My Ten-Year Crush by Olivia Spring
Present Day: July 2010
We all have those moments.
The moments when we agree to do something and regret it.
Like when you go for a run to support a friend who’s started a new fitness regime, then it ends up raining.
When you say ‘Of course I’ll come out tonight,’ when really, you wish you could just stay at home and chill on the sofa.
Or when a well-meaning neighbour sets you up on a date and you get the feeling it’s going to be as successful as a trip on the Titanic.
We’ve all been there.
In fact, I was there right now: sitting in a bar with Edwin, my neighbour’s brother.
I’d met him briefly once before, and during our limited exchange, he’d seemed nice, polite and handsome.
My neighbour, Gina, was convinced we’d be great together and kept asking if I’d meet him. I said I’d let her know, but then last Sunday she’d knocked at my door, offering me a plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. The sweet cocoa scent was intoxicating, so of course I’d accepted. But seconds later, she’d said, ‘So, about that date with Edwin… is this Thursday okay?’
I couldn’t exactly say no. She’d caught me when I was hungry. At the time, a quick drink with a guy who came highly recommended seemed like a fair exchange for satisfying my sugar fix.
There was no denying that just like when we’d first met, Edwin was good-looking. He had brown eyes and well-cut short dark hair and was dressed in a three-piece suit with a bow tie. Very different to the relaxed orange maxi dress and gold sandals I was wearing. But whilst he had the looks, so far, the jury was out on his personality.
He’d already asked me why I was single, which was one of my least favourite questions. I knew it was something most people wondered when they met someone new, but Edwin had asked it in a kind of ‘what’s wrong with you, woman?’ way, which wasn’t cool.
The red flag was well and truly raised when he asked if I’d had many boyfriends. I told him that question was too personal, so didn’t answer.
And it wasn’t just his personality. There was no chemistry either. I didn’t feel that connection.
The thought of making up an excuse to get out of here had crossed my mind approximately fifty times in the last sixty seconds. But then the logical part of my brain reminded me that even though I hated dating, I had to keep an open mind. Plus, I couldn’t just get up and leave. I’d only been here twenty minutes, so that would be rude.
Although I was certain that he couldn’t be further from being the one if he lived on Mars, I’d promised Gina I’d give him a chance, because he’d been out of the game for a while, so I should at least try and stay for an hour out of politeness. It’d be fine…
‘Yummy, yum, yum!’ Edwin sipped the red wine he’d recommended we order, because apparently it was ‘full-bodied’ and had a ‘silky texture’, with ‘an aroma of cherry wood, juicy berries…’ and some other stuff I couldn’t remember. Personally, I preferred to drink Chardonnay, but said I’d give it a go. ‘This is absolutely sublime. Just like I knew it would be. The explosion of berries is like an orgasm on your tongue.’
Did he just…
‘I’m sorry?’ I frowned. ‘What did you just say?’
‘The wine.’ He licked his lips. ‘It’s like an orgasm on your tongue. Not a small whimper of a climax. No, no, no. I’m talking about when you’ve had an unusually long dry spell and after months of waiting for a woman to accept your invitation to spend the evening together, you finally seal the deal, get to release and the explosion is cataclysmic. It’s just boom! POW! Whoosh! Like a rocket! That’s what drinking this wine feels like: the sweetest, juiciest orgasm on your tongue.’
‘Right…’ I took a sip and it tasted surprisingly like… red wine. Nothing spectacular and definitely not comparable to an orgasm. Admittedly, it had been a while since I’d had one, but I was pretty sure it was better than this.
‘So!’ Edwin sat up straighter in his seat. ‘Are you ready?’
‘Ready for what?’ I frowned.
‘For the date to begin.’ Edwin rolled his eyes like it should be obvious.
‘I thought it already had?’
‘No, silly!’ he scoffed. Edwin snapped open his black briefcase, then pulled out a stack of cards. Reminded me of the ones I used to help me revise for exams. He gave them a quick shuffle and cleared his throat. ‘Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?’
No way. I thought I was here for a date, not a job interview. I took a deep breath, wondering how my love life had come to this.
‘Doing a career that I love and settled down, hopefully.’
‘I see.’ Edwin put the cards on the table, pulled out his phone and started typing. ‘Ready-to-get-married-and-have-children. Exclamation mark. Good-sign. Exclamation mark.’
I quickly covered by mouth to stifle my surprise at the fact that he was actually taking notes and reading them out loud. And if that wasn’t bad enough, somehow he didn’t seem to realise that he was doing it.
‘So you intend to work after you’ve had children?’ He frowned.
‘Yes. I’d like to. Even if it’s part-time.’
‘I see…,’ he said with a disapproving tone before typing out, ‘Career woman. Dot-dot-dot. Potential-question-mark.’
