No one goes into a job expecting to fall for her gay coworker. Okay, at least I didn’t.

I’d sprinted back into the working world after taking time off to have our son and chase after our princess-obsessed three-year-old daughter. It was a year when the days crawled on and blurred into sleepless nights. Going back to work was like going to Hawaii.

I’d noticed Rick eyeing me on LinkedIn before I arrived on the job. I met him on my first day when I discovered he’d be sitting across from me in cube land. Starved for adult interaction after spending a year with little people, I’d chat him up any chance I could, remarking on how quiet the office was or probing about his weekend.

I didn’t mind that Rick’s responses were brief. They were also witty and wry. He had a sarcastic sense of humor I related to. Rick nonchalantly shared that he was a writer – a gay romance novelist with over 30 novels published and an active fan base. I was an aspiring writer, too, so his success and prolificacy impressed me. 

Our conversations grew longer and more in-depth as we talked at our cubes. Rick was like an onion – each layer more unique than the one before. He’d lived a previous life as a theater critic for a newspaper. His work had been published in the Huffington Post and USA Today. I shared with him I’d submitted a few articles to the Huffington Post, but never heard back.

“Keep trying,” he said. “Once you get one published, it’s easier to get more articles published.”

In a bizarre way, when I was with Rick I felt taken care of. For the past year, I’d handed my life over to my children, tending to their needs, constantly taking care of them. It was refreshing to feel taken care of myself. It was the little things. He opened doors for me on our morning quests for caffeine and chivalrously walked on the street side of the me while oncoming traffic sped by. He asked me how I was doing and genuinely cared how I responded.

I asked him dozens of questions about writing. How did he get his ideas? Often they were inspired by real life. When did he find time to write? He woke early every morning and aimed to write a certain amount of words before he headed to the office. Does social media really help boost sales? Yes, absolutely. Rick posted regularly on a few sites and engaging with readers definitely impacted his sales.

One crisp Monday morning I’d come into the office to find Rick waiting for me.

“I’m quitting,” he said. “I’m going to write full time. All these years of keeping at it have paid off and I…” I screamed because I was so thrilled for him. I was crushed that I wouldn’t see him regularly, but my heart was jumping up and down for my friend.

Though we hadn’t known each other long, I knew that once Rick left, my job satisfaction would plummet. He had become my favorite part of my new job. I had no expectations that we’d keep in touch – I was simply grateful that I had the chance to meet him and know him.

Rick’s last day came and we celebrated with a team lunch. I gave him a quick hug to avoid an emotional goodbye but ever the sensitive writer, I could tell that he was tearing up. I had a lump in my throat that told me this friendship was real. 

When I got a text from him a couple weeks later asking if he could whisk me away for lunch, I knew that he felt the same way.