A Catfishing With a Happy Ending

Emma Perrier was deceived by an older man on the internet—a hoax that turned into an unbelievable love story.

A young man and woman
Adem Guzel and Emma Perrier, who met after an older man used Adem's identity to catfish Emma. (SWNS)

Emma Perrier spent the summer of 2015 mending a broken heart, after a recent breakup. By September, the restaurant manager had grown tired of watching The Notebook alone in her apartment in Twickenham, a leafy suburb southwest of London, and decided it was time to get back out there. Despite the horror stories she’d heard about online dating, Emma, 33, downloaded a matchmaking app called Zoosk. The second “o” in the Zoosk logo looks like a diamond engagement ring, which suggested that its 38 million members were seeking more than the one-night stands offered by apps like Tinder.

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She snapped the three selfies the app required to “verify her identity.” Emma, who is from a volcanic city near the French Alps, not far from the source of Perrier mineral water, is petite, and brunette. She found it difficult to meet men, especially as she avoided pubs and nightclubs, and worked such long hours at a coffee shop in the city’s financial district that she met only stockbrokers, who were mostly looking for cappuccinos, not love.

It was a customer who had caused Emma’s heartache, two months earlier. Connor was one of London’s dashing “city boys,” and 11 years her junior. He had telephoned her at work to ask her on a date, which turned into an eight-month romance. They went night-fishing for carp near his parents’ home in Kent, where they sat holding hands in the darkness, their lines dangling in the water. One day at the train station, Connor told her it wasn’t working; he liked nightclubs more than he liked being in a relationship. When she protested, Connor said that he’d never loved her.

To raise her spirits, Emma huffed and puffed her way through a high-energy barbell class called Bodypump, four times a week. Though she now felt prepared to join the 91 million people worldwide who use dating apps, deep down she did not believe that computers were an instrument of fate. “I’m a romantic,” Emma told me, two years after the internet turned her life upside down. “I love to love,” she said, in a thick French accent. “And I want to be loved too.”

As soon as her dating profile went live, Emma’s phone started to bleep and whistle with interest from strangers. The app allowed her to gaze at a vast assortment of suitors like cakes in a coffee-shop window, but not interact with them until she subscribed. That evening, a private message arrived in her inbox. It was from a dark-haired Italian named Ronaldo “Ronnie” Scicluna, who looked to Emma like a high-school crush. But the text was “floue,” Emma told me, not knowing the English word for “blurred.” The app was holding Ronnie’s message ransom.

That night, Emma FaceTimed her sister and showed her Ronnie’s photos: “Oh my God, look at the guy!” she giggled, as they swiped through his profile pictures. He was boyish yet mysterious, like the kind of dangersome male model who steers sailboats through cologne commercials. But according to his profile, Ronnie was a 34-year-old electrician in England’s West Midlands, just 100 miles away.

Gaëlle, Emma’s twin, lived in France and was married with an 11-year-old daughter. The sisters had gossiped on daily video calls since Emma emigrated to the United Kingdom five years earlier. Emma had to learn English “chop-chop”—as Londoners say—and now she too was ready to meet someone special. Ronnie seemed exciting, so she paid the £25 ($34) subscription to Zoosk.

Ronnie’s message materialized. It said: “You look beautiful.”

A rally followed. Emma discovered that she and Ronnie were two lonely Europeans working blue-collar jobs in England. Charming Ronnie attempted a little French, but when Emma wrote to him in Italian, she was surprised that he didn’t speak it. His mother was English, Ronnie explained, his Italian father spoke English too, “except when he swears.”

Their conversation moved from Zoosk onto WhatsApp, a free messaging app. Each morning on the train to work, Emma sat glued to her iPhone. She wondered how a guy like him was interested in her. “I’m very natural,” Emma said. “I mean, I’m nothing. I’m very simple you know ... so I was flattered.” In her favorite photograph, Ronnie wore a leather jacket that made him look like a pop star. As a teenager, Emma had obsessed over the British boy band Take That. But Ronnie was the opposite of a celebrity; he was down-to-earth.

A compilation of two photos: a woman on the left and a man on the right
Pictures from Emma and “Ronnie’s” profiles on Zoosk; “Ronnie” is pictured wearing Emma’s favorite leather jacket (Instagram)

“You could easily have picked someone else,” Ronnie told her one day.

“No. You’re the only one I wanted to talk to ... I paid because of you,” she replied.

“As soon as I saw your picture I wanted you,” he wrote.

