The South Bank Review Winter 2017 | You, Me & We
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You, Me & We

Photo Credit: Natalie Byfield

You were 27. You were a market stall holder. You liked fast cars and diamond baguettes. You wanted a big house in the country. You dreamt of being a property developer. You wanted a portfolio that would be worth millions. You saw me in the local pub. You sent your friend over. He told me a bit about you. You came over and whispered in my ear. I started to laugh. You asked if you could buy me a drink. You asked me to dance. You placed your number in my hand. You asked me my age and if I had a man. You told me I looked much younger. You wore plaits in your hair. You weren’t too flashy. You didn’t smoke but you liked to drink, nothing too intoxicating, a Guinness or a dragon stout. You wooed me with food, cigarettes and alcohol. I was so easily pleased back then. You had one daughter when we met.

You proposed after four months. You went to Hatton Garden and gave me a diamond encrusted ring. You banned me from smoking once we were married. You would meet every day for lunch and pick me up from work. You could cook but you added sugar to everything. You played football on Sunday. You never missed a game. Your hair started to recede. You shaved it all off. You grew a beard to compensate. You collected hats and watches. You couldn’t swim, but you took us to Water Palace every week. Your favourite sayings were, “Did you iron that on crush? and “You’re just like an ambulance, waaaant waaaant waaaant.” You couldn’t understand my fear of cats and how creepy crawlies didn’t bother me. You introduced me to your daughter.

I was 26. I was an executive officer. I had one daughter. I liked fast cars and eating out. I spent Saturday’s in bed. I wore baggy clothes and my hair in two buns. You later confessed that you didn’t think I had a shapely body because of my baggy clothes. I tried to ignore you when you approached me in the pub. I told your friend that I wasn’t interested. I lied. You decided to come over. You whispered, “Why are all these men in your ears?” I found that comment funny. You had a serious look on your face. You thought I was laughing at you. I assured you I wasn’t. It was just the way you said it. I accepted the drink. I refused the dance. I thought you were good looking. I tried to play hard to get. I called you the next day. I thought it was too soon. I shrugged it off. I didn’t want you to be the one that got away. I told you that I wasn’t dating. I thought you were the one. It seemed to be love at first sight. I remember thinking so cliché. I never really believed in it, meeting you changed all of that. We met up the following week. You took me for a drive. I told you how much I loved London at night. We spoke daily.

We officially became an item in October. I remember it well, it was my birthday. I wore a satin pink suit and my hair in pigtails. I went to a party and came to see you around two in the morning. You had a little gift for me, a star of David. I wasn’t expecting anything. You were so thoughtful. We opened a bottle of champagne, Moet and Chandon. We watched films and ate ice-cream. We spoke for hours. We eventually succumbed to the bubbles as we fell asleep on the top of the covers. We didn’t even kiss. We just lay there holding hands. I knew then that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you. We just clicked. It was like we had known each other for years. I started to stay over. I hid my underwear in everyone of your chest of draws, just in case you had other girls coming over. I always checked and found them in the exact same place. I slowly moved myself in. You didn’t seem to mind. Until the wardrobe broke from the weight of all my clothes. You moaned. We became inseparable. We wore identical clothes. I’d wear your boxers and your jeans. You would tease me and say, “You will do anything to be closer to me.” We would always laugh at that. We were often mistaken for brother and sister. I think there was a time I was asked if I was your daughter. We debated if you looked older or if I looked younger. I settled on that I looked younger. I giggled whenever I spoke about you. I got butterflies too. I used to think who’d marry me, then there you were on one knee. You told me that you loved me. I told you that I couldn’t have kids.

I took you to Birmingham to meet my family. I drove. You were somewhat dubious about me driving on the motorway. My driving impressed you. I showed you around my hometown. We went for a walk down the canal where I used to live. You got on well with my mum, my dad was a fan too. My brothers on the other hand were hard nuts to crack. You smashed through their shells and became friends. We married in February after a world wind romance. It turned out to be small and intimate with our closest friends and family. We opted for Wandsworth registry office. I’m not sure why we didn’t have a church wedding. I had two bridesmaids, my daughter and my cousin. I had my dress made. You said I looked stunning. I said I didn’t like your hairstyle. Your plaits made you look like a troll. I said your hair spoilt our wedding pictures. Your speech made me cry. I am sure I saw a tear in your eye. You blamed it on the dust. I asked, “What dust?” We didn’t have a honeymoon. We spent our wedding night in a dingy motel that one of your cheap friends had booked. It was so disgusting that we checked out after about an hour. We went home. I cursed all the way. You never heard the last of it.

