Snow Day

As a reward for surviving the Christmas period and not committing murder, i.e. working 60 to 70 hour weeks on her feet, in heels, in a four storey restaurant without an elevator and doing a thousand covers a day, she and the other cocktail waitresses, along with the bartenders were treated to an afternoon of go-carting, followed by drinks at a nearby pub.

Everyone met at the restaurant in Piccadilly before jumping on the tube together and making their way to North Greenwich. Upon exiting the station she saw an open space of beautiful white powder between her and the private van waiting to pick up the group. A couple of inches of snow had fallen the night before, the first decent amount for the season and it still hadn’t melted away, so she took the opportunity to start her very first snowball fight. There they all were; English, Welsh, Italian, Polish, Latvian, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, Nepalese, Argentinian and Australian adults, both male and female, all screaming, laughing and running around, pelting the shit out of each other with ice rocks they had constructed between their gloves.

Once bruised and wet and bundled into the van, they were taken to The Raceway in Docklands where the competitiveness continued and a number of people crashed into the barriers courtesy of their delightful co-workers giving them friendly nudges. She recorded one of the slowest times on the day, but she preferred that to a case of whiplash.

Afterwards, at the pub, she continued a harmless flirtation with her Spanish “work husband” which had been simmering for a few months. He half joked she should visit his mum in Valencia with him and he would teach her the secrets to making a proper paella. She was enjoying the bar tab and exchanging stories with her colleagues when she happened to look at the time and saw it was magically 10pm. She should have been home hours earlier.

It took another hour for her to reach the front door of her basement flat in Stoke-Newington, where she heard voices coming from inside. She entered and immediately saw to her right two unfamiliar men aged in their 20’s sitting on the blue sofa in her living room. Confused and unsure what to do or say, she just stared at them until her friend visiting from Australia, popped his head around the corner from the kitchen and said hello. They had met six years earlier running in the same social circles and had once shared a cheeky kiss on his nineteenth birthday. Now, years later and on the other side of the world, he was sleeping on an inflatable mattress at hers before moving to Portugal to work in a hostel, and had decided to invite some friends he had in London over for drinks. The strangers introduced themselves to her before quickly dispersing into the night.

As soon as they were gone she began peeling off her layers of winter clothing, while simultaneously searching the kitchen cupboards for anything with an alcohol content. Her friend looked on for a few silent moments before sheepishly confessing he and his friends had drunk everything and that he would walk to the off license around the corner to get something.

Fifteen minutes later he was back with a bottle of spiced rum and a look of wonder on his face. After spending most of the day and night inside, he had just seen Stoke-Newington common, a small triangle shaped park across from where she lived, totally blanketed in snow. As they were both from a place in Australia where it never got cold enough to do so, they decided to layer back up and go build a snowman.

It was light to hold and soft to touch, like desiccated coconut. At first, it was relatively dry when it was loose, but as they consolidated it into a small hard mound, which would become the body of the snowman, it became wetter and like the ice shavings you get in a snow cone. As they knelt, knees soaked through the jeans, sculpturing their friend, she looked around. The leafless trees that lined the edge of the park closest to the train tracks looked like they were dusted with powdered sugar. The London sky was unusually clear and starry. It was nearly midnight, but the combination of the street lamps, the starlight and the snow made everything luminous.

On the other side of the common she spotted three middle aged Indian men giggling on the equipment in the fenced off playground area. She wasn’t surprised by this sight, as she had witnessed drunk Hasidic Jewish men, who lived up the road in Stamford Hill do the same thing on multiple occasions. They were all still kids at heart.

They had finished rolling the head of the snowman and had placed it on the body only to realise they had nothing to use for the eyes and nose. At that moment they heard the gate to the playground area bang shut and saw the three Indian men walking straight towards them. She was suddenly frozen, both in terror and temperature. She saw one of the men reach into his jacket pocket, for what she could only imagine was a knife. This is it she thought. They were about to get fucking stabbed while building a snowman.

“Do you guys need a carrot for that?” the man inquired, as he pulled not one, but TWO out from the pocket his hand was stuffed in. It was one of the most surreal moments of her life. She breathed a heavy sigh of relief and accepted the vegetables, which were broken up to make the finishing touches to their work of art.

It turned out the trio had originally ventured to the park with the same idea as them, which explained the carrots, but they had been quickly enticed by the swings. After a short conversation and once everyone had a photo with the completed snowman, the pair were invited back to the Indians’ flat for some late night curry. She politely declined on behalf of her and her friend, as she thought it was a generous, but also weird offer. They were also about to catch pneumonia any second. They thanked the men for their assistance and walked back to the flat where they had a nightcap of spiced rum and went to bed.

The following morning she went back to investigate if the snowman had survived. Half the snow had disappeared across the park, exposing wet green patches of grass. The snowman had reduced to a third of its size, and she could tell some animal, most likely a fox or a crow had stolen some of the pieces of carrot. She gazed up and saw one of the Indian men walking past on the footpath waving at her. She smiled and waved back.

She’d had her first snowball fight and built her first snowman all in the same day. It was a day she would never forget and a photo she would cherish forever.


snow day.jpg


The Bus Stop Boy

She stood at a bus stop near Angel Station vexed and alone. It was the middle of the night, she was on her way home after a long shift at work, had just missed her connecting night bus (the next one wasn’t for another half an hour) and all she could think about was the man she was in love with. He had carelessly hurt her again, so she was killing the time by repeatedly mulling over what had happened in her neurotic mind. She was desperate to let go of the idea of him, but it was easier said than done.

While she was off in her own world someone had silently slipped forward from the shadows next to her, interrupting her bubble by politely clearing his throat to ask her the time. When she was jolted back to reality and looked over her left shoulder to reply, she unexpectedly saw an attractive man of similar age to her. Thanks to the dimly lit lamp post next to them she was able to decipher he had short auburn hair with a cow lick, a matching short boxed beard, hazel eyes and freckles. He was only slightly taller than her, was wearing office attire and had a soft Dublin accent. She suddenly forgot what she had been thinking about.

