Cat on the road

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(This is a chronological version of my original blog mybloomsday.wordpress.com )

It all started from that cat. It was sitting on the road, as if waiting and staring at me. I could see the light reflecting from its eyes, just for a split second, and then it was gone.

We had been walking on a beach earlier that day, the family day out. Charlie wasn’t feeling well, he had a cold coming on. He seemed distant too, lost in thoughts. We decided to stay and eat in a local restaurant and it got dark before we finished. I offered to drive so he could rest although I still wasn’t used to his new car. It was too fast and sporty for me, his dream BMW.

We got stuck behind a slow driver and eventually got an opportunity to overtake. I never liked this manoeuvre, thankfully the car accelerated quickly. I changed the lane and pushed on the gas pedal. No problem. I went back to my lane and then it was there, sitting in the middle of the road.

There was no way I could have stopped, I barely had time to notice it at all before I heard an impact. It was quite loud and the children got frightened – “What was that?!”“A branch on the road” I answered quickly, happy it came to my mind. Then we didn’t say anything for a while until Charlie asked “Are you ok?”, “No” I said.

I had never killed an animal on the road before and was hoping it would never happen. When I got my driving licence I prayed for safe driving, for myself, other people with me and even the animals. As a child I got very upset seeing them dead at the side of the roads. We always prayed at the start of the journey too and so far it worked. So why now? I couldn’t stop thinking there was something more to it than just an accident.

When we came home I hugged my cat for a long time and kept saying “I’m so sorry kitty”, it felt so awful. When we talked about it later, we agreed it was a strange experience, kind of eerie.

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Doubts

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Doubts are like nasty bugs that fly over your head and bother you constantly. No matter how much you wave your hands to make them go away they come back quickly.

Doubts have been growing in my mind for some time now, weeks really. I haven’t had them for a long time and it felt like a sort of déjà vu. In the past I was successfully convinced (read: lied to) that there is nothing to worry about so I buried them deep in the Denial Department. I thought, logically, that if there was something to be worried about I would SURELY know. I knew my husband so well, his facial expressions, his ways, we talked about his feelings and thoughts. For years he had been my closest friend, my ally, my lover and soul mate. Truth and trust were our daily bread.

I despised the “what if” thoughts, they were offending to him, to me, to our marriage. They made me feel insane and silly. I saw them as the devil’s arrows, aimed at my peace and security. I banished them each time they came and diverted my mind to something else. I wonder now whether I was just too trusting or too afraid to look reality in the face.

The first one came suddenly while we were driving. It dawned on me they were both missing at work one day and I was curious to know if they were together. I asked him and he confirmed. Matter of fact, nothing unusual, but there was that look in his eyes – uncomfortable. Only then I realized there was so much of his time that was unaccounted for, he was free to do what he wanted so much more then I ever was. I just accepted it as part of life.

It stayed with me though and a few days later on my way to work, the first day after the summer, the thought hit me again – “what if”. This time I really felt it, the sickening feeling of panic rose in my stomach for a few minutes but I let it go.

She wasn’t at work that day. I knew she was working on her project at home. A few hours later, while on tea break, someone asked where Ana was. “Probably with Charlie” – was my other colleague’s reply. Was it just my impression or did she say it to me? Was there something she wanted me to know?

That night two of our children came to sleep with us, it got tight and Charlie left to sleep somewhere else. I didn’t like it, not having him close. He left his phone behind and I couldn’t fall asleep. I was lying there and the doubts were at me again causing my blood pressure to rise. I never looked at his phone, to me it was just a tool but I realized that if there was any place to look for evidence it was the phone.

I felt uncomfortable turning it on, like a trespasser, and I now know it was wrong – not looking at his phone but feeling guilty about it. You need full transparency if you want trust, no hiding, no unknown passwords, no secrets.

The desktop showed there was an unviewed e-mail from her with a photo attached. Why would she send him photographs? Of what? Her project – unlikely but I couldn’t come up with anything better that wasn’t IT. I couldn’t go past the password, damn it. I tried a few combinations but risked getting his phone locked so I decided to go to him and just ask for it. I reckoned there was no reason why he shouldn’t give it to me but what would I say I needed it for? I came up with an excuse, went over to him and … couldn’t do it. What would he think? Would he get suspicious I was getting uneasy again? I didn’t want that, not yet. I decided to watch him for a while and keep my eyes open. I also prayed about it and got my spiritual antennae up.

That’s when I met the cat on the road.

Famous Tuesday – Part 1

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The tension was becoming too much. I knew something was up and couldn’t pin point it.

