With the press of the button, “challenge new opponent,” Stuart of Nottingham, England was about to meet the woman of his dreams. He had downloaded the word game, Ruzzle, to his phone and was competing in new word challenges day after day. Occasionally, he would swap “good match” with his opponents through the messaging feature in the game as a courtesy, but that was the extent of any social exchanges. He wasn’t trying to make friends, let alone find his next great love.
On a random winter day in January 2015, he was ready to start a new game with a new opponent. The name under her character icon read “Laura” and the match began and ended like any other match would. In fact, their first few rematches went just like he expected as well. They exchanged a few “great games” and “well played’s” like he had before in his other matches, but something intrigued Stuart about Laura even though Laura was little more than an emoji on his cell phone screen. He couldn’t quite put his finger on why he felt compelled to learn more about his challenger. He was curious about her and it provoked him to start a conversation. He asked her where she was living through the game’s messaging feature knowing full well that Ruzzle players came from all over the world. “Pisa, Italy,” she replied.
From there, they slowly began to build a friendship. Laura learned that Stuart worked in IT and Stuart found out that Laura taught English in her hometown. They also spoke of their interests and of their lives outside of work. After two months of messaging back and forth on Ruzzle, Laura asked Stuart to be her friend on Facebook. Their conversations grew even more frequent; every day through Facebook messenger, Laura recalls, and then she tempted fate by asking him to meet her in London when she would be there on vacation with her niece.
“I didn’t know this could be a love story,” Laura said. “I wanted to meet him because he was a nice person; he was funny and said nice things during our conversations.”
Stuart suggested they meet at a pub near Buckingham Palace on the Saturday of Easter weekend. “I settled down on a couch and I was very nervous anticipating her arrival,” he said. He realized his hands were shaking when his beer arrived and picked it up for a sip. Moments later, he got a text from her saying she had just entered the pub. He rounded the corner and caught sight of her. Her back was to him and his heart began to beat even faster. He was nervous, yes, but his excitement took over. He couldn’t wait to spend the afternoon with Laura in a city they both adored and see just what type of relationship this was, a friendship or would there be a romantic spark?
“I’m not ashamed to say that on the way home I got tears in my eyes,” Stuart remembered, thinking back to their day together in London. “I knew then and there that there was an attraction, a big attraction, between us.”
Laura felt the same. On her return to Pisa a week later, she sent Stuart a message saying she had to see him again. Stuart responded with an offer to come visit him in Derby the following week.
“I was heartbroken for the second time when she left,” Stuart said. Two more butterfly-inducing trips over the next several months — one Laura took to Nottingham and one Stuart made to Pisa for a week when he also met Laura’s entire family — and Laura decided to let love guide her heart. She made the move to England to be with Stuart permanently. That was two years ago now and they are still as in awe about the beginnings of their romance as anyone who hears their love story for the first time.
“The irony is that Laura could have played Ruzzle in Italian since it’s her first language, but she wanted to practice her English,” Stuart said, knowing that he got lucky in love.
Some say love is hard to find. Others say love strikes when you least expect it. Stuart and Laura would double down on the latter.