“You’ve done very well, Mary,” said George, who had produced a clipboard and pen, and was looking at me over his half-moon glasses with a patronising smile. He was every inch the city accountant: smart suit, neat silver hair and superficial charm.
“You see, I’ve been meeting so many women via the dating site that I devised a scoring system for them, to decide who might be suitable for inviting out on a second date.” His smirk revealed yellow teeth behind twisting prissy lips. “Your looks aren’t too bad, though your hair is a mess. You didn’t laugh at all of my jokes, so I’m afraid that’s only three out of ten for sense of humour. And your personality is…” He broke off to hold his hand out flat and rotate it from side to side. “So-so. However, in the education box you’re nine out of ten, a degree in history, I’m impressed. So, Mary, I’ll produce the spreadsheet to make sure, but I think I can tell you with confidence that you are definitely a contender.”
“A contender for a second date with you?”
“I’m not promising, but you do have a very good chance.”
“Here’s some words I learnt at university – Anglo Saxon in origin I believe: Fuck off!”
He looked at me in amazement as I walked out of his house, never to return.
It had been a dispiriting few months for me. I had got divorced a year ago as a result of catching my husband having sex with a neighbouring allotment owner in their shared shed. I shouldn’t have been too surprised, for this gum-booted nymphomaniac was only the last in a long line of his mistresses and I had finally had enough.
Although our marriage had been a nightmare, I did miss the companionship of a man, and a computer dating agency had seemed like the answer in a world where meeting single suitable men in their sixties is nigh-on impossible. Someone warned me gloomily that in my age group there tended to be many more available women than men, meaning that the latter are in short supply.
My first date was with a really handsome divorcee, Glen, who had a smart town house. After our evening out, I’d gone back to his luxury pad for a drink, and sank into the huge white leather armchair, admiring the expensive paintings on the walls and the aura of wealth and luxury. Tall elegant Glen, with the go-to-bed eyes and the winning smile, had begun to talk about his finances, mainly about the bad luck he’d recently had, and how he’d been trying to find someone to give him a loan to ‘tide him over’. Then, while we were halfway through our second prosseco, there’d been a peremptory knock on the door and two men had barged in and unceremoniously started loading his furniture and paintings into a van, while he flapped around, protesting that it was all some terrible mistake.
Cedric was another matter. The man who appeared in the restaurant had to struggle to get his thirty-stone frame though the door, and bore no resemblance to the handsome picture on the website. Wheezing and panting through our dinner, he explained every detail of his many and varied illnesses, and told me that what he was really looking for in a companion was a part-time nurse, who could help him in and out of the bath and manage his drug regime. He then listed all his scrapes with death and the many doctors he’d seen who’d said he was a ‘walking miracle’.
Paul on the other hand, was an absolute joy to be with, and we hit it off immediately. At the upmarket pub where we met, he immediately complemented me on my skin, which not many men notice. While touching his own dyed-blond hair with a manicured fingernail, he asked me about my make-up, confessing that he sometimes applied ‘a little bit of discreet slap if I’m honest’. We talked about the latest trends in fashion and found we had a mutual love of Italian dishes, which he insisted he always cooked with fresh ingredients. When he went to the gents, I noticed his surprising mincing walk, and the appreciative glance he gave to a handsome young man who was passing.
Raymond on the other hand, was pretty much normal, apparently a genuine sort of guy, but after talking for a while he told me in no uncertain terms, that he was looking for a much younger, more attractive woman, and anyway he was already in a relationship with an absolutely ‘gorgeous’ woman he’d met via the agency. “To be honest I don’t know why I joined the agency,” he told me airily. “Women have always found me attractive, my only problem has always been deciding who to choose. And, with respect, you are a bit serious, and your sense of humour is a bit weird.”
Why didn’t you tell me you’d met someone before we met? I wanted to asked him, but decided just to let it go, bitterly disappointed as I was. Because even though he was an arrogant prick, he was an attractive arrogant prick.
When I’d decided to give it all up, I reluctantly agreed to meet one more man. John, to my relief, turned out to be totally different from all the others.
“I’ve met some really terrible women from the agency,” he confessed as we sat together in our local pub, The Happy Fiddler. John was, to my absolute delight, an ordinary kind of bloke, friendly and big and bulky without being too fat, and while not being wildly handsome, he had a really nice smile that made his eyes light up. He was wearing jeans and a leather jacket, nothing too flash, and what struck me most about him was that he just seemed relaxed and nice.
We had a good old laugh, with me telling him about my experiences, and him giving me a hair-raising account of one of his dates: a skeletal woman with haunted eyes, who told him that she was certain they had met in a former life, when she was a princess in ancient Egypt and he had been one of her eunuchs. And also about the lady with blue hair who had laughed so much that her false teeth shot into the soup.
The time just flashed by, and before we knew it, it was closing time.
The strange thing was he didn’t talk much about himself at all, he just asked about me and commented on the world in general. When I asked him about his job he just muttered about being a semi-retired engineer who had a ‘little business making things’ that he’d started a while ago, which ticked over nicely.
I went back to his place afterwards and he was the perfect gentleman, taking the hint from me, that on a first date, going back for coffee means precisely that, and no funny business.
Upstairs I was looking for the bathroom, one of those situations where you’re faced with several doors at the top of the landing. The first door I tried opened on to a large room like a bedroom. As I was closing it, something caught my eye, and I switched the light on.
I nearly screamed! There were at least eight, full-sized, fully inflated sex dolls! The horrible things were arranged in various poses and it was as if they were all staring at me, like in a horror film. I got the scrambled impression of hundreds of pouting open mouths, long pink legs and big rubbery breasts.
Tears came to my eyes as I ran downstairs, wondering why such an apparently nice guy had turned out to be a raving maniac.
“Mary? Mary? Where are you going? What’s the matter?”
I heard his voice as I ran downstairs and out of the front door, not even looking back as I walked fast back to my car and drove away, my heartbeat only returning to normal after half an hour on the road.
I ignored the phone calls and text messages John sent me.
But the next day I felt really sad that the only apparently normal man I had met had turned out to be such a weirdo. But he had been nice to me, and I realised that I did at least owe him an explanation for why I had fled from him last night. I took out the card he had given me during the evening.
Amalgamated Engineering, his company, had premises on the industrial estate just outside town.
His shop turned out to be a small unit, no 43, sandwiched between two big factory outlets. I opened the door to reception to see a man at the counter, pointing to a crinkled congealing bundle of pink rubber on the counter top. With a shock, I recognised Raymond, the handsome man who’d told me he’d met a more attractive woman, and wasn’t interested in me – the lothario who had so many girlfriends to choose from.
“When I tried it out it had a puncture!” he was shouting to John, who was behind the counter, frowning in a conciliatory way. “Honestly, I was just getting started and she deflated with a loud farting sound.”
“Well, I’m very sorry indeed,” John answered. “It’s terrible for such a thing to happen to one of our best customers. After all you’ve been with us for years. We can obviously offer you either a full refund, or the choice of one of our latest models. Buxom Brenda has just come off the production line. She has a lot of new features, and I think you’ll like her…”
I began to laugh, and couldn’t stop.
Raymond turned round and I could tell from his glare that he recognised me.
“I was right about you!” he snarled as he stormed out of the shop, having told John he’d come back later. “You’ve got a weird sense of humour!”
(image by reaklop2 from Pixabay)