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Authors: John Marrs

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BOOK: A Thousand Small Explosions
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‘Very funny, who am I really Matched with?’ Nick asked as Sally glared at the email on his mobile phone.

‘I’m not joking. Look here, it says “Nicholas Wallsworth, Ref 67775434567FFD. Your designated match is Alexander, male, London, England. Please see instructions below to discover how to access their complete profile”.’

‘Give me that,’ Nick replied and snatched his phone from her hand, unamused by her prank. But when he read the email himself, he realised Sally wasn’t kidding.

‘You’re gay,’ she laughed. ‘My boyfriend, strike that, my
is gay!’

Nick re-read the email then put his phone down on the kitchen counter.

‘This is bollocks,’ he said. ‘They’ve either made a mistake or someone is having a laugh at my expense.’

‘There is no margin for error,’ Sally interrupted. ‘Well, its 99.9999997% accurate, which is far more reliable than a lie detector test.’

‘Well then there’s still margin for error, and if there’s margin for error then errors must theoretically be possible. And here’s the proof that an almighty fuck-up has been made.’

‘That would make you the first person in the world to be mis-Matched - the only person out of about one and a half billion who’ve registered. So I think you need to face facts my darling, you are a gentleman who enjoys the company of other like-minded gentlemen.’

‘Oh be quiet Sal,’ Nick replied, becoming irritated. ‘This Match Your DNA bollocks is just a money making scam otherwise they wouldn’t charge you a tenner to tell you who you’ve been Matched with. Horoscopes are more credible than this.’

‘Hey, it’s not a problem,’ Sally teased, ‘I’ve always wanted a GBFF and it turns out I’m about to marry mine.’

Nick rolled his eyes. ‘I’m not gay, all right? I think I’d have known about it by now if I were. You don’t just get to the age of twenty-seven without a single moment of attraction to another man and then suddenly you’re gay because you’ve spat on a cotton bud and a test says you are. You are gayer than me - you used to date a girl.’

‘Yes, but that was when I was at university and while it was fun, I always knew it wasn’t meant to be.’

‘Well this is even less likely to be than that.’

‘I didn’t realise you were so homophobic.’

‘I’m not! Believe me, if I were gay, you and I would not be living together and about to get married. It’d open up a whole new world of opportunities for me and I’d be out there trying to stick my knob in a whole load of new places.’

‘That’s a homophobic stereotype.’

‘I can’t be homophobic, I’m gay – remember?’

‘You’re taking this very seriously.’

‘I just don’t want you thinking that I’m a secret closet case because that’d mean our whole relationship was based on a lie. And this is the most honest relationship I’ve ever been in.’

‘Oh honey come here, I’m only teasing,’ Sally replied. ‘I don’t think you’re gay but you must admit, it’s kind of funny. You’re like that old R Kelly song... “your mind’s telling you no, but your body”…’

‘You are not funny.’ Nick topped up Sally’s glass with wine and took a large gulp himself.

‘Well I don’t know how else to react other than to joke about it, because apparently we are not destined to be together and while the man of my dreams has yet to make himself known, the man of your dreams could be living in the next street to us.’

‘There is no “man of my dreams”…’

‘Not according to the email…’

Nick rolled his eyes.

‘Shall we see if we can find him on Facebook?’ Sally continued.


‘Come on, let’s see if I can find my competition.’

‘No, I don’t want to.’

‘Why, are you scared you might develop a little bit of a crush on your future husband?’

Nick shook his head. ‘Look we don’t even know his surname.’

Sally took the phone from his hand and within three swipes of the keypad, had paid the £9.99 required for more details. ‘Name: Alexander Landers Carmichael,’ she read out loud. ‘Age: 32. Occupation: physiotherapist. Eyes: blue, like mine. Hair: dark, like mine. Height, 5ft 8: again, like me – babe you do have a type don’t you? He sounds like my double.’

‘With three exceptions - two breasts and a vagina.’

‘That should be enough information to find him on Facebook.’

‘I don’t really think I want to…’

‘Oh come on, it’ll be fun.’

