She asked about things such as how long we’d been married; what had gone wrong; whether I thought we’d ever get back together; did I miss Helen very much? – and then about my dealings with my solicitor to date. I told her how mixed-up I’d been but that I didn’t miss her now as much as I might have done had she not been so manipulative. I didn’t like the feeling of emptiness in the house and I missed seeing Paul as much, but I couldn’t honestly say that I still missed her. It was true. I had slowly adjusted to this new reality. If being with me was such a drag, then why shouldn’t she be free to move on so as to be happier. The idea of marriage, I felt now, was an ideal, and should be for life to those who found their fulfilment through it. But surely it shouldn’t be a prison for those less happy. And I certainly wouldn’t want her back in my life – not now. If she could betray me once like that, there would always be the suspicion that she could do it again
“You’re not big on forgiveness then?” she asked.
“I can forgive her,” I said, “and now that I’ve read your email, I can see that staying bitter is likely to hurt me – not her. I see now that I wasn’t as attentive as I should have been, otherwise I might have seen that she was unhappy. I can’t, however – could never – forget what she did or how she did it.”
Susie was very sympathetic and told me more about her split.
From what I gathered, it had been a while coming. Susie had wanted to try IVF and had even considered adoption, but her husband, his name was Mike, had wanted children ‘of his own’, meaning ‘his biologically’. He’d argued that the people they’d spoken to about IVF hadn’t sounded hopeful in her case. It was true that they hadn’t offered much encouragement, but they hadn’t ruled out a positive outcome absolutely. When he’d factored in her age, the poor prognosis, cost and possible timescale, he’d just decided that he wouldn’t be happy in a childless marriage. At first they’d had a trial separation, but then he’d met a younger woman and had left to set up house with her.
Susie had been heartbroken for a while – as much by the knowledge of probably being ‘barren’ in the Biblical sense – as by him leaving. It had taken her a while to get over it.
She’d already given me some advice about legal matters when I’d driven her home after the meeting at Tony’s house, but now she talked me through the various stages in a lot more detail than even my solicitor had, and she offered suggestions about the sorts of things that could complicate matters and add both to costs and frustration. I was really glad that we’d had that talk, but I was a bit shocked by some of the potential implications.
I thanked her for her help and asked did she still want to continue talking through our common inputs to website development. She agreed but rose to take the cups and plates into the kitchen first. I went with her: I washed and she dried the dishes. She laughed at how domesticated I was. I commented on how nice she had made her house look. I admired the watercolour paintings of flowers on her walls. She told me that they were all ones that she’d painted. She talked me through what she’d done with some of them. I complimented her on her skill. I noticed that there weren’t any personal photographs about on display but thought it better not to pry. I did see a couple of Valentine’s cards and I never mentioned those either. Valentine’s Day would have been the Sunday just gone.
We sat at her dining table to do what I’d come to work on with her. She opened her laptop and showed me her personal website and blog. She said that she regularly blogged copies of her paintings, in each case together with an account of how she’d approached the painting. She was absorbed as she showed me some examples of her work. She didn’t post the images as being for sale – merely to showcase her work to family and friends who followed her blog. I said to her that, having seen what she’d built as a personal website, I had every confidence that we could really achieve something together.
We had a productive morning as we worked towards developing a prototype site for discussion with the group. I went through with her my thoughts about promoting what we were aiming for. She did all the work in draft because we’d need to get agreement anyway to her proposals for web-hosting. We looked at some of the logos that were being used by existing sites that were doing similar things to what we were considering. Susie showed me how she could incorporate the facilities that had been discussed at the last meeting: things like payment facilities, email and contact details. Her face was animated and her hands expressive as she showed me the various plugins to accomplish backup, antispam and for optimising the visibility of our site. I told her how impressed I was with what she could do. She warned me though that doing what we wanted commercially would require a lot more security.
We hadn’t spent all day at her home. We’d been out at lunchtime to a local delicatessen that offered sit-in facilities for meals. It was only a small place and its tiled floor, part-tiled walls and large window meant that the clattering of cutlery and crockery was greatly magnified and rather unpleasant. We both chose salads which were nicely presented and tasty. Even over lunch, we continued talking about the project and we were both really enthused. It hadn’t all been as serious as it sounds. We’d both had a laugh as we talked. She was a pleasure to work with.
When it got to four in the afternoon, and we called it a day, the time had seemed to go nowhere. Before I left, Susie told me not to worry so much and to try to relax. She was going to be have a night-out in Manchester with some girls she knew from Parkrun – all divorcees. She was looking forward to it because they always had a good laugh about their experiences on dating sites. I considered what my night-in was going to be like. I’d probably watch a film if I could find a suitable one to stream.
Today my featured photos leave London. This photo is one that I took in May 2016 at the island of Staffa in Scotland. The subject is the columns
The Exif data are as follows: Pentax K50 16 MM cropped sensor camera with the kit lens (18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6) @ 21.25 mm and f/16. Shutter speed was 1/250 secs @ f/16 and the ISO 200. The shot was handheld and post processed in Lightroom Classic.