Cancer - the Crab
Emotional and home-loving
Intuitive and imaginative
Shrewd and cautious
Protective and sympathetic
Changeable and moody
Overemotional and touchy
Clinging and unable to let go
That's what my star sign book says, and while I am far too realistic to believe that covers one twelfth of the whole population, I have to agree that some of those traits describe me. I am emotional and do love my home - I'd love it more if I could spend more time in it and get it just the way I want it, but long working hours and having to negotiate with Tom every time I want to change anything mean I usually accept the status quo. Imaginative - well, I wish I had less imagination: then perhaps I wouldn't be kept awake at night by visions of what Tom and Julie spent their nights doing when he was living with her, to say to say nothing of how they have spent their days - or part of them at least, along with who knows how many overnight trips, despite Tom's denials. That's where the shrewdness and caution come in - believe nothing, suspect everything. Though that trait seems only to have crept into my psyche this year. Hmmm, wonder why?
I can accept the changeable, moody and touchy - I know I have seen this in myself from my teens, but again the last year has brought it out far more than previously in my adult life, and when I look at the final two lines I acknowledge this is the reason why, despite everything, I haven't thrown Tom out on his ear. It would be admitting defeat. It would be accepting our marriage, after ten years, is a failure.
Which would make me a failure. And, if I admit the truth, even if only to myself, it would be letting that woman win. Because the call and text to Tom tell me that she still holds out hope that he will go back to her. The more I think about it, the more it seems to me her motivation in instigating that showdown with me was that I would go home and confront Tom - about which she was right - and throw him out. She can then step in and resume the relationship as his one true love.
Well, that part of her prediction hasn't been fulfilled so far, but I am wavering. A week ago I was ready to tell him to go, but his sheer emotional state - the only other time I have actually seen Tom cry was when his favoured cricket team won the ashes - made me fear that if I ejected him from the house at that point he might just give in to his momentary despair. By the next morning I had started my usual see saw of emotions and wasn't sure what to do, so we have spent the last few days in limbo, with me in tears at some point every day - usually in the car on the way home from work, when the strain of keeping it all together all day proves too much - and him tiptoeing round me, trying to say or do anything he can think of to make it better: apologising twenty times a day, buying me chocolate, appearing at the office at lunchtime with a roll and a cake to make sure I'm eating.
He has given me the phone he used to contact her and told me I can destroy it, or keep it to see if she calls or texts again - he doesn't care which. He never wants to see the phone again and will not contact her or respond to any attempts on her part to communicate, so what happens to the actual device is of no interest to him whatsoever.
As it happens, I have kept it to see if there is any further attempted interaction, and there have been two further texts, both within twenty-four hours of the first. One was in a similar vein to the original message, saying she hoped he was all right and asking him to call or text to let her know he was OK.
Receiving no reply to that one clearly irked her, for three hours later, another text appeared which read: 'OK, I get the message. You're pissed off with me for telling your wife. I thought she deserved to know what sort of man she's married to. I thought you were honest, I believed your lies. I thought you loved me, but the only person you love is yourself. Thanks to you I'll never trust another man again. My life is over and you don't care. I hope your wife gives you what you deserve.'
Which, presumably in her estimation, is the Order of the Boot. Which, ironically, I am considering, but for quite different reasons to the ones she imagines.
Tom doesn't seem to realise none of his actions towards reassuring me that he has quit playing around makes any difference: my feelings for him seem to have disappeared. It's like I've been badly injured and have regained consciousness to find my whole body, which should be racked with pain, has just gone completely numb. I can't feel any pain, but I can't feel any other emotion either. I'm not angry, nor afraid. I don't hate Tom: I don't even hate Julie, but neither do I feel sorry for her, as I was beginning to when we were sitting in Starbucks.
I think I have to wait until my feelings come back before I can decide what I want to do. I haven't kept my appointment with Brenda this week - I phoned her and briefly explained recent events and said I felt too traumatised to talk in depth. She understood, said we couldn't make progress until I had regained my equilibrium a bit, but made me promise to keep next week's appointment, however I feel. And that if I feel in any way desperate, which is possible, she said, once the numbness wears off, which it will, I'm to call her immediately, or just turn up on her doorstep. I promised.
