(excerpt from my new book Food, Love and Sex, Ignite your Emotions and Heal Your Life)
Following on from how the universe had already started ‘conspiring’ three years before to bring Paul and me together………………
Kayleigh had moved to Midhurst in 2007, she was on a two-year gap year and whilst there she had met her husband Christopher, who we all know as Quill. Soon after meeting Quill, he introduced her to his friends, one of whom was Paul. I just want to mention here that Quill is nearly ten years older than my daughter and Paul is ten years older than Quill. Anyway, getting back to the story. Kayleigh and Paul immediately hit it off and one day they both had a day off work and were hanging out. During their day together, she turned to him and said ‘you need to meet my mom, I just know the two of you will get on famously.’ Paul was single at the time, I wasn’t. John and I were still together and living in Cape Town. Kayleigh skyped me and told me that she had met ‘the man that I was meant to be with.’ I was astounded and laughed. She was 19 years old at the time! I asked her why she said that to which she replied ‘I just know.’ It became a bit of a running joke and every time we spoke she would tell me that Paul sent his love. I eventually asked her to stop telling me about Paul, that I was with John and I was not going to break up with him to fly over to England to meet ‘this man she thought I was meant to be with’. In the meantime, back in the UK she kept telling Paul the same thing. He eventually called her bluff and suggested that they fly to South Africa together so that she could introduce me to him. Anyway, it all eventually petered out and Paul became a distant memory. John and I moved to New Zealand for a while, then we travelled through Europe and by the time I surprised Kayleigh in Midhurst on the 8th of December 2010, I had to scratch my memory to recall who Paul was.
So here I was standing chatting to some of Kayleigh’s friends when Paul came in. Kayleigh introduced us and I remember thinking ‘so what was all the fuss about’. Having said that though, Paul, an Engineer, had just come from a construction site and he was all scruffy and dirty. But in all honestly I said hello and did not pay much attention to him until later that night. Kayleigh left to go on her work’s Christmas function and Quill invited me to hang out with him and his friends. Paul had, unbeknownst to me, in the meantime gone home and showered and got dressed and invited himself along. I only became aware of him again after we had left the Wheatsheaf to go to another pub in the town called ‘The Swan.’ Everyone in the group except for Paul and myself were smokers so the group would periodically all go outside to smoke, leaving Paul and myself alone, so we ended up chatting. During the course of the night, my son-in-law kept saying ‘Mamma D you should move here, what can we do to make you live here permanently’. His friends started joking around suggesting that one of them marry me, ‘come on boys who of you wants to marry Deb’s so she can live here permanently’ one of them hollered. I had no desire to live anywhere permanently. I had just started my own journey of travelling and going wherever ‘the wind blew me’ so I just laughed. Paul told me later that as the boys were joking around about marrying me off, he was standing in the corner watching when a little voice in his head popped up and said ‘none of you are going to marry her because I am’. He had been divorced for ten years and had vowed to never marry again, so he was super surprised to hear that voice in his head. Later that night after I had already left, Paul told Quill that ‘I was doing his head in.’
Two days later I was back at The Wheatsheaf, it was Christmas eve and as per the tradition in Midhurst and possibly the rest of the UK, people congregated at the pub to have a few Christmas drinks to wish each other well. I was sitting on a chair chatting to some friends, when Paul walked in with his girlfriend and his mum. I never saw him, but he came up behind me and touched my back to get my attention so that he could say hello. I cannot describe the sensation that went all the way up my spine as his hand touched me, all I can say is that it was like an electric shock, but a nice kind of electric shock, one that left me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. I remember looking at the girl in front of me and saying, ‘oh my goodness, who just touched me.’ I was surprised, and delighted, to see that it was Paul. He said that he just wanted to say Merry Christmas and then he took off again. After he left I turned around and said to the girl I was chatting to that I wished I had someone like that to touch me like that all the time.
Christmas came and went and I had a lovely time with Kayleigh and Quill and Quill’s family. Soon it was New Year’s eve and I was back at the Wheatsheaf for their annual New Year’s Eve party. The dress code was ‘dress as if you are going to the Oscars’ and I was wearing a gorgeous little black cocktail dress. I had no date but I was happily sitting on a bar stool chatting to Kayleigh who was behind the bar working. The door opened and a freezing gust of wind blew through the door making me wince and turn at the same time. Paul breezed through the door looking incredibly dashing in his black tuxedo and bow-tie. I still have no explanation for my actions, but the minute I saw him I started flapping my arms in a circular motion, beckoning him towards me. For some unknown reason I paid no attention to the fact that his girlfriend was walking in right behind him, I did not even notice her. This was so incredibly unlike me as I am the most aware person you will ever meet and I never miss a thing, but it felt like I was under some magical spell. Paul seemed to be under the same spell as he walked over to me. Not thinking, I wrapped my arms around him, stuck my nose in his warm neck and whispered, Oh my god, you look gorgeous. He smelt delicious too. He told me I looked beautiful and as we drew away from each other, we both ‘came to our senses.’ He went back to his girlfriend and I spent the rest of the evening chatting to lots of different people.
During the night I caught his eye on an occasion or two and someone actually caught him on camera very sneakily taking a photo of me. He told me later that he was very aware of him being watched watching me. The night was coming to an end and I recall people starting to countdown followed by singing Auld Lang Syne. Soon there were whoops of shouting and lots of kissing going on. ‘Happy New Year’s’ wishes could be heard across the room. A few minutes later, I was back at the bar perched on a stool when Paul came over and asked me to dance. Without hesitation, I said yes, he took my hand and instead of leading me to the dance floor he whipped me behind a wall and kissed me. I couldn’t resist and kissed him back. That kiss ‘felt like coming home’, it felt so familiar, yet deliciously new and exciting. He lifted his head, looked me straight in the eyes and told me that since he met me he could not stop thinking about me and that he felt excited whenever he was near me. He tried to kiss me again but I came to my senses and told him to go and sort his life out first and then call me. I had no interest in being the other woman nor did I want to be responsible for the break-up of his relationship. Little did I know that just before midnight, he had broken up with his girlfriend. He had told her that he could not go into the new year with her knowing how he felt about me.
A week later on the 7th of January, ‘we bumped into each each’ and soon after we became a couple. Four months later on the morning of the 8th of May Paul proposed to me and 20 days after on the 28th of May we got married in Simons Town in front of a handful of my friends and family, and a group of penguins. We have been together now for nearly 8 years and I can honestly say that we are incredibly happy and we have a great life! A truly great ending for someone who had a pretty messed up life before.
Before I met Paul, my life had been a life of survival, just getting through each day. Bullying, abuse, violence, illness, poverty, homelessness, it was not pretty and there were many times that I simply wanted to end it all……..