Welcome to my stop on the Blog Tour for When Polly Met Olly by Zoe May! I have an exclusive extract for you today!
What They Say:
Polly and Olly were never supposed to meet…
Surely, I’m not qualified to be a matchmaker?!
You’d think getting a job at a dating agency might actually require you to have found love, or at least be good at dating, but apparently not. I’ve been single for three years and I haven’t had a date for six months, yet I’m pretty sure I’m nailing this interview.
‘So, what kind of message would you send Erica?’ Derek asks, handing me a print-out showing a dating profile of a pretty, tanned brunette. Derek is the boss of To the Moon & Back dating agency, although with his nicotine-stained teeth, lurid purple shirt stretching over his giant pot belly and cramped city office, he’s not exactly what I imagine when I think of Cupid.
What kind of message would I sent Erica? When Derek says ‘you’, he doesn’t mean me, as in Polly Wood. He means me pretending to be 34-year-old bachelor Andy Graham, because that’s what my job as a matchmaker would involve. While Andy, and the rest of the busy singletons on the agency’s books, are out earning the big bucks, too busy to trawl internet dating sites looking for love, I’ll be sitting here with Derek, firing off messages on their behalf in the hope of clinching dates. It’s a little morally questionable I suppose, since the women will be chatting to me beforehand, and will no doubt become enamoured with my witty repartee and effortless charm, but to be honest, I haven’t really given the moral side of it much thought. According to Derek, it’s what all dating agencies do, and anyway, ethics somehow stop being so important when you really need cash.
I try to put myself in the mindset of Andy, while thinking up a message for Erica. I only know about him from reading a form he’s supposedly filled in, which Derek gave me to study five minutes earlier. According to the form, Andy is an ex-army officer turned property surveyor. He grew up in a small town in Ohio where his family still reside. His younger brother, aged 31, has already settled down with a wife and three kids, and reading in between the lines, I get the impression that Andy feels he’s beginning to lag behind. He works long hours, reads Second World War history books in his spare time, enjoys visiting aviation museums and likes to play tennis at the weekends. Oh, and he has a penchant for Thai food.
I take a look at Erica’s profile. She’s 32, lives in the Upper East Side and works as a fashion buyer. Her interests are listed as: ‘yoga, fine dining, dinner parties (hosting and attending!), dancing, cocktails with the girls, travelling, tennis, and festivals’. Erica sounds cool. She sounds fun. She seems like a girl about town. And to be perfectly honest, she strikes me as a bit too cool for Andy. I can’t imagine her wanting to visit aviation museums or discuss Second World War history. But for all I know, Andy could have stunningly handsome looks that somehow make up for his yawn-inducing interests. But from what I do know so far, he and Erica hardly seem like a great match. I glance up at Derek, scanning his face for any sign that this might be a trick question, but he simply looks back, keen with anticipation. He doesn’t seem like he’s testing me; he clearly thinks Erica is in Andy’s league, although as far as I can see, the only thing they have in common is tennis.
‘So, what do you think?’ Derek presses me.
‘Erm, I’d keep the opener light. From Erica’s profile, you can tell she’s a breezy, happy kind of person. I’d try to mirror that tone,’ I tell him, biding time while I attempt to think of a witty opener.
‘Good tactic,’ Derek agrees with an encouraging nod.
‘Thanks,’ I reply as I desperately try to come up with an attention-grabbing message. Something that will capture Erica’s attention among the deluge of ‘hey, how r u? x’ type openers she probably receives all the time. But what can I write? What could Andy possibly say that would grab Erica’s attention when their only mutual interest is tennis?! Then suddenly, it hits me. I smile to myself.
‘I’d probably go with something along the lines of “I’m glad to see you’re a tennis player, because I’m going to court you”,’ I tell Derek.
He snorts with laughter. ‘Good one! Cheeky! I think Erica would like that.’
I grin, feeling a flush of pride. ‘Thank you.’
‘Great line! Very good!’ Derek laughs.
‘Thanks. I mean, why play singles when you can play doubles?’ I add, cringing internally. I think I might be taking the tennis puns too far now. Fortunately, Derek laughs again, clearly not adverse to a good sports-themed chat-up line.
‘Indeed!’ he says.
A couple of cars honk loudly outside and for a second, I’m taken out of this surreal alternative reality of pretending to be Andy messaging Erica and it hits me that the real me has probably got this job. In fact, I know I have. I’m 99.99 per cent sure. I can tell by the way Derek is regarding me like a proud father. I can tell in the easy, relaxed way we’ve been chatting the entire interview. We seem to have really hit it off, which is a little disconcerting seeing as I’m, you know, a respectable (okay, at least semi-respectable) person and he’s a middle-aged owner of a slightly shady dating agency. Maybe it’s because I’m British, having grown up in Cornwall before moving to the States when I was 18. Derek said he used to date a Brit, recounting how they went on holiday to Cornwall one summer. He even described it as ‘heavenly’. Or, perhaps we click because we went to the same university. Derek’s barely looked at my CV but he glanced at it for a second as I came in and when he saw that I went to Wittingon Liberal Arts College, that was it. He was gone. Even though our degrees were thirty years apart, he was treating me like an old chum, reminiscing about his times at the college bar, where he insisted with a chortle and a wink that he’d had ‘many a wild night’.
He went a bit misty-eyed talking about those days, which isn’t that surprising really. I only left three years ago and sometimes even I get misty-eyed thinking about it. Probably because everything has gone a bit awry since. I moved to the States for university convinced I’d make it big here, but now I’m beginning to think there’s a reason my dad, who grew up in New York, left to marry an English woman and live in Cornwall. Because while my student days were idyllic, it turns out real life in Manhattan is nothing like the dream world of a liberal arts university. The chaotic streets of New York bear no resemblance to the tree-lined pathways of the campus; people in the city don’t spend hours having picnics and reading poetry; and a degree in photography, although widely revered among my college peers and considered of utmost importance by my professor, seems to hold little to no currency in the real world. I’ve found that out the hard way, which is why I’m here, trying to clinch this job, which despite being a bit shady, is surprisingly well paid. Well, by my standards anyway. It pays twice as much as my last job as a barmaid and I’m pretty sure I won’t have to wash pint glasses or deal with annoying drunks. Although you never know.
My review for this book will follow soon. Thanks to Isabel Smith for letting me be part of this tour.