Profiles

AN EXTRAORDINARY FATE

A love story 

A drop of sweat slowly rolls down Melissa Nixon’s shoulder blades, joining the hundreds of others starting to collect on the bottom of her Beach Life cotton tee. 

It was the summer of 2014, and Melissa crunches over the battered boxes in her guest room closet as she rummages through decades of memories.  Her box fan struggles to keep up with the stifling high 90’s heat as the temperatures soar in St Pete Beach, FL. 

“Mom,” her daughter Taylor yells, “I’m heading to the beach.” 

Not waiting for a response, a loud boom erupts as the front door slammed closed. Melissa was back to the slow swirl of her fan and the sounds of her fingers as they traveled through the artifacts of her youth.  

Bypassing her Grateful Dead Concert tees, pictures of college friends, and trinkets containing old memories, the tips of her fingers hit a faded white envelope with a return label coming from North Port London. 

The hairs on her sun-faded arms start to rise, and she stares at a letter containing the words from a ghost of her love life’s past.  

At that moment, palms sweaty, she begins to dream about a future with a man she met 30 years ago, one across the world living a very different life than the one she resides in her old beach town. 

With hope in her mind and a nothing to lose attitude, she wanders over to her old wooden desk and pulls out a pen and paper. She begins to write. 

“Dear Will… it’s been a long time…”

That day she started a chain of events that would eventually create the happily ever after to a love story that began nearly three decades before. 

The story of Melissa’s love begins in 1988 in the lobby of a Santorini youth hostel. It was her first day on the Greek island, and she had just bumped into a man with bright blue eyes and a white bowling shirt loosely thrown over a pair of cut-off jean shorts. As he steadies her, she glanced up and made eye contact for the first time with Will Web, a London undergrad, who was vacationing with his friends. 

Melissa had on a black mini skirt with a tub top to protect her from the Greek island sun’s UV rays. It was one of the four outfits she had packed when she left the states three days earlier, determined to spend summer break backpacking with her friend Kathleen Jermyn.

At home, she had left her boyfriend of three years, Jeff. A man that she would later admit she only stayed with because she lacked perspective on what real love was. 

That night Will invited Melissa and Kathleen to a local bar where they danced to music and drank themselves waist-deep in mixed drinks until the final call. It was her first of many memories with Will.  Too soon it was time for them Melissa and Kathleen to leave Greece. 

“I remembered I didn’t want to leave him, but my trip had only just begun,” said Melissa.

Two weeks after bumping into him, she took off with Kathleen, seeking their next European adventure with the promise of letters to Will.  

For two months, she traveled around Europe with Kathleen. Jumping from hostel to hostel while sending letters filled with worldly updates to the man, she met the during first days of her adventure.    

By July of 1988, Kathleen had to go back to school in London. Their summer adventure had ended, and It was time for Melisa to go back to the US. Melissa wasn’t ready and made a split decision not to board her red-eye flight home to New Jersey, instead changing the ticket to London. She was going to see Will. 

“My mom was pissed, but I didn’t care,” said Melissa. The outfits she left at home, her now ex-boyfriend, and the college classes that she never showed up for all became afterthoughts as she spent the next three months falling in love.

By Oct. 1, 1988, her mom was fuming, threatening just about her daughter’s life in an attempt to get her back stateside. She planned to fly out home Kathleen when her semester ended, but her mom’s threats were enough to convince her to leave early. Nineteen days later, she packed up her meager belongings and took the cheapest flight home with the promise that her and Will’s story would not end. 

Two months after Melisa came home to New Jersey, Kathleen’s semester abroad had ended, and she was supposed to fly back to her college in New York for the Holidays. Melisa waited at the airport, Christmas music playing softly in the background as she received a call that told her Katheen would not arrive. Her best friend and travel partner’s flight exploded on her way home. 

Kathleen Jermyn was on Pan Am 103, the bombed flight that went up to flames thousands of feet over Lockerbie, Scotland. Two hundred and fifty-nine passengers and 16 crew members passed away that day. Thirty-Five of them were Syracuse University abroad students. Kathleen Jermyn was one of them. 

A bomb had been played inside a record player inside a piece of luggage. Until 9/11, the FBI titled the Lockerbie bombing as one of the most lethal acts of air terrorism of all time. 

Drowning in grief, Melissa lost herself in funeral plans, dealing with the FBI, losing a great friend, and knowing that she would have been on that flight if it wasn’t for her mom. 

Her new love flew from London to be by her side to for comfort. 

“Will ended up staying with me for three weeks after the funeral.” He offered comfort and love. They attempted to continue to see each other for months after, but with the heavyweight of a close friend’s death and thousands of miles between them, they decided that it was not their time. 

With his departure, he left her a letter that contained his parents’ vacation home address. “I told her that my parents will always be in North Port, and if you ever need me, you can send a letter to that address,” said Will. 

In 2014, twenty years later, during one of Florida’s hottest summers, the divorced mother of two decided to finally take up his offer. 

“I asked him how he was, and I gave him my cell phone number,” said Melissa. Then she dropped the letter in her mailbox and watched it get carried away. 

A month passes from the day in her closest. School had started up, and the beach days were over for her children.          

“I figured his family had moved,” Melissa said. 

And to a certain extent, she was correct. Will’s father had sold the house two years prior after his wife passed away. However, the new owners forwarded the letter to his new address. 

During a slick, rainy morning walk, Will’s dad had fallen, resulting in him taking an extended stay in the emergency room. As he laid in the hospital cot recovering from the nasty spill, Melissa’s letter stayed on his father’s cabinet. It became sandwiched between bills as a thin layer of dust began to settle over it.  

Nearly a month after that fall, Will went to his father’s home to check up on the place and sort the mail. It was here that he found the letter. 

“It was stacked between a cable and water bill, and I was shocked,” said Will. 

He had never married or had kids after meeting Melissa. Whether it was fate or fortunate timing, Will knew he had to keep their story going. He called her the next day. 

“I watched mom and Will email and talk for months before she finally flew to him,” said her daughter Taylor. 

On Jan. 15, 2015, Melissa went to Tampa’s International Airport and stepped onto a United Airlines flight that would bring her to London for the first time since Kathleen Jermyn passed away. She was on her way to see Will.  

Five years later, Will is currently staying in the same house that Melissa wrote that bold letter asking him how he’s been.

 They married the Summer of 2019. Barefoot, with their closest friends watching Melisa looked up into Wills blue eyes and said, “I do.”