Everything seemed to be the same as usual – same daily routine, every day life, normalcy. The only strange thing I noticed was more late hours at work and more time at the office during weekends. But he always did that, had to catch up with ‘stuff’ that piled up all the time, I knew and understood it well, especially after spending more time there myself.

One evening he rang to say he was coming home for dinner but he would have to go back afterwards to do a few hours work. I said ok and sighed deeply. “Will it always be like that? Will we ever manage to be on top of things for a change?” I asked. “We will, I promise” he said and I felt he genuinely wanted to believe it but I was afraid it was still an empty promise, unless he had a plan I hadn’t heard before.

I worked half day that Tuesday and left just after lunch time finished. Charlie had a meeting in the afternoon outside town and I noticed Ana wasn’t back at her desk either. Still I didn’t think too much of it, maybe she was meeting someone for lunch and hadn’t come back on time?

I went to collect the kids from school and just when I was parking the car a song came on which stroke a chord with me – “Completely”. It was about a guy who had secrets and was letting go of them. I thought of Charlie, could he be that guy too?

We went home, did homework and I started to cook one of his favourite soups thinking of that song all the time. It was there in my kitchen that I prayed: “Lord, if all those thoughts of him being unfaithful are just my own obsessions and insecurities let them be gone but if they are not, please let the lies be exposed”. I didn’t even know how powerful this prayer was.

I so wished he was home early that day! But at about 5.30 pm I got a message from Charlie which said “Hi honey, I have been delayed at the meeting and will be late home. I should be back around 7“. 7 is not too bad, I thought, it was often later than that.

He came home as he said he would, left his things and went upstairs. I had a feeling I should check his wallet although I had never done it in the past. I had that guilty feeling again but I opened it and didn’t need to look far. On top of all receipts was the one from that afternoon, paid at about 5.45pm – two small meals, in a cafe/restaurant on the way home from where he had his meeting. My heart started to beat faster, I knew he had to be there with her. What hit me most was the lie, he wasn’t at the meeting when he sent the message. But maybe I misunderstood? I went back to my phone and checked it. It didn’t say he was AT the meeting, just that he was delayed. I must be overreacting, silly me.

He came down and I offered the soup. There was a moment of hesitation and then he said “I’m not too hungry actually, I’ll wait for dinner if you don’t mind” “Sure, but it’s your favourite” I said with a smile, knowing for the first time that he was lying to my face. “Still, I won’t, thanks”. He looked strange when he was saying it. Why didn’t he just say he ate on the way?

He went outside to play football with our son. I went upstairs and noticed he left his phone in the room although he usually had it with him. I looked at it, the desktop showed a message from her 3 min earlier, just a “:)”. I knew I couldn’t go past the password although I would give a lot to see all messages before it. My heart was beating fast again. Not only was he with her all afternoon, lied to me about his whereabouts but he was also texting with her at home! I remembered all those times recently when he was on his phone after work when I thought he was reading the news or writing work related e-mails. Was it possible that I was even more naive then I wanted to believe?

I decided to act normally, went back to the kitchen, dished out dinner and called the family home. My hands were trembling and I couldn’t finish the food.

All my thoughts were going back to one thing – is there anything I should be worried about? What is my good, loving husband up to? Could he be doing anything as stupid as risking our marriage for some new friendship and adventure?

After dinner I tidied up quickly, girls went to watch TV and Charlie started to play a board game with our son. Doubts were torturing me inside, I couldn’t help it. I went upstairs again to rest and gather my thoughts. His phone was still there. I didn’t expect there would be any new messages but I checked anyway.

And there it was – “Thinking of you”.

Famous Tuesday – Part 2

I was holding his phone and suddenly felt like I was falling … or was it my heart sinking? I could hear myself calling in my mind “God help me! I won’t be able to go through it alone!”.

I had to sit down to catch my breath and calm down. Was it really happening? Maybe I just imagined it? I checked the phone at least twice to see if the message was there and then sat down again.

What had happened between them that gave her a right to send a message like that? How far did it go? What now?

For a moment I thought I would try to carry on as usual and pretend I knew nothing so I could keep observing but after a minute or two I realised I was too upset and this time I wouldn’t be able to hide it.

I went downstairs, heart pounding, on wobbly legs, not really knowing what to say. Charlie was seating on our dining table, still playing the game with our son. He looked happy, relaxed and casual. I looked at him and wanted to remember this moment, the last one before the bomb fell.

“We need to talk” I said

“Can I finish the game?”

“No”

“Oh” – He looked at me suspiciously as if he knew.