She pulled out her IPhone from the pocket of her beige, faux fur hooded coat, looked at the time and answered his question. He then asked how her night had been, and because she couldn’t tell him the truth, she instead told him an anecdote about how a man had accidentally spilled wine on his date at the restaurant where she worked. He voluntarily divulged he was an I.T engineer who had gone out for post work drinks, which went for five hours too long. Classic London. Surprisingly, he didn’t show any signs of intoxication. Before she knew it, she was deep in conversation with the handsome stranger, conversing about everything from his thoughts on Sir Alex Ferguson retiring as Manchester United’s manager to unemployment rates in Ireland to Edward Snowden.

Time melted away and the red double decker she had been waiting for appeared from around the corner. The Irish gentleman flagged it down and gestured for her to board before him, as it turned out to be the same one he had to catch as well. The bus was packed because only a few ran at that time of night, forcing them to both hug the pole on the lower floor, near the back door along with four others. She felt awkward flirting with him in front of an audience, but he didn’t seem to notice them; she had his full attention. Two stops before he was due to get off he asked for her number and if she would like to go for a coffee. So told him absolutely. He disembarked with her digits and she was left feeling lighter, her mood lifted.

The following day, less than twenty four hours after they had met, she received a text message from him. He suggested to meet at a café opposite Newington Green in two days’ time, at a place just a stone’s throw from his flat and only fifteen minutes’ walk from hers. She found his assertive, no bullshit approach a foreign, but refreshing change from what she was accustomed to and promised him she would be there.

However, for the next forty eight hours she fought an internal battle of skepticism, trying to decide whether or not she should go ahead with the date. While she was technically single, she was emotionally attached to someone else, which meant one of two things: she would either immediately shut herself off to the possibility of dating someone else and would remain celibate and committed to person number one, regardless of how that person felt about her. Or, if for some reason she did try and attempt to date someone new, forcing herself to move on, instead of letting it naturally fade, she would end up, more often than not, feeling overwhelmingly guilty. She was also notorious for her self-sabotaging; a subconscious defence mechanism to stop people from getting too close, and therefore allowing her to be hurt only briefly. Her heart had been severely broken once before and it took a good four to five years to heal, so she had vowed she would never allow herself to feel like that again. She was emotionally damaged, but she was slowly working on it day by day.

Finally, with a little reassurance and wine from her flatmate she came to her senses, concluded he did in fact seem decent, and it was a real opportunity to finally move on, and away from what could only be a dead end with the other man.

It was officially the start of summer, but in typical English fashion, the sun was still playing hide and seek amongst the clouds. She wore her favourite green floral dress with opaque tights and a red cardigan. As she made her way to meet the bus stop boy she caught herself smiling as she hopped, skipped and jumped over the uneven, cracked, east London sidewalk that had been ruined by tree roots.

The café was near capacity when she arrived, but luckily he had beaten her there and managed to steal a small table against the poster bombed wall in the corner. He greeted her with a kiss on the cheek and handed her a menu as they sat down in slow unison. He was exceedingly more attractive than she remembered and was wearing a tight fighting navy sweater over a white collared shirt with dark denim jeans. His hair looked almost aflame in the day light.

One coffee turned into two, followed by a walk through the park across the road. She learnt he had lived in London for five years, but all his family were still back in Ireland. He missed them, and visited them regularly, but didn’t consider it home anymore. As their conversation continued her intuition perceived him to be kind and incredibly intelligent. He told her he had never been to Australia, but admitted it was on his bucket list, and he made it clear right then and there that he would be open to the idea of moving there for a relationship.

While most people would have considered running to the hills after such an upfront confession from a stranger, she was happy to know where he stood on the issue and what her future options might be. She had six months left on her visa and was living in the most multi-cultural city in the world; the chances of meeting someone not from her country were high, and of course, because life was cruel, the chances of meeting someone perfect, right before she was due to leave were even more inconveniently greater.

Afternoon transitioned into early evening. The arctic wind had picked up and it suddenly felt like the start of winter again. She was shivering. It was time for the date to conclude. They were seated on a wooden park bench when he asked to see her again the following week. As she was mid-sentence in agreement, he grabbed her gently by the face, leaned in and kissed her. She could feel her cheeks promptly blush. He was a competent kisser. He stood up and offered his hand to help her up. She didn’t need it, but took it anyway and he held it until he had walked her to the edge of the park, to where the bus stop was. He waited with her until it came and gave her a final kiss goodbye.

For the next couple of days they played a flirtatious game of text message tennis. With his office hours and her hospitality hours, meeting up again was proving problematic to organise. In the end, they agreed on seeing each other the coming Saturday. She met him at The Brownswood on Green Lanes for a quick pint before he had to rush off and play football at Finsbury Park. He certainly didn’t play in a serious division if he was drinking beforehand. It was late in the morning and the only other patrons at the time all seemed to be over the age of sixty and really into their sports betting. They sat on metal stools at the bar with their legs intertwined. She was in another of her floral dress numbers and he was wearing his football tracksuit. The conversation was animated as they each discussed the weeks they had both had. He was in line for a promotion and had a possible business trip back to Dublin, while she had just booked flights to Copenhagen to visit her friend Jakob. She noted and relished the lack of awkward silences during their conversation. He profusely apologised he couldn’t spend more time with her and quizzed her on her availability for the coming week, promising her a more lengthy and thoughtful date. They both had the following Sunday free, so he made her promise to keep it open for him. Once again he walked her to the bus stop and they parted after a quick make out session.

