Now that we were in a relationship, we needed to regularly set time aside to be together. Eadmund was clear that for the relationship to work out, we couldn’t just seize the moment the way we had been doing. We would have specific nights to spend together. Conscious that he had much more experience at managing relationships (secret ones too) than me, I was happy to go along with whatever he suggested.
‘I don’t just want to be in a pub or restaurant with you either,’ he carried on, ‘We need to be alone together.’
But where? He didn’t want to be at his house with his children. He felt they had enough to deal with that their mum had a boyfriend. He didn’t want to spring on them that Dad also had a girlfriend. They were scared that their parents would divorce as it was. Obviously we couldn’t be together at my house either. Jack would be there.
Eadmund had an idea. The building he rented for the shop in South London came with 2 floors upstairs that Jacob had used as a flat when he separated from his wife. Things had now moved on, however. He had a new girlfriend and as the flat above the shop had been warehouse cool and atmospheric but a bit basic, they were living in her flat at the moment while they got some cash together to make the shop flat more easily inhabitable. It was empty. I wouldn’t have dared ask Jacob something like that but Eadmund reassured me that he and Jacob knew each other well enough that he could ask the favour. Jacob agreed.
I told Jack that I had agreed to work late on certain days and wouldn’t be home to eat. Eadmund and I met up after work, went up to Jacob’s flat, ate a picnic meal, made love and lay for hours in bed together talking, touching, kissing and inevitably making love again. At the end of the evening, he drove me home, parked a couple of blocks away from my house so it would look like I was walking home from the bus stop and with one last kiss, we’d say good night. I would go home and get into bed with my fiancé. Often, in the interests of fairness, I felt I ought to make love to him too. The contrast between the two broke my heart.
Jack loved snowboarding. He had discovered a passion for it a few years ago and every year he went to the Alps for a couple of weeks break to snowboard to his heart’s content. I had tried it. He won a week’s snowboarding holiday in a magazine competition. I got to learn to snowboard a little in a lovely Swiss village called Scuol which also had an amazing spa. I loved the village, I loved the mountains but I hated snowboarding. So Jack’s snowboarding holidays were alone time for him. He liked that too. Most years could only afford to holiday in France or Switzerland. This year he had saved up and was going to Lake Tahoe. He was also going to be away for an extra week as it was a special trip.
Eadmund had recently got in touch with a branch of his family in Uruguay where his father had been born. His father had been sent to school in Edinburgh but then war broke out and his aunt stayed in Uruguay. As a result, she had married a local farmer and stayed in South America whereas Eadmund’s father became a surgeon, met his mother and moved to Hong Kong. Eadmund’s big sister had arranged a three week trip to Uruguay to visit their cousins.
From being very busy balancing two men in my life, all of a sudden I had three weeks alone. I didn’t know what to do with myself, it was so long since I’d had time by myself. I thought I would miss both of them, but I didn’t. I just missed Eadmund.
We emailed and I got in to work early so that with the time difference, we could speak on the phone privately. His holiday had a big emotional impact, reconnecting with family he had never seen. With each new discovery of his family and each crazy coincidence that resonated with his life (his Uruguay family were dairy farmers and he had never realised this before), he wanted to talk to me about how it made him feel.
Jack didn’t ring me from his holiday. This was pretty normal behaviour for us.
When both men were back in the UK, I felt that something had changed. I had realised that I didn’t care enough about Jack. Especially not for someone who was planning to get married to him.
‘You can always separate to get some space and perspective,’ Eadmund said when I had admitted my misgivings, ‘It doesn’t have to mean you’re splitting up permanently. Relationships are what you make of them. There aren’t rules.’
That idea comforted me. We could separate without it being the end. But by now we’d started planning the wedding. The momentary sense of freedom I felt disappeared. The walls started closing in again. I couldn’t leave Jack now. My parents had spent money on marquees. We’d ordered material to make a dress. I had never understood how people could get so caught up in wedding planning that they went ahead with a loveless marriage. All of a sudden, I did. The event gains a momentum of its own. My mother and I went shopping for dresses. I tried on a whole range of styles in white and ivory. I opened the curtains to my changing cubicle for her to look and give an opinion.
Her eyes filled up with tears. She looked so happy and proud.
I couldn’t let her down. I couldn’t let everyone down. I would just have to marry him. Even if I didn’t love him. I couldn’t disappoint them all.
One night as Eadmund and I lay in bed together, breathing in each other’s scent and luxuriating in tingle of electricity we experienced when our bodies touched skin to skin, my newly acquired mobile phone rang. I had turned it off earlier that evening so we could have time to ourselves and only just switched it back on again.
With a shock I realised that I had multiple missed calls from my mother and from Jack. I answered the phone,
‘Where have you been? We’ve been calling all evening.’ My mother’s voice was worried.
‘In the pub,’ I lied, ‘Sorry, it was noisy and I didn’t hear the phone. I’ve just gone outside.’
‘It’s very quiet,’ she sounded utterly unconvinced by my story, ‘Are you really outside a pub? Your voice sounds strained. Are you lying?’
‘No, no! It is surprisingly quiet but I am outside the pub. What’s happened?’
My sister was in her final year of university. She had been doing final exams. A paper she should have found easy and expected to get good marks on had gone extremely badly. Her watch had stopped. She thought she had plenty of time left for her final essay when in fact she only had twenty minutes. All the stress and exhaustion of revision and exams combined and, though she had made it to the end of the paper, she left the building in tears.
She’d rung my home and I wasn’t there. She rang my mum and wept on the phone to her. My mum had been trying to get hold of me so I could meet her and look after her. Jack had been ringing me for the same reason. My sister almost never got upset. She was resourceful, sensible, practical and nearly always sunny. The one time she really needed me to make her feel better, I had been in bed, with a married man, cheating on my fiancé. I felt like the lowest of the low.
I had to repeat the same lie to Jack who had by then become worried that I was in trouble and that was why I didn’t answer the phone. I managed to convince him but I felt like a murderer. Coupled with the growing realisation that I no longer loved him, the guilt spurred me on to make a decision. I couldn’t do this anymore.
Two days later, in spite of the wedding, the money, the disappointment to friends and family, I split up with him.