I have no freedom.
The chapel was filled with the glow of candles lining the aisles, a giant illuminated cross hung over the pews as the choir began to sing to the strings that pulled at every nerve in my body. A dear friend sat beside me, gripping my hand tight as the words to the all too familiar song tore through my every muscle, shredding every dream, every memory to stardust, with Desree's lyrics.
Six weeks ago I attended a special screening of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet. My anniversary gift to my husband, a choir singing the song a gospel singer had sung at our wedding. I had thought it the perfect gift, a moment so dear to us relived, months of chasing publications, and booking agents to source sold out tickets.
In any of those moments fuelled by memories so dear I did not imagine I would be sitting there, my marriage a ghost, the man I was married to so completely a stranger.
The very knowledge that he had used the song we danced to in his seduction of another woman when I was at home breastfeeding the little girl he had begged to have,
just twisted the fragments of stardust dancing across my skin.
Moments of beauty fading and taunting me as they shimmered into fantasies. How much had I imagined? How much had he created in my mind?
"I am a good man...you know me...I would never do those things."
"I have no freedom. I do not love you anymore. I do not know how long I haven't felt anything for you."
I found myself waking up on my bed thinking I had dreamt an awful dream, only to find him standing over me wearing the same suit, the sounds of the children getting ready for school, still in the background flitting in and out of my head.
A strange smile on his face as he shrugged and said " I know - I feel as shocked as you".
All leading on from me asking why it had not bothered him at all that his wife, and child had encountered racism in their local area after the Brexit vote. He had slept through the police visiting our home and questioning me. Me crying in the shower as an unexpected sense of vulnerability hit me afterwards.
He later told me he had heard it all. Strange behaviour for the man who in over a decade would not leave me to shower on my own, and had to sit perched on the bath watching me , never leaving my side.
From the moment he came to London there was a distance between him and my friends, my life.
He had an opinion on so many things, entertaining was arrogant, people were shallow, uncultured, chavs. He found some too frosty, others were too demanding of me, I needed to keep a distance.
We spoke about his non-present friends regularly, his family, as if these people were part of our daily lives. I understood it was daunting to be in a new home, new life, and to be away from the umbrella of family that had been sheltering him his whole life. It was immaturity, not anything malicious.
Gradually a shift occurred, so subtle I forgot it had started out so differently. He became charming to everyone, no longer showed his dissatisfaction, became the master at having people fall in love with him, yet coming home with a list of reasons they could never be his friend.
I stood up to him, I fought for most friends, but lost many along the way, always knowing he was a laid back guy, so affable, so forgiving, if he thought they were taking advantage of me who was I to question it?
His concern and desire to keep me safe and unhurt just another reason he was just so much better than me.
Then began the shattering of family ties, the people who had bullied him, always undermined his voice, made him go along with plans he did not want to partake in. I became the reason, they had judged me, they had to accept me or the relationship could not continue.
Brothers who were wasting their lives away, sisters who just could not choose the right men. Friends from home slowly became people who had strange partners, were arrogant or relied too much on the family name and money. Some had no talent, others were wasting their lives, so many were with partners who were just not good enough.
My admiration for one friends paintings was met with derision, "he couldn't hold a pencil in art class at school". Another friend was living his life away with a she-man he could not stand, but her father's money had kept him locked in.
A host of arguments and discussions followed.
Stop being so mean, why do you say these things? I would say.
Enter the kind words.
About my friends, our neighbours, mutual friends.
She is so talented, she is so grounded, they are such a solid couple, that dress is amazing, you look stunning, your food is so good, you are wonder woman....the pattern of thought changed.
I could also do no wrong, my skin, my hair, my every limb, everything had been kissed by deities.
I became more talented at things I did not feel secure in, I became someone who could do no wrong.
Until the silence came.
Until the bag was packed and he disappeared, hours of darkness with children's voices punctuating the air around me.
Always being broken by my wishes to be a better wife, a better partner, how do I keep on driving this loving man away?
Yet all those times I had driven him away, I had little awareness of the phone calls to chat lines, the chat room dial ins on secret email accounts or where he really went while I sat in a debilitating state.
