If I could find one word to describe myself on our first date, it’d be stupid. I left my new alpaca gloves in the ladies at the National Theatre and didn’t notice until we were halfway across Hungerford Bridge. I wasn’t too thrilled when you sprinted off, leaving me under a lamppost, shouting you’d only be a minute. But when you got back, waving my scarf as well, I realised the word for you would be heroic.
If I could find one word for you as we started being we, it’d be caring. You’d bring a toothbrush wherever we went, like Bertorellis in Charlotte Street, because I balked at kissing a meaty-mouth after you walked me through Covent Garden to Charing Cross, my hand tight under your arm. Then one night you chose a falafel wrap and told me love was more important than a bacon sandwich and I cried and called you romantic.
If I could find one word for us the summer we became three, it’d be shattered, what with Clara taking so long to get used to the world. Yes, you did your share of night feeds and nappies but you still worked such long hours and it was like I lost a bit of you. When Mum went home after a second month and we agreed you’d sleep in the spare room until things settled down, I knew that what we both felt was relieved.
If I could find one word to describe myself when you confessed, it’d be inadequate, because I wasn’t enough for you, and exhausted anyway from running after a four-year-old all day. Both Sarah and Mandy said I was crazy to blame myself, and I ignored them for months until your phone pinged with someone new. It seemed you weren’t even being faithfully unfaithful with the first one you’d been unfaithful with and the word I used was furious.
If I could find one word to describe myself at forty-two, it’s content. I have my work, my daughter, my husband – nine years now – and my hens, and I love coaxing cauliflowers from what was once a wilderness, wondering how we ever lived in Lewisham. I’m thankful Clara’s growing up breathing fresh air and already sixteen so it won’t be long before she’s driving herself for her weekends with you, assuming she still wants to. Maybe one day she’ll get married, and you and I will stand side by side in a church again and be happy for her, although what I’ll feel for you will be nothing.