Three days after her arrival in Kenya, Lucy went on Tinder and came across Brad, a 36-year-old construction manager from Australia. From his photos she couldn’t see herself ever wanting to be thrown roughly over a table and banged from behind by him, but since she’s only looking for friendship she swiped right anyway, and they ended up going on a spontaneous date that began in the back of a Uber and ended seven hours later with them hugging goodbye in an Irish pub.
If you missed all that, check out Part 2 – Uber Date
In a shock twist of fate it turns out that Lucy and Brad have more explosive chemistry than a mentos-and-coke experiment – astonishing given that he’s somewhat vertically challenged, has a horrifying three kids, and is a filthy smoker. But in spite of the obvious attraction she decides it’s best if they just stay friends. Quite apart from the red flags, Lucy’s only here for a few months, and her priority is to find drinking and travel buddies: a role Brad could fill perfectly. If they hook up, it will undoubtedly go tits up more spectacularly than Mel Gibson’s acting career and she’ll be left with nothing.
She shares her decision with Ben, her former Twitter interest turned weird WhatsApp penpal.
This is all entirely theoretical anyway, since she has absolutely no idea if Brad’s interested in her in a romantic way. During their seven-hour date, not once did he try to kiss her, so it’s entirely possible he finds her as repulsive as drain hair and the decision is out of her hands.
Though she does know he likes her, at least platonically, since he’s already texted to ask her out again. So there’s that.
Since Lucy only arrived in the country 4 days ago and therefore has no plans, she accepts, and we now rejoin her the very next afternoon as she heads back into the city centre with a backpack full of gym and swim gear, with Ben still at the end of WhatsApp for moral support.
Brad’s having lunch with some friends, and has told Lucy to join him at the restaurant, a fragrant Middle-Eastern establishment set in a flower-filled garden, with patio tables shaded from the sun by a thatched roof. They’ve finished eating and are slightly tipsy, drinking wine and picking at the last of their hummus and tagine. He stands up to greet her with a kiss on the cheek, and Lucy’s freaked out to discover that in spite of her sensible decision, he’s just as stomach-lurchingly sexy in the cold, sober light of day as she remembers.
He re-introduces her to his friends Anna and Byron whom she met briefly last night (it’s not clear if they’re a couple) and to Carolina, a dark-haired Italian in her late 20s. They’re just getting the bill, and plan to head on to an afternoon flat party hosted by an American named Charles. Would she like to go with them, Brad asks, or should they go back to his hotel and enjoy the facilities as originally planned?
Lucy’s keen to meet new people, and a party would be the ideal opportunity for this. And since she and Brad are just going to be friends (yes, definitely), hanging out with the whole group makes far more sense than a cosy afternoon for two at his hotel. And so they go, though Brad insists on carrying her backpack, ‘since she only brought it with her because of him’, and Lucy is once again delighted to enjoy the attention of an old-fashioned gentleman.
There’s just one potential problem…
During yesterday’s Tinder swipe session, Lucy also matched with an American named Charles. He seemed nice enough, they chatted for a bit, and she’d planned to meet him at some point. What are the odds that Tinder Charles, and Flat Party Charles, are one and the same?
Because that would be, like, you know, super awkward.
She shows Tinder Charles’ photo to Anna, who shrieks with laughter. Of course it’s the fucking same person, because why the fuck wouldn’t it be? Nairobi’s expat community is smaller than the recommended serving size on a bag of Doritos, Lucy already knew that. She just didn’t realise quite how much smaller.
So now she has to navigate the unusual social minefield of arriving uninvited at the flat of a guy from Tinder, in the company of, and arguably on a date with, another guy from Tinder.
She’s pretty certain there isn’t an entry in the Debrett’s etiquette guide for a situation like this.
And of course when she turns to Ben for advice he’s no bloody help at all.
Actually, in the end it IS fine. They go in and Anna takes charge, introducing her to Charles who looks surprised but takes it in his stride. They laugh it off, ‘small world!’, ‘how funny!’ and that is that. And even though Charles looked quite nice in his profile, nicer than Brad, even, there is zero attraction between them. The contrast makes Lucy realise just how much she IS attracted to Brad, and what a rare and special thing that is.
