It would have been nice if Paul had run from the car, excited to see me, but he turned to wave goodbye to Helen and Cliff before walking to me, past my five years old secondhand Ford Focus, down my driveway, and looking at the bag of stuff he was bringing with him. The car drove away: no one waved to me, ‘Mr Cellophane Man’ as the song from the film ‘Chicago’ goes.
As Paul arrived in front of me, he looked up, passed me his bag and said, “Hi Daddy, can I play on my iPad in my room?”
I was obviously history already: yesterday’s dad.
I thought about the shiny new BMW as I looked at the muck on my car from the grit and dirt that had been thrown up as I drove when we’d had the snow and ice. I mentally pencilled in a visit to the car wash.
Making progress with Susie
Sunday with Paul hadn’t been a total disaster. With promises of toyshops, he’d accompanied me to the Trafford Centre to allow me to spend a small fortune on him. The scale of the place always amazed me – the length of the concourse, the number and variety of the shops, the number of eating places, the central fountain, and of course the volume of noise from the hundreds if not thousands of shoppers. The eating area was magnificent and had every kind of food that Paul loved.
During the day, I learned a little more about Pauls’ life in his new home. He was clearly awestruck by Cliff’s being a policeman and a detective at that. He told me that he liked Cliff’s daughter – her name was Tanya he told me – and that it was great having someone his age in the house to play with. They were great friends already and he asked me if he could bring her next time. I said that Tanya’s daddy might not like her visiting a stranger. He said that he would ask him.
Afterwards, back home, when it was getting towards his time to leave again, of course, he wanted to take his new things with him, to his new home. It hadn’t dawned on me before, but that was the new reality. They were his things, whatever my intentions had been, and it was up to him where he kept them. I’d had to carry them to the car because there was too much for him to carry along with his bag: I’d also had to pass them to Cliff to store in his car boot. In the circumstances we had little choice but to speak to each other.
“Hi,” he said, “I’m Cliff Edwards. You must be Paddy. It looks as if you’ve had a busy day.”
We shook hands – as men often do even in these strange circumstances. It was my fault that he’d been able to persuade her to commit to adultery.
There hadn’t been much to say to that – and I couldn’t trust myself to say what I was feeling. I noticed that Helen had turned to look at me – presumably to see my reaction at meeting Cliff. She waved, but she didn’t smile.
‘What the Hell is wrong with her.’I thought, ‘It isn’t me who’s committed adultery and deserted their spouse?’
That had been yesterday. I’d left the house looking forward to spending some time with Susie, if for no other reason than to take my mind off my weekend. Some chance! I’d no sooner got inside than she asked how my weekend had gone. It only occurred to me on the way to her house that it was very trusting of her to suggest meeting a man, whom she hardly knew, alone with her in her home. I felt honoured. I parked by the kerb just further along from her driveway entrance. I wondered if she kept her own car in her garage – safely off-road for the duration of the driving ban.
“Hi Susie,” I replied, “Thanks for asking, but don’t ask.”
She laughed. “As bad as that was it?” and took my coat. I admired her house and its location and told her that she looked nice – which she did. She was wearing a long-sleeved, lovat green V-neck pullover that complemented her red hair beautifully and brought out the green of her eyes.
We went into her living room while I put my briefcase and laptop down.
I asked about her weekend. She told me about the 5k Parkrun she’d done on the Saturday – her best time to date. She asked me had I ever tried it. I told her that I still managed to get out on the bike now and then, but I hadn’t done any running since cross-country periods at school. She asked was I usually busy on Saturdays and, when I said that I wasn’t, she urged me to give it a try. She asked me did I prefer tea or coffee. I told her tea with milk and one sugar – unless she had any sweeteners. She raised an eyebrow and looked at me.
I said that Helen had got me into using them instead of the three sugars I used to take. She went into her kitchen and I followed her. There was a delicious smell of baking. When I commented she explained that she’d been making some scones and invited me to try one. How could I refuse? Her kitchen was small but well laid out and equipped. I admired the white wall tiles that were set out in a kind of herringbone fashion. She had one of these glossy granite or granite effect worktops that contrasted nicely with the tiles. I passed my hand across to assess its cool smoothness. My worktops had seen better days.
While she made us our drinks, I asked whether any special clothing was needed for the run. She informed me that people turned up in all types of outfits from designer shorts, tops and trainers to jeans, tee-shirts and street shoes. Some people came in the clothing that the organisers sold towards funding the activity; yet others wore clothing advertising a charity or just with funny slogans. She said that some older people – she looked at me and laughed – didn’t run anyway: they just walked round the course for the exercise. Apparently there were usually crowds of people taking part – all shapes and sizes – mostly regulars, and there was a great spirit of camaraderie amongst them. She told me where she went to do it and invited me to join her. My face had obviously revealed my doubts.
She called me, ‘chicken’, and said that I could always just walk for 3k instead of 5k – she’d probably have completed her run by the time I finished and she’d wait for me at the Finish point. I gave in and told her I didn’t think that I was a total nursing-home case – yet – and I’d give it a go.
We returned to her living room, which was furnished with modern but comfortable furniture. From outside I could hear occasional passing traffic.
I complimented her on the taste of her scones, which were light and delicious. While I was drinking my tea – she did have some sweeteners – she asked me what had been so bad about my weekend.
I described how things had gone and she sympathised. I thanked her for her email. She asked where the divorce proceedings were up to. I explained and she asked if I’d mind her giving me some advice.
“I really don’t want you to feel that I’m interfering,” she said, “ but it’s not long since my divorce became final – and I have friends who have also been through it.”
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.
Today my featured photos leave London. This photo is one that I took in May 2016 near Falkirk in Scotland. The subject is the Kelpies sculptures
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) @ 42.5 mm and f/16. Shutter speed was 1/125 secs @ f/16 and the ISO 100. The shot was handheld and post processed in Lightroom Classic.