It's been three hours and three minutes since Vicky Hiddleston left her husband, Leo... for good. Well, maybe he hasn't read the letter she left yet, she thought, so maybe the leaving-of-husband process had not been completed yet, but she was feeling pretty confident. At least she was until two hours and fifty-eight minutes ago, when she realised her car was low on petrol. "Damn," she muttered, remembering Tuesday's goal to get to the petrol station after work. It was a minor setback but it did start the butterflies in her stomach.
Now, sat with her passport in her hand, about to board a flight to Switzerland, she recalled her last week in London, the last week of her marriage. Only her very closest friends and her parents knew of her plan and although that made the last week heartbreakingly hard, it was harder to come face to face with colleagues who were sad only because they knew she was leaving her job that week; they didn't know that when they said with completely good intentions that they must meet up soon, that Vicky wasn't planning on being in London any time soon. She saw a few of her friends among travels in the last week and she felt so guilty as she almost whispered goodbye, but she knew it all was for the better.
By the evening Vicky would be in Switzerland. Three years ago she celebrated her thirtieth Birthday and when her and Leo stumbled into bed in the very early hours of the next day after a night of celebrating, he had proposed the idea of moving to Spain in ten years time. Things seemed to be getting better between them. Vaguely, but surely. This dream would be good for them. That was a distant dream now. Vicky almost slapped her wrist. No, not a dream. Whatever it is or was, it is distant. But it was time for Vicky's childhood dreams now. And they were just a flight away. And then a few more flights after that.
She checked the weather forecast on her phone that morning and the evening would bring Switzerland a lovely, warm night. Warmer than Vicky was feeling as she stepped onto the plane. But she nodded to herself, as if for encouragement. She knew she could do this. She was still young and although her dreams of travelling, she thought, had vanished, they were the promise of her future. For a better future.
Geneva Lake. Swiss chocolate. And then the lights of Paris. Croissants in the morning. Wine in the evening. She had a job lined up in German in two months time- after a couple of months of brushing up, she felt confident in her German language she acquired as a toddler after spending months in Berlin with her grandparents. What would come next, she wasn't sure but she knew it would be good. It just had to be.
At twenty-three, after her and Leo had a short engagement followed by a lovely wedding and a couple of months of bliss, Vicky fell pregnant. And then Vicky and Leo couldn't have been happier. The nine months brought them closer and closer together, and the first two months were everything they could have hoped for. And then baby Ella became ill and within only half a year, their lives were pulled apart and Ella was gone. The next few years were a mixture of complete grief and Vicky and Leo trying to move on while keeping their baby girl in their hearts.
Then when date nights were bringing smiles to Vicky and Leo's faces and not cringes, they ate at an Italian they went to when they were eighteen. Over held hands and a candle that smelt of freshly washed towels, Leo, almost desperately, but mostly lovingly, Vicky noticed, said, "Are you ready, Vic?" He hadn't called her that for years. At least, she hadn't noticed it. She focussed on the promise of that, and forgot what happened before he uttered those three letters.
"Ready?" she asked.
"For another baby." Tears sprung in his eyes and her fear of this question was balanced with absolute adoration for her husband. Her heartbroken, lovely husband. She could almost see the eighteen year old she fell in love with in front of her. Maybe she was ready too.
With a nod and a nervous, but true smile, Vicky's heart was partly fixed. Within only just over a year, Vicky had two miscarriages and by the second Vicky knew her heart couldn't take anymore trying. Leo was distraught when he realised. "But, Vic, it's me and you... and a baby." Helplessly he cried and she cried but they didn't hold each other.
In the last year, Vicky became very aware of her husband's affair. After a year and a half of Vicky and Leo trying to find peace in their relationship by taking short trips away and cooking for each other, Vicky noticed Leo's almost anger towards her. She knew he felt guilty for it but he wanted a family more than anything and although Vicky's ache for a family was present, she knew if she focussed on herself and her relationship, she could find some kind of bitter, but genuinely happy haven. She wasn't a perfect wife. She spent too much time at the gym and she couldn't get into the films Leo watched at night like he wanted her to so would always go to bed early and read. But they both knew she didn't deserve Leo's upset and sometimes angry eyes.
And so, only a month before Christmas, Vicky learned of Leo's affair. What was strange was that Vicky wasn't surprised, despite falling in love with Leo way over ten years ago because he was the most loyal and loving guy she had ever come across- and ever would come across. Her heart hurt but she also knew Leo would have had a hard time coming into an affair. Now she knew there were no excuses but she knew Leo would have left her immediately when he became aware of being a lot more interested in someone else, but she assumed he couldn't leave her. He couldn't leave his equally heartbroken wife. And this was confirmed when she heard him say it in a hushed conversation he didn't know she could hear.
