“Do you mind if I turn this off, love?” he said, picking up the remote and turning off the TV.
Only moments before, a programme had started on our TV about the nation’s most impoverished children. As they showed the producers the contents of their cupboards, one young girl opened her fridge door to reveal nothing but a bottle of milk and a tub of vegetable spread.
I knew immediately what was wrong, the past.
When I first met Wolfie, he was poor, thin and gaunt. He had no heating, rarely any electricity and hardly any food. He was surviving on banana on toast and tuna pasta bake. I’d draw out £50, a week’s worth of housekeeping, to spend on making sure he had food and electricity. When my mother asked for housekeeping, I’d make out that I’d forgotten to draw it out and would give it to her when I was next near an ATM, or rather, when I was next paid.
Laying next to him in near silence, memories of the past haunted even me. The time he revealed to me his father attacked him for a packet of cigarettes. The fact he sent a child to buy his cigarettes,
I felt the bile rise when I remembered the time my Wolfie revealed to me that his father had asked him to buy him cigarettes with the money I’d scraped together so that he could eat.
My Ten Shades was just a boy. A lonely, lost, forgotten, victimized boy.
“It just reminded me, that’s all” he whispered into the dark. I could see what little light there was reflecting off of the pain in his eyes.
I remember so much about those days. The days the two of us used to huddle together in a single bed, as close as possible to contain our body warmth, the way he would pull me away from the stone wall to prevent me from getting cold.
The time he whispered down the phone that he was cold, they had no electricity, no heating and no food. He told me to forget about him and not to worry if he didn’t wake up. I was on the bus within the hour and I made sure he ate a hot filled potato in the local pub. It wasn’t much, but at least I knew he was fed. I also topped the gas and electricity up while I was there. Fed and warm, he’d be alright for another night.
I can remember the time I sat in the small office opposite my social worker, I implored her to help us find council housing, away from our family homes. The man I loved was starving on a near daily basis, and my mother had threatened to evict me unless I stopped telling people that I went out with my friends and admitted I had autism. Nobody believed it except my mother, yet she still wanted me diagnosed and would threaten me with eviction to get it. We needed out, and we needed out now.
Fast forward two years and we got exactly that. Finally, our fight was over. We had somewhere to call home. A rather large, one-bedroom flat in a run-down part of North Bristol. We spent our first night on sofa cushions with a pillow each and a sleeping bag and we ate pasta and chopped tomatoes for our dinner, but nonetheless, it was home.
Fast forward to today, and we now live in a converted 1960’s build with our own small garden and our beloved Jack Russell. We’ve been independent of our parents for eight years and married for six. What’s more, the once underfed and malnourished man that I fell in love with now has an adorable little belly on him. He hates it, I don’t care, I love it. I’d much rather that than the alternative.
And as I voice-controlled our lights to power down for the night, the darkness suddenly reminded me of what once was.
The darkess. The chill. The quiet. A time when all we had was one another. All we could trust was one another. Just us.
A few weeks ago, we installed an app, Couple Game, on our phones. In the game, you are pitted against one another as a sort of Mr & Mrs-style questions and answers. The winner can, of course, request a prize of their choosing for correct guesses.
So when one of the questions asked which cause Wolfie would donate money to, I naturally picked poverty,
It was hunger.
The past. How could I forget the past?
This is what makes my Ten Shades my Ten Shades. His past. His dark, cold, hungry past. A young boy with great aspirations, great potential with so much thought and love to give, cruelly let down by fate.
So when the trilogy came out, this was the bit that left a lump in my throat.
Christian. Wolfie. They were so painfully similar. Similar ages. Similar mentalities. Similar experiences.
And I love him, just as Anastasia loves Christian, because it’s hard not to love a man who puts himself last, always.
It’s hard not to love a man who makes a woman feel beautiful, protected and cherished.
It’s hard not to love a man who continues to trust and love, in spite of his broken heart.
Because Wolfie, too, lost his Mum at a young age. But he still does what he can to do her proud Every. Single. Day.
And I am in awe of him.
Today, money matters still worry Wolfie. Any splurges are met with apprehension and anxiety about affordable luxuries and living expenses. Even with thousands in savings, no bad habits and no considerable debts in the days that we have lived together, Wolfie still worries about our spending. It’s tragic to see how much the past still impacts him to this day.
The hardest part of dealing with someone like Ten Shades is that he doesn’t believe he is enough, he doesn’t believe he can be loved, or should be loved, and he tells me often that he wouldn’t blame me if I left him. I’ve urged him time and time again to seek therapy for these thoughts because I do love him, tonnes, because in spite of all that he has been through, my Ten Shades is still a very, very easy man to love.