Love Story

All my life, my parents had been taking me and my ever expanding number of brothers and sister on camping trips in the summer. I’ve always loved camping. When there were 4 children to fit in the car though, they decided to stop taking their own tent and upgrade to going with one of these companies where you arrive and your tent is set up for you – a big tent with fridge, electric lights etc. The fírst time we did that kind of holiday, I must have been about 11. And every time we did it, I saw these reps: (in my eyes) really cool guys and girls, about 20, that got to spend their whole summer living in a tent in a foreign country and loving every minute. I knew they had cleaning and customer services to do, but for me, that was a small price to pay for the amazing summer these tanned, toned young people were having. I had always wanted to be a rep.

So at the end of my first summer at uni in Manchester, a long 3 month summer ahead of me, I packed my rucksack, kissed my then-boyfriend Chad goodbye, told him I was looking forward to him coming and visiting me in July and to us moving in together in September (only in a shared house in seperate rooms, which was for the best as it turned out), and set off for Italy, to Camping Happy near Rimini. I had been sent to Italy because I spoke German. Sounds odd, but the company I worked for had British, dutch, danish and german customers. In Italy the majority of customers were german, presumably because this was the kind of holiday you did by car and the few british customers I had generally had an approximately 20 hour long drive behind them. Germany was just more do-able. Anyway, I had been to Germany as a au pair when I was 18 (I’d returned to Britain just a year before) and so my German was pretty passable, and to a lot of Brits, it was amazing. The disadvantage to the situation was that I was in Italy and didn’t speak a word of Italian!! Sure, it was a pretty international campsite, and the majority of people that worked there spoke some english, but it made making frineds pretty difficult, particularly when I went out with a group of Italians in the evenings. Thank goodness for GCSE Spanish and A-level French, which at least meant that I vaguely understood what was going on around me, but that was about it. (O.K, o.k, you’re waiting for the part of this story in which our hero arrives, aren’t you? Sorry, I am prone to waffling generally, but particularly when telling this story because I remember every second of it so well and the circumstances are still amazing to me. And anyway, I promised you a film like storyline, so we have to get our background about the heroine in first. But don’t worry, I am getting round to the leading man, I promise.)

Anyway, so there I was, on the campsite, pretty much alone, loving my job and surrounded by people who were being nice to me, but still feeling pretty lonely. Luckily there was a middle aged german couple who lived on the site for most of the year and rented out 6 mobile homes they owned. They were really friendly and were nice enough to listen to me moan when customers were being nasty or whatever! When I’d been on site for about 2 weeks, their son arrived with 3 mates to spend a week’s holiday with his parents. Pretty much as soon as they arrived, they must have told Thomas (the son) about the poor little english girl who was all alone, because he turned up at my reception to introduce himself. I was pretty intimidated by the whole thing, because although I come across as being confident at first, I’m really pretty shy, and Thomas is this big male model type guy, really cool looking and a huge personality. So I mumbled something back at him, he said “See you around” and headed off to the beach. I was kicking myself – not because I fancied Thomas (sure, I can admit he’s a very good looking guy, but he’s not my type at all, and I wasn’t attracted to him), but because that was the first chance I’d had for weeks to chat to somebody that I could actually have a conversation with, and I’d blown it.

Later that day, Thomas arrived walked past my reception again (he had to to get to his caravan) with this gorgeous blond guy in tow. They were on their way back up from the beach. Surprisingly to me, Thomas stopped, and introduced his friend Marc. Marc just said “Hi!” and grinned. I learned later that he’d had about 3 beers sitting in the sun and was pretty drunk. I was even more shy this time around, because this was somebody I was attracted to, so I half smiled, said hi and found an excuse to do something else. I know, I was being stupid – I really needed some people to talk to and perhaps go out with, but these guys just seemed so unattainable to me. I don’t mean relationship-wise ( I had a boyfriend, remember?), but these were guys who were definitely in the cool crowd back at school and I… Wasn’t. Sad but true. So I was certainly convinced they wouldn’t be interested in me.