Because it is. Rarer and more special than when the last dress left in the sales is actually in your size. It’s no exaggeration to say that Lucy can count on the fingers of just one hand the number of times in her life that she’s clicked with a single guy the way she has with Brad. The last time it happened was when she met The Ex, nine exhausting years ago now. And yes, there may be obstacles, like the fact that he’s from Australia, and has kids, and smokes, but Lucy knows only too well the impossibility of finding someone she likes who not only likes her back, but is also single. Maybe this has an expiry date on it; maybe it won’t work out, but if the soul-sucking years of dating have taught her anything, it’s that finding someone is IMPOSSIBLE, so if you do, you’d better grab onto them as hard as you bloody can while you have the chance
They spend the rest of the party together, moving around as a couple. Most of the people they talk to assume they are one, and are very surprised to discover that Lucy only arrived in the country a few days ago. Just like last night, Brad works the room like a pro: confident, magnetic, stealing the show, with Lucy at his side, basking in the glow of his charisma. As more wine is consumed they both start to properly relax around each other, and finally move closer: a gentle brush of the arm, standing so close their hips touch, taking a sip from each other’s drink. It’s electrifying.
The flat has a balcony with views over the city so they head outside to take a photo together; he puts his hand on her waist. In the picture she’s laughing, and they look like a couple in the first flush of romance. Lucy’s no longer interested in meeting new people, she only wants to talk to Brad.
A small group is standing on the balcony. “So how did you guys meet?” someone asks.
There’s an awkward pause as each waits for the other to answer, unsure how much honesty is allowed in this situation.
“Uhhh… on Tinder actually!” confesses Lucy eventually.
No one seems surprised. How far the world has come.
Lucy jokes that she only swiped right on Brad because the rest of the guys on the app were so horrific, and shows them the screenshot she took of the guy whose photo is of a big black cockerel. BBC? Geddit?
They drink more wine and get tipsy, and later, when the others have drifted off, Brad brings the subject up again.
“Heh, that BBC joke was kind of funny,” he chuckles. “It can be a bit intimidating using urinals in Africa!”
The thought had never really occurred to Lucy. She’s always been mystified by urinals, to be honest. The idea of peeing in front of a total stranger horrifies her and she simply can’t understand how guys do it. If they took the cubicle walls out of ladies’ toilets she’d never pee in public again.
“What, do guys look at each other’s penises?” she asks.
“Well no, not if you can avoid it, but sometimes you catch a glimpse.” Brad says. “This one time, I was standing next to this black guy, and he looked down at me, and then he said, ‘I’ve heard of black men having a BBC, but I didn’t realise it was possible for a white guy to have a BWC!’”
Why is he telling her this? Lucy wonders. Is this just a funny anecdote, or is it, perchance, because he’s trying to impress her, a hint at what treats may lie in store should things progress? Is Brad’s confidence in a group the very definition of Big Dick Energy?
The sun sets, and people begin drifting away from the party to go for dinner. Anna, Byron and Carolina, the Italian, decide to go for steak at a nice restaurant nearby, and since Lucy has major wine munchies now, she and Brad go too.
All five of them squeeze into a taxi, with Byron in the front seat and the other four squished across the back. Lucy, quite tipsy now, is next to Brad, her thighs and hips pressed tightly against his, her brain bewildered by the closeness of him, by his intoxicating smell, and probably also by the best part of a bottle of wine. Somehow his hand has ended up on her arm, and with the tips of his fingers he starts gently stroking her, tracing circles round and round, which makes the hairs all stand on end and gives her tingles all the way from the roots of her hair to the tips of her toes and everywhere in between – yes, she definitely has tingles in the bit in between. She turns her hand over and he floats his fingers gently down over her wrist and across her palm before interlocking them with hers. She wonders if he can feel her pulse pounding in her veins. She wonders if the taxi driver will need to wipe the seat down when she gets out.
He leans closer to her ear. “I’m sorry you had to lug all this gym kit around with you all day,” he tells her quietly, underneath the others’ loud conversation and the driver’s radio.
“No worries, it’s been fun,” she tells him. “And it’s not like I’ve had to lug it anyway, you’ve done all the carrying!”
“Tell you what, we can use the gym tomorrow morning instead, if you like?”
Tomorrow morning? Lucy’s heart does a little lurch. Does he mean what she thinks he means?
