I will not let you hurt the children, I will not let you expose them to the pain and neglect you felt growing up, or bring them down into the darkness you seem to always end up lurking in.
The autumn sun was warm despite the damp mist in the air as my husband's warm hand held tightly on to mine whilst we ran through the trees, out onto the ancient cobbled street. We had stumbled through the open gates of the botanical gardens so lost in our conversation we had failed to realise the early timing meant it was not open to the public, and had been reprimanded by a guard who had found us roaming the grounds. As we made our way giggling as naughty children would through the narrow streets the entire world dissolved around us.
That was the beginning of our life together exactly thirteen years ago. Days and months of flying to see each other, roaming the back streets as if they were long forgotten places, looking for the stories they had to tell in this city filled with mist with a castle looming above a frozen expanse of twirling people and sparkling lights. It was the story of all stories, it was the dream to end all dreams, as he whispered his words of eternal love, a love felt for years from a distance, longing silently, but always treating me with respect to never convey it to me, a woman in a relationship.
Memories of those heady days have been tumbling through my mind every time I see the leaves, the autumnal sun, the reminders of every year when this date arrives, his efforts to woo me again. The cards, the letters, the texts, reminders of words spoken, of moments shared, pulling me back to the devotion he felt, and the forever question, why was I so unhappy when this man adores me so much?
The ball of heat in my abdomen has been present for days as my nights are filled with his words, his voice, his cold cold piercing eyes. This is the part I cannot seem to escape.
With every moment of awareness, with every vow to keep the children and I safe from the emotional manipulation, the draining of our love, our constant loyalties and energies, he finds ways to re-instate his claim on us. He is free to walk away, wash his hands of every memory, he is free to make us feel, but we must not move on without him.
It is an absolute blow, a freight train hit, every time I realise how history has repeated itself. The times I stated I will not be a door mat, I will not allow the children to be hurt, to be raised feeling the adults were more important, that they were an after thought.
Yet here we are. He has walked away leaving a woman with his children. A woman who fears to leave the house, who is haunted by demons every night, who keeps stumbling upon secrets, lies, and hidden acts. A life of infidelity, financial manipulation, emotional confusion and the ability to act like no actor I have ever witnessed, all left behind him so he can reinvent himself as everyone needs a second chance.
The blow when I realise all of those people who know of his upbringing, whether it by being his friend through it or experiencing it themselves, have not the ability to stand back and see the horror story.
Instead they all support him, his right to move on with no repercussions, no guilt, no remorse, no responsibility.
They support their mother's, they feel the a constant agony of women left with lives that are empty wreckage's, nights that are filled with haunting's of the past, memories of the lives and emotions stolen from them. Yet this man, the good man who is so humble, will look no one in the eye, will not raise his voice, who is so meek everything he does is accidental, he is allowed, and supported as he re- visits the exact end result on his family.
For months I have been jumping every time I hear the letter box, every time I hear footsteps outside in the dark. I have not been able to understand why I am so scared, why I am drenched head to toe in freezing cold pin pricks, then the memory slipped by.
Of a letter through the door.
The letter after I had spent several days frozen, terrified as my husband had disappeared. He had told me he could not cope with me any longer, I was an awful partner, loaded up the car with his clothes, his stratocaster and driven off. Left with two children, one a tiny baby, I had spent days unable to sleep or eat. Hours mortified that I had messed up so enormously. That I did not know how to love in a manner deserving of this wonderful man.
The letter contained his angst at my inability to communicate, my constant inability to see how amazing he was, his days of pain as he considered ending it all , his ending lines of how he was doing this for us all. I was better off without him, he obviously was the one who made me behave badly and he being the emotionally stable one was ending this destructive way I had.
After his father passed away his step mother gave him a letter. One found in his father's bureau at some stage.
The letter was photocopied so all the children could have a copy.
At the time I had been upset, unable to understand why it would have been passed around, so concerned for the effect it would have on my husband, I had failed to see.
The letter contained words of love for all his children, his family, but the feelings that everyone was better off without him. I have never heard either mother discuss the effects of this, or any stories alluding to the history of what had brought this man to write a letter of self destruction.
Yet as the blow came to me in my mind, I was aware of the pain, the terror, the belief that they were culpable, they had the responsibility to keep him happy......alive. How was I the only one to see this, and how are they allowing this to continue into a further generation?
