You only love twice!

There was something very familiar about the man I was marrying...

Published by: Amy Thompson
Published on: 17th February 2011

The framed picture I was putting in a box with the others had faded. It might have been 23 years since my wedding day, but I remembered it like it was yesterday. My white lace dress and veil, my hubby-to-be Malcolm at the altar with his mop of dark curls and a soppy grin…
We’d been so happy. ‘Where did it all go wrong?’ I sighed, tucking the box away in a cupboard. When we’d first married, we’d been totally in love. He’d worked as a van driver, and I’d got a job as a secretary.
Just a year later, we’d had our first daughter Rachel, followed by Kathryn, Becky and Samantha.
Malcolm had been a brilliant dad, always playing with the girls and helping with homework. We’d spent days at the park having family picnics. There were Christmas and birthday parties, holidays abroad…
But, as the years had worn on, and Malcolm had taken on more hours at work, we’d begun to drift apart.
To top it all, I’d constantly felt unwell. ‘I’m thirsty all the time,’ I’d moaned. ‘And I feel totally drained.’
But he hadn’t been the loving, sympathetic guy I’d married. Instead of being concerned, he used to shrug and grab his car keys on his way out to work.
‘Sure you’ll feel better soon,’ he’d say. His attitude hadn’t helped the mood swings I’d been getting, and soon we’d been arguing daily.
After 23 years, it was time to face facts – we’d grown apart. It happened to the best of couples. Telling the girls we were getting divorced hadn’t been easy. But they’d been mature about it. ‘You do argue a lot,’ Becky had said. ‘Maybe you’ll be happier apart.’
Being married to Malcolm wasn’t meant to be. We’d been in love once, but people change – they grow up. Feelings fade, just like photos. Shutting the cupboard door, I wondered what my future held…
In time, I moved on and started dating again. Then the year of my divorce, a check-up at the doctors revealed I had diabetes. ‘So that’s why I’ve been having mood swings and feeling so thirsty?’ I asked.
‘Yes,’ my doctor nodded. ‘But we can give you medication to help.’
It was a huge relief to know what was wrong. Soon I felt like my old self again. In fact, I felt so much like my old self, my mind often wandered to thoughts of Malcolm.
Our wedding pictures may have been locked away, but memories of him often popped into my head.
We even caught glimpses of each other at family occasions. Although we never talked, I always found myself thinking about him afterwards. When my daughter Kathryn, 33, visited, I asked after him. ‘How’s your dad doing?’ I probed.
‘Fine. He’s a driving instructor now.’
‘Oh right,’ I smiled.
‘He’d come back if you asked him,’ she said.
I blushed. ‘Don’t be daft,’ I said. ‘He’s with what’s-her-name. And even if he wasn’t, we’d drive each other crazy.’
Kathryn rolled her eyes. ‘Both so stubborn,’ she said.
What was she on about? Malcolm had a girlfriend, we’d moved on with our lives. Even when Kathryn and Becky had babies, we went to see them at different times.
Then, seven years after we split, Becky, 30, announced she was getting married to her boyfriend David. ‘You look beautiful,’ I said as she got ready on her big day.
It wasn’t until after the ceremony I got a proper glimpse of Malcolm. Apart from having less hair, he still looked like the bloke I’d married all those years ago. While Becky and David had their first dance, I heard a familiar voice. ‘I’ll have a pint, please,’ Malcolm told the barman.
I turned around and our eyes met. It took all my strength to look away, but I couldn’t ignore the flutter of excitement in my tummy. Then it hit me – I still loved him!
Back home, I couldn’t stop thinking about that moment. I was sure I’d seen some longing in his eyes, too. ‘Don’t be stupid,’ I thought. ‘He’s happy with Brenda.’
That’s what I told myself, until I got a call from Kathryn. ‘Hi, Mum, I’ve just had Dad on the phone. He asked for your number.’
‘Why?!’ I spluttered.
‘Why do you think?’ she chuckled.
My heart skipped. Then I prickled with anger. ‘But he’s with Brenda!’
‘He split up with her after he saw you at Becky’s wedding.’
‘He did… really?’ I stammered.
‘Look,’ she sighed, ‘I know you both went through a lot. I also know true love when I see it.’
I sat in stunned silence. ‘For years you’ve asked about Dad, and he’s asked about you. It’s obvious you’re nuts about each other! We all thought you’d realise and get back together.’
Okay, maybe there was some truth to that. ‘Stop being stubborn and accept it. I’ll give Dad your number,’ she finished.
‘Okay,’ I murmured.Soon after, the phone rang.
‘Hi,’ said Malcolm. ‘I’m young, free and single… fancy a drink?’
I couldn’t help laughing. ‘You might be free and single, but you’re certainly not young!’ I teased.
After a catch-up, we agreed to meet at a local pub. By the end of the night, it was like old times. A few months later, Malcolm moved in with me.
At Kathryn’s house one night, I looked at my eldest grandson Owen, 10. ‘Nanny’s got a new boyfriend,’ I said. ‘Would you like to meet him?’
He nodded. Just then, Malcolm walked in. ‘There he is,’ I smiled.
‘Grampy?!’ gasped Owen.
‘Yep,’ I said. ‘What do you think?’
‘Brilliant!’ he beamed.
From then on, we were a happy family again. And at Rachel’s wedding in December 2009, Malcolm popped the question for the second time. ‘Will you marry me?’ he asked. ‘Again?’
Well, I knew what I was letting myself in for! ‘Why not?’ I beamed.
We married in July last year at Abergavenny register office. We had our daughters as bridesmaids, and four grandsons as pageboys.
It was different to our first wedding, but just as special. And as for the photos, no matter how much they fade over time, we’ve proved our love never will.
Sharon Lister, 54, Cwmbran, Gwent