I met you back in 1999. You were then the spritely, optimistic, empathetic one to me in your large group of friends you, and my husband have been part of through boarding school. You were one of his best men at our wedding, the children adore you, and I have always adored your company, support, your friendship.
You did indeed go to school with him, knew him through the times you played rugby in your hometown, the times you had parties in one of the many large estates belonging to your friend's families, the pranks when you removed furniture from dorms to relocate to playing fields, or almost shot a child you were both babysitting with a rifle he did not know was loaded. You did indeed know him during the time his family was rocked with the unveiling of the secret his father had kept of another complete family located elsewhere in the world, siblings of similar ages he had never met.
You were his friend as he grew up among this devastation, and went about building mini businesses in his fathers empire across Europe.
But when he left your pastures green to explore these ventures in the midst of his expanded family did you really accompany him on the journey in his mind and as he entered adulthood? The jokes, the games, the reminiscing at sporadic parties over the years, did they really give a glimpse of the man he was becoming?
I met him a few months before I first met you, a lost man, someone who was following in the shadows of his older siblings and father. Years went by and I was a friend who was drawn to him, but also a little reticent to get too close after being on the receiving end of flashes of emotion that I did not recognise. As some one deciphering her own coming of age emotions a distance seemed to be the most appropriate and natural occurrence.
Years later a broken marriage ,and a young toddler in my life, your friend and I met again one fateful crisp autumn. He seemed changed, more sure of himself, standing stronger on his own, or so it seemed. He swept me off my feet in a matter of days, professed a love that had burned from years ago. I was the light in a history of loves who had burned him, cheated on him and his gentle, mild and laid back ways. He was exhausted from spending the night before we met looking after a drunk older sibling who had trashed the business. He sat and spoke with my friends and I of the weight of carrying his siblings rage, and the legacy of his fathers decisions.
Yet he was remarkably balanced for someone who had just spent the night clearing broken glass, and who's phone kept ringing from an angry ex who had not left him alone for months. His eyes did not leave mine, and he hung on every word I uttered.
When I returned home to my baby I felt a complete wrench in my gut. I felt a pull, and a loss bigger than anything I had felt before.
Surely this remarkably solid ,balanced, young successful entrepreneur, with dozens of admirers did not have time for a woman coming out of a wreckage with a child in tow? It must be a momentary emotion, a pull from a past desire he had not met.
But the phone kept ringing, the professions of love , of a future of just being, no chasing money, no fancy life, just being a family, just needing to be with me.
After a year we finally moved in together, absolutely breathless from what felt like an eternity of yearning. All the while trying to begin a career in film again, trying to maintain the status quo for the child I already had, my priority I always stated, and he completely accepted.
The move away from his family came with little shock waves, brothers never been parted suddenly questioning loyalties. I did my best to alleviate worries, we would stay in touch, visit, phone. All the while battling a nervousness of living with another man , beginning a life I did not know anything of, all with a week's notice.
Very quickly the demonstrations of love, the serenading with guitar, the endless sex was replaced by someone who was not truly there. As he spent time in bed, or outside smoking attached to his phone, I put it down to moving to a new city, the nerves of finding a new job.
I went about my life all the while doing everything possible to support his adjustment period, cooking him meals, taking him around London, introducing him to all my friends. Slowly he found work, an industry of endless hours, tiring work, and ones that led him to not be around much to help with any of home life. Eventually my TV work suffered, he couldn't take the time off to help with childcare, and I drifted away from many friends as I could not go out on nights out without feeling guilt of him being in a new city as he did not go out with colleagues, or feel like socialising when off work.
We moved to a new area, a fresh start away from all that was familiar to me. It was energising and daunting. But then began the pattern. The loss of jobs, the bosses who over- worked him, colleagues who had cunning plans to undermine him, the non communication of where he was or when he would be home. I gave up the idea of working in film, and took up a regular job, a steady income necessary with a child and London rent.