“Makes me happy to know that,” Emma replied.

When four red heart emojis appeared on her screen, Emma was thrilled. Unlike her ex-boyfriend, Ronnie seemed mature and attentive. Ronnie was easy on the eyes, funny, and caring, but there was one problem: He did not exist.

* * *

Ronaldo Scicluna was a fictional character created by Alan Stanley, a short, balding, 53-year-old shop fitter—a decorator of retail stores. Alan lived alone in Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Like one of the Bard’s shape-shifting characters, Alan used a disguise to fool women into romance, and to prevent himself from getting hurt. His alter ego “Ronnie” was a ladies’ man, charming, and attractive—everything Alan was not. “I was in a pretty lonely place,” he told me during an emotional interview. “I wasn’t feeling the most attractive of people, I might say. You know, I always struggled with self-confidence and ... I was going through a messy separation and I was just feeling like I needed somebody to talk to.”

When his marriage of 22 years failed, Alan, who has an adult daughter, was devastated and found himself uninterested in the opposite sex. “I’d just had enough,” he explained. For almost a year, he allowed his decorating work to consume him, but boredom set in. Alan wanted to “mix” with new people, he said, but feared public rejection in his close-knit town. Then one day he noticed the online-dating service Zoosk.

Alan elected to bypass the company’s selfie-based verification system, a spokesperson for Zoosk told me, following an internal investigation. He admitted using photographs of a random male model from Google that he had stolen. “I’m always nervous about posting personal images of myself,” he explained. “I just don’t like pictures of me. It goes back a long way, to be honest.” Emma’s profile was the first he saw. He was captivated.

Alan had done it before, at least five times, he admits. He’d become online pen pals with single women from all over the world, but avoided video calls and meetings. He found the thrill of the chase electrifying, with none of the awkward stuff like first dates. Emma was just another mark, and their flirty exchanges were innocent fun, he said. “Catfishing is prevalent across the internet,” he told me, “Everybody does catfishing.”

Catfishing was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2014. It refers to a person who creates a fake social-media profile, usually with the goal of making a romantic connection. The term was coined during a 2010 documentary, Catfish, when a subject told a story about the journey of live cod from the United States to China. Apparently, to prevent the cod from becoming lazy and their flesh turning to mush, seafood suppliers add to the tanks their natural enemy, the catfish. A predator creates excitement.

Alan was right. Online, catfishing was growing in popularity. “Now you don’t need the imagination of a Tolstoy or Dickens to create a totally believable but fictional identity,” said the cyber-psychologist Mary Aiken, author of The Cyber Effect, “It’s a matter of cut and paste.” The results can be devastating. In 2006, a 13-year-old girl in Missouri was duped into an online relationship with a fake teenage boy created by neighbors. After their online romance soured, Megan Meier committed suicide. By June of this year, catfishing was so prevalent that Facebook announced it is piloting new tools to prevent people from stealing others’ profile pictures, like Alan did.

His flirting with Emma soon progressed from small talk to in-jokes, pet names, and late-night telephone calls. To Emma, his lilting West Midlands accent somehow fit perfectly with the images of the model. In October of 2015, she wrote how happy she had become since “meeting” him.

“Are you not usually happy, stinky?” he asked.

“I am,” she said, “but you changed something.”

They both agreed to delete the dating app. Emma constantly asked for a physical date, but was crestfallen when Ronnie made excuses. This had happened before. Alan knew how to prolong the relationship with a combination of evasion and false promises. He told Emma that decorating new shops took him all over Europe. Any free time was spent drinking whiskey with his father, or on vacation at his parents’ villa in Spain, he said. Maybe one day she could stay in “bedroom three.” Emma just wanted a local dinner—they lived only 100 miles apart.

“It’s hard to keep everyone happy,” Ronnie complained. “Dad loves me working and wants me to keep doing better. Mum wants me to quit. She worries about me. My health. Stress. Dad thinks I handle it well.”

“I think what you need is a [girlfriend] to look after you,” said Emma, before he changed the subject.

“Do you want to know why I started online dating?” she asked him one night. “Because I wanted to ... meet that someone and to start something with that someone ... not to have a broken heart ... which is even more painful when you have never met someone.”

“Me too,” said Ronnie. “We both want the same thing.”

“Give me a date then,” Emma wrote. “I will suit your availability.”

She waited for his reply.

“I don’t think you realize how difficult it is for me to get time off,” he wrote.

