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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters and events are the products of the author’s imagination only and do not bear any resemblance to actual persons or events.
This story is dedicated to all of the front-line healthcare and support workers around the world fighting the Coronavirus pandemic.
The TV broadcast had just started as I returned home from my evening run and Rebecca called me into the lounge.
‘Louise, we’re going back into lockdown’ she said as I entered.
She was watching the breaking news as I sat down to join her – a new national lockdown had just been imposed.
We watched as our minds turned to our lives and everything we had been through so far, how difficult it had been and what it will mean for our family and friends, work, and of course, for Marcus and I.
Marcus and I were lovers. Or rather, we were back in the winter before the pandemic, and now, for a long period of time, had only been able to spend brief moments together whenever we had the chance, and the restrictions allowed.
I had first met him last February at a friends get-together. One I wasn’t particularly enthused about attending if I am honest. In fact, I had only agreed to attend at the last minute as a work trip was cancelled. Ayway, it was a fun evening and I am glad I did.
I enjoyed socialising that evening but I was never one for large groups, and I wasn’t especially looking for a man at the time. My previous relationship had ended six months prior. Nothing tragic, just a natural end as we both became increasingly distant. I was also busy. Work had picked up and I intended only to stay for one or two drinks before heading home.
My friend Natasha had welcomed me as I arrived, and introduced me to a few of her colleagues. I was glad to avoid the big introduction, and I slowly struck up conversations with some of the group, before I was introduced to what I thought at the time were a couple.
The man, in his late 20s, was smartly dressed, well mannered and softly spoken. The lady with him, likewise, and it wasn’t long before I realised they were colleagues. They were both doctors, and had joined us by chance through friends of the group.
The conversation was relaxed and they described how they had trained together at university and were now working at the same hospital. The position was temporary for both of them and they expected to be moved in the next few months. I asked about their work, and they introduced themselves as Marcus and Felicity. Marcus was reserved at first, but I liked his clear dedication to his work, and found him interesting. He had a good sense of humour which helped me to relax in his presence.
I hesitated slightly as he asked about my work that evening. I had recently begun work at a gallery, which was exciting but the current reality was quite different. The pay was low, and my ambition of becoming a Curator seemed a distant dream at this stage. The current work was quite unfulfilling up until now, but I was committed to make it work.
Later, Marcus would introduce another group of friends to the conversation. Slightly intimidated by such a large group, I said little at first except to introduce myself. It was clear there had been a lot of alcohol consumed, so the mood was jolly and the group joked with Marcus, or ‘Dr. Connolly’ as they referred to him as. I stood by joining in occasionally with the laughter and jokes before excusing myself as I went to the ladies.
Returning, I saw the group had gotten smaller. Felicity was now at the bar with the larger group and Marcus was talking to them. I quietly walked towards him as he turned to see me again. Standing next to him, I felt a connection despite his friends presence and the jokes they were sharing. In fact, I quite enjoyed their jokes as it helped me to relax and their teasing of Marcus caused me to defend him on more than one occasion, despite barely knowing him at the time.
By now the drinks were flowing and I was starting to feel a little more confident. I left the group briefly to order another drink at the bar and catch up with Natasha. We ordered together and chatted for some time. She had met some old friends tonight and she asked about Marcus who I had been talking with for some time now.
I thanked her for inviting me tonight. I was enjoying the evening and I wondered about him and how I could talk with him more. Natasha encouraged me as I talked down any attraction and reasoned with myself in my mind.
‘He just seems like such a nice guy’ I told her.
My natural shyness was also now surfacing but I resisted and told myself to remain confident. I was talking with Natasha as I could see Marcus coming towards us out of the corner of my eye. He had met her once previously and she said hello and kindly added a drink for him to her order at the bar.
He apologised for his friends, explaining they were just joking around, but I insisted that it really wasn’t a problem. I told him he should rejoin them and have fun, but he seemed to need time internet casino out too.
