Last night I came home much earlier than I was expecting because there was an electrical outage at the venue I was going to be spending the evening. The group I was with realized we were going to have to break off into smaller parties and enjoy the rest of the evening elsewhere. Although I was torn because I had been looking forward to a night out with great friends, I…opted for home. I was only ten minutes away from home and I dreaded the thought of heading off in the other direction and having to join the search for a restaurant or bar that was able to accommodate us without reservations.
Coming home early was the right decision. I had a bath and pampered myself., with products from the gift basket I was recently left by a good friend whom was a guest for a couple of nights in my sweet little abode. I put on my pyjamas (my pyjamas are completely the opposite to diaphanous) and my snuggly socks and I rang one of my sisters and then two of my friends. After all that, I realized I still had time to catch up with reading posts from bloggers I love.
One of my favourite blogs is Everyday Strange created by L. Stevens. Her Muse Of The Day two days ago (yes I am way way behind with my reading) in this post caught my eye:
…I have a story (another confession) which I am going to start and leave in my drafts folder to develop at a later date, of a time I delivered a zinger…and felt huge remorse afterwards. It was one evening when Jack had pushed my buttons. He seemed to think he could humiliate me in front of friends and others at social events. My feelings had been brewing, and then in response to a rather sly remark, I delivered a zinger, a perfect blend of poetry and meanness!
Jack was shocked. My friends were shocked. I was shocked! I did not know I had it in me to formulate a zinger and deliver it with such timing and precision that the whole room went quiet and Jack looked hurt to the core.
“….remorse inevitably followed!”
Oh Jack, how I wish I could take back my zinger! You are the last man on the planet I would ever want to hurt or humiliate!
Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly illustrate the subject of zingers so well:
My parents were never really sure quite what happened. They said they felt helpless and they prayed many times that things would turn out well. But they were deeply anxious and doubtful I would recover.
For years I had been a typical child, eager, full of life and laughter. I ate and pooped, ate and pooped. I was immature and completely dependent on my parents. I looked up to them and felt very secure in their love. They fed my mind, my heart and my stomach and watched me as I grew and grew and grew.
But then I went to high school and entered my teens and puberty. Something happened which they knew may come one day, but not in quite such a drastic way.
I shut myself off from them and refused to communicate properly. I grunted, shrugged and sighed my way through my fourteenth and fifteenth year. My parents tried their best to keep reaching my heart, but they had no idea if they were getting through.
They must have found it agonizing. In many ways, I am glad I was clever enough to hide what I did from them until many many months later. I hid so much from them for so long.
They still don’t know the half of it! All sorts was going on inside of me. Boys, music, drinking. I was no longer happy to conform, to obey. I questioned everything inwardly and outwardly.
I skipped school and forged sick notes. Instead of going to school I would catch a train into Manchester which was almost 40 miles away from home. When I was at school, I became disruptive in some classes (the ones I did not really enjoy). My best friend and I spurred each other on. We vandalised the geography teacher’s classroom and even his own belongings. We turned every physics lesson into anarchy. We played netball in the middle of our French lesson with a French dictionary and jumped up on to her desk and danced the Can-Can.
Sometimes I was given a “detention” by a teacher. I forged my mum’s signature and turned up for the detention (except the time I skipped detention because I was going to a concert), I was fortunate in being so bright. My school work never suffered and I maintained my straight A grades.
I started to work for a record company, which my parents knew about. But most of the nights they thought I was staying over at the home of a school friend, I was in Manchester at a music venue or club. I did things I am ashamed to relate.
The teachers wanted me to make decisions about what to do when school ended. I did not know what I wanted to do. I knew what I did not want to do.
I pondered what purpose there is in life, when we seem to be forced down a path that does not in any way appeal to us. I felt hollow and lost at times. Life seemed like a grey expanse stretched out before me. I felt trapped. The music I listened to constantly incited me to be disdainful of boring conformity. There was a spirit of arrogant rebellion breeding in my mind. I was full of resentment and anger towards everyone – I am not even sure why.
But I was not happy. Some of the things I saw at clubs shocked me. Behaviour beyond disgusting. Everything felt filthy. I did not know how to be happy any longer.
A wise old owl – Aunt June, who was almost eighty, and had sparkly blue eyes and a very deep grin – asked me what I was going to do when I left school. I muttered and gave her a wishy-washy answer about going to college. She probed further and soon discovered that I had no real plan in mind. There were no subjects that interested me just then, accept music. But I already knew I hated the places I was going and the people who were there. I was disillusioned with the music industry.
Aunt June could be scary sometimes. She looked at me sternly and said: “Do you want to live?” I was a bit taken aback by that question. Tears came into my eyes as I realized I was not even sure that I did want to be alive. I had been miserable for so long, my enjoyment in life had evaporated.
She asked me if I didn’t know what I wanted for my future, then what did I want for the rest of the world and for the planet? I thought about it, and knew that actually I did have a vision in the back of my mind. A vision that I had first seen in a golden story book my first ever teacher used to read to us from when I was just five years old. I knew the word to describe it: PARADISE.
Aunt June cried out that I should set that goal for my own future and see myself there, not just the rest of the world. She told me to work towards that goal.
At just the right time a project started in the town where we were living. They needed volunteers, skilled or unskilled. I had just broken up for study leave for my GCSEs. I went down there and from the first day I was trained and assigned all sorts of tasks. I ended up on the front page of the local newspaper because of my involvement for the full length of the project.
I remember a couple of my dad’s friends talking to him about me one day. I could hear everything. My face flushed with embarrassment but I was pleased. Then they called out to me: “We were just talking about you Mel! We were asking what has happened to you? You have come to life. You were grumpy and moody a few months ago and wouldn’t talk to anyone, not even make eye contact with anyone. Now look at you. You are glowing.”
I knew I was. I knew that ever since I had started to become involved in volunteer projects I had started to taste happiness.
What I wanted, in my heart of hearts, was to live on a clean planet, where people, animals and all of nature are treated with love and respect. Now I had found many of thousands of people in this country who all felt the same and were giving whatever time they could to work together to make a difference to communities.
My parents always said those couple of years when it was so hard to get me to communicate were very difficult for them. They were so worried about me. They always said it was as if I had cocooned myself within a chrysalis. They had no idea what was going on inside my mind and heart. But it was very much a metamorphosis.
