Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Stories of Friendship and Betrayal: Part 3
Installment 1 of this story is here
It’s a prickly place to be in, that narrow spot between a rock and a hard place. I couldn’t tell the bride what had happened, and ruin her wedding day. And what was the point of telling Ted about his friend and rugby mate? Would he exact revenge? Would she turn her back on me as a liar? I decided to forget about it after telling Billy he was never to touch me again and he was off my hug list for life.
Billy never pulled it together employment wise. He had been studying engineering in the hope of securing a great job like his older engineer brother but stories rippled forth about incompetent professors and inadequate instructions. Billy sat the same exams so many times that his co-students were eventually over ten years younger than him. Then he ‘didn’t fit in’. Ilona was full of sympathy for him, listening attentively and nodding as he filed his complaints to all who would listen. She never saw a flaw in him and kept financing his failed educational endeavours by turning her back on the finer side of her artistic talent and acquiring full time employment designing branch offices of banks.
I was very fond of her, for a variety of reasons. She was loyal, she was an energy force to be reckoned with and apart from the fatal flaw of her odd marriage, was a very interesting person. We all tolerated Billy because of Ilona.
She had the remarkable gift of making her friends’ lives appear fascinating to her other friends. She would extol one’s gifts and virtues (“Oh, you should read some of Terry’s work, she’s such a writer and a singer too - and her photographs, my dear, her talent is awesome, and Ted, he’s her husband - brilliant athlete, so tall and good looking and their daughters, she makes all their clothes you know and dresses them in black and white sometimes to show off their blondness, you just have to meet them all…..”). We all felt several inches taller and more exciting in our humdrum lives having heard Ilona’s press releases on us all.
Ilona had two children by Billy and not without some effort on her part as he was disinterested in the procreative end of things according to Ilona. He was a distant father and she was, to put it succinctly, an indifferent mother. Ted and I babysat the children from time to time and were shocked at their neediness and one time there was one of the worst cases of nappy rash on one of them that I’ve ever seen. I managed to heal it with a cure-all ointment from Ireland and doses of sunshine on the naked little bottom. I was frankly too scared to take the child to the doctor as I thought he might have turned Billy and Ilona in for child neglect. Really, really poor judgement on my part and I see that now. Ted and I were godparents to both children which hindered a balanced appraisal of the situation.
All was right in the world Ilona had created for herself. Until she phoned me late one night about twelve years into her marriage to say she had no money and Billy had maxed out all her credit cards in the past few months. Thousands and thousands of dollars in unexpected debt in restaurants, pubs, flowers, jewellers, none of which she had benefited from.
She had finally confronted Billy and he had admitted to an affair with the daughter of a prominent politician in Toronto and bingo, she was pregnant by him. Ilona was devastated. Billy had left an hour before she called me. By that time, Ted and I were separated and I was struggling financially myself. However, my policy in these matters, rather than giving money, is to ask what is needed. Food, she answered, in tears, and clothes for the children. Billy had provided little to no financial support over the years. And would not provide any now. That was a given.
So I did what I could for her, whilst dealing with my own demons of the time. We would get together as often as we could and I would take her children for a week in the summer.
Out of the blue about three years into her separation, I had a long message from her on my answering machine. In this she said that she had carefully thought out what she was going to say and here it was, she had always been interested in my husband (now ex) Ted and as he and I had been separated for a while now, she had bought theatre tickets and was going to invite him to the theatre in the hopes of beginning a relationship with him and she hoped I didn’t mind.
What made this message extraordinarily hurtful was that several years before, a bunch of us women had sat down and agreed that the worst damage one of us could inflict on another was to date/have an affair with/pursue each other’s partners, ex or otherwise. It was a pact.
Her wedding day came to mind as I played the message over and over. The secret I had never shared. And I so wanted to inflict this on her now. A “Guess what happened on your wedding day?” revenge phone call.
But I didn’t. Something about the high road, something about revenge being a dish best eaten cold. What I did was gather all her paintings and artwork off my walls. There were a lot - gifts given over the years. I placed them prominently around the garden at a huge garage sale I had when I was downsizing from the family home. I priced them all at one dollar each. They sold right away. The inner mean little me hoped that at one time she would spot one in a house and be told its sale price.
She and Ted lasted just over six weeks. She and I haven’t spoken to this day. Billy went on to have four children in four years with his wealthy partner who then dumped him. He went back to live at his elderly mother’s. Ilona moved to the country and was involved in a fraud scheme at a local art gallery and was held criminally responsible. Subsequently, her son was jailed for drug dealing. These two items I gleaned from the newspapers.
One couldn’t make this stuff up.