Vicky didn't snoop or question Leo's stressed and sad eyes when he lied about where he had been three evenings a week. She stopped asking. He only sometimes told of a lie. She wondered whether he even knew she knew. Instead of dwelling she planned how she could continue saving and where she would go when she had enough money. She couldn't face confronting Leo and she didn't want the mess afterwards. She knew, in time, a divorce would be needed but she would deal with that later. She knew Leo would understand that she would need space before she could return back to London- especially if that was simply for a divorce. These months would also give her closure. By the time she was on the plane to Switzerland most of her goodbye to her husband would have been done months before.
Vicky's adventure above the clouds on a plane to Switzerland left her thinking of her dreams to travel the world as a teenager. She didn't regret her relationship or the time on her marriage- she loved Leo and she expected she always would. She wasn't angry or disappointed. But she was sad. The years seemed stained with heartbreak but her teenage years and early twenties were full of smiles and love and everything she could have dreamed of. Even in the tough years that followed, her love for Leo never wavered and many amazing memories were made. She saw her husband love her, but soon it must have turned into pity. Still love and care, but more of a unconditional kind of love- and not a particularly nice one. She didn't want that. And she didn't want Leo to have to have that either.
Yes, she still loved Leo but in the months that followed after finding out about the affair, she healed her heartbreak at the realisation of there being another woman with the excitement of her travelling plans. She hoped Leo would find happiness because she knew she wanted to find hers. As the plane landed she knew Leo would have read the letter. Her parents would be picking up her car (she couldn't bare the thought of them dropping her off at the airport because she wasn't sure she'd be able to read) and well, Vicky's dream had begun.
Two weeks later, Vicky stepped out into the warm August Swiss air. The sky was blue and she sipped her water before stepping forward into a morning run. She felt happy in her loose, carefree top and short shorts that weren't an option before. She would never have been happy in them. And yet, now, she felt younger than she had in years. Soon, she ran alongside the Geneva lake and adored every sparkle on the water and every cool breeze that helped her along. It had only been a couple of weeks and yet Vicky's heart felt lighter.
She often thought of Ella, her baby girl. Her daughter. She missed her every day, like she always had but she found her so much easier to think about. She'd partially shut off memories of her baby girl but when she wasn't travelling new places and seeing new things (with Ella's smile still brightening her ambition), she would bring out old photographs. Mostly of just Ella or just Ella and herself but sometimes of Leo and Ella too. And that was okay. She mourned her marriage a long time ago and now she just felt fondness.
Whether it was her phone's reception or Leo's lack of words, Vicky received a message from Leo as late as three days into her being in Switzerland. Vicky of course noticed how long it took but she never begrudged him for it. Vicky could see her love's pain in the words he text and she expected a lot of regret too. As soon as she stepped into her new life, she remembered everything she loved about Leo loving her and she knew it would hurt him, but she knew she had every right to her new adventure and she knew, despite having an affair not just on her, but their marriage, he would miss her and he would be loving her while she embraced her first part to her adventure.
A text can't tell you how sorry I am and I admire you for your courage, Vic. There isn't much I can say because the last couple of years of silence said everything we feel, didn't it? I messed up and I didn't even deserve the letter you left me. Thank you for loving me for so long and thank you for telling me you always will. After what I've done, maybe you won't know that I always will too. But I will. We've been through a lot and this guilt from my actions will be strong on my shoulders for the rest of my life. Because my god, I remember everything about our younger years. And I remember the good in between. Thank you for giving me Ella, for as heartbreakingly short our time with her was, it broke us because she was me and you in a little, lovely thing and it was everything we spoke of when our relationship became serious. What I would do to go back. But there's no time for that now.
Vic, you go baby girl, you reach for your stars.
Leo was a writer and what his readers didn't know was that his heart behind his words could only be seen by Vicky. When he was in love with what he was writing, she could read it. When he meant every word of what he was writing, she breathed it in like it was the air she needed to live. His words made her cry and she kept the text for a few days more. And then she deleted it. It captured everything good about her and Leo and it was also marked with everything sad and everything bad she had been through.
She finished her run and sat cross legged on the grass outside her home for the next few weeks. She grinned at the sun on her skin and she closed her eyes feeling incredibly at peace.
For good, for better, here Vicky was. And she felt happy.
Sun & Water,
The Girl in the Moonlight.