One day something wonderful started to happen. They said a beautiful human being started to emerge from that mentally and emotionally isolated state and started to give colour and happiness to everyone around her.
I always felt it was because I had started to spend time with very beautiful people. People who were freely giving their time, their energy and their skills to build something that would benefit a community. I was learning so much from them.
I wanted to be alive. I wanted to work towards a better world, a world where everyone is happy, full of life, secure in love. I wanted to help make this earth a paradise.
I now had a purpose, a goal and I loved beautifully hearted people who were working towards the same purpose.
JUST A LITTLE REMINDER – I AM STILL RE-PUBLISHING POSTS FROM 2018 BECAUSE WORK IS INTENSELY BUSY. I CAN TELL BY SOME OF THE LOVELY COMMENTS I HAVE HAD THAT I AM CONFUSING SOME OF YOU!
This exquisite picture (the picture prompt for today from The Haunted Wordsmith) instantly gave me an idea for a post. But I am going to be straight with you. I have just returned from doing some work on an assignment I have had these past few months. It is one o’clock in the morning over here in London and all I should be thinking of is having a shower and climbing into bed.
I will give myself fifteen minutes and then close my lap-top!
If you have read even just a handful of my posts I am sure you know that I am happy, safe and busy. But of course for those of you who have been glancing over my posts for a while now, you are aware that almost three and a half years ago…one night I went to a London park and essentially my whole world was turned upside down.
I am not going to dwell on what happened that hot dry night….or the two years of hostility from my ex-flatmate that led to me forgetting my personal safety and putting myself in danger’s way. But the thing is that night, my life drastically changed. The security guard who found me called an ambulance to take me away from that nightmarish night…but somewhere in between the park and the hospital…my whole world turned upside down.
At first all that mattered was recovering from the physical injuries I had received. Then came the emotional ups and downs of what was done to me that night…which took a few months for me to get to grips with, and then the dismay that my ex-flatmate was stony silent after all that had happened and still had not attempted to apologize. It magnified all the hurt of the last two years.
For almost a year I was away from London staying with family members. They were a huge support to me and I am so glad I had their help at such a turbulent time for me. But I was determined to come back to London. I came back and the first six months were full of challenges. I should share more of what happened during my first six months back in London – they were immensely overwhelming and studded with horrid events and horrible people. Then I came here to the little nest. It’s been a relief. It is almost two years that I have been here for and it has helped me to settle and feel I could spread my wings again.
My difficulty is…my world is still upside down. I have just become very proficient at living upside down. I feel as if I am walking on my hands instead of my feet, and although I am doing a great job of that, it’s odd.
I am so determined to get back to the other side of London to my career and home and my world.
That world is precious to me…it is only the ordeal with my ex-flatmate that does taint some of my treasure chest of memories and experiences.
Without a purpose my world will always be upside down. I need my purposeful, active, richly rewarding life back. Until then…I am doing a fantastic job of walking on my hands in my upside down world…but it is not where I belong. However…don’t be sad for me…I am happy, safe and busy. I just have to be patient.
There are other people who have had their world turned upside down in a far more frightening way or grievous way than the way my world went belly up. I am sure they know what I am talking about when I am describing a sudden drastic event that changes everything, turns your world upside down and requires you to learn to become adept at walking on your hands.
Fifteen minutes flew by…in fact it is more like twenty minutes! Shower! Bed! Goodnight!
I wonder if you know who is the fictional character I would like to meet? Do you know which character had this said of her? Which book she was from?
Her finely touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.
The answer is of course Dorothea Brooke from “Middlemarch“. There are many characters I adore in the novels I have read, but one of my personal favourites is Dorothea, as she made a deeper impression on me than most. Not just an entertaining or interesting character, she struck a chord with me and still does twenty years after I first became acquainted with her on the pages of “Middlemarch“.
I love the comparison of her nature and it’s effect on others to the multitude of channels the mighty Euphrates river was broken into. I can’t help but think too of the quiet yet immense effect of Cyrus diverting the course of water that surrounded mighty Babylon, before his army waded across and conquered the city, thus causing a world empire to crumble overnight. I also love the statement that the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistorical acts…the noble and unselfish acts of good and mercy and kindness that are mostly unsung and are often forgotten by others. Yet we have so much to thank those quiet and unselfish souls who have a delicate yet profound influence on others.
If you have never read “Middlemarch” and are planning to at some point, beware my post contains a few spoilers!
I was torn between Dorothea and Anne Elliot from “Persuasion“, but I have already published a post about Anne recently and have another one in my drafts folder. But I have admiration, empathy, and affection for both of these characters, so today I am going with Dorothea!
I read a few character studies on line about Dorothea while I was thinking about this post. More than anything I was surprised that not all have the same esteem for her as I. There were some who seemed to think that to be exalted to “superhero” status, she should have been more of an independent female and that her happiness should not have been tied up with the love of a man who would become her second husband.. Not all approve of her decisions especially later on in the book.
But in today’s age where feminism – and I don’t think I fully comprehend feminism in all honesty, it is all rather foggy to me. I should be happy with Dutch treats, standing up on the bus or tube while young men lollop and rest their sneaker-clad feet on the spare seats, and being paid the same as a man I am working twice as hard as???
I don’t really understand the definition of feminism. I do understand “no means no!” But as far as I have seen, equal is not always fair. When I was at school, all I cared about was the boys letting me play football because I was a decent player and I loved running around – that was all that mattered to me!
I like being a woman. I have always loved wearing beautiful dresses. I have equally always loved climbing trees, playing football and working on construction sites. Most of the work I have done has been for charity and I have not received a penny in return.
Perhaps Dorothea’s decisions don’t sit right with the modern world, but I can relate to her a lot! I think especially her character. I think there are descriptions in the novel where others ponder Dorothea’s features and manners – some are fascinated by her. Is she a taciturn, demure character? I love her mind. She may make mistakes in her judgment, but she has a noble mind. She cares, she wants to make a difference. She becomes trapped in a loveless marriage to a man she believed in and was inspired by. Her endurance and calm under even the worst provocation make me think her made of something stronger than diamonds.
I love her decisions later in the book. Well, of course I would never encourage a husband of mine to run for political office. But I mean her decisions regarding love and being a loyal support to the man she truly loves. I love the sacrifices she makes to spend her life with the man she has come to love and admire after her awful first marriage.