For date number three he organised a picnic in Clissold Park. He brought white wine and an assortment of cheeses and berries along with him. Summer had finally kicked in and the city was alive and buzzing. The park was packed with like-minded people as them, all trying to consume as much vitamin D as possible before it disappeared for another year. Their entire afternoon was spent on a rug amongst the tall, thick green grass, people watching and listening to music. At one point, as they laid on their backs and were interpreting pictures in the few clouds that passed over them she encountered her first bumblebee. She was completely memorised by it as it hovered lazily over her face. Life, dating, everything felt relaxing and uncomplicated. All of her previous doubts had vanished, like an apparition that appears for only a split second, and she found herself acting like a dizzy teenager. He was doubtlessly a good man and for the briefest of moments she had successfully forgotten about the other one.

A couple of days later she was discussing the bus stop boy with friends at a bar in Soho. They were border line interrogating her for details on his kissing technique, whether they had slept together yet and if they were now “exclusive”. As she responded to the final question she noticed her friends had fallen quiet, and she saw at the corner of her eye someone had been listening to their conversation. When her brain registered who it was she immediately felt sick in the stomach and her heart began to race. It was the man she had been trying to fall out of love with, and she could tell by the look on his face he had heard everything. It was a contorted blend of anguish and bewilderment. He went to say something, but he couldn’t find the words. There was an awkward silence. Her friends sheepishly kept their eyes to the floor. She then did something she had never had the strength to do before; she walked away.

She needed to drink the memory of what had just happened away, so she contacted some friends she knew were out drinking in Camden and jumped on the tube. Three hours later, blind drunk, she thought it would be a great idea to text the bus stop boy and suggest visiting him in his flat. It wasn’t. She was about to work her subconscious sabotaging magic again. All she could recall the next day was that a projector had been playing old rock videos onto his bedroom wall and it was her worst ever performance. God knows what else was said and done that she couldn’t remember. She had woken to her head thumping, the room spinning and the distinct, strong smell of curry. It turned out he lived above an Indian Restaurant. It made her want to throw up, but miraculously she held it down. He had already left for work, which was explained on a ripped piece of paper next to the bed.

Five days passed before she heard from him again. It would be the last time. He said he had gone to Dublin for a few days, but she had a gut feeling it was a lie and he had been ghosting her. She was secretly relieved. He was everything a sane woman would want in a partner, but he had never induced stomach flips and caused her heart rate to increase. They were important to her. She didn’t want perfect on paper, she wanted perfect for her, and that meant complicated, irritating, immeasurable love with all its shades of grey. She loved the other man. It wasn’t right, but it was real.

She never knew what became of the bus stop boy as she never learnt his surname and therefore was unable to ever look him up. She always envisioned him living outside of London, commuting on the train to the city for work, married to a perfect wife, with two perfect kids and a white picket fence.

As for the man she was in love with, they resumed what they had, but when she moved back to Australia a few months later he chose to remain in London. It was too much of a gamble for him.

It was the second time in her life her heart genuinely broke.

And it probably wouldn’t be the last.

Tonight I Have To Leave It

She stood at a sink, washing her hands in the upstairs women’s bathroom at a pub in Islington, London. She was tipsy and merry; her body and soul warmed by the alcohol she had consumed. Momentarily, she glanced up at the mirror in front of her, and in the reflection she saw a familiar looking person standing next to her.

“You guys were fantastic tonight” she blurted like word vomit.

“Thank you so much” came the poised, pleased reply with a Scandinavian accent.

The woman was tall and slender, dressed in a black shift dress with a white collar, opaque tights and chunky heeled black ankle boots. Her platinum blonde hair was tied in a ponytail, held together by a thick black satin ribbon. She sported a blunt fringe, her eye makeup was smoky and her lipstick was taffy in colour.

It was the keyboardist from one of her favourite bands, an indie pop group from Sweden and twenty minutes prior had been the second time she had seen them live; the first being seven years earlier and more than fourteen thousand kilometres away.

They chatted animatedly about the show for a few minutes before parting ways.

She exited the bathroom elated and found her mischievous female English friend waiting for her at the bar with whiskey shots. She relayed the encounter she had just had. Her friend was also blonde and gorgeous, but half the height of the Swede, and only the fourth person she had ever met that had heard of the band.

Whenever they went out together it was guaranteed to be a good time, and that night was no exception. They had found out about the show only three days beforehand and managed to snag two of the last twenty tickets available. They had skipped a bus from Kings Cross station to walk to the pub instead, swigging Jamieson from a hip flask and giggling all the way.

“I want a friend in the band too” her friend whined playfully before scanning the room for the other band members.

She watched as her friend locked eyes on someone in the crowd. She followed her gaze and saw the bass player at the end of it. “Here we go” she thought to herself as she watched her friend sink her shot of whiskey, slam the glass on the bar counter and make a beeline for him. She stayed at the bar and watched on in equal awe and terror, downing her shot to help deal with the situation unfolding before her.

While her friend worked her charm, she stood at the bar, lost in drunken hazy thoughts.  When she looked back over a couple of minutes later both her friend and the bass player were gesturing for her to come to them. He appeared highly amused.

There was something Pippin like about him. His hair was light brown and scruffy and his nose was pinched. He didn’t look like a stereotypical Swede. They were introduced by her friend and he offered to buy them a beer. She accepted without hesitation.

He was a highly intelligent and creative human, almost to the point of intimidating, but yet, at the same time he seemed completely humble and down to earth. They chatted about his relatives in her home city, his filming credentials and their mutual love of Stockholm. It was a relief to meet someone she had been a fan of for a while who didn’t disappoint her in person.

The next thing she knew, she and her friend were at the downstairs bar with every member of the band and their entourage, knocking back more whiskey shots. The enigmatic lead singer hovered near them and was like a puzzle to solve. She was highly skilled at reading people, and yet she couldn’t read him. He politely introduced himself and then that was all she got out of him before he disappeared back into the sea of Vikings.

