After seven smoking hot dates, during which Lucy did her level best to resist non-monogamous Charlie’s advances as much as she possibly could, finally, last Sunday, her willpower crumbled.
Maybe it was the release of all that built-up sexual tension, maybe it’s that Charlie’s had a somewhat alarming amount of practice, but Lucy reckons she can only count on the fingers of, well, one finger, the number of times she’s been fucked that fantastically. Which might sound wonderful – and of course it was (oh fuck yeah it really was) – but there’s a problem. Because now she’s found this magical source of wondrous sexual brilliance, she simply can’t tear herself away. And Charlie, as you should know by now (and if don’t, where the fuck have you been?), is in an Open Relationship.
But that’s just something Lucy’s going to have to deal with – for now at least. Even if this whole crazy situation is going to end up being a total headfuck; even if she ends up getting her heart ripped out and put through an industrial shredder… It’s a deal she knows she basically has no choice but to accept, because right now all she wants is one thing: more Charlie, only Charlie, Charlie naked in every room in her flat and from every possible angle and as much of him as she can possibly get her hands on for as long as she can manage before the whole thing explodes in a fireball of shit, and she finds herself lying dazed and confused in a heap 100 yards down the road, bruised and broken and unable to remember her own name.
So when Charlie asks her on their eighth date the following Thursday, of course she accepts, and throughout Monday Lucy enjoys that warm, freshly-fucked glow, and maybe has a little extra spring in her step, and the world seems a little sunnier, and there might even be a rainbow or two in the sky (Oh FFS, calm down woman...)
But then, on Tuesday afternoon while she’s at work, that explosive destruction happens far sooner than she’d ever anticipated. It comes in the form of a WhatsApp.
At first Lucy can’t process the message. She reads it again, and this time her stomach plummets fifteen floors and an iron fist squeezes all the breath from her lungs.
What. The. Actual. Fuck?
She couldn’t be more knocked sideways if an 18-wheeler had just crashed through the wall of her office and flattened half her colleagues. Her heart starts galloping and her cheeks go red and she thinks she might be about to cry, so she runs to hide in the toilet while she tries to understand what’s just happened.
He’s getting married?? But why? WHY, FFS?! It’s an open relationship. They already live together! They’re not religious! Why do they need to get fucking married?!
With a sinkhole where her intestines used to be, she forwards the message to her best friend, Lily, who replies right away.
Level-headed Lily makes a very good point, but even so Lucy doesn’t really know why this news has shocked her so profoundly. She’s only known the man a few weeks, and it’s not like she didn’t know he was in a serious relationship. Is marriage really so very different from co-habiting anyway? So on one level, he’s right. It doesn’t really change anything.
And yet, on another, it changes everything. Having a girlfriend is somehow more casual, it’s less serious, it allows space in your life for other things, other people. But getting married? That’s a lifetime commitment, starting a family and growing old together. That says, I’ve made my choice, I’ve found my person. And for Lucy, who’s spent her entire life looking for hers and is still no closer to finding him, the fact that yet another great guy has been snapped up by someone else cuts deeper than she imagined possible.
And then gorgeous Lily throws her a boost for good measure. Everyone needs a Lily in their life. Seriously, get one. I highly recommend it.
Lucy pulls herself together and goes back to her desk. But there’s no fucking way she’s getting any more work done today. Instead, she types out a carefully-considered reply and sends it.
Charlie’s response comes back soon afterwards.
Reading his reply, the confirmation that he has feelings for her too, Lucy finds herself welling up again. It’s so fucking unfair. She literally NEVER meets guys she has this level of connection with. And then, when she finally does, he’s fucking engaged! When is she ever going to catch a fucking break!
Lucy forwards his replies back to Lily for her analysis.
So after all that intense build-up, and that one incredible afternoon of All The Sex, it’s over, just as swiftly and surprisingly as it began. But hey, it’ll be OK. It might hurt now, but Lucy’ll get over this fresh disappointment, she always does. It’s not like she thought this one was going anywhere anyway.
Thursday’s date is still in the diary, so Lucy decides to meet Charlie as planned. Although she knows it’ll be painful to see him, she really doesn’t want this to end by text. She needs to see him, to clear the air and establish their new, platonic friendship over a drink.
Never mind of course that she’s entirely fucking kidding herself, and that what she really wants is to see him because she already misses him, and it’s impossible for her to keep away.
They meet in a pub near London Bridge station. Fresh from work in a suit, Charlie looks excruciatingly edible, and it’s all Lucy can do to keep from reaching out and touching him. But they’re just friends now, she needs to remember that. Just fucking friends. Except without the fucking, more’s the pity.
Half a bottle of wine later and she’s tipsy, which is less than ideal on a school night with a man she’s trying to resist. She needs to put the brakes on before she falls back down the rabbit hole, so she suggests they go and get some dinner.
