I dropped my bag and unzipped my coat. I was determined to remain calm even in the face of such rage from Philip. Actually I had never seen him so angry. He was dressed in dark jeans and a black jumper; clearly he had not rushed home from work, but his face was dark and drawn, finally I understood the expression ‘face like thunder’. Something was going on for him to be home from work so early; I didn't know what and didn't dare ask, I could hardly dare breathe. I was also curious to know how he knew where I had been. Someone must have seen us but I couldn’t imagine who. I could see that Philip was getting impatient for me to respond, but I waited until I had hung my bag and coat up and taken off my boots before I replied.
"I went to see Robin" I responded flatly turning to face my husband as I did so. I was aware that such honesty could very well end my marriage as Philip had real insecure issues where Robin was concerned, but I wasn’t able to lie, and didn’t even want to. I had never outright lied to my husband and I didn’t want to start then, over Robin. The things that Robin had told me about Phil keeping secrets from me made me realise even clearer how much of an issue Robin had been between us, more than I had ever imagined. Phil must have thought that I was using this time to think up a good lie because he started to shout at me before his brain registered my truthful answer. The effect left his mouth flapping open and closed and a deafening, undefined noise poured out from within him. It was the second time that day that I had left a man speechless. This didn't make me feel good. I thought that his first question would have been 'why'? I had given some thought to that myself and felt that I might be able to explain my reasons to him but that wasn't what he wanted to know at all.
"Did you fuck him?" He screamed at me. His normally handsome face was contorted with rage and his normally straight roman nose suddenly looked very red and bulbous. My husband actually looked scary to me, I almost felt like I was facing a stranger. I was so shocked at what he had asked that it took me a second longer than normal to register what he had said but when I did my own anger flared.
"Are you fucking crazy?" I screamed back, all composure gone, "I am a married woman" I yelled, "YOUR WIFE!"
I was devastated when again I realised that my husband was not expecting this answer. He was standing in the doorway, still stuttering and rambling, clearly unable to think or speak straight. I regained some composure and as calmly as possible said "You thought that I was going to say that we were in public didn't you? You" a sob betrayed me and escaped at that point "were going to shove the fact that he and I never let that get in the way before in my fucking face. Weren't you?" I stood before him with anger to match his, I waited for an answer but the bowed head and red face told me all that I need to know. "You disgust me" I seethed finding the moral high ground when in fact I had none, and I stormed up the stairs towards our bedroom on legs which felt like jelly. I gripped the stair rail for support and it hit me that the cool smooth wood was about all the support that I had right then.
I made it about halfway up the stairs before Philip flew up them and literally jumped in front of me. He rested both of his hands on my shoulders so that he was facing me square on and stopped me in my tracks, "Wait Cass!" he pleaded breathlessly, "We really need to talk". The desperation in his voice annoyed me, mostly because I didn’t understand it.
"About what Phillip?" I stormed "about the fact that my husband thinks that I would run off and fuck another man in, in, where Phil; in the toilets of the fucking shopping centre?"I was screaming at him again and I hated myself for it. We had never behaved like that with each other in all the years that we had been married. Anger was literally making me shake. I realised that I should have been feeling remorse not rage, but felt powerless to react how I should have. I felt so out of control. I didn't know what was happening to me, anger flooded out of every pore washing away the guilt that I had been feeling. I felt such grief and so aggrieved at the same time. Nothing made sense to me in that moment.
Even though I was not exactly thinking clearly at that time I was still able to notice that Philip's normally olive skin looked drained of colour now that the angry red had faded. His once jet back hair was peppered with even more grey than I remembered, and his chocolate brown eyes were void of the happy sparkle which they normally carried. He looked like a man on the edge and I hated myself for that. "No" he replied with calmness that I knew he wasn't feeling "we need to talk about the fact that today, you, my wife" I didn't like how he emphasised those words, "ran out of our home, and went to see, the love of your life without telling me!” His voice broke at that point and he sunk down to sit on the step. Even though his head was bowed once again I could see that he was fighting back tears. My husband looked broken.
