I discovered my wife's infidelity the way most men do ... she told me she was divorcing me. I will admit it came as a bit of a surprise as I had thought we were the ideal couple. Our love life seemed normal enough and Diane didn't seem to be out of the house any more than I would expect. I was pretty busy at work, but I don't think you could describe me as inattentive at home. Anyway, she presented me with her decision, two suitcases of my clothes, the information that I had reservations at the nearest Moto-Lodge for the next two nights, and that her boyfriend was moving in that night, so I had better skedaddle. A fine start to my weekend.
Now I'm quite sure there are those amongst you who will say that I should have dug-in, turfed her out on her arse, and beaten the crap out of lover-boy, but you have to remember that at this stage I was completely off balance. I loaded my cases into the car and left in a complete daze. I probably shouldn't have been driving but I didn't hit anything, or kill anyone, en route to the hotel.
I booked in and went to my room. It was quite nice, I thought. A three quarter bed and a large double, tea and coffee, small kettle, TV, a small settee, and en-suite bathroom with shower over. The walls were an acceptable shade of beige with the colour being injected by the bedding, curtains and soft furnishings. There were the usual pieces of what I call "furniture" art on the wall. The perfect, bland, setting that will not annoy anyone except the most rabid design freaks. I was quite happy with the room. It was pleasant and functional and did nothing to increase my distress.
Now, some would have cried, some would have ranted and raged, some would have rolled onto the bed and lain in stunned silence. I undressed. I took a nice hot shower. I dressed in clean clothes. I left the room, drove to a local inn and had a very passable meal.
I found a local shop and selected some bottled water, (I wasn't going to fill the kettle from the tap in the bathroom, very few hotels pipe fresh water direct to the rooms and you never know what has fallen into the water tanks). I looked out at the local off — licence across the road and decided to buy some coke and a carton of orange juice as well. Then I crossed the road and bought a bottle of rum. I would have preferred Guyanan but settled for the God-knows-whose brand as it was the only dark rum they had. I returned to my room and administered my chosen sleeping draught.
After consuming the best part of a bottle of cheap rum, I awoke with a mouth that would kill at a thousand paces, a head that couldn't decide whether it was sore or still drunk, and a stomach that was undecided about its preferred location. I drank half the carton of orange juice as I changed into some sports gear and running shoes. The juice doesn't really help with the hangover but it makes your vomit taste nice. I went for a long run. Mind you, in the state I was in, anything further than my own length, constituted a long run.
I found the tow-path and ran along the canal. After about a mile my stomach decided it wanted out. Anywhere else it would have been pavement pizza, but here I was able to project about a quarter of the way across the canal. It was very wide at this point, honestly! That set the tone for the next mile. I was glad of the orange juice. I turned at the lock gates and returned to the hotel feeling much fresher.
Showered, freshly dressed, and having made good use of my toothpaste and the courtesy mouthwash, I made my way to the dining room. The breakfast was surprisingly comprehensive for a motorway chain hotel. There was fresh grapefruit, fruit juice, cereal, small breads, toast, full English breakfast and copious amounts of tea or coffee. I must admit, I pigged-out. What's more, after the run, everything stayed down.
Replete, I returned to my room. I needed to sort out what I was going to do. Firstly I phoned my solicitor. I know it was Saturday, but since he was also one of my best mates I knew his phone number.
"David, it's Jack."
"Hi Jack," David always greeted me that way, a standing joke. "I know what this call is about and I'm really sorry, but I can't represent you. Diane came to me to file. I told her I couldn't handle the case because of conflict of interest, so I called in my partner and he's dealing with her"
David cut in before I could say anything more. "Fret not, my dear boy, I wouldn't represent you anyway, divorce law is not our greatest strength. Phone Milla, she is expecting your call."
"Eh, I don't think I have her number here."
"Are you using your mobile?"
"Oh, yeah, of course. I'm not firing on all cylinders, yet."
"Quelle surprise. Do exactly everything Milla tells you and don't hold anything back from her. She is very good but only as good as the information you give her. Give her everything you've got and she'll really cover your arse. I'll see you at the clubhouse in the morning. But don't talk to me about the divorce, it'll only fuck up your case since we're representing Diane."
