My university lectures restarted the last week of October 1980. But my mind was not on Macro Economics. All I could think about was my handsome Englishman. The words of the first letter were engraved onto my brain. He told me he lived in a house in Portsmouth, which he shared with three friends, all from the Navy.
The Englishman also asked if he could phone me one evening. I penned a quick reply and two weeks later the wonder of (then) modern telecommunications occurred. His voice, clear as if he was standing in the next room, spoke to me. I swooned. It was past one o’clock in the morning in Helsinki, only eleven in the UK. He’d just come home from the pub with his friends. At first I thought I was dreaming. I’d got out of bed too quickly and ran to the living room where the phone was, afraid I’d miss the call. Then there he was, talking to me. His voice was low and manly, and when he said he missed me I nearly fainted. Instead I hung onto the receiver, trying to press the avocado coloured phone as close as possible.
‘I miss you too,’ I whispered.
He was quiet for a moment. ‘I wish you were here right now. The things I’d do to you…’ His voice had become even deeper. And then he said it.
‘I think I’m falling in love with you.’
‘Me too!’ I tried to control my voice, to keep it level. What I really wanted to do was shout those words to him.
International telephone calls were expensive, so we had very little time to talk. He promised to phone again soon. I replaced the receiver and slumped down to the sofa. It was pitch black outside, only the street lights cast shadows into my small flat.
The next day was a Saturday and my ex-fiance was due to come over to pick up the remainder of his things from the flat. There were a few of his LP’s left, some shaving cream and deodorant I found in the bathroom. A heavy jumper I’d knitted him the previous winter. Looking at the pile of his things I could not remember how I’d felt before I met the Englishman. I couldn’t understand how I’d been able to be with another man. How I could have thought I loved him.
I was making coffee when the phone went again.
‘Hello,’ the grave female voice said.
When I was quiet, it went on, ‘Didn’t think you’d hear from me, did you?’
I couldn’t get any words out, but my heart was racing. It was my fiance’s mother.
‘So, what have you got to say for yourself?’
‘You’re a nasty young woman. First you seduce my son, then when it suits, you cast him out like a used dish cloth. But then I knew this from the beginning. Your mother’s divorced after all.’
I was still speechless.
‘Well?’ she demanded.
‘I’m sorry, I can’t do anything.’
‘Why not? You don’t think the English sailor is ever going to marry you – are you?’
My rage was slowly emerging from the coma the phone call had initially placed it. But I couldn’t get a word in.
‘You are a very silly girl. If you have any sense, you place that expensive ring on your finger again and accept that life with my son is the best you can do with yours.’
My face grew hot.
Suddenly she stopped talking. I heard sniffles in the other end.
‘I’m really sorry,’ I said as calmly as I could. I took the receiver off my ear and disconnected the call by pressing the plastic buttons down. My hands were shaking.
When a few moments later the doorbell went, I took the pile of my ex-fiance’s things and handed them to him over the doorstep.
‘Your mother called.’
‘Oh,’ he said and tried to step inside the hall. For the past few weeks he’d still been coming around. I’d felt sorry for him, and guilty for breaking off the engagement. He’d been sleeping in my bed, and I’d let him hold me.
‘I’m sorry, ‘ I said and kissed him on the cheek. ‘Goodbye.’ I closed the door.
The coffee percolator was making gurgling noises. From the small kitchenette window I watched my old life walk towards his moss green Opel Kadet. He was holding the pile of things in front of him, as if he was a robot. The sky looked dark, it was about to rain. The first drops fell when my ex’s car disappeared from my view. I felt light-headed. The rain didn’t matter. The mother’s insults didn’t matter. My ex-fiance didn’t matter.
All that mattered was that the Englishman loved me.