I led the way back to our room upstairs and closed the door. We sat down on the bed and I could feel my stomach turning.

“What’s up?” he asked now visibly frightened. I decided to ask straight away.

“Is there anything between you and Ana, Charlie? Honestly, please?”

I could see his face turning from unease to terror, it looked almost dark. He was just sitting there, staring at me and not saying anything. That silence was a confirmation for me – “That’s a “Yes”, am I right?” – I said it a few times before he found his voice again.

“No, but we became very good friends” he said finally.

“Oh, great! Can I have a friend like that too? Would you agree to that?” I said angrily.

“No, I wouldn’t.”

“Exactly. I don’t believe you anyway, please be honest with me. Is there anything more between you two?”

“No – it’s true. We started spending a lot of time together but there is nothing romantic. Why are you asking anyway?”

“Because you are working a lot in the office after hours, you have a password on your phone for the first time, you text with her at home, I know you were with her this afternoon, you lied to me about it, plus she has just sent you a message saying she’s thinking of you and can I see it please?”

I said it all in one breath. He reached for his phone, unlocked it and opened the message. There was a photograph of a sunset over our local river attached to it but no more words.

“You see, nothing special.”

“Why would she send you that?”

“We worked together all afternoon, she knew I was stressed and sent it to me to calm me down. I think it’s very thoughtful of her.”

“Thoughtful? It’s inappropriate! Why would a young girl her age send a message like that to her 40 years old, married boss? And you see nothing wrong with it?!”

“I told you, we became really good friends, she helps me a lot”.

“Was there anything physical between you? Like a kiss or something like that?”

“No! Never! Maybe a goodbye hug but not more than that. I don’t even find her attractive in that way, she has stubby legs and is too short for me. But I like talking to her, she’s very different then you, I find it challenging.”

“What do you mean by different?”

“I don’t know, just different, more lively and she seems to have strong ideas, you are kind of… weak.”

I knew what he meant, he wasn’t just trying to offend me. I had been fighting a lack of energy for years, especially after our third child and I was naturally calm and cautious about everything I was doing. That was who I was and it had good sides too which I was learning to see.

“Be careful what you’re doing” I said “you’re leading her on, she could be falling for you.”

“Do you think so? Why?”

“Because a girl would never send a message like that to her boss without an underlying reason.”

“I think you exaggerate. She’s just being nice. To be honest if I was to reply now I would write ‘Thanks, that’s nice, thinking of you too’. I know it might hurt you but it’s true.”

I couldn’t believe all I was hearing. He was flirting with her and couldn’t see anything wrong with it! Only if I turned the situation around he admitted he didn’t want me to be that close to any of my friends and colleagues. What was going on in his mind? I looked at him and said:

“You can continue your friendship if you want to but don’t ask me to accept it. You have just destroyed something very important in this relationship, Charlie. Do you know what it is?”

“Trust?”

“Yes. And this time it will take a lot longer to rebuild it.”

“I know, I’m sorry.”

Famous Tuesday – Part 3

We managed somehow to get through the evening duties of tidying and putting kids to bed without raising suspicions on their side that something wasn’t right. After that we made our favourite Pukka tea and sat down on the couch, like we had often done, but the TV stayed off. I still doubted his honesty because of his initial reaction so I asked again:

“Are you sure there is nothing between you and Ana? I know you like her, I knew it from the beginning.”

“No, I assure you there isn’t but …there is something I have to confess, I want to be honest with you.”

I couldn’t think of what he might say.

“I look at pornography sometimes, I know you don’t approve, that’s why I didn’t want to say it before.”

I looked at him somewhat surprised. It’s no news to me that a man might watch porn but we had often talked about this subject when discussing our friend’s and family member’s problems associated with it and he would always disapprove of it. Never once had I caught him watching anything even remotely resembling porn. There was no trace of it in our computer either. I convinced myself that it must be something new.

“How often?”

“Not too much, maybe once every two weeks but it’s been there for years, since before we met.”

“How is it possible I never noticed it?”

“I hid it, it’s not something I’m proud of and I didn’t want you to know, but I don’t see it as a problem or addiction.”

“You do realise it is a problem though? It affects our relationship. Maybe I haven’t said it before but I did notice a change in you. You started to sleep away from me and often don’t react when I initiate.”

We talked about it for a while, it seemed to me quite openly and honestly. We continued talking in bed and I felt we started to open up to each other in a way we haven’t done for a long time. He fell asleep quickly and I was just lying there next to him, listening to his breathing , with my eyes wide open and no sign of sleep coming soon.

