Month: December 2014

4. The Wait

I woke up very early. Day two of my new life – married to a liar.

I felt more awake than I have ever been in my life, even though I only slept about four hours. I couldn’t sleep with thinking about my husband and the girl that I was feeling increasing bitterness towards, our former au pair, Caterina. Was she the cause of this? Or was Tom?

My brain was very busy, worrying about what relationship my husband was having with this girl. But I was absolutely 100% convinced my husband was not having an affair. I really thought there was no way that Tom would do that. We have worked hard for all we have – a young family that we both wanted so dearly, our home, good careers and a comfortable lifestyle. We have great friends in a great community. Surely Tom would not risk losing so much?

We had discussed affairs before we were married, although only mildly in the context of what had happened to him. I think I said if someone had an affair it would be a deal breaker for me. I couldn’t stay with that person. Did I say that? I’m sure I had indicated it and I was a strong person, quite independent, my husband knows me well enough to know that. Doesn’t he?

Tom had been married before and divorced. He would not risk losing a marriage, this one with kids, for an affair. My husband talked a lot about the awfulness of getting divorced. He talked about the pain but mostly he talked about how much it cost and he got angry when the words ‘divorce settlement’ were mentioned. He had a lot of resentment towards his first wife. I couldn’t imagine he would ever want to go through that again.

My busy head also kept coming back to our marriage and analysing it and then over-analysing it. Our courtship and marriage was happy. And we had lots of sex. It was a great part of our marriage and we had produced three kids quite quickly. Yes, kids will interrupt being a couple, but we had plenty of time together. I’d never been concerned or thought about anything other than how lucky we were. And I completely fancy my husband and he fancies me, so we ARE lucky.

Some of my friends who got married young and are now on 15-20 years of marriage, they complain about no sex life, or how it’s not working. That was not us and we have only been married four years – it is still a young marriage. People don’t have affairs unless they have no sex life, right? Or have been married a long time, the seven year itch and all that?

The only time Tom and I had a problem with our relationship was two years ago, that summer, when Caterina came into our lives and caused a lot of chaos. I brought my mind back to that, even though I really couldn’t face thinking about it. It was a dreadful time.

Watching our au pair as she smiled shyly at Tom while he would be bragging about something he had done. Making out he was just brilliant at everything. He would offer her an Italian coffee and make a fuss preparing it for her, she’d say in broken English how delicious and the ‘best coffee I has so far in England’… with him talking about the coffee beans he used and where he bought them. And all the coffee he had drunk in Italy or Columbia, boasting how well travelled he was.

I kept saying to him ‘stop flirting with her; you really are leading her to think you are Mr Perfecto, dream-dude. And you aren’t. So stop it.’ He would look at me with anger in his eyes, bringing him back down to earth and yes, he has annoying habits like everyone, but this young girl didn’t know that. So he could pretend he didn’t, while puffing up his ego like a peacock.

During that dreadful time, I remember getting annoyed about one thing in particular. My husband has a passion for sailing and would talk about it to Caterina all the time, and because she had never stepped foot on a boat, he had decided he would teach her to sail. Tom couldn’t wait to show off his skills and as soon as he got her on that boat he started with the compliments ‘such a natural, oh Caterina, you are such a natural, you are wonderful.’ It was all very cringing. She would bat her eyes, wearing his sailing cap, looking at him for approval.

My husband’s attention towards our au pair didn’t really concern me at first and I actually used to laugh about it. A lot. I’m sure that bothered my husband looking back on it but he was ridiculous and I found it funny. To me it was classic mid-life crisis at its most obvious. I used to say to girlfriends quite in jest ‘oh there goes Tom, sniffing after the au pair’ and I’d laugh. So would they.

Sometimes they’d ask ‘does that bother you?’ and I’d say ‘yep.’ But for a long time I thought, well what can I do? And ultimately, he’s a big boy, and married, he has to behave.

Thinking about that time and our bickering and the tension in the house, eventually leading to arguments on the day and for a few days after I fired her, made me feel so sad. Re-living the only time I was unhappy with Tom. I just couldn’t think about it anymore, but I also could NOT think of anything else.

It was early in the morning but the phone went and I looked and it was Tom’s Mum. I didn’t answer. She left a message, could she come over and bring me some vegetables from their garden they couldn’t eat.

