Ten Years? You Get Less For Murder!
I settled on going as a snake charmer. I do know that’s not an actual carnival or circus thing. I didn’t dress as an Indian sitting on a carpet playing a flute to lure a snake out of a basket. I wore a tight black dress, knee high boots, and a huge amount of mascara. I even curled my hair. I bought about twenty rubber snakes and draped them all over my person. When I arrived at the party, some of my friends were sitting in a fortune teller’s tent in the back garden. I joined them and had a drink while there was some tarot card reading going on. The ex-boyfriend appeared and shamefacedly tried to make conversation, so I gave him a bit of an indignant talking to about Respect and Good Manners, and sent him on his way.
Then my cousin appeared with a lot of those skinny balloons you can bend into the shape of a poodle if you’re clever and a snake if you’re not. I was blowing one up when my friend Emma came over and said, ‘Jess, this is H.’ I looked up and there was a man with a red beard and glasses, wearing a blue floral dress with a matching jacket, a floppy brown ladies’ hat, gold and pearl earrings, a three-strand pearl choker, black fishnet tights and brown Blundstone workboots. I was a bit dumbstruck, on several fronts, simultaneously thinking ‘Now there is the man I am going to marry’ and ‘Sorry, Miss, I left my maths book at home’.
H and I very quickly decided that we couldn’t continue blowing up those balloons without a bike pump, which meant going fumbling about in a dark bike shed. Where nothing happened, because I am a lady and so was he that night, but from that moment on, we were pretty much inseparable that evening. We both later admitted to feeling a bit concerned that the other would notice how much we were lurking around them. But not concerned enough to not lurk.
What I remember of that first meeting is that H was hilarious. He was clever too, and sweet, and not a show off. He was kind as well, but so very funny. I was smitten.
Another friend drove us both to our respective homes after the party that night, and when I was dropped off H insisted on climbing out of the car to give me a birthday hug, for I had by then turned twenty-six. He gave me the warmest, tightest hug I’d ever had. He was a bit drunk.
The next Monday I contacted him, under the pretext of sending him some photos from the party, and over the next five days we battled to out-funny each other in a long chain of emails. Neither of us did any work that week. By Friday we had decided to meet for a drink at the pub near my office, and so began a first date that never ended.
Ten years, one cat, one house and two children, much travel and many adventures down the track, I thank my lucky stars I went to that party. Life takes all sorts of strange turns, but from the moment our paths crossed that day, I somehow knew we’d be tangled up together, laughing, for a long, long time to come.