In the dark of the dining room, the laptop screen was the only light.
I went to turn it off but, glancing at the screen, I realised, that for the first time in four years, it had been left open, unlocked, I could access all the files…
The cursor was blinking slowly.
Did I want to know?
Back then, on 22 November 2016, I was planning our oldest daughter’s 18th birthday celebrations, I was looking forward to the first Christmas we could afford for years and I was thinking (hoping) that the future looked quite bright.
But I was worried. Actually, I’d been worried for ten years. My world had been totally rocked when E had had an affair in 2007. At the time I had simply had no idea. I had trusted him absolutely. Finding out was like being plunged into ice-cold water. I’d eventually forgiven him, given him, given us another chance and we’d moved on, but, from that day, a tiny seed of doubt began to grow and no matter what I did to ignore it, it was always there – a shadow at the corner of my eye, that I could never blink away.
I really, really, wanted to trust him but, despite multiple reassurances from E over the years that he wouldn’t do it again, that he loved me, that he categorically WASNT having another affair, I could never quite lose the suspicion that that he was doing it again.
Of course, he did do it again – I found out in summer 2013 (via a public forum posting) that he’d had another on-off fling between 2010 and 2012, but, when I confronted him about this, he assured me that it wasn’t serious and that the forum post was really more pathetic fantasy on his part than reality and again I forgave him.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved him and cared deeply about him but I wasn’t hopelessly in love with him. I didn’t have some sort of romantic ideal re our relationship. I just felt that we were two flawed human beings who were better together than apart. After all, we’d had four kids – to me this meant we’d made a massive commitment to a family life. I’d stood by him through some tricky times, work and finance wise. and no matter how much he pissed me off and vice-versa, I was staunchly loyal to him, and thought he was just as loyal to me. I thought he was my best friend.
I was never under any illusion that he was perfect or that everything in our relationship was ideal, but I thought things were pretty good. He was someone I thought I could trust with absolutely anything. We’d been together for 25 years, and whilst we occasionally bickered and got on each other’s tits (and I could cheerfully have smashed his head in with a shovel when he snored), all in all I thought we were a pretty good couple.
But it was Eldest Daughter’s 18th birthday party that had really set the alarm bells ringing. E had told me that he couldn’t make it home for her party the previous weekend because he was working on Saturday morning and was therefore staying in London the night before. E has worked on Saturday mornings in London for well over a decade and this has never stopped him coming home on a Friday night. Initially I assumed he just didn’t want to face a loud houseful of pissed teenagers, but the more I thought about it, the more I added this to all the other things that I’d been trying to ignore, the more I just couldn’t stop two and two adding up to make four.
My heart was thundering as I sat down at his laptop. I think I actually blushed. Sneaking around behind my people’s backs doesn’t come easily to me, and I felt really, really, guilty. He’d promised me again and again that he wasn’t seeing someone else. If I found nothing I’d feel reassured but pathetic, paranoid and stupid. What if, on the other hand, I found something? Well, that would mean the end of everything as I knew it. The first affair I could explain away as problems with our relationship (at the time I was struggling with four very young kids and clinical depression following a house move), the second I could dismiss as his childish fantasy, as a mid-life crisis… But another one? Another affair? Another affair was the final, categorical, proof that I couldn’t trust him and that our relationship was over.
I took a deep breath, and an even deeper gulp of wine, and clicked on his email account.