I cheated on my husband just once. With just one man, that is.
The marriage was not what you’d call a happy one, but lasted just over twelve years. We had two wonderful children during that time, so we must have had sex at least twice, but, to be honest, sex didn’t play an important part of our marriage. My oldest was ten by the time I heard that women had orgasms. You might be thinking I grew up in a convent perhaps, but no I was part of an ordinary post-war middle class family in London. Where I grew up is not as important as when.
It was in the early 1960’s when I married Ron: I was 18; he was 21. Before we got married it seemed he was all over me like a rash whenever we were alone, which wasn’t often thanks to my mother’s super-watchful eye. You see, one of my older sisters got pregnant when she was sixteen and married her dashing young naval officer Charlie, whose mother was what we then called a “gypsy,” and who my mother considered “unsuitable.” So mother watched me like a hawk and constantly chastised me for leading men on by my behavior and how I dressed. Nothing could have been further from the truth – I dressed like a frump and was too shy to flirt, besides, I didn’t know how. I was definitely what you’d call “prim and proper,” my skirts were not too short, my heels not too high, my buttons all done up – and besides all that, I was a Sunday School teacher until I married Ron. And Ron put up with it and waited for his virgin bride. Nine months and ten days after we were married my beautiful daughter Samantha was born.
Like all newborns, Samantha cried a lot in the middle of the night. Ron complained that she woke him up, said he needed his sleep for his job, and moved the crib outside the bedroom door. He wouldn’t have the baby sleeping in our room, and would get upset and angry whenever I went to pick her up.
“Get that bloody mongrel out of here and shut her up or I’ll wring her neck,” he’d growl at me.
Or he’d grab my arm and whisper in my ear ”keep her quiet or I’ll throw her down the stairs,” or “I’ll bash her head in.” Sometimes I would start to get out of bed to take go to the baby but Ron would grab hold of my arm and tell me to “let her cry.” But after a while he’d either fall asleep or tell me to get up to stop her crying! I was a nervous wreck and didn’t know what to do.
Ron’s older brother Les emigrated to Australia six years earlier and he often wrote asking Ron to come out there to help him run his growing business – a garage in a big suburb of Sydney. Ron and Les were very close growing up and both boys were good at fixing cars. Ron seemed so unhappy with his job and with me and the baby that I thought this might be a good idea for him. I knew I would miss my family, but I lived day in and day out in fear and with the feeling that something was missing from my life, and saw a glimmer of hope with a new start in a country that had so much sunshine, so I urged Ron to move. The next year found Ron, Samantha, and me on one of the last ocean-going liners to go through the Suez Canal before it closed, along with several hundred other would-be immigrants on their way to the land down under.
Spending all day, every day with Ron on board that ocean liner was an eye-opener for me. I learned how to flirt by watching him chatting up the young girls, most of them going out to join boyfriends or fiances who were waiting for them. I felt uncomfortable sometimes when he did this openly in front of me, but I said nothing – by this time I was well and truly under Ron’s thumb! There were dances, cabarets, talent shows, and other events every evening after dinner, and sometimes Ron would take part in the talent shows or go and sit at an all-girls table, leaving me on my own quite a lot. Other men started coming over and sitting with me, offering to buy me a drink and chatting about the entertainment on the boat. At first it frightened me a little, but after watching Ron flirting with other girls, their attention to make me feel better about myself and I enjoyed it. But, of course, this former Sunday-School teacher didn’t encourage her admirers or lead them on to do anything else!
At long last we landed in Sydney and went to stay with Les and his wife Helen in their big, rambling old house in Parramatta, along with their four sons and four dogs. They helped us find a nice little house to rent and I enjoyed getting it set up. Ron and Les were happy working together in their garage, and life settled down for all of us. We had nice neighbors, and Les and Helen often had a big crowd at their house on Saturdays for a barbecue around their pool, so we met a lot of new, fun people. I really enjoyed the friendly, laid-back way of life in Australia, and how rich and poor would meet and mix at parties around a pool or the Barbie, different from England. At parties Ron would still flirt with all the girls, especially the single girls, but in front of Les and Helen he was more restrained. I caught Les giving him a stern look at times. Sometimes a man would pay attention to me, pay me a compliment, ask me to dance if there was music, or come to sit next to me, and this usually made Ron sit up and take notice. At one barbecue, a visiting stranger was very attentive to me. He was a really nice man and very good looking, and I was enjoying every moment, but Ron got really angry and insisted we go home early. Silence reigned on our drive home, but when we got there he grabbed my wrist, pulled me into our bedroom and more or less raped me. I didn’t want him to make love to me, he hadn’t shown any interest in me for months. It hurt too. And I cried afterwards, which made him more angry.
After that we both went about our days as usual, mostly keeping silent and not looking at each other. It wasn’t long before I started to get sick in the mornings, and nine months later our amazing son George was born. Life went on. The children grew and when they were both in school I found a job as a secretary. Ron didn’t like it, but he didn’t try to stop me.
