When his cousin had manipulated him into joining the dating site, he had been extremely reluctant. People like him didn’t get dates just by joining dating sites, he had scoffed at his cousin. His cousin, as usual, rolled her eyes and signed him up anyway. Apparently he hid too much behind his computer, if he wasn’t willing to put himself out there, how would he have friends or even lovers? He had to step out of his comfort zone at least once in his life!
So, there he was, looking through photos of guys who looked way out of his league for his comfort. His cousin offered her own opinion on the guys because of course, she did. Katya was nothing if not blunt and she gave him ratings based on the looks and their bios written in the little space. He asked her once if he had asked for her input, she had just flipped her hair and ignored his question entirely.
He was at work, just re-working one of the designs for the latest update when his phone pinged. He was so deep in coding that he almost didn’t look at his phone but then, he remembered that he was expecting a new update from his boss. So, with a sigh and a longing look at his computer, he opened the notifications and stared. It wasn’t his boss, it was the dating site’s app. Yes, he had installed it. (His cousin had installed it without his permission and had forbidden him to delete it.)
Somebody had privately messaged him, asking him if he was available at the moment for a chat. He looked around, he worked in a cubicle and everywhere around him, he heard the clacking of keys and the occasional cursing. It was the designing department after all, things never ran smoothly here. He had never done this before and to do so in an office felt incredibly wrong. So, he quickly messaged the other man and told him that he was at work and that he would be ready to talk in a few hours. He hoped that the man wouldn’t be too disappointed with the answer. He knew some of his friends sexted while at work, he just wasn’t daring enough.
There was an immediate ping back, and he hurriedly looked at the message. He sighed in relief when the other man assured him that he would wait. Nothing could have pleased him more! A person who understood his work ethics, he also showed patience. It wasn’t that he was expecting Prince Charming to sweep him away and to live happily ever after, even he wasn’t that naive. However it really was hard to find people who were understanding and mature about things like these in today’s times.
He smiled and sent a message, thanking the other man. His name was Gerald, a bit old-fashioned maybe but then, he couldn’t complain. His own name was Henry, not terribly modern, was it? Putting the phone down, he got to work with renewed energy.
Days passed, they talked. They hadn’t met yet because first it was Henry’s work and aunt’s wedding then it was Gerald’s work. They both had busy schedules and meeting in person had been pushed forward, however that didn’t mean they didn’t talk. They talked, they texted, they had even sent risqué messages once! Gerald had encouraged him to enroll into a photography class after looking at the photos he had taken during his aunt’s wedding. Apparently, he had some talent. So, Henry had his life filled to the brim.
Almost three weeks had passed and they hadn’t met but Henry didn’t mind, his cousin had asked about the dating site and he had answered vaguely. He didn’t want to let anyone know about Gerald, he wanted to keep Gerald and everything related to him close to his heart. At least for a little while. He would tell his cousin after he met Gerald and see if it worked out.
His cousin somehow got a hint of it anyway, Henry had to assume that it was his terrible lying. What else could it be? She voiced her concern over the fact that he hadn’t met Gerald in person yet. It had been three weeks, she had exclaimed and for a moment or two, doubt had settled in his mind but in the next moment, he had shook her off. He told her that they had both been incredibly busy, it was just that.
After that meeting, Henry started to subtly pushing Gerald, just to prove his cousin wrong. He wanted to meet, he texted Gerald one night as he was lying in bed, the lights dimmed and Mozart was playing on his laptop. Gerald replied after a few moments, telling him that he wanted to meet Henry too! Would the weekend be alright, he asked eagerly. Gerald answered immediately with a happy yes and they made plans. They were going to meet at an Italian place that seemed to be a neutral enough place for them both, it had good Yelp reviews as well, so the date wouldn’t go terribly because of the food.
They had decided on the date on Monday and the next days were torture for Henry. Now that a date had been set, he couldn’t wait for them to meet and…and, do the normal dating things with Gerald. He still talked to Gerald regularly, their talks now shifting to their work and how they each had a somewhat demanding boss and how one of Henry’s coworkers had managed to mess up a new project design. Gerald had seemed to sympathise with that, it seemed a normal enough occurrence that he completely understood.
The day of the date finally arrived, he was antsy the entire day. So much so that his coworkers asked him if he was alright. He had nodded yes hurriedly, they had eyed him with suspicion and one of the girls, Karen, had asked him if he had a hot date. He had fucking blushed and they had been on him, interrogating him. Who was it? Did they know him? Was it an office romance, perhaps? Someone from the upper departments? What did he look like? The questions only stopped when he finally took his phone out and showed them a photo of Gerald, Gerald had sent him that sometime during week two of their talks.