Natasha passed us our drinks as she rejoined her friends at the table and I was left alone with Marcus. I struggled to hide my awkwardness as thoughts ran through my mind but we continued the small talk. I had noticed Marcus was not wearing a wedding ring and I asked him about his plans for the weekend, probing gently into his personal life.
‘Working both days this weekend, unfortunately!’ he responded.
‘Ok. Yeah, I guess you must have to work weekends a lot?’ I asked.
‘Sometimes yes, but it does rotate. I have some time off in the week so it’s not so bad. It gives me time to pursue things away from work’ he said.
‘What do you like doing?’ I asked inquisitively.
‘Photography. I’m a keen photographer. I grew up in the countryside so I love nature and photography’ he responded.
‘Yeah, I also like photography. Digital art perhaps more so’ I added as we discussed our shared passion.
I was glad to find a connection between us and something we could talk about further, before we were interrupted by his group of friends once more. I was friendly to them, joining in the exchanges from time to time before deciding it was my time to leave. I had enjoyed the evening but it was late and I was tired by then. I thought about asking for his number, but the situation wasn’t right. He apologised for the interruption again but I insisted it was fine. I made my way home after I had said goodbye to Natasha and some other friends.
I thought about him on the way home. It had been a chance encounter but there was a connection between us, or perhaps I was just reading too much into it. I wondered about Felicity and whether they were, or ever had been a couple. She was so perfect. Very beautiful and they complimented each other well, but I told myself to resist over thinking as it so easily does. His slightly mysterious nature didn’t help though, but it did make me want to find out more about him.
I arrived home that evening and took a long hot shower before heading to bed. I thought again about Marcus as I lay awake. He was not like most men I had met. A classic gentleman in some ways, polite but perhaps a little awkward although of course doing his best not to show that side of himself. I found him intriguing, but resigned myself to the possibility that I may not see him again.
I woke early the next morning to a beautiful sunrise. I sat on the sofa, with bright sunlight working it’s way in through the window beside me as I sipped my morning coffee. Rebecca had now joined me and we were talking about Marcus. She had not been in the bar last night so I described him to her, and mentioned his passion for landscape photography.
‘You could look him up online?’ she suggested.
‘Every photographer has a website, or social media.’ she added.
‘Really? I’m not sure.’ I asked. Unconvinced and with doubts in my mind.
‘That’s slightly creepy isn’t it?’ I said out loud.
‘Everyone does it. Come on…Why not? It’s public after all. He won’t mind’ She was beginning to persuade me.
‘Ok…’ I said as I picked up my phone from the coffee table and began searching online.
Her head now resting on my arm, we came across his social media profile, full of his photos – beautiful landscapes and nature.
‘Just send a quick message’ Rebecca insisted.
Looking across at her unsure, I took her advice, and typed a brief message to him. I paused for a moment before pressing send but I knew Rebecca was right.
What did I have to lose?’ I asked myself.
In my message I had thanked him for last night, and hoped his day was going well and work was not too hectic. I complimented his photos and said that I just wanted to say hi.
I knew if I waited for a response I would drive myself crazy, so I headed out and it would be 3 days before he would reply. I had nearly given up, when the message arrived.
Hi. Sorry, I don’t check this regularly. It’s an old account and it was a busy weekend as well.
Good to hear from you. I had a nice evening too.
How’s your week going?
My week was going ok and it was a lot better now that I had a reply. I swiftly replied back to him and asked about his plans this week. His response was much quicker this time.
His schedule was quite busy once again, but was looking forward to some time off and had no plans for it yet. He ended his message with a question. Or two questions rather.
Would you like to meet? And umm…sorry to be direct, but I wasn’t entirely sure. Are you single?
I read the message back to myself a few times before responding.
Yes, and…yes! And you?
He responded with a smiley face emoji as we agreed to meet on Sunday of that week. A first date or just a casual meet I wasn’t entirely sure, but it would be relaxed with no pressure and very informal. Just a chance for us to meet and talk. Have lunch somewhere and see how the canlı poker oyna day goes.
