We were close friends at University but never crossed the line to be more than that. We made a promise that wherever we were in our lives, we would get back in touch in our middle age.
After graduation, we went our separate ways. He used his passion for sailing to find work in the South of France, Greece and the Caribbean. While he was crossing the Atlantic and having adventures, I was a stay at home mum to my gorgeous daughters.
It was just before Christmas in 2004 that I received a message from him through Friends Reunited. He reminded me of our promise and gave me a brief summary of his achievements since last I had seen him (which would have been at my wedding in 1986). His life seemed so glamorous and exciting.
My life was actually at a really low point. My marriage was in a complete mess. I was trying hard to fix it because the thought of losing the home I had worked so hard to build and the security I craved was unbearable... but you can't fix a love that doesn't exist.
It was a completely horrible time. I didn't respond to the message until some months later when I finally started to see the end of marriage not as the end of my life, but the beginning of a new one. I was getting my passion for living back, had even started dating on a fairly casual basis and thought that the one thing I needed more than anything right now was friends - and he had been a good one.
We began to correspond through texts, MSN and the odd phone call. It always brightened up my day to hear from him and he was so supportive. I was thrilled when in July, 2005, he invited me for a weekend in Paris, in honour of a hitchhiking trip we had taken as students. This time we wouldn't be hitchhiking, we would be flying and as I had never flown anywhere on my own before, he arranged to fly from Switzerland where he was living and rented a car to pick me up from my home in Shropshire so we could make the journey together.
I knew he was married and had a couple of kids but it never occured to me that it was strange that he would leave his family for a weekend to give an old friend a much needed adventure. What he hadn't told me was that at the time he had sent me the initial message, his marriage was in much the same sorry state as mine was and he and his wife separated very shortly after. Although, looking back, he did try to give me the opportunity to ask about his situation, I was probably a little too self obssessed and wasn't that interested in hearing about 'happy families'.
I was full of nervous excitement about the trip and about seeing my lovely friend again after so long. If I was feeling anything else, I wasn't going to admit it even to myself. I heard his car pull up on my drive and I rushed to the front door to greet him. The skinny, bearded boy that I knew was now a clean shaven man. I was quite surprised by the change in his appearance but there was enough that was familiar to make me want to take him in my arms and give him a hug - which I did. As we embraced on my doorstep my heart was beating a little too fast, betraying the depth of feeling that I refused to acknowledge. I had no idea that the man who hugged me back would in a few short hours be my lover and in a few short weeks, ask for my hand in marriage.
When he told me the truth about his separation, I was thrown into confusion. I felt guilty that I had been so pre-occupied with my own messy life that I had failed to be sensitive to his. I wanted to be as supportive to him as he had been to me but thus far I had failed miserably. And then there was this growing awareness that here we were, in romantic Paris, two single, slightly damaged people. The last thing I wanted was to ruin this special friendship by doing something impetuous and desperate that we would both regret.
He had no such confusion. He later told me that when I hugged him on my doorstep, he could feel the beat, beat, beat of my heart, a little too fast, a little too strong. He knew from that moment that we would return from this trip as more than just friends and that we would be together, always.
The rest, as they say, is history. He allowed his beard to grow back and the following summer he moved back to the UK to be with me permanently.
I will be forever grateful to my 'noisy' heart that told him how I was feeling (before I even knew it myself) and gave him the confidence of certainty - that we were meant to be together.
A response to Writing Workshop: Found Words