Anna stared hard at the photograph she had printed out earlier. He was pleasant looking, dark, floppy hair, chocolate brown eyes, a play of a smile about his lips. He was looking straight at the camera, confident she deduced. She turned the photograph over and read what she had written again “Bobby, thirty-eight, storeroom manager”.
“I will give it one last chance” she said aloud to herself.
“If this is a disaster, I`m giving up.”
Anna poured herself a large glass of chilled, white wine, took a long, refreshing sip and picked up her iPad. Buoyed by the invigoration effect of the wine, Anna typed her reply:
Yes that sounds lovely. I will meet you at Cozy Coffee at 2:00 PM tomorrow, then we can make our way to the cinema after that.
It was done. Anna was going on another date, this was definitely going to be the last date from the app. If this didn't work out she was giving up. For her first date, over a month ago now, she had been really excited, but now battle scarred and hardened by the whole experience, all she felt was dread.
Before her first date she had been full of hope. She had met her date, Terry, in the pub after work. He had seemed pretty normal at first, but then came all the questions, incessant, continuous questions about her past. Almost as though he was trying to unravel her like a jeweler with a tangled chain.
He was relentless, question after question after question. It was exhausting like a police interrogation, as though he was trying to catch her out, trip her , and that look in his eyes. She shivered just at the memory. Yes there was definitely something odd about Terry. When she told her friends later, they dismissed it.
“Just block him and move on. You always meet a few weirdos along the way, don't give up yet”.
She had been quite nervous meeting the next date, but he turned out to be a normal Jack the lad. Not someone she wanted to see again, but harmless enough.
After finishing her wine, Anna absentmindedly leafed through her , finally pulling out a Navy dress and soft cream cardigan. That would be fine for a coffee and a trip to the cinema she thought.
The cafe was only a twenty minute walk from Anna's house and she decided she needed some fresh air. She locked her front door and something caught her eye. A color, a shape, something there that shouldn't be. She quickly turned her head to look, but there was nothing. She was sure she had seen, maybe just a trick of the light, perhaps she was just tired. She hadn't slept well, being woken up by a noise and struggling to drop back off again.
Anna put her headphones on carefully so as not to ruin her freshly washed and styled hair. She would listen to some music to help her get into a positive mood for the date.
When she arrived at the café, her date was already there, but she didn't recognize him because the photograph he had put on the website was at least ten years old. He recognized her immediately though and waved her over to the corner table where he was sat.
The Cozy Coffee was busy, full of lighthearted chatter and the sounds of clinking coffee cups. She inhaled deeply, there was nothing nicer than the smell of freshly ground coffee mixed with a heady combination of chocolate, caramel and fudge. She passed the display counter and glanced longingly at the cakes, biscuits and muffins temptingly displayed.
Her date, Bobby, was still waving at her, as though directing planes on an airport runway. He stood up as she approached with his hand outstretched. She shook it briefly and sat down.
“Hi Anna, I'm Bobby. I'll get you a coffee. What do you want?”
“Thank you” Anna forced a smile, noticing his deeply lined eyes and grey in his hair. Thirty eight? That's what she got for upping her age limit from thirty five. He was at least forty five, if not older. She was not yet thirty and was not about to start a relationship based on a lie.
“I'll have a cappuccino please, ooh and can I have a caramel brownie?” She rummaged in her purse in a pretense to offer to pay for it expecting him to say I've got this or something similar for their first date. Unfortunately, he waited patiently with his hand out while she frantically looked for change in a messy purse. Finally she placed six pound coins in his hand.
“Will this be enough? Places like this can be pricey mind”. her heart sank,
“Just get the coffee then if it comes to too much”.
“Right” he nodded and walked towards the queue at the counter.
She noticed him looking shiftily around then producing glasses from his pocket, looking at the menu then sneaking them quickly off and putting them back in his pocket.
“Vain as well” she sighed getting out her phone and deleting the dating app. He was being served and appeared to be taking his time about it, so she sent a quick message to her friends on the WhatsApp group:
Deleted the app, no more dodgy dates for me. Before replacing her phone in her bag.
Bobby was making his way over to her with a cappuccino minus the brownie.
“I didn't get the brownie, saved you a few calories there “he joked dumping down a handful of five pences, ten pences, two pences and pennies in front of her, two of which rolled off the table and pinged onto the floor.
“Sorry about the change”. He smirked, not looking at all sorry.
She scooped it into her purse with irritation and took a long sip of her cappuccino. At least that hit the mark, it was hot and sweet with a kick of caffeine. She savored the hit, leaning back to get comfortable in her seat.
“Right, drink up, we don't want to be late for the film”. Bobby retorted looking at his watch.
Anna slammed the coffee cup onto the saucer, causing the two women on the table next to her to turn and stare.
The film had been okay, Bobby had suggested they split the cost of the film and snacks, which was not a surprise to Anna. As they came out of the cinema, Bobby kissed her on the cheek
“Well my car is parked near here, so I'll take my leave. You've got my number”. With that he was gone.
How rude she thought, not even seeing if I was safe to get home. Anna looked again in her bag for change for the bus. She took the photograph of Bobby out, scrunched it up and threw it in the bin.
I`m better off on my own she thought as she walked towards the bus stop. She didn't notice the dark frame of the man in the black hoodie and jeans quickly and slyly retrieve the printed photo she had thrown in the bin.
Terry put the photograph in his pocket, it would go on his wall along with the ten or so photographs of Anna he had secretly taken today. No one rejected him and got away with it. He pulled his hood over his head, kept his focus on the ground and quietly followed Anna onto the bus.