Christmas greetings to anyone reading this post, which I’ve published late enough in the UK for it to be read mainly by folks on Christmas Day.
None of this seemed to placate Helen. She said that she liked Susie as a person, but seemed to think that we came across as too close to be ‘just’ colleagues. She told me that I could do as I liked, but that I shouldn’t take her for a fool. She said she’d decided to go to her Mum’s to calm down – and that she might be late. Paul came downstairs once Helen had gone out. He had heard some of what we’d been talking about and accused me of upsetting his Mum. It took me some time to console him. I wondered if I should withdraw from the project. My relationship with Helens was too precious to jeopardise for the sake of an idea which was still at the embryo stage.
Helen hadn’t returned by the time I went to bed. I noticed that she wasn’t in bed with me when I woke up and, when I went downstairs to our Living Room, I could see that she’d slept on the sofa. She was having her breakfast in the Dining Room. I remarked that I’d gone to bed because she’d been so late and had wondered why she’d not joined me upstairs. Her face was serious. She said that she had something she needed to tell me. I sat opposite her and said, “Okay. Fire away.”
From what she told me, she had been to see her Mum as she had told me, but the reason she’d gone was to tell her Mum that she’d be leaving me and moving in with one of the customers who always used her checkout. She’d asked her Mum to continue to collect Paul from school as she’d be taking him with her. Before she’d gone to her Mum’s she’d phoned the guy she intended to shack-up with, to let him know what she’d arranged. Apparently she’d been out with him several times – most recently when she’d been supposed to be working late.
I was lost for words. I accused her of hypocrisy. It had only been the previous day that she’d been making snide remarks about me fancying Susie – remarks that had no foundation. She answered that it was clear that Susie fancied me and that I’d be free now to do as I wished. She continued, saying that she’d already transferred ‘her’ half of our joint account to a personal account that she’d set up. She wasn’t prepared to risk me wasting it on the half-brained scheme she’d heard us discussing. Finally, she’d be seeking a divorce and I could expect to hear from a solicitor as soon as she could arrange it. Just to cap all that she added that I shouldn’t be surprised by her actions because, to her mind, I’d turned into, “a boring old fart – old before my time.”
She stood, having finished her breakfast, saying that she was going upstairs to pack some things and to take Paul with her. She’d be seeking sole custody and would be registering with the Child Support people for me to pay towards Paul’s upkeep. She’d be returning only to collect the remainder of her things and warned me not to try to stop her.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It had only been a couple of nights since we’d been making love together; celebrating Christmas together; discussing presents and holiday plans together. I just sat at the table dazed. I couldn’t think what to say to her tirade, which had seemed to come out of nowhere. I saw no point in trying to stop her. I was sorry if she felt that continuing her life with me would be intolerable: I just wished that she’d said something earlier – in time that we, or I, could have changed how things were between us. On the other hand, I wouldn’t wish her to remain if she were so unhappy – and, if she wanted to live with someone else, I certainly didn’t want to stand in her way.
My mind kept flipping moods – anger, disbelief, hurt. Who was this other man? What did he have that I didn’t? Was it looks, money, charm, sex-appeal? How would I manage without her? Why was she doing this without warning or giving me any opportunity to change her mind?
I was still trying to process implications. I didn’t see that she could stop me from seeing Paul. I hadn’t behaved so badly as to be kept from spending time with him. The rush with which she’d grabbed fifty percent of our joint account also stunned me. ‘She’d known that I’d probably be made redundant and that I’d probably be getting a large lump sum. Had she been planning this for weeks – not leaving until the money was in the bank? I suppose that there’s nothing I could do about it. Being logical for a moment – it wasn’t easy – it was called a joint account so that either of us could withdraw funds from it. Perhaps I should be grateful that she hadn’t taken the entire contents’. I realised that I’d have to set up a personal account too, and transfer the balance to it from the joint account – except that I suddenly remembered that all our regular direct debits were charged to the joint account. I’d have to get them transferred too – that would take some time. I’d probably need to set up an appointment with the bank – and to do it before I started my new job. ‘God! What a mess!’ I thought. I’d need to see a solicitor of my own too.
I couldn’t face breakfast, I was too upset – what with shock, sadness, hurt feelings, guilt that I’d become boring, worry about being told when, where and for how long I’d have access to Paul. Then there was a degree of anger – Helen’s deceitfulness, manipulation, adultery and double standards. Her pre-emptive strike on our finances kept coming back to me. I’d heard before, from friends who’d been divorced, just how vicious things could get. I’d got my head around the joint account withdrawal – but now I had to start thinking about the house, my pension fund, child support and custody negotiations. I started to wonder if I should withdraw from my acceptance of the new job. If I were unemployed, Helen could still get her fifty percent, but fifty percent of bugger-all is bugger-all – and she might have to start paying me. I could then fight more easily for joint – or even sole custody – with time on my hands – and she wouldn’t be able to get me kicked out of the house, because I’d need it to look after Paul for the next thirteen years.
Even as I sat there, lost in thought, I heard Helen and Paul coming downstairs. I was relieved that at least Paul would be having his breakfast with me before he left. He didn’t seem aware that anything was different, so I assumed that she hadn’t told him yet. I thought that it would be better if that news came from her. I could hear the sounds of her making trips between the bedroom and the car, presumably to load it up with as many things as she could. ‘Where would she be drawing the fifty percent mark with regard to our belongings?’ I wondered.
I tried to be as normal as possible, chatting to Paul as he ate. He was dressed ready for school. He just chatted normally about things that he’d been doing on his Playstation. Before long, Helen came in to ask him to get his coat on. She was carrying his school bag. I asked her whether his lunch and water were inside. If looks could kill, it would have been too late for me to call for an ambulance. Her, “Yes, of course it is,” was hissed at me.
I lifted Paul up and kissed him.
“Have a good day at school, chubby chops,” I said.
“Love you, Daddy,” was his reply as he ran to his Mum to put on his coat.
Seconds later, the door had slammed behind Helen as she took Paul to the car. No kiss. No words of, ‘Goodbye love,’ or, ‘See you later,’ today. I returned to the kitchen and made myself a drink. It looked as if I’d have a busy day ahead of me.
Today, being Christmas Day, I interrupt my series of Christmassy shots in black and white with a few seasonal full colour shots. My main Featured Photo today was taken of an illuminated Christmas tree outside the John Lewis store Liverpool One. The other two are of an illuminated reindeer, taken as I walked towards the John Lewis store from he Royal Albert Dock; the second of a bar at the Christmas continental market on St George’s Plateau opposite Lime Street Station, Liverpool. I’ll resume the black and white shots tomorrow.
The EXIF Data for the featured photo are as follows: Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera with a 35 mm mm f/2 lens at 35 mm and f/2 The shutter speed was 1/100 secs and the ISO was 250. The camera was handheld and the post-processing was in Lightroom. The reindeer was shot with the same camera and lens at f/4, 1/250 secs and ISO 1600. The bar was photographed a year earlier with my Pentax K50 and a 35mm f/2.4 lens at f/6.3 1/40 secs and ISO 800.