Monday rolled round quicker than I expected. I pushed and pushed Matt out of my mind. No more fantasies. After my pitying Saturday I decided I needed to get back to normal.
I spent Sunday trying to think of someone else. I went for a long walk around town in the morning, and spent the afternoon swiping and making small talk with strangers online while I went through article ideas, messaged guests for the podcasts and went through similar websites, accounts and radio podcasts for comparison.
Nina was in a bad mood on Monday, she was critical of the web content I had come up with.
“It’s all shit for younger women, we can’t fucking aliente people over the age of thirty!” she snapped.
I had no response, I just muttered sorry like a child told off. I regretted not sticking up for myself. I should.
Nina walked back to her office. I followed her and closed the door behind me.
“It was a career peice, something that a lot of the time women think about earlier on and the woman that I interviewed was an entrepreneur in her twenties. I’ll do something on establishing a career later on or career change. And working mothers, going back to work after maternity.” I waited for her response with raised eyebrows.
“Yes, sounds good get that done.” She said in a more gentle tone.
“I’m sorry.” She said.
“No, don’t be. You give me praise. I need criticism as well. You’re doing your job.” I said. She nodded and I left.
I sat for an hour and outlined an idea to write something based on making a career change and how scary and impossible it feels.
Nina stood in front of the office to address everyone.
“So, you all now know we might be a women’s lifestyle magazine, it doesn’t mean focusing on only blowjobs, face masks and nights out exclusively. We need some serious bloody content as well. It’s not all bloody filler.” Ouch that was directed at me. “I want ideas emailed. Topical and interesting. Okay?”
Jesus I wanted to be back on the reception desk today.
What I had done with Matt was spinning round and round, on repeat in my head. Everytime I thought of it I felt a knife twist with guilt in my stomach.
Ollie was spinning around in his chair opposite me. He covered politics and was very intelligent.
“It’s lunch time, can I take you for a cure for half an hour?” Ollie asked, spinning around in his chair.
“I think I love you.” I joked. “A cure for what though? I’m not hungover, do I really look that bad?”
“No I mean a cure for you working overtime everyday, stressing yourself out for ideas to put the most stuff out. And getting shot down by that bitch near every day.”
I was shocked he would talk about Nina like that out in the open, I looked around to see if anyone had noticed. No.
“Well clearly what I came up with is shite.”
He looked at me with a steady stare.
“You’re the only one with a podcast that you do in your free time and all your shit ends up online. Sounds like a fucking good job to me. You shouldn’t be nearly in tears.”
I blinked the tears back, not bothering to argue that I’m fine. He smiled at me.
I could do with cheering up after my weekend of loneliness. He stood up and I followed him down the road.
It was food festival week, stands of burgers and giant paellas and overpriced cheese.
Ollie bought us a chicken burrito and bottle of beer each.
I stood by him while he paid a little closer than what I normally would, our hands brushed, I didn’t pull my hand away. Ollie didn’t either, he looked at me and smiled gently taking my hand.
We sat on the picnic benches, I had a tight throat from nearly crying and my stomach was flipping a little. I still nibbled on the burrito. I felt a little guilty, I normally brought in food and ate while I worked, normally this would have felt like a waste of half an hour. But it felt nice. My stomach started to settle. I shouldn’t complain about working through the lunch break of my cosy desk job, I was lucky to have it.
A comfortable silence sat while we ate.
“Wow,” I said halfway through.
“Good right?” The whole time I was eating he was watching me.
“Why have we never gone out?” I was feeling brave today, I didn’t feel like skirting around it. He considered me while he drank.
“I didn’t want to be in your column,” he said, I sat back, surprised. “Sorry, it’s just you were so honest just then I didn’t want to make up an excuse.”
“I can keep you out, or change your name, assuming this is a thing? You would have already known that?”
“Thanks, I don’t want everyone knowing the intimate details, is this a thing?”
“Do you want it to be a thing?” I asked and waited, there’s a long puse, he looked taken aback. That was a stupid question. I shouldn’t have mentioned anything I should have made small talk.
