Ten years ago, on this very day, my life was turned upside down.
I’d watched with pride, and a little envy, as my cousin walked down the aisle of St Paul’s church. My perfectly petite, blonde-haired, and always immaculate cousin Olivia. My registry office wedding to Tim hadn’t been as lavish, as expensive, or even as talked about as Olivia’s nuptials, but I thought we were happy and hadn’t needed all the pomp or expensive trimmings Olivia had demanded. As Olivia had three brothers, and I was her only female cousin I’d been expected to be available when Olivia stamped her dinky size three feet and had been dragged into a lot of the planning and running around ahead of her big day.
She had looked stunning as she stood at the altar, all eyes were on her, which I could tell by the smug look on her face she was enjoying immensely and not really focused on what the vicar was saying, or her future husband come to think of it. If only everyone knew how many times Olivia had reduced the owner of the bridal boutique to tears and screamed at her own Mother over the dress she’d eventually chosen when the many alterations weren’t to her high standards.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike Olivia, I just knew her too well. I’d seen too many childhood and teenage tantrums to know how exhausting she could be, and since the engagement had been announced she’d taken her performance of Bridezilla to the extreme.
It was during the vows when the vicar asked if there was any reason why the couple should not marry, that my safe happy world came crashing down around my ears. Initially, I was confused, but the realisation of the full horror of what my husband was doing sank in, each word hit me like an electric shock. I could hear blood whooshing in my ears and my hands were trembling. The room was spinning, I could hear my own heart beating and I stared straight ahead as I focused on breathing and not being sick. Each inhale and exhale felt twisted and arduous like I had a shard of glass stuck in my gullet which wouldn’t budge.
I’ll never forget the backdrop of gasps and tuts in the room as Tim stood up in what felt like slow-motion, I remember hearing my Dad ask what the hell Tim was doing, and the intense sobs from my Auntie Jane as Tim announced to the packed church how he and Olivia were in love and had been seeing each for months. When Tim had finished his speech, he touched my arm and whispered a desperate I’m sorry, but I didn’t respond, the screams from Olivia and the noise and commotion of the groomsmen trying to hold back Olivia’s fiancée held my attention. It still feels unreal, a terrifying nightmare I had a front-row seat for, and no matter how much I wanted to, I couldn’t wake up.
I stayed in my seat long after the embarrassed congregation had left the church, I still don’t know what happened to Tim after the abandoned service, and whether the enraged groom and his fists had caught up with him. I’d heard Olivia took her long-suffering friend Tilly on the honeymoon to Mexico and met a new victim not long after. No surprise, I haven’t spoken to her since. I only spoke to Tim through the solicitor, he agreed to everything I asked for in the divorce and sent handwritten begging letter after begging letter pleading for my forgiveness, most of which I didn’t bother to read.
I’m not sure how long I’d sat alone in the church, connecting thoughts and memories, torturing myself, linking all the time Tim was working late, or allegedly at the gym, he must have been in bed with Olivia. When I finally found the strength to stand up to leave, I saw I wasn’t alone. One of the groomsmen had insisted my parents go home saying he would make sure I got home safely. He’d sat and patiently waited, didn’t say anything until I turned.
He took me to a small pub in the next town, insisting I had a large brandy before he took me to my parents’ house. We ended up talking for hours and he told me about how his ex-wife had done the dirty on him. When he pulled up outside my parents’ house, their ashen faces watching from the window, he said he’d visit in a couple of days, which he did. These visits became more frequent and soon we were meeting for a quick drink, and then lunches, then Saturday night dinners, and eventually we admitted we were dating.
My pathetic ex-husband and Princess Olivia are now a distant memory and ten years later Jon and I are happily co-habiting in a beautiful cottage we lovingly renovated ourselves. I couldn’t be happier and although I’ll never forget the pain Tim and Olivia caused me, I’ve moved on. I could have let the pain eat away at me, not allowing anyone to get close, shut my heart down for business. Admittedly it wasn’t easy, I’ve had wobbles when Jon’s been late home, but he understands, and eventually, I learned to trust and love again. Jon is a wonderful, caring, and kind man and we’ve both agreed we’re never going to get married.