I was walking out of the bathroom on the 2nd day of my new job – and squinting because without my glasses, I couldn’t distinguish which office was mine from the row of identical doors along the hallway.
Then I heard it.
“Janet?!?” my name said in part disbelief, part surprise but mostly in question.
I squinted harder at the blurry image of two girls about 30 meters down the hall from me. I walked towards them, hoping for the best (that when I reached the girls, I’d recognise who called out to me) and was rewarded as I recognised the beautiful face of my ex-sister-in-law.
Bec hadn’t changed a bit. Head to toe, she’s gorgeous. Bec is one of those women that makes me feel immediately inadequate because she’s super skinny, bright-eyed and sooo pretty. Bec is Burmese so she has healthy, glowing Olive skin, big brown eyes and long, luscious curls.
Makes me sick how perfect she is, truly.
Bec also has a lot of style. So when I recognised her and she flashed a practiced smile at me and asked what I was doing there, I took in her gorgeous high heels, fitted new jeans, tailored shirt and really cute jacket. All probably high-end labels.
We chatted for a few minutes “yeah this is a new job for me, I’m on a 6 month contract helping the Ministerial team” “Oh wow, that’s great news for you” “Thank you”…and so on.
While I was talking to Bec, my mind flashed up with memories of the past when she used to be married to my brother. At first Bec and I were polite and courteous around each other. She was my brother’s new girlfriend. All good. Then she and Jay got engaged and married soon after. Leading up to their wedding, Bec and I became best friends and were almost inseperable. We texted each other all day, hung out whenever we could and laughed about the same things.
Bec was married to my brother for about 7 years…and then cheated on him.
So she broke my brother’s heart, moved out and within the next year got married to a new guy and quickly got pregnant.
Bec cheated on my brother the same time I cheated on my first husband. I don’t know what her circumstances were (she got caught out when she left her laptop on and my brother read her FB messages to/from a guy he didn’t know which were realy sexual) but I know this…they can’t have been anything like mine.
My circumstances were incredibly unique. My husband didn’t have sex with me for our entire marriage so when I left him, my virginity was in tact. I really struggled in my Divorce because the secret, heavy burden I carried for so long could finally be let out into the open with my friends and family. I could finally talk about my struggle and my heart ache at being pushed away by my husband and why I ended up leaving him. There was something incredibly freeing in what I experienced. Even though I had sinned greatly, it was a relief to be able to explain the why behind it.
Something that really blessed my heart was the kindness and support my closest friends offered once they heard my story. They understood my struggle, my pain, my loneliness in the marriage and why I ultimately had to end it. I don’t think my story was ever met with anger, there was always love. That’s something that really blessed me.
When Bec and Jay split up, she asked to meet with me at a Cafe in East Perth. I was angry at her for breaking Jay’s heart but the fact we had been so close for so long left me open to wanting to hear her side of the story. After all, I was making the very same heart-wrenching decision at the time to leave my husband; I reasoned that I should give Bec some compassion.
We sat across from each other in that East Perth cafe, and I noticed Bec had a new look. Instead of her usual straightened locks, she was sporting a curly look with purple ends. Maybe this new look was for the new guy.
Don’t judge, JD. Just listen.
To my great astonishment, I heard my own story being told to me.
“I was so excited to have sex with my husband but he turned me away”
“I tried so many times to initiate sex but he continually turned me away”
“It was 7 years of loneliness…I was hurting the entire time but I had to end it, I felt like I had no choice”
YOU ARE TELLING MY STORY, BEC.
She was one of the first people I told about my struggles with Jon.
I guess she adapted my story as her own and had been telling it because it is a really good story. It’s one that’s surprising and filled with loneliness, heartache and endurance. It is also a story that is met with love and compassion – where the listener can’t help but like the person telling it, even though they are the baddie in it.
So I get why you stole my story, Bec. I do.
But I know my brother and there is NO WAY he would have turned you down for sex for 7 years. NO WAY. There is NO WAY someone as sexy and confident and downright BOSSY as you would have allowed such a thing. Especially not over that length of time. You forget that I know you both, Bec. I know how intimidating you are and I know you wore the pants in the marriage to my brother – things had to be your way or else.
So there is NO WAY your story is EXACTLY like mine.
You stole my story.
You stole my heartache, my struggle and the painful journey I went on.
I feel as if I ran the marathon and you took my medal at the end and told everyone it was yours. But you didn’t ache as you ran. You didn’t feel your lungs burn. You didn’t press on when your entire body screamed for you to stop. You didn’t just take my medal, you took my pain, my struggle and my triumph.
I get how it might have happened. You heard my story, found yourself responding in compassion…and a little light went on in your head. You thought to yourself “this is gold” and you adapted it as your own.
Word for word, apparently.
You told everyone MY story and you enjoyed the response. The care and kindness. The compassion.
You warmed to my story, enjoying the feel of it – as if you’d taken my jacket and liked the warmth it provided on your shoulders.
And you told it so many times that when you sat across the table from the original owner of it, you were so blinded to it, YOU TOLD MY STORY BACK TO ME but as your own.
Oh Bec…how could you?!?
I listened. I sipped my hot chocolate while pushing my astonishment, hurt and anger deep down. Instead of yelling “you stole my story!”, I comforted and cajoled, making the responses you were probably well used to by then: “you poor thing” “wow, you really suffered there…how did you cope?”
I know exactly how “you” coped…because that’s MY story.
I coped by leaning into God. I coped by asking for forgiveness and turning my life around so that I was doing everything I could to make it through the incredible darkness being an adultress plunges you into.
We finished our drinks and inside I was livid at how smug Bec looked.
The cat who got the cream.
It hurt me to have someone steal something so personal from me.
So I will be courteous and cordial at work. But I won’t want to be friends.