From The Top – Follow single the adventures of Cat

Notes from me 😉…. this is the bit where I’ll give you the opportunity to catch up with Cat and her story as it unfolds. I’ll update with every new ridiculous chapter, so you can enjoy her antics from the get go!


Prologue – The Problem With Selfies

She was already in her PJ’s, hair scraped back in an untidy mess… Fuck! His photo was so naturally gorgeous. How was she ever going to compare or compete? There he was, so casually positioned on his couch, phone raised at the perfect angle to display his slender jawline, thick neck and damn those biceps must have taken hours of pumping in the gym. Surely, he was flexing them a little for the photo… Made her wonder if the rest of him was anywhere near as toned.

Unfortunately, his torso was hidden behind that white T-Shirt and slack charcoal shorts. But a girl can hope. In comparison, she hadn’t dyed her hair in weeks—if she attempted the same angle it‘d be all roots and shaggy mop. Her unmatching pyjama set was enough to make your average Catfisher swipe left. She was currently sporting unicorn bottoms and a top with cute looking foxes…. crap it!

His living room was immaculate; grey modular sofa straight from an Ikea show room. Cat noted he had taken the effort to pour his beer into a glass, not just drink from the can. His meal-for-one was neatly discarded on a tray next to his rather thick set thighs. Her eyes lingered on partially revealed leg.

Now it was her turn to send a picture. Phone raised into position, click, quick check of the photo and she realised she was right: these pyjamas simply won’t do. Bugger! Cat dashed upstairs for a quick change. Now, she couldn’t look like she’d made too much effort but wanted to avoid looking like a stressed out soccer mum dressed in her kids’ nightwear. Black leggings and vest were the weapon of choice, but… should she whack on a bra? Maybe she should put on a bra and avoid any unwanted nipple action… or maybe a pert nipple was a good thing? Cat came to the conclusion that a bit of exposed cleavage was sexy but too much nipple too soon was maybe a little suggestive… she was aiming for hot, not slutty!

Back on the couch, dressed in her faked natural attire, she posed for a second shot. Should she pout? Was pouting a good thing? Cat wasn’t even sure she knew how to pout but gave it a go anyway. On reflection it would transpire that her attempts to pout made her look like an over indulged spoilt teenager trapped in a 40-year-old body. So maybe pouting was out….

Cat leaned back on her sofa, dipped her head and attempted a sultry look with seductive eyes. She flicked to her gallery and noticed that the head position needed for sultry also gave her an extra 27 chins… OK maybe not 27 but at least 3 and her vest being so high made her neck completely disappear. She pulled down the vest just enough to revel a little more boob and strained her neck hoping to avoid any more unnecessary chins. This time Cat took a number of shots, she tried a sexy smile, a cheeky wink, looking directly at the camera, looking nonchalantly away, intense stare and angled her head in half a dozen different ways. God her neck hurt!

She checked her phone in dismay as her forehead presented a spam designed to be Tangoed. The supposed cheeky wink made her look desperately dirty and the sexy smile was more of a constipated strain, all impacted with a ridiculously stretched neck that reminded her of a ravenous ostrich scrapping for a snack…. Jeeze this was way more difficult than other girls made it look.

She pulled her top down a little more hoping that the cleavage might distract from her appalling attempt at a natural looking selfie but the giant, once white, now slightly discoloured mum-bra she’d hastily thrown on upstairs was peaking over the neckline of her vest. Right that’s it… the bra’s coming off and if there is a little nipplage, screw it! Cat reached behind her back and easily unclipped the offending item, discarding it on the floor. She pinched her cheeks, wet her lips, fluffed her hair and prepared for fabulous selfie action.

Legs crossed and free arm resting on the side of the sofa, Cat took a further 16 snaps. She was aiming for a soft smile and bright eyes. In real life, Cat was good at this sexy shit. She knew how to move and use her curvy figure; she knew how to flirt with her eyes and capture a guys attention along with his imagination. But trying to convey this on her poxy phone made her feel like a bloody novice. Cat laughed at her own stupidity and clicked the camera button one last time. Bang! She nailed it. That very last photo was perfect. It was honest and natural. It was her.

Pleased with her efforts, Cat grabbed the image and hit ‘send’. She couldn’t have asked for a better picture and the entire episode had only taken a total of 62 photos in 26 minutes, with no real incident other than mild neck strain. She hoped he hadn’t grown bored waiting and move on to a new prospective date already—but he wasn’t currently online.

She watched as the photo slowly uploaded to WhatsApp with a triumphant grin on her face, slightly concerned that he wouldn’t believe for one moment that she hadn’t just spent the last half hour attempting to take a simple selfie. Maybe she should say something to excuse her sudden disappearance but hey, she had only just met the guy online which didn’t really warrant him an explanation of her absence. While she deliberated on whether an apology was the polite thing to do or not, her picture finally finished uploading.

He was instantly online again. Two blue ticks next to her message told her he had seen the photo and next to his photo was the status ‘typing’: he was replying to her… she waited, slightly nervous and a little excited….

Nick: Hot!!! loving the natural look, that’s just how I could imagine you waking up in the morning

Cat flushed and, so grateful that he wasn’t there to witness the ridiculous grin spreading across her cheeks, readied herself to reply—but he was typing again. Cat waited eagerly for the incoming message…

Cat, I love an honest photo especially when it comes with a cheeky peak of underwear…..

Underwear? What underwear? She’d taken her bra off and….. oh fuck no!!! Cat pulled up the photo she’d just sent. Bollocks!! Schoolboy error. In her haste to send Nick the perfect pic, she had forgotten one of the many rules of online dating: when sending a selfie, always remember to check your background. There is so much detail in what’s going on behind the scene. Cat thought about the way she had noticed the beer in Nicks first shot and how neatly his cushions were positioned, both inciting that he wasn’t a lazy kind of guy, but one that bothered to take the time to pour his beer into a glass and tidy up after himself. The living room layout and colour scheme told her he was a man of taste; a scenic print centred on the wall behind him. He obviously took care of himself and pride in his home. There was an actual plant on the window ledge; many bachelor pads are foliage free. Yes, it may have been of the cactus variety which may take very little effort to look after, but nonetheless he had to care for it in some capacity.

There are a million things your mind subconsciously picks up on when looking at a photo of a person. It’s more than how beautiful a person appears in a posed shot. You take in the decor, the colour, the tidiness of a room, as well as notice all the negative secrets a picture can uncover, like dirty washing piles, stacked up washing up in a sink, an unmade bed or even worse, bed-sheets without any covers on at all (this was the epitome of a lazy man). And all quantifiable reasons to turn down a future date and begin the process of removing yourself from conversation availability.

Cat stared at the photo, shocked at her own stupidity. In the centre of the screen was a rather casually stunning version of herself, relaxed, bright-eyed and smiling. On the floor, to her absolute horror, was the oldest, ugliest, biggest, ex-white and discoloured mum bra she shamefully had in her possession. FUCK IT!!!

How the hell could she even reply? Her embarrassment must be oozing through the phone… Cat had no words. In fact, even a face palm emoji wasn’t going to save her now. She simply typed the following:

FFS!


CHAPTER 1 – Coffee With a Married Man

The world of internet dating was a new discovery to Cat, nine years in a relationship meant she missed the selfie crazed social media vibe. But her oldest friend had met her second husband online and after a few glasses of Prosecco with the girls, Cat had an utterly fabulous new social profile.

The whole experience so far had been fairly disappointing. Her one attempt to date resulted in meeting a guy whose profile picture turned out to be 10 years younger, and those 10 years hadn’t been kind. One drink was enough before Cat made some lame excuse about how she may have contracted ‘Ebola on a recent African excursion’ and ran for the nearest fire escape. Hoping he would either be too scared to message her again or possibly write her off as being nuts. To add insult to the god-awful experience she dropped her new phone as she legged it for the door, cracking the screen in the bottom left hand corner… bloody brilliant, the worst date of her life had just cost her £50 in insurance excess and at some point, the inconvenience of being phoneless.

That was it, no more dating men till they had been meticulously social media stalked! But this week had been a strange one. Coffee with her workmate and now boss Anthony had taken an unexpected turn. Last year he had split from his wife and Cat was his dutiful shoulder. Their friendship strengthened over lattes and conversations about shit relationships and the joys of being single.

It was the kind of connection that had an undertone of something unspoken, but others picked up on. The kind that brought out a testosterone fuelled fuck with her ex, while he reminded her just where her loyalties should be. So, coffee became more frequent, the work banter was good and Cat knew after meeting him for Latte she was in for a hot heated exchange at home.

