"Not long now before they're all off at Big School!" Green Mummy said to the select few standing by the big iron gates as we watched our children file obediently into the building. She dabbed at her eyes with a worse-for-wear tissue. "I know, I'm taking Anna for her Walk Round on Monday" Cagoule Mummy said as she bounced the twins - Arthur and Andrew - in their pushchair. "Of course" Alex's Mummy Joy mused "we shall stay in touch shan't we, wherever our precious charges end up?" She made it sound as if they were being dispatched into No Man's Land. "I should coco!" said Overly Hearty Mummy "I say, shall we have one last blow out together? Lunch, just the girls!" Alison, Mum to Tom visibly shuddered and I have to admit I joined her. The others all nodded agreeably, with Keen To Fit In Mummy actually whipping out her Blackberry and suggesting dates.
A sudden exclaimation stopped us in our tracks - me literally as I was trying to escape. "I said hurry up Jonathan or I'll tell your father!". The group - apart from Alison and I - bristled as a very harrassed looking red-head rushed into view with a baby swaddled to her chest in one of those papoose thingies. "Ah look, there's Dawn, late again!" Green Mummy said with a smug look on her face. "Not hers you see, that's why she's so off with him" Alex's Mummy Joy whispered a la Les Dawson. "Course, the baby, well, she can do no wrong poor little mite" I looked again at the tableau: Jonathan was being herded into the building with Dawn snapping at his heels. "Hasn't got the mothering, wifely instinct, well, of course, she's The Second Wife isn't she?" Overly Hearty Mummy continued.
It turns out that Dawn is now married to Jonathan's Daddy who is something Big in Law because Jonathan's Daddy had an affair with Dawn and binned Jonathan's Mummy because - and here I quote - "A bit of cheap totty with legs up to her gusset and a filthy mind came along and broke up the happy home." According to Green Mummy (who's not as righteous as she makes out), baby Alice arrived two months after he left his wife. "What does that tell you?" she said, raising an unwaxed eyebrow.
Cagoule Mummy was building up a right head of steam. "I don't know what these women think they're up to, they see a man who's taken and decide they want him and so just take him, regardless of his wife, his children, his life or his wider family. A travesty, that's what it is. They should be tarred and feathered." I jumped, purely out of the shock of hearing her venom. Keen To Fit In Mummy agreed readily. "I knew a woman" she said conspiratorily so that we all had to lean in to hear her "met this married man, seduced him into a life of debauchery, got pregnant, gave him two kids to add to the three he already had with his first wife and then had the bloody cheek to complain when he rang off with the cleaning lady at his office!" Shocked gasps all round. I clutched onto Alison's arm for support.
Dawn reappeared, still looking harrassed, but stroking the head of her baby. We must have looked like we were auditioning for the scene in Macbeth as her gaze settled on us all. "Slapper!" Keen To Fit In Mummy hissed. Green Mummy nodded proudly and more than a little smugly.
Dawn shot off past us and stumbled down the street as I turned to face the vicious harpies I was standing with. Alison was patting my arm in a soothing manner and murmuring something. "That was unnecessary!" I gasped, truly shocked by what I'd just witnessed. "Oh come on Joanna!" Alex's Mummy Joy boomed "She took another....woman's......erm.......husband."
You could almost see and hear the pennies dropping as they all worked it out. You know. The fact that not only is David fifteen years older than me but he has a son who is ten years younger than me with, you know, his first wife. The one that these, quite frankly, horrific people thought that I had stolen David from. And, no doubt, that I had my lovely son to trap him into being with me.
By the time I was at home with Alison and a large slice of Ayres carrot cake (okay, two slices smushed together but I needed it) I was shaking with rage. "They're idiots, stupid people who see only in black and white" Alison soothed. "But the, fact, that.....the fact that they......" I was gobsmacked. Which will surprise a lot of you.
I felt angry, cross and upset - not because of what they said, or inferred but because of what I didn't say. I should have said that David had been living apart from his wife for six months before we went out on our first date and was knee deep in solicitors and "you have all the classical CDs if I can have the Bruce Willis DVDs" before we got engaged. I should have said that David's marriage was over, kaput, finito before I had even noticed the adorable twinkle in his eye. I should have said it's none of their damn business and that they should take a good hard look at their own lives (ooh, the things I could tell you) before they started slagging off mine. I should have said that they were sad individuals who only felt good about themselves if they were looking down on others. I should have said that there is nothing bad about being a Second Wife.
But I didn't. I allowed Alison to lead me back to the car and let me drive her back to my house. And then, at 3.25pm, when we all converged at the gates again, she stood with me as I held my head high and ignored the overly sweet comments and greetings I was getting "Oooh, I love your hair" Cagoule Mummy twittered. It took all of my effort not to slap her smug pock marked face. Dawn shuffled up to the gates but gave us all a wide berth - she nearly climbed the fence to get into the playground. We exchanged glances before I went over to join her.
I apologised for my part in the shocking display that morning and she mumbled something about Mac and Jonathan being great pals and how she keeps meaning to strike up a conversation. We shot each other a grin as the boys ran over to us. Alex's Mummy Joy looked fit to burst as we joined Alison and Tom and headed off to Starbucks for a coffee and a Getting To Know You Chat. And I only just resisted filling Dawn in on the others. Maybe I'll save that for another day.