“Just a dinner to start with,” Emma begged. “I can do the travel ... then if the connection is really there we will find a way.”

“Do you think it will be there?” he asked.

“I have never been so sure.”

“Do you have faith in us?” he asked.

“It could work perfectly well,” Emma wrote.

“And I love you,” he wrote.

“And I love you too,” she replied.

* * *

Little scientific research exists about catfishing, but experts say that victims tend to be lonely, vulnerable, or missing something in their lives. John Suler, a clinical psychologist and author of Psychology of the Digital Age, said that victims without a real-world social network can overlook what is too good to be true: “It always helps to have friends and family reality-check relationships online,” he said. But Emma had few close friends or family in London. And Emma was looking for love.

Emma met her first boyfriend at age 15. When their high-school romance ended a decade later, she ran away, high into the French Alps, to find seasonal work. She did not find love there, and decided to keep running, this time to England, where she had dreamed of living since visiting as a child. When she arrived, aged 28, there were 127,601 French-born residents in London, and by 2015 that number had doubled, making it the sixth-biggest French city, according to London’s mayor. But the language barrier nearly made Emma quit after two months. “It’s not like the same as you listening to that song in your bedroom when you’re 16,” she said.

“Ronaldo Scicluna” claimed to be a builder living in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. (Handout)

She loved talking to Ronnie, whose conversations were full of construction-site bonhomie, British slang, and flirtation. One day, she received a black-and-white modeling photograph of him wearing a tiny pair of Speedos. Emma fired back emojis with laughing faces stained with tears of joy.

“I love that picture thank you,” she replied, “I saved it.”

Alan, who is a fitness fanatic, was now spending his mornings on long-distance runs. Decades of manual labor had kept him fit, but he was resentful about losing his hair at a young age. “In my 30s it started falling out,” he said. “I was exactly like my dad.”

To him, Emma had become not just a friendly voice on the phone, but a project. When he discovered that Emma spent three hours a day commuting to work, Alan encouraged her to find a local job. “I was on her journey in life, trying to guide her,” Alan said.

By January of 2016, Emma was thrilled to receive a job offer three miles from her home at an Italian chain restaurant. As the new assistant manager of Zizzi in Richmond, she managed a team of Poles, Spaniards, and Greeks (there are no real Italians in this story). When Emma boasted about her “long-distance” love, the busboys asked why they’d never met. Emma told them he was “extremely busy.”

Alan was running out of excuses. “It was eating at me because I knew the longer it went on, the more problematic it would become in the long term,” he said. Like Malvolio in Twelfth Night, Alan had donned a ludicrous disguise to win the affections of his Olivia. And in a world where Alan felt ugly and invisible to the opposite sex, Emma showered him in “adoration.” In his mind, Alan minimized his lie: “Everything I told her about me, apart from who I was, and the age, was true.”

One night, after the last customers left Zizzi, Emma closed the restaurant with a popular, baby-faced Spanish waiter named Abraham. As they shut down the huge pizza oven, and packed away the cutlery, Emma revealed how she longed to meet her mysterious boyfriend. Abraham listened for a while, then turned to his manager and said: “But Emma, the guy doesn’t want to meet you ... maybe it’s not even him.”

Emma insisted that they’d talked on the phone.

Abraham said her boyfriend was “probably an old man.”

Then he said he’d heard about an app that could help.

“He could be a psycho,” he added.

Emma was hurt and confused. After Abraham left, she found herself alone in the restaurant. Looking through the window she watched the happy couples walking along the black cobbles of King Street. She longed for the day when Ronnie would appear at Zizzi, sweep her off her feet, and prove them all wrong.

By the spring of 2016, Emma’s family recommended that she cut off all communications with Ronnie. He had refused to meet her after six months, they said. “I didn’t want to listen to them,” Emma said. But one evening after work, she laid on her bed and downloaded to her iPad an app called Reverse Image Search. It is one of many apps that crawls the internet to find the original source of a profile picture.

“Believe me I was scared to use it for the first time,” Emma said. She uploaded the photograph of Ronnie wearing his leather jacket. The results arrived in seconds: The man in the photographs was a model and actor from Turkey, called Adem Guzel. Emma was confused. She found his model-management website, an official Twitter account, and his Facebook. Adem’s closest connection to the United Kingdom was that he had studied at the Gaiety School of Acting in the nearby Republic of Ireland.

“Do you have anything to tell me about Adem Guzel?” she wrote in a text message.