Three months passed, and he was back with Beth, it would appear he easily forgot what an utter bitch she was during the break up. Normally the girls tolerated each other but seeing her friend so broken wasn’t easy.

Grey skies outside made for another bloody miserable day, and it had been raining hard as Tony arrived late for their coffee date. He’d obviously just finished a session at the gym, in the hotel where they worked and hadn’t bothered to shower. No matter, he was still looking hot, wet hair dripping on to his blue hoodie, his big hazel eyes and confident swagger always made her smile. Tony had that casually effortless look that she was certain he secretly spent hours perfecting.

He lent in to kiss her hello, but awkwardly their heads turned in the same direction. The intended kiss on the cheek ended up being something a little more lingering, his lips brushed her mouth but instead of pulling away he hesitated, their eyes met. Cat retreated first and chuckled.

“It’s a bloody good job Beth never saw you do that, I know you’ve wanted to kiss me for years.” Tony laughed.

“You wish”. He sat back on the tall stool, running his finger through the shaggy wet hair “get the coffees in, it’s your shout.”

Cat stood up to go to the counter catching his eye as she placed the order of over expensive posh coffee. Tony was staring at her with a half-cocked smile, head slightly bent to one side, curious look on his face. She seen that look many times, the kind of look where men get hungry and their eyes can’t hide where their mind is at. But this was new for them; he’d never looked at her like that before. Come to think of it, he’d stopped really looking at her at all recently, favouring his phone or the random passing of people outside the window.

“Wet, soy, no sugar caramel, cinnamon cappuccino, god you’re a tart.” their fingers connected as she passed him the coffee.

“It’s better than that heart attack your drinking, no wonder you don’t bloody sleep.” He shook his head in fake disgust and smiled.

“I don’t sleep coz I’m up all night on my own with kids who never sleep, literally EVER.” Cat sighed deeply and over dramatically, “Coffee and sugar are the only way I make it through the day,” she stroked the takeaway cup longingly in jest, then with big watery eyes fluttered her lashes playfully.

“Thought you were up all-night because you were thinking of me.” Tony glanced at her as the corner of his mouth twitched, one of his perfect eyebrows raised.  They both chuckled but he held her gaze for an uncomfortably long moment.

Feeling the need to say anything to break the moment Cat quizzed “What’s the latest with the refurb? Don’t know why they gave you the project, you cant tear yourself away from the full length mirrors for long enough to complete anything”

‘Whatever, anyway shouldn’t you be heading back, surely there’s some envelopes to stamp.’ Coming from anyone else Cat may have been offended but he’d been telling her for years how wasted she was in their office.

Four long years ago Tony joined the team and very quickly moved through the ranks. On the outside, he was confident, arrogant and ridiculously ambitious. The sort of guy you see in a bar surrounded by beautiful people hanging on his every word, and with that perfect jawline, cheek bones worthy of a perfume ad, Tony was truly beautiful. She’d met men like him before, managed a few and dated a couple. His extroverted ‘nothing fazes me’ attitude didn’t intimidate her for a second. Probably the main reason they got on so well, she didn’t take any of his bullshit. “You are absolute right; I’d better run along as the franking won’t get done by itself”, they laughed.

The truth was Cat had a brilliant mind, with a resume of successes in project management, but since having her 2 children had stepped back from the rat race. Her position as office administrator at the Regal Hotel was tedious and boring, but the hours were flexible and her team amazing. She loved her boring job for the time it gave her with her crazy kids and for now she was happy just to have an easy life. At 2.30pm most days Cat partook in the mad dash school run and her evenings were filled with the wonderful stresses of being a mum. The challenges of homework and bedtimes was enough of adventure at this point in her life, sod having to deal with the pressure of unrealistic deadlines too!

Doing her best to navigate her way through single parenthood hadn’t been easy, not for her and especially not for the children.  It was all still new and the adjustment from unhappy family life to exhausted one-man band was tough. The upside was she didn’t have to put up with the shite that comes with a crap relationship anymore, every cloud and all that!

Staring out the window Tony quipped “It’s just a quickie today I’m afraid as I’m already late, got places to go and projects to ruin”.

Shaking her head Cat joked “nothing new there then, apparently its only ever a quickie where you’re concerned, anyways as your friend and devoted subordinate I feel it is my duty to suggest you better have a bloody shower as…. er…. you literally stink”. Cat looked at him with repulsion. Tony rolled his dark eyes and drank a big slug of his low sugar caffeine fix. “So you got plans this weekend? If not shall we do beers Friday” Tony shifted in his seat looking directly out of the window.

“Err not sure I can Cat”, he looked uncomfortable.

“Why, busy with better things to do? We haven’t had a beer in ages, to be honest I’ve have more luck nailing jelly to the ceiling than getting you out out”

“I’ve just got loads on hun, you know what it’s been like. All jokes aside, the hours I’ve been putting in are crazy. Then Beth’s on my case about the move in a few weeks”.

“All the more reason to come and have a drink, let that mop of hair down and be reckless for a few hours”.

Tony was slightly serious and couldn’t meet her gaze “look Cat, coffee’s fine, just not sure drinking is a good idea anymore”.

Cat was stumped, and felt a bit pissed at the comment, what had changed and what’s more to the point what was he implying? They’d spent countless hours partaking in the end of the week religious ritual of beer. But come to think of it, in the last few months Tony had been really difficult to pin down. Cat’s mind started doing the math and came to the obvious assumption her now single status was a problem for him. Did he honestly believe a few beers would equate to her shamelessly throwing herself at him? Self-assured arse! The coffee date had taken an unexpected and very uncomfortable turn.

Her mind flickered back to the kiss hello earlier, the way he’d been checking her out.  If she was honest with herself she had always been attracted to him, the way he could rock a suit and still look hot in gym shorts. But until this moment it had been nothing more than a completely safe work flirt. Cat couldn’t make up her mind if she was more pissed off that maybe something was different or that he’d brought it up.  “Whatever! You’re being a dick, it’s just drinks, but if it’s too much for you to handle….” She rolled her eyes and left the sentence unfinished.

“I know what you’re like when you’ve had a drink and that was before you were single” The attempt to lighten the mood wasn’t working. In fact, it just aggravated her more.

“I’m perfectly capable of controlling myself thanks, it just bloody drinks”. She wondered if the statement made her sound slight desperate.

“Babe don’t get funny, you know what I mean, just don’t think it’s a good idea is all”, Then he did look at her, eyes narrowed and slightly regretful. “I’m sorry OK! Look I’ve got to go, got shit loads on. Catch up later”.

Cat mumbled a rather shitty “yeah by”’ and watched as he grabbed the takeaway cup and made for the door. Minutes later Cat left for the office a bit bemused by the turn in conversation and hoped she wouldn’t run in to Tony for the rest of her extended shift.


CHAPTER 2 – Cock Shots and Whipped Cream

Being single and over 37 doesn’t make you desperate. She had no intention of attempting to seduce her exceptionally hot friend; she just didn’t want things to change. And now they had. And now beers were off the cards and quite possibly coffee too. How could she meet him again knowing that his opinion of her was so shallow? Well bollocks to Tony and in absolute defiance she wasn’t even going to do the bloody franking today… or tomorrow or maybe ever again… ha!

Reaching for her phone with the intention of an eBay bargain, Cat noticed her Dating App flashing, 37 new messages. Feeling like she could do with an ego boost she hit the thumbnail and scanned the app.

Profile – SebR01 – 33 (cute but too young)

Message – Hi

Profile – Vic_WKD – 41 (not so cute)

Message – Hi

Profile – Cocks&Shocks – 38 (oh here we go)

u look hot, do u wona skype (not a bloody chance, especially you can’t even be bothered to spell entire words)

Profile – Trevor_TM – 38 (not bad)

Hope you don’t mind me saying hi, just read your profile and thought it might be nice to chat? (hmmm, better, but not outstanding)

This had Cat was wondering about the etiquette of messaging, was it polite to say ‘Hi, thanks for contacting me’ or would that just encourage more of the same non-inspirational messages. ‘Thanks for contacting me’ was a bloody lame response anyway and far to impersonal. When replying one must remember to be at least be a little witty.

Profile Continued  – Trevor_TM – 38, 6ft2 and he was a roofer. Great! Her roof had been leaking for ages, if they did have a date maybe she could get a quote, or maybe it was best not to use dating apps as Check a Trade? She read his Bio – Cheeky Chap, who’s good fun and genuine. Looking for a lovely lady for drinks or dinner and see what happens.

Cat: Hi Trevor, thanks for the message, how’s your evening?

