Running the Race I Never Entered
Not many women know what it’s like being the other woman, not many care, and those that do know don’t want to talk about it. But I do…and here is my story.
He came into my life like the missing part of a jigsaw puzzle. A game I didn’t even know I was playing.
He was everything I wasn’t looking for in a man; he wasn’t tall, he wasn’t dark and he was married.
I knew everything about him before I met him, because he’d replaced me in my previous job. I imagined him sitting at my old desk trying to emulate a woman that he was yet to meet. Perhaps he knew all about me too. I would go out with my old work colleagues and they would say, ‘he’s just like you, he’s the male version of you, you’ll really love him.’
They were right, I really would.
I remember the day my old boss had interviewed him and she’d returned to the office red and flustered.
‘Well, I think we’ve found your replacement,’ she’d said to me, tucking a stray hair behind her ear. She was finding it hard to look me in the eye. ‘He’s young, twenty three and he’s married. Well, he told me he was separated actually and…well…he’s ever so handsome.’
Of course I was curious about this married man that had melted my most icy of bosses, but I wouldn’t get to meet him until weeks later, the day after I was dumped by my boyfriend. My married replacement had (rather strategically) invited himself out on my ‘All Men Are Bastards’ girls’ night out, the night I had chosen to get over men. Evidently life enjoys irony as much as the rest of us. I had no intention of making him my rebound fling, the guy that had just dumped me had already been that. In fact, that cold November night, I had no intentions whatsoever…
So who was this person that everyone said I would love? Was he as wonderful as they told me he was? No, he was so much more. And that was the beginning of how I fell for a married man. That was how I became ‘the other woman’.
Of course I could have walked away, but…
What do you do when he stares at you until you are teetering on the edge of uncomfortable, his eyes the colour of the sea after a storm?
What do you do when he gives you a slow smile, a smile that lets you know he can see what you are thinking…because they are his thoughts too?
What do you do when he takes your hand and you want to pull away but you can’t, because your heart is already holding on tighter than you have ever held on to anything in your life?
You do nothing, because you want life to make the decision for you.
There were never any lies.
‘I’m married, but no kids.’
‘We’re on a break, but I do want to try and save my marriage.’
‘My wife and I have just bought a flat. We were meant to be moving into it, but I’m living at my parent’s house now.’
‘We shouldn’t be doing this.’
‘I know, but it’s just a bit of fun.’
‘Yeah, but it won’t last. You know that, don’t you? It can’t be serious.’
Except it wasn’t.
I fought it with everything I had but I still fell hard. Like a lead weight I plummeted through the light fog of my delusion and tumbled headfirst into an unknown abyss, my finger nails clawing at the slippery walls as I fell ever faster towards trouble. I grappled, I clung and I tried to stop…we both did…it was never meant to be anything. But it was too late.
And so the days turned to weeks that turned to months. Three people trapped in a never ending limbo, forever waiting to see in which direction life was going to take us – her, him and me – torn between duty and the force of fate.
Then the day came that he had to say goodbye, the day we decided that we had to do the right thing. He gave me a watery smile and I kept blinking until I could see again. It was the right thing to do. I had gone in with my eyes wide open, after all. There had been no lies. All good things must come to an end.
Then he kissed me.
Bang! There it was, this thing between us was finally bigger than us. The us which we had tried to ignore and had convinced ourselves was not important, was in fact everything. With that kiss he took with him my breath and the last of my resolve, and on my lips he finally tasted everything I wanted to say.
His marriage was over. I’d won the competition that I’d never planned on entering.
Did I feel victorious? No.
Did I feel guilty? Not at all.
Three happy years together followed that kiss.
His wife walked away and bore him no ill. Everything was perfect. Until, that is, it no longer was.
What went wrong? I have no idea. But he left me for someone else.
I know, it should never have come as a surprise…what goes around comes around after all…but it was still a shock. Because when you feel that you are so special that he will give up his future for you and make you his everything, you never truly believe that there is someone out there that can beat that. You can’t really believe that you weren’t that special after all.
Fickle had beaten Fate.
Did I hate him for it? Surprisingly, no.
Did I hate the other woman? Not at all.
Did it break my heart? Every last shard.
For eleven years I have been with my true love, my husband, the right choice.
I have never cheated on another man, not even a chaste kiss, and I never would. Although I often wonder what I would do if my husband were to cheat on me with a woman I had never met.
But I already know – I would do what I did the last time it happened to me – I would walk away with my head held high. Why? Because it’s not a competition and it would never be her fault. He would be the cheating lying bastard; she would just be the unlucky one that fell in love with the wrong man. The irresistible man that in her head she’d tell herself to walk away from, yet in her heart she would truly believe he was worth fighting destiny for.
She would become the other woman, and run the race she never planned on entering.