It was a cowardly way of doing it, sending you an e-mail, but I wasn't sure I could say it to your face. My finger hovered over the keyboard for a long time before I clicked on send. I knew it was only a couple of days before your birthday, so not much of a birthday greeting, but I felt sure it was the right thing to do.
I tried not to think about how you'd react, focused instead on reinforcing my sense of me, taking solace in the notion that there were no cracks in my defences, nothing to undermine my independence. I'd got a new job and was earning more money, I was inching my way back towards the sort of life I'd had before. I'd even found a new house that was closer to where I'd lived when I was married and the children were small.
It was a ridiculous house, an old gatekeeper's lodge, for a big house that no longer existed. It was built in the shape of a cross, each of the tiny rooms leading on to another one, and each of them with three outside walls, so it was always cold. When I'd gone to view it, I'd been intrigued by the odd little building tucked behind a high brick wall, swamped by its overgrown garden. I'd been bewitched by the big open fireplace in the lounge, the full height stained glass window in the kitchen, the long attic bedroom with its windows looking out over the garden, that made me think of Anne of Green Gables. It was totally impractical for a single mother with four teenage children, but I loved it none-the-less. Perhaps it was its smallness in a street full of expensive detached houses, maybe it was the defiant way it had remained standing long after the big house was demolished. Somehow it spoke to me, made me feel like this was the place where I'd start to rebuild, put down some roots, grasp some confidence in life.
Of course I only half knew you then, I hadn't yet learnt that you don't easily take no for an answer, I hadn't realised that the surest way to get you to act is to tell you to do the opposite thing. Nowadays I could predict how you'd respond to my e-mail, but ten years ago I hadn't expected that you'd still want to see me, to try and talk me round. When you arrived on my doorstep, you looked tired. You accepted my offer of a tuna sandwich as though it were the finest cuisine, as though I was offering you so much more than some tinned fish in a slice of bread. And I guess I was, even if I didn't yet know it.
We went for a walk, a long meandering stroll around the local streets and towards the park. I remember how you stopped me at one point, held my arm and turned me to face you. So intent on making me believe, making me trust you, you almost shouted at me "I'm putting my head on the block for you. I'm giving you the axe". It was, and still is, the most romantic thing anyone ever said to me.
Shortly after that, when we found ourselves sitting on a park bench, holding on to each other while snowflakes fell all around, I think you started to believe that it would all turn out ok.
Tonight you're sitting upstairs, waiting for me to stop tapping away at the laptop and come to bed. We don't live in the strange house any more but we've found ourselves a home in the best place in the world. When you wake up in the morning, it will be ten years to the day since you turned up at my door. I couldn't have asked or wished for a better decade. I hope there will be many more.