Monthly Archives: March 2019

I know him. And his silence is an indication of guilt.

I spend a sleepless night beating myself up for being such an idiot. Then I lean over and pick up my grandmother's necklace.

And that fire in my belly ignites. How dare he not return any of my calls? Or respond to my messages? He has left me with only one option.

The alarm goes off. And I climb (bleary eyed) out of bed. I feel very lightheaded. Then I realise that I haven’t eaten since yesterday morning; anger is a great appetite suppressant. I try (unsuccessfully) to force some toast down my throat.

Then I drop Mia off. And go to the school office to let them know about the head lice; that way they can get the standard letter out; there has been a case of head lice reported in your child’s class, please check your child’s hair. But there are too many members of the Mummy Mafia around. And I don’t want Mia’s anonymity to be compromised. So I hang back.

It doesn’t take them long to spot me and start whispering. Then the one who saw the (bumper) packs of condoms in my trolley asks me if I had a nice weekend. The others predictably dissolve into childish giggles.

I tell her it was wonderful. And that I had lots of sex. Then I add "I'm very tired now though, far too tired to be standing around gossiping. Do you know what? You should try it.” That wipes the smug look off her face.

Then I add “In fact, you should all try it”. Their expressions tell me that I may have hit a nerve (or two). I smile sweetly as I walk past them.

Then I head straight to Mark’s offices. I have a quick look in the car park to make sure I have my facts right.

His new sports car is easy to spot; the personalised number plates are a bit of a give-away. And it must have cost at least four years worth of mortgage payments.

I take several deep breaths before I walk inside. The reception desk is at the front of a large open plan office. The receptionist is very pretty and blonde. I ask her if she used to be a model. She smiles and proudly tells me that she was a catalogue model for three years. That clears up the confusion. Our mutual friend had the wrong receptionist.

Then Jade appears. And she doesn’t look too pleased to see me. I speak to the pretty one “I’m here to see Mark”.

Jade practically knocks her out of the way before asking me in her snootiest receptionists voice “May I ask what it’s regarding?” I respond with “No. You may not”.

She tells me he is in a meeting. Both her tone and manner imply that I have just crawled out from under her shoe. I tell her I’ll wait. Then I remind her that she is a receptionist. And suggest that she loses the attitude.

She responds by waving her left hand in my face “I’m also Mark’s fiancé”. Fiancé? Do people really still use that word?

Then my eyes involuntarily fall to her round tummy. She notices. And starts shouting at me “No, I’m not bloody pregnant. I don’t want children yet, I’m only twenty-fucking-seven!”

I’m shocked. She looks a lot older. Poor girl must have had a hard life. And her posh accent appears to have slipped into an Essex twang.

People are starting to peer over their computers. I tell her that she isn’t being very professional.

Then I notice a moustached man who looks very familiar. I know I have seen him recently. But I just can’t place him. He notices me staring at him. And promptly adjusts his computer screen to block my view.

He clearly doesn’t want to be seen. That immediately makes me suspicious. So I start to walk towards his desk. Then I remember him. He’s the strange little man from the bank that came to value the house; the one that told me Mark had defaulted on the mortgage.

Everything is starting to fall into place. And I am absolutely furious. Mark tricked me into agreeing to put the house on the market by making me believe it was in danger of being repossessed. I took it all at face value because it never occurred to me that he could be so deceitful.

He takes a quick peek at me from behind his computer. Then gets up and quickly starts walking off in the opposite direction. I follow him until he disappears into the men’s toilets. I hesitate for a moment. Then I go in. I have to get to the bottom of this.

There is a (startled looking) man at the urinal. But I can’t see Moustachio anywhere.

He must have locked himself inside one of the cubicles. I get on my knees. And check under the doors until I see a pair of feet. Then I bang on the door “You’re going to have to come out sooner or later”. He doesn’t respond. I bang harder. “I know who you are and I’ll stay here all day if I have to”.

He says he’ll come out. I stand back to let him open the door. He appears to be very nervous and agitated “What do you want? Who are you?”

Oh dear. Now that I see him close up, I realise that it isn’t the same man at all (although in my defence he is short and has a moustache). I tell him I made a mistake. But that doesn’t explain why he hid behind his computer. He tells me that he doesn’t like being stared at. Fair enough. I apologise. Then walk out as casually as I can.