“Do you mean do I fancy you?” He laughed, oh no, laughing at me fucking great. I felt butterflies in my stomach. He continued. “I thought we might have to piss around, talk about how nice the weather is today and bitch about work. But, yeah, I’ve always fancied you but you have a bit of a reputation.”
“Fuck you!” I felt my heart sink.
“No! That came out wrong. I’m sorry no not like that! Just that you’re picky, I mean lads in the office have tried to make the cut.”
“Yeah, and the one that did go for a drink with you ended up being bitched about in some format, we all knew Adish was Amar from the podcast really, you could make the alternate names a little different from the original.”
“I did,” I admitted. “Not my finest hour. But everything I wrote was true, he spent the whole time showing off and didn’t seem interested at all.”
“He said he was trying to impress you. Not that I think you should give it another go with him, I think you should set your sights on a new guy.” He comically pointed both thumbs at himself. I laughed.
I’ve not seen Oliie in this light before, he’s really attractive, I didn’t notice how boyishly handsome he was close up. It’s been a long time since I’ve slept with anyone. When friends were on romantic weekends and date nights, I had given up and turned my attention to wine and documentaires alone in the flat.
“What are you thinking?” He looked genuinely fascinated, I realised I got lost in my own thoughts. “Not about Adish I hope?”
“No, sorry, I am a weirdo I space out sometimes,” I admitted. “I was just thinking that I’m attracted to you, and I don’t know why I haven’t realised this before.”
“How do you not have a girlfriend?”
“I spend too much time with the lads and rugby, and I’m not romantic,” he looked surprised with himself. “Keira’s right you really are like truth serum.”
“Yeah, your honesty rubs off. How do you not have a boyfriend?”
“Clearly I have daddy issues.” Saying out loud made me inwardly cringe.
“You’re not weird, and you can’t choose your family.”
“I wasn’t trying to shock you with honesty, I know the whole office knows. I just want to acknowledge it so I don’t have to again.”
“I know, I like you,” he was getting closer to me over the table. I was pink, I leaned in nervously, I felt like a teenager again, it’s been so long. He kissed me softly once, it left me wanting more. We pulled back slowly looking into eachothers eyes.
“We should get back before we start rumours,” I suggested. We walked back slowly, chatting about how difficult it is to meet people.
“Right under each other’s noses,” he said to me, dropping his hand from mine outside the office.
I put my head down once I was back in work. I struck up a conversation with the facebook group and had two meetings arranged for early next week, readers who have experienced trauma. Nina wants something serious. I’ll give her serious.
The whole time I was giving the eyes over my computer to Ollie’s desk, I was enjoying the thrill of our secret slip away and kiss and felt a magnetic pull towards him.
He had gorgeous curly blonde hair, and a tan and build of someone that does a lot of outdoor sports, he had a relaxed attitude that I found really attractive. It was as if not much phased him and I have never seen him stressed or upset.
My phone pinged.
Ollie: Good burritos baby.
I held my breath, I typed out an automatic yeah thank you really nice. I deleted it, I may as well be brave today.
Me: Good kiss
Ollie: you’re welcome.
I sent a laugh emoji, god it feels so long since I’ve had flirtation, my heart was beating a little faster than usual.
You’re welcome was a conversation stopper though, what do I say now. What I tell women to do all the time, nothing. Nothing attracts a bloke more than an out of reach woman. I just gave ollie a little smile over the top of my computer. Work. Wait.
My phone pinged again.
Ollie: Might be a bit forward but, meet me after work?
I read the message as it flashed up but I didn’t pick up the phone and unlock it, I left it and carried on working as if I was indifferent.
I could feel Ollie’s eyes on me as I went to get more coffee, I felt a little giddy surge of excitement having the interest of someone so good looking, this never happened.
I never pursued Ollie because he was too good looking and a preppy posh boy. I just assumed he wasn’t interested. That he would go for a blonde, tanned, leggy, Caggie or Harriet with posh voices and extravagant hobbies like sailing and polo. I should probably not make so many assumptions and judge people so quickly.