Sally typed in Alexander’s name and scrolled down the list of postage stamp sized pictures that appeared. ‘There are a dozen Alexander Carmichaels in London. I’ll use his middle name as there can’t be that many Landers.’

‘Just the one it seems,’ Nick replied, peering over her shoulder.

They simultaneously squinted at the thumbnail photograph and tried to click on to his profile. However Alexander Carmichael’s privacy settings wouldn’t enable anyone who wasn’t his friend to look any further. But even from the small picture, both recognised he was a handsome man. His lantern jaw sported dark stubble, his hair had a slight curl and touched his collar, his lips were full and his eyes were wide and warm.

‘I’ve got to hand it to you, babe,’ smiled Sally, ‘your DNA has really good taste in men.’





Andrei opened the car door for Ellie and she followed him along the canal towpath and into the building ahead.

              ‘You don’t have to come inside, I’m sure it’ll be okay,’ she told him, fairly sure that there was little danger lying in wait for her in the provincial pub.

              ‘This is what you pay me for,’ Andrei replied in his husky Eastern European accent, and went inside to scout the room regardless. Throughout the three years in her employment, he had proven he was worth his weight in gold having taken punches and having had a broken bottle thrust into his chest for her. Ellie turned her head to see the other two members of her security detail in a car parked behind the one she’d arrived in.

              ‘Okay,’ she conceded, ‘but don’t let him see you. Be subtle, I don’t want you scaring him off.’

              ‘Subtle is my middle name,’ the six-foot-five-inch hulk replied, his tongue placed firmly in his cheek.

Once given the all-clear via text, Ellie entered the Globe country pub in Leighton Buzzard and glanced around with trepidation. Back in her early post-university days she’d often frequent similar pubs for their cheap Sunday lunches with all the trimmings that reminded her of home. Now when she went out of an evening, it was all about pompous wine bars, exclusive members’ only clubs and grandiose dining.

Suddenly she spotted her DNA Match Tim sitting alone by a two-seater table with a partially drunk pint glass in front of him. He too looked anxious as his eyes flitted around the pub until they met Ellie’s.
Immediately he seemed to know she was the girl he was there to meet. Upon noticing this Ellie hoped he hadn’t recognised her from her public profile. She’d deliberately dressed down in a casual pair of jeans and blouse and tied her hair back. She kept her make-up to a minimum and left her expensive jewellery in the safe at home.

              A broad grin spread across Tim’s face as he waved, then stood up to shake her hand, drew her in close and gave a peck on the cheek. She went for a second, but caught him clean on the nose with her lips instead. Both laughed and after the initial introductions and pleasantries, Tim ordered her a Hendricks gin and tonic as she’d requested and returned to the table with the drinks in his hands and two packets of salt and vinegar crisps dangling from his mouth.

              ‘Sorry, but I’m starving,’ he replied, dropping them on to the table. ‘I’ve got a massive workload on so I came straight from work and skipped my dinner. Help yourself.’

              ‘Thank you,’ she smiled and took a couple of crisps to be polite. She could picture the horrified expression on her personal trainer’s face if he were to witness her putting carbs into her mouth after 6pm.

The conversation between them flowed like it had by text message, like two old friends who hadn’t seen each other for some time but who were picking up where they’d last left off. They swapped stories about their dreadful dating histories, Tim tried to convince her that Quentin Tarantino was the greatest film director of all time while Ellie extolled the virtues of a macrobiotic diet. He spoke about his work as a freelance systems analyst and computer programmer while she told him she was a personal assistant to a CEO in London. She was so convincing about her role that she began to believe her own mistruths. They shared barely any interests but neither seemed bothered.

              ‘So do you believe in this Match Your DNA thing?’ asked Tim in the third hour of their date.

              ‘Yes, I take it from your tone you’re not convinced?’

              ‘I’m not going to lie, I was a bit unsure at first,’ he continued, ‘and I only signed up because one of my mates did it. Now he’s pissed off because he still doesn’t have a Match after two months and I found you within a day. But even then, I wasn’t sure if it was the real deal – it sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? That there’s only one person in the world who’s like really, completely, linked to you through your DNA and who you’re supposed to fall head over heels in love with? But then you walked into the pub and I thought my stomach had just fallen out of my arse.’