Guilt consumed me as I took those words in, "You are the love of my life" I stated as I knelt on the step beneath him and cupped his face in my hands, "you are the man I love. It was you that I married. You fathered my children Philip. It is you that I love". For some reason I was gently shaking his head as I reminded him of those facts, as if I was trying to shake the sense back in to him.
Philip looked up at me sadly. I could see him taking in my clothing, makeup and hair. For the first time in many years, I couldn’t tell what he was thinking; I could not work out what he was going to say next. "Why then Cass? Explain this to me" he waved his hand in the air and seemed to be indicating that he wanted me to explain my outfit to him; of course I knew that he wanted a whole lot more of an explanation from me. I found myself staring at the deep blue carpet on the stairs. I found myself rubbing it with my hand, feeling the coarse material felt safe and comforting, but on the other hand showed me that this wasn’t just a very unfortunate dream.
I don't know quite why but then I burst in to tears. Great big shuddering sobs wracked my body. Huge tears streamed down my face and the noise that escaped from within me was painful even to my own ears. My poor bewildered husband dropped his anger against me and took me in his strong arms and gently soothed me. The fact that my husband would do such a loving thing for me made me feel even worse so it took a while before I was able to pull myself together. Once I was a slightly calmer Philip picked me up and practically carried me in to our large, cool, kitchen. He sat me at our huge oak table and went over to the kettle and flicked it on. Without asking he made us both huge mugs of sweet tea and sat down in the chair nearest to me. He had remained silent the whole time. He was clearly allowing me time to calm down, but had not dropped his question, he was waiting for his explanation, but I didn’t know where to begin.
“I” that was as far I got before I shook my head in bewilderment and tried again: “You remember how Robin and I broke up right?” I searched Phil’s face for understanding, despite the fact that he nodded I knew that the chances were that he would never understand what I was feeling. “Well you know that he just walked out and I never saw him again!” Again my husband nodded as his face darkened with temper once more. “Well” I continued uncertainly “Sasha posted a message on Facebook saying where Robin was working” I shook my head and shrugged. I wanted to plead with him to understand but feared that he never would, “so I thought that that was it. That was my chance”
Phil did not allow me to finish before he jumped in and yelled “your chance for what? What did you want from him?” That was a good question, what had I want wanted?
“That is the odd thing” I informed him, “you see, in my head, even though all of this time had passed, I thought that I still had unresolved issues with him” I could see him bristle when I said this but continued anyway “It was just the way things ended so abruptly, that was all. So in a way I still felt that it had never been resolved” I looked at Phil and silently prayed that he understood how I had felt. The solemn expression on his face didn’t give me much hope.
“So you were looking for closure” Philip snarled unkindly. It wasn’t a question I felt, it was an acknowledgement of the wound I had just inflicted upon him.
“Well” I scoffed “that’s just it, right there!” Philip looked at me half angry and half in bewilderment, but I continued anyway. “In my mind there was all of this unfinished business, all of these unanswered questions and things that needed to be said, and then I got there, and realised that actually there was nothing that we needed to say. That I had long since had ‘closure’ but just hadn’t realised it”. I didn’t entirely blame him but I could see that Phil wasn’t really believing me or understanding what I was saying but I carried on again. “So I was leaving thinking that I had in fact had a lucky escape. You know, not having to put myself through the embarrassment of seeing him, and then there he was standing right in front of me”. I half laughed, knowing that this risked making my husband angry again, “when he asked me for coffee” I nearly told him how Robin practically dragged me to the coffee shop, but manage to stop myself. It sounded so childish, “well I really didn’t have much choice”.
