Many years ago I called the home of a very dear friend who lived in the US. His wife answered and told me he wasn't home. I wasn't all that fond of his wife, they had a very difficult relationship and I blamed her for it. I had known my friend for over a decade by then and after that many years of close friendship I knew him nearly as well as I knew myself - I knew his thoughts, his dreams, his disappointments, and yes, his marriage troubles, which were many. Still, as his friend I felt obligated to be polite to his wife and steeled myself for a few minutes of inane chitchat.
I got my world ripped apart instead. After a minute or two of polite how are you's I asked how things were going with my friend, more to make conversation than an honest desire to know. She responded by suddenly swearing me to secrecy and telling me that he had hit her. More than once. And that I couldn't say anything. To remember that I'd promised her I wouldn't. I suddenly couldn't breathe, it was as if all the air had suddenly been sucked out of the universe. This couldn't be happening. This man, my friend, would never. Could never. It was unfathomable. He'd always been a protector to me, how could he ever hurt someone? I felt utterly betrayed. It couldn't have hurt me worse if I'd been the one to he'd hit.
I was so angry. I have never been that angry in my life. It was as if he'd ripped apart the very fabric of my soul. I wanted to rip his heart out with my bare hands, but I had promised to keep this devastating secret and I was afraid of what might happen to his wife if he found out she had told me.
I kept the secret, not telling a soul. It took everything I had, but I had promised and I kept that promise. I paid a heavy price though. I couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, smoked way too much, fought with my own husband. It affected every aspect of my life. Everywhere I looked I saw only black despair. Week after week I held my ground and refused to answer my friend's repeated calls.
One night my husband and I were in the grocery store. I picked a fight over something stupid. My husband stopped and told me enough was enough. Whatever was weighing on my mind that was causing me to act this way, it had to come out. Now. No more hiding, no more pretending that everything was alright. And come out it did, right there in the middle of the grocery store. Before I had gotten two words out I was sobbing hysterically. When I finally calmed down enough to get the words out he asked me why I hadn't just confronted my friend. I explained that I had sworn I wouldn't. Jay got angry. How could I throw away over ten years of love and friendship without giving him so much as a chance to defend himself. After holding out for another hour or two I finally agreed to speak to my friend.
With a sick feeling in my stomach I placed the call. He was so happy to finally hear from me, and so hurt that I'd been rejecting him. I heard that and exploded. I let four months of pain and hurt and anger come flying out of my mouth almost of their own volition.
And through the phone line I heard a hurt which mirrored my own. In keeping silent, in becoming the judge and jury in this conviction without trial I had committed a betrayal of my own. A terrible betrayal.
Despite everything I knew about his wife and her history, it truly never occurred to me that she had lied just to drive a wedge between us, to remove me from the picture, and yet she had. She had lied and I had believed her.
It took years for our friendship to truly recover and only newer and more twisted examples of his wife's instability finally made it clear to both of us how this had happened, and how close we had come to losing each other. Another eight years later and they are enmeshed in a bitterly acrimonious divorce with no end in sight.
She nearly cost him his best friend, and she did cost him his dreams and his innocence. That pales in comparison to what she is doing now. I only pray she won't cost him his son as well.
The Writers Island prompt for this week was reconciliation.