He was well known for being a grown up child, silly, always playing with the children, rolling around with them. However as time does its teaching, another story unfolds.
All the decisions I made alone, all the studying I supported, all the discussions, and teachings I was the sole parent in.
The words came back to me. "How do you know to speak to the children like that?"
The surprise that I am so emotionally expressive with them, the physical warmth I display, the admissions that no one spoke lovingly in his family, the stories of endless days roaming alone, of staying at friends with no one checking to see where he was, of stripping his bed and secretly washing it so as not to upset anyone, of climbing onto the stove and making tea in the morning to help as everyone slept.
Never saying the words, saying who was the one to make him feel this neglect, this loneliness.
Looking back I do not see the lack of love from his family, looking back I do not see how he also tells stories of his childhood on a loop as if no other time in his life has been better.
What I see now is the sorrow I felt for a little boy who had been neglected, bullied, unloved. I see the feelings taken from me, the trap laid before me, the sheer knowledge that I would do anything to make things better for someone in pain.
I see the disapproval he feels of every member of his family, the choices in life they have made, the choices of partner each brother has made - the controlling undeserving women, the abhorrence and disgust for his sisters, the vile words used, and the images he conjured.
The distance and unease he created to remove me from them, to have me protect him from their instability, their treacherous ways. Now this family is the family who have spread their arms to console him, to heal him from the clutches of the woman who has now been doing the same things, the things that I had always been told they had done to him.
I look at my children. Each one so loving, so innocent despite the life that has been running parallel to theirs, hidden with every ounce of my strength. Each one fiercely independent, wonderfully unique, infuriatingly concise, and I remind myself. They will not, absolutely will not grow up to hurt or be hurt by someone in this way.
I will continue to tell them that honesty is the way to love. Lies of omission, twisting of truths, creations of reality are not in anyway a loving respecting act.
To love, to honour, to be loyal to themselves - they must be truthful.
Every feeling, be it anger, hurt, frustration is a valid feeling. Each time they try to hide a feeling they perceive to be negative I allow them the space, then we re visit it together, looking at the right to have feelings, the right to express them, and the duty to work it out together.
We owe it to each other to stay truthful, and teach each other the ways in which our hearts and minds work.
There is no more belief that a family must hide it's secrets, must keep up a veneer.
We will weather the turbulent winds together. I will expose them to the air, and water their needs. Together we will form roots deep and strong, and keep out branches and hearts rising to the light.
I will not let the darkness and pain of those who walked before become their path.
I do not know why, when you are a good mother you are hurting the children as well as me by not allowing me to see them, I am sure they are missing me. There must be a good reason for doing this I am sure.
With so few words after weeks of clawing my way out of the darkness towards the autumn sun, I am ripped back into the terror. Within minutes of reading the words on my screen a piercing pain flashes inside my head as I begin a night of being violently ill, and checking the windows, doors, and searching the house for devices. How does someone who loved me so intensely no one believes they could do harm, be the person that causes this level of primal fear in me? How do such seemingly polite and simple words tear through every layer of protection I have been slowly building up over the months?
The answer is years of toil. Years which perhaps began as mistakes, immaturity, laziness, and a slight arrogance, an inability to accept the need to do things differently. Years which eventually led to repeated deceptions, silences, broken promises, endless promises, insidious games, hiding true feelings, undermining decisions, and not respecting my basic human worth. Slowly stripping away at every layer, every fibre replacing it with something less tangible, something translucent in nature, something almost no longer there.
Each time I began to slip away bringing me back with promises of the life we were building together, the songs, the letters, the gifts, the declarations in front of anyone who would listen.
Months of battling nightmares, being chased by songs that threatened to overwhelm me, holding on tight to children who sobbed in the darkness, and I walked through the fire I promised I would.
I looked into the depths of the nightmare, and stripped back every lie he told, every belief and behaviour I had in response. Glimmers of light, the star dust I had begun to live in surrounded me. For every painful moment there was, just within my reach there were scattered around me pin pricks of sparkling light as I began to find in all my truths a strength in seeing not what I had lost but the freedom I was finally gaining.
Then like a shadow from my nightmares his words, his reach stretched out to me and pulled me back into the murky waters that always swirled around us.