The next day I was sitting outside my reception (up to now,. it sounds like I did nothing but sit outside my reception doesn’t it? I was only there for 2 hours in the morning and 2 in the afternoon… it just so happens that the majority of things at the beginning of this story took place there), just thinking about starting to clear up for the afternoon when Marc came wandering over to reception and asked me where the nearest chemists was. Apparently one of the other guys they were there with, who I hadn’t met yet (and who is a story to himself – Hannes is one of the best people I have ever met – completely insane in a good way, totally uninhibited and proud of who he is!!) was a big snorer and Marc desperately needed ear plugs or he wasn’t going to make it through another night!! I laughed and gave him directions. And thus follows a moment in my life in which I am sure that God/ Fate/ something else intervened and completely changed my life forever. Obviously my reception (which would need it’s own trailer if they were making a film because heck, the number of times I’ve mentioned it, you would think that it was the star of this story!!) was right by the entrance to the camp site, and, as Marc turned right and disappeared out of view, I suddenly ran after him!!

I caught up with him quite quickly and fell into pace with him. He just looked at me and said “Did you get the directions wrong?”. He obviously had no idea why else I would have run after him. Thing is, I didn’t either. I mumbled something about wanting to make sure he got there, because hey, he wouldn’t be able to sleep otherwise and we couldn’t have that. He looked at me strangely, smiled and said “O.K.”. We walked to the (embarrassingly easy to find) chemists without saying much else, bought the earplugs and then… stood there. In front of the chemists. Both of us obviously completely unsure about what we were doing there together and what we were supposed to do in the situation. After what seemed like ages, Marc asked if we wanted to get a drink. I suggested a nice bar around the corner and we went. It was only there that really started chatting properly. Once we did though, Marc was really easy to talk to. Only problem was that he mentioned his girlfriend in the first few minutes of the conversation. He was quite clearly making a point, but I wasn’t bothered either because I had a boyfriend and was still completely in denial about what, looking back, I had known since the first moment I saw Marc – that this was the guy I was going to marry. At some point whilst we were sitting there, the guy with the roses turned up. Yes, he’s the same guy the world over – he saw two people of the opposite sex sitting together and charged over and asked Marc if he’d like to buy a rose. I was mortally embarrassed, because I imagined that this was going to be a really awkward moment, but Marc just said “Yes please” and bought me one. I later discovered that he had never ever bought anything from one of those guys before – not even for his girlfriend. This was his equivalent to my running after him moment – he didn’t have a clue why he did it at the time but looking back he knows he should have realised then what was going on.

We’d been chatting for a while when Marc’s phone rang. It was Thomas, who was sitting back at the caravan, waiting for Marc to come back so that they could go out. Sounded like he was pretty much on the verge of sending out a search party. We said we’d be back in 5 minutes, and Marc asked me if I’d like to join them going out that night. I agreed of course, particularly as it was my day off the next day and so went back and got changed. We decided to return to the bar Marc and I had been to earlier, Tequila Blues, a fabulous cocktail bar. And it was a great night!! Lots of cocktails, and really great company. I got on with all 4 of the guys so well, particularly Marc. It was about 2 by the time we got back to the campsite, and we sat around at the boys’ caravan until the security guy came and told us off for being too loud.

So off I went to bed around 3am. And woke up with a steaming hangover. At about midday, I finally crawled over to the guys’ caravan and jokingly told them off for getting me drunk the night before and how it was their fault that I felt so rotten. Marc was really sweet and brought me water and kept trying to feed me crisps, because I was complaining I felt sick, but he insisted I had to eat something. We sat around most of the afternoon, and they invited me to go out with them again that night. I agreed and was quite excited because I was beginning to admit to myself that I quite fancied Marc. I hadn’t got to the “This is the man I will marry” point yet, but I was kind of opening up at least to the idea that I was attracted to him. Still I didn’t really expect anything to happen, as Marc had a a girlfriend, but I at least thought I might be able to flirt a bit, which is always good for the ego, and I’d at least got the impression that Marc didn’t find me totally repulsive. However, that evening everything changed…

We decided to drive to a nearby town to go out. we’d heard it was supposed to be good, but we didn’t know where we were going and so we spent most of the evening wandering the streets. I kept trying to start up conversations with Marc, but he only gave me one word answers and seemed very disinterested. He didn’t seem to want to talk to me at all. I was really confused at this point, because we’d been getting on so well, and I was worried that he’d noticed that I was flirting with him and decided to distance himself because he didn’t want me to get the wrong idea. I began to realise at this point that I did have ideas (be they right or wrong) and that I would like something to happen between us – I wasn’t this disappointed that he seemd to be pulling away for nothing. Still, as hard to believe as it sounds, I only allowed myself to believe that I wanted kind of a holiday romance with him – I was in Italy, the weather was great, everything was relaxed, we had fun together, he was a nice guy – who wouldn’t want an affair in that situation, right? I certainly wasn’t falling for him – I had a boyfriend back home that I loved (despite the fact that I hadn’t thought about him for days).

