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It seemed wise enough to bundle my things into the suitcase and leave to meet the young man. George slept, thick as cotton wool, in our bed. It was work, I told him. He’d believe that.
When I saw Timothy I had mixed feelings. Here he was clearly cuter than in his photos – but he was clearly shorter too. Not much perhaps. Only three or four inches – but he was shorter. I always feel a little irritated when I meet people and they look different to their profile pictures. Andrew had seemed broader, bigger and buffer online – I guess that’s the effect of the Grindr haze.
Mixed feelings I can deal with, though. I expect disappointment, and I wasn’t that disappointed. That made this a good start.
We went to York and walked the length of the wall. The whole time, as I caught snatches of his smell, I thought of inhabiting him. For lunch we took high tea: scones, clotted cream, jam; finger sandwiches; tea and cake; a glass each of champagne.
‘I’ve never done this before,’ he said. I wasn’t sure if he meant the high tea or spending time like this with a man he’d met off the internet. I was only seven years older than he was, but it might as well have been seventeen. When he looked at the cocktail menu, he gasped.
‘Cocktails with raw egg whites in!’
Yes, he was cute. When he smiled it was with a youthful vigour I hadn’t felt in so long. I felt myself light up and be reminded of what it was like to be young and discovering everything for the first time. As he talked about wanting kids, how much he’d saved in the bank, and how he wanted to get married, I alternately cringed and fawned over him. He was naive, but it’s refreshing to be reminded of how easy life can be if you don’t know any better.
Dinner was classy but not extravagant. We visited a French bistro, where I made him try foie gras and snails. He turned his nose up but that made me more dogged. Fussy eaters have always reminded me of spoilt children. Forgetting myself, I often let myself turn into a stern parent.
‘Carpe diem,’ I said.
‘It means YOLO for people with an IQ.’
He laughed and I felt guilty for teasing him. But he tried the food, defiantly Yorkshire throughout, and bold in his refusal to enjoy anything he considered posh.
The food was good but, I admit, the wine was better.
That night I held him close to me. I slept fitfully.
The next two days were much the same. I would show him a world at his fingertips no one had ever thought to show him – and he’d never before thought to ask. At night we would sleep close and I would wake intermittently. He would snore.
On the last day we visited a seafood restaurant. He tried oysters for the first time, lashed with vodka and tomato sauce. He struggled to knock the first one back and refused the second. I gulped down four in quick succession.
That night, when he finally moved to kiss me, I kept my lips closed. I knew that when I returned home I’d creep into bed with George. I’d slot into place in his arms. I’d sleep easily.