Luckily Philip was too intent on dealing with his own issues and so pressed on, “You needed to get so bloody over dressed to go and ask him a few questions? Is that what you are saying?" His words were angry but his tone was so sad. I could feel my tears welling up again, which was useless and annoying at the same time. Slowly I sipped my tea before answering. "Why are you so bloody obsessed by what I am wearing?” He didn’t answer. “Wouldn't you? If you were going to visit someone from your past, wouldn’t you put on your nice clothes? Wouldn't you want to look your best and allow them to see that you had done well for yourself?" I felt a little fire in my belly and demanded "well Phil, what would you have done in my shoes?"
"I wouldn't have gone" my husband screamed, "I wouldn't feel the need to run off sneakily to visit an ex of mine!" He slammed his fist down on the table causing me and our teas to jump. "You see Cassie" I hated how he emphasised my name, "I, know that I am happily married. I, know that I have no unfinished business. I, have no unanswered questions". When did my husband develop that smug expression I wondered wanting to slap it off of his face. He had pointed at his chest every time he had said ‘I’ but now he folded his arms across his chest in a way that looked like he was trying to hug himself, so apparently he wasn’t feeling as smug as he looked.
"Well lucky, lucky you" I seethed "I am so happy that you are so at peace with your past. But don't make out that you are so secure with our marriage because we both know that's bullshit!" I wielded those words as though they were weapons, sadly they cut me as deeply as they did Philip.
Philip leapt back as if I had punched him, which was probably how he felt! I purposely didn't continue. I picked up my tea and sipped from the cup again. I flinched as a drop of the spilt tea fell on to my lap. Stupidly this tiny event was all it took to tip me over the edge and set my tears off again. Phil was frozen. I could see that he was calculating how to handle the situation. He wasn't sure what Robin had told me. I could have just been reacting to the fact that he had thought that I was still in love with Robin. If he said too much then he might drop himself 'in it'. I wondered if he trusted me, or in our marriage enough to speak up. He didn't. That fact is a sadness that I suspect I will carry with me for a long time.
"Why do you say that" he hedged. I could have let him stew but I was very aware that I was the one in the wrong. "I hate that you don't trust in my love for you" I smiled sadly at my husband. "I went today to finally get closure. But like I have already said, as soon as I actually thought about it I realised that all of my wounds, and let's face it, Robin left me very wounded" I saw my husband recoil at Robin's name but continued anyway, "had already healed. Time had passed and everything was right in my world" I made sure I caught his eye before adding "You Phil had made everything right. Given me a wonderful life and I do know that. I have always known that" I added to be sure not to cause any more conflict "but I just hadn't realised that there was nothing more that needed to be said between Robin and me. Only because of the abrupt way that things had ended". I could see that Phil was going to jump in but I beat him too it, and repeated again "Thinking about the way that my relationship with Robin ended always made me think there was unfinished business, don’t forget that he just walked out and I never saw him again. It hung over my head for a long time because of that, but now I understand that there is nothing that we need to say. I did realise that the time to say things had gone. Do you get that?" I allowed my husband to nod but before he could open his mouth I threw some further information in to the ring "but today I learnt that you, YOU Philip, are the one with unresolved issues and unfinished business and I hadn't seen that coming at all". My final words sat between us like a wall of ice. I sat silently praying that it would thaw and that one day, my husband and I would once again be OK.
Phil could not or would not catch my eye. He seemed to be lost very deeply in thought. I continued to sip at my almost finished tea. Philip hasn't touched his I noticed. I almost didn’t catch what my husband said when he started to speak as he spoke so quietly. "When we first got together I couldn't believe that I had got so lucky, I felt like a lottery winner" he whispered sadly. "I likened how I felt a bit like a man holding a million pounds in hundred pound notes! You know, trying to cling on to them" he laughed at the vision he has painted in his mind. I didn't join in with my husband’s laughter; it didn’t feel very funny to me. I felt sick with nerves at what was coming next. “When you agreed to marry me” he was directing his words to the table, “I thought that I would be able to relax and be happy, you know once we were married. But our happiness just made me feel like I had even more to lose, especially once you told me that you were pregnant with Millie” he looked up at me at that point “I had so much to lose and he had the power to destroy my life”. I felt so sick hearing those words leave my husband’s mouth I could not stop myself from leaping in “No he didn’t!” I insisted, “You are crazy Phil if you think I would do that!” I was literally reeling from those words, horrified that Phil would think that of me, of our marriage.