There were the repeated trips to his home, absolutely necessary, but equally expensive, money I did not have, but did everything to get hold of so he would not lose touch with those he loved.
The best friends wedding in the states that I was not allowed time off for, or had no money for. By now pregnant, and fretful for the future I asked him to go alone, to enjoy it for us both, but it was too big a cost for us both to go.
The wedding drew closer , an rsvp required, he would not book a ticket without me or have any other discussion. I threw up for days, stressed at the thought of being blamed for keeping him from this occasion or of losing my future child's father, a silence descended as I was left to make a decision, I left my job.
We flew out to the wedding, no money, no ability for me to do anything whilst he attended to his duties as a groomsman.
It was beautiful, magical, and swept up in the romance, life looked promising again. We were still young at 27, this was a hiccup, he had barely spoken to me all week, but he had duties, he had friends he rarely saw to catch up with.
A return to London, and not one to give up I threw myself into re-training in a new field, as my abdomen grew taught with the growing life inside me.
After a rocky start in a new job your friend was doing well, though rarely around, and frequently silent when I needed him.
Then without warning he suddenly changed jobs because a chef from his home town had come calling, and his older brother had advised him it would be great for his career. With no conversation with me, already on a trajectory I hadn't planned to support us, he had made changes again for his career.
Now home on rarer occasions, and only available for movies or food never participant to discussions about the family or its requirements.
Our beautiful baby was born, again I was swept away with the emotions, and the outpouring of love suddenly coming back my way. We were a family of four, things were falling into place, we both had solid jobs, and life was doing what we had planned.
A sudden row erupted among his siblings, and dominant father. I got caught in the cross fire, I was his shield. One brother threatened to have me killed, said they were tapping my phone, watching my every step when I was going out with my babies.
Your friend hid in work, waited for it to blow over. I spent months terrified, too scared to speak to friends, and involve them in this dark world. All the while silence from him whilst I cried, I shouted, I explained.
Gradually day at a time we forged forward, small shocks, little anomalies spattered our life, but he loved me, was adoring, beloved of everyone we met, what a fool I would be to let him go because of little problems, however often they popped up. Miscarriages, terminations.
We married, a magical affair, several days spent crying tears of joy. There were family strains, the unveiling of losing another job just before we left to wed, the entire organisation of the event on me, whilst he concentrated on reconnecting with those he had not seen for ages.
He told me his mother had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, I spent the day sad when I tried to speak to her but got little response. I silently vowed to myself to offer to move her to live with us. My family values and loyalties being too strong to let past grievances matter.
Days later I discovered the rent had not been paid for a while, his mother was completely well, he had other lies abound, a secret email address. He left me for several days, with two small children, not a word but a dead phone, my parents paid the rent, I hid from everyone on the school run, a pattern that then became a normality in our life rooted itself. He came back angry, then pleading, I shoved him, I threw cushions, I threw everything I could, how dare he walk out on me with young kids, terrified and with no money. With no idea what was happening?
He divulged notions of wanting to end his life. Told me in detail what he would do with a marine rope we had used to secure luggage for our marital road trip .
I got him to the Dr's, pleaded with him to get counselling, to fight his demons for the children, for me, for him. I was terrified, what had I driven him too? How would I explain this to the children?
He listened, he didn't listen, he ignored, he became a shell. I cajoled, I supported, I raged, I cried, the outcome was always the same. Smashed wall, broken toys, my fault for angering him, a sudden house move, and then another job loss, a chipped knee cap that could not be his fault as I was walking away from him as he shouted. He did not mean it.
Silence................. Until the adoration suddenly came back.
Fast forward years and another beautiful baby in our lives, after years of convincing me, the family in complete bliss. There had been some tough times but we had weathered the storms. All I saw was adoration in his eyes, everywhere we went everyone knew of his pure joy at his family. He played music to dance to, rushed home to spend evenings with me, held our precious bundle with such joy.