Here is another description of Dorothea I adored:
Dorothea herself had no dreams of being praised above other women, feeling that there was always something better which she might have done, if she had only been better and known better.
I think that is one of the things I love about both Dorothea Brooke and Anne Elliot. I can never imagine either of them wanting to be the centre of attention, being showy, gaudy, wearing the most opulent gowns or decorations. I can only imagine them being a delight, an absolute pleasure to have afternoon tea with. Beautiful gentle manners, noble minds, interesting and lively conversationalists, none trying to take the spotlight, but earnest about how to contribute to the occasion and to the enjoyment of others. These two women are both incredibly endearing to me.
I love those words in the passage I quoted at the start of this post, with regards to Dorothea, that…
“…the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive.”
She touched all around her, often in a quiet gentle way. Others were influenced by Dorothea in the same way I was. The qualities she displayed were so precious, they make her value tremendous. She was a tower of inner strength best expressed by remarkable endurance and stamina. She was crushed, yet she persevered. She regained hope and joy, and allowed herself to love and be loved again. She wanted to make a difference to those in need and she seized any opportunity she had to do so.
Dorothea Brooke, even though you are just a fictional character, it would be an absolute delight to have you round for afternoon tea! I would invite Anne Elliot too, I think you would get along with her rather well.
This was my response to one of the writing prompts in the August Write-Away Challenge hosted by Sarah Elizabeth Moore. Even though I am very very late, I just did not want to abandon this post as I found the question so interesting.
Sarah the creator of the blogging site Sarah Elizabeth Moore has a writing challenge called “The August Write Away”. I have been struggling to keep up with word and picture prompts this week because last week was crazy busy and it is looking like after today, the week ahead is going to be horribly busy too.
But I am really loving Sarah’s writing prompts, and am sorry I am just completely out of sync with the day they were for. But I could not resist this one:
I have a very very vivid memory of the kitchen from my childhood.
My Mumma used to like doing some baking for the family. I don’t remember what she actually baked being my own personal favourites, but I still loved working along with her. She loved making date and walnut cake, which was a bit too heavy for me to enjoy as a child. She also made madiera cake, fruit cake and sandwich cakes.
I loved helping my Mum. I was fascinated by her baking and I was keen to learn. But at times, I may have been more of a hindrance than a help.
My most vivid memory….one that has frequently come back to me over the years is the time I dropped a bag of sugar onto the tiled floor. The bag split on impact and sugar spread all over the floor.
Can you imagine my tears?
I cried and cried. I ran out of the kitchen, through the living room, up the stairs and into my bedroom. I jumped on my bed and I sobbed and sobbed.
My Mumma – well…I remember she came to me after a few minutes and asked me why I was crying. I can’t remember my exact words, but I remember that I wanted to help her so much and now I seemed to have ruined things. I kept on telling her I was sorry, I did not drop the sugar deliberately, it was an accident. I was so upset.
Mumma said if I really wanted to help then I should return to the kitchen with her. I followed her downstairs feeling rather sullen. Once we were in the kitchen, Mum told me that accidents happen, sometimes things go wrong because of something we have done, but the important thing is how we deal with them. She said that crying is not really going to help. But what would help her, was if together we tidied up the mess.
I instantly threw myself into sweeping up the sugar with the dustpan and brush. Mumma then grabbed the hoover to pick up remaining parts of sugar and then she allowed me to use the mop (I was a bit too short to be very adept with the mop, but I was determined to help Mumma).
Mum thanked me and gave me a huge hug and then suggested we walk down to the local shop to buy some more sugar so we could finish the baking. When we reached there, she bought me my favourite little bag of white chocolate mice.
I am sure you can see why many times over the years, my memory of how mum dealt with that situation has come back into my mind. Sometimes we make mistakes, most of them are complete accidents, unintentional. The important thing is how we deal with them. We might feel like having a cry…but the most important thing is that we do everything we can to try to tidy up the mess we have made and start over again.
I marvel at the ingenuity both of my parents displayed many times. They remembered to turn many incidents into lessons that would reach our heart and help us for the rest of our lives.
Mum made sure I always knew she was happy to have me by her side trying to help her, and made sure I never felt like a hindrance. She was incredibly patient. We enjoyed many more baking sessions together over the years.
Inconveniently, I needed to go into our communal kitchen to bake. I had promised to bake some cinnamon wheels. A young man who we had been working with was leaving London as his father was ill. We were having a farewell breakfast first thing Monday morning before his drive home. I had asked him what he wanted me to bring along. He said he loved Danish pastries. I suggested cinnamon wheels. He was delighted with the idea.
Only I felt trapped. I knew I had hurt Jack. I could only imagine how he would be feeling. It felt so awkward. I presumed that Jack was in his room broody and sulky. I was in my room paralysed by the horror of what I had done in asking for my thank you card back. But I had promised to make the cinnamon wheels. I had to get into our kitchen.
Eventually, I plucked up the courage to tip-toe into the kitchen. I closed the door silently and tried to extract from the cupboards everything I would need and I set about my task of making cinnamon wheels as quietly as I could, which is not easy when you are shaking with emotion.
I had just rolled my puff pastry stuffed with the cinnamon and raisin filling up and was about to cut it into slices when the door of the kitchen flew open. I will never forget Jack’s dramatic entrance.
Jack was furious! I had never seen him angry. His hair seemed to stand on end and his eyes were bulging like some eccentric scientist. I had never heard him yell like that – a ferocious roar of a yell. I felt awful because I had done this to him. I can’t even remember his first few words, just the fury in which he delivered them. I am not sure what calmed Jack down first. Was it seeing my tearful breakdown in response to his outburst? Or was it when he saw the massive carving knife in my hand that I was wielding on the pastry? We will never know!
But Jack did calm down. He started to plead with me. He said I was being completely unfair and what I had done was out of order. I just nodded and wept, “I know Jack”. He saw I was not trying to argue. I acknowledged I had been unfair, but I was so hurt by everything I had heard that week.
I cannot remember every word of that conversation so I am only going to be able to share with you what I can recall I am afraid, but it will give you an idea of the state of the relationship between Jack and I when we last tried to have an honest talk with each other. I have been over and over this conversation in my mind many times. It haunts me still.
