Bonk-ers!

Dreamer Emma had been cat­fished by a baggy 55-year-old. But love wasn’t fin­ished with her yet…

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I bed an imag­i­nary man

I’d dreamt of this man for so long

Scoop­ing icy wa­ter from the sink, I sploshed it over my face. But it did noth­ing for my cried­out, swollen eyes. ‘Fool,’ I thought, gaz­ing at my re­flec­tion. I could al­most imag­ine see­ing the word tat­tooed above my eye­brows.

I felt so stupid – the girl who’d had a year-long af­fair with a hunk who didn’t ex­ist. Well, he did ex­ist, but he was no hunk! I’d bet­ter ex­plain…

I’d moved to Lon­don from my home in France, and was mad about my new life in the cap­i­tal.

I man­aged a restau­rant and had lots of mates. All I was lack­ing was love.

But, as a dreamy-headed French girl, I be­lieved in l’amour

– the crazy ro­man­tic kind – so I’d turned my nose up at the idea of on­line dat­ing.

I wanted ‘boy meets girl’, the old-fash­ioned way.

But then, a year ago, when I was 32, I’d changed my mind. Be­ing choosy didn’t seem so clever when I wasn’t meet­ing any­one!

So, I’d taken a deep breath and joined up to dat­ing site Zoosk.

Two days later, Ron­aldo Moretti had mes­saged me.

When I looked back now, he’d been too good to be true. So why didn’t I see it?

He was like a young Robert Downey Jr in all his pics. Dark, fit and hunky. He said all the right things, didn’t want to rush me…

Didn’t want to meet me… That had been the big clue, right there.

When I fi­nally came face to face with Ron­nie, after 18 months of fall­ing in love with him but never once get­ting to meet him, I found out why.

Ron­aldo Moretti was re­ally weasly, wrin­kled Alan Stan­ley. A 55-year-old di­vorced dad. He’d to­tally hood­winked me. Alan had pinched the hunky pics of a Turk­ish man called Adam Guzel, to lure me in and make me love him.

Adam was the Robert Downey Jr looka­like I’d fallen for.

‘This Adam should know this has hap­pened,’ I thought an­grily. ‘He’s a vic­tim, too.’

On im­pulse, I opened Face­book and typed his name in.

My stom­ach flipped over as the hand­some face ap­peared.

I didn’t know this man. He didn’t know I ex­isted, ei­ther. And yet I was in love with him. How messed-up can you get?

That’s what Alan-im­pos­torS­tan­ley had done to me.

I was mourn­ing a love that wasn’t even a lie. It was a fig­ment of an old saddo’s imag­i­na­tion.

Ev­ery day that I’d closed my eyes, pic­tur­ing Ron­nie’s gor­geous, smil­ing face, ev­ery night that I’d fallen asleep, imag­in­ing his mus­cu­lar body wrapped around mine, had been noth­ing but a con.

Noth­ing but a front for a washed-up old fan­ta­sist… Adam Guzel’s iden­tity had been stolen and used to abuse me. Now, my fin­gers flew over my phone as I com­posed a mes­sage to him.

Hello, Adam, I wrote. We don’t know each other but, a year ago, I met a guy on­line and that guy is us­ing your pic­tures and pre­tends he is you un­der an­other name.

I wasn’t sure if get­ting in touch with you was a good idea, but I needed you to know. I pressed send. ‘There,’ I thought, ‘I’ve done my duty.’

I’d al­ways been a trust­ing, open­hearted per­son, but my faith in peo­ple had been shat­tered. Maybe Adam Guzel wasn’t a real per­son, ei­ther?

Two days went by. Then a mes­sage from Adam pinged on my phone. Dear Emma, thank you so much for warn­ing me.

He said he’d sus­pected his pho­tos were be­ing mis­used.

I replied, and we ex­changed the odd mes­sage over the next few weeks.

It was messing with my head. ‘No good will come of this,’ I thought.

After be­ing cat­fished, I just didn’t know what was real and what

wasn’t any more. I live in Is­tan­bul,

Adam mes­saged

me. I’m an ac­tor and model.

But was he? Darned if I could tell… He sent me a pic­ture, but I’d seen it be­fore. In fact, I had over 300 pho­tos of ‘Ron­nie’. See­ing them just made me blub for what I’d lost.

But Adam, 34, kept tex­ting. Just nor­mal stuff…

‘He’s quite quiet,’ I thought. ‘My Ron­nie was a bit of a joker.’ Some­thing strange was hap­pen­ing. Ron­nie was van­ish­ing. Adam was be­com­ing more real. But, even now, I’d have to men­tally slap my­self. Ron­nie wasn’t ‘my’ Ron­nie! He’d never even ex­isted. My Ron­nie had al­ways re­fused to do video calls – be­cause he was Alan, of course. And now, I re­alised that was the only way I’d know if I was be­ing reeled in and made a fool of again.