“Want a top up?” I nodded to Ollies mug.
“Err yeah, go for it?” he looked confused. I returned with the pot filling mine and his.
“I was thinking about maybe getting a takeaway pizza and watching a film tonight,” I smiled. “You got any big plans?” I spoke clearly and confidently, he looked nervous like I revealed our new flirtation, and his face relaxed as he realised I was toying with him.
I picked my phone back up.
Me: What do you think of my evening plans?
Ollie: I can get the pizza if you’ll have me?
Back at my place, Ollie sat with his pizza on the coffee table. He politely took his shoes off at the door. I rushed around him, getting him a beer and tidying up magazines and coffee cups. I was shoving my sound equipment into a cupboard. I was supposed to have Keria around tonight to work on some stuff. God the phone call to cancel was painful.
“Are you fucking serious? Dickheads out with the lads so I’m all on my own tonight.” She whined. Dickhead being the husband. As I was on the phone to her I could imagine her at home, flailing around dramatically in some stunning clothes. Keira was a beautiful black woman with perfect proportions and dramatic features. She was the most glamorous woman I knew, she had long honey coloured hair and bright lipsticks. She could wear anything with her stunning figure. At home she was usually in brightly coloured silk pyjamas.
“I’m on my own all the time. I have a boy coming round!” I argued.
“A boy? You fifteen or something?”
“Don’t say anything I don’t want to make a big thing over it at work.”
“Someone from work!”
“Nice! But you were right when you said boy.”
Ollie was lovely company. It was a little like an interview though. He asked me question after question.
“When did you move in here?”
“Why did you want to work at Appropriate?”
“What do you think of Nina?”
“Why do you think Nina hates Keria?”
“Do you go out on weekends?”
“Do you go on many dates?”
“Do you ever go anywhere for holidays?”
“What do you normally do after work?”
Every time I tried to ask him something he would give me a one word answer and then change the conversation. I always thought he was very chilled out and reserved. Why was he grilling me?
“Why are you asking me so many questions?” I asked.
“You said you went out with someone that didn’t ask you enough? I like you, I want to know more about you.”
“There’s not much to know, I have a boring little life. But I am happy, I just want some more company. I don’t want to be on my own as much as I am at the moment.” I laid it out honestly.
“I live with two other lads but they keep themselves to themselves a lot of the time, I would like some female company.”
“Do you do any of the online dating stuff?” I asked.
“Oh God no! I want something that’s not forced.” Ouch, this felt forced.“Oh sorry, I know you do. No judgement.”
I felt judged. He wanted to gauge if I was classy.
“It’s difficult to meet people, but you’re right. I liked meeting you in real life.”
He smiled and put his hand on my hand. I leaned in a little closer and tilted my head, I put my hand around the back of his neck. He gave me a kiss on the cheek and pulled away. Ouch.
He saw the hurt on my face.
“Sorry I don’t sleep with girls right away. That’s not really the kind of girl that I’m after.” He shrugged, getting up. “Thank you for this, it was really great!”
“I’m not trying to sleep with you.”
“Sorry, I must have misread then.” He was standing up now looking down on me. I had changed out of my work clothes earlier into a low cut v neck jumper and leggings. Was hardly in lingerie. I looked over to the mirror and saw the loose jumper had slipped over my shoulder and was revealing a lot of cleavage. I would wear this to get coffee though. It must have been my going in for the kiss.
I wanted to play it cool but I was offended.
“What’s wrong with me then?” I instantly regretted it as I said it.
“Nothing, you’re a really interesting girl.” He smiled. “I’ll see you in work.”
I must have failed the interview.
I sat on my balcony with an old issue of the magazine and a beer. Wrapped in my blanket I had my phone on my knee, no messages from Ollie, or anyone. I picked up the phone and deleted my dating apps. I caught some judgemental vibes earlier, when I told Ollie I was trying to put myself out there online. He had his forehead scrunched and I found myself stumbling for excuses and explaining myself. I could picture him now, with his rugby mates, telling them he wasn’t interested because he thought that I was a bit of a slag, and not the classy type he usually goes for.