* To those who read this a few hours ago, I apologise. My draft was published by mistake. Sorry about that.
I mentioned in a previous post the saga of my friend, Ellena. She of the husband who likes to have his cake and eat it too.
Ellena and I are good friends. I don’t doubt for a moment that I love her and she loves me. I also don’t doubt that I hate what she is doing to herself and her children by staying with a man who treats her with such disdain, disregard and all the other ‘dis-’ words you can think of as if she were nothing more than a plasma screen TV or an iPod that needs to be replaced every few years.
Ellena’s husband is going away for the weekend. With his mistress. It is the mistress’ birthday. She expects diamonds and room service. Ellena expects tears and acrimony. She has asked me to look after her kids for the weekend so she can go and confront her husband at the hotel. I think she has no intention of confronting her husband, I think she just wants to go the hotel to snoop and play the martyr. I think she wants her husband to rescue her from what she knows she really has to do.
I am miffed. I am peeved, frustrated, perplexed. It’s bad enough her husband waves his infidelity like a flag, like a T-shirt that proclaims : I’m Unfaithful, Get Used to It ; without Ellena pretending it isn’t happening.
‘Confront him now,’ I urge. ‘Don’t let him get away with it. You don’t like it. Stop it. Tell him to take a running jump.’
Ellena is full of her usual excuses : ‘What about the children?’ ‘I don’t want to have to sell the house.’ ‘We’re going to Paris for Easter.’
I am rapidly losing respect for one of my oldest friends. This day would be a good day to not get out of bed. I would have stayed under the covers if I had known. I feel like screaming and weeping at the same time. I go into Ellena’s bathroom that is so white I can’t see myself properly in the mirror. I look like an alien emerging from a spaceship. I run the water but the soap is split down the middle as if someone has hacked at it with a knife, breaking apart at my touch.
‘You will look after the kids for me, won’t you?’ Ellena isn’t about to give up. She has poured herself a glass of wine even though it is only 11AM. Her hand is trembling. She looks like a sketch done in pencil that is slowly being erased.
I am sorry for her but still angry at the way her kids treated Jake. I toy with adding to her pain by telling her how like their father her children have become but I can’t bring myself to do it. Even though the Fiddlewood Club has been disbanded.
When we lived in our old house across the road from Ellena we had a fiddlewood tree in the front garden. These magnificent Caribbean natives grow to heights of over 3 metres. Their wood is so prized they used to make violins from it.
When Jake was little he and Ellena’s two kids formed the Fiddlewood Club. They vowed to look after the tree and all the animals and birds that lived in it. They built a tent out of old sheets at the base of it and held meetings discussing how they were going to change the world by planting fiddlewood trees all over the land. It went on for years.
The Fiddlewood Club had its own membership cards and journals, hand-drawn flyers were prepared to attract new members. Last week I found all the old Fiddlewood Club stuff ripped up, thrown in the bin. It broke my heart to see it.
‘I can’t do it,’ I say. ‘You should confront him beforehand. Today. Now.’ Before you disappear. Ellena sits down. Suddenly, as if her legs have given way. She pushes her wine away. Sighs heavily. It sounds like her last breath. ‘Neither can I,’ she says.
Sometimes I am able to accept that there are some people I just can’t save. It surprises me when it happens because it is not in my nature to give up. Ellena’s acceptance of her husband’s double life has worn me down. I grind my teeth at night. I am frightened I will wake in the morning, mumbling, with a mouth full of stumps.
I walk carefully to the front door. It is time to leave for good. Ellena knows it. As I turn the doorhandle I look back. Ellena is twisting her wedding ring round her finger, round and round the way my Grandma used to wind wool for pom poms; her lips are moving but she isn’t looking at me. She has the face of a stranger.
The air is fresh. I am invisible as I walk down the garden path. I am not a good friend but I am free. Nothing happens as I get into the car. No one comes screaming after me. I hope this is a sign that Ellena will face what she has to do, just for once, for better or for worse.