I am getting married for the first time in my life. Yep, I will have made it to 39 (birthday on Monday) without ever having tied the knot. This post is going to be ever so slightly self indulgent as I actually think it has finally set in that it is going to happen.
I have never even been close before. I raised Joshua and Elizabeth on my own and was content to do so. Their father was physically abusive towards me (broken cheekbone, several broken arms, head through a wall – you get the gitst). BUT! Yes, finally, 3 weeks today I am marrying my first ever boyfriend.
I was not a particularly pleasant teenager. My Mum worked nights and my father was a raging alcoholic, so from the age of about 13 I was out of control. Drink, drugs, you name it. We moved towns on my 15th birthday (I am still in the same town now) and when I was 16 my parents threw me out of the house. Looking back, I genuinely don’t blame them but I have raised my children differently knowing the consequences.
I got crappy bedsit, for anyone who has read The L Shaped Room you will get what I mean and a job in the local takeaway. A couple used to come in fairly regularly and one night asked would I be interested in babysitting their two young daughters so they could have a bit more time out together. Believe you and me, I jumped at the chance – for some normal family life to just dip in and out of.
So, I began babysitting for the couple’s daughters who were absolutely adorable. I am still in contact with them today. Their Dad came from a very big family (one of 16 brothers and sisters) so there were always people coming and going.
Anyway, one day I went up to babysit and as I was early they decided to go out early. One of Richard’s younger brothers was coming up the house to walk down with him, so he asked me to tell him which pub they would be in as hell, nobody had mobiles back then!
Just a side note, without Richard, the children’s father, I would literally have gone under or ended up committing suicide. I really was at an all time low at that point in my life. I owe him a debt of gratitude that I will never in a million years be able to repay. He gave me self worth, and made me feel like a human being again.
Back to the night out. There I am with the girls, I had them bathed and we were watching some dross on the telly having a tea party when the knock came at the door. If you hadn’t guessed already, there was Bert. Now people say there is no such thing as love at first sight but I would beg to differ. Bearing in mind, I was a full blown goth with waist length blonde hair (well, I had to be slightly different), there was this absolutely gorgeous blonde guy dressed so sharply and my gob quite literally hit the floor. The girls adored him and ran over to Uncle Bert so he came in for a little while to play with them and then went to meet Richard and his wife.
Let’s just say, the rest of the evening passed in a bit of a blur as I felt like I had been hit like a sledgehammer by this blonde vision at the door! Richard came home and quite literally said off the cuff “oh, I see you met our Bert tonight”. I could have killed him! I have never been able to hide my feelings on my face and I think I went through many shades of pink to red to purple before I could splutter out a meek “yes”.
Well, that was it! Commence the taking of the piss of Sarah!! After that night, surprisingly Bert was there every time I went to babysit. I remember bathing the girls one night to come down and find him sat in the living room so took them up for a second bath because I was blushing so badly! Of course, Richard was of NO help whatsoever as he found it highly hilarious! Bert was (and actually still is) very shy so we hadn’t spoken much but it was more than obvious that I liked him.
I knew he was WAY out of my league – a well brought up guy from a stable family and me, with all my issues that I didn’t have enough tissues for. So, I resigned to admiring from afar. But god he was handsome. Just think Tim Roth Reservoir Dogs era if that kind of thing floats your boat.
Anyhoo, work beckoned on an early shift so I got there and there was a letter for me under the door which my boss had picked up for me. I picked it up and read it. Probably nearly fainted in the process, but no, it was a letter from Bert asking me out on a date and if I would like to go for a drink with him (I was 17 by then and he was 23, I still tease him to this day about taking underage girls out for drinks!). Only one problem. He still lived at home and had left me his phone number and what time he would be in to call if I wanted to go. Well duh, yes!!
I went up to Richard’s house as I didn’t have a phone and begged him to call for me as I was scared stiff who would answer the phone! I offered 10 free babysits but no, he literally rolled up and down the sofa as I stammered my way through the conversation! Fortunately Bert’s Mum picked up the phone and we just about managed to sort a time and a date out!
So, we started dating. Richard gave me the 3rd degree after our first date as his brother was so shy but conversation just came naturally to us. That first night he ran home at 5 am as we had been up talking all night and he had work at 7 am.
At the time I can say I was the happiest I had ever been in my life but all good things come to an end. I came home from work one night to find the few bits and bobs he had left at my bedsit gone. No explanation, nothing. Turns out that a girl that fancied him had spread a rumour so vile that he didn’t know what to do as I was his first girlfriend. I found out years later that Richard spent 18 months trying to get us back together but it just wasn’t to be.
Anyway, with what was left of my heart in even smaller pieces, I picked myself up, and built the highest wall I could around me. Nobody was ever going to get as close to me again and I stood by that.
