I know him. And his silence is an indication of guilt.
I spend a sleepless night beating myself up for being such an idiot. Then I lean over and pick up my grandmother's necklace.
And that fire in my belly ignites. How dare he not return any of my calls? Or respond to my messages? He has left me with only one option.
The alarm goes off. And I climb (bleary eyed) out of bed. I feel very lightheaded. Then I realise that I haven’t eaten since yesterday morning; anger is a great appetite suppressant. I try (unsuccessfully) to force some toast down my throat.
Then I drop Mia off. And go to the school office to let them know about the head lice; that way they can get the standard letter out; there has been a case of head lice reported in your child’s class, please check your child’s hair. But there are too many members of the Mummy Mafia around. And I don’t want Mia’s anonymity to be compromised. So I hang back.
It doesn’t take them long to spot me and start whispering. Then the one who saw the (bumper) packs of condoms in my trolley asks me if I had a nice weekend. The others predictably dissolve into childish giggles.
I tell her it was wonderful. And that I had lots of sex. Then I add "I'm very tired now though, far too tired to be standing around gossiping. Do you know what? You should try it.” That wipes the smug look off her face.
Then I add “In fact, you should all try it”. Their expressions tell me that I may have hit a nerve (or two). I smile sweetly as I walk past them.
Then I head straight to Mark’s offices. I have a quick look in the car park to make sure I have my facts right.
His new sports car is easy to spot; the personalised number plates are a bit of a give-away. And it must have cost at least four years worth of mortgage payments.
I take several deep breaths before I walk inside. The reception desk is at the front of a large open plan office. The receptionist is very pretty and blonde. I ask her if she used to be a model. She smiles and proudly tells me that she was a catalogue model for three years. That clears up the confusion. Our mutual friend had the wrong receptionist.
Then Jade appears. And she doesn’t look too pleased to see me. I speak to the pretty one “I’m here to see Mark”.
Jade practically knocks her out of the way before asking me in her snootiest receptionists voice “May I ask what it’s regarding?” I respond with “No. You may not”.
She tells me he is in a meeting. Both her tone and manner imply that I have just crawled out from under her shoe. I tell her I’ll wait. Then I remind her that she is a receptionist. And suggest that she loses the attitude.
She responds by waving her left hand in my face “I’m also Mark’s fiancé”. Fiancé? Do people really still use that word?
Then my eyes involuntarily fall to her round tummy. She notices. And starts shouting at me “No, I’m not bloody pregnant. I don’t want children yet, I’m only twenty-fucking-seven!”
I’m shocked. She looks a lot older. Poor girl must have had a hard life. And her posh accent appears to have slipped into an Essex twang.
People are starting to peer over their computers. I tell her that she isn’t being very professional.
Then I notice a moustached man who looks very familiar. I know I have seen him recently. But I just can’t place him. He notices me staring at him. And promptly adjusts his computer screen to block my view.
He clearly doesn’t want to be seen. That immediately makes me suspicious. So I start to walk towards his desk. Then I remember him. He’s the strange little man from the bank that came to value the house; the one that told me Mark had defaulted on the mortgage.
Everything is starting to fall into place. And I am absolutely furious. Mark tricked me into agreeing to put the house on the market by making me believe it was in danger of being repossessed. I took it all at face value because it never occurred to me that he could be so deceitful.
He takes a quick peek at me from behind his computer. Then gets up and quickly starts walking off in the opposite direction. I follow him until he disappears into the men’s toilets. I hesitate for a moment. Then I go in. I have to get to the bottom of this.
There is a (startled looking) man at the urinal. But I can’t see Moustachio anywhere.
He must have locked himself inside one of the cubicles. I get on my knees. And check under the doors until I see a pair of feet. Then I bang on the door “You’re going to have to come out sooner or later”. He doesn’t respond. I bang harder. “I know who you are and I’ll stay here all day if I have to”.
He says he’ll come out. I stand back to let him open the door. He appears to be very nervous and agitated “What do you want? Who are you?”
Oh dear. Now that I see him close up, I realise that it isn’t the same man at all (although in my defence he is short and has a moustache). I tell him I made a mistake. But that doesn’t explain why he hid behind his computer. He tells me that he doesn’t like being stared at. Fair enough. I apologise. Then walk out as casually as I can.
I go back to reception with as much dignity as I can muster. And sit behind a large plant so I can squirm with embarrassment in relative privacy.
I finally emerge when I hear Mark’s voice. We have to walk past Moustachio to get to his office. I keep my gaze fixed straight ahead.
Jade is right behind us. I tell her that I would rather speak to her fiancé alone. But she follows us into his office anyway.
I ask him why he told Mia to lie to me about his new car. He denies it. Then I ask him why he parked said new car out of sight when he dropped her off.
He opens his mouth to speak but Jade gets there before him “He didn’t want you to see it because then you’d ask him for more money and you already take advantage of his good nature as it is”.
He asks her to leave. She is clearly a liability; so I say I am happy for her to stay. But he opens the door. And sends her out. He avoids my gaze “Is that what you told her?” At least he has the decency to look ashamed of himself.
I took nothing when I left him.
I had given up a lucrative career to care for our daughter; that alone would have allowed me to take him to the cleaners. I knew my legal entitlements very well. But I had no moral claim on a company that he had built from scratch.
And the fact that he increasingly valued money and material possessions above all else was one of the reasons I had left him. So I took a very principled stance.
I also knew that he would have had a breakdown if I had taken any of his precious money. That would have rendered him incapable of being a father to Mia; that in turn would have left her struggling to deal with his rejection and abandonment.
Then she would have carried those issues into every relationship she had with a man. Yes. I know. I overthink (a lot).
So I had told him that the only thing I wanted from him was to be a father to Mia. I didn’t even ask for maintenance. And he didn’t offer it. It was only when I ran out of money that I asked him to pay the mortgage.
I ask him to explain how he can afford a new car when he can’t afford the mortgage payments. He remains silent.
He is clearly going through some kind of mid-life crisis (sports car). And his judgement is seriously impaired (Jade).
But I will not be taken for a fool. I am an intelligent woman. And my pride needs to remind him of that fact.
I tell him that I am perfectly within my rights to instruct a lawyer. He would then have to give full disclosure of all his assets. And he would be forced to make maintenance payments to me accordingly “I have a feeling that would amount to more than the mortgage payments”.
The colour drains out of his face. And any residue guilt I felt for leaving him evaporates.
I open the door to leave. Then turn back to put him out of his misery “But I’m not going to do that because my values are very different from yours. I’m going to leave it between you and your conscience, assuming you still have one”.
I stop at reception and take a bottle of head lice treatment out of my bag. I hand it to Jade “There’s enough there for both of you”.
I walk out with a little spring in my step. Then realise that I’m absolutely starving!