I would call myself a simple man.
I passed school, not with flying colours or anything, but I passed. Got myself a good enough job in the yard at the age of 19 and worked my nine to five. I’m getting close to needing to watch my weight but I have enough of a balanced diet for it to not be a worry for a few more years. A simple, but good man. I like to think so at least.
“Neil, don’t forget your sandwiches!” Debbie calls from the kitchen as I fasten my boot laces, ready for work.
“Right! Gimme a sec!” I call back, easing myself up from the porch stool. I creak a little now – a bit more than I used to. I need to keep an eye on that.
Heading back into the kitchen, I pause at the view of Debbie with her back to me, just washing dishes in the sink, her long greying hair scraped back into a messy bun, still in her fraying Bagpuss pj’s. It’s a simple life, but I’m lucky to have it – to have her. She gives a small startle as I wrap my arms around her waist and lean in to kiss her shoulder.
“Neil, hun, you’re gonna be late” she laughs, leaning back into the embrace nonetheless.
“Unhu” I mumble into her neck, making her giggle and spin, slapping my arm.
“Alright I’m off I’m off” I laugh, holding my hands up and head back out of the kitchen before running back in at the exasperated yell of
And managing to steal another kiss before being chased out of the house.
I met Debbie a bit later in life than my mates met their wives. I was in my late 20s and wasn’t that fussed about getting married. Not that it didn’t appeal to me, but it was just if it happened, it happened. If it didn’t it didn’t.
I described myself as a simple man. But Debbie was anything but a simple woman. She seemed to just stumble into my life, almost literally, one autumn day, 30 years ago.
It was a normal Saturday evening. I’d just finished my shift at the yard and was making tea (a good classic of pie and mushy peas) when I heard a loud shout out in the street followed by a thump. Rushing out to possibly yell at some teenagers (though I myself was only 27), I paused at the sight of a young woman collapsed in front of my front garden.
“Shit. Hello? Miss? You alright?”
I rushed towards her and tried to pull her upright and check her over. She instantly started groaning which was a good sign. I hoped.
“What happened?” I asked once she was conscious and aware.
“Nothing too fancy. Pissed off a tough guy, it bit me in the arse. And by that I mean slugged me on the head” she summerised.
“Sorry for the fuss” she mumbled as I led her up the path to my house.
“Don’t be daft. You said it was an accident… Of a sort. You get some nasty buggers sometimes” I brushed off her apologies as I sat her down on my overstuffed sofa and rushed to help in the only way I knew – fix her a milky brew with plenty of sugar.
“Oh, um, thanks” she accepted the mug with a scrunched frown.
“No problem. So, rough day?” I joked. Her head snapped up and I was about to apologise for upsetting her when she suddenly asked,
“Why are you helping me?”
I scoffed lightly,
“I’m glad that you class this as help. I’d like to have done more but, all I have is tea”
She shook her head and put the mug down on the shaky coffee table – I noted to myself to fix it sometime soon.
“That’s not what I meant”
I tilted my head slightly.
“Most normal people would’ve called the police or something you know” she raised an eyebrow at me. And, well, she did look like someone who would have had the police called on her. Dressed in a ratty black jumper, ripped jeans, thick black boots, and an assortment of pinned jewellery, she did look rather out of place on my plain green sofa.
“Well, I would rather make sure the woman collapsed in my driveway is okay, rather than leave it 20 minutes for police to arrive and chase down some thug who’s probably long gone”
She snorted and let out a quiet huff of a laugh.
“You’re odd” was all she said before picking the mug back up and sipping on her now lukewarm tea.
We sat in silence for a while before I suddenly realised that I was missing some key information about my house guest.
“What’s your name by the way?”
She paused mid sip and awkwardly swallowed, wiping her mouth with her holey sleeve.
“Ah yeah, I’m Debbie. Um, you?”
“Well Neil, thanks for, you know, keeping an eye on me and, um, giving me the weakest tea I think I’ve ever drunk. I owe you one” she winked and my heart skipped a beat.
“Anytime” I meant it to sound like a joke. I don’t know if I was already desperate to see her again, but it came out more serious than intended and she gave me a curious look.
“Alright, I’ll hold you to that.”
I followed her to the front door.
“See you around Neil” she called out as she headed down the street, heavy boots stomping on the concrete pavement.
After that evening, she kept her promise and began popping in for a, much stronger, cup of tea, or coffee, or ice cream, or… well, anything. The excuses began fading into nothing as we just began hanging out for the sake of it. Soon she was sleeping on my couch, then in my bed and the idea of marriage came up incredibly casually, about three years after we began meeting.
“Should we get married?” Debbie asked one day, as she sat switching the pins in her ears in front of the mirror.
“Why? You want a sparkly ring?” I replied, taking a swig of my morning coffee. She shrugged.
“Not fussed about a ring. It just makes sense for us, you know?” she turned to look back at me and I could tell that she was being serious.
“Yeah, I know.” I held my mug and looked at the punk girl sitting in my plain beige living room and smiled softly.
“Sure, let’s do it then. Let’s get married”
And the rest, I believe they say, was history.