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.
I have a very close friend named Marta. We shared a flat together when I first moved to London along with two other girls. She is one of the people I have been most open with about everything. I opened my heart to her. I love and her trusted her deeply.
Marta has been a huge support to me since I was the victim of a crime in a London park. Prior to that, we had been like best friends for almost five years. I ought to tell you more about Marta in another post because she really is a fascinating person, and has helped people overcome astonishing situations.
She is a very strong woman – mentally strong I mean. That is very important because she works with some very severe cases of mental health. So, she has been a great listening ear to me since I was attacked and she has helped me hold myself together emotionally and keep my mental balance.
I know that Marta is deeply fond of me. She loves me to the bones. She has gone to great lengths to help me since I was attacked.
But leading up to that night, Marta sometimes confused me when it came to how perplexed I was about the challenges with my ex-flatmate, who we are calling Jack Barnes, if you remember from my post:
You see, Marta did not like Jack at all! She did acknowledge his hard work on behalf of charities she herself felt passionately about. She approved of his using his influence in a positive way and encouraging young people to get involved with voluntary projects.
However, Marta was not at all keen on Jack in person. She did not enjoy his company as she said he always wanted to be the centre of attention. Marta said Jack was a show-off. For example, Jack spoke several languages fluently, at least eight languages. He would seize any and every opportunity to use his languages. So if he met anyone, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Greek, Romanian, German or Polish, he would start chattering away in their language to practice his conversation skills. Marta thought this was pretentious. Marta herself spoke four languages fluently. I did always wonder whether there was a tiny bit of envy on Marta’s side. I don’t know?
Marta was there the first morning I met Jack. We were having breakfast with some friends and he arrived late and he sat opposite me. It appeared that the way I tucked into my stack of pancakes had the ability to captivate him. She always said she had noticed the way he was looking at me and she knew he was going to chase me.
As time went by, she commented more and more on the way Jack and I behaved at parties. She said we both loved to socialize and get involved in dancing and chatting with as many people as possible and we both jumped at the chance to sing. She said she thought he and I could get on very well. However, she also declared that I would be bad for his boastful nature, because I would make him feel even more special, if I responded to his interest.
Marta became engaged to Pedro and when she was planning her wedding she repeatedly asked me if I wanted her to invite Jack, and then seat us together at the wedding reception, because she was sure Jack would be my future husband.
Now, that might sound a bit odd, but sometimes Marta said rather odd things. I never could quite work out her motivation. She thinks outside of the box all the time, she has to working in mental health. For example, she decided she wanted to cure me of my vegetarianism (I have not eaten meat or fish since I was six years old). The way she went about doing this was so bizarre. If we were at dinner and everyone was eating beef, she would moooooo into my ear. If everyone was eating lamb, she would baa baaaa into my ear. Why would making animal noises make me want to start eating meat?
So, I was never really sure if she was trying some kind of reverse psychology on me with what she said about Jack. Was she playing mind games? I could never tell if she wanted to encourage me or discourage me. She has been known on more than one occasion to pontificate about all sorts of subjects and her opinions sometimes knocked me over with the forcefulness they were expressed with. I knew she did not like him. But she kept on saying that he was undoubtedly in love with me.
Can you see why, even though she was my best friend, I didn’t feel I could rely on Marta while I was dealing with the challenges involving my flatmate Jack?
I had dinner with Marta and her husband Pedro during the week that followed Jack and I sitting down over a cup of tea and Jack saying wonderful things to me. Marta asked me many questions about Jack. She liked to analyse things.
I admitted I was delighted with him and hoped that he was genuine and that now things would be different. I also mentioned that I was a bit worried that there seemed to have been an increase of rumours and it could spoil things again. Marta had already given me a lot of support already regarding the gossip I was made a subject of and had actively tried to stamp out rumours. Now as Marta could be very strong with her words, I was not sure how much I could believe what she told me next:
“Mel, you do realize that he is the one that started all these rumours and he keeps on feeding them – it’s all his fault!“
I glanced at Pedro who seemed to have been studying my reaction. Pedro nodded with an apologetic look.
“Pedro, tell Mel what he was telling everyone at lunch on Monday.”
Pedro looked anxious, “I don’t think you really want to know Mel.”
