Go on a date, Lauren had suggested. At the time, Olivia had disregarded the idea. Although Lauren had encouraged her to try something new, it didn’t have to be that. Yet the more Olivia thought about it, the more often she returned to the idea. It had been so long, though, and truthfully Olivia didn’t know how dating worked these days. It made her sound like an old woman, but here she was.

Besides, Olivia had never enjoyed first dates. They were always awkward and weird, filled with horrible small talk and tense silences.

It’s been so long, a little part of her mind murmured, you’re older now, you know who you are. Things are different now. Besides, a single date is hardly a commitment.

Perhaps, in the end, that was what sold it. It was one date for goodness’ sake, not a marriage proposal. If it went terribly, then she would just move on and forget about it. Easy. And if it went great… well, then she would be quietly grateful that it didn’t end in fire.

That was how she ended up with her phone in her lap, staring at the flashy screen of a dating app that Darpan had suggested. It was one he had tried before meeting his wife, and according to him, it was respectable. Not one of those apps where people are only looking for a hookup, he assured her, but a real dating site with people interested in making real connections.

The little message icon blinked red, indicating a new private message had just arrived. Olivia stared at it with narrowed eyes, debating whether she should just ignore it. Then another one popped up, the same username appearing on the screen.

He was certainly enthusiastic, and despite herself, Olivia managed a smile as she opened up the message.

Hey, it read, our profiles didn’t match, but I wanted to say hello anyway. Your profile said you were a journalist? That’s cool.

Then the second message, sent just seconds ago, I hope I’m not coming on too strong? I haven’t done this in a long time…

Olivia found herself stifling a laugh. How long was that? She wondered idly if he would be surprised by how long it had been since Olivia had dated. It had to have been what, over a decade now since she had been in a relationship, and even longer since she’d even considered a casual date.

Yet Olivia found herself curious, and opened up his profile anyway. According to the bio that all members of the app were required to fill out, his name was Liam Elliott and he was thirty-six years old. His profile image showed a handsome man with a broad jaw and sharp cheekbones, and long hair tied into a small bun at the nape of his neck. He looked like what her sister would have called a hipster, with big black glasses and a sweater so hideous it was almost funny.

I own a small antique shop in Paisley, where I restore old antiques and resell them on behalf of customers. I’ve owned this shop for nearly twenty years, with the help of my brother and nephews. I have a passion for art of all kinds, and a niche for all things old.

I enjoy museums, art galleries, and taking things slow in life – but I also enjoy the more fast-paced thrill of sports like skiing and skydiving.

Skydiving? Olivia had to admit that she was intrigued. With work, she never had the time for thrill-seeking, and honestly, the concept of it all was terrifying. Why would she want to risk her safety for an adrenaline rush? No thanks. Yet she had to admit that there was a certain appeal in letting go and trying something so ridiculous. So yes, she somewhat saw why he might enjoy it.

I have no children and no plans to have any, although I wouldn’t object to dating somebody with children of their own.

Ah, there was something that they had in common. Olivia smiled slightly as she continued to read Liam’s profile, but that was still something that stood out the most. By now it was no secret that Olivia had no intentions to have children – she wondered what Liam’s reason was. Over the last few days, Olivia had been thinking about it herself. It wasn’t that she disliked children, because she loved spending time with her friends’ kids and the neighbour’s little ones were always happy to say hello. It was just that she never felt magnetically drawn towards motherhood.

A lot of people simply had children because they thought it was expected. It wasn’t something they consciously chose, but something that people opted out of. Having children was the default, Olivia had realised, and the lack of drive to have children didn’t always mean that people chose not to. Olivia was an oddity, there, in choosing not to conceive not because she hated children, but simply because she had no strong feelings toward having ones of her own, at all.

Shaking herself back to attention, she turned back to her phone. The messages from Liam still sat in her inbox unanswered, his profile glowing in the dim evening light. There was no requirement to answer him at all, of course, but Olivia had promised to try and live life a little more… spontaneously. This was as good a start as any, wasn’t it?

Clicking on the messages once again, Olivia typed her reply.

I’m new to this too, no worries. You’re doing just fine. I hope it’s not too late to message you? Then, almost as an afterthought, yes, journalism is what I do. It’s demanding, but I made a promise to a friend to try and focus more on myself, so here I am 🙂

Olivia almost didn’t hit send, hovering over her phone screen with a frown. This was so unlike her. Did she really want to do this? She was perfectly happy remaining single and dateless, so what was the point? Except, if Olivia was entirely truthful, she liked the idea of talking to Liam. It didn’t have to go anywhere, after all.

After a moment, she hit send.

There was no sense in staring at her phone awaiting a reply, so Olivia hauled herself upright to wander into the kitchen. Apricot was asleep in her dog bed, head tucked under her front paws and nose smushed into the blanket. Stifling a laugh, Olivia couldn’t help but snap a photo.

She made tea, added sugar, and then as an afterthought made herself toast, too. On long work days, she quite often made herself a quick supper after dinner, because she forgot to eat lunch and ended up hungry later. Today hadn’t been especially awful, but her boss had complained all afternoon and then she’d stayed longer at the office, which is why she missed Liam’s first message-

Her phone pinged, and Olivia nearly jumped out of her skin at the sudden noise. She fished the phone from her pocket, silently muttering, “at least I didn’t spill tea all down myself.”

It was another message from Liam. Not too late at all! I’m a night bird, really. So, journalism. Are you allowed to talk about your projects, or is it all confidential?

Wandering back into the living room, Olivia replied, sorry, I can’t tell a soul until the story is published. If you want to know what I do, you’ll have to read it like everyone else 🙂 it’s boring anyway, or so I’ve been told. Antique restoration though. That sounds great!

A moment later her phone pinged again. It’s not as exciting as it sounds. It’s a long, slow process. Some people say it’s boring, but I find it calming. My nephews think it’s horrendous, but it’s a family business. My brother only wants me to have kids so I can add more employees to the roster!

Olivia snorted with the tea halfway to her lips, sloshing some of the dark liquid onto her jeans. She winced, swearing softly before darting into the kitchen for a towel. At least her jeans were thick enough that it didn’t burn, but they were going to stain. With a frustrated hiss, she trudged upstairs to change. Fresh jeans went on, and the old ones were tossed into the corner where her laundry sat.

By the time she got downstairs, there was another message from Liam. Sorry, it said, hope I didn’t scare you off with the kid talk.

Curling back into her seat, Olivia frowned. She had been wanting a way to bring this up, actually, but didn’t want to appear pushy or rude. No, it’s fine. I was meaning to ask but didn’t want to look stupid. Why no kids? Most people our age are either already settled, or desperate to try before time runs out.

For a while, there was no response. Olivia swallowed thickly, staring at her phone with a shiver of unease. Had she scared him off? Wouldn’t that be typical, that after all these years she frightened off the first man she spoke to?

Just as she was about to give up on a reply and head to bed, her phone lit up. The brightness of it stung her eyes and she winced but smiled when she saw the reply.

I’ve just never felt like it, you know? I figured if there was no desire to have kids, then it would be unfair to bring any into the world. I think kids are great, but I’m happy with nephews and nieces. Having my own just never felt like the right choice. I don’t know how else to explain it 🙂

Olivia’s chest jumped, and she found herself laughing softly. That was exactly how she felt, although more recently she had been trying to figure out just why. In one paragraph, Liam had perfectly summed it up.

Without entirely realising what she was doing, Olivia replied, would you like to meet up for coffee next week? I think you and I would get on great.

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