If you’ve been following this story, you’ll know that Lucy’s currently in Kenya, where just three days into her stay she met a lovely Australian named Brad.
It’s the day after Lucy and Brad’s magical weekend away together, and their relationship has now entered what some might call the ‘honeymoon’ phase. Others would probably call it the ‘hand-me-that-bucket-I’m-going-to-vom’ phase, but each to their own.
Even Lucy, who’s at home sorting through the eleventy billion photographs she took on their weekend away, is aware that she’s turned into one of those loathsome loved-up people with whom the only sensible course of action is to wang them hard round the face with a cast-iron Le Creuset casserole dish.
Lucy knows this whole thing is patently ridiculous, since they’ve known each other less time than it takes to get a plumber round to fix a broken boiler, but she can’t help being swept along with it. For as much as she knows it’s highly improbable that Brad could be The One, still, she can’t help allowing that teensy tiny spark of hope to burn.
You hear stories, don’t you? It happens. Lucy’s friend Suzanne was single for 485 years, never even went on any dates, was certain she’d never meet anyone, and then went back to her parents’ house one summer, met a guy from her home town, and by Christmas they’d moved in together. They’re now married with two kids. Another friend, Katrina, was on a ‘trial separation’ from her long-term boyfriend who she’d never been sure about, went on one date on My Single Friend – ONE! – and three months later moved straight out of the flat she shared with the now-ex, and in with the new guy. Again, now married, three kids.
Jesus Fucking Christ. These people don’t even know they’re born.
So in spite of overwhelming evidence that Lucy is categorically NOT the type of woman this happens to, she can’t help but hold on to a tiny glimmer of hope that finally, finally, after all these years, it might be her turn. That the twisted path of fate that has taken her down so many dark alleys, and into so many dead ends, has at long last brought her to the promised land.
And oh how sunny it is here, in the warm glow of Brad’s adoration.
And there it is. After just ten days, during which they’ve barely been apart, Brad’s said the words that Lucy’s been thinking since the second she stepped through that gate and caught a whiff of his aftershave. He wants to make this crazy whirlwind official.
If Lucy’s life were a musical (as she often wishes it were) this would be the point at which she’d burst into song – some uplifting number about the power of hope and never giving up, probably while wearing a gorgeous heavy-skirted gold ballgown and being swept effortlessly across the stage by half a dozen buff male dancers in black tie. Though it’s fair to say that if Lucy’s life really were a musical, it’d be far closer to Les Miserables than Mamma Mia – less a riotous jaunt through the Greek sunshine with three handsome men vying for her attention, and more a train-wreck of constant weeping and wading through sewers trying not to get robbed by Sacha Baron Cohen.
So since her life is considerably less full of sequins and dancing than the average West End show, Lucy’s forced to play it cool.
And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. It may have taken more than three years, and she may have had to travel all the way to Kenya, but Lucy is… wait, you’d better sit down for this…
Lucy is in a relationship.
Lucy has a drink arranged on Wednesday with a friend-of-a-friend who lives in Nairobi. It’s just a mate date – she doesn’t even know if the guy is single – but she’s chuffed to bits to know that Brad might be just a teensy bit jealous.
It’s been another great day, and right now Lucy couldn’t be happier.
Bright and early the next day Brad sends his now-customary morning greeting. You know, that disgustingly cute hearts-and-flowers greeting that by rights should make Lucy want to throw her phone out of the window, but instead just makes her grin like the Cheshire Cat who got the full-fat cream.
Yes, yes, I know what you’re all thinking. Get a fucking room. But don’t worry, Lucy’s trying. Every bloody chance she gets.
They meet that evening for dinner at a restaurant near to Brad’s work. He’s had another stressful day and is late. Lucy sits quietly in one of the large wicker chairs in the bar and surfs her phone until he shows up – but when he does, he’s tense and prickly and looks like he aged a decade in the past two days. He sits wearily down in the chair across from her, and she wants to reach out to him, to touch him, to make it all better, but the chairs are too large and far apart, and Lucy just feels sadly distant and a little redundant. This is hardly the romantic dinner she’d had in mind.
The atmosphere is heavy enough, but then, halfway through their pasta, Brad gets a text. He glances at his phone.
Lucy watches, intrigued, as he dials a number, which goes to voicemail. “It’s me,” he says, sounding angry and stressed. “Call me back as soon as you get this.”
She looks at him anxiously. “What? What is it?”
“That was my ex. She’s just texted to say she’s at the hospital with Ollie, my 3-year-old. He got hold of a packet of paracetamol and she thinks he might have swallowed some. Fuck!”
Lucy leaps to reassure him, even though she doesn’t have a clue. Maybe he didn’t eat any, or maybe he only had one or two. Plus he’s at the hospital now, so the doctors will take care of him. He’ll be fine.
Of course her guesswork’s not enough for a stressed-out dad thousands of miles away from his potentially sick son. Brad requires actual genuine medical knowledge. But in the absence of that, he does what any parent would do in the situation, but definitely shouldn’t. He Googles.
(Nooooooo! Step away from the internet!)
Helpful as ever, Dr Google spews out pages of results on the toxicity of paracetamol, including several articles about children who died from accidental overdoses.
Excellent work. Cheers for that, Doctor.
Brad’s furious. He launches into a tirade against his ex. How did Ollie get his hands on this stuff? Why wasn’t it locked away? Why wasn’t she watching him? How did he manage to get the cap off? Did she put it away properly? How could she be so irresponsible?!
Lucy doesn’t know what to do. She wants to help, to make it better, but her attempts at reassurance fall on deaf and angry ears.
Brad’s phone rings. It’s Karen, the ex. There’s an angry exchange, full of recriminations, and then she hands the phone to Ollie. Brad’s face softens.
“Hey my boy,” he says, his Aussie accent gentle. “Did you play with mummy’s things, hey? You know you’re not supposed to do that. That was naughty, hey? Are you feeling sicky?”
Watching and listening, Lucy feels a bit emotional. He’s clearly a good dad and devoted to his kids. Being so far away from them must be really tough. But all of this also brings home to her the reality of what dating a man with kids would be like. To never be his priority. To always be second best to his children. Could she really be happy with that?
She’s not sure it’s a question she has the luxury of being able to answer. By the time they get to their 40s, single men appear to fall squarely into two camps: the ones who have never been married for any number of painfully-obvious reasons, and the ones who were married but are now divorced. These guys, inevitably, come with kids. So Lucy’s has to pick one of two almost equally unattractive options: date a child-free guy who will undoubtedly turn out to be a prick or a weirdo, or date a nice guy and forever play second fiddle to a bunch of psychotic, whiny, selfish little tyrants.
Would she rather be a fallback girl or an evil stepmother? What a choice to make.
The mood killed, they call it a night and go their separate ways. Brad texts when he gets back to his hotel to let her know that Ollie has been discharged from hospital.
Lucy’s relieved. Hopefully that will be the end of the drama now, and they can focus on something far more fun: their plans for next weekend, and another exciting trip away together.
Next time: Brad and Lucy take their second weekend trip together, and things take a turn for the very, very bad. Click here to read on.