It’s a Saturday, and Lucy has a spontaneous date with a man who is not Charlie.
For the past three months non-monogamous Charlie has provided Lucy with a welcome diversion from the mind-numbing tedium and eternal disappointment of dating apps. Even with all the headfuckery he’s caused her, it’s been knee-tremblingly joyous, not to mention hot AF, to be able to take a break from the dating cesspit for a while and finally get some naked action with a sexy man without having to wade through a truckload of trolls and toads first.
But this isn’t a permanent solution, and no, Lucy is definitely fucking not converting to polyamory. If she wants to move on from Charlie and find someone who’s properly suited to her and her untrendy vanilla monogamous ways, she needs to get back out there. So she fires up the dating app Hinge to see if anyone has liked her profile.
On Hinge you can post short videos as well as photos, and Lucy’s posted one from last summer, in which she’s running around laughing in her friend’s garden. She likes this video because she thinks it makes her look (a) fit and (b) fun, and when she logs in, she can see that someone agrees, because he’s commented on it.
Cain is black, toned and handsome, with fascinating, cat-like almond eyes, rimmed by thick dark lashes that make it look as though he’s wearing eyeliner. Except in a hot way, not a weird angsty teenage goth way.
His profile says he has kids, which nearly makes Lucy swipe left, but then she remembers that she needs to be less picky, and besides, his eyes are just so pretty! So she accepts his message, they get chatting, and Cain turns out to be articulate and able to spell, which are two of the most important things Lucy’s looking for in a husband.
Although his messages seem quite serious, he hasn’t used the word ‘lol’ or made any creepy comments, so when he asks her if she’d like to meet, she says yes. Time to get back in the saddle.
And so now it’s Saturday evening, and she’s on her way to meet him. A date on a Saturday! This is fucking brave and rare for Lucy, who normally likes to make sure her dates are always on weeknights so that if they turn out to be a pile of unadulterated shite she can play the ‘have to get up early for work’ card and run away after two drinks without looking like a total loser.
But today Lucy’s being not only brave, but spontaneous. Don’t worry, she hasn’t had some kind of personality transplant, it’s literally only because today spontaneity is actually the practical thing to do. She’s been out for lunch, and she’s wearing a nice dress and having a good hair day, so rather than go home and let all that effort go to waste, she’s messaged Cain to see if he might be free that evening. Happily he is, so she’s getting a bargainous two-for-one on the dressing up effort.
He’s waiting for her outside Ealing Broadway station. He looks exactly like his photos: not tall but just about tall enough, slim, nicely dressed in jeans and a white shirt, and with those extraordinary almond-shaped eyes that really wouldn’t look out of place on a catwalk model. There’s the usual awkward greeting, and he tells her she looks great, which she responds to in her typical cackhanded way by saying “um, so do you”, with a weird laugh. Lucy really does need to get better at receiving compliments.
A long walk
There are plenty of pubs close to Ealing Broadway, but for some reason Cain’s picked one that seems to be about two miles away. He leads Lucy down residential back streets that seem to be in the exact opposite direction from the main shopping area, and Lucy begins to feel a pit-of-her-stomach alarm that he might actually be a sex attacker taking her towards some remote rape location.
“That video you posted was awesome,” he tells her on the way. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched it.”
Lucy has visions of the man sitting on his sofa, wearing only his pants (that’s what guys wear when they’re at home by themselves, right?) watching the 10-second video over and over on repeat, and begins to think she might have made an appalling mistake.
But then they turn left down another street and come out into a pedestrian area lined with shops and restaurants, and Lucy realizes that he was just leading her down a handy (if rather unnerving) shortcut to what is actually a rather nice wine bar. Thank fuck for that.
A waiter asks them where they’d like to sit: cosy sofa seating or normal dining tables? The sofas definitely look far too intimate for comfort, so before Cain gets any ideas Lucy makes a beeline for the safety of a table, where she can sit opposite him with plenty of hard wooden surface as a defensive barrier between them.
“Ha!” he says as he sits down. “This feels like an interview!”
“I suppose it does!” Lucy laughs uncomfortably.
“If it is, it’s definitely you who’s interviewing me,” he flirts awkwardly. “I just hope I get the job.”
Lucy bats him away. “Of course not! We’re interviewing each other!”
But Cain’s not letting up. “I think you’re very beautiful, by the way,” he tells her, the third compliment of the evening and they’ve barely even sat down. It’s all a bit too much too soon, and it’s making her skin prickle. Is it him, or is it just that Lucy’s always been crap at dealing with men who find her attractive? Maybe wine will help with that.
Booze duly arrives and Lucy starts to relax. Cain tells her he was born in Kenya, and moved to the UK when he was 17. Great, something they have in common!