With the exchange of a few emails I was back to fighting for air, grappling to hold onto the foundations I had begun to build. Two days of terror, or fearing for the children he was now using as his tools, his only connection, but a life long rope he has tied around my waist.
How would I keep them from the pain of someone who does not know how to love?
How do I keep them from the silent rage, and cutting, cold withholding, as they grow and express themselves as individuals more and more; and question his behaviours as they had begun to do?
In a moment of cold searing pain as I remembered the love I had felt, the old age I had dreamt of sharing, I remembered what I needed to.
I let go.
I closed my eyes and let go, slipping into the murky waters, slowly sinking into the depths of the darkness that had always engulfed us.
Do your best.
Say what you want, throw out the ropes you held me with, a rush of dark water as I gasped my last breath. Do your best because you cannot touch me anymore. The emails kept coming.
Almost a year ago I had been tired and unwell after a long stretch of my husband working long hours looking forward to a week off for the October half term as a family. I had been searching online for a little place to get away to, a cottage by the sea, long walk on blustery beaches, long evenings sipping wine, and cuddling in front of a crackling fire getting me through each day.
My husband began an erratic, argumentative way of behaving that I had begun to recognise as a way of hiding something he was worried about. After a few days of not reacting, and trying to create a mood of acceptance I asked him what was on his mind.
It took a few days of denial and silences before he finally said his boss had told him he had to work during the holiday time we were planning despite having booked it off at the beginning of the year. I looked at my husband feeling so betrayed and let down. I had stood by him, and supported months of overtime, months of not having him even take part in family decisions on the promise of this week.
I had seen the emails, him trying to persuade his bosses it would be great publicity, great revenue to hold the largest Halloween party in the city. I had asked what he was doing, he had time away planned.
His response had been " they won't go ahead with it, I am just trying to look efficient and dedicated, but it won't happen". I had questioned why he would even take the risk, what if they called his bluff? He had gotten angry, I should trust him, he was doing this for us, he was making himself in disposable to the business, didn't I want him to do well in his career?
The question always thrown out as a victory call. How could I say anything else or try to reason that family also mattered, the marriage also mattered. If I said anymore I would be in the way of his dreams, you do not do that to someone you love.
Somehow it was lost on both of us how my dreams had ceased to even be.
So there we were, holiday possibly no longer happening, hours at work suddenly increasing as business was on the up on the run up to Christmas. A special date in our relationship calendar came up, and he became indecisive about whether he could afford the time off for a dinner.
I received an email that was a blow to the calm I was trying to create. A group on the internet had hacked into the database of an internationally renowned affair website, my husband being a user. His false email address no longer existing since I discovered it, they mailed me threatening me with contacting everyone on our shared address book with this information.
All over the papers were people in the city being exposed.
The noise and chaos inside me was debilitating as I fought back the emotional memories of the discoveries I had made, the excuses he had given me, and the pain , the strange pain I always felt, as if my womb had been ripped and pulled out and was now being worn on the outer parts of my abdomen.
So exposed, so scared, so raw. The baby I had carried, and was still feeding whilst he slipped in and out of games with anyone who crossed his path.
We went out for the meal following a last minute text to meet him at a local restaurant that had begun to be his fall back option to not being seen with me in town, or to make up for having not put any thought into something he had promised and forgotten about.
I arrived to absolute adoration, I was the most beautiful woman there, he had loved me since he met me, a card with words that immediately brought me to tears forgetting the pain and uncertainty I had been feeling.
He was a good man, just very badly organised, and without foresight, and lost. The meal began with lots of chatter, laughter, cocktails, and his love of flirting with all the staff, male or female, he was in his comfort zone, he needed people to know who he was, and the power he had. Cards handed out, comments slipped in to show his knowledge and authority. It was a pattern that had become more difficult to swallow as the years went by, that was hollow, and made me question whether I was there to accommodate a final picture or was his desire truly to spend time with me?
The conversation turned to the holiday that was not to be, and the hours he would be working weeks prior to it. He had told me a few weeks prior that if he was at head office I should take it that he was not in for that night. I had asked him about the pending day at head office, was this rule to be applied to this day?