Anyway, the evening was a bit of a disaster, and after wandering the streets for hours, we decided to go back to the campsite and hang out in my tent for a while – it was further away from the security guy so we hoped we could get away with the noise for longer! We hung out there for a while, having a laugh, and then all of sudden the other 3 guys stood up and said “We’re going to bed now. Night Marc, night Kathie”. Oh. My. God. I remember the awkwardness as if it happened 5 minutes ago. Marc and I sat next to each other on my couch and really didn’t now what was going on. I remember thinking “Oh god, now he’s going to tell me I’ve got totally the wrong idea and he just wants us to be friends”. But at the same time there was this chemistry in the air that made me think that maybe he quite liked me as well. And to be fair, he was going home 2 days later, so why would he bother to have the “just friends” conversation with me when he was going to disappear out of my life less than 48 hours later? Anyway, I just sat there and giggled if I recall (I’m cool like that). Marc pretty much did the same, until he said “You know, I really like you, but I have a girlfriend. And I don’t want to go home with a guilty conscience.” “I know exactly what you mean, I feel the same”, I replied (which was at least kind of true – I didn’t want a guilty conscience). “Good” he said, and looked away. I thought he was going to leave, when he suddenly turned back and said “I think I could live with my guilty conscience if we were just to kiss. You?”. I just nodded and he kissed me. Seriously, I never bought into the whole Mills and Boon romantic stuff, but he kissed me and I knew. This was the man I wanted to spend my whole life with. I was madly in love with this man who I had known for less than 3 days. And yet it was all so insane. This couldn’t logically be the man I was going to marry. He lived in Germany. I lived in Manchester. He had a job, I was in the middle of university. He had a girlfriend, I had a boyfriend. This was not the way these things were supposed to happen.

After we’d kissed for a while, he got up and left. The next day was going to be his last full day on the campsite. I was a complete wreck. I rationalised for hours on end, hardly sleeping that night. I was wrong. I was so caught up in this romantic holiday situation that I was letting things get the better of me and thought I was madly in love when really I was just lonely. I tried to talk myself out of things for hours. I knew that I at least had to deal with this, because, whether I loved him or not, he was leaving. This relationship was over before it had even begun. And, having suffered terribly in a similar situation on holiday when I was 16, there was no way I wanted to let some dellusions of love ruin my holiday. So I tried and tried to override my emotions with logic. This wasn’t happening, full stop. Convinced (kind of), I fell asleep in the early hours of the morning.

The next day I was back to work. I hung out with the boys a bit at the beach in the early afternoon, but generally, I was working. My bike had been nicked, so I had to go to the police station, and… whatever, it’s not relevant to the story. We had made plans to go back to Tequilla Blues that evening, as it was Marc’s last evening. We hadn’t particularly spoken all day, and I was pretty sure that Marc had got what he wanted, and I was quite glad really, because as long as I didn’t have to speak to him, preferably not even to look at him, I could convince myself that he was just some guy I had snogged during my summer abroad because I fancied him, and not somebody I had feelings for that were more intense than any I had ever felt before. The evening was kind of strange, and we went back to the boys’ caravan pretty late. We sat around for a while, then Marc went into the caravan and came out with a jumper. “Coming for a walk?” he said. I got up and followed him, although on the one hand I really didn’t want to. I just knew that if anything more was to be said, or to happen, things would get really out of hand – I was already way to emotionally involved in this holiday fling.

We wandered down the street next to the campsite to the beach, neither of us saying a word. Once we reached the sand, Marc sat down on one of the sun loungers that are permanently set up to rent on italian beaches, and signalled for me to sit next to him. The next thing, we were kissing, and soon we fell back onto the sun lounger. It was getting light by this point, and Marc suggested we went back to my tent as we were a bit exposed if any joggers or whatever came along. I was pretty powerless to make any kind of decisions at this point. All my well thought out logic was out of the window. So we went back to my tent and things went from there…