I continued with my day and thanked Rebecca as I looked forward excitedly to Sunday. I was keen to get to know him more and I went over in my head the things we would talk about, what I would say, what I would wear and where we would go. I had many questions for him but would also resist overwhelming him as I know I could easily do.
When Sunday arrived, I woke early and started with a light breakfast. Warm porridge with some spiced apple, yoghurt and juice. Rebecca was away for the weekend and I was alone, and again went over in my mind how the day would go.
I began to get ready early. My makeup took some time and I stuck with my original choice of outfit. A long winter coat covering a thick knitted cream scarf under which was a fine knitted jumper and jeans. We would stroll in the nearby gardens, so it was important to stay warm and be comfortable.
Stepping outside, it was a cold but dry day. I was glad of my warm coat by then as I walked to the gardens. As I arrived, I would see Marcus waiting beside the bandstand where we had agreed to meet. I was 3 minutes late. My walk had been fine, but I had needed a few extra minutes to settle my thoughts before meeting him.
I waved slightly to Marcus as I walked towards him. He was also wearing a long winter coat as he waved back and I noticed the breath from his mouth in the cold air as he walked down the steps towards me.
‘Hi’ we both said simultaneously, smiling as we looked down and back up again before our eyes met as he asked how I was.
‘Fine, thank you. And you?’ I asked.
‘Yes, good too.’ he replied.
He glanced across at the stone footpath and we took a walk in the gardens as he commented on how cold the winter air was. I asked about his week. He had worked long hours and was glad of some time off. He had been transferred into the ICU unit of the main hospital. A big change and demanding, both physically and emotionally he said, but something he had wanted for a while now so he was glad to have made the move.
He apologised for his slow reply to my message, which I accepted, insisting it was fine and he asked about my week. I had also been working a lot, and there were some key projects due which I was focused on, but like him, I was also glad of the time off.
We continued to walk in the beautiful gardens, around the landscaped planters and water features. The air remained cold and my hands felt the chill despite my gloves.
I wanted to ask Marcus more about himself but was unsure how to initially. I began to see him as quite a naturally shy man, despite his outward confidence and assured presence. I asked if he had been here before to which he replied he hadn’t, but he liked the gardens a lot. I explained how it was local to me and I had been many times but it was nice to come here with him.
We spoke about where he lived and he told of how he was renting an apartment by himself for the time being. He had moved around a lot the previous years and was hoping to now settle down. I gently broached the subject of where he had lived before and following this, his previous relationships.
Like me, he had few relationships over the past few years, whilst he was moving around for work and had not settled for one reason or another. I could relate to that. He went on to say how he wondered when he would find the one, or if he was destined to be single.
‘Me too.’ I said as I smiled.
By now, I was starting to feel a slight bond with him. Not just a physical attraction, but for the genuine person he seemed to be, and I imagined him to be a very caring and romantic partner – something I had always wanted in a man. I relished the opportunity to get to know him better, but was sometimes clumsy with my questions. Our previous night when we had met in the bar was not an easy place to talk and both of us had found the atmosphere challenging. The noise, distractions, alcohol. Now it was far easier and the conversation flowed better as I began to feel closer to him.
He mentioned when we met in the bar previously and I explained how I knew Natasha, and he had met a mutual friend early on in the evening. I wanted to ask about Felicity at this point but held back. Perhaps I shouldn’t ask. They are probably just friends anyway and it was just me overthinking the situation. I had a tendency to do that, and I was definitely not about to ruin the day we were enjoying together.
The conversation turned to our plans for the week ahead. I would appear available and I said how I can sometimes take time off depending on how my projects are going. He had been given day shifts this week and he suggested meeting again which brought a small smile to my face. We would watch a movie at his place later in the week.
I accepted his invitation and looked into his eyes, as we both smiled.
We decided it was time for lunch and headed to a restaurant he had booked in advance. It poker oyna wasn’t far to walk and we were both keen to be inside where it was warmer as we headed there.