While I dealt with school work, bedtime, childminders, juggling bills all the while being cruel to him by staying home raising the family, fixing his messes he put into play lengthy plans to make women fall in love with him.
When he did not come home from work was he really dealing with an emergency or was he telling me something, punishing me?
"I would never do that to you, I have issues with control, but it is all to do with my family, my older siblings who gave me no voice. I am not that guy, you know that, I am so shy".
Arguments he had with an older brother, "it is because of what you did to me I am ruining my marriage. I don't want other women I am just reasserting power in my life."
I say to him " Let's try and mend this, if I have to forgive you I want to forgive everyone. Start life afresh all hurts wiped away".
A cold hard stare, no.
"NO. They never apologise, they never change, they just keep on controlling me. That is very good of you".
Something does not feel right.
Friends move to London I suggest he sees more of them, not without you he keeps stating.
Other friends start visiting regularly, "why don't you hang out with them all? Call them, join them wherever they are, you don't get to see them much". "Only if you come" he says.
Or the other reply " I don't like the same things as them, it's always the same, some slimey place in Clapham, just getting drunk and no one talks about anything new".
I suggest activity days he could go away on with another friend, sports he could take up, hobbies he could invest in, I email his friends asking them not to give up on him, he is just bad at keeping in touch, I send his mother a gift as I so desperately want the children to have family around.
" I work so much, when I am not there I just want to be with you" he replies.
You are so lucky exclaim friends, he is so besotted with you, he does not want to do anything without you.
It is just about the two of you.
But I have never used his phone, seen it's history, did not notice the years he was diverting post to work, or to the local hardware shop.
I had not looked at the history of his computers, or his email. I did not know about the weekend at a bijoux hotel with work he mentioned recently at a lunch. It was a moment years ago where I found him packing a bag without my knowledge, he was meant to be away, but had not told me his wife, he was going or it was even a possibility.
Why did I get upset about everything? Why did he have to run everything by me?
A weekend of silence, weeks of earning back the right to sit together, have him touch me or put a kiss at the end of a text.
I held in my mind, a complete contradiction.
He was doting, hid everything from me, absolutely adored me, consulted me on nothing, told everyone how much I meant to him, refused to deal with conflict resolution, wanted the best for our lives, kept losing jobs, could never do anything to harm me, I could do no wrong, but people started to strangely keep a distance from me, he could not imagine anything but being a husband and father, but had secret affairs littered through our entire life together.
Slowly without any awareness or realisation, my mind and body followed my emotions.
I felt inadequate beside anyone, I felt angry in a way I could not fathom, I lost the ability to take control and stand up for myself in anyway that really mattered, I doubted my every thought.
It was not as simple I see now, as my broken parts being open to being manipulated.
Unwittingly, with a hugely empathetic nature I did not fully understand, a trait that meant I desired to bring children home to live with me, when I heard of their home lives at work, that brings old men home for food, and medical care in the middle of the night, whilst I sob about them having no one to look after them.
I had without seeing it,
tried to teach him how not to hurt me.
I did not think I was wanting to "fix him". I could see there was an immaturity, a lack of knowledge and naivety, I chalked down to a life in boarding school.
I question now, how I sat and explained to him once that in the dark, there were things you could not do without consent, you could not degrade, you could not hurt, it is seen as abuse.
I said those words.
Him crying telling me I should know, I should know he would never do anything if he thought it would hurt me or make me feel bad.
He is the father to my children, the person I built my future dreams with.
Yet all the while I did not see.
I did not see the freedom I lost, the isolation I had gained, as I hid behind the little things, all the things that remain in the dark shrouding the deepest shame, the most searing pain.
I questioned my sanity, I berated myself for not being good enough, for being the wife who just could not match this good man.
I kept getting his intentions wrong.
A few years ago his sister asked me if he scared me ever, in the vegetable aisle at the supermarket.
I stared ahead at the beetroot and mushrooms as my skin fizzed, why would she ask that? She explained, "sometimes, just sometimes he will say something, he gets a look in his eyes, and I think he wouldn't think twice to cut me out of his life, to hurt me".