I was truly overwhelmed at that point. My emotions were intense and I was terrified that if I opened my mouth I could make it even worse. It made it difficult for me to respond to Jack.
When I could finally string together an emotional sentence that Jack could comprehend, it was about how hard it is when there are so many awful rumours and degrading remarks being made about the two of us. I told him it was unbearable, that it was making life unbearable. I told him that since we had spoken the week before the rumours and gossip were worse than ever before.
He was frustrated with me. He told me I should not listen to gossip. He reminded me that we had already talked about the pressure rumours had made us both feel, and that we had agreed to put them aside and just enjoy our friendship.
I shook my head and told him I was not overreacting to people who just wanted to tease me in a friendly way. Then I gave him a few examples of what I had heard that week. I was too embarrassed to tell him what I had heard people say about what had happened between he and I, but I told him I had been called a slapper, a tramp, a cheap slut, a cheat, (and other names I would prefer not to repeat) even in comments from other people on his own Instagram account. I told him I was sick of being the subject of such horrible remarks. His face looked very stern as he was listening.
He said he was so sorry that I had heard those awful things. He asked me who I had heard these things from. I didn’t answer directly, I said I had heard them from friends and seen things on phones with my own eyes. I told him I had seen the comments on his Instagram account. Jack took my hand into his soft velvet paws.
With real earnestness in his eyes, Jack softly said: “Mel…..
(Now…because of the ridiculous length of the post I had typed out, I have decided to split the exchange between Jack and I into two separate posts. So, if you are wondering what happened next, look out for what Jack next said to me tomorrow!)
On the Sunday morning after the awards show the night before, I lingered in the kitchen at breakfast time wondering when Jack would appear. I wanted to sit down with him again in the kitchen as we had done the weekend before. We needed to sit down over another cup of tea and straighten things out. Recalling how unexpectedly well that conversation had gone spurred me on. I knew Jack could communicate if he chose to, could be humble and kind and wonderful.
Each one of my flatmates appeared one at a time and chatted to me. But no Jack. I asked one of my flatmates if he had seen Jack yet. He went into Jack’s room and then returned to the kitchen and told me he wasn’t there.
So…I headed out to meet some friends. We went for a walk, across one of my favourite parks on London and finished with a steaming cup of tea and a slice of toast. It was a lovely day. I couldn’t stop thinking of Jack and the conversation I was convinced we needed to have.
When I arrived back at our flat, Ella was cooking in the kitchen. I went in to make a drink and she asked me if I had seen Jack. I told her I had seen him briefly the night before and he and I had agreed we would talk.
“You need to talk to him Mel. Go and tell him you are here and you are ready to talk.“
I nodded and hastily ran to the door of Jack’s room. I knocked quietly and waited. There was no answer. I knocked more firmly and waited. His door opened. Jack looked at me with a serious expression.
“Can we talk Jack?“
Jack concurred. “Let’s talk in the kitchen.”
“Ella is cooking right now. Should we talk somewhere else?“
Jack shook his head, “Let’s wait until she has finished.“
I wonder if Jack realized I was disappointed. He told me he was rather busy and he closed the door to his room.
Reluctantly, I went back to the kitchen and told Ella what he had said. Ella told me that her and Dean were going to be going out as soon as Dean was home and had showered (he had been playing football). She thought it a good idea that Jack and I might have some privacy.
Once Ella and Dean had left the flat, I waited for a few minutes and then put the kettle on. I made two mugs of tea and then returned to the door of Jack’s room. I placed both mugs in one hand so I could knock again and waited. Jack opened the door.
“Ella and Dean have gone out for the evening. Can we talk now Jack, before the others come home?“
“Mel, I haven’t really got time for this. Can we talk another time?”
I couldn’t believe he was trying to wriggle out of talking. It had taken three months before he had finally sat down to talk, I couldn’t bear to think of postponing another conversation that we desperately needed to have. But I submitted to Jack and said that was fine.
I poured one mug of tea down into the kitchen sink and took the other with me back to my room. I sat down at my desk with such a mix of feelings. I reviewed everything that had happened and felt I had a right to ask for some of Jack’s time. Could I go back and knock on the door to Jack’s room yet again and insist we talk?
My phone started to buzz. It was Marta. Her dramatic tones startled me. She sounded furious.
She told me to look at Jacks Instagram account. I did. I could not believe what I was seeing on Jack’s Instagram account. It was a photo of him at the awards show the night before, and underneath scores of comments from other people all referring to me cheating on Jack.
When Marta had said all she had to say, I told her I needed to go, but thanked her and promised I would talk to her later.
Cue ANGRY EYES!
For a start, how can you cheat on someone whom you are not in a relationship with? This was prompted by the photo Brian had posted of he and I. I scrolled down the comments. Jack was silent. He was not trying to contradict any of the comments posted by others. He had let people, some whose names I recognized and others I did not, make horrid remarks about me.
I did feel angry. Jack should be willing to talk. If he wasn’t, well, I just felt I could not endure this tempestuous situation in the flat like this.
So here it is, my big confession. What did I do next?
I wrote a note to Jack. I basically wrote that if he was not willing to talk now that I was doubtful he would talk at all. So I said, I felt this was my only way of communicating with him. I said I had heard so many rumours that week and I had reason to believe that he was involved with them. I said I was really hurt. I said this time last week when we had talked, I had truly believed he wanted us to be friends, but I no longer was convinced I could believe him. And…I asked him to give me my thank you card back!
I pushed the note under his door and ran down stairs and went out to buy some milk. Jack guzzled milk, and I was always coming home to find no milk in the fridge. I had just used the last drops in the tea I had made. Jack had this hilarious habit of opening the fridge to find no milk and yelling “Where is Mel, she has forgotten to buy milk!” I was always buying milk. I hardly drank any, just a tiny drop in a cup of tea, because I am slightly intolerant to dairy (although I love cheese, it does not like me). There was a shop at the end of the road, but I thought it might have closed at 5pm as it was Sunday. So instead I walked to the local petrol station to buy milk.
I dreaded walking back into the flat. During the walk, I had suddenly realized that asking for my thank you card back was a bit much. Perhaps I had a right to express my feelings about everything, but why had I asked for my thank you card back?
