“You did what?” I shouted. “With Michelle!” the name reverberated from my mouth.
“We didn’t mean to hurt you honestly Lily. It just happened.” explained Oliver.
“It just happened! Sleeping together just happened? For one moment did you consider me, realize you were already in a relationship? How could you? Did I mean nothing to you?” I pursued relentlessly.
“Of course you did, but I had feelings for Michelle and it took off from there. I’m sorry, truly sorry Lily,” he pleaded.
“If you were sorry, you’d never allow this to happen. You disgust me – I don’t know what I saw in you, just get out!” I screamed.
“Come on Lily; let’s try to work this out. I don’t want to leave you like this,” Oliver reached out, trying to console me.
“Don’t-you-dare-touch-me. Get the hell out of here. I never want to see you again,” I bellowed at the top of my lungs.
As Oliver edged closer towards the door, I grabbed the vase of freshly cut flowers and flung it with all my might across the room, missing him by an inch as he escaped from the flat. The glass shattering into tiny pieces, breaking my anger for a split second.
I stood transfixed staring at the door. Water seeping over the spot Oliver had stood in a minute ago. The flowers scattered haphazardly, losing their beauty instantly.
So many thoughts swirled around my head. A relationship that spanned two wonderful years – well for me in any event! I thought back to the day I met Oliver through mutual friends and how easily we gelled. We spoke for hours, had so much in common, loved exercising and watching the latest movies. The more we hung out, the more we couldn’t bear to be apart. When I caught a glimpse of him, my eyes sparkled, when he was close, I became giddy inside and when he gave that lopsided grin, my heart jumped hurdles.
Although, I had to be honest, the relationship had changed somewhat in the last year. We’d grown comfortable with one another and perhaps the spark had begun to fizzle out. But in no way had I stopped loving him – in fact my love had grown deeper with each passing day. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him and could see the two of us getting married.
But I never put pressure on him to propose. Yes, we attended friend’s weddings and I’d gush how happy and in love the couples were. But I never insisted upon it, although I wished we would. Well, I suppose the first step would’ve been moving in together as he lived on his own. I stayed over from time to time, but the discussion never headed in that direction – now there was no chance of that happening!
The betrayal was a bitter pill to swallow. Michelle was a friend to us both and was in our circle. She was everything I wasn’t, an extrovert, a party animal and most importantly – voluptuous. The men in the group were always ogling her, pressed into those low-cut tops and mini-skirts. The ladies were suspicious of her every move and I didn’t blame them. She had quite a reputation for stealing boyfriends – now she had mine!
Many a time I opted out of clubbing because I couldn’t fathom the drunken state some of our friends got into, all in the hope of having a good time. This didn’t stop Oliver though, he tagged along and I was fine with that. Not once did I think he would ever start something on the side with Michelle. But then again, how naïve could I have been? Oliver was an attractive guy. Why wouldn’t women fall for him? And I made it all the more easy for Michelle to sink her claws into my man!
It made me think of my sister who held a tight rein on her husband. Her words rang in my mind. “Never allow men total freedom when it comes to boys’ nights out, it leads to sticky situations and unnecessary problems.” I always thought she was a complete control freak, now I’m not so sure.
I tried to picture how they must have hit it off in the club. Was Michelle all over him like a bad rash? Did he have too much to drink and one thing led to another? Wait a minute – he said he started having feelings for her, was it a one night stand that led to something serious? How many times had they slept together – it couldn’t have been only once, he obviously lied to me just to save himself – the bastard!
The unanswered questions hung around my head like a noose waiting to suffocate the last breath out of me. My eyes darted to a picture of us in a heart shaped frame, draped together on a yacht, glowing in the sunset. Tears streaming down my cheeks, between hysterical gulps, I flung the frame against the wall, glass shattering in all directions, the heart snapping in two.
My wrath grew. I searched the apartment for any shred of evidence that Oliver had left behind. I found his jacket, track suit, t-shirts, toothbrush and all the little trinkets and cards he’d given me during our relationship. I piled it all into a steel rubbish bin and carried it out onto the balcony.
Running into the kitchen, I searched frantically for matches and newspaper. I hauled out all the kitchen drawers, throwing out the contents in the process. I didn’t hear Nicole opening the front door or realize she was talking to me. As I turned around, I was startled to see her.
“What’s going on Lily, are you okay?” she asked, concerned. “The place is a mess, did we have a burglary?”
“No.” I shouted. “Oliver dumped me … for Michelle!” Not allowing her to take in what I said, I fired, “Did you know they were seeing each other?” I tried to detect a glimpse of guilt in my flat-mate as if she was the arch enemy.
“No, of course not. I don’t even hang out with Michelle.”
Rushing past her like a woman possessed, crumpling newspaper on top of the reminders of the relationship I had with Oliver. I lit the match and flung it into the bin. The papery flames greedily spreading their way into the last remnants of Oliver, the glowing flickers releasing black vapors like the bleeding of my heart.
Only after the fire had burnt its last ember, did I allow Nicole to usher me inside. I was ensconced in a blanket and handed a generous glass of red wine. I don’t know how long I sat there, huddled up with Nicole, sobbing, in between moments of lashing out at Oliver.
