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?’
‘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.