Hello from sunny Belgium!
How are you doing, fellow romantic? I’m okay. Belgium’s COVID situation has taken another turn for the worse, but the sun is out this week and that makes everything feel less depressing. 🙂
The vaccination campaign here is slow and not without issues. I might get fully vaccinated by the end of June or early July. It’s going to be a long wait! How are things going where you live?
This morning, I went to record the background sounds for the next episode. As you can read below, I needed to go back to Raven’s hotel and capture the beautiful soundscape of a morning in Ghent. I look forward to sharing it with you next week.
For now, happy reading!
UPDATE 7/04: Added a big chunk of excerpt!
Nathalie checked the time on her phone. Despite the detour, she was still fifteen minutes early. She would have to find something to keep herself busy with. She was nervous as hell and standing still didn’t help.
She turned around, considering what she could do. The bakery was closed on Monday. Picking up pastries wasn’t an option. She also wasn’t sure Raven would appreciate another picnic.
Nathalie fidgeted with the button on her blouse. She felt hot from the walk despite the early morning air. Rolling up both of her sleeves, she walked across the street toward the water.
She grabbed the metal railing with both hands and looked up at the seagulls flying across the light blue morning sky. Their screeching reminded her of nights spent by the water with friends. She sucked in the fresh air and promptly yawned.
Nathalie hadn’t slept much. Bart really had screwed her over last night and it had kept her up, fuming as she stared at the ceiling. She loved the man’s ideas, but he was a nightmare to work for. As a person, he was an asshole way too often.
Making Nathalie call Raven to inform her he’d be out of the office had been a douchebag move. Nathalie had pushed back at first, telling him he should call her himself, but Bart’s reply had been that he would just send an email then.
Nathalie thought this was unacceptable and she had relented because of it. She had expected her conversation with Raven to go bad and she had been right. Raven had been super pissed off at her. Understandably so.
It hurt Nathalie to think of how different things could have been this morning. After Raven’s email last night, Nathalie thought they might have spent more time together during lunch or in the evening. Now, that seemed unlikely to happen.
Whatever it was that had been there between them in the weekend, was probably gone now. Bart had turned Nathalie into the harbinger of bad news and disrespect. Nathalie doubted Raven would get over that any time soon.
Nathalie felt horrible about it all. She thought it might even be the final straw. She had been struggling at work for a while now. Bart always found a way to cross her boundaries, and she was increasingly fed up with it.
Sacrificing her own wellbeing? That was something Nathalie had done on numerous occasions. It had never felt like a dealbreaker. She always found a way to talk herself out of quitting her job. But losing Raven? That was different.
“What the fuck?” Nathalie thought, straightening up and shaking her head. “*Losing* Raven? Really?”
Nathalie reminded herself that Raven was practically a stranger to her. There was nothing for her to lose. Still, a gnawing pain had settled in her chest ever since Raven had hung up the phone last night.
“Yeah, I’m really going to quit,” she thought. “Too bad I can’t just pack up and leave.”
Nathalie would have to show up for work for at least another two or three months if she did quit. Bart would make her work like hell every single day of those weeks, she knew. In a way, that was more daunting than trying to find a new job.
Her parents’ reaction wouldn’t be pleasant either. Her whole life, Nathalie’s parents had assumed she would follow in their footsteps as teachers. If she quit her job now, they would start pressuring her again.
Nathalie had a teaching degree in sports and recreation. Her parents had preferred one in math or history – but had supported Nathalie’s choices as long as she intended to go into teaching. What she was teaching, was less important to them.
Nathalie’s older brother was already on track for a lifelong appointment as a physics teacher. This is what her parents wanted for Nathalie, too, a solid career, but Nathalie had chosen a different path.
She had first seen Bart when her school had invited him for a lecture. His enthusiasm and unbridled ambition had immediately fascinated her. She was convinced that people like him would change the world.
Months later, Nathalie had been working on her graduation thesis at the library when she happened upon a magazine that featured Bart. After reading it with growing interest, she had visited his website and discovered that he was looking for a PA.
The thought of working for Bart had excited her in a way she hadn’t experienced before. Teaching reluctant teenagers how to play volleyball for an entire career suddenly had seemed so dull. She wanted to help change the world!
And so, without telling anyone, she had applied for the job. It was the craziest thing she had ever done. She hadn’t even told her best friend, Kim, because she couldn’t quite explain what had come over her.
Much to her surprise, Bart had invited her for an interview the very next day. Nathalie had felt dizzy as she made her way to his office in the middle of Ghent’s historical center.
While sitting across from Bart, it had soon become clear Nathalie had none of the qualifications he had been looking for. She didn’t have any experience as a PA, nor was she an expert in the software she would use to organize his life.
Still, he had asked to explain why she had applied for the job. It had triggered Nathalie to do something that was most unusual for her back then: she had spoken freely and passionately about how she thought Bart’s ideas could change the world.
He had hired her on the spot, saying he always hired based on attitude. Skills could be learned, he had grinned. She had started working for Bart the day after her graduation. It had infuriated her parents.
This all was six years ago. It was hard to believe Nathalie had stuck with Bart for so long. Kim had tried to convince her to find a new job so many times, with no success. This morning, Nathalie felt like she was finally ready.
She hadn’t even gotten a decent explanation from Bart for his change of plans this week. Yesterday, she had been too flabbergasted to keep insisting he give one. Today, she planned to *demand* one. Raven deserved to know what was going on.
Nathalie rechecked the time and was surprised to see it was now one minute past eight. She spun around, embarrassed that she might have kept Raven waiting. But Raven was nowhere to be seen.
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