The last words X spoke aloud to me were “fuck you”, but that was not the last communication from him. He sent me a long email later that day.
He berated me extensively for my lack of faith in him. I had never believed him when he told me his marriage was over, he said, and I would soon see that this was my downfall.
In the distant future, he said, I would see him laughing and holding hands in the street with his next partner and I would feel stupid and see what I had lost.
When that day came, he wanted me to know that if I’d just had more faith, not gone back to my husband so fast, I could have had all that happiness and hand-holding for myself. He had never looked back at his wife, never wanted her for a moment once he’d fallen for me, and he had stupidly assumed I’d felt the same, but I’d always had a foot in my marriage, hadn’t I? More fool him. And so on.
It was a well worded and vitriolic email, designed to wound, full of bile and unfair accusations that hit their mark soundly. I looked at it again and again in my empty office, feeling stunned and dazed. I could not quite believe the life I was in was mine.
I did not reply to the email. I never did. But I fretted over the accusations it contained, the evisceration of my character. I would wake up in the morning and remember his words and poke at them all day, like running my tongue over a broken tooth.
Had I really given up too soon on something I had promised? Had I been the bad person, here, not just to my husband but to X? Had I let everyone down?
A fortnight later, close to Christmas, I asked my husband if he would go away with me for a weekend. I was very nervous as I asked the question. I knew that he would genuinely have to wrestle with whether he could cope with my company for so many uninterrupted hours. It was sad and horrible to realise this.
He said yes, though, and I was thrilled. I booked us into a hotel in the Yorkshire moors that was crammed with happy memories: we had stayed there for several family weddings and parties, and had only ever had fun there.
It was a good choice. The room we were allocated was deliciously twee, with a four-poster bed and much gilt trim, its shabby glamour just cliched enough to laugh at. From the window we could see the fields across which we had once chased our toddlers and in which we had sprawled, drunk and happy, in the pre-dawn hours after long raucous wedding parties.
The air was crisp and very cold. I had a new dress to wear for dinner and we drank a lot of wine, then whiskey by the fire in the lounge bar. We went to bed drunk and my husband held me all night, just like the old days. It was lovely.
The next day we walked along the coast path to Bridlington beach. The weather was sunny and bright and windy and bracing. As we walked, side by side and not looking at each other, my husband asked me all the questions that he had, every single one, going over all the horrible details of the cheating I had done. I told him everything.
It was tense and tearful and horrible and the walk seemed to go on for a very long time. But behind the pain I was causing and the gnarling embarrassment it brought me, I felt lighter and freer with every word I said. When we got to the end of the 7-mile track we were quiet, but it was a calm quiet. Peaceful.
In Bridlington we bought fish and chips and ate them on the beach in the cold wind and then we went back to the hotel. We went to bed for the rest of the day and night. No going downstairs for dinner, no whisky in the lounge bar, just each other.
We were not mended when we drove home the next day but I knew, now, that we could be. I could feel the potential for happiness. I felt very grateful for the chance to love my husband properly again.
As we drove back to a more certain real life after checking out of the hotel, my phone buzzed with a text message from one of my friends. She wanted to tell me, before anyone else did, that X had updated all of his social media profiles, and he had done so pointedly.
He had added new photos. He had changed his description: he was a “proud husband”, now. Lots of family pictures had appeared, clearly taken over the summer while I was sitting in my rented house on my own, wondering.
And his latest photo? Well: that one had been taken and added just that morning. It was advertising his delicious breakfast, eaten in bed, with his wife.
It was like an early Christmas present, the relief of it. Yes, I had been very stupid, I had been temporarily insane, but I had not been cruel or deluded or deficient.
I felt more free than I had for many months. I could breathe again. It was a fitting end to a tumultuous year.