Facts And Factions

Entry by: Seaside Scribbler

3rd February 2017
Confessions of Whore

Kerry held her head as high as it would go as she walked into the school playground. Forget war zones, she thought. These places are more dangerous, more damaging to the soul.

She noticed the cliques drawing closer together, harsh glances flung her way and a murmuring and clicking of tongues. Forget them, forget them, she told herself as she walked, a mantra against the wall of hate. How quickly she'd been dismissed this time. How fast the groups assembled around her, small fortresses of mutual negative gossip which bred on itself until the story not only had arms and legs, but a whole body besides.

It was her third playground in two years. She knew it wasn't the truth that had followed her; facts aren't as juicy as stories, after all. She'd tried to tell the truth the last time she moved, but nobody believed her. If the lies had followed her, so be it. She couldn't expect anything more in this age of social media, sharing and condemning someone at the click of a button, without thought, without checking the facts.

Josh and Amy, her twin sparks of life, were last to come out. She didn't make eye contact with anyone as they filed past her, pulling their offspring against them as if she's contaminate them. When the children did emerge, it was with a tecaher's arm protectively around them. She thought she'd have had an ally in Miss Paterson, if Miss Paterson had been allowed to cross the line of professional versus casual friendship. Her stomach flipped as she saw Josh was crying. Again.

'There was an incident,' said the kind Miss Paterson, whom more than ever, Kerry wished she could befriend. 'Some name calling after break. Can you come in for a chat sometime soon?'

Josh woudn't speak on the way home. They walked fast, Kerry wanting to get into the relative sanctuary of her flat.

At the end of the path, she stopped dead.

WHORE! screamed the words dripping red down the door.

'Mum?' said Amy. 'That's what they called me at school today. And they said that Josh-'

'Shut up!' screamed Josh suddenly, pushing past them both and running for the square of scabby grass behind the flats.

'I'm sorry,' whispered Kerry. 'I'm sorry.'

Late that night, with half a bottle of wine on the table in front of her and half-warming her from the inside, Kerry thought about what to do next. Three times she'd moved, and nothing changed. In fact, the stories grew larger still with every move, as if the distance caused them to swell.

She had options: move again; tell the truth, publicly; go and see some of the parents individually; keep her head down and get on with it, and hope it'd go away.

It had gone away, once, but then the papers dug up the story with the headline 'Grown Up Seducer Schoolgirl Does It Again!' and any hope she'd had for a normal life was stopped right there.

Yes she'd had an affair. Yes it had wrecked a career and a marriage, but at 15 she'd known her own mind and Jeremy was young and had fallen in love with her first; persued her; seduced her. The feeling had been mutual and he'd confided how he'd been forced to marry his wife when she got pregnant, by her terrifying father, how he'd never loved her like he loved Kerry, how he wanted to be with Kerry. All they had to do was wait until she was 16, and move. Yes it was wrong, but there was nothing wrong with what she felt - pure, innocent love. She'd known what she was doing but saying that had turned the media against her, and not Jeremy.

When Tom Barkly, the head of her children's first school came to her house one night with Josh's inhaler that he'd left in the classroom, both of them had known it was just an excuse. They began something that night. Kerry had always been single - the twins' father ran away when she brought the scan picture home - and she believed Tom, who said he and his wife were about to part, mutually; she believed him when he said he'd never loved her; she believed him when he said they'd been sleeping separately for the past year. She stopped believing him when his wife tried to kill herself, and the truth came out - she suffered from depression and he couldn't cope with it. Kerry got the blame, not Tom. Kerry got the blame for stealing a man from his fragile wife. Parents from the school stopped speaking to her; the children stopped receiving invitations, so they moved.

And for a while, everything was all right.

Until one morning, she'd walking into the playground to see the factions of mothers in huddles like witches over a pot, looking at phones, pointing at her.

The story had followed her. Once again, sides were taken, the gossip started '#Lockupyourhusbands' ran the tagline on twitter. Kerry was more angry than anything. She tried to explain and they'd not wanted to listen. So they moved again; the children getting to be professionals at decorating new rooms.

This time, she swore, I'll stay. Whatever happens.

She kept herself close, made few friends and confided in nobody. It seemed, for a while, as if she'd finally left the past behind.

Josh and Amy had a friend called Grace, who came for tea often. Kerry wasn't good at letting her children go to others houses, so she made it fun and easy for her twins to invite children home. One evening Grace's father came to pick her up. He looked dreadful, ill, grey, and it was raining, so Kerry invited him in. She usually took Grace to the door but she'd had a glass of wine and was feeling relaxed and happy, listening to the laughter of the children upstairs.

She didn't see the twitching curtains across the road, or know that they belonged to Janey, Grace's mother's friend.

The children were having such a good time and the rain came down harder, so Kerry made coffee and let down her guard, just a little. They talked across the kitchen table and found they similar favourite books and films. For Kerry, it was the first time she'd shared much of her true self and she found herself laughing with Grace's dad, whose name was Doug, and who suddenly asked if he could talk to her.

'Yes,' Kerry had said. She should have shoved him right out the door but she didn't, so whilst the kids were playing he opened up and told her how his marriage was falling apart, how he didn't know what to do, how he was lonely, how he loved his wife.

When Grace and Doug left, soon afterwards, Kerry knocked her fist against her head and wondered what the hell it was about her that drew screwed up men to her. She didn't see the curtain twitching as they left, now did she notice the extra glances her way on Monday morning as she dropped off the twins at school.

And so it began; the factions grew and facts got twisted and before long, Doug had been seen hugging her on her doorstep in front of his own child! And her children! Kerry knew none of this and if she had, she'd never have gone to the pub on her birthday with her brother who'd come to stay, whilst her neighbour watched the kids. Her brother became ill; Kerry stayed out and who did she bump into...

Later she decided it was like a bad novel. Things got chucked in her path and she always, always picked them up without thinking. On this occasion it was Doug, falling-over drunk, crying into his pint outside in the smokers' doorway as she left. She listened and she listened and in the end she let him follow her home - Grace's mother had chucked him out, he slurred. Kerry wasn't to know this wasn't the full truth but by the following Monday, she'd worked it out for herself. The irony was, Doug wasn't the kind of man she'd ever have gone for. And if he had been, she'd still have run a mile.

She finished the wine, and considered her options once again.

Suddenly, she knew what she was going to do.

The internet gave her the e mail address she was looking for. She gave her e mail the title 'Confessions of a Whore' and wrote furiously for an hour, telling her side of the story in a calm, detached, non angry manner, though inside she fumed red and hot.

Her last paragraph was: So, judgemental people, what do you think? Am I what you say I am? When this is printed, will you look at me with that hate, in the school playground? Will you give me a chance? Will you just listen to that post-truth voice inside you that says it doesn't matter; here's a real life incident that we can talk about, that makes us forget the trivialities and worries of our own little lives? With all that's going on in the world, am I really the most important thing you have to talk about? Why not look deeper? I'm not a marriage wrecker but you want me to be - perhaps in some way you can assuage your own guilt about not living perfect little lives. I shan't move again. I shall talk to my children and tell them my truth, though they're a bit young to hear it, they are also too young to be reading those words that you painted on my door. I prefer my truth, my words. I'll hold my head high, and I shall stay here.

She pressed send, without rereading what she'd written, and poured herself another glass of wine to celebrate feeling free, for the first time in years.