Sally James is forty-three, married with two grown-up children. Robert who is twenty-two and married to Hannah, and Jenny, who is nineteen and at university. Sally is married to Ian and they have been together for twenty-five years and married for twenty-three. And he is a pig.
Sally fell in love with Ian when they met at college where she was studying to be a chef. She loved cooking and had high hope and big dreams of making it big one day. But then she fell hopelessly in love with the tall, handsome architect student who swept her off her feet and within eighteen months of meeting they were married.
Their early life was great. She didn’t mind putting her dreams of becoming a chef on hold as she gave birth to her son just after she finished college. And then her daughter three years later, and she devoted the next few years solely on raising her family.
She couldn’t put her finger on when it began to go wrong, but slowly he imparted his control over her. Without realising it, slowly her friends drifted away and she suddenly found herself staying at home every night of the week. No more coffee-clutches, or nights out with the girls. The invites to friend’s houses for chat or coffee dried up, and her phone fell silent. No one called her any more.
He was never violent towards her. But he controlled her emotionally and psychologically. It took her time, years in fact, to realise that she had been isolated from her friends, and to a large extent, her family. To the point that she couldn’t remember when she had last been out of the house other than to take the kids to, or from school, or do some shopping, or go to the doctors. He controlled every aspect of her life. He decided where she went, what she did, and who she saw.
When she finally realised what he had done, her first thought was to take the kids and leave. But he made it clear that he would never allow that, and he would do everything in his power to show that she was a bad mother, and he convinced her that what he did was for the good of the kids, and her.
Like so many women in her situation, she lacked the confidence to ignore his threats and just leave, so she stayed. After all, he was great with the kids, and as he’d said to her, he had never physically hurt her. And anything she needed, he got for her, so she stayed and accepted that her life wasn’t that bad after all.
Sally put her mobile down on the kitchen table. She had just finished a call with her daughter Jenny, who was doing well at university and they’d talked about her going down to see her. When Sally said that she would have to ask her husband, Jenny had got cross with her.
“Mum, I love dad. But why do you let him control you like he does?”
Sally was surprised by her daughter’s outburst. But had always kept that side of her life from her kids, or so she’d thought.
“I don’t know what you mean honey.”
“Mum. Robert and I have both seen it. It’s been going on for as long as we can remember. You can’t do anything without dad’s permission.”
Sally argued that it wasn’t true, but Jenny wasn’t giving up. It had taken her some time to get the courage up to tell her mum. And now that she’d started, she wasn’t stopping until she’d had her say.
And she had her say. She let it all out, and for the next ten minutes, she recalled as many instances of her father’s controlling behaviour towards her mother that she could remember. As her daughter spoke, Sally knew that she was right, of course, she was. But the fact that her children had noticed, that hurt her more than anything he could do to her. She wasn’t in control of her own life and she knew it, and now she knew that her kids also knew. When Jenny finished her rant she felt bad and apologised to her mum.
“Mum. I’m sorry. But I had to say it. I love you mum, I love dad too. But he can’t treat you like this. You’re only young mum, you need to live life, and right now, you aren’t.”
The call had ended with Jenny telling her that she was going to talk to her dad and tell him that her mum was coming to visit because she needed to see her. Sally stared at the mobile, knowing full well that as soon as Jenny spoke to him he would call her and ask her what was going on. She sat at the table and waited. After half-an-hour she decided that he wasn’t going to call, so she got up and went about her normal chores.
Later that afternoon she was in the bedroom putting away some clothes that she had just washed and ironed when she pushed her hand into her underwear drawer and it touched something familiar. She pulled it forward and stared at it. It was her vibrator. She picked it up and looked at it. She hadn’t used it in such a long time, she turned it on. ‘Nothing. The batteries must be dead.’
She remembered how he had bought it for her and they had both used it on her. But that was a long time ago. They used to have sex a lot, but as she thought, she couldn’t remember the last time that they had. And she definitely couldn’t remember the last time that she’d used her vibrator. She sighed and slipped it into the drawer and pushed it to the back.
She was quite apprehensive as she awaited his arrival from work and she was stood at the cooker stirring a chilli when she heard the front door open and close, and a few moments later he walked into the kitchen. He surprised her when instead of the expected tirade, he slipped behind her and kissed her cheek as he smelled the food. ‘So far so good,’ she thought.
“Hmm, smells great.”
She was tense, waiting for him to explode, but he hadn’t. She began to wonder if her daughter had called him or not. She decided that she mustn’t have, judging by the mood he was in.
Dinner was lovely, he complimented her on her cooking, it was one of the things that had impressed him when they met. That, and her enthusiasm in bed. As she cleaned up he sat back.
