Everyday was the same. Five minutes before the children came out of school the old Volvo would appear. It never came close and the driver never got out of the car. As the days went by other parents started to notice. When one of mums arrived late and saw the driver using binoculars, she called the police. The patrol car arrived just as the children came out. I was bending down to embrace Madeleine and Thomas when I saw him get out of the car. Even four hundred yards away I recognised him. That large frame, the way he held himself, even the way he pushed his fingers through his hair when he was stressed. I watched as he got something from his pocket a showed it to the constable.
"Mummy, why are you crying," asked Thomas "are you hurt?"
"No, don't worry. Mummy's, fine the wind just blew some grit in her eye." I lied to him.
As I gathered them up and walked back to the car. I looked back to see him, still talking to the policeman.
Two days later I went in my friend Penny's Isuzu. Penny went to collect the children with specific instructions to keep them waiting at the gate. It took him all of five minutes. At first he was tentative looking all around and then walking purposefully towards them. He was a hundred yards away when they noticed him. With the window wound down I could hear the shout as Madeleine saw him.
"Daddy!" She cried as she ran towards him.
Thomas pulled away from Penny and followed her. He went down onto one knee and gathered them both in a tight embrace. I watched with tears running down my cheeks as he held them, then got up and slowly walked them back to the gate. He crouched down to talk to them looking up to address Penny. I got out of the car and walked over to them.
"Hello Richard, it's been a long time."
He turned and looked up at me. His eyes were full of anger.
"That was your decision, not mine."
"What are you talking about, I'd never stop you seeing the children."
"What do you call this then?" he asked handing me a bundle of papers he'd taken from his jacket pocket. I looked but could make head nor tail of it The only words that made any sense, were the words restraining order.
"I don't understand. What is this?"
"You should know you took it out. It's an injunction preventing me from having any contact with you and that arrogant prick living in my house. I'm to have no contact with you and I am banned from coming within four hundred yards of you, him and the house."
"Tell me Cath, how am I supposed to see my children when I can't contact you and can't come to the house?"
Tears ran down his face as he took the injunction documents back from me.
"I'm sorry Richard I don't understand. I never took that out"
"Well somebody did."
I felt a small hand tugging at me. "Mummy, mummy, can daddy come home with us? Please mummy, can he."
I looked at Richard as he pretended to blow his nose to cover the fact he was drying his eyes. He shook his head.
"Not tonight Darling, Mummy has something she must do first."
Richard turned to leave. "By the way Cath, I shall deny this meeting ever took place." He started to walk away.
"Richard wait, can I have those documents?"
"No, It's my only copy. I'll email it to you.—From an anonymous account of course."
He bent down hugged Maddy and Tom, kissed them both and walked away.
Both children called out to him. He didn't look back but I saw him dabbing at his eyes with a tissue.
We walked back to Penny's car. I buckled Maddy and Tom into their seats and got in the front. Penny looked at me with disbelief.
"Please tell me you didn't Cath. Richard may have his faults but he's a good dad and he's devoted to those two. I can't believe you slapped a restraining order on him."
"I didn't Penny, but I mean to find out who did."
All the way home I couldn't get his face out of my mind. He looked so desperate, so broken and deeply hurt. I tried to tell myself he deserved it. He'd betrayed me he'd slept with another woman. Less than seven years of marriage and he couldn't keep it in his trousers. If he needed to fuck someone what the hell was wrong with me. I'd loved him dearly. There wasn't anything I wouldn't have given him. I kept myself in trim, always looked good for him. I thought he was proud of me when we went out. Just goes to show how wrong you can be.
It had been almost a year since those photographs dropped through my door and their content left little to the imagination. A young blonde on her knees sucking his cock, wrapping her legs around him while he fucked her pussy and on her hands and knees taking him in her arse. In some shots his face wasn't visible but I could see that tattoo and perhaps that hurt more than anything else. I could easily read it, not that I needed to, I knew what it said.
Property of Catherine Thompson with an arrow pointing down to his cock.
I remembered the day he'd got it done. On our first anniversary I'd told him to do something to show that he loved me. I'd laughed when he showed it to me, I'm not laughing now. When I looked at the pictures I felt sick. How could he do that to me How could the little tart suck his cock while looking at that tattoo? There had been no doubt in my mind. If he loved me he just couldn't do that.
I thought about Penny's words. He had always been a wonderful father, taking an active role from day one. He did his fair share of bringing them up, changing nappies, feeding and bathing them. Maddy and Tom idolised him. Their mood brightened as soon as he got home sometimes I felt jealous of his relationship with them. That's why I was surprised when he suddenly stopped coming around to see them. He never called to arrange a visit. For three months we had no contact at all. Despite the shock of betrayal I didn't hate him and I certainly wouldn't stop him seeing the children.
As Richard walked away he couldn't believe his life had gone so wrong so quickly. A year ago he had a good job, a nice house, a lovely wife and two beautiful children. One by one they had all been taken away. He got into the old Volvo and watched Cathy load the kids into Penny's Isuzu. He banged his forehead on the steering wheel. How could one drunken night lead to this?
He never normally drank much but that night he felt sorry for himself. His employer, Electronique plc. held their annual party in the garden of one of the large hotels in town. They erected a large marquee out on the lawns with a live band and cheap booze. It was a black tie job and more or less compulsory for managers to attend. Normally he went with Cath while her mother looked after the children. That year was different, Cath's mum was recovering from varicose vein surgery and Cath was looking after her. Richard felt very alone and found himself drinking more than usual. From halfway through the evening he could remember nothing. He knew that he'd woken up in a hotel room with the mother of all hangovers. When he checked out he was told him he'd paid the bill when he booked the room. None of it made sense.
Things got worse when he got to work on Monday. His colleagues were all nudges and winks and they called him a sly dog and other such names. Craig, his boss, didn't find it so funny.
"I thought you knew better. Cath's a lovely girl and you two are so right together, I never thought you'd put that at risk for a roll in the hay with some tart."
"Craig, what are you are talking about."
"I'm talking about you leaving the party with the mystery Blonde on Saturday night."
"I can't remember much after the dinner. I woke up in a hotel room that I was supposed to have booked the previous week. I have no knowledge of how I got there and I don't remember booking it. Why would I need a room? It's only a ten minute taxi ride to my place."
"I know you were putting it away but I didn't think you were that bad. Let me fill you in. From about 9.30pm you were keeping the company of a blonde woman. Nobody recognised her, but I'll give you one thing, she was drop dead gorgeous. Anyway about 10.30pm I saw you leaving with your arm draped around the bare shoulder of the mystery woman. There are a lot of blokes in this department from whom I'd expect that sort of behaviour, but not you Richard."
"I assure you Craig I don't remember a thing, if I had the pleasure of the young lady then it was totally wasted because I don't remember."
"Well you'd better make sure Cath doesn't find out, because she'll have your guts for garters."
A week later Cathy returned from her mother's. Two days after she got home Richard came home to a mad woman, waving pictures at him, and telling him to get out. He threw some clothes in a bag and left to spend the night on his brother's sofa. By the end of the week he got notification of divorce proceedings in his office mail.
He'd never imagined Cath would use the children as weapon against him, but that was exactly what she had done. This restraining order was the last straw. It didn't ban him from seeing Maddy and Tom, it just made it impossible to make arrangements.
He started the car and headed in the direction of the place he now called home.
We got home and I gave the children a snack and a drink, I used my laptop to check the email. There was nothing from Richard, I set about cooking dinner while Maddy and Tom did their school work. It seems ridiculous setting homework for five and six year old children, but that's the world we live in now.
.... There is more of this story ...