His reaction was instant, a rage shot through his eyes as he accused me of spoiling the meal, of being sarcastic and misunderstanding the meaning of his words. I was stunned by the switch in mood, and tried to defend myself explaining that I only asked to clarify the situation so I could manage my expectations.
The ground was forever shifting , what I was to expect or not expect was always different. For years I had gotten used to the often used remark of, "You should know that what I do and what I say if it hurts you or is bad is not on purpose. You should just know I mean well and would not do anything hurtful." This had been replaced with I should just accept whatever happens, however many hours he works, wherever he goes, not ask for plans, clarifications or expect anything, he was working. That was all I needed to know.
As I tried to reason with him, my voice calmly repeating again and again, " I was not trying to pick a fight, I was just trying to put a few things in place to help me for the next few weeks, to mange my expectations".
He started to demand an apology. He kept raising his voice " Say sorry, you never say sorry, no I will not listen to any more of your excuses just SAY SORRY!". He stood up declaring he could not look at me and was going home, and stormed to the bathroom.
I paid the bill and called the cab, the waitress knowing us as regulars saying " guys don't leave without dessert, come on, you seemed to be having such a good time".
The horror and embarrassment I felt was crushing. We rode home in silence, and he went straight to bed as I dealt with the sitter, and found him fast asleep once I had checked on all the children.
In the morning he did not speak to me, I went out to join a work out in the park, asking if he needed anything, I was met with a vicious glare.
As I walked up to the class I had a pain begin in my head and arrived feeling very unwell. I began the work out, determined to exorcise myself of the bad feelings, the feeling of dread, and how long I would have to be silent for.
I could not finish the workout as I became dizzy, and had a nose bleed that would not stop. My husband was known for meeting me after every work out, and taking me for a coffee afterwards. The trainer kept asking if he should call him, if I wanted a lift home, my husband would be so worried.
I just wanted to curl up in a ball somewhere far away from him, going home felt like the last thing I wanted to ever do. I had begun to dream that one day I would be diagnosed with something that would mean I had to stay in hospital for a long time, I could finally get the rest and space away I wanted.
I arrived home to silence, and I curled up on the sofa exhausted and completely incapable of addressing his rage. He questioned me on the blood on my clothes and the tissues I was holding. He stared for a cold long moment, and left the room.
He went out with the children and when he came back it was as if nothing had happened. He scurried around making tea, making food, wrapping me up in blankets.
The couple of weeks following were back to the adoration, conversations of how we got together, the disbelief he had finally ended up with the girl he always wanted to be with. The school holidays arrived, and during the family activities he arranged the event at work, and spoke to staff about the Halloween details.
At the last moment my husband stated that he had told his boss since he was working his annual leave he would like me to have a ticket to come to the event. My sister in law came to visit, and after asking about plans she came too.
It was a relief to me as I had dreaded what I would be doing solo at such a large event as he worked. A friend of mine attended also as her company painted the faces of all the staff and musicians.
The evening was fun, we laughed, danced, and drank delicious things. Occasionally my husband would slip away from things and come and see to us, and charm everyone with his attentiveness.
He commented on the way I looked, something that no longer made me feel so good as it was the feeling of being similar to a painting. Hanging there to be admired, looked at from a distance, to allow friends to admire but never doing anything with it.
My husbands boss was unusually unfriendly as was his brother from a competing business. I asked my husband if I had offended them the last time we had drinks, he told me not to worry they were intimidated by women who did not swoon around them, but there was something that did not sit right.
As the evening drew on, my friend and sister in law decided it was time to leave, we went to find a number for a taxi company. My husband then asked me to stay behind, he was finishing work now, we could have a few drinks, dance, spend some time together, go home together.
I said good bye to everyone, excited to spend some time together, and he saw them to the lifts. He disappeared for a long time.
When he came back he apologised said work had got in the way. I asked if that was it then, could we go and sit down together now, and he said "Well no, I have a lot of things I have to get done first". I'm working.
I felt a spark of anger. I felt hugely taken advantage of. Why then did you ask me to stay? Why could I have not gone home with the others, gone to bed ready for the children in the morning instead of staying and sitting on my own like a trophy?
It was in my mind, hugely assumptive, and not what I would expect him to do for me. He glared at me in silence, and I looked around to see his staff watching. Realising how unprofessional it would look, and embarrassing, I turned away and started to walk back to my seat where it was more discreet. When I got to the table I turned to find he was no longer with me.