I go back to reception with as much dignity as I can muster. And sit behind a large plant so I can squirm with embarrassment in relative privacy.

I finally emerge when I hear Mark’s voice. We have to walk past Moustachio to get to his office. I keep my gaze fixed straight ahead.

Jade is right behind us. I tell her that I would rather speak to her fiancé alone. But she follows us into his office anyway.

I ask him why he told Mia to lie to me about his new car. He denies it. Then I ask him why he parked said new car out of sight when he dropped her off.

He opens his mouth to speak but Jade gets there before him “He didn’t want you to see it because then you’d ask him for more money and you already take advantage of his good nature as it is”.

He asks her to leave. She is clearly a liability; so I say I am happy for her to stay. But he opens the door. And sends her out. He avoids my gaze “Is that what you told her?” At least he has the decency to look ashamed of himself.

I took nothing when I left him.

I had given up a lucrative career to care for our daughter; that alone would have allowed me to take him to the cleaners. I knew my legal entitlements very well. But I had no moral claim on a company that he had built from scratch.

And the fact that he increasingly valued money and material possessions above all else was one of the reasons I had left him. So I took a very principled stance.

I also knew that he would have had a breakdown if I had taken any of his precious money. That would have rendered him incapable of being a father to Mia; that in turn would have left her struggling to deal with his rejection and abandonment.

Then she would have carried those issues into every relationship she had with a man. Yes. I know. I overthink (a lot).

So I had told him that the only thing I wanted from him was to be a father to Mia. I didn’t even ask for maintenance. And he didn’t offer it. It was only when I ran out of money that I asked him to pay the mortgage.

I ask him to explain how he can afford a new car when he can’t afford the mortgage payments. He remains silent.

He is clearly going through some kind of mid-life crisis (sports car). And his judgement is seriously impaired (Jade).

But I will not be taken for a fool. I am an intelligent woman. And my pride needs to remind him of that fact.

I tell him that I am perfectly within my rights to instruct a lawyer. He would then have to give full disclosure of all his assets. And he would be forced to make maintenance payments to me accordingly “I have a feeling that would amount to more than the mortgage payments”.

The colour drains out of his face. And any residue guilt I felt for leaving him evaporates.

I open the door to leave. Then turn back to put him out of his misery “But I’m not going to do that because my values are very different from yours. I’m going to leave it between you and your conscience, assuming you still have one”.

I stop at reception and take a bottle of head lice treatment out of my bag. I hand it to Jade “There’s enough there for both of you”.

I walk out with a little spring in my step. Then realise that I’m absolutely starving!

My hips are bruised. My legs ache. My feet are deformed by blisters. My hair is frizzy. And I stink.

But I’ve done it; I have completed the Tour du Mont Blanc!

Admittedly I had no idea of the scale of what I was undertaking when I agreed to do it. In fact, I didn’t even realise that I had agreed to do it;

“Shall we go away together this summer? Or do you already have plans for the two weeks that Mia is away?”

I quickly calculate the months in my head April, May, June, July, August. He’s talking five months ahead! I (casually) tell him I hadn’t made any plans yet. And that I’m open to suggestions.

Unfortunately the fireworks going off in my head are quite loud and drown out half of what he’s saying. I manage to catch the tail end of it “.......so what do you think about Mont Blanc?”

I think snow, log cabin, open fire, us naked on rug in front of open fire in log cabin with snow (falling outside) ....."Yes!"

Then he (inexplicably) starts talking about how we should do some weekend hikes to prepare. And that I’m going to have to travel light because my backpack shouldn’t weigh more than one fifth of my body weight.

“Obviously I’ll carry the tent and poles but you’ll need to carry the sleeping bags”.

Excuse me?

I’m still trying to work out why we need a tent when he starts listing what I need to take; two pairs of shorts, two t-shirts, two pairs of knickers, two pairs of hiking socks and two sports bras.

“The trek should take eleven days but if we do a few ten hour days we can do it in eight”. Trek? Is that what I just agreed to?

I have to put him straight “Jake...” He interrupts me with “It’s so nice to have a girlfriend who wants to do these things with me”.

Then he gives me a big hug. “I’m sorry sweetheart, I interrupted you. What were you going to say?”

.“I was going to say that...” I hesitate. He looks so happy. “...I can’t wear the same knickers four days in a row- it’s very unhygienic”.

