Tommy was eight when he met Emma. Emma was six. The year was 1987 and the place of their first meeting was the local playground of their neighbourhood in Surrey. Neither of them would remember the scene, but their parents overheard them exchanging love vows surprising and unexpected for children their age:
‘I love you-u-u,’ she sang from the merry-go-round.
‘I love you too-oo-oo,’ he sang back from the swings. ‘My heart will always be-e-e yours.’
But life doesn’t always bring things the way we’d want them. A month later, Emma’s family moved to New York. Tommy lost his closest friend and first ‘love’. Nevertheless, he didn’t forget about her – he and Emma wrote letters to each other for almost a decade. They exchanged poems; it was some compensation.
In 1996, Emma’s family moved again, this time without forwarding Tommy her new address. He didn’t know why. Tommy repeatedly wrote to her and tried to trace her whereabouts, but in vain. Their connection was severed.
Years passed. Tommy entered university, made many friends, had several girlfriends, became a successful surgeon. In 2007 he married his longest relationship and 2009 saw their first child coming to the world. Sadly, soon afterwards Tommy discovered his wife was cheating on him. Devastated, his marriage broken, for the next three years he turned into an emotional wreck that barely kept in touch with the world.
Until the day the thought crossed his mind to look up his puppy love on Facebook. You guessed it… he found her! He found Emma’s address, in Los Angeles. She was now blonde, had an MA in Composition, she ‘liked’ Counting Crows and Florence + the Machine. He fantasized about meeting her again, imagined the two of them drinking hot chocolate in a ski chalet in the Alps, taking gondola rides in Venice, walking together talking flippantly on the beach of a tropical island, just them and nobody else around.
Instead of writing to her or sending her a friend request, Tommy jumped on a flight. In LA, he took a cab from the airport straight to her house. The year was 2012; Tommy was thirty-three, balding slightly but still good looking, paying for child support but why shouldn’t he have another chance at love.
He stood outside her door and knocked.
‘Who is it?’ The words came out slurred but he would have recognized that voice no matter how many years had passed.
‘I love you-u-u!’ he sang as a joke, wondering whether she’d recognize his voice too.
‘I love you too!’ the voice answered, much to his surprise. Excited, he almost hopped up and down on the landing as footsteps approached from inside.
The door opened to reveal a large muscular man with a shaved head.
‘Who the fuck are you,’ he said and proceeded to bash Tommy’s head with his meaty fists. Behind him, Emma was visible lying on the couch, rather undressed, watching TV and downing a bottle of whiskey as her psychotic ex-convict of a husband beat the living crap out of Tommy, tossing him into the garbage bin a bloody mess with three missing teeth and a broken rib.
Before returning to the house, the 280-pound-heavy ox leaned over Tommy and whispered to his mashed up face:
‘Stop reading Mills and Boon shit, you fuckbag.’