“You were obsessed by him” Philip stated flatly, “I don’t think you have ever once looked at me the way you used to look at him” when his eyes met mine I could see the tears filling them and it made me cry too.
“You are right” I started “about the first part at least. I was so obsessed with Robin. I couldn’t think or breathe straight! I was a young girl Phil, too young to understand anything other than the fact that I wanted him. And when I was old enough to realise how bad we were together” I wiped my tears away roughly with my hand not caring about the fact that I was spreading my makeup all over my face. “Well, by then I felt like I would lose too much face if I left him”. Phil was staring at the table again and I could see that his battle not to cry wasn’t going too well, I put my hand on his arm to comfort him but he just shrugged me off. Still I persevered, “But while I was obsessed beyond words about him, it was never anything like the love I feel for you. You mean everything to me, you and our children are my life and no one could destroy that” I declared, meaning every word, “Nothing and no one can destroy what we have. If you had of told me about what happened on your stag night, I would have still walked down the aisle, beyond doubt”.
It was as though he couldn’t take in what I was saying at all because when he spoke again all Philip could say was, “I loved you all the way from bloody nursery through until this day Cassie. It was only ever you, but I wasn’t even on your radar” he shook his head sadly to himself as he continued “you thought that he was the captain of the football team, but he wasn’t that was me, he only got asked to represent the school for the swimming competition because I had a wedding to go to. In every way at school he was second best” at that point Phil turned to face me square on, “apart from with you”.
And there we had it. The words were finally out. My husband thought that he was second best in my eyes and always had and that was the real issue. I felt sick.
“You are right about one thing” I told him, “when we were kids you weren’t really on my radar, but that isn’t as bad as you think. You were just always there, in every class in every lesson, constant. Philip Greenwood” I laughed, “when you came to see me after, well, after everything that was one of the happiest days of my life even to date. The joy of seeing your comforting face, feeling like there was something consistent in the world. Safe”.
“Jeeze thanks” he hissed sarcastically. I ignored him and continued “That was the first day that I actually ‘saw’ you Phil. The first time I really thought about how much I had missed you since we left school. Sure it wasn’t some huge fireworks display but that was the day that I started to fall in love with you. I saw you that day and every day after. You may not have been on my radar back then but you are my whole wide world now”. He didn’t answer or respond to me at all. “I would never leave you” I told my husband, “I love you and I would never walk away from our life together, the love that we built is the type that sticks”.
Again a silence fell between us. I waited a while but I could see that Phil was lost in thought. Still I interrupted him because I needed to know, “Phil who told you that I was with Robin today?” I watched him finally take a sip of his now cold tea and wince. Once he put the cup back down I stood up, removed it and walked over to the kettle. I flicked the switch and then took the cups to the sink and washed them. The whole time I waited for an answer but Philip remained silent. Once they were made I carefully carried our teas back to the table and noticed that I was still shaking. The stress was just too much. Once I was seated again he spoke “Were you going to tell me where you had been today Cassie?”I was hoping that my husband wouldn’t ask me that and was more than a little irritated that he wouldn’t answer my question. But there was no point in lying.
“I didn’t plan to” I answered honestly “in the end it just turned in to a bit of a non event so I didn’t really see the point. Mind you” I mused “I often think I won’t tell you silly things, like about Carol and her flipping car, you know? Then I just end up telling you anyway. So I don’t know” I trailed off after realising that I was rambling.
“A non event?” Philip asked “that isn’t how he described it”.