Les and Ron took care of the cars of some very wealthy people and we would sometimes get invitations to parties at their homes, which were always in beautiful surroundings. One major customer had a home overlooking Sydney Harbor, and we went to Christmas parties there for several years, pool parties of course, because Christmas comes in the middle of summer in Australia. Another customer, also named Les, and his beautiful young, Greek wife named Ariadne, seemed to like us and we were invited to their home at least once a month. Ariadne and I hit it off and we started meeting for lunch or coffee, or to go shopping, and endless chatting. I felt a kinship with her. We both had two small children, we were both from another country, and our husbands treated us in a similar way. I saw and felt the hurt in Ariadne’s eyes when her husband Les flirted with other women in front of her, and I suspected that behind her back he did more than just flirt. Les treated her in a sort of off-hand way, as though she were not important, just a piece of the furniture. I recognized it because that was how Ron had treated me since shortly after we were married.
One party we went to changed me and my life forever. I knew some of the people there, but not all, and there was a lot of drinking and people smoking pot. Someone played the Rolling Stones and I felt like dancing, so looked around for Ron to see if he’d dance. There was no sign of him, but a tall, dark man with a Scots accent asked me to dance. He had sparkling, brown eyes and I felt something pass between us, almost like an electric shock. When the music slowed so did we, but our dancing was getting a bit too close and he was very attractive, so I asked him to get me a drink and sat down. He brought over the drink and we went outside and talked. His name was Malcolm Campbell and I instantly fell under his spell, but when he slid his arm around me and tried to kiss me, I said I had to go and find my husband! He looked disappointed but like a perfect gentleman offered to help me find Ron.
We found him. In one of the bedrooms, in bed with one of the women I’d met earlier, but whose name I couldn’t remember. I quickly shut the door and went out to the garden. Malcolm followed and gently took me in his arms and held me – but I wasn’t crying. I realized I didn’t care that my husband was unfaithful, that he didn’t love me, because I didn’t care too much for him either. I reached up and kissed Malcolm, who responded, and after a while he pulled me into an empty room. I was amazed that sex could be so wonderful, so sweet, gentle, and caring, yet so passionate. Malcolm awakened something in me that night. As we left the party, Malcolm grabbed my hand and held on, making me swoon with the intensity of his gaze. His eyes were full of melancholy as he watched us drive away.
A few weeks later I had a phone call at work from Malcolm, who had done some detective work to find me, saying he wanted to see me. I couldn’t believe it, and I was so excited I didn’t hesitate to make plans to spend a weekend with him. I had the excuse of a seminar I wanted to go to, and a concert at the Sydney Opera House. I said I was staying with Ariadne.
Malcolm and I had the most wonderful weekend, which was like the honeymoon I had never had. We hardly left the house, and made plans for our next weekend together. Our affair continued for the next four years and we’d see each other wherever and whenever we could. But with time Malcolm began to ask me for a commitment and a more permanent relationship. I put him off, talking about my duty to my children and their father, but he insisted. In the end we argued about it too much and decided to end our affair. I was heartbroken, but it had been my fault.
Ron was gone a lot, and Ariadne told me there was a woman he spent most of his time with, but when I suggested a divorce he hit the roof and said he’d oppose it. I was stuck. But then Ariadne told me her amazing news – she was divorcing Les, citing infidelity and cruelty. She urged me to do the same to free myself from Ron’s clutches and offered to help me through the process. Three months later I filed my divorce papers on the day that Ariadne received her decree and we had the most expensive champagne and fine dinner we could find to celebrate.
My divorce was granted and I moved with my children into a nice, simple flat near my office. Ariadne and I helped each other through the sad times and celebrated each other’s happy times. She began to date other men, and sometimes we went out on double dates, but there was nothing serious for either of us.
About a year later I realized I hadn’t seen much of Ariadne lately. She was often busy when I called to see if she wanted to go out for dinner, and mentioned she had been seeing quite a lot of someone. I asked her about him and he sounded nice, and kind. I hoped and prayed my dear friend would not be hurt again.
Then she called me and invited me to a party she said was to be a surprise. Ariadne had a large divorce settlement from Les and kept their beautiful home, so it was a pool party. I walked in and saw her and how happy she looked, and ran over to give her a big hug. She hugged me back, then grabbed my hand saying,
“Come with me, I want you to meet my fiancé, this is our engagement party.” That was a surprise.
The tall, dark man was bent over fixing a toy for Ariadne’s son, he turned around and after a split second’s hesitation he smiled at me as Ariadne introduced us,
“Jill, this is my fiancé Malcolm. Malcolm, this is my best friend Jill.”
It was Malcolm Campbell, and that was the real surprise. I grabbed the back of a chair and looked down, pretending I had stumbled. I think we both said “pleased to meet you,” but we both pretended we didn’t know each other, then and every time we saw each other afterwards. And that we did for love.