They had arranged to meet outside the post office but as Steven approached, he began to have second thoughts. On the post office steps stood a large man with a ruddy complexion, his hair an unruly mass of ginger curls. There was no one else around. This man had to be Adam.
Not my type, Steven diagnosed in an instant. I could just keep walking, stay on this side of the road until I’m out of sight and then double back through the precinct to the bus station, and no harm done. I don’t like to stand anyone up. I know what it’s like, I’ve been stood up a few times myself. Which is one of the reasons I went on that dating app.
But the nerve of some people! Why can’t they be honest on these things? Why don’t they post real photos showing how they really are?
Probably because if they look like this chap, they’d never get any hits…
I’m being horrible, Steven realised. It won’t hurt to go up, say hello, have a drink with the guy. Bit of chat. Adam’s profile said he was into sci-fi. They could talk about that for a bit. What did he think of the new Mr Spock? That kind of thing. Keep it safe, keep it impersonal, and then after one drink, I can get out of there. After all, that was all I agreed to: meet up for a drink. One drink. Singular.
It’s more than he deserves. Posting a fake picture! If I was in the mood, I’d call him out on it. It was dishonest. It was probably fraud or false advertising or something.
But how shallow am I? Going on looks alone! I thought I was better than that.
Conflicted, arguing with himself, Steven crossed the road before he knew what he was doing.
“Excuse me?” the red-faced man offered a tentative smile. “Are you Steven?”
“I’m Adam,” he held out a pudgy hand. Steven ignored it. “Sorry about the get-up; I’ve come straight from work.”
Steven took in the plaid shirt, the ill-fitting baggy jeans, the hi-tops. What was his job? Out-of-shape lumberjack?
“Drink?” he suggested. “There’s a pub around the corner.”
“Oh, I don’t,” Adam winced apologetically. “But you can. I’ll just have lemonade or something.”
Great! Steven thrust his hands into his pockets and led Adam around the corner. Adam lumbered after him.
“I was just about to give up,” he said to Steven’s back. “I thought you weren’t coming. They don’t, all the time. Sometimes they see me and they keep on walking. I don’t know why.”
Steven closed his eyes and sighed inwardly. Why do I always get the lame ducks? Feeling terrible, he decided he’d try to be nice to the poor sod. At least, there’d be a pint involved.
They found a table in a corner. Steven didn’t want to be seen with the red-faced oaf. He took a sip from his lager top. Adam’s lemon-and-lime stood untouched on the table between them.
“So…” Adam thought it best if he led the conversation to keep it on neutral ground. “What do you think of the new Mr Spock then?”
Adam shrugged, dismissing the topic.
“OK…” Steven changed tack. “Last Jedi – for or against?”
“I know what you’re trying to do,” Adam’s eyes were suddenly cold and glaring.
Steven held up his hands, a plea of innocence. “What – what am I trying to do?”
“You’re trying to let me down gently. You’re trying to fill the time with chit-chat, trivial things, and then you’ll make your excuses and get out of here and I’ll never hear from you again.”
“What?” Steven faked indignation. “No!”
“What, then? What are you doing here, ‘Steven’? If that’s your real name?”
“Ha!” Steven cried. “That’s rich! You’re the one with the fake profile picture! You’re a – you’re a dogfish!”
Adam threw back his head and laughed. “It’s catfish, you dickhead. But that’s my real picture, all right. That’s really me.”
“Yeah, right, about twenty years and ten stones ago.”
“No, just last week, actually.”
Adam reached to his rosy cheeks tore at them with his fingers. Steven recoiled in horror but there was no blood, no gore, just chunks of latex dropping to the table as Adam’s true face was uncovered.
Steven gaped. “You’re Adam Frost! You’re the film star, Adam Frost!”
Adam smiled his million-dollar smile. He got to his feet, shedding the fat suit and revealing his toned body beneath.
“And you’re a shallow loser who judges only by appearances. I will give you credit though for bringing me in for a drink. Most don’t go that far.”
“But – but why? Why dress up when you could have any guy on the planet?”
“Because they only want me for my image. For the stories they can tell afterwards. I want someone to get to know me first, get to know the me behind my image. I’m in town filming and my character goes undercover so I thought I would too.”
“And I failed the test!” Steven shook his head. “I’m sorry.”
“That’s OK. Don’t beat yourself up. Now, go on, get another round in and let’s start again, shall we? I think you might deserve a second chance.”
A little stunned, Steven went to the bar.
“Hey, Steve!” his date called after him. “New Mr Spock would get it!”