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.

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