That was it.
Tuesday night was the last night that E ever spent in our home.
That was it.
Wednesday morning was the last morning he would ever say goodbye to the kids before they went to school.
That was it.
Oldest Daughter took one look at my face that afternoon and realised it was finally over. To my surprise, her first expression was one of relief. She pleased that the tension of E being at home whilst she and I know what he was doing was over. She was happy that we weren’t caught in the web of E’s lies and that he wouldn’t be living with us anymore. For a moment our roles were reversed. I was her Mum and it was my job to look after her and protect her, but she was the one that hugged me and told me it would be ok. Not for the first time over those weeks, I was struck by the incredible force of her compassion and her love for me. On that day, I wasn’t sure I believed in myself, but she believed in me and that was enough, that kept me going.
The next day Youngest Daughter asked what was happening. Youngest Daughter is so emotionally intelligent that she can usually pick up on a mood as soon as she walks into a room, but, until now, I’d been saved by her teenage-hood on this one. She was 14 and for the last year or so she’d sort of retired to her room, emerging only to eat, go to school or complain about her brothers. Of my four children, Youngest Daughter had (still has) the trickiest relationship with her Dad. She’s the most creative of my kids and the one who just doesn’t tick all those academic boxes at school. She’s eccentric and wonderfully ‘out there’, she’s infuriating and intense and is completely different from my other kids – from the tips of her toes to the depths of her dark brown eyes. I have absolutely no idea what she’ll do in life, but whatever it is it will be creative and beautiful, and she will grow into herself as soon as she’s out of the school system (although, to an extent, this is dependent upon both of us getting through her GCSEs with our sanity intact). Obviously E loves her, but he never really ‘got’ Youngest Daughter. He sets great store by academic achievement and, thanks partly to his insensitivity and partly to her oversensitivity, Youngest Daughter has long felt that she does’t measure up to her sister and brothers as far as her Dad is concerned. I was very aware that how I dealt with this could seriously affect her relationship with her Dad, and angry and hurt as I was, I wanted to make sure that she knew he loved her and would always be there for her. I hugged her and I told her that her Dad and I had split up. I told her everything would be ok, and that the five of us were a fantastic team. I was trying to reassure myself as much as her.
I hadn’t told the boys yet – I wanted to wait until they’d finished school on Friday, so that they’d have the weekend to get over the news. I was dreading it, Youngest Son in particular worshipped the ground his Dad walked on, I didn’t know how to even begin
For some reason E was now no longer talking to me at all. It was as if he’d made his decision to leave and now wanted to sever the relationship as absolutely as possible. Texting and emailing very quickly became his only methods of communication. At this particular moment in time, this was great for me – I couldn’t talk to him (or anyone) without crying anyway – but to this day I still don’t know why he wouldn’t (and still won’t) actually talk to me. We agreed that I would take the kids out on Saturday afternoon so that he could collect some clothes etc. I’m not sure if I was right or wrong, but I didn’t want the kids to see him moving out.
Friday arrived and I called the kids into the living room. Oldest Son’s first question was if his Grandma was ok (the last time I’d called them together like this was to let them know that she had secondary breast cancer, she’d been in hospital before Christmas and I think she was always at the back of his mind). Youngest Son was grinning and laughing and, as ever, doing his best to wind Youngest Daughter up. Oldest Daughter and Youngest Daughter sat with me, wordlessly supporting me.
I took a deep breath and told the boys that E and I had split up. I told them that E and I still loved them massively and that they could see their Dad whenever they wanted, but that E was moving out. I told them that in some ways things wouldn’t change, E was never home during the week anyway. But I was honest and I told them that I didn’t know what the future held, that we might have to leave our home, that I’d definitely have to get a job, and wouldn;t be there when they came in from school anymore, but that whatever happened we’d be ok.
Oldest Son went white. I’ve never seen anyone actually go pale in front of me, but the colour literally drained from his face as I looked at him. He was lost for words. Youngest son just curled up into a ball next to me and cried silently. He cried for an hour.
As I sat holding onto Youngest Son, trying to provide some sort of comfort, Oldest Son just sat there trying to process what he’d heard. It wasn’t like E and I had been falling apart. We’d rarely rowed, we’d been good friends, the youngest three kids had never seen any evidence of trouble or had any reason to think that their parents would split up. I could see these thoughts chasing across Oldest Son’s face as tried to make sense of what I’d said. His sentences were broken and spasmodic – he observed that he was now ‘one of the kids whose parents were divorced’ and how weird that felt.
Oldest Son then asked: ‘why?’.