“I spoke to Jenny today.” He said.
She froze. She could feel her legs tremble almost immediately. She tried to remain calm and turned to face him.
“Oh yes? What did she say?”
He smiled at her.
“You know exactly what she said.”
She lowered her eyes. ‘Here it comes’
“She said that she wanted you to go and spend the weekend with her.”
She sighed. “Yes, she said.”
He stood up and walked towards her. He put his hands on her shoulders. She trembled at his touch.
“I told her that it was a great idea.”
Her eyes darted up and stared at him.
“Yes. You haven’t seen her in months. I asked if she could come home, but she said that she had too much work on, and she would love to show you her new place.”
She was shocked, she didn’t know how to react. It wasn’t the response that she had expected.
“Oh good. I’ll call her and ask her when she wants me to come.”
He turned away and headed for the lounge.
“No need. She told me to tell you that she will see you on Friday. Just text her your train times.”
She stared after him. ‘What the hell? That was a surprise.’
Then her thoughts immediately turned to her daughter. She was going to see her and she couldn’t wait.
Friday morning and her husband hugged her and kissed her cheek before he left for work.
“Have a good time, and give Jenny my love.”
She couldn’t believe that it was happening. All week she had expected him to change his mind and find an excuse for her not to go. But he hadn’t. He had mentioned it a couple of times and said that he wished that he didn’t have to work late on Friday, he would have liked to drive her there.
When he’d gone she checked that she had everything. She had her train tickets and her small case had been packed for a couple of days, she had been so excited about seeing her daughter. He’d even made sure that she had her credit card, something that was always kept in the drawer, and she’d always asked him if she could use.
As she waited for the taxi she couldn’t help think that he was behaving just like any normal husband would do, and that began to worry her.
‘What’s he up to?’
Jenny met her at the station. And as she walked through the ticket gates she rushed her and wrapped her arms around her.
“Mum! It’s so good to see you.”
She had to fight hard not to burst into tears, and as they walked to the taxi stand she couldn’t stop looking at her daughter.
“You’ve only been gone a few months honey. But you look so grown up already.”
“Mum!” Jenny moaned.
They took a taxi to Jenny’s flat. She had just moved into a house with five other students and had insisted that her mother stayed with her. Sally had offered to stay in a hotel, but her daughter wouldn’t take no for an answer.
They had a great couple of days together. They had always had a great relationship, even though her teenage years they had been very close, unlike her and her mother. She and her mother had a good relationship now, but those teenage years were hard for them both and she was glad that she and Jenny hadn’t gone down the same path.
Sally was up early on the last morning of the trip. She felt a little low, she’d had a great time with Jenny and her friends, and didn’t want to leave. She’d been invited back by her friends and told that she could visit them any time. A decision she felt had been motivated by the food that she had produced for them, rather than her company, but she didn’t care. She’d loved the last couple of days, and she’d loved being around her daughter once again.
They left for the train station early and while they waited for her train, she waited for her daughter to return with their coffees. Jenny sat down, and as Sally took a drink she sensed that her daughter had something on her mind. She asked her what was wrong. Jenny sighed.
“Mum. I’ve got a confession to make.”
Sally leaned forward and whispered.
Jenny smiled and shook her head.
Sally sat back in her chair, relieved.
“Well. What is it? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Mum. You know that our last phone conversation was all about dad?”
Her mum nodded.
“Well. Your visit here was kind of a plan.”
Sally looked confused.
“Mum. Robert and I planned it.”
Sally stared blankly at her as she explained that they needed to get her away from home for their plan to succeed.
“And what was your plan?”
Jenny lowered her voice and leaned in.
“To prove to you that dad is having an affair.”
Sally stared at her daughter, she was stunned into silence.
Jenny continued to explain that Robert had seen his dad on a night out and he had been very touchy-feely with a blonde woman in a pub. Out of curiosity, he asked one of his mates to follow him. He thought that if he’d done it, then he would’ve been spotted. It turned out that his friend had seen the pair kissing.
“I don’t believe it!” Sally exclaimed.
“Mum. I’m not done.”
She went on to tell her that after that evening he managed to hack into his dad’s mobile. Robert has a degree in computer programming and works at a software development company. Jenny held out some sheets of paper.
“Mum. He’s been texting her and sharing photos.”
Sally stared at the papers in Jenny’s hand. Jenny placed them on the table and continued.
“Mum. The texts show that he planned to go to a hotel with her last night. So, we thought that if you came here then he might change his mind and take her home.”
Sally glared at her.
“He wouldn’t!” Sally gasped.
