Deciding to enter into the world of contemporary romantic fiction must mean I have led my very own idealistic love plot…? Well, I guess it depends on who is reading and what their idea of romance is. Whilst it’s true that I have incorporated parts of my life experiences and thought processes into many of my female characters, I’m not sure the same could be said of my husband when it comes to any of the male protagonists from my stories. That is not to say he isn’t one of my favourite people and an all-round good guy, because he most certainly is. However, if I tell you he once referred to me as a ‘herby chicken’ when in the throes of passion, I’m sure you’ll agree he is a little off the beaten track when it comes to all things romance. With a deep-set frown of confusion on my face when he uttered these magical words in the heat of the moment, he explained, “Now hear me out girl, what I’m trying to say is, you’re more than a ‘normal chicken’. You’re like one of those more expensive chickens which have been ‘pre-herbed’!” Totally swoon-worthy, right?
To be fair, we met at the tender age of eleven on our very first day at secondary school. He was more of a towny, whereas I lived virtually in the middle of nowhere. Having said that, we are both essentially country bumpkins from the New Forest area where your entertainment was a good jaunt around the woods and maybe a trip to Woolworths on a Saturday morning. Now let me say this first and foremost, at this stage in my life, I had absolutely no desire to engage with all things boys and considered such things both embarrassing and terrifying. Boys could be your friends, nothing more. My husband, on the other hand, has since told me that when I walked into our Year 7 tutor group on that very first day, light had beamed out from behind my newly purchased C & A coat (made for comfort, not style), the angels sang, and he could see our entire married life mapped out before him. Conversely, when I finally noticed him for the first time, I saw him as a slightly hyperactive and unusual kid who reminded me of an adolescent dog still learning how to respect one’s personal boundaries. It was not love at first sight. I was not ready for love at first sight.
And thus began three years’ worth of torment in the form of him making it abundantly clear to everyone in the entire school, including the teachers, that he liked me. There was no subtlety or sophistication to his flirting either. We were, after all, a couple of eleven-year-olds trying to find our place in a new school where we were now suddenly bottom of the pack. Whereas I wanted to comfortably blend into the wall and go by unnoticed, his approach was more akin to a bull in a china shop. Suffice to say, I actively tried to avoid him whilst he sought me out to try and win me over by chasing me up and down the stairs at the same time as trying to pinch my backside. Of course, sometimes he’d mix it up by choosing to leap on top of me in front of a class full of our peers.
By Year 8, my group of friends and his group of friends were now one collective group of friends. If I was being truthful, I found him funny and as most women will agree, a way to a woman’s heart is to make her laugh. He was also starting to mature and had fortunately, come to the realisation that pursuing a girl was more successful if you didn’t try to humiliate her in front of the entire school.
Alas, disaster struck his plans to claim me as his girlfriend when my Dad decided to sell up and move us to Tenerife, where he had bought a bar (another long story which ended in abject failure). So, at the end of the year I was to be leaving and, apparently, this made me the biggest bitch of the century. Thirteen-year-old boy logic told him I was now his archnemesis because if I was truly any sort of friend slash potential girlfriend, I would bid my family goodbye and stay behind to be with him. Where I would live wasn’t something he had considered, but such rational thought wasn’t going to stop him from completely ignoring me. But boy did that work!
You see, as much as I can make fun of his teenage boy antics and illogical thought processes, I too was a thirteen-year-old girl who fell prey to adolescent hormones and with them, irrational desires. And when that bastard ignored me, it meant I suddenly wanted him!
So, Tenerife came, failed and went again. As such, we ended up back at home with significantly less money and bad experiences behind us. I returned to school where he was still not talking to me and would actively leave the room whenever I entered it. Not that he knew this was the magical formula for winning me over, he was just being a typical Year 9 boy who was transitioning between being a pimply kid to a ridiculous man child who still refused to see logic or reason. The entire year was spent trying to hide my attraction to him whilst he upped his game in the flirting stakes. Only now he was now flirting with everyone else but me. It was driving me crazy and when I finally admitted it to my group of gal pals, the buggers simply burst out laughing. By now, being that I had a pair of boobs, a few other boys had taken note of me, but I wasn’t at all interested in them. No, I only wanted the fool who refused to even acknowledge me.
In the last few weeks of Year 9, a year that has you believing you are vastly cooler than you actually are, I remember being sat in one of the English classrooms, innocently eating my lunch, only to find out that one of my friends had let slip to my future husband how I now felt about him. Losing all coherent thought and control of my mouth whilst it remained hanging open in horror over such news, I was then informed that said cocky bastard was now on his way over to come and officially ‘ask me out’! Holy crap, I wasn’t ready for this! I had been living off my original plan to blend into the wall for the last few years and it had been working out well for me. So, what did I do with this new, vomit-worthy piece of information? Why, hid under the table of course!
By the time he came into the room, there was an audience laughing over our ridiculousness and the fact that I was still sat underneath the table with my eyes shut tightly and with my back to the door. His giggle reached my ears and I held my breath whilst mentally beginning to chant, ‘there’s no place like home’, with the rest of the unruly gaggle of teenagers suddenly going silent.
“Taylor?” He called out from the doorway where he chose to remain instead of at least trying to make this personal moment as private as possible.
“Yes?” I replied with a tremor in my voice.
“Will you go out with me?”
A dramatic pause ensued, during which time I tried to open my eyes in the hopes that this was all but a humiliating dream to wake up from. Instead of being underneath a table amongst the detritus from lunch, I’d be back at home, safe in my bed with my faithful dog by my side, for she was as much as a coward as I was.
“Yes,” I eventually replied, sounding barely audible to the human hearing range.
Now, if this were a romantic novel, you would most likely expect us to embrace, kiss, maybe have me come out from underneath the table to face my new ‘boyfriend’. But no, this was not a romantic novel. This was real life, with fourteen-year olds who by the way, looked like fourteen-year olds, not body beautiful adults posing to be at least ten years younger than they actually are. No, instead, my husband-to-be merely emitted a high-pitched laugh (very similar to the one he gave when I first told him I was pregnant), followed by calling out to the audience that was still gathered, “Three years! Three years! And she’s finally said yes!” I then heard him (because I still couldn’t face looking his way) run off in a whirlwind of laughter, shouting and whooping, just before the bell rang for afternoon lessons.
To be continued…