It took me a few days to recover from my unusual and rather eventful foray into Hampstead suburbia last week. Glad to be back in busy Chelsea, where I know every street corner and discover every new shop within minutes of its opening, I spent the beginning of the week sprucing up my wardrobe for colder days.
True, many items from last season have survived the autumn-clean and more than I could wish for remains in the closet, but I have managed to make enough space to accomodate the enchantingly original items I acquired over the week.
Monday I point-blankly refused to leave home and sorted out good from bad mags (the majority of which mysteriously found their way back onto their shelves). On her way home, Kate, who was in comical exasperation about my newest encounter with the male species, brought some Japanese delicacies from one of her many admirers and we spent the evening killing a good bottle of red.
Talking to Kate always has a sobering effect on me, but the conversation was nothing compared to a telephone call I received late on Tuesday night. I had already gone to bed and was just finishing the last pages of Art Monthly, when a sublte buzz announced a late caller.
It turned out to be an old friend of mine, Sarah, whom I hadn’t spoken to in quite a while. After getting married last year, Sarah had moved down to Essex and had temporarily vanished from London and our mutual friend’s parties. She must have done well as it is usually the happy couples that are so absorbed in their new bliss that they quite forget to maintain contacts. Nobody had been seriously affronted but after while we had somehow stopped talking about Sarah.
Now she was phoning me, rather late at night at that. Didn’t married couples living in the beautiful English countryside go to bed early, I asked myself absent-mindedly, but almost instantly pricked my ears at her anxious and exhausted sounding voice.
Gregory, her husband, she told me, had moved out last weekend. This had not taken her by surprise completely as they had been going through a difficult time for a while. She confessed however that his sudden move had utterly thrown her off balance. “I never thought, he would really do this,“ she seighed miserably. “Of course we had problems, but we are married, right? Doesn’t this mean that you solve them rather than run away?“
What was I to say? Hardly the expert on relationships at the best of times, I felt quite at a loss when it came to councelling a married woman. I decided to listen rather than talk, which turned out to be a good strategy.
Sarah and Greg, I knew had been married after dating for about two years. They had both been independent and outgoing people and through the entire courtship retained both seperate flats and their own circle of friends. Sarah, a sought-after food stylist and photographer, had often been away on exciting trips to exotic locations, such as Sansibar or some other remote island. Greg was a consultant and no less busy, travelling four days a week at least, sometimes much longer.
All in all they had not seen each other much. This fact that had frequently led to questions and discussions amongst Sarah’s gang of girls had somehow never seemed to concern her and when Greg had whisked her away to his family home in Essex and given her a beautiful diamond, she had simply said yes.
Why not? She had asked her astonished audience, when she had announced that she was moving, not only in with him, but also out into the countryside. People settle down at one point. This is as good as any other and I love Greg.
Yes, she loved Greg. She still did, I heard that. But moving into a large empty house in the middle of beautiful, quiet nature, had proved so contradictory to everything she had ever epitomised that her chances of finding happiness had been slim from the beginning. And Greg, continuing to travel frequently, had not helped.
After the honeymoon-mood had expired, Sarah had turned to decorating the house to keep her busy. As a stylist, she had done a magnicifent job and for some time she had convinced even herself that she was happy. Eventually, the house had been done – twice. The gardens, too and even some neighbouring drawing rooms had benefitted from Sarah’s touch.
Durning the long days of the week, she had yearned for Greg and found it increasingly hard to refrain from nagging him to come home early. When he had refused to give up his buddy fishing weekends and late night client binges, she had argued with him, begged, pleaded, threatened… nothing had changed his mind.
While Sarah was becoming even more on edge, Greg started to stay away longer and last weekend he had announced that he had rented an appartment and was going to stay there for a while.
Sarah, unable to view the situation from a distance, had blamed first her husband and then herself. Eventually, after a few night’s fretful brooding, she had decided to stalk him and find out what (or rather who, as she was now convinced that he had met another woman) was going on. And this is, where I was supposed to help!
“Please, Sophie! You’ve got to help me!“ She sounded utterly desperate, so much in fact that I was tempted to comply with her plea. But I knew better! Nothing good has ever come out of betraying someones privacy. Ever! How many times have I pleaded with friends not to go through a caller list, not to hack into his or her email account or to search through facebook contacts and pictures.
Whatever my friends have found has never brought them peace of mind or the reassurance they had actually been looking for. At best, they would find nothing incriminating and then have to deal with their guilty conscience over the lack of trust. At worst, they would learn about the secrets of their loved ones and not know how to deal with the truth – either way, the situation would go from bad to worse.
With this in mind and Sarah close to tears on the phone, I decided to take matters out of her (evidently unable) hands. Without further ado, I booked a flight to Berlin (just the place for the stylist Sarah) and called a friend of mine who runs an independent design magazine. She would have work for a talent like Sarah’s and Sarah would be out of harms way for a while.
This way, I also reckoned, Greg would have a chance to discover that Sarah was not going to sit at home waiting for him to come back (or worse, go after him to beg him to). Who knows? Maybe he did have an affair. Maybe, and I thought this to be much more likely, he would appreciate to rediscover the woman he had loved enough to marry – an energetic, vibrant and radiating Sarah, confident, busy and always in the centre of everything.
Finding Mr Right I thought, when I finally got into bed, is probably easier than keeping him. But what is most difficult and at the same time most important is to stay true to oneself – in good times and in bad.
With this in mind, I spent the remainder of the week in contended solitude. After all, being single has a lot of blessings!