“It is me,” Alan replied, thinking fast. Those were his modeling pictures, he said. He’d once used another name.

“It was a long time ago,” he promised.

Given the opportunity, Alan couldn’t tell the truth. “I would have lost someone that I really treasured,” he told me. But Emma demanded that he reveal himself. FaceTime was “for teenagers,” he said. When she insisted, he yelled: “Stop! Don’t ask me anymore!”

But Emma still wanted to believe in the fantasy, not the truth.

“I couldn’t believe it because, you know ... when you talk to someone every day, and you share your life ... he was my confidente.”

And why would somebody claim to be someone else online?

Julie Albright, a digital sociologist at the University of Southern California, says catfishing can be addictive: “Suddenly finding success with romantic partners online is exciting, and in fact intoxicating for certain people,” she said, adding that catfish often target more than one victim: “Putting several hooks in the water and getting several relationships going is the way to hedge your bets.”

In August of 2016, nearly a year after his and Emma’s relationship began, Alan had computer troubles. He bought a new one, but set it up using his personal email address. When he sent Emma a message, it sounded like Ronnie, but the email address said “Alan Stanley.”

It was his first mistake.

“I lied,” Alan told me. “I said, no, I bought this computer from somebody else and they haven’t changed it yet.”

Emma was now overwhelmed with doubts.

During that summer of 2016, Emma allowed her long-distance relationship to continue as she started what she proudly calls “my investigation.” One day Ronnie sent her a photograph from an aquarium, the fish from Finding Nemo. It was either a False Percula clownfish or a True Percula clownfish—only a saltwater aquarist could tell the difference—but Emma was more interested in uploading it to her app. “This Nemo sent me to TripAdvisor,” she said. It illustrated a review written by “Alan S.”

“I knew,” Emma told me. She typed Alan’s email address into Google.

I asked what she found.

“Everything, everything,” she sighed. “His Twitter accounts. Where I’ve seen his face.”

“It was devastating and I felt sick,” she said. “You have no idea how much I’ve been hurt inside.”

Alan was in early-morning traffic when his cellphone rang.

“Is your real name Alan?” Emma asked.

“No.” he replied.

“But it is, it is, it is!” Emma said, sobbing. Alan accused her of having trust issues.

“Don’t talk to me about trust, Alan Stanley!” Emma yelled. The call, and Alan’s masquerade, was over.

Adem Guzel (left) is a model and actor from Turkey who had his identity stolen by Alan Stanley (right). (Handout / Facebook)

From a quiet corner of a half-decorated shop, Alan called Emma back. “I could not be any more apologetic,” he told me. “I told her everything.” Emma told him she felt like a fool. They both cried. It was, Alan said, a “big error of judgment, the worst and biggest mistake of my life.” But even in his telling of “the truth,” Alan told Emma he was 50, shaving off a few years.

Emma had questions. Was he a pervert? Alan sent her a real photograph of himself, wrinkles and all. “It might sound cruel what I’m going to say,” Emma told me, “but I carried on talking with him, after I knew who he was, only because I wanted to know why he did that to me,” Emma said. “I’m 34 at the time, but maybe another girl, when she finds out, she could maybe go too far, maybe kill herself.” After the big reveal, Emma asked Alan if he wanted to meet her. “I really wanted to go, to end the story,” she said. But was Alan dangerous?

Emma decided that she needed to protect others from his scam. On September 16, 2016, she wrote a Facebook message to the Turkish model:

Hello Adem, we don’t know each other but a year ago I met a guy online and that man is using your picture 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, kind regards, Emma.

* * *

Adem Guzel nearly ignored the message. The shy, 35-year-old model woke up in the Bohemian district of Cihangir, near Istanbul’s famous Taksim Square, suffering from a cold. This was not the first message he had received of this nature. Adem poured a cup of tea in the kitchen of his aparthotel, a type of bed-and-breakfast that had once been popular with travelers, before political instability and terrorist attacks killed off Turkish tourism. He drew a hot bath, undressed, and sank into the water. Maybe it was the head cold, Adem thought, but it was like an invisible person was yelling in his ear: “Pick up the phone!”

Adem toweled off and found his iPhone. Something about the sincerity of Emma’s message stuck in his mind. He wrote back in broken English. “And the conversation just started,” Adem told me, in a gruff, Turkish voice. When he heard how Alan had tricked Emma, Adem was furious. Emma asked him if he wanted to video call.