 It was a half arsed naff reply, but she wasn’t in the mood for witty, thanks to Tonys earlier comments. She was still playing the disastrous coffee encounter over in her head… Dick!

Profile – JoJo123 – 35

Hi @17.54

Hi @18:12

Hi, you look stunning, fancy a talk @18:36

The app Cat used came with a feature notifying you if prospect is currently online, now this can be as helpful as it is frustrating.

Online Now – @18:42

Hi, I see ur online now, your photo makes me really horny. I’m sitting here with my big hard cock in my hands. Do you want to see? (no I bloody don’t thanks)

Image received, Cat knew she shouldn’t look at the picture just sent to her phone but couldn’t resist. Her need for amusement was currently smothering the common-sense angel perched on her shoulder shouting … ‘Delete Delete!’ Hitting the image, she laughed loud, one not so very big winking willy was staring her in the face.

Cat: No thanks, I have better things to do than sit here looking at your tiny todger, luckily the zoom feature on my phone helped to confirm it is willy in your hands and not just a shrivelled pepperoni!

Profile – Insomnia77! – 37 (finally, a friendly face, they had been chatting for a few months and he was slowly becoming a regular feature in her otherwise dull evening entertainment)

How’s the fishing going, any more gimps?

Sat in her office chair Cat chuckled at the memory from last weeks photo of a guy in full on Gimp gear, followed by the comment ‘Can I Giz on your tits’.

Conversations with Insomnia77 were always amusing, he was open, honest, witty and obviously very intelligent. The profile images didn’t disappoint and completely reflected his cheeky personality. His pleasing appearance was brilliantly natural, rugged, stubbly, lean with solid shoulders. He absolutely wasn’t her usual type but there was a cuteness to his smile that would capture any lady’s attention. On reflection, it was his profile she found most attractive, an amusing read, full of anecdotes and references to his career as a spy. They flirted for a while online but the distances between them meant it was a match unlikely to ever happen. So they stayed in touch exchanging horror stories of the weird and wonderful world of online dating.

Cat: Unfortunately not, no gimps, just sorry looking cock shots, any more dates that bring their Nans along? If not, let me know and I’m sure I can grab a granny for the weeken 😏

Feeling the need for a second message Cat typed

Anyway why do some guys insist on sending you photos of their dicks before they’ve even asked you your name , I just don’t get it?

Insomnia77!: Don’t ask me [confused emoji] I think it’s only common curiosity to wait till at least message 5 before you send a picture of your cock lol!!!

Cat was teasing now,

Cat: How come I didn’t get one? 😪

The next message was an image, shit! Cat actually did not want a cock shot from Insomnia, she loved that their banter hadn’t resulted in seedy sex shots. He was a welcome relief from the constant flood of uninvited naked body parts that clogged up her phone. Crap! and it was her fault, she had just opened the doorway for a developing friendship to turn its nasty head (literally) in to something more sordid. A very disappointed Cat reluctantly opened the message.

And there is was, a great big, plump, fat, feathered Cock, standing proud in a farmyard. It was enough to make her sigh and laugh with genuine relief. But the suggestion had her brain ticking and for a fleeting moment Cat couldn’t help but wonder what his cock would actually be like. Then just as quickly she pushed the idea out of her naughty little mind, knowing all too well that somethings are best saved for the bedroom.  

Cat: hahahaha… brilliant, what a perfect specimen you have

Insomnia77!: Why thanks, truth is not sure why blokes do it, but girls do too you know. You should see some of the armature porn picture I get sent 😖

Cat: er, no thanks!

Insomnia77!: One chick sent a full on whipped cream photo the other day

Cat: Fuck Off, really, what did you say?

Insomnia77!: What’s your address and I’ll call an Uber, ha!

Cat: Shut up, did you go?

Insomnia77!: Actually no, but I am meeting her next week…lol

Cat: Seriously you’re a slut and this is why so many of us good girls are single, we have to bloody compete with fecking whipped cream cam girls

Insomnia77!: I’ve been chatting to her for ages, but did make me wonder if this was one of those back up picture people store up on their phones just to temp shallow guys like me. Like how many people have a home photoshoot just to whip out a sexy shot when they need it?

Cat: Suppose you never truly know what’s real and what’s staged, sometimes it’s obvious like when a guy says he’s at the gym or something, then sends you a couple of pictures only each photo he’s wearing a different set of gym gear. You know in reality he’s probably at home watching Netflix in 3 day old pants… hahaha

Insomnia77!: I’d just send a pic of me in my 3 day old pants TBH!

Cat: God I’m not sure what’s worse, cock shots, staged photos or you in 3 day old pants! Cat quickly typed a second message

When you meeting this girl?

Insomnia77!: Not sure yet, need to check out the rehearsal schedule when I get into town.

Cat: Don’t you ever get bored with all the travel

Insomnia77!: It was good to have the opportunity to get away, but yeah, one day I’ll find myself a nice girl like you. Until then I’ll settle for whipped cream, and hotel romps. Men get lonely on the road 😔

Cat: lol… shut up you love it

Insomnia77!: Hahaha, yeah sometimes it’s great and I love the work, but sooner or later one hotel room just blurs into another.

Insomnia appeared to want a change of subject and Cat was left wondering if maybe there was some truth to his jokes of loneliness.

Insomnia77!: How’s the real world treating you?

Cat: Actually had a run in with my boss, well he’s my friend but also my boss, or was a friend should I say!

Insomnia77!: Shit what happened, did he finally get pissed off at you constantly using work time to hit on poor unsuspecting men?

Cat: Ha… I wish!, not really sure what happened. Been mates for years but since I’ve been single he’s acting really weird. Like he thinks I’m gonna hit on him or something. I just don’t get it!

Insomnia77!: Do you want to hit on him? 😜

Cat: Actually no, well I don’t think so. Just pissed off that he thinks so, God he’s full of himself

Insomnia77!: Lol… you like him …. Why are you messing about online if you got a hottie in real life to play with?

Cat: I never said he was Hot

Insomnia77!: Hahaha, bet he’s HOT, is he hot?

Cat: No, well yes, but he’s a mate and a dick, did I mentions he’s married, so not available!

Insomnia77!: Oh… Fuck, that’s got heartbreak written all over it. Prob best to avoid?

Cat: Tell me about it and think you’re right!

Insomnia77!: Oh well, back to playing Tinder snap it is… lol

Cat: Yep, catch ya later xx

Affairs were a sensitive topic for Insomnia, his marriage was destroyed by the ex-wife’s work fling, a romance that developed while he was touring. Insomnia had caught an early flight home with the hopes of surprising her, only to be confronted by a strange man’s car in his drive. He didn’t catch them in the act as such, but the cheating duo were scantily dressed and clearly recovering from a fuckfest when he walked in.

The messages were still flooding in as they always do when guys see you’re online, but for the most part it was only ‘Hi’ or ‘do you want to snapchat’ and the profiles were just as dull. Cat loved to read an original story from someone who put some effort into their online fishing.

The perfect opener was a fun witty message, nothing crude or presumptuous, backed up by a decent intelligent profile, that was more likely to catch her attention than a reasonable photo and an effortless mundane ‘Hi’.

Cat continued with the swiping frenzy, left for “no way never”, Right “for has potential”  

Fed up with the repetitive tedium of boring messages and feeling a little brave or maybe just still pissed off, Cat made the bold decision to text a few interesting chaps first. Actual work was out of the window for the rest of her shift due to her manger being nothing short of an arse. Next time they go for coffee she is getting an extra-large moca-capa-chocolate-deluxe thingy with cream and caramel and bloody sprinkles as it’s his turn to pay.

It was time to turn on the radio, her current mood couldn’t handle the heartbreak hits spewed out on so many stations, so Kisstory was the way forward. Google Search – Kiss – and Play, had Cat tapping the desk to Garage Girl and forgetting she was supposed to be doing things far less interesting.


CHAPTER 3 – Over thinking the Online Profiles

After ten minutes of scrolling painfully through disappointing profiles, Cat was losing the will to live. There were so many great looking guys with half-arsed bios. Repeatedly, she came across statements like “will fill in later”, “don’t know what to say” and “does anyone actually bother reading this bit?” Well, actually yes they do. And while you don’t have to be an accomplished author or standup comedian, it should be attempted with at least a little effort.

