When a careless driver smashed into the back of me, I had no idea I was about to take a crash course in love…
By Ranette Afonso, 42, from Enfield in London
I pulled my sunglasses out of my handbag and squinted into the bright August sunshine.
‘I’m just popping into the bank,’ my husband told me as he got out of our car. ‘I won’t be long.’
I waited in the passenger seat, minding my own business when all of a sudden… thump!
I was violently jolted forward as I was pushed into the dashboard. Shaken, I turned around to see a man at the wheel of a sporty Nissan Skyline.
This dodgy driver had ploughed straight into the back my car. Furious, I flung the passenger door open, ready to unleash a wave of anger.
‘What on earth do you think you’re doing?’ I yelled as I stepped outside.
Locking eyes with the driver, I felt another fire stir inside me. Despite my anger, I couldn’t help but notice… this guy was gorgeous.
‘It’s your fault, look at how you’ve parked,’ he shouted back.
Shaking myself back into the moment, I stood my ground and eventually, we agreed to exchange insurance details.
‘My name’s Marko Conte,’ he snapped, handing me his business card. Our fingers briefly touched and despite the anger, there was a strange moment of chemistry between us.
As we drove home, I tried to put the crash to the back of my mind.
‘There doesn’t seem to be any damage to our car anyway,’ my husband said when he looked it over later. But there was something I couldn’t forget about… Marko.
My marriage of over 20 years was on the rocks. My husband and I had been head over in heels in love when we tied the knot back in 1983 but over time, our relationship had gone downhill.
After bumping into Marko that day – literally – I began to realise that perhaps there was someone else out there for me.
My marriage was over. It was time to face it and make a dramatic U-turn.
Five days after the accident, I sent Marko a casual email.
How are you? I hope your car has been sorted, I typed.
I felt a nervous knot tighten in my stomach as his reply flashed up on my screen. I smiled as I read his lovely message, telling me not to worry about his car. Marko gave me his number and from there we started texting.
I hadn’t been imagining the electricity between us when our fingers briefly brushed a few days before. The connection between us was immediate.
Marko and I talked about anything and everything, messaging each other every few hours. I couldn’t believe how quickly we clicked and I felt like a blushing schoolgirl as I found myself looking forward to his next message.
It was time to make the decision I should have made a long time before. A week after the car crash, I sat my husband down.
‘We need to talk… I want a divorce,’ I confessed.
We’d both seen the split coming, our marriage had been breaking down for years, and that same day, I packed my bags and said goodbye to our relationship – for good.
As I drove away from the house, I pulled out my mobile and dialled Marko’s number.
‘I’ve split from my husband, Marko,’ I blurted out. ‘I’ve left him.’
There was barely a pause at the other end of the line before Marko was soothing me. He knew my marriage had been on the rocks for a while and he was so sympathetic.
‘Why don’t you stay at mine tonight?’ Marko offered. ‘You shouldn’t be on your own.’
I’d been planning on staying with my sister, just while I found my feet, but as Marko and I chatted more, I knew I was going to take him up on his offer.
‘Thanks, I’d love to,’ I replied.
I’d only met Marko once, but there was something about him. He was a genuine man with a kind heart, so I flicked on the car indicator and drove over to his place.
We had the most incredible, passion-filled weekend together and Marko took me in his arms as I kissed him goodbye.
‘I can’t wait to see you again, Ranette,’ he said softly, tenderly stroking the hair away from my face.
Weak at the knees, I headed to my sister’s house. ‘I can’t explain it,’ I confided in her. ‘I know it’s been quick but it just feels so… right.’
After that, my relationship with Marko blossomed quickly. By September 2013, just one month after the crash, we officially moved in together in Edmonton Green, North London.
Our friends and family were surprised by just how quickly our romance developed but they understood just how strongly I felt about Marko.
Two months later, my phone rang. It was Marko: ‘Do you fancy going out for a couple of drinks tonight, darling?’ he asked.
‘Definitely, sounds good.’ I replied. ‘Where shall we meet?’
When we arrived at the nightclub, I was confused when Marko led me onto the dancefloor. He never usually danced but that night, I couldn’t keep him from strutting his stuff and he was beaming from ear to ear.
‘Let’s dance,’ he grinned, spinning me around under the disco lights. It wasn’t long before I discovered the reason behind his excited mood.
As the music thudded in the background, Marko pulled me close and whispered in my ear. ‘Ranette, will you marry me?’ he asked.
For a brief moment I was completely stunned into silence before I managed to muster some words.
‘Did you actually just say that?’ I said, shocked.
‘Yes, of course! I love you Ranette,’ he replied, as his whole face broke out in a heartfelt smile.
I didn’t think twice about my response. ‘Yes!’ I cried, leaping into his arms, ‘Yes, I will.’
Marko’s proposal was fast and completely unexpected but that’s exactly what I love about him – he’s so spontaneous.
My friends thought I was crazy and couldn’t believe I’d got engaged so quickly. It was true, Marko and I had taken a crash course in romance but when they saw us together they knew that we were on the road to real love.
I finalised my divorce from my husband in December 2013 and Marko and I hope to get married in October this year.
Both our birthdays are in October, so it’ll be an extra special time for us.
I can’t wait to marry Marko. Our wedding will be especially exciting for me as it’ll be the first time I’ll meet Marko’s family.
They live in Italy and are flying over for our special day, before we jet off on a honeymoon around the world.
Marko and I still laugh about how we met, to this day. I’m just wheely glad I didn’t get out of the car and thump that dodgy driver – he turned out to be my soulmate!
As told to Helen O’Brien Google