3A Hyde Park Terrace
LONDON W2 5PH
May 1 1997
I waited up on Saturday night for Austen to return. I sat by our black marble kitchen table, sipping espressos, and wearing a pink candlewick dressing gown which I know Austen hates (but which I like). I waited until after it had gotten dark and, even then, I didn’t turn on the light.
When he came into the room, and turned the light on, he didn’t expect me to be sitting there, still, in what had been dark. He went into hearty male mode: “Hello darling. Are you still up?”
I said, “I know about Ariel. I want you out of here by tomorrow.”
He said, “Don’t be so ridiculous. I hardly know her.”
I said, “I’ve got proof” – and slapped the videotape you sent me down on to the table. It clattered on the top.
It was funny – as in odd – then because his face took on a creepy sort of look, the sick look of someone who’d been caught in the act of committing a murder. The phrase in flagrante delicto comes to mind – perhaps because, actually, it rhymes with ‘sick’ and is, in all ways. But also it means: ‘caught in the act of a blazing wrong.’
He said, “What proof? How?”
I said, “We taped you at your mother’s.” (I hope you don’t mind mum – because it’s true)! His face took on a purple hue at this point and a stream of invective followed which I find both hard to remember and you wouldn’t wish me to repeat.
“It’s not as if we’re still running about doing it all over the place,” he shouted – as if that was some kind of justification for God knows how many months (or years) of lying.
I said, “I mean it Austen. I want you gone.”
“I’m going to bed,” he said. “We can discuss it in the morning.”
“If you don’t go,” I said, “I’ll contact the press. You’ll be on the the news. And if your side wins the election, don’t even think of the Cabinet!”
He went quiet then and tried a more conciliatory, and oozing, tone. “You know I care about you,” he said. “There’s no need for anything drastic.”
“It’s too late,” I said. “It’s been too late since I don’t know when. I should have trusted my instincts. This isn’t the first time. I’ve had enough. You thought you wouldn’t bother to treat me with kindness – or honesty – or respect. And that’s done for you now. I’m going to bed.”
And I just left him there, standing with his briefcase by the table, looking like the cockroach he is. That’s the thing with Austen. All the while you want affection (or love) or sex, he’s got the whip hand. It’s only when you can give all that up – and want nothing more from him – that you’ve got any hope of holding your own. I’ve had to do it, even though I still love him, because there’s just no other way. If I run after him wanting affection, he’ll run rings around me – he always has. And if I try to oppose him, he’ll just take away warmth. It’s true what that film – ‘War Games’ is it? – says, ‘Sometimes the only winning move is not to play.’ Well that’s what’s happened here and I’m glad of it.
He went anyway, the next day, and now I’m here all alone. I don’t know what to make of it. I don’t suppose I will know for a very long time.
With gratitude for all your help mum. I couldn’t have done any of this without you.
Love from Harriet (your daughter – in law – but not for much longer).