On occasion, the phenomenon that is being online turned Cat into a swipe-frenzied, fickle fecker. And she hated it. In the real world she would be attracted to a person, whole and true. Online, however, her instinct was to judge a chap solely on how well he takes a selfie; how great he looks at this angle or that angle; how exotic their photography portfolio was, especially if said portfolio had a few topless shots of the ‘artist’… The online world sure was a shallow place. Swiping a man, solely based on his looks, made Cat feel completely superficial. It’s a world built and designed entirely on instant attraction. So, by that measure, by actually reading their profiles, Cat felt less like she was ogling men and more like she was attempting to get to know them.

Some stood out, though. The first profile she took any stock of was Leo’s.

Name: Leo

Age: 32 

A bit young but obviously hot and Cat had no intension of being ageist here, even if this ‘Leo’ fell slightly outside of her someone only 5 years either side of merule.

Location: London

Local was always good. Then again, London’s a big place. He’d have to have abs of solid titanium for her to endure an hour of public transport torture.

Job: Have one!

‘Have one?!’ Was this humour or a blatant lie? Why do people write this? In their heads they probably hope it reads as “yes, I have a job but it doesn’t define me,” or “my job is super mysterious—you’ll have to have dinner with me to find more…” But if either was true, why bother writing anything at all? Why not just put “…am a pretentious bollock with muscles,” she thought. Still, at least he hadn’t answered with ‘Entrepeneur.’

Looking For: Dating and who knows 

“Who knows, this could turn into lifelong bliss,” Or perhaps, “who knows, I could introduce you to some special friends of mine; helicopter you away to a world of creepy luxury and lavish orgies with oligarchs and their mistresses. Have you seen Eyes Wide Shut?” Then again ‘…who knows’ might just mean ‘…anal.’

Personality: Class Clown 

Oh, he’s funny. Or he thinks he’s funny… ‘Have one’ popped back into her head. None of this boded well for his comedic skills. Of course, it could mean he’s a bumbling idiot with a tiny car.

Height: 5’11”

Not bad. She and all five feet, seven inches of her could wear heels with this one. 

Kids: 2 

Perfect. A man who understands the tribulations of juggling life with children. All they’d  have to do is sync calendars, meticulously plan every free moment between them forever, and accept that for all their planning and syncing, logistical weekend nightmares would be inescapable—pretty much sapping the lifeblood of any chance spontaneity. 

Religion: non-religious 

Well, that’s good. Right? Definitely no danger of being lured into a Gatorade-drinking-spaceship cult; no handmaids’ tales with Leo, no sir. Surely, it was worse to join a cult than go on a blind date with, say, a serial killer. Gruesome death would be inevitable with a serial killer, of course. But an overzealous religious type with their higher sense of being, with their judgement, their straw hat and pitchfork—surely, having your skin re-purposed for fashion and your organs harvested for decoration around the skull-trophy cabinet would be more tolerable than tediously awkward conversation on an excruciating date with a person who already looks at you, comparably, like you’re Satan’s milk-maiden. In this case, Cat would be praying for her serial killer in shining armour to gallantly whisk her away to that spooky cabin in the woods…

Drinker: Occasional 

Something they had in common then; Cat drank ‘occasionally’ nearly every single day! 

Smoker: No 

Brilliant. She could avoid those naughty temptations. She hoped. 

Mini Bio: I like a natter over drinks about the world and a kick in the park with my kids. Kicking a football I mean, not the kids! Lol. I’m a bit of a prankster, I like a laugh. Not that big on ‘getting rich’. I believe success comes from somewhere deeper than that. So don’t expect to be picked up in a Lamborghini or anything. You’re welcome to sit on my handlebars though.  

Oh God, Cat thought, the only thing worse than a serial-killing Gatorade-poisoning zealot was a man locked in permanent dad-joke mode. Saying that he did seem like a fairly honest decent chap and had tried to make an effort, now what should she say????

“Hi Leo, nothing I like better that a good ride at the weekend” instantly sprang to mind and would be kind of funny but she would fall in to the category of cringy desperado, so maybe best not! Instead she typed…

Cat: Hi Leo, you seem like a busy man, but if you get some free time for occasional drinks and fancy kicking back with me, love to hear from you”

These first messages were tricky and there was a formula to follow if you want to be noticed, you had to say something more the “Hi”, had to reference the profile, be original and if possible a little bit witty.

The profile that followed left Cat wondering if this guy was slightly mad or ridiculously honest, she couldn’t help but laugh in absolute bemused horror.  

Name: Tom

Age: Not 27

Clearly much older

Location: His Mum’s house

Rally, who admits that?

Job: Not at the moment but I don’t scrounge of the benefits system, just my girlfriends.

Seriously?

Looking For: The super orgasm, non comitial ladies and the occasional cuddle

OMG!!!!

Personality: Geek

Was twat-faced tosser not an option?

Height: Not a Hobbit

Bet he plays Warhammer and World of Warcraft

Kids: Terrify me more than anything!

Possibly because he still is one

Religion: Jedi Master

Actual proof he was in fact a geek

Drinker: All YOUR booze

No you bloody won’t!!

Smoker: All YOUR fags

FFS!!!!!

Mini Bio: A goofy shitbag, you can expect oodles of fun as long as you avoid any attempt to discuss politics, the evils of social media or marriage. These conversations reduce me to quivering ball of anxious mess. Occasionally pretends to be a vegan for whatever reason. Will offer zero benefit to you in a relationship. 

That was a no, then. Next.

Name: Nick

Age: 39 

Perfect. Only a year apart. They’d understand each other’s pop culture references.

Location: Surrey

Even though Cat was at the arse end of London, it was also the bit that for all intent and purposes may as well be in Surrey it was so close. The location was good. 

Job: Sales Manager 

That could mean just about bloody anything. Though, the title did imply a man who was ambitious and confident; both great qualities if not in abundance.

Looking For: A Challenge 

This was the first time Cat had seen this as a profile answer. It made her chuckle.

Personality: Professional 

A dedicated man was a bonus but she hoped he wasn’t the kind of ‘personality’ to put work above everything else.

Height: 6’3”

God she loved a tall man. It wasn’t that she disliked shorter men, if the right one came along. Cat liked to think she’d give him half a chance at least. Having said that, being one hundred percent honest with herself, it was possible she was afflicted with a tiny touch of heightism. After all, there was nothing quite like being wrapped up in the perfectly sculpted arms of a big burly bloke. A complete submissive type she was not, but big guys set her feminine senses ablaze; the prospect of being with a man who could manoeuvre Cat with all her curves around the bedroom set her knickers alight.

 Kids: none

Is there ever a right answer to this? No kids makes the issue of logistics a little more agreeable but if you don’t have children at nearly 40, it raises other questions. Like, WTF not?! And what if he doesn’t want any? What if he doesn’t like kids? What if he doesn’t like her kids?! 

She kicked herself, again, for mentally sabotaging any potential future dating prospect before even engaging with this man. And besides, not having kids in this modern world is becoming way more common, she told herself. It’s even an environmental life choice for some!

Cat’s mind drifted a moment, and she found herself pondering the probability that this might, in fact, make him an extreme environmentalist—FFS, STOP OVER ANALYSING EVERY SODDING ANSWER AND SEND A BLOODY MESSAGE!

 Religion: Christian 

Hopefully not too Christian. There was only so much Gatorade Cat could drink before throwing up. 

Drinker: Absolutely

Excellent answer; worthy of another chuckle. It also made every previous answer better.

Smoker: Occasional

Brilliant. Someone she could share those naughty temptations with. Then again ‘occasionally’ normally means they smoke but no more than a ‘forgivable’ few a day. I should probably let the gentleman lead, she thought.

Mini Bio: I love nothing more than sitting by the river with good company and great conversation. Fully house trained from an early age, I can whip up a meal without using the microwave, iron my own shirts and I even know where the washing machine is. Bit of a gym bunny but not a slave to it. My diet includes plenty of ice cream unless it’s cold, then maybe we can switch to hot chocolate… with extra marshmallows???

It was a short bio and kinda fun. The profile pics certainly showed just how much he loved working out. There were several photos of him in gym gear, but not the standard, exceptionally off-putting bench press poses. More him in shorts with his bag casually thrown over his shoulder. There was one of him mountain climbing, one of him and his mates and finally, a stunning portrait: Nick suited and booted at a wedding (not his, she hoped). Most importantly he was smiling; mesmerising, warm and inviting. 

So, Cat started typing.

Cat: Hi Nick, super refreshing to see a guy with such a great smile! I think we would be highly compatible. you like love the gym and I love watching hot guys IN the gym. It’s a perfect match  – Send.

Hopefully he would see her attempt at humour and not think it was too cringy. This first messaging bollocks was really tough. How do you write a great opener without it being cheesy and, well, shit?