When I crept into our flat and silently made my way into the kitchen to put the milk in the fridge and then returned to my room. There was the thank you card sitting on my desk.
I felt pain and horror gush into my heart as if I had been stabbed. I knew what I had done was wrong. I could only begin to imagine how hurt and angry Jack must be.
You know I am going to make another confession. I sometimes forget men have feelings. I presume I can count on their mental and emotional stability. They are always pretending they don’t care, that they are indifferent, that they can’t be offended, that they think women are daft for becoming emotional. But it is a myth. Men truly do have feelings. Their hearts can bleed terribly. A woman can really hurt a man!
I had hurt Jack. I knew it. I sat there sobbing as I had never sobbed before. I had hurt the man I loved. I no longer really cared what Jack may or may not have said or done.
Something awful happened later that evening…and half of it is sitting waiting in my drafts folder for me to have the energy to finish. I will get to it at some point, and then we will put Jack back in the box for a while until I am ready to let him out again. After sharing what happened between Jack and I that night, I need to rest.
I have been publishing posts about events that occurred following the conversation my ex-flatmate (we are calling him Jack) and I had over a cup of tea. Now…I have mentioned once or twice that I have a confession to share, because I did something really stupid. I am working up to sharing with you how I ended up guilty of this completely daft and damaging decision.
Do you remember in the last post I left you on this cliff-hanger? Well, that kiss was not the confession, the stupid thing I have been building up to telling you about. However, it was also a stupid thing to do, and it had consequences!
I am still not sure why I did that. I think I had wanted to do that to Jack for a long time…only I could not possibly while living in a pressure cooker of a situation. When Brian was so kind and empathetic, I felt a cosy warm feeling towards him, and a sense of relief that I was talking to someone who had a fresh perspective on the situation. After the cocktail I had, my head was a bit fuzzy and Brian suddenly became very handsome in my eyes…and with a swell of gratitude in my heart, I planted a smacker right on his mouth to his surprise. In the moment it was exhilarating and delicious. But I immediately knew I was kissing the wrong man. I apologised to Brian who was very polite about it.
Do you also remember Brian’s suggestion that I take a bit more control of the situation I was finding challenging? (The gossip and the false rumours about my flatmate Jack and I.) Brian had recommended that I “fight fire with fire“.
Funny enough, I should have known this was a bad idea. Neither my wonderful parents not any of my wise aunts and uncles or mature friends had ever taught me the life lesson to equip me to survive as a woman in this world: “fight fire with fire“. Oh no! Because it turns out this is a very silly idea indeed.
Brian had posted a selfie with me alongside him, onto his Instagram account. He had taken the photo very shortly after I had unburdened myself to him and then…in my moment of madness…kissed him.
I left had Brian to go and meet my friends with a sense of relief, after being able to get so much off my chest to someone who was not close to Jack. I thought nothing more of that photo.
I had a great time with my friends who lived on the opposite side of London and were not interested in social media. They were brilliant company for me. However, they knew I was living with Jack and they had all worked with him. They had all met him years before on projects and they thought he was a fun character who cared a lot about working with charities. They liked him I am sure. One of their questions for me was, “are you engaged to Jack yet?” Ay ay ay! Very quickly they detected I didn’t not really want to talk about Jack.
I had a wonderful afternoon. I was heading back to my flat when I thought I would check my mobile phone. I am one of those people who have a phone somewhere in the bottom of their handbag and check it three or four times a day when it is polite and appropriate. Jack on the other hand is someone who seems to be constantly on his phone.
My phone showed several text messages waiting for me. Suzie, Marta and Ella and other friends had all sent me messages asking me what was going on. Ella’s message simply said:
“JACK IS IN A FOUL MOOD. HOPE YOU ARE READY FOR THIS.”
I think I had already guessed what had happened. And I knew already I had to be ready to take on board responsibility for agreeing to let Brian post that photo. I used the travelling time to work out what I was going to say to my friends, and more importantly, what I was going to say to Jack.
What on earth was Jack going to say when he saw me? Would he return to his cold hostility? Well he was hardly going to roll out the red carpet and give me a royal welcome! When I arrived back at the flat, I felt sick with dread.
Jack…was not home. Phew!
Ella was not home either, nor Dean. In fact the flat was quite empty. I jumped in the shower and started to get ready. I was going out. I was quite excited actually. I was attending an award show. It would take me an hour to do something satisfactory with my hair. I hate styling my hair. But I love these events. You do have to make the effort! My dress was all picked out…have I ever mentioned how much I love parties? (Always a party to go to after a show.)
Now…I am going to have to fast-forward and skip all the details of my hair styling and all my other preparations for the show. The venue was only about a mile and a half from there we lived. I travelled with a married couple who lived nearby, they had already told me they were going to be heading straight to the airport from the show as he had an assignment abroad.
After arriving, I spent time meeting and greeting. All was going great until I bumped into Damian. He started to laugh immediately asking me how many men I was stringing along. He taunted me that the main reason I was here was to see Jack on stage. Well, Jack had kept that secret from me. He had not mentioned that he would be at the awards show. Although, Jack seemed to be involved with almost everything.
Do you know what it is like to watch someone you live with performing on stage with other popular entertainers? I loved seeing Jack on stage. He is a natural entertainer. I did enjoy seeing him.
I have been on stage myself, normally you can hardly make out anyone in the audience. I doubted Jack would ever have been able to pick me out. But there was a moment, I may have been imagining it, but he seemed to be looking in my direction and he stopped. He was silent for a few seconds. I felt uncomfortable. Then…he carried on again and all was well.
After the awards had been given out and all the entertainment had ended, the party atmosphere kicked off even more. But that is when I saw Jack, and undoubtedly, he had seen me this time. All week he had been absolutely lovely to me, but not now. He was glaring at me. He looked angry.
I felt now was the time for courage, so I took a few steps towards him. But as I approached, he seemed to deliberately turn his back to me. I decided it was not worth making an issue of what he did. I needed to speak with Jack, but not in the middle of hundreds of onlookers. I decided to just carry on with enjoying the company of others at the show.
But Jack seemed to always be near, I could tell out of the corner of my eye, and several times I turned to see scenes a bit like this one (no this is not Jack). Now that was not at all like Jack. He was not at all relaxed with women making a fuss of him. He was concerned about his reputation and he felt a sense of pride at being a role-model for young people to look up to. In addition, he has had a couple of bad experiences with scary female fans he had to take legal action against, so he normally played very safe with women. Not that night. Oh Jack!