When I awoke the next morning, my head was pounding from the copious amount of wine I’d gorged to obliterate the betrayal. It was easy to relieve the hangover, a few pills would do the job nicely, but the deceit and pain couldn’t be erased.
The reality of my situation dawned on me. The man I loved had just dumped me by the wayside like a brown paper bag. He was no doubt happy to be rid of me, enjoying his newfound freedom, not to mention a guilt free opportunity to prance around in public with Michelle!
The pain followed me like a shadow. It gnawed at me, reminding me of the final moments of the break-up. Oliver’s words played in my head, over and over again, the cacophony driving me almost insane.
How was I going to go on with my life without him by my side? He was my world – every nook in the apartment reminded me of him and all the good times we shared. To contemplate living a life on my own seemed an impossible task. Fear and anxiety set in all at once as I tried to figure out how I was going to break the news to my family and friends when I couldn’t accept it myself! How would I react when I saw the two of them together, in-love while I was alone and miserable?
I stayed in bed the entire day not getting up to shower or even to eat. My appetite, like my love life, had disappeared. I sought comfort from my I-Pod, playing feel good songs which dried up my tears, only to skip to love songs that had me wailing like a baby again. I stumbled on our song, the one we slow danced to on our first date. Although unable to sing the words, I managed to howl the chorus through my weeping. The slow rhythm of the song curled into my soul making me long to go back to that blissful time when there was only love and happiness and not a gaping hole in my heart.
As a sliver of sunlight creeped into my room the next morning, I knew I couldn’t hide forever. I needed a shower desperately, stale air embraced me and the aroma of bacon and eggs wafting in reminded me how famished I was. I needed to get on with my life, even though it was the last thing I wanted to do. Besides, I had a job and my work wouldn’t understand a break-up could be classified as an emergency that called for sick leave.
As a legal assistant to a well-known lawyer, I was always busy. Normally this drove me crazy, today I welcomed the distraction. As lunch rolled around, I realized this was the time Oliver usually called to find out how my day was going and we’d make plans for the evening. I watched the time ticking away, waiting to hear his voice again. He didn’t call. This was a blow that struck me just as much as never seeing him again and I couldn’t stop the tears.
The days that passed saw me going through the motions of merely existing. Peaceful sleep evaded me as my thoughts constantly ran to Oliver, reminding me how much I missed him and wanted things to be different. I wished Michelle had never come into our lives and this could all be a horrible nightmare and my life would return to normal.
As the weekend arrived, I opted to head out for a run. My thoughts were crippling me and I needed to get out on the road to escape reality. I ran harder and faster than I thought possible. I had so much pent up anger, so many questions that would never be answered. The only way to rid them was to tire my mind and body. Drenched in sweat I returned to the flat, muscles straining from the work-out, a natural high emerging and for the first time in a long while, I felt at ease.
I was slowly getting used to the notion of Oliver not coming around or calling. As much as I didn’t want this to happen, I needed to accept the reality he no longer chose to be part of my life. I swung from denial to anger to resentment – my erratic emotions tormenting my heart and mind, preventing me from finding peace.
As the weeks crawled by, I learnt to stand on my own feet. This brought back a freedom I’d forgotten. I trawled the mall for hours buying the latest exercise gear and watched countless comedies on the couch with Nicole. I even pampered myself with a new hair-cut. Oliver had said he preferred women with long hair. I spontaneously cut mine in an edgy bob. Not only did it enhance my self-image, it was liberating to go against his wishes and become a different me.
Some days were harder than others. As much as I tried to lay off social media, I couldn’t but help stalk his Facebook account. Although he hadn’t posted anything recently, he shared with the world he was in a new relationship and I knew photos of them would surface in time and I didn’t know how I was going to handle that.
His birthday was coming around and I felt a desperate need to call him and wish him. But then I realized it would mean we were friends and that was no longer the case. I dwelled on the thought there might come a time when he’d wake up and realize Michelle wasn’t who he wanted after all. A glimmer of hope remained in the depths of my heart.
And so I dithered around for eleven months. The dreaded moment I wished would never happen eventually transpired. I spotted Oliver and Michelle in a restaurant Nicole and I ventured to on a Friday night. They didn’t see us, so engrossed were they in each other’s company. My heart took another thrashing seeing them together, happy and in love. This vision confirmed the relationship wasn’t a passing phase and perhaps they were indeed soul mates. And so I had to let go of my fantasy that we might reunite.
On the day we would have celebrated our third anniversary, I chose to mark the end of the relationship with a leisurely stroll along the beach. It was an early spring morning and the sun was spreading its rays over the horizon. A distant mountain was cloaked in clouds, the sea glistening like diamonds, the waves breaking quietly over the sand.
I reminisced on the good times Oliver and I’d shared, the genuine love I had for him and still somehow harbored. I evaluated the heartbreak I’d endured and how much it had taken its toll on me, mentally and physically. I congratulated myself on refraining from calling him and making a complete fool of myself even though the urge to do so weighed heavily on me.
The break-up taught me I was tougher than I imagined. That even though Oliver chose to leave, it didn’t mean there was anything wrong with me, only that he was not the right man for me. I deserved so much more.
As the wind picked up and sea-gulls slowly ascended into the streaky sky in search of their next adventure, so too had my hurt subsided and the betrayal been forgiven. I was free to embrace the new possibilities awaiting me.