I sat there for half an hour as Edwin quizzed me on everything from where I’d gone to school to what A levels I’d studied, what my parents did for a living and my favourite hobbies. It was exhausting.
‘And you?’ I asked, attempting to make this date a two-way conversation. ‘What do you like doing in your spare time?’
‘No, no, no.’ He wagged his finger. ‘I haven’t finished my questions. Actually, let’s switch to the quick-fire round.’
Oh dear God. So now we’d gone from an interview to a game show? I was losing the will to live.
How could Edwin and Gina be so different? If she wasn’t such a good neighbour, I would’ve attempted to make my excuses and left. I deserved a lifetime supply of home-made cookies after this ordeal.
‘Ah, yes!’ He selected the next card. ‘This is always a fun one: Which way should the toilet paper go on the holder?’
I scanned the room. I refused to believe this was happening. I must be part of a secret camera show. Ashton Kutcher was going to jump out at any second and tell me I’d been punk’d. It was the only explanation.
‘Time is ticking!’ Edwin tapped his fingers impatiently on the table.
‘Over,’ I answered. ‘It should go over rather than under.’
Edwin gasped. ‘That is incorrect.’
‘Incorrect?’ I huffed. ‘Seriously, though: does it really matter?’
‘Of course it does. Let’s try another. Skiing in the Alps or relaxing on the beach?’
‘Well, I’ve never been skiing, so I’d have to say beach…’
‘This isn’t going well…’ Edwin tutted and waved his finger again. ‘Next question: What is your favourite television series?’
‘That’s easy. Friends. I used to watch it all the time with… with my old best friend.’
‘Of all the television series you could have picked, you chose Friends? Dear oh dear oh dear.’ He shook his head.
I’d just about managed to put up with being interviewed, but now he’d insulted Friends, he’d taken things too far. If I hadn’t been before, now I was certain that Edwin was not the man for me. I’d felt it in my gut when the date had started, not to mention when he’d started comparing wine to bloody orgasms.
Forget the cookies. There weren’t enough biscuits in the world to compensate for putting up with any more of his rubbish. Once I explained to Gina, she’d understand why this absolutely couldn’t go any further.
‘Bella, I’m sorry to break this to you, but I’m going to call this a night. I’m afraid you’re just not a suitable candidate for me. You’re just a bit too, you know…? Never mind.’
A bit too what?Actually, I’d rather not know.
I should’ve left earlier, when I’d first realised this wasn’t going to work.
Story of my life. Even when men waved more red flags than an overzealous football referee, I ignored the signs because I wanted to be kind and give them the benefit of the doubt. And then they dumped me without giving my feelings a second thought.
‘Here.’ He tipped a pile of coins onto the table. ‘This is for my wine. I would’ve paid for yours too if I thought this could go somewhere. Should be enough. If there’s any extra, you can keep the change. My treat!’ He winked. ‘Bye.’
And just like that, Edwin left.
I was rooted to the spot for a good thirty seconds. My cheeks burned with frustration. I wish I could have told him exactly what I thought of him and his stupid questions.
I needed to leave. Right now.
After handing my cash and Edwin’s money (including the extra ten pence he’d so generously left) to the waiter, I rushed out of the bar.
I couldn’t wait to get home and put this nightmare behind me. Although I wanted the date to end, I still felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. This was exactly why I hated dating.
I couldn’t believe Gina had said he was a catch. If Edwin was the only fish left in the sea, I’d rather starve.
I’d told her my ideal man would have a good personality, not be an annoying snob. I was hoping to meet someone normal that I could have a decent conversation with. You know, chat about everyday stuff, like what was happening in the soaps, but also be able to talk about heavier topics too. Someone down to earth, who could make me laugh. Someone like M—
What was wrong with me? I had to get a grip and stop comparing everyone to him. It had been a decade for goodness’ sake. I’d cut myself off. Moved on. I was over him.
Thankfully, it didn’t take long to get home. I opened the door, kicked off my shoes, hung up my jacket, tied my dark curly hair into a bun, then flopped down on the sofa.
My phone rang. Gina, who lived in the flat below mine, had probably heard me come in and was calling to find out how the date went. Saying I thought her brother was a patronising dickhead wasn’t going to be fun.
‘Hi, B!’ Phew. It wasn’t her after all.
‘Hey, Melody!’ I breathed a sigh of relief. ‘How are you?’
‘I’m good. Thanks for the cool bracelet. You’re such a luv, thinking of me like that. It really made my day!’
‘Glad you liked it.’ It was nothing extravagant. Melody always wore a million bracelets, so you could usually hear her jangling before you saw her. When I’d spotted the colourful beads on a stall in Camden Market last weekend, I couldn’t resist getting it. She’d had a tough time lately, so I’d thought it might cheer her up.
‘Anyway, what you up to?’ she said.
