It’s Tuesday, and Lucy’s now four days into her thrilling-yet-terrifying whirlwind romance with Brad, the 36-year-old Australian construction manager whom she met on Tinder shortly after arriving in Nairobi.
As has already become the routine, Brad sends her a cheery text just as she’s walking to work.
It puts a smile on her face and a spring in her step that even the uncomfortable stares and white-girl comments from curious men on the street can’t erase. She’s in Kenya, she’s met a boy, and life is better than it’s been in a really, really long time.
Talk about fucking #FirstWorldProblems, thinks Lucy. Brad should consider himself lucky to have air-con at all; he’ll miss it when he finally moves out of his hotel and into a regular apartment like normal folk. Though she hopes that day doesn’t come for a good long while – she’s definitely rather partial to having access to a luxury shower, gym, and breakfast buffet.
They chat more about their plans to go away next weekend: Lucy’s come up with some suggestions for places to stay, while Brad’s been investigating transport options. This is a complete revelation for Lucy, who always had to ask The Ex about 28 times before he did anyfuckingthing and even then usually ended up doing it herself. As a project manager, however, organisation is clearly one of Brad’s key skills. Another tick in the (already overflowing) box.
The only potential fly in the otherwise fragrant ointment is that none of their friends have decided whether or not they will be coming too. Lucy’s not particularly fussed (but is definitely hoping they all flake); Brad’s clearly not in the mood to be patient.
If the friends do all end up deciding not to come, that will mean that – shock! – she and Brad will be spending an entire weekend alone together. Forty-eight hours non-stop in each other’s company! He’ll see her without makeup on! She’ll have to do a poo in the same bathroom as him! What if he finds her really annoying in larger doses? Panic begins to set in.
If Lucy wasn’t at work she’d probably be reaching for the wine right about now, but she’ll just have to settle for a self-pep talk instead. It’ll be fine, she tells herself. Stop freaking out like a pathetic schoolgirl. It’s all good. And if it does all go tits up, surely it’s better to find out sooner rather than later before I’ve got too attached?
Apart from anything else, she really wants to be able to start telling her friends about Brad. So far she’s been too afraid, in case she jinxes it; the only people who know are her BFF Lily, former-Twitter-interest-turned-penpal Ben, and one other…
Lucy’s relieved that Brad seems to have cheered up a bit now, but it doesn’t last. Later that afternoon he sends her another angry message.
Jesus F.C! she thinks. This is some major ranting! She feels faintly alarmed: is this just a legit reaction to a stressful and pressured job, or does the man have a bit of a temper issue going on?
What’s weird, though, is that his voice over via WhatsApp is so very different from how he comes across IRL. In messages he sometimes sounds angry, he makes spelling and punctuation errors, and he doesn’t seem all that intelligent. His charisma hardly bursts off the page as it does in real life. Would she have even agreed to meet him if the chat had carried on for much longer? she wonders. Possibly not. It makes her consider whether there might be great guys she missed out on because their text chat was not up to scratch. Ah fuck that, it doesn’t matter anyway. She has Brad now.
In an attempt to be kind and supportive, Lucy does the only thing she can do in the circumstances. She starts sending him GIFs to cheer him up. A puppy in a mug, and then a kitten waving its paws in the air. Surely no one can continue to be angry after seeing puppies and kittens?
Mission accomplished. Lucy feels proud. Another good deed done for the day. Surely he’s bound to want to keep her around now.
Sorry, dear reader, if all this gushing is starting to get a bit vomit-inducing. But at this moment in time Lucy doesn’t give a crap. She’s met a boy! A real live boy! And he likes her! And he’s not married! And yes, he may not be perfect, but who is? Maybe, she thinks, just maybe, after all this waiting, her turn has finally come. She can’t quite allow herself to believe it.
In case you’d forgotten, it’s only been five days. Who even is she?! What has happened to Lucy?!