Marta objected, “Tell her. She needs to know. She thinks he is wonderful, but she needs to know what he is really saying.“
Pedro readjusted his tie uncomfortably as if he would prefer not to be getting involved at all, “He was talking rubbish. He told a group during a business lunch that you had sent him a love letter, that you are obsessed with him, that you think you are married to him.”
I could not help a flush of embarrassment colouring my face, “I sent him a thank you card.” I started to wish that I had not of course.
“There’s more Mel, tell her Pedro.”
Pedro was more firm in his response. He stated emphatically, “I do not believe it is going to help Mel.”
Marta raised her eyebrows at Pedro and turned to me and said, “He gave them the impression that you had thrown yourself at him. He said you have expressed your passion for him, and that since he is a man he thought he may as well make the most of it and let you.”
“What! What does that mean Marta? Express my passion? Is that what he actually said?“
Marta nodded, while Pedro shook his head, “No, he didn’t say that. Mel, you know what a bunch of guys can be like. It was the other guys who were teasing him. They were saying stuff like you have been harbouring a secret passion for him all the time you have been living together in the same flat. Someone said he should be scared that one night he will walk into his room and find you waiting for him in his bed. Someone else started pushing him to admit that something must have already happened between you and him. A few of the guys were saying some pretty crude stuff, I am not going to upset you Mel – you know what guys can be like when they have had a pint of beer.”
My head was reeling a little envisioning the scene Pedro had just described. I felt provoked but in my determination to see Jack in a positive light I asked Pedro, “What I want to know is what did he say? Did he make sure they knew nothing has happened?“
“Mel, he tried to stop them once he realized they were going too far and being pretty insulting. But as soon as he tried to shut it down, someone pulled out their phone and started showing everyone a photo someone had posted on a Whatsapp group of you and him together, where you are letting him feel your behind. Jack just tried to laugh it off.“
I felt emotions start to flow like lava within me. The happiness my flatmate Jack had elicited within me during our chat over a cup of tea, was now draining out of me like fast flowing water disappearing down a plughole. All sorts of words went through my mind, words that my mother would never let me say out loud.
Marta saw that I had finally had enough. Tears were starting to brim. She sat close to me and gave me one of her huge hugs.
Just in case you are new to my posts, this is going to make a bit more sense once you read:
I shared a flat with Suzie, Tina and Marta for three years. Suzie was always very easy to get on with. The dynamics of our flat were amusing to many. Everyone said Marta was papa bear, I was mama bear and Suzie and Tina were baby bears. Or as another friend said, Marta bought everything for the flat, I cleaned everything in the flat, and Suzie broke everything in the flat, Tina was just little and cute.
Suzie and I got on as soon as we started working together. We both loved to laugh. Suzie is an amazing dancer. She has always been very popular because she is fun loving and loves parties. She loves shoes, she had a ridiculous amount of shoes which were stacked on top of each other in a pile that took up half of her wardrobe. Some of her shoes I liked, some of her shoes I thought were bizarre, but whenever she wore the shoes I thought were strangest, she received a bundle of compliments about them.
By the time I was living in a flat with my ex-flatmate – you know I have been thinking that is is becoming quite confusing talking about him all of the time as my ex-flatmate. So I am going to make up a name for him. There is no way I would say his real name. Let’s call him Jack, erm…Jack Barnes. Right, I hope you are awake, because from now on I am going to call my ex-flatmate (the one who crushed Caramel) Jack Barnes.
Suzie was married by the time I was living in the same flat as Jack. I had moved out of the flat we shared into another flat in the next road. Suzie and I used to spend so much time together before she was married, but I felt it best to give her some space when she was married. I did go round for dinner and loved that her husband cooked amazing jollof rice and plantain. I have loved plantain ever since I spent time in Ghana.
Suzie and I would try to meet on a regular basis after work to run home together. We lived about three miles away from where we worked. We could lengthen the distance we ran for by taking a circuitous route. I loved running. At that stage, I was running at least three times a week. I would do one long run of around 8 miles and two shorter runs of around 4 or 5 miles each week. The run home with Suzie was an extra and I enjoyed it because we used to chat almost the whole time we were running.
So what did Suzie have to say about the situation with Jack? Hmm, I think I have to go further back in time.