‘Just back from a terrible date.’
‘Sorry to hear that, my lovely. Dating is pants.’ Exactly what I’d just been saying. ‘Let me guess: you deliberately picked someone crap who you knew wouldn’t go the distance, so either butt ugly or a boring old fart.’
‘What?’ I gasped. ‘I don’t do that!’ Yes, Edwin was boring, but I hadn’t known that when I’d agreed to the date. I’d thought he had potential, and he was handsome.
Melody made my dating patterns sound so prescriptive and it really wasn’t like that. I’d gone out with all kinds of guys over the years. I was an equal opportunities dater: I pretty much said yes to anyone who asked me. Tall, short, slim, big, good-looking, less aesthetically blessed.
Don’t get me wrong: I was no supermodel, so it wasn’t like I was inundated with offers. But whilst my friends shied away from the guys who were under six foot, even though I was five foot eleven, I didn’t. Finding someone seemed impossible enough, so I couldn’t afford to rule anyone out.
It made no difference, though. Sooner or later, they always found a reason to dump me.
I’d come to the conclusion that the perfect man for me just didn’t exist. I was never going to meet anyone who ticked all three of my important boxes: great personality, chemistry and good looks.
It was like that saying. When it comes to choosing a service, there are three options: fast, cheap or good quality, but you can only pick two. So if something is fast and cheap, it’ll be poor quality. If it’s fast and good quality, it won’t be cheap.
The way I saw it, the same principle applied to men. It wasn’t possible to find one with the complete package. They’d either be hot with sizzling chemistry, but have zero personality. Or have a great personality, but there’d be no chemistry. If I could find a guy who had a great personality and good chemistry, I wouldn’t be so bothered about his looks, but nope.
I’d only ever met one man with the complete package, but that hadn’t ended well either. Because I’d discovered that even if by some major miracle a guy did have all three qualities, he still rejected me.
Which proved my original point: my perfect man didn’t exist.
But I still wanted a partner, so rather than expecting to be swept off my feet and find the love of my life, I now considered dating a numbers game. It was a case of just persevering until I found someone to settle with who could tick a couple of boxes and was ready for something long-term. Realistically, that was all I could hope for.
‘Say whatever you want, but I know you better than you think, B. Anyway, I was calling to check you were coming the Friday after next?’
I racked my brain trying to think what she was talking about. I’d known Melody for ages. We’d gone to university together, and although we texted and spoke often, we only saw each other a few times a year. Whilst I lived in South London, she was based miles away in Coventry, raising her daughter on her own, so it wasn’t easy. I definitely didn’t remember arranging to meet up.
‘What’s happening in two weeks?’
‘The reunion!! Can you believe it’s been ten years since we left uni! Crazy! So, anyway, Heather and a few of the others thought it would be cool to organise something. They said they’d sent you an invite?’
‘Erm, I’m behind on opening my post, so I must have missed it…’ I crossed my fingers and prayed I wouldn’t be sent to hell for telling a little white lie. I remembered seeing the invitation a few weeks ago, then putting it where it belonged: in the dustbin.
‘No worries! It’s pretty relaxed. You can still come. I’ll just let them know. It’d be great to see you! They’ve hired a venue and everything. Tickets are really reasonable. Even includes a couple of drinks, a buffet and a DJ. It’s going to be amazeballs! I’ve had my childcare booked for weeks. Can’t wait!’
‘I’ve actually got plans for that Friday…’ My second lie of the evening. Heaven help me. Although, technically, staying at home could still be considered as having plans. If not, I’d find something to do. Plucking individual hairs from my bikini line, walking across hot coals barefoot… anything except going to the reunion.
‘Oh really? What you up to?’
‘Um, I’ve been invited to… I’m just busy… sorry. I’m sure you’ll all have a great time, though! Maybe we can meet in a couple of weeks or something so you can tell me all about it.’
‘Hold on! I’m coming!’ Melody shouted. ‘Sorry, I’ve got to go. Andrea needs me. Think about it, though, yeah? See if you can change these plans of yours.’ Something told me she didn’t believe me. Melody had always had some sort of sixth sense. I was glad the conversation was ending. I was rubbish at lying, so if she hadn’t already guessed, it wouldn’t be long before she realised I was telling porkies.
‘Thanks for calling. And say hi to Andrea from me.’
‘Laters!’ Melody hung up.
As nice as it would be to see Melody, I definitely would not be changing my mind about going. It wasn’t a good idea.
Not because of him. That had happened ages ago, so I was definitely over it. He’d probably forgotten all about that night too. Like me, I doubted he’d given it a second thought.
All the same, in the interest of avoiding any potential awkwardness, I’d leave that memory under lock and key.
Yep. Some things were best left in the past. Which was exactly where all thoughts of him belonged.