A Date with Damian

A Date with Damian
By Leigh Mathers

 

I have a horrible feeling Lisa was right, thought Martine as she checked her watch for the fiftieth time, and pressed her back against the pub wall as though she could melt into it. This isn’t the most delightful meeting place. And I’m freezing.

“The Railway Tavern?” her sister had grimaced dubiously last night. “Shouldn’t you at least pick somewhere more central for a first meeting?” 

Martine tossed her hair. “It’s too late to change the arrangements now.”

“No, it isn’t. You don’t have to go through with this.”

“I’ve chosen to, though.”

“Well I’ll have my mobile on if you need me.”

“Need you? Stop scaremongering, Lise.” Seeing Lisa’s genuine concern, Martine added in a more sensitive tone, “I know you don’t really approve of this Internet dating lark, but I’ll be all right. Damian and I have been messaging for weeks.  We’ve built up such a rapport.”

“You don’t even know what he looks like.”

“No, well Damian feels it’s shallow to be influenced by each other’s appearances. He thought we ought to communicate first, free from that.”

“Hmm.”

Saying the words had lessened Martine’s own conviction in them, but couldn’t show this. “He has the important attributes, like character and a sense of humour. If he turns out to be sexy too, well that’ll be a nice bonus!”

“If he turns out to be sexy!  Oh Mart, you’re too young to be this desperate. You’re only twenty-six.”

“This isn’t about desperation. It’s just the modern way to meet. You should try it, Lise. You’re still single, after all.”

“No thanks. Just be careful, eh?”

As she shivered now, gawped at by the Saturday afternoon drunks, Martine tried to heat herself with thoughts of their online chats, which could last several hours a night.

Damian was speedy to reply when she’d posted her ad, and they hit it off instantly. He was thirty, he said, and lonely beneath his sometimes jokey front. “But you’re becoming special to me, Martine. We shouldn’t dither to arrange a meeting.”

She’d found herself agreeing to Saturday at two, outside the Railway Tavern. Now it was twenty-past, and she stamped her chilled feet frantically. “Come on Damian!”

As if on cue, three young men hove into view, bantering matily with one another. Then one – the tallest and by far the best-looking, as it happened – started to lope out of the group. “I’d better get going now, lads. Been great catching up with you again, though.” 

“Yeah, look after yourself mate.”

“See ya, Damo.”

Damo!

While his friends made tracks in the opposite direction, he strode towards the railway, the pub – and Martine.

“Damo’s short for Damian!” Martine yelped this and pounced on the astounded man.

“Yes, I suppose it could be,” he spluttered.

Martine’s heart flipped like a dolphin in a sealife show.  He was lean and broad-shouldered, with jovial brown eyes and the kind of grin that made you grin back.

“I’m Martine,” she gibbered, still clinging to him, “as you’ll have no doubt gathered. And you’re better late than never.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Don’t apologise. You’re here now, and it’s wonderful to finally meet after all these weeks of e-mails.”

“Er…”

“Anyway, what are we waiting for? Let’s go for a drink!” Martine linked arms and, boosted with relief, nattered unreservedly to her new friend. She manoeuvred him towards the Railway Tavern. He let himself be led – as far as the entrance.

“Actually, let’s not go in here,” he winced. Martine was surprised, since Damian had suggested this venue, but decided to take it as a compliment; a sign he thought she belonged in smarter places. They walked to a wine bar.

Over their first round he said, “Now I’ve no idea what this talk of adverts and e-mails is all about, but I have to tell you it’s brightening up my day no end!”

“What!” Martine’s wineglass paused in mid-air, halfway to her gaping mouth. “You mean…you’re…not…Damian…from Date-A-Base?”

“’Fraid not. My name is Damon. Damon Edwards.  I was about to catch the train home after meeting up with a couple of old schoolmates. I hardly ever come into town, as it happens.”

After initial blushes, they laughed all afternoon at the mistaken identity and coincidence.

“I can’t believe I frogmarched you off like that,” Martine squealed again, “you poor thing!”

“Oh, I think I could have endured being accosted by you.”

“Obviously the real Damian chickened out then. Lucky for me, eh?”

“This has been the most surreal Saturday of my life,” Damon said three hours later, gazing at her over his glass, “but easily the best.”

They were inseparable from that day onwards. Five years later, they got married.

“Guess you were right, sis,” Lisa, their bridesmaid, conceded, “Internet dating does work. Well, sort of.”

        ******

Whilst Martine and Damon had been falling in love that Saturday, the ‘real’ Damian – he was calling himself Damian today at least – was lurking in his Jaguar outside the Railway Tavern.

He was late, because he hated to linger in areas like this with a car like his, and had expected this Martine to be waiting.

“Your timekeeping will just have to be punished, young lady,” he hissed, drumming the steering wheel.

If she didn’t show up, though, there were plenty of others where she came from. Girls who’d be charmed by his online humour and lonely bachelor charade – then see the Jag and forget about wanting someone gentle who could make them laugh.

And forgive him for lopping a few years off his age.  Just a few.

Then he’d whisk them to his apartment – the bachelor pad he kept for weekend use, well away from the house where he kept his wife – and soften them up with wine. He’d slip a pill into it if the girl was resistant.

These young women never reported him. Even those who could remember what happened were persuaded that their accounts would not be taken seriously by the police.

And Martine would never know what a lucky escape she’d had.