“What?” The voice that left my mouth didn’t sound like my own; it was a horrible shrill sound. I suddenly felt like I had a mouth full of mud, “What do you mean?” My mind was blank, seriously I couldn’t think. I was staring at Philip open mouthed. Of all of the answers I thought he would give me that was the last one I expected. He told me to wait and got up and left the kitchen. I don’t think I breathed the whole time he was out of the room. I heard that he had walked in to his office, I heard the printer start up, but I didn’t know what was going on and was frozen on the hard wooden chair. When Philip came back he just simply handed me a sheet of paper. He stood in front of me with his arms crossed and waited for me to read it. When I first looked at it my mind was so jumbled that I couldn’t actually read what was on the paper. I managed to read it on the fourth attempt:
Forgive me for making you cry again today, it was never my intention. I am glad for you that Phil has made you happy all of these years but you cannot blame me for wishing that it was me that you married, and that I was the father of your beautiful children.
I am always here if ever you want to talk to me, I know that there are things that we still need to say to one another.
Don’t worry Phil, you won again. You always do.
“You read my emails?” I faltered confused. Phil just pointed to the top of the page showing beyond any doubt that the email had been sent to him. I had almost forgotten what an evil and cruel bastard Robin could be. I just sat there reading and re-reading the stupid 8 line, 90 word email but I couldn’t quite take it in. “How does he know your email address?” I blurted.
“I don’t bloody know” Philip stormed, “ask him?” I ignored that ridiculous suggestion and asked if he had replied. The look of derision I received suggested not. “He is a nasty bastard” I concluded, “I walked away from him leaving no doubt that there was nothing left to say so he decided to cause some trouble between us. What a Prat”. I screwed that paper up and threw it on to the table in disgust. Philip continued to stand before me making me feel edgy, “you aren’t going to let him win are you” I asked, “you won’t let him cause issues between us will you?”
“He has always caused ‘issues’ between us” Philip laughed, “Jesus I can’t remember a time when that bloody man wasn’t an issue between us”!
“Well, let this be the end of him causing issues for us” I asserted “let this be the end of it”.
“Will it though?” Phil asked reasonably, “Is that the last time you will ever feel the need to see him?” I assured him that it would be and that I was not seeking anything from Robin. I hoped that in time Phil would be able to put this behind him and that he would understand that my love for him was never in doubt.
Suddenly I realised the time, “Oh my Goodness, it is six o clock Phil. My Mum will be going mental if one of us doesn’t show up soon”. I leapt to my feet in a hurry, but Phil just stopped me in my tracks, “Don’t worry Cass” he reassured, “your Mum is keeping them for the night. She will drop them off at school in the morning”. It crossed my mind that Philip must have been expecting something awful to happen when I got home, but I was too worn out to get in to it. I sat back down heavily on to the chair. I was relieved that no ‘brave face’ would be needed for the kids’ sake, but of course there was a downside now that Phil and I were feeling so awkward with each other. Phil was still standing where he had been and I felt very disadvantaged on the chair. So I stood too, “I am just going to freshen up and then I had better get back to my report” I took in the look on his face, clearly he had something on his mind but I just assured him that there would be time to talk later and walked out of the room. This time I made it to the top of the stairs and in to our room.
The sight that met me in our bedroom stunned me. On my pretty white rocking chair was the biggest most gorgeous bouquet of flowers. Red and white roses, which were my wedding flowers, were hugged by huge white lilies and orchids, which were the flowers that Phil had bought me after the births of our children. The chair was surrounded by gift bags but I ignored them and walked in to the room just staring at the stunning bouquet. I gently felt the cool, soft petals and then noticed the card tucked in amongst the flower heads. I carefully picked it out. On the card was written a single word: Loving. I held that tiny card to my chest and sobbed for a time. After the day we had been through it felt good to know that my husband knew that I was a loving person because that meant that he must know that I would never hurt him.
Next I picked up a gift bag. Inside was a beautiful pale green silk scarf. Again there was a card inside the bag. It read: Funny. I smiled just at the sight of the word. Phil always told me that no one could make him laugh like I could.
In the next smaller gift bag there laid a pretty gold bracelet. It was nestled on another little card that simply read: feisty. I liked that word.
