Mr No-Relationship, Part 2 – Uber

Lucy’s now in Nairobi, where she’s going to be working for the next three months.  If you missed this important detail, you can catch up by nipping over to read Lucy Goes To Africa.

Three days into the trip she fired up Tinder as a way of making new friends in this strange city, and matched with Bradley, a 36-year-old construction project manager from Australia. From his profile and their chat (not to mention his stupid name) Lucy doesn’t fancy Brad at all, but she’s not too worried about this since the point of the exercise is just to find nice people to hang out with.  Anything more would probably be a bad idea; she’s here to have fun, and she doesn’t want some stupid fuckboy cunt ruining it.

It’s Friday afternoon, and in an incredible stroke of fate it turns out that not only are the bars they’re going to that evening next door to each other, but also that Bradley’s office is just round the corner from Lucy’s house. So it makes perfect sense for them to share a taxi. In fact it would be fucking rude not to.

If you missed all of this, head over to Part 1 – Match for a full recap.

And so we rejoin Lucy as she’s about to leave the house and embark on her first ever Tinder-date-in-the-back-of-a-taxi.

The Return of Ben

But before we do, there’s just one other thing you need to know.  Remember Ben, Lucy’s Twitter relationship-that-never-was?   If you do, you’ll remember they had a date planned, but it never happened because he went on a fourth date with Another Woman and stupidly went and caught feels for her.  How very dare he.  So Ben and Lucy have still never met, but since that day they’ve continued messaging, and have become sort of weird WhatsApp penpals, texting frequently and sharing all the details of their lives with the sort of raw honesty that’s really only achievable with someone when you never have to look them in the eye.

So while Lucy’s waiting for Brad to rock up, she fills Ben in on what’s been going on.

First Look

The house Lucy’s staying in is inside a walled compound fronted by a huge metal security gate.  It’s already dark, so as she locks the door and descends the three front steps all she can see is the lights of Brad’s waiting taxi gleaming across the yard.  On the other side of the gate is a car, and an unknown Australian man, and an hour-long journey into the city centre.  Anything could happen – though of course in all likelihood he will just be perfectly pleasant, they will make small talk for an hour, and go their separate ways. So although Lucy’s a little nervous, she’s also just happy to have a lift and finally be on her way into town for her first night out in Kenya.

The gate’s secured from the inside with a large, stiff bolt and a padlock, and in her slightly flustered state she struggles to get the key into the lock and wiggle the bolt back. She hopes Brad can’t hear her cackhandedness, and wonders if he’s nervous too.

Eventually, though, she manages to get the bolt back, opens the gate, and steps through.

The black car is parked with its nose to the gate, and Bradley’s standing by the open rear passenger door wearing smart work trousers and a slim-fit white shirt.  He’s only an inch or two taller than her, with a slight, wiry frame, cropped dark hair that’s already in full-on retreat, and one of those acceptably short beards that’s basically just stubble with a hangover.  It may be just that it’s dark and she can’t see very well, but her instant first impression is that he’s considerably more attractive IRL than his utterly crap profile photos let on.

When he sees her, he breaks into the broadest, sparkliest smile she’s seen in a long time, steps forward, gives her a kiss on the cheek… and Jesus Fucking Christ the man smells INCREDIBLE: an intoxicating mix of designer cologne, boy pheromones and actual magic potion that makes all the olfactory receptors in her brain light up in joyous technicolour.  And all of this added together: the impossible stroke of fate, the spontaneous taxi pickup, the damp warmth of the rainy African night, the well-fitted white shirt, the delicious aftershave, the cheeky grin… mean that, as he steps into her personal space to deliver the kiss, Lucy feels a sturdy kick of attraction right in her solar plexus.  Uh-oh…

“Well hey there,” he laughs in a broad Aussie accent. “How’re you doing?”
“I’m great!” she grins back. “Thank you for coming to get me!”
“No worries!”

He stands by the car door as she gets in, and Lucy starts to shuffle across to make space for him before she realises that he’s not waiting for her to move over, he’s actually doing the long-forgotten chivalrous gesture of getting the door for her, and then walking round to the other side to get in himself.

Well! she thinks. It seems we have ourselves a gentleman!  She smiles in the dark, and as he walks round to his side of the car she grabs her phone and quickly fires off an update to Ben.

Uber Date

The Uber pulls away, and now the initial greeting is over there’s a moment of awkwardness, which Brad resolves by introducing her to the driver.

“Elijah, this is Lucy. We’ve just met. Would you believe this is our first date?”
Elijah, who’s clearly not remotely interested in being a third wheel on their bizarre taxi date, mutters a brief reply and carries on driving.

So if they can’t rely on Elijah to help break the ice, they’re going to have to – horrors! – actually talk to each other.

Lucy turns to Brad. “How random is this?! It’s so weird! And hilarious!”
“I know!” he replies. “Mad that your house is so close by!”
“And terribly convenient!  You rescued me from the nightmare of trying to get a taxi to come all the way out here in the rain.  You’re like a knight in shining Uber!”

Lucy’s rather proud of herself for that one.  Should really write these down, she thinks.

