Chapter 1: A Sad Beginning
My name is John Douglas Sibly; I'm five foot eight tall and weigh ten and half stone. I'm naturally slim, and have never had to workout to keep in shape, no matter what I eat.
When I was seventeen and still in college, my parents and two younger sisters went on a coach holiday to Austria leaving me at home alone. Halfway through their second week away, I was woken one morning by two police officers coming to the house. They sat me down and informed me that there had been an accident and all my family had been injured. Whilst the police were still with me a gentleman turned up from the tour company and he made arrangements for me to fly out to Austria.
On the plane I was sitting across the aisle from a very pretty blond young lady. I suspected she was on the same mission as me because she was crying all through the flight. When we landed in Innsbruck a lady from the British embassy took me in hand. She took me to the hospital were my youngest sister was being treated. It was here that I learnt that my mother, father and other sister had perished, and that Claire was not expected to survive the night.
I cannot explain the feelings I had. I felt guilt that I wasn't on the coach with them. The feeling of hopelessness that my whole family was virtually gone. I spent the night sitting at Claire's bedside, praying that she would survive. At six in the morning the alarms on the many monitors attached to Claire went off. Nurses and doctors appeared from all directions and for the next hour or so they tried to do the impossible.
Then a female doctor came out to me, with tears in her eyes. In broken English she said, "I'm sorry, we tried all we could!"
I thanked her and rest of the hospital staff for their efforts. I'm not sure they all understood what I said as I don't speak Austrian, but I know they understood my sentiments. I can recall now, that for some reason I didn't cry, I think I was too sad to cry. The lady from the embassy reappeared, she took me to the hospital were the bodies of the rest of my family were, but I was not allowed to see them.
Some more embassy people turned up and told me the local police had arranged to take the relatives to the scene of the accident. I was to learn later that this was to assure us that they were making a full investigation as to the circumstances of the crash.
I was completely surprised at the reaction of the locals. When we got to the scene, some people from a nearby village met us. They had bunches of flowers that they gave us to leave at the crash site. Some guy, who I took to be the local mayor, informed us that they would erect a monument to the dead.
As this guy was talking to us through an interpreter, out of the corner of my eye I noticed someone beginning to collapse. It was instinct that made me reach out and catch her. She hung in my arms for a few moments then began to recover. She turned and I saw it was the young lady from the plane. She must have remembered me, and being the only familiar face amongst all these strangers, she hung on to me. Buried her head in my shoulder and cried her heart out. Her crying set me off and we cried together for a while.
When we were invited to get back on the coach to that would take us to a hotel for the night, she stayed firmly attached to my arm, so we travelled together.
We were installed in a comfortable hotel for the night. There must have been a hundred of us altogether, and we were all in the same hotel. How the Austrians managed that I don't know!
I don't think many of us ate much that night. Although a few of us were in the bar for a while, we didn't stay long as the press and TV people were outside and they made us feel uncomfortable. So I retired to bed early.
About eleven I heard a gentle knock at my door. I opened it to find the young lady from earlier standing there. She explained that she didn't want to be alone and asked if she could come in and talk to me. Feeling the same way myself I invited her in. We sat on the bed all night drinking just about everything there was in the mini-bar and talking about our respective losses. Her name was Angeline and she had lost her mother and aunt who had been on holiday together, her father had passed away some years previous.
When I told her I had lost my whole family, Angeline began to cry again. That was how we spent the night. Drinking, talking and crying together.
That night a bond formed between us, we had both lost all our remaining relatives in the coach crash. That night we didn't realise, but we formed a relationship with each other that can never be broken. Not a romantic relationship, but a kind of bond, like a brother and sister would have.
When we returned to England, we stayed in close touch. I left college, much to Angeline's annoyance and went to work in a local office. We both received fairly large insurance compensations for our losses but money can't replace a family. Mine was put in the bank and forgotten. Angeline was to spend most of her compensation whilst she went to university. Angeline and I became each other's families.
We presented boyfriends and girlfriends to each other for approval. I warned a few guys about taking liberties, and Angeline told me what she thought of some of my choices. And I suppose life went on without either of us seeing the inevitable.
In my job I moved from working in the office, into the sales force on the advice of some of the company salesmen. They told me I could talk the hind legs off a donkey, and with a bit of guidance, I should be able to sell anything, and with their help and guidance I proceeded to do just that.
In a year or so I had become the top salesman and the guys who had originally been my mentors were coming to me for advice.
Over the next few years Angel and I got closer to one another, and then one day when she was in her last year at university we met up for a meal in the evening. Angeline told me that from then on, she wanted me to call her Angel. Angel had always told me that her father was the only person she had allowed to call her that. Now she was asking me to use the name. I don't remember what happened for the rest of the evening, we both drank too much I suppose. But we woke up in the morning, in Angel's bed, Angel was no longer a virgin, and I was the happiest I had been in five years.
We were married the day after Angel's graduation. We tried to keep it low profile but it was too good a story for the papers to miss. "Love out of disaster" the buggers called it and slapped it on the front pages of the Sunday Crap.
We went to Switzerland for our honeymoon and whilst there we hired a car to drive us into Austria and visit the crash site again. We took flowers to leave on the monument that had been erected. We were pleased to see that it was being well looked after and there were fresh flowers already there. Neither Angel nor I had gone to the unveiling, mainly because of the news crews. A decision I think we both later regretted.
A car parked on the side of the Autobahn. Didn't take long to attract the attention of the local police. Once they found out who we were, everyone's uncle turned up and we were ushered into the village, to the church were they had a plaque with the names of all the victims and a visitor's book, which Angel and I signed.
Back home we moved into a new house. We decided that we would start a family as soon as we could, but that proved slightly more of a problem than we expected. But almost three years later, just as we were beginning to get really anxious Angel greeted me with a big smile on her face when I got home from work one evening.
"God, I felt bad this morning!" she said.
"Are you alright?"
"Well, I think I am now. I missed my last period and I was as sick as a dog after you went to work today. That's supposed to be the right signs, I think."