Then eight months later I called you, his best friend, a hospital consultant , devastated as I had caught him with a woman at work. The man I dreamed to grow old with, who was the very fabric of my life had lied to me.
Whilst lying in bed with me feeding our baby, stroking my face , and having me thank him for giving me this life, telling him I wanted nothing more, it was perfect; he lent across to his blackberry to check the end of day financials. Really what he was doing was asking her if she would dream of him that night.
He left me when caught, an email he left me to find, he was in love, needed to see what would come of it. With a suitcase and his guitar he left me holding our new born.
Then returned within 24 hours after trying to meet her in a hotel room. He then proceeded to turn my whole world upside down with confessions I did not understand, and tales of dark winged women trying to harm him in his dreams, notions of ending his life. Again.
I wanted him out, but was terrified of being responsible for what may follow or that he was sincerely mentally ill. A letter from the Dr stating his suicidal intentions. I called all his family, you his best friend, a doctor, someone anyone help him, help me. How can I be left to be responsible for this?
I reached out to you, for your help, and knowledge as his friend and a medical practitioner. You were supportive, and offered to be an ear whenever I needed it. You were. I kept thanking you. You said you did not want to tell your partner as she would judge your friend.
There followed a horrendous period of discovery. More women whilst I was pregnant, I slapped him, and threw his blackberry. It was indestructible. Job losses that were not what they had seemed, money problems that led to many house moves, loans, debts, copious subscriptions to affair websites spanning from before our marriage, his alias' the names of his best friends.
Secret Facebook accounts to talk to women in chat rooms, lost engagement ring, pawn shop receipts. But I was the woman of his dreams, he said this was not what it seemed, his family had controlled him, had hurt him, he was just acting out. He never did anything, he just played in the shadows with illusions. It was just a game.
He slept on the sofa, I vanished as I fed our baby, and cried every night so the older children would not see.
All ended with an accident which left our eldest unable to walk unaided. I had my insides completely turned out, and still kept going to keep my children as untouched, as stable as I could.
On the outside no one saw the wreckage I was carrying inside. I poured my love into protecting the children from my pain, from knowledge of his demons.
Another job loss, another plotting colleague, but he professed undying love. The letters, messages, songs, and physical desire all returned to it's height. All the while he remained engaged with, and caring for our children, whilst out of work, convincing me that no man would go to such efforts if he was meaning harm.
You all advised me he made mistakes , he is just lost, he did not do anything for real, it was all in the mind, believe him, he is too loving, no one ever taught him how to behave. I was a strong woman, intimidating to someone so lost.
I decided to invest myself back into the marriage, to give it the chance it deserved, or that I thought we both felt it deserved.
Confused, unable to marry the voices in my head I tried. He confessed a yearning for power and control stemming from childhood blurred his vision when in pressured jobs.
We found him something new in the public sector, school hours, holidays off with the kids. We agreed, and he begged for this chance to show me the family as his only priority.
Then just days before he was due to start, the offer of a lifetime arrived. A job with the big boys, riding high in a large venture, the biggest of its kind, and he would head it. How could I let him pass this by? How could he never know if he could do it? Would I really stop him?
You know the rest, or so I thought you did.
There began the longest of hours, me leaving my work to look after three children, again. One with medical needs, my own medical needs post-partum, and a heart still in pieces from all the betrayals I had never known people could commit.
As he rode higher, and stayed away longer, I fell into a dark place, alone, not listened to, my every need an injury to his work or personality. My every insecurity stemming from his years of lies, all found out in a short space of time, were now irrational and unreasonable.
Every plan made was constantly forgotten, times were always changed, last minute or denied, wisdom teeth removal cancelled, consultant appointments for my mobility issues cancelled, I lost four relatives, not an hour on my own to grieve, the children's school events became solely my domain, our friends solely my domain, his family..... you get the picture.
It was up to me to keep it all up in the air, as I tried to figure out if his diminishing affection, his absent mindedness, his coldness, dramatic gestures, absolute desire to be right, and adored by everyone, neighbours, colleagues, local shop keepers, everyone but me - was something I was really insecure for feeling?