Jenny sighed and put her hand on her mother’s hand.
“He did. Robert has photos of them in a pub and then going into our house. Mum. He took her home! Into your bed!”
Sally began to tremble.
Jenny shifted around the table and hugged her mother.
“Mum. Robert and I will come home with you and we will tell him to leave.”
Sally shook her head.
“You’ve got it wrong Jenny, you both have.”
“I didn’t want to have to do this mum.”
She took out her mobile and swiped it a few times then showed the screen to her mother. Sally stared as Jenny swiped through a series of photos that showed her husband Ian in the arms of a blonde, and kissing her. Then she saw images of them walking up their drive, his arm around her, and going into their house.
She was shaking, as she fought back her tears. Jenny hugged her.
“I’ll get a train ticket mum.”
Sally took deep breaths and finally managed to compose herself.
“No. I’ll be okay honey.”
Jenny held her.
“Mum. You’re not going to let him get away with it are you?”
She stared at the screen, the last image was of them walking into their house. She slowly looked at her daughter.
“No. I’m not. But I’ll handle it.”
She had no idea what she was going to do. Thankfully the three-hour train ride gave her time to calm down, and to decide how to handle it.
She sat in the taxi for a few seconds and stared at the house. She paid the driver and got out. As the taxi drove away she looked at the front door. He hadn’t come out to meet her. She took hold of the handle of her case and headed towards the door
He was watching TV when she got in. He looked up as she walked in and smiled.
“Did you have a good weekend honey?” He asked.
She nodded and asked how he had been. He told her that it had been quiet, he’d stayed in and caught up on some TV that he’d recorded. She was desperately trying to remain calm, whilst inside her stomach was churning and her legs trembling. She wandered into the kitchen and put the kettle on. She sat at the table to wait for it to boil. He followed her in and looked at her.
“Are you okay? How was Jenny?”
She looked up at him, ‘it was time.’
“Sit down Ian. We need to talk.”
He sat down and smiled at her.
“What is it, hun?”
She took a breath and then let it out. She told him about their son and following him. She told him that her weekend away was a plan by their children to catch him out, and they had. She opened her photo gallery on her phone and scrolled through the photos that Jenny had uploaded for her.
She watched his face as she revealed the evidence of his betrayal to him. When she had shown him the last photo she put her phone down and stared at him. He thought for a few moments then reached out for her hand.
She pulled her hand away.
“No! Who is she?” She snapped.
He still smiled.
“She’s no-one, honey. It’s not what you think.”
She reached into her bag and pulled out the printouts of their text chats. She threw them at him.
“Don’t lie to me, Ian.”
He looked at them and stared at her.
“Where did you get there from?”
Sally stared at him. He nodded as it dawned on him where they had come from.
“Robert. Fucking Robert.”
“Hey! That’s our son!” She screamed at him.
He stared at the many texts and then looked at her.
“I can explain.”
She got up and turned away.
“I don’t want to hear it. And you don’t have to tell me who she is, I know. She’s your bosses daughter isn’t she.”
Robert had found out who she was, and she was the young daughter of his dad’s boss. She was only four years older than Jenny and married. Sally knew what would happen to Ian, should his boss find out. She watched as it slowly sank in and she could almost see his mind working hard to figure a way out of the situation. She decided to keep up the pressure.
“So. Did you fuck her in our bed?”
He stared at her.
“Don’t do this Sally.” He pleaded.
“Well did you?” She shouted.
He looked down, he didn’t answer, he didn’t have to.
“How could you?”
He didn’t look up.
“What’s wrong with me Ian? You haven’t touched me for months? Just what did I do wrong? Tell me!”
He finally raised his eyes to look at her. She could see that he was struggling to cope. She had finally stood up to him and he couldn’t handle it. He desperately tried to think of a response but couldn’t.
“You did nothing wrong.”
“They WHY?” She screamed.
They fell silent and for a minute just stared at the floor.
“I’m going to sleep in the spare room tonight. You can have our bed. I won’t sleep in that again.”
He looked at her as she walked out of the kitchen.
“Sally. Do you want me to leave?”
She stopped and turned.
“No. I don’t. you’re going to stay and watch.”
He looked at her.
She turned away and shook her head as she walked upstairs.
“I have no idea, but whatever it is, you’ll see,”
When Jenny heard what had happened she was surprised.
“Why didn’t you kick him out mum?”
She tried to explain that she would, in time, but she had a plan that might pay him back a little for how he has treated her over the years. Jenny asked her to explain her plan, but she wouldn’t.
“It’s not something that I’m proud of honey. And It’s not something that you’d approve of, so no.” here…