I sat in silence as Victorian dolls, and ghouls danced around me. My husbands boss and brother entertaining close by but completely avoiding me. I felt so lost, I was completely out of my depth. This was his land, his domain, and I had no say. Sat in an expanse of concrete and glass, music pumping, and his very affluent clients everywhere.
Suddenly a smiling waitress appeared with a tray holding a champagne flute. "Your husband sent this" she giggled. I thanked her feeling a sense of relief, he had understood how bad it had felt, how mean it came across, he had not meant it.
I took the glass and chatted with her for a while whilst she told me how amazing he was to work for. I sipped my drink waiting for him, assuming he was getting his things to come and join me.
After a while I heard a voice over my right shoulder " Are you enjoying that?". I looked around to see my husband, I had not seen him come down the stairs or through the lift area, he had appeared silently. Yes thank you, I replied, ready to say I am glad we are not fighting, but he cut me off. " Good. You finish that off and take your things and get out of here. I have called you a taxi, and I do not want to see your face here again."
Stunned I spun round with the force of his blow. He was glaring at me. "Are you aware of what you are saying?" I asked. " There are people everywhere, you are at work, are you going to show your true colours like this? People can hear you?". He came closer to me whilst ripping his earpiece and mike off. "You will not turn your back on me, you will not speak to me that way in front of my staff, you will leave quietly, and I do not want to speak to you." I stared at him my throat completely closing up as he slammed my bag and coat on to the table, and spun away.
Slowly I debated why I had not just poured my drink over his head, told him never to step inside our home again, to take his arrogant ego driven ways to someone who cared for such things. Instead I slipped off my stool with my things and made my way to the lift, I glanced at the boss' brother who raised his glass to me as I walked by.
As I arrived at the lift my husband's deputy smiled " Oh dear had to much to drink tonight, and have to be sent home?" . You have no idea, I said as I stepped into the lift. The following week my husband fired his deputy after waiting a year to create a case big enough to do so, as he despised him.
I exited the lift, the cold air hitting me, the shame and humiliation making me feel as though I had left my clothes behind. So utterly vulnerable standing in the glaringly bright reception area. Alone.
My friend was there at security, it was famed for being like an airport. She had missed her train home, and was coming to find me. We got into the cab together, her confusion on me being solo. I explained what had happened and her jaw dropped open " He did what?" I proceeded to text him, tell him what I should have said during the moment. How his ego had over taken his senses.
He proceeded to tell me all the awful factors of who I was. All I saw was an arrogant man completely consumed by his glass crows nest.
He did not come home till 6 am, rang the doorbell, and stormed past me shouting "I still have not forgiven you". The day was filled with Halloween activities, friends, trick or treating, and my husband the ever charming host. On super charm offensive as his sister was present.
The whole time my head spun with thoughts of how I could keep on going with this man who hated me. Not in the heat of the moment, but truly at a fundamental level he had waged war on me on every level he could.
Our friends joked about how I couldn't do a night out, and look after the kids the next day, and all applauded him for still being so happy and energetic after being on the go and at such a large event. As always he was the saint I was the sinner.
Everyone thanked him for his hospitality, his generosity.
It was not until three months later when I filed my statements away I discovered a large transaction on my account I had not made. It came from my husbands business. A panic set in, someone in his business had charged my card without my knowledge, this would be horrendous for the staff whilst it was investigated.
I picked up the phone to call him, but my arm slowed as I realised the date on the bill. It was Halloween. My husband had gone upstairs, and charged the night's drinks onto my card without my knowledge in his rage. Whilst taking the gratitude from us all as we thought he had covered it. It dawned on me what else that meant.
The day after the party, I could not find the new make up I had purchased the month before, at his instance to treat myself. It had disappeared from my bag, and I could not figure out how. I had emptied my bag in front of him, he did not flinch at all.
Now the answer was glaringly obvious. I was shaking all the way, as I went to pick up our son from school. He did not stop lying, he did not stop finding ways to do things behind my back that were always to my detriment. Who was this man I was married to, and had children with?
Since he has left I have had all family and friends from his side completely remove themselves from our lives. It has been tremendously painful, isolating.