Tom’s parents lived not far away and it was a regular thing for his Mum to come over, but she always called first, thankfully. I phoned her back, otherwise she might pop in and I didn’t want that today. ‘Sorry Sheila, not today please, I think we are all coming down with colds and I wouldn’t want to give it to you and David.’

I couldn’t see my mother-in-law. Since the moment Tom’s Mum met me, she has done nothing but tell me how lucky I am, to be married to her son. Really Sheila? You mean the big fat liar you raised? Yes, I am lucky indeed.

‘Yes Sheila, Tom has gone to Amsterdam. No Sheila we don’t need anything. He’ll be back on Thursday. Yes Sheila, I know I’m very lucky to have someone helping me while he is away.’ Sigh.

I put the phone down and not long after my mobile beeped, Tom text message ‘booked on late afternoon flight into Heathrow, should be home about 7pm. See you tonight xxx.’

I felt the most powerful butterflies in my stomach. I was separated from my husband. I’d asked him for a separation. And he was coming home early from business abroad to discuss it.

I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t go out, I couldn’t be with anyone or do anything. All I could do was wait. Wait until my husband arrived to talk to me about what was really going on in the part of his life I didn’t know anything about.

It was a very long 11 hours.

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5. The Affair

I heard the key in the door. Tom walked into the kitchen and put his briefcase by the desk. He said nothing and came over to give me a kiss which I rejected and he kissed my cheek.

‘How are you?’ he asked.

‘How do you think I am?’ I said frostily. He said nothing back.

He walked to his briefcase and took out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. Occasionally Tom would smoke but only when he was stressed. I thought about when my mother was visiting from California after I had our first child. She was helping for a few weeks and it had only been about the third or fourth day home from the hospital and Tom was in our back garden, sitting at the very back on a bench, looking gloomy and smoking. My mother looked out at him and said to me ‘that looks like a new father to me, worried about the future.’

‘Shall we go to the sitting room?’ he asked and I followed him and sat down. Waiting. It was finally here. I was FINALLY going to hear the truth after 36 hours of waiting. Tom took out a cigarette and lit it, placing the pack on the mantel.

‘Lilly, I want to start by saying how much I love you and that you and the kids are my life. I would die without all of you.’

‘Oh fuck off,’ I said. ‘Get on with it Tom, seriously, I have been waiting since 9am yesterday!!’

Tom spoke, ‘I made a mistake and I am so, so, sorry and I want you to know, I was just stupid. Really stupid.’

‘WHAT MISTAKE??’ I asked.

He was puffing on his cigarette and pacing ‘I had a fling with Caterina. It meant NOTHING, I promise you, it was nothing. She just, she just, well came on to me and she contacted me after she moved out and said she was coming to London for a visit and she said, she wanted to see me. And would I see her. So I just was still really, really pissed off with you and what you did to her. And I said yes. I would. And so we went for a drink and we just had a nice chat and catch up, you know, she is…I mean was, my friend. And, um, and we had another drink and another, I got tipsy and she was I guess a bit smashed. She kissed me, like out of the blue, totally not expecting it at all and well I just, ummm, well I just. That was it.’

The sofa was spinning. I was dizzy and felt sick. I was overwhelmed with shock and my body was shaking. I waited for Tom to get to the end, the end of this awful, heart-ripping out of my chest story. And he stopped. Was this the end of him saying these awful words? Never had I thought, even in a million years, this??

I got up slowly and walked over to the mantel, picked up the cigarettes, took one out, and lit up my first cigarette in ten years. I inhaled very deeply and felt immediate relief. My hands calmed and I just felt intensely better for the thick smoke filling my lungs. Tom sat down, putting his head in his hands. And I started to pace, my heart pounding.

‘You had a FLING?? You had a FLING, with Caterina!?!’ I asked him, completely shell shocked. ‘How COULD you? How COULD you?!?’ I was dumbstruck and gobsmacked which is the only way to describe it.

‘I want to know where in the HELL you did this?’ I puffed on my cigarette trying to calm my voice. ‘Where the HELL were you? When you had these drinks and this FLING!?’

‘Uhh, well, in London’

‘WHERE in London? I want to know WHERE??’