"Thanks, David. I'm..."
"Jack, get your fucking arse into gear and phone her now! We'll talk later and I'll tell you what we can and cannot discuss. I'll see you in soon. T.T.F.N."
I took David's advice and phoned Camilla, or Milla, as we knew her.
"Good morning, Jack"
"Hi, Milla, David tells me you're expecting this call."
"Sadly, yes. When did you find out?"
"Hmmm, she moved pretty quick. She was only in with David yesterday. Where are you?"
"Are you sober ... no let me rephrase that. How much did you drink last night?"
"Best part of a bottle of rum."
"Don't drive. I'll pick you up. When can you be ready?"
"I'm ready now."
"I'll believe that when I see it. Forty-five minutes."
Milla collected me, drove to her office, and started to sort my future.
"Right, go put the kettle on. I'll take a coffee".
I trotted off to the kitchen and did as I was told. When I returned to her office she had everything ready.
"From what David told me she has started the ball rolling, so she should be paying, but you can rest assured she'll try to plead poverty and claim legal aid. That'll land you with the bills. We'll have to head that one off at the pass. But first things first, can she lay her hands on your money?"
"Well she has her own bank accounts. We have a joint account for housekeeping and the kids. There's a joint credit card on it, but my salary goes into a personal account."
"Savings, pensions, investments, mortgage?"
"Mostly in my name. I'll get a full statement on Monday morning ... Shit, most of the records are at home!"
"The joint account is useful. We'll direct the 'maintenance pending suit' into that and you can get statements to see how much she is using. Cancel the credit card."
"You're still liable for your share of the family budget, if we make some payments right from the off it'll sit better with the judge. Especially when we go for custody."
"Why am I paying maintenance when she has moved lover-boy in already?"
"Oh she has, has she? That was a mistake. We can limit the maintenance, but we still pay it. Honestly, it will look a lot better for you. The stupid bitch shouldn't have moved lover-boy, as you call him, in quite that quickly. Alan will not be happy."
"David's partner? The solicitor acting for Diane?"
"Oh, yeah, I'm a bit slow on the uptake at the moment."
"Yes, well, no more bad drink for a while. You are going to be as pure as the driven snow at least until this is settled. Now, any other financials I need to know about?"
"There's no mortgage. The house technically belongs to Mum and Dad, it's a sort of family trust, and we pay rent."
"Excellent, I'll need to talk to your parents. We'll serve her with a notice to quit."
"Hang on a sec, Milla, I can't just throw her and the kids out of the house..."
"Jack, you have to realise she is in the driving seat at the moment. You need to throw her of balance and take charge here. If you don't, she is going to take you to the cleaners."
"But I don't know..."
" ... what you want to do, I know. But let's get one thing straight here buster, you do as I say and I'll protect your position, and the kids. She'll get as near fuck-all as I can sort. The notice to quit is exactly that, a notice. We aren't saying get out immediately and we make no mention of the children being put out. We can make a motion for you to have temporary custody of them in the home they are used to, it just makes things awkward for her."
"There' the house on the south coast. It's paid for too," I said.
Camilla was spitting feathers. I knew she could be ruthless but I had never seen her in full battle order. In fact she rarely swore. The number of swear words coming out of her mouth were a measure of just how angry she was. I'd put it at 9.5 on a ten point scale.
David, Camilla, and I had all grown up together. We had always looked out for each other, and it was quite clear that she considered Diane's actions as much an attack on her as me.
The rest of the morning was pretty much in the same vein. Milla extracted all the information she needed and put everything in place for her staff to draw up all the papers she needed on Monday morning. Her final business of the morning was explicit enough.
"Go get you gear from that squalid little doss house. You'll stay with Simon and me until we get you back on an even keel. By then I should have you back in the house."
"It's not that bad."
"Don't care. You're not staying there any longer than necessary."
"Well, you're going to have to drive me back to get my gear."
An hour and a half later I was unpacking in Milla and Simon's.