Welcome to Queer Love Stories, a series dedicated to celebrating the power and joy of LGBTQ+ relationships during Pride month. This week we meet 24-year-old Jessica, a London-based journalist, and 22-year-old Anya, a Bulgaria-based lawyer. The couple first met as 18-year-olds at high school where they began a secret love affair. They lost touch for five years before re-connecting in October 2021 and the rest is history. Now, the couple are in a long-distance relationship, committed to keeping the spark alive one flight at a time. Naturally, we wanted to know more. So we put them to the test Cilla Black style and asked them to answer our questions – about what their first date was really like, the attributes they love most about their partner, and just how well they know each other. The catch? They had to do so separately and couldn’t share their answers with each other. Get ready to be in your feels.
So how did you two lovebirds actually meet?
Jess: We met in high school eight years ago. I was picked as her ‘buddy’ when she came to the UK to study for her A-Levels to act as a mentor for daily school life. It’s safe to say we hit it off straight away and – behind closed doors – were closer than just school friends. Five years after graduating, we crossed paths again in October 2021 and the rest is history.
Anya: When I was 16 I was moved to the UK for boarding school and Jess was picked as my mentor, but we met for the first time when I went to visit the school a few months before the year started. We spent an afternoon walking around London and we got along instantly. There was no awkwardness and I felt like I already knew her. To the surprise of quite a few people, Jess flew out to Bulgaria to visit me that summer, although she had only met me once. After high school, and five years since seeing each other, we “re-met” in November. I messaged her to go grab a coffee while I was in London… little did I know what was to come.
What was your first date like?
Jess: I wasn’t sure if it was a date or not. We went for a friendly coffee in Central London and dinner with a mutual pal. But it quickly became apparent that we still had the same feelings for each other as we had done years ago. Our poor friend sat at the table said she felt like she was “crashing a first date” with the way we were flirting. We didn’t actually go on an officially planned “first date” (where I booked a fancy bar and got all dressed up) for another three months, after I’d already asked her to be my girlfriend.
Anya: We never really had a first date. After we reconnected last November, we had coffee and then dinner with a mutual friend. The mood went from friendly to very obviously flirty once cocktails were involved - so much so that our friend said she felt like she was third wheeling. We decided we would go on a first date a few months after we officially together instead. Jess kept forgetting we had made plans that day. I am still convinced she would have stood me up if we weren’t going to the place together.
What were your first impressions?
Jess: I just remember noticing her smile and her laugh the first time we met. She was warm, kind, and funny (and undeniably beautiful) and I knew she would be the kind of person I’d want to spend a lot of time with. Perhaps looking back on it now, I did have a crush on her straight away. When we re-met last year, I just felt like I was sat with a slightly more “grown-up” version of the same amazing person. The impressions were just as good, if not better, the second time round.
Anya: I remember her being very friendly, warm and welcoming. When we first met I was a bit anxious; everything was new - the country, the school, the people. Jess’ made me feel welcome and at ease. From the moment I met her, I knew she would be someone I could rely on. I looked forward to starting school mostly because I knew she would be there and I was excited to spend more time with her. (I don’t think she knows this last bit...)
I just remember noticing her smile and her laugh the first time we met.
What date did you make your relationship official, what’s your partner’s favourite colour and film?
Jess: January 18! I’m pretty sure it was a Tuesday when I asked her to be my girlfriend. Anya’s favourite colour is black. I would say 90% of her wardrobe is made up of black. If not, her favourite colour is royal blue. I don’t think she has a favourite film. We tend to always watch soppy Disney films at home, as she likes all the American romcoms that I hate, and I’m a documentary kind of girl. Somehow family films make a good middle ground.
Anya: January 18. Jess’ favourite colour is green and she doesn’t have a favourite film.
Did you get them right?
How long have you been together?
Jess: Depends on what we’re counting from... Officially, five months as a couple (I popped the girlfriend question on January 18), but we were together in secret for a few months back in our school days – which is something we kept hidden for a while. Secret’s out!
Anya: It will be 5 months on June 18th. It feels like a lot longer, though. We are very settled and comfortable with each other, having knows each other for so long definitely helps.
Describe your partner in three words
Jess: Beautiful, precious soul. Three words doesn’t really cover it, but I don’t know anyone with such a kind-hearted and loving nature, or anyone who radiates such calm energy with beauty inside and out.
Anya: Loyal, funny, driven.
If you could choose a song that reminds you of your partner, what would it be?
Jess: “Bring It On Home To Me” by Sam Cooke. It was the first song that came on shuffle when I popped my headphones in after saying goodbye to her after our friendly coffee. I was sat on the District Line home and shamelessly cried in between two other passengers at the realisation of how I’d loved her so much before our five year hiatus.
Anya: There is no specific song, pretty much any song by Yebba or Billie Eilish makes me think of her. My mind always go to her whenever I hear a song by Adele, because I messaged her to meet up the day “30” came out. She had posted one of the songs on her Instagram stories and I slid into her DMs to say “Happy Adele Day”.
What’s your favourite memory with your partner?
Jess: We’ve been blessed to travel a lot since getting together – and living in two different countries right now helps with that, so it’s tricky to pick just one. Probably the first time we kissed after meeting again. It was so awkward and sweet – I think both of us were really nervous and I remember my heart felt like it was going to fall out my mouth – but it’s something I look back on fondly now and laugh.
Anya: It’s hard to pick one. Living away from each other provides us with the fabulous excuse to travel and we have been doing exactly that. We hadn’t been together for long when we went on our first holiday. We travelled across France with Jess’s dog, Buddy. We were in Dijon on our last day and walking through the city at dusk, shopping for bread and fruits for our cheese board. It felt like the moment we went from a new couple to feeling at home in each others company. I am constantly reassured that the feeling of home and belonging is wherever she is.
What were the green flags when you first met your partner?
Jess: So many things, but mainly that she just sat and listened to me while I told her about everything that had happened in the five years we were apart, and was genuinely empathetic and kind about it all. I felt at ease around her right away. That, and she’s always made it easy for me to know where I stand.
Anya: She was very open and honest. Although we hadn’t seen each other in such a long time, it felt like no time had passed and the conversation was flowing. The whole situation was very relaxed and “natural”. I felt like she put in the same amount of effort to keep the conversation engaging and interesting as I did.
She makes me feel comfortable enough to be myself around her in every sense.
What’s your partner’s best attribute?
Jess: Physically, her eyes, without a doubt. But in terms of her personality, it’s how tenderly affectionate she can be physically, emotionally, and with her words.
Anya: She is very caring and would do anything for the people she loves. You can always depend on her to be there, offer some helpful advice, make a joke, or just listen.
What would you say your partner brings out in you?
Jess: Happiness. So many of my friends and family members have told me they have never seen me so happy and “like myself” in years. I guess she gives me the confidence to just be me, which no doubt comes from the trust and security she radiates.
Anya: The crazy and the calm. She makes me feel comfortable enough to be myself around her in every sense.
How does your partner make you feel accepted?
Jess: She always makes time to hear me out when I’m being difficult or having an anxious day. As someone who has suffered with clinical anxiety for many years, I have felt like a burden to many ex-partners. But instead of rolling her eyes when I’m in tears over something small and inconsequential, she makes time to listen and help when I need calming down.
Anya: Jess is very patient and is always ready to listen whenever I have an issue or want to discuss something. She will always make the time to talk to me, no matter how busy she may be. I didn’t have the easiest time coming out to my parents, but I knew that whatever happened Jess would be there and stand by me.
Do you have a joy-filled love story that you’d like to share with Bustle UK? Email email@example.com with Queer Love Stories in the subject line to be featured.