It’s been 21 years since that night. Not the first night we met, to be honest I don’t remember that.
21 years since the night I first knew your name, before that you were just the grumpy chef who banned me from the kitchen.
That night my mum was out of town, and my brother and I had the place to ourselves.
I think it was Mikey that started all of this, after work in the restaurant we’d all gone out and as 2am came round and the bar shut I didn’t want him to drive home to Bristol as he’d had a skin full, so offered him to crash at mine. Bit weird to invite your boss back, so thought it would be better to invite you all back and continue the party, no one much wanted to go home anyway.
I asked if you wanted to come back for a house party, you said only if you could sleep in my bed. ‘Sure’ I said, naively thinking you just didn’t want to share a room – I was almost 18 before I got my own room. I can’t imagine you being that brazen now, but me being that naïve – yes probably.
We let ourselves into the restaurant and borrowed a crate of beer and headed back to mine. My brother was there and started cooking. I think you had a err discussion, chefs watching other people cook and not offering advice is always hard.
At some point, something changed and I realised I didn’t know your name. I used up a valuable turn in a game of truth or dare to ask your full name, I just caught the first, ‘Lee’, right Lee that’s it.
Chip went a little loco as always and passed out on the front lawn, we put him to bed in my sister’s room, decorated in psychedelic green and yellow, I’m sure he thought he was still tripping when he woke up the next day.
At some point around 4 or 5am, people started leaving or crashing and you asked again about my bed. I showed you where it was and went back to get comfy on the sofa.
It probably took you 20 minutes or so before you realised the grand plan hadn’t worked and yes you were in my bed but I wasn’t joining you.
You got back up and joined me on the sofa, we stayed up watching MTV Base, which I now know you must have hated. I don’t think we kissed but I do remember you stroking my legs as I laid them on your lap.
We chatted all night and into the morning, at some point with a jump you got up and said you had to go, your mum was getting married that day.
You left to catch the bus and put on that terrible ill-fitting suit to celebrate your mum’s marriage to Vince. God, how much I love you in a suit now, such a rare sight.
I went back to bed.
That was the beginning.
My memory is a bit hazy now but think we had our first date not long after, you were so nervous you brought your best mate, Al, along. Think you told me that night or maybe it was another, something along the lines of ‘don’t get too excited love, I’m moving to London in a month’.
I didn’t care. I wasn’t dreaming of settling down, getting married, having kids. I had dreams of going to Uni, buying a flat, traveling the world. I was a fiercely independent female about to take on the world, I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend, much less a husband, I was going to do it all by myself. Turns out I didn’t need to.
You later told me you felt physically sick before our first date. Nice. My age freaked you out by all accounts.
It didn’t really work out anyway, but we became friends, probably more like drinking buddies for a while. Your best mate became mine and we’d all have some riotous fun. Do you remember that impromptu night we went up to London for a gig and thought we didn’t need a hotel as we could just stay out all night? And me being bitterly cold and unimpressed as Al walked me round the streets of London at 5am and tried to show me Buckingham Palace when every bar had shut – turns out London wasn’t quite a 24 hr city then at least not on a random Wednesday. I miss those days and our little crew.
By January things had changed again. You said it was that bottle of tequila I bought you for New Year’s. You drank it with your friends and they did a good sales number on me. I had inadvertently won their seal of approval with a bottle of Cuervo. Ironically, about a week before, I drunk my last shot of tequila in what would be almost 12 years, and promptly spewed it up all over a cab on Christmas Eve in Tenerife.
Somewhere in my hungover state, listening to Macy Gray on repeat (the only album I had with me), I realised I missed you. Not just as a friend.
By the time we caught up in January, just as friends, something had definitely changed, the rest as they say is history.
I have no photo evidence of that night, and I’m not allowed to post a picture of that terrible suit so here is a pic of you then and now. You still have the blue steel pose down pat.
Happy Anniversary Vince & Carol – 21 years, wow, congrats. I’ll see you later for bubbles.
Promise I’ll get home soon Lee – definitely before our actual anniversary.