I did feel some pain. It dampened my party spirit very much, which was annoying because I put so much effort into styling my hair. After enduring half an hour of this, I felt I wanted to slink off home and avoid anymore of this cruel game with Jack. There were no taxis outside the venue. I could catch the bus. The bus-stop was just across the road. On reaching the bus-stop and finding the next bus was due to arrive in 14 minutes time, I thought to myself “I could walk home in twenty minutes“, which was a gross miscalculation, it would take at least thirty minutes to walk home in stilettos. But I thought I could do with a walk in the crisp night air.
I set off criss-crossing through the side streets towards our flat. Then I started to feel a few drops on my forehead. Within moments the rain was teaming down. I had a brolly. I don’t go anywhere without a brolly (truly English to the bone) and I had a little tiny fold up brolly which did rather a poor job of keeping me dry.
Whose idea was it to walk home?
By the time I arrived back at the flat I was soaked. Dress, shoes, hair dripping wet. I don’t mind rain normally, I am a secret puddle jumper, I adore Gene Kelly’s moment of celebration in “Singin’ In The Rain“…but that was not a happy walk home in the rain. It was a walk during which I felt a bit sorry for myself and had tears milling with rain drops about the possibility of more hostility from Jack.
As I was approaching the security gates outside our flats, they started to open slowly and a car drove in ahead of me. Jack’s car! I held back. I didn’t want him to see me. But that meant I had the perfect view of the passenger side of the car as the door opened and…a young woman climbed out of Jack’s car. Oh my goodness!…how awkward!
Possibilities raced through my mind. If Jack took her up to the flat…I couldn’t walk in right behind them. I was cold, soaked and not even sure how I felt about what was happening in front of my eyes. I had to get into our flat before they did, hopefully before Jack saw me.
I started running through puddles towards the flat…and realized Jack’s eyes were upon me. I ran up the stairs, so I did not have to hang around in the foyer waiting for the lift (elevator). My first thought was to grab some water and snacks to take into my room so that once I was in my room I did not have to leave. It only took me a few seconds…but I was not quick enough. As I left the kitchen with my supplies, the front door opened and after a few strides, Jack was blocking my way to my room.
“Mel…are you alright?“
“Yeah, I just got caught out by the rain.”
I must have looked a wreck. Jack looked at me and before he realized what he had said, out came the words, “Do you need help…?“
What Jack could possibly have thought I needed help with, we will never know. But I could tell there was a tenderness there and I wanted to make sure it lingered. I said I was fine, and I would take my dress to the dry cleaners the next day. I was so tired, I was not sure what to say to Jack although I knew there was a lot I ought to say.
“Jack, you were brilliant tonight. I mean you always are, but I thought you were brilliant. I felt so proud of you.”
If I had not been absolutely dripping wet, I think I would have hugged Jack. But it mattered not, I think Jack knew I was sincere.
I said to Jack that I ought to go and change and get some sleep because it had been such a busy day. Now…I would love this poignant moment to have been enough to fix the damage that had been brewing all day, but it was not enough. For a moment later, Jack’s face seemed to change as he remembered something.
“Yes, you have had a busy day haven’t you!” he delivered this statement with obvious derision.
“Please Jack, I really want to talk to you, but can we do this tomorrow, please?“
Jack agreed. I was soaked and bedraggled, I think he realized I really did need to just be allowed to go and sort myself out.
“We’ll talk tomorrow Mel.“
I was left to sleep and dream that Jack and I had found a way to fix things.
Just in case you want to catch up with any of the posts connected with Jack and I, here they are:
So much was said…I am going to try to illuminate you as to the general flavour of the comments I received from Jack’s friends. There were two distinct types of remarks – those who just wanted to make fun and be crude, and those of Jack’s friends who seemed to want to offer some advice on the situation.
Perhaps I should begin with Jamal, as I have already mentioned him in another post. What did Jamal have to say about Jack and me? Very early on Jamal started teasing Jack about me. Then Jamal started teasing me about Jack. Every time he appeared he would call me over to him, and then lead me to Jack. Jamal was forever taunting me in a mild way about having a crush on Jack, I don’t know what he was saying to Jack but I can only imagine it was ten times worse.
Jamal made himself a pain in the neck! He kept on and on trying to arrange for Jack and me to be together. Jamal was always there hinting that Jack and I really wanted to be alone. At first it was funny, but then it became really annoying and embarrassing. I felt like we were all back at school.
Then Jack moved into the flat I was sharing already with Ella and Dean. Can you imagine Jamal’s reaction? There were always lots of young men pouring into our flat to hang out with Jack. He cared for them. Some of them were from broken up backgrounds and he tried to steer them away from drugs and crime and encouraged them to get involved with working for charities.
Jamal was a frequent visitor. When he saw that Jack and I had neighbouring rooms, he was highly amused. I know this is going to sound completely daft…well it is, plain and simple, Jamal kept teasing Jack in front of other friends…”Jack has been drilling a hole in the wall so that he can watch Mel when she is undressing.”
Jamal was a super lad in himself. He was extremely gregarious and popular with people of all ages. He looked smart, he was always wearing a tailored suit or a cashmere sweater and a pair of his trendy spectacles. He was smooth, he was slick. He had constant laughter in his voice. Jamal was clever and capable and confident. He really looked up to Jack. Jack encouraged Jamal and gave him great advice.
Jamal’s jovial gregarious nature made his constant taunting Jack about me palatable to everyone. It is hard to not laugh along with someone who is laughing constantly. But he just kept on adding fuel to a fire that was burning steadily. There were others who were not as tame in their use of expressions as Jamal was.
Damian was one – I can’t bear to think of what Damian said and did. He thought the world of Jack. But I had known Damian long before either he or I met Jack. Damian and I had been friends since we were fourteen. He was the King of sarcasm. Damian was cruel to both Jack and me…and he would not stop. I kept on receiving messages from him. I saw Damian almost every day and he always had something to say. He was merciless. Hugh Sanders was another. Hugh was relentless. These silly men spread rumours like an infectious rash.
Now…after Jack and I had sat down and had that cup of tea…what did his friends have to say?