Two messages was all she had the energy for, 20 minutes had been the perfect distraction and she hadn’t thought about Tony once! First contact initiated, Cat decided it was time to turn her attention to more pressing matters. Like online shopping.


CHAPTER 4 –    Vibrators, Google and Algorithms

As none of men she’d messaged were currently online, and Cat was still refusing to work, her attention switched to a little Amazon Prime time. Feeling proud of herself for having made a few bold first moves, Cat wanted to treat herself to something sexy and new—should any of those first moves come to fruition and lead to a second.

Typing the word ‘underwear’ into the search bar was all it took for the google analytics to kick in. There were various popups and ads: lots of images of lacy knickers, worn over impossibly perfect, tight buttocks… yet, one ad stood out above all the others.

‘***A D U L T T O Y S***’

How had a simple search for garments caused her computer to think she was in need of some battery powered pleasure? Or had her earlier excursion into online dating alerted the algorithms to the possibility that she could be a lonely lady in need of some self-loving.

She pictured a super trendy office, complete with bold, brightly coloured desk chairs, positioned by ridiculous looking desks that couldn’t possibly be practical in any way. The kind of place where each corner housed an expensive coffee machine—a place where uber geeks could opt to take lessons in baristery and sushi cooking during their extended lunch breaks… and of course, a long slide where a staircase really ought to be.

She imagined these man-children sat at their splat-shaped desks, solving complicated equations…

search for underwear + online dating = good time gal, needs orgasms

To their credit, and as much as she hated to admit it, on this occasion they might be right. Maybe, just out of curiosity, albeit prompted by her rebellious mood, Cat clicked on the ad.

A beautifully naughty feeling tickled her senses as she scanned the pages and pages of pleasure toys. Crikey, things had come a long way since her last secret perusal of the back room of an Ann Summers. The list was endless. Pink, green, smooth and real-feel imitations of an erect cock… one with a suction cup!

Cat wasn’t really sure how a suction cup was meant to assist in the art of self-pleasure; for one thing, what were you supposed to stick it to? She made a mental note to, at some point, look up ‘suction-cupped cock’ on Youtube.

Considering it was autumn and the nights were drawing in, perhaps she could do something to pass the time; something other than Netflix and reality TV. And let’s be honest, she thought, so far, the prospect of meeting someone new isn’t looking great—her phone wasn’t exactly beeping frantically with invitations from prospective hot dates…

Cat scrolled through pages of rabbits, dolphins, double-headed-purple-penetration things with animal shaped doodahs for clitoral stimulation. She wondered if there was a rhino. Bloody hell this one lit up like a Christmas tree—it’d be like having a disco in her pants! She chuckled at the thought.

The options were overwhelming. So, naturally, she turned to the customer reviews. Twenty minutes later Cat had a new insight into the modern trends of vibrators. Apparently, what you needed was a such’n’such made from something-or-other because it’s better for you and better for the environment. While this seemed perfectly logical to Cat, she was fairly certain that ladies had been sticking all kinds of obscure objects up themselves for centuries. Besides, if she wanted a product solely for its global impact she’d probably consider a piece or organic veg from the farmers’ market…

But then she’d never seen a cucumber light up and pulsate like a Black n Decker power-drill. Considering all the variables, giving it some careful thought, she really felt she needed something with buttons and batteries. It felt… naughtier, somehow; more dangerous; more adventurous.

All the ‘research’ had Cat now desperately desiring one of these wondrous, empowering wands of pleasure, eventually settling on something a little less ‘party’ and a little more elegant and sophisticated. It had ten speeds; rotating head; pulse function… it was waterproof too! And the bonus feature: it didn’t even need batteries. You simply plug this slender beauty in. At both ends she sniggered to herself.

Decision made. She threw the “10-inch joy bundle” into her virtual basket. There was a momentary, fleeting pang of sadness on noticing her ex was still the default account holder on the payments page. But a quick reality check had Cat deleting his details, selecting her own and hitting CONFIRM. It was edging on 8pm when a rather cheerful Cat finally left the office. She had a new, exciting delivery to look forward to now, and to top it off, had successfully managed to avoid Tony and any awkward conversations.

The day had ended on a pulsating high.


CHAPTER 5 – The Usual Chaotic Morning

It was the usual chaotic morning. The alarm rudely shrieked its annoying ringtone, waking Cat at 7am. She considered throwing the blasted thing out of the nearest bloody window; surely there was a better way to start the day than having to get out of bed. Still not quite used to the new features of her mobile she fiddled with the ‘dismiss’ button. Was it a swipe or a push—or a smash with something heavy… It was too early for this shit. She grabbed her dressing gown, couldn’t be bothered with slippers and slouched downstairs in search of coffee and a shower.

The 7am alarm gave her a 20 minute head start; enough time to whack on the kettle and jump in the shower before the kids got up. One of the few bonuses of being a single parent was that there were fewer people to contend with in the morning. No rows about whose needs for the bathroom were more important, no drama over how much time a man needs in the toilet… She often wondered what took them so long or, indeed, how they got through so much damned paper. 

As she stepped into the shower her thoughts were on the day ahead; school run, boring housework, even more boring house admin—the kind of stuff that makes your brain ache with tedium—bank transfers, bills, uploading her latest meter reading. She wished she’d spent her previous evening at work wasting time more productively and reducing today’s to-do list.

The shower was hot on her skin as she remembered yesterday’s conversation with Tony. Instantly, it made her blood boil. She decided not to think about work or him for the rest of the day, especially in the shower. Tony absolutely did not deserve her naked shower thoughts, even if he was hot and would probably look great dripping wet… all soapy and… and … and… enough! Absolutely no more naked Tony shower thinking. Cat mentally kicked herself for allowing her mind to wonder so irresponsibly.   

The alarms started ringing next door as a slightly more awake and fruity smelling Cat reached for a towel. In mere moments the chorus of “MUM!” would resonate through the house as the demands for breakfast began. Sure enough, two adorably sleepy children popped their heads through the door. She loved it when the kids were docile and cute.

Her youngest, Myke, held up his arms for a cuddle and Cat scooped him up instantly, bending to kiss her daughter, Liz, as she did.

“Right, you two, what we having for breakfast?”

“Chish and flips please mummy!” requested 4 year old Myke. Cat chuckled.

“Well, my little monkey, chish and flips is for dinner tonight so how about cereal or toast instead?”

“Chocolate cereal please! And then I can drink the milk and Myke’s milk too if he doesn’t finish it,” a cheeky grin spread across Liz’s face as she spoke.

“But, mum, she can’t have my chocolate cereal juice! It’s mine!” The whining had started already. 

“Okay, okay, everyone has their own milk juice and eats their own breakfast,” Cat huffed as the three of them marched downstairs to the kitchen.

The kettle was still hot and Cat realised she hadn’t finished making her coffee. She grabbed two bowls from the cupboard along with a mug and began the technical process of preparing cereal; a delicate procedure ensuring each kid has their favourite bowl with the precise cereal-to-milk ratio, respectively. She dished out their perfect breakfasts in the living room and went back to making her coffee in the kitchen.

It was only when she poured the milk into her coffee that she noticed the gut-wrenching curdle of lumpy white goop floating in her mug; the milk was off. In that same moment, Myke voiced his disapproval. The boy dropped his bowl with a clash and a howl: “Urgh, yeck mummy! This chocolate juice is yucky and bad!” The inevitable teary wailing followed.

Grabbing the nearest tea towel with an exasperated sigh, Cat returned to the living room. The scene was one of devastation; a Willy Wonker blood bath. The bowl had been swiped from the table, its contents all over her cream rug. What hadn’t hit the rug had spread across the laminate floors, coating the wooden surface in a stench of brown chocolate liquid.

Myke’s tears were still flowing as Liz looked on in bemused shock. “Mum, he just threw it on the floor,” she said. “Glad I didn’t eat mine; it stinks!”

The morning routine was screwed. Cat knew that by the time she’d cleared the carnage, washed the rug, consoled Myke and finally gotten the kids ready, they were going to be late for school. Again. And she hated being late for anything.

Thus was the downside of single parenting: when life doesn’t go as planned there‘s no one to fall back on. You can’t divide the chores, ask for help or split tasks in an emergency. With two of you involved, one can manage the aftermath while the other manages the kids—but when you’re alone with two children you’re already grossly outnumbered. Kate had no choice but to be both cleanup crew and mummy, all without the vital dose of caffeine she was so desperately craving. Bollocks…


CHAPTER 6 – Finally, a Reply!