Was I as demanding as he told me? Was I creating trouble where there was none? Was I wrong to feel crushed every time he didn't come home after an argument, or sent a text at the end of the day saying he was never coming back after making me a cup of tea and kissing me before he left in the morning? Was I really a monster who held him back from his family, his friends, getting to where he wanted?
Why did I keep imagining stepping out in front of a bus or a tube each time I saw one coming towards me?
When he disappeared and I called all the London hospitals, emailing his boss from fear for his well being, he surfaced blaming me for never being wrong; never saying sorry, refusing to come home till I did.
Weeks of anger followed, I felt I was so awful for not getting over his lies; to then find out a month later money had gone out of the account in that period he had gone.
Money we could not afford to lose, money he never told me about, and I wondered where it had gone. How could I question him?
He had been mugged, several men, kicked him to the ground, kicked him repeatedly, took him from cash point to cash point, but he did not go to the police. Did not want to try to recoup that money, was distraught I had made him relive it, and feel diminished for having to admit to it.
The condoms I found weeks before our baby was born, heavily pregnant and scared, were a practical joke for a colleague, how could I be so insecure to think it would be anything else? How was I so anxiety ridden, controlling, and cruel to always misunderstand this man, who was always polite, so well loved, would do anything for everyone?
Another wedding, soon after the "mugging", and a family holiday that was very tight. Again a similar discussion, money was tight, it is hard to get someone to have three children for a weekend.
It is a good friend who came to ours I thought he should go, enjoy it on his own, I was not ready to be the happy couple in front of his school friends. I did not feel capable to laugh and smile whilst listening to tales of how amazing he was, despite all the pain I felt unnecessarily for someone who is just misunderstood.
Again silence, again refusal to make the call. I had to push and push, time was running out. I contacted you all, told you I was trying to ensure he would be there no matter what. No reply from anyone in the group.
Finally I booked it, days before the wedding, deciding he was too good a friend not to be there for, let's go.
We left the kids with generous friends, we flew out to what I hoped would be a romantic getaway also, a way to begin mending my heart. I asked there to be boundaries, I repeatedly told him of my anxieties. Please don't leave me on my own with people when I have all this in my head. Please let's not drink a lot, I feel I am not in control of what I say and feel at the moment.
I love you, I will keep you safe he smiled.
A beautiful ceremony after a crazy journey to get there, a beautiful bride, a tear shed at the memory of how I felt wedding this man beside me. At the devoted gaze of her husband as her guided her out of the church on this sun dappled afternoon.
A magical few hours proceeded. My husband, your friend, went off to catch up with old friends, I was ok. I laughed, I spoke to friends also, I remembered how much joy we have shared. We moved onto a gorgeous feast, with a raucous table. As we sat down your friend looked over at me.
" I am so sorry for everything I have done to you, you don't realise that you are the most beautiful woman here, and I put you there" he whispered as he kissed my head.
Tears sprang to my eyes, and I fought to keep control of the fierce train in my chest as I threw myself into conversation, the whole time him with his back to me fully engrossed in conversation with the bridesmaid, only to disappear repeatedly to catch up with friends for long periods.
I do not think you realise the enormity of what was happening, why I tried to speak to you, reach out to you again, after he sat staring at me unravel in front of everyone, without putting an arm around me , comforting me or agreeing to come away with me when I asked.
I thought you understood, you put me out of harms way, only for your partner to come and shout at me for things I had not said. For things my husband had been saying, but he is too nice, he would not say those things, it had to come from me.
I am closed off never give off the turmoil within me to the outer group, I am the bad seed, how dare I speak to her partner in private?
We left, me picking up the pieces, trying to redeem any semblance of dignity, and strength in the fray. Wishing the couple well, dancing the last hour away, kissing everyone goodbye as we promised to see one another soon.