I wasn’t shocked about the news but saddened. We have been Christians for years, we were part of a good, Spirit filled church, and staying pure in heart was always a priority. I personally believed that compromising sexual purity affected all parts of your being – body, soul and spirit, and had enough examples of it among friends and family to know it was true. I expected he should have known it too. It was one of the factors that contributed to my own parent’s divorce and that’s why I couldn’t treat it lightly.

There was something else though that occupied my thoughts that night. The words “Thinking of you” were in front of my eyes, whether I had them open or closed, making me feel nauseous with fear. How dare she? How dare she send that to my husband, my Charlie?

All the memories of the previous year’s summer came back. I had hoped they were a thing of our past, an unfounded obsession on my part, mad jealousy. Now it was back, with more strength and a reason to believe that it wasn’t just in my head. This simple text message changed everything for me.

I felt guilty.

I realised I had let someone else take my place. My place at work in the office, doing projects that were supposed to be mine, getting valuable experience and growing roots on my ground. Worse still, I let her take a place at my husband’s side, enjoy his time and attention, while I stayed behind and watched. This was my 9/11, a moment when you cross from one era to another. Time to grow up and take responsibility for your actions, or a lack of them in my case.

I had let myself believe I was no good. My skills and ideas were not good enough, as a foreigner I was at a loss because of cultural differences, as a woman I wasn’t treated seriously anyway. So I did what I thought I did best – stayed at home and looked after our children, at least I didn’t have to pay anyone else to do it. But there she was, a foreigner and a woman too, confident that she could do that job. No wonder Charlie was impressed. I had to grow up quickly if I didn’t want to lose what was most important to me.

I slept for 2 hours that night after which I woke up with a pounding heart remembering the message and our conversation. I got up, took my diary, went downstairs and made myself a cup of tea.

Diary pages – Part 1

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I made some lemon balm tea for calming the nerves and opened my diary. I was going to write about what happened that day but before I started I noticed an entry from the previous summer. I haven’t written too often recently, I was too busy with kids and the monotony of everyday life just didn’t inspire me. There was only one entry since last year. I read it all, it was as fresh in my memory as if it had just happened last week.

” I’m back at home, at my parent’s house, sun is shining, children run around the garden and it’s lovely. Although this year, sun had surprised us even in Ireland, we made it to the beach before I left.

This year’s goodbye was very emotional for me. Some months ago, a student from Spain had contacted Charlie about a work practice during the summer. As we knew I’d have to be with the kids when school finishes and most likely go to my parents with them, he agreed. Ana arrived 2 weeks before I left. She’s bright and settled quickly in the office. Charlie seems to like her, they keep joking and teasing each other, she buys him books, he brings her with him to sites and gives her lifts in the morning, how often, I don’t know. It is in his nature to make people to like him but this time I’d prefer if he didn’t do it. I realised I’m leaving him with her for 4 weeks and it just made feel uncomfortable and sad. All last day I wondered if I should say anything. I had never been jealous of him before, never had a reason to be and I was afraid it would somehow affect us negatively. Eventually in bed I blurted out: “I wish you spent as much time with me as you spend with Ana”. He got a bit defensive but couldn’t deny he had been spending more time with her then he should. He said it’s because her time here is so short, he wanted to be nice and show her around. What could I say to that? This is what we do when people come to visit.

I didn’t mention those times when he was showing off in front of her, or walking with that funny bounce in his step, like when we first met, or the time on the beach when we took her with us and he spent most of that time entertaining her. At one point he lied down on the blanket between us and said “two beautiful women” and I wasn’t sure if he meant to say it out loud or if his thoughts slipped from his tongue.

I didn’t say any of those things, instead I started crying. And when I started I couldn’t stop. There was so much tension built up inside, it all started to come out. I was waiting for him to tell me there was no reason to worry, that he loved me just as much as always, loved our kids and would never do anything to hurt us. Normally he would have said it immediately, wiped my tears away and said I was silly to even consider it, but not this time. The longer I waited, the more I cried. He tried to sleep but turned around a few times with a worried look on his face. “Try to get some sleep, you’ll be really tired tomorrow on the plane”, that was all he could come up with. I fell asleep eventually, for about 4 hours, then woke up and started crying again. It was not like me at all. He got up briefly when he heard me walking around but then went back to sleep.
I spent the morning packing the last bits and pieces, trying not to think, all the time having a ‘lump’ in my throat.”

As I was reading my diary I remembered thinking: maybe I should cancel the whole trip? My mum and kids would kill me. I was really torn inside, on the one hand I had that horrible feeling he wasn’t telling me something and couldn’t wait to see me gone, on the other I knew that even if I stayed I couldn’t stop him. What good would it do to control and spy on him? That’s not how we worked.

