My friend loved to gossip; I should’ve known it would be about me one day. I haven’t seen her for years now, but I’ve heard plenty about the rumours she’s spread in our small town. I was hurt when I first found out but not surprised. When I was going through my divorce a few years ago, some of my friends voiced their concerns. She was one of them. At first, she encouraged the split but after I left, she changed her opinion fast.
“I think Kelly’s making a mistake leaving,” she told my ex. I heard it through the grapevine - like you hear most things in small towns. Not long afterwards, our friendship ended and the rumours took off.
I ignored the gossip at first. I thought, “No one will believe that, surely?” I wondered if what I was hearing was like that game of Chinese-whispers kids play. I didn’t bother getting defensive. To be honest, dealing with the grief of divorce on top of trying to comfort my two little girls took all my energy. I didn’t have time for gossip, and eventually, it died down.
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But, almost two years later - there it was again.
I’d been having a hard couple of days, and as soon as I heard the fresh rumour, I knew my ex-friend was the source. It was specific and nasty. It was too much on top of my already stressful week. I lay in bed for two solid days and cried.
“This is not the end of everything you love and have built,” my partner said. “It’s just something you’re going through today.”
“But how do you know that? What if it is?” I replied, almost hysterical. He stayed quiet.
“You think I’m overreacting,” I said.
He screwed up his face. I could tell he didn’t want to say the wrong thing and upset me more. “A bit.”
I knew I was overreacting but I couldn’t stop feeling crushed. No-one understands how awful this is, I thought. It was the most alone I’ve felt in years.
After two days in bed, my partner dragged me out to his parents’ for lunch. He sent a sly text letting them know I was upset.
“Is everything alright between you two?” they messaged back, worried.
“Yeah, it’s not us. Just other people,” he reassured them.