Though he kept bringing it up, I didn’t pay too much attention whenever Simon began his date talk. As soon as the subject came up I played the interested party and cursed the tyranny of distance with him. I mean, he lived in an entirely different country, an actual date was impossible, right? Our Skype dates were a tri-weekly annoyance that I managed to flirt my way through, his saccharine adoration was difficult to negotiate without rolling my eyes.
I had been speaking to him for a few weeks by that stage, and the $300 gestures of goodwill had quickly grown to $600, which then became $800 a week donations into my PayPal account for little more than some Skype dates and cutesy photos here and there- post workout Ryder, pre pub Ryder, Ryder playing with Bunny (as I had dubbed my cat, Honey. Yes, we both had fake names). For the first time in my life my credit card payments were on time, I actually had savings, and all of my bills were up to date. It all worked well until one night he announced that his company had given him a short term contract and he that would be moving to Melbourne for three months within the fortnight. “Fuck”, I breathed, “fuckity fuck”. I was happy to play the perfect poster of a girl, all flowery words and pouty pictures on a screen, but I wasn’t quite sure I was, well, Ryder enough to bring her into reality.
I had become fascinated with how much of myself I was able to show, and which parts I needed to take more care in hiding. Once, after a few drinks, I momentarily dropped character and his response certainly indicated that he had no real time for any human emotion, be it joy or sadness. He wanted the lacquered, painted, carefully constructed idea of the woman he had created, not the reality of the woman playing her. I found myself occasionally hating him for being so oblivious, and myself for allowing Ryder to exist.
Time was running short and I needed to consider my options. “I could kill her” was one idea, “or maybe SHE gets a contract to go and work over the other side of the world at the drop of a hat?” was another. I decided that the very least I could do was to meet Simon at least once, somewhere public and well lit of course, because if nothing else it would make for a good story.
The next two weeks were a flurry of activity as Simon prepared to make the big move. He had rented a large apartment in South Yarra, gushing over the sweeping balcony with a “romantic” view. I wondered what he considered a romantic view, and supposed it could very well mean that he could see directly into his shag mad neighbours bedroom window, though that it most likely meant he could see a park (and women in yoga pants). All too soon the day had arrived and he sent a long, mooning text to Ryder as he settled into first class for his extended journey. He arrived bright eyed, bushy tailed, and excited to meet his fantasy woman. Having allowed himself time to sufficiently shake off his jet lag, Simon began to press for a date. “Surely you’re still very tired, darling” I typed, feigning concern over my benefactor’s post travel condition. “Perhaps it is best to wait until you are properly rested and settled in before we meet?”, while he seemed touched at my concern, he was more interested in locking in a time with the ever elusive Ms Adeline.
After running out of excuses, and some too-ing and fro-ing we decided to meet outside of a bank on Collins Street at 3pm one afternoon, for a late lunch and a spot of shopping. I spent the morning carefully selecting what to wear, discarding several outfits for being either too casual or entirely too formal before settling on something that Ryder would wear, yet wouldn’t make me want to throw myself in front of an oncoming tram. I showered and shaved my legs, armpits, and pussy- not for any anticipated sexual activity, but because Ryder seemed like a gal who had never had a stray pube in her life. I dried my hair and straightened it until it fell soft and white around my shoulders. Turning on the television, I watched “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and studied how to be a perfect mix of Marilyn Monroe’s sex and Jane Russell’s sass. Brains and beauty, kitten with a whip, soft as velvet and sharp as steel. I contoured my face something fit to beat Jesus, and powdered my neck and chest. My highlighter was minimal, lest Simon end up sparkle faced, and I wore no lipstick, as I did not want to worry about it ending up on my teeth all day
I wore an unpleasant black undergarment that was more man-repellant girdle than any of the lacy fripperies lining my underwear drawer, today was about bringing a carefully constructed lie to life and that lie did not have a beer gut. Thankfully, I hadn’t been able to eat a great deal that day so it wasn’t too much of a cross to bear. My bra was virginal and white, and I pulled on a fitted white tee. I wore a clinging black pencil skirt, the tartiness of which was somewhat diminished by its mid calf length. I tightened a red belt around my waist and slipped my feet into red suede loafers, a red cardigan draped gently over my shoulders and my quilted, you guessed it, red handbag sat tucked under my left arm. I looked at myself in the mirror and smiled, there she was. Ryder Adeline lived, and she wasn’t there to fuck around.
I opened the fridge door and allowed the air to cool my flushed cheeks. I noticed half a bottle of cheap white white and briefly considered having a tiny glass but ultimately decided against it. My phone chimed, telling me that my Uber was outside, waiting to deliver me to my fate, and I wore black oversized sunglasses to meet it.