More than six months ago, Lucy got into a weird text relationship with a guy named Ben. But before they could actually meet, Ben found a girlfriend, and then Lucy fucked off to Kenya, and so they became WhatsApp textpals instead.
And they remained remote text buddies until Ben broke up with his girlfriend, when suddenly things between him and Lucy took on a different tone.
A couple of nights after her failed attempt to talk to Ben on the phone, Lucy’s been out and is on her way home, rather tipsy, when he mysteriously sends her a voice note.
Lucy can’t listen then and there because she doesn’t want her taxi companions to overhear, but she promises to engage properly just as soon as she gets home.
Maybe it’s because she is tipsy, and maybe it’s because Ben knows she’s tipsy, but suddenly there’s something in the air that wasn’t really there before.
Because it is uncharted territory. Lucy’s never been involved in anything remotely like this before: an intense almost-relationship with someone she has never actually met in person. How is this even possible? How can she have feelings for someone she doesn’t know?
But she does seem to. When she looks at his photos she’s not sure she fancies him physically all that much – he’s not her usual type – but she’s definitely attracted to his personality. They have a very open and honest relationship, full of laughs and teasing but also vulnerability and sensitivity. And miraculously, despite the fact that she has revealed every inch of her crazy to Ben, he doesn’t seem to have been put off.
But is that because I’m still somewhat mysterious? she wonders. If I meet him, and fall for him, will he lose interest once the mystery is gone?
Lucy, home now, gets into bed to continue the conversation. She tells Ben about her evening, about a guy she just met who was very flirty, asked for her number, and has already texted her on her way home.
There’s a pause, and then a moment later Ben sends through a photograph.
Lucy thinks she knows where this is going, and gently encourages him.
And suddenly it’s all out in the open. This isn’t really a friendship at all. But could this be the beginning of a real relationship?
Lucy definitely has feelings for Ben. She feels it when his morning text message lands and makes her smile. She feels it when something happens during her day and she wants to grab her phone and tell him right away. She feels it most of all in the sharp stabs of jealousy she gets when he talks about meeting other girls or going on dating apps.
But could this ever really work? Lucy feels like after six months of talking every day they know each other well enough to be confident the connection will translate into real life. But what if it doesn’t, and she loses one of the most authentic friendships she’s ever had?
Though deep down Lucy knows this level of intensity is not sustainable. If they don’t meet soon, then Ben will eventually get another girlfriend, and the whole thing will fizzle out. Either because he will have someone else to message morning, noon and night and won’t need Lucy any more, or because the new girlfriend will put a stop to the Weird Twitter Relationship.
So Lucy needs to step in and take the plunge before someone else does. Besides, she thinks, if he could be The One, it’s got to be worth the risk, right? He might not be Lucy’s usual type, but he is kinder, more thoughtful, and more tolerant of Lucy’s quirks than anyone she’s ever dated before. Maybe the Universe sent him to her via Twitter because she’d never have given him a chance if they’d met on a dating app – she probably would have swiped left and that would have been that. But because she’s got to know him over time, she likes him for who he is, and looks or background or any other superficial things don’t matter. Which is why this feels more real and more sustainable than any relationship begun on a dating app.
But are the feelings real? Can she really know a man she’s never met? Or is she fantasising; projecting her loneliness and desire to love and be loved onto a situation whose foundations are gossamer-thin?
While Ben goes off to have his shower, Lucy remembers the voice note he sent her while she was in the taxi. She scrolls back up and listens to it. Ben has put his own spin on the podcast idea from the day before, and sent her the closing line to the tale.
And so Lucy shared a lonely taxi home with some randoms. The End.
It’s been a long time since she last heard his voice, and the sound of it, warm and soothing like a bedtime story, makes her feel safe.
So now you’re definitely in need of a bedtime story, he tells her, his voice smooth and sexy.
So Ben, at home in the UK, tells Lucy, tucked up under her mosquito net in Kenya, a bedtime story.