The bass player never left her side however, and made sure she was introduced to anyone he knew that entered the vicinity. There was an ambiguous flirtation between them, which grew as the night went on.

Lord Huron’s ‘I will be back one day’ began playing. He took her hand, walked her to the centre of the room where there was a small clearing, placed one hand firmly on her waist, the other in her right hand, and in front of everyone led her in a slow, but casual dance. Every time he stretched her out away from him like a Yo-yo and brought her back in with a twirl she burst out laughing. She briefly felt like Baby from Dirty Dancing. They continued for two more songs she didn’t know the names of.

She was loving every second of the moment she was living in.

After more shots, beers and conversations she checked the time and discovered it was a lot later than she had thought it was. She had to be up for work in six hours, so regrettably said goodbye to the bass player with a kiss on the cheek and left him with her friend.

She was sitting alone at the bus stop outside the pub, waiting for the 73 to arrive and was reminiscing about the night she had just had when the lead singer and a couple of roadies stumbled out. He looked at her, shuffled towards her, kissed her on the mouth and thanked her for coming to her show before heading to the kebab shop next door. Clearly, a few drinks had coaxed him out of his shell.

She sat smugly until she abruptly threw up in the bin next to the bus stop. All the whiskey shots mixed with English ales had finally caught up to her.

It was definitely the right time to call it a night.


Copenhagen and the Vikings

In three weeks it was going to be her birthday. It would be her first one spent in Europe and she was determined to celebrate by going on holiday. She already had the time booked off work; she just needed a destination.

It had been several weeks since she and the Viking had parted ways in Berlin. Though she was back in London and he in Copenhagen, they were emailing and texting almost daily.  Despite the distance, she was still enraptured by him.

She messaged him for advice knowing he was well travelled. The man had backpacked across Australia, gone on Safari in Africa, taken boys trips to the United States and for fun, was a ski instructor in Austria. The Danes notoriously loved their holidays and he was no exception.

She had narrowed down her list of choices to Lisbon, Paris and Reykjavik when she cheekily suggested he should accompany her. When he explained he couldn’t get the time off work as he had a month long trip to Brazil already booked in the near future, he surprised her by suggesting she should visit him in Copenhagen instead. She hadn’t even thought of that.

At first she was hesitant. While it felt like she had known him forever, in reality she had known him for just a few weeks. For all she knew he was trying to lure her to a strange country and her impending death, something mother and father would certainly frown upon. Then she thought; what if he didn’t kill her and they had an amazing time just like their one night together in Berlin? The thought of regret was greater than the fear. Plus she knew it would make a good story so long as she lived to tell the tale.

“What’s in Copenhagen?” she wrote to him.

“Me and a warm bed” he replied.

She booked her flights right then and there.

Later that night she was at work cocktail waitressing for an upmarket steak restaurant in the heart of the city. It was the kind of establishment where the guests were an eclectic mixture of suits, celebrities and tourists.

She had gone to fetch a bottle of wine from the store room only to return to the cocktail lounge and find three young men had sat in her section. There was something about the way they looked and their accents that reminded her of the Viking.

As she approached the table to introduce herself as their waitress she discovered they were not only Danish, but they were also from Copenhagen. They were living in London for a semester studying as part of their Business Master’s degrees. All three were tall, blonde and handsome. Bloody Scandinavian genetics she thought.

She was enjoying their drunken banter and dirty jokes when they asked if she’d been to Denmark before. She told them she had literally just booked flights to Copenhagen that morning to visit a man she had recently met, and that it would be her first time to the Nordic country.

“You know it’s just fucking right?” the drunkest one blurted, triggering the second one to chortle.

“Excuse me?” she replied, half shocked and half amused by his bluntness.

The third and more sober of the three interjected.

“Excuse my friend, he just meant dating is super casual in CPH. You might start sleeping together quickly, but you’re usually not exclusive until after a very long time”.

“Well been there, done that” she said with a wink.

“Girls make most of the moves as well”

While she wasn’t sure what it was that she had with the Viking, she didn’t like the thought of beautiful Danish women pursuing him while she was stuck in London.

“If he’s invited you to Copenhagen then I’m sure he must really like you” the third said kindly, almost as if he had read her mind.

There was something about this particular Viking that she liked in a platonic way. He was warm and well-mannered and she felt immediately at ease around him. The company he kept however, now that was slightly questionable.

She thanked them for the advice and walked back to the bar to organise their drinks. They stayed for only one round before saying goodbye and moving on to the nightclub next door. Though only sitting there for a short time, they had planted a tiny seed of doubt in her brain.

A few weeks later, she was working her final shift before her holiday when the same three Vikings reappeared.

“Oh no! Not you guys again!” she joked and feigned concern.

“Have you been to Copenhagen yet?” the previously drunk-now-sober one asked.

“The day after tomorrow!” she replied excitedly.

“We need to teach you a few words for your trip” the second exclaimed.

“Tak! Means thank you” the third advised.

“But the one thing you really need to know is how to say “Cheers!” which is…”

Skål!” they all yelled in unison and clinked their beers together.

“Ok! Tak!” she responded, and they all laughed with approval.

She left them alone and continued serving other tables only to be waved back over a short time later. They were going to a house party later that night and invited her to join them after she finished work. She was interested but didn’t know what time she was finishing. She exchanged phone numbers with the third Viking and promised to message him when she was done.

“I don’t even know your name sorry” she said.

“I’m Jacob” he replied and they left.

By the time she finished work it was 1am and she was exhausted. She messaged her new friend to let him know she wouldn’t be making it to the party. He responded it was ok and to have a great time in his home city and that they should go for a beer when she was back so she could tell him about her trip. She agreed about the drink, thanked him and told him to have a good night.

