Lucy’s still in Kenya, where she’s rekindled her text romance with Ben, the charming lad from Wiltshire who slid into her Twitter DMs more than six months ago. If you need a recap on all of that, start here, or find out what happened last week here.
Lucy and Ben have never met, but finally, after months of getting to know each other over text message, they’ve agreed to go on a date when she comes home in just three weeks. Lucy’s nervous and excited. Could Ben be The One? Could the stars have finally aligned, the gods taken pity? Could the search finally be over?
But just when everything finally seems to be moving in the right direction, Ben chucks in a curveball. He’s got another date, with a girl from Bumble.
The thought of Ben going out with someone else makes Lucy more uncomfortable than sitting down on a still-warm toilet seat, but she can’t really object. They can hardly be exclusive when they haven’t even met (much as part of Lucy might prefer it if they could). So she wishes him well through gritted teeth, prays to all the gods that it goes badly, and then sits back and waits.
She waits all day. Ben went for an afternoon coffee, so realistically, even if the date wasn’t a total disaster, he should be messaging her with an update by, what, six pm? So when she doesn’t hear from him by ten, she’s forced to check up.
He doesn’t reply. All evening and all the next morning. Complete. Radio. Silence.
After months of near constant texting, this is completely out of character. Lucy feels like John Hurt, anxiety clawing at her stomach like an alien pregnancy. There’s only one possible explanation. Ok, fine, three. One: he might have been in a terrible accident: been knocked down by a bus, fallen off a bridge, or maybe a brick fell on his head and he’s concussed and has no memory. Two: maybe Bumble girl turned out to be a psychopath, and she spiked his drink, took him home and now has him tied to a bed in her basement like Kathy Bates in Misery.
Or three: maybe, the worst scenario of all. The date went really, really, really fucking well.
Just before midday, he finally responds.
Lucy knows exactly what this means. When a man goes on an afternoon coffee date, and resurfaces at lunchtime the next day saying things ‘escalated’, there’s only one possible interpretation. Banging. Loads of banging. The urgent, desperate, needy, hungry kind. Multiple times. With hands, and tongues, and sweat, and body parts everywhere. The sort of passionate coupling that only happens when you meet someone whose chemistry meshes perfectly with yours, and your eyes lock, and there’s an instant jolt like you’ve been zapped with a defibrillator, and you have literally no choice but to rip each other’s clothes off that instant and start fucking as though your lives depend on it. Which, in a way, they do.
But what the actual fuck?! He said he didn’t fancy her? He said he thought she was odd! How did this happen?!
Lucy’s crushed. She has no idea what to say. But she’s not allowed to be upset: they’re not a couple, they’re basically total strangers, FFS! All she can do is grit her teeth and continue the charade of being ‘just friends’.
Lucy feels sick. This is now the second time he’s done this: got within spitting distance of meeting up, and then found someone else just a nanosecond before she could have her chance. Last time she took it in her stride – she barely knew the guy after all. But now? This time, as they say, it’s personal. They’ve been chatting for over six months, and have definitely become a ‘thing’. Who the fuck is this other woman to displace her so easily?
A moment’s positivity: maybe it was just a one-off. Maybe he didn’t really like her, he just needed to get laid, and there she was, right there for the taking. And now he’s had his wicked way with her, he’ll get bored and move on.
But Lucy’s new-found optimism is swiftly shot down, crumpling to the floor like a pheasant at a country shoot.
Lucy’s trying to be nice about the situation. After all, she can’t really blame him: if the roles had been reversed, she’d probably have gone on the date too. Because FOMO.
And she wants to be happy for Ben, she really does. He’s a decent guy, he’s had his share of dating ups and downs, and he definitely deserves to find someone lovely. But why the fuck couldn’t that someone have been her?
Of course, it’s very early days, and this relationship may not last. Lucy knows only too well from her experience with Brad that things that burn bright at the beginning often grind to a halt faster than a Ferrari with diesel in the tank. But Lucy’s also heard plenty of stories of couples who went on just one date and knew. People who were single for a long time, and then met someone, and clicked, and were engaged within six months.
In her gut she’s convinced it’ll be the latter. Her luck is just not that good – and the universe, it’s abundantly clear, really does not want her to meet someone.
They don’t speak for a week, during which Lucy tries to get on with her life, and not think about Ben. But she misses him. She’s used to him flashing up on her phone morning, noon and night, but now there’s nothing but silence. And silence is bad for an overthinker like Lucy. It allows her the headspace to fester, and ponder, and wind herself up into a fury about what he’s done. Because yes, she’s mad. Really fucking mad. How fucking dare he lead her on again, a second time, and then bin her for someone else, AGAIN!
She simply can’t pretend she’s OK with this any longer. He needs to be fucking TOLD. So she tells him.
Of course it may not work out with Bumble Girl. But if it doesn’t, what then? Could Lucy give Ben a third chance? She doesn’t think so. Right now she doesn’t even want to be friends with him, and there’s no fucking way she’s going to be anyone’s backup option. Even meeting him now, as friends, would be too awkward. Nope, all those bridges have been burned in the fiery flames of Lucy’s outrage.
Lucy will be fine. She’ll get over this, just like she always does. She wasn’t in love with Ben – she’d never even bloody met the man, for fuck’s sake. But all these little injuries: time after time, they take their toll. Each time she grieves a little, and then picks herself up, dusts herself off, and carries on as usual, but what of the scars left behind? These scars that are slowly and surely thickening around her heart. And deep down she fears she may be too damaged now to ever meet anyone. The cuts of a thousand tiny knives have bled her dry.
Lucy wonders why she always seems to be the ‘almost’ girlfriend, but never the real deal. Her life is full of men who flirt with her, tell her she’s beautiful, express shock that she’s single… and then go off and date and marry other women. What is she doing wrong?
And just like that, on a rainy afternoon, he met someone. Well, they do say it happens when you least expect it, don’t they? That evening when you drag yourself out when you aren’t really feeling it, when all you really want to do is curl up in your PJs with reruns of Grey’s Anatomy, and your hair’s unwashed and your legs unshaved and you’re wearing your least favourite pair of jeans and an old t-shirt with yellow stains in the armpits, that’s the evening when you’ll somehow find yourself eating cake at 2 am in a late night cafe in Leicester Square with the guy who used to be the drummer from Reef.
So she can’t blame Ben. Dating’s a war zone, and in this brutal, dog-eat-dog world, it’s every man for himself. It just sucks arse that she had to end up being collateral damage.
Ben disappears again. Where once he was permanently on the end of her WhatsApp, always there with a joke or a reassuring word or a piece of advice, now he’s vanished, no doubt off banging this new bird in every room in his house, and not giving Lucy even a second’s thought, while she sits, alone in Kenya, torturing herself with what ifs and maybes. What if she’d gone home three weeks earlier? What if he’d actually answered his phone that time she tried to call him? What if it hadn’t been raining that day, and he’d decided to do something else instead…?
It’s true. This whole thing is a joke. How utterly ridiculous to be so upset about a guy she’s never clapped eyes on! Chances are, if they had actually gone on that date, Lucy would’ve taken one look at Ben and decided that he was too short, or his hair was all wrong, or he didn’t smell right. And all that weird long-distance chemistry they’d built up would have disappeared more spectacularly than Madeleine McCann. So he was right to go on the date. At least this way one of them’s getting laid.
First Brad, and now Ben. Lucy’s Kenya experience has hardly been a dating triumph, has it? Luckily she’ll be home soon, where she can fail miserably at finding love on home turf instead.
NEXT TIME: A new story.