Once upon a time, there was a boy called Ben. Ben wasn’t a bad guy, but he made all the wrong choices with dating. Because he doesn’t have a fucking clue what he’s doing.
Go on… she replies in her best sexy voice.
And then the voice notes start flying thick and fast.
(Be bossing me about miss!) Ben texts
You don’t like it? Lucy asks.
He laughs. So at what point does this become absurd and we should have just spoken to each other on the phone last night? Hashtag, I’m a fucking idiot.
Yes, yes you are.
And yet, you’re still here…
So sleepy now too, she tells him.
Definitely adds to the sexiness, he replies.
Hang on a sec, he tells her in a weary voice, I’ll get the crayons.
Ben clearly feels he needs to spell something out again for her, and a few seconds later the explanation arrives.
Well then. Time for bed. And then, in her best sleepy, sexy voice. Night night, Ben.
Night night, he replies. Hurry back to England, and now sod off to bed.
The hurrying I’m afraid I can’t promise, but the sodding off to bed is definitely doable.
You make me laugh, he promises, I’ll wait.
So in just three weeks Lucy will go home, and they will finally meet, and maybe, just maybe, this could be the start of something wonderful.
And then, something happens.
A couple of days later Ben mentions a girl he’s been chatting to on the dating app Bumble.
Lucy’s not at all comfortable with the idea that Ben is still going on dating apps, but what can she do? Even though they now have a date in the diary, it’d be utterly bonkers to ask or expect him to come off the apps – and to be honest if he’d been the one to suggest it she’d probably have shrieked in horror and scarpered in the opposite direction as fast as her legs could carry her.
So since at this point in time they are still just friends, she has no choice but to carry on as before, and give friendly feedback.
Lucy likes this about Ben. She’s never been too fussed about kids herself, and at 39 her window of opportunity is already pretty much closed anyway, so there’s no point in even thinking about it. The fact that this isn’t something that bothers him is another huge tick in the box.
Ben tells her that Bumble Girl is also vegan. Lucy wants to be charitable and sympathetic to a fellow singleton, but honestly, she sounds like a fussy, intense nightmare. Why do guys keep going for these crazy girls when Lucy, sane and rational almost to a fault, simply cannot find a good man? What the fuck is that all about?
Lucy’s finding herself in a very difficult position. Technically she and Ben are still just friends. So she should be giving him the same advice she’d give any other friend on a dating app.
But at the same time, advising him to go and have sex with another woman is starting to make her feel distinctly uncomfortable.
It appears that the more Ben bats this girl away, the more she keeps coming back. Maybe he’s just enjoying the attention, she thinks.
But who TF does this bitch think she is, anyway? Take the bloody hint, sister! Back the hell off! This one is spoken for… well… almost…
Is Lucy the ‘someone else’ that he’s ‘working on’ finding? She supposes she must be. Well this is good. In your face, Bumble Girl.
But then, FFS, stop wasting the poor woman’s time. Three weeks isn’t exactly a long time to wait when you consider that Ben and Lucy have been chatting for six months. It’s not as if he even fancies Bumble Girl anyway!
We have fireworks here.
His words reassure her, although all this chat about another girl is definitely making her feel a little anxious. But the signs are all good. This other woman is clearly a bit mental and he doesn’t fancy her. Nothing will come of it. All she can do is wish him well and let it run its course.
But a couple of days later, in spite of Ben’s protestations that he’s not interested, this happens.
Again, all Lucy can do is play the supportive friend role, and wait for this thing to go away. It’ll be just like every other online date. He’ll meet her, they’ll have one drink, realise they don’t fancy each other, and that’ll be that. He needs to do this so he can move on.
So Ben goes for his drink, and Lucy doesn’t hear from him for the rest of the day.
This is odd. By about 6 pm she’d have expected an update. But usually chatty Ben has gone disconcertingly quiet.
By 10 pm she can’t take the suspense any longer.
NEXT TIME: What happened… go to Part 7 – Fallout.