We sat down inside the restaurant. It was a new Asian restaurant he had wanted to try for some time after a friend of his had recommended it. The low lighting and small corner where we sat felt intimate and the warmth inside was a welcome relief from the cold air. I had removed my coat and left my knitted scarf around my shoulders until I had fully warmed up.
Marcus was wearing a chequered cotton shirt with a dark green sweater on top. He looked smart and I told him so. I couldn’t resist and the words just flowed out of my mouth as I saw him sitting there. Surprised, and possibly embarrassed, he thanked me. The waiter came over before the compliment was reciprocated and we ordered our food.
Marcus was adventurous with his selection. Ordering a range of sides, mostly vegetables alongside his main of seafood with rice. I was more conservative with my selections, but we agreed to share as he encouraged me to try something new. I was struck with how health conscious Marcus was. I guess his work was the reason, but I liked it, and it encouraged me to consider my choices also.
We enjoyed our meal and I liked sharing the range of dishes he had ordered. The sauteed pak choi especially stood out and the roasted aubergine also. We connected well over lunch and agreed to walk again after.
By this time, my nervousness had subsided slightly and I was feeling more comfortable talking with him. As we were walking from the restaurant, I told him I was having a good time and I was glad we had met, hoping he would start to read my signs. He still seemed slightly awkward though, so I would make the first move.
I silenced my inner thoughts as I looked over at him, into his eyes and took his hand. Our gloves prevented our skin from touching, but my heart warmed as I felt his hand inside mine. He smiled back shyly.
‘Sorry’ I said awkwardly. Fearing I may have been too bold.
‘No. Please don’t apologise’ he said as he smiled back at me.
‘Thank you. I’m glad you did’ he followed.
I suggested we have a takeaway coffee and head back into the gardens. There was a stand serving roasted Italian coffee just opposite and it was my treat. He had paid for our lunch despite my insistence, and I would now treat him to a warm coffee to help us on our walk.
We drank our coffees, a cappuccino for him and a latte for me, as we walked into the rose garden, and sat on an old wooden bench. Our hands wrapped tightly around the paper cups as the hot liquid evaporated into the winter air.
It was a historic 18th century garden with a symmetrical layout, and a water feature in the centre. Small paths ran through the centre and diagonally across. I had always thought how romantic a spot it was and I was happy to be sharing this with him now.
We commented on the rose bushes which had now started to develop leaves ahead of Spring, and the garden was starting to look ready for the new season. The planters had been prepared and the borders tidied.
As we sat together, I wondered what sort of lover Marcus would be and I asked him further questions. He was still something of a mystery to me at times, and I tried to become more playful with the questions I asked.
He asked few questions of me that day. He had asked about my previous partners, but I explained they had all ended mutually and I had taken some time to myself, and was ready for a relationship. I could sense myself trusting him more as we grew closer and I began to understand him as he explained how difficult his studies and training had been.
We walked further around the gardens once more and there was an even colder chill now in the air as the sun began to set. We would head our separate ways, and so I thanked him for the day and the meal and promised next time, I would treat him to lunch as he had done so with me.
Standing nervously in front of him as we said goodbye, I paused to look at him. My heart raced as I clumsily thanked him twice, before looking down. I was thinking out loud now. He laughed as I looked back up at him and we both leaned forward and shared a kiss. Just a short kiss goodbye but it was special and the perfect way to end the day. Our cold lips had met as we closed our eyes, and took in the moment.
We parted ways and I headed home as he walked towards the station. He had offered to walk me home, but I insisted he should head straight home as it was cold now, and I was familiar with the route having walked it many times.
I felt something special that day which I thought about as I walked home. Something I had not felt for a long time. Our day had turned out well and our kiss was special. I knew now that he was serious about the possibility of us being together.
Walking home, I allowed my mind to dream a little, the smile on my face saying everything as I returned home.
Work had been busy in the week following and the gallery had now placed restrictions on travel outside of the country due to a virus outbreak. It was early days but there had been isolated cases here since last month but it was fast becoming more widespread.
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