I have been trying to write you some sort of all encompassing letter for months. Apparently my words only work on command when set to write a song or when I ramble on about science because it was tough to come by. Not for a lack of words, because trust me, they were all in my mind and they were running about excitedly but for a lack of not knowing how to put them all together properly but I think there’s a newfound beauty and excitement in allowing the words to scatter around, allowing them to just come out as they may without censoring. So that’s what I’m going to be doing for you right now. Here are the thoughts that are coming out from me, thinking about you and us, no editing needed.

When I was 9, this girl in my school named Willa decided that I was going to be her husband. It was sort of aggressive at the time, I mean, we were only 9 and I was incredibly shy so I’d just gone along with it because I was a pushover and I felt like if I said no she would steal the snacks from my lunch and as you know, I am still very protective of my snacks. We went to this fair together (brought there and chaperoned by mum Milligan, of course) and we were running around, she grabbed me to pull me behind a tree and kissed me incredibly quickly. Then she told me “Because I knew you weren’t going to do it first!” and laughed before she nudged me so that I was it in tag and I could chase after her as she ran off. That relationship didn’t really last long, as you can imagine. I wasn’t ready to actually be married at 9 years old and she found herself another boyfriend a week later.

If only Willa could see me now, how I’d travelled to get to you on a whim just so I could kiss you. Just so you could understand how I was feeling. Just so my mind could shut up for a moment and we could just be, you and I, no words necessary.

Remember how we spoke about those almost moments? How in the past, on tour specifically, there were almost moments where if we had looked at each other a few minutes longer, or leaned in a little bit closer, or our bodies bumped into each other a couple too many times, something might have happened? I remember this one night, early on in our friendship, we went to some studio and it was right after we had written a few verses of a song together. Things started out shaky, I think you had gotten an upsetting call so you were kind of off mentally and I was pushing you more than you might have liked so we snapped at each other a few times before actually getting into this really amazing groove and everything just fell perfectly. We worked on pieces of a song that’s still somewhere in that mess of papers I have, half written, then you went to your own space to write some other things that had sparked from it and so did I. That was the night I’d written a few more verses for Touch and Go. “All of my bones, they scream I'm right. If you're taking me home to stay the night, darling my soul would heal.” So there we were, after the fact, guitars put aside and it was just you and I talking late into the night. About everything and anything, mostly ridiculousness, but then we got into the conversation of relationships and love.

You’d asked me this question, dramatic and not meant to be answered more than anything else I reckon. But you asked me if I ever felt disconnected to all the love songs I’d write. Like an old photo you manage to find and reminisce about, a memory you stop to relive, a scent that brings you back a specific time. Sure, I said. Some songs are so deeply rooted to another person, you write about them, it’s a release and then you move on. You hear the songs on the radio but it feels like a different entity entirely. You told me how much of a hard time you were having writing a layered love song. Something real. Something that wasn’t just going to sound and look good on paper, but something that was gritty, that hurt, that helped. I offered the advice that maybe it’s because you weren’t in that love right then. To which you said something passively like, yeah, because I’m an idealist who wants a love like the songs, as stupid as it sounds. Then you got embarrassed, probably thinking you were being a little too honest.

I think you might’ve made some joke but I kept to what you said and told you that it doesn’t sound stupid. That we are the ones who create songs, we know the process involved in how carefully we craft them, so to want a love that inspires that process isn’t stupid. It’s what everyone should be striving for. I remember the look in your eyes. You didn’t say much for a minute, I think it kind of shocked you to hear me say something like that. Me, Alex Milligan. But also me, Alex Milligan, a guy who could reaffirm some of your thoughts you figured might be outlandish even if they weren’t. Also, that was definitely the moment you wanted to sleep with me. Kidding, Ione. I am kidding. But we were at this point of friendship where this was among our first few serious conversations and there was a comfortable air to it. You could confide in me, I could confide in you. No judgment, it just all happened so naturally. We could joke around, we already knew of our musical connection, we could tease each other, but we could also speak to each other honestly. You’d found someone who you felt comfortable around, and so did I. Forget about the industry we are in, but in the world we live in, that sort of bond is incredibly rare and it’s something to hold onto.

So we did. We kept it going through the years because of how important it was to us and it’s sort of amazing at how things have progressed. How things have changed. How we keep changing along with it. All of this, all that we have, it’s always been special but then it turned into something unexpected. Truly, completely unexpected. That’s pretty cool to say, especially since you are Ione James and you have been through a lot in your life but this hit you as a surprise. It might’ve been in the air, there might’ve been moments of wonder, but never could we truly know what sort of thing we had on our hands until we were in it and there was no turning back. It’s been quite the ride. I’ve learned a lot about myself I didn’t know about, you’ve learned a lot about yourself. We’ve both had to tackle demons, we’ve seen each other through the good and the bad, we’ve been to amazing places, we’ve had laughs, there’s been tears, happiness, anger, appreciation, lots of good sex, adoration, music, dancing to no music, winning awards, pesky headlines. Regardless of what goes on, you take my hand, I squeeze on to yours, and we allow that feeling of comfort to encompass us and everything else becomes background noise to the main event that is you and I. I hope you can always come back to that truth, even when you're feeling lost, scared or afraid. Just close your eyes, take a breath, and remember that I, Alex Dominic Milligan, am in love with you and you are not alone in this.

You once told me, “someday when you love me it’ll be my greatest victory.” Jokes and all, loving you has been a great victory of my life. Right up there with tackling Wembley, getting those Grammy’s, learning to get a handle on my anxiety, and having an amazing friend base that keeps me sane. Loving you has shown me emotions I didn’t even realise I could have. There have been pieces of my soul I hadn’t even thought of in ages and you still manage to pull all of those out of me, to talk about, to learn about, because you are genuinely curious and you want to know about everything with sincerity. Loving you has allowed me to be less selfish. There’s someone else to consider in my life, and I want to make decisions that appeal to us both. I want to make you happy, and that importance is placed so high on a list when it comes to every day activities. Loving you has taught me how to share...the covers. Loving you has meant that I get the pleasure of knowing you, seeing parts of you no one else ever has.

Loving you has made me have a deeper understanding of what love actually is. Loving you has made me want to be better. Loving you had made me more patient. This one is pesky, I know, I don’t always win the war against how stubborn I can be, and yet sometimes I do and in those moments we work through it all together. If I am an enigma, then you are a riddle, but as you know I spent far too much time as a kid tackling and mastering my Rubik’s cube so I’ll always keep coming back for more. I’ll always want to master the art that is all that you are but I will absolutely be okay with the mere notion that you love me enough to let me in. What’s yours is mine, what’s mine is yours. That in itself is something I’m incredibly thankful for. Loving you has made me happy. Italy, Mexico, Vegas, nights spent on the couch, adventures in new cities, mornings spent out for a walk, skype sessions in different timezones, tour bus times with our bodies pressed close together in the bunk, late night story sharing. We’ve really experienced so much together. Loving you has always been worth it. You are worth it all.

I always say that I wish you could see yourself the way I see you, and I genuinely do, but since you can’t actually hop in my mind the least I can do is try and show you with my words, my actions, and my touch the way I see, feel, and think about you. Now and in the future. I love you, Ione Ophelia James, with all of my heart.

Happy one year anniversary x