“I recently spent four months in Kenya,” she tells him. “How funny that I went all the way there and didn’t meet anyone (she conveniently omits any mention of Brad), only to do so back in London!” Cain is gratifyingly interested in her tales from his home country, and she finds herself warming to him. Maybe he could have potential after all. You know, his eyes really are very pretty.
The conversation turns to dating, and Cain tells her he was just about to give up before they matched.
“Why?” Lucy asks, even though she knows the answer: online dating is the seventh circle of Hell and anyone who lasts more than a few weeks deserves a medal. After four life-draining years the least Lucy is owed is a fucking MBE and handshake from the Queen.
“I just had a few crazy experiences.” She loves hearing about dating disasters, and there’s nothing like tales of women behaving badly to make her feel better about herself.
Cain shows her a screenshot of a girl’s Bumble profile. Her photos look nice enough, but the text reads:
“Wait, what? She’s leading with anal and kink! That’s, um, bold!”
“Yeah,” Cain laughs. “If this is in order of preference she clearly likes anal much more than she likes her daughter…”
Lucy’s a bit shocked. The impression she gets from talking to her single friends is that most women are looking for love, while the only people spewing filth like this are trash men, of whom there are shitloads. To see a woman from Bumble behaving like a typical fuckboy makes her eyes water.
“It happens,” says Cain. I know there’s a lot of guys who are dickheads, but women can be just as bad.”
“But overall men are worse than women, aren’t they? Like sending dick pics. Do you get unsolicited vagina pics?”
How the fucking fuck did Lucy end up discussing anal sex and vaginas within half an hour of meeting this man?
“I take it you didn’t meet her? So what were the crazy experiences?”
“Well there was one girl I dated for a bit, I liked her, we went for a weekend away and everything. And then one day she sits me down and she says, ‘Cain, I like you, but there’s something you need to know. I have a twin, and we share everything.’” He leans heavily on the final word.
“What, she wanted to share you with her twin? Isn’t that every man’s fantasy?”
“It’s not mine,” he shrugs.
“You could have had two for the price of one!” Lucy jokes. “You could have become polyamorous!”
Hmm… I wonder what put that idea into Lucy’s head.
“I dunno, I’m not sure it’s really my thing,” he says.
Holy fuck, a man who doesn’t want to shag an entire buffet table of women? Lucy should marry him immediately!
“I agree,” she tells him. “I think the idea of polyamory could make sense in theory, I just don’t think it would work for me in practice.”
Over a second glass of wine she tells him about her friend Helen, whose husband has been cheating on her for years, and Mina, who’s having an affair with a married man. “It makes me think that a lot of people will cheat anyway,” she shrugs, “so you might as well just be open to the possibility and incorporate it into your relationship. It’d save an awful lot of betrayal and heartbreak.” She’s aware she probably sounds bitter and jaded, but she doesn’t actually give a flying fuck. If Cain doesn’t like her honesty, he can jog the fuck on.
“I don’t think I could share,” says Cain, “though maybe I could do stuff together with my partner, like swinging or sex parties, that sort of thing.” He gives her a meaningful look.
How the fuck did they get onto polyamory, swinging and sex parties so soon after meeting? Conversation’s flowing fine, there are certainly no awkward silences, but Lucy’s really not sure this is a conversation she wants to be having with a guy she only met an hour ago. Is this Cain’s fault, is he some super pervy creepster repeatedly trying to steer the subject onto sex, or did this happen by accident? If she’s honest, it’s probably all fucking Charlie’s fault, getting inside her head. Fuck off, Charlie.
“This is all rather outside my sphere of experience,” she lies, trying to change the subject. “I don’t know anything about this stuff.”
“Would you say you’re vanilla then?” Cain asks.
Again, not something Lucy wants to discuss on a first date, but somehow here they are.
“What do you mean by vanilla,” she asks, trying to dodge the question.
“I guess it depends on your personal definition. Some people might think having sex outdoors is kinky.”
“Oh I dunno,” she tells him. “I’m sure there are things that are universally accepted as kinky. Like BDSM, or maybe threesomes, and pain, and tying people up, and anal.”
“I’m sure plenty of people would think anal is vanilla.”
Lucy seriously hopes this conversation isn’t going anywhere near where it might be going, and is quick to adopt a horrified expression and make it quite clear that she does not consider anal to be on the menu any time soon. Or, indeed, ever. Why the fuck are they even talking about this stuff on the first date? Shouldn’t he be asking her about her family and where she’s going on holiday?!
“So,” Cain asks again, thoroughly warmed up now. “Do you consider yourself vanilla. What are you into?”
But Lucy’s had enough. “This is making me very uncomfortable,” she says firmly, and changes the subject.
