Carol Ann decided that she’d did enough grieving, John was gone now living with the heavily pregnant Aileen and he wasn’t coming back.
She didn’t want him back.
She’d spent those long nights torturing herself, spent enough time waiting on the phone to ring, hoping for any sign that he still cared about her.
But it hadn’t come.
In the months that followed she tried to keep herself busy, simultaneously attempting to avoid those groups of family and friends that felt sorry for her.
She hated that, she could see the pity in their eyes and feel it in their conversation, always asking how she was but avoiding the difficult questions.
It was the awkwardness of the situation she hated, everyone dancing around the elephant in the room, pretending it didn’t exist when what she really wanted was to scream.. I’m hurt, I’m still hurting, just because it was six months ago doesn’t mean that it’s forgotten.
Of course, no one asked her how John was, presumably they already knew. These weren’t just her friends, they were their friends, contact would have been maintained and she would bet that they knew more about the status of the pending pregnancy than she did. But they’d never say and she would never ask.
Time heals they say, Carol Ann tried to believe that but although she had accepted that John wasn’t coming back, she knew that the anger still burned inside her and while that raged or even simmered she knew that she couldn’t really be herself.
She learned to put on a brave face, the mask to show the world she was coping only taking it off when she was home alone.
She learned that grieving isn’t a linear process, you don’t go from crying your eyes out to occasional tears to a being okay. It’s not as simple as that.
Sometimes she found herself crying for no reason, sitting sobbing in the living room, only half watching some tearjerker made for TV movie that her common-sense told her was rubbish but somehow it made her cry more than she would have done previously.
Some days you feel okay, the anger makes you strong, you use it as a crutch, refusing to return calls or deal with the practicalities, just to piss him off.
John had made it clear that he wanted to move on, he wanted the financial arrangements sorted out as Aileen wouldn’t be working after she had had the child and he couldn’t afford to contribute to two houses when she was on maternity leave.
Although she didn’t want to speak with him directly, she listened to his messages intently, playing them again, looking for a sign in his voice that he missed her, something for her to cling on to, that he was making the calls under duress with Aileen in the background directing his one-sided conversation.
But there was nothing, it was cold, business-like, a transaction that needed settled without any emotional content.
She found herself hating Aileen, thankful that no-one in their friends mentioned her name, she hated her for stealing her man, for stealing the life that she had, for taking away everything that she had shared with John, even although she knew deep down in her heart that it takes two to tango and she was blaming Aileen when the fault was really John’s.
But later at night in bed alone, replaying her thoughts and she felt remorse for being petty and having lowered yourself. She’d let her own standards slip for some trivial point scoring that doesn’t even matter because what really did matter is gone.
Then the grief and the guilt washed over her again, feeling stupid for being petty, asking herself why she acted so foolishly, realising that there is no real satisfaction in acting bitterly and the tears come again.
The end of a long-term relationship is like that, eventually you accept it’s over, but the hurt is still there, ready to ambush you at unsuspecting moments, even although the adult within you wishes them well, trying hard to be the bigger person it still hurts.
But you can’t hide away and avoid the practical issues forever.
Thankfully the financial arrangements were simple, perhaps a reflection of Johns shame for his actions. Their mortgage had been paid off a long time ago and he signed the house over to her on the basis that she had no entitlement to his pension and there was no ongoing payment.
It was simple as that, a couple of signatures at their family lawyers, she barely even read the paperwork, some legal dirge about the Matrimonial Homes Act 1981, modified by the Family Law Act 2006 .. blah blah blah .. sign here and here and it was all over.
Well the formalities were, they were now financially separate, the actual divorce would arrive in the post after the mandatory year passed without objection from either side.
Carol Ann knew she had to move on, to force herself; she had to, what else was there to do?
She decided that she wanted to meet someone, to have someone in her life to spend adult time with, not necessarily to live with them, she had a lot of boxes to tick before that ever happened again. But she wanted to have adult company with someone who would appreciate her for who she was, she still had a lot to offer and she knew herself that she was too young to be on life’s scrapheap.
Besides, John had moved on, it was time she did too, but that opens up a new set of problems. It’s one thing knowing that you want a new relationship, but a completely different thing trying to find one, particularly if you are over 40.
Like most people who have been in a relationship as long as she had been with John, her social life was limited, her friends were their friends, most of the time they went out as couples or had dinner parties as each other homes to save the search for babysitters, even although she and John weren’t blessed with children, it was easier for everyone else and she enjoyed being the favourite auntie and bringing round sweets and goodies for all her surrogate nieces and nephews.
On the rare occasions that she did have a night out with the girls, they went for a meal and a few glasses of wine, not on the pull like the youngsters that she worked with.
Carol Ann considered herself far too old to go clubbing, she hated that modern dance music and the idea of hanging around a club full of drunken people just didn’t appeal to her. She had been with John since as far back as she could remember. The last thing that she wanted was to open herself up all and sundry.
Sitting alone watching tv at night, she became aware of the frequency of advertising for online dating sites, it was as if they were competing for each other for a limited audience, these attractive people enthusing about the fun they are having or how they met their partner online.
Carol Ann wasn’t so naive to think it was as simple as that, she’d read the magazines and knew that there were all sorts of people on there, some just looking for fun, some married and looking for a bit on the side or some people who wanted to lead you into a financial trap.
But she was curious, so she looked up a few independent websites for background, Match, eHarmony and Plenty of fish seemed to be the popular options, the first two offered browsing for free, the latter seemed to be completely free.
She clicked the link and hit register.