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.

21 comments:

  1. What a story!

    I have no idea how I would have reacted in your situation. Hopefully writing about it will help to put that time in your life to sleep forever.

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  2. Sharing this shall help you heal. When you have forgiven them, you will be able to move on to a more rewarding life with little baggage.

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  3. GM:
    Honestly, I have no ill feelings towards any of them, all dealt with a long time ago. I write only from a "isn't life extraordinary" angle.
    XO
    WWW

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  4. Gail:
    I often joke my baggage is now the size of a lunchbox, and I truly feel it is.
    I find people and their lives endlessly fascinating.
    XO
    WWW

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  5. All I can say is, life's twists and turns are constantly staggering. As you say, you couldn't make it up. Ilona certainly seems to have made a lot of bad judgments and had a lot of bad luck. Your friendship must have been sorely tested many times.

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  6. I get the feeling as though you are writing about another woman's life when you tell these stories, WWW. I recognize the goodness in your heart, but you would not put up with any of these shenanigans now, would you? Wise One?

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  7. Sigh. As they say back in Yorkshire, "There's now't as queer as folks".

    Ilona's actions wouldn't have seemed nearly as bad without that pact you'd all made.
    And because the relationaship was so short-lived it almost seems as though she did it out of spite.

    Good way of getting back though, WWW - selling her works of art for next to nothing. :-)

    Fact is certainly, quite often, stranger and more exotic than fiction.

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  8. Nick:
    It was truly tested, I had tremendous difficulty with her impoverishing her own pensioner parents (she was an only child) and they had to move, in their late sixties, to Canada to provide free baby sitting due to Billy's staggering indifference to his own children.
    XO
    WWW

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  9. Irene:
    I am completely detached from it all. I am much more selective now, I am blessed with many friends but I'm far more 'fussy' I guess is the word. I find when one is young one is much more tolerant of other's foibles. I think I expect people to mature as they age or at least deal with their demons and emerge more grown up.
    I've had to sacrifice some friendships recently in the interests of self preservation.
    XO
    WWW

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  10. T:
    No, the reason she did it is because she viewed Ted as a cash cow and successful. He on the other hand could never envision taking on her out of control children so used her rather badly, I'm afraid.
    yes truth is so much more strange, n'est pas.
    I'm endlessly fascinated with other people's lives (as you can tell!!)
    XO
    WWW

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  11. Self preservation is a very important skill to learn and it is too bad that som eof us learn it so late in life.It is very helpful in picking healthy friends and companions. In my case, I've gone overboard and that is not good either. It is good to find a happy medium. But protect yourself at all times, yes, that should be a given. You are the Wise Web Woman!

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  12. I am glad you are separated from Ted! He first cheats on you with a woman who you call your friend then goes out with one of your friends... Even after breaking up, it would still break my heart too....

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  13. Irene:
    Oh I still have a long, long way to go, my friend, still learning life lessons!
    XO
    WWW

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  14. Nevin:
    Oh me too, I hear he cheats on his current wife too, but we remain cordial for the sake of our children.
    XO
    WWW

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  15. Thanks, fun reading.
    There truly are stories out there that defy description.
    Helen

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  16. And if you're the Helen I know and love, you've got many of your own to tell!!!
    XO
    WWW

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  17. my god, my god. i believe every word, but my god. i am certain i would not have held my tongue; i would wish i had later, but i would not have been able to.

    SHE WANTED TO DATE YOUR HUSBAND?? my god my god.

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  18. I love these stories, my friend. It's like sitting in front of fire on a cold night listening to the strange things that happen in real life, better than TV, as good as a good book. I hope you will tell more.

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  19. Laurie:
    My reaction exactly. Interestingly enough, years later, I ran into a school friend of hers who told me that her breath was taken away with the audacity of it and she had broken the friendship because of it.
    XO
    WWW

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  20. Verna:
    Welcome back my friend, I'll write more soon!
    XO
    WWW

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  21. I seem to be Odd Gal Out! I don't know why it would bother you if a friend was fool enough to date your ex, or why a group of friends would make such a pact. I totally understand that it might bother a person and that a friend would want to give you a headsup or talk with you about it before doing it. I'm just not sure exactly why that is; it's not like we "own" someone after we've had a relationship with them, or if they are our friends and want to mess around with our other friends.

    I haven't been in any of those positions, perhaps that explains why I don't quite "get it."

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