The Epoch Times, New York
'Inspiring The World, Journalism Competition'
The second prize, for $3,000, goes to Tara Denholm-Smith, for “The Year You Didn’t Break Me.”
The Year You Didn't Break Me
By Tara Denholm-Smith
He didn’t die. I wish he had done. The paperwork would’ve been easier, the closure faster and in comparison, the comprehension, a cinch.
There’s no appropriate status tick box on official forms, neither is there capacity for searing pain and the inconclusiveness of it all.
There’s just me with two numb children to bring back to the brink. The brink of what exactly, remains unknown.
Married for twenty years to my childhood sweetheart, my soulmate, the handsome father of my two children. I adored him.
A warm home, enchanting friends, and the beginnings of a thriving business. He told me every day how much he adored me too. He was an incredible father. We were the sort of couple that you'd envy. The epitome of happiness. We had it all.
The day everything changed came without warning. He went to work as normal, he kissed me goodbye.
He never returned. He switched off his phone and he disappeared.
Panicking, I called my best friend. She reassured me and comforted the children, she said he'd probably just had a bad day at the office. I was overreacting. Looking back now, I recall the faintest tinge of excitement in her voice.
Four days later, I found him. He’d rented an apartment in another town. I waited outside and refused to leave until he saw me. He spoke to me with indifference, belligerence, and an anger in his voice. His eyes were soulless.
I begged him to come home, I begged him for answers. In the five minutes he gave me, there were none. Except, he told me, there was no one else. He just needed space.
He would only speak with my best friend and her husband. I asked her to check if he still wore his wedding ring, if he'd eaten, if he was ok. I analysed every embellishment I could glean.
After two weeks, I’d dropped 14 pounds in weight. My every moment a ritual of pacing, vomiting and trying to make contact. I was nonsensical in my obsession to find answers.
The relief when I uncovered his affair was as joyous as it was agonizing. His affair. With my best friend.
The best friend who hugged our children, who led me to believe she was my rock. His best friend's wife.
His toothbrush in our bathroom, his book by our bed and his favourite cup in our kitchen. His 43 years’ worth of possessions laughed in the face of my persecution. Still he refused to speak to me or our children.
Overnight the two of them left the country. Only this time, he went without a trace.
His social networks were disabled. His emails bounced back. His friends were ignored. He vanished. And there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.
It transpired, he hadn't been at work for a long time, he'd been with her. He hadn't paid our rent, our utilities, taxes, insurances - you name it.
He’d taken out a loan using my family’s home as collateral. He hadn't paid that either. He owed thousands. My entire life as I knew it, was a lie.
A homemaker, with no means of unexpectedly financially supporting the three of us. We were in crisis.
The landlord came to the marital home and laughed at my disgusting naïvety. He cut the water and electricity, then served me an eviction notice with relish. My husband hadn't paid for the cars, I lost those too. I accessed his abandoned business, he hadn't paid staff or his rent. We were rock bottom.
Grown men would call at 3am claiming my husband owed them money, the three of us were threatened. I called police enough times to know each local officer by name.
Our 12-year-old son reverted to an angry little boy. Our 16-year-old daughter was admitted into hospital, her anxiety became such that she could no longer leave the house. Every night they'd check the house was secure, wouldn’t leave a room without closing the windows and locking the doors.
They became paranoid about security, about safety, about my whereabouts. I vowed to never fail them. I was all they had left.
Friends helped, family rallied. Each one as hurt and as dizzy as the next, at the actions of this decent, hardworking family man. Some didn't believe it, some looked the other way.
Salvageable assets from the remnants of my husband’s business were all I had left. I negotiated new lease arrangements and sat with stony faced strangers in suits, begging them to give me a chance. I learned how to operate machinery, source new business, renegotiate payment plans to his suppliers.
In a final act of bizarre silent malice, he changed the passwords on his business website. I rebuilt that too.
I grew the business sufficiently to sell it and entertained prospective clients; provided accounts and databases. I found a buyer.
I also managed to find us a new home. A bargain and empty for some years, I taught myself how to renovate and decorate. Google became my new best friend.
It was just me in the audience when my daughter graduated; it's just me cheering in the side-lines, alongside the proud dads, at my son's sporting events.
As I marked the second emergency parent as N/A on permission slips and organized paperwork through lawyers and courts, I fought hideous anger. Suffocating loneliness, exhaustion, bereavement, betrayal, bureaucracy, the system, I also fought to divorce a man with no forwarding address.
I lost friends, made enemies, some were openly smug that this could happen to me, to the girl who once had it all.
One final push of adrenaline landed me three different jobs and a place at college. I worked each day until I could no longer stand.
The day I came home to find the children had gone out and left the window open. That was the day I knew we’d made it.
The three of us never had closure, so like everything else...we made our own.
About The Author
Tara Denholm-Smith is an award-winning writer, freelance copywriter, copy-editor and the proud founder of Composing Copy LLP.
Trained in London, under best selling author, Kit Sadgrove, Tara graduated from copywriting with the highest possible grade- Distinction.
Tara helps all types of businesses to sell their goods and services through the written word.