We had a good, solid relationship, based on love, trust and faith in God. We had been together for 14 years, married for 12, had 3 fantastic kids and everything going for us. We never argued, never nagged, never had a crisis. We went out regularly, took time to talk and went away for romantic weekends away, just the two of us. We also prayed together often, from the heart, and read the Word. Life was good and to ask for more would be greedy.

So was I totally mad to be so jealous of this young girl, who was closer in age to our eldest daughter then to him? What did she have to offer that I didn’t have?
Charlie had lots of girl friends and none of them made me jealous, none of them were a threat. I didn’t know what had gotten into me to accuse him of plotting an affair. And yet I couldn’t stop feeling desperate.

Cancelling holidays at home was not an option for many reasons so I kept packing. Just before we left we had a brief talk and he asked:
“Are you ok now?”
“Not really, I’m kind of jealous.”
“I’m sorry you feel like that. I suppose I would feel the same if I was in your shoes.”
“Thanks, this is exactly what I didn’t want to hear.”
“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I really am NOT planning on having an affair.”
“That’s not something you plan, Charlie.”

He looked uncomfortable.
“I know you’d prefer if I didn’t spend any time with Ana but I can’t promise you I won’t see her after work. You know, like for a drink or a walk. I’m just trying to be honest, I don’t want to hide anything from you.”
I wanted to shout – “You must be kidding me!” but instead I said:
“Do what you want, just tell me that you love me.”
“Of course I love you, don’t ever doubt that.”

He gave me a big hug and a kiss on the forehead.

Diary pages – Part 2

That summer I arrived at my parents’ with mixed feelings, happy to be in a familiar environment but also wanting to go back to be with Charlie again.

In the evening, after the children went to sleep, I sat down on my mother’s bed and we talked. I told her all my worries, I had to get it out and see if anyone else sees it the same way. The flood gates opened and I cried like she’d never seen me cry before. She was very concerned, for me, for him, for us. No one could understand me better in that moment then she did. She’d gone through her share of heart break over many years and had just arrived on the other side, with God’s help, bruised but not broken. We did the only thing that we knew could help – we prayed, for God’s help, protection, for Him to find a way to turn this situation into something good.

The first week was pure agony, I wanted to pack and go back. I hung onto every text message, every ‘I love you’, every ‘I miss you’, I carried my phone with me so as not to miss any call from him… and I thought I was going mad. Eventually I came to realise I can’t go on like that for any length of time. No matter what I said or did, whether I pleaded with him or said nothing, he was a free person and would do what he chose. I decided that if he wanted to have an affair it would be his loss. I knew my worth, I knew my God and I knew that He would be with me no matter what. I looked around my parents’ house and saw I had a place to go back to, even with kids. For the first time in my married life I felt I needed a plan B.

Charlie rang regularly and I believed he was trying to be honest telling me about plans he had with Ana. The week after I left was his birthday. He got tickets for the theatre and invited her. I was upset but rather then blame him I blamed myself for going away. I sent him a birthday card in which I included our favourite bible verse, the same one we got engraved on our wedding rings, and our son’s picture, which he drew for him. I did everything I could think of that wasn’t too desperate or controlling.

Things were not going well for me that summer. I got sick, our son had an accident and had to get stitches on his head, my mother had a gallbladder attack and had to be hospitalised and I just felt something hanging over us. I couldn’t wait for the holidays to be over.

We had arranged to meet in Vienna to visit a friend and spend some time together in a new place. I was so nervous before I saw him the first time after all those long weeks. I looked for any sign of a change in him. We went sightseeing together the first day and my stomach started hurting so badly I thought I had appendicitis: turned out it was only stress. We sat down to eat at a restaurant and I told him how desperately I felt over the past few weeks. He said how sorry he was for making me feel that way, confessed a few more trips out of town with Ana but assured me again and again there was nothing between them. It took me a few days to feel close and to trust him again but when I finally did a wonderful feeling of relief came over me. Nothing was lost, he was still mine.

At the end of holidays he asked if I would mind if Ana stayed longer.
“She is a great help around the office and as she’s a student I don’t have to pay her much. You still can’t commit full time and it will give you an opportunity to focus on the children and the house.”

I had to think for a moment.

“Do you promise all is well between us and I don’t need to worry?”

“I promise.”

I wasn’t too keen on the idea but he was right: I couldn’t help him much, so what right did I have to say no? I agreed reluctantly, mainly to show I trusted him.