Jack’s “friends” knew there was something different. I am not going to repeat what Jamal, Damian and Hugh interpreted the change of atmosphere between Jack and I to indicate. I am still annoyed at what they said directly to Jack and I, but also the way they involved scores of others in their ongoing comedy commentary on what happened between us. I do not want to think about let alone publish how incredibly rude and crude some of what was said about Jack and I was.
I am going to tell you about some of Jack’s quieter more sensible friends.
First of all, Bernard. Benny, we all called him, or Granddad, because he always took that tone when offering advice. Benny was the opposite in temperament to Jack. Benny was mild and quiet and modest. Although Jack could get on Benny’s nerves, he did love Jack. Benny had also been a great friend to me since I had moved to London. Benny took me out for dinner a lot, took me to the theatre and invited me to parties. We were frequently at the Royal Albert Hall which we both adored. Benny decided he would have a word with me about Jack, during that week after the conversation between Jack and I had taken place. Benny told me that Jack was wonderful but that he was like a kid in the playground. Benny warned me that Jack was going to hurt me, because he had not grown up yet.
Then there was Tom. Tom, was another quiet one. Tom also spoke to me that week. Tom was quite direct asking me if Jack and I were together. I denied it of course. Tom rolled his eyes and remarked that Jack is such an idiot. I don’t know what prompted that. Tom told me it will take a strong woman to be able to put up with Jack’s immaturity.
Then there was a famous director who Jack had worked with and admired a lot. Sylvan threw amazing parties and was delighted to jump up on stage and sing or play any instrument that was handy.
Sylvan called me. It was such an odd phone call. Sylvan had a very strong accent and I struggled to make out everything he was saying on the phone. There seemed to be a point where he was congratulating me, and then, before I managed to enquire why Sylvan thought I needed congratulating, he started giving me advice about Jack. Sylvan said he had never know Jack more in love, but that Jack was like a child. He told me that it would take a woman like me to make a man out of Jack. I am not sure what on earth that meant. It was so bizarre I felt I was going to gag with laughter because I could not understand why Sylvan was calling me to say all of this.
Frankly, I was fed up of hearing what everyone else had to say. I wanted to speak with Jack again directly. I wanted to find out if there was any possibility he was contributing to the rumours I was hearing and ask him to make sure he strenuously denied anything was happening. And I wanted to do it in a way that made it clear to Jack that I was not against something happening, but that he and I needed to build some kind of friendship first before there was any possibility of that happening. Much as I was fond of Jack…I did not trust him, how could I trust my feelings with him?
Do you remember the Friday night when I was with Ella, I found out that Jack and Hugh and other friends and workmates of theirs had been out for a drink using money that people had bet on how long it would be before Jack and I started sleeping together. I was really mad about that, and I wanted to speak to Jack about that. I prepared myself and thought about exactly what to say.
A young man who had recently moved to London named Brian saw me on the bus on Saturday morning when I was heading into town. I had worked with Brian on a project in Devon years before and remembered him. Brian was pleased to find someone who knew who he was. Brian had been out for drinks with the same group as Jack and Hugh. Brian hardly knew a soul in London, so it made sense for him to be tagging along with new workmates when he was invited to go out for a drink.
I should not have asked Brian so many questions. In his innocence and ignorance, Brian told me everything I wanted to know. He told me what was said and who it was said by. Although I felt enraged, I kept myself very calm while drawing more and more out of Brian. Of course my main interest was what did Jack say? Brian clearly had little respect or admiration for Jack. He made it very clear that Jack had made claims about what had happened between he and I that were not true at all. I told Brian that these claims were completely untrue. Brian was rather sweet and said he had doubted what he had heard anyway. I then told Brian that I was sick of false rumours and didn’t know what to do about them.
I asked Brian if he had had any plans for that day. He didn’t. He told me his schedule for the weekend was completely blank. He was just going to potter around galleries or museums in central London. I was going to meet some friends, but I was very early. I had wanted to get out of the flat before I saw Jack, which is why I had chosen the hour long bus ride into the centre of London rather than the tube. I asked Brian if he wanted to grab a drink or a bite to eat. Brian let me pour out my heart about what had been happening with Jack.
Ending a light lunch with a cocktail, in a moment of madness and in response to him being so kind and empathetic, I did something I should not have. Up to now, I seem to have suffered gossip and rumours that were no fault of my own. But now I did something completely stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid!
I lent forward and kissed the poor bloke! Brian laughed and thanked me. I immediately apologised. Brian then said to me everything was cool. He looked thoughtful, and then he came out with an idea…an idea which I should have rejected. His suggestion was basically to fight fire with fire. So he pulled out his phone and then standing real close to me, with his arm around me, he took a selfie of the two of us. He posted it straight onto his Instagram account.
He then made it very clear that as far as he was concerned, I should not have to put up with Jack or anyone else making up false rumours about me. He said I should take a bit more control of the situation and I should confront Jack about everything I had heard. When I left Brian in order to go and meet my friends, I thanked him for being a great listening ear and apologised again about kissing him. He said “it never happened.” and then immediately waved his phone in the air and added, “or did it?“
I could not be sure I knew entirely what Brian meant by that, so I looked at him with a serious gaze and confessed, “I do think I actually love Jack, but I am just really mad at him at the moment.”
Brian replied, “Well, I think he’s a fool. But I’m not a woman.I think it’s fairly obvious that if you didn’t care about him then you wouldn’t care about what everyone was saying. You definitely need to talk to him.“
So that was that…after hearing from my close friends all week and Jack’s close friends, it was Brian, who hardly knew Jack or me, who helped me make my mind up that I had to have another conversation with my flatmate Jack.
This post is part of a series I am thinking of calling “STORM IN A TEA-CUP”:
I don’t think I have introduced Ella to you yet. Ella and her husband Dean were living in the same flat as Jack and I and two other flatmates.
Ella was a great flatmate. She was bubbly and cheerful and very popular. She made huge pizzas and loved having lots of friends over to eat and play table football. She had four brothers, so she was used to being around lots of male company. I could never have lived in a flat with four men without Ella being there. They respected Ella.