Marc went back to the caravan to get a couple of hours sleep before he had to leave. It was about 7am at this point, and my reception started at 9am, so there really wasn’t much point in my going to bed. Instead I sat around, trying to make sense of what had just happened. Basically, Marc was leaving in a few hours time, returning to Germany, to his job, and most importantly to his girlfriend. It was over, and I was pretty devastated. Exactly what I had planned on avoiding. I got ready for work, went to the bar and drank a coffee. I then slowly wandered up to my reception, from where I could see the caravan. At around 10am, the boys started moving about. It was about half an hour later when Marc came over and told me he’d left his jumper in my tent. I told him to just go and get it, it was lying on the couch. He came back, having found it and asked me to write down my address, e-mail and phone number for him. He did the same, and it was kind of like when you were about 8 and decided to be penpals with some girl you met by the pool or something. He left shortly after. I smiled and waved as he drove past, leaving me forever. As soon as he was out of sight, I turned and walked down the campsite to my tent as quickly as I could without anybody asking me why I was running. As soon as I entered my tent, I burst into tears…

I opened my inner tent and went to collapse onto the bed. Then stopped. And stared. Then cried even harder than before. My bed was covered in about 10 packets of crisps in all shapes and sizes. Remember the hangover crisps? Marc must have put them there when he came to collect his jumper. Sure, crisps aren’t the most romantic of gifts generally, but this showed me that he remebered the little details of the time we had spent together – it must have at least meant something to him as well. Which, of course, just made things worse. Oh, cruel world ;o) The story was over, as I said, before it had even really begun. Or at least, so I thought…

Marc had left on a Saturday, which was a good thing in a way, because arrivals and departures were always at the weekends, and although it wasn’t high season yet, I had plenty to do what with seeing people off, cleaning accomodation and welcoming the new guests. So I kept myself busy, but I still couldn’t stop thinking about him. (God, this really is starting to sound like a Mills and Boon) Then, on Monday, I was sitting at my reception (where else? ;o) when my work mobile (this was 2000 people, I didn’t posess my own mobile at that point, although that was to change shortly after this) beeped – I had a text message. I got them all the time from the company headquarters, so I didn’t think anything of it. Until I saw that it was from a german number. At which point I freaked. I opened it straight away and read “Hi! Have you eaten all the crisps yet? ;o) Hope you were surprised and that you are ok, cheers, Marc”. I read it about 40 times. This was the last thing I had expected! I was even kind of angry with him, because I had spent the whole weekend persuading myself that I would never hear from him again, and that that was actually a good thing because it was such an impossible situation… and then he gets in touch! What was I supposed to make of that?

I of course spent about half an hour composing a witty light hearted reply which ended up saying something like “Thanks for the crisps. Of course I haven’t eaten them all yet, they’ll last me forever! I’m fine, hope you got home ok, cheers, Kathie”. As I said, witty, and bound to make him fall madly in love with my charm and interesting conversational skills. Hmm… Still, it clearly didn’t put him off totally, because he replied and we had a bit of a text conversation.

That night, I decided to write him a snail mail letter. Just letting him know what was going on, you know, hey, let’s be penpals type stuff. And I might also have written something like “I suppose you realised I fell for you in a big way whilst you were here? If not, you know now…” and then gone on to talk about a sign I translated for the swimming pool. Embarrassing stuff, but I bunged it in an envelope and sent it before I could change my mind.

The next day, he texted me again. And the day after that. On my day off, I decided to cycle into Rimini (about 45 min ride) to go to an internet cafe and e-mail him. He e-mailed back. He told me about his girlfriend, who was pushing him to let her move into his flat, and he really didn’t think it was a good idea. I told him about my boyfriend, who was coming to visit at the end of July, which I really wasn’t looking forward to, and generally about how odd it was that a few weeks ago I had been totally sure that I loved Chad, and now, I was realising that I wasn’t missing him at all. Generally, we could chat as if we had known each other forever. The only thing we didn’t talk about was us. We never mentioned what had happened, we never allowed ourselves to analyse why we might be feeling unhappy in our relationships all of a sudden (although I remain convinced that the relationships were going nowhere anyway – meeting each other just made us realise it). Without ever having discussed it, we knew that that topic was just going to get us into trouble, and make things very complicated, and so we avoided it.