Emma was on a bus in Richmond when she read the message. She dashed home and showered, with a strange flutter in her stomach. When Adem’s face appeared on her iPhone, Emma was hysterical. “It was crazy,” she said. “I wasn’t sure it was him, I was always in doubt.” But there he was, talking, smiling, nervously running his fingers through his hair. “I never do FaceTiming,” Adem said. “But somehow I wanted to do it with her.”

“You are so real,” Emma said, crying. “You really exist!”

Emma had questions. In English, their shared second language, Adem explained that he had grown up in a coastal Turkish village, then moved to Istanbul and enjoyed a prosperous modeling career. But his plans to become a television actor had stalled when he refused to enter a Turkish reality show, which he said operated on a “casting-couch” basis. Instead, Adem moved into a friend’s deserted aparthotel as a temporary manager.

As they talked, Emma summoned her sister on FaceTime, and showed the iPad to her iPhone. Gaëlle and the Turkish model waved at each other from opposite sides of Europe. After the call, Adem and Emma exchanged text messages, but Adem soon packed his bags and returned to the village whence he came. Şarköy, pop. 17,000, had the cellphone signal of a small Turkish village, and their conversation fizzled out.

* * *

On Friday, November 11, 2016, Alan Stanley stepped off a train at London’s Paddington Station. He strolled to a nearby row of white-pillared Georgian townhouses and checked into the Arbor, a swanky, boutique hotel with views of Hyde Park. That evening, Alan walked out of his hotel, and into the nearby London Hilton, where Emma was nervously waiting in the lounge. She said she needed closure, and to see the truth with her own eyes. Alan “needed to apologize to her face-to-face,” he said.

His face was red with shame. “The hug went on for about a minute,” he told me, “I was just, like, quite tearful.” Emma pulled up an armchair and they sat uneasily side-by-side, making small talk. Then, Alan said he was sorry.

He said he did it to escape the agony of loneliness. When Emma studied him, she saw a man just two years younger than her own father.

Emma and Alan left the Hilton for some fresh air, and strolled along a tree-lined pathway known as Lover’s Walk. In Alan’s telling, they passed Hyde Park’s “Winter Wonderland” where couples were riding a Ferris wheel or whizzing around an ice-skating rink. The walk—20,000 steps, according to his iPhone’s health app—was one of the longest and best of his life.

“We talk, talk, talk,” Emma said. She asked him about drinking whiskey with his father. Was even that true? “He said his dad passed away a few years ago.”

While Alan considered the evening a date, Emma’s memory of the walk was quite the opposite of romance. The park was “empty” she said. Her only memory was pausing at a memorial to the 52 victims of London’s July 2005 bombings.

“It was a perfect night,” Alan said. “She paid for dinner that evening. Italian restaurant in Paddington.”

Alan even insinuated that Emma had stayed the night at his hotel. “As a gentleman I’m very reluctant to talk about this side of it,” he said. Emma flatly denied it.

“I was pleased I met him obviously,” Emma said curtly, “And that was it.”

But that wasn’t it. Emma could not erase Alan from her life. After their meeting in London, they met several times. Just before Christmas of 2016, Alan presented her with a Swarovski bracelet. “She bought me Hugo Boss socks,” Alan told me, “They’re not cheap.”

“It was a relationship that we built ... You develop a friendship, you talk ...” she explained, her voice breaking as she described their toxic relationship. She was helplessly bonded to Alan and he was obsessed with her, high on virtual validation: “She made me feel like I was a teenager again,” he told me.

I wondered if Alan arrived in London hoping that Emma would overlook the difference between him and the model. Maybe his email slipup was just part of a “bait and switch.”

But Emma could tell the difference. “Things started to get a little bit sour between us,” Alan said. “There was a kind of breakdown after Christmas ... her attention suddenly turned more focused toward finding him.” Alan sensed he was competing with the Turkish model for Emma’s affections. He had deleted his fake accounts, and focused his attention on her. Now, he dreaded he would lose her to the man he had unwittingly thrown in her path—an ironic demise worthy of Shakespeare. “I just put two and two together,” Alan said. “I reckoned that they are talking behind the scenes.”

* * *

By January of 2017, the conversation between Emma and Adem had reignited. “I’m not a religious guy,” Adem said, but it felt like fate had pulled them together. They stopped talking about Alan’s scam, and very slowly the conversation between the shy model and Emma, who had so recently been burned, became emotionally charged. But Emma told her sister, Gaëlle, that she felt like she was just starting another long-distance affair. This time, she wouldn’t be played for a fool, and she wouldn’t waste a moment. She invited Adem to London. “It wasn’t to flirt, believe me,” Emma insisted. Adem said yes immediately. He was curious to meet this beautiful French girl, and sure, in London!