He laughs affectionately. Apparently you wash one set of clothes every night. At the campsite. Bollocks. I’d forgotten about the camping.

My chest is starting to feel tight. I can’t do it.

Jake's timing continues to be (annoyingly) impeccable “I’m really impressed that you’re willing to step so far outside your comfort zone”.

I force a smile “Oh, I’m always looking for new ways to challenge myself”.

I’ve only slept in a tent once before. Perhaps it won’t be as bad the second time. Maybe it’s just something that you get used to.

“We won’t have to camp every night”. Thank fuck for that. “We can stay in refuges”. Refuges? As in huts?

He goes into an elaborate explanation but basically they are huts. I try to be positive; at least a hut will be safer than a tent.

Then he mentions that you sleep in dorms. Dorms? With other people? I draw the line at that.

I explain that I do not sleep in rooms with people I do not know. You are at your most vulnerable when you’re sleeping. It is an experience I can only share with those I know, love and trust.

He asks me what I think will happen “I don’t know. They may try and molest me, what if I wake up and some freak is wanking over my feet? Or some psycho slits my throat because I remind him of his ex who cheated on him with his brother!”

It occurs to me that watching Jerry Springer whilst on the treadmill every morning has warped my perception of people somewhat.

So I laugh (hysterically) to show him that I’m only joking “No, seriously, what if they snore or talk in their sleep?”

Jake suggests ear plugs. I respond without thinking “But then I won’t hear the psycho perverts creeping up on me will I?”

I laugh hysterically again “No, seriously, ear plugs are a good idea”.

I’ll just have to take caffeine pills and stay awake all night.

He smiles uncertainly then suggests we go shopping. I cheer up until I realise we’re going shopping for “proper hiking clothes”.

Jake buys me the perfect pair of Rab black shorts which I team with a tight fitting black Rab t-shirt and a (surprisingly) stylish fitted red Marmot jacket.

The ugly brown hiking boots don’t quite work but I still look pretty chic (in a professional hiker kind of way).

I put the clothes away and forget all about it (or enter a state of sub-conscious denial) until I find myself meeting Jake at Geneva airport (he has been mountaineering in the Alps for a month).

It’s a wonderfully romantic reunion. He picks me up and swings me around, our lips locked together.

Then he asks me if I’ve done any preparation for our trek. Of course I have; I’ve had a manicure and pedicure as well being waxed in every conceivable area to within an inch of my life.

But I realise that isn’t the sort of preparation he is referring to so I mumble something about ‘hill walking’ before suggesting we get to our hotel as soon as possible (we’d agreed that a nice comfortable bed was a good idea after a month apart).

We set off from Chamonix the next morning and the first hour or so on flat ground is lovely. But then we start the ascent. And my (11kg) backpack starts to feel pretty heavy.

The weight is designed to balance on the hips so that it takes the pressure off your back. It works. My back is fine. But my hips feel red raw.

I want to scream. But I can’t. It’s too soon to start whining about how bloody hard this is. Especially as he told me that today was going to be an “easy day”.

I grit my teeth, walk through the pain and try to ignore the incessant voice in my head “What the fuck were you thinking?” “You cannot do another seven days of this” and occasionally, “Hmmm...his bum looks very pert”.

He notices that I’m limping. My beautifully pedicured feet are covered in big nasty lumps. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Jake is obviously concerned too because he immediately takes his first aid kit out. He wraps the offending toes in cotton wool, puts plasters over the top and tells me that I’m good to go.

“Ok. Is the hospital close by?”

He studies my face “Are you serious?” I’m getting a bit annoyed. “Yes! You saw those things on my feet”.

Jake bursts out laughing. I find his lack of sympathy shocking. “They’re blisters! You’ll get them the first few days because your feet are so soft. Have you never had blisters before?”

Obviously not; otherwise I wouldn't have embarrassed myself by suggesting they needed urgent medical attention.I bravely pull my backpack on “Let’s go”.

Every step is agony.

We finally get to the campsite just as it’s starting to get dark. I take the backpack off and my legs instantly turn to jelly.

It’s the strangest sensation; I’m walking but I have absolutely no control over my legs.

I do a very convincing impression of a thunderbird before I fall over. I land on something big and lumpy. It starts screaming. I freak out and scream back.

Then a man’s head appears through the tent flap. He isn’t happy about me falling on their tent and scaring the shit out of his wife. I’m not too chuffed about it either to be honest.