“This is a first for me,” she adds.  “My first ever Tinder date in the back of a taxi!”
“Actually this is only about my third ever Tinder date at all,” Brad confesses.

How lovely, thinks Lucy, maybe he’ll have low expectations and won’t be jaded and broken like the rest of us.  And then she kicks herself and remembers that they are just going to be friends. Definitely.

Brad asks her about what she’s doing in Kenya and how she likes it so far, and tells her a bit about his job: he works for an Australian construction company who’ve sent him out here for a year to oversee the building of a new hotel.  Before that he was working in Ghana, which is where Lucy spent seven months back in 2003, so they bond over their shared memories of the country.  Cute, chatty, AND stuff in common?  Lucy’s not sure she can quite believe it.  There must be a catch.  There MUST.  But what will it be?  (Place your bets now…)

Pit stop

The traffic is at a crawl, and as they approach a petrol station Lucy suddenly remembers the bottle opener in her bag – its presence happily forgotten as soon as its pointy sharp end turned out to be redundant.

She brandishes it in excitement, narrowly avoiding taking his eye out. “I have a bottle opener! Let’s stop for beers!”
“Wow! A woman after my own heart!” Brad exclaims, evidently impressed.

They go into the shop together while Elijah waits outside.  Lucy takes the opportunity to size Brad up under the bright strip lighting, and finds that he doesn’t fare too badly at all.  Yes, he’s not model gorgeous, and his skin is creased and pitted from too much time under the harsh Australian sun, but he has a handsome face and the stubbly beard definitely adds a hint of sexiness.  Slightly more offputting is his build: he’s not much taller than her and very slight, which means he probably weighs no more than she does, and standing next to him she definitely doesn’t feel nearly as petite and feminine as she’d like.

But again she puts the brakes on that kind of thinking, reminding herself that they’re just going to be friends and nothing more.  She came here to escape man drama and have a nice time.  She really doesn’t need the complication.

They stand side by side staring at the options in the fridge.  Lucy normally only drinks wine and has no idea what to choose, but Brad’s happy to take the lead, confidently grabbing a couple of local beers and swiftly paying for them at the counter.  Then it’s back to the car, where they spend the rest of the journey drinking and chatting happily, already relaxed and comfortable in each other’s company.

It’s without question the most fun Lucy’s ever had in the back of an Uber stuck in rush hour traffic.

And by the time they arrive at Brad’s hotel, they’ve agreed that neither of them wants this date to end quite yet.  So they decide to stick together, and instead of going off to meet his friends, Brad will ditch them and come with Lucy to dinner.

Lucy’s exhilarated and bewildered by this incredibly fast turn of events.  At lunchtime she’d never even heard of Bradley, and now she’s bringing him to meet her brand new colleague and bunch of people even she doesn’t know?  They do say everything in Africa is twice as fast and twice as dramatic as in real life, and she’s starting to understand why.

Detour

Since Brad’s only recently arrived in Nairobi, he’s staying in a very smart 5* hotel in the city centre until he can organise an apartment.  He tells Lucy he needs to drop his stuff and take a shower, and shows her to the fancy hotel bar where she can wait while he heads upstairs to freshen up.

While Lucy enjoys a glass of wine in the 5* surroundings, she messages Emma to let her know she’ll be bringing a plus one to dinner.

Lucy’s new colleague Emma is a pin-sharp, single, 28-year-old American with a huge heart and an even bigger personality.  Despite their 11-year age gap she and Lucy have already hit it off, so she takes the news in her stride and even gives her a little encouragement.

As if Bradley knows he’s being discussed, he messages her too.

Twenty minutes later he reappears, freshly showered with damp hair, in jeans and a pale blue polo shirt.  He looks so clean and delicious that Lucy half regrets not taking Emma’s advice – even more so when he comes closer and she discovers that again he smells so incredible she gets goosebumps.  Is this aftershave he’s wearing, or some kind of airborne mind-altering drug?  It’s all starting to feel like a trap.

Before they leave, he takes her for a quick tour of the hotel, showing her the swanky reception area, the three restaurants, enormous gym, and indoor and outdoor swimming pools.  I need this guy in my life, thinks Lucy.  What more could you ask for in a new friend than access to a fancy 5* hotel complete with gym and TWO pools?!  She’s so excited by this notion that she even turns a blind eye when, outside the front of the hotel, he pulls out a packet of fags and lights up.

Yes, disappointingly, he’s a filthy disgusting smoker.  But it doesn’t matter, because (a) they are just going to be friends and (b) TWO SWIMMING POOLS.

Mexican

Emma and her friends (a mixture of ex-pats and locals) are already seated at a table outside the Mexican restaurant when they arrive, so there’s a flurry of greetings and cheek-kissing, and then everyone shuffles up to make room. Lucy finds herself squished onto a small bench at one end of the table, pressed tightly up against Brad, who seems to be in his element, chatting and joking with everyone and generally being impressively calm and confident.

A man you can take anywhere: another tick in the box.  This is getting worrying.  Lucy reminds herself that he’s a toxic smoker, and therefore not attractive at all.  Not. At. All.

