed – Barry heads to the bar to get some more drinks lined up. This is going to be thirsty work.
By the time he gets back, Lucy has filled in the titles of all the cheesy romcoms and several of the cult classics and is feeling pretty proud of herself.
The quiz starts.
“Question one: How many events form an Olympic heptathlon?”
They look at each other. “Seven, easy!” says Barry.
Lucy knew this too, but is happy to let Barry take the credit. It’s important to allow men to feel big and important, and a pub quiz is an excellent way to do this.
“Question Two: Which well-known American actor played Mr Wormwood in the 1996 film Matilda?”
Lucy has no idea. She hasn’t seen the film.
Barry grins and writes ‘Danny DeVito’ on the answer sheet with a flourish. Guess that’s what having a 7-year-old daughter does for your general knowledge.
As the quiz progresses, it seems Barry has quite an impressive range of random knowledge for a man who doesn’t even have a basic grasp of grammar. He knows the name of the river that runs through Amsterdam (The Amstel). He knows which English Premier League footballer is the highest scoring midfielder of all time (Frank Lampard, though Lucy really doesn’t give a fuck about football). Meanwhile Lucy correctly identifies a quote from Mary Poppins and the date of Bastille Day in France. They make a good team, though Barry definitely knows more of the answers than Lucy. She’s quite impressed.
At the break they’re coming fourth, and things seem to be going well. Lucy suggests ordering some food.
“Nah, I dun want any,” says Barry.
Lucy, who has had two large glasses of wine, is a bit cross. She needs to eat, but doesn’t want to eat alone.
“What, no dinner at all? Not even bar snacks?”
“Well, I guess if yer gettin’ some I s’pose I could ‘ave a bit.”
Lucy is miffed. Who TF goes out for the evening and doesn’t eat?! And now it seems like he is going to eat, but is expecting her to pay. This all feels rather awkward and unsatisfactory.
She goes to the bar and orders a selection of hot bar snacks, enough for two people. Effectively this means she’s buying Barry dinner, but there’s no way she’s ordering just for her and then running the risk that he’ll eat half of it.
She sits back down again and Barry leans in for another kiss. He kisses her neck and starts trying to put his hand up under her top.
“Woah there,” Lucy says with what she hopes is a lighthearted smile. “Slow down! You know if that’s all you’re after you should have just stayed on Plenty of Fish.”
“Oh I’m sorry,” says Barry, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “Didn’t realise yer woz so uptigh’.”
He slides angrily away down the bench until he’s a good four feet away from Lucy, then crosses his legs, folds his arms, and sits there with a petulant expression set on his face. “Is this be’er?”
In a flash, the atmosphere has soured. Lucy frowns. What just happened?
She tries to ease the tension by moving up next to him.
“Hey, don’t be silly,” she says. “I was just joking!”
She takes his hand and puts it back on her thigh, but Barry immediately removes it again.
“Yer don’t wan’ me ter touch yer?” he growls. “So I won’t. Ge’ back on yer side.”
Is he offended? It was just a joke! Lucy really doesn’t understand what went wrong. She tries to apologise for upsetting him, but Barry is having none of it. He’s completely closed down on her.
They spend the second half of the quiz in complete silence, an oppressive cloud hanging over them, only speaking to discuss the answers. Instead, Barry turns his charm on the group at the table next door, laughing and joking with them, while Lucy sits in her corner feeling more and more confused and miserable.
She grabs her phone and texts a follow up to Sophie.
She’s only mildly cheered up when the food arrives, and then immediately fucked off again when Barry eats half of it, even though he said he wasn’t hungry.
Finally (thank fuck) the quiz is over. They came third – which with only two people on their team is quite an achievement. This success is mostly down to Barry, who surprised Lucy with his broad range of knowledge, and she would have been impressed by this were it not for the fact that he’s behaving like a total prick. But at least it’s over now.
“So wha’ now?” he says. “D’ya wan’ anuvva drink?”
Seriously? Lucy is even more confused. He’s just spent the last hour making it abundantly clear that he’d rather talk to the randoms on the next table than her, and now he invites her to have another drink? What the fuck is going on?
Lucy certainly doesn’t want to subject herself to any more of his passive aggressive glaring, but nor is she quite ready to give up on this just yet. Things seemed so promising! They had great chemistry! He was cute and funny! And this happens so rarely in Lucy’s life that she can’t quite bring herself to admit defeat. Maybe if she stays for one more drink they can thaw the ice that has mysteriously appeared between them, and get back to the easy banter they had before.
