I stared hopelessly at the screen.
I was acutely aware of the kids upstairs and how odd it would look if they saw me, sitting in the dark, using their dad’s laptop, I was also unsure of exactly where to look/what to look for.
Back in 2008, I’d found out about affair number one when I accidentally opened E’s phone (we had identical phones and I’d genuinely thought the one I picked up was mine) and found a load of messages saying ‘I love you’. Even then, I initially assumed it wasn’t him (he trains post-18s for professional exams and he’d told me many a tale of students who had crushes on him). I assumed it was slightly mad student. It took me a minute to realise that the ‘I love you’s’ were FROM him TO someone else, not the other way around.
We’d not been having the easiest of times – E was setting up a new training business, which meant we hadn’t been paid for six months (I’d taken out a considerable sized loan to cover us for this and I’ve never been comfortable with debt), and I was really struggling with a post house-move depression and looking after four small kids (they were just 1,4,5 and 9 at the time). I knew things weren’t brilliant, but I was completely shocked by this. In the 16 years we’d been together I had always been utterly secure in, and certain of our, partnership no matter how hard things got. It had never once occurred to me that either of us would be unfaithful.
In those days we shared one computer between the two of us. I still couldn’t quite believe what I’d seen so, hoping to be proved wrong, I had a quick look at his email/Facebook (He later learned his lesson from this experience, although not in the way I hoped – rather than refraining from being unfaithful, he just learned to hide it better.) This woman, K, was a Russian student of his and was friends with him on Facebook (posting hearts all over his page – I’d even seen them and just thought it was a joke), all over his email, everywhere. He’d sent her lots of flowers (Valentine’s Day had been quite pricey for him, he’d sent both of us flowers – she got the more expensive bunch) and apparently she’d sent expensive chocolates to him at his office (where I can only assume that he and his colleagues had a good laugh over the ‘mistress’ v the ‘wife’ as they tucked in).
I found flirty Facebook messages to yet another student (he was clearly keeping his options open), as well as emails confirming his membership of various singles websites. He was also confiding about the whole affair with another woman, B, who he’d met when he was teaching in Croatia (whilst I was pregnant with Oldest Son). Apparently, he’d also tried to kiss her. Never one to give up, he’d kept in touch with B and was using her as his confidante re the affair with K.
It was a long time ago, but at least the 2007/8 texts meant I had a name. This time round, I had no name, just a hunch, a feeling brought on by experience, plus four years of his increasingly bad tempered behaviour (that I’d put down to money and work problems), frequent late nights, and his unhealthy obsession with his phone (I knew that whatever I found on his laptop would be just the tip of the iceberg compared to what would be on his phone). There was a woman that was friends with him on facebook, that I had a feeling about, so I looked for her first. Sure enough, there she was – a Russian woman called O. No wonder he’d been so convincing when he told me he wasn’t seeing the woman from the public forum posting – he was sort of telling the truth – he wasn’t seeing Forum Woman because he was seeing O. A quick look at both of their facebook photo albums showed parallel pictures – they’d each taken pictures of the other one and had posted pictures of scenery and themselves on their individual pages but had been careful not to post any pictures of themselves together.
This led me, Marple-like (or perhaps not – I don’t like to imagine Miss Marple looking at the kind of pictures I found), to a photo album on his desktop, cunningly entitled ‘Almaty 2015’. This contained picture after picture of O and E together, on a ferry from Singapore to Indonesia, in Almaty, of O in her underwear, and a couple of pictures of him in, well, lets just say, *not* his underwear (top tip – there really are parts of the male anatomy that just shouldn’t ever be photographed – especially in close up…).
After another couple of glasses of wine, and a not inconsiderable amount of tears, I kept looking. I knew his previous MO was to send endless bunches of flowers declaring his love for whoever he was pursuing, so this was the next thing I looked for. Sure enough, I found a whole stack of emails confirming flower deliveries to another woman.
But this woman wasn’t O…