Suzie was one of the first people who said I would be perfect for Jack. She had known him for years and their parents knew each other. I know that besides the fact Jack and I were both devoted to working as volunteers on various projects and were both known for being studious, people loved that we both had the same fondness for what we did in our spare time. We were very keen on karaoke and monopoly (not at the same time). That seemed to be everyone’s main focus for a while. I laughed, I just commented that if two people both love monopoly and karaoke, what else is there to worry about? I mean what else could ever be an issue? Karaoke and monopoly are clearly the foundation of a successful relationship!
In addition you probably need to know that Suzie’s husband was a very close friend of Jack’s. They socialized together a lot. He also seemed to think I would be perfect for Jack, but he warned me, Jack is not very sensitive to women and can come across a bit ignorant. He told me of several women who had been more than offended by him. He told me Jack is like a teenager and has never really learnt to understand women.
I also knew that Suzie’s husband and other friends who were very close to Jack had started to tease him about me. Especially a young man named Jamal. I will tell you more about Jamal in another post. But, I know that the teasing started with Jamal, Suzie’s husband and a group of their friends. Young men who were fun, popular and addicted to their phones…which is all how it started. I am sure that none of them had any intention of the explosion of invasive interest and insults that developed.
Suzie’s husband was one of the first to cotton on to the fact that what had originated with innocent teasing was starting to get out of hand. He took the time to discuss it with me and realized I was becoming alarmed at the comments I was receiving from complete strangers. From then on, Suzie and him tried to be as supportive as possible in a situation that was going to advance beyond anyone’s expectations. At the end of the day they cared for both Jack and me, and they tried their best to resolve the situation.
So much happened, it would take pages and pages to tell you everything Suzie said to me at every stage of the challenging situation that developed. It all makes up a huge tapestry of “he said this” and “she thought that” and is endless! So what did Suzie say after Jack sat down with me and made me a cup of tea?
Suzie and I ran home together one evening that following week. First of all, she wanted to know if I was alright. I told her how happy I was with Jack. Suzie seemed surprised.
Her main concern was my reaction to what everyone else was saying about Jack and I. She confirmed that the consensus of opinion was that Jack and I were now a couple, but she also said that even she was shocked at what she had heard and seen during that week.
“I am sick of gossip and rumours Suzie. Other people have piled so much pressure on both Jack and me, it has ruined the atmosphere in the flat. I just want to be able to feel relaxed in my own home and for Jack to feel relaxed. I honestly thought that by now, people would have become bored and moved on to gossiping about someone else, but it doesn’t seem as if that is ever going to happen. So I only have one choice, to ignore what is being said and not to let it interfere with my life and life in the flat.”
“Well done Mel. I think you are right. All you can do is ignore it. I just want you to be happy. You only deserve to be happy. So does Jack. If you could try to ignore the rest of the world, and don’t worry what anyone else thinks, maybe… just maybe, things will be easier between you and Jack.”
But even Suzie asked me if I thought there was any possibility, after all the damage, that anything more might develop between Jack and I.
Much as I loved Suzie, and loved spending time with her, the truth is I no longer trusted her with my feelings about Jack. I suspected she would share whatever I said with her husband and it would then go back to Jack. I truly wanted it to be Jack and I alone who discussed any possible prospects for a future relationship. So I tried to throw cold water all over the idea that anything could ever develop. I said I really did want to enjoy being friends and flatmates. That was all that mattered to me.
Suzie asked me if I knew what Jack wanted next. Now, how would I know what Jack wanted next?
I shrugged my shoulders and said that since the conversation the weekend before we had not had another heart to heart, we were just enjoying each other’s company more. Suzie then told me that Jack was making it known to his friends and colleagues that there was something between he and I.
“Suzie, if he has something he wants to talk about to me, he knows where I live. I am not going to worry about it. We have only just started to get along again. I am in no rush to jeopardise that.”
“That’s fine Mel, just be prepared. He thinks you like him a lot.”
Well, I have finally been able to sit down and write about what happened after that strange conversation. It’s been hard going, because my emotions are still a bit volatile whenever I recall the events that led up to that night I went to a London park on my own and woke up the next day in an ambulance. But I am relieved I have managed to get so much out of my heart and onto paper. So during the next few days, I am going to present the events of the week that followed that conversation over a cup of tea.