We visited Birmingham more regularly. I hoped we would move there. You preferred the capital. You didn’t want to leave your daughter. We lived with my cousins until we decorated our first flat. We stripped and filled walls. We disagreed on the colour scheme. We finally decided on white and gold as the theme. We hung wallpaper and painted together. We felt proud of what we had achieved. Your daughter came to live with us. We both became parents of two. We gave up our room when your brother, his wife and their daughter came to stay. We went to Gatwick to pick them up. I told you from the start, there was something about her I didn’t like. You said, “Give her a chance, she’s okay.” She turned out to be a busy body, gossiping about everybody. We found out that she had read my diary. She told everyone about my infertility. It’s like she was selling stories. She would gossip then ask for money. It put a strain on our marriage. I took my frustration out on you. We had no privacy. They ate like kings three times a day. They ate in a day what we ate in a week. Life went back to normal after they left. We said no to anymore overseas guests.

We decided to try for a baby. We booked an appointment with our doctor. He referred us to the specialist at St Thomas’s hospital. They told us I had a block tube. They wouldn’t unblock it. The risk of an ectopic pregnancy was too high. I cried. They confirmed that having a baby naturally wasn’t an option. I cried. They said I could conceive but it would be through IVF. The waiting list was six years. I cried some more and shouted, “I could be dead by then.” You stopped me from storming out, calmed me down and said, “Add your name to the waiting list anyway.” You never knew you became my hero that day. You were so understanding. You held me so tight, I felt so secure. I was silent on the drive home. Tears still streaming from my eyes. After a few days I started to feel incomplete, a numbing pain took over me. I didn’t want to eat, I became so miserable. I guess living with me became unbearable. I would lash out and say, “It’s okay for you, you can have more kids.” You would just ignore me. Within six weeks we received a letter. We had an appointment with the specialist. We were so excited; the six years became six weeks. I gave up smoking and stopped drinking. I took my folic acid. I went through the process of taking the medication that would help me conceive. After a few weeks we had the procedure. A week later I did a pregnancy test. It was positive. I texted you, “You’re going to be a dad again.” You didn’t believe me and made me take the test again. I didn’t believe it. I retook the test for the next seven days. We were pregnant off the first treatment. We felt so blessed. The pregnancy dragged out because we knew so early. My cravings consisted of ackee and saltfish, rice and peas with avocado with trifle for dessert. We had a baby girl. She was so tiny laying in that massive cot. I remember looking at her and thinking, if it wasn’t for you she may have never been born. You said I could name her. You lied. You named her after a Chelsea football player, even though you support Manchester United. Everyone thought she was a boy. She was our bundle of joy. A planned and special gift. We tried for another, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Not being able to give you more kids really devastated me.

We liked to take long walks in the park. We planned on travelling the world. We held hands wherever we went. It made me feel secure. You took me to Amsterdam for our first and only holiday. We went with friends. I had a fear of flying. I got drunk in duty free trying to calm my nerves. I hated tunnels and had to close my eyes anytime we went through one. Amsterdam had so many. You would just take my hand try and reassure me. I loved you for that. Our hotel room was beautiful. I mentioned our wedding night yet again. I heard you sigh and caught you when you rolled your eyes. I knew exactly what that meant, here she goes again. We had such a lovely time filled with fun and laughter. I had a drinking competition with your cheap friend. I ended up worse for wear. We took a boat trip down the canal. I fell asleep, too drunk to see. I missed all the scenery. I found a picture of me half asleep on a trolley, you and your mate just stood there with looks of disgust. You didn’t talk about your feelings much. You expressed yourself with gifts. I found it frustrating and we started to drift. I believed communication was key. You would say “Don’t start.” You would complain that I was always moaning. You felt you couldn’t do anything right. I think that was your get out clause as it always led to a fight. You would leave slamming the door. I’d call you names behind your back and laugh when you returned. We tried to keep the love alive by introducing date nights. I made a big gesture and tattooed your name on my arm. You looked sickened. You called me crazy. I told you our marriage was over.

Natalie Byfield

Natalie is a mature student from Nottingham. In her early twenties, she decided to try her luck in the big smoke. Her interest in writing began with daily diary entries, covering the usual teenage stuff from how annoying her younger brothers were to her latest crush. This became her outlet, a portal for her to express her feelings freely, this enhanced her passion for writing. She became a resident writer for the South London Press after entering a competition asking for local writers. Inspired by Maya Angelou after reading her seven series autobiographies, she decided to resign from her job working for one of the largest public and private trade unions to chase her English degree (with no regrets). As a trained photographer she has an eye for detail which she captures through the lens. Her passion for black and white pictures became her motivation for wanting to create and develop her own. The dark room became her canvas, while testing her exposure and timing skills. 'You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have' (Maya Angelou)