The day finally came for her to see her Viking. It was 4am, she was packed and patiently waited outside her Stoke-Newington flat to be picked up by the private car she had booked to take her to the airport. She was so nervous with anticipation she peed nearly ten times in the space of an hour. When there was no sign of the car she started to feel sick in the pit of her stomach with anxiety. She called the car company barely containing her frustration when the man down the other end of the line informed her that daylight savings had ended overnight. She was ready an hour early and wasn’t going to miss her flight. She felt like an asshole and an idiot.

As promised the car arrived on time and delivered her to Stansted Airport. After a one hour and fifty minute flight she arrived in Copenhagen. She loved the proximity of everything in Europe, especially compared to back home where one can fly for two hours and still be in the state of Western Australia. It was still morning, but the sunlight somehow made everything look like it was 5pm as if the sun was just about to set rather than rise. It was the end of October and she was in Scandinavia. Apparently daylight was a scarce commodity in that part of the world at that time of year. She couldn’t imagine what it’d be like in January. Vampire country maybe she thought. The Viking had told her to bring gloves and she was grateful for the recommendation. It was also so cold her nose was burning.

He couldn’t meet her at the airport because of a party at his apartment the night before and he wanted it clean in time for her arrival. She followed his instructions and caught a train from the airport to the suburb of Svanemøllen where he promised he would meet her outside the station.

As soon as she arrived at the final station she was overcome with nerves. What if he’s nothing like the man I met in Berlin? What if it’s really awkward for the entirety of the next two days? What if he doesn’t show up and this is all a sick joke? On top of the legion of possibilities that plagued her, her phone had refused to pick up any signal. She had no way of calling him or even checking maps for his address. She was about to have her very first panic attack when she heard a beeping noise coming from her bag. Her phone had finally connected to the country’s communication service and she had received a message. It was from him; Look up.

When she did she saw him across the road walking towards her. Everything she had been feeling just moments before faded away.

She met him half way at the median strip in the middle of the road. He was just as attractive as she remembered him, even rugged up in a not so flattering navy duffel coat. They exchanged hello’s and kissed for a solid minute in the middle of the road. He took her luggage in one hand and her hand in the other and walked her to the other side of the road. She was telling him about her flight when he stopped her in front of a bakery.

“Have you had breakfast?” he asked with a grin.

“No I haven’t actually” she replied.

“Well, seeing as you’re in Denmark now you should start with a Danish pastry, or as we say here “Wienerbrød”, although they’re maybe not as popular here as overseas” he said with a wink.

He began conversing in Danish with an elderly lady behind the counter and as she watched she found herself immediately turned on by him speaking his native tongue. Accents had long been her kryptonite. She watched as four different types of pastries were placed into a brown paper bag whilst he paid the lady. Having purchased the pastries they continued down Østerbrogade towards his apartment.

When they reached his building, they went up to the top floor in potentially the world’s smallest elevator. What’s this, an elevator for ants? She mused to herself. It was so tiny they were squished against each other, not that she was complaining. She made a joke about getting to know the neighbours well in it and he admitted to her he had to carry all his furniture up the stairs when he first moved in because it was too small to use. She was impressed since he lived on the fourteenth floor and also glad she wasn’t around for move in day. He was inclined to not move again for quite some time.

His apartment was delightful and the definition of Danish Design. The space was bright thanks to large windows, natural lighting and plain white walls. The furnishings were minimal but modern and appeared to be hand crafted with great attention to detail. The appliances in his kitchen were in various pops of colour and the shelves in the living room weren’t cluttered. He seemed to have only the things he needed and she liked that. She was drawn to a peculiar 3D box shape mounted on the wall. It was a Snellen eye chart that also doubled as a wall lamp. He noticed her looking at it and explained his father, who was a Doctor, had given it to him.

He ushered her out onto his balcony while he made her a coffee. The view was breath taking. In front of her was a sea of red, brown, orange and charcoal coloured roof tops and just beyond, the autumn trees marked the beginning of Fælledparken. It was a Sunday, so the streets below were extremely quiet. Only the occasional ring of a bicycle bell, the chirping of birds and the laughter of children broke the silence.

The Viking joined her and they sat eating pastries and drinking coffee, catching up on each other’s lives. She learnt he lived with a police officer who she would meet sooner or later and by all accounts was a little crazy, especially when he drank. What was it about Danes and Alcohol she wondered, although being Australian she was the pot calling the kettle black.

She was please to find he was just as kind, witty and intelligent as he was the first time she met him in Berlin. Her stomach couldn’t stop doing somersaults.

After an hour of settling in and several make out sessions like they were teenagers again, he decided to give her a tour of the city. They visited the Little Mermaid statue based on the Hans Christian Anderson tale which she found to be sad and lonely, followed by a walk of the grounds of the 17th century star-shaped fortress Kastellet, where he gave her a Danish military history lesson.

From there he took her to see Frederik’s Church, a beautiful 18th century Evangelical Lutheran structure which happened to be the oldest in Scandanavia. They walked down the street away from the church and its near Tiffany-blue dome and past the various embassy’s until they came to Amalienborg. It was known as the Four Palaces and the home of the Danish Royal family including Australian born Princess Mary. She was surprised by how open to the public it was and how few guards there were. She took the opportunity to document the moment with her camera, asking a passer-by to take a photo of her and the Viking.

The final stop on the personalised tour was Christiania, the former military barracks turned self-proclaimed autonomous hippie commune in the heart of the city. It was started in the 1970’s by artists and squatters and she had never seen anything like it before. The buildings were coated with different styles of art, the air smelled of marijuana, and tiny DIY homes surrounded a lake which was sat so still it reflected the sky. At one point a Rastafarian on a bike cycled past them with a heart shaped rainbow speaker blasting reggae. It was one of the more surreal moments in her life.