So, here we go:
At first, I was slightly in shock, because I had not been expecting the words he uttered, and I was bowled over at the humility he had displayed. Those beautiful expressions he directed towards me played games with my mind. Over the next twenty-four hours my feelings developed at a reckless pace. Every real or perceived offence or transgression on his part vanished far from my mind. By the time I had percolated my emotions, I was left with admiration, esteem, fondness and joy which before had been almost buried beneath frustration, hurt, bewilderment and humiliation.
All that was forgotten with the new-found elation he had triggered in me. He seemed very happy too. The air seemed to have lifted completely. He chatted with me freely in front of the rest of our flatmates and any visitors. Outside of the flat he was comfortable with me. In front of our neighbours and friends he treated me pleasantly and gallantly. I enjoyed the freedom of being able to talk and laugh with him. I was curious about the gentle and fond glances he kept on sending my way.
It affected me deeply. It was hard to suppress my smiles. I loved every moment of his company when he was like this. I was brimming over with delight. I can’t remember ever feeling so intensely happy with any other man in my life. So I did something I have done thousands of times over the years to all sorts of different people. I sat down and wrote a thank you card to him. I wrote that I had been touched by his humility and kindness and was so grateful that finally the air had cleared. I wrote that I too wanted us to be friends and enjoy living in the flat together.
He seemed thoroughly pleased and gratified with my thank you card. Of course he thanked me personally for it.
I loathe to admit what happened next…
The rumours began to arrive back with me. The words I heard ranged from cute to crude, from ridicule to outright rude, from drole to dreadful, from silly to slanderous, from vile to vicious. If I give you a tame example, you will wonder what I was upset about, but if I give you examples of the most degrading things said and published on social media, it will make my site unsuitable for readers of all ages to read – so use your imagination. As they stacked up, I became troubled. In essence, people thought my flatmate and I were now an official item, that we were now “going public” about an intimate relationship which we had been apparently been trying to keep a secret.
Even my best friends asked me if it was true that he and I had now “got together”. I assured them that was not the case at all, I told them we had just sat down and had a chat and cleared the air, and we both felt so much better now.
“So, you haven’t slept together? You are not going out with him?”
“No! Of course not! No, I am not going out with him.”
“Well, that’s what everyone is saying.”
Ugh! I was sick of all of these ridiculous rumours. I intensely disliked that he was a celebrity and seemed to be always on the radar for people to create fanciful stories and fiction regarding his personal life, which was now invading my privacy and peace of mind. I wondered how people could say these things? Why didn’t they get a life! Or at least a hobby, something that would absorb their attention in a more constructive way – like chess, or oil-painting, or fly-fishing. Anything! Just leave me alone!
I think my close friends believed me, but they asked probing questions, seemingly determined that there was something I was not being fully open about.
“But would you like something to develop with him?”
“I can’t really answer that. At the moment he is being wonderful. But I’ve spent months thinking he could not stand me because he has been so hostile. It’s only been a couple of days since we’ve been getting on. I just hope he is being genuine, well, I will have to wait and see how long it lasts.”
“You do like him don’t you?”
It was only to my best friend Marta, that I was brave enough to admit, “If he stays like this then I am going to fall in love with him“.
My friends showed me some awful comments and photos on various forms of social media of or about my flatmate and I. Most were being spread through Whatsapp groups, but they were spilling over onto Instagram, Facebook and other forms of sharing brainless nonsense.
I was amazed at how many photographs must have been snapped up of he and I during the last two days while we were near home. Who was taking these photos? Could it have been one of our neighbours? Or several of our neighbours? Or just people passing and recognizing him and seeing an opportunity? It seems unlikely that it was just one person. But why take these pictures and then use them to make up stories that were untrue? Was it even legal to be publishing their baseless presumptions? I hated seeing what people had written about the photos that were being shared. So crass!
There were a couple of photos that were strange. In one he seemed to be playing with my hair, but I am sure he never did. Another, I remember holding his bag for him while he ran back up to the flat to find his keys. When he came down to the foyer of our block of flats, he had taken his bag from me and put it on the floor and knelt down and started rooting through his bag and sure enough, the keys were in the bag. Somehow, someone had caught a photo of him leaning forward (I think it was as he was about to kneel) and it looked as if he was coming in towards me for a kiss). I saw immediately the way it looked. I now realize how cameras can tell lies, for all he was doing was kneeling down.
