In early 2008, Vinca was a self-confessed party girl, living the high life in Manchester. She worked for a recruitment firm during the day and went clubbing at night. “I lived with my best friend at the time, Flo. He and I were always having people over, but we needed a third flatmate,” she says.
After seeing their advert online, Lee applied. “I was studying in Staffordshire and it was cheaper to move to Manchester than live in student halls,” he says. Lee went to look at their flat – and go through their tough “interview process”. “I immediately picked up on his Stoke accent, as it’s where I’m from,” Vinca says. The pair hit it off after discovering they had mutual friends.
Flo and Vinca asked him to join them on a night out before offering him the room. “I definitely fancied Vinca and was flirting a bit,” says Lee. “But she was giving me strong signs that she wasn’t looking for romance, so I left it.” Vinca says she was “happy being single” after coming out of a bad relationship. “I’d sworn men off completely.”
A month later, Lee moved into the flat and they became close friends. As well as nights out, they enjoyed house parties, barbecues and film nights. “We used to throw a party at the drop of a hat,” says Vinca. While she enjoyed single life, Lee was looking for a girlfriend. “I went on a few dates, but nothing seemed to stick and I didn’t know why,” he says. One night, he and Vinca wrote a joke advert for Gumtree, listing his “boyfriend qualities”. “We started listing all these qualities and there was this slow-motion realisation that I wanted him to be my boyfriend,” she says.
Vinca told Flo how she felt about Lee, but he dismissed it. “He told me not to do anything while we were living under the same roof,” she says. In autumn, Lee moved to another flat, but stayed friends with Vinca. “I had no idea she liked me,” he says. She kept the secret “bottled up” to avoid complicating their friendship. “I spoke to my parents about it every day, but couldn’t tell him. I was scared it would ruin things between us,” she says.
Eventually, she took action on a night out in November. After a trip to a club and a karaoke bar, she invited herself to Lee’s flat to watch a late-night Ricky Hatton fight. “It’s not something I’m interested in, but Lee’s flatmate had friends over to watch it. I still couldn’t tell him, though.” She was about to give up and walk home when it started snowing. “Lee offered me a bed for the night and by morning my big secret was out,” she says. “I’d started to think there might be more going on, as she’d been getting flirtier,” says Lee. “I was really happy, because I’d always liked her.”
The relationship moved quickly; Vinca told him she loved him two weeks later. She started a degree in 2009, the same year she became pregnant with their son. “Lee was doing a lot of the childcare so I could study. I remember him visiting me at university with Felix so I could breastfeed between lectures.”
They married in Sale in 2012 and ran a design agency together for a few years. In 2017, Lee retrained as a teacher and found his dream job in north Wales the following year, while Vinca is now a freelance magazine writer. They live with Felix in Colwyn Bay.
“Vinca makes me a better person,” says Lee. “She makes me like myself more. She’s really good at what she does and I’m so proud of her.” Vinca says their friendship built the foundation for their happy marriage. “He’s very understanding and empathic,” she says. “He achieves everything he sets out to achieve and he always wants to make a positive change in the world.”