I wanted my boyfriend and my best mate to bond. But were they getting on a bit too well?
By Katie Sexton, 33, from Solihull, West Midlands
Rummaging through my shoe cupboard, I pulled out a pair of high-heeled black boots. But, as I held them up next to my favourite sparkly sandals, I couldn’t make my mind up.
I had classic first date nerves. It was time to call in a second opinion. Snapping a photo on my phone of both options, I sent it straight to my best friend Tina*.
‘Heels or flats?’ I asked.
‘Heels, definitely,’ she said. ‘Men love a woman in sexy black boots.’
I laughed, and zipped them up over my skinny blue jeans. I was as ready as I’d ever be.
I’d been chatting to Martin through dating website Plenty of Fish for a few weeks. As a single mum to my daughter Tayla, 13, and son Brad, 10, I didn’t have much time for men.
But, there was something about Martin that convinced me he was worth a date. So, we arranged to go for a drink in a local pub.
As soon as he walked in, I could tell he was the real deal. He was tall, broad and had a shaved head, just like his profile pictures.
I sipped on a glass of rose as he charmed me. For the first time in years I felt butterflies in my stomach as he looked into my eyes.
By the time we said our goodbyes at the end of the evening, I couldn’t wait to see him again.
Neither could I wait to share the gossip with Tina. We’d been close friends since primary school, and by senior school we were as thick as thieves.
However, after our exams we drifted apart. For ten years I didn’t hear from her. But, when we both signed up to Facebook we reconnected.
Soon, we were swapping messages daily and when our daughters became friends at school our friendship was cemented.
We’d drop Tayla and her daughter Leanne* off at the school gates, and head back to her house or mine for a chat over a cuppa.
She knew I’d had a rocky time with men, since splitting with my ex husband. So I knew she’d be as excited as me about Martin.
‘Tell me everything, what did you talk about?’ she quizzed me, when I phoned her the morning after my date.
‘Oh you know, where we’d get married, how many kids we’d have,’ I joked.
‘Seriously though, you really like him don’t you?’ she asked. ‘I can tell.’
‘I know it’s early days, but I think I do,’ I confessed.
Thankfully Martin felt the same. More dates followed, and it wasn’t long before he moved in with me and the kids.
Then, a few weeks later, it was his 31st birthday. I decided to invite some friends round for a party to celebrate, so they could meet my mystery new man.
Tina was first at the doorstep with a bottle of wine.
‘Where is he then?’ she asked.
I giggled nervously as I introduced them.
‘I’ve heard lots about you,’ Tina said, sizing Martin up.
Then the doorbell rang again, so I dashed off to answer, leaving them to it.
But, a bit later, Tina caught me in the hall.
‘He’s a keeper. I’m so glad you’ve found a good one at last,’ she said, topping up my wine glass.
‘Me too,’ I beamed. ‘I think he might just be the man of my dreams. It’s a shame he hasn’t got a single brother for you.’
Tina had been through her fair share of terrible dates too.
Laughing about rubbish men was one of our favourite pastimes. That’s why I knew she wouldn’t give Martin her seal of approval unless he really deserved it.
But, thankfully, they got on like a house on fire. After Martin’s birthday party Cara would often pop round for the evening, and we’d spend nights laughing around the kitchen table just the three of us.
I knew she’d be keeping an eye on Martin though, making sure he was treating me right.
She had nothing to worry about though. He was Mr Romantic. One evening he came home with a red rose for me.
‘What’s that for? It’s not my birthday,’ I asked, twirling the beautiful flower in my hand.
‘Do I need a reason to treat my fantastic girlfriend?’ he asked, swooping in for a kiss.
I put a photo up on Facebook, as a little brag about what a nice boyfriend I had.
Even Tina was impressed.
Aww, that’s so sweet, she commented. I knew she was genuinely happy for me.
Martin didn’t just stop at presents though. He treated me like a princess. One morning, he brought me a cup of tea in bed.
‘Why don’t you have a lie in while I drop the kids at school for you?’ he offered. ‘I’ve got to nip into town for a few bits and pieces anyway. I can pick them up again on the way home.’
‘That would be bliss. Thanks hun,’ I said.
So, while Martin looked after my morning routine, I dozed off again. By lunchtime I was really enjoying having the house to myself. Martin was still out, so I made myself a sarnie and caught up on the soaps.
Then, at 3.30pm the phone rang.
‘We’ve still got Tayla and Leanne here. Were you picking them up or should I phone Leanne’s mum?’ the receptionist at the school said.
‘I’m so sorry, I thought my partner was getting Tayla. I’m not sure why Leanne’s still there though, I don’t think we had a play date,’ I replied, confused.