There was one photo that had been taken from a very unfortunate camera angle. I remember he had opened a car door for me and I had turned around and smiled graciously thanking him. But in the photo it looked as if his hand was on my behind and I was enjoying it. Believe me, he did not lay a finger on me, otherwise there really would have been a story to tell, along with a black eye. But it was just the angle the picture was taken. He had his right hand held out as he was inviting me to get into the car…and it really did look as if his hand was planted firmly on my derriere and I was giving him a smile of enjoyment. Ugh!
Ugh! Sometimes, I hate cameras, hate social media…or at least the way some heartless people have used them.
I will finish this post for now…but I have more to come….look out for:
I am alright now, (I think) but for a long time the situation with my ex-flatmate Jack kept my nerves on a knife-edge. I know there are some people who make a career out of being the subject of idle gossip for others, but that has never been something I wanted for myself.
Even when I was living with Jack, the rumours about the two of us were so upsetting, I tried to leave the flat earlier than anyone else and arrive home in the dark. I was sneaking in and out of my own home, to escape the attention of whoever it was who kept these shocking rumours breeding.
When I returned to London, after almost a year of resting and recovering from the physical injuries I had sustained the night I was assaulted (and then…being left for dead underneath some bushes) I was pretty nervous.
Although my physical injuries were healing up nicely, I was deeply self-conscious in so many ways. I was very nervous around men. I was very aware of my head! I felt secure with a hat on, or a bandana or scarf in the summer. I found London overwhelming. I felt very lost at times. I found bright lights gave me severe headaches. I always wore sunglasses out of doors. The first six months, I was hiding myself with hats, headscarves and sunglasses
But what I found effected me most deeply was gossip. I saw friends and colleagues. They were confused about why I had disappeared for a year. Many of them thought I had left in disgrace. Just before I had been attacked, there were rumours that I was involved with a married man. I don’t really feel like writing about that today, but I will at some point. There are already a couple of posts where I have touched on it already:
But it has taken a long time to be able to battle the anxiety that other people, people I admire and respect, think terrible things of me. That realization has made me pretty dismal at times.
I could have caused trouble for Jack. I did not want to do that. I could have talked about being assaulted (I find it really difficult to use the R word still) and beaten up. But you know, I really did not want to. If I started talking about it, I would have been asked a thousand questions by people that I was not ready to answer. So instead I let them think whatever they wanted to think.
As far as many of them are concerned, I was acting strangely, sneaking in and out of my own home at unusual hours, becoming cagey and defensive and emotional…and then I disappeared for a year. I returned to London wearing hats and sunglasses (with style!) and not answering questions openly.
I am a lot more settled than I was then, more relaxed about everything, and my friends are more relaxed. They all seem genuinely glad to have me around and everyone is very polite about what has happened in the past. Some of my very close friends know a lot more about what happened of course, and when I need someone to talk to they are wonderful. But on the whole, everyone has been so incredibly discreet about what happened to me, which I am extremely grateful for.
But there is a kind of loneliness that comes with having a big secret that you hide. I hide all the details of what went on between Jack and I. I hide all the details about what happened to me in the park. People know not to push me with too many questions because I will leave.
Well…I have said enough for today. It takes it out of me thinking about things that I don’t want to think about! So, to end this post I wanted to share a song that I fell in love with, mainly because I have become such a huge fan of the voice of Kristina Train. But I liked the song too…it does touch me in my situation. I have put two versions for you just in case you prefer the acoustic version. I like both actually.
Four years ago, I felt as if I could not go home, because I did not want to see Jack ever again. I was out with friends, and instead of going home, I went to a park, sat on a bench and cried. The next morning I woke up in an ambulance. I don’t think I want to think and write about it…any of it. I just want to enjoy my time with Goldfinch. Think of me…right now…in his arms…please be happy for me. 🙂
Will you forgive me for not being to keep up with every writing prompt that has caught my attention recently? I have so many that I have started and are sitting in my drafts folder waiting for me to finish them. Some I am determined to complete at some stage.
When I lived in our family home, which for most of my childhood was with my parents, my brother and my two younger sisters (my older sisters are so much older, they had left home to go to university by the time I had started school) I never ever wished to run away. I felt truly at home. There were occasional challenges, but I was blessed to be reared in a haven of dependable love and trust. Here is a photo of happy me…with my hair in pretty much the same state as this morning!