It has also opened my eyes to their own fears and inabilities to see him for what he truly is. A man who is duplicating his father's behaviour act by act, and somehow I am to blame. I drove him to it, he was always such a lovely man.
I discovered recently that people who behave this way to not reach the capacity to do so till their mid twenties. That is just when he began to reel me in. It is completely within reason no one saw this behaviour till then. But considering how easily he disposed of his family. How easily he told tales of his spoilt, entitled friends who were prone to marrying daddy's girls who had no clue or personality, to everyone we knew in London.
There must be moments that have flashed through their minds also, that they choose to ignore. It is easier to blame the outsider, the other who bares no similarity to them.
So as he now emails me, in immense pain for the way I have kept the children away from him despite having not asked to see them, but when I replied he can see them immeadiately, he waits days to do it. Then reduces the hours due to work.
I get swept into his murkiness. He continues to email to ask for his passport which I gave him months ago. Denying I did, accusing me of costing his work money, and showing him up. A tirade of texts on mine and my son's birthday, not a good wish on sight.
I find myself breaking above the surface and taking another breath.
I hold onto the memories that completely stripped me of all sense of myself at the time of the events. I listen to the voices of his family who accused me of being strong so not capable of being harmed the way I say he has harmed me.
I look into the depths of those who themselves were conned, raped of their true desires and worth a generation before. Now to hide from the truth, allowing the pattern to occur again.
I look at the friends who have shown me love that I never have felt before, kindnesses of immense selflessness. I look at my beautiful children, each one individually strong, loving and unique. I see it all, and hold it all to pull me out of the whirlpool.
I will not hide.
He can do his best. I will stay standing out in the open. Every blow, every attempt to pull me back into the vortex can happen. I cannot prevent it from happening, it will swallow me up. However I see now, that each time I have stood back up again, each time it consumes me less, each time the warmth and light beckon stronger than before.
I see it, and I will not hide.
I see you. I see you for all you are now.
The little hand in my hand felt warm as I sunk myself into the gaze of two deep brown eyes looking up at me. Stepping along the pavement together whilst avoiding the cracks, my three year old chattered about her first day at nursery. Every word was filled with laughter, varying emotions dancing across her face, merging from one to the other in fleeting snapshots. There was nowhere, nowhere at all, that I needed or wanted to be in that very moment in time. The sun warmed my skin, my anxiety was at bay, I had the love of friends all around me.
I realised and felt in that moment what many people have said, what I have tried to find myself in a place to say, I have treasure so great nothing else matters. I have the love and every precious moment with three incredible beings. It does not matter how many hotels and bars my husband is repeatedly spotted in. How many people pander to him as he sits on his throne in his paradise of glass. Despite having to buy uniforms, pay for trips, music lessons and every form of paraphernalia the children need, whilst he drinks the money he cannot spare for them away in various London establishments, I do not care. It is a struggle, it is a cause for concern and late night anxiety, but at a fundamental level something has shifted.
The final awareness, the words that have been repeated to me by those who truly see it all, " it is not you, it is him" have come to settle in my bones. In the tired body that day in day out works for three little people, only laying down at night to have the nightmares come and join me for company; those bones, the muscles that entwine around them are finally learning a new memory, a new story.
With every day, every minute that passes from the moment my husband walked away I have found a peace descending upon me. I have awful nightmares, anxiety attacks, music haunting my thoughts, and have found myself in places I have no memory of journeying to. However every night as the children arrive home from school, I lock the door with no uncertainty. Our time is now our own, No more waiting for dinner, waiting to hear where I am in the pecking order of the day, no more telling the children to wait till I speak to their father, the disappointment apparent on their expectant faces as though know how long it will take me to broach it with him, and even longer for him to decide. We now are the definitive. Our answers are there for us, our decisions each day based around exactly how we are feeling. I have for the first time begun to do exactly what I want to, what I need to for myself day by day. That freedom came at a great cost, but in the darkest moments, when the sheer terror visits me I know I have on the other side a new feeling to greet me. A feeling that bubbles up in me with an excitement that makes me giddy. It is not the churning I felt that kept me up at night wondering what I was uneasy of. It is not the tightening I felt when I could not put a finger on why his words hurt me as he said them so politely.
It is a feeling I have not felt since I was a child.