As they walk down the street to a nearby Thai restaurant, Charlie automatically takes her hand. It feels lovely, so right and natural, that although Lucy knows this is crossing a friend line, she doesn’t object. Hand-holding’s not the end of the world. Friends in some cultures hold hands, don’t they? But the touch of his hand makes all the blood rush to her lady parts, and she finds it hard to concentrate on what he’s saying.
They order a selection of Thai dishes: green curry, prawn stir-fry, spring rolls, rice, and another bottle of wine. Another tick in the box, thinks Lucy sadly, that he likes all the same food I do and is happy to share. But she pushes the thought away; he was never going to be hers anyway, and they’re just friends now. Just. Friends.
They chat comfortably about safe topics. Charlie tells her he likes football and supports Nottingham Forest.
“It’s where I grew up.”
“So what does being a Nottingham supporter involve then?”
“Oh, I used to buy posters and t-shirts, I always look at them first on the BBC sports results, occasionally I go to matches…”
Lucy’s astounded to find herself having an actual conversation about football that doesn’t make her want to fall into a coma. This is bad, this is fucking bad. The man could be talking about stamp collecting and she’d find him fascinating. What TF is wrong with her?!
As they chat, Charlie reaches across the table and starts touching her hair, twirling a strand between his fingers and looking at her intensely, with those disarming crinkles in the corners of his brown eyes, and although she knows this is again crossing the friend line, somehow she can’t bring herself to stop him.
Heart To Heart
But they can only carry on the pretence of casual chitchat for so long. There’s an elephant in the room, flapping its ears and puffing and bellowing, casting its huge grey shadow over proceedings, and Lucy can’t ignore it any longer.
“So I suppose we should talk about your news…” she begins. “I do think you should have told me sooner, though I get why you didn’t. But although you said this doesn’t change anything for you, it does for me. I’m sorry. Much as it pains me to turn all this away, it just seems like a really bad idea to carry on.”
“I completely understand. But honestly I’m gutted it’s over so soon. Last Sunday was amazing. I mean, I hoped it would be good; I thought it probably would be. But I wasn’t expecting that level of good. And I want more.”
It’s probably just bullshit flattery, thinks Lucy, but even so, she can’t help feeling pleased.
“I was a bit surprised, because you seem kind of shy talking about sex,” he continues. “You’re quite reserved, so I expected inhibitions. But then you went and blew me away!”
“I guess I’m more relaxed once I’ve got to know someone, and trust them. And I like having someone else take charge. You were good at taking charge.”
“Well I enjoyed it very much. I’d love to do it again.” He takes a sip of his wine and looks at her thoughtfully. “You know, I really wasn’t expecting to catch feelings for you like this.”
Lucy tries not to react to his words, but What the Actual? He thinks he’s caught feelings for her? After just seven dates?! She’d think he was bullshitting, except… she feels it too. A lump rises in her throat and she can’t stop the tears.
The whole thing is so outrageously unfair. She’s met a guy and they’ve fallen for each other – shouldn’t this be one of the happiest moments of her life?! They should be skipping joyfully through meadows of wildflowers, holding hands in front of a sunset, kissing passionately on a white beach… Instead, she’s crying into her green curry in a decidedly average Thai restaurant, grieving yet again for her shitty, shitty luck.
He takes her hand and squeezes it gently, looking at her with compassion in his eyes.
“What would have happened if I’d met you first?” she asks. And then hates herself. It’s such a stupid pointless question, and all it does is massage his already no-doubt inflated ego. She needs to learn some fucking self-respect. But honest-to-a-fault, overshary Lucy can only ever tell the truth. She’d make an utterly appalling spy.
“You know, nothing’s changed for me,” Charlie says, dodging the unanswerable question. “I knew about this when I got involved with you.”
“Yeah, well I didn’t. And it’s been a horrible shock.”
Lucy shrugs and drains the rest of her wine. There’s nothing more to be said. Except for maybe one, possibly ill-advised thing. “You know, I reserve the right to call on you in couple of months when I’m fed up of dating apps and desperate for a shag!” she jokes. Except of course, she’s not joking at all. She’s simply not able to close the door entirely.
“I will always be available to you any time you need me.”
They leave the bar and start walking back to the tube station. As they pass another pub, Charlie pauses. “One more drink?”
But that way, temptation lies. Any more wine, and she knows she won’t be able to resist him.
They part at the tube station. As they say goodbye, Charlie kisses her on the mouth one last time and briefly, ever so briefly, Lucy gives way and allows it. One final, bittersweet kiss, before the sensible part of her brain kicks in and she pulls away.
“Stop it, Charlie,” she scolds. “You’re torturing me now.”
Travelling home, she feels utterly fucking gutted, and confused. Did she do the right thing? Does the engagement news really change anything? Does she really want to turn away this gorgeous man and all the amazing times they could have had? But beside the confusion there’s something else. A little relief, maybe, that she was able to get out before she got too involved, before she got seriously hurt? And, y’know, she had a great time. It’s sad that it had to end so soon, but oh what fun she had. So no, no regrets. Time to get back on the dating horse for the eleventy billionth time and see who else is out there…
NEXT TIME: Can Lucy really stay away from Charlie?