On the train, I had allowed myself to look at Facebook, see what wedding photos were up. It was like pulling off a plaster, there was no point trying to avoid the photos for a couple of weeks only then to find a random mutual friend you’d forgotten you had commenting on one of your daughter in a bridesmaid dress. I had kept it together on the train, calmly searching and clicking, finding someone who had liked a photo and clicking through to their profile, and so I went on. Shelley had looked beautiful, young and vibrant and expensive. There had been no expense spared, that was clear, her parents had money and I wasn’t sure if that hadn’t been part of the attraction for Paul.
At home, I had made myself eat something, and gone to bed. I had cried that night like I had never cried before. A night for reaching the very bottom. It was the closest I’ve ever come to thinking about not being there at all. I don’t like to use the word and I wasn’t anywhere close to doing that but it had crossed my mind that night and stayed there. Or disappearing. Packing a bag and starting a new life somewhere. Allowing Ellie a family. A proper one with a Daddy and a Mummy.
That was the crux of my heartache. My failure to give my daughter a family. My inability to keep her family together. I had cried for me and then for her. Imagined, acted out in my head, the conversation that I would have with Paul, the sudden realisation that Ellie should live with them.
I had slept. I could not remember falling asleep but I had been woken by my phone. I had reached for it on my bedside table, noting the red battery icon at the top of the screen.
For a moment, for a fleeting, heart soaring second, I had imagined that he was saying that he had made a mistake. That standing at the altar with Shelley had made him realise that it was me he loved and our family could be pieced back together again.
But he had sounded happy. Gloriously, deliriously happy. The reason he was ringing, he had told me, was that Ellie was missing me and did I want her back early, did I want him to bring her back now?
Yes, I had said, yes please, a thousand times yes.
And then she had been home. She had rocketed through the door, talking nineteen to the dozen, full of stories of the wedding and the funny hat Grandma had worn and Paul and I had not had to exchange more than a handful of words. For that I was grateful, and I think he was too. I had been able to see the wedding band back on his ring finger and it looked right there, comfortable and just like he had always looked. I had looked down at my own bare left hand; the only jewellery I had worn then was a band Paul had bought me on Ellie’s first birthday, her name and birthdate engraved on the underside. It was then, and is now, my most treasured piece of jewellery. My own wedding band, given back to me without words one Sunday in a small satin pouch, and engagement ring are in a box for Ellie to have when she’s older, she knows where they are and looks at them sometimes but honestly she can’t remember, or even fathom, Paul and me together.
That day, though, that cold day in December, the day before Paul’s second honeymoon with his second wife, had been significant because it was the day after the worst day of my life. It was the day that Ellie had come home, my pocket rocket and she had made me laugh. I had to eat chicken, Mummy, she had said, a grimace on her face, and the chocolate was brown and yucky. I had laughed and caught Paul’s eye over her head and he had laughed.
We weren’t a family. We wouldn’t be again but maybe, we could be something new. And Ellie was mine. She was my everything and she would stay with me.
It’s been that way ever since.