A Twist In The Tale just for you…
The minefield of online dating can throw up a few surprises…
Author Carol Probyn
Kerry has a good view of the restaurant opposite from the chemist’s shop doorway. The teeming rain is giving her a chance to adjust her make-up, to comb her hair… to have second thoughts? She checks her watch.
I’m early. I could simply retrace my steps and no-one would be any the wiser. Except of course for Rodney. But maybe he won’t show up. Oh, this is worse than being fifteen again and waiting for my first date with Trevor Moore. Whatever happened to the coolest kid in school who chose me? Well, he did until…
A distinct bleep makes Kerry aware that someone else is sheltering about six feet away, his thumbs dancing on his phone, his pleasant face illuminated by the light from his mobile.
It’s eight o’clock and already dark, but the light from the restaurant throws colours into the puddles, which are constantly distorted by the incessant raindrops. A bit like my life, Kerry thinks.
Her own phone buzzes in her pocket.
It’s Naomi asking if all is OK.
Kerry texts back, No show yet.
She has been here now since a quarter to eight and no-one resembling Rodney – her date – has entered.
“Terrible weather,” the man in the doorway says, making her jump.
His hands are now in his pockets, his shoulders hunched, and he looks very damp and miserable.
It can’t be Rodney, can it? Now that would be hilarious, both of us waiting here for each other! But no, he’s too fair and clean-shaven… I suppose he could have shaved the beard. No – that was the marker to recognise him by, like the rose in my hair is for me.
Kerry knows that online daters often post over-flattering photos and descriptions of themselves. After all, she had chosen – or rather, Naomi had – that photo from a friend’s wedding, all dressed up and so unlike the real her.
She touches the cheap silk flower in her hair, now damp and limp.
“Awful,” she replies, staring back across the road and hoping she hasn’t missed Rodney.
The windows are steaming up; the red lanterns look blurred.
“Whatever did we do before mobile phones and texting?” the stranger asks.
“Goodness knows. I’d be lost without mine,” she agrees.
Text Man may not be her date, but she wonders if he is meeting someone else at the Men Wo. He seems as nervous as she is.
Naomi said only a cheapskate would eat at the Men Wo, and I’m beginning to agree with her. Huh! It’s alright for Naomi with her perfect family and rich husband. Oh, those heady days ten years ago when I thought I had the world at my feet and the man of my dreams in my bed… pity he spent so many nights in other women’s beds.
The divorce was painful, emotionally and financially, for Will had had mortgages on mortgages. Since then Kerry has struggled alone, working long hours as a nurse to support herself and her son Jacob. When she’d confided in Naomi that she missed having a man in her life, her friend enrolled her in the online dating agency.
You may have to kiss a few frogs first, before you find Prince Charming,” Naomi had said. “But what fun you’ll have in the process!”
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
The man’s phone bleeps again and his thumbs get busy.
Yes, what fun it is standing in a damp doorway with a text-mad stranger, waiting for your first crack at the dating game in five years.
Kerry had agreed that it would be so nice to have a pleasant guy to share the odd night out with, like a visit to the theatre, a Chinese meal… She had chosen Rodney because he had appeared so conventional.
Naomi said he looked boring because his hobbies were walking, reading and birdwatching. Well, Kerry had decided to break the mould. From Tony onwards she had chosen handsome alpha males – who had always let her down.
Another five minutes then I’m off – because Rodney will have let me down.
Wait! That dark-haired man under the golfing umbrella pretending to read the menu outside. Turn round! Her heart pounds in her throat. The beardless man turns and walks away.
“Excuse me, but don’t I know you?” Text Man asks nervously.
Kerry’s pounding heart sinks. That was only the corniest line in the world.
“I don’t think so,” she says, not taking her eyes off the restaurant.
Wait! Another man under another massive umbrella has materialised. He has a beard and is wearing a yellow sou’wester, a long plastic mac and waterproof trousers. It is Rodney! Here we are in the epicentre of England, and he’s kitted out like a trawlerman on the North Sea.
Never judge a book by its cover,” she had told Naomi… but could she ever date a man who dressed like that?
It has stopped raining, and Rodney takes off his sou’wester and folds it up and places it carefully in his shopping bag… his shopping bag!
Oh no! I have a date with Roy Cropper!
This is confirmed when he takes out a purse and checks the contents. He then glances at the menu, then the purse again. He takes off his glasses and polishes them.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
“Everything alright?” Her doorway companion sounds concerned.
Oh no again! Rodney is peering over at her! She snatches the wilted rose out of her hair and almost pounces on Text Man, grinning wildly at him.
“You must think me so rude! Ha! Ha! Yes, I’m fine, just fine!”
Kerry grabs his arms and moves behind him, so that she is obscured from Rodney’s view. She steals a glance over Text Man’s shoulder and is relieved to see Rodney enter the restaurant.
“Well! Are you sure you’re alright?”
Kerry is suddenly mortified and steps away from him.
“I’m really sorry… you must think I’ve gone mad… only, you see, I couldn’t let that man going into the restaurant over there see me… excuse me, but I must be going…”
“It’s OK.” The man smiles. “Now that I can see you better, I really do think I know you… from Marlfield High. I’m Mark Weston and I’m pretty sure you’re Kerry Collins!”
Kerry squints at him. “I used to be. Sorry but I don’t remember you.”
But she thinks he looks nice, and it was a long time ago.
Naomi would call him a nerd.
No reason you should. I fancied you like mad back then, but you only had eyes for Trevor Moore. We all thought he was crazy going off with that tarty Sue Watton.”
Kerry shrugs. “Story of my life…”
Her phone bleeps. It’s Naomi. Well?
Disaster, Kerry texts, then she has a sudden pang of conscience.
She quickly texts Rodney.
So sorry can’t make it – car trouble.
Now Mark’s phone bleeps yet again. He scrutinises a message and begins texting back.
Kerry sees the restaurant door open and Rodney emerge. He pulls up the collar on his plastic mac and strides off down the road. Kerry shudders and feels she has had a lucky escape.
“I bet you wonder what all the texting is about?” Mark smiles.
Why would I?
Another bleep from her own phone, and they both burst out laughing.
“My son’s been texting me all evening. I’m supposed to have met him here for a meal and he’s been waiting for his mum – my ex-wife – to give him a lift. First it’s on, then it’s off. She likes making life difficult. The last text was from her, saying it will have to be tomorrow as she’s having car trouble.”
Kerry cringes inwardly. “Ah, well, looks like we’re both destined to give the Men Wo a miss tonight.”
“Well, we needn’t… you and I could… you know, we could have a meal together…” he mumbles. “Catch up on that story of your life…”
Kerry is convinced he is blushing as he looks down at his scuffling feet.
“Actually, Mark, I’ve really gone off the place.”
“Me too. It was Toby’s choice. Fancy an Indian?”
Mark offers Kerry his arm, which she thinks is very charming, and they walk towards the Taj Mahal dodging puddles.
Well, he’s certainly no frog. He may not turn out to be Prince Charming, but at the moment he looks like the cat who got the cream. That’ll do for starters, Kerry thinks.
She stops briefly once more to send Naomi a final text…
A Word From The Author…
“A friend really did arrange a similar meeting and watched from afar to see her date arrive. He too was nothing like his online picture. Unfortunately she was not so lucky as to meet someone like Mark instead.”