Bert went off, got married to the girl that split us up (but he didn’t know it was her until a couple of years ago), they had 2 gorgeous children together and I genuinely wished him happiness. Just because I couldn’t have it, I wasn’t going to deny him it.
In 19 years I saw him once, from the back with his youngest son and literally ran the other way. He has a very distinct walk and I couldn’t face it as the love I had for him had never faded.
Ok, I will bring us up to 22nd March 2010 now. My back was at this point screwed and I was bedbound so the internet was the keeper of my sanity. Please excuse my obsession with dates but I have a photographic memory and it just helps me keep a handle on things. I opened Face Book and there was a friend request but I half recognised the name. Bert is obviously a nickname, but the surname is pretty distinct. It genuinely took me a good few minutes to work out which one it was aaaaaand then the penny dropped. It was Bert. We can safely say that mild panic set in!
I have to be honest, I didn’t accept straight away. The man who I had been in love with my entire life wanted to get in contact. I wasn’t entirely sure if I could open Pandora’s box. I sat on it for a week, and then caved in and accepted and did the usual “Nice to hear from you, hope you and the family are keeping well” and left it at that. Yeah, I was a big girl, I could cope with that. Or so I thought.
Of course he was on his computer at that exact time and the PM’s started, just catching up. Funny thing, he knew I had a back back but no children! It isn’t like I had hid them in a cupboard or anything! Turns out we had actually been living in the same small town for all that time and I had seen him just the once. He had seen me a couple of times but didn’t know what to say.
So, slowly, we would get to know each other again via PM on Face Book each night for a couple of hours. And then the decision had to be made. Do we meet up for coffee? We did. I remember choosing which one, and sat with my back to the door reading a book as I had turned up early (Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman) just in case you are interested! I didn’t see him come in but heard him when he got to the counter. He came and sat with me and one look in his eyes and I new things would go one way or the other. He has piercing blue eyes and I had the same feeling I did the day I opened the door to him 19 years beforehand.
The conversation flowed, we well and truly overstayed our allocated time that we had given ourselves and then dissected it via the internet that night.
Now, I know Bert is going to read this one day so this is a confession to him. I knew that I could never just be his “friend”. I was going to have to push him away before I got my heart broken again. I hasten to add, we were both single at the time, but I couldn’t go through it. So, I went to the off license, bought a bottle of Jack Daniels and composed the world’s longest email. I told him EVERYTHING. No stone left unturned. My battle with drink and drugs, my foster daughter committing suicide, my father abusing me, how I felt about him. Oh yeah, I let it out. I had to let him see what a selfish bitch I was and that I wouldn’t or couldn’t be his friend, much as I wanted to.
So, 2 am, I hit send and then had the WTF have I just done moment. I am very glad I did do it as he is such a decent human being I felt he deserved better, even for a friend. So, the next day, apart from having the hangover from hell (I don’t drink) passed in a haze. I was up at a friends house when he text me asking if I was up for a natter that night. Of course I though he can’t have read the email so was like “Yeah, sure” thinking “Yeah, right!” more like it.
Anyway, he HAD read it and we sort of carried on in some weird limbo as we had been before, chatting away each night. I have never quite got my head round how that one worked but am not asking! OK – fast forwards to 1st May 2010 and I got a cryptic text – that he had something he would like to tell me. Given the luck I have had in my life, I was expecting him to say that he had found a lovely girl etc.
I have to be honest, by this point we had upgraded to MSN for chatting and would chat away into the small hours. Anyway, the 1st of May was a Saturday as I remember vividly watching some god awful act on Britain’s Got Talent and turning the TV off. So, texts sent, MSN fired up and we were off. My heart was pounding in my mouth and to be quite honest I felt sick to the pit of my stomach. But, the conversation was normal and then suddenly, at 1.46am on 2nd May 2010 I got the bombshell. He wanted to give us another go.
The words gob and smacked were the understatement of the moment. I was genuinely in shock. He felt the same as I did. Corny as it sounds, I would wait another 19 years for him. There really are some things worth waiting for. For the first time in my life I feel love. I am in love and am loved in return, unconditionally. Illness etc be damned, he picked me out of anyone he could have had.
So, 3 weeks today I will be married to the love of my life. It has taken me a while to get there but like I said, I would wait a lifetime for him again. I know I am going to cry as I say my vows in Church as I had always sworn that I would never marry but nothing in my life has ever felt this right.
So, if you have ever felt as though the world is against you, lonely, abused, frightened and that there is no way out, believe you and me, keep the faith. Good things can and do happen. And never settle for second best. I am actually listening to Adele’s Someone Like You as I write this and it still resonates, even though I have got my man. Yep, the tears are pouring down my face but for all the right reasons!
I would love to dedicate this to Richard for saving my life, and to Bert for completing it.