She also worked in the same complex of offices and studios and huge storage areas as our flatmate Jack and so she saw him frequently each day around their work site. I knew she heard what was being said in the foyer, the canteen and throughout the offices. She had told me once or twice about some news about Jack and I had spread like wildfire through the departments. Very wisely, she did not tell me anything until I specifically asked her to.
I tried hard not to let rumours or comments from friends affect my behaviour towards my flatmate (we are calling him Jack Barnes, in case you missed that). When I did briefly see him at home in our flat, he was only lovely to me, asking me how my day had been, what were my plans for the weekend, offering me a drink, complimenting me on my dress or hair in his rather clumsy fashion.
It felt like he was really trying hard to maintain the new good will that had developed. There was no hint of anything he’d want to hide from me. He was cheerful, affable, gregarious. Nothing to indicate that behind my back he was contributing to rumours about him and I.
I was upset, but I hid it from him. I did not feel hearing rumours from others outside the flat was a reason to authorize me to treat Jack any differently. Yet what I had heard that week had made me tense. I arranged to be out every evening so that I did not see Jack, that way I would not become provoked.
Over the next few days, I heard more rumours and saw more photos and comments that others showed me on their social media sites. I also received many enquiries everyday, every single day, from friends and workmates, some kindly expressed, as to whether there was any any truth in the rumours they were hearing. I could understand some of my friends and workmates asking. It was the sheer number of enquiries that made the situation intense, in addition to people I hardly knew, or had never spoken to before, bounding up and asking me if I was going out with Jack.
I was very careful with my words. I told everyone who deserved some sort of answer, “Jack and I sat down to talk about the unhappy atmosphere that we have had in our flat, which had all been due to the pressure we both felt because of rumours about the two of us. We are both trying to ignore what is being said about us and try to make sure there is a better atmosphere in the flat. There is nothing more to tell.”
Close friends continued to report to me that Jack was enjoying the speculation and public attention he was receiving because people thought that he and I were now “together”.
On the Friday evening, six days after Jack and I had talked openly over a cup of tea, Ella and I were in the flat alone. The boys were all out. Whilst sipping mojitos, we chatted about everything that had been happening. Ella declared how glad she was now that Jack and I were friends because what was happening between us was affecting the whole flat.
Now I had the opportunity to question Ella to gain an insight into how Jack was dealing with the rumours that were flourishing due to our new found easiness with each other. I decided to ask Ella if she had heard rumours at work during the past week suggesting that Jack and I were now involved romantically.
Ella shrugged her shoulders, “Men say such stupid things Mel. I ignore most of what they say. They have been talking about the two of you since before Jack moved in here. They are stupid. As soon as he moved in, most of the guys started to bet on how long it would take before the two of you started sleeping together. I’ve been telling them they are all losers and that he has no chance with you.“
“Ella, what about him? What does he say? Does he try to stop this?”
“Ha! He is not going to try to stop it. He absolutely loves it! He loves attention. He is flattered that everyone thinks you like him. He loves being the main topic of conversation day after day.”
I was not expecting that. Tears started to trickle immediately down my face. Ella was clearly not comfortable with my tears.
“You know he is a complete idiot. But he is an idiot who is kind of insecure, that’s why he needs attention. He would absolutely love to be loved by a woman like you. He knows that he does not deserve you, that you are out of his league. But it makes him feel great that people connect the two of you together. He wished there were some truth in these rumours, which is why he keeps lapping them up while they are popular.”
I tried to stop my tears and absorb everything she had said to me. “So, people are actually betting on how long it will take me to sleep with him. That is truly pathetic.”
Ella’s expression suddenly became very serious, “Mel, you need to know something. Do you know where Jack is tonight?“
“I think he said he was going out for drinks with some friends from work.”
“Yes, but it’s bad. I mean you are really not going to like this. Hugh Sanders – you know what Hugh is like – claimed to have won the bet. He took the money which everyone had put in a jar or tin and they were keeping in one of the kitchens. I don’t know how much there was exactly, but well over £100. He is using it to buy drinks for any of the guys who wanted to go out tonight.”
Hearing those words made me shudder with disbelief, “I have not slept with him. Ella, I sat down and had a cup of tea with him.”
“I didn’t think you had Mel, although even if you had, that’s none of our business really. We just want you both to be happy. The point is there are a lot, a lot of people who think that the two of you are sleeping together now that you are acting like you are best friends outside of the flat.”
“But we haven’t spent much time together at all.”
“Enough time for scores of photos to appear of the two of you together Mel. I know you are just trying to be nice to each other, but the two of you are in all these photos full of smiles towards each other. Of course everyone is getting excited.”
I was feeling rather sick but knew that Ella was right, “But why has Jack allowed Hugh Sanders and others believe that I have slept with him?“
“Jack didn’t want to lose face in front of everyone. Hugh was winding him up so much, Jack didn’t say anything at all, but Hugh took that as confirmation.”
I felt really angry. This was so so wrong.
“Hugh is mad with jealousy. He has been winding Jack up for weeks. Hugh has fancied you for a couple of years, but knows you are not interested in him. He hates seeing you and Jack happy together.”
Hugh Sanders had asked me out a couple of times actually. I only said no because I was convinced it would be disastrous and he would forever make fun of me after it all went sour. My reasons were solid. I had been at parties and at dinner with groups of friends with him and it was obvious he had a soft spot for me. The reason I did not respond to him was that I was so overwhelmed by the intensity of his sarcasm and the critical tone he used when talking about everyone else. I like a bit of gentle sarcasm, I have grown up in Liverpool on a solid diet of sarcasm, but not the type that destroys another person’s confidence. If I had spent time with him, I would have withered up. He would have despised me because I would have recoiled from him.
Do you have any idea how confused I was hearing all this about Jack and Hugh and their workmates?
My flatmate Jack – on his own, was undeniably “my cup of tea” and he had the potential to make me extremely happy. I knew I could very easily fall in love with him, if only I was allowed by the rest of the world to actually spend some time with him. On paper, he was everything I admired and felt attracted to.
But in the context of what he either said about me or allowed to be said about me in order to receive attention from his colleagues and fans, he had the potential to crush me.
If it was not for everything I had heard during that week that followed, maybe that cup of tea with Jack would have very much led to me falling in love with him.
All of this was playing on my mind, and emotions were burning within me. Emotions that caused me to do something rather strange during the weekend at the end of that week. What did I do? I will tell you in another post.