Tom stammered, ‘Ummmm, it was a hotel, ah, we met for drinks, it was only going to be drinks. But then, um, we were at a hotel.’

‘SO YOU TOOK OUR AU PAIR TO A BAR IN A HOTEL, GOT HER DRUNK, THEN WALKED HER INTO A ROOM AT THAT HOTEL, AND SLEPT WITH HER??’ I was feeling the heat rising in my head. ‘OMG, how dare you!! How very dare you!’ I screamed at my husband. ‘WHICH hotel?? I want to know which hotel?!’

‘Uhh, Browns, it was umm, Browns Hotel,’ Tom mumbled.

‘How many times?’

‘What?’

‘How many times did you see her?’

‘Well, uhh, umm, I felt really awful and guilty and it was terrible. I can’t tell you Lilly how guilty and how awful I felt and I was just beating myself up over this and so upset. I knew what had happened was wrong and I met her again, and I don’t know why but I did. And so that was it.’

‘How many times?’

‘Well, um, I saw her three times, that was it,’ replied Tom.

I was on my second cigarette and pacing short steps in front of the fireplace, trying to figure this out. I had never in my life been so NOT READY for a conversation, than I was for this one. I completely trusted my husband. I had never checked up on Tom once, in four years of marriage.

‘So you saw our former au pair, who is young enough to be your daughter, and you got her drunk, and you slept with her. Then did it again one more time, just to be sure. Then again, a third time?!’ I said bitterly to my husband.

This was unbelievable to me. Here I was having babies, HIS babies, and I was up all night, building this family, living in a country that was not my own, making sacrifices, and he was sleeping with our au pair. Three times. In a luxury hotel in London.

Tom was sitting in a chair, his head hung down and he wouldn’t look at me.

‘Lilly I was stupid and not thinking clearly at all, you were…..we were just…..things were stressful and the kids and well, the mortgage and work. It just all felt really stressful. It just happened.’

‘So you slept with our au pair three times because your life is stressful?? So you think, that THIS, that THIS, is going to make life LESS stressful? Having an affair with our au pair!?! Someone that I had warned you about over and over and kept saying to you STOP flirting with Caterina, STOP leading her down the garden path acting like you’re courting her. STOP, STOP, STOP. And you didn’t!’

‘And what about HER??’ I continued, ‘Who is SHE to sleep with a married man? When she has lived here, sat at our table, shared our food, took care of our daughter and lived with our family? Who is she?? And who the hell are you!? Because I don’t even know you!’ I spewed at my husband and stubbed out my cigarette and threw it angrily into the fireplace.

‘What is WRONG with you Tom, seriously, what the HELL is WRONG with you??’

‘I’m sorry’ he said ‘I’m really sorry, I made a mistake.’

‘I want to know when these times were that you met her in London! When? And where was I? And where were your children??’

‘It was ummmm, I don’t know, in November I think, it was November and umm, it was December I guess, before Christmas.’

‘So she left our employment in August and in November she came to London and called you?? Is that what you are telling me? And she called you to get together for old time’s sake? And you slept with her at Browns Hotel??’ I asked again in disbelief.

‘Yes, that is what happened and I felt really awful. So guilty you can’t imagine. I mean, I’m glad actually that you now know. I’m glad,’ Tom said. ‘Lilly, this has really been so hard for me!’

‘Hard for you?? Hard for you Tom!? You selfish, self-centred stupid idiot!’ I grabbed the pack of cigarettes and threw them at him. ‘What’s been hard for you Tom?? Sleeping with our au pair and then keeping it a secret from your wife??’

‘Lilly, stop it. I’m trying to do the right thing here; I’m trying to tell you about this so it can be out in the open. I want you to know. I don’t have to tell you this; I’m trying to do the right thing.’ Tom said.

I laughed. A loud laugh looking at him. He seemed the stupidest human being on the planet at that moment and I just laughed again and said sarcastically, ‘the RIGHT THING?! Really Tom, because you are an honest, noble man so you are doing the RIGHT THING? What a joke! No Tom, don’t do that, don’t do it. Don’t be the hero, because you’re NOT! This is you, cornered and trapped, because I knew. You HAD to tell me!’

‘You are unbelievable, you really are!’ I ranted.

Tom sat shaking his head and putting his head in his hands.