“Ok, sure,” she says, as brightly as she can muster. “One more for the road!”
“Cool. I think it’s your round.”
Wait a fucking second! Is he expecting her to get the drinks? Technically, yes, she bought a round, and then he did, so now it’s back to her. But she also paid for all the food, which cost way more than a round of drinks. And more to the point, the fact they’re even discussing whose turn it is to pay is just rude and uncool and bloody out of order. It’s just a fucking round of drinks, Barry. YOU asked ME to stay for another. Go to the fucking bar and get them, you cunt.
There is a moment’s stand-off, and then Barry huffs and goes to the bar. Lucy debates whether she should just leave, but it’s too late for that now.
The tension does thaw a little as they have their drinks, but things have soured too badly to recover fully. Lucy is still completely mystified as to what went wrong. Surely he can’t still be pissed off about one throwaway comment? She’s bitterly disappointed – this seemed so promising at the start and she had such high hopes, and yet again it’s all gone to shit.
They get up to leave. After drinking the equivalent of a whole bottle of wine each, they’re both quite tipsy.
“Come on,” Barry says, “I’ll walk yer to the bus stop.”
“There’s really no need,” Lucy replies, “I’ll be fine.”
But Barry insists, so she lets him. It’s only a couple of minutes away, and then they can say a quick goodbye and that’ll be it.
Except it isn’t. When they get to the bus stop, Lucy sits on the bench, and Barry stands opposite her, six feet away, hands defiantly in pockets, not saying anything.
“It’s 15 minutes till the next bus,” Lucy says. “You really don’t need to wait.”
But again, Barry insists. What the actual fuck?
They remain there in awkward silence, Lucy sitting, Barry standing, a pear-shaped cloud hanging over them. Lucy really fucking wishes he would just fuck off – and totally doesn’t get why he doesn’t. Is he trying to be chivalrous? If so, where was his chivalry when they were arguing over whose turn it was to buy a round?! Is he after a snog? Surely not! So then why is he staying?
“Seriously,” she says, “You can go. I’ll be fine here by myself.”
“Nah, I don’ mind, I’m happy ter wai’.”
Lucy’s had enough of his passive aggressive behaviour. “Look,” she says. “You’re clearly pissed off with me. I’ve apologised. I really don’t know what else I can do. So why are you staying? At this point in the evening the only reason why you would wait in the bus stop with me is if we were going to have a snog like last time, but you’ve made it clear you’re not interested, so I don’t get it…”
“When did I say I weren’t in’rested?’ he says, steps in, and kisses her.
Lucy is momentarily surprised… and then because she’s drunk, and because it’s been a shitty evening and she doesn’t want it to end on a low, and because she came out full of high hopes expecting a stellar date that would end in a kiss, she kisses him back.
After a moment, he takes her hand and leads her away from the bus stop and down a side street, where he pushes her up against a wall and kisses her again, more insistently, his hands immediately roaming to what appears to be his favourite place: her derriere.
But this time, the kiss feels cold and emotionless. Last time, there was chemistry, and humour, and attraction, and butterfly-inducing potential. This time the entire encounter feels functional at best, aggressive at worst. Lucy pulls away.
“I think my bus will be coming,” she says.
They walk back round the corner to the bus stop.
“I’ve prob’ly missed the las’ tube now,” Barry mutters.
Lucy just about manages not to lose her shit entirely.
“YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO STAY!” she exclaims.
“Well if yer dint wan’ me to, yer shudda said,” he retorts.
Lucy’s pretty sure she made her feelings on that matter fairly clear, but there’s no point in getting into another argument now. She gets on the bus, absolutely certain she won’t hear from Barry again.
She sinks into her seat, feeling like utter shite. She’s drunk and dejected, and as she sits there, thinking about how miserable he made her feel, and how disappointed she is after her high hopes at the start of the evening, she begins to cry. She grabs her phone out of her bag and texts Sophie.
As usual, Lucy can rely on her female friends to get to the point right away.
Lucy knows Sophie is probably right, but she also knows she won’t stop. Not yet. At 38 time is not on her side, and every week taken off, every date missed, is another step further away from finding her man and finally, finally, being able to put all this sort of this behind her.She gets off the bus and makes her way home. As she climbs the stairs to her flat, her phone buzzes again. Unbelievably, it’s Barry.
Lucy has absolutely no idea why the man is still texting her, but she’s had enough. Her endless patience with all the mixed messages and confusion has worn to breaking point. She turns off her phone and goes to bed.
Next week: Lucy hopes a paid-for website will provide a better class of date.