“So you’re reading this note and discovered that I’ve packed and gone.
“There’s no blood on the carpet. No corpse; perhaps a skeleton in the closet. Otherwise, this Step-Mother Hubbard has left things bare.
“There’ll be no books written or gory films produced about our domestic drama.
“It’s been too ordinary. So many people like us long for happiness but shuffle along, waiting for it to appear. They forget you have to work at it although everyone knows there’s no magic formula.
“What went wrong? O.K., I’m not a ‘natural’ mother and never wanted kids. But I gladly took on yours as part of the package-deal.
“And you? The original ‘Mr Softie’ who has the makings of a great dad but prefers peace, quiet and a good round of golf.
“Do you remember our first row? ‘I’m really upset!’, you said when I supposedly reduced Carl to tears but had caught a gleam of triumph in his four-year-old eyes.
“It’s called ‘playing-off’, Howie and children are born knowing how to blackmail adults into gaining their affection.
“You said over and over how disconcerting you found the film, We Need To Talk About Kevin, blithely forgetting Carl’s infant behaviour and your description of putting every nearby noise-making device on full volume in order to drown his incessant cries.
“Perhaps someone should advise Lionel Shriver that it’s not rare and not always the early mark of psychosis. More often, it’s just an over-lively, maybe angry kid seeking ever more attention.
“You told me how Carl had declared between Lucy leaving and my arriving that ‘Dad, you need a new wife’. Oh, c’mon! He wanted a new slave.
“Someone who not only picked him up from school but took his school-bag and lunch-box from him and carried them the few yards home. This brings me to the time the school office wrote demanding payment for a dinner although I know he’d left home that day with his usual packed meal . It was clear that he didn’t want to eat what I had provided and had thrown my food away.
“I still believe we should have made the staff investigate. I said – huh! – it wasn’t the few pence but the principle. You retorted – ha! – it was the principal who wanted the money and that you didn’t want to make a fuss! I was not amused.
“I’m sure Carl’s never forgiven me for once refusing to clean him up after he’d used the toilet. For crying out loud, Howie, he was already at school and almost six-years old. Shriver was spot-on there!
“Yes, your little precious has demanded that we breathe and eat for him. Thus ‘Daddy the Dustbin’ was born and I’ve watched ‘Mr Softie’ morph into ‘Michelin Man’ and a weekly presence at Weightwatchers.
“Then came that awful Mothers Day. You know I wasn’t interested and could have arranged for Carl to visit Lucy. But you insisted on our playing ‘happy families’ which scenario soon dissolved into a public screaming match at a smart restaurant where other diners gawped at us in rapt distaste.
“Despite his vile behaviour, what Carl yelled was one-hundred per cent right. He has two mothers but none. There’s nothing I can - or indeed want to do about this, which is something that you and Lucy must resolve without me.
“I could go on but I’m sure you’ve got the message. You’ve asked me not to make you choose between Carl and me, so I’ve made the decision for you.
“Don’t tell anyone I’ve deserted you. I’ve not left you, only the situation.
“P.S. My cupboards are empty. So is the joint bank-account. If you want to get in touch, just call. – S.”
(Copyright, Natalie Irene Wood – 21 April 2012)