Home at last from her exasperating experience attempting to explain to a rather grumpy, scornful receptionist why she was failing drastically with her children’s morning time management, Cat sat perched on her black leather Grandad chair, nursing a mug of piping hot coffee. With every sip she could feel the stress of the morning easing from her body. It was days like this that made her miss smoking. Coffee was great but nothing compared to blissfully puffing away your angst.

Smoking simply wasn’t the acceptable behaviour of a devoted parent these days, but on nights out with her bad mummy chums, after a few vinos it didn’t surprise her how many of the girls would sneak out for a cheeky cig. Sometimes they’d split a pack between them, giggling away like naughty teenagers. Oh, the rebellion!

Sinking back into the armchair, she reached for her phone with the intention of uploading the meter reading to her utility app when a notification popped up on her phone. It was the dating app. Someone had sent her a message!

Her curiosity sparked a glimmer of over-hopefulness that the message was from one of the Hemsworth brothers—or a non-famous equivalent at least. She logged in, tentatively.

Profile – Trevor_TM – 38. It was a reply to her rather boring message last night.

Not bad thanks! Sorry, had a very busy day at work. Fell asleep early. What you up to this weekend?

The message was making her sleepy.

She couldn’t really be bothered to reply but at least he wasn’t being presumptuous and crude. That had to count for something.

Cat: Well, hopefully, a good night’s rest means you have bags of energy for something fun this weekend!

She immediately regretted using the word ‘fun.’ In the realm of online dating, ‘fun’ was usually code for ‘fuck’. Reading back her message and decoding it, she transliterated it as: “hopefully, you’ll have bags of energy for lots of hot, steamy sex with me this weekend!” She sniggered, it wasn’t an intended innuendo. On the other hand, it might just spice up his reply.

There was also a message from Nick, one of the boys she’d messaged last night and honestly thought she’d never hear back from.

Nick: Lol… your a cheeky one! That message made me chuckle 😄I’m sure we would be highly compatible. So tell me, apart from coffee, Netflix and occasionally stalking men at the gym, what else do you like? 🙂

Wow! Actual engagement with a stunning specimen who had taken time to read her profile; coffee and Netflix were at the top of her likes list. Just one problem: he’d committed the cardinal your-not-you’re sin. Regardless, he was pretty enough for Cat to forgive his grammatical error and, at any rate, his effort to reply or even read her profile had earned him some major brownie points. Willing to overlook the minor offence, she was excited and a little hopeful. Even so, she knew just how quickly a conversation can go from amusingly tantalising to boringly disappointing.

The beauty of online dating is you have time to think of a witty or meaningful response that can potentially make you sound moderately intelligent. It wasn’t always as easy in real life.

Cat: You’ll be pleased to know I’m not a full-time stalker. More an appreciative observer…😉

It occurred to her that she might possibly have come across as a dirty old man but prayed Nick had a similar sense of humour. Still, perhaps a little diffusion was needed. She started typing again. 

What do I like? Hmmmm… Good company with interesting conversation, especially if it comes with ice cream!

She praised herself for acknowledging the ice cream reference in his profile. 

Now, most dating apps have a notification telling you whether or not a prospect is online. They will also inform you if someone has read a message, ignored or even deleted it. A deleted message is always a bit of an ego crusher; it’s an instant indication that they don’t find you attractive or your conversation very entertaining. Cat liked to think of the deleters as blokes who were only on the prowl for a hook up. Deep down she was self-aware enough to realise she simply wasn’t going to appeal to everyone’s taste but it was far easier to write them off this way. Otherwise she’d be sobbing into her ice cream in the absence of a man instead of enjoying it with one.

That’s one thing she hadn’t expected entering into the realm: the constant dealing with rejection. Its fast-paced nature and the continual stream of messages meant that it simply wasn’t possible to read and reply to everyone. So it was conceivable that if a message is sent and unread, the recipient simply hadn’t had the time. However, a read-and-deleted message was a virtual slap in the face. Fortunately, she had only experienced this a few times. Nonetheless, it made her feel pretty crappy every time.

There was also the ‘ghosting’ phenomenon: a person you have either met or been talking to suddenly, and for no apparent reason, disappears, ceasing all contact. Now, this was frustrating and considerably bad etiquette in Cat’s eyes. Sadly, however, it was very common practice in the realm.

Ghosting had been a hot topic with the girls one night recently. They’d come to conclusion that no contact was an utterly cowardly action, though it was undeniably easier than actually telling a person you weren’t interested.  There was also the possibility that if a person ghosted you they had simply found a new and more interesting toy to play with; probably with bigger boobs and a smaller brain. Cat particularly revelled in her friend Lee’s eloquent assessment: “Or maybe they’re just fucking dickheads.” So that was how Cat chose to view the ghosters from now on; a bunch of fucking dickheads. She vowed never to just vanish on someone without explanation (unless they deserved it, obviously), keeping herself out of the FuckingDickhead category.

Taking another slug of coffee and settling into the soft leather cushions of her armchair, Cat busied herself with the tasks of the day. Utility app opened and ready for an update. Figures submitted, Cat then navigated her way to her banking app. God, this was a dull way to spend the morning but so much more tolerable than communicating with loveless telephone robots and consequently spending hours on hold. 

Her phone buzzed; a new messaged received from the dating app. She opened it, seeing Nick’s super cute profile picture pop up.

Nick: Glad to hear it!

A second message pinged. 

Cat: Good company and ice cream. Sounds like date then… lol

Well he was direct. Straight in with a light-hearted ‘date’ request and, thankfully, hadn’t written her off as a peeping pervert. What a relief!

Nick: Ahh… but which brand of ice cream…..?

Instant reply:

Nick: You can’t put a guy on the spot like that, it’s too big a question! Hmmmm (Thinking emoji)

Cat: Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food… everyone loves Phish Food, right? 😁

Cat chuckled. She did like Phish Food but simply couldn’t believe she was having a completely random conversation with an exceptionally hot guy about sodding ice-cream. She got typing again.

Cat: Phish Food is the way forward! You’re just lucky I never asked you to choose your favourite coffee shop. The wrong answer there could be a dealbreaker 😂

Nick: get that. If we can’t agree on coffee there’s no hope for us. Taking a girl to the wrong coffee shop can end in raw, bloody violence! 😂🤣😂🤣😂

Another ping.

Have you found yourself on many coffee dates?

A typical trait with online dating; a few friendly messages before putting the feelers out for previous dating experience.

Cat: Not yet. Not sure I’d be up for a coffee date though. By the time you’re on the 2nd/3rd cup you’re both caffeine-buzzed and jabbering nonsense!

Nick: So no different to a pub date then???? 😆I’ll have to agree with you on that, coffee dates are hell

Cat: You could be right, at least in a bar you can blame the alcohol for the nonsense speak.

Nick: So what’s your preferred dating venue? I’m taking notes in case you let me take you out 😉

Nick did like his emojis. Sometimes, Cat thought, people seem to forget the use of a full-stop, opting instead for smiley faces to end sentences as if they’re some sort of new-wave punctuation. She really hoped he wasn’t a 12 year old in disguise…

Cat: I’d have to go with a standard drink at a bar ideally by the river, but tbh if the company is any good, the bar could be anywhere.

Nick: It’s settled then. A bar somewhere soon for booze and ice cream. Or better yet, ice cream cocktails!!!😉

Cat: Haha… sounds like a plan. If they have coffee-flavoured ice cream cocktails we’re winning 🙂

Cat felt she should reciprocate with a little emoji action.

Nick: Perfect… It’s a date! Right, that’s my coffee break finished. Hopefully catch you later?? 😘

Hopefully

Errr feck it… what bloody emoji do you use to end a first chat?! She wasn’t ready for the over-familiarity of a kissing one yet but had used the smiley face already; using the same one might illustrate a distinct lack of creativity. Bloody emojis! The decision was slightly infuriating. Stupid things… finally she settled on a cute looking blushing emoji

And with that, Nick’s online icon switched to ‘offline’ and he was gone.

Cat stared at her phone, slightly light-headed and amused by the exchange. Had she just agreed to a date with a guy she’d known for all of three minutes?! Scrolling through the messages, she reread the thread several times and confirmed that yes, she apparently had. Well, that was unexpected. Ideally, she’d thought it best to spend a few weeks chatting and getting to know the person a little before agreeing to a date. Although, admittedly, this method hadn’t proved particularly successful so far. Normally, by the time she was ready to actually meet someone from the realm, they had already gotten bored and moved on.

So she made the bold decision whilst sitting there, sipping the last few dregs from her mug, that if he did message her back later with an official date request, she‘d be brave  and god for it. And why the hell not! After all, was that not the point of online dating—to indeed go on actual dates and not just end up with a bunch on pen pals in the Friend Zone? 