As time went on, I was cycling to the internet cafe more and more regularly – my afternoons on the beach in between reception opening hours were replaced by long bike rides followed by an hour in a dark cellar typing away. One after noon I was sitting there, typing away as usual, when my phone went off. I opened the text, already grinning away, and read: “I collected the photos today, and your letter came, and I love you”. I nearly collapsed. I was actually physically shaking. I stopped typing in the middle of the sentence, added “just got your text, love kathie” to the bottom of the mail and cycled back to the campsite. On the one hand, I was ecstatically happy. On the other, I knew that things would have to change, and that it wouldn’t be easy. But mainly, I was overjoyed ;o)

That evening, we spoke on the phone for the first time since he left. He said he’d had photos of me in one hand and a rambling letter full of crap in the other hand and he had been overcome with emotion and had to tell me how he felt. I told him that that was quite alright and that I loved him too (and anyway, what do you mean by a letter full of crap? that was a brilliantly composed piece ;o). So of course the discussion had to move on to where we were going from there? The first thing to be done, obviously, was to break up with our respective partners.

I rang Chad to tell him that I didn’t want to be with him any more the next evening. It was horrible. I felt really bad about doing it on the phone, but I had no choice. I decided not to tell him that I was with Marc now – I just told him the truth – I didn’t miss him and the time apart had made me realise that my feelings towards him weren’t the way they should have been. He was very quiet, and only said that he would still come and visit me if that was alright, since he had booked his flights. What else could I say but yes? I had to share a house with him and 3 other people the following uni year, and of course hoped we could remain friends, or at least get on for our housemates sakes.

Marc split up with Josie on the Monday (we had spoken on the Saturday and he wasn’t going to see her till work on Monday). I think that was a bit easier though, because although I may be biased, I get the impression she was the psycho bitch from hell ;o) Apparently as soon as she saw him, she went off on one about how she wanted him to let her move in or else they might as well split up (they had only been together for 8 months) – so he said “O.K, well I guess we’ll have to split up then” and that was pretty much that. So on that day, 10th July 2000, Marc and I were officially a couple.

Except, yeah, right, it’s fair enough being a couple on paper, but there was still the small matter of us living in two completely different countries and having totally different lives. We decided the first thing to do was to spend some time really getting to know each other – I mean, we felt as if we had known each other forever, but still, we had never really spent any time together. Marc decided to take the rest of his year’s holiday from work and come and visit me for 3 weeks in August after Chad had left.

The less said about Chad’s visit the better. Suffice to say he arrived with the idea that I was dellusioned about our relationship being over and that I would see him and realise what a terrible mistake I had made. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out like that, obviously. Instead, he noticed pretty quickly that I was getting a fair number of texts that made me grin, and asked me on the first day whether I was seeing somebody else. I wasn’t going to lie to him, and so I said yes. That was it. He didn’t speak to me for the rest of the week. Heck, I don’t think he spoke to me for about 6 months. For the first 3 months we were in the house, he left the room whenever I came in. Of course I felt bad, but what was I supposed to do? It wasn’t Chad at all – I had met the love of my life, and Chad’s a really nice guy, but he couldn’t compete.

So then Chad was finally gone, and Marc arrived. I was a complete wreck the day he was arriving – I have rarely been so nervous in my life! And then he was there. I was waiting for him at my reception, which was a small wooden cabin thing, with a covered terrace in front of it. The main campsite reception was opposite, and of course all my frineds from the site knew Marc was coming, so they were all watching. We decided to go into the reception, so we could say hello without an audience. I went in first. O.K, so there was a large wooden table on the right as you came in, where I did all my paperwork. On the left, there was a white plastic patio table covered in a plastic tablecloth and various brochures about the local attractions. Don’t ask me why, because I had never done it before, but I was trying to be cool and was so nervous that I decided to sit on the plastic table. Which of course collapsed underneath me. And I landed in a heap on the floor, surrounded by various leaflets, a tablecloth and two halves of a table. I hadn’t seen Marc for about a month and his first image of me was a big clumsy oaf, and of course he hadn’t quite closed the door yet so all the campsite staff saw exactly what had happened as well. But at least it broke the ice. We both fell about laughing and it was as if we had never been apart.

The next 3 weeks were certainly some of the best of my life. We spent all our time together, toured the area on Marc’s motorbike and had so much fun!! It just confirmed that we had made the right decision – we were made for each other and no distance could keep us apart. The end of Marc’s holiday was of course really sad, but at least this time, we knew that this was just the beginning.

10 months later, I gave up everything in England to live with Marc. On October 26th last year, we got married.

And they all lived happily ever after ;o)


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