By the time Thursday rolls around, the weekend planning is complete and the rest of the gang have, as expected, flaked. Several people said they didn’t want to be a third wheel on Brad and Lucy’s coupley weekend away, and Lucy pointed out that if everyone came, then it wouldn’t be a coupley weekend any more, but in reality she was only being polite, because of course what she really wants is for everyone to just back the hell off so it can be just the two of them, doing nauseating romantic coupley things alone together.
So she’s delighted when that’s exactly what happens, and even more so when Anna texts her with some unexpected reassurance.
Lucy hasn’t been away for the weekend with a boy since an ill-fated trip to the Hay Literary Festival in 2016 when the boy in question refused to have sex with her in the tent and then dumped her as soon as they got back to London, so this is a bit of a watershed moment. If they can make it through a whole 48 hours alone in each other’s company, then it’s a Big Deal.
Lucy has the day off on Friday, so the plan is that Brad will pick her up from home on Thursday evening and they’ll spend the night at his hotel before setting off after lunch the next day. So as soon as she gets home, she throws all her stuff onto the bed and stares at it, trying to figure out what to take.
Packing a bag for your first weekend away with a gorgeous man when you’ve only brought practical clothes and plain black cotton knickers to Africa is an exceptionally frustrating experience. Lucy thinks wistfully about all the pretty dresses and lacy lingerie she has in her wardrobe back home and rages internally as she squishes faded cotton t-shirts and culturally-appropriate ¾ length trousers into her backpack.
And as she does so, she begins to feel a weird, awkward weight in her heart. Is this even what she wants, she asks herself. Has she just got caught up in a whirlwind she’s actually not ready for? After a few days apart Lucy’s bemused to find herself feeling oddly flat and unemotional – uneasy rather than excited. Brad’s texts have exposed a side of him that she’s not entirely sure she likes, and although she’s looking forward to getting out of Nairobi and seeing a bit more of the country, she’s really not nearly as giddy as a girl who’s going away for a romantic weekend with a new man ought to be.
But then the entire thing is just outrageously batshit bonkers: she barely knows the guy, she met him less than a week ago, and she can barely even remember what he looks like or how it feels to be with him. And yet somehow they are already going away for the weekend together. Is this what Africa does to you? she wonders. Escalates everything, heightens everything, makes you do crazy shit? Maybe none of this is real, his feelings, her feelings are all just a fantasy, a temporary insanity brought on by being in a foreign country and wishing for magic to happen.
This is almost certainly a terrible idea… she barely even knows the guy! Is it too late to back out?
As soon Brad arrives to collect her, of course, all her doubt vanishes. He’s wearing a pale blue polo shirt that sets off his tanned skin and dark hair, and the second she sees him all the attraction returns, and with it, the fear of what devastating pain that attraction could bring. A weighty combination of desire and dread thumps back onto her heart and stomach and squeezes down, stifling her breathing.
She leans in for a kiss but he stops her.
“I’m sorry, you can’t. I have a cold sore.”
Well fucking fuck.
When you’ve just met someone new, and all you want to do the second you see them is jump on them and ravage them, there is literally nothing more screamingly, maddeningly, kill-me-now infuriating than a cold sore. Lucy knows this better than anyone, because it’s usually her that it happens to. She’s been a carrier of the dreaded herpes simplex virus for as long as she can remember, presumably ever since some total cunt kissed her when she was a baby and infected her. Happily she doesn’t get cold sores very often, but when she does, it is always, ALWAYS, without fail, just after she’s met someone new. Just when you’re right in that can’t-keep-your-hands-off-each-other phase, and then suddenly you have to go back to being all chaste and respectable.
It’s as if the Universe really doesn’t ever want Lucy to get laid.
But this is the first time she’s been on the other side of the situation, and for it to happen just as they are going away for a
dirty romantic weekend together… well, that royally sucks fat hairy arse. Lucy shakes her fist at the sex gods for being such vindictive arseholes.
Next week: Lucy finds out more about Brad’s past, and receives an unexpected text message. Click here to read on.