I picked up a large box after that which I correctly guessed held a pair of boots. They were black knee-high boots, with six inch heels and were laced all the way up. The card, like the boots read: Sexy. Oh my goodness they were; very sexy.
The next bag I picked up held some very sexy, lace and silk underwear, the colours were predictably red and black, Phil’s favourite. It included stockings and suspenders. This card said: Bootylicious. This made me laugh and then cry. I couldn’t believe that while I had been off seeing Robin, my wonderful husband had been working so hard on such a wonderful surprise for me. I felt so, so unworthy. No wonder he hadn’t wanted me to make it in to the room earlier. I had nearly ruined the surprise. I had nearly ruined everything.
I was so blinded by my tears of shame that I almost fell over a sixth unexpected bag. I opened it carefully. The first thing I saw was a card. On it read: Mother. I pulled the gift out. It was a sumptuous black cashmere jumper. As I shook it out to admire it a small box fell on to the floor. I picked it up gingerly. My mind was blank. I opened the box and first saw another small card inside. On it was written: no five words are enough to describe you. I lifted the card out of the box and gasped at the sight of a stunning band of gold and diamonds. I had never, ever seen a more beautiful eternity ring. I held it and looked at it for some time before something caught my eye. I looked more closely and inside saw that the word; Wife had been engraved inside. I staggered towards our bed and lay down sobbing as I held the ring to my chest. I had never doubted that I had married the right man. I had always been grateful for the lovely life my husband had given to me and our children, but I felt so, so sad that Philip hadn’t known that 100%. I had never used sex to heal an argument or prove a point before in my relationship with my husband, but at that moment I decided that if there was a time when it was needed, then this was the time.
At once I knew what I had to do. I took a shower as quickly as I could; blow-dried my hair and applied a full face of makeup. Then I put on the underwear that my husband had bought me and laced up the sexiest boots I had ever laid eyes on. I made sure to wear my stunning new ring; I vowed never to take it off of my finger and then feeling suddenly shy I threw my cream silk dressing gown over the top before tottering down the stairs and to my husband’s office. I opened the door slightly, enough to get my head and shoulder in to the room without the rest of me being seen. I could see that Phil had attempted to do some work but was staring at the computer unseeing.
He actually jumped when I blurted; Caring.
“Sorry? What?” Phil asked bemused.
“Caring” I stated again, “it’s a word that I use to describe you Phil. You are very, very caring. Oh! Also you are constant too”.
“Oh thanks” he responded politely as he ‘cottoned on’ clearly he was underwhelmed.
“Also, clever” I added, “you are so, so smart” I emphasised, “I always tell everyone that that’s why you married me, because you are so smart”. I grinned and shrugged.
“You have a point” he grinned as he conceded my point, “I was very clever to marry you, even though you are very hard work”. I let that one slide as I had serious making up to do.
“Also, strong” I added “in both the physical and emotional senses” I added for emphasis, “you make me feel very safe”. I could see that he liked that one. I wasn’t sure what he would make of my next word, “friend” I stated, “I love that we are such good friends and of course we go back a long way and share so much history with each other. We are very lucky like that”.
“We really are Cass, I agree” Philip smiled. That gave me all of the encouragement I needed.
“Father, of course” I added, “our children are very lucky because they have a wonderful father. Each time I saw you hold one of our newborn babies in your arms for the first time it made me fall in love with you a little bit more” I informed my husband. Better late than never I mused but still wished I had told him this information years’ before.
“Pardon” Philip asked clearly getting more interested. He turned his chair round so that he was facing me very clearly and I realised that he was anticipating something, and this time he wouldn’t be disappointed. Slowly I walked through the doorway feeling confident as I continued “you are a very skilled lover Philip Greenwood”. Just as I dropped my dressing gown I stated, “Philip Greenwood, my husband”. It took a satisfying amount of time for my husband to be able to take his eyes off of my body and meet my eyes, but within seconds I had straddled him and was kissing him hard on the mouth.
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