Jessica frowned as she saw the photo and Henry wondered why. Jessica started to speak but stopped, Karen quickly picked up on her mood and asked her bluntly what was the matter. That seemed to do it for Jess, she quietly asked if she could talk to Henry. Henry nodded uncertainly, they moved towards his cubicle and Jessica asked to see the photo again. Henry unwillingly showed it to her again, he didn’t know what had made her look like that and he finally asked her.
She took a breath and huffed it out. Then with a tentative voice, she told him. Gerald had seemed familiar to her and now she was certain after looking at the photo again. She asked him if Gerald had told him where he worked, and Henry answered with a confused face that Gerald worked as a content writer for a magazine. Jessica’s eyes widened and she quickly whipped out her phone and opened up an app and typed something rapidly. She thrust her phone in Henry’s face after a moment and he blinked at it and then her.
Taking the phone in his hands, he looked at the page. It was their competitor designing firm and there Gerald was, wearing a neat, dark blue suit with a white shirt and superbly done Windsor knot. His brown eyes seemed to shine and his freckles stood out against the white background. He was smiling, a hint of teeth in the smile. He was also a web designer who mostly worked in pretty much the same department as Henry. Jessica quietly told Henry that he might be a victim of catfishing. That Gerald might have been trying to get company information from Henry under the guise of dating.
It was hard to breathe and he could hear himself lightly gasping, he felt arms helping him into his chair. Jessica gave him a glass of water and he sipped it absent-mindedly. Gerald…he was….he was…what was he supposed to do now? Could it be true? If it wasn’t then why had Gerald lied to him about his job? What possible reason could there be? Could it be that he didn’t want Henry to be suspicious of his intentions and so just lied a little about his work? But that just proved him to be less honest, what was he supposed to do?
Jessica asked him if he needed any help and he shook his head. He quietly sat there for long moments before getting up and asking his boss if he could take the day off. He wasn’t feeling too well, maybe it was the flu or worse. His boss was surprisingly alright with it and let him go. Henry responsibly closed all the programs on his computer, shut down the system and left the office. He wandered around the neighbourhood for a while, he called his cousin and asked for help.
She met him near his office in a cafe that he generally avoided. There were too many people, and most of them wanted to have a chat or something else just as horrible. He was incredibly shy and always felt uncomfortable around those people but today, he couldn’t care about all that. In his life, he had had only two relationships both of which had simply fizzled out. He hadn’t really faced anything like that in his life, he simply wasn’t interesting enough for that to happen to him, he thought as he looked at a couple kissing as if their life depended on it.
She stomped towards the table and all but threw herself into the booth. They talked, they had coffee, she shoved a piece of cake towards him. Didn’t take no for an answer when he looked at it, pained. So, they discussed it and she tried to find everything about Gerald and it turned out that Jessica had been right after all. Now, Henry had another burning question, what to do about the date? While his heart might not be breaking right then, it was a close call. He wanted to flip over the table, trash the furniture and just scream. What had he done to deserve this?
He asked her in a small voice, what had he done to deserve this? Her eyes softened and she placed her hand on his, gripped it and told him that he wasn’t to blame himself. It was just a jerk being himself. That it was all on Gerald and not on Henry but Henry disagreed, a small part of him was to be blamed. After all, if he hadn’t been so fucking naive, maybe they wouldn’t be facing this day. If he had been a bit more suspicious they wouldn’t have this problem. He told her the same and her face tightened. That told him everything until she barked at him to not to be so fucking stupid.
‘So you are new to this, so what? Sure, we could have used a little more sense about this but nothing too damaging has happened yet. There’s no need to beat yourself up so hard.’
He shut up after that.
They decided to ask Gerald to meet him in the cafe this time, Gerald agreed after a few moments of hesitance.
They waited for Gerald to turn up and finally, after about twenty minutes, he came looking for them. In the meanwhile, Henry had finished his piece of cake and was now eyeing his neighbours pie. Sadness and shock had made him hungry, that was his way after all. That was one of the reason, he had been slightly pudgy during his teenage years. He had only shed that weight during his final year at college when the stress of his course had worked in a positive way.
The next hour and a half were torturous. Gerald admitted after denying the truth for over twenty minutes, then he just sighed and told Henry the truth. Apparently, Gerald’s boss had asked him and Gerald hadn’t minded at the time. He wasn’t even gay, apparently, he was just taking Henry for a ride. A fun ride, he assured Henry. Gerald genuinely didn’t mean to hurt Henry, he assured Henry, it was just…he had to save his job and get that raise, you know? At this point, Henry wanted to throw the flower vase in Gerald’s face. Instead, his cousin slapped Gerald before the thought could enter his mind and marched him out of the cafe, leaving Gerald with his hand on his cheek.
She told him fuming that they were going to the police and that they were going to report this. Gerald and his fucking company needed to pay for this. Henry just followed her out of habit, she was his true knight-in-shining-armour as always, he thought bemusedly. It would be alright, his cousin wouldn’t let any other outcome to be possible.