He took her home and cooked her dinner. While he cooked she drank red wine and curled up on the lounge to watch a Premier League game. He was impressed she liked to watch sport. The rest of the evening was spent getting to know each other further; verbally, as well as in the bedroom. At some point late in the night she awoke to hear his housemate come home but immediately fell back asleep.

The next time her eyes opened she was officially twenty five and she couldn’t think of a better way to start it; in bed with a handsome Scandinavian. It was 7am on a Monday and the Viking had work. He didn’t have curtains so the sunlight pierced through the window like a sword through flesh. As he got dressed, she hid herself in the darkness and warmth of his covers.

He wished her a happy birthday, told her to make herself at home, wrote down the address of his work for her to meet him at later and left. His elusive housemate had already snuck out before meeting her, allowing her to potter about alone to check her emails and Facebook. Australia was six hours ahead so she had already received a few birthday messages.

After a few hours she gained the courage to leave the apartment and walk solo around the city. The weather wasn’t as pleasant as the day before. The morning had started sunny but the day gradually progressed into wet, grey and gusty weather. The artic winds were excruciatingly cold when they found their way to her. She managed to locate Tivoli Gardens, the second oldest amusement park in the world. It was way too dangerous to go on any of the rides so she just wandered about the park and people watched.

She stumbled across Strøget, a pedestrian shopping strip where she fell in love and wanted to buy almost every item on display in the windows. She loved the fashion in Copenhagen. Everyone looked effortlessly stylish using a predominant combination of black, white and grey. Flattering and hardly ever out of fashion she thought to herself. She had always preferred winter clothes to summer so she thoroughly enjoyed seeing the array of scarves, boots, coats and hats worn by the gorgeous Danish women walking or cycling past.

She was nearly struck down by a young woman on a pale blue bicycle, after accidentally walking across a bike path. She knew Amsterdam was famous for being the biking capital of the world without having been there, but Copenhagen must have been a close second. Cyclists reminded her of bee’s buzzing about a hive, which was the city. If she wasn’t careful she was going to be stung by one.

She found it was a pleasure to see a city so “green” and environmentally conscious which helped her understand the Viking’s thinking a little better. After all, he was an Environmental Planner.

After a quick bite to eat in an empty restaurant she found Nyhavn, the picturesque port with blue, green, yellow, red and white house’s lining each side. It was probably the most photographed part of the city. The sight of the coloured houses contrasting with the grey sky was astounding. She was interested to see what it would look like in summer with tourists spilling out of the bars and restaurants as well.

She headed towards where the Viking worked which was opposite three large rectangular lakes. By the time she got to his office she looked like someone who had been standing in front of a wind machine after a bucket of water had thrown over their head. She was extremely embarrassed to meet him in front of his colleagues who stared at her from their desks. They all wore matching expressions on their faces as if to say who is this Australian mess? The Viking didn’t seem to care though, scooping her up and kissing her for all to see.

They said good bye to his co-workers and walked for twenty minutes down Fredensgade, past the hospital and across Fælledparken until they reached his local supermarket to buy groceries for dinner. Even though it was her birthday she decided to cook dinner for him to say thank you for having her. Luckily the weather was perfect for her signature dish; lamb stew with mashed potato. The saying ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’ was not wasted on her.

Once home they jumped immediately into the shower together to warm up. It was like Berlin all over again. Once they were finished she began preparing dinner. As she busied about the kitchen, he answered work emails at the dining table, all the while explaining how he was going to save the world one environmental policy at a time.

He introduced her to the Danish artist Agnes Obel who played on loop in the background, setting an equally romantic and melancholic mood. The fact she had to fly back to London in less than twenty four hours was already on her mind. If she could of, she would have stayed with him in that apartment forever.

She had her back to him and hadn’t realised he had temporarily snuck away from the table. As she was stirring the stew he surprised her from behind, placing his left hand on her hip and dangling a gift in front of her with his right. He kissed her neck and whispered Happy Birthday into her ear.  She hadn’t expected anything from him and it was the first time she had ever received a present from a man.

It was a Danish designed fish mobile. The wire was gold and the four fish, each varying in size were made of differing coloured cardboard. It was simple and delicate and she loved it. He told her it was identical to the one he had bought for his soon to be born first nephew.

“It’s for above your bed, so you’ll always think of me while you’re lying in it” he added.

“Tak!” she said, followed by a kiss.

Two minutes after they had sat down for dinner his housemate came home. He had just finished a shift and asked to join them, bottle of wine in hand and looking ready to party. She remembered the Vikings warning. They had thrown a party for his birthday the night before she had arrived, but his birthday was actually the day after hers, so they decided to celebrate both with red wine, white Russian cocktails and anecdotes.

“Skål!” she said as she initiated a clinking of drinks. They seemed impressed with the few Danish words she knew.

The stew was a hit and both men helped themselves for seconds. When their bellies were full and the apartment ran dry of alcohol they decided to don their coats. They walked down to a pub two blocks over where they taught her Danish Billiards and she played ACDC songs on the jukebox.

It was around 2.30am when they called it a night as the Viking had to work again in the morning.

Along with the sunlight came the ringing of his alarm and the reality of her impending departure that day. Both of them were a little sombre, though neither tried to show it. The night before she recalled how they had talked about when they were going to see each other again. In a week and a half he was off to Brazil for a month. By the time he’d get back it’d be nearly Christmas and there was no way she’d be able to get work off again until after New Year since December was a ridiculously busy month for the hospitality industry in London. They toyed with the idea of him visiting her in January, or meeting on mutual territory somewhere else, but nothing was set in stone.

He went to work and she spent the morning on the balcony drinking coffee. The weather had improved from the day before and was once again sunny and cold. She was impressed with what she saw of the city and Danish people but wished she had more time to explore it further.

His housemate didn’t wake until close to midday, but offered to drop her off at the Carlsberg Brewery on his way to work. She took him up on his offer and spent the first half of the afternoon there before meeting the Viking in the city centre.

