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Real Life

Real life: I ditched my hubby to marry a homeless charmer

My marriage was in tatters when a dread-locked homeless man caught my eye.

By As told to Take 5

Louise Morcombe, 35 found love in the most unlikely place:

I packed a box with blankets, coats and woolly hats and set out on my nightly walk.
"It's bitterly cold tonight," I said to one of my fellow volunteers.
I'd recently started helping out with a homeless charity.
My 10-year marriage was in freefall and it felt good to do something to help others, rather than wallow in self-pity.
As I walked around a multistorey car park, I spotted a figure hunched against a wall.
He was huddled beneath blankets on an old mattress.
"Can I get you something to eat?" I offered.
"I don't want nothing," he muttered. "Leave me alone."
He couldn't even look at me. It broke my heart.
I let him be, but returned the next night. He was more friendly this time.
"Could you get me some hand warmers?" he asked, his teeth chattering. "I'm so cold."
"Of course," I said, relieved to be able to do something.
After that, Stuart Jonas, 38, became one of our regulars.
We checked on him most nights that winter.
Poor Stuart was freezing sleeping in the car park. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
He'd ended up homeless after a relationship breakdown and had been sleeping rough for three years.
Despite his own bleak conditions, Stuart would always ask how my life was going.
When he laughed, his mouth curled up to those high cheekbones.
A mop of dreadlocks crowned his boyish face.
I found myself putting lipstick on and getting butterflies in my stomach before visiting him…
Did I have a crush on him?
"Let's play a game," Stuart said one day, grinning. "See how many times you can get the word 'fairy' into conversation. My word will be 'winkle'."
The joke went on for weeks, with us exchanging private giggles whenever one of us scored a point.
"How are you feeling?" I asked him one night.
"I'm so cold, my winkle's going to drop off," Stuart deadpanned.
I couldn't deny my attraction to kind, gentle Stuart. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
I snorted into my scarf as I tried to think of a flirty response, before I stopped myself. My marriage was in tatters.
The last thing I needed was another bloke to complicate things, let alone a homeless one!
A few days later, Stuart pressed a note into my hand as I passed him a mug of soup.
I couldn't help but notice his dirty fingernails and wondered when he'd last had a good wash.Unfolding the note later, my stomach flipped.
My life is so much brighter now you're in it. You're like a beautiful butterfly.
Beside the words, he'd sketched an intricate drawing of a butterfly.
My cheeks burned as I hid the note. I was representing a charity and didn't want to abuse my position.
But over the next few months, Stuart wrote me a letter every day.
Stuart was thrilled when he finally got a home. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
I was a girly girl. I loved shopping and getting my nails done.
Stuart was a homeless man with smelly hair who slept in a car park!
Our lives were polar opposites, but behind those stinking dreads was a gentle and kind soul.
For the first time in years, someone made me feel special.
I pressed the charity's committee to help him out. We stepped up our fundraising and, after two-and-a-half months, we'd raised enough for a deposit on a rented unit.
When we told Stuart, his eyes brimmed with tears of gratitude.
I was with him as he unlocked the door to his very own home. He grinned like a Cheshire cat.
We also got him signed up to counselling and addiction services. Soon, Stuart was clean both inside and out.
One day, I was relaxing at home when my phone beeped.
Why don't you come over and check out the flat, Stuart messaged.
Busy, sorry, I typed, not trusting myself to be alone with him.
Fine, I'll just be your virtual friend, he replied.
Ouch. Those words stung. He was right. I wanted us to be real, not virtual.
Taking a deep breath, I typed: Meet me on the bridge at 1am. Don't say anything. Just kiss me and walk away.
My heart was hammering as I waited on the bridge.
Was I mad?
I almost went to leave as Stuart ran towards me.
He caught me up in his arms and kissed me passionately. Then he stepped back, smiled, turned and walked away.
It was the most romantic moment of my life.
I wobbled home, my legs as giddy as my heart.
After that, we were like love-struck teens.
Bye-bye dreadlocks, Stuart felt like a new man. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
We huddled together on a bench in our local graveyard, out of sight.
But we couldn't keep our love a secret. I had some hard conversations to make.
"You've fallen in love with a tramp?" my husband spat with disgust.
He packed his bags and left. My parents were equally shocked, but I didn't care. I could finally be with Stuart.
"Time to clean you up then," I told him.
I sat him on a chair in my yard and chopped off his matted locks.
Next, we overhauled his wardrobe. Out went the combats and baggy tops and in came smart jeans and shirts.
Stuart treated me like a queen, and when I was sure his addiction issues were finally sorted, we moved in together.
"Look at all this stuff," he mocked as I filled our new pad with sparkly candle holders and cushions.
It was a far cry from the cardboard box he'd lived out of.
I've never been happier. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
One day, after we'd been together for over a year, Stuart took me for a walk in the graveyard.
He got down on one knee and produced a diamond ring he'd saved for with temping work.
"You saved my life," he said. "You're my angel and my butterfly. Will you be my wife?"
"Absolutely," I smiled.
We also just got a Jack Russell.
"Let's call her Lady," I suggested.
"That's perfect!" Stuart said, grinning. "Because you've already got a tramp."
Stuart has a chequered past, but I believe we have a beautiful future together.
Everyone deserves a second chance, and we're living proof of that.
Stuart says:
After three years on the street, I'd pretty much given up hope…until Louise came along.
I wasn't looking for love, just trying to survive, but when I started to develop feelings for her it felt like a fairy tale.
Life is so different now, but I do have one lingering habit from the street.
When I lived in the car park, I slept in my trainers in case I had to make a run for it in the night. These days, I sleep with my slippers on in bed.

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