I broke up with Jack, as I wrote before, on a busy Saturday in May with a bustling food market all around us. I vanished from my shop shift and spent the day in our offices, upstairs in a fairly molten state.
After crying all day in the office on my own, I finally made the call to my mum and told her the wedding was off.
‘You’ve been having an affair?’ My mum was angry and disappointed, ‘I did not bring you up to behave like that.’
My dad sounded concerned, gentle, worried. I explained that although I hadn’t said anything, things weren’t right with Jack.
‘I’ve always thought that he didn’t quite have enough of a spark for you,’ he admitted.
I didn’t feel I deserved kindness. It made me start crying all over again.
‘Eadmund feels like home.’ I managed to choke before I couldn’t speak any more.
My friends dropped everything. Nia and Helena, my friends since school, drew lots over who should look after me and who should look after Jack. Helena drew Jack, grabbed her purse and a bottle of wine and headed for the flat I would no longer live in. Nia came with her, grabbed a change of clothes and some things she thought would be important to me and returned home. She arranged for Maelle to meet me at London Bridge Station and stay with me until she could get there. Before I could even ask, they had decided they would take me in.
Eadmund had been spending the day out of London. I had rung him earlier to tell him what I’d done. As soon as he could, he had driven back to see me. Before I went to meet Maelle, he hugged me, took me to the pub and bought me a pint. With masterfully inappropriate timing, as I waited for him to be served at the bar, a CAMRA Real Ale bore complete with dandruff beard, shorts, socks and sandals decided to chat me up. I was way to shell shocked to manage to politely decline his attentions but luckily Eadmund showed up and he got the message. We sat on bar stools and I contemplated my glass, concentrating on it as if my life depended on it.
‘I know you feel terrible right now,’ Eadmund said, touching my arm. I looked up at him. His eyes were shining and soft. In a world full of anger, shock, sadness, disappointment and guilt, he was an oasis of happiness. ‘It will pass. And I may be the only one, but I’m really happy you’re not getting married.’
I learned over the next few days, that most people I worked with, thought I was right to call off the wedding. The cracks in our relationship that I had been blind to were obvious to them. Even more surprising was that my friends outside work agreed too.
‘The thing is, Anne,’ Nia told me, ‘You and Jack are both nice people but you’d started to bring out the worst in each other.’
Even Isla, though she couldn’t be empathetic or sympathetic, said.
‘You did the right thing. If you can be in a relationship with someone else at the same time, you definitely shouldn’t be getting married.’
I was relieved to hear her say it but the contained tone in which she did so was a dagger to my heart. Belated guilt for everything was washing over me in waves; guilt about Jack who was hurt, angry and heart broken; guilt about Isla whose friendship I had brushed aside because I was too preoccupied with Eadmund choosing me over her; guilt about my mother toying with her emotions by giving her the news of our impending wedding with all its celebrations and joys then snatching it away from her again – her happy and proud face in the wedding dress shop haunted me for over ten years afterwards; guilt about my sister who I had abandoned when she needed family.
I really needed a friend who understood why I had fallen for Eadmund, why he had affected me so much and why I loved him so much. Only one person I knew understood that, but I’d hurt her too badly for her to be my friend anymore. I missed her so much it hurt.