She discovers another helpful catch a few moments later, when he reveals he has three young kids back home in Australia.

“Three?! Gosh, that’s quite a lot!”
“Yeah, they’re really cool though.  They live with their mum, so I don’t see them much, but I get to go home every two months so it’s not so bad.”

In what feels like a rather frank confession, Brad tells her he never wanted kids, but the children’s mother just went ahead and allowed herself to get pregnant anyway.
No wonder the relationship didn’t work out, thinks Lucy, that hardly sounds healthy!

“So you’re divorced?”
“Well yeah, I am, but not from the kids’ mum.  We were together 9 years but we never got married.  But I was married to someone else before her.”
“Wow! You’ve been busy!”

Brad’s life sounds a little chaotic, but of course this doesn’t matter, because this is not going to be a relationship.  He’s from Australia, FFS!  Lucy’s going back to the UK in three months.  It doesn’t make the blindest bit of difference if he has three kids or thirty!

A waiter comes to take their order: they get margaritas, and burritos with two different fillings so they can try both.  When the food arrives, of course, Bradley only eats half of his, and Lucy eats all of hers AND has several bites of Bradley’s and then feels like a gross greedy pig.

“So Lucy, how long have you been in Kenya?” asks Emma’s friend Rob.
“Just three days, actually,” she replies.
“Oh,” says Rob, surprised.  So did you two know each other before?”
Lucy blushes.  “Ummm, no actually… we just met this evening… on Tinder!”

There are laughs of surprise, and Lucy and Bradley look at each other, a little embarrassed.

“Yay for Tinder!” says someone.
“I did have to swipe through some total dickheads first though,” says Lucy, and tells them about Paul, whose opening message was to suggest she come over to his place for sex.
“It’s so offensive!” she rants. “Why would anyone think I would immediately agree to have sex with them when we’ve never even met!”
“Look how disappointed Bradley looks right now!” jokes Rob, and everyone laughs.  Lucy wants to crawl under the table.

The Friends

The friends that Brad was due to meet show up, and Lucy’s introduced to Byron, a rather dull 41-year-old American, and Anna, a statuesque and sporty brunette in her mid-30s to whom Lucy takes an instant liking.  Brad disappears inside with them for a while, and Lucy waits in agony for him to return, desperate to know what they’re saying about her.

“Anna seems lovely,” she tells him when he gets back. “How did you meet her?”
“Actually, it was on another Tinder date!” he laughs.
She’s shocked to discover that she feels slightly threatened.  “How come it didn’t work out?”
“We just never saw each other that way.  We hit it off, but just as friends.”

But Anna is charismatic and gorgeous, and Brad is a red-blooded male, so Lucy suspects she knows whose decision it was.

Maybe Anna had the right idea, she thinks.  As much as she can’t deny she’s strongly attracted to Brad, more so than she has been to anyone in a fuck of a long time, maybe it’s better to keep things simple.  He’s fantastic company, they get on brilliantly, and like her he’s new in town and keen to see more of the country, so he’d be perfect as a mate and travel companion.  If they end up sleeping together, even only in a short-term, holiday romance kind of way, Lucy knows that it will almost certainly go tits up, and then she’ll be left with nothing but heartache.  No, she thinks, far better to keep it simple, hold onto him as a travel buddy, and avoid any pain and trauma.

(Of course we all know that Lucy is fucking kidding herself, but she’s going to continue to hold onto the delusion for as long as possible.  Let’s just humour her for now, shall we?)

The bill arrives, and Brad firmly insists on paying.  Lucy tries to object – she doesn’t want him to expect anything in return – but he’s having none of it, and in the end she gives in.  No point in being rude; she can just get the next one.

After Party

Some of the group start making plans to head on to another bar for more drinks.  Emma announces that she has to go home as she’s got a guy from Tinder coming over, which makes Lucy feel a tad embarrassed about her earlier outrage.  Brad nudges her. “You want to go for another drink?”

And so they do.  There are beers, and more new people to meet, but all the time Brad is by her side, attentive, confident, charismatic, and so vastly different from the usual creepy fucktards or hopeless morons she encounters back home.  Yet nothing happens.  He doesn’t touch her once, not even a guiding hand, a meaningful look, or a flirty compliment.  Does he even fancy me?  Lucy wonders.  Would she be pleased if he did, or disappointed if he didn’t?  She’s not sure.

At 2 am one of Emma’s friends suggests that she and Lucy share a taxi home.  The evening seems to be dying now, nothing is happening with Brad, so she decides to accept, and gives him a hug goodbye.  Friends it is then.  This will certainly be less complicated, and at least she will still have the swimming pool.

The driver has barely pulled away when her phone pings.

Lucy loves this.  The man is a proper gentleman who gets doors, pays the bill, and texts promptly.  No messing, no game playing, none of the crap she’s been dealing with with British men in London for all these years.  Why TF did I not find an Aussie to date over there? she wonders.  There are LOADS of them!

As gets ready for bed, another message lands.

To find out what happened next, go to Part 3 – House Party.

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Names and some minor details have been changed to protect the innocent. And sometimes the guilty.
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