Maelle and I had a very civilised house in London. We invited people for Sunday lunches at which we made roast chicken with all the trimmings and served up a poached pear tarte for puddings. She had regular care packages sent over from France so there was often a good supply of Rillettes de porc in the fridge, home preserved tuna in oil in kilner jars lurked in our cupboards next to tins of cassoulet and jars of choucroute garnie. I made a point of demonstrating to Jack how much better it was than his life in Leeds which wasn’t quite unfolding as he had hoped. He hadn’t got the Antarctic Survey job, nor had he found anything that really used his degree of Marine Biology. Finally when the landlord asked them to leave, he moved back to London and moved in with Maelle and me. The uncertain times were over. We were together again. I shouldn’t have looked at it like this, and it’s symptomatic of how our relationship was about to develop but in my eyes, I’d won.
‘I’ve got a boyfriend! I’ve got a boyfriend!’
I rang my parents, I wrote to my school friends, I wrote to my sister. I was so excited, I turned back into a teenager. From kissing, we moved pretty quickly to sleeping together and while our first attempts at sex didn’t go as planned, after about the third attempt things were most definitely looking up.
A further week, and in the middle of a seminar on Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale, I realised I was in love. Full on hearts and flowers, makes you feel a bit queasy in a good way, can’t eat, want to be with them all the time. I went home to his room where we spent every evening now (his bed was marginally bigger than mine) and told him. All sorts of things could have gone wrong here but I was in luck again. Jack had realised he loved me too.
From that point, it was LOVE in big capitals. We barely managed to stagger out of bed to lectures. I wore his clothes so I could smell him when he wasn’t with me. I met his sister. I heard all about his past girlfriends and he heard about my lack of boyfriends and the coal shed. I met his friends in the third year and sat with them in the Union Bar. He met my parents. I met his.
I would love to say that we were love’s young dream for the next year but unfortunately once I’d got my boyfriend and should have been revelling in enjoying being with him, I went a bit mental. A terrible fear came over me, that Jack loved me more than I loved him. I felt, although I didn’t want to, that I should break up with him for his own sake. With the benefit of hindsight, I now think it was becoming apparent that the relationship had a use by date and I was becoming aware that I could, if I wasn’t careful, make him very unhappy indeed when we hit that date. But it had taken so long to actually get a boyfriend, I couldn’t bear to give him up now. You might ask why on earth I was worrying about the end of our relationship when we’d only been together a couple of months but it was always on our minds that he was in third year, the end of the year was coming, he would sit his finals and we had to think about what to do next.
Jack wanted to move to Leeds with his best friend from school. They’d had a summer hanging out in Leeds where his friend was at university, before he came back for his final year. It had taken on fairly legendary proportions in his mind, like a 1980s American coming of age teen movie. He hadn’t really enjoyed his university years in London that much, it’s too big a city to have the college culture of a university town, and he wanted a bit more carefree living with the boys. I had no other friends at my college. The people I met at lectures and seminars were passing acquaintances to meet for coffee but no one who was going to become a life long friend that I would be happy flat sharing with. Jack was adamant he wouldn’t stay in London. We didn’t want to break up either. My school friend Nia saved my bacon by putting me in touch with a friend from her course who had been living out of halls in Essex at the home of a schoolfriend and who had, like me, not found a group of people to share a flat with. Maelle, who is a proud Breton but will also admit to being described as French, couldn’t come over to flat hunt so she trusted me and my dad with the job of finding a flat for us both and we came up trumps with a flat in the upper two storeys of a big Georgian house in Hackney.
Jack, meanwhile, moved into a terraced brick house in Leeds with his mates for a year of scoring drugs (conveniently 2 of his housemates were dealing) and what he hoped would be fun, clubbing and enjoying the city. A year in, and on not too certain footings given my worries of earlier in the year, we were now in a long distance relationship.