He was always late so at first, I was more irritated than worried when he didn't turn up. We had been seeing each other for several months, and although I knew he hated shopping it was his suggestion we meet near the precinct.
My romantic nature pondered whether the 'special something' he wanted to buy me would be an engagement ring. Although I was very fond of him and we got on well, it was a big commitment. I wasn't sure if I was prepared to give up my independent lifestyle and in due course the job I loved if we decided to start a family.
Perhaps I was jumping the gun as he hadn't officially proposed yet, but the fact he couldn't even turn up on time for such an important event was already irritating me. I believed punctuality was a sign of good manners, and if it upset me now, would it fester until it caused a major rift between us.
After waiting half an hour I sent him a text message, 'Where are you?'
Twenty minutes later, still with no response, I sent another message saying I would be looking around the shops for a new dress, and to phone me when he arrived.
Retail therapy always cheered me up and for a while, I forgot about him as I tried on several outfits, and then found the perfect shoes to match. As I dug out my credit card, it occurred to me that perhaps this was something I would have to curtail if we were married.
I earned a decent salary and always ensured my bills were covered, but somehow had never got into the habit of putting any surplus into savings.
Friday nights were girls' night out. Most of my friends were from well-to-do families where money was no object, and a cheap meal with a few drinks in the pub was not our style.
Our haunts were more likely to be the clubs advertised in the best magazines, where Champagne flowed like water, and a week's wages disappeared without a trace.
Paul was a hard-working electrician, running his own business and making a good living, but he wasn't in the same class as the boyfriends who ran galleries or were funded by their rich parents.
I knew if I dropped out of the scene I wouldn't be missed, and often wondered if I was only accepted so they could feel good about themselves.
Maybe a change of lifestyle would have some advantages.
Seated in the coffee shop surrounded by designer bags holding my latest purchases I checked my phone. No missed calls, no messages. Where was he? Surely, he couldn't have just forgotten?
Finally, I made my way back to our original meeting point where I could get a cab home. No way was I going to struggle on the bus or the tube; apart from being laden down it wouldn't be good for my image.
As I was waiting for a taxi, I received a message. The attachment was a receipt from a local jewelers marked 'To be collected.' There was no price or description of the item but as the shop was close by I decided to go and get it there and then.
Collecting the item without a problem, I decided to wait until I got home before opening the small gift wrapped box.
To my surprise, it contained a pair of beautiful diamond earrings, not the ring I was expecting. As I was admiring them, my mobile buzzed indicating a message.
'My dearest Catrina,' I read. 'This is the last you will hear from me as I am on my way to the airport, ready to start a new life. I hope you like the farewell present. It was intended to be an engagement ring until I realised you didn't love me as much as I love you, so it was best to make a clean break. After this message, I'm destroying the sim card so you will have no way of contacting me, but I will always be with you. My love always. Paul. X '
I tried to phone him but received the recorded message 'This number is no longer operable.'
In a state of shock, I sat down and turned on the TV to catch the evening news. There had been a multiple pile up on the motorway, and the death toll was rising with every report.
The late News listed some of the fatalities; Paul's name was amongst them.
That week passed in a blur, but Saturday found me on the same corner where we had arranged to meet the previous week. As I stood there with tears in my eyes, I was startled by a sound from my phone indicating a new message.
The screen showed it was from Paul's mobile number.
I immediately tried to phone him only to receive the same 'no longer operable' declaration.
With shaking hands, I opened the message.
'Whenever you are in our special place I promise I will always be with you. Love forever. Paul. X'