Getting divorced was much easier and cheaper than I had imagined, a doddle compared to the hassle and expense of the original wedding. We sat down one weekend and made a complete list of our chattels, assigning each a second-hand value. We added the total value, divided by two, and then took it in turns to ‘shop’ from the list. As I was the higher earner, we decided that I would take over the mortgage, borrowing even more money to buy out Pete’s equity and stay in the house.

Pete brought home do-it-yourself divorce forms from the solicitor’s office where he worked. Apparently, to qualify for divorce in the UK you only needed to commit adultery once with one person. We both qualified on this basis as a result of tit-for-tat flings shortly after our initial agreement to live as singles. Pete, in his gentlemanly way, offered to be the sole adulterous partner for the purposes of the form. He’d had a one-night-stand with some contact he’d made through a lonely heart ad. She had faked an orgasm so monstrously, according to Pete, that even her flat mates would have been aware of it. Of course, these details were only hearsay, and maybe Pete just made them up to make me laugh; these were miserable times. Fortunately, in this enlightened age, the English courts didn’t need to know that level of sordid detail, so I just put down ‘Person or persons unknown.’ Pete countersigned it, enclosed a cheque for £40, and posted it to the relevant court. 

About three weeks later a female judge wrote back saying that she ‘found our marriage had irretrievably broken down.’ I found that a bit rich since we’d never even met her and had not yet broken the habit of saying ‘I love you.’ Anyway, that was what I had asked for. I, of all people, should have known that if you tell someone to go, they might just leave. 

Pete bought a flat on the opposite side of Clapham Common and moved out.        

I was now twenty-five, unmarried, and living on my own in a five-bedroom house in Clapham. I had a huge mortgage, and loneliness was threatening to drive me insane. Divorce had been easy, but the aftermath was devastating. Divorce had felt like shaking my leaves free of the shadow of a neighbouring tree that had been taking my light. The aftermath was like the slow ripping apart of roots that had been intertwining themselves deep in the earth for eight years. My life had been tranquil to the point of tedium; now I felt as if I was staggering around with a dagger stuck in my heart. Love left an ever fixèd mark.

Now that I was unhappy and alone much of the time, food seemed to gain the upper hand. My routine with Pete had been to cook supper at seven p.m., when we got back home, make a cup of coffee, take it into the sitting room, and keep out of the kitchen for the rest of the evening. There was no longer any such routine as I went out most nights. I would go to a wine bar with colleagues or go to a movie or theatre with Faith. Often we would end up eating and drinking.

Pete, you may be relieved to hear, solved his half of the problem by falling in love with someone new, remarrying, and having a baby all within about nine months of moving out. I was genuinely happy for him and did everything I could to make sure his new wife didn’t feel threatened by me. But she did, inevitably. Faith and Henry persuaded me that the only way to convince her otherwise was to keep away from them. Though Pete and his new wife welcomed me in their happy, warm, soon-to-be-baby-filled flat on the other side of Clapham Common, there was a permanent tension. I realised that the only way I could prove I had no desire to have Pete back was to leave them to it. Discretion is the greater part of valour, so I discretely and valiantly exited from their proffered friendship.

By the time Pete became a father, my weight was clearly out of control. 

Divorce

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