"But he's married!"

I'd never hated her before.

"He's not married like you and Tommy are married..."

But I hated her now.

"How do you mean?"

We were friends. Not best friends; she thought i was uptight, and had called me a bitch more times than i cared to count, and, for my part, her attitude to sex and relationships made me uncomfortable.

I wasn't like her: I had been raised in my mothers house, where sex was a dirty word, and chastity was sacred; she had been born in Manhattan (enough said), but we were still friends enough to be with the same group of people, to laugh together, to gossip, to shop and study together.

I knew what she was going to say before she said it, and in my head, i begged her not to, and then she did.

"I mean him and his wife don't even speak the same language..."

"Spelt s-e-x!"

And i hated her.

Blame the wife, ALWAYS BLAME THE WIFE, because it must be her fault. Sit there on the bed, all girls together, giggle as you listen to Giselle tell you how she spent the night with a married man, laugh at his cold, unfeeling wife, scorn her for pushing him away as she must have done (because why else would a middle aged man stray, to the young college girl, all curves and curls, who can laugh and sparkle, effortlessly).

Laugh together, all of you. Don't think about his wife who is probably still waiting for her husband at home, who has probably spent hours and hours waiting for him ,and wondering what she has done wrong, and wishing she could change, and knowing she can't.

(Just as i have...)

Even Connie, even though she of all people knows the sting of not being enough, even she laughs.

Laugh, all of you. Isn't it just so, so funny?

From my place behind the door, just out of sight, i look at her again, and all i can see is the flush of her cheeks when she whispers to Connie what she's been doing, all i can hear is her voice, laced with scorn, when she talks of the mans wife.

This is ME she's talking about; i see that now. I am the wife, Spencer is the man, and Giselle is the pretty, faceless, sparkling, laughing girl he goes to, has been going to for weeks, months, maybe even since before we were married, before we met.

The girl who ruined my marriage, who carelessly crushed my fairytale wedding, who soured the only dream i'd ever wanted for myself, sits on the bed, half undressed, and the hurt turns to vitriol, and i know now that i need to hurt her.

I

need to hurt her, as much as she's hurt me.

"Does he pay you? For sex?" Anger makes me witty, bitterness makes me calm. "

I mean, at the rate you're going, you could make a fortune."

Hurt and surprise register together in her face, and the funny thing is, I'm not even the first person to have said this.

"Everyone thinks so. Do you know what they say? They say you're a whore. And pretty soon, once they've all sampled you, they'll toss you aside like a used rag."

I'm just the first person to say it to her face. Bill Dunbar will toss her aside, Spencer will toss his girl aside. Eventually, they'll all come back to their wives, even if just for a little while.

Of course they will. Its what I've spent those empty days and nights counting on, anyway.

"The men you love don't even want you! Your father doesn't want you!"

My own hurt is deep enough that no matter what i say, i can't find words bad enough to cut her with. Nothing will hurt her as much as it has hurt me, and yet i keep on trying, i must keep on trying, because the more i break her, the stronger i become. Her pain is a balm for my own broken, betrayed heart.

"Professor Dunbar?"

She's pulling on her blouse, trying to leave, trying to run, maybe even run back to the man she has no right to. I won't let her. There's nowhere for me to run to, to avoid the truth, and I won't allow her to run.

I'll pull her back with razor words, that can't be ignored or forgotton because they're TRUE.

"Everyone knows that you hide outside his house! It must be torturous running after a man who doesn't even care about you. Who's in love with someone else!"

And now am i talking about her...or about me? Tears prick my eyelids, even i don't know who i mean. And they know it too.

Yes, YES, it is torture, TORTURE!

"Who hates you-"

If he loved me, he wouldn't make me feel this way. He wouldn't use me like this. You'd have to HATE someone, REALLY hate them, to put them through what he's put me through.

He hates me.

My own husband hates me; grief roars.

"He HATES you!"

(He hates me, he must hate his girl, too. If he cannot love me, he cannot love her either.)

"And it HURTS!"

I didn't mean to scream the last part, but it's true: the truth hurts, love hurts, and it hurts to look at her, the girl Spencer chose...

Until she comes towards me, and i'm expecting a slap, i'd even deserve one, and instead, she hugs me, angrily, fiercly, forcing me back into myself, until i look at her, and she is just Giselle again: my sometimes-friend, wild Giselle, who drinks more than a lady should, and smokes, and sleeps around, but who still manages sweetness too. Giselle, fighting tears because of me.

And all i can think is "Now she will hate me. She will hate me, and everyone else will hate me, and I've already lost Spencer, and now i will have nothing".

So i fight her- i fight her embrace, her pity, her forgivness and her understanding, until i'm crying, raw and open, onto her neck, and her arms wrap around me properly, and she murmurs understanding into my hair.

Bittersweet kindness: bitter because it changes nothing, sweet because it changes everything, and sweeter still because its there at all.

It hurts more than i thought it would, being called a whore.

Most of all because when you think about it, its probably true; but when i look at her again, the anger in her face slides past me, because it isn't me she's angry at, i see that now.

And when i think about it for more than a second, i can see why, too. Who wouldn't be angry, in her place?

She's bitter, she's hurting, she can be the biggest bitch without even meaning to be, but i can't muster anger at her now, because oh, she looks so broken- held together by bitterness.

She's got no husband, no mother to hold her up; even as she pushes me away, i hold onto her more tightly, just so she knows that she has someone other than herself to lean on, until she gives in and crumples against me.

"H-he doesn't want me...he- he doesn't sl-sleep with me-"

"I know..." I do know. Everyone knows. "I know..."