I knew the look, I knew the feeling, my reply then, is the same as it would be now, "he is your brother he loves you, he would not do that". I know this because the only person he would so fully hurt, he would so willingly dispose of is the one he claims to love the most. Me.
Back to the future of my life three months ago, and the sudden adoration, the rushing home early, the complaints about his boss, so demanding, so arrogant, he would shiver at his fat damp fingers, I just cannot be at his beck and call.
I love you, I want to spend time with you, let's do everything we can together, the children are at an age we can, this is the beginning of the next stage. All the years of hard work finally, finally coming to fruition.
Que a friend in need, my asking to go to her aid. "I have a work commitment, you don't want me to ever do anything, you control everything, I have to go my boss will not be happy."
I spend the night in my friends car outside our home, me dashing to her aid, my support to her.
The woman who helped us through pregnancies, house moves, job losses, who loaned us money when his father borrowed from him, and we could not pay the rent, when he loaned money to colleagues, and we could not pay the rent, but I was selfish.
I thought my life, my friends came first.
The truth being I have only ever seen her, without the children or him, if she comes to me, because I cannot go across the river to see her leaving our children, because of his work commitments.
I ask him when he comes home what the truth was. He had spent weeks adoring me, in the way he did when he was with others, the pattern now evident. Why was he desperate to stick to his plans I never knew of, knowing how worried we were about her, and her family?
He had behaved erratically on the phone slamming it down, shouting I will not be shouted at - when I was not. Who was in the picture now I asked, is she going to be worth finally blowing this family apart? Who are you trying to paint a picture for?
The glare, the silence. I went down to the living room, and proceeded to vomit most of the night as my stomach was burnt with a fire, how did I let myself get to here?
In the morning it was all charm, breakfast, running around helping with school preparation.
A day of silence, and then the text.
A text of precision, of great composition, reading as if an audience was listening to it enraptured.
He would not ever be coming home again, I was abusive, controlling, disgusting, I had several nice qualities, but essentially could not drop his "mistake" (note the singular) I was jealous unnecessarily, and he could not keep trying for someone like me.
I did not know how to apologise, I never changed.
Weeks of emotional hurdles followed.
The threats to leave if I pushed for conversation, ignoring the suggestions of counselling, the dinners, the music, telling me no other woman made him feel as I did, his soul mate, the damaging lists, I kept him away from his mother, no we could not go visit his hometown.
I had to apologise to his brothers, I had to take the lead.
Waking up to him shoving me in bed if my arm or hand brushed past him, using his finger tips to pass things to me so I could not touch him, watching me in the shower then walking out with a shrug, I did nothing for him anymore he said, pouring scorn on every friend we had, on every decision, each wrong move my fault.
All the while I did not see.
I did not see the hidden post, the pattern of people avoiding me, the boss and his brother; director of another equal business, head chef, and various other boys from the head table all being slotted into place.
All being told the stories others have been told when he reaches the end of a cycle with me, but this time it was different.
There was no evidence, no baby to make him look callous.
A job still firmly in place, a team of wealthy, successful men all helping him, pulling him out of a marriage, a marriage of carefully orchestrated social situations, in front of the right people, carefully judged sentences scattered around, boyish charm, and a wife who was volatile.
The tables had turned again, a group of powerful men had aided him to walk away from the monster.
He walked away to his tower of glass and steel, and began a life of being out every night, shedding the control he suffered.
The wife who was so abusive has checks with the doctors several times a week, suffers from PTSD, his children cry in the night, in the day, wet the beds, have become different children, and need support at school.
As the boys who control business' in several leading cities, comfort him and celebrate his success, the four people left behind discuss how life will be.
Financially, physically, the absolute fall from dreams.
Brought about by the strength, and manipulation of the woman I was, who lost her career, her freedom, her path - all to control this man who had no job, no passion or vision, and now at the end of their years together has become untouchable.
Untouchable in his field, in his head, and in the eyes of his friends and family.
The good man.