However, I left home in order to be able to work as a volunteer in a part of the country where there were a stack of projects and not many volunteers (partly because the cost of living in that area is so high). Although the first year was hard, because I missed my family and friends up north so much, it did not really take me too long before I started to feel at home down south. I made many wonderful friends and fell in love with the countryside. I ended up living on the grounds of a beautiful stately home and being allowed to roam their gorgeous estate, and because they trusted me, I paid peanuts for my accommodation, which was another fortuitous factor in my volunteer career in the south of England.
Moving to London to become a full-time international volunteer was like a dream. I had a rare opportunity as a single women to be chosen from many thousands who submitted applications. That year there were two single women and sixty single men who met the criteria. Because of the physical demands and difficulties in the various challenging assignments, the number of single men vastly outweighs the number of single women. The physical, emotional, mental tests they put you under are designed to reveal if you really can take on a self-sacrificing role and if you really can be sent anywhere in the world and adapt to any way of living.
It was like coming home…even though I had been happy before. I was happy on a different level. Everything felt right. The routine, the dignity, the rewarding work, the huge numbers of people I saw and worked with. I found I didn’t miss receiving wages. My main assignment would be in London, but at any point I could be sent elsewhere. I loved the astonishing variety London life offered. I found that I was thriving in this life-style.
However, as you may be aware if you have read some of the posts that relate to what crushed Caramel, it was here in London, that I faced a challenge the likes of which I had not faced before. It was no joke, though I think a lot of people were laughing. If I can blame anyone or anything…I would like to blame “celebrity culture” and the puerile use of social media.
Sometimes it all feels like a blur, but it was two and a half years at least and it wore me down. The point at which I reached my limit was when rumours started (I think I know who started them) that I was having an affair with a married man, the husband of one of my close friends and workmates. I was devastated (because this is not me).
After my friend and workmate, who was as distressed as I was about the rumours involving her husband, screamed at me within a public building in front of crowds of people, I was called into an office with two directors who were concerned about the incident and wanted to understand what was happening. They mentioned Jack. They knew him well and thought that he and I had gone from a romance to estrangement to bitter jealousy. I refused to discredit Jack. I stood my ground and insisted that he was not to blame (although in my heart, I was certain he was). They made it clear though that they wanted us to sort this out because they could not have anyone screaming in rage in the middle of a reception area were scores of visitors had been appalled by what they had seen.
More than ever, I wanted to talk with Jack and ask why, why, why was he doing this? But all I received for months was glares and grimaces. He made it clear that he was nursing a grudge. A grudge that I could not comprehend. Then that summer, I received some very concerning news about a relative who had become involved in a criminal court case and was featured in the news. That situation deepened my anxiety and stretched me to the limit as I did all I could to help practically. The last thing I needed was abject hostility from a man who was still sleeping in a bed just metres away from my own bed.
So after seeing him frequently and feeling intensely shunned and despised by him…it was that evening when I was going out to meet my friends and I pressed the button for the elevator. The door opened and there he was. His eyes full of disdain.
There was no way I was going to be able to stand inside the elevator on my own with him. So I took a couple of steps back and let him carry on alone. That’s the last time I saw him close up. That was the moment I decided I wanted to run away from my beloved home to escape the nightmare.
I enjoyed the evening with my friends, but there was a huge surge of pain and despair that I was hiding from everyone…one of the girls who lived near me wanted to drive me home, but I said I would like to walk as it was still light. And walk I did, but in the opposite direction of home. That was my moment of running away from home. I walked towards the local park. On the opposite side of the park a fairground had popped up that weekend and there was a carnival atmosphere amongst the people I passed on the way to the park.
It was a beautiful summer’s evening. It had been one of the hottest days of the year. There were joggers and dog-walkers and teenagers sitting in the grass talking and laughing when I arrived and when I sat down on a bench.
I was so consumed with despair, I did not notice that daylight had fled completely and there was no longer anyone else in the park, until a stranger sat down on the bench besides me.
Here is a strange coincidence about that location. When I went back to that spot some time later (not on my own) I found my front door keys still there. Which was the most strange feeling. I didn’t find my missing shoe…navy with a slight frill detail above the toe, but I found my front door keys. They had been lying there undisturbed all that time. Even the police must have missed them. I almost felt as if they had been waiting for me. It was a profound encouragement to me!
Over three years later, I still have not made it back home yet. But I am working towards it!