I have taken the day off to celebrate, and to my surprise so has Tom. He came into my bedroom - we have slept apart at my request since my discovery that the affair was ongoing, and he has accepted this without question, not even attempting to approach me for sex - and woke me this morning with breakfast on a tray, complete with a red rose in a glass and a huge birthday card proclaiming his love for 'My Beautiful Wife on Her Birthday'.
He was even sheepish about the cheesiness of the verse, apologising that he had chosen it for the picture, which portrayed a couple in silhouette, gazing adoringly at each other in front of a romantic sunset. The tray's contents also included a tastefully wrapped gift box, which when opened contained a gorgeous pair of gold earrings, which match my wedding ring. Strangely, I have been contemplating removing the wedding ring from my finger in the light of recent events, and it is as if Tom has read these thoughts and provided a reason to keep it on.
I stammer my thanks, unsure how to react to this unaccustomed display of affection, and Tom smiles and announces that when I have eaten he will run me a bath and that he has another birthday surprise planned for later.
After a leisurely bath, complete with bubbles, coffee (brought by Tom) and a magazine to leaf through, I walk back into the bedroom to dress, to find a half- packed suitcase on the bed. My first thought is that Tom is packing to leave, and that this will save me making a decision on this, though my birthday is a weird day to choose; my second thought, on seeing my clothes in the case, is that for some reason Tom has decided that I should be the one to leave, and I open my mouth to make my objections to this course of action clear - he's the one who has cheated on me, I love my house so why should I be the one to leave? - when Tom enters the room and cuts me off before I can say a word.
'This is the other surprise darling,' and he hands me two e-tickets - for return flights to Rome. A week in Rome? Together? I don't know what to say. So I say nothing.
Tom misinterprets my confusion, thinking I am overwhelmed with joy.
'I know, I should have done this ages ago, shouldn't I? You've been saying for long enough you wanted to go away for a romantic holiday. And don't worry about work - I rang your office and told them you were taking the time off. Actually, I spoke to your boss and explained it was a surprise birthday treat. She was more than happy to let you have the time and keep quiet about it. She said it was so romantic, and she wished her husband would do something like that for her.'
I know how she feels, I thought. I used to wish my husband would do something romantic like that for me. But that was when I was still in love with him.
I catch myself with that thought, which takes me by surprise. I've finally acknowledged what I have known, deep down, for a long time. I'm no longer in love with Tom. I've paid lip service to the notion of loving him because he's my husband, and I remember adoring every inch of him, but I can no longer recall how that felt, or reconnect with the person that had those feelings. Maybe that's why I feel numb?
Tom is completely unaware of my inner turmoil: he sees only amazement at his tardiness in understanding what his wife wants, masking the underlying joy that he has at last demonstrated his love in such a palpably romantic gesture.
So he chivvies me along, insisting I get dressed and finish packing: 'I've put in enough underwear and stuff for the week and a few of your favourite T shirts and jeans, but you'll probably want to put in some other clothes to co-ordinate your outfits like women do, and don't forget a couple of nice bikinis, because I plan on taking you out to the coast one day. Oh, and I remembered the sun cream, but I've left you to choose what make up and jewellery you want to take. The taxi's booked in half an hour to take us to the airport, so we haven't got too long. I'll get you some more coffee. Love you!'
And with that he disappears downstairs, leaving me to make sense of the thoughtful, caring stranger who has taken over my husband's body. I know I should be the delighted, grateful wife he thinks I am, and I want to be, but my brain is screaming at me 'Too little, too late' over and over, like a mantra.
Yet all the while, I find my hands betraying me by collecting clothes and stuffing them into the open case. Obedient to Tom's wishes, I am standing, just under half an hour later, by the front door, coat on - the summer day is not as warm here as where we are going - and handbag and suitcase by my side.
As If in a dream I follow Tom to the taxi, through the airport and on to the plane, and before I know it I am sitting in a hotel room in Rome, committed to spending the next seven days in a foreign country, in a city I've always wanted to visit, with the man I used to love. What could possibly go wrong?