He smiled as Ellie stared at him, partly in wonder at why such opposite personalities had been Matched and partly because he was the least pretentious man she’d been on a date with in years. ‘Honestly Ellie, when I saw you come into the pub, I let out the longest fart, I thought I was going to fly across the room like a deflating balloon.’

              Ellie couldn’t help but laugh along with him.

‘I mean it could be a bit of IBS or it could be love, or the beer could be off,’ he continued, ‘who knows?’

‘So was it love at first fart?’

‘You never know. Seriously though, I reckon I did feel something and sorry if that makes you feel awkward or if you’re not thinking the same, but I’m really glad you agreed to meet me.’

‘So am I,’ replied Ellie and she felt something warm inside her stir. Whether it was the four gin and tonics or the unlikely but endearing Match sitting in front of her, instinct told her that the landscape in her world had suddenly tilted.






‘I’m sorry,’ mumbled Amanda, her heart racing and overcome by feelings of nausea. ‘I really need to go.’

Suddenly the last place she wanted to be was at the church memorial service for a man she’d never met, being questioned by his sister as to why she was making up fictitious anecdotes about him.

She felt the walls closing in on her and swiftly regretted turning up at her Match Richard’s memorial service, conjuring up stories like they were old pals. But as she was about to hurry away from Richard’s sister, Emma grabbed Amanda’s arm.

‘No,’ replied Emma firmly, ‘you need to answer my question and tell me who you are and why you’re telling stories about spending time in a city with my brother when it never happened.’

‘I… I…’ Amanda stuttered.

‘Were you even friends with Richard?’

Amanda said nothing.

‘I thought not. You’re, what, ten years older than him? So you didn’t go to school with him. Are you one of those horny older women he trained at the gym who kept trying it on with him? Or are you one of those weirdos who gets their kicks from crashing funerals for people they never knew?’

‘No!’ Amanda replied, eager for Richard’s sister not to think badly of her yet understanding why she might. ‘I’m none of those things.’

‘Then who are you and why are you here?’

Amanda closed her eyes tightly. ‘We were DNA Matched.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I did the Match Your DNA test a few weeks ago, then I found out my Match had also done the test, only it was too late for us to meet because he’d ... died. It was your brother, Richard.’

Emma paused and eyed Amanda up and down. ‘You’re lying again,’ she replied.

‘I promise you, I’m not. Look.’ Amanda opened her handbag and removed a printout of the email confirming their Match and passed it to Emma.

‘Why are you here?’ continued Emma, her tone softening as she digested the information before her.

‘It sounds stupid now I’m saying it out loud but I wanted to say goodbye to him. I’ve spent the last few weeks mourning a man I’ve never met and I wanted to find out more about him from his friends because that’s something I’ll never get the chance to do with him. Everyone here has these great memories of your brother and I have nothing, just a name and some pictures I found online. Then when I was listening to them talk about him, I got carried away and made up my own story. I’m sorry, it was pathetic and thoughtless and I should’ve known better and I didn’t mean to upset you.’

‘I think I get it,’ said Emma, taking two glasses of wine from the table and passing one to Amanda. ‘So what do you want to know about Rich?’

‘Now I’m talking to you, I don’t really know where to start.’

‘That’s our mum over there, let me introduce you.’

‘No!’ said Amanda, panicking, ‘I don’t think I’m ready for that.’

‘Well, why don’t you leave me your contact details and we can stay in touch for when you are ready. Maybe you could come round to the house and meet her some time?’

Amanda smiled and nodded, then apprehensively typed her telephone number into Emma’s phone.

‘I should be going,’ she said, ‘It was nice to meet you. And I’m sorry about Richard.’

‘I’m sorry too,’ Emma replied, ‘I’m sorry for the both of you.’

Amanda kept her head down as she passed Richard’s mother on her way out of the church and hurried back towards her car. What had begun as a way to learn more about her late Match was also supposed to have given her closure.

Instead, something told Amanda this was just the beginning.


BOOK: A Thousand Small Explosions
4.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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