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?”
“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?”
“Yes. And this time it will take a lot longer to rebuild it.”
“I know, I’m sorry.”