Normally she wouldn’t know quite how to respond to this – she’d probably be quite offended at such a presumptuous and, yes, borderline fuckboy suggestion. But this is Africa, where Lucy does things differently, and she’s full of wine and tingles, and the thinking part of her brain has slowed to a crawl, so a reply just pops out of her mouth uncontrolled:
“Am I staying at yours tonight then?”
He gives her hand a squeeze. “I think so, don’t you?”
And just like that, it’s decided. They haven’t even kissed yet.
Lucy can’t quite believe that she’s just agreed to spend the night with a man she met only yesterday. In all her 39 years she’s never slept with someone before the fourth date, and sometimes she waits a fair bit longer than that. It’s not that there’s a rule as such; she just likes to get to know a guy properly before she feels comfortable enough to take off her clothes and let him put parts of his anatomy inside parts of her anatomy. But with Brad it feels different. Maybe it’s the fact that Kenya has got her living a faster, freer life than she’s able to do back home, maybe it’s this magical connection they both appear to be feeling, but whatever it is, all thoughts of remaining Just Friends have flitted away into the ether. She’s only here three months, and life is too short to miss opportunities or play games.
It basically has been four dates anyway, she thinks, trying to justify the decision. Taxi date and Mexican restaurant yesterday, and then house party and now steak dinner. Four dates. The rule, such as it is, remains unbroken. Plus, she actually has shower stuff and makeup with her, so it’s basically like the universe wanted her to spend the night with him.
During dinner Bradley becomes bolder. He rests his hand on her knee and orders a G&T. “This is delicious,” he says with a wink, “all the best things come out of Britain.” When Lucy raves about the steak, he winks at her again. “Oh you love meat, do you?” he asks, with a cheeky grin. There’s so much chemistry charging between them she’s surprised Anna and Byron haven’t been electrocuted. She just hopes the whole thing’s going to end with sparks flying, and not with a power cut.
Ever the gentleman, Brad again insists on paying for her dinner, and then together they take a taxi back to his fancy 5* hotel. He holds her hand all the way, but still he does not try to kiss her.
By this point Lucy would sell her soul to Satan to have him do so then and there in the back of the cab, but she needs to wait. Something about Brad’s confidence, his old-fashioned masculinity, reassures her that it’s better to let him take his time. Don’t chase him or scare him off, she thinks. Be patient; he’ll get there.
The Long Walk
They walk through reception, and as they pass he greets all the staff by name with a smile: the security guy, the receptionists, the chap who helpfully presses the button to call the glass-fronted lift that overlooks the domed reception area. Bradley’s clearly someone who’s great with people, and Lucy feels another little burst of attraction. They haven’t even kissed yet, and already she’s smitten. This kiss, when it comes, had better be fucking good, or the disappointment’s going to be more crushing than that time Lucy managed to get Killers tickets and then found out her friend was getting married the same day.
That ride up to the 7th floor is probably the longest fucking lift journey in the history of lift journeys. Alone in a small box, heading back to his room for who knows exactly what, you’d need a chainsaw to cut through the tension. He stands across from her like a colleague en route to a meeting, and Lucy covers her nerves by looking out of the window as the reception falls away below and chattering inanely about how smart the hotel is and how small the people look from this high up. Perhaps if she keeps this up he’ll be forced to kiss her just to get her to shut the fuck up.
He swipes the room card and awkwardly tries to hold the door open from the hallway to allow her to go first. Chivalry is very lovely, thinks Lucy, but this is getting a touch impractical now. But of course she says nothing, and instead admires the room: enormous floor-to-ceiling window with a view over the city, 5* hotel styling with dark wood furniture and some sort of colourful artwork on the wall, and of course, a large, crisp, white-sheeted bed right in the middle of the room.
She sits on the end of it and begins to unbuckle her sandals.
“I’m thinking,” begins Brad, stepping closer so that he’s standing right in front of her, “that I might just pop back downstairs to have a cigarette. Do you mind?”
Well fuck, that wasn’t exactly the romantic overture she was expecting. And yes, of course she bloody minds. He’ll probably come back up stinking and tasting like a fucking toxic ash tray, and then she probably won’t want to kiss him any more. But of course she can’t say any of this. She looks up at him, unsure how to respond.
And their eyes lock, he takes the final step into the space between her knees, bends towards her, and finally, finally, puts his mouth to hers.
To find out what happened next, click here.