‘Can we Face­time?’ I asked Adam. ‘Sure,’ he agreed. I was ter­ri­fied. This was the mo­ment I’d find out if he was a phoney cat­fisher, too…

When Adam’s hand­some face ap­peared on my screen, I burst into hys­ter­i­cal tears.

‘You ex­ist,’ I splut­tered, when I could speak. ‘You’re real.’

What an id­iot! But I couldn’t help the emo­tions bub­bling up.

‘Don’t cry,’ Adam pleaded, his gor­geous face full of con­cern.

I re­cov­ered my dig­nity, and we chat­ted for 10 min­utes.

My heart was thump­ing when we’d fin­ished.

It be­came a nightly rit­ual – a chat face-to-face over the lap­top.

After a few weeks, Adam said he’d like to visit me in Lon­don.

My stom­ach lurched again… an elec­tric surge of ex­cite­ment, but fear of get­ting hurt again, too.

Could this be the start of a proper, real-time re­la­tion­ship? Or should I hold back and keep Adam as a friend?

‘OK,’ I said. ‘Come.’

We agreed that I’d meet him at the air­port. Ar­riv­ing an hour be­fore he was due, I was a jig­gly, jan­gly jelly of nerves. It didn’t help that it was April Fool’s Day!

He came out, walk­ing very slowly. ‘Oh, my God,’ I thought, goose­bumps pop­ping up all over my body.

He re­ally was an Ado­nis! Then he saw me and lit up with the most amaz­ing, white­toothed smile I’d ever seen.

He hugged me, but he was boil­ing hot, and I was trem­bling so much that we had to sit down.

He took my hand and we kept star­ing at each other, laugh­ing.

A shiver of ex­cite­ment shot from the roots of my hair to my toes. What was hap­pen­ing?

As we waited for a cab from the air­port to my place, I stood on the kerb and he kissed me on the lips.

Back at my house, we talked and talked.

I felt a lurch see­ing Adam un­pack a leather jacket I’d seen ‘Ron­nie’ wear­ing. I had to re­mind my­self to call him Adam, too. But, in no time, the odd­ness of our sit­u­a­tion evap­o­rated.

A cou­ple of days later, I watched him mak­ing cof­fee in my kitchen. ‘Adam is Adam, and he’s here, right now, with me,’ I thought.

In that mo­ment, I let Ron­nie go for ever.

For so long, I’d dreamt of this stun­ning man ly­ing be­side me in my bed.

When me and Adam made love for the first time, I ran my

hands over his mus­cles, breathed in his scent, and felt dizzy that it was all real.

Adam didn’t go back to Turkey. Three months on, he is liv­ing with me in Lon­don, work­ing on his act­ing ca­reer.

We are crazy about each other. Who’d have thought it? It’s bet­ter than a chick lit novel!

When Alan Stan­ley stole Adam’s iden­tity, he took some­thing pre­cious from me, too. But I’m al­most grateful to him now.

Be­cause his cat­fish­ing led me to Adam, true ro­mance – and a real man at last. Emma Per­rier, 35, Rich­mond, west Lon­don

Cat­fisher Alan Stan­ley,

55, says, ‘I have asked my­self a mil­lion times why I did it. I used pic­tures of Adam that I think I found in a cat­a­logue. I knew that [Emma] wouldn’t talk to me as Alan – that’s why I used the pho­tos.

‘I sent her a mes­sage on a dat­ing web­site and she re­sponded. We started talk­ing – even on the phone – and I be­came em­broiled in her life.

‘I know what I did was wrong but, the more Emma in­volved me, the harder it was to come clean.

‘It was only when I got a new com­puter, and started mes­sag­ing her from it that she re­alised I wasn’t who I’d said

I was and started in­ves­ti­gat­ing me.

‘I felt very guilty about what I was do­ing – it was the most dif­fi­cult thing that I’d ever done.

‘I was going through a low point in my life, and I wanted some­one to talk to.

‘I never tried us­ing my own iden­tity. Ev­ery­one is ner­vous about be­ing on­line, and so was I.

‘But I think it’s bril­liant that Emma and Adam have met. It’s al­most like fate.

‘I am over the moon that she has found her soul mate, and I truly be­lieve that he

IS her soul mate. I’d love to meet him some­time.’

Now my life’s like a chick lit ro­mance!

Me and Adam fell in love over the phone

Cat­fish­ing caught me an amaz­ing boyfriend!

I told Adam his iden­tity had been hi­jacked

Alan – the real man be­hind ‘Ron­nie’

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