‘Did you use her for sex, is that is?? OMG, don’t tell me you love her?’

Tom looked at me perplexed, like this was a trick question. His brow furrowed as he thought. ‘Well, um, ah, uhhh, I didn’t love her no, but I liked her. I liked her a lot. I mean, we were close. She was my friend. I didn’t use her. It was, you know, somewhere in the middle.’

‘Somewhere in the middle??’ I said, ‘wow, well that is a relief. You LIKED her. Ah, brilliant, just great to hear. You know what I think, I think you used her for your filthy middle-aged mid life crisis and you lured her like some sort of reptile, to have sex with her. And that is pathetic, totally pathetic!’ I shouted.

‘I didn’t use her and I didn’t do those things, SHE came on to ME, I didn’t know what to do. It was, you know, we were mates. And when you fired her, we got, well close.’

I felt sick. I couldn’t hear any more. Somehow that I caused this by firing Caterina, when clearly I did the right thing, was beyond ridiculous. I was so hurt, shocked, upset and never felt more let down in my life.

‘I don’t want to hear anymore actually. I am going to bed. I don’t care where you go.’ I said to my husband, walked upstairs, into our bedroom, shut the door, fell on the bed sobbing and cried all night.

I heard Tom come upstairs hours later and go into the guest room and close the door. At dawn I heard him get up and leave the house.

It was the saddest night of my life. I truly didn’t think anything could have been worse, unfortunately I was wrong.

6. The Holiday

Wednesday morning and I felt exactly like Emma Thompson in ‘Love Actually’ when she finds out her husband has bought a gold necklace as a Christmas present and given it to someone else. ‘I am a classic fool’ says her husband when he gets caught. ‘Yes and you’ve made the life I lead foolish too’ says Emma.

Wiping kid’s noses, changing nappies, sewing costumes for the school play, dentist appointments, cooking dinner, cleaning the house, taking the dog to the vet, organising birthday parties, writing thank you notes to the in-laws, volunteering at the local playgroup, reading bedtime stories, driving to and fro with kids in and out of car seats, washing dishes, cleaning up vomit, doctors visits, and the hundreds of other things that I did….felt worthless, WORTHLESS, knowing my husband was in a hotel in London screwing someone else.

Is it worse that the woman he was screwing was a young Italian girl who used to be the family au pair. Yes!

I thought we were in this together? Till death do us part? I thought my husband was on my team. A person to count on when your car breaks down and you’re stuck on the side of the road. A person who roots for you when you go for a job interview and is as disappointed as you are when you don’t get it. The person who wants you to be happy, even if it means it doesn’t include them.

The framework I had of my marriage and life and what love was – was smashed to smithereens. And I had no idea how I was going to figure any of this out.

I made a strong black coffee and I walked around my kitchen and house looking at it. Examining the things that made up my life, there was a framed photograph of my wedding day on a table in our foyer. I wanted to break it but instead turned it over. There were toys and a baby gym and a toddler’s car and muslins on the arm of the sofa. It looks like a house filled with a happy family. A family that maybe embrace the chaos and don’t sweat the small stuff.

I walked over to my desk by the window, overlooking a cherry tree we had planted when we moved here, a gift from a close friend when our daughter was born. More photos of kids and family, my parents on a boat on holiday, my Dad wearing his Mets t-shirt. It stung to think I’d have to tell them this.

I sat down and thought about Caterina and her parents. They came to visit here, when she lived with us and came for tea to meet our family. I felt furious. How dare she!? How dare they raise such a child!

Of course it’s crazy but suddenly I wanted to phone them. Tell them what their daughter had done to my family. I wanted to write them a letter; I wanted to ruin her life, as she has ruined mine. I opened my desk drawer and started to rifle through the papers and books and mess. A folder, that is what I wanted a folder labelled ‘AU PAIRS’ it must be in here.

I found it; this had the applications for all the au pairs who had come to live with us over the years.  The applications would arrive by email but I always printed them out if I hired them, to have their contact details at hand in the event of an emergency.

There is was: Caterina Elia at the top. Her address, her email and phone numbers. Parent’s names, a personal statement: ‘trustworthy, good with children, hard working, honest, reliable.’ Simmering with anger I threw the application back in the drawer and slammed it shut. I understood the words ‘crime of passion’ for the first time in my life. I wanted to kill her. And if she had been there, I might have tried.