The whole while thinking I had reached out to you, you and your partner would speak, help would finally come to the children and I.
Months went by, you both blocked me from your lives. I questioned your friend, my husband, I was secretly devastated at losing the only person I thought had a true insight into what was happening.
He told me to let it go, your girlfriend was a mad woman, and you would do anything to keep her happy. This year went by me slowly doing the same I always do, picking up the pieces, taking stock, he works so hard, looks after the family well, adores the children, everyone loves him. I am a fool to keep questioning, to keep creating chaos where there is none, I need to see a Dr, I must have postnatal depression or a mental illness.
An email from web hackers blackmailing me over his online affair account, a scandal all over the papers, bought up at a meal where I became the person who never let anything go, always creating problems.
Then slowly things start to go awry, little discrepancies in stories, people have different telling's of things that happen regularly. Small kindnesses were withheld, I sent friends cards, Christmas gifts for children, heard no response.
I asked him if he has heard from anyone, no, there's no telling with that lot, we are drifting apart.
Something felt vague and small sirens began to ring. Promises began to be broken, plans kept changing. I began to be home night after night cancelling plans as he forgets they are in place, is swamped at work.
"Joint drinks with the boss not a good idea, he's a pain, takes up all my time, too demanding, not so good at what he does, is threatened by me".
Friends from his home city are living a different life, not really inspired to meet with them. Do not want to get in touch with the family, they never apologise, never learn.
Bank statements are hidden, many many anomalies occur.
All the while whilst whispering that I am the love of his life, his soul mate, how everyone else in the world drives him mad, does not get him, plans for the future, jokes about another child, work drives him mad, but he has to play the game.
Wedding anniversary dawns, a bottle of bubbles and pizza, a kiss in the dark and the words "I love you so much". All anxieties begin to abate. "There is no other woman I would lay my hands on, cannot think of anyone more beautiful, more loving, more unique than you".
Then within the week, the blade fell swiftly.
I don't love you anymore.
The room went dark. I woke laying on the bed. Your friend smiling.
What followed, weeks of love and with holding. Don't ask me too much, don't push me too much or I will be forced to make the decision you don't want to hear. I waited, I held my breath, all the while holding the children tight, blocking them from the falling debris.
My stomach churning my digestive problems surfaced, losing sleep every night as I watched this stranger sleep beside me. I didn't give him freedom, I stopped him from a full life. Then came the blows, a list.
A list of devilish acts made by me, many a decade ago.
Did I remember them? How could he forgive me for these?
I had caused his family to fall out, I had secretly disapproved of them, that had pressured him to accuse them of controlling him through his life. I controlled him. I repeated words his step mother, and half sister had said to me, I was abhorrent.
I apologised for a litany of things that I did not clearly remember, I explained any I felt were mis-remembered.......a shrug of the shoulders.
Then your name was mentioned.
The best friend.
You had been speaking.
You had warned him of my follies, what I had been saying, that his wife was toxic, and he was not welcome with her at the same social events in your society. The society of civilised polite people who did not mingle with people like me. From such a different world I did not know how to behave.
I suddenly became the reason for his undoing, I had been the common denominator in everything that went wrong. I was something to discard.
A week of being shoved, avoided, smirked at. Then he left with a bag of clothes, he left our lives without a backward glance.
The culprit for this good man's undoing had been dealt with.
Left with three children, the devastation so immense the whole world had fallen away from the four of us. But he was free.
He was now free of the shackles of the control I had on him. That caused his behaviour. Whilst he began a new chapter, and all his friends, and family championed him on in his strides.
A terrain of lies, debts, infidelities and shattered memories lay remaining, but those of my doing, or so it seems to all those who have turned their back on the four of us. I gave as good as I got. It was coming to me.
Time is a great healer I have heard many times over the past two months. That maybe so. I sincerely hope so for the trauma my children and I are now suffering, and have for so long.
I just hope that in time you have no daughter's who have their paths crossed by such a good man.