I watch Jake as he sets up our tent. And I decide that I must really love him to put myself through this.

But can our relationship survive the next seven days?

Shit. Shit. Shit.

This is the first time I’ve been caught out like this. And it happened because I was too bloody busy ‘living in the moment’ to remember to set the alarm.

I jump out of bed. And stumble around looking for my clothes. Then I have a (very vivid) flashback to being naked with Jake in the living room. This distracts me momentarily.

Then the doorbell rings again. How can it be time for Mia to come home already? I feel like I only just fell asleep; which is entirely feasible given that we were up for most of the night.

I run to the living room and quickly get dressed. Then I run back to the bedroom and throw Jakes’ clothes at him. I really have to stop running. My body aches from over exertion.

I shake him awake “Get dressed. Do not make a sound. And do not leave this room”. He looks (understandably) confused in his half-asleep stupor.

I open the door. Mia throws herself at me “Happy Birthday Mummy!” She doesn’t notice my dishevelled appearance. But Mark does. My crazy hair and flushed cheeks must scream “I’ve been having sex all night!”

Mia dances around me singing ‘Happy Birthday’ at the top of her voice. I assume Mark wants to discuss something; he normally stays in the car. I wait for him to speak. But all he says is “Your top is inside out”.

Then he kisses Mia goodbye and walks off. I can’t see his car anywhere. He disappears around the corner. There is something odd about his behaviour but I don’t have time to analyse it. I have to get Jake out of the house without Mia seeing him.

I lead her into the living room. And close the door “Wow, it looks like it snowed in here. What happened?” I tell her that I set the bean bag on fire. She doesn’t seem at all surprised.

I put the television on. And turn up the volume; just in case she can hear my heart thumping against my chest. I am a nervous wreck.

Mia hasn’t met anyone I’ve dated; I didn’t want her to form an attachment to someone unless I was sure there was a future in it. She must not see Jake. I give her the television remote. Then tell her that I’m going to prepare a surprise in the kitchen. And she must stay in the living room until I come to get her.

I go into the bedroom. Jake is dressed and sitting on the bed. I apologise. Then explain that I don’t want Mia to meet him. He looks a little put out. So I add “not yet anyway”. I tell him to count to three after I have left. Then leave very quietly.

I go back into the living room “Is the surprise ready?” Bollocks. I had said the first thing that came into my head. “Not yet”. Then I suggest we empty out the rest of the polystyrene balls. And roll around in the ‘snow’. This occupies her long enough for Jake to leave.

I start to relax. Then she throws me off balance by asking why it took me so long to answer the door. My brain is frazzled. I can’t think. “Were you having a big poo?” I readily agree.

Then I spot Jake’s boxers under the sofa. Damn. Not only did I throw him out. I threw him out underwear-less. Perhaps I should just give up on dating altogether. At least until my mother dies and Mia grows up; by which point I’ll probably be rocking incessantly in a chair with a cat on my head mumbling incoherently about the opportunities I missed.

My train of thought is interrupted by the sight of Mia scratching her head. My head has also been feeling a little itchy but I put it down to having the heating on a lot more than usual. Now I’m not so sure. I check her hair.

She has head lice. And so have I.

We rush to the supermarket to buy treatment. Mr Jobsworth recognises me immediately. And starts following us. I’m tempted to open another can of red bull but I want to get these little bloodsucking parasites out of our hair as soon as possible.

We stop at the pharmacy section. He is right behind us. I whisper “Scratch your head” to Mia. And we both start (ferociously) scratching our heads. Then I pick up two bottles of head lice treatment. And Mr Jobsworth practically runs off.

We get home. And sit in the bath with the treatment on our hair waiting for it to work. Then it dawns on me that I may have given Jake head lice.

Today just gets better and better.

I’ve never liked my birthday. It’s always such an anti-climax. I’m not quite sure what I expect; a fireworks display maybe or a ten piece orchestra outside my door. Needless to say, I am always left disappointed.

Admittedly hitting my mid-thirties complete with head lice is a new low altogether.

Then my phone beeps with a message. It’s from Jake 'look on your doorstep - happy birthday xx'.

I open the door to find a bunch of lilies and a gift box full of lychees. I told him last night that they were my favourite fruit. That is so sweet of him. I feel all warm and fuzzy. Then I cringe; how the hell am I going to tell him about the head lice?

