He was my husband, she was my sister. But when Michelle needed support it was my man she turned to. They would never betray me… would they?
By Sandra Gale, 54, from Mayfield in East Sussex
I buried my face in my hands to hide the tears. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of seeing me cry.
‘Get out!’ I yelled. ‘And don’t come back.’
I was devastated. I had been happily married to Raymond, 56, for five years and now it was over.
Despite having three beautiful sons, Raymond had thrown it all away for a bit of empty fun with another woman.
‘I never meant for this to happen,’ he said, picking up his bags and making his way to the front door.
From the moment the cheating began I knew there was something wrong.
My once attentive husband had started coming home late from work armed with poor excuses.
When he finally admitted cheating, I felt a horrible mix of relief and sadness. I was no longer living a lie – but I had lost the love of my life.
Raymond moved out and I filed for a divorce, eager to put his betrayal behind me and move on.
It wasn’t easy. I’d met Raymond on a blind date when I was just 15, after my younger sister, Michelle, had set us up.
He was my childhood sweetheart and I’d been smitten ever since. Our marriage was over now but I couldn’t cut ties with him completely – he was the father of my children.
The meetings with the kids were tense at first, but over the years they softened. Soon Raymond was coming round every day, popping in for a cuppa and a chat.
It had been five years since his affair and the pain was a distant a memory.
Then one night, he asked me out to dinner. ‘Shall we make a go of this again?’ He asked, his eyes wide with hope.
‘Yes,’ I gushed. Despite our past, I was still in love with him. The truth was, the spark between us had never truly died and in 1991 we rekindled our romance.
‘I can’t believe I nearly threw this all away,’ he told me, taking me in his arms.
‘Just don’t take us for granted again,’ I replied, letting him kiss me.
We bought a new house together and with a fresh start, our family was back on track.
I felt so blessed knowing that we had a second chance at happiness. Raymond was my soul mate and although he’d been stupid, he’d learned from his mistakes and grown.
The following year, I started feeling sick. I’d been pregnant enough times before to recognise the signs.
I bought a pregnancy test and Raymond was by my side when we checked the strip. It was positive.
‘We’re having another one,’ I said with a wide grin.
Robert gave me a huge hug. He replied: ‘I can’t wait.’
By 1997 we had five sons. We were a big, happy family and everything seemed perfect.
‘Have you seen Jerry’s lead?’ Raymond asked one evening, as he hunted round the house.
‘Are you taking the dog out again?’ I asked.
He replied: ‘Yes, I like getting out with the dog – it helps me clear my head.’
I furrowed my brow. What is he up to?
I didn’t think anything of it until our son’s christening. It was a grand affair at our house. Raymond and I had even hired a bouncy castle for the garden.
It was a happy occasion but my sister, Michelle, who had come along with her boyfriend, just didn’t look right.
‘Are you OK?’ I asked, when I caught a minute alone with her. The problem was one of her horses.
‘She’s not well,’ Michelle explained, teary. ‘I’ll need to go and check on her,’ she added.
‘Of course,’ I assured my sister. ‘Let us know if you need anything.’
It was late at night and Raymond and I were in bed when the phone rang. It was Michelle – she was hysterical.
‘What’s happened?’ I asked.
‘It’s my horse, she has to be put down,’ she gasped through heavy sobs. ‘Is Raymond there?’
‘Yes – why?’ I asked.
She paused. ‘I need him to be here.’
I was speechless. Michelle had her own man to lean on – why did she need mine?
I handed the receiver to Raymond who hopped out of the bed and hurried into the next room.
I tried to listen in but struggled to hear the muffled tones of the conversation echoing from next door. But then I heard three words that gave me goosebumps.
‘I love you,’ said Raymond hanging up the phone.
Livid, I sat bolt upright when he returned. ‘Why did you tell my sister you loved her?’ I demanded.
‘I didn’t,’ he replied. ‘You heard wrong.’
‘Well why does she want you there instead of her own man?’ I asked.
‘Robert is up early,’ he replied. ‘It makes sense for me to go around.’
Despite my protests, Raymond left and when he crawled into our bed in the small hours of the morning I pretended I was asleep. I had no energy to question him.
Life carried on as normal until a week later when I was rushed into hospital with a severe asthma attack.
I was extremely ill and was kept in for two whole weeks while my body recovered.
To top it all, on the day I was discharged and sent home. our youngest boy was struck down with chickenpox.
‘I need you to help me,’ I said to Raymond, still wheezy from the attack.
What he said next, left me cold.
‘No’ he replied bluntly. ‘I’m leaving you.’
‘What? Where are you going?’ I asked, shocked.
I felt like time had stood still as I watched Raymond walk out of our family home… and into my sister’s.
I was stunned. How could they?
But there was no way I was having it out with her. They’d broken me.
I’d still see them about though. Because Michelle lived nearby I’d often bump into the pair out walking her dog. No wonder Raymond had been so keen on taking Jerry out.
I had little contact with Raymond after that. But one day I spotted Raymond with a ring on his wedding finger.
‘Is that a wedding ring?’ I asked, as we passed each other.
‘No – it’s just a friendship ring,’ he replied. I dismissed his silly excuse and walked on.
It wasn’t until many years later, in 2008, that an anonymous letter cleared up the mystery.
When an A4 brown envelope dropped on my doormat, I opened it up to find a copy of a marriage and divorce certificate – with Raymond and Michelle’s names on them. My sister had married and divorced my ex hubby!
I never did find out who sent that letter but it proved that they’d married in secret and hadn’t even told my parents.
Although they had divorced and were no longer together, I vowed to continue to keep Michelle at arm’s length after that. It was the ultimate betrayal. She was my own flesh and blood.
I couldn’t bear to look at her nevermind speak to her.
It was a promise I managed to keep until a few years ago, in 2011, when my second oldest son was sent to Afghanistan.
Like any mum of a serving soldier, I was beside myself with worry.
But then one day, my mobile beeped with a text message. It was Michelle.
I’ve just found out, it read. I can’t imagine what you’re going through.
The texts kept coming. We hadn’t uttered a word to each other in years.
Then one day a small parcel arrived for me in the post. In the package was a stunning brooch of a guardian angel and a message which read, This is to keep you safe, love Michelle.
I couldn’t believe it. This was my sister’s way of reaching out.
Slowly I began to thaw and when Michelle’s son fell ill in 2012, I returned the favour.
We’ve been slowly rebuilding our relationship ever since. I should never have given Raymond a second chance. A leopard never changes its spots but how could I have guessed that rat would set his sights on my sister?
I may have lost a husband, but at least I’ve got my sister back.
Ray said: “Did I have an affair with Sandra’s sister and marry her? That is factual, yes. I have lots of regrets but not about leaving Sandra. It was not a happy relationship.”
As told to Helen O’Brien Google
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