I have to get out of here, I thought. I am not going to be in this house. I’m not going to cook or clean or wash clothes and do any of that stuff. If I’m miserable, I’m going to be miserable with someone else doing the housework and the cooking, and someone can wait on me for a change.

I went online and typed in ‘luxury travel’ and a long list appeared. Scott Dunn caught my eye, ‘boutique London travel experts specialising in luxury holidays.’

I know what I was thinking and right or wrong, this is how I felt at the time:

My husband has been in luxury hotels, probably eating and drinking to his heart’s content. Clearly money was no object if he was at Browns Hotel. My husband was there with our au pair, having sex with her. So I am going to do what I want, when I want and how I want. I don’t care what it costs and I don’t mind if I do.

‘Hi this is Alison at Scott Dunn, how can I help?’

‘I’d like to go on a last minute holiday, leaving as soon as possible. Tomorrow would be ideal or I guess on Friday. Just as soon as possible. Somewhere warm. For a week. Or two.’

‘Okay, well, this time of year I can recommend the Caribbean, or South East Asia or Dubai. How many will be travelling?’

‘Well it has to be family friendly, I’m taking my children. So one adult and three kids.’ SHIT, the baby doesn’t have a passport. ‘No, one adult and two kids. Preferably not somewhere with a big difference in time zone, so how many hours difference is Dubai?’

‘It’s four hours, so not bad. Let’s see, let me have a look, how about Mauritius? It is the perfect time of year to go there as it’s not too hot and the time difference is fine. BA flies once a week on a Friday, returning on a Sunday, an overnight flight both ways, so doesn’t cut into holiday time. You can sleep on the plane.’

I’d never been to Mauritius and I knew it was French but didn’t know much about it except it was quite far south in the Indian Ocean. ‘Sounds perfect’ I said.

‘Okay, I’ll check availability with our partner hotels, and let me check the flights for you and get back to you shortly. How old are the children travelling?’ she asked.

‘Three and one and go ahead and book the one year old a seat, she’ll need to sleep. Call me back, I’m really keen. Oh yea, and one more thing, book a suite, I’d like to really have a lovely room. You know with a sitting room with a sofa. Overlooking the sea if possible, with a balcony. I really need to feel like I’m on holiday.’

Nothing upset my husband quite like spending money unnecessarily. I knew what I was doing would anger him in a very particular way. And I didn’t care one little bit.

7. Pain in Paradise

Pain is just as acute in paradise, as it is in the rain.

I was sitting under a huge umbrella in the warm sunshine, with my girls in the children’s pool a few feet away. Beyond was a pristine white sandy beach with endless blue sea and sky. Hotel staff walked by bringing anything I wanted, coffee, tea, fresh squeezed juice, lobster for lunch, as much pudding as I could eat. None of it is too much effort in a five star hotel. But none of it helped. I was in agony and missing Tom so much.

It is terrible to be hurt by the person who is the one that normally you go to for comfort. All I wanted was Tom to say it was all okay. And to hug me and make the pain go away. But he was the person I wanted to kill for doing this to us.

I had left the country speaking to no one before I got on the plane. I felt embarrassed and humiliated and could not tell anyone my husband had an affair with our au pair.

Who cares what people think? Of course we shouldn’t, but we do. I do. It isn’t nice to think about what people will judge about you, your marriage and your husband. Of course our friends would be supportive and fantastic, but what about parents at school, people in our community, friends of friends, will they be whispering ‘that’s her, the one who couldn’t keep her man’ or ‘that’s him, the cheater.’ No one wants to be fodder for the middle class London dinner party and I knew we would be.

This is what was going through my mind. Even more so in paradise, with nothing to do but look out to sea and think about my husband and our former au pair.

Was she pretty? Husbands have affairs with someone who is prettier, hotter than the wife, right? The wife is a frump and has her hair in rollers. The wife doesn’t make an effort, go to the gym, wear make-up or have sex appeal. That’s how it works, right?

Well not in the case of Tiger Woods. His wife looks gorgeous. What about Christy Brinkley, her husband had an affair and she was deemed at one point during her modelling career to be in the top ten most beautiful women in the world.