The phone rings. I let it go to answer phone. My parents sing ‘Happy Birthday’ in tuneless unison. They do that every year. And it never fails to make me smile. Then my mother says “There is a present in the bag for you from Nene”. Nene? What is she talking about? My Nene (grandmother) died fifteen years ago.

I get the bag out of its hiding place. And rummage around until I find a gift-wrapped box. It’s my grandmother’s necklace; thirty gold sovereigns (with Arabic writing) threaded on to a piece of thick string.

It’s been in the family for generations. And it’s the closest thing we have to a family heirloom. I read the note 'Nene asked me to give you this when I thought you would appreciate its value'.

I’m touched. And a little surprised that she chose me (over my five siblings) to pass it on to.

We clashed a lot; particularly over religion. My grandmother used to sleep with the Koran above her bed. She would take it down every morning and read it again. I asked her why she believed in god when her life had been so shit.

She answered with “If I didn’t have my faith then what would I have?” She believed that this life was a test; that she was being made to suffer in this life so that she could be rewarded in the next. I told her that was crap. There is only one life and this is it. She asked god to forgive me and prayed for my soul.

We were worlds apart but I loved that old lady so much. I wish I could tell her that I’m sorry for mocking her faith. And that the grown up Kitty actually admires her for it. That would have made her happy. Although I would have to add that I still believed all organised forms of religion to be oppressive and had merely shifted from atheist to agnostic.

At that point she would have leaned down for her slipper. And I would have headed for the door. I didn’t always get there in time. My grandmother was the fastest slipper thrower in the west. I still miss her. She had lived with us all my life. That’s one of the things I love about my culture. We look after our old folk.

And we all played a part in looking after my grandmother when she was dying of cancer. It’s incredible how you can live in the same house as someone for years but actually know so little about who they are beyond their designated roles within the family.

I knew she was my grandmother. I knew she loved wrestling (I still have tapes of her swearing when ‘Giant Haystacks’ was stage fighting her favourite ‘Big Daddy’). I knew her husband was a bastard. I knew she loved Laurel and Hardy. And I knew she made a mean olive and tomato salad. But I found out a lot more about her that last weekend we spent together.

She was married at twelve and horribly abused by her husband and his dominant mother for twenty one years until they died within a couple of months of each other. Her first child died at eighteen months. Then she had my mother. And finally, (what every Cypriot man wanted) a son.

It’s the first time I have heard her talk about her son. All I knew about him was that he was mentally and physically disabled. He died in his twenties. I had asked my mother to elaborate once but she just shook her head, pursed her lips and told me never to mention him again.

I gently probe my grandmother. Her face crumbles and her pain is clearly still incredibly raw “I did a terrible thing”. I hold her hand and wait for her to tell me more. He was perfectly normal up until the age of three. He was sitting in the garden when he had some sort of fit, his little arms and legs thrashing wildly. Then he lost consciousness. She tried to rouse him by shaking his little body.

He finally came to but was left paralysed down one side of his body and suffered brain damage. Her husband and mother-in-law told her that she had done that to him when she was shaking him. I tell her that’s not possible. Surely the doctors told her that?

But this happened in Cyprus in 1934. He was never taken to a doctor. And she was made to live with that guilt for the rest of her life. Nothing I say can convince her otherwise. She says that is why she has been made to suffer. That is why she was left paralysed down one side of her body by a stroke. That is why she is dying of cancer.

I finally understand her need to have her faith.

We sit in silence with tears running down our faces. I bury my head in her neck, breathing in her smell as she strokes my hair (I used to sit at her feet for hours when I was little while she did that).

She tilts my head up and looks into my eyes, “You have fire in your belly Kitty. I had that once too. Don’t ever let anybody put that fire out”.

I clutch the necklace tightly as Mia wipes my tears away “No crying on your birthday”.

Then she suggests we go bowling.

On the drive there she says “Daddy’s new car has a TV thing in it. Don’t tell him I told you though ok? He said I wasn’t allowed to tell you about it.”

New car? Why is he buying a new car when he can’t afford the mortgage? And why is he asking Mia not to tell me? Then I remember his odd behaviour earlier. Normally he waits in the car outside the house. He must have parked around the corner because he didn’t want me to see it.

I have an awful sick feeling in the pit of my stomach; have I been taken for a complete fool?