There have been a few occasions in my life when I’ve woken up heavy with a crushing sense of remorse and embarrassment. A teenage drinking session when I’d been sick and belatedly realised my Mum would find the evidence. Once in my twenties at a party when I got drunk and kissed a bloke I knew my friend was madly in love with. But this guilt was far worse- partly because I knew it was a watershed in the long, slow march to the end of my marriage.
I’d had a few offers over the years- desultory though they may have been. But I had always been faithful to Richard, fully believed that he had been faithful to me, and was in no way prepared to throw away love, commitment and a shared life for the thrill of a quick bunk-up with another man. Admittedly, I hadn’t exactly bunked up with John- one lengthy kiss (what we used to call 'a snogging session’) was not a full-blown affair complete with illicit messages, flowers or hidden Agent Provocateur boxes. But Richard and I did not have an open marriage, we were not one of those bizarre couples who claim everything goes 'as long as you don’t fall in love’ (who can ever predict?) and there were rules of fidelity, marital vows and tacit assumptions which I had chucked merrily away on the Spanish breeze.
And I knew, lying next to him in the morning light, that I would never have allowed John to kiss me - if I’d believed that Richard and I had a chance of making it work. But I quickly put paid to any idea of confessing, it seemed pointless to hurt him, risk Sarah, John’s wife, finding out, and accelerate the process of a split fuelled by bitterness and fury. I would try, I thought, to see my mistake as a catalyst- the true beginning of the end, and a moment that had woken me up to my true feelings.
My phone pinged with a message. I rolled over and saw that it was a text from John - I could hear him in the kitchen, and like some tortuous metaphor, I could even smell the coffee he was making. I always kept my phone switched on because of Tilda, my daughter, away at University. If I switched it off, I dreaded waking to 15 'call the hospital immediately’ messages.
But now, I wished to God I’d left it on silent. “Who’s that?’ said Richard, half-asleep. I should have calmly said 'spam’, and clicked it off. But, frantic with curiosity and guilt, I opened the message.
“Been awake all night thinking about that kiss. Repeat performance tonight? J xxx”
I blushed violently, shocked, furious that he was so ready to risk both our marriages, embarrassed that I’d have to talk to him and warn him it was a one-off, anxious that somehow, I’d have to manufacture a reason to return home early…
And then Richard sat up, looked over my shoulder, saying, “What? Is it bad news?’ and read it.
I wanted to say “it’s a mistake, he must be seeing someone else” but even as I thought the words, their feebleness revolted me. Richard grabbed the phone and threw it on the tiled floor. It was probably broken.
“You lying bitch,” he said, his voice shaking. “How long? Tell me, how long have you been sleeping with John?”
“I haven’t...” I began, but he was already pulling his jeans on, struggling into a shirt. “Don’t bother to lie any more,” he said.
He slammed out of the bedroom, and there was no doubt in my mind that he was heading for the kitchen.
Next week: Will Richard believe her - and is this finally the end?