He took her on a romantic stroll through Kongens Have, also known as The King’s Garden, which would become her favourite place and memory of the city. It was enchanting in the autumn. They went back to his and spent one last time together in his bedroom before he drove her to the airport.

It took at least ten minutes for her to leave the car and for him to allow it to happen. They were both a mess. Finally, she confessed to him she had left a present for him in the apartment, but didn’t tell him what it was or where he would find it. She kissed him one last time, thanked him for letting her stay, got out of the car and walked into the airport without a glance behind.

On the return flight to London she fought back tears the entire way. She had a gut feeling she wouldn’t be seeing him again.

She was on a transfer bus home from the airport when she received a text message from him

‘I miss you already too’

Before she had left his apartment to head to the brewery she had placed a pocket sized Portuguese dictionary on his kitchen window sill. She had studied it for fun a few years earlier and thought he’d get some use out of it in Brazil. On the inside cover she had written ‘Eu sinto falta de voce’ which translated to “I miss you”. He had found it.

Over the next few weeks they talked, even while he was on holiday in South America. He asked her to fly down and join him and as much as she wanted to, she didn’t have the funds or time off work to do it. As the weeks passed communication between them slowly faded. Christmas and New Years went by. She booked flights to Prague and Stockholm in January while he went to Austria.

By the end of February he admitted he had started dating someone else in Copenhagen. What could she do? Damn those beautiful Danish women she thought when she learnt of the revelation. A year and a half later she would hear he had become a father. She knew he’d make an incredible parent.

She concluded she wasn’t in love with the Viking; she just loved the way he had made her feel. She had been broken for a long time before she had met him in Berlin. He had somehow not only healed her, but also brought her back to life just by showing her kindness and respect, giving her the knowledge that there were decent men still out there. He was a brilliant, sexy, smart and funny man in a different stage of his life compared to her which she happily acknowledged and accepted. She knew deep down even if they had seen each other again she could never make him happy long term and only hoped he had finally found it with the other woman.

From there on, her standards in men would always be higher because of him and the way he had treated her. She would always remember turning twenty five as her favourite birthday.

Though the Viking was never truly hers, he had done something for her that no man in her life had ever done before; he had given her hope. He enabled an ever growing chain of events to unfold before her and brought about the endless bound of opportunities she would soon experience. No matter where she was in the world, she would be forever grateful for meeting him.

A few days after her trip to Copenhagen she walked into a bar in Soho. At a high table with a pint in hand Jacob was patiently waiting for her. He had messaged her to see how her holiday was and if she had liked his home city and she agreed to discuss it over beer. He would become one her dearest friends and the reason she’d go back to Copenhagen over and over again until she eventually fell in love with the city and its people.

Endings and Beginnings

She had always tried to fix the broken ones but in the end they’d always broken her a little instead.

They met at a mutual friend’s boat party. All the girls had noticed him except for the laughing, carefree girl who had jumped off the bow of the boat with a beer in hand. Her lack of attention had fascinated him and he was drawn to her like a moth to a flame. He went straight for her as she grabbed another drink from the esky and introduced himself with a cocky pick-up line. Once he was on her radar she saw he had a bad boy vibe and a hint of sadness to him, which she quickly discovered she couldn’t resist.

He was the stereotypical Aussie footballer type; athletic, light brown hair, blue eyes and tattoos. He was private school educated, raised with money and had that slight sense of entitlement one sees in a person when everything is handed to them on a silver platter. He worked in the family business with his father who cheated on his mother most of his life. To him it was natural behaviour and he emerged emotionally stunted.

She was raised with laughter and two loving parents but not a lot of money. She moved out of home at seventeen and worked two jobs to put herself through university. She refused to get any Government assistance. If she wanted something she worked for it. Nothing in her life came for free. When it came to men she was an optimist, always wore her heart on her sleeve and always thought things would work out in the end.

They started sleeping together the night of the boat party with neither of them interested in a ‘relationship’. She had an indefinite trip organised long before they met so there was always an expiration date on whatever they were from day one. It was the first time in a while she wasn’t looking for something serious so her emotional walls were up. Despite their different personalities, social backgrounds and the warnings from various people, the arrangement suited them both.

Within weeks she was acquainted with his friends and family and when they were out he insisted on paying for everything. To everyone who knew of their arrangement they were carefree friends. At night however, behind closed doors, he slowly revealed to her his soul. She was surprised by his words and trust as it made her question the casualness of the situation. At the same time she was unsure of their status, she felt like she was a positive influence on him.

One night he picked her up from her bar job and took her back to his house. She hadn’t been feeling well all day so he offered her some pain relief. Whatever he gave her was strong, prompting her to ask what it was. He revealed he had spent some time in hospital for a bone eating tumour in his skull and the medicine was from that time. It had affected his blossoming football career and she could tell he didn’t divulge that information to many people. She was touched he had opened up to her about something so significant to him.

Later that night, unable to sleep from the humidity and feeling ill from the strong medicine, she lay awake next to him thinking he was sound asleep. She moved and he nervously asked if she was awake.

“Yes” she replied

“I love you” he whispered. Was she hallucinating? She wasn’t sure. An awkward amount of time passed before she spoke.

“Can you say what you said again to me?” He was silent. She rolled over, placed her chin on his bare chest and looked at him. “I’m not sure if I heard what you said correctly, you need to say it again”.

He spoke again repeating the same words which left her speechless. Because she had kept her guard up she hadn’t allowed herself to have feelings for him.

She didn’t know what to say so she kissed him and he kissed her back. After a while he realised it was a distraction and stopped to go use the bathroom. For twenty solid minutes there was silence. No flush of a toilet. No running of a tap. Nothing. He had gone in there to escape. When he finally returned he ignored her, got into bed, rolled on his side so his back was facing her and went to sleep.

