Bad decisions, or: liars will always lie

The house that I rented was big, because I wanted a bedroom for each of my children so that they could live with me for half of the time.

I was mad. I was dreaming. The children didn’t want to be with me at all; they hated me at that moment, and they were punishing me for what I had done to our family, to their father, to all of our lives.

Nevertheless, I bought bedding and curtains to their specific tastes, furnishing the house in optimistic bursts, preparing rooms to keep ready for them. I moved all of my own things into the house myself one rainy day in the first week of August, when the children were staying with their grandparents for the week.

As I unpacked the final car load, my husband arrived at the house with sandwiches. Gently he urged me to sit down, eat something, drink some tea, stop rushing around. He looked after me. He gave me a bunch of flowers and the saddest of hugs, and then he left me in the cavernous beamed hallway on my own and went back to our house.

It was done. We were not together any more.

Later, X appeared. He approved of the house, he told me. It felt right. It was a good size. I’d chosen well. He could see us together in it, in the future. It felt like home to him, already. (It did not feel like home to me, but he didn’t ask about that).

He took me straight to the bedroom, of course. Then he made me some food, more cups of tea. And then he had to go home, because it was early evening, and no one at his house had any clue that he was anywhere other than out for work so he couldn’t be late.

“Don’t be selfish,” he said when my eyebrows lifted. “I’ve only just told everyone about you. I’ve only just put them on notice that the family is breaking up. It’s the end of their world, for fuck’s sake. Be patient. I can’t visit you all the time straight away, it’s not fair on my children, or on anyone.” I thought about my own children, and how I could not go home to them any more, and how they did not want to come and see me.

I thought about how he had said so often “When you get the keys, I’ll come and see you on that first day, and I’ll never leave.” I didn’t say anything else.

Three lonely days later, my husband brought my two younger children round to see me. They had come straight from their grandparents’ house and they didn’t want to be at mine. They did not want to cross the threshold of my house; they cried, and stayed – stony-faced and tearful – in the car. They called me names, and they listed what I had done. None of it was a lie, and I had nothing to say back.

It broke me completely. I was lower than I had ever been. I was half blind with the pain of it. Desperate, and breaking all of his rules about phone calls, I called X as soon as they left. I told him that I was terrified, I was in pieces, that I couldn’t go on.

I couldn’t breathe. He could hear that I couldn’t breathe. “Wait there,” he said to me. “Ten minutes.” I sat on the step and waited. He arrived within ten minutes, as he said he would, and I was so grateful. He held me, on a bench near the pond behind the house, in the weak evening sun.

I was completely cried out and hollow and silent, but I thought: this means something, doesn’t it? Here I am, at my absolute lowest ebb, and he’s come through for me. This is big. This is what I needed. For the first time, I’ve shown him that I needed him, and he’s shown me right back that when the chips are down, I am what matters to him now. I started to breathe again.

Then X eased his arm away from my shoulders. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s get you indoors and get you a cup of tea. I’ve got to go in a minute. I told the family I was heading out for a 10k run, so I can’t be any longer than 45 minutes, realistically. It caused enough bother that I went out at all, we were having a family afternoon and I just dashed out when I got your call. They’re cross enough with me for that. I can’t push it any further.”

I realised in that moment that I had made a terrible, terrible mistake.

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