Cain seems very chatty and open, which is nice, but Lucy still can’t decide if he’s also super creepy and pushy, or just the victim of an unfortunate flow of conversation. To be fair, although the subject areas have been a touch risqué, it’s all been entirely sensible analysis, but Lucy’s still glad she has the table between them as protection in case Cain sees their discussion as some sort of invitation.
She drains her glass, and the water comes over to offer her another. Shoulda just ordered a bottle, she thinks as she accepts. She’s had no dinner either, and is a bit tipsy now.
“It’s OK,” she waves nonchalantly, “I’m working from home tomorrow so I won’t need to be presentable.”
“You could even be naked all day,” says Cain, veering towards the creepy line yet again.
Lucy’s having none of it. “Oh I wouldn’t do that!”
“Nope. It wouldn’t be very comfortable. I’ll wear pyjamas. No bra though, of course.”
“I shall try very hard not to picture that.” He smiles coquettishly.
When he goes to the bathroom she takes a look at her phone. There’s a text from Charlie. Why the fuck is he messaging her now? He knows she’s on a date; is he trying to mess with her head? Could he even be a little bit jealous? The possibility fills her with hope, which she swiftly shuts down. This is pointless. What difference does it make if he’s jealous – he’s getting married FFS! She needs to move on, and maybe Cain’s just the man to help her do that.
Still, she decides not to reply until tomorrow. Make him sweat. Let him know she has other options. So what if it’s game-playing; it’s about time he got a taste of his own medicine.
Though it’s probably pointless. The filthy fucker’d almost certainly just be turned on by the thought of her with another guy.
“Tell me what you think about Brexit,” she says when Cain returns, moving onto a safer topic.
He tells her he was living in Australia at the time, and flew all the way back to vote remain. This is truly excellent news. Something else in common!
“I cried the morning after the referendum,” she confesses.
“Well imagine how you’d feel if you spent £2000 coming back to vote and we still lost!”
And finally Lucy finds herself warming to the man.
She’s really not sure what to make of Cain. On one hand he’s intelligent and chatty, they have stuff in common, and he’s certainly easy on the eye. On the other, he does seem a little bit creepy and one-track-mindy. But is that really his fault? They are both a bit tipsy, and the conversation did naturally flow where it wanted to. Which is at least a damn sight better than those soul-destroying dates where you’re desperately scrabbling around for conversation starters to fill the awkward silences. And maybe he just fancies her, and isn’t afraid to show it. Would that be such a bad thing? Lucy definitely has a problem with not knowing how to handle guys who are attracted to her, so maybe her discomfort is not actually his fault at all, but hers?
So yeah, she quite likes him, but does she fancy him? Does she want to kiss him? She doesn’t think so, but perhaps a second date would help her decide that for sure. Maybe he’ll grow on her once she get to know him a bit better.
As they walk back to the tube station Cain chats happily and makes jokes, nudging her and touching her arm in a flirty way that makes her worry he might be warming up to go in for a snog. But all Lucy can think about is Charlie: how much better and hotter their first date was, how, once she’d got over her initial awkwardness, she definitely wanted to kiss him, how much more she fancies him than Cain.
But FFS! She can’t let him be all up in her head like this, she just can’t. She’ll never meet anyone else if she’s only thinking about Charlie. So if she can’t date him AND continue to be open to other people, she’s going to need to let him go.
But maybe it’s not actually Charlie’s fault she’s thinking about him, but Cain’s. Perhaps if it’d been a really cracking date, all fireworks and unicorns and butterflies, she’d be feeling just as keen to kiss him now as she did with Charlie.
She’s brought back to the situation in hand by the realisation that they are almost at the tube station. Fuck, what does she do? If she stops for a goodbye, there’s a serious danger that he might lunge and try to kiss her. And no matter how pretty his eyes, Lucy’s 100% certain that she doesn’t want him to do that.
There’s only one thing for it. She reaches into her bag and feels for her contactless debit card, readying it in the palm of her hand like a runner holding the baton at the start of a relay. Then, as they reach the entrance to the tube, she turns to him, leans in to peck him on the cheek, says cheerily, “I’m gonna run away now, bye!” and swipes through before he has a chance to stop her.
As soon as she’s down the stairs and out of sight, she feels an enormous sense of relief. But why? He really wasn’t so bad, so what was it about him that made her so uncomfortable? Was it literally the fact that he so obviously liked her? Because she really needs to get the fuck over that. Only being attracted to unavailable, disinterested men is a recipe for a long a miserable single life.
And Cain really is quite sweet.
Next morning, he messages her again.
Next time: Lucy decides to give Cain a second chance, and things go from bad to worse.
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