The next morning he was brushing his teeth and walked out of the ensuite to find her sitting on the edge of the bed. She looked at him still confused and unsure if it had all been a dream.

“You said something to me last night and I don’t know if it was real or not” she said.

“Was it something good?” he responded

“I think so”

“Then it probably wasn’t a dream” he said before walking back into the bathroom. That was the last time it was mentioned. From that point on he pretended like it had never happened and she was too embarrassed to raise it again.

It took her a long time to pin point the very moment he went cold on her. Later she realised that the night he said those few words, the night she said nothing back, that was it. That was the moment. He had opened up to her and without realising it she had hurt him. When she had hurt him, he began to withdraw like a tortoise in its shell.  To make things worse, the moment he began to build his walls, she saw it as the moment to finally let hers down.

For the next few months she battled with him to show his emotions again. She felt he ignored her unless he was drunk or it was late at night; usually both. He also liked to flaunt other women in front of her. After all they weren’t exclusive.

Every time she was on the verge of giving up he would somehow reel her back in with words or an act of kindness. Sometimes it was a display of jealousy or a drunken deep-and-meaningful conversation. He’d show the old him and her hope would go on. She would always ask him how he felt and about their situation to which he would always respond with “this is what you wanted”. She was a fool.

Any sane woman would have walked away but she felt too invested. She saw moments of greatness in him and held on tight to them when he was cruel to her. She thought he was punishing her and eventually it would end. It wouldn’t, because she couldn’t fix something that was unfixable.

The one great thing that came of it all was that it made it easier for her to leave when the time came. One night as they were walking through a car park with friends the subject of her trip came up. He said something about when she was back and when she told him she didn’t know if she’d even be coming back the look he gave her was forever burned into her memory. She saw then and there the realisation that crossed his face. He finally understood she wasn’t going on a holiday, she was moving countries.

On her last night in Australia she spent it with him. He even offered to take her to the airport. Towards the end he became kinder but at times was still distant, like he was phasing her out. Despite all that had happened she completely understood why. When she left she thought things had ended on good terms and they would at the very least remain friends. As she boarded her flight she sent one final text to him. It was her goodbye.


She was curled in a ball on the bed in her dank London basement flat. Her eyes were swollen and red from crying and the bed sheets were soaked in patches from where her tears had fallen. She had received an email earlier that morning which had devastated her. Though thousands of kilometres away, part of her was still in love with him. When he had reached out to him he had told her to move on and to forget they had ever happened. Despite being on a different continent on the other side of the world he had managed to once again hurt her.

He was in a relationship with a ‘friend’ of hers. She had found out thanks to photos of the two being posted on social media and not from the friends who knew of its beginning merely weeks after her leaving. She felt betrayed by many people despite them telling her it was withheld to spare her feelings. He had stated time and again he didn’t want a relationship but it turned out it he just didn’t want one with her. She felt like damaged goods.

When she found out she emailed them both to ask what was going on. He couldn’t have been nastier and her so-called friend declared “I have no loyalty to you”. Well that was that then she thought.

It was already going to be a long day before she had received the news. She worked as a bartender in Broadgate near Liverpool Street Station. There was an exhibition of expensive cars outside her bar that day which she knew would draw people in for lunch. Her clientele were mainly bankers and half of them were truly wankers; funny how they rhymed. She wasn’t in the mood for their shit.

In the middle of a busy lunch service she dropped an unopened bottle of red wine which shattered at her feet. A cut in her hand began to bleed from where the bottle sliced her and matched the shade of her now soaked socks. Her day was going from bad to worse and she was on a double shift. She still had to work the night shift which turned out to be equally as busy as the day.

Three guys had come in early in the evening and tried to lift her mood throughout the night. The first was obviously keen on her, the second was too good looking to be real and last seemed a little crazy. The one keen on her was a music executive for an international label. He was nice and attentive but she just wasn’t interested or attracted. The good looking guy was a personal trainer and the slightly crazy one worked high up for an airlines company. They were all English and friends from school, and all determined for her to have a good night.

When she finally knocked off the trio asked her to join them for a drink. It had been a long day and she needed one, so she agreed. They invited her to get a taxi with them to Shoreditch, the hipster, happening suburb of east London. Usually she didn’t accept or share rides with strangers, let alone three men, but this time she didn’t care; she needed the distraction. They ended up at a seedy nightclub which was open until 3am. All of her drinks were bought for her but she kept a close eye on them to make sure they weren’t being ‘roofied’.

The music executive kept making unwanted moves on her on the dance floor so she ran away to the bar. She was in line when the personal trainer popped up next to her. They began chatting and she discovered the slab of muscle was also heartbroken. The next thing she knew he was kissing her and she was allowing him to. When they came up for air she saw the music executive was watching them before storming off. She grabbed the personal trainer’s hand and led him out of the club.

In the cab on the way to her flat they established it was just sex. It was what they both needed despite being emotionally attached to other people. She went into stealth ‘Seth Cohen’ mode to sneak him in. Unfortunately for her, not only were her two Scottish housemates wide awake at that hour ever for the first time ever, they also had all their male friends over. The personal trainer received an absolute grilling.

When she got him to her bedroom he was so drunk he couldn’t get it up. They tried countless things before he pretended to fall asleep. No way in hell are you staying here mate. She knew he was faking sleeping because he lived on the other side of London. After ‘waking him’ she eventually convinced him to leave, booked him a taxi and walked him outside. It was eerily quiet.

I don’t know where I am” he said. A three legged albino fox ran past.

“You’ll be ok” she said turning away to go back inside. “We all will be”.

The next morning she pulled out her laptop searching for a much needed holiday and to get away from everything. She couldn’t go immediately, but at least by booking something then and there she could have something to look forward to. She clicked confirm and it was official.

She was going to Berlin.