24 Apr 2024
Love Refugee: The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship…
Fiction Love Refugee

Love Refugee: The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship…

Love Refugee is YLC’s fiction serial; a romantic comedy about expat and confirmed singleton Ellie, determined to avoid commitment at any cost… who discovers that she has an inconvenient weakness for Swedish men (it’s not autobiographical at all…) 🙂

 
So, this is unexpected. Definitely unexpected. And a bit weird, and – I don’t know really.

We’re in the midst of a bit of a crisis at work. The whole concept of our chain is that the food is healthy and fresh, but other than that it’s all as uniform as any chain – eating at our Stockholm restaurant should taste and feel exactly as though you were in our Covent Garden or Notting Hill or Richmond restaurants. Pretty simple, right? Unfortunately, the chef we hired seemed to get that, and then went away and started creating his own menu and when I objected was a bit of a jerk about it so I fired him, and it turns out it’s not that easy to fire someone in Sweden… suffice to say it’s all been a bit fraught.

It’s meant all sorts of late nights and crisis meetings and whatnot, and I generally feel as though I’m chugging on fumes and might just keel over any minute, but we’re getting there, finally, I think. So last night we were invited to a wine tasting thingymajiggery at some bar, and we decided we should show our faces. On our way there, Liv got a call from her ex that their little boy had a fever, so she dashed off and it was just Gustaf and I.

Which is entirely no big deal because we’ve been working together for weeks now, and despite his startling looks, I definitely don’t fancy him.

He’s just there. He’s a really good guy, and yes, objectively sexy in a sort of wolfish way, but he’s my colleague. He’s also slightly junior to me, which shouldn’t make things more complicated in this day and age, but in my experience, it tends to.

We are on the same team, it’s not like the dodgy power dynamic if I was hitting on someone I could fire (which is a whole other kettle of fish; though as I’ve learned the hard way, apparently I can fire no one in Sweden…), it’s just that as the most experienced and the one with direct contact with head office in London, I tend to lead the meetings, delegate tasks, approve stuff… why, in the 21st century is it so difficult to do that and also flirt?

Somehow it seems that, in order for a woman to flirt, we need to… lose status a bit.

It’s not like I would giggle at his jokes and gasp at his muscles exactly, I just find that – in past situations, obviously I’m not talking about Gustaf anyway because I don’t fancy him – I can’t help but feel that I’m undermining my professional position if I let someone know I’m interested, which is rubbish.

Anyway, the party was the usual sort of dull schmooze-fest, and I was quite knackered, so perfectly happy to sip a glass of free champagne, gawp briefly at the beautiful people and call it a night. ! But somehow Gustaf and I got into conversation.

And now I’m in trouble. ! I’m not really sure how it happened. One minute we were casually discussing the phone conference we had just had with London, and the next, it seemed, we were immersed in a deep and meaningful about our families and childhoods and he was telling me how much he respected me for coming over here by myself, and how impressed he was at how I had handled all the drama we had been going through at work, and… and I was kind of blown away.

None of it was flirtatious, to be clear. No double entendres or banter. We were sitting quite close at a smallish table, but there was no accidentally-on-purpose hand brushing or knee touching. But it was very… intimate.

Very, the two of us in our own little world. At one point, one of the bar staff came by to take our glasses and for an instant I felt genuinely startled by the presence of another human being.

And then suddenly the lights went on, and it was just us and grumpy bar staff clearly wanting to get home. It broke the spell a little bit, things were already a bit more casual and normal as he walked me to my bus stop, and I knew that nothing was going to happen. Which is completely for the best because, work together, don’t do relationships, blah blah blah. It was just a pleasant evening. An enjoyable conversation. Maybe the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Except I kind of wish I had kissed him.

Featured Images: Wendy Longo

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