On March 31, 2017, Emma sent her catfish a goodbye text message:

Alan I wanted to tell you that tomorrow I’m going to pick up Adem at the airport. And I still don’t know if it’s good or bad but I’m going to meet ‘my Ronnie.’ You built up all this shit, I’m not sure if I should thank you or detest you for that. But this is happening.

It was April Fool’s Day, 2017, when Emma stood beneath the giant arrivals board at London’s Heathrow Airport, searching for Adem’s flight. When a lady beside her noticed her shaking hands, Emma explained that she was waiting for a man from the internet, whom she had never met. The woman froze. “You have to be very careful!” She warned, on the internet not everyone is who they say they are.

“Well actually, I know ...” Emma began, but the Turkish passengers were already flooding into the arrivals hall.

“Oh my God, it’s happening,” she thought.

When the crowd parted, she saw him walking toward her in a white T-shirt and a blue cardigan, the man in her photographs, come to life. Adem was taller than she expected, and when he recognized her, she felt breathless. As they hugged in the middle of the airport, Emma thought that he smelled “fantastique.”

In a quiet corner, Emma produced an egg-and-mayonnaise sandwich, which she had bought in case Adem was hungry. When he lifted it to his mouth, she noticed his hands were shaking too. “I was really nervous,” Adem said. They walked into the bitter cold air, and Emma summoned an Uber. It seemed to take forever. Adem was very quiet and there was a nervous energy between them. When he stepped off the curb to look for their car, Adem turned around and found Emma at eye level.

Inexplicably, she kissed him.

“Three minutes later I felt like I know her a long time,” Adem said. The spark was undeniable. She gave him a key to her apartment, and together they discovered the city like tourists, goofing around with a selfie stick. Later, when Adem opened his suitcase, Emma spotted the leather jacket from her favorite photograph, and felt starstruck. And Adem couldn’t believe his luck—his soul mate had appeared in his inbox as if by magic.

Adem and Emma take a selfie near their home in Richmond Park, in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. (Courtesy of Emma Perrier)

On April 23, 2017, their story became a tabloid sensation in England. “My catfish became cupid,” Emma told the Daily Mirror, “And now we’re living happily ever after.” Soon, other victims of Alan Stanley reached out to Emma. One woman from New York said she had been in a relationship with Ronnie for “years.” When the newspapers described Alan as a “love rat,” he endured summits about his behavior with his colleagues and employer, and an “awful” conversation with his daughter.

“These last few months have been beyond stressful,” he told me. “I don’t think I’ve slept properly for three or four months now.” Overwhelmed by shame, he moved to a faraway town. But even Alan felt relieved that the story ended in comedy, not a tragedy.

“I think it’s brilliant Emma and Adem have met,” he said. “It’s almost like fate.” Alan added that he no longer uses fake identities, and has since met someone special, he said, on Twitter: “A European lady, younger than me, younger than Emma.” There is someone out for there for everyone, he added. “I don’t consider myself to be particularly good-looking ... I’m not a David Beckham, or a Tom Cruise, or an Adem Guzel.”

When I spoke to the couple in September of this year, they had been living together in London for six months. “He’s lovely,” Emma said, “He’s a lovely man.” Currently, Adem is chasing his acting dreams in London, and says he recently auditioned for Aladdin, the original, Arabian catfishing story. He read for the lead, a street urchin who uses a genie’s magic to pass himself off as a prince to win over a princess—before realizing that he must be himself.

At home there has been confusion. Emma was making a coffee one day when she looked over and realized: God, this is Adem, not Ronnie. She says Adem is quite different from the gregarious character invented by Alan—he is quiet and sensitive. There are other challenges: Turkey is not yet in the European Union, so Adem can only stay in London for six months at a time, and cannot work. But Emma now admits that the internet is an instrument of fate.

One evening, not long ago, Emma was closing down Zizzi after a busy shift. Night shifts were once her loneliest times, when she would long for “Ronnie” to materialize from the internet and sweep her off her feet. But that night, she noticed Abraham, the disbelieving Spanish waiter, and the rest of the crew, staring at the handsome gentleman waiting in the doorway, ready to take her home.