A feeling of anticipation, of wonder, of pure eagerness.......what is out there for me? Something inside me tells me what I have had taken from me is now in my reach, and now I am strong enough to grab it, take it and earn it for myself in a way no one can ever question it away from me. That is a feeling of power. Perhaps unfounded, perhaps delusional, but the words have not stopped flowing since that first few weeks. With each moment of terror kissing away each hurt I feel another moment draws closer. I sat with friends last night and laughed. Laughed in a way I have not done in years. Unashamed, unhindered, and myself. The me, the self that is going to emerge as I listen to my inner most thoughts though these months and years ahead.
One morning this week as the children ran around double checking their uniforms and I convinced the youngest that brushing her teeth was still a necessary task this morning, and the tooth fairy would not be visiting if she stopped brushing them so they all fell out, I was also dealing with the shadows of my nightly ghosts. Every morning as the light casts itself through the curtains and across the floor I find myself easing my mind and heart away from the grips of the phantoms that held tight for that night. On this morning amidst these occurrences I became aware of another sensation. Stillness.
Stillness among the chatter, the splashing water, and tupperware boxes. There had been many mornings like this, I no longer felt something that had always been there. An uneasiness of what the day held. Of a phone call, a text that would leave me hanging on at the whim of someone else. There was no more care taking. I did not need to check if my husband had done what he had promised, follow up on things he needed me to do, fix any crisis that had occurred out of sight, and been bought to light when no other solution could be found. I have stepped out each day my face absolutely bare, no jewellery, a spritz of the new perfume a dear friend gave me to signify my new beginnings. With every single thing no matter how minute to others I feel emboldened and lighter.
The glass cage that was built around me as I lost myself, my true voice, the choices that used to make me who I was was open. There are many things that still hold me, many tendrils from each filament that wind around my thoughts. But on that day something happened.
As he sat from room to room, the same routine of silence, of words that kept coming out as if just spoken, but so well structured only someone who had given them great consideration could have spoken them. The same pain as I felt the all too familiar pattern hit me. If I push back it will get heated, if I stay silent so will he, for hours. Due to leave for a concert, our anniversary gift to one another, I was desperate to undo what was happening, to snap him out of it, to go and dance our hearts out and remember the connection we have. To feel each reverberation of sound take us further away from this painful place we were in.
But the words kept coming, the feeling kept staying the same. He knew what he wanted, he knew the outcome he was ready to achieve. As he furtively glanced at his watch, and kept leaving to go to the bathroom I knew he had already checked out.
With this absolute gut feeling I asked him. Why is it always about you? Why have we never stopped things and looked at and supported me? It has been your career, your job losses, your family, your friends, your depression, your feelings, your manhood, your shame. When have you ever stopped to look at this other person in this marriage?
The cold glare. The silence. The pieces of every moment sliding into place behind me. Then I said the words, the words I to this day do not know I had the strength or ability to say.
" You can walk out, you can do what you have always done best taking with you the years of tears and support that has gone into holding you up. But be sure of this. I will not fall. I will take those children, I will hold them tighter than I ever have, and we will come out of the other side of the flames you are dousing us in. We will stand taller, stronger, and you will never be able to hurt us again".
As he packed his bag, as he attempted to reengage me through my silent tears, those words from a stranger inside me held me up.
Those words made me call a friend who rushed out of her house to be there for me, and was dumbfounded when I said I will not be locked in anymore, I want to go out and to cry through every song if I have to, but I will not let the voice of Stevie Wonder floor me each time I hear it for the rest of my life. We sat in the cool summer air in Hyde park, as I cried through every song in plain sight of the world. My friend wiping my cheek when she could bare it no more to see me burning so hard. But is worked, for the rest of the summer as the songs have been played, as people discussed the hours he played for no sudden tears have sprung. One phantom was vanquished.
Whatever happened when I found those words, which I lost again the weeks following his departure, as I watched and held my children through their own personal heartbreaks, their little bodies heaving with pain I will never forget. That was swallowed up in the grief, the self doubt, and self hatred that plagued me for months. The questions, the confusions, and then the darkness slowly lifting to show me another view in a new light being shone from a different place. What ever happened that created that place of shifting moments for me is finding it's was up again.
It is from this place I said the only words I needed to say when he finally resurfaced but refused to explain himself.
I see you. I see you for all you are now.
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.
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.