Was Caterina pretty? Well I hadn’t faced that question from anyone yet but somehow I knew I would. And if I reply ‘no, she is not pretty’ who would believe me??

But she isn’t pretty. At least I never thought so, which is probably one of the reasons I laughed for so long when my husband made such a fuss over her. I used to think she looked a typical Italian, dark features and a hard face. I thought she looked sometimes masculine and her face could look like a man. Harsh, I know. But true.

Years ago when Caterina lived with us, I was entertaining a friend at home when she came into the kitchen for a drink and said hello and stayed and chatted with us for a few minutes. After she left my friend said ‘wow, she is saucy!’ Being American I had not really heard someone referred to as saucy before. But I could guess what it meant.

‘What does that mean?’ I asked.

‘Up for it’ said my friend.

If you Google saucy it says: sexually explicit. Okay, yes maybe she was saucy. She did wear very tight clothes and sometimes quite revealing clothes. And she was very thin. Really very thin I’d say, it was something I noticed when she arrived, she was a petite girl.

I’m thin myself but when Caterina moved in with us, I was 8 and a half months months pregnant and about to have baby number two. When you are a month from your due date and feel about as big as a house, you notice a size zero au pair skipping around the garden.

‘hmmmm, saucy’ I thought.

I asked Tom one night ‘do you think Caterina is attractive?’

‘Oh yeah’ he answered.

‘But she looks like a man’ I said to him ‘and she is so short’ I was pointing out.

‘She is a nice looking girl’ he said. I guess he was seeing something different than I was.

I hadn’t talked to Tom, since our conversation in the sitting room on Tuesday night. We had avoided each other for two days; he was sleeping in the guest room and he knew I wasn’t ready to see him. I’d told him we were going away and I’d left the address on a notepad in the kitchen.

Before I left town, Tom sent me flowers. A dozen long stemmed red roses. The card said ‘I’m sorry.’ I opened the box and looked at the roses in front of me and thought about the first time Tom sent me flowers. It was many years ago after our first date, we had gone out to dinner in Maida Vale and had laughed a lot and had a great time. We had a good night kiss under the lamp light at my door and it was perfect.

The next day a delivery of a dozen and a half beautiful yellow roses appeared, with a card, ‘Thank you for last night’ written on it. I still have the card. At the time I remember thinking: a dozen roses for someone you like, a dozen and a half roses for someone you REALLY like, and my tummy fluttered with excited butterflies.

Roses to court a girl, roses to be forgiven.

I put the lid back on the large box of roses and walked with them outside and got in the car. I drove to a hospice not too far from our home. I helped out every year at their summer fayre volunteering at the cake stall. I walked in and thankfully someone I recognised was at the desk.

‘Hi, my name is Lilly, I live locally and help at the summer party, I got these today and unfortunately I’m leaving for a holiday over the half term and they’ll just wilt and no one will enjoy them.’ I put the box on the reception desk.

The receptionist was smiling, not realising the flowers were the result of my husband’s infidelity. How could she know that? I had told no one.

‘Thank you so much!’ said the receptionist.

‘Would someone be able to enjoy them in their room? Or perhaps here at reception?’

‘Yes, I’m sure they will. We will find a special place for them. Thank you so much, oh look they are gorgeous’ she opened the box lid. I spotted the card and suddenly reached out.

‘The card, I’d better take that’ I said and grabbed it and folded it and put it in my pocket.

‘Thank you Lilly, these are lovely, have a nice holiday’ said the receptionist.

I was thinking about that, gazing at the beautiful flowers blooming on the bushes around the hotel when suddently my thoughts were interrupted by a lovely man ‘would you like to go water skiing Miss?’

‘Oh no thank you, I’m fine.’

His eyes looked at mine. He knows, I thought. He can see this sadness behind my eyes. He knows.

‘Tomorrow Miss, tomorrow’ and he walked towards the beach looking a bit sad himself.

Watching my healthy, happy daughters in the pool with their arm bands on, throwing toys and playing their lovely game, I was very sad. They are oblivious to what is happening to their family. I held back tears.  I was right all along, Tom was attracted to our au pair, I was right in firing her, I was right, I was right, I was right.

But on this occasion, it gave me no comfort knowing I was right.