The phone pinged in her hand, breaking her contemplative silence and giving her a small jolt of eager anticipation.

Trevor_TM – 38

Nothing exciting planned yet but I’m sure if you fancied meeting up we could think of something fun to do… 😜

Ugh, the dirty-winking-tongue-out emoji. Cat’s least favourite of them all. 

She considered rethinking her no ghosting rule…

For the most part, the rest of the day had gone seamlessly. The only real issues arose when Cat had attempted to bribe her children with the tablet so she could get the dinner on. Being four years apart they couldn’t agree on a YouTube channel; Myke had wanted some mind-numbing toy unwrapping video while Liz pleaded for her favourite blue-haired gaming vlogger. There were a few tears but eventually the compromise was a Pokemon game review. Maybe she was getting old but Cat didn’t understand the attraction of watching other people play games you could be playing yourself but if it gave her twenty minutes of vital kitchen time, who was she to argue. After a story, the kids were tucked up in bed and Cat was left with the next few hours to kill before finally climbing under her own duvet for the night.

At a baby group, years ago, Cat had overheard a lady explaining her single parent life as a ‘prison sentence’: once the kids are asleep, you’re essentially trapped. Now, finding herself in singleparentdom, Cat understood how frustrating and sometimes lonely these few hours in the evening could be. ‘Prison sentence’ was perhaps a little extreme but it was certainly deferentially restricting. There was only so much reality TV and boxset watching she could do before craving human interaction. And the thought made her desperately miss having someone to discuss the trails of the day with.

There must be millions of lonely singletons out there with time to kill and no one to murder it with. Cat was pondering the notion that maybe this was why social media and online dating were such a lifeline for the singles; the need for company and companionship from the comfort of your lonely prison sofa. Cat reached for her phone. The evening had been so busy with normality that she’d almost forgotten about her earlier chat with Nick. Logging in, she was disappointed to see that he hadn’t messaged her even though he was, in fact, online. Fuck it! Oh well, she grieved internallyHe must have met another one of those big-boob-small-brain girls. But before she could finish her spiteful mind-rant, a text popped up.

“Hey! See you’ve just logged in! Have you figured out the ‘somewhere’ I can take you for coffee cocktails? 🤔”

OK, so it was clear he hadn’t sent her a follow up message and had obviously just been messaging someone else. Probably many someones but she accepted that that was pretty much the point of online dating and tried to let it go.

“Lol , have you just been sitting there all day waiting for me to login? 😉”

“Yep. Been here all evening window shopping while I waited 😋“Tbh I logged in a few minutes ago. On my way home now. Was a late one 🤨” 

“Not driving I hope! Aren’t there laws against texting and driving?” It was typical mummy comment to make but too late now. Hopefully it didn’t sound belittling. She really should think a little more before typing.

“Lol, call it ‘speed dating’ 🚔😂 unfortunately, I’m one of those sad suited sardines stuck on a packed train 🤬 but I have a seat at least. Such a rarity! I’ll be home in half an hour with a meal for one and an early night. Rock ‘n’ roll!”

“What, no company? Oh well. At least you’ll have your Pot Noodle! 😆”

“Pah… Pot Noodles are for amateurs. I’m a Super Noodles kinda guy. If you ever let me cook for you, you’re in for a treat! 😇 🍜”

“Great, I can’t wait! There’s nothing I like more than a man who knows his way around the kettle 😊🤣😂”

She felt a few laughing emojis were justified at this point; she was genuinely chuckling, spite free.

“I know my way around lots of things… but I’m exceptionally talented with my kettle 😝”

It seemed they were on to mild innuendos now. Cat hoped he wasn’t going to descend into crude and vulgar anytime soon. It was such a frequent occurrence: friendly banter at first, followed by innuendos, thrusting rapidly into cock-shots. He was on a train though so chances were she was safe for now. Unless of course he was one of those guys with a bank of amateur self-porn on his phone. 

She couldn’t understand men who were so overly keen to send uninvited pictures of their dicks — and apparently it wasn’t just men eager to ping flesh shots to anyone with a smartphone. A conversation with Insomina77! had been really informative about what it’s like being on the male side of the pool. She’d discovered that there were tons of fake accounts and ‘Cam Girls’ looking to lure men in, only to exploit them for money or simply up their Instagram followers. Not to mention the ones only too keen to spice up a chat thread with a boob shot to someone they hadn’t even learnt the surname of yet. She wondered if this was what the nerds at Apple had intended from the very beginning.

The anonymity of a dating app appeared to completely diminish the inhibitions of many. Cat was certain that most of the people on here would never be so brazen in real life. It’s not like you would meet someone at a bar and, after a smile and a brief “hello, what’s your name?” whip out your cock or lady bits then carry on as normal. Unfortunately, she was now thinking about cocks. Nick’s cock. At least she wasn’t thinking about Tony’s cock. For fuck’s sake, stop thinking about cocks! She kicked her brain for wandering into filth again and attempted to type a respectable reply.

“A talented man in the kitchen is a redeeming quality, especially if you’re hungry…😏”

She read the sentence back. Oh shit! She hadn’t meant it to sound so euphemistic; she honestly only meant it was great when a guy could cook a fabulous meal! Had she just opened the door for their conversation to take an unintentional turn for the worst?!

“Oh reeellly… do you get hungry often 🤔😉”

Bollocks. The conversation appeared to be heading in a direction she’d been hoping to avoid and, somehow, for all intents and purposes, it was her own fault. A second message came through almost immediately:

“Well I should hope so. I have a cupboard full of Super Noodles I’m willing to slave over just for you! I’m a dab hand at the microwave too! 🤩😄😂😅”

Thank Christ for that. Against all the odds, Nick had steered the conversation away from any potentially disastrous cuisine-related innuendo madness. Cat typed hastily, desperate to keep the flow of dialogue manoeuvring on a steady course.

“So when you’re not working late and eating alone, what do you find yourself doing?” It was a lame duck of a questions but, on the spot as she was, she deemed it necessary.

“Just your usual type of bloke really. Gym, boxsets, drinks, cinema, maybe the theatre every now and then. Prefer a nice bar to a club tho… think my clubbing days are behind me!”

It was obvious from his profile just how much he liked the gym; he had a body worthy of a Lynx commercial. The hotel Cat worked at was equipped with an open gym and she knew just how hard some of the instructors trained to keep their bodies in immaculate shape. While she had great respect for people who put in that much time and energy to look after themselves, she also knew that gym bunnies had a tendency do nothing but babble on about bloody diet and exercise. She had no desire to get caught up in discussions about the health benefits of superfoods and supersets. Her body shape was a happy size-sixteen and she loved her food. All food. Especially when it came with yummy, delicious extra calories.

“God, I can’t remember the last time I was in a club. But I do like to dance given the opportunity”

“Ah, so you can dance! 👏💃🕺 I do love a lady who can strut her stuff on the dance floor. Just don’t show me up while I’m throwing my shapes, lol”

She was surprisingly enticed by thrilling thoughts of gyrating with him. She imagined a rustic, dimly lit bar somewhere with candles on vintage, dark, wooden tables, a smooth Latino vibe in the background, the pair of them gently swaying to the music; moving closer, his hands finding her hips and pulling her in — jeez, her mind was all over the place tonight! Maybe she should just ask if he’d be free next weekend while the kids were at their Dad’s. Or maybe she’d take the coward’s approach instead and say:

“Great! We can have a dance off!”

Coward! She instantly wished she hadn’t played it so safe, cringing at her own pathetic attempt at humour. GOD! She was normally quite good at this flirty, tactical banter but for some reason, Cat’s usual quick wit had deserted her. She sounded like a prat. Perhaps her flustering was definitive proof of a physical attraction to Nick’s profile pic and the sheer joy that, so far, he hadn’t turned out to be a complete arse. 

“Oh, it’s on! But be warned, I play to win. I’m taking you down lady! 😎 Right, I’m getting off here. Thanks for keeping me entertained on my usually boring journey home. I’ll msg you in a bit…😚” 

Nick’s icon flashed to ‘offline’ and he was gone again. Cat stared at the text, slightly perplexed. How do you respond to “I’ll message you later”? Were you expected to reply with an ‘OK’ or just wait for him to get back to you? Was it rude to not say a yeah great talking to you kind of thing? She couldn’t decide but hoped the glass of red wine she was about to pour herself might hold the answer.