I got straight on the phone to Martin. So much for doing me a favour, he’d completely forgotten poor Tayla.
‘Where are you? Tayla’s still waiting at school,’ I nagged when he answered.
‘Oh no, sorry. I erm… I ran out of petrol. That’s why I’m late,’ he said, sounding flustered. ‘I’m on my way though. And I saw Tina on the way, so I’ve picked her up too.’
I couldn’t be annoyed for long. He sounded really stressed, and it was nice of him to give Tina a lift too.
Then, a few days later, Martin asked to borrow the car again for the evening.
‘I want to go and see my brother in town, you don’t mind do you?’ he asked.
‘Of course not. Just try to return it in one piece, with petrol this time,’ I teased.
He smiled sheepishly.
‘Thanks love. I might not be back until tomorrow, so don’t wait up for me,’ he said, before giving me a kiss and heading out.
Sure enough Martin didn’t come home that night. I assumed he was just enjoying himself with his brother.
Then, the next morning while I was upstairs doing my makeup, Tayla called up the stairs.
‘Mum, Leanne’s on the phone,’ she yelled. ‘Why’s your car outside their house?’
‘What are you on about?’ I shouted back, putting down my mascara.
‘Leanne says your car’s there,’ she repeated.
‘Get Leanne to put Tina on the phone,’ I said, jogging down the stairs to take the receiver.
A strange, sick feeling had started in the pit of my stomach. Martin had the car, so that meant he was at Tina’s house. But why? It didn’t make sense.
‘Sorry, Martin just popped in but he’s gone now,’ Tina blustered. ‘It wasn’t a secret or anything.’
I hung up, unconvinced. Why did Tina sound so shifty?
So, with alarm bells ringing, I decided to find out for myself.
‘Get your shoes on kids,’ I ordered, while I dialled for a taxi.
Fifteen minutes later we pulled up outside Tina’s house just in time to see Martin sneaking out the front door.
A look of horror flashed across his face as he clocked me climbing out of the cab.
‘I can explain,’ he faltered. ‘I wanted to plan you a surprise 30th birthday party, so I came round to talk to Tina about it.’
Tears started welling in my eyes. I wasn’t buying it.
‘Honest,’ he said, reaching for my hand. ‘You’ve ruined the surprise now.’
‘Get in the car, we’ll talk about this at home,’ I said, marching off towards my car with the kids following behind.
On the way home Martin kept telling me I’d misunderstood. It was going to take more than that to convince me though. I could smell a rat.
Then, as we walked up to the front door Martin grabbed the keys out of my hand. He opened the front door, and slammed it in my face.
Then I heard the keys turning in the lock. He was locking me out of my own house.
‘What on earth are you doing?’ I shouted through the letterbox.
Then the living room window creaked open.
‘I’ve… I’ve been sleeping with Tina,’ Martin said. ‘Please don’t go mad at me, I was too scared to tell you.’
Then, the window slammed shut again.
What a coward!
Martin had been cheating with my best friend, and he didn’t even have the guts to tell me to my face. He was right to be scared though. I was furious.
Eventually, I persuaded Martin to let me back in. That’s when I bombarded him with questions and accusations.
It turned out he’d been sleeping with Tina for weeks. He’d even been with her on the day he told me he’d ran out of petrol. It had all been a cover-up.
I didn’t know which of them I was more angry with.
The one thing I knew for sure was that my friendship with Tina was over for good. I’d been loyal to her since we were kids, and that was how she repaid me.
However, I couldn’t find it in me to ditch Martin. I did love him, and he promised he’d do whatever it took to make it up to me.
Reluctantly I agreed to give him another chance.
We worked to rebuild our relationship, without Tina in it. I even changed Tayla’s school as I couldn’t bear the thought of bumping into her at the school gates.
Martin swore it was over between them, but the trust was broken. Whenever he went out I’d phone him to check up on him, and if he didn’t answer I’d think the worst. Eventually, we split.
I thought I was long shot of playground politics, but I’m better off without that pair of ‘grade A’ rats.
Martin, 34, said: ‘It was all a few years back. Do you know what, the reason why I did it was because Katie kept drinking all the time. I thought it didn’t really matter because it [the relationship] was going to be over soon anyway, so I didn’t really care. It was a reaction to the problems that were going on in the relationship, that’s what I think it was anyway. I ended up staying with Katie for a couple of years after that. There’s no problems or anything now though, me and Katie are still friends.’
Tina, 33, said: ‘I am not in agreement for the story to be published or anything associated with me to be printed.’
* Tina and Leanne’s names have been changed.