Home > First Date

First Date
Author: Sue Watson

 

For Nick Watson, my best first date.

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

‘I’ve always wanted a yellow Labrador,’ I say, trying to bite into a piece of garlic bread without butter running down my chin.

‘No?’ He smiles. ‘That’s crazy!’

‘Why?’ I’m struggling with the pasta and splashing arrabbiata sauce everywhere. Not a good look.

‘You know how people talk about white picket fences, and 2.4 kids?’ he says.

My heart sinks, this was going so well, but here it comes, the usual commitment-phobe comment. ‘Mmm…?’

‘Well, I don’t care about the white picket fence. I just want the Labrador and three kids.’

‘Three? No way. Me too!’ Warmth floods my veins. I’ve had a good feeling about this guy ever since we started talking, and did he just mention kids? On a first date? I’m blown away.

I’m trying to eat with dignity and not sound over keen, I don’t want to mess this up. It isn’t every day you meet someone who wants everything you do, whose hopes and dreams match yours – even down to the breed of dog you want. But I mustn’t get carried away. Not yet.

‘So… music. Who do you like?’

‘Mmm I love the nineties, reminds me of being young. I’m a big fan of Oasis.’

‘No? I LOVE Oasis,’ I say.

‘Favourite album?’ he asks.

‘What’s the Story, Morning Glory?!’ we both say in unison, and laugh.

‘Has to be – “Wonderwall” is on it,’ he says.

‘Yeah, I love that too,’ I say, amazed. ‘So – let’s test this further – where’s your favourite place to go on holiday?’ I ask eagerly.

He thinks for a moment. ‘I guess the guys you usually go out with go to cool places like Hawaii, or, I don’t know, Iceland?’

I shake my head.

‘I’m going to be very boring, I’m afraid.’ He sighs. ‘But my favourite holiday destination is probably Devon…’ He considers this for a moment. ‘Yes, Devon, we had some great holidays there when I was a kid. I keep thinking I’d love to go back.’

‘Really? Me too.’

‘This is getting weird now.’

‘Yeah! I love Devon. Haven’t been for ages, but only recently I was saying to my friend Jasmine that I’d love to go back for the weekend, rent a little fisherman’s cottage by the sea, then eat Devon cream teas until I’m so full I can’t move.’ We both giggle at the prospect. What I don’t mention is the fact that I’d told Jasmine I wanted it to be a romantic weekend, and I’d wished I had a gorgeous man to go with. And now, as we gaze across candlelight, I’m marvelling at how life sometimes gives you exactly what you wish for.

‘Okay, so we both want dogs, three kids and Devon?’ He smiles. ‘What’s your favourite kind of food? I love French food.’

‘Ahh that’s a shame, my favourite is Italian, perhaps we’re not soulmates after all,’ I tease.

‘Well, there’s still a chance. I love Italian too.’ He finishes the pasta primavera on his plate as if to prove this, and takes a sip of Merlot.

‘Yeah, I love pasta,’ I say, pointlessly, my voice fading and insides melting as he directs his gaze into my eyes.

‘Okay, perhaps we could still be soulmates then.’ His eyes smile independently of his mouth, as if he has this amusing secret he wants to share but daren’t. I want to know all his secrets.

I imagine us walking along a beach together next summer, we’re holding hands, walking into an orange sunset, later returning to that romantic little cottage with roses around the door. I feel a shimmer of excitement at the thought.

He’s sitting back now, observing me, that secret still laughing in his eyes. ‘So, Hannah Weston, are we meant for each other?’ He leans forward, and his hand brushes mine on the table, causing electricity to shoot up my arm.

‘Do we really want the same things in life, or have you been lurking on my Facebook page and that’s how you know my favourite breed of dog, and my passion for the south-west coast of England?’ He screws up his eyes in mock suspicion, and resting his chin on his hands, makes like he’s scrutinising me.

He smiles and takes another sip of wine, he’d ordered the bottle before we arrived – apparently his favourite, and it happens to be mine too. How many signs do we need to tell us this is fate? Why doesn’t he just ask me to marry him now and be done with the small talk? I want to laugh at my madness. I’ll admit I did look him up on social media, but there was nothing about Labradors or Devon on his Instagram, just anonymous, moody landscapes and the odd selfie. Alex pours more wine for both of us while telling me about his work as a solicitor at Boyd and Walker, a big legal firm here in the Midlands.

‘It must be very interesting,’ I say, rather lamely. I’m not good under pressure. I have this tendency to make meaningless small talk. I don’t want to say something stupid and send the evening on a downward spiral after such a brilliant start – I need to stay calm and get to the end without knocking over a wine glass or oversharing my life story. I need to keep a little back and not throw myself at him until I know exactly who he is. Given some of the awful men I’ve met, I’m looking for the flaws, but so far, so good.

It’s well documented that the online dating world is fraught with danger, from dinner with potential serial killers to outings with bad boys and mummy’s boys. I’d been put off this kind of matchmaking, having spent my twenties going on dates with strangers off the internet. The first date often started well – let’s face it, no one is going to reveal their weird habit, real age or secret wife on a first date. But things would soon start to slide, like the gorgeous guy who on our first and only date seemed funny, intelligent and charming and, after a wonderful dinner, invited me back to his for coffee. I jumped at the chance, but arriving at his mausoleum-like home, he took me upstairs and asked if he could brush my hair with his mother’s hairbrush. She’d been dead ten years. I shudder now at the potential psychodrama I may have opened up, or if I’d even be here today, if I hadn’t made my excuses and left.

So far, Alex is intelligent, good-looking, and hasn’t mentioned his mother once. Nor has he referred to his ‘beautiful’ ex or introduced me to his ‘love truncheon’ under the table, as a previous potential mate did on a first date. It seems that Meet your Match, an app that states reassuringly that ‘your soulmate is only ten minutes away’, might just have the magic formula I’ve been seeking all these years. Hard to believe this Adonis before me was almost binned for an Indian takeaway and a night with Jasmine in our pjs watching Netflix. And it’s Jas I have to thank for this, really. I wouldn’t have even started online dating again without her encouragement. At thirty-six, I felt it was too late. But the way Alex is looking at me over his glass of wine, I’m beginning to think there might be someone for me after all.

‘Have you been on many online dates?’ he asks now.

‘I was in a relationship for a while, so I’m new to Meet Your Match, but I went on quite a few dates in the past.’ I roll my eyes. ‘And, trust me, they weren’t my soulmates. I haven’t done this for years,’ I add, gesturing from him to me. ‘The last guy – who shall remain nameless – seemed nice enough. On our first date he told me he shaved his legs every day because he was a keen cyclist. Turned out the real reason he liked his legs smooth was because he liked wearing women’s clothes. Now I have no problem with—’

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