CHAPTER 8 – Food Porn and Pen Pals

There was something eternally satisfying about a glass of full bodied red wine. There was a bonus to red too, she didn’t have to wait an hour for it to be chilled enough to enjoy like whites and beers. Bottle in hand and perched at the breakfast bar, she poured a rather too-large-for-a-school-night glass and switched on the radio. It was a typical chart show but the DJs were entertaining, the music easy to listen to.

Her phone buzzed ‘image received’. It was Insomina77!, AKA ‘Jay’ on other media networks. The image was of a mouth-watering steak with golden coated vegetables, dr7izzled in something that looked like it might be gravy. Cat immediately had food envy.

They often swapped photos of meals: Jay sharing the delights of life on the road, Cat replying with pictures of the chicken nuggets her kids preferred. Her finger hastily typed away:

Cat: OMG looks amazing, who’s the lucky lady you’re spoiling tonight? 😋

Insomnia77!: Lol… what makes you think I’m with lady, I could be with a man, or with the crew or on my own!!!

Cat: WHATEVER, you’d never take one of the boys out for a meal like that, haha… who is she, spill??

Insomnia77!: Very true, some girl I met online last night, switched my profile to nearby’s and she popped up. She’s up at the bar now!

Cat: Sat at the bar, stalking girls and sending me food porn… lol, tart!

Insomnia77!: Yep! 😊 

Insomnia77!: She’s off grabbing a bottle of bubbles, she said she was going to the ladies but looks like she hit the bar for something sparkly.

Cat: So you’ve literally just messaged me to brag about food and your most recent pick up… You’re such a dick… 😂

Insomnia77!: I am indeed but I’m a gorgeous talented dick, who’s been very bored and needed to get out of the bloody hotel room… shit she’s coming back, don’t want her to think I’m on the phone to my GF…haha Catch ya soon x

Cat: X

Insomina77! often amused Cat with his stories of adventures as a musician, originally believing his tales of travel and hotel-room life to be merely bullshit stories to pick up women. But once they exchanged numbers, and Cat knew his real name, the shameless Google stalking commenced. His Facebook profile was limited but she was delighted his tales of wonder turned out to be true; he was in fact, according to his LinkedIn account, a very talented and fairly high profile musician. Guitar seemed his weapon of choice, though it would appear he was multi-skilled and could handle a various number of instruments.

Jay was good fun with a passion for life. The problem was, essentially, the constant travelling made for complicated relationships with little chance of longevity. So he settled for living in the moment, enjoying the casual company of casual ladies when the opportunities arose. She enjoyed his updates, hearing about the good fucks and date-deserters; he had a knack for unintentionally screwing things up. He also had a knack for agreeing to go out with women who were completely batshit from the offset. He was a constant source of amusement and she loved his ‘honest frank’ attitude.

Cat slipped into her ‘comfies’ then busied herself with the mindless task of scrolling through her friends’ Facebook statuses. Everyone’s life looked so glossy. An old photo popped up in the newsfeed; a reminder of ‘10 years ago today’: a big smiley happy family photo of her old life when the kids were younger and things with their dad hadn’t been so completely awful.  There was an update from a happy looking couple, with raised glasses: she had a posed, shocked look on her face while he playfully stuck out his long, enormous tongue. Cat hated herself for noting the impressive girth of his mighty mouthpiece as the picture was from Beth, Tony’s wife. Unsurprisingly, Cat couldn’t be bothered to read the message and promptly remembered why she hated Facebook.

She killed the better part of an hour at the breakfast bar, flicking through her phone, when ‘message received’ popped up from her dating app. Immediately, she logged in, hoping it was Nick, remembering she hadn’t messaged him back.

Nick: It’s been a long day so finally putting my feet up with dinner and a cold beer

The following message was a photo. Cat was fairly confident it wasn’t going to be scantily clad body shot but, with excited curiosity, she opened it: a perfect, manly-manicured hand was holding a stemmed pint glass, filled with what Cat assumed was beer. The accompanying message read:

Nick: What you up to??? 🤔

Cat wanted to reciprocate with an appropriate shot of her glass of claret, recognising however, that it was hugely oversized and filled to the brim. She took a massive, rapid gulp. Then another. Then another and another until she could rest assured that the glass would pass as a responsible-enough-for-mid-week drink. She snapped a picture, carefully hiding her own unpolished, un-manicured hands.

Nick: A fish bowl wine glass, I like your work 👏 are you sure you can’t just fit the entire bottle in there???

Cat: Probably, but it’s too early in the week to be polishing off a bottle of wine

Nick: I think you should give it a go… 🙌  perhaps a nice… Chianti 😨

The reference wasn’t lost on Cat. She giggled, wondering if he was testing her drinking skills or just checking in with her inner geek. Her inner geek took the phone.

Cat: ooh… Chianti would go really well with the liver and fava beans I’m cooking tonight

Nick: 😂 

Nick: I feel a little better about drinking alone tonight, knowing that my good friend the serial killer is just as bored and desperate for alcohol as I am… Cheers! 🍻

And with that, Nick sent another image: a rather stunning close-up of his face, half hidden behind the beer glass. Cat admired the clarity of his sharp, bright eyes, his full lips. God he was a perfect specimen. The large gulps earlier had gone to her head. Her alcohol-sapped mind started to wander. Her tongue was wet and desperate to know how his lips tasted. She wanted to ask him. The thought made her chuckle, cheekily. Maybe I should slow down on the wine, she told herself and ignoring herself at the same time.

Cat: Ha, Don’t encourage me… I’ll be thinking you’re trying to get me drunk already? 

Nick: Is that such a bad thing? 😈

Cat: What, me being drunk or you goading me into a mid-week piss-up?

Nick: I reckon you’ll be floored after your one large glass. I hope so anyway. I love a cheap date lol. Besides, tonight I only want you tipsy enough to give me your phone number so we can get away from this app, God I hate this thing! 😬

As easily as that, Nick had taken the plunge and made a request to exchange actual numbers. Needless to say, Cat was hesitant. There was a kind of security using the app. For one thing, any unsolicited photos could be reported, contacts could be blocked if you no longer wished to talk to them—or if they turned out to be Hannibal Lecter for real. Once you exchange numbers though, it’s not as clearcut. 

Fortunately, Cat had learnt the basics in online security from Lee: as soon as someone has your number you become a potential target for something bad. Like identity theft, money theft. Hell, even phone theft. They can use your phone to scour your personal information, raid your Paypal, or just wipe the whole damn thing. An over zealous admirer might take it upon themselves to find out where you live or work. Unless your profiles are hidden or locked, it’s far too easy for Russian hackers to find out everything they want to know about your life and utterly destroy it. Extremely sensible and tech-savvy Cat felt she had locked her security down. And it must’ve been working; she hadn’t had any stalker problems at all.

And experience told her that frequently the dynamics of conversation changes the moment you move away from the apps. Cat was enjoying the banter. Would that vanish with face to face engagement? It was a dilemma, a ‘Sliding Doors’ moment. Assessing her minimal risk level, and motivated by the chance to meet a seemingly amusing and extremely hot man, Cat decided maybe it was time to ease herself into dangerous territory and brave the exchange. Next time he hinted at a she just might say yes.

Cat: What? you hate the app or online dating in general?

Nick: Both, it’s never as easy to chat on this thing and my phone’s constantly buzzing from all the crazies perving at my profile.

Cat: Oh is it now? bet they’re lining up 🤣

Nick: There are hundreds, believe me. Most of them look like they can handle more wine than you! Sounds wayyy too expensive. You seem the safer option… 😉😂

Cat: Lol… and by safer you mean cheaper. Your flattery is faultless, sir.

Nick: Exactly… 😂 

Nick: Honestly I nearly stopped using this thing the other day. Then you messaged me. Your pictures were bloody cute and you seemed like the first not-crazy girl I’d spoken to in weeks. The rest are basically just time-wasters…

Cat read his message and noticed he was still typing; this gave her an opportunity to consider what he’d said. There was a plethora of truth in it, people frequently use online dating to manage boredom. In all honesty, Cat was as guilty as the next messager for chatting to someone for weeks and never moving past first base.

Nick: So what do you say, fancy giving me your number and heading over to WhatsApp?

Spurred on by the wine or the prospect of real-life interaction with a nicker-droppingly gorgeous man, Cat pinged him her digits.

Nick: Wow! you must be feeling brave. Or drunk. Either way I’m impressed. See you on the flip side 😘

Cat never had a chance to reply. Nick’s icon flashed to ‘offline’. Suddenly paranoid she’d be heading toward inevitable doom, she clung onto the slither of hope that this one might turn out to be something a bit special.



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