Home > The First Date

The First Date
Author: Zara Stoneley

Chapter 1

There are so many things I’d imagined might go wrong with this date (and when I say many, I do mean many) but this was not top of the list.


This was not even on the list.

I thought I’d actually been quite comprehensive:

Don’t recognise the guy because his profile picture is at least twenty years old – dating back to the time when he had hair.

Has a totally squeaky voice (think David Beckham on helium – sorry, David, I do totally love you, even my mum does) that is so off-putting it makes me feel judgy even though I really don’t mean to be.

Is wearing so much aftershave it makes me gag. I hate too much aftershave; Dad used to spray it on liberally when I was a child and I’d get an eyeful if I was within 100 metres.

Hasn’t got socks on. Sorry, the trousers, shoes and no socks thing speaks to me in all the wrong ways. And feet, you’d end up seeing bare feet at inopportune moments. Not everybody has nice feet.

Goes for a kiss on the cheek as I go for a handshake and it turns into a weird dance and ruins the whole thing.

I am unable to speak. At all. This has happened before.

He will hate me on sight and head off to the loo within two seconds of meeting me and never be seen again.


My list is actually longer than this, these are just the highlights.

So he’s knocked point 7 right out of the ballpark.

What is wrong with me? Why is it so flaming difficult for me to find a guy?

I mean, everything is in roughly the right places and in reasonable working order. I do not turn into a blood-sucking vampire after nightfall and don’t think I have any totally gross habits. Several minor, slightly annoying ones according to my ex, Robbie. But who hasn’t?

I’m just your average girl. Enjoy my job, but sometimes hate my boss. Have an on-off relationship with the gym (more off than on if I’m honest). Have bad hair days more than good. Worry about whether my best life is escaping me, and really, really want to work out how to buy a house. Can’t take a decent selfie where both eyes look the same and I don’t look constipated or leery. And am quite often too exhausted in the evening to do anything but curl up with a good movie or book and something to nibble on. And before your mind takes you somewhere rude, I’m talking nuts of the ready salted (not hairy) type, or a nice bag of popcorn.

That is normal, right?

And I’m not being overambitious and setting the bar too high.

I’m not looking for a mate for life (though that would be nice), just a date. And movie star looks are optional.

For heaven’s sake, I just want a date with a normal guy. One with a nice smile, regular job, sense of humour and decent table manners. One who I don’t mind keeping my eyes open to snog, and who I wouldn’t mind introducing to my mates. He doesn’t even have to be parent-friendly. Or like small children. Or have a five-year plan.

Okay, I admit, some of that stuff was on my original list, but I’m lowering my standards. Needs must.

I check my watch again. It would also be nice if he could tell the time. Because it is so bloody obvious to everybody here: I have been stood up.

I resist the urge to bang my head on the bar, and instead launch Tinder for what has to be at least the eighty-seventh time in the last thirty minutes, just in case I’ve missed some kind of last-minute ‘sorry but I’ve had an emergency’ type of message. Like I said, I’m not after the perfect guy; I can quite happily accept that something more important than a date with a girl he hasn’t even met yet could have happened.

I might even forgive him totally forgetting he had a meet-up if his mum/dog/hamster/car has had some kind of gruesome catastrophe befall them.

Okay maybe not the last one, or last two, I’m not a complete pushover.

I stare at his photo. We’ve swapped so many messages and he seemed nice, sweet, caring, interesting. Not the type of man to stand somebody up.

Was he?

Who’d have thought you could actually find your soul mate (or at least a great date) hidden amongst all the swipe-left losers on Tinder?

I did.

I am telling you, the flick-left forefinger on my right hand had been developing a nervous twitch until two weeks ago, when it kind of froze mid-air and I had to work out how to swipe right. It doesn’t come naturally – swiping right or thinking somebody might just be ‘the one’.

He zoomed straight onto my ‘possible’ list. Well, he was the list.

He was, is, gorgeous. Totally. Gorgeous Gabe. And when we swapped messages he seemed as nice on the inside as the outside. Kind. Thoughtful. Funny. Self-deprecating.

Definitely a possibility.

The perfect guy to help ease me back into the dating game.

Okay, let’s be honest here. He was the only guy after several weeks of swiping who seemed remotely normal. Wow, who knew so many people existed who wanted to thrust their appendages into a woman they don’t know? In fact, I had no idea some of the things I was messaged about were legal, or even possible in one case, until I entered the murky world of internet dating.

So why am I here? Why did I sign up on dating apps, which we all know is more likely to be a route to a total self-esteem crash, than total satisfaction?

Because I am crap at finding a date. I cannot do what my mate, Bea, does and just stroll up to any guy she fancies and openly flirt.

Eurgh. I mean, flirt, with a total stranger? Okay, I admit it, I did try it once in the coffee shop up the road, when I was in the queue for a cappuccino, and finally plucked up the courage to say something to a guy who I regularly saw in there. We were kind of on nodding terms, but for the first time ever he smiled at me as he picked up his coffee and waved! I waved back and said I loved his new scarf. He gave me a funny look, then stepped past me to the woman behind and kissed her! OMG, the embarrassment. I couldn’t go in there again, just in case I bumped into either of them. I now have to buy inferior coffee from a place further up the street, which is ridiculous, and more expensive, but necessary.

And then there was the guy in the pub (okay, I have tried to flirt more than once – this time it was with Bea’s encouragement after three drinks, which made it worse). I mean, he could have been a mass murderer, married or thought I was a total weirdo and pretended he’d not seen or heard me. But I did it anyway. And he did. Pretend he hadn’t seen me. Yup, it happened; it’s never happened to Bea.

Then there was the guy Bea fixed me up with, who just wanted to talk about Bea, and after I winked at him suggestively asked if I’d seen a doctor about my nervous twitch.

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