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Jack Cramley, aged forty three, glared at the words on his computer monitor. Yet again his ‘Top Singles Dating’ account had been suspended.

Yes this had happened before, many times actually, but this particular suspension was more annoying than the others.

For a few weeks now, Jack had been chatting to an eighteen year old girl from Manchester and today was the day he was going to ask her to meet. She lived quite far away, fifty miles to be exact, but the distance wouldn’t have been a problem. Not in the slightest.

Reclining in his coffee stained office chair, Jack envisioned the events of the cancelled date.

He saw himself walking through a busy shopping precinct. Up ahead he could see her, sat down with her head turned in the opposite direction. He would creep up on her Elmer Fudd style and surprise her with a tap on the shoulder. When she spun round and realized who she was looking at, they would share a giggle and exchange flirtatious pleasantries, which would break the ice, if there was even any ice at all. With the foundations laid, their day together would finally begin.

The date would consist of three stages…

The shopping stage would be the most boring for Jack, but was a vital component in the overall plan. Girls love shopping and they love it even more if everything they want is bought for them. Yes, this step would be financially draining, but it was vital for the execution of stage three.

After he had buttered her up, a romantic meal would follow suit. This would break down whatever walls she still had up and give Jack the opportunity to slip into his role as the ‘shy and sensitive soul’ who unlike the rest, isn’t just after one thing. Maybe he would spin a yarn about how he loved writing poetry or how he cared for a dying younger brother at the weekends. Her heart would surely melt.

Stage three was the reward, the pay – off for a day of grafting. He would take her to a hotel somewhere, where they would spend almost the whole night laughing and watching scary films. First he would treat her to one bottle of wine, then another and then another and before long the drunken haze would give way to one hundred percent willingness. If her body somehow resisted the alcohol, he would slip her something a little stronger. Jack of course would remain completely sober for maximum enjoyment.

And finally, in the morning he would abandon her, still asleep and hopefully with very little memory of the night before.

Jack grimaced, the plan was far – fetched, stupid even. Its failure was pretty much guaranteed at the start of the first stage as soon as Molly laid eyes on his middle – aged mug. To have a chance of accomplishing the three stages, he would have to be twenty – five years younger, a feat that could only be achieved through nothing less than magic.

But none of it mattered now anyway.

Molly Lomax, aged eighteen had actually been conversing with Oscar Novak, an athletic football player, also from Manchester. He was a little bit older than her, had blond hair and preferred Chinese to Indian takeaway. Not only this, but unlike most lads, he was shy and avoided nightclubs like the plague.

Coincidentally matching Molly’s idea of an ideal boyfriend.

In truth, Oscar Novak was a work of fiction. His profile picture had been lifted from a sixth form online prospectus and his interests had been neatly tailored to meet the requirements of Jack’s favourite Top Singles girls. The only part of Oscar Novak that was not entirely fictitious was his name, which actually belonged to a real person – a homeless man that used to inhabit the underpass over the road from Jack’s block of flats. He had frozen to death a few weeks ago, which Jack had read about in the evening paper.

Out of the ten or so girls that the profile was designed to reel in, Molly was the only one to take the bait, but that didn’t matter. She was by far the best, a beautiful brunette with a pretty face and an even better body.

Everything Jack was looking for.

Nobody’s perfect

The words were just as sickening as the first time he had read them. How could such a phrase imply that it is okay, normal even to be imperfect, when they had suspended his account for being just that? Jack was not perfect by any means, in fact he was far from it, but by the logic of Top Singles that meant he should still be a member of their website.

Alas, in a few hours he would be a member no more. ‘Under Review’ was just a polite way of saying ‘’we’re deleting your account and there’s nothing you can do about it.’’

Jack reached across his cluttered desk and picked up a day – old can of own brand cola. He took a few sips, before placing it back down in the same place, covering up a sticky brown cup ring. Then, he reluctantly moved the cursor to the search bar.

This was a drill that Jack knew all too well. His fingers paused for a moment, before beginning an aggressive dance around the keyboard, typing until the words ‘hot teenage boys’ darkened the top of the screen.

That day, the internet had very little to offer. Jack trawled through page after page of pornography, mixed in with a few social media profile pictures, which were useless as he had either used them before, or they were just too low quality.

By the time he had reached page eleven, Jack was ready to give up, but just before he could close the tab, an advert flashed up in the bottom right corner of the screen…

Sometimes being yourself doesn’t quite cut it.

Join Conjurer.com now!

Don’t settle for anything less than you deserve.

The advert was tacky at best; it resembled something you might find at the back of an old red top newspaper, with the text appearing in Purple neon writing and held up by the outline of a semi – naked woman, also flashing bright neon.

Jack was intrigued; he had never come across this one before and he liked to think dating websites were his forte. Yes, the advert looked seedy, but his cursor seemed to drift involuntarily towards it as if a sailor pulled in by a Siren’s call.

He paused, hanging just above the big ‘Join Now’ button, which periodically flashed on and off like a car indicator. The semi – naked woman stared back at him and for a moment he could have sworn her purple pouting lips curled ever so briefly into a smile. Something felt strange, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Top Singles, like all the other websites had become tiresome; it had served a purpose but making another account would inevitably lead to more failure. Signing up to Conjurer.com would provide some much needed fresh air and plus he could get away with reusing some of his old favourite profiles. Perhaps Oscar Novak still had some life left in him.

Smirking, Jack clicked on the advert. His screen faded to black…