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Reality Check

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CC Image courtesy of reuvenim on FlickrNovember 2014

‘So I’ve got one silly man-related question.’

My mother looks up from her iPad, wearing a patient, slightly pitying smile.

‘Your email the other day made me smile,’ I begin. She removes her glasses, prepares herself for what is clearly going to be the ‘round the houses’ approach. ‘The one where you said you hoped Gus wasn’t going to get my hopes up.’

We laugh.

‘Yes,’ she says, ‘he sounds dangerous.’

‘No, it’s fine, really.’

[insert long rambling explanation of why it’s fine]

‘But,’ I wind up, ‘well, what I wondered is, if Germany does come back to London – and I know I’m asking you to predict the future here – but if he does come back to London, what are the chances he’ll get in touch?’

There’s a pause.

‘He might get in touch,’ my mother says, slowly. ‘And he might suggest meeting up, but then you’d have to decide if you were happy with things on his terms.’

‘I wouldn’t be. I mean, I don’t know to what extent his ‘terms’ were because we were in different countries, but, if we were in the same city then he’d have to want to make it work or I wouldn’t go there.’


‘And… if he did get in touch and suggest meeting up, then you’d say, what, go for it?’

‘Well, if he gets in touch and you end up… going out, well, then that’s fine… until he meets someone else.’

‘Because,’ I hesitate a moment, ‘I guess the bottom line is, being in the same city wouldn’t make him fancy me more.’


‘Hmm. And… if he did get in touch and we went out or whatever, it would probably end in tears?’


‘Because if he doesn’t fancy me enough to make it work when we’re in different countries, then it wouldn’t work when we’re in the same country.’


There’s another pause.

‘Is there any chance it wouldn’t end in tears?’



‘Mmm nope.’

‘Hmm. You don’t know that!’

My mother doesn’t say anything.

‘So really,’ I go on, ‘if he did get in touch, then I’d be better off not going there at all, because it would only end in misery.’


‘And heartache.’


Another pause.

‘So you’re saying it would be best not to go there, knowing it would all end in tears?’

‘No, well, I’d go there.’ She looks thoughtful. ‘But I think perhaps you wouldn’t.’

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Then I Kissed Her

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They’ve spent the last five hours laughing and talking and walking. Now they are standing before the tube map.

‘You want to take the Piccadilly line,’ she says, tracing the route, ‘then change.’

‘Which way are you going?’

‘The other way.’ She points. ‘South.’

‘OK, so, this was fun.’


They hug.

‘I’d like to see you again,’ he says.

‘That would be nice.’

‘OK… so… I’m going to kiss you.’

She smiles. ‘OK.’

They kiss.

‘I’d like to see you again,’ he says. ‘When are you next free?’

‘Errr… erm… I’ve got something next Saturday… I’ve got things next Thursday, Friday and Saturday but… sometime after that? Can I let you–?’

‘Yes. I want to see you again, for drinks this time.’


They kiss again briefly.



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CC Image courtesy of Debs (ò‿ó)♪ on FlickrBeatrice has just texted to say she’s got a Tinder date lined up.

‘He’s a ginger version of Rob,’ she says, ‘so that might be a problem.’

‘I think Ginger Rob is par for the course,’ I send back. ‘I’ve spent the last eight months looking for a doppelganger of Viable Prospect.’

I go upstairs to get ready. My top needs ironing and I’m contemplating washing my hair in the vain hope it will come out looking entirely different. Longer and more bouncy.

I put away the ironing board, transfer essential items to my evening bag. There’s ten minutes until I need to leave, enough time to reply to a couple of messages.

At the top right of the screen, a small number two, in red. Reminders, no doubt, of invitations unanswered. I click on the icon and feel my stomach drop.


Two days earlier…

Beatrice shifts in her chair. ‘It’s embarrassing.’

‘It’s not!’

I tell her about the time I almost went to see someone for the same reason. ‘But I knew a therapist couldn’t tell me what I needed to know – only he could do that. So I messaged him, and, when he stopped replying, I was finally able to move on.’

‘Do you still think about him?’

I shrug. ‘I guess I compare people to him. But I know now he doesn’t want to be with me, and it’s invaluable, knowing that.’


I stare at the screen a moment.

‘Fuck you!’ I say with a half-laugh. ‘Fuck you!’ I get up, pace the room. ‘You are not fucking doing this. You’ve fucking ruined enough of my fucking life already. You are not ruining my evening.’ I grab my coat and bag. ‘I am going to have a fabulous night.’


‘Do you want another drink?’ My date gestures towards the menu. ‘Or do you want to dance or… do you just want to get out of here?’

He’s already told me he’s not a very good dancer.

‘Err… out of here?’

‘So,’ he says, once we’re outside, ‘your place or mine?

I suppress a smile. ‘Err… yeah, that’s what I meant earlier by I think we want different things.’



Tubing home, my thoughts drift to another first date. We didn’t want the same things either.

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I roll over, reach for my phone. A missed call and two messages. One of them I’ve already read – a grammatical car crash from the guy who, ten hours’ earlier, I was lip to lip with.


‘Culturally it’s very different, right?’

This is me trying to sound intelligent about China.

‘Yes,’ he says. ‘And they spit, when they talk.’

‘They spit?!’


Which is when he goes in for the kiss. Just the right amount of spit, in case you wanted to know.


So there’s him asking, ‘How was [the] rest or your night?’. And then there’s Rachel

‘I’ve got a bit of a disaster…’

It might be the first time L.K.Bennett – queen of sartorial conservatism – and ‘disaster’ have found themselves in the same sentence. Newly engaged Rachel has found a bridesmaid dress she likes and wants to know what I think. Another message, this time a picture of the sender, fresh-faced and perky, modeling an elegant lace number. I lie there, eyeliner streaked across my face, scarf wrapped around my head to muffle the midday sounds of suburban London, feeling our worlds edge that little bit further apart.

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Heavenly Creatures

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It’s with mixed feelings that I ride the lift up to the fifth floor. Aside from the odd slip – queuing for returns for a play that I hoped would give me greater insight into Tristan’s medical history, and talking wistfully of him to my long-suffering friend and hostess (‘it’s… it’s like we can read each other’s minds!’) – aside from the odd slip, the past week has been delightfully free of unrequited longing. I even spent an evening in the company of a man who was both nice and – brace yourself – single and who I’d like to see again, though the jury’s out on whether he feels the same way.

Approaching the glass, pass in hand, I feel a little thrill of joy. Up there are two men who make my heart sing – and a job that makes my stomach drop.

The lift doors open onto the fifth floor. I put my pass to the scanner. The thrill has faded into nothingness. I keep my gaze dead ahead.


I look round and there he is, making the silly gesturing movements I have come to love so much.

‘How was your holiday?’

‘Good,’ I say, grinning.

‘Oh of course, you went to Edinburgh.’

Yes. Where he’s just been himself. Has he really only just remembered this fact?

‘What did you see?’ he says.

‘Some of the things you did, probably.’

‘Did you manage to see–?’


‘Was it–?’

‘Overrated.’ We laugh. ‘I still don’t know which show you’re talking about!’

‘Overrated could apply to lots of the things I saw.’ He frowns. ‘I had quite a lean Fringe.’

‘Yeah I know what you mean. I only saw one thing which I thought–.’

Tobias appears round the corner. ‘Welcome back! Did you go to Vienna?’

‘No, Edinburgh.’

Right now I feel like I’ve gone to heaven.

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